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Divinity: Original Sin

divinity-original-sin

Divinity: Original Sin is a fantastic RPG experience that rises above the sea of mediocrity that the genre has become. I just thought I’d get that out of the way.

Premise

In D: OS you play as a source hunter; two, actually, but I’ll get to that later. Source Hunters are tasked with hunting down Sorcerers and other foul magical things, but for your mission you are sent to the town of Cyseal in order to investigate a murder. A councilman has been killed and the scene of the crime was hinky enough for the local wizard to request the aid of Source Hunters. However things aren’t quite as simple as they seem and soon you find yourself wrapped up in something much larger than you realize. Sound fun? Read on for our full review.  [Read more...]

Anticipation Kills MMOs

I hinted yesterday about anticipation killing games.  This idea about hype isn’t a new one.  If you read MMO blogs, especially if you read this one six years ago, you know how bad hype can be when a game is built up and put up on a pedestal. Nothing can ever, ever, live up to the expectations we create in our heads.

I’m generalizing a lot and speaking for everyone here, so let me explain why I can’t personally let myself anticipate MMOs as much as I used to.

My imagination runs away

I had a decent imagination as a kid.  I still do.  When it comes to MMOs, however, my imagination is crazy.  I envision worlds functioning almost like real life. I see people working together in ways that really aren’t probable. I start to see PvP like a real medieval battle. I see archers on battlements and rows of pikeman advancing. I see the battle of Helm’s Deep. I think about crafting like a blacksmith really owning a shop in Camelot.  All of that is what I want and imagine, but never what translates into gameplay.

I already experienced what I want and love about MMOs

Three of my favorite MMOs are: (1) EverQuest, (2) Star Wars Galaxies, and (3) Dark Age of Camelot. Three very, very different games.  All three were (almost) perfect (for me) back in their day. Those games have never been recreated. I’ve gone back and played emulated versions of all of them.  I’ve sought out sequels, games created by the same devs, and never have I experienced them again.  I can’t figure out why, but I know that’s been a trigger for experiencing that feeling of falling flat on my face when I anticipate new MMOs too much.

MMOs have become too much about business

Whether or not anything has actually changed, I think of MMOs today as more of a business venture rather than a team getting together to build something special. MMOs cost more money so more funding is needed. When more funding is needed you have to worry about making it back and then some. This industry has gone through a phase or awful new business models trying to find itself. We’re just now, maybe, starting to come out of that.

I can sit back and say that no game will ever again be worth anticipating and that we shouldn’t ever get excited, but that’s going too far. I’ve written plenty in the past about the fact that you can still get excited, and should, but keep your excitement in check. Look at the facts.  Consider 100% of the game rather than the 5% or 10% you like. If you’re like me and you know why you can’t anticipate games with such zeal, temper those expectations and look for other ways to get excited.

This Next MMO Is The One!

How many times have you heard someone say or read a comment from someone saying something like this: “Don’t worry, X game coming out will solve that” or “This next game coming out has exactly what you’re talking about and it will be awesome” or “In this game coming out you can do all of that and more!”

It’s the idea that the next game coming out is the solution to every current problem–the next big thing.  This syndrome is huge across the MMO player community. We see comments here all the time with people saying things like, “Oh man Keen you want a sandbox with all those features? Have you tried ArcheAge it’s the game for you!” I’ve had comments from people saying WildStar, ESO, the next WoW expansion, FFXIV, and every MMO for the last decade would be the game that has all those great things I want.

Sometimes those MMOs do have one or two of the good qualities I’m seeking, but let’s be real here.  We all know deep down that any themepark will never be that game.  Even the most devout themepark lovers who hype every new themepark like it’s the next Disneyland can’t look me in the eye and say they play past 3 months.

The next MMO to have what I want is either going to surprise everyone or I’m going to make it myself. It’s not going to be a game people spread around as the next big thing.  It’s not going to have a huge marketing budget.  It won’t rely on gimmicky dev videos full of buzzwords or trying to capture market share from various player demographics.

MMOs from the golden age were almost never anticipated.  EQ came out of nowhere. I was literally playing The Realm Online walking around and then saw mention in general chat about it.  Later that week my friend invited me over to his house to play the beta.  DAoC was out of nowhere and I got the game on launch day thanks to Graev who just randomly said, “Hey this looks neat we should get it.”  SWG only got on my radar because Graev payed $20 for the beta CDs (They charged you to send you CDs or something).  More on this idea of anticipation killing games in a blog post tomorrow.

Before any of us run around thinking that the next game is going to be the one or get excited that some game is going to have everything Keen is asking for in MMOs, take a serious look at the big picture.  We have a tendency to find the 5% of what we want, get comfortable in that idea, and ignore the other 95%.

Divinity: Original Sin Review In Progress

Keen and I were fortunate enough to get review codes for Divinity: Original Sin and have spent the past week playing the game’s drop-in/drop-out co-op. You don’t often see a lot of RPGs these days that are memorable or even that good, especially when everything is being dumbed-down and streamlined, so it is very surprising and exciting when gems like D: OS pop up. We’re still working through the game so we aren’t going to do a full review just yet, but we decided to share some of the very awesome aspects about Divinity: Original Sin in the mean time.

We found a bucket, a hammer, and a pot and made helmets.

We found a bucket, a hammer, and a pot and made helmets.

Exciting and Fun Cooperative Gameplay

Divinity: Original Sin can be played fully cooperative either over LAN or Online. You are already given two characters to play with so when somebody joins they take over the other character. Another interesting idea that they use is cooperative conversations. Every now and then you will get to interact between your characters and each person can take a different stance on something. If you can’t resolve it one way or another then each character will use their persuasion skill in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who wins out. Either way each character will gain points in different personality categories that will give bonuses to different abilities.

Turn-Based Combat

I absolutely LOVE turn-based combat and that is exactly what you get with Divinity: OS. As soon as you are detected by an enemy or take a hostile action then everything switches from real-time to turn-based. What’s actually really interesting is that if other party members are off doing other things then they will remain in real-time while the combat goes on. Once they get close enough they join in on the combat.

Spell Interactions

I love it when spells interact with each other and D: OS is full of that stuff. Many spells are able to create different surface effects like oil, water, fire, and poison. Other spells can then interact with those surfaces and make interesting things happen like lighting oil on fire, freezing water, putting out fires, or igniting poison. Not only that but many of the spells in the game also create cloud effects like smoke, steam, and poison gas. Some clouds can be electrified and others blown up or used to disrupt line of sight.

Fascinating Crafting

I haven’t even delved very far into the depths of the game’s crafting system but I find it fascinating. There are tons of different resources and ingredients you can find scattered about and you are able to combine them together in interesting ways. For instance, you can find branches and use a knife to carve them into arrow shafts and then attach them to arrowheads. Or combine two branches together to make a staff. Or you can take a wooden doll, combine it with a needle and then some pixie dust to make a voodoo doll that can damage a target. Sometimes you will find different recipes by reading books but it’s also a lot of fun just trying to combine different objects together. Near the very beginning of the game I was messing around and used a hammer weapon on a tomato, which made tomato sauce. Then I used flour and water to make dough and then added in the tomato sauce to make pizza dough, which when cooked at a fire source makes the pizza. It’s just cool stuff like that that you happen upon that makes the crafting so fascinating.

To Be Continued…

Keep an eye out for our full review of Divinity: Original Sin. Hopefully we will be able to get it up before the end of this week at the latest.

My PvE Version of Darkness Falls

I’m developing this idea of a Darkness Falls type dungeon based entirely around PvE factions instead of how player realms are doing in some PvP/RvR/AvA type system.  First, I think a quick primer on what I mean by factions is required.

In this MMORPG I’m concocting in my head there are no predetermined sides.  You’re not joining the Alliance or the Horde or the Good guys vs bad guys. My world’s factions functions much in the same way the original EverQuest worked.  Every race has its own faction, and relationships are fluid based on actions taken by the player. If you are a Dark Elf and you kill Dark Elf NPCs you are going to be hated by your own people, but the Humans might start to like you more.  Killing certain monsters can bring faction hits or gains. An Ogre could work for a real year to gain enough faction to enter the Elven City.

Some of the work associated with factions can be done quickly. Depending on the race someone chooses, there will be predetermined dispositions. For example, Humans will have an easier time accepting a Dark Elf than an Ogre in their city. Some faction changes can be seen in a day, some a week, some might even take the player over a real year to accomplish.

Darkness Falls

Are you familiar with Darkness Falls? It was a dungeon in Dark Age of Camelot that would be unlocked for the realm (group of pre-determined allied races) who owned the most keeps in the realm vs. realm war going on in the frontier.  As soon as another group was winning, the dungeon entrance would lock for those who had it, and unlock for the other realm.  The other realm could then enter and kill the other players.

Darkness Falls in DAoC was an awesome PvE zone.  Great loot, great places to group, great PvP when purging the enemy, and all around a great place to be. It encouraged people to PvP.  People wanted this place.

My PvE Version of Darkness Falls

I’m still figuring out the entire idea, but I want to work a version of this type of open-world dungeon into my world.  I’m thinking about making it a dynamic dungeon that adapts to how various NPC factions are being treated by the players.  Imagine if the dungeon was centralized in an area where the orcs and the kobolds were naturally having a dispute — these would be NPCs.  If players in the area were killing more orcs than kobolds then the dungeon may be infested with Kobolds. If players were working especially hard to vanquish both of these NPC factions then another type of faction might actually move on and lay claim to the area.

What I don’t want is for the idea to devolve into some stupid public quest type feeling. I actually hate public quests and events because of how developers now rely on them to fake a dynamic and “changing” world. Bull crap people.  Take those lies to someone who believes them because they ain’t workin’ over here.

If this is ever going to work then the change has to be gradual, and the players almost have to be unable to perceive the change.  I don’t know, thoughts? I’m trying to work this faction system into impacting the world and I think this is one potential opportunity.  Whichever faction controls the dungeon would determine the mobs.  Think about how that can impact people based on what I said previous.

If I’m working really hard on my faction with the Elves and suddenly a faction of Fairies takes over the dungeon… I’m not going to hunt those fairies and take a faction hit.  In a sense I’ll have to work to influence the world in some other way to decrease the power the fairies have in the world.  If I can’t do that by killing fairies, I’ll probably have to kill the enemy of their enemy so that their enemy can overtake them.  It can add an interesting dynamic to how players thinking about factions.

As always your thoughts are wanted.