Integrated Multiplayer is the Future of Console Gaming

While playing The Division yesterday afternoon, Graev and I discussed how we feel that integrated multiplayer is definitely the future for console games. The industry has dipped its toe in the idea of sharing a single-player world with other players, and limiting their interaction to on-demand or only in certain areas, for a very long time. Only in recent years have we seen a real surge toward this idea of building “multiplayer” games around a “single-player” or instanced/phased experience on the console devices.

Destiny wasn’t the pioneer in this technology or idea, but definitely gets the credit for pioneering it on a grand scale. In Destiny, the main hubs were like lobbies where players could see other players yet if you so chose you never had to group up with anyone. I would love to see Destiny’s data to see how many people were in fact only playing by themselves.

Seeing other people is huge. Why? Several reasons. Seeing other people makes the game feel popular and alive. It’s that “other people are doing it so I’m not alone” mentality. Then there’s seeing other people and aspiring to be like them. The psychology behind seeing a player decked out in gear and wanting to be just like him is a massive pull for these games to hook players and keep them pushing hard to get more more more. That urge to “be the best” or “be that cool guy” is all the more reason to buy the DLC so you can stand around town and look cool with the rest — not to mention you won’t be standing in the same town as others if you don’t buy that DLC.

Integrated multiplayer is also a quick and easy way to slap “multiplayer” or “MMO” or whatever label devs want onto a box. Better yet, it’s a way to derive an entire system of you game. The Division uses their integrated multiplayer somewhat similar to Destiny in that you can see the other players when you seamlessly “zone” into a hub (safe house), and they also use it for Dark Zone. Dark Zone (DZ) is the center of the map and players can cross over into this no-man’s land of open-PvP gameplay. This is the only place in the entire game where you could attack or be attacked by other players. It’s a unique part of the game designed to create interaction between players.

Integrated multiplayer is the new fad, ad likely the future for reasons outlined above. I won’t be surprised if the next Elder Scrolls RPG uses this technology to make Tamriel feel more “online”. The next Dragon Age, Mass Effect, or any other big RPG could easily swing this direction to allow players the opportunity to team up easier and provide that “connected” experience. So perhaps my title is even too limited in scope. Perhaps integrated multiplayer can be the future of all these RPGs and single-player games — but definitely console.

Stardew Valley is an Amazing Spiritual Successor to Harvest Moon

stardew valley

Stardew Valley released just three days ago and its already spreading like wildfire to anyone and everyone looking to rekindle the experience of playing Harvest Moon. Stardew Valley is an “open-ended country-life RPG” which basically means you run a farm. You’ve just inherited a farm from your grandfather and are faced with reviving a dilapidated old mess of a place. Like Harvest Moon, your farm is a mess and you’ll have to clean it all up. With nothing more than a few old tools and some coin, the choice of how to run the place is left entirely up to you.

I am absolutely in love with this game. I’m not going to review it fully quite yet because I’m only about 5 hours in, but I can already tell you it’s tons of fun and totally worth the $15 I paid on Steam.

From planting crops to upgrading your house, fishing, crafting, learning new recipes, building more structures, raising animals, exploring mines, fighting monsters, convincing people to like you, to even discovering the mysteries of the community center (which involves a Wizard…) there’s so much to do.

Stardew Valley Farm

My biggest complain about all of these open-ended country-life RPGs has to be that I get overwhelmed. I want to do so much. I want to plant the right crops at the right time. I want to make sure I’m working on my relationships with the right girl. I want to get the upgrades to my house at the most opportune moment. I want to make sure I don’t miss out on a festival that comes once a year.

The reason I can’t do it all is because time passes in-game and there’s only so much you can do in a day before you’re out of energy and before it’s time to go to bed. As time progresses, seasons change. As seasons change, certain crops change — the world changes. If I stop thinking about trying to be perfect and simply start working toward a farm then I’m able to quadruple my enjoyment.

While Stardew Valley is currently single-player, multiplayer in the form of coop is supposedly in the works. I don’t know how that will play out, but it’s worth noting. Let me know if you pick it up! I’d love to swap stories and share tips. Definitely expect me to post regular updates on how my farm is progressing!

Albion Online Private Guild Island

Albion online player cities

One of my favorite features in Albion Online has to be the private guild islands. Guilds like ours are absolutely obsessed with crafting. We’ll spend 10 hours a day gathering resources and have a blast. You may recall how our guild played a recently popular UO shard and was the first to not only get a house, but the first to get a second house, and the first to pretty much GM all the crafts. We’re crazy like that.

In Albion Online, we can have our own island away from the chaos of the open-world conflict. Don’t get me wrong, we like the open-world conflict stuff, but losing our guild buildings just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. At least this way we can have a private island to get us started, then move to an open-world city when we feel like we’re ready — if ever.

Albion Online Founders PacksOur island is pretty nice. In just a few days we upgraded the island enough so that everyone who is crafting has the buildings they need to craft here in on our island instead of spending their hard-earned silver back in Queensmarket/town. We plan to do the same thing when the game launches in order to take care of our crafters.

So what’s the downside of a private guild island vs. an open-world city in the red or black zones? Open-world cities have a higher return rate on resources, and they are more conveniently located near higher-tier items. The resource return rate is nice, but not a deal breaker for any of us. It’s certainly not worth having to fight other people to have fun on our own terms.

Just like our guild has done in UO and other games, we’ll be hitting the economy hard at launch. Right now we’re experimenting with all of the crafting to identify what we’re most interested in doing at launch. We’ll also have members more interested in combat, and they’ll get all of their gear from our crafters.

Farming to make all of this happen was definitely quite a lot of work. Definitely on the same level as UO, or more. But there’s nothing quite like working hard to build something of your own. One of our members said it best, “I’m just happy that I have an MMO to play again.”

If you have any questions, I’m happy to help answer them. If you’re interested in playing Albion Online, I highly recommend it. Any gold you spend in beta will be refunded to you at launch, and it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the best sandbox in many, many years. Join us, and we’ll be happy to teach you all we know. 🙂

Balancing Zergs & GVG Mechanics

albion-online

One of the biggest issues with Albion Online, and most PvP-based MMOs for that matter, is that larger guilds have a solid, inherent advantage.

  • Larger guilds control more territory for a longer period of time.
  • Larger guilds have access to more resources, more often.
  • Larger guilds will have the best crafters because those crafters can source all of their materials from others.
  • Larger guilds ultimately get to experience the game to its fullest.

I do not believe in answering this problem by simply saying, “Then join the big guilds.” I’m also not advocating that big guilds not exist. I do believe people should be free to join whatever guild they wish. What I want to see, however, is a bit more equity in the game’s design.

I want to look at a few solutions and their pros/cons.

Limit Participation

This is implemented, or at least was last time I checked, in Albion Online. Let’s say you have a battle going on for a guild castle or something. Your guild can have 100 people in it, but the battle for that objective may only allow a 5v5 or a 10v10 or whatever.

On one hand, this equalizes the ability for large guilds to zerg out the little guilds during a territory struggle. On the other hand, it ruins immersion and can cause reverse frustration for people in large guilds never being able to participate. Is that bad? Perhaps not, since it may cause guilds to be smaller in general to avoid sitting out or benching people.

Remove objectives which cause or promote a zerg-centric play-style

Having a very small or limited number of holdings on a relatively small map or concentrated area leads to large groups of people fighting over territory. Promoting, which can really be called ‘rewarding’, groups of people for sticking together in large groups will — obviously — lead to people moving around in large groups. Downside here is that you lose that ‘epic’ sense of battles if you create a world dominated by small encounters.

Decrease Black Zones -> Increase Yellow Zones (Albion Online specific)

The overall point here is that more of the game can take place spread out in an area that isn’t dominated by the 1% rolling around in large numbers. This increases the relatively safer areas where players can still get resources, but not be afraid of losing them when ganked by 100 guys.

Item ‘insurance’ when outnumbered

I think EVE does something like this, right? I may be mixing them up with something else. But what if players couldn’t lose items if zerged? 20 people killing one person? They get nothing. This forces people to want to fight fair fights, otherwise they get nothing. I think there’s merit here, but easily exploited.

Eliminate Guild Vs. Guild altogether and have Realm vs. Realm

This allows for multiple guilds to more easily combine together to fight the other side vs. guilds — run by players — dominating. And that’s really the problem here. People will say, “oh just get 3-4 guilds together to take out that bigger guild!” Yeah, sure, okay. Have you actually tried that? When individual interests are at stake, people stop working together. United interests drive cohesiveness.

Remove resources from these areas and simply turn them into e-peen conflicts

This may be my favorite option of all. I only care about this because the resources I want are stuck in the areas where the large guilds are zerging their territories. Take out the resources and let them have a Call of Duty fight. Let them earn combat points from battling it out. Implement a few anti-zerging options, but let the crafters still work hard at gathering materials without having to worry about gathering them amidst the 500 people zerging each other. Otherwise, it’s simply too broken and unbalanced in favor of the zerg.

Adventure Log Update on Games I’m Playing

I’m slacking hard on blogging. Honest truth here is that I have a lot of games I’m enjoying right now. So let’s dive into an adventure log update!

Keen’s Adventure Log, stardate 2/10/2016.

Final Fantasy Explorers

I’m really drawn into FFE. Graev and I are having a good time taking out Eidolons and building up our characters. This is one of those weird situations where I know there’s no story, I know there’s not true ‘end’ to the game. Things just end when I feel like I’ve gotten the most out of making a character and I want to quit. I’m playing a Dark Knight right now, but I think I want to switch over to Red Mage. Something about chain casting and doing more magic with a balanced sword-wielding class seems fun. I’d feel more useful and less one-trick pony, though a DK’s one trick is to do a ton of damage.

A few of you asked about multiplayer. The multiplayer work where you turn on multiplayer mode in your singleplayer game. You then can choose local co-op or multiplayer co-op. You can make a room and have others join it, or join someone else’s room. These are like lobbies. You can password your room and let your friends join — that’s what we do.

Albion Online Closed Beta InviteAlbion Online

Really, really falling hard for Albion Online. Despite so much about the game being centered around GvG combat and taking territories, I find myself harvesting and crafting. What I’m worried about is the benefit of zerging. Zergs will win everything. Zergs will control the map, and despite it being huge it’ll still be that way. Zergs will feed crafters and outperform a solo crafter, or even a crafter backed by a group of friends or group of 10-15. It’s all about numbers.

The more I play, the more I realize there’s still a ton left to do to fix the balance. I think the devs know this. For example, crafting really is borked. To truly master one line of crafting would take like 2 years, but to get that far in combat takes 2 months. While needing to make crafting easier, they can’t make it something anything can just do on the side, otherwise they’ve ruined crafting. The entire game hinges upon how they balance this out. Please, PLEASE, get this right.

I’m about to upgrade my house and add more laborers. I’ll write up on those sometime here soon.

EverQuest

Every day I come home from work, go to the gym, and then log into EverQuest. It’s my routine. I think to myself, “I’m going to get a group and play!” Then I can’t find a group for 20-30 minutes. I get frustrated. I log off. None of this changes my desire to group. I -WANT- to group. I’m playing a Cleric FFS… It must be my schedule. I’m trying to play around 5:30pm Pacific time. Am I too late? Too early? It’s becoming frustrating enough that soon I’ll come home and go straight to Albion Online or FFE.