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Character Advancement

I touched briefly on the idea of character advancement in yesterday’s post, and I think it warrants further discussion.  Right now MMOs seem to have one common theme: Pick a class, quest to level, unlock all abilities, then do end-game activities to get loot to make your abilities better.  That’s the gist of character advancement.  If I were responsible for looking at how characters would advance, level up, improve, etc., in a MMO here’s what I would do.

Specialize

Play-style should radically change based upon one’s chosen profession.  I use the word profession in its truest sense.  Wizards being blacksmiths, blacksmiths being thieves, everyone being everything, it just doesn’t make much sense to me.  Professions require extensive training, prolonged study, and practice.  I like when players need to specialize and choose a path.  Be one thing, and have the game be capable of supporting whatever choice you make by providing a unique and 100% fulfilling experience.

Advancement

Blacksmiths should become better blacksmiths by making weapons.  Thieves should become better at stealing and moving about undetected by actually trying to do so.  Warriors wanting to increase their strength and skill with a blade should have to go out and slay beasts.  I like when I see that my character has become better at using swords because I have actually used a sword. I’m not a believer in universal advancement or “choose where your point goes” systems.  If you use a sword and gain a level, why should you be able to increase your armor value?  I’m not saying that everything should make perfect and realistic sense — it’s a game after all — but these things are capable of being great gameplay mechanics. [Read more…]

Talk about WildStar!

wildstar-engineer

A few of you have been asking me why I don’t write a lot about WildStar.

Honestly, their marketing team does an amazing job ensuring all of the latest information is presented in an exciting and unique way.  Videos are constantly coming out about new classes, new abilities, features, etc.  Their website is one of the best in terms of functionality and information in the industry.  If you don’t know about WildStar at this point it has to be by choice.  It’s hard for me to write about class announcements.

Let’s talk, though, about some of what we’re seeing publicly shown on the website, streams, etc.  They just ‘announced’ (although it was leaked ages ago) the Medic and Engineer thus rounding out the Team Fortress 2 classes.  Reading through some of the abilities on the website and watching the streams, there appears to be a good variety of abilities.  One of my biggest gripes with the combat gameplay from day one has been the conal/aoe nature of all abilities.  Some people call this stuff “skill shot” — those people play League of Legends — and some people call it spaztactics.

While I’m on the subject of things I dislike, anyone else get really worked up when they see every class being DPS?  Be a Medic and heal or DPS! Be a Tank and tank or DPS!  Be a DPS and.. DPS!  No I’m just kidding, that would be silly. There is no straight DPS class.   All classes are Tanks or Heals, with the option to blow stuff up.  I call it big number syndrome.  A friend of mine has it (hey Eternity, how’s it going?)  He has to be DPS and see big numbers or he’s not happy.  That’s okay when it’s a personal.  When big number syndrome becomes a feature, however, I get grumpy.

WildStar’s presentation rocks.  I think the colorful, zany world they’ve built naturally beckons people to play.  I think what they’re planning for housing sounds great.  Although I hate raiding, I respect they are at least making a freaking decision about raiding instead of hedging — they are going big-time raiding if you didn’t know. PvP also sounds like a lot of fun to jump in and out of defending bases (I hope that’s still a planned feature?).   I also love their business model: Subscription or C.R.E.D.D.  Again, if you need more information their website is fantastic.

Is Keen going to play WildStar?

I don’t know yet.  I think it will largely depend on whether or not I think the game will be yet another 3-monther, and how much the game offers before it turns into a raid-grinder.  I’m really done with games that pretend to be one thing, then transform into what the developers meant the game to be all along when players reach max level.  I would rather the game END when I reach max level and be able to look back and say, “That was an amazing journey.”

Is WildStar going to be the next best thing that revolutionizes the industry?!

Their marketing team will probably shed a tear when I say this, but no it won’t.  SPOILERS!  WildStar is a themepark.  I bet it’s going to be a darn good one, but it’s simply going to maintain the status quo.

Adding Depth to FFXIV’s Class System

final fantasy pupper master

Puppet Masters are second only to the monk in hand to hand fighting. They can specialize their pets to fill various roles.

I’m level 50 in Final Fantasy XIV.  I’ve started the gearing up process, begun leveling other classes, and started to figure out how I am going to make money to survive.  I’m also starting to think of ways I would begin to improve FFXIV if I was in charge of developing the game further.

One of the big changes I would make is to the class system.   I really like how one character can be all of the classes yet feel like I’m on a different character who kept all of the core progress.   I would have made fewer classes and more jobs though.  I think there should have been a lot more branching off early on leading into a lot more customization. For example, all Marauders becoming Warriors is a missed opportunity.  Why can’t Marauders branch off into Beast Master, Samurai, Warrior, etc.?  They could specialize early on and have those choices determine the availability of jobs.

The level of customization within each job could be taken further.  Instead of every Summoner receiving identical spells at predetermined levels, what if they could specialize into a particular form of summon.  Another example is the Dragoon which received none of the unique frills they had in XI – no wyvern pet, no breath attacks, nothing special about their lance.  The Dragoon is just a melee dps.  I would give every class more flavor.  Again, Dragoons could specialize into breath attacks, polearms, or their wyvern pet, each providing something beneficial and unique to the game.

final fantasy samurai

Samurai could benefit from supporting classes. Take Samurai as a Warrior for more physical damage, or as a NInja for evasion based abilities.

I really like the idea of supporting classes.  Take the Samurai job for example.  What if you could be any number of base classes then become a Samurai.  Being a Warrior would give your Samurai more of a physical attack approach, a Thief could offer sneak attacks, Ninja would mean you could evade more, etc.

Even without a deeper level of customization, simply adding more ways to splinter off than just a straight Marauder to Warrior — even keeping the abilities granted on level — would make for a more ‘diverse’ playing field.

A lot of this can come down the road in expansions.  Like I’ve said before, nothing about the system now is ‘bad’ but it lacks creativity.  The current class system works for a themepark gear treadmill where melee dps, ranged dps, heals, and tanks are needed to get a job done.  I would like it to be more.

How to Make Grouping More Fun

I talked the other day about making content for groups more engaging, but what about grouping in general?  Graev and I feel MMOs have a lot of room to improve the fun players can have while grouped together.  Accessing more difficult, dynamic, deep in scope content is one way to improve the fun, there are other obvious ways.

Class Synergies

Class synergies would be a great start.  I think Fellowship Maneuvers from Lord of the Rings Online are a great example of a very, very simple way to get classes working together.  Bringing a Burglar along was always a treat because that class could initiate some really helpful group abilities to stun and knock down mobs.  These abilities required group members to pay attention and even coordinate pressing buttons or activating skills.

More complex group synergies are needed.  Imagine if a warrior could pick up a rogue and throw him behind the enemy, or a mage could teleport teammates into position. Mages should be able to cause archers to fire arrows — or even duplicate those arrows magically to give the DPS in your group a boost.  Players these days only care about how good their DPS is compared to everyone else in the group, so most people just spam a rotation and watch a 2 inch box in the corner of their screen.

Clearly Defined Classes

Classes in general these days have homogenized way too much to the point where everyone can do everything.  Grouping has become boring because everyone I group with can do the same things as me.  Graev is constantly bringing up the Druid class from WoW (which can literally tank, heal, melee DPS, and ranged DPS) as an example of what not to do when creating a class.

Classes should have unique and clear roles.  Grouping with a Bard and Enchanter in EverQuest was (and is to this day) a life-changing experience.  Those two classes are so ridiculously different from any other class — again, even to this day — that having one in your group introduced you to new ways of accomplishing your goals.  If there are 10 classes, and each one brings something totally unique, then chances are you’ll run into many different combinations and, when combined with player input, no two groups are alike.

 A Reason to Group

We talk a lot about the importance of group content in MMOs and avoiding the single-player-syndrome.  Yes, it makes an MMO an MMO, and I can ramble on about all the many ways in which grouping is just better ‘for the good of the game’… but ultimately grouping has to be fun or it doesn’t matter.  Give me unique classes, awesome abilities and combinations I’ll only experience in a group, and lots of great content to explore in a group setting, and to me that’s a great start at making grouping a lot more fun.

Might have found my favorite GW2 Class today

Center Keep of Eternal Battleground is huge and fun to siege!

I managed to get some play time in Guild Wars 2 today before succumbing to the 95% load screen hang; Having to Ctrl+alt+del out of the game and then having to restart the comp to recover wore me out after the fifth time.  Definitely performance issues during this event, but that’s the whole point of today. WvW was very, very laggy with massive framerate issues — everyone on ventrilo was complaining about it and I was getting < 10 FPS.

Found a Class I Love!

During the few hours I played around I tried an Elementalist for the first time and fell completely in love with the class.  I felt like a bender from Avatar with the four different elemental schools.  I could switch to fire, water, and air with one more school locked which I assume was earth.  Switching to the different schools gave me different abilities for each element.  Switching weapons gave me additional different abilities.  I tried three different weapons, with three different school, giving me more abilities to mess around with than any other GW2 class I’ve tried.

I managed to play a little bit of WvW before I simply couldn’t handle the framerate issues anymore. The Elementalist is really fun to play because I can target my AOE’s everywhere.  Using my water staff attacks/heals was useful to my team.  The air speed buff was great utility.  I felt useful and had fun, which is all I can ask for in a class.

I’m afraid of Elementalist being overplayed… but I was reminded that GW2 has no raids, individual loot, and little need of balancing classes within a guild.  I can play whatever I want as long as I can get past the psychological effect of seeing my class everywhere.

Keep at night (Thanks to Eternity for the screenshot!)

Game Breaking Overflow

Overflow is still terrible.  Randomly being separated from my friends with no control over how I get back to them is unacceptable and game breaking.  ArenaNet must fix it so that group members can transfer to the same instance their group leader is in, or some other solution of bringing people together.

WvW Fun

Despite the lag, my friends and I went to the Eternal Battleground (center zone of the WvW) and contested the big keep in the center.  We took down the outer door, inner door, then had a massive battle against the red server on the ground floor.  We ended up being wiped, all 50 of our server there, because half our server went up the stairs to fight the boss and the other stayed on the floor.  It didn’t take long before we were overwhelmed and wiped.  Tons of fun!