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The Council of Gaming Elders

I had a very interesting dream last night. I was evaluating the current state of MMORPGs and decided that the current state of affairs had gone on for too long. Our beloved hobby and industry was degrading past the point of recovery. I took action into my own hands and called a Council of the Gaming Elders.

I was standing in a dimly lit room with a solid round wooden table in the center. A chandelier with glowing blue flames hung above. There were 6 chairs. As I stood at my seat the other Elders entered, each announced by a low voice. First to enter was Mark Jacobs. He stood next to the seat at my right — the table in front of his seat embossed with the realm triad from Dark Age of Camelot. Next to enter was Raph Koster stood by his place marked by a lightsaber crossing a crafting station and house. Steve Danuser was next and took his place by a lore book.  Dave Georgeson entered next and stood near his place marked by a map. Last to enter was Mike Morhaime who took his place next to a seat marked with golden coins.

Once all of the Elders had entered, we sat together in unison. I began the meeting by stating that I had called them all there to discuss how we can restore these games to their true potential. Each of them possessed talents necessary for restoring MMORPGs to their previous state. What followed was an enlightening discussion and meeting of the minds. Each Elder brought up ideas and we began to craft the perfect game… the game to restore balance. It ended with the Elders departing, each committed to bringing their resources together to make this game (which we completely planned out) happen.

I don’t know why my mind chose these people. Mark Jacobs is an obvious one because he has become a friend and I value his contribution to PvP and the MMO community. Raph Koster is someone I’ve always thought of as a virtual world connoisseur. Steve Danuser is someone who gets the idea of a living world and I like his sense of lore and continuity. Dave Georgeson because he is attached to EverQuestand I respect him as a person and his career. Lastly, Mike Morhaime (who surprised me since I thought this would be Chris Metzen) because of his position over WoW.

The game we designed was ideal. That’s the general impression I get. I remember only minor thoughts I was having during the dream. This perfect MMORPG was some sort of mix of every game these Elders had worked out. I was in charge of the vision and I know that I felt like this was the true spiritual successor to every ‘great’ game I remember playing from 1996-2004.

I woke up feeling like I had accomplished some great work. For a moment I was even anxious to go play this game. If only…

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.

ESO’s Future Updates Look Good (on paper)

Zenimax Online Studios released their roadmap for upcoming future changes to The Elder Scrolls Online.  Graev and I are what you might consider ‘regular’ players.  We put in 3-4 hours a week, explore every corner of every zone, listen to 95% of the quest dialog, level our crafting, and do all of the dungeons.  We aren’t leveling quickly at all; We’re getting close to level 30.  We are guildless and just roaming the world together.  I say all of this to give you a bit of context so that you understand where I’m coming from as I comment on what is coming soon to ESO.

Update 1 containing lots of new “veteran” (end-game) content is coming soon.  I think that’s great, but I won’t see any of it for a long time.  What I care about are these future updates:

  • A system that allows grouped players to see each other even when they’re in different phases
  • A justice system—steal from and kill NPCs and deal with the consequences if you are caught
  • Migration of European Megaserver to our European datacenter.
  • Field of View (FOV) adjustment
  • Armor dyeing and tinting
  • Two new Veteran Dungeons: Crypt of Hearts and City of Ash
  • New region of Craglorn with a new Trial (the Serpent)
  • Increased ability to pick up items in the world
  • Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood storyline and quests.
  • Spellcrafting
  • Horse Racing
  • Dragonstar Arena—similar to Trials, but built for a group of four
  • Improvements to fishing
  • Crafting system improvements
  • Improved Looking for Group system
  • Better NPC facial animations

That’s an awesome list.  I’m mostly looking at the changes that make the game and the world feel more like a traditional ES game.  A justice system, more interaction with the world, and two great guilds coming to the game.  Graev and I are both desperately wanting the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves guild.

ESO hasn’t been entirely peachy.  Graev and I are starting to wonder if the subscription is going to be worth it.  We are both tired of just quest grinding, and the experience is starting to feel slightly flat.  The PvP, despite sounding great and all, hasn’t attracted us at all.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me — is it me?  Maybe it’s the game.  I just don’t feel like going out and zerging, and I feel like the PvP is still an arcade experience.  I can’t explain it.  I just see a lack of purpose and meaning.

Maybe, as I think about it here, DAoC was different because of server communities.  I was on Percival in the realm of Midgard.  We worked our butts off to earn Darkness Falls.  We held keeps and fought with unimaginable fervor to hold our keeps and relics.  It was … it really was epic.  I would stand in a keep with my weapon ready staring off into the snowy tree covered hills waiting to see a speck of movement.  The bloody cry of a scout, “THEY’RE COMING!!!!” would make my face tingle as the blood and adrenaline began to flow and we were ready to die where we stood to ensure there wasn’t even a chance in hell our lands would be taken.  I can’t find that in ESO, so I do not participate in PvP.

I’m okay with a PvE experience.  I’m a bit of carebear now.  I just want ESO’s PvE to reflect what matters to me in a game.  It’s getting there.  I just need it to come quicker.

ESO PvP (AvA) First Impressions

I finally made it into Cyradiil!  After playing in the beta since November and having the best intentions every time to participate in PvP I can finally share my thoughts on what is being lauded as the closest thing to DAoC PvP we’ve seen in over a decade.

Cyradiil-ESO

The Map

The very first thing I realized was that Cyradiil is really big.  DAoC’s frontiers are still ginormous by comparison, but Cyradiil is already feels 4x the size of GW2’s WvW zone. Cyradiil can hold 2,000 people and from what I am told is optimized for 200 people on the screen at a time.  I’ll vouch for what I experienced so far, which is probably only ~75 people, but it was 100% smooth.

Cyradiil is full of cities (mostly abandoned) with NPCs (both good and bad) and daily quests to complete.  Graev and I spent what felt like 5 minutes running from one town to the next and didn’t come even remotely close to seeing another player or even a keep or objective to claim.

Teleporting around is a feature.  You can portal between major objectives if you control a path connecting them.  This introduces strategy associated with breaking the enemy’s ability to reinforce quickly.  From only a few hours of play I can already tell you this is going to play a major role like it did in DAoC.  [Read more…]

NPC Merchants

Everquest NPC Merchants

Today’s EverQuest Next Roundtable question asks:

If a player sells an item to an NPC merchant, should other players be able to buy that item from the merchant?

I say absolutely yes.  I actually like NPC merchants — even in a player-driven economy.  In fact, I think merchants should sell decent gear and items to players.  Early Dark Age of Camelot handled this quite well.  Players made the best stuff, and occasionally a good item would drop from dungeons, but players more often than not sold and marketed the best items.

If the weapon sold by a merchant was lower quality, maybe it breaks quicker or does slightly less damage.  Maybe it can’t be repaired fully, and slowly loses permanent durability over time.

The idea of merchants can really be taken further.  What if certain merchants allowed players to put up items on consignment depending on that player’s crafting or merchant status.  Star Wars Galaxies’ merchant class had great tools to utilize both public and private merchant and auction services.

One of the best things about the original EverQuest was being able to find hidden gems on merchants in town.  I would always do a quick check of the merchants in my class training area.  Sometimes you’ll find bone chips, bat wings, and other spell or quest reagents.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!  There’s even the rare occasion where I was able to find magical dungeon drops just sitting on a vendor because someone just sold it to the vender to get rid of it.

So yes, merchants are awesome.