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MMO Mob Leashing

Mobs never used to give up the chase so quick.  In games like EverQuest, mobs never stopped following until you ‘zoned’ (a concept also becoming foreign these days).  Zoning meant crossing the invisible threshold into another ‘zone’ (that’s where the name came from, btw) which gave a loading screen.  While annoying, this simple concept had incredible influence over so many aspects of the game.

Dungeons were downright deadly.  Going too deep meant your entire group would have to zone if you got aggro you couldn’t kill.  Not only would that mob chase the person it aggroed on, but it would probably hate anyone who looked at it along the way.

Zone size was an important consideration.  A huge zone meant you had to run really, really far.   You couldn’t always outrun the mobs either, so if you were too far from a zone line you might be screwed. I was always – always – keeping in mind where the zone line was so that I could make my escape if a train came by or I quickly found myself outgunned.

Speed buffs mattered.  Spirit of the Wolf wasn’t just a travel luxury, it was always a survival mechanic.  Given the aforementioned points, run speed was almost mandatory for some situations.

Pulling was possible.  Groups used to sit in a corner of the zone and send out one person to grab monsters and bring them back.  Players could sit down, claim a spot, socialize, and just kill mobs.  Certain classes were also “pullers” giving that mechanic life.

That one seemingly smaller mechanic made a huge impact.  A lot of people are quick to say how annoying it was that mobs didn’t stop chasing, or simply dismiss the mechanic as old, but look at the result of mobs leashing.  You can take almost all of these points and flip them around and see the opposite.  I know it’s not “this is why things are the way they are,” but it’s worth taking note of the little things that have an impact on our games.

Old School vs. Modern MMO Combat

MMO CombatAs I continue to play EverQuest and dabble in the older MMOs it’s clear how combat and strategy has changed over the years.  Modern MMOs are all about pressing buttons.  How fast you can press your left mouse button, how well you execute keystrokes in order, where you’ve macroed your abilities, and whether or not you can time your keystrokes properly can be the difference between a mediocre player and a pro.  I’m overwhelmed with the number of abilities I have to have up on my hotbars, and how often I’m having to actively click, press, or faceroll.

Older games, or modern games built in a traditional style, are more about resource management.  I was in Sol A yesterday, and I would rarely use any abilities at all.  I made sure everyone in my group was buffed with breeze and quickness — which effectively doubled their dps, mez’d incoming adds, and debuffed mobs.  I think in a fight I pressed 4 keys then sat down.  Other classes may have the freedom to use abilities one after another, but managing mana is huge.  A wizard might be able to nuke non-stop but that same wizard will then be useless the next fight, or lack the mana to unload in a pinch.

Older games are about strategy, thinking ahead, and overcoming odds.  Modern games are about executing tactics and brute force.  There isn’t a ‘better’ way here, but they are quite different.  The latter, modern way, is more in-line with other modern games.  This generation is interested in action.  Any action will do, and they’ll all likely lead to success if done properly or frequently enough.  Older games are about choosing which path to take, knowing full well that failure is possible.  These are woven into the split-second decisions made during combat.  Do I pull this mob, or that one?  Do I use this ability or wait a few seconds? Which spells should I memorize (because I can’t use them all)  These decisions have been taken away from modern gamers.

It’s like the difference between Hungry Hungry Hippos and Risk — obviously two amazing but different games.  Where do I fall? You probably think I’m going to say I like the slower, more methodical gameplay.  I’m actually in the middle.  I think anyone who swings to either extreme and blatantly hates the other side needs to wake up. The answer isn’t in slow combat that was slow because of technological restrictions.  It’s also not in action combat designed to bring in non-MMO gamers.  Merge the two.  Make players have to think about which abilities they use instead of how frequently they use them, and restore that split-second decision.

Back in Vanguard. Pleased with SOE.

vanguard saga of heroesSome friends and I are back playing Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.  The idea was pitched to me by a member of our gaming community.  I’ve been looking for a reason to get back in Telon, especially after the new F2P model which essentially lifted all of the limitations until end-game.

The appeal of Vanguard comes from the traditional MMO feel.  Plentiful open-world dungeons and group content give players a reason to traverse the huge world.  There are dozens of different places to take a group of players and go on a challenging adventure.  If you don’t have a group of friends to play with then you’ll likely get to know a great deal of players, and form friendships quickly. I already met someone while on the newbie island, and for the first time I added a player to my friends list with the hope I’ll get to meet up with them again.

A lot of great changes have been made to Vanguard to improve the gameplay.  Lower level dungeons have been modified for higher levels, and additional content has been added to make the entire experience more polished and fluid — compare that to a month after launch.  Really makes me wish the game launched in this state.

SOE is winning me over these days.  Every MMO I’ve considered going back to is one of theirs.  SOE has the monopoly on tradition.  If they manage to keep up the nonrestrictive F2P model, and don’t manipulate players, I’ll continue to keep their games on my go-to list.

I’m also beginning to appreciate how my account works across all of their games.  I can log in to Vanguard, then go play Planetside 2.  Their Station Cash carries over from one game to another, and since I didn’t find anything in PS2 worth buying, I’m able to save that money for Vanguard or another game.  All of this is starting to get me hyped for EverQuest Next.  If EQ Next uses Station Cash, and I’m positive it will, then I’ll be able to use my same account.  I’m hoping for a B2P hybrid with the same nonrestrictive F2P model.

If you’re looking for a fun game to last you until Final Fantasy XIV, WildStar, or to simply be a go-to game like it is for me then give Vanguard a try (It’s on Steam).  I’ve had a lot of fun so far.  Keep it up SOE!

Video game instruction manuals

baldurs gate 2 manual

Our copy of the Baldur’s Gate 2′ Instruction Manual — So thick it was spiral bound!

I miss those really big instruction manuals that used to come with games.  When I was younger, in 5th-8th grade, I would bring my instruction manuals to school with me and study them during recess.  I loved the information, pictures, and ability to bring my game with me wherever I go.  Maybe that’s what was so great about having those wonderful smelling, cheaply bound pages.

Back in 1996 I met one of my best childhood friends because I overheard him and a few other kids talking about a video game with a Sorcerer, Rogue, and Warrior. At the time I had no idea what the game was about, but I did my  best to pretend I had a clue so that I’d be included.  I remember begging my Dad to take me out to the store later that day to pick up a copy of Diablo.  When I got it home I ripped open (actually I carefully pealed back the tape) the box and pulled out the holy grail — my ‘in’ with this group of kids — the instruction manual.

Remember how big manuals used to be back then? Loaded with facts about potions, armor, spells, and everything we needed to know, or simply wanted to read about in the bathroom or on a lunch break.

Reducing costs, the internet, mechanical familiarity… I”m sure there’s a dozen reasons why instruction manuals disappeared.  I just know that I love them and what they represent.

I Love Old School Video Game Boxes

I sat down in our gaming room this evening to think up ideas for blog content.  I casually looked around the room and realized I was surrounded by inspiration.  While growing up I had trouble throwing things away — I still hate throwing things away.  If something looks neat, I have a natural desire to display it.  One of my favorite things to collect when I was younger was video game boxes.  We have hundreds of PC game boxes on display in this room.  In our built-in wall unit we have these sections near the roof that go along the edge of the room with recessed lighting.  What’s in them? Computer game boxes.  Across the room from where I’m sitting now we have 2 very large book cases.  Are there books in those shelves?  I think there might be 12 books, 30 game boxes, and some action figures.

Here’s one my favorite shelves.

old school video game boxes

That shelf alone represents more than ten years of memories, and contains some of the greatest video games ever made.  I can lean back in my chair, close my eyes, and transport myself to a world where the memories of these games are alive and well.  I remember watching Graev play Final Fantasy 7 every day when he got home from school.   Graev and I used to go online in Nox, coordinate our play, and just stomp other people.  Age of Empires… my gosh, I got my Mom into that series and to this day even she has fond memories.   Black & White consists of game mechanics which, to this day, are still untapped. Need I say anything at all about the original EverQuest or DAoC?

Collecting boxes has become a hobby.  I can look around this room and see how video game boxes have evolved — how my hobby has evolved — over the years from enormous, cardboard works of art to the smaller boxes with those flaps on the front.  Then came the plastic thicker boxes, and not long after that the thinner boxes shrink wrapped like console games.  In a way, I feel like my collection validates my love for the older generation of gaming, and in a small way I know exactly how some of you must feel about your Atari and even older collections.

I feel almost sad about PC gaming shifting to almost being entirely digital.  How will I keep the memories alive decades later?