Dialogue Options in MMORPGs

I'm a fan of dialogue trees.  I like when I have the choice of what to say in a RPG, though I know that most of the time the dialogue options have very little, if any, real meaning on the game.

One of the few MMOs to ever do dialogue options was/is SWTOR. In almost every case they were even fully voices. Like most dialogue options, however, they fell into the trappings of being super narrow in scope.

Light Side = Spare or be nice
Sith = Kill or be rude

Typically the outcome of your decision didn't reach beyond that one quest.

ESO has dialogue too, sorta. Maybe more of a faux-alogue tree because their conversation trees represent another side where the options are: (1) The option you're supposed to pick to advance the conversion, (2) the 'tell me more' option or 'small talk', and (3) 'Goodbye'

These motifs are common in games as are others.

In most RPGs -- like Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Dragon Age Origins, etc. -- the options tend to be:

Top = Good
Middle = Neutral
Bottom = Bad

When it's so programmatic you really don't even have to think about the choices sometimes. And again, they rarely go beyond the quest or that specific hub or area. I don't like having the choices made so transparent.

Divinity Original Sin is an RPG I can think of that did a nice job with consequences for dialogue trees, and they also did a decent job having multiplayer dialogue options.

In Assassin's Creed Odyssey the quest dialogue options are pretty good. They aren't  prescribed as being good or bad. I like this. In fact, I like it so much that I get super OCD and have no idea how the person I'm talking to will respond. I want to know! So I look it up. To me, that's really cool.

However, Assassin's Creed Odyssey does the other cardinal sin of dialogue trees by having the options not reflect what the characters actually say. I have often chosen to say something because it sounds like a kinder thing to say, but then my character spouts off something snarky or rude and I wish I picked the other option.

A lot of the decisions in AC: Odyssey are also long-reaching into the game's story. If I decline to help someone, or choose not to save someone, or even choose to kill someone or offend them based on dialogue options, then that choice actually comes up later. I've seen massive world-wide ramifications of my choices. Now that's awesome!

I'd love to see the same thing in MMORPGs. That's because I like story with my MMO, and I really like when the world feels connected by choices. Where the challenge comes in is how choices have consequences, and how those would impact the world without immense phasing tech like WoW uses.  

I'd like to see dialogue options in a game like Pantheon; something more RPG old school feeling. What I'm trying to get around is my doubt in dialogue working in a game without it feeling like you're 'playing through it' rather than 'living in it'. Dialogue-heavy games are often played 'through' with a start and an end -- the end comes when the dialogue ends. That's something I'd love to get around, but I don't have a solution. Do you?


Should MMOs Be More Alt Friendly?

I haven’t felt the urge to play so many characters in a MMORPG for over a decade. I think the last time I felt this torn between characters was in Vanguard. In WoW I’m currently playing my Paladin main, a Warrior alt (who has almost caught up to my Paladin in gear), and now a Monk who is a fresh 120. I like them all.

Trying to level up alts and then subsequently gear them isn’t always the easiest activity in WoW. Taking WoW at face value and keeping all things relative to WoW, it’s not alt friendly. Since most of the end-game activities I want to participate in are gated by gear grinds, I find myself stuck in a feeling like I’m running in place. I want to go do higher M+ keys, but my luck on drops sucks. I can’t get the traits I want, or I can’t get the iLvl upgrades I want, etc.

The experience of making a new character and thriving has significant barriers to entry.

Should MMORPGs be more alt friend? If so, how?

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Climbing Out of a Hole After a Loss with Lots of Games

We’ve had a rough go of things this past week. Our pup was diagnosed with bone cancer last month and given 6 months to live. Despite our best efforts to help with treatments and numerous doctor visits, the cancer spread aggressively and claimed our poor friend. I tell you this because I feel the need to justify why I’ve felt withdrawn from blogging, gaming, and everything else this past month (in addition to having traveled for work and being busy). We’re those weird animal people who consider animals family members, and love them as much as people — often more. I’m starting to come out of that hole, and glad games are here to help.

I’ve had some time to dabble in a few things. I want to briefly comment on them here in this conglomoblog then expound upon them in their own entries.

Nintendo Online

The long-awaited Nintendo Online service for the Switch is out now. I picked up the $20/year version. With it comes the ability to continue playing games online — a feature now restricted to the Online service — as well as an array of classic NES games on the Switch’s version of the virtual console. There are also cloud saves and that phone app no one will use. I think it’s a fairly limited program and the price is perhaps justified only by the virtual console.

Super Mario Party Switch

Graev and I both picked up Super Party Party. I’m having fun playing solo and with my wife while waiting for Graev to finish playing Valkyrie Chronicles 4. Once he does, we plan to play online together. I think that’s ultimately where my biggest gripe with the game comes in… there’s no real online play, just mini-game shenanigans. I’m also really displeased with the control setup because you have to use a single Joycon to play. Yes, that means no handheld mode or pro controller, which are both the best control beauties of the console. We’ll write more Super Mario Party soon.

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Azerite Armor’s Failings & Revelations About Gear

If there's one thing the entire WoW community can agree on it's that the Azerite Armor system has been a complete and utter failure.

What was supposed to be a system that allowed players to farm the gear they wanted turned into a RNG hell. What was supposed to be a system that made gear more available made gear more inaccessible than ever. What was supposed to be a system that made off-specs more friendly turned into a system that was just as unfriendly to off-specs as anything else, to the point where it's faster to make a new character than to gear up an off-spec.

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Can You Play More Than One MMORPG at a Time?

I just got back from a business trip to Chicago. This was my second time in the Windy City. Thankfully, it wasn’t so windy. The four days I was there were fairly mild — mostly 60’s and 70’s with 10-15mph wind. As a Southern California shorts-wearing flip-flop-card-carrying member, I did get chilly in the evenings when I would adventure out looking for food. Since I’m not really into the whole food scene or the city scene — especially at night in Chicago — I spent a lot of my time inside.

Back in the day I used to bring a laptop and play games. Even the older MMOs could run on my janky laptop. I would have loved to have WoW running on my iPad Pro or Surface Pro, but was left watching Netflix and playing old school games from GoG.

I had some time to read forums and browse around. I found a topic talking about whether or not you like playing multiple MMOs at once, or if you prefer to stay loyal to just one.

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Should Quests Exist in Modern MMOs?

Should quests exist in today's MMORPG landscape? If so, then how many are too many? This is the question I saw on the Pantheon Twitter today. These questions always strike up a good discussion, so let's jump in.

The question itself simply cannot be answered with a number. We're looking more toward what type of role quests play in the overall design of the game -- what are they a vehicle for, and do they dominate or support gameplay?

Here's my take on the subject.

Quests are often the vehicle for story. In today's modern MMOs we rarely, if ever, see dialogue or story outside of them. If you google "what is a quest" you'll see a very simple definition from Google: "a long or arduous search for something." Quests used to be long adventures where the player would have to truly seek out and, unless they used a guide, figure out riddles, locations, or go on an adventure and see the world to accomplish them.

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When You Have to ‘Sim’ Yourself

I remember the days when character stats were simple. You had strength, dex, int, and those usual stats. You might have even had a few percentages represented as ratios based on those major stats. When you found a piece of gear, like a sword or a new pair of boots, it was obviously an upgrade or a better items -- or it wasn't. For quite some time, this transparent and easily observed way of understanding your character's stats hasn't been present in WoW. Things have seriously evolved... or mutated.

To best understand your gear and what's an upgrade, or to even make heads or tails of it at all, you must do what the cool kids call "sim yo self". To simulate yourself you download an addon gives you a bunch of gibberish representing every facet of your character. You then plug that into a website like Raidbots where it parses all of your data and determines, based on various criteria, how your character performs.

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Crafted Loot and Dropped Loot Co-Existing

Finding a place for crafted gear in a mmorpg where loot can drop from monsters has always been a really rough spot in mmo design. Over on the Pantheon Crafters community they asked a question about whether or not they can co-exist without one eclipsing the other. Let’s check it out.

For this week’s Crafter’s Roundtable, we want to hear from everyone about how you think loot and crafted items can coexist in the game and both be viable without one eclipsing the other. Let us know what you think works to achieve a good balance, and what doesn’t, and why!

I’ve always preferred a system where players taking on the role of full-time crafters create the gear for the adventurers. The most successful design I’ve seen on this is where the adventurers bring back specific items to augment and enhance what the crafters make.

Since we’re talking about the two systems co-existing without one eclipsing the other, obviously both must come together make the best items. Perhaps a crafter can make an item and an adventurer can find an item, but when the two combine together they make something better. This relied on both sides. Still not a perfect scenario.

My favorite is expendable loot. Nothing that drops or is made should last forever. Master crafters could prolong the life of an item, but ultimately that item will break. I also like the idea of augmenting gear with either dropped augments or crafted augments, but those augments would cause the item to degrade even faster. I think I like this system so much because it affords players multiple opportunities and avenues for finding, improving, and retaining gear.


MMORPG Group Etiquette

Playing WoW a lot lately has given me significant exposure to a range of player behaviors. From lazy to go-getter, epeen to carefree, jerk to kind soul. They’re all present and obvious to me in WoW.

This question bounced around social media, and I needed more room to respond. So here goes.

MMORPG Etiquette – What are some of your make or break etiquette rules for grouping up in a social game – Bonus – What are some etiquette rules you feel OK breaking within a group or social situation in an MMORPG?

I want to focus my response on a rather narrow scope. I think general good behavior is generally a given. Assuming people generally behave in the same way they would in a professional environment, let’s move on to social norms and other etiquette.

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