Some quality light reading

There aren’t many opportunities to write entries that present my views on a broad range of topics.  Often times someone will visit the blog and see my most recent thoughts on a single subject.  They may see something that offends them or that differs so greatly that they leave and never return.  The opposite is also true where someone may agree so wholeheartedly that they think we agree on everything.  Bottom line, there’s nothing quite like an interview to give a nice broad representation of how I think.

My most recent interview is with Chris from Game By Night.  I put a lot of time, effort, and really a lot of thought into answering the questions.  Hopefully this will give any of our new readers a nice quick glimpse of my thought process, where I’m coming from when I speak about a certain game, and some of the industry’s issues.  I think it’s a good read.

Something that I enjoy doing with these interviews is putting it on you guys to tell me what, if anything, you would like me to expound upon.

  • It is indeed a quality interview and I hope you get that game industry job some day.

    Incidentally is there no Classical Music radio in the USA? Here in the UK we have “Classic FM” which is 24/7, nationwide Classical and actually very popular. It might even be something you can get as an internet station…

  • Good interview, nice to see the thought process behind the posts of late. One question does come to mind, since it’s brought up a few times in the interview. You state if DAOC or UO re-launched today, it would sell millions. What exactly does that mean? The original mechanics or at a certain point in time (pre shard split / pre trials of atlantis)? New graphics? Or I guess on the flipside, why aren’t these games at the million mark now?

  • One simple explanation: They’re not at the million mark now because they take a long time to actually get into. Especially Ultima Online. Generally, most people don’t have that kind of time to spend on a game anymore. Which is why a game like WoW is so popular. It’s easily accessible and it’s very casual friendly. DAoC isn’t so bad. It’s more the interface and the general feel of the game that will turn most away. UO/DAoC/EQ style gamers are a small minority these days, in my opinion.

    Those games are now behind the times and behind the trends. I had a blast playing UO back in it’s day. However, I wouldn’t like it now. Games like UO promote RC-Playing (Remote Control. i.e Macros). Most people don’t want that anymore. They want to be there for every step their character takes. If you did that for UO you would probably bore yourself to tears. Not to mention the game is pretty horrible now. The expansions they released made the game gear dependent. Instead of the old days, where it was all about how you used the skills available to you.

    Back when an “Of Vanquishing” Broadsword melted people and you spammed magery or you lost. Now it’s all about how much FCR, LRC, etc you have on gear.

  • @Intruder313: When I was in California we had a decent classical channel provided by USC. At times the reception is really bad though, especially where I’m at now.

    @Asmiroth: They’re not at the million mark now because they are old. People do not want to play older games when there are newer options. It’s not only an issue of graphics but polish and technology. They’re also not stable. The populations are low (due to age) and for all we know they could be shut down any moment. People want the comfort of a new title.

    With regard to the games and their updates, I would say both would need to be before their respective updates that ruined them (ToA, for example). If they were updated, given how many people are now in the market to play MMO’s, they would easily rise to the 500k mark then 750k mark and by a year perhaps nearly a million.

    @Shadrah: There are easily just as many or more people playing MMO’s now with just as much or more time to spend playing games. There are people who play WoW until they literally die. Plenty of people would waste their lives on it, and plenty would have enough time to spend to enjoy it. I was in highschool when DAOC first launched and I had plenty of time between that and other activities to play.

    As for “behind the trends”, that’s not entirely accurate. The trends are behind the trends, as I clearly state in the interview when it comes to this industry. However, polish and modernization would be welcomed as I previously mentioned.

  • There’s nothing wrong with today’s games. Accessibility is NOT a bad thing. For ANY game. There are plenty of games still around that cater to small niche markets. In fact, most of them do. The only game that is super high in accessibility right now, is WoW. Everything else caters to niche markets of players.

    Also, anyone who would waste their life away in a video game needs serious help. Period. Ultima Online, when it was good, took months of serious playing to finally be ready for any real competition. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have months of time to spend in a game just to be able to play the game. Sandbox is nice in concept, but generally very poor in execution. They’re typically impossible to keep balanced, even moreso than class based systems.

    Their environments are generally a lot less friendly because they’re mostly for the more “hardcore” gamer. There’s plenty of things about them that are downsides. Sandbox MMOs are not the saviors of this genre. Ease of accessibility, like I said before, is NOT a bad thing.

  • Too much accessibility becomes “dumbed down” if not done right. It’s usually not done right.

    What might be considered by you as a negative because it took months to work towards a goal is considered a positive by others.

    We have plenty of accessible modern games. We do not have -any- modernized versions of oldschool games that can be considered polished and working.

    It appears we favor and value things differently, as though they were flavors of icecream. Neither can be called better but Strawberry is certainly not Chocolate.

    You should notice that I do not demean the accessible games nor do I say they should not exist — although accessibility to the point of dumbing stuff down SHOULD be shunned and the industry as a whole should not move that direction. Equal representation is all I wish. I direct you to my answer where I talk about how the industry is working backwards. I see no reason why we can’t have a game that is both accessible and still keeping to the ideals of say a game like DAOC.

    There’s nothing wrong with yesterday’s games.

  • I can agree with that. Part of the reason I stopped playing WoW is because of how easy they really did make it. I got tired of raiding 3-4 nights a week. Only to have random-guy A have the same gear because he did a few heroics. However, I don’t necessarily agree that we should go back to how old games work. Some of their concepts might be nice, but a true sandbox would be overwhelming for most. It would fall into a niche market more than anything, I believe.

    It’s the same, I guess, that we disagree about Warhammer. I love it, you not so much. We have our own opinions. I have zero problem with that, to be honest. I just don’t feel going back to the old ways is the solution. The industry is in an awkward place. Most gamers demand instant gratification scenarios. So I think the real challenge.. would be how to incorporate that as well into a Sandbox. While offering a good learning curve. Anything too overcomplicated will simply be overlooked by most.

    Young gamers make up a much larger portion of gamers than they did in the old days. Games like UO were for a more mature audience, as were most old-school MMOs. So until a developer can find a way to introduce and old feel to new gamers, I don’t think we’ll ever see another truly successful MMORPG. WoW really did put a dent in the industry. It brought so much accessibility. That’s what makes it sore above the rest. It broke the mold for MMOs. Ease of access combined with a challenge in gorgeous environments with millions of players.

    No matter how much one might bash WoW. Even me, I can’t stand the game anymore. You can’t deny that WoW was the front-runner for today’s generation of games. It really did start this new trend of instant gratification gaming. You could be fairly casual and still not be leaps and bounds behind. At least in vanilla WoW. Whereas in a game like UO, as a new player, it was very frustrating to get a handle on your little corner of the world. It was brutal. Most gamers today can’t really handle that kind of game. Look at DF for instance.

  • Nice review! It’s always enjoyable to read one where both the questions and answers are in-depth and thoughtful. Too many interviews these days are lightweight and predictable.

  • Wouldn’t new FF title feet that mold of “old school”, slow paseing sandbox game with zero handholding from the devs, Keen? In theory this game should have provided that alternative game style you were talking about, but what I found interesting is how negatively community responded to this game. Given your comments one would expect the complete opposite, and not just from the FF franchise fanboys. Putting aside the obvious lunch-time issues aside such as interface lag, content issues and etc. majority of negative comments I saw were all about core game mechanics though. That’s a bit of a disconnect there, wouldn’t you say?

  • FFXIV’s core mechanics are not representative of any specific generation of game — they are representative of Final fantasy’s very distinct style. To answer your question, No, I do not feel it represents any sort of disconnect since i do not think it falls into the same category.

  • Just want to point out that there’s absolutely no reason a MMO can’t start out accessible, i.e. “dumbed down”, or even “theme park-y” and go more complex “sand box-y” from there. It’s just a matter of design.

    Design the game to clearly show new players what the potential is, and how to get there.

    Design the game to be interesting. (Grinding is not interesting, yet it continues to be a major part of every MMO out there…)

    Design the game to be dynamic. UO was far more dynamic than any of the current MMOs, e.g. mobs didn’t constantly respawn in the exact same locations day-in and day-out.

    Design the game to be balanced and fair. (Let me point out that “balanced and fair” does not mean everybody should get to do and see everything; do not design for the lowest common denominator!)

    Above all, design the game to be fun and meaningful — all of it; every little bit. (By “meaningful” I mean that the player can actually take part in the the world, affecting things around him, not just sightseeing through it.)

    (Oh and leave out all the inane filler, the stuff that doesn’t matter, the stuff players only do ’cause they’re bored. Like achievements…)

  • Great read Keen, really.

    I would be curious as hell about the MMO idea you have written down 😀

    @Shadrah: “The only game that is super high in accessibility right now, is WoW. Everything else caters to niche markets of players.” That´s just…no.

    WoW, LotrO, Warhammer, Aion, which are just the bigger titels that got released in the last years, are ALL totaly easy and try to cater to a bigger audience. Just because WoW is that one time wonder with their numbers, doesn´t mean it´s the only easy game out there.

    A game like EvE was made for a specific playerbase and is way more complex, and still it is one of the few that can claim to have a constant growth since release!

    I won´t even comment on the waste your life part…

    @Xenovore: I´m not sure that is a good idea, if you make the game very easy in the beginning and then make it “sandboxy” players might not leave in the beginnig but later on, because they got a false impression of the game at first.

    I had a similar experience with some players in LotrO when it launched, the game was rather easy and standart, lot´s of solo things to do, but the more you played it harder became to do something alone. People where forced into groups (which is not necessary a bad thing) and then left because they had the impression at first, they could do most stuff alone (like in WoW as an example).

    Some other good ideas though.

  • Except that LOTRO (A purely PvE game), Warhammer (A PvP driven game), and Aion (A meh game) all target one specific audience of players (Maybe Aion not so much with it’s lulPvE). If you want PvE, LOTRO is for you. If you want PvP, Warhammer is for you. I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of niche. Yeah? Yep, it is. All three are far less accessible/easy than WoW. WoW is quite possibly the easiest game ever released to get into. If you think otherwise then there’s a serious problem.

    As for the wasting your life comment. If you had actually read what Keen said to be before and then read what i said, you might see why I said it. He made a comment about people playing video games literally, to death. So I made the comment about wasting your life in a video game meaning you had serious problems.

       /nɪtʃ/ Show Spelled [nich] Show IPA noun, adjective, verb, niched, nich·ing.
    an ornamental recess in a wall or the like, usually semicircular in plan and arched, as for a statue or other decorative object.
    a place or position suitable or appropriate for a person or thing: to find one’s niche in the business world.
    a distinct segment of a market.
    Ecology . the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals.
    pertaining to or intended for a market niche; having specific appeal: niche advertising.
    –verb (used with object)
    to place (something) in a niche.

    I think number three and number five will clear that up for you.

  • I guess i have a serious problem then.

    Warhammer a PvP driven game, spare me, if the game would be a PvP driven game they would not have put so much work into pve, from the race specific story lines, to “hidden” pve bosses and dungeons.

    It´s a hybrid that tries to do both. The same goes for Aion, you only get the chance to do pvp pretty late for a “pvp” game, and grinding pve mobs for pvp gear sure is a great example of “pvp”.

    Yes Lotro is a pve game in the first place, it still has pvp though. But hey, so is WoW, it´s a pve game in the first place, they had no pvp for a long time after launch. They all try to do both and have both. The one more, the other less. If they would really stay close to their core audience, there would be no pvp in Lotro nor WoW and titles like Aion and Warhammer would be PvP only, with quests, crafting etc. centered around that play style.

    Now, really, far less accessible as WoW? They are all piss poor easy. There is almost no learning curve at all. I said WoW isn´t the only easy game out there, the easiest? Yes. But the others are not far behind. If you have played one, you can easily play the other theme park mmo´s without a problem. If you like them or not is a different story.

    That however doesn´t change that they are easy games with hardly any challenge in it and as long as they try to appeal to both, pve and pve players, they don´t cater to a niche. I might add, i don´t have a problem with hybrid games at all, but usualy one aspect is poorly done.