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Housing in MMOs

MMO housing systems are one of those topics we used to all sit around the table and talk about. Back in the good old days, when there were half a dozen major MMOs in development and everyone was talking about mechanics and features, etc., there would inevitably be a conversation about housing. Will the game have housing?! I remember the forum posts (remember forums?) with long discourses on the pros and cons, how it could be implemented, etc.

Devs would hype their game having houses when it comes out and there would end up being no housing at all. Open-world housing would be promised and it would end up being instanced neighborhoods or “islands” off in the middle of no where. For whatever reason, it kind of became a big joke to me.

I love housing in games. I love decorating them, building them up, collecting things to store in them, and visiting other people’s houses. But I love those things when the games are built around them. Does that makes sense?

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That Sense of Accomplishment

I’ve noticed a theme in the comments here and on other sites regarding the productive use of time when playing MMORPGs.  There’s a tendency for people to say something like, “I want to feel like I’ve achieved something.”  Players want to log in and know that what they did meant something.  No one wants to feel like they have wasted their time.  However, I think the way in which we perceive progress or achievement has drastically lost focus.

Back in the days of the original EverQuest, or even a few months ago when I played again, I could log in and technically lose experience yet still feel like I made progress.  Progress wasn’t just about leveling up or getting better loot.  Traveling was an accomplishment.  Meeting someone new was progress.  Progress wasn’t measured in huge leaps, but in tiny little steps.

WoW Boss Kill

There are more ways to progress than leveling up, killing a boss, and getting loot.

Part of the problem is the ease of which we progress in modern MMOs.  Leveling up from 1-50 takes a couple weeks at most for the average player.  I remember spending 6 months leveling up in EverQuest, and I was one of the fast ones soloing my entire way there on a Necromancer.  When you consider your time spend as a journey, and not a sprint, it’s okay to log in some days and perhaps appear to make no progress.  Chances are you’ve taken steps toward unlocking the ability to progress.

Then there’s the other perspective I have come to know quite well these past few months; it’s okay to just play the game and have fun.  I know to some people making progress is fun, but what happened to just “playing” the game and feeling satisfied?  This goes hand-in-hand with what I’ve been talking about these last few days.  There’s a pervasive mentality out there trying to convince people that unless they are the best raider, the best PvPer, always leveling up, always moving (like a fish) then they are somehow drowning and going to die.  It’s okay to act like a hobbit and kick back, relax, and enjoy the scenery!

WildStar Housing

Many of you agree with me that although this problem rests on the shoulders of the player, we have to acknowledge the fact that games these days are being designed to encourage people to move faster, consume more, and go in a straight line.  Games like EQN Landmark are going to start challenging some of those tropes for the MMO industry like Minecraft did for others. But such a big jump is going to be a disconnect for a lot of people.  I feel like we’ll need a smaller more gradual step to reintroduce the idea of ‘existing’ in a world rather than ‘playing through it’ as fast as possible.

Everything here ultimately boils down to gameplay that, no matter what it involves, makes the player feel accomplished.  Whether it’s decorating a house or killing a dragon, leveling up or riding a boat, finding a sword or dying a horrible death, these things have to be independently unique and fulfilling experiences.

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Am I having fun?

Piggy backing a little bit on yesterday’s post, I started thinking about why I play MMORPGs and how my reasons have changed over the years.  Back when I played The Realm (1996-1999) and EverQuest, I played for fun.  It was something totally new and a pastime that gave me great enjoyment simply by being able to log in and play with hundreds of other people.

My motivations gradually changed over the years.  Around the time of Dark Age of Camelot I started to play because of this transcendent sense of pride and duty.  Still, it was about having fun.

When World of Warcraft came around, things for the entire industry changed.  I know some of you are going to reply and say how no matter what you always play for fun, but hang in there and hear me out.  WoW introduced MMOs to a younger generation of gamers who don’t play for “fun” or “realm pride” or any of  that — they play to be the best.   That’s why raiding is successful and the arena formula works for PvP: Deciding who is the best is almost black and white.

I think it goes beyond people simply preferring to slay big monsters over decorating houses.  There’s no way to say you are the best if all you do is collect resources or make hot tubs out of baubles.

Back when I was a serious WoW player, getting server first kills of major bosses and leading some of the top raiding guilds, I played to be the best.  I can look back and say from experience that the mindset exists and people fall into it without even realizing what they’re doing.  One day you wake up and have this epiphany that what you’re doing isn’t fun.

I’m only closing in on 30 years old, but I get the sense already that I’m one of the older players.  I still have plenty of free time, but my mindset has changed completely.  I’m back in that “I play for fun” mentality.  Everything I do is driven by asking myself, “Is this fun?”  If it’s not, I stop.  This helps me squeeze enjoyment out of some games, and stops me from playing others entirely.

That’s why I ask questions about what kind of activities are available to players at the max level.  I want to know that I can do something other than raid for gear three hours every night of the week.  I want to know that the game is designed to make the crafting, housing, PvP, exploring, gathering, etc., experiences just as fulfilling as the raiding.  I want to know that there will be many ways for me to look for the ‘fun’ without being trapped by what people expect from every MMO.

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MMO Housing Done Right = Awesome

I’m proud to say that [KGC] Haven placed the first house on UO Forever.  That probably doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but it represents something amazing to us.  This old, old game relaunching on a new server has given me more fun in 3 hours than I’ve had in a long time.  That sense of rushing to build a house, working together to craft and earn money, and relying on each other is so awesome.

One of our members worked to hand out horses to the other members within minutes of the server being up.  The rest went to work earning money in various ways.  Now that we have placed our shop/house we own the land.  We OWN the land.  How awesome is that?  Players will run past our house and see it out in the world.  We’ll open the doors with vendors to sell our goods and begin making money selling our wares.  In how many games is that a possibility?  Our goal now is to create a guild city in a far off land, and use portals to travel back and forth.

I love these types of games.  I love knowing that we’re actually a physical part of the community.  Placing our tiny little house right at this Moongate means we will forever influence how this server plays out.  The world has changed, and will continue to change, as a direct result of our input.  That’s the coolest part of MMORPGs.

KGC Haven First House UOF

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My Ideal MMO: Ultimate PvP Sandbox Virtual World

Ideal MMO Combat

Combat would be real-time twitch based like Chivalry. Magic would be rare, and come with a huge burden.

Occasionally I come up with ideas for what my ideal MMORPG would be like.  Here’s a MMORPG I want to see made.  It’s very similar to a game I wrote about a few years ago.  I don’t even know what to call it.  It’s more than a sandbox, more than a virtual world, more than a PvP game.  It’s like the ultimate PvP sandbox for virtual world enthusiasts.   It’s not about grinding, it’s not about beating the game, it’s about living in the world and fulfilling a function as part of a greater community of players.

  • SWG Crafting, Skills, and Housing
  • DAoC style RvR
  • Elder Scrolls / Mount & Blade: Warband / Chivalry real time combat

The whole game would take place in a massive open world that players can colonize, create their own Kingdoms, and begin governing.  Settlements can be constructed around massive castles, and some pre-made settlements would exist with NPC governors.  Players could choose between living in the NPC Kingdom, or venturing out to create their own. Players could attack each other, take over other Kingdoms, and live within a sandbox world where players govern themselves.  The further out from the NPC kingdoms you go, the more you have to rely on the player-driven world.

MMO Desert environment

The world would be so large that desert, snow, corrupted, plains, and other environments would be inhabitable.

The goal of the game would be to continually develop your character to make a living.  Crafting would be at the center of the game because everything would degrade.

Players would have to take on the role of blacksmith and other crafting positions in order to have anything made. The best crafters wouldn’t be able to specialize into combat, so this creates a real sense of specialization, importance, and uniqueness for crafters.

Combat would be the hardest part.  I think current tech doesn’t allow for ideal real time twitch combat, but some day it’ll get there.  I think Darkfall shows we’re fairly close.

Vast MMO World Governed by the players

The world be be enormous. The further out you go, the more you witness the effects of a player-governed world. Players could find an area and begin their own settlement.

Gear would be important, but dieing would mean losing your gear and using it would degrade it anyway.  It needs to be like the medieval times when there could be a special sword you value, but if you lose it you can pick up most any other sword and still be able to fight because YOU are the weapon.

The world would have to be ginormous.  I mean literally huge.  Economies would develop in certain regions that would make economies in other parts of the world feel entirely alien.  There would be desert regions, regions dominated by water, grassy plains, tainted lands, and all sorts of environments.  This also plays into the crafting, as certain resources are only available in certain parts of the world.  Players would have to adapt their skills to the region to help them survive.

I know it’s outrageously ambitious and likely impossible, but this is the foundation for my vision of an ideal virtual world.  I welcome your input on how you would improve or change the idea to be more ideal for you.

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Rift: Storm Legion Tour Part 1

Rift: Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012I had the opportunity to take a private tour of the upcoming Rift: Storm Legion expansion with Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols.  As many of you know, I played Rift when it first launched back in March of 2011.  I played for a few months, got a couple characters almost to the max level, but didn’t continue playing because I felt like something was missing — I wasn’t hooked by anything in particular.  After this awesome tour, I’m able to see many of those ‘hooks’ making their way into Rift when Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012.

During the tour I was introduced to the story and shown the dungeon that would lead up to the new content.  I was shown the Dimension system (player housing), and also the major end-game raid zones.  Elrar also took me to several of the new zones, explained to me how the content would progress during the expansion, and provided me insights into Trion’s thoughts of Rift’s end-game and its future. I was also granted a max level character for the duration of the beta test currently underway.  So as you can tell, there’s a lot for me to share. I’m going to give you guys my honest opinion of what I saw and fill you in with as many details as I can. Be sure to check back for the full look at my tour through Rift: Storm Legion.

Read more after the break for Part 1: Dimensions! Continue reading

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