Staying Ahead of the Curve

Over the past several months I’ve had computer issues, job issues, etc, and these almost always end up hitting just before a major content update.  This has gotten me thinking about a problem that has always plagued me: staying ahead of the content curve.  Specifically I’m referring to being able to complete all the available content I want to do before new content is added, and it’s an eternal pain in my side that has haunted me as long as I’ve played MMOs.

See, MMOs are essentially a living thing if done right.  Except for dying games, or some games pretty much on life support like Vanguard: SOH was until recently, the developers tend to release new content or updates for players to do.  Whether it be a new dungeon, new zones, or more quests, the point is to give more things to the players so they don’t get too bored and leave (a real problem for most subscription games).

Probably the biggest challenge here is that different types of players churn through content at different rates.  Some players can go through the tasks extremely quickly whereas others take years, and this reflects a wide range of variables such as time available, skill level, or just how much time they spend “smelling the roses” (ahem).  This means developers must strike a balance point on the amount of content to give enough to do, stereotypically between “casual” and “hardcore” players.  I refer to myself as more “time limited”, but that usually puts me in the “casual” camp.

I’ve always been behind the content curve, always playing catch-up.  It’s hard not to feel left out, which is a problem in what is supposed to be a social game.  Continue reading

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The Lost Shores awaits…

One thing that may be apparent is that it’s been a while since I posted anything here.  It hasn’t been forgotten, I just have been involved in various things.

The main thing that’s been occupying my time (other than work and life as usual, obviously) is the Guild Wars 2 Wiki.  This is an official wiki that was set up and hosted by ArenaNet, but the content is updated and maintained by players.  It is far more informative than many other MMOs I’ve seen.  For my part, I’ve been involved mainly with the game release content pages, most recently the upcoming Lost Shores release.

Ain’t so lost anymore…

The Lost Shores is the November content release for Guild Wars 2, following on the heels of October’s Shadow of the Mad King release (seriously, the prelude for it began the day the Halloween content was removed).  Touted as almost a mini-expansion, there’s such a huge amount of content incoming for this release that I can only think part of it had been started months ago.  A new map, a new enemy, a new “infinite” scaling dungeon, a new PvP map, and a full weekend-long event to kick the whole thing off.  I’ve been very involved in documenting as much as possible on the wiki, so go take a look for all your Lost Shores info.

There’s a couple things I want to bring up, though. (Only text below, bring your reading glasses, though I promise it’s not bad) Continue reading

The last day dawns…

(Yes, I went ahead with the obvious article name for GW1 fans…it’s just fitting)

Five years is a long time to wait for a game.  I can remember walking into a bookstore in Austin and seeing the cover for the PC Gamer magazine showing off Guild Wars 2’s announcement, along with the announcement that no more campaigns for GW1 would be made.  I think I read the whole article right there in the store…twice.

What happens in 5 years?  How long is 5 years, really?  For starters, I got married, had a child, and moved into a house.  It’s not an insignificant amount of time, and certainly isn’t for the developers.  Making a MMO game takes a long time, and you really have to love what you’re doing and you really have to love games.  Ree Soesbee (Lore Master) once compared it to chocolate cake.  You can like chocolate cake, but having it every day can get really tiresome and boring quickly…unless you really love chocolate cake. Continue reading

Norrath to Tyria: Races – Walking a Mile (or a Hundred) in Someone Else’s Shoes

As with their classes, EverQuest 2 has a massive number of race choices available.  More than most MMOs, in fact.  There are the variations of human-looking races (Elves, Humans, Erudites, Barbarians, Fae, Gnomes, Halflings, etc), but there are also more fantastic races available (Ogres, Trolls, Lizards, Rats, Cats, Frogs, etc).  There’s a ton available.

Multiple races in MMOs give players a chance to step into the shoes of a person with a completely different experience, and therefore lends itself to a lot of fun roleplaying different beliefs and attitudes.  Even if that’s not for you, just looking different than normal can be enough to make your playtime refreshing.

For this post I’ll only be going over the playable races in GW2 and similarities with EQ2 races.  Guild Wars 2 brings a distinct feel to every race in the game.  Even the non-playable races have their own unique feel, although that’s not really the point of this article.  Let’s see what we have available in Guild Wars 2. Continue reading

The Nature of Dynamic Events – ArenaNet’s Hat Trick

As stated in my previous post, Dynamic Events are the primary form of content in Guild Wars 2.  I say this with almost total certainty, in fact.  Primary content in an MMO should become more plentiful as you become higher level, because you are more capable and expect more.  As we learned recently, there are no renown areas in Orr (the majority of the high level zones in GW2 are in Orr), yet there are twice as many Dynamic Events in these high level areas.  In addition, there are far more Dynamic Events than other types of content (over 1500 events as of a year ago and still growing).

What are Dynamic Events though, and why move to this?  This type of content fascinates me, not only with the flexibility of the content, but also how events seem to take benefits of previous forms and remove the problems with those forms of content.  Everyone has probably played a game where there were some aspects they really liked, but it also had problems that really soured the experience.

There’s a pretty awesome video of a panel ArenaNet did in 2010 at GDC Europe where they describe the whole Dynamic Event system, how they came to this setup, and things they learned early on.  Give it a look, it’s really enlightening into the whole process even if one or two aspects may not have made it to current iterations.  Of particular value (to me, at least) is their descriptions of the first two eras of MMO content (starting at 1:05, or the Hunting and Questing sections), and their benefits and problems. Continue reading

Dynamic Events and the Subtle Training of Questing

Ever since the BWEs started, there’s been plenty of discussion about the game and how everything works out for the players.  Between the new combat system, overflow servers, new event system, fast travel, personal story, etc there’s a lot of things that can possibly go wrong.  One thing definitely comes up a lot though, and that’s the fact that it’s possible to 100% complete an area yet still not be leveled up enough to move on to the next area.

On the world map there are five items that are tracked: waypoints, points of interest, skill challenges, renown areas (hearts), and the new vistas.  There are a limited number of these on each map and they are all one-time completions.  This makes these items very good for completion tracking, so it makes sense they would do this.  However, there’s a problem that has been rearing it’s ugly head for a while now, and it has to do with the interaction between these completion goals and how dynamic events work. Continue reading

Norrath to Tyria: Skills – It’s Not the Size That Counts, It’s How You Use it! (Part 2)

In the last post I covered the layout of the skill bar.  While this is a major part of the skill system, it is yet only a part of it.  Both systems are also distinguished by how you learn skills and how you use them, and even here they are significantly different.

EverQuest 2 has a skill system that is very much about multiple upgrade paths for skills, either upgrading the individual skill via upgrades or replacing it with a more powerful version as you level.  Guild Wars 2 skills, on the other hand, have only one version of each skill that automatically scales based on your level and build, relying on the versatility of the skills and builds to provide complexity.  That’s a significant difference, both in skill design and in-game feel as you use them.

There’s a good amount to cover here so let’s jump right in. Continue reading