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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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

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

Norrath to Tyria: Professions – Classes on Steroids

One of EverQuest 2’s strengths is the huge variety of classes available in the game.  When the game launched in 2004 there were 24 classes available to use when creating your character (now 25).  These classes were split into 4 archetypes, each holding 6 classes.  Archetypes define your role in EQ2: each class is designed to be able to fulfill the role of their archetype, and the main differences between classes for this role in a single archetype is “how” you do it.

EQ2 Class Icons

The original 24 classes available at launch.

Every class in the Priest archetype, for example, is supposed to be able to heal well enough that generally it doesn’t matter which you bring.  Each, of course, has their specialty in exactly how they heal.  Clerics use reactive heals, Druids use regenerative heals, and Shaman use wards to prevent damage.  Alongside this, each healer has basic heals, and the intent being to allow them to provide similar healing but having to work it in different ways.  Now look at the Fighters.  Generally, each Fighter is supposed to be able to tank in different ways and have their own benefits.  Balance is always a tricky issue, since two of the six Fighters are avoidance tanks.

Obviously I’m being high level here and in actual practice some classes within an archetype are much more preferred over the others due to convenience or just how current balance is working out, but overall the system is at least intended to work this way even if it doesn’t in practice.  It is this archetype system that is most interesting to me, and most relevant to Guild Wars 2. Continue reading

Norrath to Tyria: Social Gameplay

When playing Guild Wars 2, there are a lot of social changes in place compared to EverQuest 2, and normal MMOs in general.  The developers  (again, ArenaNet, not NCSoft) have said that they’re creating the first truly social MMO.  Practically every part of the game is entirely designed around encouraging players to work together in some way, but not punishing them if they want to run around solo or even work by themselves.  These changes flow from philosophies ArenaNet has regarding grind and how players should view each other. Continue reading

Norrath to Tyria

EverQuest 2 and Guild Wars 2 have somewhat of a special relationship in my head, and definitely have similarities as games.  They’re both MMOs, sequels to award-winning games, and take place hundreds of years after the original where catastrophes have caused most of the accessible lands to become blocked off.  They both simply took the original name and put a 2 on the end as their title despite the regularity of subtitles in the original games, and both have had massive game mechanic changes from the first.  Also, they both made/are making significant changes to the MMO genre, for good or bad. Continue reading