Thursday, August 28, 2008

Player versus player and MMO games

I wrote this for a forum post over at Gamers with Jobs, but it kinda sums up some of my thoughts on WAR. So I'll re-post it here for posterity.

This is going to seem really out there, but I think one of my favorite PvP (or RvR) experiences was Planetside. I played some DAoC, a good bit of WoW, and I participated in the WAR Preview weekend. None of those three games really came close to having a real advantage to being in a coordinated squad like Planetside did. In Planetside, my outfit had SOPs for tower taking, defense, base breaching, etc. Teamwork was exceptionall important and it made a small group of people extremely effective, even in the face of overwhelming enemy opponents.

I keep thinking about that experience and trying to figure out where DAoC, WoW, and WAR are lacking. This is all just high level theory crafting about WAR and what I think is the ideal MMOPvP game.

1) Outside of some minor differences, all three realms in Planetside had the same basic equipment and gear. Your level did not limit your ability to use something, it just limited the breadth of versatility of your soldier in the field. Basically, an almost level playing field. WAR seems to get closer, and time will tell if this happens one it is released. In Planetside, you would not run into someone who was stronger, faster, and better than you in every way. This is where I see WoW really falling down with PvP.

2) The battlefields are a mess. WoW and WAR both seem to have the idea that the best place to fight is a huge, open field. In Planetside, fighting in a skirmish in the open was a huge no-no. Fight on objectives. Don't fight in the roads. And a large part of this problem is that WoW, WAR, and DAoC don't offer transportation that allows for maneuvering. In Planetside, we often had lots of air positioning to get drop-ships to a base, or complex cat-and-mouse driving of troop carriers to get people to the objectives. I feel like WAR, WoW, etc, are all just a huge open field that everyone runs on. This means there is an advantage to being a loner and hoping you don't get picked off. There is no reason to band together because people will just focus fire you down. I guess it's like fighting in pre-revolutionary war days where everyone just runs at each other.

3) There's no tactical or strategic tools in the game. As a squad leader in Planetside, I could set waypoints, and give people some basic instructions like "Take WP1 tower!" and people would do it (if you were in a coordinated group). You can tell people to do things in WoW, but seeing a huge waypoint on your screen is much better than "Take RH!" "What's RH?" "Relief Hut!" "Where is that?" Even in PUGs, it was possible to do some basic things with the tools that helped people out. It wasn't perfect, but it made things easier.

4) Planetside did not have the concept of tanks (ok, they had tanks, but they were tank tanks, with treads and stuff). Everything was about suppression and damage. I realize WoW is a PvE game first and foremost. I *love* PvE. But WAR seems to have tanks as some kind of vestigial PvE idea. It's a step in the right direction, I think. It just needs to go a little farther. Collision is a huge help here since in Planetside, it meant having a vehicle between you and a bad guy was saving your but. I just wish people between me and a caster in WAR would soak the hits and not just pass through them harmlessly. DOH! If I can't hide behind the big guy with all the health, what good is he?

5) Population controls. WAR doesn't seem to have them. In Planetside, each "island" had pop-locks to keep the ratio of enemies in check for good fights. Sometimes it sucked, but it mean that one side having the lions share of players did not lead to an imbalance. Some people have told me that WAR won't repeat the Alliance/Horde issue of PvP imbalance, but I get the impression that most people who are really looking to fight seriously will go with Destruction. Maybe I am wrong, but if I am not, I don't understand how the game will force more fair fights in the non-scenario style RvR and PvP.

To sum up, I really like the idea of a PvP centric game. But, I feel like organization and good teamwork will not be a huge influence in WAR, based on the RvR I did over the weekend in the elf area. I'm willing to admit I don't know as much about WAR as I do about Planetside. It would be nice to be wrong.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why do it?

Why run a guild? You aren't going to get any financial reward for it. It's unlikely you will get much praise or thanks for the work you do.

In my times of reflection about what frustrates me about the guild, I often come back to the idea that I wanted to make a guild that I would enjoy. A guild based on a belief that WoW requires different things from people based on their goals in the game. A guild that I could "get behind" when it came to an ideal.

No one cares about that crap.

In my time as a guild leader, I saw a lot of good people come into the guild who were perfectly willing to agree to the policies. These people enjoyed playing with the guild, and they fit in well with the existing members. But they did not have any stake in the guilds design. As long as they got what they wanted, the concept of the guild, the design of the guild, the philosophy of the guild, was all irrelevant. This created situations were people only have input on how the guild operates when they don't get what they think they should get. And then, their solutions are designed to get them what they want, not to reinforce the guild concept.

The result? Your concept is worthless to the people enjoying it. There's no admission that you, and your concept, are anything other than a vehicle to get what they want out of their own effort. Is there any wonder so many guild leaders give themselves loot, or take cash out of the bank? There might be some rational to those actions, but it gets the guild leader something tangible that they want. And even then, if you are like me, the rewards and feedback you get will never be worth the hard work, the complaining, the gnashing of teeth that guild leaders must endure.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What do I want?

I enjoy World of Warcraft a great deal. At it's inception, it was clearly an attempt to take the existing MMORPG genre and refine it to be a better game. And over it's many patches and last expansion, the game has evolved to be a better game. Interface improvements, raid and guild management changes, etc. For all my griping in this blog about WoW, it's impossible to imagine running a guild in DAoC or EQ.

My guild is moving through high level raiding content in WoW. I enjoy the mechanics in the game. I like playing a class and doing it well. I like PvE. But there are things I want to see change. Fundamental issues that seem to plague every MMORPG out there. Things that I think could be changed to make things even better.

1) Teach players how to play your game. You can play a hunter in WoW and make it to the max level having never learned about shot rotations. Either the class should not require you to know how that works, or the game should reveal that information to the player during the course of their playing. Not only does it keep people from being "another stupid hunter", but it opens the higher and more in-depth aspects of the game to more people. The mechanics of a class should not be hidden from players. Even if it's just an in-game manual, it would be a huge help.

2) Don't make me have to consult an offline resource, or do complex math, to try and figure out if an item is an upgrade for me. This is similar to my first issue in that it involves the game hiding the game mechanics from me. Sure, give me options in my upgrades, but why should I have to try and determine if +34 Agility is better or worse than +20 Hit Rating for my class role? If people can write mods to distill all this information down to a relative number, why can't that be designed into the game? It sure would help people know how to tank/heal/dps/etc better instead of guessing, or making huge mistakes on what they think is good upgrades. Heck, removing stats from armor or items might be a good step. Have all your armor be just armor and let people add the class appropriate upgrades as enchantments.

3) Give me good rewards when I do something. Let's say I turn in a quest, I should not see a list of items that are useless to me. I should also not see two items I have to decide between, knowing I can never change my mind or get the other item again. Every quest should net me something I can really use. I should never complete an objective and feel like I need to pick the item that will sell to a vendor for the most cash. Why not just give me money?

4) Don't make me solo with morons. I appreciate the scope and open environment of an MMORPG. I really do. The ability to play with lots of other people is the reason I keep playing MMORPGs. But if you want to allow me to solo, then let me do it alone. There's no need to force me to be exposed to the other knuckle-heads when I am playing by myself. No matter how massively multi-player your game is, I don't need some jerk stealing my stuff, killing my quest goals, and making my life more difficult. The game should be fun to play with people, and fun to play when I am doing something on my own.

I know what games were like before World of Warcraft. I know about arduous corpse runs and losing experience every time you died. I remember when quests did not really exist and you leveled by killing monsters over and over. I was there. I know game designers can make the games more fun without sucking all the challenge out. But do not think that WoW's success is some validation that there's no more ways to make the genre better. It can be better, and being better might not get you WoW's subscription numbers, but it will make a great game that people enjoy and keep playing for a long time.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Raiding and Guilds ... part 2?

To add some more evidence to my previous post, I have the following hypothetical situation.

Let's say you join a raiding guild. You always show up on time, perform flawlessly, bring consumables. You are online before invites start and at the entrance to the raiding instance. You are the top performer in your class/role. You log out when the raid is done. You don't talk to anyone and you never converse socially.

Except in some rare situations, you will never be considered a valuable member of the guild. So socially expectant are guilds, that being non-social is a problem. I'm not talking about being anti-social, just being quiet and doing your job.