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Archive for February, 2009

Ysharros has a great post up on the new user-generated content machine in City of Heroes/Villains.  I’m warily intrigued, since on the one hand, I like the idea of giving players power… but on the other hand, players can be idiots.  The idea I love, the implementation and results are still up for grabs.

A Large Step for CoX

There are plenty of blog posts around on this particular little widget, so I’m not gong to belabor the point.  Interested parties can chase the chain of links to see some of the fuss.  I’m in “wait and see” mode, and may well comment later when things start happening, if I remember.

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It’s heartening to see others writing the same sort of arguments that I’d make.  Maybe it’s a shared delusion, but I really do think that the MMO market is poised for some interesting tectonic shifts in the relatively near future.  It’s the simple maturation of a market, despite the old generation doing all they can to maintain the status quo.

Spouse Aggro: F2P

Spouse Aggro: Mabinogi

Viva la revolution indeed.  At least this one just has digital blood in the imaginary streets.  I’m not looking forward to the pain involved in the awakening of the real world… but that’s another article.

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With apologies to Wolfshead, who has an excellent article forecasting Blizzard’s next hero class, I’m making a prediction of my own.

Predicting the Second WoW Hero Class (via Wolfshead)

I’m calling it now:  the next WoW hero class will be the Middleage Mutant Ninja, playable only by Orcs, Trolls, Dranei and Night Elves.  Each race will specialize in a specific weapon:  Orcs get Nunchaku, Trolls get Knives/Sai, Dranei get 1H Swords with dual wielding at level 5, and Night Elves get Staves.  All specialize in Thrown weapons as well, and get extra buff bonuses from the new Pizza food item (which will have faction recipes as well as at least one recipe for each skill tier of the Cooking skill).

The neutral trainer (accessible by both sides via a vast interconnected subterranean tunnel network that has the class starting area as a hub) will live under Stormwind, and will be an outcast from a secret Human Runemaster training enclave.  He will be an oversized Kobold, a former house servant of the (dearly departed) Human Runemaster master, and will be the (apparent) sole survivor of the enclave’s destruction at the hands of a rebellious Pandaren student.

The MMN clan will be in a minor turf war with a new branch of the Defias group known for bladed fist weapon specialization and martial arts, led by a masked demon-tainted Pandaren who sounds suspiciously familiar.  This clan will occasionally enlist monsters throughout the world, training them in a few of their tactics and giving them special palette swaps.

MMNs will play as a melee DPS/CC class, with a wide variety of escape skills, some of which have secondary CC components, and will have a secondary buffing function.  The three Talent Trees will be Berzerker (heavy melee DPS, light ranged DPS, minor buffs, minor CC), Tactician (balanced but middling ranged and melee DPS, very strong CC, group buffs) and Sensei (medium melee DPS, strong ranged DPS, medium CC, strong group buffs).  All specs will have a form of Meditation, an efficient self-HoT, and a Focus suite which serves as a self-only variant of Paladin Auras.

MMNs will use Chi, a new secondary character resource, a bit like mana, but recharged more slowly over time or more quickly (maybe in chunks, it depends on beta testing and Nerf duels) as a result of a successful Dodge.  (They will naturally have a higher Dodge rating than most to fuel this resource and mitigate damage.)  They will be a Leather wearing class, with special class-restricted recipes, including unique leather cloaks.

MMN ranged Thrown weapons will travel faster than those of any other class, and will be more frequent, and may even be dual wielded.  MMNs who specialize in one weapon type (ignoring Thrown weapons) at the exclusion of others will gain bonuses when using that weapon class.

MMNs will have unique Engineering recipes, and a variety of new mounts that are specialized for their tunnel network.  Other unique Engineering recipes may well be minor plot hooks, and will be earned through appealing to a handful of new Factions across the world.  The quest for the world’s best mousetrap will be one recurring theme.

The expansion will also introduce the new Cartographer profession.  This profession is leveled up through exploration (no more AFK crafting grinding by the forge, now you can AFK craft with autorun!), and produces Map and Chart consumables and even tabards.  Maps and Charts give temporary bonuses against local mobs, as well as increasing radar range for the various map detector skills.  (Herbologists and Miners would be able to detect nodes at greater range, and Hunters’ Track skills would also have greater range.)

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I don’t remember why I found this game, but I’m going to dig into it a little bit:

Vendetta Online

Do any of you have experience with this game?  It’s been live since 2004, apparently, which speaks well to its stability, but more interestingly for me, the dev team is four people.  Just four.

Wiqd, there’s hope!

Of course, there are some things in a space based game that would be easier than something like a WoW (no need for skeletons and animations, for one), but still, between this and Love, the one man MMO, it’s heartening to see that small teams can make interesting games.

I’ve not tried it yet, so it may turn out to be lame beyond belief, and the screenshots stopped updating in 07, so maybe they aren’t still doing much, but still, if the game netted a profit, that’s something.  As might be expected, the sub model means I won’t be digging in for good, but I’ll check the game out to see what might be going on.  Just as soon as I finish Krokotopia, anyway.  And as soon as I play a little with this other game I’m playing in a beta for.  And as soon as I finish Alpha Hex.

…yeah.  Later.

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MMOpen Source

OK, back to game design.  I just had to get the other stuff out of my system.  *stretch*  Ah, that’s better.

This is an interesting little article about taking MMOs into the open source playground.  Specifically, old, dead MMOs whose publishers have pulled the plug.  Tabula Rasa, for a recent example, but the article cites others:

Open Sourcing the MMO

After reading Brian “Psychochild” Green’s comment on Meridian 59, I’m a bit torn.  On the one hand, as a mook in the game industry, I’m all for wanting to make money off of my hard work, and going open source kind of kills that.  On the other hand, as a gamer, I’d rather keep games alive even after the publishers wash their hands, and it’s even better if they are free.  On the other hand, as a designer, I think that the game industry has a severe need to maintain historical archival access to games so that we may learn from the work of our predecessors.  On the other hand, open source games may well suffer from code hackers diluting or radically altering the original’s vision.  A living document such as an open sourced game would be just doesn’t maintain historic integrity with all the little monkeys trying to write Shakespeare in the database.

Alpha Hex is being developed open source, despite my wish to do it all by my widdle self so that I could profit madly from it.  I’ve rationalized that decision by reminding myself that I don’t know how to do the engineering for it, and that learning how to do so would have taken a lot of time.  I want the game out there, being played by myself and others.  I can also admit that I’m going to dig into that code and see what I can learn from a little creative dissection.

The open source movement is great for cheap gamers, fans and students, not so good for those making a living at these things.  No surprise there, to be sure, but what think you?  If your favorite MMO were to die (as they all must, at some time), what then?  Hang up the scabbard, ride into the sunset and find a new love, or cry desperately for life support?  Would a zombie MMO be as satisfying as when it was in the prime of its life?

Or, taking another tack, would developing an MMO open source be viable?  Could a bunch of us armchair designers democratize the process and create something beautiful and interesting without succumbing to the Second Life succubus?  Certainly, open source design isn’t the only way to collaborate in this day and age, but it certainly lowers the bar for entry and can be the diffference between actually getting something done and just dreaming about it.  Could a purely voluntary collaborative brain trust come up with anything other than a patchwork Frankenstein of a game the size and scope of an MMO?  Maybe we’ll find out if Wiqd and I get things rolling, or if MetaPlace actually works like Raph wishes.

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Timing and Taxes

I got this interesting little tidbit in my email today:

hrblock

As it happens, yes, I did know that most of the Bailout Bill won’t be spent immediately, despite the rhetoric that it “must be passed now or the economy crashes!!!” that the media shoveled into our feeding trough.  It just strikes me as interesting that a company making money off of a Byzantine tax code would effectively admit that the Bailout was effectively sold under false pretenses (that is, if you’re paying attention).  No, H&R isn’t part of the gommint, but I suspect that they waited until after the bill passed to send this particular promotion out.  Can’t let the lemming consumers learn the reality of the Bailout after all, not when they can still complain to their congresscritters.

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Cloudy Crystal Ball

This guy is silly:

Dave Perry at DICE 09

Single player games will always have an audience.  The sales of the Nintendo DS have indicated that pretty clearly, among other things.  Even in the MMO space, Blizzard finally understood that the solo player is valuable.  ArenaNet knew that all along.

Don’t even get me started on his typical industry-popular hatred of used games.  News flash, Perry:  Not everyone is an early adopter, not everyone who isn’t is a pirate.  Price your games well to start with, and the sales will come.  (Especially for the next few years, maybe longer with stimulation.)

With professionals like this, I’ll take more armchair designers, thanks.

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Ten Grand

Sometime during the night when I was trying to get my children to sleep, WordPress recorded the ten thousandth visit to my little site here.  Yeah, I know, Tobold gets that in the time it took me to write this up… but it’s still a milestone that I am equally baffled about and pleased with.

Thanks for stopping by to read, everyone, and more, for adding your insight and interest to my little pocket of the ‘net.  It’s good to find like minded folk, but more than that, I’ve learned quite a bit from the discussions around here, both from those who share my views and those who differ.

Here’s hoping that some of these missives I throw out there are planting seeds that can either help individuals or the industry at large.  I write because I want to get it out of my system and to crystallize my thoughts, but if I’ve helped someone along the way, I’m happy.

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TARP

Thanks to Calculated Risk for this:

TARP Visualized

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WoW Reset

Tobold has an interesting post up wondering about what might happen if the WoW database were visited by gremlins and all player data was wiped.  The predictable comments range from “yeah, I’d start over, it’s fun to play” to “dood, that sucks, my toon is leet”.  I suspect there are some Bartle pigeonholes that might correlate to some of those answers.

All WoW Characters Deleted!

I’d take that thought experiment in two different directions, though, and while I could drop those tangents on Tobold, I figure it’s better to bring them over here.  Mine is a smaller bully pulpit, but I do try to avoid extreme hijacking.

First, since it’s directly relevant to my game designs, how would people react with periodic server wipes?  When you know it’s coming, how does that change your attitude?  Also, if you know there may be ways to keep some stuff or abilities through the wipes, how far do you go to make that a reality?  What would make a game fun enough to play after a wipe, and more, to keep playing through several wipes?  (I see this as an extension of the Counterstrike “round” mechanic.  People keep playing that, so how can we take that inertia and extend it to a quarterly wipe?)

Second, specific to WoW, what if the tectonic event weren’t a character data wipe, but the floodgates being opened and the game being made free to play with ads in loading screens, with the condition that everyone would have to start on new servers, and there would be no character migrations?  Keep the old servers in the sub model, but open new servers for the F2P ad-driven crowd.  No microtransactions (MT), no RMT, since that’s a bridge too far for most (though it would be a logical next step after the ad servers).

Who would play?  Who would stay on their old servers and keep subbing?  Would the ads drive enough revenue?  Would they be able to go further and set up a MT server?  Most importantly, would it make Blizzard more money?

It’s not unprecedented.  Puzzle Pirates started as a sub game.  They still maintain those sub servers, which still have vibrant communities.  They added a microtransaction server, and it was successful.  They still haven’t added another sub server, but they have added 5 more MT servers.  (One German, one Japanese, three English.)  They did introduce a dual currency and a blind currency exchange, as well as a handful of other changes to make the MT system work, but by and large, it’s been very profitable for Three Rings.

Yes, PP and WoW are different games, but conceptually, it’s not impossible to see Blizzard branching out, and profiting even more from doing so, especially in price conscious times.  Then again, perhaps that’s what BlizzardMMO#2 will do.  I guess we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll keep imagining what could be, and keep trying to find ways to leverage the demand that Blizzard isn’t meeting, and to find ways to take the money they are leaving on the table.

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