Posts Tagged ‘solo’

Sounds Good To Me

Tobold is kicking around another ideological tin can, prompting a few responses here and there.

Larisa weighs in on morons and NPCs (Gevlon variant impending, I’m sure)

KIASA’s Melmoth writes of reality TV

Klepsacovic writes about communities

Even Raph Koster tosses in his two bits

Oh, and I wrote about this before in a few different forms, albeit tangentially as I so often do.

Bottom line, I don’t want to need other people, but I want the option of playing with others if I feel like it.

Beyond the bottom line, Henchmen open up a game, as evidenced by Guild Wars and its NPC flunkies.  For challenging content, yes, people are still better (though maybe it’s nice to challenge one’s self by managing a party, as another sort of challenge).  NPCs are better than a PUG sometimes, though, especially if the kids might wake up at any moment and need a hug.

I would love WoW if I could play group content with NPC henchmen.  (OK, and if they would ditch the subscription model.)  I would still go play with other people sometimes because I enjoy doing so.  (And incidentally, it seems to me that Dungeon Finder runs would be better if they were formed with people who want to play with others, rather than those who must play with others to get the shinies.  Henchmen NPCs would help that in my eyes, by letting the mercenary players just go do their own thing and letting sociable players get together with less static in the system.)

Ultimately, it’s up to the players and if they want to socialize at all.  Sometimes I’ll fire up Puzzle Pirates just to go talk to some old friends.  Sometimes I just want to go Shipwright alone or take out my sloop with some NPCs (effectively soloing small scale group content, with a nice variety of challenge levels that vary by scaling somewhat to my interest and ability).  It’s nice to have several options and not be hobbled because I don’t have others to play with or the inclination to do so.  And yes, I do invite others to my humble little ship to play as a group sometimes, but it’s when I want to, not something I have to do to play the game.

Why do we play with each other in WoW at all?  What if the loot and leveling were removed?  What if it really was just all about the play and socializing?  Is pure multiplayer gameplay without loot bribery a viable community building tool?  Even WoW had to incentivize guild membership via yet another rep grind with silly boosts (Gasp! XP accelerators! Minipets! Shinies!) to get people together.

If the question is “what happened to people playing together?”, I suggest it has far less to do with soloability and far more to do with the actual play.  If something isn’t fun to do with other people, making the payoff bigger or forcing players to play together isn’t actually solving the problem.

As Raph notes, retention is sometimes strongly rooted in social ties (though Gordon rightly disagrees, pointing to the Skinner Box mechanics), and as I’ve noted before, the people really are the best part of these things… but they are also the worst part.  It’s wise to let players participate in your game world (indirectly socializing, and still playing/paying) while they sift out the sympathetic players from the unfriendly ones.  That means strong solo options to keep people invested in the world while they are sorting, and good mechanics that don’t punish those players who want to play together.

And maybe, just maybe… a good game to play, instead of just more numbers (jump ahead to 4:21 for the numbers bit).

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…what a ship is, what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom…

Jack Sparrow

Allods Online is a polished, well crafted MMO.  I dearly wish it would have taken a page from Puzzle Pirates, though.

One of the key points that differentiates Allods Online from most modern MMOs is the Astral and Astral Ships.  Players build ships that they can sail the Astral with, flitting between Allods (landmasses in the Astral aether), exploring PvE and PvP content.  The core mechanics of cooperative PvE and “open sea” PvP (making piracy viable, since players have to “port” with their treasure chests before laying proper claim to them) are very similar to Puzzle Pirates.  I’d say they make a lot of sense in any game where you have ships and islands or rough analogies.  EVE also comes to mind, though I’m not sure how well the concepts track there.

The part that I wish Allods Online would take from Puzzle Pirates is the wide range of ships, all the way from soloable Sloops (with NPC assistants) to Grand Frigates that can have 150 or more players aboard.  (Multiship PvP is also great in PP, with each “weight class” of ship having a use, given maneuverability, crew and firepower.)  Sloops are cheap enough for players to acquire one pretty quickly (depending on player skill and crew support), and players can be out sailing the ocean on their own ship far before what might be considered the “endgame”, easily within a couple of weeks for all but the most casual and incompetent of players.  There is a ship for nearly any group size, and a couple that fill similar niches, changing the combat tactics rather than the group size.

There are other things about PP that would make Allods Online more interesting, like the ability for crew conglomerates (flags) to own islands, the ability to make a living as a merchant (shipping, buying and selling goods between islands), the Black Ship to prevent ganking, and the dual currency system with blind auction currency exchange, but what really stands out to me is the ships.

I want my own ship in Allods Online, and I want to be able to solo it, and to take it out with a few close friends if I so choose. It’s no accident that I’ve grouped more in PP than any other MMO combined.  It’s easy to do, it’s easy to solo, and it’s easy to transition between the two via NPC swabbies, even midsession.  The bad guys are controlled by a dynamic spawn system that adjusts the PvE to your current ship’s staffing.  It’s painless and fun to be up and running, playing the shipboard games, solo or with others, very quickly, and changes midstride don’t wreck the whole journey.

Beyond game mechanics, though, there is a personal connection that you can have with ships.  I have a handful of ships in PP, and my most cherished game possessions are on one particular ship that cannot be sunk (you can sink ships, but only in arenas where you have to click through a confirmation to get to), decorated with the finest stuff that I’ve found in the game.  I’ve renamed the ship, painted it, and stocked it with trinkets and doodads that are irreplaceable.  It’s like private housing and a gameplay vehicle all in one, and I’m inordinately fond of it.  It is my home in Puzzle Pirates, more than a crew, more than an island, more than a server.

I want that connection to the Allods Online game world, a beautiful, imaginative place that I want to explore in glorious 3D.

That the current proposed implementation of ships in AO is based in the endgame and forced grouping (ships require a handful of players to function) makes me sad.  I still heartily recommend the game for its varied classes, great art direction, interesting lore, great business model, good combat and overall polish.  Apparently, you can customize your own ship in AO, a decision I do applaud and consider wise.  I don’t dislike the game at all.

I just wish that I could find the same connection with it that I have with PP, a connection firmly rooted in the freedom to own and sail my own ship, whenever I please, with whomever I please, even if it’s just barely-competent NPCs.  Allods Online looks to be shaping up to be a good or even great game.  It just can’t be my home the same way Puzzle Pirates is.

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