What Would Matt Do

I reckon I aim to play some games.

Archive for the ‘MMO’ Category

In a stunner, we find that user generated content isn’t easy

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I’m sure Cryptic Studios HAD to think about the potential problems of adding user generated content (quests that the players create) to their system.

But I’m betting they didn’t put enough thought  in when we start getting things like this happening:

When City of Heroes released its user-created mission generator, it was mere hours before highly exploitative missions existed. Players quickly found the way to min-max the system, and started making quests that gave huge rewards for little effort. These are by far the most popular missions. Actually, from what I can tell, they are nearly the only missions that get used. Aside from a few “developer’s favorite” quests, it’s very hard to find the “fun but not exploitative” missions, because they get rated poorly by users and disappear into the miasma of mediocrity.

None of that is surprising, or it shouldn’t be if you’ve played any online game recently. I can’t speak for the majority of players, but enough players to make it a problem will always try to exploit your system. Especially in something like City of Heroes where leveling is SLOW. Why would I, as a player, play the game the normal way when I could load up one of the user generated missions and get some serious experience from doing it?

I hate to break this to MMO developers, but most of your quests are extremely boring. Most people will do a few or more and then try to figure out the fastest way to level within the given system. MMOs require you to put time into the game to succeed, so as a player your obviously going to be looking to lessen the hit to your time. Whether we’re talking cheating or not is basically left up the readiness of cheats and the specific person.

So when you add user generated content, especially user generated content that is allowed to have an experience reward, you’re going to have people that will make levels to be exploited and people that will play those levels. More than enough to make it a big blip in your leveling curve. Guaranteed.

 

There are possible solutions, but almost nothing is going to work long term unless you don’t allow any kind of reward from the user generated quests. Or you have a guy examining every single quest that goes through and if it doesn’t meet public posted guidelines, then it’s rejected. Of course, you’re going to get a guy to do that and you’re going to need publicly posted guidelines:

Bingo. You don’t know if you’re breaking the rules until you get punished. So the developers are creating a chilling effect on their own content generator. Now it’s risky for players to even use user-created quests. What if some customer service rep decides the quest is exploitative? You’d retroactively lose your XP. It’s best to just to stick to the old dev-made quests, the ones you know won’t get you punished.

I haven’t got confirmation that they actually removing XP from players at this point, but I have heard from players that they are rejecting missions/quests and potentially not giving back a slot to make another/more.

 

I’m pulling for Cryptic for no other reason than I hope more games will try to do this. I’d love to log into an MMO and be able to pick from a list of quests created and reviewed by fellow players. Because every single MMO existence is lacking in good content, especially if we aren’t talking about the same four or five multiplayer components being played over and over…

 

What Would Matt Do: I’d try to do a few things. One, just set an arbitrary experience limit on user generated content based on the level required to play it (as one potential solution for the immediate problem). Two, start thinking outside the box for the next MMO on how to allow user generated quests AND content from the start, instead of adding onto an already existing system that it wasn’t really intended to be in the first place. Three, hope for the best…and prepare for the worst. Meaning, hope your players are going to create incredible, awesome, amazing quests and prepare for them to exploit every little thing they can. Because they will do both of those.

 

Written by Matt

May 12th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

EQ2 Player? You’re probably a well educated man who is depressed.

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Gamespy's EQ2 demographic imageOk, before you do anything else, check out the image I borrowed from Gamespy’s article to the right.

Done? Some quick observations can be drawn. First, it looks like 20% of the players are female. I didn’t expect it to be that high. Second, compared to the general population, EQ2 player are a lot more depressed. Third, they are thinner than the general pop.

Highly interesting stuff. But it only leads to a LOT more questions. One, does this kind of demographic apply across all MMOs? Does it extend to other types of online games? We know the age is a pretty normal for video games these days, so does the rest of the information hold across the board?

Another question occurs to me…how does Sony know all of this about their players? Did the research staff get access to players and get to ask them more questions? Because if not, I’m now wondering what exactly Sony does keep track of. How would they know the BMI or education level? Do they know what I had for breakfast too?

 

Whatever the case is, this is some highly interesting stuff. Because it goes a ways to disproving the normal geek myths. It makes me want to ask so many other questions. For instance, are all gamers so depressed? In both women and men, it’s a LOT more than the general population in this study. I wonder.

If I were reading this as a potential advertiser, I’d be gleaning a lot. If were reading this is a game designer, I’d be gleaning a lot. So will anyone pay attention to this information at all? The sad, but most likely true, answer is no.

 

What Would Matt Do: I’d love to see this sort of info on all MMOs, and compared to country specific and worldwide data. On a side note, if Empire doesn’t shape up soon (i.e. – quit crashing on me), I’m going to give it quite the stinging review on this very site. I’m loving it, when the game doesn’t crash every third turn.

Written by Matt

March 24th, 2009 at 11:35 am

Posted in Drivel,Gaming,Links,MMO,PC

This is just the start

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is just the start:

Sony Online Entertainment has rolled out a system which allows the exchange of real money for items used in the game. Sony is making use of a transaction system called Station Cash which charges your credit card in exchange for a virtual currency which is then spendable on the items. Massively has a walkthrough of how it will work, and shows some of the items up for sale, including vanity armor, non-combat pets, and potions that make various aspects of your character better. "Each of these types of flasks comes in a tier. Tier I flasks increase XP by 10% and cost $1.00. Tier II flasks increase XP by 25% and cost $5.00. Tier III flasks increase XP by 50%, and cost $10.00 each. All flask tiers last for 4 hours on use, and more than one can’t be used at a time."

I don’t know if I called here, but I’ve been saying this has to happen for awhile now. There is just too much money involved in a company selling in game items to the player base for it not to happen. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised it took this long.

I don’t know if EQ or EQ2 still count at the big boys in the MMO game, but they aren’t the only ones going to other ways to squeeze money from their players. Rumor has it that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going with micro transactions:

To end a somewhat surprisingly eventful day for the RMT and microtrasaction model, EA has announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will not be subscription-based. Instead, the title will be gain revenue from a microtransactional model. Shacknews reports this surprising tidbit from a conference call held by the mega-publisher earlier today. Said CEO John Riccitiello, "The Star Wars online MMO [is a] mid-session game, microtransaction-based. You’ll be hearing more about those in the February [conference] call." According to the game news site, "Mid-session" is a term that EA uses synonymously with microtransaction-supported titles. This fits effortlessly into EA’s portfolio alongside games like Warhammer Online and the DICE title Battlefield Online.

Now when I say rumor has it, I mean, they won’t confirm it, but it’s probably extremely true. Either way, it’s a sign of things to come. It doesn’t make any sense for companies to charge a monthly $15 when they can get a LOT more from people up front, before they get bored of the game, with micro transaction like methods.

I do agree with Lum in that it’s not really appropriate for a monthly pay based MMO, but idiocy and sillyness hasn’t stopped EA or Sony yet, why assume it will now?

I don’t know if it will work long term, but if you look at the money, the money says get all you can out of the consumer on the front end instead of charging them monthly fee over the long term. I could create some nifty chart thing here, but I think you get my flow.

The next step? Virtual currency will start to gain actual value. It already has actually, but it’ll gain it legit from the companies running the games. Then it’ll gain rights and legality from the government. Then, when things like this happen, companies are going to be liable. It’s a guarantee.

Think about it. What’s going to happen when a company like SOE (the EQ guys), or SOE themselves, start selling in game money/items that aren’t just pretty and buffed up? People will buy them. Then, when a system crash happens or a bug or a hack or an exploit or whatever comes along and fucks with the money they have spent, people are going to sue. Fuck the EULA, they won’t stand up in an actual court. These people that get screwed out of thousands or more will lawyer up and claim all kinds of damages. And sooner or later, one of the cases will be a winner and in-game currency will start to have legal standing.

It’s going to be interesting and ever evolving, but if you don’t think it’s going to happen, you’re kidding yourself.

Companies will have to back up their in game currency with actual currency, have to follow new rules and regulations that congress will impose on them and people will be able to use access their bank accounts directly from within whatever game they are playing. It will most likely take years yet, but it’s going to be fucked up and highly interesting. I can’t wait.

 

What Would Matt Do: Were I a company considering doing the full sha bang, I’d double check all of my laywers AND review all of my code. You’re going to get sued. You’d better have the logs and lawyers to defend yourself.

Written by Matt

December 11th, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Drivel,Gaming,Links,MMO,PC

I’d like a lightsaber, please.

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It may be the most unsurprising announcement ever, but I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me. You see, I’m a Star Wars geek. Not a Lucas is god and I care about the Star Wars history and universe geek, but more of a in spite of George’s inability to make good movies without others help I still love light sabers and force powers and that sound that lightsabers make when they clash geek. So with that in mind, I know Bioware is probably going screw it all up, but at least they aren’t Verant and they don’t have the idiot creator of The Vision™, so they are already steps above the last Star Wars game.

At they aren’t doing it in the current Star Wars lore. Doing a game in the past is by far the best way. Or even the future, assuming Jedi’s exist in the future of SW lore. Something where you can break the Jedi universe as we know it in the name of fun…

I’d love to see everyone be able to be Jedi AND since they are having other classes, those other classes be fun to play. I know that’s asking a lot, but hey, I’m like that. Also, I’d like the MMO to be fun in general. That’s asking even more from a first time MMO developer.

 

What Would Matt Do: I’d make a game where everyone can be a Jedi and let the NPCs be the other classes. That’s really where most Star Wars games fall down, requiring that some people are this or that or whatever. Or even better, I’d make it so everyone can wield the force if they so choose, so maybe if you aren’t a Jedi, you’re still awesome. Break the Star Wars lore in the name of fun. Also, this is pretty funny.

Written by Matt

October 22nd, 2008 at 9:41 am

Warhammer flaws and fun

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Yeah, I haven’t been updating as much as of late. It’s because I’m so busy/lazy… But, I have been playing a fair amount of Warhammer. And it’s been good…and bad.

Before I get to my opinion though, lets read what SJ liked and didn’t like:

Instant PVP. You can do the PvP thing immediately following character creation, and what’s more, not completely suck.  Thanks to upranking you can sort-of kind-of contribute from level 1. Which is appropriate – the game still gives you a reason to level upward. The same applies to equipment – you gain access to a baseline of equipment through “renown gear” unlocked through PvP, but you’ll want to supplement it.  And entering a “scenario” (instanced PvP battle) is as easy as clicking a big helpful logo button. No fuss, no muss, no running somewhere, you get teleported to a battle, then teleported back. Makes no sense from a fantasy immersion standpoint, but then again, neither do instanced battles, so whatever!

And most importantly, you can advance your character this way as well. You gain experience and money through simply competing in scenarios, and level-appropriate gear can drop from other players as well.

That’s really THE feature of Warhammer and it’s what will probably keep me coming back again and again. I agree completely with Lum here. I like some of the other thing he mentions, but I’m not really that worried about the open groups thing or the Tome of Knowledge. The open groups is useful sometimes, but the Tome just doesn’t do anything for me beyond letting me pick a title. I don’t go for achievements either though, so your mileage may very.

On to what he didn’t like, and it’s a much more damning list imo:

Grindgrindgrindgrindgrind. Yeah, this is the big one, and what is going to kill retention for Warhammer if anything not with the initials “WotLK” does. Anecdotal evidence from beta testers all claim that the levelling curve was radically “adjusted” immediately before the game shipped. This was a mistake. If there’s any game that shouldn’t be afraid of their users reaching max level, it’s Warhammer. Yet the last minute holy-crap-we-don’t-have-enough-to-keep-people-busy reaction from a development team seems to be a time-honored tradition of late. One could make a case that with many games, levelling is artifically accelerated in beta, then tuned to the release version just before shipping. That pretty clearly isn’t the case with Warhammer, since after the 2nd “tier” of content… you run out. Note: this is when you make levelling faster, not slower. It’s probably no coincidence that one of the first rewards granted to underpopulated realms has been faster levelling speed. That shouldn’t be a reward – it should be the default.

Yep, that’s the big one, no question about it. What a god damn pain in the ass the leveling is once you get out of tier 1. And I hear it only gets worse as you level up. I see grinding as a flaw in any system. I don’t like it Disgaea type games and I don’t like it in my MMOs. Which is why I burn out on them well before the end game most every time. If your game requires leveling, it will eventually lose me, one way another. WoW, for instance, has a lot class and style and a mess of pellets, which really helped disguise the grind for awhile. But after playing enough and seeing behind the curtains, I just can’t stomach WoW anymore. It’s all grind.

He lists a pile of other problems and I agree with every one of them, the most damning after grinding being either the boring as hell PvE or the class balance in PvP depending what kind of game you prefer. The PvE is boring as all get out and even worse in elvish lands (as mentioned above). But the PvP is my real problem… Playing a Witch Elf is great…sometimes. You’ll often help break healer/caster lines in back and sometimes you’ll even take down a tank or two if you find them by themselves…but you’ll never compare to a Sorcerer. They can stand back, way back, and do a mess more damage than you can. Not the end of the world…except, why play a MDPS class if you aren’t as good as your RDPS counterparts, at least in some way?

The rest of the classes all have their awesome. Tanks can stand their and take a fucking beating and even help protect one other person while doing it. Healers, both the melee and ranged type are gods in their respective ways (my favorite being the Warrior Priest…so much fun to play) and the RDPS guys can really dish out some serious damage. But what do the MDPS guys get… Well, I can stealth as some of them, but I still can’t come out of hiding with anything like a killing blow or even a disabling one. If I don’t attack a loner that strayed from the pack, I’m almost certainly going to die before I can even kill the one guy I just attacked from the back. At best, I’m going to do a enough damage and catch enough attention so that the healers stop healing and the RDPS guys stop hitting things and try to run or help. If I can keep their attention long enough, then maybe my guys in the front can push over their front line that is longer being healed and we can take the current battle.

But what does the MDPS guy get from that? Nothing. Just death and long respawn. People aren’t going to be doing that much when their is no personal reward for it. At least not in PUGs.

 

Here’s what they really need to do, play more Team Fortress 2. TF2 is created from the ground up to reward teamplay. The classes are so well refined and tuned that people are often working as a team without doing anything else other than playing their class roles. That’s a damn fine design and it’s something Warhammer PvP could really use. For instance, you don’t get RP (reknown points) for capturing a flag… You don’t get anything extra for defending someone that is being attacked. Etc.

If Mythic wants PvP to have long term legs and that to be the selling point of their game (it very much is for me), they need to tweak the MDPS classes a bit (do not, and I mean, DO NOT, gimp the other classes in the name of balance. Fix the MDPS classes.) to give them some useful way to be in group PvP. And start working on design improvements to get PUGs, the meat of any PvP game truthfully, working together. Don’t force them to, reward them for doing so.

 

What Would Matt Do: I’ll play more Warhammer for sure. And I’ll eagerly await the first class balance update for PvP. Here’s hoping the balance they have now isn’t a fluke, but by design…because otherwise they are just going to pooch it when they start trying to fix things.

Written by Matt

October 14th, 2008 at 12:10 pm