Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Are PvE Players Overly Entitled?

I was reading the Crowfall comments on Massively OP, and I was struck by the attitude of the more strident PvE players. There was a lot of complaining that the game was PvP, and it wasn't PvE. At this point, are PvE players becoming overly entitled?

Let's look at the major MMOs currently running:

Primarily PvE - WoW, SWTOR, FFXIV, Rift, GW2, Wildstar, ESO, TSW, EQ2, Neverwinter, LotRO

Primarily PvP - Eve Online

It's not even close. There's one major MMO which is focused on PvP. Pretty much everything else is focused on PvE.  It seems really uncharitable of PvE players to feel aggrieved that a new game is focused on a different audience.

Of course new game devs are going to try and make PvP games. That's the under-served market. It's the market where you don't have to compete with the behemoths.

I'm a primarily PvE player. I have to admit that there's a ton of options for me. My biggest problem is choosing the MMOs I don't want to play.

I kind of feel for the PvP players. If you want an MMO where PvP is more than a sideshow, you're basically limited to Eve. And if spreadsheets in space isn't your thing, you're out of luck.

For PvE players to complain about the current situation is just being churlish.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crowfall: Kickstarter, More Thoughts

Crowfall announced its Kickstarter today. It is already more than half-way to the goal, which means there's a very strong chance it will be successful. I backed it, as I am always in favor of games that try new things. And Crowfall is especially good in that it is set up to try many new things as new campaigns with new rulesets start up.

The other interesting thing I saw was Crowfall's rules for Faction campaigns. There are three factions: Order, Chaos, and Balance. Very archetypical factions. But the win conditions are amusing. Order and Chaos win if they have the most points at the end. But Balance wins if Order and Chaos have roughly the same amount of points.

It's a very neat way of keeping the factions level, while also adhering to the lore. The only issue I can see is that the equilibrium selects for Balance. If Order or Chaos is dominant, Balance allies with the other. But if Balance is dominant, Order and Chaos cannot ally to defeat Balance. Allying only plays into Balance's goals.

Still, though, we'll have to see how it plays out.

I think Crowfall's Achilles' Heel is going to be performance and responsiveness. I know I harp on this a lot, but in some ways, performance is more important than all the creativity in the rules and game design. Games are a tactile experience, and a successful game must "feel" right when you're playing. You get that wrong, and your game dies.

Also, I think the developers should stop referencing Game of Thrones so much. It's kind of weird, in the "they're going to get sued" sort of vein. I'm not a fan of GoT [1], so it's a turn-off for me.

1. The problem with killing off all the characters the reader cares about, is that the reader is left with a book filled with characters she doesn't care about.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Account Sharing in the Mythic Race

Congratulations to Method for getting the World First Blackhand kill!

However, World First races would not be themselves without random drama. The drama this time around revolves around account sharing. More accurately, it's around the practice of transferring characters between unrelated accounts. Essentially, in order to stack classes at the very edge fights, edge guilds sometimes transfer geared alts from one player to another.

This is a clear violation of the Terms of Service. As well, Blizzard recently made an example of a couple prominent streamers for doing something similar, handing out permanent bans. So naturally there is a call for Blizzard to do the same thing to high-end raiders who transfer characters.

The argument in favor of punishment is straight-forward. Rules are rules. This practice is against the rules, and thus should be punished.

The high-end raider argument is actually rather interesting. They argue that though the actions are against the letter of the rules, they are not against the spirit of the rules.

Account sharing is banned for two reasons. First, it can often cause customer service issues. Anna uses Betty's character and then disenchants all her gear. Betty complains to customer service. The second reason is that account sharing and character transfers are often used for "boosting". Betty gives her character to Anna. Anna then power-levels the character, gets a high PvP rating, or gets a Mythic achievement for Betty. Betty is able to enjoy the rewards of such achievements, without putting in the work to earn them.

The high-end raiders point out that neither of these reasons apply. There won't be any customer service issues. There is also no boosting going on. Before the transfer, there are 20 players. After the transfer, there are the same 20 players in the raid, just one is on a different character.

They also point out that the secondary effects of a "zero tolerance" policy might be negative. Guilds might start requiring that players have and gear up even more extra characters. Or they might start to sport larger rosters, with a much larger bench that is only brought in when class stacking is required. This bench, of course, would drawn from the guilds directly below them, and they in turn would need to poach more people from the groups below. All this just for an extra ten or fifteen people who barely get to raid.

I find myself torn between the two arguments. Rules are rules, and it is essential for the rules to be applied impartially in a game. Yet at the same time, I think the high end argument is essentially right. What they are doing is not the same underlying negative behavior the rules were meant to guard against.

My Solution - Disallow Class-Stacking

My solution, as normal, is extreme. The root of the problem is class-stacking. So let's disallow class-stacking in Mythic. Mythic already has one strict restriction requiring a maximum of 20 players.

Let's add another restriction: a raid can have a maximum of 3 characters of any given class in a Mythic instance. Three druids, three paladins, three monks, three warlocks, etc.

This cuts off class-stacking at the knees. Mythic is already for the most experienced and skilled players, so another restriction is not going to faze them. It reduces the number of alts required by the high end, maybe even making life a little easier.

Then Blizzard can stop turning a blind eye to account sharing or character transfer at the high end. The rules could be applied impartially.

Friday, February 20, 2015

WoW Videos: Welcome to the Deadmines

Here's another classic WoW video by Adrian Drott, Irdeen, and Jessie Cox: Welcome to the Deadmines.



This is from before the revamped Deadmines had been revealed.

It's from the Rise to Power contest back in 2010. That contest produced a lot of good videos, including Greyfoo's Scarlet Toy. I'm not entirely certain why that contest in particular was so productive. Perhaps the topic was just restrictive enough to fuel creativity, without being too constraining.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Crowfall: Guineceans, Physics

Crowfall released some more information today: a couple of new archetypes and some information about physics.

Guineceans



I've mentioned before that I don't like short races in most MMOs. For some reason, the trend over the last few years has been to make then nasty, evil creatures.

Crowfall unveiled their short race, the Guinecean Duelist, based on guinea pigs, it looks like. I really like the background story they gave them. It makes them almost noble, and genuinely good and fun. More like Reepicheep from Narnia, rather than goblins. This race just felt like a breath of fresh air to me. I don't normally play short races, but I might make an exception for these guys.

Physics

Crowfall also revealed that they are attempting to add real-world physics to the game model. This includes collision, as well as momentum. If they pull this off, it will be very cool. However, it will be interesting to see if they can actually pull this off in a server-based PvP game.

As well, real-world physics has a lot of potential for griefing. The physics model includes projectiles, so it includes the possibility of friendly fire. One thing I do like is that the devs have outlined a plan where they can "fall back" on different options if it turns out that friendly fire causes too much grief. This plan includes turning friendly fire off entirely as the last resort.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

MMOs to Play Again, Someday

I've been wandering across MMO sites that have been discussing different games. I see some stories for some games, and kind of get an urge to play them again. Though I probably won't because of the lack of time. Then there are some games which I played, and have zero desire to try again.

Would Play Again

TERA - It's still the best and most visceral combat out of all the MMOs I've played. But I don't think the surrounding elements have been improved.

The Secret World - Every time I see people raving about the content in TSW, I get the urge to play again. But then I remember the combat, and how lackluster the performance and responsiveness was.

Defiance - I found Defiance pretty fun. Just not fun enough to keep going.

Elder Scrolls Online - Again, lackluster combat killed this game for me. But I do kind of regret not getting to max level at least and seeing the story.

Not Interested

Rift - I'm not really sure why I don't want to play Rift again. I can't really point to anything the game does poorly. I even had a max level character, before the expansions. Yet I have zero desire to play Rift.

Lord of the Rings - It's just too old for me. It used to be in the "would play again" category, but then I downloaded it and started playing. Fifteen minutes later I couldn't take the graphics and performance anymore.

Age of Conan - another one which I kept thinking that I'd like to try again. Then I did, and got reasonably far leveling before I couldn't take the control scheme anymore.

What MMOs would you like to give another chance?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Randomness in Hearthstone

Syncaine commented:

The '90% of outcomes are decided by dice' aspect makes [Hearthstone] a very poor game, which IMO is the bigger problem, and got MUCH worse with the last expansion. Does anyone, winner or loser, feel good about a game being decided by the dice behind Unstable Portal? And you can't build a deck with limited luck factors, as some of the best cards (such as unstable portal) are also the big dice roll cards.
It's true that Hearthstone has a lot of cards with random effects. However, I don't agree that this specific element makes Hearthstone more or less skillful than Magic.

First, randomness is just probability. Probability can be factored into your plans. You can mitigate the randomness with tactics. Yes, sometimes you'll get very unlucky. But over time, skillful play that accounts for probability will win.

You can see this because the same people tend to win, tend to put up consistent records. That is a sure sign of a game that requires skill.

It's like poker. Poker is very random. But it's still a skill-based game. Randomness in and of itself does not exclude skill.

Second, there is a huge source of randomness present in Magic that is missing from Hearthstone: resources. Magic requires land cards in your deck. Drawing the right amount of land is a huge factor in determining victory in Magic. In fact, a good deal of skill goes into constructing the mana base for a given deck. Almost every new player makes decks with 20 land, which is a mistake (unless running extreme aggro). They need to learn that the more correct number is 24 lands. A lot of the time, the endgame in Magic can come down to who draws a threat versus who draws an unneeded land.

That source of randomness is completely missing from Hearthstone. There is no mana-screw or mana-flood in Hearthstone. Resource gain is not random, but completely predictable.

From my perspective, Hearthstone and Magic have similar amounts of randomness. Hearthstone merely moves the randomness from resource generation to gameplay effects. You can still play skillfully with random effects. You just have to take probability into account, and have backup plans for being unlucky.