Design Deliberations Theoretical Thoughts

Grinding Levels

I think it all started a couple of weeks back with Tom Chick explaining why MMO’s are Broken which was basically a re-hash of every “Why this game suxors” post on every MMO forum out there. The next day Trembling Hand jumped on the bandwagon. Scott Jennings over on Broken Toys tried to explain to both of them that first, MMO <> WoW, and secondly, while most MMO’s are fantasy based, they’re not developed in Fantasy Land.

As I said earlier, all of this is stuff that those of us that have been playing these games awhile have heard thousands of times and Scott pretty much nailed the response that we’ve all hashed out over the years. However, yesterday a friend of mine, Pentane, linked this Scientific American article on the Expert Mind. I highly recommend it for all you armchair game designers – even you real world designers will find it interesting but I’m guessing quite a few of you have already read it or some of the books that have been written from those studies. Also yesterday, Psychochild, posted the first in a series of articles on How to Replace Levels.

These two articles combined got me thinking about the whole levels in MMO’s debate again but in a slightly different way and I came up with a kind of challenge – design a multiplayer that doesn’t have levels of some sort.

The trick here is to think of a “level” as a game mechanic that meets the criteria in Psychochild’s post. In other words anything that is used to mark Achievement, provide others Information or help with Pacing through your game world is considered a level. So far I’ve only come up with one way that it can be done and while I think the game might have some interest it would be a decidedly niche game and I wouldn’t want to propose it in today’s market.

Unknown Ululations

Bountiful Harvest

Just after Thanksgiving I decided that my next EQ2 goal was to get Sisca and Acsis to 75. This would open up almost all of the game to me and put 80 well within reach. Last weekend Sisca, Acsis and Lore all managed to hit the target as well as ding their 100th AA. So, Sunday evening I was casting about for something new to focus on and for some strange reason I decided that I just had to start in on the quest for the Cloak of the Harvesters.

I knew that this was a long quest that involved harvesting in every tier but I actually enjoy harvesting and, being 75, only tier 8 would have me harvesting in zones with agro mobs. How hard can it be, right?

It started off simply enough, go to any tier 1 zone and bring me back 10 or so of multiple items from the various nodes. This took me longer than I thought it would mainly because shrubs were almost non-existent – right, who’d a thunk it since it wasn’t that long ago that you could zone into T1 or T2 and find nothing but shrubs up. Next up was T2, I had Acsis port us over to Antonica and we were able to complete everything but the fishing without even getting out of site of the spires.

Next up T3 and this is where it started to get complicated. He wanted you to harvest equal quantities of the same items from both Thundering Steppes and Nek Forest. TS was no big deal, I know several good harvesting spots for all of the various nodes there but Nek has never been one of my favorite zones so I haven’t spent a ton of time there. Still I managed to find an area that I could run back and forth through and get most of the harvests, except for dens. T4 was a repeat of T3 except he wanted stuff from Zek and Enchanted Lands. Again, easy enough and, being 75, I went deeper in to both zones to leave the easier to get to harvest for the lower levels.

For T5 it was off to Rivervale and Feerot. Much like Nek Forest, Feerot has never been one of my favorite zones so I decided to put that off. I know Rivervale, I’ve harvested in Rivervale even when it was still green, this should be a snap. Two hours later I was finished with everything except DENS. In that entire time I had seen maybe 10 dens tops and you didn’t just need 20 or so of the pelts but also 20 or so of EACH type of meat from the dens. Frustrated, I gave it up for the night and started thinking about finding something else to focus on.

EverQuest Epics

Robot Wars

Friday night Lore had to babysit a server upgrade so she wasn’t really going to be able to devote her full attention to gaming but she did want to get some play time in. We decided this would be a perfect opportunity to check out the new tradeskill instances from TSO. She could craft and if something needed her attention it wouldn’t be a big deal for her to stop for a few minutes.

Since she hadn’t really gotten any of her other tradeskillers through the introductory quest line in the Moors she brought along Serrenial, her 80 Provisioner. This matched up well with Sisca, 67 Alchemist (Sage line), and Acsis, 52 Tailor (Outfitter line), giving us coverage of all 3 of the base skill lines. So off we went to isle of Mara.

Apparently the Gnomes in Steamfont were having an issue and could use the help of some skilled crafters so Acsis fired up a portal and we headed off to see what we could do to help. When we arrived at Gnomeland Security we spent several minutes running around looking for someone to direct us before we realized that there was a new doorway that led to an underground research workshop. Zoning in there we saw this giant dragonbot on a rampage tearing up the place. Talking to the foreman revealed that they had built the dragonbot to help defeat the bot that had gone haywire and driven them out of Ak’Anon all those years ago but, again, something had gone wrong and he was malfunctioning. Not to worry though, they had a cunning plan! They would just build a bigger and more powerful bot to beat up the bot that they had built to beat up the first bot. Gnomish logic. Oh well they were willing pay good money, they were providing all the raws and I had a druid to get me the hell out if it all went horribly pear shaped.

EverQuest Epics

The Shadow (of) Odyssey

Fair warning, this is likely to ramble a bit.

Tuesday saw the release of the fifth EQ2 expansion – yes kids there are other MMO’s out there that don’t have War in the title anywhere and they’re still going strong. From all accounts the launch went pretty smooth, to be honest this has become expected from the EQ2 dev team so hats off to them for raising the bar.

Some initial impressions:

EverQuest Epics

Mission Accomplished!

Despite the title this isn’t a political post.

Since Lore had to work almost every night last week I started out the week doing the D.I.R.T.Y. quests to pick up some more of the furniture available from the vendor. Since I was going to Loping Plains anyway I swung by Kelethin and picked up the writs with both Sisca and Acsis because, with the guild halls, we can use all the status we can get. I also really want to get the harvest chest amenity, which is 5 million status up front.

After doing the first round of writs I realized that Acsis had almost 1.5 million status and Sisca had another 600,000 so with the 2 million we already had in escrow we were getting close. I became very focused on getting to 5 million and spent most of the week doing the D.I.R.T.Y. quests and a round or two of writs every night.

On Friday I realized that I was halfway through 67 and 70 was within reach so I became focused on reaching 70 before the release of The Shadow Odyssey. Either Lore or I have said in the past that we wanted to push to level X but we always managed to get side tracked by something – finishing off some gray quests just to get them out of the book so we could start, grinding up tradeskills so that we could catch up our spells and gear to make easier etc. – but for some reason this time I decided to force myself to stay focused.

Testing, testing…

Just trying creating a post on the iPod touch I picked up used yesterday.

It works but it’s extremely slow, so don’t expect a magnum opus.

Posted by ShoZu

Miscellaneous Madness


This week is my birthday and Lore got me the collectors edition of Fallout 3. I still consider the original 2 some of the best games ever and I have high hopes that this one will carry on that tradition.

Last night I was torn between attempting the newest D.I.R.T.Y. quests and playing Fallout…Fallout won and I have to say that so far it’s done a pretty good job of bringing the classic series into the modern world.

The first half an hour or so was basically a combination tutorial/character creation session which was pretty cool but I’m hoping there is a way to bypass parts of that since it’s really only entertaining once. I don’t think it will be a spoiler to say that you actually get to start in The Vault in this one and after the tutorial part and the  initial quests that have you leave the vault I spent the rest of the night in the first town you come to.

This is where I can really see shades of the original games. After 3 hours of running around exploring town, talking to people and picking up a bunch of quests I already have what appear to be conflicting quests and I know that choosing one side is going to have an impact on how the story progresses.

So far my only complaint is the first person perspective and the real time combat. I’m getting used to the first person part – though I still don’t like running around either armed or with my fists up like I’m about to punch everyone – but I think the combat might take me a while. I need to play around with the VATS (paused slow motion Action Point based system) to figure out if I can make it come closer to duplicating the strategic turn based combat of the originals.

I’ve seen a couple of complaints about the lock picking and hacking mini-games but I find them entertaining. I find it interesting that they managed to give them appropriately different feels. The lock picking is a slightly twitchy while the hacking is a more mental exercise though neither is overly difficult. It’s true that as an RPG it should be about the characters skills and not mine but I find it a bit more immersive to participate in these activities and I can see that it would be easy enough to tweak the difficulty of the mini-game to make it easier for more skilled characters – I’m not sure it works this way I can just see how it could be made to.

I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those games that takes me forever to finish though since I’ve got about 4 hours in already and I haven’t even left the first city.

Unknown Ululations

Saving Soles, My Foot

Last night saw the culmination of about 3 nights of work with the Legendary – Golden Efreeti Boots <Link/Image coming soon>. The quest was titled “Saving Soles” but with all the running around in Lavastorm I have to wonder whose “soles” were being saved ’cause it darn sure wasn’t mine.
Oh, and Note to SoE: Lavastorm could use an Everfrost style revamp. The first trip through there was entertaining, the fifth trip to the docks and back was fingernails on a chalk board irritating. Luckily for us we had out leveled the zone or it would have taken hours just to complete a single step of the quest, and that’s without killing whatever needed to be killed for that step.
Anyway, Sisca, Acsis and Lore are proud owners of GEB’s and now we’ll move on to finishing off the Crown of King Tranix quest line. Either that or we’ll take a break from slaughtering greys in Lavastorm to make the push to 70. Though I have to guess that since they put phase 2 of the D.I.R.T.Y. quests in we might spend the rest of the week distracted by that.
By the way I’m trying a new system for posting using Google Docs so we’ll see how this works out.
EverQuest Epics

Where everybody knows your name…

When I was a kid my parents were involved with a wide variety of groups from garden club to bridge groups to bowling leagues while I was involved in scouting and church groups. As an adult, back before the spread of the Internet, I was in my share of bowling leagues or softball teams. I also was a member of HAL-PC (the Houston Area League of PC Users) back in the early 90’s and not only participated in the BBS message boards but also attended the monthly meetings and other social gatherings. All of these things were really about finding a group of people that you enjoyed hanging out with and creating an excuse to hang out, laugh, joke and talk about the things you had in common.

While listening to a recent Van Hemlock podcast [27 August 2008]  I came to realize that, for me at least, MMO’s in general and specifically the guilds or groups of friends that I play them with take the place of those social gatherings. They are primarily an excuse to get together and laugh, joke and talk about our common interests and maybe pick up some new interest.

Even the hardcore raiding guilds could be considered the natural evolution of those social structures. If you’ve ever been around a bowling alley on league night you’ll realize that while many of the leagues are an excuse to get together and drink beer, some of them are actually very intense and competitive with their members spending a lot of their time perfecting their game. (Hmmm…there’s a whole other post in this.)

Since Lore and I are hoping to grow our guild, The Revellers on Permafrost, I think I’m going to try and use this realization to craft our recruiting message to be something other than the standard “friendly, casual, group of friends” message that most casual guilds such as ours end up with.

So if you’re looking for a guild on Permafrost that’s more like popping in to your local pub than clocking in to your second job. Where you can find someone that can help you with your tradeskill questions or put together a group to help you finish off that heritage quest that’s been in your journal for months or just find someone to chat with while you run around harvesting/soloing. In short a place “Where everybody knows your name…” (NORM! – and if you get that you’re probably around the average age of the guild). Check out The Revellers either at our website or in game.

Miscellaneous Madness Raving Rants

Gaming, Interrupted

Last Wednesday SoE surprised everyone with the rollout of GU48 in EQ2. We knew it was coming but everyone figured it would either be later in the week what with Fan Faire taking everyone’s time and energy the previous weekend. This update added a ton of content that Lore and I were looking forward to so Comcast deciding to help us celebrate the release by having our internet connection drop off was NOT appreciated.