Summer break

I didn’t intend to take the summer off from blogging, but that’s exactly what happened. Between work getting a little crazy (anyone else getting hit with budget cuts, wage freezes, hiring freezes, etc.?), spending a lot of time outside with my daughter, and taking a summer class for grad school, life has been about everything but blogging.

Plus, I can’t get too excited about any of the MMO’s that are out right now. I’ve beaten WoW to death, don’t really have the time to enjoy Eve the way it’s meant to be played, I was bored by WAR, grew weary of LoTRO, and there’s not much new to catch my interest. Ok, other than Champions, there’s like nothing new, right? And don’t mention Aion…that’s a definite “give it three months” game. I’ve had my fill of Eastern MMO’s lately, and there’s nothing new under the sun. I even tried EQ2 for a month, and while I liked it, it’s too many steps backward. I want to see MMO’s doing something new and different, or I suspect my malaise will continue.

So, is the problem the games? Probably not. I think I’m just toast on MMO’s after ten years of playing them pretty much nonstop. I still have the desire to log in to a persistent world and build characters…just not any of the worlds that are currently available. I’d gripe about the industry and lack of innovation and clone-mentality development (this is the Internet, after all…I can bitch with no justification, right?), but I don’t really think that’s true or fair. I think developers work really hard to provide good gaming experiences, and I think my inability to stick with one MMO has more to do with me than the genre.

Keen made some good observations about what he misses in current-gen MMO’s last month (yeah, I’m behind on my blog reading, sue me), and a lot of it rang true to me. He started by saying

When I think back at what we’ve lost, or have begun to lose, in the MMORPGs of today, I keep coming back to one thing:  The World.  We’re starting to lose that sense of a big/massive, open, true world that we can explore and live in as we develop or take on the role of our character

Yep. I think this is what disappointed me most about WAR. It’s a game that’s packed with content, and I found out I don’t enjoy that very much. It was a very linear experience, and I never felt a sense of isolation. There wasn’t a sense of danger, either…you could either survive the zone you were in, or you were going to die. There wasn’t much tension, like in Keen’s run across Antonica. And there’s definitely not that much open space.

I blame WoW’s success for that shrinking of the game world, although I think WAR went further than WoW did. The idea that a world has to be convenient after World of Warcraft is pretty pervasive. I miss the sense of distance in Everquest or even Dark Age of Camelot. Making a run from your portal area down to the enemy gates in the DAoC frontier was a hell of an online gaming experience, and WAR didn’t preserve that feeling. WAR’s like a convenience store MMO experience…you can get a limited number of things really fast, and some of them are enjoyable, but if you’re really hungry, you want something more.

I was thinking about resubbing to Star Wars Galaxies the other day, because I was remembering riding around on my speeder with my artisan/architect, surveying for good spots to drop my harvesters. I remember how cool it was to have so much space around me, and an encounter with another person out there usually resulted in some sort of interaction, even if it’s just a wave or another emote. Travel in WAR and WoW feels like commuting…there’s sea of people around you, but you’re not interacting with any of them. I miss the days of physical space and possibility and adventure.

I don’t know if the MMO market can support games like that any more. There’s so much pressure to deliver WoW-like profits, or even a tenth of WoW profits, that designing a world that’s more of a community-driven sandbox is risky. There certainly don’t seem to be any games like that in development, so maybe MMO’s have passed me by. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with current gen MMO’s…it just means that I don’t think I’ll be playing them very often.

So, instead of logging in to WAR and leveling characters through scenarios and RvR, I’ve been playing a lot of Team Fortress 2. WAR scenarios reminded me of my old FPS days, and I’ve been getting my scenario/RvR fixes through TF2. It’s easier to get in and out of TF2 matches, I don’t have to grind levels or gear, and it’s a brilliant game. Is it just me, or do you think Valve could make a TF2 MMO that’s more fun than WAR? Might just be me, and the burnout speaking.

Anyway, my daughter is playing Wizard 101 and Free Realms, and I have alts on her accounts that I’m playing, so I might hit up some of the folks I’ve seen playing those games and say hi (Tipa and Pete have both posted about those games recently). Other than that, I’m usually playing TF2, on the Gamers With Jobs servers when they’re hopping in the evenings, pining for the old days, the MMO frontier days.

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WAR: Random thoughts about PQ’s and PvE

I was queued for scenarios with some guildmates the other night, and nothing was popping. Tier 3 on Averheim seems to be slowing down on the Order side, and I was running PvE quests in Saphery while I was in between pops.

My groupmates were scattered all over the three pairings, and I was wondering about Mythic’s decision to allow people to queue when they were in different zones. I know it was helpful in one sense; it was annoying to have to travel to each other just to group up and queue. However, I do wonder how this decision has negatively affected PvE and Public Quests.

If my whole group had to be in the same zone to queue for scenarios, I think it would be much more likely that we’d be hanging out in Chapter PQ’s. If we were in a chapter PQ, then anyone who randomly wandered by would also be able to participate in the PQ. I think it would have had a positive effect on making the world seem more populated, and it would be easier to make it through all three stages of a Public Quest.

I know that, post-WoW, things need to be easier to appeal to players. I don’t underestimate the benefits of being able to queue from anywhere, but I think there could have been other solutions.

First, I’d have flight paths in every zone. Half the hassle of requiring people to be in the same zone to queue came from when you were in the 50% of a tier that didn’t have a flight point.

Second, I’d increase inventory space, or have crafting components take up a separate tab in your backpack. When you’re questing, you have to empty inventory pretty frequently, and that made it difficult to stay in the same zone.

Third, I’d add support to the mail system to allow multiple attachments in a single mail. I know there are add-ons that will do this for you, to some extent, but it should be available out of the box. If I could hit a mailbox, send my items destined for the auction house to a bank alt in one mail, and clear space in my inventory, I wouldn’t have to leave the zone so often, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being able to queue in different zones than the rest of my group.

Fourth, I’d figure out an alternate way to award the experience you get for finishing quests in a scenario. Part of the reason people stand around warcamps between scenarios is because they want that extra 5k xp for finishing a specific scenario and killing X number of players. Give each scenario quest-giver a writ that they hand out to players, and let the players “record” their completion of a scenario and the number of players killed on the write in the Quest section of our backpacks. Each time you finish a scenario, or kill X number of players, you right-click the writ, you get your xp, and the writ resets.

What do you think? I’m just thinking out loud. Are there benefits to queueing from different zones that I’m overlooking? Do you think it would help the PvE and PQ situation if scenario groups were in the same zone?