Bad News Day

Landmark_MeCasa

Goodbye Everquest Next

Landmark_MeCasa

Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news.  Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring.  Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014.  So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game.  With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made.  The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords.  When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company…  it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.

The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state.  It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is.  In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like.  I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact.  The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox.  Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight.  Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms.  I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.

Wildstar Falters

WildStar64 2015-08-11 21-56-11-60

The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine.  This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken.  Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft.  As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected.  Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts.  The game felt fresh and new and was exciting…  for a period of time.  The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game.  I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling.  Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me.  On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen.  Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.

The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“.  That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode.  An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development….  you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids.  Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that.  The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future.  So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game.  I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger.  I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive.  All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.

 

 

Doubling Down

Still Frustrated

EQ2_000006 Yesterday I broke my self appointed rules and made two posts because I felt the news warranted it.  I said my peace but the problem is… I am still frustrated this morning.  At the time of posting yesterdays blog piece I really only knew about a few of the people who were let go.  As last night wound its way onwards, more names trickled out and at this point I am absolutely shocked by the scope.  While I am not sure about the numbers, it feels like roughly half of the folks I was aware of over there were let go.  Granted the actual numbers could be anywhere, but I am basing it simply on the faces that have shown up on twitter saying they were no longer Daybreak employees, versus the ones that have said they still are.  In any case this will be a massive blow to Everquest, Everquest II, Everquest Landmark and whether or not we will ever actually get Everquest Next.  For awhile on Aggrochat we have joked about Next being vaporware, and that we would only ever get Landmark…  but now I am starting to really wonder if that is closer to the truth.

Everquest will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first footsteps into the MMO world.  Similarly I am drawn to Everquest II in ways that I cannot quite understand, and while I go for large swaths of time without playing, I often return to it was the gaming equivalent of “comfort food”.  It is this strange mix of a world that I am absolutely in love with, and a combat system that I hate beyond words.  If I had to create a list of “favorite games that I am not playing” I would put Everquest II at the top of that list…  so I guess I ultimately am part of the problem.  I love this world but I am not inhabiting it on a nightly basis, and as such not giving it money to grow.  I’ve bought into Landmark and H1Z1 but I am not really playing those either.  I remember feeling the same way when City of Heroes closed its doors, that I had so many fond memories… but that I had also ultimately moved past that game as well.  I guess we want the things we once loved and enjoyed to stay protected in a bubble forever, never to change…  but when we move on are we not also ultimately to blame?

Doubling Down

Gw2 2015-02-05 19-08-06-25 Before the events of yesterday I had a topic kicking around in my head about the worlds that we play.  I am not sure how the events of yesterday feed into the narrative, but I am going with it in any case.  I feel as though the era of the “new mmorpg” is all but over.  There will of course be new games that identify with the “mmo” ideals, but they won’t be quite the same as the worlds we have had had in the past.  I feel like we are going to see a lot more games like Destiny, that is “mmo-lite” or another genre with mmo features.  I feel like the worlds that were crafted during the golden age of massively multiplayer online role-playing game launches, are the worlds we will have to live with for better or worse.  When Blizzard cancelled Project Titan, we can look at that in so many different ways.  We could say that it was a sign that MMOs were dying, and that they no longer believed in the genre.  We could however take that as a sign that they believed that the worlds we had already were worth saving.

So many of the games that we love are not broken toys, at least not yet.  Each of them if given the devotion and the development resources could be transformed into a truly magical place.  I am looking at the transformation of Final Fantasy XIV from 1.0 awkwardness to 2.0 and beyond splendor as proof that a game can change for the better.  I’ve played each of the major MMOs for some length of time, and have experienced that each have exactly the same problem.  How do they keep the player engaged on a daily basis, rather than in bursts of activity each time new content is released?  I feel the problem is that games right now are mired in the construct of expansion releases, pooling up major features until they can sell another box of the game.  This means the best features tend to either get bottled up for years time, or never actually make it into the game at all.

The episodic construct is a bit better, but you have to be careful that you are not adding “expiring” content into your game, making players feel rushed to somehow grind through it all before the next patch hits.  The problem I had with the Living Story in Guild Wars 2 was that when I fell behind, I didn’t feel like there was a point to actually try and catch up… since I had missed so much already.  The fact that the content was expiring made it feel less “real” to me… that they weren’t permanently improving the game, but instead running a series of limited time events.  I feel like the shift needs to be moved away from both of these constructs and instead the focus placed on fleshing out the world.  Do you know how frustrating it is to me in World of Warcraft that there are five portals below Wyrmrest Temple but only two of them go anywhere?  Each world we play is littered with these forgotten expansion ideas, and all I really want is for a game world to quit teasing us and start living up to its full potential.  Now is the time for these companies to double down on the content they have, fix the issues with their game systems… and try and make their games worth our copious time and devotion.

A Simple Night

ffxiv 2015-02-11 19-54-39-33 Because of the news yesterday, and because of other events leading me to question myself and my connection to other people… I was not in the best of places emotionally last night when I got home.  I have to say my mood was improved by hanging out with my extremely awesome free company in Final Fantasy XIV.  For a few nights I had promised to help my friend Solaria work on knocking out some stuff, since she was fairly new to 50 and in doing so also spent a good deal of time running dungeons with Thalen and Asha.  I have not had a night where we tore through multiple dungeons in a night, and I have to say it was good for the soul.  Granted I felt a bit wobbly, since I have not really tanked much of anything other than our raids, and dungeon tanking ends up so drastically different.  That said we managed to unlock a few dungeons for both Thalen and Solaria, and in the process get some Tomestones of Soldiery and Poetics.

I’ve missed logging in, getting pulled into a group and then spending the rest of the night tromping through dungeons.  It is like connecting with my most basic instincts of trying to make sure everything in the dungeon hates me equally.  I really enjoy the pace of Final Fantasy XIV, and its particular brand of tanking.  The Warrior just “feels” right, and I am hoping I will be equally at home with the Dark Knight.  If nothing else I will always have the Warrior to fall back on if the Dark Knight ends up not being the class I have wanted all along.  I know Thalen has several more dungeons yet to unlock to qualify for high level roulette, so I am going to try and force myself to build groups more often.  I get stuck in my own little world, and spend most of my time soloing… but I know when I do group content I feel so much better at the end of the night.  While last night did not cure me completely… it did make me feel significantly better.

Night Falls

Unfortunate Bonus Round

This is going to be a bit of an oddity for me, I am breaking my normal one post per day rule.  I feel like the gravity of the situation warrants it, because right now I am feeling so many different emotions at the same time.  By now most of you will have heard the news that I believe first broke over on the newly erected Massively OP website.  Today Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment has chosen to make some sweeping cuts to staff.  Among the individuals caught in this madness were none other than Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and and Linda “Brasse” Carlson.  I cannot fathom a chain of consequences that would lead to this happening, but I will get into that later.  For me and many others these two individuals along with Scott Hartsman before he left to join Trion…  were the face of the Everquest franchise.  They were the spirit of the game, and the lifeblood that kept the player base constantly engaged, because never once did you question their sincerity or devotion to making the game world awesome.

Last Tuesday when the news broke that SOE was to be no more, and they would be taking up the new name of Daybreak Game Studio I tried to keep things in stride.  After all I had gotten used to Everquest transitioning from Verant to being called Sony Online Entertainment hadn’t I?  When I found out they had been purchased by what seemed to be a cold and faceless financial holdings company, I tried to keep a positive tone in that it seemed that they were holding most of the companies rather than chopping them up into pieces.  I held in the back of my mind the possibility that the future was in fact going to be positive, that maybe out from under Sony they could reach previously locked off markets like the Xbox One.  After all this same company owned both Rhapsody and Fiverr, surely they knew what they were doing right?

Night Falls

Today it seems that my worst fears have been realized, and that things really can’t stay the same.  As online gamers we get lost in the worlds created by the games that we love to play.  Part of that world are the names and faces of the individuals who act as the conduit between our normal mundane lives, and the magical realms we spent our free time in.  At least in a small part they act as civil servants to the virtual cities we inhabit.  As we watch public presentations and read patch notes and press releases, it is amazing just how quickly we can rattle off the names of the key players that are relaying the information to us.  Even though we may never know them, we develop an almost personal relationship as they take the stage to give us tidbits of information about the future state of “our” game.

The problem is…  we get extremely close to these personalities, so that when one leaves either by their own hand, or by circumstances the shock waves reverberate through the community.  Today a mighty shock wave happened, and I am still not quite sure how to talk about it with any intelligence.  For many years, Brasse has been the public face of the Everquest community team, and Smokejumper the face of the future of that franchise.  It was impossible to watch either of them and not see just how excited they were to be representing this game that they too loved.  I find it exceptionally hard to try and imagine a future that does not involve them, and I have to say a lot of my faith that there will even be an Everquest going forward is more than a little tarnished.

The Survivors

This has been the month of senseless corporate action.  First with AOL killing off their blogs, and now the selling of of Sony Online Entertainment.  I am deeply concerned about the future of these games, in part because the gravitas of Sony…  allowed for SOE to be a little “funky”.  They devoted time to building a lot of unique and quirky features that we were not likely to see come out of any other company.  Do you think that any other company would have given us something truly strange like SOEmote?  Sure I never used it, but I thought the tech was extremely cool especially for the roleplaying community.  The tools that I did love, like the robust housing system and the dungeon builder…  likely would not have come to fruition in a company not quite so willing to chase rabbit trails.

All of this said… I think it is important to also think about the people who were left behind.  They are reeling from the layoffs, and seeing their friends gone.  Having been through more than one layoff, it completely changes the feel of the office.  Every action becomes questioned, and every motive suspicious, making it almost impossible to focus on doing the excellent job that the “citizens” are expecting you to do.  It is easy to say you are done with the Everquest franchise, because of these rather rash actions…  but in truth you are just going to punish the people who are still there, still trying to create the game worlds you love.  Hopefully we can all take a deep breath, grieve the loss, and try and figure out how to move on without being bitter.  I really hope this next week gives us some really good news, because this month so far has turned out to be a fairly tragic one.

Too Many Games

I’m a Cheater

Once again I am doing what I consider cheating… which is writing up a post at night that I intend to post in the morning.  Basically tomorrow is another one of those “ride in together” days, because directly after work we have a big end of school cookout thing to go to.  So I simply won’t have much time to do my faff about verbally thing tomorrow morning.  As such I am staging a post tonight, and doing the same thing everyone else… but for whatever reason I feel like I am somehow betraying the ritual by doing.  Today’s topic I have been kicking around for awhile, so I figure this is as good of a time to spring it on my adoring readers…  look I like to pretend I have adoring readers okay.

Too Many Games

Right now things have reached a sort of critical mass with me, and there are entirely too damned many games right now that I want to be playing.  This could not have hit at a worse time considering how busy the tail end of school is combined with the fact that we have weddings and graduations and such to attend.  Normally I feel like I can reasonably juggle three to four games at a time bouncing back and forth between them.  The other day I posted saying that multi-gaming was even an awesome thing to do… considering it kept you from getting bogged down in the decisions a game company makes that you don’t necessarily agree with.  However for me, I am spreading myself super thin with a ton of different activities that I want to be doing.  So today I am going out outline each of the games that I am playing and lament the things I would love to have time to do in them.

Elder Scrolls Online

eso 2014-05-23 19-34-45-037 Right now I still consider Elder Scrolls Online my primary game.  At roughly two months since headstart I am still very much loving this game.  It has some problems, namely with difficulty of grouping, but as far as the game itself goes I dig it massively.  I’m working my way through Auridon and slowly creeping up on Veteran Rank 2.  I have so much that I still want to do in this game, but lately my schedule has limited my time in it.  This is the type of game that I can only really play if I am fully focused on it, and this is doubly so with the veteran content.  Shit can go wrong in a heartbeat if you are not doing all the right things, so it means on the nights I am not feeling all that… I end up playing something else.

Wildstar

WildStar64 2014-05-14 17-55-10-794 This game is the new hotness it seems and it launches tomorrow, at least for the headstart folks.  I mostly preordered this game in case I decided I was in love with it, and I wanted to make sure I secured the preorder bonuses.  I really dig the pre-order house, and I did not care for anything in the Collectors Edition pack… so I went with the normal.  I am still so up in the air about this game… there are things I like and things I don’t like.  Right now I am simply not sure who is going to win out, however since everyone is playing it, and it scratches the same itch that World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic do… going to give it a good college try.

ArcheAge

archeage 2014-05-13 21-43-39-052 Speaking of games I am conflicted about…  welcome to ArcheAge.  I find so much about this game intriguing and repulsive at the same time.  It is this fusion of one of the most interesting games system wise and class wise… combined with one of the worst communities I have experienced.  This game has invented new ways for you to grief your fellow players… and this is the sort of thing I have zero interest in.  That alone would be enough to make me go running and screaming into the night… but the class system is so damned interesting to me.  I love the concept of “Rift without Restrictions” and that is pretty much what the open class system seems like.  It reminds me so much of the way the class system for Horizon worked… and that is a great thing.

Heroes of the Storm

Play 2014-03-14 07-51-05-19 I want so badly to be playing this game right now… but I also want so badly to not be playing this game with strangers.  The MOBA thing is one of those things that I really only enjoy if I am queuing with people I know.  That said supposedly the queue times are greatly improved with the new client.  If you are in the HoTS alpha… please let me know!  I need more people to queue with, and I feel horrible for being in this game when so many people want in… and not playing it much.

Defiance

Defiance 2014-05-29 06-30-42-873 The last few nights I have been playing this game again and really enjoying myself.  The whole shift in how I approach it has really helped quite a bit.  I would love to see more people playing it because I think it would be far more enjoyable to run around as a group.  I still have yet to really scratch the surface of any of the story content, and feel like I should do that.  Really enjoyed the first season of the television show, and would love to get caught up on the in game content before the next season starts.

Final Fantasy 5

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-56-13-507 At this point I am behind my friends in this game, and quite honestly I am struggling to get the oomph to play it.  That said I feel like I should really finish this game as part of the FF5 draft thing we did.  I feel like I would be a horrible person if I didn’t finish it.  That said I also know I am going to get talked into doing the Four Job Fiesta in a month…  so not sure if I will finish before then either.

Trove

Trove 2013-11-25 16-57-34-42 There is something about this game that makes my inner child squeal with glee.  Things are just so damned much fun, and the mob design is amazing.  That said I have been out so long and so much is changing on what seems to be a near weekly basis that I feel hopelessly lost.  At some point I need to resort to reading through all of the patch notes starting around the time I last played in the hopes of understanding how things have changed.  The combat in this game is just enjoyable, I only wish I could play it with a controller.  I guess in theory I could use one of the keypad mappers but I have been lazy.

Landmark

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-40-22 Oh Landmark… how I love you and am completely bored with you at the exact same time.  Right now it is less a game and more a toybox for you to build in, with a ruleset wrapped around it.  This was really fun while I had giant things to build… and while I was progressing through the ranks of collecting the next best mining pick.  Now that I have topped out, and have fleshed out most of what I wanted to build… I log in pretty much only to mine copper and pay my upkeep.  What I need to make me care about this game is the combat system.  Here is hoping I will fall back in love with it when I can run around the world killing things.

Diablo 3

Diablo III 2014-03-29 19-54-54-44 I still don’t have a character to 70, and I feel like I have somehow failed for not doing this.  Basically this released way too close to the launch of Elder Scrolls Online… and I never gave the game the attention it deserves.  At some point soon I really want to work on leveling my crusader, since I have technically beaten the game on my Monk.  I am struggling with the desire to simply grind the last two levels to ding 70.  I figure at some point I will have a renaissance of caring about d3… but it might be awhile before I cycle around to it again.

Rift

rift 2014-05-08 06-09-17-50 The new souls were released and I have yet to even check them out.  I really would like to level my cleric to 60 before the 3.0 patch hits, but I have no clue how long that is.  Right now I am logging in on a weekly basis to get my patron gifts and that is about it.  I thought it would be really cool to do a streaming series where I try and remember how to tank, and do a public service of tanking elites.  I’ve heard the queue times are absolutely insane, and I know personally I have waited over two hours without getting a DPS queue.  I still love this game, but at the same time don’t really know what I want to do in it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtor 2014-05-05 22-32-57-22 A few weeks back I was playing the hell out of SWTOR and enjoying myself.  While I have let my subscription lapse again… I would love to pick back up on my Sith Juggernaut and see what happens after Balmorra.  I have never actually made it off this planet imperial side, but I was really damned close to doing this when I was last playing.  The real challenge will be if I can manage to play the game without subscribing… or will I re-up again only to cancel a few weeks later.

World of Warcraft

Wow-64 2014-03-25 07-16-07-71 Finally there is good ole World of Warcraft.  Once upon a time I had a grand idea of getting everyone to 90 before the expansion.  I have failed miserably at keeping up with this ambition, but who knows if I will actually do this or not.  Right now all I have left are the Priest, Monk and Warlock… all of which are over 60 at the least.  The Warlock and Priest are both in Pandaria content, but at the very beginning.  I might get a wild urge to play again and push these guys across the finish line.  Either that or I might completely abandon this until the release of Warlords of Draenor.  In any case the account is still active, because I pop in periodically to dink around with stuff for the guild.

Nothing at All!

Tonight I will be playing…. nothing more than likely.  We have an end of school cookout and by the time we get done there… we will likely crash, or walk… or walk then crash.  If anything I launch Wildstar and create my characters.  Right now I am planning on having my Chua Engineer and an Exile Warrior of some sort… just not sure if that will be Human or Granok.  In any case I have nothing exciting to report about my master plan for the evening other than hanging out in the real world and eating some good food.

Comfort Gaming

Classy Defined

This morning I got up like I do most weekend mornings, and threw on enough clothing to make myself presentable.  Generally speaking I don’t shower until later in the day, so generally this means I have to throw on a skull cap to tame my hair that is sticking straight up.  In the winter this makes sense… in the summer not so much.  Honestly in the morning anytime I see someone in a skull cap or baseball cap… I pretty much assume they are doing precisely what I am doing.  As always I went to QuikTrip to gather up sustenance, and walked away with chocolate donut holes for the Mrs. and a jalapeño sausage roll for me.

While there… I saw the definition of classy.  This woman walked in, who looked like she was already three sheets to the wind.  What was she buying you ask?  Well she planted an “Olde English” 40 oz malt liquor on the counter.  Granted this is 8 am in the morning, most of the people in the place are buying donuts or juice or something more breakfast appropriate.  In addition she had a package of twinkies and asked the guy at the counter if he sold single swisher sweets.  After some fumbling around he found her a three pack, and I guess that was “close enough”.  So yeah… I guess that is how some people roll.  I am guessing this is not breakfast but a “night cap” of sorts.  Just not something I normally see in the neighborhood QuikTrip.

Comfort Gaming

I think I grieve differently than most.  Since the news of my grandmother, all I have really wanted to do is “turtle”…  aka pull my head inside my shell and forget that the world exists.  One of my chosen ways of doing this is to go off and play games that have always made me happy.  One of the games I always cycle back to eventually is Everquest 2.  It is like an old friend that I have spent so much time with, that I don’t even need to talk anymore… and I know that it understands me.  Yeah I am sure it is odd that I personify a game like that, but really EQ2 was a thing I did for “me” and no one else.  All the while raiding in WoW I would steal private time by logging into Norrath and wandering around aimlessly on my army of alts.

Just as a coincidence, right now my absolutely favorite event is going on in EQ2.  Once a year Chronoportals open up allowing players to revisit areas from the original Everquest.  Some of them are rather funny, like the Ancient Cyclops event in Sinking Sands.  Back in the day there were all sorts of “theories” for how you get the ancient cyclops to spawn.  Some of these involved killing all the madmen, spiders or mummies… and none of them really worked.  It was a fairly random chance that you would get him to spawn.  Why did players care? Well the Ancient Cyclops dropped the item needed to start the Journeyman Boots quest line, which of course provided the player with their own personal way of casting “Spirit of the Wolf”.  SoW Plx!

Basically they are a really awesome way of getting account bound gear for your alts.  I am not sure when I will actually level an alt again, but sooner or later I always seem to, and having these weapons and gear makes a bit difference.  On my Shadow Knight I am still using the sword that comes from the Lower Guk chronoportal event.  It is precisely the kind of mindless nostalgia that I need right now.  The above video has me running through several of the events, or at least the ones I could remember off the top of my head.  However if you are looking for a full listing, the place to check is Zam as always the amazing Cyliena does a great job as always with updates.

The Great Wipe

The end of Alpha is I believe next Wednesday morning, and the beginning of Closed Beta begins Wednesday afternoon/evening when the servers come back up.  What this means is everything we have created along the way… will be gone.  The only thing that will be kept are your characters, and the various entitlements like things that came from the trailblazer packs and things purchased from the store.  This means all of the claim data will be wiped.  I have a big mixed opinion about this.  I don’t mind the idea of losing the work I have done on my claim, but I really don’t like the idea of losing my claim in general.  I like my claim, I like where it is.  My frustration is that there will be a massive landrush Wednesday evening… which is going to suck.

My plan will be to try and get a spot similar to where I had it before on Liberation/Pingo, but if I cannot… who knows where I will end up.  Basically the acquisition of goods begins a new.  So that means we will have to go back to square one with only our extra special trailblazer axe to start and work our way through the gearing tiers again.  Here is hoping that with the addition of heartwood the grind for stuff is far less painful.  As a result I got in for a bit yesterday, but I didn’t really feel like doing much.  I made a few claims extension flags to see how well that worked, but really with everything going away, I don’t feel much like screwing with it.  I have a bit of my stuff templated, but really I found using super huge templates really awkward so I will probably build everything back from scratch.

The cool thing about closed beta is that each of us trailblazers are getting friend keys.  The notice from the other day says these are no longer going to be time limited keys… but instead permanent access to the beta from this point onwards.  I know a few people who wanted them, so I will be trying to hand mine out that way.  However there should be a lot of them up for grabs as I know a lot of people in the blogosphere who are Trailblazers.  My hope is that they pretty much limit the closed beta access to just the friend codes for a bit, at least until the great landrush is over.  My goal is to get another claim somewhere in a forested area and then start over from there.  I really liked being in the forest, especially since the later item grind ends up being wood, and not ore.

What About Wildstar?

4.4.14

 

It as been roughly ten days since Zenimax announced the official PC/Mac release date of Elder Scrolls Online.  In doing so they either knowingly or unknowingly threw down the gauntlet to the other developers with their own tentative release dates.  The success and fail of an MMO has become so much more than whether or not it is a good game, but instead how distracted the gaming populous is at any given moment.  I remember a time in the not too distant past where major PC releases were truly few and far between.  However it currently seems like there is always something bigger looming on the near horizon.  Like it or not every single one of these releases is competing for the same relatively small pool of players, subscribers, and even money in general.

Yesterday Massively voted The Elder Scrolls Online… the MMO most likely to flop in the coming year.  While I personally think this is deeply cynical and maybe even more than a tiny bit inflammatory, I think more than anything it is short sighted.  Quite frankly the success and failure of Elder Scrolls Online has nothing to do with the PC gamer, and that is more than a tiny bit humbling.  We will no longer be the king makers for these online games.  With ESO and games like it, that torch is being passed from PC Gaming to the much larger pool of console gamers.  I have to say the console market is rabidly waiting for a new Elder Scrolls Experience, and especially a multiplayer one at that .  I think it might be a bitter pill to swallow to realize that the success and failure of these titles may very well be out of the hands of the “PC Gaming Master Race”.

3.25.14

 

Being the master tacticians that they are, yesterday Blizzard announced the release date for the Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls expansion.  With this they are releasing roughly four weeks ahead of Elder Scrolls Online, and as a result giving themselves plenty of time with the sole attention of the PC Gaming market.  Similarly however they are also hungrily eyeing the console market, and you can bet that they will be timing the release of the PS3/PS4/Xbox360/XBone release against the June release of Elder Scrolls Online to the next gen consoles.  I feel like a four week buffer is more than safe and should play well to the gamers that may not have the ability to purchase every title they want.  I know I am personally amped about this version of the game, because it fixes a lot of the loot problems I had with the initial release.  Additionally I am holding out hope beyond hope that they manage to roll in the console “controller” features as well.

There is no way to look at this release date as anything other than business strategy.  Elder Scrolls started this ball in motion, and now each game company will have to decide when the most opportune time is to deploy their own “forces” on the game board.  While the Diablo 3 demographic is not exactly the same as the Elder Scrolls demographic… there is more than enough overlap to have caused issues for either game.  As a result two major juggernauts have been placed on the “game board” and as a result the new year is less open than it was.  Now the launches of so many titles will have be strategized to figure out when the most opportune time to release will be.

Warlords of Draenor

warlords-of-draenor-1280x800

Since the title Blizzard announced was the release of Diablo 3 for the tail end of the first quarter, my assumption is that Warlord of Draenor was simply not close enough to ready to be able to launch against Elder Scrolls Online.  As a result I am guessing this means that WoD will be another last quarter of 2014 release much like a few other World of Warcraft expansion launches.  If this is the case that bookends the year up pretty nicely.  Diablo 3 first quarter, Elder Scrolls Online second quarter and Warlords of Draenor closing out the year.  You can already see the 2014 release calendar starting to tighten a bit and this will make it increasingly difficult for game companies to find a “clear window” to release against.  I personally thought I had written off the WoW franchise completely, but nostalgic can be a pain sometimes.

As a result I imagine there will be a lot of players that either intentionally or un-intentionally come back for the release of Warlords.  The lifespan of a WoW expansion rush seems to be roughly three months, so an end of the year release will also make the 2015 schedule some what slippery as well.  The problem is there are lots more pieces to be placed on the board.  Games like Titanfall and Destiny will also be chipping away at the pool of players that would h

ave normally played an MMO.  Additionally we still have EQ Landmark and EQ Next that have not committed to any release schedule and will likely be just as large of a force on the Calendar as the games that have already been confirmed.

What About Wildstar?

Wildstar_thumb

I will be the first to admit… I am actually not that excited about Wildstar at all.  By all rights I should be, but for whatever reason there I have not followed it.  I do however have a lot of friends who have, and as a result I want it to be a success for their sake as much as anything else.  Up until this point we have heard a tentative “spring 2014” release.  As I have just outlined however the “spring” timeframe is extremely packed as it is.  Wildstar is in a really precarious place right now, and I do not envy them.  They are launching a new MMO, with a subscription model into a world that seems to have fallen out of love with subscriptions.  Additionally it is an unproven IP, and there are additional issues on selling a new player on “the vision” for this world.  Finally it is releasing against some really powerful forces.

The safe bet will be to release Wildstar in the July/August timeframe.  As much as I myself hate it, the players who are likely to leave a game will have done so by the time three months have passed.  July would be the beginning of a window where generally the “locusts”, a group I have been a member of so many times in the past… will have consumed what there is to consume with ESO and be looking for a new target to move to.  Plotting a course for this opening in the schedule seems like the safe choice for them.  However all it would take to make this more treacherous, is for the other pieces that are unplaced to fall into this window.  Releasing against EQ Landmark would be enough to make the fate of Wildstar uncertain, and we have yet to even discuss the potential for the upcoming and as of yet unnamed Rift expansion. 

My money is still on Wildstar penciling in a July release date, and EQ Next as a game being a spring of 2015 release.  I just don’t see Carbine being confident enough to release Wildstar without a good opening in the schedule.  They are in a much more tentative position than Zenimax, since the entirety of their fate rests upon the shoulders of the PC Gaming market.  Elder Scrolls Online could realistically release against another big game, since they will be gaining a bunch of “new to genre” players coming in from the console market.  Additionally they have a well established and well loved IP… and even if folks are not completely sold on the game… they are likely to at least dip their toes in the water for awhile.  I find myself caring far more about the people at the companies… than the companies and games themselves.  With several friends in the “industry” I honestly hope that they can stack the schedule in a way so that all of these titles fine at least limited success.  If we see another crop of relative failures, I think this year might be the last hurrah of the triple A MMO market.

Evergreen Content

After some technical difficulties caused by the fact that my upstairs computer appeared to have come back in a half alive state after what I can only assume was a power blink caused by last nights storms…  aren’t run-on sentences awesome?  I am finally sitting down at the computer to write this mornings post.  Additionally I am drinking the sweetest cup of coffee ever… because in my half awake state… I dumped the Splenda designated for my wife’s cup into mine.  The end result is a cup of coffee with like six packets of sugar in it.

Evergreen Content

surefallgladeimage04

One of the things that has always frustrated me with MMO design is the fact that the higher up in level you are, essentially the fewer options you have for where to spend your in game time.  What I mean is that usually games spend a good amount of time to provide alternate starter zone experiences, and then those usually funnel into shared zones for your faction before dumping you out into a ladder of zone progression towards the “end game”.  Once you arrive at the end content you experience the same thing… everyone is pushed towards the same few content items.

When an expansion is released the same thing happens again but even more limiting.  You are pushed out of the “old world” content and into a much smaller new world with the same very vertical progression path.  Everything about the old content becomes completely disposable as it is immediately replaced by the shiny new things from the expansion areas.  Not only is the new content separated by distance usually, but it gives players absolutely no incentive to ever return and revisit the older content.  As a result each time an expansion is released the players are ultimately throwing more and more content in the dustbin.

A Better Way

tumblr_mr8qkzKPtu1qe72nco1_500

Granted some games do a much better job at addressing this problem than others.  In Rift when mentoring down you receive xp and rewards as though you were doing content at your level.  The same is more or less true with Guild Wars 2 and its always mentored system of scaling the player down to the content level at all times.  But in neither system do you really address the problem of lost dungeon and raid content.  Ultimately you can get rewards similar to what you could earn at level, but you will never actually be able to progress your characters in the same way unless you are always doing the latest and greatest content.

With the advent of systems like StoryBricks that allow for smarter AI encounters, I keep wondering if this is now the time to have a much better system.  Ideally this would work better in a system without hard level ranges, and more a “tiers of gear” approach like The Secret World has in place.  What if a mob could perceive you as a greater threat based on your “tier” and ultimately fight “smarter”.  This would make the old content scale to whatever level you happen to be at the time.  The old encounters would be evergreen in that beating them at Tier 1 would be significantly easier than beating them at Tier 4.

Horizontal Progression

eq266-header

As a result you could continue to “pay out” the best tiers of gear, because all content would essentially scale up to meet the level of the players taking it on.  In a mixed level group it would get far more tricky.  You would have to do some sort of an average level for the encounter, but ultimately the base idea is that as you level your character you continue opening new doors to experience, rather than constantly closing permanently the doors behind you.  I feel in part that this is so enticing as no amount of hard worked content provided by the designers would ever be considered “throw away” or “leveling” content again.

This of course is a massive pipe dream, and I am sure there are all measure of technically limitations to what I propose, but I have always wanted a world that scaled to me that I never outgrew.  We can have this concept in single player games like Oblivion, I just think its time that we see a proper implementation in the MMO world.  One added benefit is that being able to progress regardless of the content you are doing… incentivizes players to do the right thing socially… and assign their friends and guild members through that “old world” content.

Socially Beneficial

daocshot

Being one of those players that regularly helps out the “young-ins”, it can be frustrating knowing that you will not actually progress your character while doing this thing that was “socially” the right thing to do.  Games like Rift or EQ2 provide alternate advancement paths that make it much more enjoyable, since you know you are ultimately still making your character better in the process.  However… would it not be that much cooler if you could provide a system that allowed for both the low tier player and the high tier player to receive the best type of rewards they could get… together in the same group?

It is always awesome watching a new player get their first really awesome item, because you grouped up with them to help them through a challenge.  Would it not be equally exciting for them to watch you getting the same because you chose to help them?  I have had a mantra for awhile… “anything that prevents me from playing with my friends is bad” and this is exactly the opposite of that.  It makes sure that playing with my friends will always benefit me in the same ways it benefits them.  Sure the content might be ultimately more difficult when you have 3 tier 1 players and 2 tier 4 and the end difficulty level is something in the middle…  but as group you will be able to work through the challenges.

The Problem

Eq2norrathmap

As I sit here to write this post, it feels like it is coming out super esoteric… and as a result I am hoping to place it more firmly on the ground.  In my office on the wall are lots and lots of maps, and many of them are from MMOs.  There is one above my monitor that came from the Kunark expansion to the original Everquest for example.  As I look at the glorious landmasses that are all these games… I am bit sad thinking that so many of those zones I will never have a valid reason to return to.  They will never again be truly important to me, the same way they were when I was first leveling through them.

I would just like to see a design scheme that makes it always valid for us to return to the content we know and love and have conquered and find completely new challenges.  This goes double for dungeon and raid content.  Wouldn’t it be cool if you could zone into Blackwing Lair in WoW with a group of friends… and get an encounter tailored to fit YOUR level… and not a “roflstomp” soloable mess?  The worst part about the “e-sport-ification” of raid content, is that we are constantly having to throw away fun experiences for whatever the newest tier happens to be.  Sure you can always return to the older stuff, but it has been trivialized by the progression you have made since then.

I would just like to see something that fixes this.  So that a zone stays epic regardless of when you tackle it, and that there will always be new and more exciting challenges and rewards to be found there.  With the construct of scalable AI and encounters…  I think that maybe finally this concept is ready to be explored.  I have no desire to stay in the starter zone, grind boars, and become amazing like they did in the South Park spoof… but it would be awesome to be able to go back to that low level content and have a reason to be there.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap up and get on the road.  I feel as though I have laid out a huge rambling mess.  Hopefully this will make sense to someone.  It has been a concept bouncing around in my head for awhile and all the talk of Storybricks and EQ Next and Scaling Mob intelligence has dislodged it enough that I wanted to try and put it down into words.  I feel like I am fairly grossly unsuccessful at doing so.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope you can grasp the crux of what I was trying to say.

Playing Without Rules

This is another one of those mornings where I am sitting here struggling to find purpose… or at least something to write about.  After a few nights of lousy sleep I managed to get a pretty solid one last night.  The Ceiling Fan has essentially died in the bedroom, but yesterday I hooked up an oscillating fan and it was actually quite comfortable using it.  Oddly enough though, even with a good nights sleep I am just out of it this morning.

Guest Posts

I have to say I was shocked that both of my guest posters had topics ready for me yesterday.  I apparently fail miserably at the concept of a guest post, since most bloggers use them for days when they don’t actually want to post.  I kind of feel like that would be cheating this little experiment I have been on, to see if I can manage to post every single day for a year.  I fear for November, since I plan on doing NANOWRIO this year… and I am not sure how I will be able to write every night… and then still be able to come up with something worth saying in the morning.  You guys might just get a lot of status updates to my word count.

Ariad and I don’t always see eye to eye, but honestly he said a lot of things I would have said.  Ultimately my problem is not removing the Trinity persay… but that when you remove it… it has to be replaced with something.  In his post he did a great job and outlining how various games both digital and real all have roles that are played.  So if you want to remove what World of Warcraft essentially distilled those roles down to… you need to replace them with something else.  The absence of role based play essentially turns everything into a mindless deathmatch, which while fun for some time does not lend itself to engaging gameplay.

Playing Without Rules

stalwart_scarlet

Sevok has been a pet class in essentially every game I have ever played with him.  He pretty much personifies what I think of when I think about that type of player.  There was a pretty good debate that spilled out onto Google+ as a result of yesterdays posting.  Essentially when dealing with a pet class, I get frustrated because I would rather just do it myself instead of sending my minion in.  That along pretty much identifies me as NOT being a pet class person.  While I raided on a hunter in WoW during Vanilla… I tended to lose interest once they fixed the pets and we actually had to use them in combat.

The above shot is from a run through Scarlet Monastery House Stalwart did a few weeks after the launch of World of Warcraft.  Essentially we had two hunters, a shadow priest, a dps warrior and a mage.  We had no real “healer” and we used a combination of the two pets to tank…. additionally if you look above you can see that I was a survival tree “melee” hunter.  I am in fact the dwarf banging on the Abbot with the polearm.   Everything we were doing was “wrong” but we didn’t really care.

Why did we play this way?  Quite honestly because we didn’t know any better… we had yet to be told by the internet that everything we were doing was not effective.  Honestly I think that has been more to blame with the stagnation within the MMO market than anything else.  The “Elitist Jerks” of the world quantify and distill everything about the game world, and reduce it to a series of equations.  Math is solid and unyielding, and extremely hard to argue with…  but also pretty boring at times.  It seems like in EQ, DAoC, and the early days of WoW we were extremely willing to make bad decisions… just to see what the consequences would be.

So what if I was a melee hunter… the brunt of internet jokes.  I had fun doing it… I made it work… and through a mixture of stubbornness and creativity we were able to make things work.  Sure there was always a point at which it became difficult… but even once the golden path was deeply ingrained in me… we managed to do a Blackrock Depths run with 2 rogues and 3 hunters and finished it off without much issue.  Additionally our raid used to do all hunter Upper Blackrock Spire runs for fun.  When 10 hunters cast aimed shot at exactly the same time…  mobs pretty much just evaporate.

Flexibility of Roles

stalwart_scarlet2

Ultimately what I am saying is that while we were using sub optimal builds and class compositions we were able to get through the content by the use of our wits.  While we did not have the things that people prescribed as a “tank” or a “healer” we adapted through the use of what we had.  We still very much had someone playing the role of the main tank, and someone playing the role of the healer, but we were doing so in non-standard ways.  Ultimately this is the sort of thing I feel we need going forward.  The ability to blur the lines of what is the tank and healer, and allow multiple people to fulfill these roles in multiple ways.

Ultimately to me it is not the failing of the trinity or role based combat, but the failing that the designers have allowed games to get distilled down to the equation of “only one right answer”.  Having a Golden Path is fine, but quickly there becomes way too much social pressure to conform your character to the most optimal path.  I think that is why I have enjoyed playing Rift so much over the years, is that there are literally thousands of possible right paths out there, that can be tweaked and tailored to fit the exact preferences of a specific player.

Sure there are golden paths, but they seem to change on a weekly or monthly basis.  With the ability to have an extreme amount of prebuilt “roles” you can switch to it allows players to have both their experimental builds and their tried and tested builds and be able to swap back and forth between them freely.  On my warrior I totally have a 61 paragon and 61 champion tried and true dps build…  but I also have a number of Tanky builds that have different personal flavors to them that I am using to test various things out.

No Right Answer

EverQuest-Next-Golem

Ultimately I think this is the hope I have for Everquest Next and its implementation of Storybricks.  I feel as though there will NEVER be only one right answer.  That we the players will be able to tailor a solution that fits the skillsets we have available.  But I still feel as though role based gameplay is one of the tools in that toolkit to allow us to build those solutions.  I think as Ariad, Sevok, and myself were trying to point out.. that each of us as players brings with us a certain favored role based mentality.  My hope is that we can apply those ways of thinking towards new and complex challenges regardless of the character abilities we happen to currently have and come out with interesting gameplay as a result.

Flexibility of purpose and the ability to shift back and forth between what role a given player happens to be playing at the time completely seems like a viable way to deal with smarter mob AI.  As evidenced by all the comments the other day regarding my wanting not to lose tanking as a thing that is done in MMOs…  some of us have very technical definitions of what that role is.  Much of that is rooted in the construct of the “Taunt monkey”.  But as I tried to explain in the “Tank is” post… I am very flexible in what that definition means as it is applied to a given games mechanics.

My initial fear with Everquest Next was that they would be going with the “Everyone is DPS” solution that Guild Wars 2 used.  This was most definitely not the path to interesting gameplay, and more or less over the course of several discussions since the weekend I have arrived at a point where I believe that EQ Next will have much more meat on its bones than that.  It sounds as though they are building in roles to replace the trinity… but we just simply do not know what those roles will be or what exactly they will entail.  I really look forward at getting my hands on Landmark as it goes through the beta process.  I am hoping it will help to answer a number of questions.

Wrapping Up

It is that time again, and I need to be getting on the road.  I have managed to turn a day where I had no clue what to write about into another long ramble.  I cannot guarantee that anything I wrote is really worth reading… and is likely just me working out concepts in my own head… but my readers should be long used to that by now.  I hope you all have a great day, last night we had a fun guild night running around and closing rifts.  Was fairly relaxing and had a great time hanging out on mumble with Rowan, Psynister and Fynralyl.  Hopefully we can get some dungeons going before too much longer, even if I have to start playing my cleric so we have a healer.  I will be happy when 3.0 releases and rogues and warriors finally have a main healer.

Out to Pasture

I need to hustle this morning so the post may or may not be disjuncted.  I had a generally lousy time sleeping last night as all sorts of odd noises kept waking me up.  The end result is that I gave myself 15 more minutes to sleep at one point… and now I am probably more than 15 minutes behind schedule.

Out to Pasture

Cow_female_black_white

Yesterday my post about EQ next, its removal of role based combat, and my subsequent despair caused a pretty large comment storm divided up between my blog, Google+ and twitter.  I have to say I had a vastly different gameplay experience than a large number of the posters.  But that said it does seem like there are a massive amount of people disgruntled about tanking in general or even the concept of needing one.  Rowan wrote a pretty great rebuttal with his post “Thanks, But no Tanks”.

I feel in many ways like I am being put out to pasture, like I am some relic of a bygone era.  It reminds me of the same kind of feeling I had when Warriors in World of Warcraft went from the only viable tank, to by far the worst one.  It’s like being told, “Thanks for tanking all of those years, but we really have no need for you any more”.  I am sure that a lot of my healer friends will be feeling the same way.  I remember going into GW2 with some of those folks, and ultimately they were extremely disenfranchised when they couldn’t find a healer to play.

Divide and Conquer

Breledorm Freezing Trap three mobs

All of this is to say that I am not open to new ideas, but more that I am extremely disillusioned with the alternatives that we have seen before.  Brian “Psychochild” Green who happens to be part of the Storybricks team, made a quick comment in my Google+ thread.

The holy trinity came about because of primitive MMO AI. Vastly improved AI means a new dynamic is needed. Wait before you despair.

And honestly I am completely fine with a new dynamic… but I want there to be a “Tanky” role in whatever it is.  This can mean a lot of things but so long as there is room for strong defensive and protective gameplay, I will probably be okay.  Taunt has always been a crutch, and a tool that the good tanks used only in situations where things were already out of control.  I can live without the artificial construct of instant threat generation.  Additionally I can live without the concept of the tank being the one person who gathers up all the mobs… in fact the “AOE it down” mentality while effective is extremely boring.

I want a role so that I focus on the biggest and hardest hitting mob, while the rest of my party burns down everything else.  I want to engage and keep busy the big guys while my team either through the use of crowd control, or simply dps juggling takes out the rest of the group .  I am completely fine with that kind of a paradigm.  I just want a beneficial role to play, and this really has not been the case in any other game that tried to blur the lines of the trinity.  A guardian in Neverwinter is about the most useless thing ever when it comes to grouping… I don’t want to be the sword and board guy that is dragging the entire team down.

Physical Mass

physical_mass

They could go down a completely different avenue and pattern the constructs off of pvp based tanking like Warhammer Online.  I am again completely fine with this paradigm as well, as I really enjoyed tanking on my Ironbreaker.  The different there and the construct that allowed this to function was that players had physical mass.  You could not idly clip through other players or npcs… and as a result “Tanks” could create physical barriers to keep players from attacking the squishier targets.

This was an enjoyable mechanic and there was quite a bit of synergy between the support functionality I was supplying and the damage dealing my friends were doing.  With the destructible and constructible world concept… I could definitely see a tank being an obstacle maker that slows down or impedes the enemy from getting to the party.  So long as I play an important role in the party, and the addition of my abilities improves gameplay rather than drags them down… I will find a way to be happy with whatever defensive gameplay it provides.

DPS is Boring

miltonbradleysimon

Ultimately I play a tank most of the time because I like being able to take tons of abuse.  I habitually level in every game as either a full tank or a custom tank hybrid build.  It is the style of gameplay I always gravitate towards.  The avatar I have in my head, always has a sword and shield and lots and lots of armor.  My time constraints often times push me into a mode where I simply cannot be the lynchpin of the group, and cannot tank…  so I fall back on dual wield dps generally.  The problem is I find that style of gameplay boring.

DPS to me is avoiding stuff on the ground while trying to execute a “Simon Says” like pattern as quickly as possible to do the maximum amount of damage.  Obviously from the comments in all the threads yesterday, this is a gameplay style that a lot of players enjoy.  For me if I am not having to juggle targets, manage aggro, and protect other players I quickly get bored and zone out.  My biggest hope is that whatever the new scheme ends up being with EQ Next that it gives me more to do than just run around idly and mash a few buttons blindly.

I realize that I am probably in the large minority of players that enjoy tanking, and do so even when NOT in a group situation.  I know we are out there however, and that tanking to me is just something we do instinctually.  I just hope was we move forward there is still a place for us to have a valuable team contribution without having to fall back on a gameplay style that just isn’t natural for us.  I like grouping with my friends, and in many ways I took up tanking because I wanted to protect my friends… it ties into my deep protective instinct.

The problem is this same instinct just doesn’t really apply in the same way to strangers.  The evidence of the lack of people who want to tank or heal that keeps being brought up are the long lines in the dungeon queues.  I present an alternate explanation…  those of us who tank or heal because of this protective instinct… simply do not want to tank for strangers.  I love tanking for friends and guildies…  but I have zero interest in ever queuing into a random because every experience I have ever had as a PUG tank was relatively bad.  The tank in these groups is the focus of everyone’s ire, and until that changes you will always have able bodied tanks like myself unwilling to subject themselves to the crap storm… especially when we can form groups

relatively easily within our own guild.

Wrapping Up

I have rattled on enough for the day, and I probably will have opened up a few more cans of worms that will work themselves out during the day.  I am open to new ideas, but every break from the trinity thus far has failed miserably in my eyes.  Here is hoping that Storybricks will be the magic sauce that makes non-role-based gameplay enjoyable.  I have a lot of hope about what Storybricks will do at least from a single player experience… but I just have yet to see any alternate scenario actually work as far as a grouping one.  If they can deliver fun and non-chaotic group play I will be more than happy to hitch my banner to their wagon.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope nothing I have said offended anyone.

No Love For Tanks

Good morning you happy people out in the verse…  yeah I just got finished reading a post about Firefly… ignore me.  This is another one of those “doing things under NDA that I can’t talk about” weekends…  so as a result I usually am pretty scant in what I feel I CAN blog about.  Thankfully SOE Live is still giving me news to react to so that is mostly what I will be doing.  Additionally I seem to be down another couple of pounds as of this morning which would make 54 total since I started this latest foray of sensible living.  I am fairly proud if I do say so myself.

No Love For Tanks

 

I have so much gratitude for Curse gaming for having the forethought to record all of the SOE Live sessions that Sony themselves did not have the foresight to live stream over twitch.tv.  As a result of their work I bring you the Class Panel video 1 and 2… and my commentary on it.  I watched this last night along with a few other friends and we pooled our comments over a shared chat channel.  My rabid fanboyism from Friday quickly turned into quiet terror when they started unfolding their vision for the game as a whole.  I have to say most of it sounded almost word for word like the pitch we heard leading up to the launch of Guild Wars 2.

To preface the part that scares me… they talk about a concept of “everyone taking care of themselves” and “No tanks or healers”.  Which always seems to read to me as the pipe dream of every dps that has ever played a game and been bitter that they are not treated as seriously as the tank and healer characters.  I am totally fine with not having a strict reliance on tanking or healing… but it scares me that they plan yet again to abolish these roles.  My mind is filled with nothing but visions of the giant chaotic mess that grouping in Guild Wars 2 was.

Tanks LIKE Tanking

EQNext_Tank

The component that designers bent on this path seem to completely miss…  Tanks enjoy tanking and Healers enjoy healing.  We do not feel like we are forced into those roles… those are the roles we assign ourselves happily and willingly.  I LEVEL as a tank because I enjoy tanking mobs, it feeds off my protective nature and I know many tanks that feel exactly the same way.  Additionally I have lots of friends who are extremely nurturing people, that will always gravitate towards playing whatever the feel to be the most supportive healing class because they want to in equal parts “nurture” their friends.

These are not some artificial roles that we have been forced into by bad game design… these are roles that fill our need to protect or nurture or support in a game.  Not everyone wants to wildly mash buttons and destroy the targets as fast as they can.  I feel as though there is a certain kind of game designer that just fundamentally does not get this drive.  At one point in the video one of the designers describes the gameplay as “one person is forced to focus all the damage on them, another is forced to heal that person, then everyone else pretty much gets to do whatever they want and have fun”.  It is almost as if the designer does not realize that tanking and healing ARE fun for the players that really like to do it.

I don’t view tanking as a sacrifice, I view it as feeding into my most primal nature and my inborn need to protect my friends.  I would be willing to expect that all of the amazing healers who have supported me over the years did not feel forced into that role.  Game design like this makes me think that these folks simply do not understand the amazingly symbiotic relationship between a tank and a healer, and how awesome it is when you get to a point that both players can predict the actions of the other.  Maybe I am just lucky that I have had a long line of healers that I got to this point with… and I simply wish designers understood this better.

Granted there are definitely times where I don’t want to tank… and I am sure there are times where the healers don’t want to heal.  That is completey cool and why we have modern gameplay that allows us to switch the roles around freely.  However I do not feel that the problem is the roles themselves.  Without roles combat feels like a chaotic mess, and simply something I do not enjoy.  I was on board with Guild Wars 2, until the moment I did my first dungeon and saw that zergging a boss down from the resurrection point was a completely valid tactic.  There is nothing fun about that kind of gameplay for me… and I am scared now that after seeing this amazing concept that we will end up with that sort of haphazard grouping.

A Solo Experience

EQNext_Landmark

Right now I feel as thought I will still enjoy playing Everquest Next, so much about the game seems completely amazing.  I just fear that it might be a completely single player experience for me.  If Landmark provides a random world with random storybricks encounters that I can explore freely… that might be seriously enough to keep me happy regardless of how the larger gameplay evolves.  If EQ Next is nothing more than Minecraft evolved I will play the hell out of it and be exceedingly happy to do so.  I just am not a huge fan of what sounds to be their design mantra of abolishing roles again… since that went so tragically wrong with Guild Wars 2.

I am extremely amped to get into the beta experience and build all sorts of nifty things in Landmark.  I still go on massive Minecraft binges where I will do nothing but that game for a weekend and build entire cities… only to abandon the map and start from scratch again when the next creative urge hits.  All I have ever really wanted is to have the Minecraft freedom with a better game wrapped around it.  Having that kind of randomly generated and ever changing world, with awesome MMO controls mixed in would keep me happy for hundreds of hours of gameplay.  I could not be happier if I logged into my email and saw a beta invite right now.

So I am very much still on board with the notion of EQ Next… but I just heard the first things that deeply concerned me.  Here is hoping that this turns out to be more marketing spin than actual gameplay.  I feel as though there are a lot of dps out there with chips on their shoulders against tanks and healers… and that every so often one of these design schemes that tries to undo the roles of teamplay comes along.  Here is hoping they will dial it back before release.  They did mention that they would support “defensive” gameplay, and depending on what that means I would be happy with the protector role in another fashion even if it is not gather up all the hate and soake the damage.  I guess only time and subsequent releases will tell how this shakes out.

Wrapping Up

Well I have the lore panels to view, and that might be fodder for tomorrows posts.  Additionally we need to pick up the house today and I want to get that done sooner than later so I can piddle around in Rift and the thing that must not be named.  I hope you all have had a great weekend and are prepared for the work week ahead of us.  Additionally I hope you have been as amped as I am to see all the yummy footage coming out of SOE Live, Quake Con and the Rift stream.  I love Norrath, so no matter how frustrated I might be with a given direction they seem to be taking… I will always give the game a shot because of my love of the world.