Good morning you happy denizens of the interwebs. Getting a slightly slow start this morning, as I was trying to find my old pair of 10 eyelet Doc Martens. Not sure why, but lately I have been wanting to wear them. Positive is I found a pair of Docs, but negative is I did not in fact find the ones I was looking for. I guess that is what happens when you don’t wear them for a decade. Today is going to be oddly busy, with coffee in the morning with some local web developers… and a dinner at night for a friend of hours. Hopefully all the points in-between are relatively uneventful.
This week a few significant web based games have been in the social discussion mill, namely folks remembering Glitch fondly and talking about the official launch of Card Hunter. Both of them are extremely fun little games… but I think in both cases they miss the boat a bit by being web based games in the first place. By day I am a web developer, and I maintain a large infrastructure of websites… so I am deeply committed to the “web” as a technology, but I simply do not feel like it is a great platform for the delivery of games, or at least it is not for me. I guess I should explain my position a bit more than that.
Essentially the only time I can play a web based game, is when I am sitting at one of my computers at home. I have web access almost 24/7, but I sadly do not have one of those jobs where I can fuck off all day long playing web games. So this pretty much leaves my time to play these games when I am sitting at home… and if I am at home I have access to hardware that will run “real” games. So in that case, there is almost never a time where I would prefer to play a browser based title than something more engaging and visceral.
Glitch was a really awesome game, and I actually logged a couple dozen hours playing it. I was one of the beta testers and forced myself to sit down at least once a week and spend a few hours engaged with it. The great tragedy of that game for me… is that it was not mobile based. If I had that game on my phone, I would still be playing it… and likely it would have had none of the funding issues that eventually lead it to close. Mobile is totally the ideal platform for this type of game, because I can access it in a way when I am in the break room, or standing around waiting for my wife to finish shopping… essentially I can play it when I am NOT near a real computer.
Card Hunter I fear will be a similar tragedy. It also is a really fun game, but when I have to choose between playing it and playing a “real” game, it is going to lose out every time because quite frankly the experience is not good enough to compete with FFXIV, Rift, Borderlands 2, Diablo 3 or whatever happens to be my current game of heavy rotation. It is a super cool concept, and I love the D&D red box era artwork and nifty feel of it all. However the fact that it is a completely flash based game, means it will always be relegated to the land of novelty, and not something folks will seriously latch onto… since for the most part just like Glitch it will be unplayable on mobile devices.
For the longest time I thought I was maybe the only one that felt this way, but the other night talking about Card Hunter among my friends… we all expressed a similar feeling of “rather play a real game” if we had access to our home computer. The niche for these games seems to be for people who can play them at their workplace to be honest. Since that is often considered bad behavior and is punished in most workplaces… I feel like that is maybe a bad niche to latch yourselves onto. The problem with anything web based is generally that as a society we see web content as “free”, so I feel like trying to extract a viable payment model from anything web based is going to be a long term challenge as well.
Quite honestly I wish Card Hunter the best of luck. I think it is a really compelling game, I just wish I had it on my phone or tablet rather than having to play it on a computer. I would love to be able to say that I will likely play it…but I know based on past track records it is the type of game I would play one night on a whim and then never play again. If I could boot this up while out in the world and waiting on someone… then hell yes I would likely be playing it. I just think this is going to be the long term issue with web based games that cannot easily be played on a mobile client. I hate to say it, but I think Flash is just dead as far as a viable game development technology, unless they can get broader mobile device support.
Today is ending up as a day to talk about all the things I have wanted to talk about… but just have not quite made it to doing so. These all seem like partial themes left on the cutting room floor. Lately I have been blogging a lot about FFXIV, and how much I have been enjoying it. This is still very much the case and last night I had fun running Sunken Temple of Qarn as my Warrior and then later on switched to my Dragoon to dps Brayflox’s Longstop. The simple fact that is something I can do without switching characters… is pretty awesome by its own light. Today however I am not going to gush on the game… but instead talk about one of the problems I have with it.
One of the things that hooked me on Everquest and MMOs in the first place was unpredictable loot. As much as I might complain about random number generators… I have always loved that rare chance of getting something truly amazing from killing a monster. All thought my life, I have had a fascination with randomized systems. When I worked in a card and comic shop, I used to have an uncanny knack for being able to pull that rare foil card from a pack, or getting whatever happened to be the high priced rookie card. Randomized loot in MMOs is this same thing multiplied over and over, and I love it dearly.
The problem with Final Fantasy A Realm Reborn… is there really is no loot to speak of from killing monsters. Sure you can get crafting material drops, and these end up cluttering your bags… but you will never get a piece of useable gear, a rare pattern or an adorable pet from killing monsters. In fact the number of opportunities for you to get items from your adventures is extremely limited at all. Essentially you can get them as quest rewards, or from chests that spawn while doing leves and dungeons. The chests give me a little shot of randomized loot goodness… but it almost feels too few and far between.
I Love Loot
While I truly do love this game already, and I can see myself playing it for a long time. It will never fully replace games like Rift for me. Even now I am more than happy to log into rift and roam around killing random things… because with each mob I kill I have a chance of getting truly phenomenal. I have talked at length about my bloodlust when it comes to games… the desire to see what the next mob might drop feeds into this immensely. While I am still likely to kill random mobs, I find it to be happening far less frequently in Eorzea since I am neither sufficiently rewarded by experience or by loot for doing so. So it turns out that my bloodlust is a fairly complicated formula that does in fact take reward into account.
Honestly all they would really need to do to make me completely happy, is make it so that there is a random chance of one of the chests spawning after killing a mob. Even a 1 in 100 chance would be more than enough to make me happily roam the countryside slaughtering families of goblins and kobolds. Randomized loot is the thing that keeps me going out into the world and killing things for the off chance of getting something really cool that I can use on an alternate spec. So my ultimate fear is that there will be a time where the novelty of this loot-less system wears off and I simply don’t want to play any longer.
Another huge concern of mine is the economy in general. The only way to get Gil, is from doing quests. Killing random mobs out in the world never rewards you any money. The best source of cash are Guildleaves. These are short quests that involve you going out into the world and completing some objective. These often reward random gear as well, but primarily they are a good source of money and an okay but somewhat lackluster source of experience. The problem is… you are limited to doing 6 of these per day. These allowances stack up until you hit 99, so if you are not playing for a few days you can still do them.
The challenge is these leve allowances are used by tradecraft, battlecraft and the guildhest system. After a certain point, these are essentially the only “quests” that you can do in the game after you have completed all of the normal quests. The only other repeatable source of money is from grinding FATEs, which are Rift like random events that occur in zones. The result of this is that the economy is extremely front loaded, in that you can gain lots of money from doing the initial quests… then after completing those… your prospects for gaining money tend to dry up significantly.
As a result, many players are finding themselves grinding up multiple characters only to view them as disposable vessels only for the purpose of taking money from them. I myself have contemplated this if I run into dire straights. Essentially every quest you do has a “cash” option, that allows you to take essentially trade coins that can be sold on the vendors. Since all of the quested gear is exactly the same as the crafted options… and you seem to be able to buy crafted items far cheaper than the money reward from a given quest… I find myself always driven to take the money payout option from each quest. Right now I am leveling faster than our crafters can keep up… but soon there will be the option of just having one of the guild crafters make my gear.
Essentially I am concerned with how the players will keep up with the expense of playing the game. This last patch they greatly reduced the repair costs… but there will be a certain amount of upkeep that is just required as a player. Last nights Sunken Temple of Qarn run I considered extremely successful… but I still took 5 deaths thanks to some rather bullshit mechanics… namely an ability that seems to have no cast timer and will one shot a player if not stunned constantly. Essentially I just feel that this loot less and cash less combat system… is inventive but deeply naïve… and so much of me hopes they will patch the game and make it work like every other MMO on the planet.
Well I need to wrap up because I have a coffee date with a group of community web developers. I am not really looking forward to it, nor am I looking forward to the evening dinner date with friends. All I really want to do is go home and hang out on the couch, and maybe order a salad from Rib Crib. We have eaten fairly poorly all week, so this weekend it is going to be our attempt to do better. I am still down roughly 60 lbs since my start so I am doing okay… but we have to be constantly vigilant. I hope all of you have a great weekend ahead of you.