Bank Overflow

Good morning you happy people.  Today is a day for rampant forced cheeriness because quite honestly I feel like crap.  My sleep patterns have been off for the majority of this week, and it has left me completely drained most of the nights.  Last night for example I wanted to do many splendored things… but ended up slumped at my keyboard fighting sleep.  Hopefully I will adjust to the environmental changes, like my wife starting the new school year…  but whatever it happens to be it is a pain in the butt.

Bank Overflow

rift 2013-08-15 06-17-12-54

My life’s mission… at least as far as gaming is concerned… has been to try and gather as many awesome and community minded people as I could together.   Then I abscond with them and stuff them neatly into House Stalwart.  My guild jokes that my “panel van has the best candy” as I am constantly finding someone else in need of a good home.  Last night yet again we welcomed a new member, and I am hoping he enjoyed himself.  I was a little off my game in the whole engaging people thing…  it was all I could really do to stay vertical.  In fact at one point last night I decided I was done being vertical… and went downstairs to try playing on the sofa.  Unfortunately that only hastened sleep… and roughly thirty minutes later I was logging out.

One of the negative side effects of putting all these awesome people in one place… is they tend to be extraordinarily generous.  The above image is a shot of one of our bank tabs.  They are absolutely stuffed to the brim with random things our guildies thought might be useful to other guildies.  As a result I am going to need to do a massive cleanout.  Some of the items are pretty easy… for example all that raw meat I will just ship to my survivalist and convert to level appropriate food.  Other things like the gear… I would really prefer to see them find a home.  The other option is to runebreak them and turn them into level appropriate runes.

We have long used tab one as an artifact exchange program.  Essentially the idea is that as you are out collecting artifacts, you dump the ones you already have in the guild bank and then extract the ones you need.  This has been a great program, the problem is… there are a lot of people that put in way more artifacts than they extract.  So hopefully we can induct a few new members into the practice that will hopefully soak up all the unused artifacts so we can start fresh.  I funded the first two bank tabs but unfortunately the third one is just too far out of reach.  I don’t have anywhere close to the 1500 plat needed to buy it.  So for the time being we are going to have to make due with the limited space we have.

Granted having a guild that helps each other so freely… is the kind of problem I enjoy having.  I think tonight I might start packaging up various tidbits from the bank into care packages and just sending out to guild members that are in the appropriate level ranges.  There are a lot of things in the bank that I view as clutter… like the on use scrolls that give a short term stat boost.  But if packaged with a rune and maybe some food…  it becomes a nice care package for a leveling guild member.  I just don’t want the generosity of the guild to go to waste.

Cthulhu Expansion

I am extremely late to the bandwagon of even bringing this up… but a few days ago Blizzard trademarked the name “The Dark Below” and that set the world a twitter…  pun intended.  At first there was some debate as to whether or not the name belonged to World of Warcraft, or if it was intended for the upcoming Diablo 3 expansion.  However additional data came out yesterday that pegs the name of the D3 Expansion as “Reaper of Souls”.  Prior to this however…  I assumed that Dark Below was going to be the 5th World of Warcraft expansion simply due to the fact that the name has roots in the Warcraft universe.  Apparently the term “Dark Below” was mentioned in the original Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans manual… as well as a section in the Warcraft roleplaying books from which WoWWiki References this quote.

The Dark Below is a place inhabited by demons, devils and infernal creatures, from where some sorcerers take their power directly and sometimes have a patron beast to foster their magic

So on that alone I assumed that this would be the beginning of the fabled “Burning Legion” expansion.  I hate to bring this list out… but I still find it curious just how closely the franchise has followed it all these years later.  This list first started circulating before the release of The Burning Crusade, and more or less was pretty accurate until Cataclysm.  I feel like the whole idea of rebooting the world was a complete monkey wrench thrown into the “master plan”.  But I am wondering with the release of Pandaria… are we going back to trying to pick up items from the list?

The Pre-Burning Crusade Expansion List

Draenor Set

Azuremyst Isle – 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle – 10 to 20

Eversong Forest – 1 to 10
Quel’thalas – 10 to 20
Hellfire Peninsula – 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh – 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest – 61 to 65
The Deadlands – 63 to 67
Nagrand – 64 to 68
Blade’s Edge Mountains – 66 to 70
Netherstorm – 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley – 69 to 70

Northrend Set

Borean Tundra – 67 to 70
Howling Fjord – 67 to 70
Dragonblight – 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills – 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest – 72 to 75
Zul’drak – 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin – 75 to 79
Storm Peaks – 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier – 78 to 80

Maelstrom Set

Gilneas – 77 to 80
Grim Batol – 78 to 81
Kul Tiras – 79 to 82
Kezan – 81 to 86
Tel Abim – 83 to 85
Zandalar – 84 to 87
Plunder Isle – 86 to 88
The Broken Isles – 87 to 90
The Maelstrom – 89 to 90

Plane Set

Pandaria – 1 to 10
Hiji – 10 to 20

Wolfenhold – 1 to 10
Xorothian Plains – 10 to 20

The Green Lands – 88 to 91
The Dying Paradise – 91 to 94
The Emerald Nightmare – 94 to 97
The Eye of Ysera – 97 to 100

Deephome – 88 to 91
Skywall – 91 to 94
The Abyssal Maw – 94 to 97
The Firelands – 97 to 100

Legion Set

K’aresh – 96 to 99
Argus Meadowlands – 97 to 100
Mac’Aree – 99 to 100
Maw of Oblivion – 100+
The Burning Citadel – 100+++

Ozumat

As you can see from the list… up through the close of Wrath of the Lich King… everything pretty much synced with what we were seeing in the game.  Some of the zone names were inaccurate, but the list is too close for it to be a complete aberration.  So as I said above… when I saw the name and the reference from WoW WIki… I immediately thought this was going to be what is mentioned above as the Legion set.  But further evidence has come out that leads elsewhere.  Yesterday an article caught my attention pointing out that Ozumat the fiend in Throne of the Tides was in fact from the Dark Below.

So now I have to wonder… is this finally them doing a proper treatment of Nazjatar and Queen Azshara?  I almost immediately ruled out this concept when the name first started circulating… because just among my friends Vashj’ir was pretty much a hated experience.  So I really could not see blizzard returning us to an underwater setting again.  However so far the evidence points in that direction.  If the Dark Below lies beneath the crust of Azeroth… then it would make sense that the entry way would be some underwater trench.  My biggest concern would be if they do another confused expansion like Cataclysm where there is content scattered throughout Azeroth without one central point of focus.

As bored as I got with Pandaria… it was less about the content and more about my general malaise with World of Warcraft.  Everything about that expansion was well done… and had I really cared about the game I probably would have enjoyed it much the same way as I enjoyed the hell out of Northrend.  Cataclysm on the other hand felt like a haphazard journey across existing areas of the world.  I hope whatever they do for this expansion that they give the players an entire world to explore rather than more piecemeal crap.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to get on the road.  Today was a multiple cup of coffee day as my mind wandered quite a bit through the course of this post.  While I don’t play World of Warcraft, and I really have no intent of returning… I am still a sucker for Azeroth.  You can’t spend a decade immersed in a world and not care about its evolution.  I keep hoping that Blizzard will “do the right thing”, but they always seem to make decisions that are half-hearted.  It will be interesting to see what Blizzcon provides.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope I make it through the day without falling asleep at my desk.

On Leadership

We have entered back to school shopping season and last night we ran around hunting for pants.  A nasty side effect of our collective weight loss is the fact that my wife currently appears to have no pants that will fit to start the school season.  This manifested itself yesterday when she was trying to get ready to meet some of her teacher friends for a presentation.  Of course panic ensued, but she managed to figure something out and as a result last night we began the process of trying to rebuild the clothing archives.

On Leadership

Yesterday I was having a long talk with Sevok about his interest in maybe joining us in the House Stalwart Rift contingency.  Sev has been a longtime friend of mine, lasting well over a decade at this point and been involved in many of the previous incarnations of House Stalwart.  The problem is he really does not want to start up in Rift unless he brings his wife with him.  She on the other hand has not been in a Stalwart guild yet, and is extremely gunshy of guilds in general, namely because we both have a shared moment in our history that likely changed both of us in different ways.

Over the course of the last few weeks I have talked quite a bit about how tanking brings out my protective nature, so I thought I might talk a bit today about what exactly lead me to guild leadership in the first place.  In many ways it is this exact same protective nature manifested in trying to create a wonderful environment for my friends to play in.  Honestly the roots have always been there, but as an introvert I am always loathe to step up unless I feel like some wrong has been committed.  I have a strong sense of justice embedded in me and equality that honestly should not have been there based on my upbringing… but that is a tale for another day.

High School

HighSchool

I did not have the traditional “geek” upbringing of exclusion and ridicule at the hands of the popular masses.  In fact I could have very easily been another one of the popular kids.  I guess in many was from the outside it probably seemed I was one.  I essentially had my geekiness grandfathered into the popular culture of my small home town.  My parents friends ended up having what would essentially end up as our crop of “popular kids”, and as a result these were my play dates and birthday party goers all the way through elementary school.  So as my geek tendencies manifested themselves for the most part they were just accepted as “me being me”.

My mother was a fairly overbearing sort that insisted that I be involved with everything.  Essentially she was brought up in a poor household and had aspirational goals to be more than that and as a result ended up using me many times as the vessel of those aspirations.  So as a result I was in 4H, an Eagle Scout, Team Captain of the Academic Bowl, FTA, Student Council, National Honor Society, and many more acronyms that I can barely remember.  The result was frustrating for me, because I ended up in the local paper on a regular basis and everyone out in the community seemed to know my business.  I want to say I was on 26 pages in my high school year book thanks to all the random organizations I was pushed into being a part of.  I feel as thought my mother was trying to build herself a Kennedy… which I very much have no aspirations ever to be.

My Tribe

pente

I could have very easily fallen in the kegger madness that was the life of a small town popular kid, but instead I took a very different path.  My friends were essentially the geeky misfits of the town.  The edgy art students, the math nerds, the show choir kids… all bound together to form a family of sorts.  My mother was a home economics teacher, and as a result we used the small back room of her classroom as a private lunch room of sorts.  In there would would plan D&D campaigns, play Wolfenstein on the 486 computer, and a lot of Chess and Pente.  This room gave us a moment of sanity in a world that none of us really liked much.

The funny thing is… that as acknowledgement got around that these were my friend… these were my tribe of misfits…  each of them started to get extended an invisible veil of protection.  I was not a small guy, and at 6’4” the hooligans in high school seemed to fear me just by my seemingly powerful stature.  Each of my friends reported getting picked on a lot less, or at least no longer in the form of physical confrontation.  I had no clue when I started the little community that it would have the fringe benefits it ultimately did.  To some extend it only caused me to expand the group and pull in other people.  I feel like this is what started my “collecting people” tendencies that would serve me later.

Past Guilds

EQ_KaelLegionaire

When I got addicted to Everquest, I went through a couple of extremely unsatisfying guild experiences.  The first was an extremely exclusive group that dated back to a bygone era of gaming.  They were friendly enough and active enough, but they were also an extremely closed door society.  If you did not go through the initiation rituals to join their secret society… you were forever treated as an outsider regardless of how long and how many games you had played with them.  I went through the little initiation, but really did not see the world change much after doing so.  The problem is… as I got my friends into these games… they were forever destined to be outsiders… or not allowed in at all.  After seeing this injustice play out a few times I decided not to follow them into any new games.

While in Everquest I moved servers to play with a group of locals to Tulsa.  At first it was an extremely awesome having a group of locals that I could play with an socialize with.  However the longer I played and the more closely I got to the inner core of the guild, I started to see the same problem with injustice.  Essentially to be a member in good standing… you had to do whatever the guild leader wanted of you… and more often than not this was to do whatever would keep his wife happy.  I saw members miss out on rare drops for their epic weapon quest that would instead go to alt number 307 for his wife.  If she wanted this rep from this zone… the entire guild was expected to go there and farm forever until she got whatever she was wanting.

House Stalwart

stalwart_crusade

If you were not in the inner circle, your opinion did not matter.  When the wife had a falling out with a member, it was expected that the entire guild would shun them or else you would get kicked out on your ass as well.  None of this sat well with me, but I was torn.  My group of friends were still mostly in this guild, but I felt as though nothing about this situation was fair.  Somehow I ended up as the sounding board for all the players who were sick of the leaders shit, and made some extremely deep ties within the “resistance” of sorts. As we moved on past Everquest and into other games I kept contact with the members of this undercurrent and in many cases they all ended up as members of Stalwart guilds  eventually.

World of Warcraft was the next big thing on the horizon that I knew everyone would be playing.  As a result I wanted to gather up as many friends under one banner as I possibly could.  Prior to launch I started a brand new forum unconnected from any guild or game.  Through it I organized all my friends from EQ, DAoC, Horizons and City of Heroes towards the goal of forming a new guild for World of Warcraft.  Essentially I never wanted to end up in a situation like i was in the previous two guilds… either with abusive leadership or and elitist inner circle.  After talking to some friends about it, I decided that the only way I could ever guarantee that, was to be the leader myself and keep it from happening.

So here we are roughly a decade later and there is still an active House Stalwart presence in several games.  World of Warcraft damned near broke me for leading anything.  As a result I took roughly a two year break from guild leadership, as I wandered around and joined up with lots of other pools of friends.  I am extremely thankful to each person that sheltered me and invited me into their own organizations during this time. Sadly however in each new place I visited… there was something missing… and I would go back into my old ways trying to recruit everyone under a shared banner.  I was missing my home, was missing my guild, and was ultimately missing the freedom to make an awesome home for everyone involved.

As a leader I have always tried to enable people to do awesome things and be awesome in the process.  As a result I have always tried to keep things simple, only adopting the barest of rules that instill a sense of the larger community rather than a list of “thou shall not”.  For the most part this has worked over the last decade.  We have had a lot of amazing moments as friends and I have built more of an extended family for myself than a guild.  These are all people that I talk to regularly outside of the game, when we travel I try and meet up with ones in the area… they are the family I chose for myself.  Still to this day… I have an overwhelming desire to bring new people I meet that are also awesome into the fold.

Wrapping Up

I feel as though this post kind of developed a life of its own.  I am not really sure what I intended to right.  To some extent I was writing so that Sevok’s wife could see that our time spent in the horrible EQ guild had adverse effects on both of us.  I just chose to take that bad experience and roll it into building a long standing family of friends and a much larger community.  Hopefully this tale will be at least interesting to other people out there.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  I desperately need a haircut so that is the number one priority on our list.  Also hoping to coax my wife into another trip to the place where she found all those Legos.

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.

Blizzard Edition

Good morning you happy people in internet land… I am struggling horribly to get up and around today.  I gathered up breakfast but did so while wearing a skullcap to hide my disheveled and unkempt hair.  This is feeling one of those screw the world days… it is nice out but I don’t really want to go out and experience it.  I am perfectly happy sitting on my comfy couch with my laptop and chilling out.  The week had an odd amount of stress for nothing major actually occurring, and last night I had a temporary relapse of the panic attacks.  Jury is still out on whether or not I will be drug out into the world to experience today kicking and screaming or not.

Blizzard Free?

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The big semi-shocking news of yesterday is that Actiblizz managed to bail itself out of ownership by Vivendi and now is a relatively free agent.  Granted for me so long as Activision is tacked on front of Blizzard it will never actually be a “free” company, but I feel that ship has sailed and the two companies will forever be joined at the hip.  There have been a lot of news reporting that Blizzard is now the largest “indie” company…  but I feel like these same outlets have zero clue what that term even means anymore.

Do I think it is good overall for Actiblizz to control its own fate?  Sure… I feel that Vivendi was directly responsible for pushing out games before in an “unprepared” state in order to recuperate some of its money.  Additionally there were several stories floating around just prior to this announcement talking about how Vivendi was planning in raiding its cash cow to try and repair its own bottom line.  In essence this move fixes both problems… Blizzard is free from pillage, and Vivendi got a shot of money in the process.

The Footnote

Almost as a footnote the press release also casually announced that the subscriber base of World of Warcraft had fallen once again to 7.7 million.  After watching the two stories play out in my RSS feed yesterday, there was a significant delay as individuals got over the shock of the first and began to Grok the second.  Basically this was no real shock to me, because somewhere… and I am seemingly unable to find the source I saw a quote after their last big drop…  that they were fully expecting to be at 6 million by the end of the year.  Another 600,000 subscribers seems like they are on course for that possiblity.

This is more “Bel talking out of his ass” time, because I don’t really have references to back myself up… but essentially what I have heard thus far is that Blizzard is losing China.  These losses are essentially the fallout of that problem.  What happened in China then?  Essentially there are so many WoW clones in the Chinese Market, that simply market and hit the culture touchstones better.  Even more… WoW is no longer an aspirational game in the way it was.  It used to be a brand that Chinese consumers wanted to identify, even Coke drew upon it to sell soda.  From everything I have heard… this has changed and WoW is simply “not cool anymore”.

A Change in Model

I have said it multiple times… and I will continue to say it until November when I may or may not have to eat crow… but I believe this year at Blizzcon we will see the announcement of some form of a free to play model.  They have already publically confirmed that a cash shop is on the way, and usually going hand in hand with that is a switch to one of the many now viable free to play options.  My only hope is that they choose to follow the lead of Rift and giving players a Carrot, instead of following SWTOR and bashing players down with a stick.

Do I think going to Free to Play would help?  Honestly I am not sure.  I would likely poke my head in every now and then pending the model is not egregious.  I figure there are lots of people with a mild interest in the game that would return every now and then and maybe spend a little money there.  What I do think however is that there are probably still enough extremely devoted fans that the model would still be profitable for them.  At this point I feel the subscription model is just no longer viable.

As I said yesterday a huge chunk of why I will not be playing Final Fantasy XIV is because I just don’t feel it is worth a monthly fee.  Right now we have only a handful of holdouts still charging a monthly access fee, and the vast majority shifting to pay as you go or pay for perks schemes.  I feel that regardless of when it happens, sooner or later World of Warcraft will convert and do so in a big way.  Given their flair for showmanship and ability to spin something that would normally play as bad, into a positive for the Blizzcon audience…  I feel that all the signs are right for them announcing the shift.

Vanilla Servers

Yesterday there was an interesting post by Syp over on Bio Break, asking if we would play on a Vanilla server if Blizzard created one.  Essentially the post was spurred by comments that Drysc apparently made back in 2008 that hey had been seriously considering the model.  Since that time however…  Everquest has made a killing by creating Retro servers that allow players to experience the game through the eyes of history.  Essentially SOE has proven that the model is completely viable, and viable enough that at last count I believe there were three different “retro” servers. 

The most interesting part about Syp’s post however is the large batch of comments that occur afterwards.  It seems like the majority of the posters essentially said “take my money now”.  A few of us however were more “sounds awesome, but not for me”.  I definitely fell into the second camp.  I like the concept of a Vanilla server, but I feel as if it is probably best leave our happy memories in the rose tinted past.  When I think about just how much WoW progressed as it went through its expansions… what would exist as a Vanilla server would feel like a primitive shell of what exists today.  So while you would lose heinous inventions like the dungeon finder… you would also end up losing quality of life changes such as the ability to trade BOP loot in dungeons and even the “Need / Greed” loot system.

Ultimately while I am still interested in the advancement of that game… as evidenced to the fact that I devoted an entire blog post this morning to little blips about Blizzard in general…  I just think I am done with the World of Warcraft as a game.  I might return every now and then to check in on it… but I am not returning for the game itself… I am returning for the few people that are still there and rabid about it.  I feel as if I have just moved past the limits of that game, and want more.  In my “MMO Must Haves” series of posts, I rattled out all the features that I wanted in a game… and expectantly WoW has very few of them.  On the converse Rift has damned near every one of them… so it is no shock that I am playing that these days.

I think eventually Vanilla servers will come to fruition, because there will come a time when Blizzard is trying to wring out every last drop of cash from an aging brand.  I do not however think we will see it until they change their business model.  There will likely be some access fee that you add to your account that allows you to roll characters on the closed Vanilla servers.  I think the same kind of people that find the Everquest Retro servers alluring will also find the old world WoW servers that way also.  I will admit… I would be more tempted if they started releasing servers for each era.  Wrath of the Lich King was my favorite time in the game, and after we killed Arthas… everything felt tarnished.

Wrapping Up

I have a feeling that my wife is going to want to go out and explore the world… and as much as I do not want this at all… I figure I will end up being a good guy and aggressing to it.  As a result I really should get up and around and get ready for the day.  It is a lovely day outside at least, and the temperature is an unseasonable 80*.  I just have zero interest in the outside world and would prefer to sit at home on my sofa.  I hope you all have great weekends, and that you get accomplished anything you need to.

Abolish Faction Walls

Good morning you happy people out there.  I joked yesterday about opening a real life air rift, but in reality I guess it felt a bit like that.  We managed to get through the storm relatively unscathed, but not everyone did.  Yesterday the report was that roughly 100,000 customers were without power, and in on the drive in there were numerous intersections that were reduced to four way stops.  The neighbor across the street lost the entire fence on the front part of his yard, and the shopping center my favorite game store is in was pretty much demolished by the winds.  It is so odd to have tornadic style damage without the Tornado.

Race and Class Restrictions

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Yesterday Rowan posted a thought provoking pieces on whether or not there should be class and race restrictions in games.  Namely this was spawned by Wildstar, but the question carries over to every game.  Why does it make sense that fanatical characters should be limited by some sort of pseudo real world logic?  In an example he gives… why CAN’T a robot do magic…  isn’t that just imposing some kind of logic on fantasy gaming that doesn’t really exist?  Is it not just as fantastical that humans can perform magic?

Ultimately I am against class and race restrictions…  but even more so I am against faction based restrictions.  My general theory is… that in every situation… ideology never breaks down solely along racial boundaries.  There will always be people that play across the lines and are branded as either Sell-swords at the best, or Traitors at the worst by their own faction.  One of the worst experiences you can have is when a new game comes out… and you are super pumped about one specific race…  only to find out that every single friend you have wants to play the OTHER faction.

My mantra has been anything that gets in the way of you playing with your friends is bad.  Faction based race restrictions get in the way of you playing what you want to play… and also playing with your friends that might have different tastes.  I will go one step further and say that Factions in general… are generally bad, but more so games that try and set up an artificial “red versus blue” faction wall.  That essentially feels like imposing artificial limitations on your players just to solve poor design problems.  If have to rely on polarized faction based combat to keep your game moving, you made some bad decisions somewhere along the process.

Abolish Faction Walls

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Some of the most liberating gaming experiences I have had come from games with much more flexible factional boundaries.  The Everquest series probably takes the cake for its ability to give the player malleable faction alignments.  Essentially you start out as either aligned as an Evil race or a Good race… and that sets up certain default racial relations that you have with other factions in the world.  Given the time and the inclination… you can perform tasks that will alter these boundaries through lots and lots of player faction work.

Iksar for example started off hated by everything and could do business nowhere but the neutral Nexus and Cabilis their home city.  However I had a friend who through lots of work managed to become maximum reputation with the Halflings… and he was treated as a favored guest in their territory.  I myself took my Half Elf ranger which is natively a good aligned race… and managed to get him the same reputation with the Evil Erudite city of Paineel.  This experience of letting the player dictate their alliances through their interactions with the world is the best possible scenario I have seen.  Sadly… no one since has adopted this model.

In Everquest 2 you had something similar… defacto good vs evil racial set up… but over the course of the game you could decide to betray your home faction and begin gaining rep with the other.  While this was not as rich and robust as the Everquest system… it was still a far better choice than the archaic “red versus blue” mentality.  Additionally no where in the Everquest realm are you ever limited in who you can group with, communicate with, and trade with.  All players can interact regardless of their personal choices.

Faction as Fiction

Singlehandedly one of the best choices Trion has ever made with Rift is to release the fabled “Faction as Fiction” patch abolishing strict faction walls in that game.  While not as open as a game like Everquest that was designed NOT to have firm factions, it was a great way to “hack” that functionality into an existing game.  Essentially in one pass they allowed Guardian and Defiant characters to group and guild freely, and set up a new neutral three faction based PVP system called Conquest.  Players essentially act as mercenaries for three different political factions and wage proxy battles for them.

I feel like this decision point more than anything has allowed House Stalwart to grow so much recently.  Many of the players that we were pulling in, tried it shortly after the release of Rift, but felt limited by the race and faction based choices.  We were a Defiant guild, but many players just feel more comfortable with the kinder, gentler, greener… Guardian starter experience.  Being able to tell them that “faction no longer matters” has almost become a rallying call as I get new folks invested in the game again.

I cannot help but think that games like World of Warcraft and Wildstar would not be far better served if they threw off the mantle of “red versus blue” and embraced letting players choose their own alignments.  While we have extremely rabid Horde and Alliance players… I was one of those players that had friends on both sides of the pond.  When Stalwart originally launched with the release of WoW, we had an Alliance Guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde Guild on Silverhand.  The intent was to play in both places, so that we could stay together… but over time the majority greatly favored Alliance… leaving a skeleton crew manning the Horde bulwarks.

So instead of having like Fifty players all happy and acting together… we had 35 happy alliance players, and 15 unhappy horde players that felt abandoned.  Any design choice that forces potentially pits players against their friends… is ultimately a bad one for the sake of building long lasting communities.  Had we been able to BE an Alliance guild, but also had a number of “Horde” race sell-swords… I feel as though this would not have been a problem.  The players didn’t care about the faction… they cared about the available races to play… and ultimately went to the side that they could play what they wanted to.

Looking Forward

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One of the biggest detractors for me in everything I have heard about Elder Scrolls Online is the fact that once again there will be three distinct and insular faction groups.  While choosing which faction to align to was easy for me… since I always play a Nord, Argonian or a Dunmer…  it will not be quite so easy for my friends.  I have a few friends that prefer Altmer for example… and I tend to go out of my way to kill them when playing Skyrim.  The Elder Scrolls is a setting where there have NEVER been absolute race based factional boundaries.  There are always Nords that are willing to sell their blade to the highest bidder, as well as Altmer that throw off their heritage and adventure freely in the world.

My biggest hope is that there will be a way for my friends to be in Ebonheart Pact where I plan on building the House Stalwart guild… but be able to play whatever they want to play.  This will ultimately determine whether or not a Stalwart guild succeeds in this game.  I realize that this is probably just a pipe dream, because everything that we have seen to this point seems to enforce the strict racial boundaries.  But I guess I can hope… I realize factional boundaries are easy for companies to enforce, that they greatly simplify many aspects of the game.  However this does not stop me from feeling like they are bad for the players.

ESO is still a long ways off, so I have the smallest glimmer of hope that they might rethink the firm racial limits, however Wildstar feels as though it is right around the corner and has set up the same tired walls.  We are going through the same problems with that game as we have every other faction based title.  Granted I am only really mildly interested in the game…  but various Stalwarts are EXTREMELY interested.  The problem is… each of us seems to natively align ideologically with one faction or the other… and currently it the sentiments seem to split down the middle.  All of this is generally because we prefer to play one type of race over another. They could really serve to take a book from Trion and make guilds transcend factional boundaries.

While we are on pipedreams…  one of the biggest flaws in The Secret World is the fact that Cabals are faction locked.  This game is so liberating in certain fashions…  you can group with any player on any faction or shard.  However the fact that their guild system is limited based on a specific faction really throws a monkey wrench in this whole openness scenario.  It has essentially forced guilds to manage three separate factional units… and then try and communicate between them using server channels.  Everything would have been far simpler had they just said that cabals were free floating.  I really hope this is a decision they revisit in the near future.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again… I have wasted another perfectly good morning rambling on.  I had intended to talk about all the awesomeness that we did last night as a guild, but that yarn can wait for another day.  On a related note however.. I totally suggest you check out Fynralyl’s blog post about her entry into the guild and reentry into Rift in general.  Warms my heart to see that folks are enjoying themselves in an environment I have pulled together.  Any questions I had as to whether or not forming a House Stalwart in Rift was a good idea… have long since gone out the window.  I hope you guys have a great day, and that the weekend comes quickly.

5 Biggest MMO Disappointments

This is one of those days I have zero clue what to write about… but as not to break the chain of constant posts I am going to push through and post something anyways.  In part this post about nothing has been brought to you today by the letters N, D and A.  So instead of a normal post about what I did last night, or what I want to do today…  I am going to make a post about my top five biggest MMO disappointments.  This is kind of the bookend to my post about my five favorite MMOs, so hopefully I can do this without coming off overly negative about each.

The Disclaimer

Some of my picks for this list will be rather controversial… but they are my picks nonetheless.  This list is not about what I consider to be the worst MMOs, or even bad MMOs at all.  In fact most of the ones included on this list are games I have played over and over again… and will likely play again in the future.  On the converse… these are the games I have been the most disappointed by over the years.  This could be due to lack of content, lack of depth, lack of features… or just simply lack of follow through.  This is by no means a death sentence for an MMO…  it wouldn’t be on the list at all if I didn’t care.  For example… I do not care at all for TERA or Aion… but I was not necessarily disappointed in either because I was not expecting to like them in the first place.

5 – World of Warcraft

World-of-Warcraft-Mists-of-Pandaria-Thunder-King-patch If you remember… I included World of Warcraft as number five on my five favorite MMOs list… and I think placing it in the number five spot on this list adequately represents the love/hate relationship I have with this game.  Without a doubt I have had some of the best times playing WoW, but I have also had some of my biggest disappointments in the path they have chosen to grow it.  It feels like an old high school friend… that you were extremely close to… but after years of being apart you grew in two completely different directions.  While you want really badly to be happy for it… you can see the potential that was there… and how it has been squandered.

World of Warcraft was a game that I expected not to like in the first place.  I remember my very first thought when I heard about it… was where the hell would they get their story.  Until Warcraft 3… every Blizzard game had essentially only had enough storyline to keep the game from completely falling on its face.  After experiencing the deep and rich world of Norrath… I did not think that Blizzard could pull off anything that engaging.  I was wrong… they wove together a world that was deep, rich, and filled with lore.  Additionally they incorporated the best features of every game that had come before it… and remixed it in a way that truly represented the absolute best of breed for the time.

However over the years… they have butchered the lore…  and instead of continuing to incorporated the best features on the market… have instead created half assed versions of them.  I have to keep coming back to the Transmogrification system… because it personifies this concept of the modern Blizzard approach.  They took something awesome… alternate appearance systems… and instead turned it into an extremely cludgy money sink.  The same thing happened over and over as they tried to incorporate features of popular mods… but the official version was never anywhere near as solid as the original mod that inspired it.

Then on the other side of the coin… the content was just lacking.  When new content was introduced… it was too little to late.  Like a quick appetizer that never quite turned into a meal.  Shortly after the release of Cataclysm… I started a brand new Worgen Druid… and managed to level it without much effort in under 5 days played time.  Additionally the raid content just felt more and more uninspired…  remixes of previous encounters.  So I will admit… at times I am one of those guys… that views the golden area of vanilla through rose colored lenses.

For certain players the new mix of content and the pacing works.  I have a ton of friends who are still knee deep in the thrall of this game… and more power to them.  I just reached a point where I could not view anything but the disappointment.  As a result I am not playing, and trying my best not to complain on a regular basis about the game.  But… additionally I do not feel this post would be honest if I did not include WoW in the mix.  I feel like it still has so much potential, and maybe if they changed to a content driven DLC style free to play model… they would have the endorsement to build content other than the raid ladder and dailies.

4 – Guild Wars 2

guild_wars_2_allotment This is another title I did not really expect to like when I first heard about it.  I was never a huge fan of Guild Wars 1 despite everyone telling me just how amazing a game it was.  I liked some of the concepts presented, like the Magic the Gathering style ability system and the ability to multi-class…  but everything else about that game I really despised.  If I do not like your games user interface or control scheme… no matter how awesome a game it is underneath  I just cannot bring myself to play it…  no matter how many times I try.  So all of this said I really had written off the concept of Guild Wars 2.

This all changed however when the folks at Arena.NET posted their Design Manifesto.  It basically said everything I thought I wanted to hear, and laid out a great vision for a new game.  So I was amped when I was able to get access to the testing program.  However I was immediately disappointed in the experience I had there, and lack of what honestly felt like a game.  I was disillusioned enough that I actually resigned from testing and wished them luck.  One of my friends remained in the test a little bit longer than I did…  and eventually bailed himself.  I hoped they would find some direction and turn the project around.

When it came time for open beta testing… I gave the game another shot.  The lowered expectations of expecting to dislike the game… caused me to view it through slightly different eyes.  I enjoyed the game enough that I picked it up when it came out.  The problem is… there just was not enough meat on the bones to hold my attention for long.  There are definitely some aspects of the game that I enjoyed, but the whole experience felt very disposable… more so than any game I had experienced. 

Additionally it did not feel like I was progressing my character at all.  By the time I reached level five, I had unlocked all 5 abilities for my primary weapon choices and the signets and other related abilities… just did not feel like they had enough weight to them to make them something worth striving towards.  The game set out to abolish the holy trinity of tank, healer and dps… but the problem is that it didn’t really replace it with anything in the process.  Group content felt like a chaotic mess, and I was extremely disappointed when I did my first dungeon and realized the zerging a boss down from a spawn point was totally a viable tactic.

In the Manifesto they proposed that – Shouldn’t Great MMOs be Great RPGs too?  The only problem is the key means for moving the story along in a role playing game is the questing construct…  but they sought to abolish that as well.  Once again… it is fine that they wanted to change the game… but they didn’t really replace it with anything meaningful in the process.  As a result I felt extremely disconnected to the world around me.  Things were going on around me… on scripted timers… but I didn’t really care about whether or not we won or lost.  I didn’t care about the people and place… and the lack of questing did this.

In the Manifesto they stated that it was time to make MMORPGS more social.  The only problem with that is that they introduced so much passive grouping, and took away any need for player roles…  that the end result is one of the least social games I have played.  When roaming around the world… you may be fighting along side other players, but you do not have to interact with them in any meaningful way.  Each player is a self sufficient independent state… and as a result has no real need for anyone other than themselves.  The game just feels like it is lacking reasons for players to actually be grouping together.

Let me reiterate, there is a lot to like about the game.  It runs amazingly well on low end hardware, and presents a very fluid gaming experience.  It has one of the prettiest worlds I have ever explored, and has a lot of things that incentivize exploration.  While it is presenting a ton of new content in the form of now bi-monthly updates… the problem is most of it is limited time only.  Instead of growing their world… they are creating disposable episodes that only serve to make the game play experience all the more disposable itself.

3 – Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star-Wars-The-Old-Republic-screenshot I’ve loved Star Wars since before I could even fully verbalize it.  My parents tell stories about me seeing the movie when I was one… and then coming home and jabbering endlessly about “Darfa Bater”.  So if there was any game that has enough storied lore to hold my attention… it should have been SWTOR.  I was a huge fan of Knights of the Old Republic, and as a result I was completely committed to the genre they genre they chose to set the films in.  Additionally I love the Bioware style of storytelling, and am a pretty huge Dragon Age and Mass Effect junky.

All of these things should have made SWTOR be the next 8 year game for me.  The problem is… the experience while amazing… is overall disposable once you have made your way through the content.  So much care and feeding were placed on making sure the quests were just right… and the voice acting was flawless… that it greatly cut into the total amount of content available.  The three chapters that were available at launch… felt like an awesome introduction to the game…  but the main course never really arrived.

I hear the Makeb release is extremely nice… and the continuation of the storyline extremely successful.  The only problem is…  that content came a year too late to stave off the players leaving.  I feel like had they had more content in the pipeline and ready to release a month after launch, they would have been able to keep the majority of all the players that started playing.  We just burned through the content way faster than they had expected.  Additionally the fact that there was only one path per faction… and that essentially all the quests were the same minus the handful of class specific ones…  alting became extremely tedious.

Additionally when they chose to go free to play… they adopted one of the most blatantly abusive models I have seen.  Essentially with free to play, you can choose to take the carrot or the stick… and things like gear locks, pay walling what should be base features, and rolling out a never ending stream of unique lockbox gear just feel too much like being beat with the stick for me.  It has however been extremely lucrative for Bioware… and enabled the game to keep its doors open.  If it means they continue to release new content… then in the long run it could be good for the game as a whole.

I am still disappointed however at what could have been.  Had they been able to launch a continuation of the main storyline each month or so…  it would have kept me glued to the game.  The original storyline was amazing… and there is no taking that away from the game.  The Jedi Knight storyline is probably one of the most epic story arcs I have experienced in any game.  It was just over way too soon, leaving me nothing really left that I wanted to do.  The problem is… that content was extremely expensive to produce.  There was never a way that they ever could have kept up with the demand.

2 – Champions Online

champions_online_screen_4 One of my all time favorite pen and paper games is Heroes Unlimited by Palladium games.  I had early experiences with D&D and AD&D… but this was the game that really hooked me on the possibilities of role playing games.  What made the system so cool is that it had rules to create literally any type of super hero or super villain you could imagine.  Of course I created my share of Wolverine or Batman clones…  but the game system was this fertile group that through a series of roles I could create some unique characters as well.  What made the game so engaging was that the sky was literally the limit in the types of things you could create.

I was a huge fan of City of Heroes, because it gave me some of this same rich character building…  but did so in an easy to digest MMO form.  That game however had a lot of short comings… and when Champions Online was announced it looked to be addressing all of these base issues and creating this wild open ended super hero creation system.  You could mix and match power sets… creating your own custom mix for your character… and this was placed on top of a character generator that was even more robust than City of Heroes.  Everything sounded like the perfect super hero game… and I was hooked on it early.

The problem is… the power sets were grossly imbalanced.  This is the first game I had ever played where certain power sets were literally unplayable.  You could reach a point where you just simply could not progress any further due to the choices you had made.  On the other side of the coin… certain power sets were so grossly overpowered that they completely removed any challenge from the content at all.  You could steam roll over the top of anything, while your friend that chose one of the broken ones… could not even fight the lowest rank mobs.

The major disappointment is that they did a very poor job of mitigating the different power sets.  They would buff one…. but then another power set would become the broken one… making it a constant cycle of your favorite power set potentially becoming the unplayable one.  The game had all the potential in the world… and just became grossly mismanaged.  Instead of understanding that this  constant state of power flux and un-playability was what was driving their players away…  they instead decided to streamline the content.

I really do not remember the timing, but I believe this happened around the time of the free to play conversion.  Previously there had been a pretty interesting storyline that had multiple paths your characters could take.  The end result ended up with everything being a big jumbled mess.  The thing that ended up as the nail in the coffin however… is that coming back as a free to play character… I could not play any of my existing characters.  Each and every one included some costume bits that were not open to free players.  This should be a lesson to anyone… grandfather existing characters…  because holding players characters hostage behind a pay wall is never a good call.

1 – Warhammer Online

warhammer-online-1 I had to put this one at number one… because really this game turning out the way it did is one of my biggest gaming regrets.  I love Warhammer… have since I was in middle school and painting my very first citadel miniatures.  I love the world and the lore… and the sheer brutality of the chaos gods.  They took a failing IP and placed it in the hands of MMO veterans… Mythic games… who had brought the world Dark Age of Camelot.  It seemed like a no-fail proposal.  I thought they knew exactly what players wanted… and could borrow from the success they had with DAoC and all the nuts and bolts that make a game work.

Unfortunately Warhammer Online is really the tale of two games.  The one to twenty experience was amazing.  The PVE content rich, the new public questing construct extremely fun, and the early battlegrounds extremely inventive and enoyable to play.  I still think that the early experience in Warhammer Online ranks among some of my favorite leveling experiences.  The problem is that when you hit about 20-25 the bottom fell out… the PVE content ceased to be interesting… and became increasingly more sparse.  The game changed from this fun questing experience to this “go grind pvp to level” experience.

I feel like the game as a whole was a clash between these two seperate games… one of which I enjoyed immensely… the PVE experience… and one I really could care less about.. the PVP experience.  Had they given me a pure PVE warhammer game… I would probably still be playing it.  The game as a whole did so many innovative things, and there were so many mysteries around the world to unlock for your book of deeds.  Additionally it shipped with an Addon system that was on par with World of Warcraft, and presented some extremely interesting class and race choices.

If only they had focused on giving equal time to both the PVE and PVP experience.  The only problem is… I feel like the makers of this game have come to completely different conclusions about why it failed.  Mark Jacobs has gone on to create Camelot Unchained… which serves to be a purely PVP game completely casting aside any PVE aspects.  I feel like his take away was that it failed because it just was not PVP enough.  In truth not a single friend that was playing left because of lack of PVP.  We had a guild of around 40 players… and all of us left when the post 20 forced pvp experience began.  Harecore PVP players are a niche within a niche, and I just don’t feel that you can really build any game solely around them as your target audience.

This is probably the game I feel would beneift the most from a free to play conversion.  Awhile back I signed up for a new free trial account just to give the game a spin and see if it really is as good as I remembered.  Overall the starter experience is still extremely fun, even though they have dumbed down the richness quite a bit by funneling everyone into the empire lands.  I feel like a free to play version, might pump a bit more life into the title and allow it to survive.  The problem is… this has become the textbook example for MMO failure… and I doubt EA would spend a dime on it going forward.  As a result I will always be left with the thoughts of what might have been had the direction been a bit more sound.

Wrapping Up

This post ended up going a lot longer than expected.  I’ve been typing for around an hour and a half now, but finally have reached a point where I have said what I needed to say about each of them.  Hopefully none of them came off as too terribly ranty.  I hope you all have great weekends, I will mostly be trying to relax a bit before Monday.  I am already stressing out quite a bit, because I know going back I will be having to fill in for my boss as he is going out of town.

Other MMO Wants

This morning is going to be pure hell on wheels for me.  Not only is this my last day before our vacation…  but also about 10:30 last night I got a nasty surprise when I checked work email.  Apparently there is a big impromptu meeting going on today, at which I have to represent the department and speak intelligibly about everything we do.  How do you cram a million things into a quick talk that doesn’t bore all the non-technical people.  Also as a result I had to scramble around the house to find a pair of slacks that actually fits me.  Dropping 8-10 pants sizes in a few months tends to deplete the stock of clothing you don’t wear often.

Basically this morning I need to bang out this post as soon as possible so I can get into work and prepare for the event.  As a result I got up and around this morning at 5 am rather than my normal 5:30… here is hoping the time can be spent wisely.  I would normally just skip posting on a morning like this… but I am afraid that if I skip a day my routine will unravel and usher in yet another one of my 4-6 month lapses in posting. 

Other MMO Wants

On Monday I made my Ten MMO Must Haves  post and it kind blew up… as in it seemed to get far more traction than most of my posts do.  The only bad thing about it all… is as soon as I posted I thought of a few more items that I should have put on the list.  Listing Beards in the final slot was maybe not the most well thought out thing I have ever done… but in reality it is a metaphor.  Every player I know has one feature that they look for in the character creator.  My friend for example is always hunting for actual blonde hair… instead of the orange mess that most MMOs have.  That is one of the most important things to her, and just like me and beards… if it is not there she does not feel as close to the character.  Here goes a quick stab at the rest of a list.

1 – Mentoring

This one is huge, and I have no clue why I left it off the list.  I did the list as a whole on the fly Monday morning as I thought of things that I really want in every MMO.  Essentially those who are not familiar with the term, it is the practice of allowing higher level players to drop down to the same level as lower level characters.  The first game I ever experienced in was City of Heroes… and I felt it was absolutely revolutionary.  Eventually Everquest 2 added it in, and now Rift and Guild Wars 2 also have similar systems that have improved upon the base concept.  Essentially I want a way to be able to play with my friends… no matter how high above them I am.  I have a mantra that “anything that keeps you from playing with your friends is bad”.

2 – Single Server / Cross Server Architecture

Back to the mantra of “anything that keeps you from playing with your friends is bad”..  the traditional server structure is way too restricting.  If you have a small group of friends that all organize at exactly the same time… and pick one server ahead of time..  it is no big deal.  However if you have many different pools of friends, that you feel constantly torn between..  servers are pure hell.  This is the case with me… at any given point I have groups of friends playing a dozen or more games and on each roughly a half dozen different servers.  I have to unfairly pick and choose between who I play with.  Stop making me choose.  Let players communicate and group freely with any player who is playing your game.

3 – Single Account ID

This one has been massively controversial, but I have warmed to it over time.  If you scroll back far enough, there are even posts of me rallying against RealID, but again I got used to it.  The thing I want is the ability to create a single account id, like the later BattleTag system that is not connected to your real world identity.  Then let me choose which players to give that ID out to… and in doing so they magically get to see every character I have regardless of where I am playing.  Additionally it would be amazing if the system also allowed for friending single character names… for those individuals you need to have communication with… but don’t want to give them everything.  It is such a pain in the but to send your friends a long list of a dozen alts for them to add to their friends list each time someone new joins the game.

4 – Multiple Paths of Advancement / Endgame

The answer to the endgame should not always be Raid or PVP.  There should be something else… something a player who does not have the time to raid, or does not have the penchant for pvp can do to constantly better their character in game.  This could be something like the Alternate Advancement and Planar Advancement systems in Everquest 2 and Rift… or could be a series of epic quests that allow your character to obtain very slowly raid like gear like TSW has implemented.  There needs to be a way for players to feel like they are constantly evolving their characters.  It is when characters start to feel stagnant that players lose interest with a game and leave.  Help me not get bored with your game, by giving me lots of things to do when I hit maximum level.  Daily Quests are fine… but they are not a solution to anything.

5 – Alternate Leveling Paths

This is something that has mutated over the years, and I really wish there was a way to undo it.  When Everquest launched it had a distinct leveling path for each race in the game.  While some of them quickly merged together once you hit the second or third zone… they still started out as unique experiences.  When World of Warcraft launched, you had roughly three leveling tracks per race… and this still ended up giving you a fresh way to level your alts.  Now in games like Rift and SWTOR… there is a single track for every member of a faction… and as a result by the time you level your alts… you have nothing really to look forward to.  Give us multiple ways to get to the end of your game… do not penalize players for wanting to jump around and try new content paths.  I realize multiple paths of content takes more development time… but it also improves the quality of your game for players in the long run and makes alting far more sticky.

6 – No Faction Wall

This is a concept that needs die in a huge inferno.  This is without a doubt probably the worst seemingly permanent lineage of World of Warcraft.  The concept of setting up a red and a blue faction that are diametrically opposed and can in no way communicate is just a shitty way to create a game.  Again back to the mantra of… “anything that keeps you from playing with your friends is bad”.  If your friend has to sacrifice what he wants to play… for the greater good.. he will always regret at least somewhat the path not taken.  Additionally it is very easy for two friends who joined the game at different times to end up on opposite sides of the battle field. 

Everquest and Everquest 2 had the best faction systems in the game… in that no only could you communicate with any player freely, but if you so chose to… and with copious amounts of work.. you could raise your faction and be able to function as a member of those societies.  Additionally in Everquest 2 they gave the option of betraying your faction through a serious of quests and permanently changing your allegiance.  Faction Walls are just a non-creative solution to the problem of setting up PVP.  Rift probably did the best decision it ever did when it released the “Faction as Fiction” patch, making it so that both Defiant and Guardian could group, communicate, and guild freely.  Additionally they set up 3 new factions that were not connected to either of the original… which recruit players to fight battles for them.  This gave you three way pvp without having to make life restricting to your players.

Wrapping Up

This one is going to be extra short today.  I’ve spent thirty minutes digging into six more items on the cutting room floor that MMOs should have.  I need to finish getting ready and get into work so I can prep for the event.  I hope you all have a great day, and maybe this will jiggle loose some other ideas you have about what a “best of breed” MMO needs to have.  Tomorrow I am off, so my intent is to try and finish up the second part of the “How To Rift” series.

Ten MMO Must Haves

This morning I got up roughly 15 minutes before the alarm went off… and decided to that rather than be groggy later… I would go ahead and get up and around.  Right now I am kind of questioning that decision, since the bed seems like a really amazing idea.  I had a really spastic yesterday as I never could really decide on a game to play.  Since Final Fantasy beta was closed by the time I got up and around I ended up cycling through Everquest, Rift, Vanguard, and Defiance never quite sticking in any of them.  As a result I don’t have much excitement to talk about… and I am nowhere near finished with my second part of How To Rift… so I am going off in a completely different direction.

Ten MMO Must Haves

Basically over the years I have noticed several features that I expect most MMOs to have, and when they are not there it greatly harms my enjoyment for the long run.  I keep cycling back to the ones that do have most of the list.  Granted this is in no way a complete list, as I am sure there are things I have omitted for the sake of a clean number, but these are definitely all things I would prefer to see in an upcoming title.  These are not necessarily in order of importance… but more the order in which I thought of them.

1 – Random Events

Nothing breaks up the monotony of questing and killing mobs like a random army invading the countryside.  I have always liked when random things happen in games, I even like random loot so long as it is not something I need to progress forwards.  In the post Rift MMO world, I feel like random things happening in your world is an absolute must have.  When it is missing, the game feels extremely stale to me.  When it is done well, you forget what you are doing and follow along the flow of what is happening in a specific zone.  This should be events chosen from a long list of potential ones… not the same event happening over and over like in Guild Wars 2.  Their implementation did not serve to make the world feel alive, but instead made it feel even more like a carnival ride resetting itself every so often.

2 – Passive Grouping

I should be able to help other players out, and they help me without having to worry about whether or not I tagged the mob first.  Grouping should be something you do to hang out with people, not something you feel obligated to do constantly just to get through game content.  I feel as though simply touching a mob should give me credit for whatever that mob is required for.  Rift and Guild Wars definitely do this extremely well… but when I go back to a game that does not have it… I become a kill stealing asshole.  I just forget that mob tagging is an actual thing that is still in games.  If you do not have passive mob tagging… you are bad and should feel bad.

3 – Puzzles and Collectibles

I have the tendencies in me to power level myself to the cap and then get bored feeling there is nothing left to do.  If your game has little puzzles and collectible bits it helps to make me stop and smell the roses.  I feel for other players this becomes a meta game all in itself.  These systems all seem relatively simple to implement, but it seems like there is a greater return on investment as far as gluing a player to your game.  Rift and GW2 both have amazing examples of puzzles, and EQ2 has probably the most extensive collection system I have seen in a game.  I greatly prefer there to be something for me to always be on the lookout for, that offers interesting gameplay and forces me to stop quest grinding.

4 – Moveable UI Elements

This one is huge to me.  Essentially I will if given the option set my UI to look the same from game to game.  I like certain windows in certain locations because it helps me not have to think about where things are.  When you play lots of different MMOs this becomes something extremely important.  Additionally I find myself setting up all my hotbars the same… 0 is the interrupt key, 7 is my combo point dump, 5 is charge/deathgrip, etc.  As a result I really hate your game when you force me to play with your idea of how the UI should look.  No matter how much research you have put into your UI, it is not ideal for everyone… and as a result you should never force players into your chosen UI design box.  Make the windows unlock able and moveable  either through the default UI like Rift or through Addons like WoW.

5 – Map with User Defined Waypoints

This is another big one for me.  Navigating your world should be easy for the players.  I should be able to open my map, click a point that I want to travel to and then get some kind of directions as to how to get there.  This can be as simple as an Icon on the edge of the mini-map showing you the direction of your destination, or as complex as some sort of golden path or arrow pointing the way.  Additionally it would be really amazing if your system allowed player defined permanent waypoints.  That way we could actively mark whenever we found something cool in your world.  TSW does an amazing job of this.. and I have tons of little markers scattered through all my maps pointing to nifty things I found.  This is definitely something all games should emulate.

6 – Sortable/Searchable Bank and Inventory

First off let me say.. that the concept of physical bags with limited storage is something no one should ever do again.  I greatly prefer one big inventory space because usually with that comes the ability to sort, filter, and search the contents of your inventory.  Rift does an interesting hybrid model, in that they still have physical bags, but they have a sort and search functionality that makes up for the fact of having to juggle multiple containers rather than just one.  Trying to find things in your bags should not be considered a meta game… and you should help players out so they have to spend as little time doing this as possible.  There have been times I have logged into EQ2… looked at the state of my bags and logged out immediately because I did not want to spend the next 30 minutes clearing them out.  That game is the worst case scenario… but I have had similar happen in many other games as well.  Make your inventory system help the player rather than hinder them.

7 – Sell All Junk Button

If your game drops junk items from mobs aka “Greys” and you do not have a sell all junk button… you are a horrible person and should be drug out into the street and shot.  Nothing is more frustrating than going through your inventory and having to manually sell a bunch of trash items that have no real purpose for existing other than to give you some cash.  Better yet, don’t even drop the trash items and give us additional gold instead.  I think the running theme of the last two should be that Inventory Maintenance is not a fun meta game.  No one enjoys it, and all it does is make the player feel like they have just completely wasted their time.  I am completely fine with getting additional cash in lieu of junk, but if you do have junk… for the love of god make a sell all crap button.

8 – AOE Looting

Thank you Rift for creating this construct… and thank you modern MMO developers for having the common sense to say “damn, why didn’t we have this” and adding it to your games.  Nothing is more annoying than trying to select that one corpse from a pile of corpses that still has loot on it.  My OCD will not let me go without searching all the bodies… it is like I knew that if I missed one… that would be the one that dropped some rare epic item.  Again this is a cousin of the whole inventory maintenance is not a fun meta game…  neither is looting.  Better yet… all corpse interactions should be AOE as well… where the hell is my AOE skinning.  The first company to give me AOE skinning, herbing, and mining of corpses… will be a god in my eyes.

9 – Full Character Appearance System

Now when I say this… I am not talking about Transmogrification.  I could go on an hour long rant about how horrible that system is and how it is a half assed version of the good appearance systems.  What I am talking about is additional sets of character doll slots that allow you to directly override the appearance of an item with another item.  Rift has probably the best implementation overall right now, since you can have something like 12 wardrobe slots with ready to switch to outfits on the fly.  The only gotcha there is due to their own constraints they had to implement a shitty “transmog” like system for doing the weapons.  Players should never have to run back to a vendor to change their appearance…  stop making them do busy work.  I would love to see developers emulate the way the system works in EQ2, because you can literally change your appearance to anything in the game… no class restrictions.

10 – Facial Hair

I had a few other items I considered putting on the list… but honestly to me personally this one has to be here.  If your game does not have the ability for me to give my character a nice beard, especially a moustache and goatee combo…  I will hate your character creator and likely not play your game.  I have no clue why this is so important to me… but it is.  Namely I have seen the lack of facial hair in the Asian MMOs… but I struggled to find a look I could stomach in Guild Wars 2 as well.  Additionally I cannot stand the “pretty boy” appearance that some games have…  but I won’t go into that right now.  Please for the love of god when you design your character creator… make Facial Hair a slider…  not something that is attached to another attribute like hairstyle.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it… my ten must haves for a modern MMO.  Like I said, I am sure that it is not a complete list at all… and as soon as I post this… I will think of another 10 things that should have been on the list.  These however are the things that immediately came to mind when being frustrated with MMOs that do not have them.  I would be curious to hear about what your list is, and whether or not I have hit your key frustration points.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope I manage to stay fully conscious all day long since I got up so early.

Bel VS F2P

I am breaking the mold yet again tonight and knocking out a topic that I have been kicking around in my head all day.  Quite honestly the topic is not my own, it was suggested to me by Syl of MMO Gypsy.  There is a really interesting discussion on this weeks Cat Context podcast between Syl and Liore about their feelings regarding free to play games.  I started the discussion up on twitter as well, because I tend to align more to Syl’s thought in that free to play is generally a good thing.

The Non-Believer

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The funny thing is… I did not always have this opinion.  In fact there was a time I was pretty vehemently anti-free-to-play model.  I even believe at one point I wrote a blog post about the fact that I did not believe the industry pundits that all games would be switching over to free-to-play in order to survive.  I really disliked the thought of a pure free to play game.. and in part this was due to some bad experiences with early games in the genre.

My first real taste of the free to play genre was with the blatant wow clone Runes of Magic.  During one of my bored with WoW phases, I ventured out… downloaded it and tried to get into it.  The problem is, the game at its core was this fairly horrific grindfest, that could only be sped up by spending “diamonds” on the in game store.  It had some other fairly egregious money sinks in that most of the mounts that were available were “rental” only, giving you it for a fixed number of hours at a time.  Some of the only permanent mounts came from… you guessed it the cash shop.

Later on I had gotten into the closed beta for a pretty nifty game called Allods.  It was essentially a very unique looking russian/steampunky wow like game.  I played the heck out of it in beta and really enjoyed it, and was looking forward to launch.  Then towards the end of the test period they introduced their take on the cash shop.  I don’t remember a ton of details other than the fact that so many things were pay-walled behind real money transactions.  One of the mini-games i refuse to play in an MMO… is inventory maintenance… and the only real way to increase your bag space was through dumping cash into the in game store.

Both of these games served to give me an extremely negative impression of what this whole free to play genre was.  Combine with the fact that the servers I was playing on seemed to be entirely populated with kids… aka people unable to buy their own subscriptions to games…  I thought subscription gaming was the only way to maintain a thriving community.  As new free to play conversions entered the market, I would give them a spin, especially if it was a game I had played before.  Every time I would walk away disgusted by the horrible community I found there.

What Changed?

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When Everquest 2 first launched its forray into free to play, I really paid no attention to it.  Essentially it held nothing for me.  Gameplay was essentially corralled off to its own dedicated server, so you could not play with your friends currently subscribed to the game.  Additionally the various tiers of access felt extremely punitive, locking away functionality behind numerous paid gates.  However after a period of time they decided to open up the free to play options on all servers.  This is the point at which I started to notice changes in the game.

Firstly the station cash shop is pretty amazing, stocking all manner of things from nice cosmetic armors, mounts, amazing houses, and various buff potions.  With my 500 station cash a month stipend from subscribing, I was able to pick up all sorts of things that improved my enjoyment of the game.  Additionally I noticed the server populations start increasing, and these players were not necessarily the “unwashed masses” I had seen in my earlier ventures into free to play games.  Some of these folks were really solid community folks, that just lacked the ability to commit to a month subscription.

The game was still extremely limiting for free to play players, but at least you got to play on the established servers with existing players.  The guild I was a member of saw a massive influx in recruits and at one point we had 20-30 players on some nights during the peak of this influx.  Additionally it felt like we were seeing a faster speed at getting cool features out to the players like the dungeon creator, eqemote, and new content areas like sirens grotto and skyshrine.  It felt like there was a new kind of free to play player that I had not seen before, one that just wanted to play the game without commitment and had no qualms about spending money at their own pace.

Eventually recently they have completely dropped all race and class restrictions from free to play players, and we have seen another big jump in people in the game.  There are still some functionality locked away, but the game is at its most playable state for a subscription free player.  The game feels more healthy in every sense of the word since the free to play conversation happened.  The cities are bustling, the zones have players available for grouping, and the brokers are completely loaded with goods.

Changing My Opinion

Cartel_Shop_Screen_cap After watching the transformation the free to play model has had on the Everquest 2 community, and seeing the numbers released at just how much better Star Wars the Old Republic has been doing since it made its jump.  I started to turn my opinion around on the payment model as a whole.  While there are still some pretty egregious practices going on, I think for the most part these games are doing better under the new pricing schemes.  I will always prefer the option to subscribe, but having free access to my characters gives me the ability to boot up a game I have not visited in months on a whim and spend a few days without feeling the need to fire up my account officially.

I feel like as the conversions happen, each game gets a little better at the model.  So far Rift seems to be the best conversion I have seen, in that they chose the route to give subscribers bonus “premium” perks… like increase in coin, token and mount speed.  Additionally they have taken the cash shop model to heard and provided hundreds of cosmetic armor available from day one.  Sure there are lots of questions about whether or not they took things too far… but really I don’t believe any game has come even vaguely close to “play to win”.  No cash shop has offered something so amazing that better cannot be attained in game through grinding out whatever passes as end game content.

Ultimately at the end of the day the real question is, do you want your favorite virtual landscapes to stay alive and well… or are you willing to see them suffer just to make sure they stay away from a free to play model.  I don’t think it is about success or failure anymore… but more about survival.  These games cost a significant amount of money to keep up and running and keep staffed.  These are old figures, but it was reported that between 2004 and 2008 Blizzard spent 200 million dollars on upkeep of the World of Warcraft servers.  Dividing that out it ends up at over 4 million dollars per month in upkeep and maintenance fees.

Granted most of the games that have gone free to play don’t have the number of servers or staff that Blizzard has, however I am sure it is still a fairly staggering amount.  If they can get 5 players that are willing to pay 5 to 10 dollars on cash shop items per month, instead of 1 player that pays their 15 dollar subscription fee, they end up well ahead and have more money to invest in the game.  The games that have gone to free to play seem to be doing well with the model, and that income gets invested in making new content.  When Vanguard made the switch to free to play, the influx of new money allowed them to invest the first month in half a decade in development.  As a result the players got the benefit in the first ever holiday event, and major server patch.

The Last Starfighter

WoWScrnShot_102411_170544 Right now realistically there are two subscription model games left:  The World of Warcraft and Eve Online.  Eve is kind a bubble in itself without any real competition in that space, however World of Warcraft has been losing subscribers on a regular basis of late.  After the successes of the Star Wars the Old Republic conversion, and if Rift ends up being as successful as it is looking just by the server activity and players returning with a vengence… I feel that before the end of the year we will at least hear about plans for a free to play conversion for WoW.  We know that Titan is a long ways off, and their development cycle has always been prodigiously slow.  They lack the hook of new and fresh content to keep players engaged.

I feel like the big announcement at Blizzcon will be a conversion to some form of a free to play model, or at least a tiered payment model.  There is a huge part of me that mourns the subscription era, but I think it has been shown that the hybrid model ends up wildly successful.  The folks that want those premium features are still willing to pony up for a month subscription, whereas the folks that are not wiling to have the monthly commitment are still going to buy the occasional doodad or account unlock.

For me the real takeaway is that whatever keeps these companies healthy, and keeps developers and support staff in their seats instead of hunting for jobs is going to be better for the players in the long run.  Right now it is seeming like the free to play model is doing that.  Rift for example has had to roll out a couple of new servers just to handle the influx of players.  Personally I have had at least 8 friends start playing the game again, with more waiting in the wings to see just how successful the first volley is.  When we are talking about MMOs that are not blizzard… we really are not talking about a lot of profiteering going on there.  Ultimately they are fighting for survival, and if the free to play model gives it to them…  I feel we are more likely to be able to keep playing the games we want to play.

Wrapping Up

This post ended up far more rambly than I intended it to.  I can’t say I am really passionate for or against the free to play model, but at this point I feel like i understand why it is occurring so frequently.  I love playing MMO games, it is the one thing I always fall back on.  I am in theory embracing free to play, because it seems like the most likely way for these companies to continue getting the money they need… to keep supporting the worlds I care about.  Ultimately none of these companies make these games out of the goodness of their hearts.  They need our money to make sure they can survive and grow, and at the end of the day… how ever that happens I feel is pretty much fair game so long as it isn’t done in an exploitative manner.