Relentless Gamers

Gamers without Remorse

SW:TOR Level Cap Increase?

It seems with 1.3 “Allies” that Bioware is adding a truckload of new content. In addition to new content, they’re increasing the level cap. While from their perspective, that sounds like a great idea, but from a player perspective, I have to disagree with them.

By raising the level cap, you’re making end-game content prior to the cap trivial. Gear you worked for, useless, etc. This only alienates your end-game player base. Something that Bioware cannot afford to do any more than they already have.

Raiding in SW:TOR has been lackluster already. There’s not much to it. The encounters aren’t innovative and much of the End Game guilds have already started looking for another game to challenge them. The guilds that remain that have been working on the new content and getting gear are now faced with having to level up again and making older content easier by virtue of levels and gear less than optimal because it doesn’t provide enough stats to scale properly.

Again, I can see what they want to do. The game is praised for it’s story and the leveling process. Why not add to it?

What do you think?

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Rift Expansion Soon?

Rumors of an expansion for Rift have started to fly around the internet. “Storm Legion” is the name that Trion trademarked recently.

We can assume that Trion will do what most other MMOs have done with expansions (especially WoW):

  • New level cap.
  • New Zones
  • New Raids
  • More PVP content

But with Rift’s numbers on the decline, is this going to be enough to breathe life into the game again? Part of the problem with Rift has been it’s accessability to new players. It takes a lot of work on the part of a new player to get up to the level of gear to do current content. It’s daunting.

Maybe Trion will help redefine the MMO market like they did when Rift launched last year and redesign the progression to be less linear and more accessible to new players.

Current State of the MMO Industry

Today new MMOs face many challenges to launch successfully. There are many ways for new MMOs to fail, but it seems from the last few years that most of the failures within the MMO industry have come from a bad launch.

Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Age of Conan – This game launched 8 months ahead of schedule due to pressure from fans and backers. It was dubbed before it released as the “Best MMO in history.” Despite this, it released early and as a result the game lost half of it’s subscribers within the first 2 months.
  • Aion – This game looked amazing. Everyone loved the idea of flying. The PvPvE idea was well received, but the game was poorly translated to the Western Market. The game ended up being very “grindy” as quests stopped about half way through the game and the only way to level was to grind mobs and dungeons.
  • Rift – This game started strong, with a lot of word of mouth support. However, after launch buggy end game content and poor scaling with PVP gear helped to kill this game for many people.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – It is hard to point out one thing that caused this game to fall short of it’s expectations. But with a slow client, buggy content and repetitive PVP, it certainly didn’t fare well post launch.

It’s clear to see that there’s a lot of pressure on new MMOs. Failure is a very real possibility, and with World of Warcraft’s new expansion around the corner, it’s going to be harder than ever.

A new MMO now needs to do the following:

  • Make sure that servers are stable at launch.
  • Launch with few bugs (take beta data seriously)
  • Have an active community and interact with that community (listen to feedback and address concerns quickly).
  • Post-launch content. The community will go through all of your launch content quickly. Be ready to release something post-launch to keep players sated.

One thing that new MMOs have been focusing on is taking subscriptions from other MMOs. Rift was blatant in this with their “not in Azeroth” ad campaign. While I can see why they feel they need to do this, I feel this cannibalistic strategy is only going to be damaging to the MMO market in the long run.

Players who change games are more likely to either a) return to their original game or b) try another game when one comes out. Very few will switch and stay. On top of this, those players who change games a lot will likely give up as they get burned out on building a new character, etc.

The MMO industry needs to look at ways to expand out, and not steal subs from each other. It must do this otherwise the MMO model will continue to fail for so many new games.

To expand to new players, the Western MMO market needs to change drastically. It’s clear that the Carrot on a Stick model for MMOs had worked in the past. Today, it may not be the right way to go for the current state of the MMO market. Linear progression in MMOs make the game less accessible to players post launch. As older players move onto other games, new players find it hard to get “End Game Ready” or hate seeing entire areas of the game empty while leveling.

Guild Wars 2 addresses this by scaling your level to the level of the zone you’re in (at least going into lower level zones) and by taking the grind out of getting new gear. When you are max level, the gear you get from dungeons will largely be the same as other gear, but will have a better look to it.

These two things alone will help address the accessibility of the game to new players post launch. Couple this with the subscriptionless model they’re going with, there’s no pressure on new players to get to end game and get geared. However, where they will likely do well with new players, they may fail with the hardcore MMO players who enjoy End Game raiding.

I’m hopeful that the MMO model will survive the next few years for new MMOs. However, without some serious changes, I don’t think we’ll see many more AAA MMOs released anytime soon.

Diablo III: Was it worth the wait?

Like most of the gaming community, I’ve been engrossed by the release of Diablo III. I’ve been playing with everyone I can find (friends, family, co-workers and of course Guild Members). I’ll tell you one thing right now to start this off: The game is fun. It’s a mindless grindfest of rapid clicking and getting a gross enjoyment of seeing the mobs die in a satisfying “sputch” sound.

But was it worth 12 years? That’s the question we’re going to explore here.

To be fair, the game was announced in 2008 but we’re going to start a little further back with a company we know as Blizzard North.

Blizzard North was responsible for Diablo, Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Shortly after the Diablo II expansion, Blizzard North started the groundwork for Diablo III. Not much is known about the game at that time, but we do know that development continued on this version of the game until 2003. In 2003, issues with financing and insecurity with Blizzard’s ownership caused a large departure of many of Blizzard North’s development team. This caused the team to stop development on all other titles other than Diablo. Development continued for a couple more years, however, Blizzard North ultimately closed in 2005.

Interesting Tidbit: Diablo III was originally rumored to be more like an MMO than it’s final version with a battle between light and dark (Heaven and Hell) with players picking sides. 

In 2007 Blizzard picks up where Blizzard North left things. “Team 3” as they were called started going through old Diablo III Assets and pieces together a plan to develop Diablo III again as something different. As you know, World of Warcraft was in full swing and much of Blizzards resources were tied up with ongoing development of WoW expansions and patch content.

In 2008 Blizzard first announced Diablo III and gave us our first look at the Barbarian. While still in the early phases of development, the engine was 100% 3D and looked great for the time. Had the game released within a year or two of that initial first look, it would have easily been one of the best looking games on the market.

Fast Forward to present day. After 5 years of active development on the current version of Diablo III, we finally have a released game. Does the game stand up to the 12 year wait between titles?

First, let’s look at the jump between Diablo and Diablo II:

The first Diablo game was fairly simplistic. You only played in one area (not counting the Sierra expansion) and were largely limited to clicking on mobs to kill them. When Diablo II came out, it really expanded on the game play. That simple click-to-attack element remained, but now you have a skill tree to build your character. This became the basis for how MMOs today are largely modeled around. The influence of Diablo II can be seen all throughout the industry.

Diablo III doesn’t really do much to innovate the industry like Diablo II did. The simplistic skill builds are new, but nothing we’ve not seen before. Most recently Blizzard decided to go this route with the fourth World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria. The areas that the game takes place match almost exactly the zones in Diablo II. Does the game Innovate? My opinion? Not really.

What Diablo III does do is capture the fun of mindless grinding for levels and gear. Something that most of the industry has left behind. It’s hard to capture the magic of old action RPGs that really allowed for this type of gameplay within a modern gaming industry and Diablo III does that well. It’s fun to try out different skills and see how much damage you can do. With the inclusion of Achievements, Massive Blows and Massacres you can run through the game dealing out death to demons with real satisfaction.

The graphics of the game aren’t anything to write home about. It can run fairly well on most modern computers and doesn’t need any kind of “gaming rig” to really enjoy the game. This does make the game more accessible to more players (thus more money for Blizzard) but really fails at what the franchises fans were hoping for out of this game. A robust engine that provided amazing environments. Personally I think Blizzard should have taken the Unreal Engine used that rather use an updated version of the WoW engine. The environments would have looked better and likely would have ran even better on more machines.

But at the end of the day, was this worth 12 years? No. This game could have easily have come out 2-3 years ago with it’s current incarnation and would have wowed the world. But right now (to me at least) this is going to be a fun past time until something better comes along.

However, with all the trouble with Blizzard North and Blizzard’s own internal changes, I cant help but be sympathetic to the amount of time it took to get this title into our hands. It’s just sad that it isn’t going to have the impact on the industry that Diablo II had and will ultimately just be something to play until Guild Wars 2 comes out.

Guild Wars 2 release date leaked?

Yesterday, reports around the net exploded with a potential release date of the much anticipated Guild Wars 2. According to the Fry’s retail advertisement, the game would be released by June 28th.

But how accurate is this information? If you ask me, it seems a little soon. While the game play and the environments seem polished from the Betas I have played personally, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done with the game engine. As of yesterday, the game engine was still not fully optimized. It still primarily ran on one core of your CPU for both game play and rendering and only a little on the GPU. Crossfire/SLI also not yet available.

These are not small fixes and will likely take more betas before we start to see real improvement. At the rate in which ArenaNet is going with their Beta Weekends, we should have one over Memorial Day Weekend (hopefully an extended weekend) and another just before the supposed release date. This leaves us with only two betas, maybe three if they squeeze one in right before the date (like TERA did with Open Beta). Hardly enough time to flesh out all the content and engine issues.

We have seen what releasing a game before it’s ready can do to a game with so much potential. A good example of this would be Age of Conan. The game was dubbed by Funcom and their fans, “The best MMO Ever created.” It released a whole 8 months ahead of schedule due to demand from it’s fans and criticism that it took too long on development. Within 2 months, the subscription numbers dropped to half, and PVP was largely the only thing that carried that game.

Even if I’m wary of the date, I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of playing this game every day in just over a month.

The Secret World

I haven’t played the game. I got a beta weekend invite, but after watching Bordeau and Kitkat play, it didn’t really appeal to me. The graphics looks choppy and the gameplay seemed unrefined. With only a couple of months between betas and release, can Funcom release a killer game? Or is this doomed to failure in the same way that Age of Conan died? 

I’m Curious to see what others who actually did play are thinking about the game? What do you like? What didn’t you like? 

Guns of Icarus Closed Beta

Later this month, I’ll be participating in the Steampunk PVP MMO Guns of Icarus’ 3rd closed beta test. I’m excited to see what this game has to offer. I’m a huge fan of Steampunk and think it makes for a great game setting. I hope that this game does the genre well. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes! 

End Game without Raids

It’s been a recent trend for new AAA MMOs to launch without End Game raiding like that found in games such as World of Warcraft, Rift, Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Being that my roots in MMO communities are in guilds that Raid, I can say I’m fairly concerned about this trend. Part of being part of a guild for me is the ability to make a larger team of guild players and take on difficult content. To me, this is the pinnacle of being in a guild.

Many veteran players of games like Guild Wars and other games without End Game raiding will tell me that there’s no need for it in the modern day MMO. Personally I’ve not yet been sold on this opinion. En Masse/Bluehole Studios used to take this stance with TERA, but have since opened up to the idea of Raiding, experimenting with it using the Nexus mechanics. But still, this is not guild organized raiding.

Playing through the Guild Wars 2 beta this last weekend, I was impressed with the level of gameplay and polish put into this MMO. The Dynamic events seem fun and very much “Raid Like” in some cases (such as the Shadow Behemoth event). However, there aren’t going to be any raids in this game. This seems like a complete shame, as the game lends itself very well to a raiding environment.

If there’s no raiding in the end game of MMOs like Guild Wars 2, what will they provide us to occupy our time at Max Level? I’ve heard people say PVP and Doing 5 man dungeons. But this seems a bit short sighted to me. With a game title such as “Guild Wars” I imagine doing more with our guild as a team.

I ask you, do you think End Game Raiding is necessary?

If not, what would you do for guilds wanting End Game content that the guild can do together in games like Guild Wars 2.

Please avoid telling me to play something else, etc. Let’s brain storm together.

D.P.S. Disgruntled Player Sanctum

DPS Episode 3.

This week, we covered:
Phantasy Star 2: Are lobby games outdated in this day and age?
Do Cash Shops have a place in Pay-to-Play games?
What is PVP and what does it mean to you? What about griefing?
Do you believe that Age Restricted Servers will help anyone? Who and why?
Does the anonymity of the internet make it a better or worse place to express yourself?
Mash up: Super Hero edition! Pick two super powers for your dream build.

Guest Stars:
Bordeau von Cinnabon: http://www.twitch.tv/bordeau85
Shakey: http://www.youtube.com/user/Pregnantville
Con
Stole: https://twitter.com/#!/StoleTarts / http://www.youtube.com/user/StoleTarts / http://www.dualshockers.com/author/megan/

Good Article about PVP in GW2 BWE1.

Taugrim (one of the people I defer most PVP expertise towards) wrote a great article on the Guild Wars 2 beta PVP. He goes into the subtle complexities of the PVP in the game and how engaging it is. It’s worth the read. 

http://taugrim.com/2012/04/30/first-impressions-of-guild-wars-2/