Posted in Champions Online

Champions Online: Beta Key Now, Plz!

Every time I read anything about Champions, even just a little snippet, it makes me crave a good, solid closed beta key.  I don’t understand how some players get keys for pretty much every game they check out, and then there are schmoes like myself who are left out in the cold, looking in through the storefront window, tapping the glass pathetically.

Posted in Warhammer Online

WAR: Can I Get Some Of These For Real Life?

wildcardGOA has introduced the new “Wildcard” system, which may or may not only apply to European players.  But it is certainly a fascinating feature to include in a MMO — a “do over” button that you can only use a set amount of times a year, possibly as a way to lighten the load for CSRs who often have to deal with these types of petitions.

It’s interesting to read the list of ways these wildcards can be applied — you can reverse a server transfer decision, but not un-delete a deleted character?  Hm.  And I don’t know if anyone would waste one of their three yearly wildcards on changing a need roll to a greed roll, but that’s just me.

Posted in General

Aw You Guys…

care-bears-bh13I just wanted to express my appreciation for all of the incredible support and kind words that have sailed my way since closing WAAAGH! and moving here to Bio Break. Lots of comments, and even a few blog posts:

I also spent a bit of time this morning working on Bio Break’s blogroll (say that five times fast!) — reorganizing it, adding new links, etc.  Again, if you’ve linked to me on your site and I haven’t done the same, please let me know!

Posted in General

Choose Your Own Adventure: The MMO

supercomputer_cyoa_largeSomething Wolfshead said in a recent post sparked a huge brainspark for me:

The problem here is not that there is too much text to read, it’s the fact that a typical MMO interaction with NPCs is a very boring and uninteresting one way conversation. Think about it. You aren’t allowed to speak or reply. You have no input. All you can do is press either accept or decline. NPCs have the emotional depth of a vending machine.

Boring quests and the limitation of quest storytelling to chunks of text at the beginning and end (with little but a chore “in between”) have long been a bone of contention with me. Wolfhead nails a great point — we simply aren’t given a choice when faced with a quest. I’ve often wondered why quests can’t have branching points in MMOs, where you make a choice during a quest that effects the outcome. Once in a rare while, you see this, but it’s obviously too time-intensive — like making two quests in one, and that’s one less quest number to quote on the back of the box statistics.

You might even remember a month or two back when Richard Bartle took WoW to task for not giving him a choice during a torture quest — a discussion that unfortunately got derailed over the subject of whether torture was a good plot device or not. It missed what I considered his biggest point: that quest was prime for a choice in the middle, a branching path, and instead the designers treated it like any other mandatory chore list and forced players down a specific path to completion. It’s a real shame that the community ganged up on Bartle instead of saying, “Hey, YEAH. We want CHOICES in our quests!” and put the pressure on game devs.

But I never thought about choice at the beginning of your quest, and the more I mull over it, the more it strikes me as a wonderful idea. What if your discussion with the quest-giver NPC wasn’t just an “accept or decline” ordeal, but an interactive conversation that would serve as a way to design your mission — if you feel that rescuing innocents is more important, then maybe that will be a new mission objective; if you feel that retrieving an item that could potentially help many more people but you’d leave the innocents to their doom, then the mission would change to reflect that. Maybe you’d want to be more stealthy, or fight many small mobs vs. a few big ones, whatever. Your choices would craft the mission to your liking, all through a conversation.

In a way, this is sort of how Anarchy Online once touted its mission editor, which was a barebones “choose your own adventure” that stocked an instance according to your desires. That didn’t work out so hot in the end — it was pretty generic because it had to be so modular — but maybe it could work in a more subtle fashion.

…Okay, maybe it’s a dumb idea, but I’m thinking here, people! And that’s a lot more than I can say for a majority of current quest designers in MMOs.

In any case, what I want most in quests are: great stories, great choices and great rewards. I’ll lend my voice to the growing crowd of folks who say, if that means fewer quests in MMOs — but the ones that are in there are of superior quality (and perhaps repeatable) — then go for it.

Posted in General

Go Away Snow!

Funky Michigan weather… anyway, a couple of quick notes:

1. I’ve started a new page here on Bio Break — Commandments.  It’s very much a work in progress, so don’t pass immediate judgment on it jusst yet.

2. If you’ve linked your blog or site to Bio Break and I have yet to reciprocate, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.  I’d like to correct that!

Posted in Warhammer Online

WAR: The Genesis of Celery

celery/waves to everyone visiting from WAAAGH! See? I told you I’d still be writing about WAR, among other things.

Sometimes when you get into a bit of a gaming funk, a change is what the doctor ordered. Walk away from it entirely, for a bit — read a book, catch up on movies, take up a sport. Or (perhaps “and” in my case), drydock your routine and do something completely new and different. Ever since Syp’s hit “the wall” at rank 40, Thursday the Warrior Priest has stopped inspiring me, and Wotworks has gotten a bit frustrating due to such a limited array of abilities and gameplay (I am leveling him up solely RvR), I needed a different perspective.

Perhaps one I’ve tried before, but haven’t stuck with. A new character. A new server. A new… faction?

The mere flutters of a possible fire stoked in my belly as I rolled Celery the Squig Herder on Iron Rock. Perhaps the fire would die, perhaps it would flame up and roar — we shall see. But it certainly got me thinking about what goes into creating an alt in Warhammer (or any other MMO, for that matter).

I don’t find WAR to be a very alt-friendly game, despite the 24 classes and 10 character spots per server. I think it has a lot to do with its RvR focus, which makes you keenly aware that it’s better for you to have one character who’s really, really well-equipped and high ranked than gobs of rank 11’s running around. After one run-through to 40, I know exactly how much time and effort goes into getting a guy that high, and when you consider not just the XP, but the renown ranks, the gear, the Tome unlocks and the rest… rolling an alt is not a casual experience. It’s a hearty contract, the size and weight of a home mortgage. If I’m really going to do a new character, I better have a plan.

A plan. Good. Think, Syp, think! One of Warhammer’s great strengths is also somewhat overwhelming — you have so much choice in leveling and pursuing styles of play that you simply can’t do them all. At least, not at once, and not so well. You have to pick and choose — PvE quests, Public Quests, scenarios, RvR lakes, crafting, Tome unlocks. For Celery, I decided to actually ditch most all of the quests and be more social in my gaming time: I want to focus on PQs as my PvE experience, and then supplement that with getting bestiary unlocks and a combination scenarios/oRvR to keep my RR up (and get renown gear if needed).

So we shall see — so far, so good. I need to do a bit of SH research and get a feel for a build that would suit my playstyle, but I do know that squigs are all Syp, baby. I also found a Greenskin-only guild that I’m still getting a feel for.

There’s lots of movement and info on Patch 1.2.1 this past weekend, but I’m going to need a bit more time to digest it before chatting about it. So keep yer skirts on, gentlemen.

Posted in AFK

AFK – March 29

afk3AFK is a new feature of Bio Break where I compile a number of posts that have caught my attention the week prior, along with my short commentary. It’s like reading the Sunday funnies, just without the color, pictures or panels!

  • New blog I’m checking out this week: Nuts and Bolts. Mostly Nuts.
  • A Wall of Text speculates that Star Wars: The Old Republic might be able to house up to 100,000 players per sever, due to the technology they’re using. I think that sooner or later we’ll see the end of separate servers in games and view them as old timey relics of the past, but 100k is a good start!
  • Dragonchasers steps on the cautionary breaks regarding OnLive — something I should probably take into account, eh? So many “if’s” with this one… but you never know!
  • Epic Slant looks at feedback concerning the few high end dungeons in WAR — I’ve only run Bastion Stair, not having been in a guild that is too organized otherwise. WAR’s dungeons have always been very lackluster compared to their MMO counterparts, and that is a shame.
  • Dude, just rename Hardcore Casual to “WoW Tourists Go Home!” already. Heh. But good post nonetheless!
  • No, Trembling Hand, it’s not a joke. But considering how many people assume that it is, maybe the execs should rethink this little name brand switch.
  • Frank at Overly Positive lives up to his blog’s name by giving a pep talk to the Warhammer community — and anyone who just enjoys playing games for the fun of it, instead of the work.
  • “GDC Retrospective Part 1” @ Of Course I’ll Play It tackles Paul Barnett’s lecture, and most importantly his concept of your personal “golden age of gaming”.  I honestly don’t know when that would be for me.  Maybe I have several golden ages!
Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft

WoW Broken, Admits Lead Dev

Jeffrey Kaplan
Jeffrey Kaplan

So thus comes a recap of World of Warcraft’s Jeff Kaplan on their biggest quest mistakes in the game at GDC. It’s breathtaking candor from a company who’s usual policy is “working as intended” and “no, YOU made the mistake, buddy!” And it’s a thoroughly captivating read. No matter what your feelings on WoW, they were responsible for the retooling and overhaul of the quest system that MMOs use, and it’s of little surprise that many games today blatantly copy it — right down to the floating icons over quest-givers’ heads. If other titles and Blizzard itself can learn and improve on Blizz’s mistakes, then we are all the better for it.

I actually agree with many of his points, although Kaplan seems to spend more time criticizing where something went wrong than identifying how they can make it better and do it right in the future. This all does tie in very nicely with something I’ve been saying over at WAAAGH! for some time now, that we as players are given too many quests in too short of a span of time with zero importance to them, other than being vending machines for XP and items. We’re not being told STORIES in ways that are memorable (and yeah, I think this interview is another nail in the coffin of quest text, at least the type that we’ve seen up to this point).

A great, memorable, involving quest includes a terrific story told in a way that players understand and digest, have notable or unique elements to them, and offer choice and consequences. It’s why so many people are hanging their hopes on BioWare being able to deliver the next great stage of quest storytelling with The Old Republic — because if they can’t do it, I fear for the rest of the industry.

Posted in General

Anticipation Schmanticipation!

anticipation-for-labelIt’s become a rite of passage to separate the naive, innocent MMO fans from the grizzled, cynical vets — the time in your gaming career when you decide not to care to get your hopes up for future releases based on your past disappointments.  You’ve been burned one too many times, drunk from the deep well of giddy and unrealistic hype, and now you’re firmly in the “glass half empty” camp.

“Blargh!” you articulately say.  “I’ll just assume it’s going to suck right now, and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised later.  Or not.  Who cares!  Life is meaningless, etc etc.”

And then there’s people like me, who have indeed surfed the waves and valleys of frothy anticipation and come up sputtering for more, more, more!  I don’t really care if this causes them grizzled vets, who sit on their front porches chewing a piece of ethernet cable between their teeth, to sneer at my optimism.  I’m the type of person who, when reading a summer movie preview, naturally assumes they’re all going to be (Tony the Tiger) GRRRRREAT!  Yeah, I know that won’t bear out in the end, but some will, and in any case, it was terrific fun to look forward to them.

I feel much the same way about MMORPGs.  I’ve fallen deep into anticipatory hype at least three times — WoW, LOTRO and WAR — with varying degrees of excitement about other upcoming titles, and no matter how the game’s turned out, I don’t regret being giddy about its prospects.  Like the kid who camps out in front of a box office for a week just to get the first seat in the theater or concert hall, there’s true joy and fun to be had in the buildup.  When it comes to MMOs, of which quality titles come out only a couple times every year, it’s even more rare and precious to savor an upcoming release.

In a funny way, I can relate as the parent of a soon-to-be-born baby — our house is absolutely buzzing with anticipation, and it’s all we can think about.  Sure, I could take a gloomy approach by predicting health problems or future struggles with a strong-willed child or the worry of him ever getting hurt.  Or I could bask in the joy of what I call “Christmas that could happen any day now”.  It’s all in the perspective.

Champions, Star Wars, Star Trek, what have you… I know they won’t all be perfect, some might disappoint, and some might exceed expectations.  But like most bloggers, I revel in the slow, agonizing buildup — a couple screencaps here, an interview there, the teasing prospect of closed beta invites — because for our chosen hobby, this is our “pre-game show”, and it shouldn’t be spoiled by doomsayers who feel vindicated every time a MMO underperforms or fails.  It’s all in your outlook, and mine is cresting another wave.  Warhammer Alliance used to have a pre-WAR launch slogan on its forums that went something like, “The anticipation is terrible.  I hope it never ends.”  I understand the sentiment.