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.

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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.

OnLive: This Might Just Change Everything. Or Not.

onliveI’m sure I’m not the first blog poster or web site or forum or even web comic to comment on this — the internet is exploding today with talk about OnLive and its implications for the future of gaming.

My first response, like probably most others’, is to say “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  As a MMO vet, I’m well acquainted with issues of lag and limitations of internet speed at times, and it seems that they key issue that OnLive has to deal with is minimizing lag between the client and server to something approaching an undetectable level.  If this is anything like a MMO, which traditionally uses many tricks to get you to overlook the back-and-forth nature of commands and actions between computers, then that’s a significant issue.

But this is exactly what they claim, and if it’s true… wow.  Access to games would multiply overnight, as well as the population of potential gamers who have been held back by substandard computers.  I mean, heck, they’re saying you don’t even NEED a computer, just a TV, if you like.  I get nervous when I think about hard drive-less computers, where all the information you have is physically somewhere else, and that covers games as well — call me old fashioned, but I still really like having box copies of my games.  It makes me feel as though I still own them, instead of renting them in a convoluted sense thanks to DRM.

It’s not every day that you witness technology that can truly revolutionize the industry, but if this is for realsies, then… witness away.  The limitations of PC gaming as a platform — traditionally restrained by hardware costs — could go bye-bye.

It makes my mind boggle with wonderment.  The additional features (Brag Cam, community, spectators) are just icing on the cake.

Travel Powers and You

6a00d8341c630a53ef010535d04cd7970b-800wiSuperheroes get all the fun, sometimes, and that’s never so much true as when it comes to travel powers.  Whereas most other games boil down travel modes into three categories or less — running, using a mount/vehicle to go faster, using a flying machine to go in all directions — superheroes have a lot more options at their disposal.  Champions Online promises to boast more travel powers than City of Heroes (ice slide, anyone?), but I was already pleased with what the City games had to offer:

Super-Speed: In picking a travel power in City of Heroes, you always had to consider the preliminary power that was required in order to get access to what you truly wanted.  Super-Speed had a whiz-bang of a prelim power — Hasten — which would cut down on skill recharging.  Despite that and the 2nd fastest travel power in the game, SS never was too enticing for me.  Often in City of Heroes, you’d need to traverse terrain vertically, and that was a significant obstacle with SS.  Still, I’ve grown to appreciate it a little via its lesser counterpart in the kinetics set — being able to whoosh around makes you feel a bit like the Flash.

Super-Jumping: My personal favorite.  It has a great prelim power (Combat Jumping) that is always helpful, and super-jumping is one of the most fun ways to cross zones.  It’s quick and offers a sort of mini-game, as you time jumps from rooftop to rooftop in order to keep going higher.

Flight: As a travel power, I like it, even though it’s the slowest of the four.  It’s 100% useful and allows you to travel anywhere you like — plus, you can cross zones by pressing your auto-run key without needing to supervise the trip.  However, neither of the two prelim powers are attractive at all to me, and you really have to invest in some flight enhancements to get this on par with other travel powers.

Teleportation: Personally, it’s the least fun travel power in the group, even though it’s the fastest.  It requires a lot more work on your part to travel (you have to keep retargeting and using the power), and it doesn’t let you see the sights as you go along your merry way.  There is a good team-oriented prelim power here (teleport friend) that is always in high demand, but I could never justify it.

Star Wars: Frozen in Carbonite

hk47Although it’s been greatly assumed otherwise — and completely true, considering the information we’ve been given — Star Wars: The Old Republic’s bounty hunter class is the FIRST officially-announced class in the game.  The Jedi and Sith are officially the main factions of the game, although there will most definitely be force-users on both sides.  MMOCrunch worries that the Bounty Hunters will be Sith-only, which might cause unbalance (complete unbalance right now, considering they’re the only real class).  But in lou of any other officially-announced classes, I felt the whim to speculate on what we might see, especially going back to KOTOR and KOTOR 2 as source material:

  • Scoundrels – A physically weaker but more agile and crafty rogue-type character with lots of tricks up his or her sleeves (the Jedi’s answer to Bounty Hunters?).
  • Droids – I can’t easily think of a MMORPG that lets you play as a robot.  If SWTOR does, I’ll leap at the chance to follow HK-47 in his murderous, meatbag-slinging steps.  Plus, upgrades would be visually awesome!
  • Jedi Guardian/Sentinel/Consular – If you’ll recall, KOTOR 1 eventually forced you to pick one of three Jedi specialties, which translated into a Jedi who was more offensively-based, defensively or balanced between the two.  The Sith could also have mirror classes to these three.
  • Soldier – Because sometimes you just want to sling blaster shots and heavy assault rifles all over the place.  This might be a popular class if they were allowed access to several types of specialized weapons that other classes couldn’t handle.
  • Mercenary – Somewhat of a cross between a soldier and bounty hunter, perhaps.  Might not be much of a difference in roles to justify one, unless it’s to be in the game instead of a soldier.
  • Gray Jedi – A Jedi gone rogue from the Jedi counsel, being neither friend nor foe to either side.
  • Scouts – Maybe… again, the measuring stick of TOR classes will always be Jedi.  If BioWare can’t make a class seem as or more appealing than a Jedi, then they should scrap it.