MMO fonts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

In my effort to start clearing out my drafts folder here at Bio Break, I’m digging out this topic that I started (checks) back in 2017. Anyway, fonts are most likely a part of online games that you never think about. Once you’ve been in a game for a while, you get used to its user interface and don’t really notice or acknowledge it.

Yet fonts are important, because a game usually just licenses (or creates) one and uses it everywhere — and if chosen poorly, that font can slowly and surely drag down on the user experience. So let’s take a look at eight MMO fonts today — chosen semi-randomly — and see if they’re easy on the eyes or not.

We’ll start with Warhammer Online (above), which prompted the writing of this piece. The font itself gives off a Ye Olde English fantasy vibe, which is good, but it’s not that easy to read in large chunks, especially when italicized. There isn’t enough spacing between the lines, either, so it comes off as crammed. Sometimes getting a little fancy with your font works against you.

We’ll move on to RIFT, which I always thought had a very clean and modern-looking font. Maybe a little too modern. It’s easy to read, which is a plus, but doesn’t do a lot to convey personality of the game, which is one of the jobs that fonts have to handle. Generally, though, I like it.

You know I had to include the itty bitty, smooshed-together font of EVE Online on this list. It gets points for a futuristic, minimalistic look, but dang is it always hard to read. It’s gotten better over the years, but my eyes have never leaked tears of joy to behold it.

And we’ll go with a classic — World of Warcraft — with this one. Blizzard did a great job all around with this font. It’s oozing personality (especially on the header fonts), has good kerning, and is easy to consume quickly without eye strain.

WildStar… sigh. WildStar had SUCH great art and interface style, but its font was terrible. From the color choices (blue-greens on blue-greens) to the thin, small style, it was too difficult to read without really focusing on it.

I’ll be fair and include Lord of the Rings Online here. It gets middling reviews for me. I think it does lend an appropriate personality to the game and is readable (especially if you increase the font size), but it’s not the quickest read. And considering just HOW MUCH text you go through, it could be better. I do adore the header font, though. That’s spot on.

Fallen Earth always struck me as a game that purchased its font at lowest bidder. It’s like a default Windows font that did nothing for the personality angle and wasn’t as eye-catching as it could’ve been.

I could keep going on, but I’ll end with a look at Star Wars: The Old Republic’s font. It definitely has that thick, bolded Star Wars look about it, and the spacing makes it easy to read. I think it does a pretty good job, all things considered, even if I feel like the text is yelling at me much of the time.

Battle Bards Episode 115: EVE Online

Forgettable ambient noise or entrancing space sounds? This is the debate that’s at the core of today’s episode, as the Battle Bards take on EVE Online’s beloved and perhaps misunderstood soundtrack. It’s a journey that goes far beyond our galaxy to one full of intrigue, industry, and space discotheques!

Episode 115 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Below the Asteroids,” “Odyssey,” and  “I Saw Your Ship (symphony version”)
  • “Akat Mountains”
  • “Minmatar Rock”
  • “Hail to the Explorer”
  • “Theme from Jita”
  • “Red Glowing Dust”
  • “Merchants, Looters, and Ghosts”
  • “The Dealer”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes: Veon91, Zen Dadaist, KatsPurr
  • Jukebox picks: “Musik 2” from Hotline Miami, “Battlefield One” from Battlefield 1, and “Theories of an Eager Heart” from Planet Coaster
  • Outro (feat. “EVE Fanfest 2013 Theme”)

Quote of the Day

“This is why I have called EVE a bad game in the past. I do have strong mechanics-related complaints about the game (poor UI, poor ship combat, weak avatar support, slow travel, gank PvP), but more than anything, I just don’t enjoy other people’s suffering or want to hang out with people who do. That’s not what real games are about, and it’s certainly not how I want to spend my life.”

~ Skycandy

Where to get MMO soundtracks

Yesterday on Too Long; Didn’t Listen (you know, that podcast you so adore!) Dodge and I were talking about MMO and video game soundtracks, a topic which I quite adore.  I wanted to follow the podcast up with a quick post about some places that I’ve found legal ways to obtain these scores:

Free MMO soundtracks:

Amazon MP3 downloads:

Direct Song:

Blizzard Store/iTunes/misc.:

Let me know if I missed any and I’ll add them to the list (I’m not looking to list/link torrents and CDs, however)!

On the outside looking in

I always find it fascinating when I’m part of the crowd on the outside of a game looking into the inner ring of highly devoted fans.  Sometimes I personally like the game, sometimes not, but in both cases I’m just not swept up in the subculture that the community’s created.

I feel this way in particular about two MMOs: Guild Wars and EVE Online.  EVE is notorious for a huge community and blog presence on the web, and little stuff that doesn’t even merit a second thought for me becomes the heated centerpiece of discussion and riots over in that world.  GW is a bit different, because I do play the game (sometimes) and am a general fan of what ArenaNet is doing — I’m just not a fully indoctrinated fanboi yet.  I’m like a level 1 or 2, just passed by the cult office and took the test, while you have the level 14s out there theorycrafting and dissecting the novels.

In both situations, I have a hard time understanding the specific obsession, although I’ve experienced it elsewhere.

I guess this is like a lot of things in life: You can be on the outside ignoring it, on the outside looking in with detached interest, or on the inside in varying degrees of devotion.  Being the guy on the other side of the glass has its benefits; for example, I don’t get as caught up in the drama or am as agonized with the long wait for GW2.  You just can’t be a massive fan of everything, and some games are going to appeal more and less depending on your personality and desires.  It’s actually kind of nice to be removed from the drama without becoming completely uninterested in the game.

And it’s good to remember that titles I am highly invested in (such as LOTRO) are often not seen in the same light to others.  What I may care about on a day-to-day basis in the game is not necessarily what a casual player would even concern him or herself with, and when I write articles covering the game for Massively, I have to remember that not everyone subscribes and reads all of the LOTRO-related blogs and sites and news out there.  They might simply be on the outside looking in.

2010 Flushies: Most Over-Hyped Feature, Biggest Surprise, Best Non-MMO

Winner: EVE Online’s “Walking in Stations”

I guess this is a Big Deal for the EVE community?  But every time I hear “Walking in Stations” said with this sort of reverent, hushed awe, I have this overwhelming desire to stand up on a chair and shout, “EVERY OTHER MMO LETS YOU WALK AROUND.  IT IS NOT THAT SPECIAL.”

CCP’s been teasing and drawing this feature out for years now, to the point where the phrase “Walking in Stations” is competing with “Duke Nukem Forever” for senior citizen benefits.  Okay, not really, but it does seem like much to do about nothing.

Winner: Minecraft

Seriously, who would’ve predicted that the breakout phenomenon of the year would be a visually blocky game that revolved around crafting and building?

In a pleasant surprise to pretty much everyone who got addicted to Minecraft, this game created the ultimate sandbox for the little kid in all of us.  By giving players the basic building blocks of the world and told to have at it, creativity and ingenuity reigned over combat and story.  Tales of Minecraft dominated blogs for a good period of time, and YouTube is replete with videos of absolutely insane Minecraft projects, like full-scale recreations of the Earth or the Enterprise.

Winner: Mass Effect 2

As cool as Mass Effect was, Mass Effect 2 ratcheted the awesome up to untold heights with its Magnificent Seven-style story of a group of lovable misfits banding together to save the galaxy from a growing threat.  If nothing else, it gave us one of my favorite characters of all time, Mordin, the ethically-challenged, oddly-speaking, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-singing alien.

Runners-up:

  • Back to the Future: The Game — A great return to the BTTF franchise with episodic adventures
  • Civilization V — Far more attractive and user-friendly than ever, although it still suffered from some of the series’ flaws

That’s it for this year’s Flushie Awards — and for the year itself!  If I don’t post again today, have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you on the flip side.

Guild Wars 2: Wow, we totally love this game, devs are great… wha… WHAT IS THIS CRAP! ARGHHH!

It’s hard to explain, but sometimes it feels as if members of particular game communities are almost set apart from other MMO gamers, disconnected in a way.  As if that really is the only game for them, and they have no interest in any MMO outside of it.  It’s foreign to me, which is why I feel uneasy and sometimes a bit turned off by just how fanatical folks in, say, EVE or Guild Wars can be.  When your game is all there is in your universe, then everything that happens with it and to it and in it is heightened to a new level of drama we can only dream about.

Example A: Guild Wars fans have gotten themselves into a frothing tizzy over a recent ArenaNet post about armor sets and cosmetic options.  Now, I read this post and saw the part where they’re going to let players combine the stats from one item and the look of another, and thought, “That’s pretty cool!”  It’s more or less how cosmetic outfit systems work in LOTRO and EQ2, except instead of having to balance separate items and character doll sheets, you just have one.

What I missed during my first reading was that, in order to be able to do this, you have to purchase a “transmutation stone” from the GW2 item shop.

Oh.

Oh this isn’t good.

A company out to make money from a MMO that’s completely subscription-free?  Perish the thought!

So here’s where I get the impression that some GW players exist in a vacuum where they thought their game was somehow fully immune to business models and MMO tropes and traditional systems that exist elsewhere.  ArenaNet simply has to sell something after the initial box of the game in order to continue to operate, run the servers, and expand the game.  It’s either expansions, in-game services, item shop purchases, or magic unicorns.  Take your pick.  There’s really not a lot of other options.

Of course, to be fair, I’ve been here before — at the point where a game has yet to come out, and what information we’ve given is full of holes and vagueness.  It causes more anxiety than it helps to casually mention a microtransaction like this without any clarifying details, because it’s in people’s nature to assume the worst.

So while I continue to look forward to GW2 (and I really, really am), I’d love to see the hysteria dialed back a bit when people lack all of the details to make a proper judgment.  And, of course, there’s a call for a reasonable outlook based on common sense and industry context and… oh, who am I kidding?

PANIC.  PANIC PEOPLE!  IT IS GOING DOWN IN FLAMES!

Bargain Bin Posts Week: EVE Online — The Hope For The Future Of MMORPGs?

Huh… here is an example of “I have no idea what happened.”  It’s a fully-written post that for some reason, never got published.  This topic’s been done before and since, but here’s my take:

Time to take a break from the Fallen Earth Love Fest (don’t forget to buy your t-shirt at the Bio Break store, only $19.99!) to look at a game that doesn’t get a lot of talk around these here parts: EVE Online.  Now my personal history with EVE is fairly anemic — I did a couple of free trials, and subbed for one month, but it just never took hold with me.  I found space to be too big, the activities too boring, and the game way too complex (even though they’ve been working hard at making it more accessible for newbies).

But what’s always intrigued me about EVE is that it has absolutely bucked the trend of MMOs in terms of subscribers.  Most online games release to as big of an audience as possible, and try to retain as many of them as possible from month two on, hopefully adding enough people to keep steady (or increase somewhat) as others drop away.  Because many online gamers have become restless, picky and more prone to pulling up stakes and wandering away than ever before (which is aided by more choices on the market than ever before), one a MMO has shot through its release month, a downhill slide is all but inevitable.  Sure, expansions, releases in other countries and surprise course changes (i.e. DDO) may put the subs on a severe uptick, but it’s mostly damage control.  MMOs tend to shrink over time.

Except for EVE, which has grown.  Grown every year since launch, in fact, hitting the 300,000 mark on May 6 of this year (starting at 244,000 in January).  300K is a very respectable number for a newly launched MMO, but for a six-year-old game that isn’t World of Warcraft?  It’s practically amazing.  As MMORPG said:

Regardless of what the future might hold for this game and its franchise, it has solidified its place in the MMO history books by defying the trend in MMO subscribers, especially for an independent project. Generally speaking, the number of subscribers that any given MMORPG sports is at or near its peak soon after launch. From there, it’s a question of retention, with the scale fluctuating slightly throughout the life of the game but generally trending in the downward direction.

With EVE Online, the opposite has been true. Each year, the game has grown in population (paid subscribers) from the year before so that six years after its launch, it is still a thriving MMO in a very difficult and competitive market.

My question is, how has EVE bucked this trend?  What’s their secret recipe?  And how might other MMOs learn from their gradual success, a game “with legs” as one might say?  I’m no expert, but here’s a few of the factors that might have helped:

1. EVE started small and was self-published

There’s no doubt that CCP has done amazing things with EVE, and it enjoys a luxury many MMOs do not — the independence from a publisher’s meddling hand.  Instead, EVE launched without the huge amount of hype and fanfare that we expect out of big-budget titles today, and it was all done in house.  50,000 players was all it needed to keep the dev team funded and working, and from a small but solid start it grew gradually — avoiding the dangers of day one overpopulation and crashed servers as well.

2. EVE continuously reinvented itself

EVE’s had a vast array of updates and expansions, several of which have overhauled the graphics (updated for 2009 sensibilities) and retuned the game to make it slightly more friendly and accessible to newcomers.

3. EVE’s players became their marketing team

CCP relied more on word-of-mouth to sell the game than massive ad campaigns, a strategy that seems to have worked.  If one was to judge a MMO solely based on the blogs that players created to discuss it, it’d be easy to assume that EVE was one of the top three titles in the world.  Players are absolutely rabid about this game, reveling in its brutal cutthroat world and no-nonsense complexity.  For many of the players, there’s simply nothing else like EVE on the market, and they’re fanatical in promoting it.

4. EVE had a monopoly on the space-scifi market

With Earth & Beyond out of the way years previous, and no other major space science fiction MMOs out there, it was EVE or… EVE for any players looking to fly their own ship around the galaxy.  Even with SWG’s Jump to Lightspeed expansion, EVE still dominated with depth and breadth of content.

Of course, after writing all this I did a bit of Googling, only to find out that both Massively and Kotaku wrote on this same subject, just without all the typos and hidden anagram swear words (kids, see if you can find them at home!).  So, I have learned a lesson as a blogger: don’t write on anything, because someone’s done it first.

GuestBloggerMania’10: Dealing with MMO Burnout

Today’s guest post is from Professor Beej, who isn’t actually a professor of anything, but a wonderfully-themed superhero.

Dealing with MMO Burnout by Professor Beej

I love MMOs.  Love love love them.  In the past twelve years, I’ve played superhero MMOs, science fiction MMOs, Triple-A titles, and Free-to-Play disasters.  The ones I’ve stuck with the longest have been Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and World of Warcraft.

I never really felt the need to take a break from UO or SWG.  However, when WoW came along, and I put in an equivalent amount of time as I did before, I found myself burning out on the game.  No matter how much I loved it or wanted to play, I just couldn’t find the motivation to care anymore.

Being the overthinker that I am, I came to the conclusion that my burnout comes because I am playing the game wrong.

I didn’t burn out in UO because I only logged on when there was something I wanted to do: PvP.  It was always changing (because it wasn’t instanced), and there was always something new to learn.  In Star Wars Galaxies, I didn’t burn out because I was hologrinding a Jedi.  The professions I had to train and master were constantly new and different, and once I became a Jedi, there was a ton more for me to do.

But I approached WoW differently.  I rush all of my characters to max level, and then run the same instances over and over again until I stop having fun, then I cancel my account for a while.  I burn out on the same content.  Even PvP in WoW is a grind of doing the same objectives repeatedly to get the gear one needs to compete…at running the same content.

So you see my conundrum.

Luckily, I noticed the rut I was constantly falling back into, and I found a way to it.  I realized that setting small goals for myself was the only way I would be able to enjoy the game again.  Sure, “gearing up for PvP” is a goal, but it’s so open-ended that I didn’t enjoy the road to get there.  “Getting 4-piece gladiator set bonus” is a lot easier to work toward.

So I learned that to keep me interested in MMOs, even theme park MMOs like WoW that lead players by the hand through content, I need to set myself goals that are easily attainable and that mean something to me.

My most recent MMO goals include:

  • Getting Exalted reputation with The Argent Dawn in WoW to get the title “Beej the Argent Crusader.”
  • Getting to level 26 in Star Wars Galaxies so my fledgling Jedi could get his first lightsaber.
  • Get fully equipped in Wrathful Gladiator gear in WoW.
  • Getting enough favor in Dungeons & Dragons Online to avoid having to buy 32-point characters from the store.

Now, these are not game-changing goals.  They are not end-game goals that require countless hours of dedication to achieve.  They are goals that are attainable through relatively normal gameplay.  I never really have to go out of my way to work on them.  I might have to set some time aside and work on specific tasks to make sure I reach the eventual outcome before the game goes offline, but these small goals are done as a kind of self-imposed quest as I go about my business in game.

The more I breadcrumb myself along, the more I find that I enjoy myself.  Sure, having long-term goals is great.  That gigantic capital ship in EVE or DDO? Dream away.  You want to kill the Lich King 25-person Heroic? Work toward that.

Look forward to whatever you have to look forward to, but I implore you not to be like me.  Don’t look forward to the end of the game to the exclusion of actually playing it.  Don’t become so focused on something you might never actually get and forget that, for all the grandeur and epicness, you’re still playing a game.

MMOs are so huge, so expansive, that if players cannot find small, everyday goals to work toward that they almost invariably become lost.  By breaking the game down into digestible chunks, the overall experience becomes much more enjoyable without the player ever losing sight of the big goals at the end.  Bite-sizing content also helps alleviate burnout because when I get tired of working DDO favor or WoW Honor/reputation, I can give it a rest, take a break, and enjoy one of the other sections of the game.  That way, I’m still having fun and the developers still get my $15 a month.  It’s win-win.

What about y’all?  What do you do to prevent burning out on your favorite MMO?

The Great Login Experiment – Results!

First of all, a sincere thanks to everyone who helped me test login times for their various MMOs.  We didn’t cover all of them, and there’s never *enough* data for this sort of thing, but I was curious, and I thought you might be as well.

So here are the results — how long, on average, it took readers to go from clicking on the desktop icon to being fully in the game.  Take these all with a huge grain of salt — some of the games we had a lot more data, and some the “spread” (between lowest and highest) was more pronounced.  So I’ve included how many samples and what the spread (low-high) was to help with the analysis:

  • Lord of the Rings Online: 145.8 seconds (7 samples, 61-173)
  • Aion: 140 seconds (1 sample)
  • EverQuest 2: 129.3 seconds (3 samples, 78-175)
  • Fallen Earth: 107.1 seconds (10 samples, 50-145)
  • Champions Online: 97.5 seconds (2 samples, 94-101)
  • Atlantica Online: 75 seconds (1 sample)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online: 74.5 seconds (2 samples, 53-96)
  • Star Trek Online: 71 seconds (3 samples, 55-99)
  • Warhammer Online: 62.7 seconds (4 samples, 50-81)
  • World of Warcraft: 48.7 seconds (21 samples, 22-87)
  • Wizard 101: 42 seconds (1 sample)
  • Allods: 41.5 seconds (2 samples, 32-51)
  • Global Agenda: 36 seconds (2 samples, 26-46)
  • EVE Online: 26 seconds (2 samples, 23-29)
  • Guild Wars: 21 seconds (2 samples, 20-22)

Again, I wish we got more samples from some of the under-represented games, especially ones where the spread was so big.  Even so, it’s interesting to note the bulky titles — LOTRO, EQ2, FE — and compare them to the lightweights — EVE, Guild Wars, Global Agenda.  I’m impressed that WoW came in well under a minute, and thought DDO would’ve been a lot quicker for some reason.

Thanks again to everyone who broke out their stopwatches to help out with this — we truly have made a huge difference for the greater good!  Well… we satisfied a curiosity, at least.