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.

Behind the Scenes: Fallen Earth and Secret World

Massively and Gamespot posted behind the scenes articles on Fallen Earth and The Secret World, respectively.  As a fan of MMORPGs, I absolutely love it when developers come out from behind their veil of secrecy to share just how games are made, the thought process behind content, and the trials and tribulations of development.  It’s interesting to me and we see far too little of it.

A year or so ago when I was into WAR, I suggested that Mythic add a developer section to the Tome of Knowledge, kind of an Easter egg bonus feature where you’d learn about the process of making each zone from the developers themselves.  Mark Jacobs seemed to like that idea, but alas, he was fired for bringing the topic up to his EA masters.  So much for that!

So what do we have in these articles?  Fallen Earth continues to showcase its dev team’s awesomeness with a few stories of desired features that fell through the cracks (like flamethrowers and mobs that would crawl on the ceiling, alas) and a few hilarious bugs from the creation of the game, like guns that shot houses instead of bullets.  I totally want one of those guns!

FunCom’s taken quite a few PR beatings in the past, but I still hold hope for The Secret World.  For one thing, it looks downright intriguing, a conspiracy/survival horror/mythology-laced MMORPG that has no direct genre competition.  It’s something different, and man, we need that.  For another thing, the game director is Ragnar Tornquist, the writer and developer of The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, two of the all-time best adventure games for the PC, and I want to experience more of his stories.

Tornquist delivers a short teaser video for one of TSW’s locations, Kingsmouth, which looks like it got hit with a combination of Silent Hill fog, Dunwich Horror old gods, and Dawn of the Dead zombies.  Nice place.  He shares the influences for the zone and discusses how players won’t just be killing, but will be exploring, solving puzzles and unraveling mysteries.

A good quote:

“One important theme in The Secret World is that of heroism, and we’re going to put players in a situation where being a hero is very difficult–where it’s about containing and gathering information and preventing the darkness from spreading, rather than saving a few lives.”

The State of State of The Games

I guess it’s that time of year?  Late January?  Whatever it is, MMO teams have been winging out their “State of the Game” left and right, and in the past day we got two new ones that pertain to games that are currently holding my interest: Fallen Earth and Star Trek Online.  Let’s take a dilly dally gander at them and see what’s what, shall we?

Fallen Earth: State of the Game

  • They open by touting some of their more impressive achievements over the past four months: the graphics upgrade, construction tradeskills, casinos and the free trails.  They’ve been busy!
  • News on patch 1.3: level cap is going up by one to 46, new area opening up in S3 called Deadfall Point
  • News on patch 1.4: level cap going to increase to 50, mutated creature mounts, item decay/overcharge system
  • News on patch 1.5: blood sports arena PvP, animation/AI overhaul, achievement system
  • Other upcoming features: respecs, revisions to death toll, and veteran rewards

Although I really couldn’t care less about arena PvP invading this game (WoW turned me off of that idea forever), that’s a pretty awesome list to get excited about.  5 new levels, achievements and creature mounts have me salivating, and I sincerely hope that respecs go in sooner rather than later.

Star Trek Online: State of the Game

  • Expect to see LOTS more Borg in the future
  • “Raid-i-sodes” coming — high level raid encounters
  • “The first update is going to have more PvP, Klingon exploration content, more ground fleet actions, more ship costume pieces, more playable species, and then some.”
  • Public test shard called “Tribble” to be opened

A little vague on specifics, but at least it looks as though Cryptic’s working to get some more Klingon content in there, as they’ve been taking a beating on that.  More customization and races?  Cool, to be sure.  Past that who knows?  I would’ve liked to seen a bit more substance, but I think they’re holding off on the details of the first patch for post-launch hype.

2010: The Year We Put Europa On Farm Status

I’ve been processing my feelings on this new year of gaming, going from lows (Star Wars whyyyy?) to deeper lows (is STO going to be the single biggest MMO event of the year?), and I think it’d be easy to get a bit bummed out by 2010.  I guess part of me was hoping that by this point in the MMORPG lifecycle, the genre would be thriving and so beloved that new great titles would be popping out the door every couple weeks, but as it is, we haven’t really changed much over the past decade.  There’s a handful of big name releases during the year — which get a monster share of our attention — and another handful of expansions, along with tiny little titles that aren’t worth the time of day.

But then I realized that my gaming depression was misplaced, because I think we have a tendency to keep looking to the future for our source of salvation.  Like, something great’s going to come our way and finally we can start having fun.  Except that the fun is already here, or at least it is for me.  Even if no MMOs came out this year, I am rolling in an embarrassment of gaming richness.  Fallen Earth and WoW have the majority share of my time right now, but I’m dabbling all over the place (sorry) and have even given serious thought to returning to DDO and Guild Wars over the next month.  That’s not even to mention the soon-to-come Star Trek Online and Allods Online.

I think it’s awesome that we have such a wide variety of choices on the market currently.  Yeah, there may be no “best” game out there for you, but you’d have to be awfully picky or Snafzg (zing!) to say that there’s nothing that appeals.  There’s almost every genre, every style of play, every level of access, every age group, worldwide.  There are new titles to try out, older games that have been adding content and refining their systems, and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Is that just the kid in me who gets a huge pile of Christmas presents and then pouts that I didn’t get even more?  For shame, Syp.  For shame.

Quexting (man, I gotta stop with the portmanteaus)

“I’m still somewhat surprised that I’m still reading the quest texts.  The missions aren’t any more than your usual kill stuff/deliver stuff/gather stuff, but the wrapping is nice, and the clever writing means that I care about *why* I’m killing stuff/delivering stuff/gathering stuff.  This in turn makes me feel less like a monkey pressing the button to get a banana, and more like I’m actually playing a character in a world.”

As a fairly recent subscriber to the game, Hawley shares a few sentiments about Fallen Earth’s quests that I’ll back up.  Simply put, he and I and many others I’ve talked to find themselves actually reading the quest text and get into the stories as a result.

What’s frustrating to me is that I can’t precisely define why Fallen Earth’s quest text — which appears in the most standard, drab text box you’ll ever see — is so compelling.  But it is.   It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s occasionally profane, it’s never quite what you’d expect, and it highlights the wacky nature of the six faction and their respective sub-factions.  But it’s also something beyond that, and I am at a loss to explain really why.  Maybe they just have a great team of writers, but I’ve played several other MMOs that have had talented writers who do their best to make the same-old, same-old quest objectives interesting.

Maybe it’s because the quests — and the stories that accompiany them — are as much a reward as the gear or chips for playing.  Right now, I’m level 23 or 24 (I forget), and I’m going through a quest hub that’s spitting out level 18-19 quests.  I’m overpowered for them, and the experience rewards are a pittance, but I genuinely want to do them.  The quests chain together in easy-to-swallow morsels that eventually form a coherent narrative.

Here’s a couple examples off the top of my head:

(1) In my current questing hub, Picus Ridge, I was ordered to head out and hunt a guy who was on the run from the authorities.  When I caught up to him and knocked his head off, I found a mysterious key on him.  Returning to the quest giver, I handed over the key and watched as the guy freaked out as he realized that this was the key to a bomb.  I went out and hunted through a camp for the bomb and disabled it, and found out that the bomb in question was a plague bomb, not an explosive one — and that there also was one in the town proper.  Off to rescue the town from imminent doom!  At each stage of the quest, I was fully aware of what I was doing and why, and it felt like a cool little story instead of a checklist.

(2) This one is a bit of a Sector 1 spoiler, so be warned.  I’m not even sure where this quest line started, but somewhere along the way I began to investigate a group of malcontents who eventually were linked to a larger group of anti-technology luddites, who were eventually linked to the mastermind group, a bunch of absolutely whacko military/religious folks who wanted to bring the “purifying fire” to the world.  The quest chain sent me everywhere, including infiltrating one of their camps as a potential recruit, after which I discovered that they wanted to launch a few remaining nuclear missiles from Sector 1 to Sector 1, and I had to stop them.  That ultimately led me to one of the coolest locations in the area, an underground missile silo base.

(3) And no Fallen Earth quest discussion would be complete without mention of the gang struggle in Depot 66 that has you choosing the outcome of not only who ends up in charge of the town, but how their performance of MacBeth happens.

Now, I’m all for more advanced forms of quest delivery — cutscenes, voiceovers, scripted events.  But there’s still some magic left in those little quest text boxes, and I guess it’s made me rethink my position on disliking them.  If only we could distill the formula that makes FE’s text so addicting to read versus other MMO text!  Are there any other MMOs that you would hold up as an example of superior quest text?