Falling damage in MMOs

falling

The other day GamingSF had a post on a subject that I was actually thinking about recently: whether or not falling damage was a good thing in MMORPGs. He notes how some MMOs have it, while others (notably RIFT and The Secret World) have elected to do away with it.

So is it better to have the possibility of death or injury from falling in an MMO or is it simply more fun to suspend this element of reality and let players plummet to their heart’s content without worry of having gravity smack them on the face?

I think the right (and probably weasely) answer is, “It depends on the game.” Some games simply work better without falling damage. It makes sense that TSW doesn’t have it, because your character is basically a superhero anyway, and superheroes aren’t usually concerned with stubbing their toes when they trip. They’re big-picture characters. I feel that RIFT’s decision to elect out of falling damage (it used to have it on launch) made the game more fun to explore, especially in light of (a) our characters are “ascended” and virtually superheroes anyway, and (b) there are no flying mounts yet lots of vertical spaces.

LOTRO is interesting in that it not only has some falling damage, but also tacks on a debuff (which slows you down for up to 45 seconds) to mimic a sprained ankle or broken bone. In fleeing an enemy and jumping off something, I always have to judge whether or not it might be worth the drop to do so.

Putting together a pros and cons list for falling damage as a mechanic:

In favor of falling damage

  • It forces players to take the game world/environment more seriously and turns the environment into a challenge that must be navigated and conquered successfully
  • It allows devs to add skills, traits, and fun items that help to counter this threat, giving players utility tools in their exploration
  • It can imbue the game world with a feeling or sense of realism that mirrors our own (we instinctively understand that falling from a great height = bad from our own real-life experience)
  • In PvP situations, it gives players another way to vanquish their foes
  • In worlds that have flying, falling damage feels more fair to have since flight counters it. It also makes flight seem like a better value since it’s overcoming that danger

In favor of freefall bliss

  • It removes a frustration and obstacle to exploration, which in turn encourages players to poke around the world and not be afraid of it
  • It provides another option to traversing zones, even giving players a strategic option (to climb up high and then jump down on top of their destination or hard-to-reach places)
  • It takes away instant death from falling and annoying or impossible corpse runs resulting from that death
  • It’s a game, after all, and designers have the freedom to choose which rules to implement and which to exclude
  • In non-flying MMOs, it’s a nice consolation prize
  • It helps out immensely if you’re doing platforming or jumping puzzles and miss a jump

Generally I’d come down on the side of just not wanting it most of the time, but I think some MMO worlds would feel less authentic and more “gamey” if it was removed. I wouldn’t want it gone in LOTRO, for example, and WildStar’s exploration path needs all of the environmental challenge it can get.

As a player who jumps between MMOs frequently, I will say that it is not always easy to keep track of which game allows for unlimited falls and which penalize me for it. I’ve plummeted to my death more than a few times because I forgot which game I was in and just jumped off cliffs with wild abandon.

Daybreak snuffs out the last flame of EverQuest Next

landmark

With yesterday’s announcement of the closure of Landmark, Daybreak not only gets to continue its streak of shutting down more MMOs than it creates but also extinguishes the last vestiges of EverQuest Next in existence. It’s like a kick in the crotch of the deceased — disrespectful, unnecessary, and completely devoid of class.

Daybreak these days is pretty much two things: A hot mess of confusing messages and weird silences, and a company that is much more interested in closing games than creating them. I don’t think there are many people left who still hold the opinion that the Columbus Nova buyout was a portent of a bright future.

And while we can say that it wasn’t a huge surprise that Landmark was next on the chopping block, it doesn’t take the sting out of this — even for non-players, like myself. This move really stinks for many reasons:

  1. As mentioned, Landmark was all that was left of EverQuest Next and the only consolation prize that those fans had. Now it’s going to be taken away.
  2. Daybreak is creating a public image of a studio that doesn’t really want to make or operate games. It hasn’t put out a vision for its future, it’s been shifting leadership since Smedley left, and its fans have been given so little to be excited about.
  3. People dropped some serious money for the alpha that won’t be reimbursed. $100 bucks a pop to play a game that was in testing for most of its life? That’s a cautionary tale that is going right up there with the people who bought a lifetime sub to Hellgate London. At least when Smed’s Hero’s Song went down, he offered everyone’s money back. Not so here.
  4. In fact, Daybreak’s closure message and FAQ are nearly devoid of sympathy and compassion. No, you ain’t getting your money back. No, you can’t run a private server or emulator. No, you don’t really matter.
  5. It always sucks when an MMO goes down, but let us remember that Landmark is a game that featured much more player created content than what you usually find elsewhere. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of hours of creations are about to be flushed down the toilet. They’re not just closing a game, they’re taking away people’s work.

Would it have really hurt or cost so much to leave the lights on and put the game in maintenance mode? Did Daybreak just want another PR hit and remind players how much they hate the studio for killing EverQuest Next last year? Could the studio have shown a little decency and empathy for the players this affected?

This leaves EverQuest, EverQuest II, DCUO, both H1Z1 games, and PlanetSide 2 under the Daybreak umbrella — one of the smallest libraries the studio has ever had. The EverQuest games are probably fine, considering their legacy and last year’s expansions, and DCUO has always seemed to do pretty well for itself on console. But Just Survive and PlanetSide 2 appear more vulnerable now that Landmark has been shown the door.

And it should be pointed out that as Daybreak is nearing its second anniversary from its SOE transition, the studio has yet to announce a new game or launch one (and splitting the H1Z1 titles doesn’t count). I have so little respect or hope for this company, and I am far from alone in stating this.

Landmark… I’m sorry. You deserved better. You could’ve led into something better. They should’ve known better.

MMO timeline of 2016

Seeing as how this is the last day of the year, I thought it was fitting to provide a quick overview of all of the major launches, expansions, adaptations, and closures of MMORPGs in 2016. This is, of course, from my constantly updated MMO Timline page.

  • January – Blade & Soul launches in the west
  • January – City of Steam closes
  • January – RuneScape classic reopens
  • March – The Division launches
  • March – Black Desert launches in the west
  • March – Path of Exile: Ascendancy
  • March – FFXI on consoles closes
  • April – EVE Online: Citadel
  • April – Trove: Mantle of Power
  • April – Ascent: The Space game launches
  • May – DUST 514 closes
  • May – Tree of Savior launches
  • June – Landmark launches
  • June – Lineage II: Helios
  • July – PlanetSide closes
  • July – Star Trek Online: Agents of Yesterday
  • July – Aion: Echoes of Eternity
  • July – Riders of Icarus soft launch
  • August – World of Warcraft: Legion
  • September – LEGO Minifigures Online closes
  • September – Star Trek Online launches on consoles
  • September – Otherland launches
  • September – Path of Exile: Atlas of Worlds
  • September – Destiny: Rise of Iron
  • November – EVE Online goes free-to-play
  • November – The Crew: Calling All Units
  • November – EverQuest: Empires of Kunark
  • November – EverQuest II: Kunark Ascending
  • November – RIFT: Starfall Prophecy
  • November – EVE Online: Ascension
  • December – Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Eternal Throne
  • December – ArcheAge: Revelation
  • December – Trove launches on consoles

9 games I can’t wait to play in 2017

galaxy

I don’t even want to talk about my gaming backlog. It’s big and it’s just not getting any smaller, not with sales and recommendations and all of these pesky new titles coming out. And then there’s my book backlog… and my TV backlog… and my music backlog… and my backlog backlog. There’s a lot of logs around here is what I’m saying.

I guess it’s just not going to stop me from getting a little excited about what’s coming in 2017. MMO-wise, I’m pretty happy with everything under my belt, not to mention that most of the games that interest me are probably more than a year out. But there are at least nine games that I am very interested to at least try out at some point next year… and here they are.

1. Project Gorgon

I know, I’ve been more talk than play on this game to this point, which has mostly come down to waiting for the game to get to a state where it feels ready to start for real. I think, for me, this is going to be Steam early access. Or the release of the fairy race. One of the two, but either way, that should be spring next year. I can’t wait to comb through this world with a notebook at the ready, keeping track of all of the secrets and puzzles.

2. Bit City

I’ve been a huge fan of Nimblebit’s personality-filled economic simulators (Pocket Train, Tiny Tower), and next year will see Bit City, the studio’s version of SimCity. It looks adorable and cool, although we don’t know much more than screenshots at this point. I’m prepared to get addicted all over again.

3. Torment: Tides of Numeria

The spiritual successor to Planescape Torment comes out in February and has had really strong word-of-mouth. I haven’t been able to devote a ton of time to a single player RPG in the past few years, but I will definitely be making an exception for this one.

4. Battleheart 2

Love, love, love Battleheart and Battleheart Legacy. A full sequel of the real-time party battler? Yes, please.

5. Sea of Thieves

It’s not a pure MMO, but Sea of Thieves looks like it will sport an MMO feel and enough elements to be a kissing cousin. And in any case, playing pirates in a colorful world full of accordions, grog, and kraken is a no-brainer for me. I’m really hoping this might be a huge, fun world to explore and will be in on day one.

6. Red Dead Redemption 2

If it comes for PC (which it might?) and has good multiplayer elements, RDR2 could be a decent substitute for the western MMO I’ve been wanting for years. The screenshots look gorgeous.

7. Mass Effect Andromeda

Uhh… it’s Mass Effect. It’s video game law or something that we all play it.

8. Vampyr

You know me and you know that I’m not a big vampire fan, but this is the follow-up project to Dontnod’s Life is Strange, and I’ll play it based on the studio alone at this point. Make me like vampires. I dare you.

9. Galaxy of Pen and Paper

I just found out that there’s a true sequel to Knights of Pen and Paper coming in 2017, only with a sci-fi RPG setting instead of a fantasy. I’ve logged so many hours into this humorous and creative series that I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with science fiction. Bring it on!

10 (non-MMO) games I loved in 2016

tales

Always, always I wish I had more time to play games than I do, and one of the casualties of being an MMO gamer is that it severely cuts down on any attention I can give to non-MMO titles. That isn’t to say that I avoided them all this year! Sitting down this past week, I easily came up with 10 titles that I greatly enjoyed at some point in 2016.

Seeing as how we’re staring down the barrel of 2017 right now, let’s send out 2016 in style with a few great lists!

(1) Tales from the Borderlands

Hilarious, touching, strange, and absolutely gripping, I think Tales from the Borderlands is my all-time favorite Telltale title to date. It even has a robot that I liked more than Rogue One’s K-2SO. Seriously, Loaderbot is the bomb. And those intro music videos for each episode? Classic. My only complaint is that this all ended.

(2) Firewatch

While it wasn’t perfect (particularly in its awkward resolution), Firewatch as an experience was mesmerizing and one of the most immersive titles of the year. Playing a summer as Henry, a middle-aged man fleeing his sick wife to become a fire ranger in Wyoming turned into a gripping tale of two damaged people talking over the radio.

(3) Life is Strange

Adventure games had a great year, apparently, and Life is Strange was such a wonderful discovery. The five-episode series of a high school girl who found out that she had the limited ability to rewind time took us through a slowly unfolding disaster, a relationship between two previous friends, and layers of mystery worthy of Twin Peaks. I am not satisfied with the ending or the explanation of the time mechanic (why did she get it in the first place if it was so wrong to use?), but boy was it a great ride.

(4) Clash Royale

I was never a big Clash of Clans player, but Clash Royale hooked me with its RTS-meets-PvP angle. Simple, quick, and colorful, the game allowed players to throw units at each other in order to knock down an opponent’s towers and unseat the king. I ended up playing a lot of this while riding my exercise bike over the year.

(5) Dungeon Warfare

This mobile title never got much promotion, but boy did I love it. It’s like a top-down Dungeon Keeper-slash-tower defense game with a high pixelated body count and lots of interesting towers. One neat move was letting players choose specific handicaps in order to gain more XP per map.

(6) Knights of Pen and Paper 2

Not a 2016 release, but I found myself coming back to this lighthearted tabletop D&D simulator a couple of times over the year (especially while I was on a cruise). The humor and RPG elements keep this an engaging ride, even though it’s kind of cheesy and repetitious in spots.

(7) Stardew Valley

I kind of wish I had put in more time with this odd farming/life simulator, but what I did play I really enjoyed. The retro look, the farming focus, and the huge amount of activities is perfect for a time sink. My greatest request? A tablet version. I’d play the heck out of that.

(8) Crazy Kings

Another somewhat oldie that got me coming back, I’ve had a great time working my way through this tower defense game that uses a card mechanic for its upgrades. It get a few minutes of my time every day, and the art style is quite appealing.

(9) Polytopia

Mini-Civilization, Polytopia stripped down Civilization games to their core and turned them into a fast-paced mobile title. It’s so slick and well-done that it really does shame the competitors.

(10) Star Control 2

I didn’t get through a ton of retro games this year, but I did manage to enjoy a few of them including the Quest for Glory and King’s Quest games. However, I think finally digging into Star Control 2’s space RPG was my highlight. So weird, so huge, so satisfying. I can’t wait to finish it up and see how it ends.

The post-Christmas lull

Merry Christmas and Bashful Boxing Day to you all!

We had a very nice Christmas in the Syp household. With four little ones running around, Christmas is just about the most exciting time of the year, and we had fun indulging in all sorts of traditions from our advent calendar to cookie baking to decorating the patio door with crafts projects to listening to our North Pole radio that gave us sporadic updates from the elves. We worked in a couple of days with the extended family in Indiana, a Christmas morning service at church, a first-time-ever viewing of A Christmas Story with the kids (first for them, not me), and some quiet time just to be together and play.

My wife felt bad she couldn’t get me an NES Classic, but seriously, who could this season? And it wasn’t like I was going to go sulking in a corner or something. Actually, I received a couple of very nice surprises, including Bartle’s MMO book (which is a MONSTER of a tome), a Chrono Trigger mouse pad, and a nifty little Waka Waka.

One really unexpected surprise is that my mom found a box of a lot of my old Transformers and Go-Bots from the ’80s in storage. I had a blast pulling them out, seeing if I could still transform them (yes), and explaining each one to my kids. Some had strong memories attached, and I even recovered my very first Transformer from 1983 (I think).

I sometimes hit a bit of a post-Christmas lull, with a crash from all of the fun and excitement. In recent years, it’s been balanced out by my desire to get back to my structured routine after too many days off-track. That’s probably not going to happen until the second week of January, but I’ll be sure to keep busy until then.

It’s getting time to wrap up 2016 and start gearing up for 2017. I have some projects and goals in mind, and I’d rather get the ball rolling this week than waiting for the next. However, I do love end-of-year lists — both reading and writing them — so the rest of the week here at Bio Break will be focused on what I did and loved in 2016.

How was your Christmas? Get or give anything interesting?