D&D online, or how I learned to hate the download.

October 30, 2009

4.82 gig.

That’s how much I have to download for the full install of D&D online. They have something called a “tiered download” where you download the character creator, the starting zone, a second zone, and then the rest of the game, but whats left seems to be the full game after that, and my pokey DSL does not reach the 2mpbs flowthrough needed to get anywhere near a reasonable download time. I started playing, had to take a break because while I finished the tutorial zone, the zone after didn’t download fully.

Now it looks like I have to download the rest of the game, and I’m going to have to do so in chunks, estimated time is hitting into a day, because my DSL sucks, and also because I share it with others in the house who also use their pcs to download content as well.

As for the part I have played so far, it’s not bad. Create a character, either using templates or custom builds according to D&D rules, run through a brief tutorial scene involving a shipwreck on the beach and a quick jaunt through a sahaugin cave to the village beyond. This was my first taste of a “real” MMO, with decent graphics made by a name company not on console, or F2P, and it was cool to see things like AI fighting companions, graphics beyond PS2 level, and text which didn’t sound like it had been run through babelfish. I haven’t logged much time into it yet.

However, I’m really regretting it just for the download, the manager fires up on power-on, and it constantly downloads. It can be paused with a timer, but I really think that graphics and content-heavy games shouldn’t rely on direct downloads. I’d much rather pay three bucks or so for Turbine to make a trial CD and distribute it in retail chains. I know they have the boxed copy, but given the sorry status of PC games in most stores  it can be hard to find. Plus, if the goal is F2P, paying $40 or so defeats the purpose.

It would make good business sense, not just for Turbine, but for other F2P companies. Most places that sell game cards could easily fit a row of demo game CDs on the base of the planogram, and that would also cut down the time spent to get into the game. It would also help more people from not being able to connect at all due to download errors, and you could easily bundle all the games from one publisher into a single F2P DVD to tempt people into cross-game sales. Turbine could have even just put the tutorial experience on the disc, updated it, then had the full download start as soon as you played.


It’s finally time to play some real MMOs

October 29, 2009

It took awhile, but I finally upgraded to a new rig, and that means I can finally play big-name and processor intensive MMOs. It’s nothing fancy, but I needed a laptop for school and found one with discrete graphics for a nice price. The first game I’m going to try is D&D online, then I have enough for one boxed MMO release. I’m not sure what though.


National Novel Writing Month

October 28, 2009

Syp at Biobreak posted here with more info about National Novel Writing Month. Basically it’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in only 30 or so days, from November 1 till the 30th. Their website is here if you are interested.

There’s no real fame, or reward except for the satisfaction in doing what you thought was impossible, and churning out 50k words. It’s all about breaking down barriers and objections to writing a novel, and the timing was great. I hope to see you all on the forum, and already ideas are swirling in my head.


My MMO-setting

October 25, 2009

HIGH FANTASY IS DEAD.

There, that is out of the way. High fantasy as defined by Tolkien and D&D is an artistically bankrupt, soulless cliche of a genre for MMOs. It can even be argued it’s dead for fantasy fiction, and the long, sprawling series that used to generate sales sputter out and collapse under their own weight. But MMOs have much less flexibility and freedom to deal with the pitfalls high fantasy has, and developers have shown they really haven’t risen to the challenge.

Rather than go into princples, I am just going to list possible genres.

  1. Western.
  2. Cyberpunk
  3. Steampunk
  4. Modern fantasy. Think Charles Delint, or Mercedes Lackey’s Circle of Iron series.
  5. Alternate History games. Where the allies lost WW2, or even blending Alternate History with fantasy elements.
  6. Mystery. I’m surprised no one has tried to make a sandbox game in which players can design crimes to solve.
  7. Pure history. This has been more of a simulation-based genre, but it could be extended into a massively persistent simulation. Isn’t one of the old staples of virtual reality creating past worlds?
  8. General Sci-fi.Whether near or far future.
  9. Sports. We see this already with Pangya but it could be extended into any virtual sport in a persistent, real world.

This is just a few I can think of, but there are no limits. Each new genre will force designers to look at a MMO experience in a new way, and the ones that successfully adapt it will change the MMO experience.


My MMO-character advancement part 2

October 25, 2009

The first part was defining the three types of advancement. This part is my thoughts on it.

I’m  not a fan of extrinsic stat management. It’s most common form is gear. Gear is showered on you whenever you beat anything from a level 5 quest to the toughest endgame instance. In FFXI it was very easy to fill your storage with all the gear offered, and to have five sets or more.

The secondary aspect of buffs I’m not keen on either. I have yet to see well-designed buffing in a game; instead, it’s just a rotation of abilities done mechanically as buff timers fade.  Either that, or it’s one ability with a ridiculously long duration, like 2 hours.

In my MMO, I’d reduce both methods of extrinsic stat advancement. I’d much rather people have the freedom to develop the base character, without the need to rely on gear or buffs so much. This accomplishes a few things:

  1. It lets gear be used for style, or actual different modes of play. You don’t give up on a Great Axe because dual wielded swords are better statwise, but they may be better because they chain attack easier, use better offensive or defensive abilities, or you just have a pair that looks cool as hell.
  2. It forces rewards from a mission or instance to be permanent. You cannot obsolete a stat increase, but you can very easily make weapons junk.
  3. It rewards doing all events. If you get stat increases from it, you have less incentive to skip things. You can however skip instances if the armor isn’t balanced correctly, or may be only incrementally useful
  4. Reduce buffs whenever possible to passive stat boosts. This also forces support to be, well support, not hamsters running in a cage. Give them debuffs, crowd control, terrain modification, and other things requiring more active participation.

So my point is more that we need to make rewards instrisic and reduce outside gear. Ironically I think this makes gear more valuable as a reward and not less.

Skill advancement is tougher, because I can’t make a rule on it. It very much depends on the design of the MMO played. The best MMO keep a constant drip of skills coming to make the grind up challenging and to differentiate segments of it. In FFXI at 10 a ninja got dual wield and subbed voke, at 12 utsusemi: ichi, at 37 a boatload of things. There were always carrots to chase after, and as you leveled, the playing of ninja changed.

Location I think is very much neglected. There is nothing like the feeling of beating a mission to see an open door, and stepping through it to enter a new world. Offering new locations, or control of them is a huge carrot, done very rarely and with great effort. I think if somehow we could reduce the effort, but make meaningful location control and achievement still, it would be great.


Ugh, ran online.

October 25, 2009

Wow, this is crap. Let us count the ways.

1. No full screen option. None that I can see. Of course that matters less because:

2. Crap graphics. Imagine a top-down nintendo DS roleplayer with higher resolution. In the starting area I saw all of three kinds of enemies.

3. Poor, poor, english translation. Bad enough to make understanding quests a chore.

All this and I saw all of two other people in the starting area, briefly. Also Two people used the shout channel. This from a game that just launched-it’s not in open beta.

F2P games are starting to worry me. I have had all of one good experience with them, with Mabinogi. I have had one meh experience, with Earth Eternal. I have had two poor experiences, one with NeoSteam, and one with Fiesta. And there were about 5 of them I couldn’t get to run, either due to installation errors (persona online) or gameguard (luna online.) It’s looking like an awful lot are just shoddy cash run games.


Slow news day.

October 24, 2009

There’s not much going on this weekend. I had signed up for Ran Online and it’s beta finally opened. They seem to do things in events, so for the longest time you couldn’t even download the client, as one “event” ended and another was to begin. If you like the thought of rival high schools battling it out, give it a try.