Thrilling sandbox gameplay

June 30, 2010

Here’s a little list of how to take a system in factional warfare in EvE.

1. Find an enemy area. This is about 30 minutes of the following.

-FC sends scout to gate.

-Scout says clear

-Fleet warps to gate and jumps.

-FC sends scout to next gate.

-repeat 5-13 times.

-reach the system the complex is in.

2. Scan down and capture a Plex. This involves speed-tanking them in frigs, which means getting a very small, very fast ship and flying them around in circles while every single NPC ship fires only on it and misses. Bring one more ship to stand idly next to the “button”-a bunker. Bring a book.

In 10-20 minutes, its captured.

3. Do this roughly 49 more times until the system you are in becomes vulnerable.

4. Repeat step one to get to the now vulnerable system.

5. Get your bad-ass fleet and spend 20+ minutes shootinng a building till it gets into structure. Run out of ammo a few times. Bring a book again.

6. Celebrate.

Yes, pirates and the other militia can attack you. If they do so, you have a few outcomes.

-they pwn you, in which everyone heads home. Repeat step 1, and hope they don’t camp the system.

-you pwn them, which is rare because you are either two guys in frigs/interceptors, or a big fleet which no one wants to fight.

-you run from each other. Ofen leads to a repeat of one of the above steps.

-you fight, but take losses enough to require reshipping. Half your fleet waits in a safe spot hoping reinforcements dont come. The other half jumps 3-13 systems to pay double the price for a new cruiser.

It really is this boring. I’m writing this post while doing the last step, sieging the system. Want to know the kicker?

You get nothing but standing.

No money, no items, nothing. You flip the system and all that happens is one line of text changes.

The problem is that CCP designed this assuming people would fight all the time over it. People don’t care though, except a few crazy people  like my corp leader. So its mostly very dull PvE action.

Sometimes sand is, just, well sand.

Autopiloting and you.

June 30, 2010

EvE online recently patched the new Tyrannis expansion. It was a brief patch at only 26MB, but it managed to break the game in one hilarious way involving autopilot.

Autopilot in EvE has two parts. One part plots the route between the systems you want to go to: the other automatically warps you there, stopping at 15km before each gate and going slowly to it. What broke was the first part. You can prioritize safer, but longer routes or faster but riskier, going through lowsec.

However, the safer route function actually wound up being the same as the riskier one.

What this means is a boatload of haulers, miners, and others got directed through pirate-infested lowsec when they thought they were slowboating through hisec. A lot of people got killed, lost some serious ISK. Pirates are filled with glee. The joke is that this is the promised low-sec buff.

The thing about EvE most people don’t see is that industrial and hauler characters get treated like crap a lot by the general populace. Sadly this is another way that happens, even when accidental.

Score one symbolic victory for the F2P crowd.

June 21, 2010

I just discovered that EA has made a F2P, browser based game. Can you guess which?

Lord of Ultima

Not sure how to feel on this. Taking the license based on what many people think is THE MMO and converting it into a browser-based game is some serious chutzpah. Even if it’s name only. It would be like naming SOE’s next game  Star Wars Galaxies Adventures.

Hardcore MMOs, a response.

June 21, 2010

Syp at Biobreak quoted a Systematic Babble post here about why targeting an MMO to hardcore people wont work, even if they charged double the cost. Problem is the post is wrong on a lot of points, too many to comment on so I’ll write my rebuttal here. After the break because I wrote a novel, though.

Read the rest of this entry »

FFXI and its hold on players

June 20, 2010

At work I have a co-worker named Jeremy, who still plays Final Fantasy XI. He’s on Asura server, and about mid-tier in endgame raids: he does Sky, Dynamis, and Sea.  Today we discussed a lot about it: while he plays he doesn’t keep up on the game as much as I do, so he didn’t know about the recent planned 75+ job abilities.

A surprising amount of people I know play it. Out of my coworkers at least 3 besides me have, and many on console.  In my past job another person did, and I used to often see fellow players at the local Gamestop. I think its a combination of the Final Fantasy brand, and the ability to be on console which puts it above the usual MMOs. I have never heard of anyone playing EQ2 or LOTRO yet in my circle of friends.

FFXI is also a very well designed game. There are 20 jobs, some of which are incredibly creative. Blue Mages learn spells by being hit with them from mobs, and set them via points, limiting the arsenal they can carry at one time. Puppetmasters have one of the best pets I have seen, a mini-player able to switch jobs like you can. There are tanks, pet soloists, healers, buffers and crowd control, meelee and magic dd, and hybrid jobs. There is always some job to appeal to someone.

The content is incredibly deep as well. 3 main mission lines for each nation. 3 long mission storylines for each expansion, mini expansions, multiple endgame raids for 6 man to alliance levels, and casual skirmish play in campaign. All of this running on a PS2 console with a small HDD.

I think many PC gamers understimate how strong FFXI’s hold is on a lot of us, and will be caught off guard when FFXIV gives TOR a run for it’s money. FFXIV looks to be taking a lot of the negatives of FFXI out, like massive grind, hard solo play, and endgame fixation, and working on more of the positives. It also looks amazing: Square Enix has a very understated but detailed art style for FFXI and FFXIV, and given their expertise with cutscenes will push the bar even higher.

I’m very excited for it, and will be there on launch day. Even with the problems of FFXI, the game managed to hold me so much that my usual MMO cynicism is fully checked. Jeremy is even trying to get me back to the original game: apparently Asura has a lot of noobs that need training, and it’s tempting.

Brainstorming solutions for PvP turnout

June 19, 2010

It’s better to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. So here are my ideas on how to increase PvP turnout in games.

-Make introductory PvP low-impact, but low-risk. While increasing risk may increase satisfaction too much risk too early will drive off people.

-Give rewards for failing, if only small rewards for psychological effect.

-Include many more non-combat PvP roles: medic, respawn point maker, scout. Starsiege Tribes let players do so, letting them make shielded respawns closer to enemy bases, let them fix turret defense guns and vehicles, and more. This way if you suck at direct PvP you can be useful.

-balance PvP to avoid “one-shot syndrome.” This is where power levels and force multipliers are so great that it’s possible to be dead in one hit. Even the noobiest noob should be able to take hits before going down.

-Always make it opt-in. The player should know he is going into a fire zone.

-Use PvE to guide players to PvP, and reinforce trying at it. Don’t make both two separate games. This may mean drastically reworking mob AI to use player tactics, even if just one at a time. One mob tries to kite you, the other attacks in swarms, etc.

-PvP tutorials.

What ideas do you have?

Strength and weakness: some thoughts on PvP

June 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking about PvP recently. Resubbing to EvE didn’t work out so well: the game was still the same as I left with the same issues. But thinking about it and FFXI gave me some insight on to why so many PvP games struggle. It’s about perception of your character in terms of strength and weakness.

In both games you start off at a low level of power, and are easily killed as you learn the game. What differs is the perception.

In FFXI its from strength to strength. While your character is weak early on, you aren’t made often to feel weak: the situations you find yourselves in normally are ones you can deal with with some basic knowledge of your class and capabilities. You also gain from every encounter, even ones you lose. Death is a setback, but a rare one.

In EVE though its from weakness to strength even at that. I never got the sense of competency in it. A lot of the game is just learning when to run away or when to join up with people. Even with success there was no sense of achievement: what does it matter when I am a face in a blob of ships? Death is also frequent and has no point: you learn nothing from jumping into a gate camp to get instapopped except not to jump into one. You don’t get the sense as easily that you can adjust, especially since skill changes take a long amount of real time to finish.

There’s also massive strength variations in terms of numbers and ship capabilities. My point is that PvP games tend to make players feel that they are weak, and maybe if they persist that one day they can become strong and pay people back. PvE games make players feel strong and let them reach towards higher feats of strength. Non-MMO PvP games also do this: in Halo a newbie playing Master Chief is in control of a powerful character, and the moving up is just to increase skill.

But MMO PvP games are tied both to open world PvP and the progression model, both of which wind up making the perception of weakness worse. Maybe that’s why so many new PvP games are MMOFPS. I think PvP MMO games could solve this by limiting numbers, and weakening the progression basis. Ironically the PvP I liked the most was in Champions Online where they did this very thing. They limited numbers in an arena, and progression-based differences were lessened due to level tiers.

PvP games need to make new characters feel strong and in control, even if they lose or need to progress to win. Otherwise people wont stick around to raise their skill. Most don’t though because of the nature of MMO PvP.