Archive for the ‘MMO’ category

Return of the Ultimate

May 28, 2011

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It’s been years since I’ve really gotten into Ultima Online, but this past week has seen me playing UO more than any of my other games. Why? Even after all these years it’s still the most unique, amazing MMO I’ve ever played. So what’s so good about this game that most MMO players have never even tried? Well, I’ll be playing for a while it seems, so I’ll keep you all in the loop.

The first thing you’ll notice, almost instantly, is the amazing community in Ultima Online. From the time I stepped out of the tutorial section, which lasted all of five minutes but covered the basics, I had people passing me and waving, or stopping to ask if I needed anything. A few even just stopped to chat for a bit. This really shook me at first, and I had to retrain myself to not find it strange to talk to strangers again.

After about twenty minutes of exploring the small town that they start you in, a town completely overrun by the undead, I made my way to New Haven, the only real city on the starter island. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in a conversation at the bank about whether I wanted to play the game without any starter help, or whether I’d like a few items and a little bit of money. I took the items to help me not die, and the money to insure my items. Insuring is something that wasn’t always in UO, but you basically pay a certain amount of gold to insure an item, more gold for better items, and when you die all your insured items will stay with you. This would be prohibitively expensive for a noob to do to all his gear, but having a weapon and armor when you’re trying to get back to where your body is really helps.

Speaking of death, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ultima Online’s death system. When you die your ghost starts standing over your body. Unlike WoW, you don’t start at a graveyard and make your way back. As a ghost most people won’t be able to see or talk to you, unless they have a high spirit speak skill, so your goal is to find either a wandering healer NPC, a player that can see and res you, or head back to a city and find the main healer shoppe, where they will res you. Then it’s your job to get back to your body before it decomposes or someone takes your stuff.

Anyway, I was invited to join a pretty active guild on my first day, and they took me to their Guild Hall in order to have a small ceremony where they informed me of the guild policies and what was and was not expected of me. After that I was informed that the guild does a Hunt every night practically, and noobs were welcome to come along. We met up at 6pm pacific at the Guild Hall for a quick rundown of the night’s Hunt and what we were planning on doing.

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We took a portal one of our mages made to the ice caverns where we were to fight the White Wyrm and the Ice Fiends that patrolled near it. The cave was really amazing, the fog rolling through made it feel cold and obstructed our view, making it seem like people and monsters were winking in and out of existence.

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The UI of UO generally stays in the black area. It seems weird at first, but it allows you to see the game world unobstructed. Aside from the health bars up there, which are movable, and have small buttons on them that I can click to heal or purge my party members.

We made our way through the ice caverns and killed the dragon, and I only died twice. After a harrowing search by everyone for my corpse, which turned out to be underneath an ice elemental, I got my gear re-equipped and we decided to take on the rat people that were in a cave connected to the ice caverns. The first thing I noticed was that each of the rat people had a name. Not like “Rat Enforcer” like most MMOs, but a unique name for everyone of them.

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The rat fort was pretty cool. A massive wooden fort with high gates and wooden pole walls in a huge cavern deep underground. Of course they swarmed us like rats, but our mages and dragon tamers easily took care of the whole lot. After that we had to call it a night, and everyone finished looting and took the portal back to the guild hall. There all the money was given to the hunt leader, who took it to the bank and had checks written to split the gold between the four of us noobs who needed the money. They gave me my check, which I took running to the bank, and I now had 50,000 gold. It’s not much in Ultima Online, but it’ll let me keep my equipment insured.

All in all it was the best experience I’ve had in an MMO in nearly ten years. The people were all great, and even days later I mentioned not being sure if I was ready to leave the noob island of New Haven, and a guild member voluntarily came down and hung out with me for over an hour, just chatting and watching me kill things as he got a sense for whether I was ready, both character skill and player skill wise. Then we just chatted for a bit, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that in an MMO.

Ultima is back baby, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.

Rift…Set…Go!

February 26, 2011

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Amun is my tanking Warrior on the PvE Deepwood server.

As anyone who is even remotely interested in this blog already knows, Rift launched on the 24th and I’ve spent every moment of my free time playing. In fact, the only reason you’re getting a post is because they’ve brought the shards down again to do some quick fixes. I love that Trion is willing to fix things quickly.

Both me and the wife are sitting at level 17. She’s a healing Cleric, human style, while I am a tanking Warrior of the Dwarven persuasion. We’re having a blast, and it’s a great combo for any MMO. If we run into a Rift, a Greater Rift, or an Invasion we have no problems. I throw down some initial AOE aggro moves, then settle into alt smacking everything around me while she heals. He constantly add people as well, so if you are on the Deepwood server we’ve probably already grouped together once.

I haven’t had a chance to do any dungeons yet. They start at 17, so we are waiting until 18 to go, in order to give ourselves some leeway. I did try the Warfronts, and just as I feared being level 10, you are utterly useless. I chased this level 19 Cleric around the map, he never even healed, just let me whack and miss the entire match. So we haven’t gone back, but being level 17 we’re ready to take the plunge. I just really wish Trion has taken a que from WoW and made the PVP brackets 5 levels instead of 10. That is the best change to WoW PVP I’ve seen since the game launched, and I had hoped Rift would follow suit.

I did however have a pretty epic moment. Due to the massive amount of people in the 10-20 zone there are tons of invasions and rifts going off all the time. This WILL clear up as you level higher and the population thins out, which is good because at the moment it’s almost TOO much. Almost. Anyway, we were participating in one of the zone wide mass invasions, and we never get to help take out the final boss. He’s always too far away for us to get it. This time he spawned nearly on my head. He was a level 20 elite raid style boss, and I was only level 16. I managed to tank him for the entire 15 minute fight, only loosing aggro a dozen or so times throughout. I managed to get it back, and even got a couple of people in zone chat telling me I did a great job tanking, which felt pretty damn good.

One thing I’m furious with though is the racial abilities. Every race gets some kind of movement increase, such as the group aoe sprint humans get, or the 15 second cooldown short duration FLIGHT that the High Elves get. What did Dwarves get? I can fall a bit farther than everyone else. Gee, that’d be fair if the entire game was played on a cliffside. Jumping off a slightly taller cliff and almost dying is only slightly better than doing it and dying, and it’s far behind an AOE sprint or a quick cooldown flight option.

The other race that got screwed, but to a lesser extent, is the Kelari. They basically get to turn into ghost foxes. This doesn’t increase movement speed, which sucks, but it does allow them to walk almost on top of aggroable mobs and not have them aggro. This does increase the speed with which you arrive at your destination by allowing you to bypass a ton of fights, but it’s still only slightly better than nothing.

All in all, I’m having a friggin blast playing, and I can’t wait to get another level and get some dungeons under my belt. I did manage to get my Mining to 75, and my Armorsmithing to 75 as well before logging off. My Runecrafting is only at 51, so that’s not that good, but it’s not too bad.

What is an MMO?

January 29, 2011

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Back in 1997, when Ultima Online released, MMOs were a fledgling genre. No one was sure if they would succeed. Hell, no one even knew exactly what constituted an MMO. Of course there would be a persistent world for the players to interact in (in the case of Guild Wars that persistent world would just be the city and the player hubs), and character progression would be included as that is the basis for all computer role playing games.

So, in 2011 has the genre become a more solid entity? Do we understand exactly what makes an MMORPG, let alone what makes a GOOD MMORPG? The answer, I feel, is no. Right now there seem to be two categories of MMO gamer. The first is the old school MMO player, the guys and girls who cut their teeth on AOL Muds, Ultima Online, Everquest and the like. These people will take every opportunity to let you know that they’ve played UO or EQ (much like I’ve done above, and right here, and probably below this too). The second is the player who got drawn into MMOs because of World of Warcraft. These are not necessarily still playing WoW, and it’s these people who are often the most likely to rant and scream about how terrible WoW is.

To that first category, which from here on will be referred to as Old People, todays MMOs are missing that spark that made UO and EQ great. No one is exactly sure what it was that made them so great, but everyone has a theory and they won’t hesitate to share it with you. From the more sandbox nature of UO, to the neverending grind/socialization of EQ, players will talk about how much more ‘alive’ the old MMOs were.

The second category, which I have dubbed Noobs, doesn’t have those old school games to warp their perception. Often these people have only ever played WoW, or if they have branched out most of them haven’t been able to enjoy the other MMOs out there. Why? Because for them WoW IS MMOs. They may have stopped playing it because 3 years of any single game is enough to drive someone insane, but WoW is still their basis for comparison. To these people the more social aspects of MMOs take a backseat to their personal progression.

So which of these people are right? Neither really. The Noobs (forgive me for the name Noobs, it just fits when compared to us Old People) believe that an MMO that forces them to group up is a failure, while the Old People will scream about how the old games, like EQ, were far superior to the new games because they forced you to group up and interact with people. Coincidently they will be playing one of the new games and NOT one of the old school MMOs.

Now that I’ve grossly over generalized an entire group of people, let’s get to what I think an MMO is, and what I want to see in an MMO. The first thing is that we need the basics: persistent world, character progression. That’s the basis for an MMORPG. Sadly most companies making MMOs, ever since the early days of EverQuest, decided that the most important thing about making an MMO was keeping their players playing for as long as possible. This has resulted in the dreaded EQ year long grind to the level cap, the 40 or more man raids, and the horror that is rep grinding.

When do we put up with shit like that in our single player games? If I picked up the new Dragon Age II and it told me I needed to grind the same quests/mobs for a few months before I could fight the final boss it’d be the first game I brought back to a store and demanded a refund for. So why do we accept it as part of an MMO? For the same reason millions of people play FarmVille. Is it tedious and ultimately pointless? Yes. Does it take hours out of your day just to do something you get no enjoyment out of? Yes. Does it also allow you to space out, like vegging out in front of the Television, while at the same time interacting with friends and feeling like you are accomplishing something? DING DING.

So MMOs, since the beginning, feed on our basic want to improve ourself, while at the same time allowing us to sit around and space out, grinding away on mobs for rep or xp. Was it fun in Final Fantasy XI to get a good group of Linkshell mates and just grind mobs for hours? It could be a total blast if you had the right combination of people to chat with, but you know what? I could get that in a damn AOL chat room too. A video game should not have a caveat like: Sure the gameplay and story are boring as shit, but I get to chat with people and compare myself to others as I play! A video game, of ANY genre, should above all be fun to play.

I’ve recently been reminded, thanks to several blog posts and friends playing DCUO, exactly what I always wanted in an MMO.  Ever since I first started playing Ultima Online I realised that I wanted a video game with a persistent world. That has yet to happen. Instead we’ve gotten repetitive grinds, whether quests that are meaningless kill quests or straight grinding for rep or XP. There is very little ‘game’ in current MMOs. I want the basic concept behind games like Demon Souls multiplayer aspects taken to the extreme.

I want a single player experience wrapped in an MMORPG. Give me an 80 hour single player RPG like Dragon Age, then make it the same persistent world that everyone else playing the game is occupying. Let me hit the city and see thousands of players walking around, doing quests, shopping or just chatting. Don’t give me bullshit quests just because you’ve decided it should take me a month to get to the level cap and you need more quests to fill up the time. Treat it like Dragon Age, where most quests are either directly involved with the main questline, or if not they are epic on their own.

Then what happens when you’re level 20, at the level cap, and you’ve finished with the 80 hour storyline? That’s end game baby, time to do some end game dungeon runs and start raiding just like everyone else. Don’t let it end there either. I don’t need massive expansions every year, but instead I should have DLC constantly. Perhaps a five or six hour story once a month, and perhaps a new raid or so every two months. Then the expansion hits and the level cap is raised to 30 and everyone levels up and gets ready for end game again.

So what’s the difference between that and current MMOs? Removal of the boring stuff. Should you have to go spend a while gathering herbs for potion making? Yes. Should you have to spend three weeks grinding daily quests to get your rep up with someone so you can get one piece of enchantment that you need for raiding? No, that’s done ONLY so that you spend more time playing and thus more time spending money on the game.

Does an MMO need to keep me playing nothing but it for three years? No. But it should be fun while I am playing it. When did we start accepting bad design and purposefully gimping our playing experience just so the company making it could (theoretically) make more money. It seems stupid to me, but I write this while waiting on the PVP que for WoW to pop, so it’s not like I’m voting with my wallet here. Still, it means The Old Republic could be exactly what I’m looking for.