Monthly Archives: April 2010

Only a Matter of Time

I figured this would happen eventually; Realtime Worlds announced their pricing structure for APB, and it includes usage-based billing. Old-school cell phone plans have come to the MMO sphere!

I can’t say it comes as a surprise, or that it’s even something with which I disagree. As a gamer with two young kids, the number of hours I can spend playing is fairly limited. It would likely take me more than a month to burn through 50 hours of play time. That, and they offer the monthly ‘unlimited’ plan and, whats more, for less than a standard subscription! My guess is that players will be able to move from unlimited to purchased sets of hours fairly seamlessly.

It’s always been a question of mine why more companies don’t do something like this. I figured it was easier from the financial perspective to just do flat rates and average out bandwidth consumption across all players. People like me tend to pay for the power users who absorb a higher-than-average amount of bandwidth. That, and it’s just easier for the player – pay your monthly fee and have at it. Don’t worry about how much time you have left.

So APB sits somewhere between the standard subscription model and Guild Wars. I don’t doubt that this will work for some people – some will pay by the hour, some by the month. New business models always make me happy, particularly when they represent more choice for the consumer. I have to wonder – could this be something like the “alternative financial model” hinted at a few month ago for The Old Republic?

Interference Prevails

Luckily it’s been a slow day or two (at least, as far as MMO news for those games about which I care), so the interference thrown at me by the Real World has been less than bothersome. Aside from the normal bother, that is.

There’s this. And, of course, this. As a current player, I always like the LotRO Welcome Back Weeks/Weekends. I make it a point to get in on an alt or two to make the most of the bonus experience, and the savings at the Stablemasters. Hauling back and forth between the Lone Lands and North-Downs can get expensive, and I’ve never liked grinding through one of those in one swoop; by the time you get through one, the other has lost a lot of its value. And as both are somewhat blah visually, I like to get the most out of them while I spend my time there. Thing is, Turbine seems to be throwing quite a few of these “Welcome Back” events recently, and that makes me a little nervous.

Catching up on some reading, I came across this post by SynCaine. I agree with it wholeheartedly, both as a fan of the Warhammer universe (though I’ve always been partial to the Warhammer 40k setting), and a former player of WAR. I’ve always felt it was a shame that I payed for WAR, because if I’d started now, I’d have saved myself the money. I never took a single character past what is now included in the Endless Trial.

There were several reasons I never stuck with the game, but a lot of them come back to the same disappointments SynCaine expresses. The feeling I get playing WAR just doesn’t match up to the lore of the world I’ve grown up reading and playing; it’s too much like WoW, and not enough like it’s source material. Also, when I was playing, the Tier 1 areas were mostly empty. I imagine this issue has been somewhat alleviated by the Endless Trial, but the damage was done (for me, at least).

There are some great things about WAR, no doubt. Public quests. Item customization and cosmetic items. The IP itself is world-renowned. The implementation, however, is lacking. There’s too much between me and the fun.

ArenaNet Blog

Now with more manifesto!

ArenaNet opened up their blog today with a strong statement:

“Our games aren’t about preparing to have fun, or about grinding for a future fun reward. Our games are designed to be fun from moment to moment.”

That pretty much sums it up, and, for me, it’s the most important point being made. The entire post is a great read, and if you’re a fan of Guild Wars, or looking forward to GW2, I definitely recommend it. Also, Bio Break has a good summary of the major points; check it out.

A few things jumped out at me as I read through it. First and foremost, it really seems like ArenaNet has embraced the idea of streamlining the gaming “process”. The biggest to me was “encouraging” socialization without forcing it into a specific mechanic. From the description, it sounds like the process of formalized grouping has taken a back seat, and the game will automatically recognize a player’s contribution to a situation, and reward them appropriately. At the very least it seems like it will mitigate the competition for grinding mobs. At best, it will enhance the experience by actively rewarding players who come to each other’s rescue. It’s a great idea, and I’m going to love seeing how it plays out.  They’ve borrowed a few ideas from their colleagues, such as public quests, a personal story, and more dynamic combat, but seem to, again, be defining their game on their own terms. Considering that the original Guild Wars is a uncontested success, this only means good things for fans of the game and the genre.

They’re also adding in some of the traditional RPG elements I really miss in the original game. Or so they say. Either way, it’s looking really good. As if I wasn’t excited enough, now I’m practically frothing at the mouth to try this game.

*ding* Welcome to the “endgame”!

My burglar hit the level cap this weekend, which is always an interesting milestone for me.  This time was particularly fun, as I had just joined a new kinship. While it’s always nice to see the “end” of the XP Bar (at least, for the time being), hearing hearty congratulations from others is always appreciated.

Having played quite a few MMOs, but having reached the level cap in only a few, I still find the differences in “endgame” content quite fascinating. World of Warcraft, for example, is oriented around PvP and raiding. Everquest 2 seems to be mostly raiding, though I don’t say this from personal experience. Others, like EVE, don’t have so much of an endgame, as there isn’t much of a path to follow, and how do you get to the “end” of a sandbox? But as you progress, corporate intrique and (as always) PvP are the main activities.

LotRO, at least for me, seems to take a slightly different approach to the endgame. Turbine seems to have chosen content as one of the primary activities for level-capped players. I noticed it in Moria, and I’ve noticed it now in Siege of Mirkwood; I hit the level cap long before I had worked through even a majority of the content. There is, of course, raiding to be done, and PvP is always an option. But my burglar hit 60 in the very early parts of Moria (I hadn’t yet run a single radiance instance), and 65 in Lothlorien. I haven’t even seen Mirkwood yet, nor have I run all of the Moria instances.

For a player like me, hitting the level cap is far down my list of priorities when playing the game. However, this strategy can be dangerous for Turbine – it is never possible to keep up with the truly “hardcore” in terms of content. The power players always seem to burn through the new content far quicker than it can be developed, and what do they do then?

Playing Hero

Finally caught up with the new developer documentary for Star Wars: The Old Republic (TOR). Needless to say, I’m pretty impressed. Syp over at Bio Break does a good job of summing it up. I agree, up until he says “Trooper”. I’m all about the Imperial Agent. And the Smuggler (I mean, really, what person my age hasn’t dreamt about being Han Solo?).

Sure, it was a little choppy in places. The game’s not even in beta yet. And for a product due for release over a year from now it looks pretty good. But great visuals are something I’ve come to expect from BioWare.

What really piqued my interest was the commentary. Specifically, the part about heroics and a single player taking on a group of enemies, fighting through “overwhelming odds”, and making it through. I play solo mostly, so this appeals to me. It adds a whole new level of drama. Players get to be the hero (amongst many, I know…).

What I worry about is that it’s too much focus on the solo player. Will TOR be a single player experience, grouping optional? Hopefully not. I may not always have time to group, but it’s a critical part of the “massively multiplayer” experience, and worthwhile. My hope is that BioWare just scales encounters to group size in some fashion; a solo player encounters 3 bad guys, a group of 6 encounter 15. Something like that.

The thing I always stick on is lightsaber combat. I felt it in Knight of the Old Republic (though they had an explanation for it), and I feel it now. Lightsabers cut through everything. A robot struck with a lightsaber should go down in a single swipe. For that matter, so should anything else. To see a Jedi or Sith swinging away at anything over and over just robs the experience of something, no matter how acrobatically awesome it may play.