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January 11, 2009

Comments

Tipa

Totally with you on this. When the grind starts in an MMO, I'm deciding whether or not it's worth it. Life is short.

Scott

So, basically you'll be playing Darkfall, eh? =)

I still ride the fence on this myself. On the one hand, I primarily enjoy doing raids (notice I didn't say "raiding") for the experience. I look forward to someday seeing the raids in DDO, maybe *maybe* even Vanguard though I doubt I'll ever actually reach level cap there. I appreciate the creative work, artistry and love that went into the creation of those areas and those encounters. Being part of a friendly group when we successfully figure out and/or pull off a strategy to overcome a boss encounter brings it home why I'm participating in a massively multiplayer game.

On the other hand, there comes a time when you want (or want your character) to have something to show for your time and effort other than a smile.

I'm no fan of gear-based games but that's all we've had for entirely too long. It's a shame all the upcoming sandboxy games that are not gear-dependent (because gear degrades and is lootable) are also focusing on hardcore PvP which will run off all the types of people I enjoy gaming with and leave nothing but the types I avoid like the plague... :(

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Scott - I haven't been following Darkfall. I should have added, "I'm done following games. I'll see you when you release. kktnxbuhbye" LOL

You sound like me in that, I want the RPG back in MMOs. I'm tired of the leader-board gear chasing. I understand wanting something to show for your character. The way Kinless and his wife set goals for themselves which include gear, comes off to me as healthy character progression. They are doing the content, having adventures and building memories together, where gear is a part of that journey. Gear has a value to them as players, and the roles they play in groups. I think it's appropriate that they value their gear for how they play, like I value mine since I solo. It's the random drop grind that should be abolished, linked to what amounts to critical gear.

I just think it's time for players who don't value the gear in that way, don't have the time to grind it or aren't interested in spending game time grinding it, to have other options other than being literally locked out of experiencing some of the content that they've already paid to have access to.

Choices is what I'm trying to promote and I think it's coming anyway, much sooner than some players will like. :-)

Sente

I very much agree with you here. The gear focus in some games to drive time-sinks and grind is something that I never quite understood why people put up with it.

Although I and not particuarly keen on any type of grind if it is just there to provide some time-sink to delay my access to content rather than some actual challenge/puzzle/whatever.

If the game companies put these things in place in order to get enough money from the players to fund the real content development, then I would be happy to pay a bit extra to avoid that.

Of course I would rather see a game without grind elements and that may provide repeatable content with some meaningful challenges/accomplishments.

Jason

Thanks for listening Saylah.

Your earlier blog post just made too much damn sense and I decided to punish you accordingly by mentioning it. ;)

Honestly, I really can't add much to the conversation. You pretty much summed up exactly how I feel.

"Took-20-times guy isn't more special or glowy than took-1-time guy."

Damn straight, but 'Took-20-times' guy is probably starting to develop an aneurysm after being forced to run the same instance 20 times for one item.

I refuse to be that guy.

Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Sente - I'm not interested in playing the IP that Bioware is working on but I am damn curious to see how it plays out - game mechanics, leveling, questing, gear acquisition, etc. and what if anything is RMT.

Yes, I want the game without the grind. I mean some grind is fine I get that is somewhat of a treadmill. But I feel like Blizzard has become so freakin' blatant with the grind in WOW it's just like there, in your face and I remain shocked how the get away with it. There is amazing leveling content in WOW. There is spectacular scripted encounters. I've never contended any less but that other stuff - reps was bad, attunements a slap in the face and then dailies? Dailies?!? Is it High School or what? I remain boggled over how they got away with that one. LOL

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Jason - Thanks, I appreciated the mention on the topic. I'm always up for a good conversation about MMOs.

Not meaning to offend anyone but the funny thing is that 20-times-guy actually thinks he's special and that's the joke of jokes. When in fact, 1-time-guy is the special one because he was lucky enough to get what he needed and move on to other content. 1-time-guy can go back for fun or help others at his own leisure and pleasure. He's free to see the rest of what he's paying for, now. He's the one that should be more glowy for his luck at beating the grind machine in one roll.

Melf_Himself

Good rant, I'm with you all the way. Bet you're back to WoW by the end of the year though :o

Lars

I'd like to be with you on this one. I'm tired of time-sinks. I may be perpetually dissatisfied with the current state of MMO gameplay, but I haven't found any decent alternatives. Eve Online came close, but I found the gameplay exceptionally boring. And, as someone else already noted, while I really want a sandbox type world and it seems we are going to be getting some soon, it seems like they are all trying to cater to the gankfest free for all PVP crowd.

Where is the sandbox PVE game, and is such a thing possible?

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Melf - I wouldn't advise you to bet real money on me being back in WOW. The fact is that I haven't missed it at all. It's like a flavor or candy you loved, you gorged on and then you're done with it. It is possible ya know, for your tastes to change and evolve. *smile*

My tastes aren't better than anyone who is still playing WOW just different. The fundamental game-play of WOW hasn't changed. You get fabulous leveling content, hit max and pick your hamster wheel. I can't do it anymore. If it's easier for people to think I'm broken instead of these treadmill gaming mechanics, that's fine. I'm broken and don't want to be fixed.

@Lars - Hmm, very interesting question about sandbox PVE. That warrants some thought and a full post of it's own. I should noodle on what that would that means to me, what things pop into my head when I think, Sandbox PVE. I know what it isn't, at least for me, is Second Life.

I seriously have to think on that because if all we want to do as humans when we get sandbox game is blow each others brains out(PVP) or indulge in endless erotica (SL), I don't know what to think but it ain't good. :-)

Tesh

Excellent article, Saylah. I've gotta point this out, though:

"Isn't the content what I paid for anyway?"

If you're a subscriber, nope. You're not paying for content, you're paying for access to content. It's a very different animal.

If you're playing Guild Wars, yes, you paid for content. Content you can play at whatever pace you like, for however long you like. Notably, there is less grind and gear reliance in GW. That's not coincidental.

Paying for time means the devs want to waste as much of your time as possible, with as little work as possible, to make more money off of you for as little investment as possible. If you're paying for content, the devs have to work for their living, and woo you with consistently good content.

Winged Nazgul

Excellent post, Saylah. Did you get the chance to check out my recent entries about the same subject on my blog? http://wingednazgul.blogspot.com/2009/01/daily-grind.html and http://wingednazgul.blogspot.com/2009/01/clarifying-grind.html

Basically, I believe the feeling of grinding and tolerance for them are individual decisions. You certainly seem to have made yours. For instance, I had no problem doing the gear grind in WoW because that's what I knew the game was all about by that time. The reason I'm balking this time in WAR is because gearing up my character gains me entry to doing city scenarios and king fights - glorified PVE encounters. Not really what I'm looking for in a RVR game.

BTW, just recently tried Wizard101 over the weekend. Will do a post about it soon.

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Tesh - Thanks.

You're right about paying for access and not necessarily paying for the content, if we want to be technical about it. The thought of that came to mind when I realized in W101 that you don't get access to a new zone simply by being the right level. You have to complete a series of quest chains. At first I balked at the idea - paying for stuff I can't see until I jump through the hoops??? I imagined the normal jump through hoops grind crap and wasn't not happy.

Then I started doing the content and got access to the second world without a single grind activity. NONE. And I didn't even realize I was already on the road to access. I was just doing the quests, doing them all because I was having fun. So when I finally checked on the requirement, I'd already done it just hadn't spoken to the finishing NPC.

That's a perfect entitlement model and access requirement. W101 didn't expect me to go off a do a zone or instance repeatedly before granting me what I needed to move forward - progress in the content. That said, gaining access to the third world was much trickier. I don't think a child can do it without help, direction and supervision. Not only are the bosses you have to defeat considerably stronger than you are, there are many many puzzles and multiple boss encounters. And the final instance is long, large and must be completed in a single session.

Even that is more desirable then asking me to repeat content as a barrier to entry, on the false premise of learning to play my class and acquiring the gear needed for the encounters.

The problem I can see here for W101 is longevity of the player-base. I'd like to try a different class but going through the content is rather intense and not something I'd be willing to immediately re-do. Besides which, their model doesn't really promote or require you to repeat content which means, they're going to have to produce additional content and at reasonable pace to keep subscribers.

Tipa has been done with the content for a while, as are others at max level and they're waiting for the expansion. She's not max level so she can start doing the grind on existing content which I think she does sometimes. She's also farming for specific items she really wants. So it's not like W101 doesn't have that option they just don't make those items "required" to progress or artificial cock-block's to progression. If you want those items bad enough farm 'em. If not, move on and use whatever you do have that's sufficient.

For $6.95 I'd keep the sub going while waiting a couple of months on new content. I think the ranked PVP that is coming is going to give players that something else to do if they run out of content and don't want/need to farm items.

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Winged - Thanks

I was wondering how hardcore PVP people were going to feel about doing a PVE encounter as the end step of city capture, in a PVP game. I'll head over and read it now. I didn't get much blog reading in this weekend. I'll comment over there.

Tesh

It's not just a technicality, though, Saylah. It's a very different business model and motivation for the devs. That's why I keep pointing it out; it affects how the game is developed. We get the grind because it's in the company's best interest to make us grind; that's how they earn their keep under a sub model.

Speaking of redoing the W101 content, I've done the free trial zones with three characters now. I like being able to approach things with a different class, since they play differently. That's the appeal of WoW for me as well; trying out different playstyles. That said, you're right, the vast majority of content is shared between classes... and it can get too repetitive.

I think your last paragraph there is important, too. W101 allows for grinding. Some people like going into a Zen mob hunting phase. There's nothing wrong with that. Making it necessary for progress is the sticking point, aye?

Scott

Good one, Tesh! I consider the monthly fee to be paying for a service, just like I pay monthly for cable. That monthly fee gives me access to everything on cable but I'm not "guaranteed" access to a show unless I make myself available to sit down and watch it at the specific day and time it's playing. MMOGs are the same -- I pay monthly for access to all the generic content but I have to make myself available (levels, gear, faction, whatever the "cock-block" happens to be) for the specialized content.

I guess I can understand part of the gear grinds. Your typical raid takes 6 months or longer to develop so you want to recoup the cost by having players in there (and paying their monthly sub) to enjoy it. On the other hand, Guild Wars pulled it off with not only having a story but made it so one time was enough unless you *wanted* to repeat the content. On the one hand we can say "oh, but GW is multi-player, not massively multi-player" but then what is your typical dungeon or raid these days? Instanced for your decidedly *not* massively multi-player sized group!

Sandbox PvE is totally doable. That's exactly what SWG was back in the day. Sure it had *some* PvP but the entire game wasn't based on ganking all day; PvP was pretty rare and nearly always was meaningful in some way or another (in personal character terms, not territory conquest-wise). I like some of the ideas in Darkfall and Mortal Online. I like even more of the ideas in Earthrise. But all of them are also catering to the hardcore PvP crowd which will force them into little niches. I guess I'm a "carebear" in that sense: I love PvP in games meant for PvP. I don't care for PvP in my RPGs though. Sure the *idea* of a Helm's Deep scale battle is attractive but that was a single battle that had great meaning to a story. Put it into an RPG and it becomes just another flag to capture ad nauseum that will eventually reset anyway. Add free-for-all PvP to the mix and the kiddies and bullies come out of the woodwork, making the normal people's lives miserable to the point they quit the game.

@Saylah: You mentioned abolishing the random-drop aspect like WoW used (still uses?) in their raids. How does LOTRO stack up with bosses dropping a "gem" (in addition to various loot) that is traded for a piece of the raid armor? Someone is guaranteed to get something that way, whereas in WoW back in the day we had several times no one got a single piece because it was random (especially when they added shaman loot to the tables way before TBC actually launched -- awesome, bound loot for a class we can't even play yet on Alliance-side!) or everyone already had it. At least with the gem/token method someone is guaranteed to get something.

Khan

Great post, Saylah. I've had mixed feelings about paying for gear. If it keeps me playing with my friends and seeing content, I wouldn't mind much at all.

@Scott - Personally, I'd put the gem mechanic LotRO uses as just a more player-friendly version of WoW's systems. Better, but not by much. You still have to enter a raid with other players, smash your way to the boss that drops the gem, kill him and then win the roll. My kinship adapted a Suicide Kings system to help out with gem distribution. If I could have just bought the set, I would have considered it. Then I could raid for fun if I wanted to. Even then, the gear wasn't really required to see the content, just a nice-to-have reward for doing it.

The Watcher encounter will be different. It will require a minimum number of set pieces with +radiance on them just to survive entering the instance. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet - if the lead-up instances are fun, I may not care that much.

I'd like to see something where you could not only get an item from a particular gem but any item for any gem. Show players all the gear available and let them pick the stuff they want. Have the gems set up as world drops so non-raiders would have a shot at getting them too. I liked how Turbine originally set up the Helegrod set (world drops were available - that's how I got the gloves). And if they added an RMT system where I could buy gear I wanted, that would be ok with me too.

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Kahn - Thanks

I'm not pro "let's all buy gear". I'm anti force me to grind random drops to progress. Gearing up for an encounter is fine. however, the inescapable truth is that if they want to give you a gear progression, they can just as well provide each piece as a quest reward. The randomness is intentional, as is the repetition grind.

I'm perfectly fine if I need these 5 set pieces to survive X encounter, IF each piece is given as a reward from a kill or quest so that I know, I will do this 5 times to get my stuff if I want to fight X boss. The badge/gem concept is a better than random but even there, everyone should get one every time they complete the instance. The fact that they don't again, is an intentional mechanic. Getting the reward for successful completion should be the only entitlement necessary, not being also lucky with the dice roll after you've clearly done the work for the reward.

Games built on that model are the ones I'm sick of and think they need other options for people who don't have the time or inclination to wait for the lucky roll. And since there is no skill involved at that point purchasing in game currency or RMT should be considered.

Your idea for how they could improve it in LOTRO sounds like a more player friendly option.

Khan

Just to clairify: that's how the gem mechanic works currently. If we down the boss in the Rift that drops the gem for the head gear, anyone in the raid can win the gem. It's not class-specific. If I get it (a burglar) I bring it to the burglar gear guy and get the burg head gear. If the hunter gets it, they turn it in to the hunter guy and get the hunter head get. It's better than having a class-specific item drop when no classes present need it.

I'm still debating the issue. On the one hand, I'd like to see gear removed completely from the equation. Raids are fun, or not fun. If they're not fun, don't go to them. Make the gear questable, grindable, PvP-able and any of a number of other things (including, perhaps, RMT). On the other hand, gear could be, as you say, a quest reward for everyone from a raid quest or something like that. Everyone killing boss one completes the quest and gets something for having done it.

On the other hand, making gear less important would resolve the same issue (or make it so gear only pertains to certain activities). In LotRO, gear isn't that vital outside raiding or PvP. I'm level 58 and still running around in most of my Rift armor. I haven't felt compelled to change it yet.

Danshir

I went through the same thing after grinding several days worth to get Season 2 PvP gear in World of Warcraft(this was prior to Wrath). All that effort doing very asinine activities over...and over..and over for gear that made me do X more damage than before?

That's it?

The realization came to me that I was simply spending not only money but valuable time out of my day to change 1000 to 1010. Since then I've been pursuing more interesting fare. (Thank you Tipa for recommending Wizard 101 to me.)

Now I'm a big fan of RMT if it's done properly. Considering how much cash is flowing into Sony's and Microsoft's coffers from "fluff" items for their systems(Like the furniture in PlayStation Home) I really think a decent chunk of money could be made from this alone as well as extra content.

I made a post about my opinions on RMT on my website if you want to check it out. http://www.themmoexperience.com/2009/01/station-cash-was-just-prelude-prepare.html

Scott

@Khan: Yeah overall LOTRO is just about the least gear-centric MMORPG I've played in awhile, and I like it that way. I only have a couple Rift pieces but I have the full Annuminas set and at nearly 57 I'm still wearing it. I haven't even considered swapping a new piece yet; it just hasn't been worth losing the set bonuses for some minor increases on individual item stats. I'll eventually have the full radiance set anyway but I'm intentionally taking my time leveling and getting there right now.

In fact my kinship will be re-running the Rift to get the Radiance buff to stack onto our Watcher raids anyway, so I may end up getting my Rift set just for kicks anyway!

@Saylah: As Khan explained, the boss gems in LOTRO are just piece-specific, not class-specific. Each class has a specific trader for that raid's armor and the gem will give say, the leg piece, no matter which class has it. That way it's not wasted like it might be with a totally random loot table. And with raid locks, if everyone in the raid has a certain piece someone can enter and get locks up to the point people are missing gear and skip all the earlier bosses.

Drugh

Very nice post. Seems all the years of WoWism are catching up with us. "Nowadays" the MMO-Player are at least in my view becoming quite egocentric, totally focused on the endgame with the leveling/story part being a large nuisance along the way. My wife and me started WotLK very slow, we are at level 74 at the moment and enjoy it a lot. Next to that, from the various MMOs I believe LOTRO suits my playstyle best, too. The crafting system I have started to love now as it provides the similar result without any hassle with boss fights, distribution system, etc. And lore-wise, this even makes sense. Where would Smaug the mighty Red have gotten his "loot" from? Right, cunning crafters. So for me this will be the way to go: Look out for MMOs in the future where story, gameplay and crafting stands in the foreground, not PvP, Grinding and endless instance visits to get suit piece X of set Y to enter Boss fight Z. If LOTRO has this sort of encounters, I will skip them.

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Drug - Thanks

I keep thinking about trying LOTRO again for the lore, crafting and wonderful scenery but I didn't like the questing system much so leveling was blah. I do like to go ding.

I think I need exciting combat after the likes on Age of Conan, which showed that killing mobs one at a time with there are two or three in the range of your damage is just silly! Now offing them one at a time seems tedious unless the combat itself is unique or fun like in Warhammer Online. Just watching the smug and stylistic moves on my Bright Wizard was engaging. Seeing how many I could pull and survive on my Warrior Priest invigorating. I'm much less tolerant now of slugging it out one dull and uninspired swing at a time. *Yawn* Combat in LOTRO didn't strike me as engaging and the quests were rather "eh" too.

I'm glad that you and you're wife have found a comfortable stride. I still might give it a whirl. I already own the box so for 15-bucks or whatever it is, I could see how I feel about it for a month.

Capn John

Off-Topic: That's why I loved Retaliation on my Warrior, and Blade Flurry on my CS Rogue. It's just a pity their CDs were so damn long.

My Rogue was my Shard Farmer and I'd hit SM to farm Herod (people love those Fiery Enchant Shards ;), and when his non-elite followers ran into the room seeking to avenge their slain master, instead of hitting Vanish I'd drag them into a tight group, pop Blade Flurry, and Slice & Dice, and they'd drop like flies.

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