An underplayed MMO, SWTOR’s missing pieces, and single player MMOs

Vanguard has waited a while for it, but as it approaches Free-To-Play it’s finally getting some excellent press.

Today we discover from a die-hard fan just what it has to offer, plus a hardcore SWTOR fan expounds on what it’s missing, and a hardcore LoTRO fan explains what he would like to see…

  • Why play Vanguard, one of the worst-received MMOs in recent history? Karen Bryan at Massively explains why she loves the game“In Vanguard, the things we accomplished felt legendary, and it never felt like we were on a hamster wheel, spinning as fast as possible so we could get to 50.”
  • Lono at Screaming Monkeys enjoys SWTOR, but nonetheless explains some of the key things he feels are holding the massive MMO back“It’s not normal that in 2012 a game with average graphics like Swtor can have so many issues with its engine. It’s slow, there are bugs and performance in general is poor even on high-end machines.”
  • Azuriel at In An Age discusses the concept of a “single-player MMO”, and asks whether MMOs really can be great single-player experiences“The vast majority of MMO players today are single-player MMO, erm, players. Less than 20% of WoW players raid; what are the other 80% doing? How many EVE players never make it out of high-sec space or never engage in consensual PvP? “
  • And Shipwreck at A Casual Stroll To Mordor writes an impassioned and well-argued piece on why LoTRO should offer subscribers an ad-free version of the game“There are countless examples of this model out on the internet: you get the free version for free because it has limited functionality and you are subjected to advertising; when you start to pay your subscription, the ads go away. Hulu, Spotify, Amazon’s Kindle, and countless iOS apps utilize this idea. “

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Will SW:TOR’s demons overcome its better angels?

The SW:TOR reactions continue to come in, and as they do so, it’s becoming apparent that we’ve got a truly fascinating, complex game here – complex not just in terms of what it gets right and where it innovates, but also in terms of what it gets wrong and what it doesn’t.

There’s a lot of debate on the blogosphere at the start of the week as to whether SW:TOR will manage to overcome its weaknesses with its obvious strengths, or whether, in the end, its demons will drag it down:

  • Gordon at We Fly Spitfires discusses what he believes is SW:TOR’s biggest flaw: the imbalance of character classes“Simply put, everyone is playing the same darn class (Advanced or otherwise)… and I don’t just mean by a small percentage either, I’m talking about by a frickin’ massive degree. I think for every one Vanguard I’ve encountered, I’ve seen about 20 Commandos and I’m not even sure the Smuggler class exists.”
  • Syp at Bio Break gives us five things he likes about SW:TOR and five – well, four – things that he doesn’t“ This may just be where I’m at right now, but it seems as though my companion and me barely talk. We’ve had two in-game conversations over the course of an entire week, but other than that she barely butts in during mission conversations or wants to chat. “
  • Gazimoff’s initial impression of SW:TOR’s crew skills (crafting) is that they’re a broken mess“The Artifice crew skill has 1144 different items that your companions can learn how to make. About two thirds of those are minor upgrades that could be removed immediately without any impact on the game.”
  • The Noisy Rogue believes that SW:TOR is an excellent… single-player RPG“I’m sure that everyone playing the game is having a great time, but while doing that they are ruthlessly chewing through content in a game format that was out of date three years ago. I’m having a great time in Skyrim as well, but there’s no way I’m going to be playing it in three months time. “
  • Pete at Dragonchasers is playing SW:TOR despite saying he wouldn’t – and so far, despite encountering problems, he’s glad he didn’t cancel his pre-order“That’s all balanced out by the joy of wading into a crowd of mobs, flinging a grenade then diving to cover to use my high damage skills to finish off the baddies while my Companion tanks. Combat in this game is just plain FUN in a way I find hard to quantify.”
  • And finally, Syncaine explains just why he wants – yes, actively wants – SW:TOR to fail, and why he believes it will“If the game is a SMASH HIT, George is happy, Bioware is happy, and blasters-to-the-face rolls on. The moment the whole equation stops working, bad things happen, and quickly.”

What do you think? Will SW:TOR stay the distance?

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Warning: LoTRO’s Slayer Deeds may cause drowsiness or extreme tedium.

Ah, the grind. No matter what the MMO or how hard you try to avoid it, sooner or later you’ll reach a point where the only thing between you and your desired objective is…

About 20,000 dead boars.

Today, it’s LoTRO’s turn to pour the beans and start turning the handle, as Merric from A Casual Stroll To Mordor explains why the apparently-innocent-fun Slayer deeds in the free-to-play MMO have turned his casual stroll into more of an endless trudge

“I started looking at some of the deeds on the list and scratched off items such as Moria’s Arms of the Watcher and Angmar’s Champions of Urugarth (final) due to their (theoretical) time and (possible) group requirements. So, with a plan in mind and my club in hand, I decided first to take on Bree-land’s Sickle-fly Slayer Deed and start on my journey of ranking up my Discipline to 12! I could see my end goal in sight!

And an hour later I was bored to tears and I still hadn’t completed the deed. A half an hour after that my Deed was completed and I was a little frustrated at how long the endeavor took. More than a bit concerned how long it was going to take to actually get to rank 12 of Discipline, let alone 5 other virtues. I then promptly moved my character to the Lone-lands and logged off. Later that weekend I logged in and after running a couple of dungeons with some kinmates I decided to dive into killing Bog-lurkers in the Lone-lands it and utterly hated all one-and-a-half hours of it.”

Merric loves LoTRO, that much is clear, and he does an extremely good job of both laying out the problems and presenting the mitigating factors in this post – a flaming rant it isn’t. But nonetheless, he makes his case extremely well – it would appear that for the end-game LoTRO player looking to experience the top raid content, there’s one hell of a lot of boar-killing in your future.

This is the kind of post that influences the direction of a game’s development – I hope we see change soon.

Have you ground endlessly in LoTRO? Or isn’t it as bad as all that?

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A Healer’s Lament

Whilst the Kitten Standard was occupying the front page today, another topic crept out of the WoW woodwork, and potentially one that’s more serious for the game.

The current raid content contains fights that wildly differ on the number of healers and sometimes number of tanks required. With the nerfbat swinging as often as it does, that exaggerates the changes even more – a fight that used to require one composition suddenly requires another.

And so today we have two healers lamenting the extremely awkward situation they find themselves in, where they’re forced to either sit on the bench or take a DPS role they don’t enjoy for half the fights in the raid.

First up, Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings chimes in with a typically well-argued post explaining the problem and its effects

“People in competitive raid teams want to be competitive. They want to do their best. They want to be performers. And if they are constantly at the bottom, in their off spec role, it will eventually get to them. As can comments that are meant to be a joke, or even comments meant to be helpful, about their performance in their off spec. The other night I bit the bullet and DPS’d for Heroic Staghelm. It was my first time for that fight in that role. I was mildly competitive with some of our lower DPS – but when push came to shove, at the end I beat the tank. I’m one of our top performers as a healer – and what I got to say about my undergeared, and uncomfortable performance as DPS was “Hey! I beat the tank…at least”. Frankly, I was embarrassed.”

Beruthiel explains the problems, point by point, and successfully demolishes the “well, that’s what dual specs are for” argument. A dual spec is fine – but players tend to prefer one role or another. A game that’s unpredictably forcing players into a role they don’t enjoy and can’t do well at is a game with a problem.

And that’s where we come to the second post, from a more personal point of view. Vidyala of Manalicious has been going through the same pains that Beruthiel has been – and in her eloquent post, she talks about just how damn sick of it she is

“I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me. So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself?”

There’s no understating this one – if the design of WoW’s raids are meaning that raiders are starting to conclude they’d rather not raid than be forced into an unfun role, the game’s got a problem, and every raid leader out there has a problem. Blizzard are going to have to think about this one – but so is everyone who’s involved in a raiding guild. How can we mitigate the problem of forcing people to play a role they don’t like?

Any ideas?

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Are Shamans Too Complex?

Personally, I miss a lot of the complexity that has been taken out of WoW. I miss having to carry flint and tinder and simple wood for a campfire. I miss the cooking and fishing quests at Artisan level. I even kinda miss the “argh nooo there are 5 paladins in this raid and 4 of them all want to cast Kings” complexity of pre-Cata buffing.

Having said that, though, in a post-Cataclysm world, it would feel wierd to be the one class which still had to micromanage its buffs and carry around a personal spreadsheet. Rhii of Oh My Kurenai agrees – and she should know, because she is that class – the poor, be-totemed Shaman:

Paladin auras and buffs used to be the big source of frustration, and now that those are simplified, that leaves Shamans as the only class that has to carry a checklist to raids to figure out how best to buff the group. I do mean literally, I carry a checklist.

… And now that buffs are simpler for every other class, nobody wants to give us time to figure out how we can best help the group with our buffs, so half the time I go into fights knowing I might as well not drop them, because I didn’t have time to fix my arrangement. Even in my own guild I feel like that forty second pause to arrange myself is often given grudgingly.

I’d not thought about it, but reading through her post makes the point very clearly – in a post-simplicity world, Shamans are stuck back with the Simple Wood and the trek to find Nat Pagle.

This is the kind of detailed analysis that Blizzard really ought to read, and I’m sure that shamans will get some Blizz love (sounds wrong) at some point. In the meantime, remember, raid leaders and impatient tanks – post-Cata, your class might play as smoothly and effortlessly as eating Haagen-Daas, but by comparison Blizz have given your friendly shammie a raw artichoke and told them to get on with it. Give them some slack.

Do you think Shamans have gotten the short end of the totem this expansion? Or would you actually welcome a bit more complexity than “cast Might, noob”?

_Quote taken directly from Rhii’s post at http://www.ohmykurenai.com/2011/03/the-essence-of-being-a-shaman/

You can find Oh My, Kurenai’s homepage here._

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