MMO Design Roundup: Types of Fun, Ultimate Sandbox, Rewards Are Bad

If you’re interested in the way MMORPGs are designed, you’ll be interested in our roundup today, as we look at some of the best posts of the last week looking at the deeper elements behind your favourite MMOs…

  • Spinks writes a great piece looking at types of fun in MMORPGs“I would argue that WoW offers all four keys, although the Serious Fun aspect of the game felt stronger back in TBC, and you have to look for the Hard Fun via Challenge Modes, Arenas, and hard mode raids, or making up your own difficult achievements. “
  • “My Ideal MMO” posts are pretty common, but veteran MMO blogger Keen’s vision of a very Minecraft-sounding idealised sandbox was both interesting and, I thought, quite plausible – “Gear would be important, but dieing would mean losing your gear and using it would degrade it anyway. It needs to be like the medieval times when there could be a special sword you value, but if you lose it you can pick up most any other sword and still be able to fight because YOU are the weapon.”
  • And Rowan Blaze looks at the counterintuitive way that attaching rewards to fun activities (like dailies) can actually diminish the fun for all involved” If I am doing something for fun and relaxation—say, gardening—then it is a hobby. If I am doing it for some other reason—say, to feed my family and keep clothes on my back—then it is farming, and work. “

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please let other players know about them!

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Guild Wars 2: The Weekend Roundup

Guild! Wars! 2!

Yes, even as one MMO dies, another one’s growing, thriving and feted throughout the blogosphere. Here’s your roundup of the weekend’s Tyria-related posts:

  • Tobold studies the size of the world of Guild Wars 2, and concludes that there’s at least 300 hours of gameplay there“Surveys have shown that the average MMORPG player plays around 20 hours per week, so 300 hours is over 3 months of solo PvE content. Depending on how much group PvE and PvP you do, you’ll be occupied until well after Christmas.”
  • Zubon at Kill Ten Rats is getting increasingly irritated by something that’s been annoying the Melting Pot staff too – GW2’s currently extremely buggy grouping“This is less bad than Asheron’s Call 2′s lack of functional chat around launch, but one of the basic things you should be able to demand from a multi-player game is being able to form groups with your friends”
  • Jeromai looks at MMOs in general through the lens of GW2’s groundbreaking design, and asks what you’d keep doing in game if there was no reward for doing so?“I would, surprisingly enough, continue to rez players, often in the thick of combat, even if I don’t get xp for it and even if I don’t get any thanks for it.”
  • And The Noisy Rogue writes an interesting and angry post wondering in what other industry actions like Arena.net’s summary banning policies would be accepted and praised“In MMO land the consumer gets their product confiscated and banned for life for a developer’s own mistake.”

What do you think of all this? What’s getting you excited – in a good or bad way – by GW2 right now?

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Cata rep rewards – our guide to the essential cata reputation rewards

You’re likely to build up reputation with the various Cataclysm factions as you level from 80 to 85. Just as with previous expansions, each new level of reputation will unlock new purchasable ‘rewards’ from that faction’s vendor. The various Cata rep rewards usually take the form of equipment and armor, which can really give you an initial boost when gearing up your newly-minted level 85 toon.

There are even reputation rewards which will be of use to end-game raiders. The Avengers of Hyjal, the new faction for the Patch 4.2 Firelands daily quests, provide epic items at i-Level 378 and above.

The best rewards will depend on your class and role, but will inevitably be spread among several faction vendors. Here’s our breakdown guide.

Reputation rewards for tanks

Head enchant – you’ll want the Arcanum of the Earthen Ring. See our complete guide to enchanting your helm.

FeetBoots of Sullen Rock requires Exalted reputation with the Dragonmaw Clan. The Alliance equivalent are the Gryphon Rider’s Boots, required Exalted reputation with the Wildhammer Clan.

Back – Exalted reputation with the Guardians of Hyjal gives access to the Wrap of the Great Turtle. Once you’re Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal, you can replace that with a Durable Flamewrath Greatcloak.

WristSandguard Bracers, available when Exalted with Ramkahen.

Shoulder enchant – The Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz. Take a glance at our guide to shoulder enchants in Cata.

Waist – You’ll need to be Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal to purchase a Girdle of the Indomitable Flame.

Trinket – Revered rep with the Avengers of Hyjal gives you Stay of Execution.

Finger – The Adamantine Signet of the Avengers is very nice indeed. Unfortunately it requires Exalted reputation with the Avengers of Hyjal to purchase, so don’t expect to be seeing it without a monstrous grind.

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Reputation rewards for healers and casters

Head enchant – The Arcanum of Hyjal is the obvious choice. For a more detailed discussion of head enchants, see our guide.

Neck – Exalted reputation with the Dragonmaw or Wildhammer clans gives the Yellow Smoke Pendant/Lightning Flash Pendant.

Waist – Clothies will need Exalted rep with the Guardians of Hyjal to get the Cord of the Raven Queen. For leather wearers, it’s Dragonmaw/Wildhammer once again. The Horde item is called Withered Dream Belt, whereas the Alliance equivalent is Belt of the Untamed. Once you hit Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal, you can upgrade to the Embereye Belt or the Firescar Sash.

Feet – The Desert Walker Sandals from Ramhaken.

Hands – Exalted reputation with the Earthen Ring will provide Flamebloom Gloves.

Shoulder enchant – use the Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone. See our complete guide.

Back – You’ll need to be Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal to get either the Flowing Flamewrath Cape or the Rippling Flamewrath Drape.

TrinketFiery Quintessence and the Rune of Zeth are both available from the Avengers of Hyjal upon hitting Honored reputation.

Finger – Your reward for hitting Exalted rep with the Avengers of Hyjal is an awesome ring – either the Infernal Signet of the Avengers or the Quicksilver Signet of the Avengers.

Reputation rewards for DPS classes

Head enchant – Depending on whether you favor Strength or Agility, you’ll want the Arcanum of the Dragonmaw/Arcanum of the Wildhammer or the Arcanum of the Ramkahen. Check out our complete guide to helm enchants if you’re not sure which to choose.

Hands – Exalted rep with the Dragonmaw/Wildhammer clans will give you access to Liar’s Handwraps, or the Alliance equivalent Stormbolt Gloves. Alternatively, try the World Keeper’s Gauntlets from the Earthen Ring quartermaster.

Waist – If you’re a plate DPS class, work on your Guardians of Hyjal reputation to get access to the excellent Belt of The Ferocious Wold. For Paladins, choose the Sun King’s Girdle from Ramkahen instead. That will probably last you until you reach Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal, at which point you’ll upgrade to either the Firearrow Belt, Firemend Cinch, Flamebinding Girdle, Girdle of the Indomitable Flame, Girdle of the Indomitable Flame, Belt of the Seven Seals or Cinch of the Flaming Ember.

Feet – Mail-wearers will want either the Treads of Malorne from the Guardians of Hyjal or the Earthmender’s Boots from the Earthen Ring.

Neck – For Strength-based classes, the Gift of Nadun from Ramkahen is a good upgrade.

Finger – With Exalted reputation with the Earthen Ring, you’ll be able to purchase the Signet of the Elder Council.

Shoulder enchant – Read our complete guide to shoulder enchants to find the best enchant for your shoulders. You’ll want either the Greater Inscription of Jagged Stone or the Greater Inscription of Shattered Crystal.

Back – After a few Molten Front dailies, you’ll be Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal and be able to buy either the Bladed Flamewrath Cover or the Sleek Flamewrath Cloak.

Trinket – You’ll need to become Revered with the Avengers of Hyjal, at which point you’ll have either an Ancient Petrified Seed or an Essence of the Eternal Flame.

Finger – The DPS rewards for Exalted reputation with the Avengers of Hyjal are either the Obsidian Signet of the Avengers or the Viridian Signet of the Avengers.

The Secret Camels of Ramkahen

Grinding your reputation with Ramkahen all the way to Exalted has another, hidden bonus. You’ll be able to purchase your very own ridable camel. Strangely, whilst most reputation rewards can be seen in the vendor’s inventory but can’t be purchased until the correct reputation has been achieved, the Ramkahen camel mounts do not appear in Blacksmith Abasi‘s inventory until you’re Exalted with Ramkahen. Once you hit Exalted, though, they’ll be there and ready for purchase. There are two camels available – the Brown Riding Camel and the Tan Riding Camel.

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Trade Chats: Interview With Larisa

I’m reliably informed it’s Saturday. Technically not a post day for us but we had a special post arrive in our email yesterday and I just ran out of time to put it up. So why not now? A quiet five minutes over the weekend is a great time for you to read our latest Trade Chats victim. It’s been a while since we ran some interviews with bloggers and gamers like

Tobold, Raven, Tamarind and Big Bear Butt – but we’re back for round 2, and we’ve got a special WoW blogger kicking us off: Larisa from the Pink Pigtail Inn.

She’s one of the most respected bloggers around. Her website and writings are modelled on the lovely idea that blogging is a conversation between her and us, the reader, over a small beer by a crackling fire. But the best things about her? She’s not afraid to say what she thinks and sticks to her guns, and has a knack for covering a wide range of topics and making them feel fresh. Oh – and her pink pigtails are the stuff of legend.

Larisa was kind enough to sit us down with a pint and answer our questions. So pull up a chair, grab a beverage and have a read to hear her thoughts on raid sizes, in-game special rewards, link-love and responsibility in the blgoosphere.

Q: Recently you said that we should all just let the long-unobtainable Amani War Bear rest in peace and there are other special rewards to turn our attention to in the current incarnation of the game. What special rewards are dear to you, or are you hankering after, from any area of WoW?

Larisa: Special rewards to me aren’t actually so much about their grade of exclusivity and the amount of bragging rights they come with. The special rewards I care most about are those that have some kind of story from my own gaming experiences connected to them. They remind me of something that was tough, fun or special in some other way. To be honest I haven’t got a clear picture of the special awards that have been added in Cataclysm. There surely must be some mount reward for meta-raiding achievements? I haven’t checked it up, since we’re in the middle of clearing the normal modes, and they’re challenging enough for me.

By the way, I’m not entirely sure about exactly what constitutes a special award. What about my Winterspring mount? I love it, not for exclusivity – because it isn’t that rare anymore, but because of the looks and because it reminds me of Winterspring, which I always considered one of the most beautiful zones in the game.

I could also mention my Frostbrood Vanquisher mount, which is a reward for doing a huge amount of achievements in ICC. Admittedly I don’t use it anymore; it’s too huge to be practical, so currently I’ll rather fly on my smooth and handy Cenarion War Hippogryph. But I’m still fond of it because it symbolizes a huge common effort from our guild, where we kept running ICC over and over again through some very long summer months until everyone who wanted it had succeeded. Towards the end we didn’t want to see Sindragosa again ever. But we stuck to our promises and helped each other out. That’s something quite special.

Q: …And do you think these special rewards – like the Amani Bear – are actually special and worthy of praise on the part of onlookers and pride on the part of their owners? Or are they all just special ‘snowflake’ gimmicks because the game’s transient and the relevance of one special reward gets supplanted by a new one come the next patch/expansion?

Larisa: Some of those rewards are certainly signs of a huge effort. But you can’t really know, can you? Some of us got our Sarth+3d drakes when we were at the appropriate gear level and after wiping for a number of nights. That drake really meant something. However there’s no way whatsoever to distinguish it from a mount that you got two years later in a completely overpowered pug group. If you hope for recognition, respect or even some envy from other players, I think you might get disappointed. Especially so since I think players recognize far fewer special rewards than we might imagine. I for one can’t tell one meta-achievement drake from another, well possibly apart from the pink dragon from the seasonal quests, which stood out a bit, not necessarily in a good way though.

In the end I suspect that the owners of some of those rewards might take huge pride in them – rightfully in some cases – but that they can’t be expected for other players to fall in trance as they show their trophies off in the major cities out from pure admiration. If there ever were times like that in WoW, they’re gone. For the beholder the special rewards are definitely more of snowflake gimmicks than anything else. I think the sheer amount of available rewards contributes to this, especially since they seem to be reluctant to remove them from the game these days and if they do – they’re quick to reintroduce them in a brushed-up form.

Q: You’re one of the pillars of the blogosphere and have been for some time. We’ve lost a lot of good bloggers (careless of us!) over the past few weeks. Do you think we as bloggers have a “responsibility” to help the community grow, or do we help it flourish simply by being a part of it?

Larisa: I’m sorry if I disappoint you, but I don’t feel any responsibility at all to help the community grow or whatever. [editor’s note: of course we’re not disappointed Larisa. Wasn’t suggesting you, or any of us, definitely do have :)]. I don’t blog for a living; I don’t blog to spread a message, a political or religious idea. And while I enjoy blogging and enjoy being a part of the WoW related blogosphere, I don’t have any mission to make the community grow or flourish. If people want to join and find pleasure in blogging and blog reading, the better! I’ve always tried to welcome newcomers as much as I can, even though there are too many to get in touch with everyone. I’ve often given new bloggers a nod in form of a comment, remembering how much it meant to me to get those first comments from already-established bloggers. And I answer to every letter I get, touched and honoured by the attention I get. However, I do all this because it feels like a natural thing to do rather than out of some sort of responsibility.

God knows that it’s easy to slip into some sort of performance oriented mindset, where the blogging almost becomes a second job, with duties and obligations. But whenever I recognize that kind of thinking within myself, I try to get away from it. My blog is a hobby that I run for fun and I answer to no one but myself (although I admittedly can be a bit of a pain in the ass to have as a boss, but that’s another story.)

Q: You had your three-year blogiversary at the beginning of the month – gratz btw! In your celebratory post you linked some of your older posts – posts that you’re either proud of or have special memories attached. You’ve chosen a wide selection of tones too – there are some really sad but uplifting ones there, and some cheery ones – not to mention you pondering about sandcastles. So, what are your two, utmost favourite posts on that list – and why?

Larisa: Ugh, that’s a tough question. Actually I’ll cheat a bit and pick three, but I’ll keep it brief to get away with it. The first one is the mentioned sandcastle post. http://www.pinkpigtailinn.com/2009/02/happily-building-my-sandcastle.html

It pretty much wraps up how I look at my time in Azeroth and everything else around it, including the act of blogging. I even managed to get my favourite scene from Blade Runner into it. That alone makes it memorable.

My second pick will be In the Shade of Deathwing on the topic of suicide. http://www.pinkpigtailinn.com/2010/10/in-shade-of-deathwing-about-those.html

I’m not sure it’s one of the best posts I’ve ever written, but it was definitely one of the hardest. I cried as I wrote it but it felt as if it needed to be said.

And finally something more upbeat, the post where I talked about being an older player and how I choose to be open about it: http://www.pinkpigtailinn.com/2010/07/coming-out-as-older-player-in-wow.html

Judging from the comments, the WoW players are way older than you could imagine. There were high-fives coming from 40+ players from everywhere. Or as one of the commenters said: “Good for you. But you are still just a kid from my 59 year old perspective.”

Q: Recently you got some link-love – and a troll – from WoW Insider. Your repsonse to the troll is a good example of how to deal with them but I was wondering if you’ve got any wider thoughts on how being linked by a big site like WoW Insider can affect a blogger – especially new ones?

Larisa: While there might be bloggers who don’t want to get any attention to their blog, I think that most new bloggers will be immensely delighted when they’re linked from WI for the first time. It’s a sign of recognition. After months and months of blogging with few, if any comments, making you wonder if you’re only shouting out in a dark void, suddenly you get the evidence. Someone has noticed you! Someone reads your stuff and thinks it’s so good that it’s worth linking to! Of course it’s exciting and flattering, and if you have a visitor counter you’ll most likely notice a huge spike.

However, what new bloggers should bear in mind is that those 15 minutes are very temporary. You can’t expect to get more than a handful of new subscribers to your blog and before you know it you’ll be back at what now feels like the backyard of the blogosphere. A far distant corner which rarely gets much attention.

The best way to become involved in the blogosphere isn’t to hope for link love from WI. You don’t’ get a readership overnight. You get it by keep blogging constantly week after week, month after month, year after year, maintaining a high standard in your posts and connecting to other blogs by linking to them and commenting on them. WI linkage is at the best a nice bonus, nothing more. And sometimes it will lead to some trolling, which you also should be prepared to handle.

Q: And leading on from that – you mentioned that being linked by WoW Insider is a double-edged sword. A lot of blogs/sites have columns/features/models where they link to other blogs out there. Do you have any thoughts on the pros and cons link-love itself has on the community?

Larisa: Without linking there wouldn’t be any community, would there? The linking and the commenting is what makes the blogosphere into a living breathing network, a living organism rather than a collection of stand-along diaries. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by being generous with link love on your blogs. Of course you should give proper credits and follow the basic rules of quoting and paying attention to copyright like in any other area. But linking is about so much more. It adds content and value to your own blog, as you’re helping your readers to find the gems in a blogosphere that sometimes can be a bit overwhelming. And it also helps driving traffic to your own website, if that is one of your goals. Bloggers are curious creatures and if you find out that someone has visited your blog after linkage, you definitely want to check out the blog that linked to you.

Are there any cons of the linking? Well, I can see two. One is that I sometimes see a shortage of new ideas. Bloggers link to other blogs without adding all that much of their own thoughts. Too much of link posts and too little of original works will eventually lead to less interesting thoughts bouncing around. The second disadvantage I can see is that there sometimes are tendencies to clique shaping in the blogosphere. There is a bit of backscratching going on, where we – most likely unintentionally – link to the blogs that link to our own blog, promoting our “blogging friends” and not really paying much attention to those who are outside of our own little circle, the new kids on the block who want to join the party but maybe not always feel invited or noticed. But the recipe to counter this isn’t to link less. It’s to link more!

Q: You’re a staunch 25 man raider but you’ve said recently that Cata’s hit 25 man raiding pretty hard. Do you think we’re going to see the 10 man and 25 man raiding models duke it out againt each other until only one is left, and what effect do you think that’s going to have on WoW?

Larisa: I am pretty worried about the state of the 25 man raids and from what I’ve seen recently in the blogosphere, this isn’t just something that affects my own guild. The 25 man guilds are in a tough position, those that still remain. If this goes on, I have my doubts that they will keep tendering to two formats in the next expansion. Recently I saw some suggestion that they’ll find a “middle way” introducing 15 man raiding, that would feel slightly more “epic” than the 10 man raiding but still would be far less demanding to organize than 25 man raiding. It might happen. Or they might just skip the 25 mans altogether.

I wonder how this will play out for players who are new to the scene, who haven’t been playing since vanilla and don’t have any real life friends in the game. How easy is it to break your way into an established tightly knit 10 man guild? Maybe it was easier to start your career as a raider in a 40 man or 25 man guild looking for a “warm body”? Who will take the risk to bring a newcomer to a tightly balanced 10 man raid encounter where one single screw-up will lead to a wipe?

When we first heard about the changes to raiding, where the loot in 10 mans would be put on par with 25 mans, I think many of us thought that this would help out the more casual players. But as I see it now, I’m not so convinced about that anymore.

That’ll be all from Larisa for now – what about you? Are there any questions you would’ve asked her that we’ve not covered or do you have thoughts to pitch in on these topics?

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