One-Time Events: Selfish or World-Building?

It looks like Guild Wars 2’s one-time-only events are sparking quite the debate on the blogosphere! After an initial, strongly-worded post a few days ago, the discussion’s heating up – are one-time events a selfish waste of developer resources, or an exciting new way to develop a gameworld?

Azuriel’s firmly on the side of “bad idea” – and he’s not mincing words in his second blog post on the subject. Not only does he argue that one-time events are unnecessary, but he also says that if you want them to happen, it’s positively selfish

“Ultimately, to me, it comes down to a question of where best to utilize limited designer resources. When new raids and dungeons are released, there is always a special moment attached to it. A camaraderie that exists as thousands and thousands of players try something for the first time, race to the top, and otherwise share an experience. Undoubtedly that is the same goal of one-time events, to evoke those same feelings and perhaps pretend that this is a game world that is always changing (at 12:00 PM Pacific Time/19:00 GMT this Sunday only). The difference is that with the latter, the content is thereafter removed, generating no new experiences, no new memories, and no lasting history beyond the recollections of an ever-dwindling veteran playerbase.

I want game worlds to get bigger by having more things in them, not less, and not temporary things. Designers should stick with making the tools and toys; let the players bring the dynamic themselves.

And if you need something to only happen once to enjoy it the most, 1) I feel bad for you, and 2) the first time only happens once already. Enjoy the feeling as it lasts… don’t just take the ball and go home.”

His wording is strong, but Azuriel has some interesting points here. Most MMORPGs suffer from a lack of developer time as it is – isn’t it a terrible waste to use it up on content that doesn’t make the world richer or larger?

Well, interestingly, that’s where Syl’s post kicks off – as she looks at not only one-time events themselves, but also their aftermath

“Here’s a little secret: I still haven’t watched the one-time Halloween event on youtube. I didn’t go and check how the Mad King emerged. And I decided I won’t. Nothing can beat the scenario I have envisioned in my mind at this point. I have this epic idea of what happened and I want no youtube movie to take away from my imagination. The Mad King’s appearance in Lion’s Arch will forever be the stuff of legend to me, mysterious, notorious!

I like it that way. Maybe you do not. I’m sure many players would agree that the “main event” of my little scenario above is the comet falling down from the sky. If an MMO introduced this, they would want to be there just when it happens. However, the important part is that neither outlook is wrong, just like there are no wrong playstyles. There are different ways to experience events and different things to take away from them. Arguing the point would be as fruitful as arguing whether movies are better than books: some people prefer movies for their more guided experience (the camera is your focus), their concrete visuals and sound. Others rather stick to books that rely more on suggestion and imaginary effort, allowing you to stray. Both media have a purpose, a time and place.”

It’s interesting that Syl’s pointing to something that several people mentioned in the aftermath of the Fa(i)ll of Theramore – that currently MMORPG developers are getting better at creating events, but still don’t do so well at both foreshadowing and dealing with their aftermath. Theramore was obviously the most egregious example, but I’d be interested to see how much impact the Mad King has had in Guild Wars 2, too.

Looks like this discussion will continue a while longer – particularly since Guild Wars 2 looks to be host to more one-time events in the near future!

What do you think?

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Controversy Watch – Cross-Realm Zones, Theramore, and GW2 Jumping

Cross-Realm Zones are attracting accolades and anger in equal measure, the aftermath of the Theramore scenario’s still rumbling, and Guild Wars 2 has its fair share of controversy thanks to its (overly hard?) jumping puzzles – the MMO world’s not quiet right now! So, here’s our weekly update on what’s getting everyone talking:

Cross-Realm Failings

Theramore, Garrosh, and the Tides of War

  • Rades writes a fascinating post explaining what he thinks is going on with Garrosh Hellscream’s sudden out-of-character personality shift“The Garrosh we see in Tides of War…is a very different Garrosh from who we’ve seen before. And not just in a “oh, he’s in a bad mood today” sort of different. He’s a completely different person.”
  • Erinys takes a stab at explaining how she would have designed a much better Theramore scenario“An event as momentous as the destruction of Theramore should be available to more than just those players at the level cap, therefore I would have made the first stages available to everyone of a level high enough to play in Dustwallow Marsh.”
  • And Saxsy looks further at the ways that the massive impact of Theramore’s fall is completely failing to be felt in the gameworld“When NPCs within the game do not react to those events, when they in effect collectively yawn at what is happening, what does that say to a player? It tells me that I’m an idiot for caring.”

Guild Wars 2’s jumping puzzles

  • Ocho defends Guild Wars 2’s jumping puzzles against their critics“So, wait, sometimes these games we play have a difficulty attached to them and need a little skill or hand-eye coordination to complete? Welcome to the gaming world! “

Any thoughts?

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Visit Sunny Theramore!

With all the rumours of war, naval maneuvers, and, strangely, black-and-white bears with distressingly low libidos, Theramore’s getting a bad rap these days.

And so it looks like Jaina and the town council have decided to take action. That’s right – they’ve hired an official Theramore Tourism Representative.

Bravetank’s been brought on board to help boost the popular seaside destination’s tourism trade, and it seems she’s doing a marvellous job so far

“Theramore is a place of stunning (& IN NO WAY THREATENING) contrasts: Alliance stronghold set within the wild yet beautiful territory of the Horde (they get all the nicest scenery). It’s where history (I think I’ve mentioned there are turrets) and modern (if you speak nicely to Jaina she’ll show you her Blackberry) meet. Roll in the grass and swim in the sea (sorry I’m talking to you now as if you’re a dog…what…you’re happy as long as you get a biscuit?)- it’s got it all folks. (Important: Visitors are advised to keep weapons accessible at all times and to know the whereabouts of the nearest spirit healer.)

Theramore, Kalimdor’s picturesque city by the sea, has had a long and admittedly turbulent past – but all that’s history now. Now think Permanence, Endurance, Stability and absolutely Indestructible Brickwork. All these are bywords for Theramore itself (cross my heart & hope to die….not really). Home now to some unusual visitor attractions (come spot the troublesome deserters) and famous for its incredible nightlife (how many injured soldiers can you save with the Triage approach of first aid – you’ll laugh like a drain as the most critically injured die before your very eyes) – it’s an exciting vibrant cultural hotspot offering something for everyone (even Horde if that something includes a sword through your lying scheming heart).”

With first-class representation like this, I’m pretty sure Theramore’s woes are over. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Nice town. Pity if a world event happened in it.

Planning to visit sunny Theramore any time soon?

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It Came From The Weekend

And finally – as always, the weekend saw some really interesting blogging of all kinds, so here’s our summary of Other Cool Stuff…

  • The Mighty Viking Hamster made a really interesting point – wouldn’t it be great if non-active subscribers could still communicate with Battle.net and other MMOs through an IM interface?“First and foremost players will benefit. It would allow them to keep in touch with the community even though they are not subscribed to the game. This would foster a stronger sense of community since buying a particular MMO would not only mean getting involved in the game, but also having easy and unlimited access to a social network of like minded people.”
  • Fannon at Dwarven Battle Medic writes a lament for the soon-to-be-fallen Theramore“What will become of the small stories? Who’s going to take the time to cleanse Jarl of his demonic possession in the middle of a battlefield? Is someone going to walk “Stinky” Ignatz home with Horde siege engines laying waste to the landscape? “
  • Klepsacovic at Troll Racials Are Overpowered is a one-man Modest Proposal factory of late – today he’s proposing making WoW gold completely non-tradeable. Including on the Auction House“As for the auction house, allow players to create trade offers. Initially this would be chaotic, with a billion linen being asked for a truegold bar. But eventually, players would settle on some new medium to use.”
  • And Ironyca has a new project – cataloguing WoW’s myths and urban legends“This inspired me to go look for more myths and urban legends in WoW, and there are many of varying themes from how to acquire certain items, to misunderstandings on how fx resting and healing works.”

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please consider sharing them!

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Three Fascinating, Unexpected Opinions On What Mists Will Bring

Will Garrosh invade Theramore? Maybe not! Will Resto Druids love permanent Tree Form? Perhaps not! Will this iteration of the LFR loot rules work? Maybe it actually will!

It’s a bit quiet on the MMOsphere today, but there are some really interesting posts out there. Strangely, three of them centered around one topic – specific features coming up in Mists of Pandaria, and how what actually happens might be nowhere near what you expected to happen.

First up, Rades of Orcish Army Knife is back with another of his brilliant prognostication posts. This time, he’s looking into his crystal ball at a strange new Feat Of Strength that has made its way into the Mists beta

(Warning: this blockquote and the linked article contains story spoilers)

“So wait. Jaina has to recover the Focusing Iris from the ruins of Theramore? Would that be the same Focusing Iris that Malygos was using to control the surge needles, distorting and manipulating Azeroth’s ley lines so that all magic began to flow into the Nexus? And the same Focusing Iris that the Dragon Aspects used to channel their magical power into the Demon Soul, to empower it so that it could defeat Deathwing?

Why is it in Theramore??

We never really do find out what happened to it after the Aspects used it to charge up the Demon Soul. And you know, this probably isn’t something that should just be left lying around. We’re talking about an extremely powerful artifact created by Malygos, the Aspect of Magic, at the height of his power, using his own blood. We’ve seen in the past that someone can use the Iris to divert and mess around with all magic on Azeroth through tapping into the ley lines, which is rather significant. And the Aspects – essentially Warcraft’s demigods – needed it to charge up the Demon Soul, perhaps because it let them focus their power into an single concentrated point, or perhaps because it could absorb/contain such raw, unbridled power in a controlled manner. ”

Spoilers end

As always, Rades has a tremendously readable writing style, and his conclusions are fascinating. I think they might well be right on the money, too – the suggestions he’s making fit well with the way Blizzard have been writing so far, and would be a really interesting twist. We shall see…

Meanwhile, on a rules note, Zellviren of Unwavering Sentinel has been looking at the latest LFR loot rules. They’ll be rubbish, right? Well… apparently not so much

“Every time a boss dies, the game will roll against each player to decide if they won something. 25 separate rolls, 25 separate chances for everyone to get a shiny upgrade. To paint an example, say there are four plate melee classes in against the Madness encounter and all want Gurthalak. Each one has a separate chance of winning it and all four of them might do so. They play no part in each other’s rolls, just as they keep the heck out of everyone else’s.

I’ve no idea how that can be considered a bad change unless your desire is to troll or steal.

Now, point three on Ghostcrawler’s list is the one causing the arguments. It’s hard to say exactly what “appropriate” means at this stage, and I suppose we’ll need to wait for more commentary before finding that out. But even if that’s simply a case of picking something your class can use, ignoring spec and what you already have, it’s STILL preferable to seeing some Unholy death knight with a heroic Slicer take a Souldrinker “because he might play Frost”.”

My only remaining concern with the LFR loot rules – which feel very Diablo 3 inspired – is that they feel a bit impersonal, and further devolve much of WoW into a single-player game with NPCs that just happen to be controlled by other players. But that’s just a feeling thing, and overall, Zellviren’s got me convinced.

Finally, on a lighter note, one ex-Tree druid is finding herself unexpectedly conflicted by the new choices in Mists.

Yes, Tzufit of Tree Heals Go Whoosh was amongst the baying hordes clamoring for a return to full-time tree form, for a long while. And now, it’s finally here – but she isn’t convinced that she will actually use it

“It’s a good thing! A great thing! So, why do I find myself with no idea what my druid is going to look like when Mists launches?

I never used to identify with my night elf’s caster form during Wrath. I liked the way she looked, but I hated the night elf idle animation with its annoying bounce-bounce-bouncing, and I had trouble identifying with a character who was taller than most of the others in a raid group (I’m 5’2″ – gnomes are more my speed). I was in tree form from the moment I logged on until the moment I logged off, save the few seconds it took me to switch back after a wipe. The Pink Kitty and I used to have a good-natured snicker at druids who spent all their time in caster form and who flew around on actual mounts. “What, your forms aren’t good enough for you? You don’t love turning into a giant purple bird? Sure, have fun on that Frostbrood Vanquisher while I insta-cast flight form. Oh, and did I mention I can farm nodes and tap quest items without ever dismounting? And that if a Hordie jumps me in Wintergrasp I can just Shadowmeld and fly away? Chump.“

And then came transmogrification.”

This is a really interesting post that I think speaks to far more players than just tree druids. We keep track of the things in the game we dislike or we’re worried about, but often the things that we like or that suit us – or simply that we get used to – pass us by.

What unexpected consequences do you see from Mists of Pandaria?

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Why Alliance dissatisfaction is turning into Occupy Azeroth

Honestly, there’s lots of good stuff out there in WoW-land at the moment. The new 5-mans are receiving pretty good reviews, Transmogrification is going great guns, and the Darkmoon Faire’s about to open up on a new island.

But it has to be said, there’s more than one big storm whipping up in Azeroth at the moment, and this one looks set to run unless the developers step in fast. Since Theramore’s fate in 5.0 was announced, the forums have been increasingly abuzz with incensed Alliance players. The buzz became loud enough, in fact, that Dave “Fargo” Kossak stepped in from the Blizzard side to do a Dev Watercooler on the topic –

And that attracted over 3,000 comments, more than twice the average for the Watercoolers.

People are angry. And for a while now, The Renaissance Man at Children of Man has been our very own Jon Stewart, reporting on the increasing disatisfaction in what he calls “Occupy Azeroth” and where it’s coming from, first in a great piece last month , before the Dev Watercooler, and today in an even more punchy article

“This is essentially “Occupy Azeroth”. It’s a disgruntled and disenfranchised mass of players attempting to make their concerns known. There’s one problem. Like the Occupy Wall Street movements, they’re complaining about a host of concerns, many of them legitimate, some of them not so legitimate, and it comes out in a dissonant cacophony that, while great for snaring attention, does a poor job of actually conveying what they’re upset about. So I’m going to attempt to enumerate some of the more significant issues that people are taking up arms about. At a later date I’ll explain each issue in a more in depth post for that issue.

1) Content for Alliance players is not as compelling as it is for Horde players.: Horde players get far more face time with their leaders in the new leveling experiences. Garrosh and Sylvannas in particular are all over the place, and their characterization is pushed along by the content. Baine is decently involved in the Tauren starting zone, and Vol’jin got a heavy spot with both sides in 4.1. The Alliance, not so much. Varian never leaves his throne room, the Council of Three Hammers takes one quest, Velen shows up for 12 seconds in Swamp of Sorrows, Geblin never never leaves the starting area, and Tyrande got a cameo in one instance which is designed to show people how badass she used to be. Alliance players spend more time questing for Vol’jin and Thrall in Cataclysm than they do questing for their own faction leaders.”

TRM’s a compelling writer, and he’s extremely good at dissecting the issues that seem to have crept up on Blizzard and WoW both. I’d strongly recommend having a read, whether you’re planning to set up a tent in the forums yourself, or are standing bemusedly wondering what the fuss is about.

Do you think the problem’s as bad as all that? What’s the solution?

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Hour of Twilight and Patch 5.0 Miscellany – Faction Storylines, Responsibility for War, and more

There have been lots of great posts over the last day, and some of them are quite hard to categorise.

So, here are some of the best bits and pieces that have cropped up over the last few days of Patch 4.3 madness, that otherwise might be missed:

  • In An Age does a great take-down of the Blizzard “Factionally imbalanced?” Developer Chat – “Bottom line: the Horde interaction is multifaceted with many conflicting goals and desires among the groups. Alliance interaction is one-dimensional, for basically no reason. Horde has Wheel of Time meets Dune whereas Alliance has goddamn Jack and Jill meets See Spot Run.”
  • Tesh has some fantastic Druid-themed Signet Rings available for sale. Great presents for the lazorchicken or bear in your life.
  • Blessing of Kings would like to see the Horde’s players forced to take responsibility for the sack of Theramore“One of the problems with this method is that it’s never the player’s fault that the Alliance and Horde are at war. It’s always that angry Garrosh, or stupid Varian. If only they were sensible and intelligent, then all these problems could be avoided.”
  • And Riorel at Postcards from Azeroth takes the End Time dungeon and produces one of his most evocative images ever

Any other titbits from the last few days that you think should get more publicity?

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