Gaming Massively

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Original IPs vs. Established IPs

Slashdot pointed me to an interesting article at Ten Ton Hammer all about storytelling and MMOs, specifically whether using an established IP is better or worse than developing your own. They interviewed a number of gaming companies, and came away with a mixed bag of results. Basically, PR is easier with an established IP, but working within an existing storyline is harder.

Interestingly, 38 Studios has the benefit of a known story teller, which is benefiting them as an established IP would.

Some things I felt related to the fact that gameplay still isn't innovative enough - lots of people cited Lord of the Rings as being problematic, and others noted that in several established IPs the most powerful characters were already established. I thought that focus on the 'epic battle where the big baddie is vanquished' missed other options for great storytelling - Gandalf, for example, may or may not have actually destroyed the Balrog (I can't remember if the book actually says unequivocally that the Balrog was destroyed) - the key was that he managed to walk away, and protect the others. Basically it's the escort quest, only without the silly parts of the escort quest that relate to bad AI.

It's interesting, actually, to think about - the one assumption was that storytelling should be excellent, but the good guys should always win. But some of the best stories (Empire Strikes Back, e.g.) involve the good guys getting their tuckus handed to them.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

I'm a geek

I think I may have more fun tweaking my system for speed than I do gaming, sometimes. I just reinstalled my system from the ground up, changing the disks to a striped RAID configuration (a what?!?), because LotRO wasn't going fast enough on my system. I'm now re-updating the game client (and several gig later, it will finish, we hope - I'm a little fuzzy how 333/359 is 10% complete, though).

I'm enjoying Lord of the Rings, thus far - I just made it through the starter section, with the big quest at the end of it, which I found quite enjoyable. So far I haven't interacted with a single other person (well, one, but I'm trying to forget that), which isn't all that MMO-ish. We'll see if that continues.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

playing LotRO

So, despite all my whinging, I am really enjoying Lord of the Rings Online. I like the music, the atmosphere, the fact that it is, in some small way, related to some of my favourite books ever. I've got a dwarf now on Nimrodel, and he's up to level 5. Everything about the game so far seems like it's a little slower-paced, like you're actually expected to stop and smell the roses. We'll see if that continues.

I had actually been playing Tabula Rasa up to this morning, and finding it quite enjoyable. But I had one too many CtDs and decided to start the new game, since restarting the client isn't very much fun the 3rd time through.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

more Grr Argh

So I made it as far as the bit where the game tries to update itself in LotRO, and the process ran out of threads several hundreds of MB into the update. Which seems to have erased all progress made, as I'm back at trying to update 18,000 files. I hope this game is worth it. I honestly considered sending it back, and if I'd bought it from a Brick 'n' Mortar place I would have - tech troubleshooting is my day job, not what I do for fun.

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Grrr! Argh!

So I was feeling a little snarky when I was installing Lord of the Rings Online, and it didn't, IMO, have a dramatic enough installation. I know this is silly, and I knew it when I was installing, so I decided I wouldn't say anything about it. Then the installation failed miserably - I think my comp ran out of disk, and the install program didn't notice. So I uninstalled, and this time for whatever reason it couldn't quite figure out permissions in Vista, and I had to suffer through ugly error messages, Turbine's help system, and general Vista blech-ness. I don't know who to blame, honestly - I remember when everyone was having trouble in WoW with the whole 'run as administrator' thing, so it's not unique to Turbine, but it sure as heck killed my 'I have a new game' buzz!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Well, the cost of software (plus a month of gaming, I assume) fell below $10 recently, and as such I decided to give Lord of the Rings Online a try. To my understanding, there are at least a few folks I read who are playing (The Ancient Gaming Noob, for example, who says people are really nice and mature in LotRO, which appeals to me more than a little, I have to confess). I'm not sure when I'll kick off playing, as I've just gotten back into Tabula Rasa for the free 'last hurrah' before it dies. I've never played a game to its demise before, so I want to spend as much time as possible doing that before it all goes bye-bye. But I'm installing the game now, so I can get some nice opening cinematic love (and presumably, some serious updates that take a year and a day).

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back from the dead

...and I'm back! The move covered some 900 miles, and while I've been reading all the latest, I haven't been posting that much. There have been a few interesting developments, not least of which is that I get to play a new game I can't tell you about. Since my gaming computer should arrive with the movers on Monday (fingers crossed) that should keep me busy for a little while.

Let's see: if you haven't read it already, Tobold does a nice job using Magic: the Gathering to explain why games that require levelling will probably always add levels as part of their expansion. Let's hope some of the up-and-comers break the trend, as levelling, at least in the grindy-grind way, makes me sad.

As near as I can tell, in the past month Age of Conan has pretty much continued its downward spiral, at least as the blogs would have it. They continue to add content though, so at the point you play it your mileage may vary.

LotRO is prepping for their big Mines of Moria expansion, which will have some serious content, I have read. The trailer is online, and looks ... well... I'm sure it will be fun.

Honestly, I feel like most of the current gen of 'up and comers' still need some work. The stuff from 38 Studios I am very much looking forward to, but it sounds like another year before we even hear from them. The turn-based strategy games I want to look more at - they sound like they could be fun. We'll see.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Time away

Well that was a busy week! I hardly even read anything. So going back to the reading, it seemed like Conan was on a massive PR spree. I'm sure you've already read enough about it at this point, so I'll point instead to the story that Turbine has picked up a bunch of cash - enough to do some interesting expansions, even. The story talks console, but I doubt it - at least not for LotRO - it doesn't fit, in my mind. Not that I've played the game, of course, so who am I to comment?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

LotRO just 'gets it'

Massively is reporting that a new content release (Book 13) for LotRO will include fishing trophies for player houses. This is the kind of crazy, bizarre social stuff that I think all of the MMOs should be doing. If it's an RPG, how the heck can you RP without housing, dancing, whatever. WAR's comments that they wouldn't have dancing because of the grim nature of the game is bologna. 

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Monday, March 17, 2008

LotRO, drawn and quartered

I've been watching Lord of the Rings Online since it came out, because some of the features struck me as more interesting than what WoW was doing. In recent days it's been a hot topic due to the announcement of the new expansion The Mines of Moria. But today, WorldIV posted an extensive review of the game which eviscerates the gameplay. The review includes such classics as "Recently, I’ve found I’m surfing the web while fighting even the toughest mobs." Ouch.

I expect once the new content is released and has time to get debugged, I'll give it a whirl. But reviews like the one above never help a game.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Following on my post last week involving alternate endgame options, Tobold posted the question as to whether or not you couldn't just skip the levels altogether. Massively picked up on his post as well. In my original post I said no, because people like the feeling of advancing. The comments on his post seem to back this up, although there were some interesting variations - a lot of people noted that FPS basically is a MMO without levels.

I often find I enjoy doing the quests which follow sequentially - there's one in WoW where you run all over the planet trying to find a missing diplomat, and another where you have to head to someone's hometown to find out more about them. Those sorts of opportunities for storytelling often work without levelling. And as LotRO has done, you could add a title by your name when you complete a complex chain.

I also liked, and yet was frightened by, the person who suggested a game in which the only skill-ups were the ones you actually learned for yourself. How to pick a lock, in a lock-picking mini game, or actually memorizing the prayers which heal people, or whatnot. The idea of a mini-game for certain skills is appealing - I can see it for the rogue and the fighting classes, e.g. Others I'm not so clear on - mages, I suppose, could have verbal and somatic components that had to happen at a certain time. But that doesn't really appeal (though if I could do it with a WiiMote I might find it more entertaining).

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

farming and rep

Female Gamer has written a post title Farming is Boring, which addresses the rep system WoW and apparently LotRO have decided to use, whereby you earn reputation with a community for each of their enemies you kill, and since you need a lot of reputation to get their super-duper-awesome thing, you end up killing a bajillion of their enemies in a pointless rep grind.

What makes more sense? Well, think about it - do it like your favourite book or movie. You live among them, get to know them, do a big quest for them. Since in the game world 'living among them' and 'getting to know them' is synonymous with doing quests, then the most sense is to have quests, little and big, that relate to the tribe or town in question. Simple stuff - 'can you find my sheep' or 'Timmy fell down a well' or whatever. And frankly, some of the stuff should be irredeemable. Kill the chieftan, forget ever getting their help (except through some crazy 'I rescued your new chief's son from some absurdly powerful enemies' type quest - and even then there should be factions in the town who will never trust you).

Either way, in addition to being boring, earning reputation exclusively through killing is a bit morally dubious, isn't it?

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

the game within a game

A post over at female gamer made me think more about sub-games. The post is all about the new chicken game in LotRO, in which our intrepid hero (that'd be you) is transformed into a chicken to complete some quests. The idea, at least as I have seen it proposed and discussed, is that you have a quick game within the game that you can pick up and put down.

I thought there were a couple of revealing things about the review of the chicken play - the most interesting was that although it was possible for the player to suspend disbelief enough to accept they were a sword-carrying hobbit (or whatever), they then wanted internal consistency - having your character suddenly turn into a chicken without a good reason was unacceptable. I think this is an interesting point about these games - once you have changed the rules of logic, don't go fiddling with them anymore.

The subgame concept also made me think of what I consider the most brilliant application of the concept - Legends of Norrath. This is a customizable card game built directly into EverQuest and EverQuest 2. Absolutely brilliant! I love the idea. It's like playing the Yu Gi Oh cartoon! Actually, I don't know how it's been implemented, but I really enjoy the concept.

I think this is an area that will only grow in the future - I mean, why not do something like Yahoo Games, where you walk into a bar in your favorite MMO, and can pull up a chair (and a virtual frosty one) and demolish that arrogant level 7000 warrior in a game of chess? Sure, he'll liquefy you and have his pet eat the remains because he's a bad loser, but you'll know you pwned his king in six moves.

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