MMOrgue: Episode #1

Episode #1 of The MMOrgue has been published, marking the official launch of the new show!

In our inaugural episode, your host – Jeremy – will walk you thru the specifics of just what the heck this show is all about, as well as offer some insight as to the future content it will portray.

After that business is out of the way, we’ll be putting a few upcoming titles under the microscope to see if they stand up to scrutiny, and whether or not the hype being generated around Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic is warranted.

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Show Notes:

What is The MMOrgue?

I am not an industry professional, but I play one on the internet.
– I have been playing and testing MMOs since 1997.
– Since that time, I have participated in over 30 closed and open betas, and subscribed to more than 20 different MMOs.
– Besides just playing the game, I also take an active role in the community whenever possible. Have also worked as a volunteer CSR on three different active MMOs.
– I have been every genre stereotype, from Trollish Griefer, to No-Nonsense Raid Leader, to Friendly Roleplayer, to Casual Part-timer. I have a good understanding of what motivates different portions of the MMO playerbase.
– As a co-host of a successful MMO-focused podcast (STOked), I have gained a significant amount of insight into the development process of MMOs, as well as numerous industry contacts.

Every story covered on this show will have an angle that addresses the industry in its entirity.

  • How a certain feature/attitude (from players and/or developers) will impact the future evolution of the industry.
  • What a game’s success or failure indicates about the current state of the industry.
  • How lessons of the past are being learned from, or ignored.

WILLS and WILL NOTS:

  • WILL:
    • Focus on innovation and evolution within the MMO market
    • Occasionally include developer interviews and commentary, whenever appropriate
    • Maintain a focus on how certain game mechanics or developer attitudes impact their communities.
    • Contain exclusively editorial content. Although news and announcements will be shared, they are only here to drive the opinions portrayed.
  • WILL NOT:
    • Cover every feature announcement and press release for every game in development
    • Make a habit of dwelling on the minutiae of game mechnics, except where a thorough explanation becomes necessary in order to explain the larger impact of an innovation
    • Play favoritism towards any particular developer or sub-genre.

Guild Wars 2: Why You Should Care

There is a video floating around the internet, made by ArenaNet. They call it their MMO manifesto, and within this short video they outline a number of reasons that their next product – Guild Wars 2 – is going to revolutionize the way that MMOs are perceived, and played.

RETHINK EVERYTHING: INNOVATION GALORE
“ArenaNet was founded to innovate.” – Mike O’Brien, President
– Awesome.
– But change for change’s sake is dangerous:
* Auto Assault, Fallen Earth, PlanetSide, even EVE to a certain extent.
* While many people want something new, MILLIONS still play only what is recognizable and easy to understand.
– (RIFT’s similarity to WoW has bred success, while still offering something new)
* ArenaNet is being changed in deliberate ways, to drive community interaction and gameplay immersion. Every innovation is being thoroughly examined for impact.

BE THE HERO: A PERSONAL STORYLINE
– From the moment of character creation, you have a personal story.
* WHO you are, not WHAT you are.
* Branching objectives, evolving story.
* Replayability for alts is incredibly high.
– Social aspects of shared knowledge may suffer.
– Lack of uniform player experiences may cause a rift among players that have grown accustomed to being able to share the same game experience with their friends/guildmates. (Look at sites like WoWHead as an example)

EXPERIENCE A LIVING WORLD: DYNAMIC EVENTS (NO QUESTS)
– Completely removed traditional questing, replaced with Dynamic Event Chains
* You will never be asked to kill 10 wolves, or collect 5 rare flowers.
* You will notice something in the distance, get closer and examine the situation, then choose whether or not to be involved.
– With this change, Exploration has become the POINT of the game, and not an extra pass-time or something that just happens along the way.
* Dynamic Events will have branching objectives – won’t always end the same.
* Scaling AI smart enough to adapt to all different types of involvement, not just population levels.

MAKE A FRIEND: SOCIAL INNOVATIONS
– Concept of the “golden triad” of classes has been eliminated.
* Every class can tank, heal, dps, control. Roles switch based on weaponsets and ability choices.- Automatic sidekicking, driven by environment instead of group mechanics
* No high-level griefers in low-level areas.
* No scaling issues with dynamic events.
* Allows high-level characters to seamlessly enjoy low level content if they choose to.
– Social mini-games in non-combat areas.
* Scorekeeping and leaderboards to encourage friendly competition.
– Mobile apps to keep you connected when not in-game.
* THIS IS HUGE, and an absolute NECESSITY for the next generation of MMOs.
WATCH THE ACTION: ACTIVE COMBAT SYSTEM
– Simplified hotbars, 10 buttons max.
– Cooldowns frequently controlled by fatigue system, which also ties to movement.
* Combat is balanced so that spamming a move is possible, but not recommended. If you use your Fatigue too quickly then you can’t move/dodge and will take more damage. Meaning that standing in place and swinging repeatedly is a recipe for failure.

– Heavy emphasis on movement and positioning.
– Power interactions and environmental effects (fire + arrows)
– Line of sight and collision mechanics

POSTSCRIPT: MMORTICIAN’s THOUGHTS
– If they deliver HALF of this HALF as well as they intend to, it will send ripples through the industry as player expectations will shift dramatically.
– The class system is likely going to undergo many, many tweaks during Beta. I find it unlikely that every class can truly tank, heal and DPS as well as every other, and some may shine in certain areas.
* It is the wont of MMO gamers to min/max in every scenario. If one class excels at a certain thing, then that IS THEIR ROLE, regardless of their ability to perform in other areas.
—————–

SWTOR Informational Thread:  http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=188836

The concept of evolving storylines is not unique to Guild Wars 2. In fact, it is a cornerstone of one of the most highly-anticipated MMORPGs of the current world: SW:TOR

IMMERSIVE STORYTELLING: The “Fourth Pillar”
Progression, Exploration, Combat, and STORY
– Every class (16 total, so far) will have their own storyline, complete with branching objectives allowing for your individual choices to drive the content that you will experience.
* Each of these stories is said to be as large and fully-featured as a single game.
* Unlike a singleplayer game, there’s no Save/Reload to allow you to explore alternative choices. Experiencing something other than what you choose will require an alt character, or hearing about it second-hand from another player.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE: Companion Characters
– Companions have factored into every BioWare game. And are also a part of Star Wars (Chewbacca, R2D2, etc).
– Each companion will have their own stories and interests. Players can choose to help, or corrupt them. Companions may even turn on you in some outcomes.
– Companions also act as the crew of your ship, and assist you in crafting items and obtaining resources.

HEAR AND SPEAK: Voice acting
– More lines of voice-acted dialogue than every other BioWare game PUT TOGETHER
– Including YOUR character! Hooray for no more mute leaders.
– This level of voice acting simply cannot happen in any genre other than an MMO. Even in PC Gaming, developers are urged to keep resource usage low, and if they intend to sell a console port then it becomes an absolute NECESSITY to keep resources to a single disc.
* Look at Dragon Age II and the re-use of the same 20 maps over and over. This was done because of voice acting, and limited console resources.

* Since this type of feature can only effectively happen in an MMO, it is my opinion that ALL “Triple-A” class MMOs must strive to include it in the future. It can become a defining characteristic of a genre that frequently lacks a unified identity.
Bioware’s efforts on SWTOR are already catching the eye of prominent players in the MMO industry, including Mike Morhaime – CEO of Blizzard Entertainment. His published point of view is that a successful high budget title under the Star Wars IP can only mean good things for the population level of the MMO industry across-the-board.
While I agree, I doubt he’d be saying the same thing if Bioware was publishing a fantasy RPG that was in direct competition with World of Warcraft.

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NEXT WEEK’S EPISODE:

Age of Empires Online — Can an RTS be successfully pulled off in the MMO space?

APB Reloaded — Can a game once doomed to failure get a second lease on life?

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