Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Despite What You May Think, MMO’s Suck

After listening to a couple of my favorite gaming podcasts this week I have to wonder, if what these people are saying is true, why in the world should anyone be playing Massively Multiplayer Online Games?
 
The first podcast, Shut Up We’re Talking, covered the topic “Why It’s Great to be an MMO Gamer.” The catalyst for this discussion was a Massively article written by Justin Olivetti in which he listed 10 reasons it’s great to be an MMO gamer today. Some of his points were giant game selection, a variety of pay options, developers are trying new things, it’s becoming cool to be a gamer, larger player base, and there’s so much to talk about. Darren, one of the hosts on Shut Up, then proceeded to shoot down each of these arguments. More games dilutes the population. More pay options gives the game companies more of an opportunity to gouge the player. Where are the new things these developers are supposed to be trying? Gaming is still considered uncool in many circles. The “larger player base” may just be the same core group of players leaving and coming back. Finally, Darren is finding less new things to talk about concerning games.
 
So, I finish that uplifting conversation and turn on the next podcast, the Van Hemlock Podcast. In this particular episode, Tim and Jon work their way through a list they compiled of 20 things that could be improved in MMO’s. Among the complaints were traveling quests that run you back and forth between two or three locations, leveling, multiple currencies, and not all content is available to solo players. The duo had more than one issue with certain aspects of game play, such as crafting. Why do you have to manufacture the same item over and over again to gain the skill level needed to manufacture the item you really want? And shouldn’t all crafting materials be found throughout the world, not just in one or two specific areas? Groups had their own problems. The first was size limits. The other was the “Holy Trinity”, or the need to have a specific group composition (healer, tank, damage-per-second) in order be efficient. And then there was the sense that nothing you did really mattered in the world. Whatever you accomplish resets or, if you choose not to do something, there are no consequences.
 
To be fair, Darren explained in the show’s comments that, when an article is over-positive, he likes to take a step back and look at the other side of the argument. Also, Jon and Tim were making constructive criticisms in the hopes that developers might make improvement to these various mechanics in future games. Still, after listening, it sounds like there is so much wrong with these games that anyone would be foolish to waste their time with them. However, somehow, despite all these issues, I am still having fun when I play my favorite game. Does that mean my game of choice is devoid of problems? Of course not. And that’s the point. From a Gamer’s viewpoint, if he or she is having fun, all these other issues simply don’t matter. The fun is more powerful than the flaws.

So, is it a great time to be an MMO gamer? Well? Are you having fun? If so, then yes, it’s a great time to be an MMO gamer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

eBay Deals for the Clueless

Sixteen Hundred Microsoft Xbox Points costs $20 U.S., period. (Okay, it’s actually $19.99, but I’m rounding for simplicity.) If you go to Wal-Mart you can buy a Microsoft 1600 points card OTC for $20. Target, $20. Best Buy, $20. Game Stop, $20. Heck, if you are currently playing your Xbox and want to purchase points on the fly through their Xbox Live Marketplace, they charge $20 for 1600 points. There is no reason anyone in the United States should pay more that $20 for this quantity of points.
 
Earlier this week I was browsing eBay and decided to see if there were any good deals on Microsoft point cards. What I found amazed me. When I searched specifically for 1600 points I pulled up 28 listings on the first page. Of those 28, only five . . . five . . . were currently priced under $20 (cost + shipping). The majority of cards were priced higher: $22.50, $23.99, $25.00, $32.51, $33.46, $37.00. My personal favorite had to be someone who had a listing for $1.00. First of all, when you read the description you learn that you do not actually get a card. Instead, the code will be e-mailed to you, an arrangement that I personally would steer clear of. But, besides that, the seller is charging a shipping and handling fee of $22.75. You end up paying nearly $24 dollars for a questionable code when you can go down the street and buy a legitimate card for four dollars less.
 
Okay, listing an overpriced item is one thing. But do people actually buy them? I wanted to know so I clicked on "completed listings". On the first page alone I saw that nineteen cards were sold at a total cost of more than the $20 retail value. (In fact, one of those sales was the $1.00 deal I described above.)
 
If a vendor wants to jack up the price on his item, I really have no problem with that. I believe in a free marketplace. What I do have to question, however, are the people who would actually buy these overpriced items. I can only believe that they are people who simply don’t have a clue about how much Microsoft points cost. They are probably the parents and, more likely, grandparents of little Johnny who begs and begs, "I want some Microsoft points. I want some Microsoft points." These unsuspecting adults don’t know how much these mysterious "points" cost, but they do know you can find good deals on eBay.  So they log on, look up and buy. Done.
 
Bottom line, it’s good to be an informed shopper. And for those of you who aren’t, the cost to read this blog entry is $2.00. You can send it to my PayPal account.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dark Tower MMO: My Envisioning

Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, DC Comics, Star Trek. They are all popular Intellectual Properties (IP) that have, or will soon have, a major MMO associated with them. So what is the next IP that will lend its name to an IP? I have no idea. But I do have an idea for make a great Multi-player online game based on an established IP: Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. King has already shown that he is willing to lend his work to other media outlets, such as Marvel Comic who have released comics based on both the Dark Tower and The Stand. Also, there is some kind of Dark Tower online game experience called Discordia (which I have not looked at yet). So why not a Massively Multiplayer game based on the same series?
 
For starters, the books give us many great locations to explore in the game. In Mid-World, you can visit areas such as the western setting of the Gunslinger, the city of Lud, Calla Bryn Sturgis, Devar-Toi, Mejis, and Roland’s home of Gilead. And then there would be the doorways that travel to our world, such as New York and Maine. Imagine battling nightmarish creatures in the Waste Lands or “Low Men” in the Dixie Pig.
 
I envision this game being more skill-based than class based. Let’s face it, all the heroes were basically gunslingers, primarily a fighter class. Of course, magic existed in Mid-World, but none of the mains were what you would call spell casters. Healers? Not really. So everyone would be classless and instead learn different skills along the way. Depending on what skills one chooses, a player can create a character that has strengths in either fighting, magic-using, stealth, healing, and so-on.

Being a multiplayer game, it’s natural that players will want to form coalitions. In other games these groups go by names such as guilds, corporations, etc.. I think the name that would be used in Dark Tower is pretty obvious: Ka-Tet’s. But I am also a strong supporter of gamers who tend to play solo, being one myself. Therefore, I would like to see the game adopt a system similar to Guild Wars’ heroes and henchmen. The main characters from the books, such as Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Callahan could be the heroes, while lesser characters, such as Sheemie, the Calla residents, and other characters, either taken from the books or created for the game, could be henchmen. I’m up in the air about Roland, however. At the very least, he would be a hero, but I could also see him being a non-playable entity who is in the forefront of the storyline, possibly the person who sends you on your various quests.
 
I also have a great idea for the endgame. (Warning: There may be spoilers for those of you who have not read to the end of Roland’s tale.) Of course your character will eventually reach the Dark Tower and defeat the Crimson King. Once he does he will be allowed to enter the tower. In the book, Roland passes several doors that mark various events of his life. I think it would be cool if you could open those doors in the game and see scenes specific to your characters adventures in the game. Eventually, you will reach the top and have one last door to step through. When your character enters the room at the top of the tower, he is instantly teleported to the starting area of the game, stripped of all acquired items and reduced to level 1. Cruel? Yes. Will players be pissed? Of course. But is it appropriate?

Oh, Yeah!
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