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The Two Minute Look at STO

20 March 2010 Leave a comment

As seen on my FB wall:

this is where i was disappointed with STO and where i hope it will go as I know this is a longer term design thing.

to me, Star Trek is about three things, and I list them in order of what I feel is important: exploration, creativity (here, meaning creative choices), action.

STO definitely has some measure of action, it is combat oriented.

There’s some exploration, but it’s very structured. The random quest generator is okay in this area but not enough. I think EVE actually does a really good job with exploration. You’ve skills and probes, which you triangulate in space and then let them do the work for you. It becomes a really interesting mini-game that can be, at times, a little frustrating. Wormhole space expands the play area tremendously. Would wormholes work in STO? maybe not, but definitely probing and exploring would. And it would fit the IP perfectly.

Creativity. I would love more opportunities to make choices with meaning in the game that have consequences. For example, let’s say a station on some planet is being blockaded by a race of ugly guys. The game could make some suggestions for me. Attack them in space. Beam down and do something nefarious to their plans. Bribe them with trilithium. Based on skill or something, the option would have a consequence. What if I’m a shitty diplomat, and I try the bribe option. I would have a low chance of success. If I fail, how will the ugly guys respond? This is actually something I’d really like to see in games in general, but I think it would really expand STO’s capabilities really nicely.

A secondary thing to creativity would be a real crafting system. But one in which I can experiment. Perhaps improve my drives, or create a new product that has some use to someone. I like collecting, and many players do as well, but giving it to some NPC on some distant sector doesn’t cut it. The current design for crafting is a really strong indicator that Atari forced Cryptic to cut corners.

Action. I’d like to see politics, treaties between differing groups, conquerable space, etc. The ability to set up stations, that kind of thing. That’s very EVE as well, but it fits with the IP and from EVE we know it’s doable and brings a whole different measure of fun to the game. And players who don’t want to be involved in that don’t have to be.

Categories: design, MMO Tags: ,

Two Second Comparison of EVE Online and Star Trek Online

20 March 2010 Leave a comment

EVE ships are better than Star Trek Online ships because they don’t all look the same and are smart enough to handle proper shields. Flying around in circles to protect your weak spot while it heals really is NOT an interesting mechanic or play strategy. It’s boring, annoying, and a fun deterrent.

Categories: MMO Tags: ,

The Sims Online as Social Networking Game Inspiration?

10 December 2009 1 comment

I made an off-the-cuff comment a short while ago regarding both The Sims Online and the current crop of social networking games that is now making me scratch my head and say hmmm

Consider social networking games. Many of them require a lot of similar behaviors pioneered by The Sims Online, such as going to another person’s cafe (as an example) and picking up trash and chasing out dancing penguins.

I’m not describing The Sims Online in the above quote, but rather what we do now in many social networking games, by the way.

I only beta tested The Sims Online, so my experiences with the game are very limited and so what follows is based on what my friends (some of whom wound up sticking with The Sims Online once it launched) and I did during beta.

The game was very similar to The Sims, where you’d have a house that you’d buy and place stuff in. You would go around to other houses of other players and socialize and use objects to help your avatar gain in skill and earn money. This is an extremely basic overview of the game and how it related to player interactivity.

Now consider the many social networking games such as the ‘Ville and ‘City games out on the social networking sites. You have your own area of the game in which you build and do stuff. Then you visit friends, where you can go an aid them in limited means. Doing so well earn you cash and some experience points. Granted, in these types of social networking games you are limited in what you can do (usually limited to just pressing an “okay” button), but the fundamentals are there.

Is it fair to say that The Sims Online inspired some of the design choices of some of the most popular social networking games out there today? I don’t know, but there is a very strong similarity in design.

Asheron’s Call Turns 10

29 November 2009 1 comment

I was a bit too lazy to post this to 2BG:

WESTWOOD, MA. – November 2, 2009 – Turbine, Inc. announced today that its award-winning title, Asheron’s Call® (AC) has entered its 10th year of operation. Launched on November 2, 1999, AC immediately set the standard for online immersion, storytelling, and worldwide live event capability. As one of the original Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG), AC is a fully developed world – complete with a deep history, committed community, and compelling ongoing storyline. Turbine will celebrate this major milestone by running live events throughout the day that will bring back some of the most loved (and feared) signature lore characters and villains of its rich 10-year history.

“Asheron’s Call has served as the foundation on which Turbine was built,” said Craig Alexander, Vice President of Product Development of Turbine. “For a decade, AC has represented one of the industry’s most consistent and well-loved franchises further demonstrating the longevity and quality of Turbine’s persistent worlds.”

Launched in 1999, AC is a critically acclaimed massively multiplayer online role-playing game that draws together thousands of players within an evolving and dynamic persistent world. With an exciting ever-evolving storyline, thrilling adventures, quests, and frequent content updates, AC immerses players in an intense role-playing environment. An extensive system of formal Allegiances and player influence greatly enhances social interaction within the game. AC has received several awards over its 10-year history including being ranked #27 of Gamespy’s Top 50 games of all time. For more information, please visit http://ac.turbine.com.

Asheron’s Call was my second MMO. I chose it simply because I was able to play in the beta. I had actually gotten into the fourth EverQuest beta round, but because EQ didn’t like my video card, I wound up with a nice coaster (these were the days when game devs would mail you a copy of their beta because most everyone was still on dialup). My first MMO was Ultima Online, and while I wasn’t looking for a replacement for that game I, like many early MMO players, was curious about this relatively market that was starting to grow.

AC was the smaller of the first three, and another fantasy-based MMORPG, something the market is still overwhelmingly in favor of (designer-wise, at least). It was my first ever real 3D-engine game, I think, on the PC, so I was very easily impressed. Monsters named after Matt Drudge were my favorite, but the most important design aspect ever was in AC:

Asheron’s Call had the fez, the most important piece of headwear ever designed in the entire universe. Fezes were native to the Gharu’ndin, a race in Dereth, and so I immediately and always played one (sup, Tafiq al-Jafar!).

Initially I was drawn to AC’s unique magic system, which included a personal taper. You had to actually learn what components made which spell, which I found fascinating. I spent a lot of money failing at trial and error magic sessions, and I wish more MMOs included this type of design in their games.

An aspect of AC that is still unique, but one that I didn’t take part in was Allegiances. Allegiances were the guilds of AC, and they were very much a pyramid scheme. Vassals swore to patrons, who received a small portion of the XP their vassals earned. To this day I still get a kick out of this design.

One of the things that endeared me to Turbine was their stance towards bugs. There was a nasty bug that they accidentally introduced into the game; I forget what it was or what it did. But the producer came out and said something akin to, you know what, we made this error, and it’s not necessarily fair of us to completely punish players for abusing this error (within reason). That a game developer pretty much admitted to fucking up, which was unique then (and to a certain extent, unique now) was ballsy, and impressive, and I’ve never forgotten that after all these years, even if the details are very much hazy.

Asheron’s Call was never hugely popular. It was third behind EverQuest and Ultima Online back in the day. In fact, the authors of Dungeons and Dreamers simply ignored its existence, electing instead to put Dark Age of Camelot in its place, a game that was released two years after AC hit the market. Turbine wound up splitting from Microsoft, AC‘s original publisher, and failed with Asheron’s Call 2, where I think you could have played drudges as a race. Turbine has done okay over the last ten years, and Asheron’s Call still chugs along despite its age. I did wind up returning a year or two ago, and quit after 6 days… World of Warcraft spoiled me. But I’ll always remember Dereth fondly.

Happy birthday, old friend!

Wait… what?

22 November 2009 Leave a comment

Promotion for Champions Online‘s next in-game event. It begins, eventually.

Categories: MMO Tags:

Champions Online has 1 million characters

2 November 2009 Leave a comment

Champions OnlineWorlds In Motion reported recently that Cryptic’s Champions Online has at least 1 million characters under its superhero tool belt:

Online game maker Cryptic Studios said its most recent MMORPG, the Atari-published Champions Online, has garnered over 1 million created superhero characters, but the size of the subscriber base is unclear.

Unclear? Hrm.

I sent this news item to Siam, the owner and managing editor of The MMOGamer. Because I’m bad at math, I asked him to do it for me:

You should do math. How many characters can one account have, then half that, and divide that by one million =P

His response?

Max 8 per account. 1 000 000 / 4 = 250 000

That number does seem a bit high, 250,000. I would half that again, maybe a little more. Then I would multiply it all by the number of players who named their characters after famous comic heroes times .045035893845083405 and divide it by some other arbitrary number that I just made up.

I’m honestly not too surprised to find that there’s a million superheros created in Champions. The character creation/development is so complicated, that I’m sure that, like me, many players are rerolling, trying to find something that will get them passed level 20.

I still am playing the game, for what it’s worth.

Making right out of wrong

26 October 2009 Leave a comment

Champions OnlineI previously took issue with the way Cryptic failed to handle a major server issue in a timely manner with its Champions Online property. They announced today that they will be giving players one free retcon (opportunity to do a character redesign) with the launch of their Blood Moon Rising event at the end of this month:

Due to this weekend’s server issues, we’ll be granting a free Retcon to all players when Blood Moon goes live on Tuesday, October 27th. Keep in mind that free Retcons do not stack, so players who have not used their previous free Retcon before tomorrow morning’s maintenance will not receive a new one. Also note that free Retcons do not impact purchased ones in any way. Owning a purchased Retcon will not prevent you from receiving a free one. We appreciate your patience this past weekend, and we can’t wait to see you in Blood Moon!

As a player, I love free stuff. Any time I can get free stuff from a game developer I’m a happy camper, and with the difficulty in designing a Champions character that is effective down the road, getting a free retcon is a bonus. But, there’s also the cynical part of me that says that they’re just bribing me because I was pissed off at them. I was. They are. Free retcons for everybody!

Categories: MMO Tags: