Warhammer Online: Impressions, Part 1

Everyone knows I’m an EVE nut, but overall I’m a big fan of the MMO genre. As such, I like to give every game a fair shake, and where possible I try to do so at launch.

Age of Conan (AoC) is one that I got on day one, and was largely disappointed with the result. The lore of Conan is deep, but while playing the game I just didn’t feel the connection to it, and the gameplay didn’t seem to have the depth to keep me hooked.

Now with Warhammer Online (WAR) out, we have a game which is based on the ridiculously successful Warhammer table-top game, which I admittedly never got into (my wallet is thankful for that).  Early media previews dubbed it a World of Warcraft (WoW) killer, and that always freaks me out because it usually means “WoW clone”.  But click onward, and read about my first impressions of this hotly anticipated MMO.

Continue reading “Warhammer Online: Impressions, Part 1”

EVE Ship Models In the Wild

Recluse Viramor has received a nice new Megathron model from the CCP Store, and has been gracious enough to post a pile of pictures online for us all to gaze in awe at.

The bluey-ness of the ship is caused by a matte finish reflecting the wonderfully clear day outside, so it’s not like the model is painted that way.  It seems the models are as reflective of their environment as the ships are in the game.  Very cool.

Also, these things are monsters!  Looks like you get what you pay for. A lot of people have expressed concerns over the expense of these things, but given the size and detailing I think it’s pretty justified.

Source: EVE Online Megathron Battleship Model

Separation of Developer and Community

MMOs are a funny beast. They’re not like your typical game at all. Most games you purchase, play, finish, and put down in favor of the next thing. With massively multiplayer games, you’re bound to stick around for months if not years, and have an extreme reliance on the developer of the game to support it and add new things.

Player communities for MMOs usually center around a game’s official forums. Now anyone who’s ever been to a MMO’s official forums will the kind of places those can be. They’re usually rife with player complaints and insane suggestions, but also will have some helpful folks around to provide some answers to newer players having a problem with something.  All of this is how things typically operate.

A large chunk of making this system work is how developers and community converse.  In the average MMO, the sight of a bonafide developer talking freely in the game’s own forums typically never happens.  Communication is usually handled by community relations people.  Their jobs will usually entail keeping an eye on the forums and getting a feel for the “pulse” of the people, summarizing and reporting on trends of opinion of the players.  They can also be seen taking issues and getting feedback from the game’s developers and then coming back to the forums with some answers.

That’s as good as it gets with the usual MMO.  Why?  We’ll get to that shortly…

Back in the day when EVE was new and CCP was a smaller organization, the devs were right down in the trenches with the players.  You’d see them all over the forums, answering questions and even just shooting the breeze and having the fun with players.  You got to know the guys and girls who made the game, and they got to know you.  But at a certain point that changed.

The game’s success made CCP bigger along with the community.  And suddenly the problems that plagued other forums were happening in EVE’s.  A dev statement on something would find itself committed to memory and thrown back in their face later with a “you talked about this, now where is it?”  The sight of a developer response in a thread meant that everyone piled on to that post, ignoring the thread’s topic in favor of getting their own perceived issues with the game brought forward.

It’s somewhat ironic really, when the same community that wants more developer involvement presents itself as a hostile environment for such communication to occur.

Ever since the big “t20 incident”, where a developer was found to be cheating in the game, a massive amount of distrust with EVE’s developers has been present.  This kind of thing is in no way isolated to EVE, and happens to EVERY MMO.  The stakes are higher for EVE with this kind of thing due to the sensitivity of the economy and such, but also because EVE’s community is a singular entity — we’re not split onto other servers.

I use EVE as an example here because well, for one I’m pretty familiar with the game’s community.  But also, it’s been a nice case study for this, since it’s only taken the span of a handful of years for CCP to pull back from the people.  But it’s an issue that’s by no means unique to EVE, and can be seen in other forums for MMOs.

Maybe it’s the subscription based thing that gives some players a feeling of empowerment over the company that produces the game.  I don’t know.  It’s got to be a tough balance for any developer to take into account the reasonable wishes of its community while maintaining their own vision of the game.  It’s also tough as a player when you yourself might have an idea for what could be a cool addition, but you’re also not aware of all the underlying balancing issues that change might have.

Players need to realize that yes, the money you pay monthly does pay for the game, the wages of the developers, etc.  But you pay to play the game because you like to play it, and that same monthly tithe doesn’t enable you to push around the development team.

Developers on the other hand, have to realize that there are people playing their game, people who like like a game enough to want to be able to communicate with those who make it, for a wide variety of reasons.  That could be in the form of forum posts (informal or formal), two-way information flow (Q&A), developer blogs, etc.

Otherwise things tend to break down into an “us vs. them” environment, which is never a good thing.  Is EVE’s CSM the answer?  I think it’s a good step in the right direction, putting both developers and players in direct contact to the benefit of each side they represent.  Execution of that is crucial, and I’m not sure if it’s working as well as intended in its current form.

All I know is I miss the forums of the past, and lament that a part of EVE’s magic will probably never be seen again.

The Endless Nerf Cycle

EVE Online is like most MMOs, in that it’s perpetually being tweaked, patched, expanded, and adjusted.  Most gamers who are new to this genre of gaming are usually surprised when a game is launched in a seemingly buggy, incomplete state.  EVE’s history is not so different than most others in this way, but it’s been around for a very long time and has reached a decent level of stability (ignoring the lag argument altogether here).

Over the course of EVE’s history there’s been may new things added to the game, and as is typical of MMO players they will learn the ins and outs of every item, feature, and system to a level of detail which must easily rival that of the average EVE developer.  I’m continually amazed by the knowledge I see myself in others in this game.

However occasionally something happens…  someone begins to excel at a specific thing in a way which ends up making it popular, because others want to be good at the game too.  Inevitably this thing, whatever it may be, draws the attention of the fiery lidless eye of the developer, and the inevitable response is to reduce the functionality of said thing in a way which brings it more in line with the rest of the system.  Translation: it gets nerfed.

EVE’s past is a sordid one with regards to nerfs, because of the way EVE is designed.  Even the tiniest change to a particular mechanic can have repercussions.  Entire fleets might have to adjust tactics, a whole segment of a market might now bottom out, and since EVE’s a single shard game (one universe for all of us) we’re all affected by these changes.

There was one boost, as opposed to a nerf, which was to bring Amarr as a race back in line with the other three. Ironically enough a huge part of this boost was a general nerf to base resistance values of ships so that Amarr weapons across the board would have more punch.

Right now EVE’s developers are playing with the speed “system” to look at how nano ships can be made to be less impossible to shoot.  Whole gangs of people fly around right now in nano-fitted ships because of the massive speed advantage that players have learned to use.  Most sane people in the game wouldn’t argue the merits of this particular change.  There’s some sweeping changes coming with regards to security which directly affects those involved in high-security system suicide combat.  Again another change which has massive effect for a specific group, but most probably can see the postive nature of it.

Now the community’s looking at level 4 agent missions, because it’s apparently too easy for people to get massive sums of isk for little risk.  Personally I’m not sure I see the point of this, other than the PVP-oriented types wanting to force folks who play more casually to have to risk everything in order to make some cash.

Don’t get me wrong, I love EVE’s PVP.  Occasionally I’m known to hit some high security systems to run some level 4 missions for some cash, but it’s not like it’s an ATM machine spewing out coins.  You have to grind lower level agents for a long time to even get up in faction standing to use lower quality level 4 agents, and the highest quality ones aren’t always in high security areas.  The best rewards are still found in low security or 0.0 agents, and by comparison high sec agents just don’t even come close to the bounties, loot, and loyalty point rewards you get there.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of EVE nerfs is how more often than not, they’re not always as bad as most people think.   In the end a lot of the results of tweaking ends up with a rewarding experience for those who specialize in training and fitting to fit a particular role.  That reward shouldn’t be immortality in combat of course, but should allow you to exploit a weakness in the enemy.  Historically that’s what we ended up with in EVE.

One of the biggest examples of this was when the tracking of turret-based weapons really hit home.  There was a time when a battleship was king, and could easily track and hit cruisers and frigates.  They were beasts.  FUN beasts, unless you weren’t flying in one.  Then suddenly signature radius and tracking were all important to whether your guns could hit something.  Two things happened:

1. Battleship pilots bitched up a storm.  Their uber pwnmobiles were now only solidly effective against other battleships or smaller ships if their pilots weren’t smart, or the battleship pilot was fitted to handle them.

2. Practically every other smaller combat ship became a viable component of a balanced fleet.

In the end, it was a huge benefit to the game, as newer players who could use smaller ships were welcome in fleets, and fleet fights became a much much much more dynamic beast.  Combat became more interesting.  I’m sure the industry side of EVE twitched considerably as well.

To conclude, yeah, EVE’s most definitely not through with its adjustments, and as more features get added that just means more plates CCP has to keep spinning to keep the game viable.  However that sense of a dynamic experience is one of those things which keeps people playing MMOs.

In Memoriam: Laura “Taera” Genender

CCP Wrangler has just made the kind of announcement that nobody ever wants.  A new addition to CCP, Taera, has passed away.  I’m sure everyone will join me when I wish my sincerest condolences to her family, friends, and coworkers.

It is with the deepest sorrow that we share with you the news about the passing of Associate Community Manager Laura “Taera” Genender. Although she was with us for only a short time, she connected with our community through her selfless grace and enthusiasm. Even before she joined our team, her professionalism at MMORPG.com elevated the state of our industry and made us all stronger because of it. Our thoughts and our hearts are with her family. Though you may not have ever had the pleasure of meeting her, we ask that you include them in your thoughts as well.

Source: In Memoriam: Laura “Taera” Genender