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Archive for the ‘City of Heroes/Villains’ Category

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? Among my list of games I would play if they were F2P, one just joined in on the fun, and the other will be there by fall. We are at 50% saturation… come on, WAR and Vanguard, you know you want to.

So, 15 months after making this statement, instead of “would I,” the question is “will I?”

The answer is “yes,” and “yes, but.”

I am quite looking forward to being able to pop back in to City of Heroes/Villains with my old “paid” characters; my husband and I had a nice thematic team going, and although I don’t foresee it becoming  our main, default log in each evening kind of game (though nothing really fits that bill at Chez Randomessa), we have plenty of good times ahead of us, I’m sure.

Age of Conan, I’m much less sure about. In the time since last year’s post, I have discovered I have an animosity toward a lot of MMO conventions, and Age of Conan skirts enough of them to significantly dampen its appeal to me. As I stated even then, once the Destiny quest content had petered out, there was little that really held my interest in Hyboria. Perhaps Mr. Randomessa and I will take our characters through the Gateway to Khitai just for the heckuvit. That’s more, at least, than we had before. And if we like it, I wouldn’t be opposed to purchasing the rest of Khitai for us to own and play on our own time!

Also on our desktops is an icon for Fallen Earth, just waiting for the gates to officially open. Mr. Randomessa and I like harvesting for craft materials something fierce… although sometimes we like the comments our characters make when we click on items they are not sufficiently skilled to harvest even more:

“Why’s all the good stuff always inside the rock?”

“Maybe later… when I’m not such a noob.”

My roster also consists of time spent in Wizard 101, on which I have happily and voluntarily spent some cash buying access to areas, and Champions Online, which I am still trying to wrap my head around and can’t quite come to a verdict on whether I enjoy it or think it “meh.”

Oh, but today…. today, we play Hellgate: Resurrection.

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Although I have only been following the progress of DC Universe Online peripherally (and even less so after it was revealed the game is going to adhere to the subscription model), over the past week this title has been pinging increasingly on my radar.

Through the initial release date pushback and the commencement of closed beta, I have seen a tiny flurry of features, videos, and, yes, beta leaks coming across the internet, and I am surprised to say that I like what I see, a lot.

I am also surprised to say that I feel DCUO has more in common with Guild Wars 2 than I would have guessed, from the multiple origin storylines to iconic allies who join you in storyline dungeons, to armor/weapon drops that you can either equip for the looks or the stats, to the ability to revive any ally from unconsciousness without a hotbar skill, to the comicbook cutscenes a la concept art that curtain each story act, to the tagline “The Next Legend Is You.”

Of course, several of these items overlap with both of Cryptic’s previous offerings, as well as the grandaddy of superhero MMOs, City of Heroes/Villains. But when I hear Chris Cao talk about the game, it feels less like a litany of game features and a little bit more like, well, a manifesto. When he declares that the level cap was set at 30 because that was the natural conclusion of the storyline, rather than choosing a level cap and trying to come up with content to satisfy the leveling curve, I feel he’s making a statement about content vs. filler that I can agree with wholeheartedly.

I had been expecting to pass DCUO on by, but the knowledge that pre-ordering before the 15th of this month will guarantee closed beta access has brought Mr. Randomessa and I on board. The fact that the videos we’ve seen are enthralling, action-packed and well-voiced is what tipped our wallets in that direction, as well as the knowledge that we both enjoyed ourselves in City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online (though the PvP in the former was non-existent at low levels and the art style of the latter grated on our senses).

While I am still leery of subscriptions, there must be something earnest about the faces of SOE’s people that makes me re-consider when I read things like this:

“You’re giving us $15 a month, so we have to give you something in return. Every month we’re going to give you a new episode, a little something more to do,” he said. “It’s not going to be an expansion, it’s not going to be a huge amount, but it’s enough that you’re going to continue to see the expanded and explored DC Universe. Every trimester or so, we’re going to give you a much bigger download, something with new maps, a whole bunch of new stuff to do, new armor to chase and that sort of thing. Really, it’s based on what we can build and how fast we can build it for all of you. We want to make sure anything we add actually adds something to the experience and isn’t simply ‘more.'”

While subscription proponents have long argued that subscriptions net more content over time, and while I question that conventional wisdom, I can accept the idea of monthly content packages – more frequent versions of CoX’s “issues”, if you will – per subscription installment. I’m never going to be pleased with the fact that I am merely renting access to that content, but fortunately that’s not a decision I have to make just yet.

The only decision I have to make is how I can best replicate a Sylvari Elementalist using DCUO’s character creator.

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There’s a bit of a meme going around the MMO blogosphere, forums, and news site comment sections about the Dynamic Events ArenaNet has described as a new mechanic they have implemented for Guild Wars 2 (go on, read the link about Dynamic Events up there. Don’t just mouse over it, or open it in a new tab to read later, or skim it. Please – just read it. Yes, now. Yes, the whole thing. I’ll wait. Okay, back? Good). The meme goes something like this:

  •  Dynamic Events are just glorified Public Quests
  •  Mythic said exactly the same things about their Public Quests that ArenaNet is saying about Dynamic Events
  •  And we all know how that turned out, amirite?

I will attempt to address the point that Mythic overhyped their Public Quests, which then under-performed, and therefore there is no reason to take ArenaNet at their word about any of the things they describe about their Dynamic Events. The rest will follow from there.

In my search for evidence, I read the following interview with Jeff Hickman by Massively, dated May 30, 2008 – right before a press demo and nearly four months prior to release:

Massively goes to WAR: Jeff Hickman’s view of Warhammer Online

In it, he describes Public Quests as follows:

“Some of them are bigger and cooler than others, some are smaller and more intimate, but they’re all really interesting. The whole concept of ‘I walk into the area and it’s a mini-raid’ is great. You’re having fun, it doesn’t require coordination. As you gather more people it becomes easier to do, you can do some if it alone, and if you have a bunch of people you can just overrrun it. Even that’s not bad, though, because you get that feeling that you’ve just destroyed your enemies. And then it resets and you can do it over again.”

Hickman also declares that they are “revolutionary in the industry” for the hype angle, and that there are “over 300” in the world.

Note that in his description, he reveals that

  • You can’t do all of a PQ alone
  • It is possible to overrun it
  • It resets and you can do it again

Having taken part in several Public Quests, I have difficulty singling any part of this out as dishonest except for the subjective bits; of course it is spun to sound positive in every respect (really? It’s “not bad” when you overrun the quest with massive numbers and trivialize the whole thing?), but even the much-maligned “reset” feature is admitted to openly. In fact, most of the problems players had with Public Quests is noted right there in the interview: since they cannot be completed solo, most PQs were left abandoned once the population in areas (and, later, the entire game) began to thin.

So, maybe Jeff was finally being “more” honest about Public Quests because he was about to demo the game and couldn’t get by on pure hype. What was Mythic saying about the game before people in the press had a chance to play it? How about back in January, 2007?

EA Mythic Event: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

“Everyone in the zone automatically has the same quest! The group objectives are up on the screen, and it keeps track as you do your part (or not – you don’t have to help!). After the public quest finishes, you can go over to the “leader” of the area, and he’ll reward you for helping out. A couple of minutes later, the public quest starts over again.

“You can do the same one over and over to build your reputation with the leader, or you can follow them as you go up in levels and get new, cooler stuff – stuff that’s tailored to you and your class.”

I’m not seeing anything misrepresented about Public Quests here. Further, this is not what ArenaNet has said about Dynamic Events. Certainly, the descriptions of Dynamic Events are loftier and more expansive and even address the concerns about repeatability and population issues, but the hyperbole, such as it exists, is not the same between Mythic and ArenaNet.

Here’s an article from April 2007:

Massively Online Gamer’s Warhammer Exclusive

Saying the same things: kill 300 orcs, kill 25 mauraders. Paul Barnett says that Public Quests pass his “genius test.”

See, if the argument here is that Public Quests were not as cool as they sounded, then well played. However, they worked pretty much exactly as they were presented, so any additional hype really existed in the eyes of the beholders. For what it’s worth, I adored Public Quests when the conditions were right. In the first month or two of Warhammer’s existence, my better half and I would roam the land calling for open groups to do PQs with; we would join groups mid-event, throw heals around, tank for people, and every time a PQ ended, we’d check to see who had maxed out their influence and throw out grats. Most of the time, everyone would stick with the group until everyone had maxed out their influence, and then would come the question: “want to go to next chapter?” Usually the answer was yes.

For myself and my better half playing as a stubborn closed duo, this was revolutionary. For us, having never raided in another MMO, being able to take down a seven-headed hydra with thirty other people by level 5 was revolutionary. I have rarely seen it argued that Public Quests were a bad idea; rather a good idea that suffered from poor implementation and lack of failsafes against the things players inevitably do (like abandon open areas in order to chain-queue scenarios because the XP gain was faster).

Of course, then we played City of Heroes/Villains and found that zombie invasions were very similar to Public Quests. Whoops, Mythic, you got caught out there!

My point here is that I am seeing it thrown around that Dynamic Events are like Public Quests as though that is some sort of terrible thing. Public Quests are not terrible and they were not a terrible idea. I applaud any game that takes the idea started in City of Heroes/Villains, iterated in Warhammer Online and copied in Champions Online/Star Trek Online, and tries to improve on it as ArenaNet is now attempting to take to the next level with Guild Wars 2. From the looks of it, Mythic did not even mischaracterize Public Quests in their descriptions of their impact, duration, or contents, so to dismiss ArenaNet’s extremely detailed blogs and interviews about the way Dynamic Events  will work (trust me, most of your questions are answered there) as dishonest on the face of it seems more than a tad overly cynical.

Frankly, if Dynamic Events turn out to be as true to ArenaNet’s words as Public Quests were to Mythic’s, then it will have been Mission Accomplished, no more, no less.

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I have tried out a number of MMOs, both paid and free to play, and I can’t say I’ve noticed any stark differences between the two styles as far as the fun factor is concerned. I’ve even subscribed to a few games, and/or bought longterm or lifetime subscriptions to others. But I am beginning to feel more strongly as time goes on that no one game can appeal to all of my gaming desires, so it is not reasonable for me to buy into one game and play it to the exclusion of all others. I just don’t want to have to pay subscriptions for all of them, when I play them so sporadically!

Currently I am playing Star Trek Online (year-long sub), Wizard 101 (free until I purchase more content), Aika (as further betas allow), and am trying to get back into Lord of the Rings Online (lifetime sub). Now, if I could continue to play any of the following without paying additional subscription fees, I would gladly pop back into:

  • Warhammer Online: the thought of a free T1 experience was appealing to me until I discovered that only Empire vs. Chaos lands could be accessed. I would be back in a heartbeat if Mythic enabled me to, say, pay by the tier – if I could purchase T1 access and have access to all three lands forever (or even one fee per pairing; I would pay that, too!), with all of my characters. If they would add fees for access to T2 through 4 in the same way, I’d be all over that. They could take from DDO’s model in this way, such that anyone could obviously bypass the Tier For Fee option and just pay a full subscription for access to the whole game.
  • Age of Conan: I loved the Tortage experience, but even so, I’m not that big a fan of repetition and after playing through the 1-20 game with all four archetypes, I feel I’ve exhausted that content. The addition of new content through the Rise of the Godslayer expansion has me really tempted to return and try running through with a member of the Khitai race, and really itching to try out the lands of Khitai for their contrast to the existing continents. But again, it would be really nice if I could buy this content. I would even be willing to pay extra on the price of the expansion if I could “own” access to the lands of Khitai. Heck, charge me $25 over the expansion box price and let me progress only through the lands of Khitai, stopping at level 40, but have access to that area forever.
  • City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online: My partner and I had a lot of fun with CoX, though, as many others have said, most of our time was spent in character creation and we never really made it past level 12 or so (though I have a level 21 character that I soloed with). Again, it seemed just a bit too much to maintain a subscription for the amount of time we were spending with the game, and feeling compelled to “get our money’s worth” on the subscription tended to make us feel a bit sick of the content early on (I doubt I would have felt the mission structure was as repetitive as I did if I only attempted one mission in a week, instead of trying to get in 4-5 per night). Champions Online was my solo game, and I had enough fun with it that I felt sad when I canceled my subscription after one month, for the aforementioned reason.
  • Vanguard, Saga of Heroes: Now, here is a game that I feel would benefit from enabling permanent free access to the trial island. Between my better half and I, we couldn’t even make it to Adventuring level 10 in the two-week trial period, let alone in the other two spheres. I do have a concern that we game in too short of spurts to really make it far in a game of such sprawling landscapes and dungeons as Vanguard, but I would like to try, and would happily pay a one-time per-area fee for that opportunity.

Someone on the Massively forums said, in response to a player bemoaning the lack of American players’ ability to pay by the hour when playing games the way they do in Asia, that “if you play enough” the subscription fee is a bargain. Yes, it certainly is – if you play enough. Right now the only option with subscription games is to either play “enough,” overpay for sporadic gaming schedules, or not to play at all.

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