Last night I woke up around 5.30 in the morning with a strange feeling in my body.
I knew I was not alone in the apartment.
Within seconds, all my senses were on high alert, and I slid out of bed like a panther, ready to face whatever danger had trespassed into my private lair.
Because it's summer here in Greece, I keep my bedroom door shut so the cool air provided by my air condition unit won't escape out into the rest of my apartment, but I could feel the presence of an intruder through the door.
I didn't have anything big enough to use as a weapon in my bedroom, so armed only with the modest tools nature gave me, I opened my bedroom door that leads out into a hallway.
Then I saw him.
He was standing in the middle of the hallway, right outside my bathroom and looking straight at me not even 10 feet away. He was huge.
We stood there looking at each other for a few seconds, then he spun around and ran into my bathroom.
I jumped into my office that is straight across from my bedroom, and picked up the biggest book I could find - a bodybuilding book called High Intensity Training by Mike Mentzer, and ran after him.
For some reason he decided that there was no place to hide in my bathroom, so just as I came in through the door, he tried to run past me and escape into the kitchen.
He was lightning fast, but I was faster, and the full wrath of High Intensity Training by Mike Mentzer hit him in the back of his head.
I heard a crunching sound, and I knew he was dead
Just to make sure, I stepped on the book a few times. Maybe fueled by adrenaline anger, I wanted to set an example - this is my domain! I rule these halls!
I really hate bugs of all kinds, and especially cockroaches. There is something nefariously evil about them, and if I had a choice, I'd rather take them on with a ranged weapon and not a book.
He is gone though. I flushed the evidence down the toilet.
But I still can't shake the feeling that he didn't come alone...
It's getting uncomfortably hot here in Greece, and the only room I have bothered to get air condition for in my house, is my bedroom. On some of the hottest evenings, I just stay in there and read a book, taking only quick trips out to my fridge for cold bottles of water.
Since I know I'll spend a lot of time in there this summer, I bought a new huge flatscreen TV and one of those multimedia DVD-players that plays all kinds of weird formats. It's pretty sweet. I figure if I move the fridge in there as well, I can lock the door and never come out.
I have always bought a lot of DVDs. I am a little addicted to internet shopping, and I love to order stuff from Amazon.co.uk or Play.com. I was never really into downloading torrents, but after borrowing a few pirated DVDs from a friend, I realized something I never considered before; on a store bought DVD, you have to sit through all those annoying copyright notifications, which here in Europe usually means at least 4-5 different languages, one after another, each lasting 10+ seconds of pure irritation, and then it's the cheesy Thou Shall Not Be A Pirate videoclips that you CAN'T skip either. To maximize the pain, the various local distributors have usually put their little intros and presentations in there as well. Pressing skip does nothing, fast forward does nothing and you can't even jump directly to the DVD menu.
It has always pissed me off a little, but it is pretty crazy that such an annoying thing is non-existing on the pirated DVDs. They have simply been removed. So not only do you watch the movies for free - sometimes months before they can be bought in stores, you are also spared from all the copyright crap.
It's a bit of a paradox, and hopefully the movie industry will pick up on it and let us skip all those warnings (and sometimes trailers for shitty movies) in the future.
I am a little tired of people referring to Shadowbane's lack of commercial success, and using it as an argument for why games with a heavy focus on PvP won't work, so I am gonna make a brief statement:
Shadowbane was a great concept and a great game, and the only reason it wasn't a massive success, was buggy and outdated technology.
If Shadowbane had released without all the client crashes, with a better server solution and with a graphical engine that could compete with other games released at the time, it would have been a HUGE hit.
And on that note - they are wiping all the Shadowbane servers and all the characters, and re-releasing two new servers in the very near future. It's free, and I am gonna go play it with some friends, to hopefully re-experience some of that magic a fresh Shadowbane server brings - for probably the last time.
Still alive, still living in Greece, still working for Aventurine and still working on Darkfall.
I meant to write something here a few times over the last year, but someone accidentally changed my ftp password without letting me know, and that was all the excuse I needed to forget about updating.
Right now I am helping out with low-level testing of terrain-tiles, which includes walking around Agon looking for stuff like floating trees and general accessibility problems - blocked entrances etc, then fix them as I find them. Extremely unexciting, but it has to be done.
Since I got this thing working again, I'll try to update a little more than once every year in the future.
Topic: Are Online Worlds Too Complex? Within the online world community, there are both developers and players who feel believe that, as a generalization, the games tend to be too complex, over-intellectualized and over-designed. For this segment in our Online Worlds Roundtable series, we invited representatives of various studios and project teams to offer their respective points of view on this interesting issue.
Claus Grovdal Lead Designer and Producer, Darkfall Aventurine
For the sake of this roundtable, I am going to assume that the complexity refers to MMOs being too hard to get into, and to keep playing because of high skill and knowledge requirements.
I don't think online worlds are too complex. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I find most current games too shallow and repetitive to hold player interest for very long. You don't need much skill to play most of them - mainly, you need time - and you too can own the Golden Platemail of Awesome. A good example of online worlds being oversimplified is the current trend of getting a quest from an NPC, and having the game literally draw a red line from point A to point B, so you can follow it and 'solve' the quest. That's not very challenging, and when it comes to demanding players, it can't hold much entertainment value either.
Players actually having to think doesn't make online worlds too complex. In my opinion a good game needs several layers of complexity that a player may or may not choose to get into. I like to think of it as a learning curve, with the prospect of more involving content down the line. As far as game design goes, I don't believe in simplifying the content, but rather the interaction with this content. You want players interfacing with the game as easily and smoothly as possible, but without sacrificing depth of gameplay.
I believe online worlds should be more complex than they are today. When players have killed every monster, solved every quest and tried out every emote, they'll need new levels of depth and new areas of gameplay to explore. Unfortunately, this is where most of the current online worlds have run their course.
I have been researching a few browser-based MMOGs lately, since they seem to be hugely popular, and I must confess I am still a bit confused about their success. Personally I find most browser-based games rather boring, although I realise I am not exactly core target audience.
Warring Factions is one of the better browser-games though, and is incidentally made by a former guildmate from my Asherons Call days. It is a space strategy game in the 4X mold (eXplore, eXpand, eXterminate... and another X), and I have been playing it on and off for about a month now. It is fun, and about as involving as you want it to be.
Besides having the perhaps silliest name yet, Dofus from French developer Ankama Studios is a curious MMORPG for more reasons than it's name.
It's a complete functioning MMORPG made in Flash (!) and combat is turn-based. It is also quite fun to play, and I must admit to having probably spent more time than I should playing it lately (I hereby officially apologize to my thankfully understanding girlfriend - it's research, I swear!).
Following the increasingly popular play-while-deciding-if-you-want-to-pay model of Runescape and others, you can download the full game and play it for as long as you want. If you like it, you can subscribe and get access to the full world map.
It has PvP, but I haven't really gotten into that yet, apart from some duels. Supposedly guild vs. guild fights are fun, fighting for control of resource spawns. The developer has also been talking about adding more PvP content.
Might not be for everyone, but worth checking out if you are desperately looking for something new to play.
Tomorrow this site will officially be two years old. I guess less than 30 posts in two years is not much to brag about, but at least I left some room for improvement!
At work everything is going well. We have reached several important milestones, and we also recently moved to bigger offices - which was badly needed - so morale is high.
For me it's mostly about work and my son right now. I haven't really played a game in ages. I wish I could say I was pumped up about a MMOG, but sadly none of the upcoming games interest me much. I just can't get excited about PVE games, no matter how many instances they are running, what sweet movie/pen & paper license they have bought, or how many monsters you get the joy of killing before you have been through all the quests.
The new expansion for Guild Wars looks semi-interesting though, so I'll probably check that one out.
Oh yea, I switched to a new commenting system again, this time to the one blogger is providing, so all the old comments went poof. I promise not to switch anymore. I also joined Google's AdSense program, so now I can just sit back and watch you mindless drones click the ads, and I will be a intarweb billionaire in no-time!
I've always liked pure mindless hack & slash, and especially in a randomized dungeon setting.
Fate from Wild Tangent is a little gem I found a few weeks ago, and I am totally hooked on the fast paced action-packed gameplay. It's one of the most fun Nethack/Moria/Rogue/Diablo-like games I have played.
Check it out. It's only a 125mb download, and you get to play the first three levels of the dungeon for free. Then its $20 for a key to unlock the rest of the game.
It's been slow around the office for a few weeks, but people are starting to come back from their holidays so we should be back to full speed soon.
I have been working a lot with Darkfall quests lately, which is kinda ironic since I really hate questing in games. In WoW I couldn't stand questing, and only did them if someone in my guild were kind enough to take me by the hand and run me through them. I'd rather grind the same monsters over and over for days instead of doing quests - and trust me, I really hate grinding too.
Guess I just hate leveling in general.
We have some pretty good quests in Darkfall despite my hate for them. Luckily some of the other designers here, Trond and BT, are very much into them, and are doing a very good job implementing quests. We have very good tools for both adding hand-made quests, and for generating random ones, so there is a lot of content for any questing future Darkfall players out there.
My life is basically work, eat, sleep, and it has been like that for a good while. I havent really done anything even vaguely social for the last 5 months or so. Outside the sun is shining and I know the water is great at the beach, but there just hasnt been any time for it.
In the evenings when I come home from work, I usually just wedge out in front of the TV or read a book. I have been working hard on improving my card game though. Like I mentioned in a post last year, I decided that I wanted to get really good at p0ker, and I have been working systematically at it for about a year now.
It is starting to pay off, and this week I had a 13th position finish in a heat of 2500 players tournament, and yesterday I had a very good run and finished 4th in a 2000 players game. I only play really low entry level tournaments. Usually the daily $5+1 buy-in at Party P0ker (which starts around when I get home from work), and sometimes on weekends the $5000 freeroll.
Doing these low buy-in tournaments gives me a tremendous amount of experience when it comes to dancing through and surviving 1500-2500 players. Since the buy-in is so low, you usually have to dodge at least 1000 complete maniacs, playing crazy hands, chasing your bids all the way to the river, bluffing left and right. It is very hard work - really tough, but I am having a lot of fun while at the same time learning to master no-limit p0ker practically for free.
I think playing these cheap tourneys also give me a bit of an edge, since I dont really care about the money, so when everyone else is tightening up when we get closer and closer to winning something, I can shift gear and play a little bit more aggressive than most other players.
This week I won about $700 total in price money and I am feeling pretty good about my game. Still have a lot to learn though.
Next week I am going to Norway for a week visiting my girlfriend, and then she will come with me back to Greece and stay for 4 weeks. Really looking forward to seeing her again. I have this weird hermit gene that makes me just forget there is a world outside my offices at work or at home, but she does a great job dragging me out to do all kinds of stuff, and we always have a lot of fun together.
Check out Mount & Blade, a pretty cool game best described as Morrowind meets Pirates. It's very addictive, with excellent gameplay. Combat is very similar to Darkfall, so if you are curious - here is another clue.
The game is made by two people - a man and wife team from Turkey, and it's the best argument for tiny teams still being able to create competitive titles I have seen in years.
Mount & Blade is Try Before You Buy, so go check it out.
Turns out we have more than 3.3 BILLION possible character dressing variations in Darkfall. Color combinations for almost every piece of wearable NOT included. Wieldables not included either, so there is another multiplier to factor in.
Sometimes I wonder if we should have made Barbie Online instead...
Some people started mentioning this semi-s3cr1t blog on the Darkfall forums, and I have noticed a significant increase in traffic lately. I don't mind, but I think I need to clarify a few things:
This blog is about me, Claus. Not about Darkfall, Razorwax or Aventurine. This is a place where I can write whatever I want to without having to worry about company policies, marketing strategies or if I can or can not say that I think World of Warcraft is boring.
Obviously Darkfall is a big part of my life and I will occationally mention it, but if you are mainly looking for info on the game, you are looking at the wrong place.
So feel free to keep asking DF related questions in the comments, but rest assured that I will politely ignore most of it :)
A friend of mine told me to check out Vendetta Online, a space game similar to Elite, Freelancer and Eve Online. I have only played a few hours, but although I am not a big space game fan, I am enjoying the game.
The dogfights are twitch based, which is a huge pluss, and totally superior to the turn-based combat in Eve Online. The fights actually remind me of the old classic X-Wing vs Tie Fighter. I remember playing the heck out of that game.
The interface of Vendetta Online is pretty horrible, and the sound effects leave a lot to be desired, but the gameplay is great if you can tolerate a moderate learning curve to get into it all.
It is also full PvP.
Vendetta Online is made by a small team of four guys from Milwaukee, and they offer an 8 hour free trial of the game.
Give the trial a test if you like space games. Supporting small indie teams will make the world a better place.
I have been planning to write about World of Warcraft for weeks, but I have somehow found all kinds of excuses to do something else, like watering the plants, taking out the garbage, or sorting through my DVD collection.
The game totally bores me, and I even get bored thinking about why.
It may not even be World of Warcrafts fault - I think it is just the very concept I am tired of. It's Everquest again. Better, but still Everquest. Except for their mailbox system, there is little we haven't already seen in previous MMOGs.
The PvP is pointless, since there is no PvP content. You can kill a guy, but nothing happens. To illustrate: I was grinding monsters one day, and got attacked by another player. I killed him. He is back 40 seconds later. I kill him. He is back 40 seconds later. I killed this guy 13 times (!) in a row, before I realized how utterly pointless it was, and logged off. I got nothing for killing him, and he lost nothing for dying. It's like reversed griefing.
Hint: Penalty and reward, Blizzard.
The biggest problem with World of Warcraft however, is that it sold so many copies, encouraging other companies to make more games like it.
f13: For those unfamiliar with you and your company, please give a description of yourself, your company, what game(s) your company is working on, and your role in the production of those games.
CG: My name is Claus Grovdal and I'm the Lead Designer and Producer of Darkfall, the MMORPG currently in development by Aventurine/Razorwax.
f13: World or game, which is more important? Why?
CG: The goal is to make a good game, and the world is a feature of the game, not the other way around. The nature of MMOGs obviously demands creating good persistent worlds, but if the game doesn't come first, you could end up with a glorified 3D IRC client.
f13: However, many people who get burnt out on the combat/exploration aspects of the games remain subscribed to log in and chat with friends, in a glorified IRC tavern - is there a place for this utility in every game? How can it be implemented so that it doesn't detract from other aspects of gameplay?
CG: Absolutely. I think that good community building tools such as chat, messaging, ingame boards, etc. are vital to any MMOG. It suprises me that ingame boards are not a standard feature of most MMOGs.
f13: In your opinion, are MMOGs converging towards a model of perfection or diverging into new genres?
CG: I think we're far from even beginning to talk about a model of perfection for MMOGs. We're still in the embryonic stages of a new industry, and everything is still evolving. Game design, game concepts, marketing, distribution, billing methods, publishing models, platforms - the growth of the MMOG industry is happening as we speak, just considerably slower than some of the more optimistic observers predicted a few years ago.
f13: Some companies are claiming to be 2nd and 3rd generation MMORPGs - aside from being your typical PR Bullshit, what generation of MMORPGs do you think we're currently in (by your comments, I would assume 1st generation - which is what many fans believe)?
CG: It's just semantics. Whether you are talking about 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation, it is all relative and irrelevant. Whatever generation we are at, we are the next one ;)
f13: Does the so-called casual gamer exist? If so, what design goals would attract such a player to a game?
CG: There is still no real evidence proving there is such a thing as a large base of casual MMOG players. Planetside is a game designed for more casual players were you log in for instant action. I think it proved that in order to get paying subscribers, you have to compete with and offer more than what traditional multiplayer games such as Counterstrike and Battlefield 1942 gives for free.
The predicament is of course that if you offer more, you might actually add too much and the game requires bigger time investments by the player than you initially planned. It's an interesting design dilemma.
For example, community building is in my opinion one of the most important aspects of MMOGs. You have a community of friends and enemies, and players keep coming back to MMOGs to play with their friends, and fight their enemies. A problem here is that as soon as players become part of this community, they start feeling the pressure from their friends about playing more, building their characters so they can keep up, helping the team out etc, and they have to decide if they want to invest more time in the game or not.
The first game to offer players more than Counterstrike, but with considerably less time investments than Lineage II, might have a real winner on their hands. I think Shadowbane came close, but they had too many and too serious technical problems with their software.
f13: We've been playing what seems like the same game since the first MUDs came out, what do you think is currently missing from the MMOG genre that's keeping it from breaking into the next generation?
CG: I think we need to see a shift in publisher strategies.
When companies invest enormous amounts of money and resources on big projects like MMOGs are, there's a lot of responsibility attached to it. Companies and developers could choke under this kind of pressure, and start questioning themselves, often ending up with settling for proven concepts, cutting important game features, spending too little time testing, and releasing the game earlier than they're supposed to.
The problem is unfortunately that settling for proven concepts, and cutting features that made a game stand out in the first place, often translates to boredom for the players, and they naturally don't want to pay to play.
Maybe there will be a shift in publisher strategies eventually, following the venture capitalist model of investing $30M on 10 small projects, instead of on one big one. Then after a year or so of development, they could pick the best projects, juice them up, and cut the poor ones or release them as budget titles.
I think that would help.
f13: What model of government do MMORPG developers attempt to replicate in-game (I.E. Japanese Feudalism, Anarchy, Capitalism, etc)? In addition, What model of government do you think works best given the unpredictability of a world where killing is the main form of progression?
CG: Players tend to organize themselves into primitive tribal communities within the games they play. I am not so sure this is always a conscious design decision by the developers, but nevertheless it's the result.
I don't think it should be up to the developers to replicate or to dictate government or economic models in MMORPGs. Give the players the tools to successfully pick the government models themselves. When the game is released, the game should belong to the players, not the developers.
f13: With the new MMORPG, City of Heroes, we have seen the epitome of classification among character archetypes. They have been blatently labeled Tanker (Warrior), Blaster (Archer), Scrapper (Rogue), Defender (Paladin), and Controller (Generic Crowd Control) and as such have left zero room for creativity (which they allocated into clothing customization). By labeling thusly, we are told what kind of character we are to play - and have almost zero room for deviation.
Has character archetypes 'jumped the shark' as it were, only leaving enough room for minor changes, or are we actually going to see innovation? Discuss the future of character archetypes as you see it.
CG: I am not a very big fan of predefined character classes. Frankly I think this is another symptom of the settling for proven concepts problem.
The main argument for predefined character classes has always been game balance, but I think there are better ways of balancing while at the same time allowing the players the freedom to play how and what they want without having to constantly reroll new characters.
Let the players define their own character classes. Let them pick up the skills, spells and equipment they feel like. As an example, in Darkfall we haven't balanced the spell casters by not allowing them to wear armor; instead we've given armor a casting time penalty. This way you can decide yourself if you want to be a quick but fragile mage, or a slow but more protected tank mage.
The freedom to let the players be more in charge of how they play games - I think this is a huge deal in moving the MMOG genre forward.
f13: How would you avoid the pitfalls of the current crop of PVP-centric games, such as the power of the zerg, 3 AM raid syndrome, time-investment being more important than player skill, serial killer griefer PK syndrome, and the loser quitting because rebuilding is too hard?
CG: You have a thread discussing the Darkfall siege system here on the F13.net boards, so I kind of expected this question. We have several ways of balancing the power of the zerg and the 3AM raid syndrome, but I don't want to go into specifics yet.
Speaking about the losing side quitting the game because rebuilding is too hard, I think it is important to break the entire gameplay down into smaller steps. In Shadowbane you could build a city for months, only to have it burned down completely in a few hours. It is a cool sounding feature on paper, but in the end I think it is punishing the losing side way too much. I don't have any numbers to back it up, but I am pretty confident that every guild that had their city burned down, saw a good percentage of their players quitting the game in the following few days. Rebuilding after defeat was just too hard and tedious, and most players didn't want to go through with that again.
In Dark Age of Camelot they adopted the small steps philosophy. You can take over another guild's keep, and the losing side doesn't lose that much. Additionally, the losers can get the keep back fairly easily; it hasn't been burned down to the ground. I personally feel that the risks and rewards are too small, close to insignificant in Dark Age of Camelot, but still better than in Shadowbane.
I think a better balance lies somewhere between Shadowbane and Dark Age of Camelot. Let the conqueror take over the city and allow them to destroy a few assets if they so desire, but limit how much they can burn down. Basically you want them taking over instead of destroying. This way the losing guild has the chance to lick their wounds, regroup and try to take their city back through diplomacy, trade, or by force.
You keep most of the gameplay about building and taking over, instead of destruction, which ultimately chases players away from the game. The fun part in both Shadowbane and Dark Age of Camelot is the fighting anyway, so now there's always something to fight over.
It's still possible to burn down entire cities in Darkfall, but only a few buildings/structures every so often, giving the losing team the possibility of reclaiming what was theirs before it is forever gone. With this system we hope to increase the fun and excitement of waging war, and decrease the sense of a definitive Game Over.
f13: Here's a simple one: Is it solely the publisher's fault when games are rushed out the door?
CG: I think the term "rushed out the door" is misleading. The truth is usually that initial time estimates were wrong, and the developers need more time to finish the game than decided when contracts were made, and budgets were allocated. It is a sad fact, but correctly estimating the development time of a game is extremely hard, and almost always fails.
Publishing games is a business, and money to keep funding development is not always available. For most companies money is a limited resource, and even if the resources exist, publishers still have to make sound business decisions.
I think it's really a shared responsibility. The developers failed to deliver the game at an agreed date, and the publishers decided to release the game anyway.
Unfortunately everyone loses when a game is released too early. Players get an unfinished product, and publishers/developers usually lose sales.
f13: The most successful American MMOG to date, Everquest, has spawned numerous knockoffs that, frankly, suck. How dangerous to the creativity of the industry is an incredibly successful release?
CG: Copying is not exclusive to the gaming industry. It is a human trait; for every Coca Cola there is a Pepsi. In some cases cloning helps create better cars, faster planes or cheaper burgers and that is a good thing for most industries and consumers. I agree that the Everquest phenomenon has mostly been slowing down the evolution of the MMOG industry, but I am not so sure we would have been better off without it.
f13: Aside from the games you are developing, are there any MMOG's on the horizon that blow your hair back? If so, why? Also, what MMOG most influenced your current focus, Darkfall?
CG: I probably learned something, and found inspiration in every game I ever played. If I had to pick one game though, it would have to be Ultima Online. The freedom Ultima Online offered players has been a mantra for me and the rest of the team when working on Darkfall.
Making games is my daytime job, but I am also a fanatic gamer. I really wish there were a few MMOGs on the horizon that blew my hair back, but I honestly can't say there is. There are a few interesting ones, such as City of Heroes, but none that really keeps me up at night plotting and planning.
f13: Is there anything you'd like to add? Any comments for our readers or inside information on Darkfall or future releases you'd like to throw in?
CG: Darkfall is currently in internal testing, and we are slowly gearing up for external play testing. We are in a fortunate position financially, and having a knowledgeable and understanding community, we're able to take the time to try and get everything right before we release the game.
In the final stage of the roundtable at RPG Vault, Mark Jacobs of Mythic Entertainment misunderstood my post, so I felt I had to post again, to clear up any misunderstandings.
Claus, you criticize the current crop of games as being simply "bland and boring..." but I notice on your website that your game uses Elves, Dwarves, Humans and Orks. Hmm, I must wonder why you fall back on using the same conventional races as most games do, including Dark Age of Camelot. Why didn't you chuck all the typical races and create new ones? For the same reason that most games don't, because people want to see something that they are familiar with already. Pot, meet kettle; kettle, meet pot. :)
I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post and to glance through our website, but I'm afraid that you misunderstood what I was saying.
When I use the term 'bland and boring', it's not my intention to point the finger at Dark Age of Camelot or any other game in particular. I'm relaying the evolving sentiments of gamers expressed through posts on all the boards out there, and identifying this as one of the possible reasons why the massively multiplayer category has not grown as quickly as various observers predicted a few years ago.
I don't feel that the current crop of games being perceived as bland and boring by the gamers has anything to do with the use of familiar races like elves, dwarves, humans or orks - especially not if that's the extent of similarities a cursory examination of a website can produce. It's not the overuse of the fantasy genre either; gamers seem to find science fiction MMORPGs lacking as well. Facelifts, cloning and changing storylines can only propel the genre so far.
My point has to do with what's under the hood, the game mechanics; I am talking about what the players themselves are complaining about - like experience points, levels, leveling, camping, character classes and having to re-roll all the time, nerfing, turn-based combat, grinding, moving from one spot to the next for better experience points - in short, doing the same old stuff over and over again until your eyes bleed and you have nothing to show for it except a number indicating your level. A level that says everything about the time invested in the game, and virtually nothing about how good you are, or about how much fun you've had playing.
Dark Age of Camelot is one of the better and more successful MMORPGs out there, and it's fortunate to have the 200k subscriptions you've mentioned; however, there were predictions saying that this number should be higher, and that's what this roundtable is about.
Expanding the genre is what all of us in the MMORPG industry are working towards, and I believe that what the players are telling us on this merits close investigation.
Last week I participated in a pretty interesting roundtable session at RPG Vault.
The topic was Build it and Will They Come?
"A few years ago, we saw a lot of hype about persistent state worlds were the future of gaming, how the number of players would soon explode into the millions, the impending death of single-player games, etc. So far, reality has fallen well short. For this Roundtable, we invited a group of knowledgeable people working in the genre to share their respective viewpoints on these unrealized predictions and expectations."
Producer and Lead Designer, Darkfall
Razorwax I think the main reason why the persistent state world games market has failed to achieve the numbers of players the hype predicted a few years ago is lack of quality in the titles released.
While we continue to see fresh and exciting single-player and multiplayer games released each quarter, the PSW titles have been either bland and boring and/or had fatal technological problems that have all but buried any signs of innovation and fun under crashes, lag, and frame rate problems.
While it can be argued that the PSW part of the gaming industry is still in its infancy, and that these issues will be marginalized once the PSW market starts moving for real, there are very few titles on the horizon that look really interesting - especially to the now bitter PSW gamer veterans, who feel they have been conned and cheated one time too many.
I think the only real option for the online gaming industry now is to snap out of the success of EverQuest trance that seems to be the bane of most developers and board rooms, and start producing some really fun and stable games.
There also has to be an end to companies releasing unfinished games. It is really hurting the online game business and it's scaring all aspiring PSW customers back to their single-player games and consoles. Very few people want to see their credit card charged every month while patiently waiting for the developers to finish a game they bought months ago.
The most significant improvement in PSW games lately has been in the field of graphics, but gamers are not prepared to pay a monthly fee just because player characters look hot in the screenshots. Don't get me wrong -improved graphics are great. Our company allocates a lot of resources to this field too, but you need to have a lot more in the box than a just a CD full of pretty textures and polygons.
It is time that PSW games start utilizing their biggest advantage, the fact that you have the opportunity to pit the players up against each other. They have killed uninteresting computer controlled monsters for years now, and I think most of them are ready to be challenged in a more exciting way.
So no, if you just build it they won't come. Build it to be fun, innovative and stable, and they will show up in masses.
Dionysis: Which games influenced the design of DarkfallOnline?
Claus: Pretty much every game we ever played. Some gave us good ideas, others showed us new ways of improving game play or confirmed design theories we had on paper for years. Even the games that we didn't like gave us something - spotting a bad or poorly implemented feature in a game can be as helpful as finding a great one, and can influence design decisions. We try to learn from mistakes we find in other games so that we don't repeat them in Darkfall.
Dionysis: What's the style of play you're trying to achieve?
Claus: A fun one! We're making Darkfall as much fun to play as possible.
Dionysis: How do you feel about permadeath as a mechanic that brings about repercussion and consequence to one's actions?
Claus: I think there are better ways to hold players accountable for their actions than permadeath. The alignment system in Darkfall is designed to do just that.
Dionysis: Do you believe that there is a synergy between PvP and permadeath?
Claus: Not at all, in fact I think they are direct conflict with each other. PvP should be a fun and challenging feature, not a big bad scarecrow that most players are afraid of. It's like having to level up a new character for a month or so every time he dies in Counterstrike or Unreal. Permadeath in any form or shape is directly damaging to a PvP game.
Dionysis: What would you say if I told you DarkfallOnline is heralded as the "next UO" for all those hardcore players out there beyond "we know" =]
Claus: Ultima Online in its original form has definitely been a great source of inspiration for Darkfall, but as our players will find out, Darkfall brings a lot of new and unique things to the genre. Obviously, being heralded as the "next UO" sounds good to me.
Dionysis: How would you respond to the following statements?
"Easily the largest (and most profitable) group are games that cater to PvP-
players. Bigger companies tend to go with the safety that PvP- games like
FFX1 and EQ2 provide, while startup companies take a risk to produce PvP+
games like DarkfallOnline, Trials of Ascension and Frontier 1859"
"The gap between PvP+ and PvP- MMOrpg's is growing. The intricate detail
necessary for balancing a game of each play style requires a different
perspective on designing treadmills, economy and social structures. soon
PvP+ and PvP- games will make up separate genre's."
Claus: I don't agree with these statements at all. I think the first really good PvP MMORPG may sell really well, and it probably has a bigger potential future audience than any of the PvE games.
Human nature is competitive by design. We really enjoy fighting other people, and since permadeath is the biggest design flaw in real life, we invented sports so we could re-spawn and fight the same people over and over again.
I think when the mass-market - that's already playing PvP games such as Quake, Half-Life, Counterstrike, Unreal, Red Alert, Wolfenstein, Magic the Gathering etc - discover a PvP MMORPG that can give them the correct combination of adrenaline rush, sense of togetherness in the form of clans and communities competing against each other in a rich and well-developed online world, the mass-market will be there for the PvP MMORPG.
When it comes to the gap between PvP+ and PvP- MMORPGs, well I don't really see why there has to be a gap at all. The PvP community has been short-changed for years, with PvP content poorly patched into games clearly not designed to support any meaningful player conflict. With Darkfall we hope to make a game that has enough MMORPG content to make the PvE players drool with envy, and at the same time delivering prime PvP.
My good friends and collegues BT Oren & Ricki Sickenger have their very own blog up at Unutterable. I got to admit, it's a pretty cool site, and I am really envious of all the cool pictures BT posts. I think I need to get me one of those digital cameras. It seems to be the future.
Anyway, their site is in norwegian, so unless you speak Viking you won't understand much. The pictures speak your language though.
I have never been a big fan of permadeath in any MMORPG, and especially not in MMORPGs featuring player versus player (PvP) conflict.
In my opinion permadeath is directly conflicting with the very nature of PvP. It's very simple math really. If you kill someone and they are permanently dead, and let's say for the sake of argument it takes them one month to rebuild their character to the same skill and equipment level that they had before you killed them - well, you will quickly run out of people to fight.
When you play a PvP game, your average player is not looking for a few fights every month, but rather a good flow of action-packed PvP fights every gaming session.
Not to mention people quitting due to the sense of loss they feel when their 3 month time investment is utterly slain and deleted. I know I would probably quit if someone killed me, or I died to a monster - fairly or to (god forbid) lag or disconnects at the worst possible moment.
And I'll tell you what, the defeated are not the only people quitting - If I have to sit around and wait for weeks till my enemies have rebuilt their characters so they can fight me one more time - well that ain't gonna keep me playing either.
Additionally, MMORPGs have been plagued by cheaters and exploiters - these people ruin enough peoples gaming experiences already, imagine how devastating aimbots, wallhacks, speedhacks, gold/item duping, godmodes etc would be if the unlucky target of a cheater was permanently dead in addition to being cheated out of a fair fight.
I think permadeath is the worst feature in real life, so I can't see why we need to have it in MMORPGs.
Since it is the latest trend - well it was the latest trend a year or so ago, guess I arrived late - I am now going to make an inspired attempt at updating this thing at least semi-regularly.
Better to show up late than never, right?
My old .plan at the Darkfall site was updated about as often as the list of Stuff That Has Been Fixed in Greece (not very often), but I am pretty determined to at least write something every week or so.
I'll add the disclaimer right now: If I don't update, it is probably because I have more important stuff to do or I lost interest in this thing.
I planned to make this site 3 years ago, so you have been warned: I am pretty damn lazy.
Since I am working in the glorious (yea right) gaming industry, most of the updates will probably have something more or less in relation to games, and MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) in particular. I will probably talk alot about the game I am working on at the moment (hint: it has been linked to in this post already), and obviously bitch a little about other peoples games.