Random in Boss fights?

A good find about how good or bad it is for encounters in PvE to be heavily or lightly scripted, which is interesting given how much the degree of “random” affects fun.

Tobold wrote:

In my opinion there is too little randomization in MMORPGs. They are nearly totally deterministic. Before combat even starts you know what the monster will do, and what keys to press in which order to optimally defeat it. Thus combat involves no thinking, only execution.

As Craig Stern says, the solution is not making the result of button presses unpredictable, but to make the opponent unpredictable, or the starting situation. That is why card games work: The cards you draw are random, but what you can do with them is not. And in a MMORPG the monsters could be made more unpredictable as well. Why do people need to know in advance what the boss mob is going to do after X minutes to beat him?

posted by Tobold Stoutfoot at 8:54 AM on Nov 18, 2012

To be fair, its better to read the entire post and linked articles.

Would introducing more randomness be good?

I think it would be terrible – consider that if you really want to make the bosses challenging then you make them more intelligent…..say they don’t have a threat table anymore, they just crush anyone who tries casts a heal.

Same issue in pen and paper – for some reason (story) the big bad orc (high CR monster) wails on the fighter, not the cleric.

I can see the point about execution and predetermined strategies removing “creative” aspects, but really the 4th wall is so present in an MMO that it is just differing personal perspectives for how far the slider between real and scripted the entire game is. I also think that some random is ok, but too much will be very disruptive to the players, as their outcome for victory is too much outside their control.

The card game in Tobold’s example is not a good match to the game style events in an MMO, given how different the perspective is, but does help my point: who likes playing solitaire when the game cannot be won?

Trial of the Champion had the pvp based fight which was excellent, but it still came down to a set of abilities, and a priority based kill order. It was also hated by a few raiders.

Another random fight was Lord Ryolyth in Firelands – who was basically impossible if the randomness didn’t go your way. That is a shitty way to spend an evening.

Go have a read as the discussion on both Tobolds and Craig’s blog are good stuff. Happy Killing.

PaxAus will be July 2013

PaxAus LogoI’m excited that PaxAus (aka Pax Downunder, or PaxTailJob) will be in Melbourne in July next year. Registrations are open for the keen and adventurous.

I’ll check the running sheet before plop’ing down cash, but 3x days of nerd-game-fun looks good to me. Event coordinators also have a sense of Australian sense of humour too…

  1. Drop Bears.
  2. Second Rate Animal Wildlife hosts.
  3. that a really thick American accent is sometimes viewed poorly, especially if you’re whinging. English accents while whinging will get you thrown into the secret dungeon beneath Parliament House. Continue reading

Ars Magica Computer Game Kickstarter

Its no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ars Magica and also of computer games, and  now an agreement between Atlas Games and Black Chicken Studios is seeking to combine those two wonderful hobbies.

Black Chicken Studios, working under license from Atlas Games, is delighted to present a new simulation role-playing game for the PC. After 25 years and 5 editions, Ars Magica will at long last be paid tribute in a single-player, turn-based video game.

Authentic to the original, this is a faithful, beautiful, and accurate depiction of covenant gameplay and the RPG’s legendary magic system during a dangerous century in the Stonehenge Tribunal. With your help, we’ll bring Ars Magica: Years of Conquest and its tapestry of wars, intrigue, invasion and, above all, magic to life!

The Ars Magica – Years of Conquest game is seeking backing via a kickstarter campaign.

I can only rave about how passionate Atlas Games are about Ars Magica, and really hope this concept gets through to reality.

If you are a fan of either, spread the word.

Re-posting: Ars Magica Computer Game Kickstarter, on the The Iron-Bound Tome.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

I think they’re taking the piss out of us MOO types, but that might be ok as it looks entertaining and I liked the satire in the video.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

In Mighty Quest For Epic Loot, your goal is to defeat as many castles as possible and to protect yours from being successfully assaulted. Go on an adventure to loot bigger and well-defended castles to get the resources you need to build your own lair with a unique combination of creatures and traps in order to prevent other players’ heroes from beating it. And there might be some special castles much harder for you to take on…

Game is taking registration for Beta now.

More…MoP Tools

I found a few more tools that are handy for wow players, which extend the list from just class planning and include some of the consistently good player tools external to the game.

  • Noxxic Guides, which are an alternate to the Icy Veins guides.
  • WoW Heroes, which is a respectable profile tool for your character that will recommend changes to get you to a best in slot setup.
  • World of Logs (for raiders), so you can compare fights to see which was better or worse.
  • Blizzard’s Armory (duh)
  • WoW Wiki, which is good for the pages on Hit and Expertise caps and other such stuff. When updated these are good for plain language explanations.

It is a meta-question for what resources to include which might be too focused, or instead overly well known. I think I’ll have a beer and ponder that today.

Previously

Whats your mod philosophy?

With Warcraft being patched and expanded at the moment all the community created mods also require updates. Sometimes these updates are trivial and the author can easily make them compatible with the new version. Other times the work to maintain a mod is too much, and it becomes unsupported. At wost it ceases to function properly and breaks others. For the devs giving away their free time on Mods the patch/release period must be like Christmas and Tax time all rolled into one. The community loves the work, but is also very demanding.

For players with mods this means updating is an important part of any expansion or patch activity. I’ve been watching the forums and the chatter in game, and mods are back on the list of topics that we seem to love and hate.

So what is your mod philosophy?

  • those who hate them, and refuse to alter the game.
  • those who use only a minimal set
  • those who explore options
  • those who have hundreds of mods, and test, tweak, and alter their interface weekly rather than at patch and update times.

Blizzard has said that encounters are now designed with the fact that mods exists. In other words it is expected that mods will be used, and the complexity in raid fight mechanics reflects this. That means that competitive scenarios like pve, pvp, battlegrounds, etc are expecting players to be using performance enhancing mods.

My current philosophy is:

  • Find a minimal set of mods which gives me enough information to play the game quickly and efficiently.Essentially focus on as few mods as possible, with the least memory and cpu requirements.
  • Consider each mod in terms of the time it saves. (mailbox auto-open)
  • Is the information significantly performance enhancing.(boss warning mods, threat meter, next dps button, auction mod)
  • Look for mods which when removed alter the game-play in a negative way. (in-game map resizer, loot distribution mod, bag mod)
  • And lastly a mod which improves the visual aesthetic of the interface. (unit frame mods, bar mods, buff mods, move everything mod)

At the moment I’m using roughly 34 mods, and I aim to use around half that. Hopefully.

GoT 7 Kingdoms screenie

A GoT – Seven Kingdoms teaser video via Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Well the still screens look good, the video look average, and I’m very worried that this is a flash in the pan.

As soon as my plans come to fruition, I'll finally /sit on the Iron Throne.

“… to Game of Thrones: Seven Kingdoms – which promised an MMO in which “players form alliances through Player vs. Player (PvP), Siege combat, and politics to control Westeros” – Bigpoint vanished into the seat-and-BO-flavored mists of Comic-Con. And from that primordial ooze of glorious geekery, it’s now produced one trailer. It features betrayal, war, power, and GIANT WORDS introducing each.”

Quick aside on D3

Aside

Diablo III Act III

Diablo III Act III (Photo credit: JBLivin)

I enjoy that I can play Diablo 3 for a minute at a time, and not be punished. Casual? Yes. The game so far has no respawns that will find you when you if AFK. That makes coffee/wife/kid/phone breaks easier.

A few things I’ve changed in the game settings: Turn off auto join, and Turn on move key. Both are tweaks which make the game more pleasant.

Fire from the sky has ended

To postpone the hungry cadre of gamers trying to install Diablo 3, the system declared that the fire from the sky had not ended. We waited. None patiently.

Now the great zerg to play D3 has begun. A few updates and patches, some apologies for errors, and a lot of persistence has players now enjoying the game. My take – well I’ve created a toon and entered the world, but I’ll only be commenting on major stuff in the first ten levels which is different from the beta, or where something is darn odd. I’m pleased to say that it is exactly as expected so far. It’s entertaining.

The class intro media were very good too, which was new to be from beta. It does feel forced to have such a strange mix of heroes from all over the world converging, and that was always going to feel a bit forced. At least we didn’t meet at an inn, with a fight breaking out like a D&D game. Well, ahem, perhaps that bit is in the starter story too.

A few thoughts from around the web worth reading too, Tobold has an observation about D3’s pricing, and Keen and Graev have 5 Things We Like and Dislike about Diablo 3.

Happy killing.

Excellent D3 Prequel Cartoon

D3 is only a week away, and Blizzard has released a darn good 6 minute cartoon which tells the pre-story to Diablo. More games should be released with this style and flavour of side-material. It shows (at least to me) that Blizzard understand the audience who arekeen to play Diablo 3, and that they are really aiming to create something worthy of the lore we have grown to love.

We have also had the “End of Days” tv spot / promo for the game too, which is also very good, but not a cartoon akin to the one above. The animation in End of days is more realistic than the prequel, but it only shows a smattering of the video we know is included. It’s a good hash of the full video.

I really looking forward to D3.

Playing many games, casually.

I’m in that happy state where I get to play many games. World of Warcraft has taken a significant backseat due to real life events, and along with that I’ve chosen to look into the MoP Beta and the Diablo 3 Beta. The odd distracting iphone game gets a look too.

Playing of the big three games very briefly and casually is actually more satisfying in the short term than trying to play one game solidly. Initially I would doubt that to be true. In a nutshell I think being moderate has pushed my expectations, and I now find the small elements of fun amongst a range of games. For now its working. I am looking forward to the official release of Diablo so that I can see the full content and play online with some friends that it is hard to hook up with in other games. I would still like to get SWToR loaded and play that in the future when my PC has been upgraded, as the content was impressive enough that I think it will be a fantastic distraction.

There is also a set of play-by-post tabletop RPG games that distract me, and between them, the healthy posts from the players, and the rest of life short stint gaming is still working. So for now a quick 15 to 30 minute session will do, with much gnashing, power-ups, and gear to be swindled from the nefarious foes.

Happy gaming folks.

Melbourne Video Games Unplugged

Video Games Unplugged is an orchestra playing game music while the screens show the graphics. Darn cool. What surprised the heck out of me was that the side-bar ad on Penny Arcade was actually relevant to me, and interesting. Click-Marketing actually worked.

Well not quite, as I can’t go that night. But sheesh, it would be grand. So I’m sharing this as an ad for Video Games Unplugged.

Melbourne Convention Centre on April 12th 2012, 7pm.

I saw opera as a movie, have watched classical perform movie theme songs, and happily bounded through all of them, getting my geek on. This feels the same.

Wow Blizzard Survey

Today I received one of the survey emails from Blizzard about my World of Warcraft impressions and gaming in general. They’re asking about competition with other games like SWToR and Bioshock, and also about their own products like DotA and Diablo.

I’m honestly impressed that the survey questions were so openly seeking feedback, and that the company was gutsy enough to clearly ask about their competition, and as people to rank them. Draw your own conclusions about the effect of the competition. I ranked all sorts of things I liked and disliked about the game, an the interview app has some sort of funky (meaning irritating) repeat questions that looks to validate the high low choices against each other multiple times. Many times.

It was irritating to click through 13 screens of the same features and hopefully further versions of that survey tool will offer different choices for product features or subscription options. It really felt like the survey was asking between 3 choices on a range of features which were all very similar (lfr vs lfd). Frankly it’s the same feature to me, in terms of “back of the box” features and expectations.

An odd question was how often I am playing, and how many hours. Blizzard know this if they bother to look. They could know what proportion is raiding, and how often I use the AH. The survey is clearly not linked to the back-end, and I’m wondering just how many people will fudge their answers, after all nobody ever lies on surveys.

Interesting overall none the less.

Blizzard Logo

No more casual vs hardcore?

I think we need a better set of terms for players than Casual vs Hardcore. The two terms cause constant arguments and are about as subjective as calling somebody out for not being ethical.Your ethics are not mine, just like your version of Hardcore will be different from mine.Is it time spent, completion-ism, performance, consistency, background knowledge, or what..? Well its all those things and more.

Once its (obviously) recognised as being subjective, the problem then becomes that the same vague interpretation and personalisation that affects the terms Casual and Hardcore also apply to almost every other set of words you’d use. Viewing any of the options as definitive extremes poor and it becomes an absolute disaster when you try to use one word to surmise a person’s goals.

There is also the problem of viewing the terms in isolation within a single game like World of Warcraft, or broader to all MMO’s, or even to open as wide as possible to any type/style of gamer. For this measurement I’m sticking to Warcraft. The reason is that a measurement of games is too wide, and the same person might play 12 different games, and play each in a different manner. By way of example I play WoW, a few iPhone games, and some basic strategy and card games. I cannot think of a way that the play styles and dedication could be rationalised in a cohesive manner. Solitaire is too different from Warcraft; its comparing Apples to Spacecraft.

Basically its a huge mess, so as a solution I’m offering this post into the already overly populated sea of opinions; in the hope that it somewhat floats.

Joystick had a very logical summary last year, which covered the basics as far as WoW was concerned. If you’re hunting for a reasonable compilation of the basic issues, or a perspective of what the wider community was thinking around the mid-Lich-King days, then its a darn handy resource. Also check out some of these other links, which all cover the types of gamers in the Casual vs hardcore debate in some way. Even a post from the official forums. They’re all good. These linked posts also identify that many of the community fell outside the range of classifications in these posts too. Commenters offered up new types such as “Serious Hobbyists”, or “Definitely Time Crunched”, and so on. The posts, terms, and comments were all fine, but still missed the mark.

I also commented and linked a post many years ago (whoa – in 2008 no less) by a mate of mine who also had a perspective, mainly born from the conflicts found within a guild for the more casual members vs the more dedicated players. My take at the time was based around the amount of time it takes to explain to somebody else:

  • If you have to explain why you’re not hardcore in more than one sentence; you’re talking to a softcore or hardcore.
  • If it starts an argument or takes 15 minutes, you’re talking to a hardcore.
  • If you grief somebody for non-attendance you are hardcore (and a wanker).
  • If you have sacrificed a good time out of game for WoW, then you’re at least softcore. If you didn’t view it as a sacrifice, then you’re hardcore.
  • And if fun is more important than any of these questions; then you’re casual. In which case I’d like you to consider finding a great casual (not softcore) guild on your sever, or join ours.

Three years of time has only slightly changed my perspective, and generally I still hold those comments as true. They are though as lacking as the other posts.

For this alternate definition I’m mainly thinking of World of Warcraft, but I think that some of the logic should apply very widely. What I was thinking was changing from having two binary options to chose from, to creating more a Myers-Briggs personality type play-style measurement, which details what a person is using a short acronym (AELOSF – see below). A few of the pages above offered stylistic templates rather than binary choices too, much like a horoscope; where a player could read the description and pick one that matched them the closest. I guess I’m trying this as I fell through the definitions of both those approaches.

The Myers-Briggs style picks a set of paired terms that are fairly ambiguous, that can also be placed diametrically opposed to each other with a fair degree of logic – and then has the reader pick which they match better to. In effect they pick between the two extremes in the same manner as the Casual vs Hardcore, but where they sit is expanded due to the range of options in the definition.

These are some of the ideas I had for the juxtaposed measurements:

  • Professional vs Amateur – where a Professional is being paid money to participate, and an Amateur is unpaid. There is a very clear difference, although not overly useful to most of the community as I’d bet most people are not paid to play games. I’m not sure if this has practical application or not, and if it was applied, if it should be applied to a game on a case by case basis.
  • Experienced vs Newbie – where a Experienced player is one who is very familiar with the game, and a Newbie is learning the basic concepts. Now this is a far more subjective range, where there is a much greater range between the two ends. As terms they’ll create debate unto themselves, but I hope when added to the rest of the mix the terms themselves will become more descriptive of the player’s goals.
  • Unlimited time vs Limited time – where the unlimited person has high availability to play, and the limited person has almost none. This could also contain a sub-range of people who have interruption free vs constant interruption, but I’m not sure yet if that level of granularity is needed.
  • Optimal vs Relaxed – as to their use of their time and their resources. This is an interesting one, as the style of use of resources is the focus of many blogs and websites, and they themselves are often focused on maximum efficiency. The gold per hour type measurement, kills per raid, and if the player cares how long it takes to get a dungeon done. Some players are very relaxed and are not overly fussed if a dungeon completion takes 20 extra minutes, but others are excited by the prospect of beating a record, or even frustrated by 30 seconds of dead time after a boss kill.
  • Social vs Hidden – is a measure of how important the interaction with others plays is for their valuable gameplay. There are players who raid (which obviously requires other players) but would not otherwise interact with anyone. There are also the players who only play due to the social aspects, and there are players who may as well be playing a solo game, as they talk to nobody.
  • Focused vs Wide range of focus – are you a player who seeks to complete all your chosen activities? Professions, archaeology, or participate in both pvp and pve content, or have a range of alts vs. just one character.

So we end up with a set of choices, still somewhat binary, but not as restrictive as a single word.

I would be: (A)ELOSF.

This is because I’m an unpaid Amateur but Experienced WoW player, with very Limited time, who always plays Optimally. I highly value the Social aspects of the game, but tend to Focus on pve for a few characters only. The Brackets are there as I think almost everyone will be an “A” as far as World of Warcraft is concerned.

So what are you? What type of gamers are out there?

ps – The Dead Good Tanking Guide as a great comment:

I know, I know – why would you bother reading yet another diatribe about who falls into what category? But I’m working from the knowledge that the same could be applied to EVERYTHING I write, so I’ll continue safe in the knowledge this piece is no better or worse than my usual offerings. 🙂

He’s spot on, and added to my feed reader.

The most balanced it’s ever been

Another Blog Azeroth topic which reacts to the idea of the game being balanced. What a squirming can of worms for a topic. Nice idea really.

Ghostcrawler recently said that, in his estimation, the game is the most balanced it’s ever been. Agree? Disagree? And if it’s the most balanced, does that mean it’s enjoyable for you at the moment — have there, in other words, been more enjoyable, if less balanced, moments in the past?

Balance is a tough thing to define as it is totally subjective. One view is often shouted down by others, with only a hodge-podge of data and experiences to back them up.

My perspective is that we will always have something worth bitching about. Always – and that is good for design. It is not a reason to have a deliberate gap, but a small gap is always going to be present, and that gap will be perceived differently by different players. Continue reading

Not a traditional free to play model

A quick thought – if wow is Free to Play then can I cancel paying my subscription and then only login to the game on an existing toon that is level 1-20?

ie. Can I choose to suspend paying per month for a while, then move back to a subscription when I choose? No.

Clearly not, so its not true F2P, although I can understand why offering the model is a reasonable hook to players. There is a gulf between this form of free to play, and the form offered by Champions Online. I guess in an industry which is this competitive it stands to reason that marketing will bend what we think of as traditional F2P models. Perhaps that is even a good thing.

Are there many players left who have not already tried wow?

Almost a single game player

Kill Ten Rats has a nice post on the happiness of single game players. Good enough for me to transcribe & expand my comment, and worth a bit of your eyeball time.

In a nut shell: are people happy with wow because they know no other options for game play exist, or is the choice to play a single game only actually a valid cognitive decision?

Zubon writes:

What was revelatory for me at one point was that there were people who thought of themselves not as gamers, not as MMO gamers, but as WoW players. They are not interested in the genre, in seeing competing implementations, in the next MMO coming out… They just play WoW. Hardcore or casual, this is their game, done, the way some people are baseball or football fans (a perspective that had not occurred to me until I typed it, which suddenly makes “one game” make a lot more sense, although most seem to be “sports fans” who need a group of sports to make it through the other seasons).

I’m an almost single game player. I’ve tried eve, ran screaming from DDO and LoTR, and looked enough at Rift, Conan, and Warhammer to know that WoW was a better game for my taste and therefore not worth changing from. That is the key for me, my current taste is well served by wow and while I’ll happily look at other games; there is little in the market which is enticing a change. My taste may change too, but for now wow is ok enough.

This was not always the case though. Before I played wow I played a wide range of games, and was always buying new ones. Not because I was keen to experiment, but because I like a narrow band of games and wow is in that band. There is no reason to pay for a new game when the current subscription is doing the job. I dread to consider the amount of money I wasted on games in the past, where the play time was around 15-30 hours and then it was done.

A game has to be worth the sticker price. Apart from World of Warcraft my favourite game is Master of Orion 2. It is now ancient, but still had the right balance of management and action for a turn based game. The updated version 3 was horrid and seemed to miss the “game” that was delivered with the v2.

Add to this the investment of time in terms of what has been achieved for me in WoW, and it is hard to argue with wow as a fundamentally good offer; for me. I know that this statement is somewhat recursive, as the more time spent, the more investment you have; but it is true to my ape brain. The subscription cost per month is the equivalent of two drinks. Even if I only play for 10 hours a month, the cost is almost inconsequential.

But WoW has its flaws too. Like I said, they do the things I like well, and I tend to stay away from the aspects of wow that I dislike (pvp, pet and mount collecting to name two). Blizzard has created many features that I’d rather not have, or moved in directions that I dislike – and you cannot have everything.

I doubt I’ll find a game that meets all my perfect criteria, and if I did it would probably have such a small player base as to be not economically viable for long.

In terms of getting all the features, I actually think it is better to do less features very well, than do every feature in an average way. A narrow and loyal market segment can be widened, but it is very hard to grow wide when you’re not already doing something to retain customers. Simple games also can be powerful in the market. Do one thing well and have the opportunity to show your expertise.

Happy gaming – TyphoonAndrew

Champions Online Trial Weekend

Champions Online had a free to play weekend a few weeks ago, and I’ joined the heroic fun to see what it is like.

Right out of the box download this game is made for comic fans.

The character creation (much raved about by folks online) lives up to its reputation, and the selection of powers is staggering. No 6-9 classes here, you want it, you can create it. I honestly had no idea on a character concept before I started, which made the choices even harder. If anything the 15 or so default power sets make the choice so varied, you’re not stuck for choice, as you have huge freedoms.

The “random hero costume” option has yet to show anything which was not totally strange (and I mean friggin bizzare). Shark head with cybernetic legs and zombie feet? OK. I’ll called him Robo-Zombie-Jaws, or RoZoJaw. Uh. That said it was also hard to not think of toons that are straight from comics themselves. I made a sniper, a robotic tank, and an ice-blaster.

Awesome news for tweakers and power gamers – this is a must try game. I guess a goal I had was to know what the “end-game” content and experiences are like, but trialing from level one will never do that.

So after a very short weekend I think had wow not already have my regular income, and the patch not hit recently; I’d be playing Champions. But keeping closer to the curve in wow is more appealing to me that starting again in Champions.