Can the Trinity be damned?

Can the trinity of tank, heal, damage roles in online rpg games be removed? Really?

An old question, and perhaps one which is both too subjective for each game style in question, and also blisteringly obvious for MMOs. Blessing of Kings has a great post where the discussion thread is the perfect primer for the issues and the potential degrees of how effective the solutions will be. A darn good read.

trinity-dangerousTo me it is all about degrees of effectiveness vs the suspension of disbelief. No solution I’ve ever read provided a summary for an MMORPG that has no role based system, without a set of quasi-magical powers to manipulate the monster’s behaviour. And that is not what might really happen.

If nine of my friends and I decided to attack a giant, I don’t think the giant would understand taunts enough to only swing at one person, or that two of us were good at recovering from wounds so might be better to kill early. The giant is going to kill easy targets, targets that hurt it a lot, and then the rest of us.

Similarly a grizzly bear will attack one of us until it can get a good meal, unless we keep poking it with spears in which case it will hurt the spear carrier and probably ignore any others just standing to the side waving their hands (healing, caster dps).

In MMORPGs I don’t think it can be totally removed. I don’t think I’d want it removed either. We have a method which is essentially in support of the fun, and while the mechanics of that illusion might be tweaked, the illusion is useful.

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More creative and consistent names

Aside

Update: As this was published I noticed that the patch 4.3 name rules have changed too:

North American realms (excluding Brazilian, Latin American, and Oceanic realms) no longer permit letters with accents in character or guild names. Existing character and guild names with special characters will be unaffected by this change.

How many times have you seen these type of names?

Ãrthás, Ægigbird, ìcemage, lololas, undeaddeath, or ikillsunow. Iamatank (who is dps), pvpggodd, or any darn name which uses a keyboard crushing special character. It is a short step to bigtool7 as a character name, and most of the examples above are from actual toons.

Moons ago I wrote a small blogpost about naming a Death Knight, as at the time the Wrath expansion was announced but not released, and players were creating and reserving names left and right. It was done as a PSA type post so that (I hoped) the wow population would have less silly and unpronounceable names.

How’d that go? I saw no direct affect; but then didn’t really expect to see a major shift. I was more just standing on my soapbox yelling at the world (now we have twitter for that, and bloggers have multiple avenues to shout about the things that frustrate them)…and shitty names still frustrate me.

The characters like “Bloodelfdk” are still happily jumping around in WoW, and it seems that players are keen to use every special keyboard character they can when re-using names. I guess that won’t change much either.

It would be interesting to see an MMO which prohibited these type of names more, and if that rule had a significant affect on the player base. Would a restriction such as that hinder the growth of the game?

Take the SW-ToR game coming in December – can I create a character called DarthVedar? Hanssolo? Chewiebacka? Aaanakin?

These names are just as silly as Arthaaas and all the rest based on the Warcraft lore, and as ToR is based on story arcs and events, it seems something they might wish to consider – especially if the NPCs will be using the character names in some way:

Npc: The elderly noble rises from his ornate throne and says “We hail PrincisLayher, you efforts to force back the Imperial troops were a boon to my people. What would you ask of me as reward?”

Player: “dude epix, lol”

Npc: …{shakes head}

It breaks the story, and makes me a little sick just thinking of it.

OK what to do:

  1. Valid Random Names – The random name generator in the character creation screen should not show you names that are in use. It frustrates me that a name is shown, might actually be useful, but is not available. As an armchair programmer this does not seem to be a huge issue, the list could be updated on batch, and then re-checked every day to ensure the error rate would be low.
  2. Prohibit special characters – I know this affects some legit European names, but then you’re not playing yourself in Second Life, you’re playing Warcraft. Names like Redhand are far more lore worthy than Phîlll. And yup, it would wreck a huge amount of current character names, but hey – I hate those names so on this point I’m going to be inconsiderate of those players.

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?

wow free to play thoughts

World of Warcraft has added a “free to play” option … and if you were hunting for a great set of keywords to type into a gamers search app, you’ve found them. Hits ahoy! On the surface this might be huge news, and the day that World of Warcraft actually does go fully free to play, with the mandatory micro-transaction components added, then we’ll really see something of a disruption in the MMO game market.The real facts here is that wow is not free-to-play, its just an unlimited trial period.

The fine print on the offer is more revealing, and demonstrates why headlines are worse than cheating husbands for how they can easily mislead (god bless the abuse of facts at the hands of the media, for without it we’d only have truth – not pithy taglines). Blizzard is unlocking the 30 day trial, so that it lasts forever. It has the same limit on communications functions, same lock-out of the advanced Cataclysm features (like new races and such), and you’re limited to level 20. It does now include one of the older expansions, which is a change from the previous evaluation period. Players now can play around as much as they want, switch and swap toons, design hairstyles, and the rest of the basic game functions for as long as they wish; just don’t expect to get far beyond the starter areas.

Now don’t get me wrong – every game should do this. If the publishers could actually understand that gamers distrust games, and hate spending a fortune on a product that sucks dreadfully, then they’d give this option out of the box on launch day.

The level 2-20 game is actually good in Warcraft. I’ve played almost all the starting areas and they all have something to offer. Compare a game which offers so many different starting zones to most other online games, and you’ll already see that offering this gratis is something more than most studios can do. I’ve seen many games that offer no more replay in the early content than changing the “hello Wizard, your quest” gets switched to “hello Fighter, your quest”. Hardly exciting at all, and not something that I’d pay for.

If a game is released without a trial period or a locked down open period (as is the case now with wow), then all the publishers and designers are saying to me is that that the game sucks, and they need the box price purchases from the great unwashed so that they can try to mitigate the huge loss of creating it. No thanks. I’ll trust the reviews, my friends, and the early adopters to filter the games that are worth paying for, which don’t have a free evaluation period. These games are trying to capture my attention for months and years, to entire return revenue, and if they can’t at least offer 15 days of test time, then they have something to hide.

In the future when the “Free to Play” change actually occurs in WoW I suspect the reason will be that the game is actually in serious decline, and needs a final boost. It will be like the installation of a pacemaker and blood thinners, so it can live longer. And I’ll bet a coffee that this happens after Blizzard’s next MMO is out and proven itself as a winner. Why else would a studio mess with a formula which is generating so much revenue for so many years.

Till the next greatest thing is released, consider trying wow if you have not already. Be warned – it is not the game for everyone, and has burnt out more players than most MMORPGs have had as subscribers; but it is actually a very good game. Other publishers copy the current incarnation for a reason, it works.

Happy gaming.

Distractions and comedy

Been flat out recently with work/life balance all out of wack. Somehow still found the time to devote to my online addiction. The stuff below has been distracting me. *Intollerant rant warning*

Distractions

After a time my attention span lapses and another Alt appears. My last effort got a Mage to level 41, and before that I was tooling around with a Druid who only hit 17. Recently I took up again and am playing around with a Druid again; damn they are a great class to grind with. All the Druid class needs is a long stun or 100% effective flee button and they’ll be unstoppable.

As an aside the Druid and Hunter combo that got killed by the huge dinosaur in Un’Goro made my day. Not becuase they were kill stealing moments before, and not because they died fighting it; but because they then stood there long enough for it to kill them a 2nd time on its return path. That made my night.

Please also check out the iArmory if you have a iPhone or portable device; its great. Huge kudos to Elad from Omen of Clarity for this tool. And if you need a 2nd opinion check out this review.

Comedy

“MMORPG – Many Men Online Role Playing Girls”, was said in a forum post a while ago, and I like it. I have a few female toons too. You’ve all heard the line “I play a girl because I’d rather look at one”, well that might be so; but personally I play female toons because some of the male character models are crap. /Shrug.

This post on badges, with a V rather than a B got the attention of a Blue; but I really think the Blue created the storm in this teacup. If the purile kiddies need to post and giggle, let them. It might help keep them away from screwing up actual content, or pugging. We can’t shut them down, so having them all drooling and one-hand-playing in a forum thread is ok as long as I don’t have to moderate it. Or ban their accounts from posting till Lich is released.

Achievements

Enchanting 375 on my Warlock was a long time comming by I’m really pleased to get there. Not that there is much more that can be done at 375, but it adds to the sense of completion and character progression.

Engineering almost 375 on my Paladin, so that will happen soon; which does not add anything that I can use, but is still nice to have.

Skinning at 300 for my Druid; so now ready to skin and enjoy the grind upward to 375.

The Swearjar has over $20 in it now, and I have no idea what it will total by the time WotLK hits.

WAR pings my radar

Warhammer Online will (most likely) have local servers. As an existing WoW player this is very interesting. The online community in Australia is often upset about a lack of local servers, and Warhammer looks to set some up in an Asia Pacific area. Most excellent.

However will this change Blizzard’s approach to the Oceanic Realms? I doubt it. Given how focused Blizzard is on having the servers in very close proximity to the USA; I’d say we’d need to have a much larger player base before local servers would make sense.

And its also very late in the game to have a change of this nature. Shame, but that is the pattern to date. Age of Conan has no local servers, and I’m sure asia pacific sales will still be good, so its interesting that WAR has chosen to announce this around the time that Conan goes live, and Blizzard is also giving more details about the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. It really looks like the MMORPG market will be competitive in the next six months, which is a good thing for which ever game you are playing.

Thanks to Slashdot for the Gamespot link.