My multiplayer malaise

Since I started playing and got addicted to Ultima Online in 2001 I have almost exclusively played multiplayer games.

The reasons are manifold. It’s not that I always play in a group, far from it. But even when playing alone, being in a world inhabited by other players gives everything I do a far greater sense of realism. When I craft, not only can I use the item myself, I can also sell it to someone else. When I am too lazy to go out and gather crafting mats myself, I can buy them instead. And yes, I too am not immune to feeling a sense of pride when I achieve something not everybody achieves, and being able to show it off by riding a special mount or wearing a special title or somesuch.

I also like that there’s no ending in multiplayer games. To be honest, I’ve become reluctant to invest dozens or even hundreds of hours into a game that I know will go “that’s it, you’re finished, now go and play something else” at some point. I feel that everything I achieve while playing the game will just go poof when I reach that point.

As of late, though, I withdraw from all kinds of multiplayer activity more and more. I hardly ever play Overwatch anymore, I have cancelled my FFXIV subscription. At the moment I mainly play Uncharted: The Lost Legacy on PS4, GTA V (just the story mode) and Path of Exile (always alone except for the occasional trade) on PC.

Why the change of mind?

It’s actually rather simple. During the last year or so, the vast majority of encounters with other players I had (EVE Online being the exception, believe it or not) were…bad. Just bad.

There’s been much talk about toxicity in all of online gaming lately. MOBAs and Shooters like Overwatch seem to be the worst offenders, but they’re not the only ones, as I had to find out.

When Lakisa and I were playing the Main Story in FFXIV sometime in August we reached a point, as you do regularly in this game, where we had to do a dungeon to progress further. And I absolutely did not want to. The last dungeons we had done had been utterly stressful and unfun experiences, and I just didn’t want any more of that. The group finder does a solid job in getting you together with folks playing the right roles relatively quickly. What it can’t do, though, is get you together with people who are relaxed and fun to play with. And this kind of human being seems to pretty much not exist anymore in that game. Everyone is go go go, pull everything, pull now, faster, faster, all while standing kneedeep in bad stuff all the time. I’m telling you, I refuse tanking or healing for anyone I don’t know from now on.

Unfortunately this pretty much killed my enthusiasm for that game altogether, so we are taking a break.

There’s a whole bunch of multiplayer-centric games launching before the end of the year that I’d normally be very interested in. I’ll pass on most of them.

There’s Star Wars Battlefront II. Lootcrate shenanigans aside (they’re bad though, reason enough not to buy it to be honest) this looks pretty awesome. The ‘I’m right in the middle of the battle of Endor’-feeling of the first game was tremendous. Not everything was great, but they seem to have listened to a lot of feedback and improved a great deal. The story campaign isn’t enough reason for me to buy it though, and I just don’t want to play the multiplayer right now.

Call of Duty is returning to World War II. I haven’t played a CoD since Black Ops 1, but this one looks pretty interesting. Still, not buying it.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is all the rage and makes all the money right now. It sure looks fun and interesting. Won’t be playing it.

The one I’m really looking forward to and that I’m actually gonna buy is Destiny 2 for PC. I haven’t played the first one because I don’t like to play shooter mechanics on console. But I’m pretty sure I would have liked it, and part two seems to be, while not very innovative, a straight upgrade on all fronts. The most important thing: I can and will play it either alone, or together with a couple RL friends that are also buying it. The enemies’ AI might not be great, but at least it won’t make me ragequit the game with it’s antisocial behaviour.

No play with and/or against strangers for me anymore, no Sir. For now anyway.

Advertisements

A new home

Last Sunday our alliance held it’s first big Teamspeak-meeting. Other alliances as well as guilds in other games we’ve been in do these much more often, but since we have a pretty relaxed approach to everything there mostly isn’t much to talk about (at least it’s been like that since we joined in May).

This time though there was something to talk about indeed, as our leadership made an unexpected and, for some folks, pretty big announcement: we are going to leave Okkamon behind and move to a new home.

Okkamon was Holy Cookie’s base of operations for a very long time, and for some members it really has become their home in EVE. But since we’re not moving to an entirely different region of New Eden the farewell shouldn’t be all too sad I guess. I assume that when we do our roams we’ll even visit Okkamon fairly regularly.

Still, moving in EVE is always a hassle. The more stuff you have, the more difficult it becomes. Some of us have dozens and dozens of ships in Okka, and probably tons of ammo, cap booster charges and the like. Fortunately, there isn’t only one way to relocate your assets.

Obviously the most straightforward way is to sit in a ship and fly it to your destination. When done in numbers, it’s relatively safe and can even be fun and net some kills. If you own lots and lots of ships though, doing this for all of them would take ages. Hence most of us only do this with the biggest ships, which would take up the most volume in freighters or carriers.

The second way is to use jump carriers. We have some at our disposal (and their owners are nice enough to help their buddies out), and they can move boatloads of stuff with almost 100% safety. The downside is that everything has to be repackaged to be hauled this way, which means that ships lose their rigs and their insurance. This can add up quickly and might be enough reason to not move many ships this way.

The last method is to use combat carriers, which sport a sizable ship maintenance bay to move fully assembled ships. Depending on ship sizes a carrier can transport between two and about twenty combat ships without them losing rigs and insurance.

All in all, for Lakisa and me this move ain’t a big deal. We haven’t been long enough in Okkamon to really feel that much at home already, and as I said, we’re not moving far anyway. As for moving our stuff…admittedly the high frequency of moving around was one of the reasons we quit Mercenary Coalition. The upside is that we’ve become somewhat accustomed to it and know how to do it efficiently. And it’s not like we’re becoming nomads now, this is planned to be a one-time move.

We’ve already flewn our bigger ships in convoys. Some not-yet-assembled ships we’ll contract to our jump freighter pilots. What’s left I’ll stuff into my carrier and jump over when we’ll return from our vacation.

Concerning the feeling-at-home thing: actually our new home is already more of a home to me than Okkamon in one regard: while we had “only” a couple Astrahus class citadels in Okka, we deployed a Fortizar in our new home system, and yesterday we had to fight for it’s successful anchoring.

We had formed an armor gang of close range fit HACs, Battleships and Guardians in advance and were ready to defend. I brought an Astarte with three armor fleet boosts to the mix. The timer was set for about 10 minutes before downtime.

A couple minutes early about a dozen pilots from The Bloc, Templis CALSF and others showed up in a Gila gang with Basilisks and a Vulture for support. They sat at a ping high above the Fortizar at first, but as the vulnerability window opened they warped down to a much nearer spot and opened fire on the structure.

After a bit of positioning we managed to warp to a spot about 60km away from them and started burning towards them. It took a while, but being a good bit faster than them we made up ground. Our Interceptor went in for the tackle from another direction, but unfortunately got chewed up by drones before our Guardians could rep him. Before the fight started for real though, downtime dropped on us and we were all disconnected.

When the server came back up we waited a few seconds more and then logged in simultaneously. Our opponents apparently did the same, so the fight continued right where we left off.

Now we finally closed in on them. I’m not sure why they didn’t warp off before we got into tackling range, they must have known that they couldn’t beat us up close. But they didn’t, so we spread points and started focusing the nearest Basilisk. It fell rather quickly, as did the second. We then switched to the Gilas, and managed to kill three before they finally decided to run. The battle report shows us clearly ahead ISK-wise, and more importantly, our Fortizar went online.

Secure Fortizar. The name’s a placeholder…I hope

If someone wants to kill it now, they need to show up three times total and beat us everytime, and this time the Fortizar itself will be armed, too.

Good luck with that. Our new home is our castle.

 

The return of Deathmatch

In his latest developer update Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch’s Game Director and pretty much Blizzard’s ‘Face of Overwatch’, announced that Deathmatch is coming to Overwatch.

The announcement was a pretty big surprise for most, since Jeff had stated previously that they don’t want a Deathmatch mode in Overwatch. Even more unexpected though was my reaction to it: I’m totally hyped!

I haven’t played a round of Team Deathmatch since Modern Warfare 2, so about 2010. I can’t even remember which game I played my last round of Free-For-All Deathmatch in. Probably Unreal Tournament (the first one, aka UT99 or Classic UT), so somewhere around 2002. I can’t say that I missed it much. Or rather, I wasn’t aware that I missed it.

I’ve written about how much Overwatch’s gameplay tends to frustrate me, how furious I become when things don’t go my way. My joy over the announcement made me think about what’s important to me when playing games today compared to what was important to me in the past.

When I say I didn’t miss FFA Deathmatch, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Now that I think about it, I actually had the most multiplayer-shooter-fun in Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Quake, UT and the like, playing FFA Deathmatch. It wasn’t really about winning or losing. Sure, there was a scoreboard and at the end of a round someone was declared winner, but we didn’t care too much about that. We cared about that one time when Player A walked right into the proximity detonators set by Player B and got exploded 50 yards into the air, or the spectacular fadeaway jump-headshot Player C killed Player D with, only to get shotgun-blasted unceremoniously in the back by Player E right afterward.

In more modern shooters the rather simple fun of frantically running around and fragging each other has been largely replaced by more or less complex team objectives, and, above all, diverse means of progression. Just having fun doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. There are duties to fulfill, achievements to accomplish, ladders to climb, levels to gain and knickknacks to unlock.

All these things work. They motivate people, make them spend more time with (and money for) the game. If they didn’t, the focus of game development wouldn’t have shifted so dramatically to stuff like this in the past 10 years or so.

Call of Duty 4 (aka Modern Warfare) blew everyone’s minds in 2007 not only because of it’s single player campaign basically being a playable Michael Bay movie. It’s multiplayer progression system worked so well and was so addictive that it set a new genre standard pretty much overnight. Since then, almost every game in almost every genre has to have progression systems, ladders for players to climb, hoops for players to jump through.

Somehow, along the way, the gameplay itself seems to have become almost an afterthought. I’m not saying that most modern games have bad gameplay. But it sure seems to be very important now that I become hooked and busy for as long as possible. Having fun while being busy is kind of a bonus, but not necessarily required.

That’s why I’m really excited about Deathmatch coming to Overwatch. I hope it will bring back some of the good old, relaxed and carefree fun that I remember from so long ago.

All good things…

All good things come to an end. So did our participation in EVE Alliance Tournament XV, unfortunately.

On Sunday, August 6th we had our third match of the tournament. Our opponents were Pen Is Out, who had beaten IT’S ONLY PIXELS and Ghost Legion. in the first two rounds. Looking at the setups they had used there, based around a Golem and a Navy Scorpion, we thought we might have a shot at beating them. 53% of EVE NT’s viewers agreed with this assessment.

They didn’t bring a Golem this time, but the setup was still pretty similar. Great, we thought, we’ll easily kill the bombers first, then go from there. As per usual. In training, bombers had always been nothing more than cannon fodder for us.

Somehow, though, it didn’t quite work out this time. The first bomber fell relatively quickly, but after that we couldn’t break anything anymore. Meanwhile my Fleet Hurricane was their first primary, and while it took them quite some time to get me down, what with overheated Invulns and combined reps from drones and our Basilisk, I still died before we had killed anything else. From there it kinda snowballed. Personal piloting errors were made, too. I’m not sure that avoiding those would have really made a difference though.

In the end we lost 3:100, having killed nothing but the Nemesis stealth bomber. Thus our high ride through the winner’s bracket was over. While it’s still possible to win the tournament after falling to loser’s bracket, the hopes our first two wins (three if counting feeder’s round) might have built got somewhat dampened by this decisive loss.

Our next opponents were going to be HYDRA RELOADED, winners of AT IX and a force to be reckoned with. Although they were knocked down to loser’s bracket by TEMPLIS CALSF on the first weekend, they won their three matches after that. We weren’t very optimistic, but were going to give it our best and not make any mistakes this time.

When we saw their setup, though, we knew we were in trouble. Not only did they bring an all-Caldari setup, which made many of the ECM modules our two Rooks and most of our Battlecruisers had fitted rather ineffective. They also had a boatload of ECM themselves with their two Widows (probably rainbow too, so perfect against our all-race setup) and, the cherry on the pie, an Etana logistics cruiser. The Etana is basically a Basilisk that can cloak (which is irrelevant in the tournament), it’s really not that much better at repairing stuff. But, given the pricetag of such a rare ship, we knew it would be heavily tanked and take us far too long to take out, even if we were able to apply our full DPS (not likely because of ECM).

Stuck between a rock and a hard place we decided to again go for bombers first, as they are pretty squishy and deal a lot of DPS. Unfortunately, just as we had feared, at least two of us were jammed at any given time, sometimes even more. They jammed our logis too, and before we managed to kill anything our first Rook had already fallen.

Then we finally got a jam cycle on the Etana. Whoever wasn’t jammed immediately focused the bombers again, and we killed them both before the Etana could lock them. Meanwhile our second Rook had also fallen though, and now they started to focus our DPS ships. The Harbingers fell, then the Brutixes, and on it went. We got one more jam cycle on the Etana, but by then we hadn’t much DPS left even on paper, much less in reality, since now we were pretty much all jammed all the time. The two Manticores would remain our only kills, and with a score of 6:100 not only the match ended, but also our chances at advancing further in the tournament.

Oh well. We had much fun and actually advanced further than we had anticipated at the beginning, so there’s no reason to be too disappointed. Making it to the top 16 would have been great of course, as that would have secured us a guaranteed spot for ATXVI. As it is, we’ll have to wait and see if we can participate again next year. I sure hope so. As does Lakisa, who also had much fun during training, and would probably be advanced far enough skillwise to be part of the fighting squad until then.

For now, we return to our normal life in New Eden. Which ain’t that bad either.

A victorious weekend (July 29th and 30th)

EVE’s Alliance Tournament XV started on Saturday. The tournament format is double elimination, which means that a team is out after two losses, but can still carry on and even win the tournament after one loss.

Our first match was scheduled for 16:20 EVE time on Saturday, our opponents being SOLAR FLEET.

SOLAR aren’t new to the AT, while for us it was going to be the first fight in a proper alliance tournament match after having survived the feeder round in June, so despite having trained a lot and being confident in our doctrines and execution by now, we were still pretty nervous.

About 45 minutes ahead of the match SOLAR’s and our team’s captains were allowed to ban two ships each for this match, which neither team would be allowed to use. After that our captain and FC decided which doctrine we were going to use, and who would pilot the ships.

The AT takes place on Tranquility, EVE’s normal gameplay server. So, since the feeder round as well as all training takes place on the Thunderdome event server, this was going to be the first time we’d be fighting with our real characters, with real skills, implants and ships. Thus not only training participation and player skill have to be taken into account, the character’s skills are also important. Fortunately my character can fly a lot of ships with near optimal skills, and I was chosen to fly one of our DPS ships with an added fleet boost module. Then everyone got handed their ship and made very sure that everything was in order: correct ammo types and cap booster charges in sufficient amount, all modules fitted and online, and the right implants installed.

After being ported by a dev into the otherwise unreachable system in Jove space used for the tournament we made sure our overviews and watchlists were set up correctly, checked our modules and made sure that everyone knew their respective warp-in range. Shortly thereafter the dev prompted us to warp to the arena, which we did (everybody at their correct ranges, fortunately 🙂 ).

Now we finally saw what we would have to fight. SOLAR brought a somewhat peculiar setup consisting of three short range fitted battlecruisers, two rapid light missile Cerberuses and two Gilas, supported by two Daredevils and a Scimitar for reps. We used the reamining form-up time to decide our course of action, and soon the 30 second countdown started ticking.

We decided to take out their close range damage first, while our support took care of their Daredevils. This worked out quite well from the start. Still, the incoming damage was nothing to sneeze at either, and they switched targets quickly whenever they couldn’t break their primary. This finally led to some losses on our side, when we weren’t sending our repair drones to the ship taking damage quickly enough.

We kept taking out one ship after the other though, and before long we knew we had it in the bag. Final score: 100:35 in our favour. Not flawless, but good enough to stay in the winner’s bracket by securing our first win. Yay!

This meant that our next match would be against United Federation of Conifers, who had defeated Villore Accords prior to our match, on Sunday at 18:00. It also meant that we would fight in Arena 1 instead of Arena 2, so our match would be shown in the commentated stream on EVE NT’s twitch channel. I personally had never heard of UFC before, and judging by the poll in said stream many others hadn’t either, since 80% of their viewers saw us as favourites (although I don’t think we are that well known either).

Preparations went very similar to Saturday. I was again chosen to fly a DPS ship with a fleet boost on top.

UFC brought an all-missile shield setup with heavy ECM support. This wasn’t exactly good news for us, since we had some tracking disruptors (which are useless against missiles) and not much defence against ECM aside from an information fleet boost with electronic hardening ammo.

To be honest, I think they could have won this one, had they played their setup effectively. Fortunately for us they didn’t.

The teams were 100km apart at the start of the match, so no team could apply enough damage to break anything at first. For some reason they then started to spread out pretty far and approach us from different angles, while we approached the center of the arena together as a tight ball. Whenever a DPS ship of theirs would come into our effective range, not only would we apply a lot of damage despite one or two of us being jammed at any given point in time, they also weren’t able to apply their reps effectively because the logi would have to burn to the ship being shot at, and burn the other way again whenever we switched targets. So one by one, they fell. Even the Widow, which we assumed to have a heavy tank, fell very quickly. After that, although they still had seven ships on the field at that point, the match was pretty much over. Final score: 100:1 The one point again, as in our feeder round match, a point we didn’t actually field. Flawless victory.

So after two matches we’re still undefeated and move on in the winner’s bracket. Our next match will be against Pen Is Out on Sunday 6th, 15:40.

To be continued… (cue theme music from Back to the Future)

That perfect MMORPG

The perfect game. We all crave it, we all look for it, we all hope that one day game developers will finally “get it” and make it.

Of course it ain’t that easy. My perfect game would probably be drastically different from yours, and yours again different from the next gamer’s. Obviously publishers and developers can’t afford to build the perfect game just for me or just for you though, games have to appeal to a multitude of tastes.

There’s also the problem that some great game-mechanics or -features don’t work well together. Some even actively contradict themselves. So just cramming every great feature one can think of into one game probably isn’t really a good idea.

But still, one can dream. So here’s how my perfect game would be like. Warning: this is gonna be a long one.

  • A virtual world

My perfect game needs to have a world that feels alive and real to me. This is probably one of the hardest goals to achieve, because there are many factors that play into it.

The world needs to be seamless, I don’t want loading screens to remind me of the fact that I’m sitting in front of my computer instead of being immersed in that world. For example, in FFXIV I have to imagine that my character boards a ship and travels across the Strait of Merlthor when I use the travel option from Limsa Lominsa to Western Thanalan. What I see, though, is just a loading screen. In ArcheAge, on the other hand, when I wanted to get from my house in Two Crowns to Lakisa’s house in Solzreed I actually used my ship to cross Feuille Sound, no load screen or anything. I could have teleported, sure, but I chose not to.

Boat
Me and my clipper, looking for adventure.

Because during that short trip, stuff could and sometimes would happen. Maybe a fully loaded merchant ship would cross my path, and I would alter my course to see where it went. Why pass up an opportunity to maybe snatch a trade pack or two, or alternatively protect said packs and their owners from a pirate attack?

This is an example of another important thing that makes a world seem alive to me. Probably the most important thing: the possibility of the unexpected.

It’s kinda hard to explain, but I’ll try. Try to remember times while playing MMO X or MMO Y when you had moments of “wow, this was unexpected” or “haha, this was hilarious”. I’m not talking about the game’s story quests or the like, but about normal day to day gameplay. The stuff you spend 90% or more of your gametime with.

There are lots of games where at least to me this happens very rarely. Mostly these are games with a Themepark-heavy design. These do other things well, but they rarely surprise or astonish me. Sandbox-heavy designs tend to fare much better with this.

In my opinion a big factor here is the level of interaction between players and the environment as well as between players and other players that the game allows. I do realize that whenever more interaction is allowed there’s also more possibilty of griefing. Still, the less interaction a game allows, the more it just feels like a bunch of areas to level through instead of a virtual world to me.

Can every game achieve this? I guess not. For my above example to be even possible the game obviously needs to allow to steal from players and to fight against players without their consent, at least under specific circumstances. And I know that there are many who don’t want stuff like that. But for my perfect game, it’s needed. Not because I like spending my evenings stealing from and/or ganking others! No, I want this because without it, it’s not a virtual world in my book.

  • Freedom of character development

To really immerse myself in a game I need to have a strong attachment to the character I play. To achieve that I need a great deal of control over how he looks and what he can do.

In the last couple of years games have become quite good at the former, although there is still room for improvement. FFXIV has lots and lots of outfits available through ingame means, but the glamour system is highly unpractical. Also, there’s basically two races: Humans and silly Gnomes. Sure, there are also Humans with cat ears and tails, Humans with pointy ears, Humans with scales and very big Humans. Still, they’re humans. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. Everquest 2 does a much better job in this regard, with playable Trolls, Ogres, Rat-people, Lizard-people, even Frog-people and many more. The cosmetics system is also pretty good (now). I wish current titles would borrow more from EQ2 in this regard. Actually it’s a game that does a lot of things really well, I will come back to that later.

In case it isn’t clear by now: I need an Avatar. Essentially being a spaceship is cool and all, EVE Online, but to feel immersed I need legs. So sorry.

What can my character do, and how does it make him special/unique?

Since I want a good deal of freedom, skill based systems tend to satisfy me much more than class based systems.

As far as class based systems go, EQ2 right after launch was really bad with regards to freedom. My Level 30 Warlock had the exact same spells and skills than every other Level 30 Warlock. No differences at all. Later came Alternate Advancements, which make it indeed possible (with enough points in it) to give your character a personal note and to make him better at the type of gameplay you like most. So it’s much better now. Still, a Warlock will always be a Warlock and won’t ever be able to do things a Bruiser or a Fury can do.

Most skill based systems don’t force players to put on a corset of ‘you’re class X’ or ‘you’re class Y’. Ultima Online has probably the most-freeform system, in that there’s just a maximum number of skillpoints you can have, and you can split these among as many different skills as you choose. If you choose many, you won’t be very good with each of them though. Either specialize, or be Jack of all trades, master of none. Skills aren’t raised by gaining XP, but by using them.

The system I liked most was that of Star Wars Galaxies after launch, which also had a maximum number of skillpoints, but the skills were ‘bundled’ into Professions like Bounty Hunter, Smuggler or even Musician or Dancer. The skillpoints weren’t enough to be everything at once of course, but it was enough to mix and match for example one combat profession, one crafting profession and one entertaining profession.

253big
What’s not to like about being proficient in making Basic Desserts?

Of course, the more freedom players have at building their characters, the harder balancing everything becomes. SWG at launch was a prime example of this, PvE and PvP both being a hot mess. Still, I prefer messy freedom to constrained boredom/conformity.

  • Combat

Another big either/or these days: action combat or tab targeting?

I don’t really care either way, as long as it feels right. I was always fine with EQ2’s classic tab targeting system. I could have done with a tad fewer skills and spells though. TERA’s action combat felt good, but could get a bit hectic at times (especially in PvP). The global cooldown in FFXIV is definitely too long (2,5 sec), and I could do with a bit fewer ground targets I have to dance out of while tanking.

All in all, this isn’t really my top priority, and until now I could make do with any combat system a game gave me. But please, try to make melee and ranged characters at least somewhat balanced. It sucks to realize that your preferred playstyle isn’t even remotely ‘viable’.

  • Quests or no quests?

I have played MMOs that drowned me in quests, and I have played some that had, at the time, no quests whatsoever.

I can’t say that I vastly prefer one over the other. As is so often the case, the truth lies in the middle. Give me quests that are fun, and also give me stuff to do besides quests.

I’m fine with the often cited ‘kill 10 rats‘ quests once, right at the start of the game, to teach me the basics. After that such quest objectives can go the way of the Dodo as far as I’m concerned, as can quests that are nothing but ‘go talk to this guy’, then ‘go back and tell them what I said’. FFXIV is really bad in this regard during some stretches of the main story.

Having good quests is better than having none, but quality is much more important than quantity. And, like I said, quest shouldn’t be the only motivator to do things.

Whenever I log into my game, I don’t want to say to myself “ok, first I have to do these dailies, then I need to do this, then that, and what the hell, my gaming time for the day is already over”. I want to log in and ask myself “what would I like to do today in this virtual world?”.

  • Importance of other players

Forced grouping or no forced grouping? Ah, the old debate. Whenever this topic comes up there are those who say “I want to be able to do stuff alone”, which inevitably someone will retort with “don’t play an MMO then, play single player games!”.

In my opinion it is totally legit to ask for things that can be done alone. Remember, it’s a virtual world I want, and even in the real world I can do things on my own, can’t I?

What do I need other players for then? See above, possibilities and interaction. It has no meaning to me that I can craft the best armor if I can’t sell it to other players. It has no meaning to me that I successfully delivered the valuable trade goods if there wasn’t a chance to be attacked and robbed by other players. And yes, bashing the Chief Orc’s head or razing the walls of the enemy faction’s castle is indeed much more fun grouped with gildies or even friends than alone.

Thus my perfect game needs lots of stuff that I can do alone if I so choose, but also other players as well as things that can and should be done as a group.

  • Risk vs reward

This has changed a lot since the “old days” of MMORPGs. Most game developers in today’s market don’t dare to implement heavy penalties for failing a challenge or dying, for example. The fact that the few games that do have harsh penalties generally don’t fare too well financially seems to indicate that most players, often despite of what they’re saying, do indeed not want such penalties.

To be honest, I’m not sure about this one.

The possibility of loss gives meaning to things, that much I know. I have quite a lot of good memories of situations where something was on the line. On the other hand, I have also less good memories of similar situations when things went sour.

The prime example for this kind of game is, of course, EVE Online. If our spaceships didn’t actually blow up when destroyed, the game had for sure long ceased to exist. After all, battles fought over nothing aren’t worth fighting. But to get to the point in EVE where I am now I had to endure some very frustrating moments too, moments that would probably have made other players quit the game for good (and many have quit, we know that for a fact). I still avoid looking for combat on my own (i.e. Solo PvP), because I don’t want to lose my stuff, although I’d be easily able to afford some losses.

I don’t have the perfect answer to this, as I do want consequences in my game, but not so harsh as to deter me from doing the fun stuff. But at least let have dying more impact than ‘I lose 30 seconds of my time and 10 silver for gear repair’.

  • Must-have features

There are types of gameplay that my perfect game absolutely needs, and not only as an afterthought (as is often the case, tragically) but as a fleshed out, well done feature that also impacts and interacts with other features. An integral part of the world, in other words.

Crafting

Functionally I want a crafting system that is more than just ‘press button, wait, done’. I like EQ2’s and FFXIV’s systems in this regard. FFXIV’s is on the brink of being too complex and time consuming though.

In the context of the game world crafting has to be meaningful. For every craftable item there should be a player saying “I need this, I want this”. In themeparks this often collides with Dungeon- and Raid-Loot being the pinnacle of gear progression, making crafted gear pretty much obsolete in the grand scheme of things.

Ideally every item in the game should be crafted (see EVE), with maybe a few exceptions like armor, weapons and tools for newbies (one has to start somewhere). To make activities like running Dungeons still desirable, drops from bosses could be a crafting component instead of a finished item, and crafters could make the finished item for the dungeoneers. Some games already do something like this.

Also, don’t make a system where every item is exactly the same. SWG was the only MMO I ever played where my question “where can I get good armor?” was answered with “ask player XY, he makes the best armor money can buy!”. And this was great. This guy had put in time and effort to collect the best resources, built or bought the best crafting stations and tools, and just made the best composite armor far and wide. Wouldn’t you like to do that? I know I would. What I did instead though was become his business partner. Being a Smuggler, I could slice (essentially ‘pimp’) armor and weapons, so I enabled him to sell pre-sliced sets of armor, while earning a lot of credits myself easily through sheer bulk. Now this was meaningful crafting (and also meaningful interaction).

Resource gathering

Functionally I’d like a mix of FFXIV (when gathering by hand) and SWG (placing harvesters for automatic gathering). Resources would change locations every few days and have different qualities – not just High Quality or No Quality, rather multiple grades for different possible outcomes when crafting (see above).

A gathering system with harvesters obviously needs space to place them. Admittedly much of SWG’s planets looked like either a barren wasteland (when no houses and harvesters were placed yet) or rather ugly shanty towns and/or industrial areas. So a middle ground would have to be found, but I still love the concept.

Housing

No virtual world without solid personal housing!

The biggest fundamental question is obviously: instanced or open world? This, again, is a hard one.

I love open world housing. I experienced it in UO, SWG and ArcheAge.

All three games have/had their load of problems with it though, the most obvious ones being not enough space for the demand, as well as the aforementioned areas chock-full of tightly packed houses.

In SWG I found a pretty secluded spot for my medium house on Naboo. Had to run 7km to the next town though, before speeders were in the game. Still, I was very pleased with the location.

Instanced housing usually has a lot less appeal for lots of different player types. The Decorator/Socialiser/Roleplayer can’t show off their work to passersby or easily invite friends or guests without navigating them through a menu and a loading screen. The Crafter/Trader can’t advertise their wares to passersby either. To me, it just doesn’t feel like ‘coming home’ when lots of other people ‘come home’ to the same door. On the other hand all problems open-world housing has are a non-factor here.

The best solution might be Black Desert’s, which has kind of a hybrid model. The housing is quasi-open-world, but you can’t choose how the building looks like from the outside and can’t place it anywhere else. As soon as you open a door or a window, the game loads your instance of it (for you). Once you’re inside, you can look through the door or windows into the real game world.

Concerning housing items and placement thereof, no game I know beats EQ2. Wildstar’s housing is said to be awesome, but since I haven’t experienced it myself I’ll just settle for EQ2 with it’s thousands (not exaggerating!) of housing items and good placement options.

My Warlock’s floating library made of coffins. Every book is an actual item which can be read.

By land, by air, by sea

A virtual world doesn’t only consist of landmass, and walking and riding aren’t the only ways to move.

I’d like to have ArcheAge’s seas including naval combat and underwater content. The gliding is also very neat, since it beats walking or riding under the right circumstances, but doesn’t make those outright obsolete like flying often does.

Although, if it’s implemented in a way that does not make every other way to travel obsolete, I’m cool with flying too.

Odds and ends

I want to have enough inventory space to not being forced to devote 15 minutes a day to sorting through stuff and pondering what to keep, what to sell and what to trash. Right from the start.

I don’t want systems that punish playing a lot, or not playing enough.

I want a user interface that’s slick and fully customizable (including keybindings).

I want a great soundtrack and good ambience and sound effects. Be sure that everything’s still pleasing to the ear when listened to for the 1000th time. FFXIV, EQ2 and EVE all do a good job at this (yes, EVE HAS sound!).

I want the game to have systems for artistic endeavours. A musicianship-system with the ability to compose own pieces like ArcheAge’s (plus the ability to mute individual players’ music) as well as options for band performances like in SWG. The ability to write poems or novels, for others to read. Maybe even the ability to create visual art (think of APB Reloaded’s symbols and decals) and use these as paintings or advertisement posters (moderation needed, obviously, unfortunetely).

Let me use stuff that I can see. Where there’s a chair, I want to be able to sit on it. Where there’s a bed, I want to be able to stretch my legs for a minute. If a vehicle or mount has obviously two seats, let two people use it.

There’s probably another two dozen things, I’ll maybe add them later.

  • Must-NOT-have features

This list will be much shorter: Pay 2 win and excessive RNG.

I won’t discuss what my definition of p2w is at this time, lest this post grows by another thousand words. Let’s just say I abandoned the otherwise absolutely fantastic ArcheAge because the combination of p2w and RNG is so outrageously huge in that game that I just couldn’t justify playing it any longer.

  • Payment model

I don’t like to be nickel-and-dimed. Hence I really dislike having to pay real world money for things like inventory space or the ability to equip high-end gear (often on a per character basis).

My vote goes to FFXIV: monthly subscription with a cash shop that contains only additional vanity items for people who want them. The reason why I’m totally fine with this cash shop is that there are loads of cosmetics I can get by just playing the game, many many more than the cash shop has. For example mounts: there are dozens and dozens of mounts which players can earn through various ingame activities. The cash shop has like four mounts which can’t be earned ingame, but they aren’t any faster than ingame mounts and have no added functionality either. So this isn’t like ‘either buy a 30$ costume or look like a pauper-wizard for all time’-Black Desert.

Of course, since my perfect game would probably only be played by a couple hundred people tops, the monthly subscription would have to be like 150$. But hell, I’d pay that.

EVE ATXV Coverage

ATXV finally kicked off on July 29th. I have written a piece about our first two matches already and will write one about our third today, but decided to not publish any detailed coverage about our participation until the tournament has ended or we are eliminated, whichever comes first. We don’t want to give potentially useful information to possible opponents, do we? 🙂

When the times comes I’ll publish everything at once.

Kudos to the whole crew of EVE NT by the way, who in my opinion did a pretty great job at streaming the first four tournament days. In case you missed it: the stream, which included half of the first weekend’s matches and all of last weekend’s matches, can be watched here.