About long term goals in MMORPGs

As you know I’m currently busy building an Epheria Frigate in Black Desert Online. I think it’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on in an MMORPG.

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Much effort went into this already, yet there’s still a long way to go

Not that this deters me, I like having long term goals in the games I play. This wasn’t always the case though. At one point a couple of years ago I’d played mainly SW:TOR and The Secret World for quite some time. When I started to play ArcheAge afterwards I was a bit shocked and also disappointed by the large amount of resources necessary to build fairly basic things like a clipper or a small farm cart.

After a while I got used to things taking longer and learned to appreciate effort vs reward again, something I seemed to have lost while playing the aforementioned games.

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As a consequence I was pretty proud and happy to finally get this

Not all long term goals are created equal though. I’m not talking about the reward I get in the end, a purely cosmetic one like a really nice looking mount can motivate me just as much as a powerful item with actually measurable benefits. I’m talking about how much time and effort need to be invested, and how much restrictions or obstacles the game puts in my way.

To me it’s very important to be quite free in how I work on achieving my goals, and that doing so is actually fun and doesn’t feel like actual work too much.

The latter is obviously a very subjective thing, so developers won’t be able to please everyone in this regard no matter what they do.

Let’s have a look at the ‘how’ then. Imagine you have set your sight on a specific goal which requires you to invest, say, approximately 60 hours of play, and you’d like to achieve it within two months for some reason. So on average you’d need to work on it for about an hour each day.

Depending on how the game in question is designed this can leave you with a couple possible scenarios.

One: The maximum amount of progress you can make each day is pretty limited, for example because doing a handful of daily quests is the only way to progress. This means that you probably won’t be able to achieve your goal within two months no matter what you do. You’ll also likely feel forced to do these dailies each and every day so you don’t delay completion any further. I know I feel that way in these situations.

Two: The maximum amount of progress per day is still limited, but not quite as harshly. Here you’re able to reach your goal in your set timeframe and are probably ‘allowed’ to take a day off every now and then. You still need to play and work on your goal almost every day though.

Three: there’s a pretty high limit to progress per day, or none at all. Do one hour per day, two considerably longer sessions per week or each whole Sunday, it’s up to you.

Unfortunately (for my taste) many games fall into the first category. Most instanced dungeons, for example, have a lockout timer of 18 hours or so, meaning that I can do them and get rewards only once per day. Consequently, if I want to maximize my chances for the drops I need I have to run dungeons each and every day.

Another example. Back in SW:TOR I wanted to reach the highest reputation rank with the Gree to get this sweet mount:

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I can’t help it, if something looks like it’s taken straight out of TRON I have to have it

Unfortunately a bunch of daily quests were the only way to increase one’s reputation, and those weren’t much fun to me. My only options were to either do them anyway or forget about getting the mount. To make matters worse the Gree event was only ever available for a limited time before disappearing again for weeks or months, so I felt doubly pressured to do the dailies every day while the event was active.

I just don’t like that kind of design because it can lead to a spiral of constant repetition very quickly, especially with limited available playtime. You log into the game after work and know that you kind of ‘have’ to do a whole bunch of things first. If it doesn’t all go perfectly it might take even longer than anticipated, and before you know it your time’s up and you haven’t done anything other than your daily chores once again.

That’s why I’m really happy that I don’t feel forced to do any specific thing pretty much ever in BDO. The only task I’m kind of compelled to do regularly is brew beer before my workers have used it all up and stop working. Other than that I can do whatever I feel like and still make progress towards at least one of my goals.

For the Epheria Frigate there’s different kinds of gathering, processing, hauling stuff around, keeping production rolling and managing nodes and workers to be done. On some days I gather materials with two characters back to back until their respective energy pools are depleted, sometimes I only do a bit of processing or don’t work on the frigate at all while still making progress because my workers keep at it. If I didn’t like a specific kind of gathering at all I could even try to buy that stuff on the marketplace instead.

I really like that freedom and wish more games would handle it like this instead of forcing me to do the same stuff every day in order to reach specific goals.

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Let it snow, MMO!

Sorry about the title, I just couldn’t resist. I’m not even sure if that’s a proper rhyme. Ahem, moving on.

It hardly ever snows where I live, so when I crave some proper winter weather I need to either travel a good bit in real life, or get my fix in one of the virtual worlds I also inhabit.

While the latter obviously isn’t as good as the real deal it has the benefit of not actually being, you know, cold. MMO developers are well aware of that appeal, and most titles have at least one zone where there’s always winter. Those that have weather systems also tend to let it snow regularly during winter months.

Here are some places to savour virtual winter should you ever feel like it.

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Black Desert Online is one of the best looking MMOs out there, and it’s especially spectacular during winter. A screenshot doesn’t do it justice really, in motion it’s downright stunning. When it starts to snow the world doesn’t just turn white from one moment to the next, instead the snow blanket gets more dense over time. Later it starts to melt and turns to mud or water, depending on the surface, before it finally dissipates.

It’s not just a feast for the eyes either. Walking over snow sounds very realistic, and I could swear all ambient sounds are a bit muffled. I might be imagining that last bit, but it shows that the whole experience just feels right and is probably as close to the real thing as it can be.

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ArcheAge has a similar approach, but falls short in comparison. Still, it too looks pretty great. During sunshine you can see Marianople, the city in the background, clearly and with many details from this distance, so the snow’s effect on long range visibility seems to be even a bit more realistic here.

Now we move on to ‘eternal winter’ territory.

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The Coerthas Highland zones are among my favourites in Final Fantasy XIV. The architecture and mood fit perfectly to a region where it’s always cold. I wouldn’t have been surprised at all to discover Winterfell just around the corner. Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here!

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This Everquest II zone is fittingly called Everfrost. It dates all the way back to the game’s release, and it shows. From a distance it still looks quite good though, and I can’t help but feel a little bit chilly when I see it.

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Another one from EQII. These are the docks and the entrance to Thurgadin, city of the Coldain dwarves. It’s an impressive and majestic place, and it’s huge. A player character would fit a couple of times into the head of one of those statues. The winter theme fits very well here I think.

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If you want to freeze your butt off in The Secret World the Carpathians have got you covered. I hope you don’t mind that vampires are all over the place though. Definitely bring your collection of stakes along. Or Buffy Summers.

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I can’t remember the name of this zone in TERA, nor why my horse is hovering a foot above the ground. Maybe it didn’t want its hooves to get cold…

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I didn’t mind the stylized look of Star Wars: The Old Republic in general. Some places, like Tatooine for example, actually looked really great. Somehow the ice planet Hoth didn’t feel right though. The above mentioned effect of feeling cold just by looking at it just wasn’t there for me. Still, this list wouldn’t be complete without Hoth, would it?

I wish you all a merry and hopefully white Christmas.

IntPiPoMo – Marvelous mounts

Mounts are a staple feature of the MMO genre, almost on par with levels or quests. Most of the time their main purpose is to carry you around, letting you reach your destination faster. Some have additional abilities like gliding, flying, having their own inventory or being able to carry two players at once. Then there are those really hard to get ones, which above all else serve as a status symbol once you have them.

Whatever the case, they are our pride and joy, are they not?

Many have accompanied me over the years, and here are some of my favourites.

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Sunset over Antonica

This is my first Everquest II mount. You didn’t get one for free or as a quest reward back then (as far as I know), and it had taken me quite a while to accumulate the status points needed. As a result I was very happy with it and rode it for a pretty long time, all the way until leapers and flyers were introduced.

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Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Speaking of leapers, I’ve never had so much fun with another mount in any game than I had and still have with these. At the time they let me see all those old zones with new eyes because they jump really fricking high (and I couldn’t use flyers yet), but it’s also pure joy mechanically. Barely making the jump over a wide ravine or landing at the exact spot I aim at feels great and obviously isn’t half as fun with a flying mount.

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Doesn’t look like it, but I swear I’m moving fast

Star Wars Galaxies had no mounts at release, but pretty large planets. My characters must’ve worn out quite a lot of boots during the first months. I didn’t mind too much because the large distances added to the game’s adventurous, sandboxy feel, but it’s safe to say that pretty much everybody cheered a lot when mounts were finally added. Or…not. The first mounts were rideable beasts and just barely faster than running, so most of us were quite underwhelmed. A while later the mounts everyone was waiting for finally came: gliders and speeder bikes. The perceived size of the game world shrank a good bit due to that, but I don’t think anyone would’ve seriously wanted to go back.

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These are the suns you’re looking for

While we’re in the Star Wars universe, here I’m zipping around Tatooine on my collector’s edition mount in SWTOR. I liked this game’s version of the planet very much, I think it has just the right feel to it. Plus, the side quests for the Jawas are hilarious. But I digress. The mount wasn’t anything special, but at least I had one to use right away.

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Light cycle ready, where’s the arena?

This is my all time favourite SWTOR mount. I didn’t like doing dailies in that game much, but I ground the Gree event diligently until I had reached the needed reputation rank for this because it just looks awesome and fits my Jedi Guardian’s look perfectly.

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Why yes, it’s very comfy

Final Fantasy XIV has a great many cool mounts, this being one of my most used flyers. It always reminds me of the Goblin beast tribe quests that reward this, which I liked doing because they are just hilarious.

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I can’t think of anything to say that would make this any more ridiculous

Lakisa and I had just finished the Moogle beast tribe quests, so naturally we took off on our brand new dandelion mounts and spread the love…err…pollen.

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Trick or treat

This last one from FFXIV could be earned while doing the Halloween quests a couple years back. I didn’t use it very long though; an over seven feet tall Au Ra looks a bit weird on it after all…

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I don’t need no helmet, officer, I’m immortal. No, really!

The Secret World didn’t have mounts for a long time, and technically it didn’t need any because you could unlock several substantial boosts to your running speed. With those you made Usain Bolt look very old.

But, again, players like mounts, so they were finally added. This motorbike was the first, unlockable by doing a quest. It wasn’t any faster than the normal speed boosts and had pretty clunky animations for turning and such, but it was a nice touch nonetheless.

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Yet another TRON reference. I’m not complaining though.

Zipping around Tokyo on my…shoes?

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Yes, there actually is more than one horse in this post

This is my trusty steed in Black Desert Online. It’s fast and reliable, but man, it eats me out of house and home. So. Many. Carrots.

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Is there a horse under all this…stuff?

No. No there’s not. It’s dead, Jim. Well, at least it doesn’t need any carrots. Which is a good thing because I haven’t seen a single carrot anywhere in TERA.

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Death from above

Not only are the gliders in ArcheAge very fun to ride, they’re also instruments to be used to your tactical advantage in PvP. Here we’re coming down hard on the enemy faction’s Grimghast raid.

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Who says this isn’t a mount? I’m riding on it, am I not?

Another one from ArcheAge. Our guild did a huge cooperative trade run across the sea for a hefty profit. Until we reached the shore we used farm carts to speed up the journey. Now, I could’ve stored my tradepack into the cart and rode on my horse, but why? Sitting in the front seat (actually that’s the hose for watering your fields, but bear with me here) was much more relaxing and less bumpy than riding on horseback.

What’s your favourite mount?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 14 (this post); 50 (total)

IntPiPoMo – Housing edition

I love housing in all kinds of games, especially MMOs. To me it’s much more than just a ‘decorating-minigame’. I like to have a place to come back to after an exciting adventure, kick back and, if the game (hopefully) allows it, show off the spoils one way or another. If it also has functionality like crafting workbenches or items that provide buffs or teleports it’s even better.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the MMO housing I’ve had (or still have). As always, click to enlarge.

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Ultima Online was my first MMO, and this small tower near Yew my first virtual home. Even with its three stories it was tiny on the inside, but I was very happy to have it. It served as my safe haven and storehouse, but also as a place to chill, craft, dye my clothes and stuff like that. To me it wasn’t just one optional feature of many, but an integral part of my gameplay and a proper home.

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This is the little concert hall I arranged inside my medium Naboo house in Star Wars Galaxies. Except for the speakers and the armor I crafted everything you see here by hand, including the house itself.

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This Everquest II rooftop garden in my Bruiser’s Qeynos manor is one of the coziest places I’ve yet managed to furnish. Unfortunately it doesn’t have any kind of functionality, so I rarely go up there. Still, I like it a lot.

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This was our first home in ArcheAge, a small house by the lake in Two Crowns, just after finishing it’s construction. As with my tower in UO its living space was tiny, but we were still very happy with it. The little field with the aspen was also ours, and we later managed to convince the grapevine field’s owner to surrender it to us. With those combined we had a sizeable crop area right next to our house, which was very handy.

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A couple months later I managed to fulfill my dream of having a large house right by the sea, which you can see here. The view and sounds from the patio were just amazing.

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I never managed to have a proper house in Final Fantasy XIV (and I still think it’s too damn hard to get one), but my little apartement turned out quite nice and cozy, especially around christmas time.

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I’m a bit torn on Black Desert Online’s housing. The blend of instanced and open world housing is pretty clever and works well, and the abodes themselves range from ok to spectacular. The fact that almost all good looking furniture comes exclusively from the cash shop bugs me greatly though. Still, it’s quite good overall and I’d rather take this than no housing whatsoever.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 7

Memorable Moments – Chapter One

In my very first blog post I outlined my main reason for starting to write: to preserve and share great memorable experiences that might be forgotten otherwise.

One of those events came to pass in ArcheAge. Lakisa, our friend Tristron and I had a day full of adventure and excitement, and this was the catalyst that kindled my desire to write stuff down for the first time.

I had no idea how to start though, and unfortunately didn’t put in the effort to find out at the time. So now I’m going to try and reconstruct that day, for stories like these really shouldn’t pass into oblivion.

In order to get your medium sized farm in ArcheAge you need to do a couple of trade runs. Trade goods are crafted at certain workbenches and can be sold to trade NPCs for gold or other rewards. The farther away you sell, the more it’s worth. The kicker is that trade packs are very heavy and slow you down considerably. You wear them like a backpack one at a time, and if you put it down on the ground anyone can pick it up and steal it.

If you don’t own a farm cart yet you can only speed up the process by using public transportation (carriages or airships), or by riding a donkey.

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ArcheAge Adventure4

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We did all three during the quests leading up to this one

The last quest requires you to deliver a trade pack to the other continent, so you need to cross the ocean by boat. This is where it gets dangerous because as soon as you leave coastal waters you’re in lawless territory and anyone can attack you. We were still pretty low level at the time, so even without tradepacks on our backs we’d be easy prey for pirates.

When we finally reached the shore I spawned my clipper and we set sail.

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Myself at the helm, Lakisa at the harpoon and Tristron ready to reef or hoist the sail as needed

We were very nervous and kept our eyes peeled because the sight of any sail on the horizon was more than likely to mean trouble.

We tried to avoid the direct trade routes and zigzagged our way towards the destination. Nevertheless we spotted another ship once and collectively held our breath, hoping that whoever it was didn’t see us or had other things in mind. After a couple of tense seconds it was out of sight again. Phew.

Luckily the quest doesn’t actually require to hand over the trade pack to an NPC, you just have to reach a specific area with the cargo on your back. You have to get pretty close to the shore though, and since it’s the enemy continent it’s residents can attack you anywhere. I held my course towards the dock with trembling hands, ready to turn around as soon as the quest updated.

Then it happened. “Reef the sail!” I shouted on Teamspeak and turned the rudder (i.e. pressed the D key) as hard as I could. After having turned about 120° I gave the command to hoist the sail again, and we quickly gained pace and sped towards the open sea. Mission accomplished.

We made our way to our own continent’s nearest shore unharmed and delivered our trade packs to an NPC for a bit of profit.

Since this had been so thrilling and fun we weren’t ready to call it quits just yet. Instead we decided to try getting our hands on snowlion mount pups, which meant we’d have to do another trip across the ocean and even venture into the heart of the hostile country.

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First we took the scenic route by rowboat at night with Tristron on minstrel-duty

This time we crossed the sea without incident and soon Haranya’s coast came into view.

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The continent’s eastern theme is easily recognisable even from afar

But where to disembark? Enemy players weren’t our only concern, for NPC guards, too, would attack us on sight. The coastline consist of steep cliffs for the most part though, so we had no choice but to head for the village pictured above.

We found a spot without any guards close by, jumped off the clipper and tried to sneek our way into the hinterlands. We had to pass by a guard much too close for comfort once, but got through unharmed.

Once out of the village guards were no longer a problem, but we were still wary of other players and had quite a distance yet to cover. We decided to try going over the mountains instead of using the roads and paths.

We indeed managed to get pretty high up with the help of our gliders and some bold jumping maneuvers.

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And were rewarded with some breathtaking sights for our troubles

This proved to be a veritable shortcut. Not only did we not see another player the whole time, we were in fact very close to our destination once we started to descend the mountain range on the other side.

Now it was time to tense up once more though, because if the location of our own continent’s mount NPCs was anything to go by chances of encountering other players would rise dramatically the closer we got.

Shortly before we hit ground level we could actually see the NPC as well a a couple of players from a distance. Luckily the players were rather low level, so we figured we’d probably be able to talk to the NPC and buy the pups before anything serious happened to us.

We mounted our gliders and sailed right towards the NPC. We managed to land right next to him, quickly bought the pups we wanted and legged it as if the devil was on our heels.

We got what we wanted and didn’t even die in the process. Victory again! We decided it was time to port home, nurse the pups to grow them into mature mounts and call it a day.

It was a funny, exciting and very rewarding adventure, and this is why I really love to play sandbox-like games.

On non-consensual PvP in MMOs

The other day I was ganked for the first time in Black Desert Online.

The main quests had led me to Sausan Garrison, a popular grinding spot for leveling I had already read about.

Black Desert Sausan
More like Sausan Ruins I’d say…

I intended to kill just enough mobs for the quests I had and then be on my way again. Suddenly I took a whole lot of damage in a flurry of movement and effects, and before I had realized what was happening I lay dead on the ground.

Another player had obviously decided that I was contesting ‘his’ grinding spot and that losing a bunch of Karma was worth having it to himself again.

I respawned and, because I wanted to at least finish my quests in peace, switched to another channel (BDO has one huge server for each region, each with lots of seperate instances of the game world), which worked out just fine.

Was it a pleasant experience? Not exactly. But is the game worse for this even being possible? In my opinion, absolutely not!

I’ve talked about what my idea of a virtual world looks like. The more interaction between players and the environment as well as between players and other players a game allows the more alive and real the world feels to me. It also makes surprising and exciting things to happen more likely.

An example. When Lakisa, a friend of ours and I were about level 30 in ArcheAge our quests sent us to Cinderstone Moore, an area where PvP is allowed most of the time. The three of us as well as some other players in our level range were busy questing when a level 50 player ambushed and killed us all one by one. When we respawned and continued questing he did it again. Instead of giving up and leaving we teamed up with the other players and tried to take him down together. We didn’t actually manage to do so until another level 50 came in and helped us, but it was a really exciting game of one cat versus a bunch of very angry mice, and I had much more fun than mindlessly ticking off one quest after another would have brought me.

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I have no screenshots of it, so here’s one of Lakisa and me chilling on my balcony.

Now, of course there have to be restrictions to and/or severe consequences for doing nothing but killing other players all day long, else a handful of sociopaths can and will ruin a game for everybody else. If these mechanics hit the sweet spot between leeway and punishment, between allowing to gank freely and prohibiting it outright, then, and only then, this can not only work, but be actually great.

In BDO Karma builds up slowly by killing mobs and falls rapidly by killing players outside of Guild PvP or Node Wars. Having negative Karma means everyone can attack you anywhere without losing Karma themselves (I think), and if you die not only normal PvE-death penalties apply, there’s also a chance that a piece of gear loses an enchantment level (which can be outrageously expensive to regain). As long as you have positive Karma you suffer no penalties whatsoever when killed in PvP.

The fact that I got to level 57 before being attacked by someone for the first time shows that ganking is discouraged enough to not be a common occurrence while not being completely ruled out. Seems like working as intended to me.

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Maximum Karma. Took me quite a while to get there. I hear you lose about 60k for one kill.

In ArcheAge a track record of your misconducts is kept, and once you’re past a certain threshold your next death teleports you straight to court where five more or less randomly chosen players put you to trial.

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My first time in the jury (second from left). I never stood in the dock myself.

The culprit’s criminal record is presented to the jury members who then get to choose a sentence, the minimum charge being Not Guilty, the maximum a certain duration of (online) jail time depending on the amount of transgressions.

My first trial was against a well known PK (player killer) named Kuroda. When there are ten pages of attacked and killed players to flip through you know someone’s been really naughty.

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240 minutes of jail time seemed like a quite appropriate punishment to me.

Because he was a repeat offender the other four jury members were obviously in favour of the maximum sentence though…

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Ouch! The highest sentence I ever saw.

The ‘RIP Kuroda’ chants in trial chat went on for quite some time, while he already lingered in the prison’s courtyard unable to harm anyone.

In EVE Online there’s the distinction between high security space (abbreviated ‘high sec’), low sec and null sec, each with it’s own rules and punishments (or in case of null sec, no punishments) for PvP engagements.

My punishment for having shot at a lot of people in low sec is that I can’t enter any high sec system anymore without being attacked by police NPCs, and other players can shoot me without any penalties whatsoever even in high sec. Which restricts me pretty severely in moving around, getting lost ships replaced etc. I can work around much of that with the help of alt characters of course, but it’s still enough deterrent for many players to not choose this path. It took more than ten years until I dared trying it myself.

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Once I did I tried pretty hard though.

I think these three games handle non-consensual PvP in ways that, while still not perfect, work quite well, and for my taste they would be much less worth playing if they didn’t allow it at all.

Player-made music in MMOs

Music is very important to me. I love music since I was little. I became a musician myself relatively late though, I started playing the guitar when I was sixteen. A couple years later the drums became my main instrument.

Although I’m not the most creative person when it comes to composing music, expressing myself through music has been a part of my life for a very long time.

So you can imagine my excitement when Star Wars Galaxies came along in 2003 with a pretty sophisticated system for player-made music.

It didn’t actually allow players to compose music themselves though. Instead it had eight (I think) songs to choose from at launch, and five instruments to play them. Among those songs was the Mos Eisley cantina song of course, but also a couple of new compositions. Each instrument had up to eight musical variations, called Flourishes, for each song. For every bar of music one of those could be chosen while playing. Additionally some lightshow effects could be triggered every now and then.

This was already pretty nice when playing alone, but it was obvious that the system had the potential for greatness when played as a group.

Hence I didn’t hesitate for long to start looking for a band. I found two guys looking to start a new band on my server, Gorath, on one of the german SWG forums. We met ingame and talked about our ideas and visions and decided we were a good match.

We started meeting regularly to practice. We experimented with different combinations of instruments for the various songs, and which Flourishes sounded good together. We even practiced solos for single instruments, which meant all other musicians had to use one or more ‘Pause’-commands at the right time. Since this was before voice chat had become a common thing we had to coordinate our efforts via ingame-chat, which was trickier than it probably sounds.

Practicing a vocal composition in the sunshine of Corellia.

When we felt that we were good enough to play in front of an audience we started looking for opportunities. Since Gorath had a pretty large and lively roleplaying community that didn’t take long. Soon we were booked for our first gig, at a player wedding no less.

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Playing the song ‘Ceremonial’ as a substitute for the Wedding March while Groom and guests wait for the Bride.

It was great. I have to admit that the roleplaying stuff was a bit over the top for me, I’m just not into these things. But being there and playing for an audience of real players, being cheered at and asked for encores was a gaming experience I’ll never forget.

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Rocking the wedding party in a guild hall…
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…and on the beach at night followed by fireworks.

We were joined by additional musicians and a couple of dancers over time, rehearsed even more sophisticated shows and wore more elaborate stage outfits. I wouldn’t say that we were the best or most famous band on Gorath, but we were definitely playing in the top league. It was a fantastic time.

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Entertaining the crowd at a local crimelord’s palace. We were very glad that he liked it…

After I quit SWG I had to wait for about six years until I played a game with player-made music again. This game was All Points Bulletin (the reboot, APB Reloaded, that went live some time after the original game tanked is still running and I play it from time to time). A MIDI-like editor can be used here to compose 5-second long themes or whole songs.

Recreating Marilyn Manson’s title theme from the first Resident Evil movie.

I never saw a reason to do whole songs because the game supports using one’s own music library to be played by car stereos ingame anyway. Also the available sound libraries aren’t really that great.

The themes are where it’s at though! Every character can equip such a theme, and whenever you kill someone it gets played to your victim. If the game bestows the MVP title upon you at the end of a match it’s even played once to all players on both sides.

Because people are people I don’t really have to point out that there are lots of folks who use a theme that’s basically just noise and as annoying as (in)humanly possible. Fortunately blocking a player is but a few klicks away, and then you don’t hear that player’s themes anymore.

However there are also many players who want to have a nice, high quality theme that suits their style or taste, so a talented theme-maker has not only lots of potential customers but can also earn quite a sum with his craft. I made millions of ingame Dollars selling the themes I made, I even did a couple on request.

It feels really great to receive a whisper after killing someone and not be called a cheater/dickhead/whatever for a change, instead getting: ‘WOW what an awesome theme, did you make it yourself?’.

The third and until now last game with player-made music I played was ArcheAge. Here a somewhat peculiar notation system is used to compose songs. It takes some time and effort getting used to. Apparently it’s taken from an earlier game, Mabinogi, which I never played.

Composed music is written down on special paper that has to be crafted first, and these song sheets are then used to play the song with an equipped instrument. They can also be traded or sold. The amount of notes that fit on one sheet are determined by your Artistry skill. Songs can have up to three voices, which is kinda cool because you can make even wind instruments play three notes at the same time this way.

Playing a pretty cool looking and sounding lute on my balcony.

The important thing that’s missing though, at least in the EU/NA version of the game, is band support. Playing all alone is quite nice when you have some good sheets and a couple of instruments on hand, but playing with a band would be a world of difference (see SWG above).

Lord of the Rings Online seems to have a very good system with bands and everything. There are even big festivals, like this one just a couple weeks ago. I’ve never played LotRO though, so I can’t speak from my own experience about it.

Now, I fully realize that there are without a doubt many players who couldn’t care less about player-made music in their MMOs. So every developer team has to weigh the cost-benefit ratio when deciding if their game needs something like that. There are also games where it just wouldn’t fit thematically of course.

Generally speaking though, if you want to make a game that’s more than just a treadmill of quests, gear and combat, instead offering a rich and varied virtual world to explore and experience, a good system for player-made music can be a massive enrichment and a real asset to your game.