Archive for August 2008
I just listened to Chaoscast and read something from Syp at Waaagh..
Especially the latter triggered some “What does head start mean to me?”-thinking ;)
The first thing that pops up in my mind is: I get a more relaxed start, because there are fewer players around.
This gives me the chance to explore the starting areas without masses of players hopping around. I want to discover the zones, so less population means more fun to me. I have no idea how important this is to get a feel of the zones, but i think that there are still enough players around that PQ’s, RvR, etc.. can be done. It’s only 4 days, enough time to get comfortable with the class, etc..
The second thing that pops up: With three launches (CE,/SE-pre-order and normal), server stability is increased, because of staging of population increase.
Just a bit of theory-crafting..but i think that this might work well. By the time of this 4 (3 for the SE) days the population on the servers slowly builds up and i think that there are not as high peak user number problems as there would be with just one launch.
Furthermore Mythic/GOA have the advantage (? see below for a explanation of this question mark ;)) of having a more enthusiastic crowd on the servers. Those players showed really much confidence in the game by pre-ordering. I think that most of them would be realistic and forgiving enough to accept short server-downtime if something went wrong. Not sure on that point though. It could turn out as bad promotion if the head start is rough or good if it goes smooth. I think that’s coin-flip decision ;)
In terms of advantages to the players this graded head start offers another more subtle pro:
With server population building up so slow, new entering players have a better overview and choice where to join. Some people prefer to play on the overpopulated side, others (like me) prefer the side that’s underpopulated. CE pre-orders have the bonus of having the free choice where to play..sort-of gambling though as they don’t know how the server population evolves and if they get to play on a over-/under populated realm. SE pre-orders have already some rough indication how the realm-pop-balance evolves and can react. The polls show atm a nearly equal distribution of players among realms, which most likely just counts players who are atm more connected to the game (forum/blog-readers). New players, often referenced as more casual players.. tend to play the “good guys”. It’s interesting to see if an overpopulation on the order-side would lead to some of the newer players to switch to Destruction.
One last point on my list about the head starts left..
It’s connected to the first one. The exploring and such. I play games at my own pace and i want to evade those overcrowded areas. I’m not sure if it’s possible to find PQ’s with a reasonable number (i mean not too many) of participants after the head start..actually i plan to play some alts to evade this problem of overcrowded PQ’s. So I’m artificially slowing down my pace even more than normal. There are people out there who think that getting first to rank40 is a race to be made and i think that those people are wrong. WAR seems to be build as an entertaining game right from the start. So i use head start to get some distance to the initial starting area and later then let those high-speed players overtake me, while i explore some stuff.
Ok, i made a last point already, but there’s still something left.. Name allocation! A big plus for head start, though i don’t think that Zizlak will be a too often used name ;)
Give me a L A N C E.. Balance! Whoohoo!
The good ‘ole Balance-talk! ;)
I did some programming in MUDs, designing in another MUD and made some concepts for a third one.. So I’m an easy target when it gets to design-talk which always leads to talk about balance. ;)
I planned to write about some different aspects of balance issues, but then stumbled upon Hawleys post at the Book of Grudges. What is balance good for and is it in any way possible or even desirable?
One thing i think everyone will agree is that a game should be fun. Balance is one aspect which might give you that fun. But it’s no guarantee for fun. I played in a RvR kind of PvP MUD which was totally unbalanced and full of bugs, but was fun as everyone knew that it was not balanced. It took some time and frustration to realize and accept this design flaws. The game screwed up as some Coders went back to work and game balance was shifting on a daily basis. You as a player couldn’t adopt to the fast changes and the frustration got bigger because skills and match-ups (vs. mobs or players) didn’t work like you expected. This is not completely a balancing issue but in some terms belongs to it. You have expectations how something in a game works, adopt your gaming strategies to it and hope that it works for you. Getting to Hawley’s wood discs. You have your favorite wood disc because they curl in a way you like more than other discs. What if at night someone grinds a little bit of the disc so that it curls in another fashion? You get frustrated..
So it all goes about expectations and perception. And there starts balancing and designing. In a PvE game this is to a lesser degree important. In a RvR centric game this is really important as several players play against each other. .. Egos collide ;)
It’s important to know when you will survive a fight or not. In WAR this is getting a bit tricky as the game is balanced towards groups. This is nice because it gives more strategic and tactical elements to RvR fights, but is a easy target for “whiners” because they seem inferior versus certain classes. Which is indeed the case! ;) Therefore every class has the “flee” ability.
It’s also a game balancing issue that certain classes are more squishy than others. Otherwise it would lead to e.g. Bright Wizard only groups: if they deal enough damage so that no one can get close to them or if they withstand enough damage so that a group of them is hardly beatable..
Good balancing gives support to a more variety in career/realm selection, as not all players are die-hard fans to specific careers/races/etc.. Variety is important because it gives a better atmosphere to the game.
Realm-selection is a important factor when you design a RvR game. Just look at the threads about over/underpopulation. This is an issue to some gamers out there. Zergs are not controllable and therefore you have to get at least somewhat near to equal numbers on each side.
The goal for balancing has to be:
- Give somewhat equal chances to every player/group to win over another player/group, based on his/her personal ability/skill.
It’s not that every match-up is going to end in a par. It’s about chances and skill.
Just an example: A shaman will never beat a Ironbreaker when the dwarf gets close and punches the gobbo in the face. The shaman should be able to get away or at least survive longer than 2s with some skill (on terms of the player, no actual career ability).
So the balancing starts when a career has more than a “I win”-button, but has to think about what spell/skill/ability is appropriate for certain situations. That worries some people when they have to think about abilities (poke at WoW-paladins ;) ) Therefore Uber-skills are not fun, because people just use that skill. Which is kinda boring.. using that skill or losing because the others use it. Boredom is the death for gaming fun..
Balancing is a difficult issue because it affects so much of the game and therefore the discussions never end. Therefore it will be always a discussion topic. See it from a philosophical standpoint ..
Neverending struggle for the perfect game .. You can’t reach it, but it’s sometimes fun to speculate about it. ;)
Last days were quiet here, because of Preview weekend (PW) in the US and i catched a cold. “Catching” up some reviews about beta and PW i started to think about the purpose of beta towards the players and the dev’s.
Question: What can we learn from beta?
Answer: Not much, if anything..
That’s a harsh and too general statement..but let me explain it a bit.
For Dev’s beta is a test for the game to polish it, so that it’s in a playable and stable state. “No design survives first player contact” sort of thing ;) There are things that look good on paper, but turn out to be horrible in a real game.
Furthermore it’s a test for the scripts and code in live condition. You don’t want to test if the login screen can manage X k players login in simultaneously in the live game.
It’s all about statistics. Many players in the game show most likely many possible failures of code..
On the other hand there are the beta players. Beta is for some of them more or less “free playing time”. It’s ok, if the there is constructive feedback. There should be no “Nerf class X because they killed me several times. They have to be OP!”. Looking around at some forums, that sort of players are represented with a “loud voice” after the NDA has been dropped. This is no feedback someone can build a game on. Mythic doesn’t count on them, but it’s some sort of “dead weight” in numbers of beta testers.
But that is not the only problem. There are several players out there who don’t want to spoil their fun later on at the live game when exploring the world and getting tome unlocks, etc. This is a point i can really understand, but it defeats also a bit the purpose of the beta. If you combine it with the players who don’t want to read quest text it leads roughly to no one reading the Tome of Knowledge. Even the forum discussions rarely go about the Tome, more about career choice, population issues and such. It’s a little bit exaggerated, but i think you get my point here.
So what can we learn from beta? Raw numbers i would say. The skeleton of the game. The flesh is more or less untouched.
One could argue that Keep sieges, PQ’s and such also belong to the flesh.. I admit that they do. They may be the heart of the game. To me the Tome of Knowledge is the soul to it and i’m not sure how well it’s been tested in beta.
Don’t get me wrong. Raw numbers are important. No game will be fun with unbalanced careers/population, client crashes, etc.. I’m just not sure how good the results of a beta are. OB and PW are, as i stated before, only good for stress test. CB should be a test of everything.
Though i’m tempted to write about Mark Jacobs report of the Preview Weekend, i will not. I think that the problems during that weekend will be covered by some other blogs where people played at the PW. I’m not in beta or played the PW, so i could just reproduce the experience from others which makes no sense..
Today i write more or less solely for myself, because i recently started to think about career/realm selection. It’s some kind of brainstorming ;)
After leaving WoW i was 100% confident that i don’t want to play at a faction meant to be “the good guys”. Back in the days where i played some RvR-kind of MUDs and in WoW i always had problems with many people who chose that side. I’m not sure why, but most of the time i had more fun being at the side known as “the bad guys”.
So i planned to play Destruction.. I like to play healers and the Shaman mechanic seems very attractive to me. I like that mixing of ranged dps and healing. Furthermore the Goblins are small.. which for some unknown reason i always like. I play Dwarves since my first pen&paper RPG. This makes LARPs terrible for me. I’m 1,96m tall in real life and no one believes that you are a dwarf ;)
There happened two things which made me rethink my plans..
- Destruction seems very popular.
- The first video i saw with a Runepriest (Reinforced by Arbitrary)
Both are really important for me. I don’t like playing a popular faction. I have no clue why. Maybe i just like the challenge when being at a weaker side. I know that the current polls are not significant, but this tendency makes me think about the choice at which realm i will play.
The first time i saw a Runepriest cast a spell and saw a rune appear, i went “Wow..cool”. Rune magic is exactly what i like as being cast by dwarves! It seems to fit extremely well. Secondly.. if given the chance i always play dwarf, even if it’s heavily underpowered. I like playing them as RP chars.. It’s just fun.
So..summing up. I have no clue what i want to play. Both the Runepriest and the Shaman seem very attractive to me. I will most likely reserve the names on two RP servers, but i don’t know yet what will be my main char.
Found this at TenTonhammer forums and went “Yikes”:
So it’s possible to play pink Orcs! That people hop on it and start thinking about a “Hello Kitty!”-Guild…
So i guess Paul Barnett lost a bet, as i think everyone knows he exclaimed in a production podcast:
“No pink Orcs!” ..
Or they start debating whether that magenta tone is pink or not ;) I’m not sure if Mythic sees this as a problem or not. I for myself don’t want to see pink orcs in the game post-beta.
I think everyone agrees that the second cinematic Trailer about WAR is awesome!
There is one little detail that i discovered at the second viewing..where i laughed out loud.
The forces of Destruction retreat from the city to let the demon get in. The forces of Order gather and watch what will come through that gate. The only one who looks somewhat relaxed is the dwarven engineer. He takes a sip out of the beer mug. Beer is more important than any chaos demon!
I have ordered my CE way back in march when the CE program started. One of the reasons was the OB-access, as i didn’t believed to get into CB (which was a right assumption ;) ).
One of the reasons for applying to the CB was, that i wanted to see how the game evolves to the finished state (and of course that i am excited about the game (design)). OB is the more or less finished game with just some server stress tests.. at least in my opinion.
Now NDA is lifted and i can read many beta impressions. The OB isn’t that far away and ..strange to say.. i’m a little bit relieved that it only lasts one week.
Because there is the problem of the first impression…you only get one ,)
I’m a alt-a-holic, so i’m used to play some content again and again, but it’s always something different to play it with your main/first-char. I think that i’m not alone when fearing that losing of special moments when discovering a game. I think it was Syp who called them “holy crap”-moments in the latest ChaosCast. As it was already mentioned in several blogs, the re-playability in WAR is high. You don’t have to be afraid of getting that “seen that..done that” feeling. Nevertheless i’m a bit concerned about it. Not in a negative way..
It’s like being a child and waiting for the Christmas presents..this excitement before you can open them ;)
I’m still figuring out what i want to do in the OB. Later in the live game i want to play Runepriest and/or Shaman, so this racial paring is out for testing because i want that fresh moment at head start. I maybe want to alt a Magus..so Chaos is out too. Elves are just.. out, because they are elves. I play now for over 16 years dwarfs .. i can’t play/see elves without seeing my aggression-bar rising ;)
So the only thing i can test in OB is the Empire.. I think that one week is enough to get the feeling of the game without endangering that special moments when discovering the game with a personal char, not a test char who gets wiped.