November 2011

The Pathfinder RPG is a D&D type game system that I began playing earlier this year. Well, it turns out that they’re planning on releasing a fantasy sandbox MMO. This is their own description of what they hope to achieve:

A lot of big picture work has already been done on Pathfinder Online, and it’s going to be a bit different from your traditional fantasy MMO. It’s going to focus around the characters you create, in a world that will grow out of your interactions, developing the way you choose to develop it. It takes place in the River Kingdoms of Golarion, with our own Kingmaker Adventure Path providing some of the inspiration. There will be an overarching storyline, and dungeons aplenty to explore, but where Pathfinder Online is going to thrive is in the ability of each of you to leave your mark on the world. Do you want to build a castle that you own and control? Go for it. Want to start a town and rally folks to your banner? Do that. Do you want to ally with the neighboring villages to form a new nation—or perhaps wage war on them instead? The choice is yours. Want to become the most feared bandit in the River Kingdoms? The path is available. Want to become the greatest armorer that Golarion has ever seen? All it takes is hard work. If you can imagine doing something in the world of Golarion, we want you to be able to do that in Pathfinder Online.

A new company called goblinworks has been set up to make the title, (Gevlon will be pleased). From what I can gather thus far it is in the very early stages of development. But their focus will be on crafting systems, as well as player housing and settlements. Many of the things that we have been crowing about for the past year.

I really hope that they get this right. Because we all know that they will only get the one chance to nail it. Stuff it up on release and watch it all go Age of Conan. I ask the developers to carefully consider the opportunity they have to appeal to the disenfranchised gamer. Hopefully they’ll have a winner on their hands, and thus we’ll benefit. I do not have any news on a release date, but will do more digging this weekend.

Nils has got a new post up about Skyrim. If you haven’t been checking out Nils’ blog then you should get your butt over there as he’s writing some really good stuff lately. Anyway, his post is about some of the things an MMO could take from Skyrim and be more successful. I haven’t played Skyrim yet, but I can still empathise with most of the points. Syl from Raging Monkeys has a reply to the post, and this is the point for what I am writing here. With both of their permission I will repost that comment:

I’ll tell you why I personally wouldn’t want a “Skyrim MMO” Nils; I think a world like that could work perfectly online, I can see a Skyrim co-op where friends simply meet up to travel together, do a few quests cooperatively, craft a little, decorate their houses etc.

…but I’d never want the beautiful world of Skyrim overrun by hundreds of people – ever. I wouldn’t play it.
even less would I want to share that world with the type of “where are the raids? the achievements? the loots?”-players, asking for auction houses and PvP and whatnot because any online game needs to be like WoW.

I understand Syl’s point here, I really do. But it betrays the hidden bugbear waiting in the gaming community. Namely that you cannot ever successfully play an MMO if you don’t want to share it with other people. Because that is what MMOs are about. That’s what makes them unique. And if we take this attitude a step further it means that you’ll only play an MMO that you don’t really like that much, seeing as you wouldn’t want to share a good one. Which is kind of masochistic when you think about it.

And perhaps the big companies who make these games worked this out a long time ago. And meanwhile we’re all furiously writing diatribes on our blogs about how this game could be better, and how the hell could they make that change what on earth were they thinking?? And they’re just nodding away to themselves and thinking, yeah whatever. They make games that appeal to the lowest common denominator because that’s the only type of game we’d be prepared to share with them. Is this true? I don’t know, but it sure is food for thought.

I think an update is in order on why I’ve been so quiet on the blogging front the last few weeks. Three weeks ago, after a long discussion with my wife, I quit my high paying job. The good wife also has a high paying corporate job, and earns enough for us to pay the bills. My job was the gravy. So we are forgoing the gravy so that I can finally finish writing a book that I have been working on for the past four years. The problem was that I had so much going on in my life during this time, it left me with next to no creative energy to work on the book.

My lovely wife said, take the time out and see if you can really do this. You have to do it for yourself, to see if you’re capable of getting it done right.

I have a whole lotta love for the good lady wife.

So I’ve been treating writing as a job. I get up, do breakfast things, and then I go into my study and I write until late morning. This is normally about four hours. Any more than this and I burn out. Afternoons are for doing other things and working stuff out in my head which I then try and set to paper the following day. I have Sundays off from writing. Thus far in the month of November I have written 40,000 words. In the previous 4 years I managed to get down 50,000. My editor is very pleased at the quality, as is the big publishing house that he works for.

As I am at home, and as I have access to the internet, I am avoiding games and gaming during this time. If I purchased Skyrim now I think it might be dangerous for my progress on the book. Thus my lack of posting on the blog. Kind of a roundabout way for me to get to the point, but there you have it.

What is the book about? I’ll talk about it when it’s done. Not fantasy though, if that’s what you all were wondering.

I still have my finger on the gaming pulse though, and will still make the occasional post when I see something that I want to comment on. But for the next few weeks it will be a bit dry on the blog front.

Nils has been trying to work out ways that the Looking for Raid feature might work. Let me just start off swinging and say that I don’t understand at all why Blizzard is putting this system in. Because it is not going to work, it is only going to be a giant clusterfuck. The only benefit that I can see from this system is that it will contain all the random droolers in the one area.

To give you an idea of how it will function, think back to when you did the raid bosses in Wintergrasp or Tol Borad. I’ll talk about Wintergrasp because I only did the Cataclysm version a couple of times. The raid dungeon in Wintergrasp is the Vault of Archavon. In it there are 4 raid bosses. There is no trash. The bosses are located at each end of a grid shaped in a cross. The fights are so simple and easy to understand that voice communication is not required even on a 25 man raid. Whenever you did these fights after winning Wintergrasp you could be assured of a completely random set of players in the raid, much like what a LFR group would be composed of.

The only reason that these bosses went down was due to their inherent simplicity, not due to the raid itself. The first stumbling block is the position of raid leader. Good players understand that someone needs to do it, and also occasionally lead themselves, so they empathise with the player who is leading the raid. Thus, they cooperate, offering suggestions when needed but for the most part doing their job and staying out of the way. As a raid leader, every player that you don’t have to devote time to and worry about is a shining light in a dark system. However, morons, (or socials or trolls or whatever you want to call them), have the automatic response of wanting to challenge the leader every single time they come into a raid. Their attitude is one of, I’m not going to accept you as a leader until you prove yourself to me. The consequence of this is that the leader wastes a great deal of their time placating and attempting to win over the morons, just so that they will operate within the raid. Added to this they believe that they are a unique and special sunflower and that only they, the moron, knows what needs to be done in a certain fight. The result is a chaotic mix of 18 random morons saying what needs to be done all at the same time, a raid leader who is publicly going mad at the chaos, and a handful of good players standing back and waiting for the usual social chaos to sort itself out so that they can, you know, raid.

And all this on a single server, where your behaviour can still in some small way effect your server reputation. Make it a random cross-server function and you can expect the behaviour to be like, well like using the present dungeon finder tool, only on a much bigger scale. The fact that Blizzard wants to make this available on 25 man raids is either extremely optimistic or an example of complete denial.

Here is an experience of a player using the LFR system on the Public Test Realms as a raid leader, which I have cross posted from the Official Blizzard Forum on the subject:

… When we first reached the boss, I typed out roughly 2000 words of text explaining the fight and asked for volunteers to soak the orbs. Zero responses followed, so I asked my four friends in the group to help. However we still needed 2 more to help so I began to whisper individuals. Problem was, you can’t seem to whisper people off server at the moment on the PTR so this was getting annoying. I continued to ask for volunteers but instead people were just talking to each other and ignoring me. Soon after, a hunter’s pet charged in and pulled the boss and 4 people left and 4 people DCed forcing me to kick them, which took about 20 minutes to get them all out. After we get another set of players I started typing out another 2000 words and this time actually had some volunteers to help with the mechanic. Had one guy the whole time filling up chat saying I didn’t know what I was talking about and telling others to not listen to me… essentially just greifing… but the vote to kick UI informed me that I had “initiated too many party kicks.” so we tried again despite that fact.
We did better this time, had a few people actually stack on the crystal, but this time people that I didn’t designate to stack also did and left the group without much healing or enough stacked to split the dmg optimally. Eventually the tank died, and 8+ people left/dced leaving me back at the beginning of this story.
Moral is?
The raid leader has no authority at all. The concept of a raid leader in the current build of the game is to command respect and lead the team through the mechanics. However, when there is no reason the player actually has to be accountable for their actions there is no reason they have to listen to the leader. This coupled with the fact that a person leaving actually causes more trouble for the raid they left than anything makes me never want to queue as a leader again …

Why would any sane person want to do this? The answer is that they won’t. If Blizzard’s aim is to have the LFR tool as an actual feature which will make the game attractive then it isn’t going to work. If the aim is, as I mention earlier, to keep the retards in one place this will only be effective as long as there are good players to attempt to lead them. In other words, it will only last in the short term. So what’s the point of LFR? I don’t know, you tell me.