Brackish Waters

how my gaming and life coalesce.

Locking professions

A couple days ago I posted my woes with the Everquest 2 crafting professions and how IPadlock accidentally chose the wrong profession when I was going through the quest dialog. Now, I owned up to the fact that it was my error and that SOE did place in front of me three distinct choices for the paths I could follow, and it was clear on which was which. This was my fault entirely and I took my punishment for the inattention I showed the game by redoing the previous 10 levels of crafting and spending atleast 15 gold in payments to the broker. Not a bad penalty.

But is it necessary?

I believe that I would have had a better experience with the specialization quest if I had been routed to a NPC that was in the profession I was interested in playing. In fact, the first thing I did before hailing the NPC outside of the crafting instance was head to the NPC in which I had talked to when I did my class armor quest. I think atleast in regards to the EQ2 system, giving a player a small quest to do for the specialization, might give them enough of a chance to realize their possible mistake but also open up the game to allow soft locks on professions.

Soft locks are what I think of as barriers that are easily overcome through a series of quests or trials. These locks wouldn’t really bar a player from experiencing the content or options available to them, they would just block out the unnecessary information unless the player chose to take the time to open that content.

Why is it that some MMO designs are created to hard lock players into crafting professions. I don’t understand why this is and I have been trying to think of the various benefits and drawbacks to a world if every player has the chance to be everything they want to be. I am just talking about crafting professions here, not adventuring.

As a crafter free to learn every profession:

  • I have the freedom to further define my character’s abilities.
  • I am more self sufficient if I choose to invest the time.
  • I can personally use more of what I find.
  • I am online with one character instead of alt_tailor, alt_chanter, or alt_smith.
  • I become a supplier that can offer my customers a larger selection.

As a crafter limited to a single profession:

  • I cannot corner multiple areas of the market with one character.
  • I am forced to make multiple characters and use the mail system to transfer items between them.
  • customers are forced to learn the name of my alts when they want something specifically made.

From a community standpoint, I would rather have players on more with their one character than multiple alts. It would allow veterans to rise to the top and continue to be known by the population at large throughout their career. Its better for the player and does little to change the economy from what I can see. Why is it then that we are locked in these decisions?1

1 I did a search through Google Reader on this topic and it seems that the function is still not really up to the standard of the regular Google Search. I apologize if this topic has been beaten like Private Pyle at blanket party.

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October 10, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, Crafting, EQ2, Rants | , | 6 Comments

1-800-RAID-WOW

On the most recent episode of Shut Up We’re Talking, there was a conversation about the possibility of players being able to contract work out to companies outside of the game for in-game services.  Raid leaders, guild managers, tour guides, and personal trainers were all talked about here and I can’t help but think of the good and the bad that would come with something like this.

Raid Leaders
This more than any of the four scenarios mentioned above, would be the most beneficial to small guilds who wish to experience the more difficult content of today’s MMOs.  What a guild lacking the actual manpower to do the run, a professional outside service with dedicated crew and players could provide.
The Good

  • Players would simply need to provide the needed currency and time available for content, the contracted companies would bring along all needed expendables.
  • Companies could offer additional benefits like guild pictures, movies and even T-Shirts.
  • Reviews based on prior experiences would likely be available on the net and guilds would have a good idea of who to trust and who not to trust.
  • Various levels of service.  Private runs and Semi-privates raids could allow for a variety of costs to choose from.  Also, prerequisite runs could also be arranged for players needing keys and certain restrictions lifted before the raid was started.

The Bad

  • The sheer amount of instances and raid content spanning a lot of the more common games would put pressure on these companies to meet the demand that would be there. Pricing and participation may vary, see server for details.
  • Flat rate or hourly fees?  Could that person in your guild that has gone afk so many times before now actually be costing your guild money?
  • Guarantees would be hard to nail down.  The goal and expectations of the event would have to be agreed upon before transferring any money or agreeing to any contract.

The Ugly

  • If a service like this was sanctioned by the publishers and developers of these games, and real world currency was the method of payment, I can’t see any way that the gold farmers wouldn’t want to get into this.  They would have more of a problem with this as they have a bigger barrier to overcome with some of their future customers, speaking their language.

I plan on talking a bit more about the other three services later this week, but my work load today needs some definite attention.  I will say this though, I can’t see a service like this being available to players unless the developers/publishers of the game are the ones providing the service or in some agreement with these outside companies.  Either way, that is beyond my scope of knowledge.

September 17, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, Rants | 3 Comments

Well its about time

What a pleasant surprise to log-in to my Google Reader account and see some very good and much needed changes. The full article can be found over at the Google Reader blog.  Two of the biggest changes are a search function and an unread article count that goes higher than 100.

[borat voice] Verrry Nice.

The lack of the search function was one of my major pet peeves with reader and I was dumbfounded as to why it was not something that was an innate part of the program. I mean this is Google we are talking about here.  What makes this function great though, is it has the ability to not only search through what you have read and tagged, but also the archives of the sites you have subscribed too.

The updated post count just made me realize that today is official house cleaning day. I think this should help keep me more in tune to what I want to read and what I can read.

Also, I’m going to throw in a tip for everyone else who happens to use Google Reader.  Are you having trouble remembering what site you posted that comment on last week?  If you areReader Tag like me, you probably make a variety of posts throughout the day but forget to follow-up on the topic the following day.

One way I have found to remind myself to look back is before I leave Google Reader to make a comment, I append an additional tag on the article I am going to post on.  This places that article in an additional folder for you to scroll through!  Its like a repository of every article you have made a comment on.

Hope that helps!

September 6, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, Reviews | 1 Comment

What if your friends were neighbors?

Imagine a place in which you could visit all of your friends from every MMO you haveNeighborhood played. Its a neighborhood, and the houses close to you would be owned by each of those friends and inside those houses lived not only the history of that person, but everything that person had accomplished.

When I try to think about where MMO gaming could go in 10 years, I think about the second M in that anagram. We play these games because we not only want entertainment, we wait entertainment with other people. We are not antisocial beings by nature, we like our groups no matter how large or small they are. If MMOs want to evolve, they will have to create a method to facilitate better relationships with the users themselves. Between the users themselves.

If told you that there was a client, that when used would open to an environment and place you in a home of your own construction, would you use it? Probably not, because there are many programs out there that not only let you build anything you want, but do so in a gaming environment.

What if I told you that the house was located in a neighborhood, as I said before, and held the residences of your friends? It would have some merit, yes, but what functionality would it be besides a glorified Sims game? What if in those houses you could showcase your achievements from every game that you played, in a room you created and decorated to your own choosing, would that not feel like a home for your virtual self? More than any home on any server you have ever had?

It would do exactly that because a gamers life is not usually one world. It is encompassed by a lifetime of creating characters and visiting a myriad of environments and gathering a plethora of items and treasures. Goals met and merits received, none to be acknowledged except by the closed loop of society that exists within that one world. Its sad to think about it really. You can say to a person, “Yes, I did play Dark Age of Camelot”, but how do you show them what you achieved? How do you show that person that you did in fact decide to camp for 16 hours at that spawn point for that rare drop, just like they did?

It can happen and it most likely will. Someone will create a client that will be independent from every published game, but not exclusive from them. It will allow you to launch any title you wish at any time and show this information to your neighbors. It will work in harmony with the game you are playing and allow you to save your progress like a photo album. It will be an innocuous world of your own choosing but a representation of your self.

Friends who also are a part of this removed world would be close to you by simply adding and getting approval of their friendship, their information is then added to your environment. They will not have to choose whose neighborhood to call home. No, because that would only create rifts and societies that this world is trying to remove. Their neighborhood would look a lot different than yours, but you would be there. They are the maker of their world, as you are the maker of your own world.

Stopping by to see a friend 6,000 miles away just got easier. And you know what, you probably never knew that your neighbor was the one who stole that keep relic from you 10 years ago, but now you do. Its right there on their mantle with the date it was taken and the name of their character that they had played. The world just got smaller. Its a beautiful thing.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, RL | 3 Comments

Hearts and minds

Sethanon over at Wife-Aggro.com, brought up a really good point about reputation rewards in his newest podcast episode. He and Ragemore were talking about the recent addition to Lord of the Rings Online of the regional reputations. They cited a note made by the developers stating that they did not intend for their system to exclude players from grouping together but instead offer an alternate avenue for players to explore.

This idea that reputation advancement should net actual in game rewards like armor or trinkets always bothered me but I don’t know why. I never found myself itching to grind out boring quests or kill counts for factions in WoW, and I probably won’t be doing in LotRO. However, it really sounds like this isn’t where Turbine is taking the game anyway.

Continue reading

August 21, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, LOTRO, Rants, Vanguard | Leave a comment

RL Revamp

During the last few days of my vacation last week, I forced myself to take some time to improve my current living conditions. I focused a lot on creating a backbone for a financial budget and timeline for paying off some of my debt, namely a credit card. I also went through the exterior of my house and cleaned up a lot of the yard, making several trips to the local dump/recycling facility. When I finished with this I couldn’t help but feel happy that I had finally confronted these things that needed to be taken care of but also empty in the end because I really had nothing else to show for my effort except the result of the task itself.

You can spend two hours or more washing all of your laundry, drying it and then folding and putting it away, but what really do you have in the end except a nice clean pile of clothes that will be dirty again in the coming week? I mean, if I was playing a MMO or any game for that matter, and all I got for turning in a pile of boar skins was … a pile of boar skins, I can guarantee that the boar population would be thriving as I would probably never kill another one again. Yeah, I know its a pretty dumb analogy, but this is my mindset and I wanted to change things for the better.

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August 14, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, RL | 6 Comments

Ahh Vacation

What had been planned as a three day vacation last Monday turned into a nice long week away from work. I usually use my accrued time for various days throughout the year and to extend some weekends to three days. When I found myself on the beach and spending some great time with my son and wife, I just couldn’t help but use the extra two days and make it a nice long week of regeneration. At the end of the week, I couldn’t believe how much I had accomplished.

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August 13, 2007 Posted by | Adventure Journal, Brainstorms, RL | Leave a comment

Global Warming and the Xbox

Games 4 Change and Microsoft are teaming up and launching a contest this summer for student game developers.

This worldwide competition, set to launch this summer to participants in more than 100 countries, will challenge college students to come up with the best game based on the theme of global warming.

I love this idea.  I have spent the last 4 days thinking about a game system for this and have yet to nail anything down.  Its such a tough subject because of the cycles of life that are involved and affected by global warming, a game could look at this from so many perspectives.

Simulators and city building games like sim city will probably makup a large portion of the entries, but I am looking forward to the really creative ones.  For some reason a caveman comes to mind, running through Detroit capping smokestacks with oversized bathtub plugs.  I wonder how accurate these games need to be in order to actually win.

I have yet to try Steer Madness but its the games with this original view that I will be trying.   I would love to say that my son will be playing games like this for homework or even for just fun.  I can just imagine him saying to me, “But Dad, Im just about to lower the air quality index to 50! Can I please stay up for just 10 more minutes?”

kids…

June 27, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, Industry | Leave a comment

The “I” word and Crafting – Part 2

This is a continuation of my brainstorm on crafting and eliminating the monotony.

Every game has thousands of items added to it on top of the recipes that are given to crafters. Usually these are separate from dropped items from mobs or quest related rewards. I have never liked this approach. I really feel that it separates the players. These dropped items are linked to loot tables that are being implemented much better in games. You no longer see that level 10 boar somehow drop a dagger or bow. NPC mobs are actually coming closer to dropping what they are wearing and using in game and I think this is something that we should use to an advantage.

The system I’m about to tell you about will not appease those of you who love the click process of crafting. Now here, take these John Lennon glasses and follow me for a moment. Imagine if mobs actually dropped items that they were wearing and crafters could use those drops to learn new recipes and then craft the items. This would create a world of items availiable to both crafters and adventurers.

How in the world could this ever work? It is a very free system and not like anything I heard of before. The crafter is not limited in the traditional sense to what they can craft.

How would you keep track of all of those items? The User Interface can be a wonderful thing if done correctly and to be honest, I’m pretty sick of the small window with the scroll bar, moving through a list format of my recipes. Lets please get with the program and change this. How often do you look at your avatar after you have seen the animation of him smelting copper for the first 100 times? Give us an optional full screen display of our recipes and we can accommodate all of these items.

Think family tree format but each point on the branch is a style of that weapon or item. Mousing over that style gives you a list of the recipes you have. For a quick example, lets take One-handed Swords. You would start out with the most basic of sword and then this would progress to scimitars and rapiers, shortswords and gladius. Each of these categories are nothing but placeholders for actual items that you might find.

Once you pickup an item or receive one in trade, you study it and open both the category and recipe for that item. Studying the item should be detrimental but rewarding to the crafter. It should destroy the item but in its place you receive the recipe to create more.

Well, thats about it for this brainstorm and I’m not sure I can really continue on with that thought of making a crafting world without the need to harvest materials. Its possible and I probably just need to drink the 4th cup of coffee.

later

June 20, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, Crafting | 5 Comments

The “I” word and Crafting

Darren over at Common Sense Gamer wrote an interesting article asking the community what they thought about the current state of crafting and what in the world we are going to do about it.

The actual act of crafting itself needs to be spiced up just a bit. Something needs to be added to make it go…for lack of a better word…”pop”. Honestly, I’m at a loss right now (I blame the Corona I’m drinking…too much lime) as to how this would be done…

I hate grinding, I like reward and I love the “I” word. Innovation is what is needed here and that does not necessarily mean making it more complex. Crafting has been in almost every MMO I have played and I usually have tried it beyond the beginner levels. There are only a few that I have maxed out the level or skill in and I have yet to find a system that I could not understand.

Now, hes asking about the act here, and not how its implemented in game or across the “spheres” of gameplay. The act I assume is the actual, click click – change recipe – click click – check inventory – click click – drink beer – click click – skill-up. I agree that it is monotonous and even in the most complex of systems its just a disguise of a grind. So how do we change this? I’m going to try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one but answer it best that I can.

Why does crafting need to have this longwinded approach to creating an item? Why do we need levels or tiers? Lets bring together the players by combining the adventuring and crafting and I propose this by not basing what a crafter can create by how much time they have sunk at a table but how many items they have studied.

If a Weaponsmith for example, had an action called “study” or “reverse engineer” and that action allowed the player to use up items in the world to learn a recipe, this would open up the system to a whole new area that I have yet to see before. Clicking a shortsword for the first time adds some type of notation that shows the type of sword it is and how many more are needed before you truly understand the recipe. Then once the recipe is learned the player simply goes to town and can craft the item. The timesink of crafting is moved to that of adventuring and discovery rather than grinding and repetition at a table.

What about the harvesting and materials needed to craft the item, what do they use?? Well let me ask you this, how often have you been ticked off about the amount of boar skins or dwarf swords you have gathered through the years had absolutely nothing to do with the game economy? Imagine if these items actually contributed to a regional stockpile of materials. This could include not only quest items but also drops sold back to vendors as cash. These materials could then be used to create items by crafters. Do you see the cycle here and why a crafter would be able to create items from these drops? Its because he learned recipes from them as well.

I’ll go into this idea more in part 2 as its leading more into the game integration of crafting and not about the actual mechanics of it.

later

June 20, 2007 Posted by | Brainstorms, Crafting | Leave a comment