See you there! :)
You know, there are a gzillion "reasons to love GW2" lists out there, naming 10-20 details from graphics, to music, to the "no holy trinity" combat model, but in defense of recent sidelong glances fearing that I might be going a little loopy in my fanaticism for the game, I felt the need for a short, pragmatic and largely straight, pure fact based list of my own.
Even if half of the subjective hopes of quality and "sparkle" fall on their faces, here are my clear, calm reasons why this game will still be amazing and worth every bit of excitement being aimed at it.
#3: It's your game first.
GW2 acknowledges that the game needs to, first and foremost, cater to the person that bought it, even when the inevitability that "hell is other people" threatens to intrude on your fun time. From the ability to log in socially invisible, (for those days where you want to play, but you're not in the mood for socializing) to a guild system that empowers the individual to give as much of their time, and not a moment longer, to whichever of many guilds one has joined for various interests, GW2 is built to belong to the person that buys it, one at a time, empowering the player to have a relationship with the gameworld (and its community) that is as strong as two self actualized adults entering a healthy (and sadly rare) marriage, as opposed to two teenagers dating "because we're supposed to want to have someone, right?", or folks staying together "because divorce is too expensive". Guilds demanding "monogamy" will inevitably fail, because said monogamy is not mandated by the game's mechanics, (indeed, it's conceptually discouraged) where guilds that gain loyalty because of their unteachable, unenforceable strength of character will thrive, and become the rightfully successful examples of community they deserve to be. All of this because the game belongs to the player, who is not pressured by subscription to log on, nor obligated by guild to give any more of their time than it is worthy of to the player, based on mutual connection. GW2's community will be built one empowered person at a time, with content designed to maintain fun with or without the support of other players, and that's why it will rule.
#2 It's your game for good.
I touched on this above, but it's worthy of its own point. The "B2P" (Buy to play) model of GW2 removes the ever present (especially in this economic landscape) pressure to get your money's worth out of a subscription fee. Beyond this, however, lies the greatest genius of this approach: GW2 is free to redefine "endgame" in a way that removes all obligation for there to be a higher, competitively approached and exhausted PVE mountain to climb. In short, the story of GW2 can end, it can have finality and be absolutely free of a need for "I did this and you didn't"-ness to its most important story elements, because there is no obligation to keep you coming back for new conquests. You bought the game, and if beating the game is your endpoint, you can leave and never look back until a new mountain is eventually erected. If, on the other hand, you wanted to stick around, GW2 is presented as a world to live in, a world to defend, not a world to simply conquer just to exhaust for resources toward the next conquest, and the next, and so on, and so on. With a personal effort, you can potentially "beat" GW2, because it's your game, and your world, to explore at your own pace, with no meter running, and no over-arching PVE race that you have not purposely opted into, and then, you can live on and enjoy each day for a new reason... or quit for months at a time, with no ongoing rat race pulling you back. Your game, on your time, whenever you want, no more, no less. That's why it will rule.
#1 It's your game to share
All of this "yay I don't need anyone" I'm cheering for might make it sound like I'm some misanthropic sociopath who plays MMOs just to people watch and never speak to another soul. The truth of the matter is, I can't remember the last time any MMO made me say "I can't wait to do this with other people" this loudly! I'm a leveler, with way more time on my hands (for gaming) than many of my friends, and while City of Heroes has had "sidekicking" tech for years, that game hasn't been something in my field of interest, and so this feature is probably one of the biggest selling points of GW2 for me. Furthermore, while so much of GW2 caters to the individual, that just further empowers said individual to make only the contacts, and join only the guilds that are 110% compatible with the player's true heart's desire in the game. With the almost nonexistent "advantage" to focusing on tight-team-mandatory content for any reason but pure enjoyment of that very brand of fun, the world of Tyria 2.0 is truly the individual's playground to seek and share with only the best of company. No more "putting up with the only good healer I know", no more "friends or progression", debates, no more "I hope they pick me" moments, GW2 is about a beautiful world designed to be enjoyed by and shared with those that will get the most out of this individually empowering, community driven vision of the MMORPG.
Is it for everyone? Probably not, but I look forward to the day my collector's edition arrives in the mail, and I can say, with passionate certainty:
This is my game.
Thank you for reading :)
Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.
My horde guild leader is going to kill me when I say this, but I hadn't even given SWTOR a second thought, had no plans to try it, until I'd heard some guildies in mumble talking about it, then I was curious, so I asked about the "Sith Assassin" class I'd heard of in passing, and then I was hooked enough for the purchase... subsequently curtailing how much time I'd spend with said horde guild.
A month later, I think I know enough to give a review of sorts, so here we go...
Right out of the gate, "release growing pains" understood, SWTOR is a well rendered place for those MMORPGers that will take pleasure in having their "E-home" in the Starwars universe. It does what it must, and it does it well. I am impressed and satisfied that the game will hold its own as a "place to live" for escapist fans of the saga. That being said, I have found some particularly personally relevant places where the game, as a game, could improve. Other people can raise other points, but these are mine.
Straight up, the story oriented approach is SWTOR's biggest and most fun addition to the genre, and serves as a bridge to the forthcoming GW2 iteration of the personal story in an MMO. To be fair, LOTRO was doing it before both of them, but SWTOR's approach is, somewhat, flexibly personalized to moral choices...
Which brings me to the downside of said feature.
Moral choices in quest flow are innovative, curtailing logistically impacting rewards toward moral choices is interesting... but this is a subscription MMO, and so many people will feel steered to the logistically sound choices, not necessarily the "character driven" ones. The subscription model brings with it an undercurrent of efficiency (for your paid time), so tying logistical rewards to "roleplaying" decisions shoots this feature's own foot off, in a way.
For example: My "main", for the longest time, made "darkside" quest conversation choices, regardless of what they were, in order to unlock the use of the darkside attunement merchant. Sometimes I literally turned my head and gritted my teeth as my character did things so dastardly as to make little sense, just so my opportunities to advance logistically would be maximized. Yes, I intended this character to be evil, but killing a civilian woman in cold blood just shouldn't be something to gain *any* kind of game-related advancement. Logistical implementations of "RP" like this only perpetuate the age-old stereotype that players make a choice between role-play and game savvy: in this context, the role-player will delay their access to a merchant, the "gamer" will lean on one side, regardless of how "out there" it gets, to reap the rewards. In essence, the player is "punished" for having a character concept that isn't "handlebar mustache evil" or "puppy kissing good". And they say only Sith deal in absolutes!
Next we come to another amazing feature that both helps and hinders solo play (the most important building block of an MMO in 2012) : companions. I love the companion system, it's such a boon to soloability to have a second set of hands, but, again, it has its flaws.
First off, while Bioware is awesome for implementing intimate relations with your automated RPG partners, the execution of this ideal in TOR has a few problems (aside from the admitted mistake of delaying same-gender romance options, to be added in the future) that hamper the full enjoyment of the feature. Primarily, while it makes sense that, of course, every companion being their own person, they have strengths and weaknesses, while tank and healer companions come with a "mode" to simply do damage, the reverse is not true. Now you might be thinking "so what?", but follow me along this train of thought...
My main, a Sith assassin, was a backstabbing, "impale your spine with a double bladed lightsaber while my tank companion holds threat" force ninja. Good times, just as I intended to play him, awesome! His "romance option", and more importantly, my favorite companion he has access to, is a dual wielding, squishy melee DPS with no threat abilities to speak of. Seeing the problem? One of the merits *and* faults of the solo story progression, is it's often difficult enough to both expect you to have your companion (which is fine), *and* expect that your choice of companion compliments your character, tactically speaking, within the realities of the "holy trinity". Furthermore, quests that have rewards to equip your companions force you to choose one companion at a time to equip, essentially asking you to pick a favourite...which I have... except she's the "wrong" favourite for the role I had chosen to play, and she's my romance option. I disagree with the existence of that "wrongness". My assassin is now tank spec, for the sake of working with his ladyfriend, and while I don't mind the assassin tank spec (even though it has too many damned buttons to juggle) it wasn't my first choice for this character, and I had to make an imperial agent/operative (whose romanceable/favourite companion *is* a tank) to get my backstabbing fix. I honestly think Bioware should put a threat/defense stance on every companion, heck, even a healing mode would work with most non-backstabbing DPS styles. Just make every companion potentially "trinity complimentary" to whatever the player wants to do. As a more minor point, that I realize would be next to impossible to fix, I personally (were I in charge) would also prioritize getting "romance options" into the mix as early as possible, (or at least with more consistency) as these are likely favourites. Some classes don't see their "other half" until late in the game, while others meet their significant other before they leave the newbie zone, and that's somewhat wrong, in my opinion. Companions as a whole are a net positive, I'd just like to see them tweaked, and the game is still young.
Finally, this is more a "jarring after playing WoW for so long" point, but I found there to be not enough solo-accessible options to enable fluidity of leveling and advancing stories while questing, given that 1/4 of all classes rely upon or use stealth (thus not killing everything in sight). In short, too few quests, too much implied requirement to use alternate sources of XP such as PVP, the rail shooter, or group content, to bridge between quest hubs, while keeping quests "yellow" (meaning "on par"). If it's intended that one do things other than questing to level, there need to be more options of the solo-enabled variety. A dungeon finder would somewhat address this (not because dungeon finders are the end all be all, but they DO address the supply/demand issues of the trinity, and make a DPS player's instancing feasible while leveling), but so would a PVE side venture resembling LOTRO's skirmishes, since the companions just make that option so very doable. Whatever they do, for a game that encourages replay via alts to see other classes' stories, the "I don't want to do all the side quests again" options are very niche-y (PVP/rail shooter) or are co-dependent (heroic daily quests/flashpoints) in a game elsewise promoting individual autonomy, with communal attachments being "optional", (the way an MMO should be in 2012).
As stated above, SWTOR is a great game, but it could be better. The question now is how fast will they adapt to the needs of their players in light of intense competition. This game will have a minimum subscription count guaranteed by the words "Star Wars" and "Bioware", whether they cash in on that opportunity to have more than that remains to be seen. Until GW2, I will likely remain subscribed, as I'd like to see the stories, but if anything's going to chase me away prematurely, it will be the above nagging points grating on my nerves.
Thank you for reading.
Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.
*blows the dust off of the blog*
Well then, a healthy bout of writer's block, and a strange sense of "nothing worth writing about" amidst barrages of news kinda put TFTV to sleep for awhile, but there's been a term gestating in the back of my mind for months, so today I'm going to think out loud and share the process with you all as I flesh it out:
Today's term is "Independent funtractor".
In the days of EverQuest's unchallenged dominance, and influence on the direction of MMOs (including WoW), if you wanted to "be a somebody", it wasn't as much your own skill that mattered (but it still did), as it was who you knew. Guilds, raid teams, even looser-knit circles of recurring play-partners were key to getting anything "of note" done. Indeed, at the onset of the MMO's emergence, the novelty, and a huge "feature", was the ability to play with other people. Because of this, people tolerated (to varying degrees) and gravitated to microcosmic concepts of community co-dependence and things like guild loyalty, consideration of your neighbor's time, and the impact you had on it, which were addressed and handled at varying degrees of success. Things like group-earned loot and the "trinity" of tank/heal/damage added spice to the soup, and group/guild leaders succeeded and failed at the social minigame that was just as important to killing dragons as individual player competence.
The novelty of this "cool, we can play together over the Internet!" sensation was bound to wear off, and it did. It's still a draw, to this day, but it can't be used as a huge pillar to sell a game anymore. Stripped of novelty, a lot of glaring holes can be seen in this monolith of gaming standards we have enshrined.
First off, the fact that no matter how good the game is, a bad experience with another player can do lasting damage to your success or enjoyment is a horrible business model, when selling to the individual: the only sales pitch that matters. To tell someone "to see the end of the story, bring 24 friends, and make sure X number of them are willing/able to do the high pressure roles", is not a pitch that today's consumer will generally tolerate in an RPG with story that starts as a personal, solo pursuit.
Story is a huge part of any RPG. You create a character, and have fun exposing that character to a world, its story, and often the other people "living" there. The developers of the world can control one of those two important variables, and as trends have indicated over the years, it's important to rein in the negative influence of the other (the community) over your fun, since the developer generally can't control it. It's an axiom I've applied to LARPing in the past:
"The problem arises out of the fact that many of the features of the product are or are enabled by the customers themselves, who often exercise their paid right to refuse to be the product, because they are customers."
When this circle inevitably presents itself, the MMO, as we know it, starts to crumble. Game designers can dull the impact of this cycle, even prevent it from manifesting, to a degree, by slashing certain elements of co-dependence, and they have already begun.
In WoW: Continuing the ethic that gave birth to the dungeon finder, the raid finder puts the final nail in the coffin of "needing an army" to finish the story you started by leveling solo.
In SWTOR: The fact that the game itself is "online, parallel dragon age in space" as it relates to its story is right in line with this "selling to the individual" ideal.
In GW2: The personal story, the exterior, open world dynamic events, the home instance: everything is pointed at the individual player interfacing with the game in a way of their choosing. In fact, the ONLY feature that necessitates co-dependence is the dungeon content, and even that is smoothed by the absence of "the trinity".
Online communities can and will still form in our favourite MMORPGs, it would be kind of silly if they couldn't, but more than ever, games are marketing to and designing for players one at a time.
A common complaint aimed to this line of thinking (particularly the dungeon finder type features) is that it kills the sense of community, and that's a fair point, but my respectful rebuttal is that the worst sides of each other that we see in the more "gear treadmill" type games (like WoW) are brought to the surface by the idea that there are two kinds of content:
1) "Grind content", whether it means leveling faster, gearing faster, maxing rep or chasing achievements, it's easy to see "the journey" in the common MMO as something to be pursued with personal efficiency, even when grouped, (this is why "hard heroics" failed in Cataclysm: it's grind content, not seen as the place to be hindered by another player's reflexes) because this isn't "the real game", this is somewhere that other people tend only to "get in each other's" way on the way to...
2) The endgame. You're done, you're there, now it's about competing to get loot, competing for DPS, competing in PVP, etcetera. Again, we're either in each other's way, or holding each other back, OR we're in the perfect group. If not in said perfect group, you're paying for a product you're potentially not as happy with as you should be, and it's all because of an element of the product that the developer has little or no control over. This actually has less to do with the "looking for" features, and more to do with the overall design of the game itself: empowering "them" to dictate "your" game.
This is why the MMORPG of the future needs to be less about "them" and more about you. The more happy, self-empowered "independent funtractors" are drawn to an individually engaging game, the more will be around to deal with group undertakings, which then turn into opportunities to meet people that WANT to be there, as opposed to players using each other to reach an objective that "you'd better not cost them".
A community that doesn't "need" each other is then freed up to "want" each other. And if they don't, they're welcome to that too, because if they don't need each other, they won't inhibit the folks that would rather want each other.
One of the only votes against all of this is the indirectly and unfortunately cultivated desire to "control" each other's progress, be it through shunning someone with a bad reputation, or perhaps "the only tank" dictating the pace of the whole guild/raid's pace of enjoyment. I'm afraid it's not in the best interest of the MMORPG industry to leave these "sacred cows" of social policing alive, they need to die, because that guy with the bad rep, and those guildies hoping that the tank makes up with the guild leader should not have the quality of their own funtime dictated by others that didn't pay for those other players' subscription/game. The ones providing the service (the developers) need to lessen the impact of these scenarios, because even an MMO is populated one player at a time.
Don't need your gaming community, want it, because if you don't want it, you certainly don't need it. The games out there are slowly enabling this for you, so capitalize!
If you're still here, thank you for reading, and be mindful of how you can be an independent funtractor in your MMORPG of choice, because it's not about them, they're not paying for your subscription/game, it's about you, and you, and you...
Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.