Champions Online May Win Me Back

Posted by on February 24, 2010 - No Comments »


Two weeks ago I specified a few reasons why I was going to walk away from Champions Online when my subscription expired.  Normally, I try to look at the positives of a situation, but my experiences with the game, Cryptic’s handling of it and the future plans didn‘t sit well with me.  Or the rest of the playerbase, as a few readers explained their issues with the game in the comments section.

Last week, Cryptic backpedaled on its decision to offer paid for high-level content.  Champions Online – Revelation, what the company claims is a “full-fledged expansion,” didn‘t go over well.  The decision was reversed after people like us spoke our minds about paying for content in a game that is lacking just that.  Commentator Snorlax returned to the post to pose a very good question:

“Do you see yourself coming back now that Cryptic has backpedaled on their paid content pack/expansion and put out some olive branches to the community?”

Initially, no.  The company lost a good amount of my trust, the damage had been done.  But Cryptic followed up last week’s olive branch with another State of the Game address that focuses on the free “expansion.”  Costumes, perks, and additional lairs are always welcome additions.  Two bullet points really caught my attention – Adventures Packs and Monthly In-Game Events.

Adventure Packs are story driven packages that are playable at “nearly any level.”  That will make them perfect for all of the altaholics out there (and casual players).  Personally, I am excited to see the story part take shape.  Who wouldn‘t want to battle with “villains both new and established.”  The more Foxbat the better.

If there’s something that small companies and small MMOGs excel at it’s usually community.  Cryptic Studios is looking to be a large part of that by joining us side-by-side.  We’ll be seeing a lot more of the developers in the virtual space they created thanks to the monthly in-game events.  Dates, times and details will be announced as they happen.

Cryptic, you’ve got about a month to win me back.  It’s been a good start.

Champions Online – Revelation will go live in mid-March.  More information will be revealed when the official mini-site launches this week.

Final Fantasy XI to Shut Down?

Posted by on February 23, 2010 - No Comments »

Final Fantasy XI
MMOSite have reported a recent rumor about the possible shutdown of Final Fantasy XI to make room for Final Fantasy XIV. The rumor comes from a Square Enix employee and was spread by a ”Japanese game media”. Square Enix’s  Yoichi Wada has later denied the report, but left no comment on the matter.

GameGrep then stated that a top resources employee at Square Enix posted the following on their personal blog (before it was taken down, of course):

“I think some amongst you will know, but FF11 started in 2002 … Well, this year it’ll end and the stage will shift to FF14.”

However, it still remains unclear whether Final Fantasy XI will be shutting down this year, or not. Each side makes a valid point and only time will tell.

Lego Universe Trailer

Posted by on February 20, 2010 - No Comments »

This might be a little late, but I’m sure there are some that have not been keeping up with Lego Universe news, so I wanted to post it anyway. This is the second Lego Universe trailer that was released and shows us the bad guys in the game, although no new in-game footage.

Pandaren Monk Sales Helps Make-A-Wish Foundation

Posted by on February 18, 2010 - No Comments »

The Pandaren Monk is an exclusive in-game pet for Blizzard’s popular World of Warcraft. The Pandaren Monk was made available on November 4th 2009 and retailed for $10. Blizzard stated that from November to December, for every Pandaren Monk sold they would donate half of the proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

On February 16th Blizzard reported that they donated over $1.1 million to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As a current WoW player and owner of a Pandaren Monk, I am proud that the community managed to raise that much money to help those in need.

To find out more about this donation go here.

Love is in the Air and Big Love Rockets!

Posted by on February 17, 2010 - No Comments »

This is a little late but I hope everyone had a happy Valentine’s Day. In World of Warcraft there is a special event called Love is in the Air to celebrate V-Day. The event started on the 7th and ends on the 21st. These holiday events that Blizzard makes always have special and novelty items that you can only get during certain events.
One of these novelty items you can get is the Romantic Picnic Basket. When you use it your character drops down a picnic basket with a pink and white umbrella and people can come and join you for a lovely feast. The Romantic Picnic Basket can be purchased from any Lovely Merchant which are found in all major cities. The merchant also sells other items like: Roses, Chocolates, love dummy (called the Love fool).
This year’s Love is in the Air event introduces the Big Love Rocket. The
Big Love Rocket is a mount that can only be obtained during this event. Now this is nothing new because events such as Hallow’s End and Brewfest have rare mount drops ( The Horseman’s Reins, Great Brewfest Kodo and Swift Brewfest Ram) but the mount that drops in this year’s Valentine’s event is a special one.
The Big Love Rocket mount drops off Apothecary Hummel ( Love is in the Air holiday boss). It is a dark pinkish rocket that you can ride around and is very similar to the X-51 Nether-Rocket X-TREME mount which was first introduced in the first expansion of WoW: The Burning Crusade. Now the X-51 Nether-Rocket X-TREME was only obtainable by buying the WoW Trading Card Game and the chances of getting the rocket mount loot card was extremely low. With the addition of the Big Love Rocket it gives players who wanted a rocket mount another shot at getting one.

I am currently farming for this mount myself and here is some info and pointers that will helpfully maximize your chances at getting this mount. First the Big Love Rocket mount has a low low drop rate. An official comment from Blizzard acknowledges that the drop rate is lower than 1-2% which makes it one of the rarest mounts in the game. My first tip would be to group up with people that have multiple high level alts. When I say high level I mean level 75 and up because at 75 you can get the quest that summons Apothecary Hummel. Personally I run with guildies and we each have around three alts but some of the guys have five so we get a lot of attempts everyday (around 21). My second tip would be to have a warlock in group to drop a summoning stone inside the instance to minimize downtime. Doing this saves a lot of time because you don’t have to constantly run out of the instance to summon alts. My third and final tip would be to plan out who is getting on what alts. Set up a rotation for alt switching so you ensure that there is always at least one tank and one healer when you switch in alts and to make sure there’s no confusion when people are switching characters.

Enjoy the Love is in the Air event and good luck to those of you trying to get the Big Love Rocket!

Putting Risk Back Into the Themepark — Drop Chance

Posted by on February 17, 2010 - No Comments »

sparkLast month, I posted a bit about the concept of risk in MMOs and the conclusion I came up with is that most modern themepark MMOs have sanitized their gameplay such that risk is no longer a factor. I feel that risk is an intriguing design element and that without it, our MMOs are less than they could be. In this article, I am going to talk about a traditional MMO death penalty that has been abandoned in most modern games, Losing Your Cool Stuff.

Of course, the most extreme example of this penalty is the Full Loot/Corpse Run — you die and everything you own is left on your corpse. You might have a window where only you can loot your corpse, or if the game is “full loot”, then your corpse is fair game. This is the death penalty of old-school, “hardcore” games like Ultima Online, Everquest and more recently, Vanguard and Darkfall. I understand why people don’t like corpse runs. You play through dozens of quests and instances to get great gear, only to die in the middle of a lava pit and have to sit naked and forlorn, staring at your unreachable corpse as the timer runs down and your precious items vanish. Full loot is even worse because almost every death brings with it the loss of your good stuff — and most players hate losing their stuff.

The Drop Chance System

This is a simple tweak to the full loot idea. When you die, instead of dropping all of your items on your corpse, each item has a small percentage chance that it drops — say between 2 and 5 percent. When an item drops, it will either stay on your corpse, to be possibly looted by players, or it will appear in the inventory of the monster that killed you. Most of the time, players will be able to shrug off death, having lost nothing, or only trivial items. However, every so often, death will mean the loss of a powerful weapon or armor and the player will have to decide whether it is worth the effort to get it back.

One of the problems you see in full-loot games is that items lose a lot of their value. You might own a powerful sword, but because the chance of losing it is so high, you never take it out of the bank. At this point, though the sword might be worth quite a bit of in-game currency, it isn’t in play and thus becomes pointless. If you want a game with lots of important, powerful gear, full-loot probably isn’t the way to go. Darkfall is a good example of this. Gear is important in the sense that it makes a difference in combat, but it is all expendable (and consumable) and so no specific piece of gear is interesting.

By making item loss possible, we add an element of risk. By making item loss rare, we increase the expected return of a player equipping his best gear. If there is only a 2% chance of losing the Greatsword of Doom and it increases your combat abilities by 20%, that is a pretty good bet that most players will be willing to make. We get our element of risk, but still get more gear, and more interesting gear, into the game.

Let’s take a look at some other ramifications and possibilities of this system.

magicswordSpicing Up Loot Tables: If you die to a mob, any items lost will be found on the inventory of that creature when you kill it. This gives players a chance to get their gear back, if they are so inclined, but also means that any mob kill has a chance to turn up some unexpected gear dropped by another hapless player. I like the idea of killing a wandering goblin and finding he just killed an unfortunate adventurer to the tune of a couple hundred gold and a nice sword.

Spicing Up the Monsters: Take that one step further and actually give the creature the benefits of any items he takes from players. I would mark these creatures in some way (ideally by putting the armor/weapon model on them) to show players these creatures are enhanced, but carry more loot than usual. You would have to limit this to humanoids, or just accept that this is a little goofy — how would a raging boar wield a sword? Still, imagine coming across a goblin in the wilderness and jumping him, only to find that he is wielding a wand of fire, or going up against a giant ogre boss when you know he just wiped the previous group and snatched a particularly powerful mace… but man do you want that mace!

Unique Items: One possibility I find very intriguing is that this system would allow the inclusion of powerful unique items in the game. These artifacts would be more powerful than similar items of their level, or have unique effects, but would have much larger drop chances. They are worth seeking out and owning, but you know that you won’t keep them for very long. Sooner or later, you will die and the item will pass on to the next owner.

Spicing Up the Economy: Part of the game’s economy could be focused around drop chance. Because the drop chance is low, I think people will be more willing to use (and lose) cooler stuff. However, because the chance to lose your good gear is there, most people will have backup sets. These sets will have to be looted, bought or crafted and I think a viable economy would exist for “second-tier” items. Crafted “second-tier” items would be even more in demand if you made the drop chance for crafted gear lower than that of looted gear.

A possible variation of this system is that drop chances could start low, but then increase as the player died. Certain classes or crafters could have access to enchants or buffs that lowered the drop chance. An economy would certainly spring up around these enchants as people tried to protect their best pieces of equipment.

Tying Risk to Reward: You could make certain areas of the game increase the base drop chance of the items of anyone who dies there. Increasing the drop chance increases the risk, because players who die have a higher chance of losing items. However, the rewards in that reason would be increased, either because the designers put the best stuff there, or just because all the monsters you are facing are likely to be carrying player gear. Dungeons could have the absolute best rewards, but only if you were willing to brave a greatly increased chance of dropping your best items.

So that’s the idea… If I were to be creating an MMO, I would consider a drop chance system as a compromise between a hardcore risk system like full loot and a no risk system like durability loss. Still, there are other ways to inject risk into a traditional themepark game and we will explore another one of those next post. Until then, I hope you have some questions, comments or ideas of your own. I would love to hear them.

Age Of Conan Subscriptions Well Above 100,000?

Posted by on February 17, 2010 - No Comments »

age of conan - logo

It’s been a long time since we heard the latest numbers for Funcom’s Age of Conan, however with the release of update 6 and their guild ranking system, we can now guesstimate how many subscribers AoC really has.   As I did last week with CrimeCraft when I guesstimated there numbers were below 10,000, I went to Age of Conan’s guild ranking system, imported all the guild member numbers from each server and added up the totals.  Surprisingly it seems that Age of Conan is well above the 100,000 subscriber count which many people though it was below.

Adding up the guild member numbers came out to 97,167 players.  As I did with Crimecraft’s estimate I’ll double this number as many people do not join guilds and like to solo.  So then the number of active AoC players comes to 194,334 players. I would bet that is an over estimate, I would seriously doubt that 50% of AoC players are soloing without a guild.  So maybe it’s closer to 150,000.

This estimate should obviously be taken with a grain of salt as I am unsure what guild member numbers really means. Do guild members equal active subscribers?  Or is Funcom adding inactive accounts into the guild count?

Regardless, I think it is safe to say that Age of Conan is above the 100,000 subscribers mark.  It might very well be that Age of Conan is seeing its member base grow now that they have had some time to iron out the kinks.   No official word from Funcom.

Age of Conan – Update 6

Posted by on February 17, 2010 - No Comments »

Guild Renown Feature

Guild Renown Feature

Funcom has released update 6 for Age of Conan entitled Return of Thoth-Amon. Although not a new feature to MMOs, this update primarily focuses on guild rankings. Funcom described the update as:

Update 6: ‘Return of Thoth Amon’ introduces the much anticipated guild renown feature, where any guild on any server can acquire renown points that unlock exclusive rewards. Anything that the members of that guild do – fighting monsters, fighting other players, crafting items – will generate renown for the guild. Renown points will unlock guild levels, and will for instance allow the guild to decorate their guild city with new buildings, statues and banners, or allow the guild’s members to gain access to exclusive item rewards. Players can view a list of the top ranking guilds on all servers from inside the game as well as through the new guild rankings website available on the community portal.

The update also features a new dungeon entitled Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold.