Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Itch

I got the urge to play WoW again the other day, but it very quickly turned into boredom. This is good. It saves me time and money that I would've spent re-activating my account, playing hours a day for two weeks, getting burned out, and quitting in disgust.

But I've still got the urge to play an MMO. Problem is, I've played 'em. Very nearly all of them. Even the Korean ones.


For some reason I'm really looking forward to both Age of Conan and Warhammer: Online.

I don't know why I'm suddenly enamored with the Conan game. I loved the first movie as a ten-year-old kid, which is understandable, but haven't thought of it much since then.

While Conan is still a fantasy world, it falls into magical realism. Something about it feels grittier and more mysterious.

Funcom, developers of Anarchy Online, are trying for real-time combat with out-of-the-way number crunching. I'd like to see them pull this off. My guess is that 56k will be shit out of luck. While Anarchy was almost incomprehensible, what I've seen so far looks very straightforward.

They're going for an M-rating, which hasn't been very common in MMOs (I can't actually name any thus far).

Warhammer's the other property I've only lately delved into, courtesy of the 40K RTSes.

I really would have preferred to see 40K. Sci-fi isn't quite a dead horse yet for MMOs, while fantasy has been dead, beaten, deboned, and ground into chuck.

But maybe the sheer mindless brutality of the Warhammer universe will carry the day.

From what I've heard Mythic is also looking at an M-rating. Waagh!


The thing that will clinch it, that always seems to clinch it, is how these games will handle death.

Just to get it out of the way, I hate the idea of permadeath. I wouldn't care if developers made it a switch at character creation, no problem there. You either choose it or you don't, and go on your merry way.

The problem I have is that pro-permadeath people typically either want everyone to be affected or they want some kind of fucking reward for being so hardcore. If it's a choice they will bitch about balance. If it's required then the game is doomed.

I also hate experience debt. And item loss/degradation. Basically, I hate punishing players for playing.

One of the joys in an MMO is the sheer scope of the world, which naturally appeals to explorer types. They want to see everything.

It can also appeal to hardcore types. They might have a challenge to run through a dangerous area and make it as a lowbie into some hard-to-reach settlement.

Permadeath/xp debt/item loss punishes players for risky behavior.

When these things are implemented, people are more cautious, or they quickly learn to be. Why try to take on an enemy you might not be able to defeat? Why test out a difficult tactic? Why do something daring or stupid? Why travel to an area that might be out of your level?

WoW seems to have it right. You have to make a corpse run, or take a penalty at the graveyard. Minor annoyances, but they don't have the effect of setting you back.

City of Heroes lost me because XP debt was exponential - you hardly noticed it in the early levels, but the higher you got the more debt you incurred and the harder the missions - therefore the more you would die, therefore even more debt. It would spiral out of control, especially if you sidekicked. You were incredibly vulnerable as a sidekick, so you could come out of a mission with barely any progress. The XP debt made the sidekick system, which should've been awesome, into such a high-risk venture that I didn't bother with it.

A permadeath system could have the effect of keeping even more of the player base away from high-level content, which would not only lead to anger at the top (not enough high-levels for raids/dungeons) and at the bottom (no chance to access high-level content). I know that I still have yet to bring a WoW character to 60, but at least without permadeath there's a chance I might.

All of that just to say that I'm watching Age of Conan and Warhammer: Online in anticipation of how they will handle player death.

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