Archive for September, 2013

Solo and the MOBs …

September 28, 2013

So, yesterday, I mentioned that I’d talk about why being able to solo and group is important to an MMO. This is the post that will talk about it.

To introduce the topic, though, I’m going to talk about one of my major gripes with TOR at the moment: the issue with the MOB population. There are a lot of quests and missions — including the bonus missions — that require you to go into public, shared areas and kill a number of MOBs. This requires that there be, of course, a sufficient number of MOBs for people in general to kill. Which leads to these two problems:

1) If you’re looking for these kills when there are a lot of people on, then you end up fighting with them over the too small number of MOBs available. You can group, but on a highly populated server in peak hours you’re still going to be fighting to get the MOBs you want, especially since some of those who don’t need them for that mission will kill them anyway, either because it gives them XP or because they need to get through them to get into or out of the area for the mission they actually want to finish.

2) If you’re looking for these kills when there aren’t very many people on, or just looking to get through that area after finishing that mission, you end up with a lot of MOBs around that no one is killing. At best, this leaves you having to slog through killing them because you want to get to your mission goal, and at worst it makes it very difficult for you to travel through the area because every time you try to clear a group you get jumped by wandering strongs/elites, or draw two groups at once because they happen to be too close together for your own abilities. So you die a lot.

So, at the extremes of player population in an area, you are either frustrated because you can’t find the MOBs to finish your mission because everyone else has cleaned them out, or you end up frustrated because you have to fight and die to things that you don’t even really need to fight.

Now let’s put this in the context of grouping. If you are forced to group to take on various MOBs or missions, what does someone who happens to be on when no one else is on do? Or what happens later when the server population diminishes and you don’t have a lot of players at that level running around at any time of day? You need a group to progress, but there aren’t enough people available to group. So, either you’re stuck waiting for people to show up to group with, or you try to do it yourself and die a lot, or you have to grind to get high enough levels to be able to do it yourself. None of these are exactly fun.

TOR does it pretty well. There is a lot of content that is group content, which can be fun and gives good XP and item rewards, so there’s a reason for people to do them. That means that, except at really off-peak hours, you’ll probably be able to find a group to run it with you. But you don’t need to do them; you can level up and even get ahead of your mission levels as long as you do all the side missions and, preferably, do all of the bonus missions as well, especially the ones where you have multiple stages and get tonnes of XP for complrting the stages and the final mission itself. So if you want to group, there’s group-oriented content for that, and if you don’t, there’s content that with care and some levelling you can relatively easily do only with your companion.

TOR, then, would have a good model for surviving population loss … if it wasn’t for how they handle MOBS [grin].

It’s Alive, It’s Alive!

September 27, 2013

So, I was browsing the Game Reviews posts on Shamus Young’s site, and looked up a few of the MMOs that he had been playing to see if they were still alive. It turns out that a number of them have gone by the wayside, joining games like Star Wars: Galaxies and [sniff] City of Heroes. But the first MMO I ever played and the game that got me interested in MMOs in the first place is, amazingly, still alive.

Yes, Dark Age of Camelot was the MMO that started all of the MMO playing for me, long, long ago. There are a number of reasons why I liked it, and played it off and on for ages:

1) The theme, or rather the themes. It combined the three mythological/legendary themes that really interested me: Arthurian, Norse, and Celtic. It was just cool to run around in those areas, even if they might not have been fully-realized.

2) The character classes, especially between realms, were interestingly different. Sure, they mapped to roughly the same sort of thing, but played, at least to me, interestingly differently and were, more importantly, thematically different to facilitate my roleplaying desires. This was not only my first MMO, but my first alt-o-hoic MMO.

3) The environment was pretty, and shaped nicely to each theme.

However, I eventually stopped playing it. And the reasons why were:

1) The game was too hard to play solo. Sure, the idea of playing an MMO solo seemed then and still seems now a bit odd, but there are reasons why being able to solo and group are important to an MMO. I think I’ll talk about that a little later. But, suffice it to say, struggling to finish quests solo and not being able to really find groups hurt my enjoyment of the game. CoH was better, and TOR is excellent for me in this regard.

2) The game was an old-school MMO in all ways, including death punishments and armour and crafting and everything. Those games didn’t work well for a casual player, at least in my opinion. TOR and CoH, to me, are far better at that, especially in making it so that you can play for only a couple of hours and feel like you’re making progress.

3) Story, at least outside of RvR perhaps, was a bit lacking. CoH including far more chained quests that told a story, and TOR is all about story.

4) The last time I installed it, it was on my getting out of date system and so was a bit laggy and stuttering for me, which was annoying.

Now that I’m reminded of it, I’m considering playing it again, but TOR already takes up my gaming time so I’m not sure how it would fit. But it is amazing that it’s still alive.

Scripted Monotony …

September 18, 2013

Well, my updating on this blog has been rather low of late, which has pretty much been the norm. I hope to get back into doing more posts soon, and more regularly, but the past few weeks have been both hectic and boring. The reason they’ve been boring is because at work I’m doing very repetitive additions of lines from one file into another, with the format altered to meet the standards of the other system. Now, some people — and myself included — would immediately think “Hey, can I write a script to do this for me instead of adding it all line by line manually?”. The problems were this:

1) The one file where I could write a script relatively easily to do the translation didn’t have very many entries, so doing it manually only took me a couple of days. Writing a script, testing it, fixing any bugs in it — and there are usually bugs in your script the first time — would probably take at least a day, so there wasn’t much time savings there … and it could be a time drain if I ran into any unforeseen problems. Which leads to …

2) The other file had a lot more entries, but wasn’t as easy to write a script for. There were missing numbers in the entries and even duplicate entries, so I wouldn’t be able to parse it line by line, but instead would have had to take the number and use it directly. And the numbers didn’t align; I’d have to prepend a lot of data — although it was always the same prepend — onto the beginning of the final number. And the final text would also have to be translated from one solid variable-type name — say “thisOurText” — into a more human-readable form, like “This Is Our Text” … but with acronyms and inconsistent captialization, I couldn’t just use the caps to divide it up into words. Meaning that even after writing the script, I’d have to check over each line to make sure it was right anyway, and correct it, running into unforeseen problems, messing things up, and likely not saving much time.

Some designers would have written the script anyway, and reason at the end that at least it would be there for next time. I, however, don’t have that attitude, and prefer brute force unless it’s clear that the script will save a lot of time. It’s a curious form of laziness: even if the brute force method might take longer in the long run, I’m averse to adding a lot of effort in advance when for at least this specific time I’ll save some effort by just doing it brute force.

Still more of my favourites …

September 1, 2013

So continuing on from my post last week, this time I’ll do AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Alice Cooper.

Starting with Alice Cooper, I have less of his stuff than I do of the others, who almost literally fill my CD collection, but there are a number of songs that I listen to frequently. “Hell Is Living Without You” is probably my favourite song, but “He’s Back(The Man Behind the Mask)”, “Teenage Frankenstein”, “The Great American Success Story” and “Poison” are also favourtes. And you should also add to that list “House of Fire”, “Bed of Nails”, “Only My Heart Talkin'”, “This Maniac’s In Love With You”, “Life and Death of the Party”, and “The World Needs Guts”. Alice Cooper is, I think, the one performer that I like where I like the songs that I, well, really shouldn’t like due to the subject matter and even the musical style.

I have a lot more of Ozzy Osbourne, and one of my best buys was getting “The Essential Ozzy Osbourne”, which contains most of my favourites, like “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Goodbye to Romance”, “Diary of a Madman” (which I just used as a character piece for Boomer in my latest BSG game), “You’re No Different”, “Rock and Roll Rebel”, “Mama I’m Comin’ Home”, “No More Tears”, “Time After Time”, “Road to Nowhere”, “I Don’t Wanna Change the World”, “Perry Mason”, “I Just Want You” (which might have been the Ozzy candidate to make the top 10 list), and “See You on the Other Side”. There were some others that didn’t make the cut for the essential, like “Revelation (Mother Earth)”, which also might have made the top 10 cut, but my absolute favourite song of his did make the cut, and is “Fire in the Sky”, a great song that also speaks to me and my personality rather deeply.

Now, to AC/DC. Aside from the aforementioned “Ride On” and “Hell’s Bells”, we have: “For Those About To Rock”, “Evil Walks”, “C.O.D”, “Night of the Long Knives”, “Spellbound”, “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”, “Big Balls” (mostly because it’s hilarious), “Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ ‘Round To Be a Millionaire)”, “You Shook Me All Night Long” (which was THE party song when I was growing up), “Thunderstruck”, “Money Talks”, “The Razors Edge” (which I always thought would be an excellent song for a Wolverine movie), “Are You Ready?”, “Got You By the Balls”, and my favourite Christmas song, “Mistress for Christmas”.

After “Razor’s Edge” (Helena Cain’s favourite album), we have: “Hard as a Rock”, “Cover You In Oil”, “The Furor”, “Burnin’ Alive”, “Hail Caesar”, “Safe in New York City”, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll”, “Rock and Roll Train”, “War Machine” (my favourite from “Black Ice”), “She Likes Rock and Roll”, and “Rock and Roll Dream”. Which doesn’t include songs that I don’t have the CDs for like: “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Highway to Hell”, and “Back in Black”.

When I first heard, AC/DC, I didn’t like them. But my brother did, and since he could drive and I couldn’t, I heard it a lot, and eventually came to like them, so much that they’re one of my favourite bands.