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Van Hemlock Episode 17
Mon, 8 Sep 2008 22:56:00 GMT [download/play]



This week we've been linking up with friends in games and so decided to chat about the barriers that games throw at us to make this hard. Region locking, servers, levels and classes get moaned about, but are there any games we think do this well? Please consider reviewing this show on iTunes (good or bad!), comment on it on virginworlds.com or follow us on Twitter as vanhemlock and jonshute.
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Episode 17 Discussion Thread

'True dat...' by Zoso
Submitted on 2008-09-09 06:40:39 CST
... as I believe the younger generation would say. Good point about mentoring/sidekicking in WAR, I hadn't thought of that. I believe there's some CoH-style auto-levelling in PvP zones, to give everyone a fighting chance, but not sure about PvE. Region locking-wise, there's a tiny possibility you might have noticed ever such a slight furore over how GOA (the EU publisher/manager/host/whatever they do) have handled (or entirely failed to handle) the open beta, so maybe sorting out a US import would have been a better idea after all.


'Loving these discussions!' by shuttler
Submitted on 2008-09-09 11:20:35 CST
Firstly apologies for spreading the desease of City of' via Limited Edition and Yellow Spandex :D I blame Matt mostly!

I really didn't realise we caused so much hassle and it really is crazy! Although City of Heroes is owned by NCSoft wether that is EU or US they are infact seperate companies. I'm also informed reliably this also was one of the reasons apperently NCSoft dont have a sony style all access pass.

It really is crazy for LOTRO i wanted to play with the US guys again but already owned the EU copy so was reluctant to do this.

Tabula Rasa another NCSoft game, lets me connect to any EU or US server!

Guildwars is a great example of how this can work and EVE is an incredible example of how one server can fit all, although with WoW numbers I'm not so sure this would work.

So are you joining us in WAR at all? and will that be on the US servers which we have chosen initially as the rest of GAX is there! :S



'playing together' by Sente
Submitted on 2008-09-09 12:47:04 CST
This subject is a pet peave of mine, so it is great to hear some discussion around this.

Starting from the last topic of classes; I think (again) CoX is doing pretty good, both from the amount of combinations you mentioned and that there is less focus on the need for healing - debuff and buffs provides other good options that can be just as important if not more important.
The difficulty level plays a part here also; if you end up with a less smooth combination of archetypes you can run things at a lower difficulty.

Final Fantasy XI has also a fairly nice set-up with the dual job set-up. You can (in reality have to) play with dual jobs (aka classes) and you can gain access to and play any of the available jobs in any combination you want on the same character - and you just had to go to your house to switch them.

Each job has its separate leveling though, so you have to level all the jobs you want to play at a reasonably proficient level. This I think was the main problem, too much level grind to keep the job combinations you want useful.

--------

I think one reason the level-based games does not have sidekick/exemplar features or only in a limited fashion is that developers/designers want players to experience the game in The Proper Order. While I can understand that, I think they need to get more into the frame of reference that there may be other priorities by the players. If the players want to screw up the order they expierence things, let them. Let the players be responsible for their own playstyle.

But in doing that they may think they would degrade their own work, so that might be tough to swallow.

----------

To have global shard/realm/server acess is certainly something that would be better if it was designed in from start. With a system of multiple independent shards/realms each of those can have their separate database set-up to access character data etc. If a character is global there will need to be one master database. Everyone accessing the same database might not scale so well or might be challenging, depending on the amount of data you need to access and how often.
So probably some local cached copy scheme would be used, which would work similarly to the separate shard/realm access used now. But they also need to copy data around for that to/from the master - similar to what is done for a character transfer service but more often.

Technically probably solvable, but not worth the effort for most companies as an after the fact change. Potentially a risky change, challenging to test on a large scale and uncertain return of investment. How many more customers will they gain or avoid to loose if this is implemented?

But they might not have tried to survey the importance of this topic either.

As shuttler says, at least one of the stated reasons for separating CoX in EU and US parts was the different companies withon NCSoft. It may have been more valid a few years ago. But as there did not seem too much trouble for Tabula Rasa to change from isolated regions to that everyone can access any server I think that point may be moot today. Also I believe the consignment houses are global, e.g. the Black market is shared by both EU and US servers.

---------

While I do not have any plans to jump on the Warhammer avalanche yet, I will probably end up looking at it at some point in time; if nothing else to see how well their public quests and other features manage to deal with the "let people play together" issue.





'The Probation of Hammers...' by VanHemlock
Submitted on 2008-09-09 13:43:54 CST
On Warhammer, I'll personally be getting back to religious enforcement of The Three Month Rule, having been somewhat scorched by AoC. I fully expect to be twinked silly and Apren-kicked up to L40 upon my eventual leisurely arrival, or at the very least, have a legion of L40 minions on hand to do my Public Quests for me.

I did indeed see the GOA-tastrophe in progress, and it just made me cover my eyes with one hand and sigh deeply.

Additional musing: Is current MMO Design geared more toward lone strangers making friends *because* of the game, (and thus making it much more likely that they'll all stay put), or providing a venue for groups of people who are *already* friends, (and as such, capable of having just a good a time in *any* game)?

Thoughroughly enjoying my current CoV adventures, by the way, so don't feel bad about the ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF PEER PRESSURE or anything, Shuttler!



P.S. Anyone seen the keys to my blog? I think I left them on the coffee table somewhere...




'CoV' by shuttler
Submitted on 2008-09-09 15:15:12 CST
I'm definatly sticking around in CoV it's soo much fun!

I thought it was hilarious when we had such a mixed group the other night, plus about a million robot millions. IT feels so chaotic at times and I love it.

Also re: the keys to the blog, where did you last have them? ;)



'Lots a good stuff, awesome podcast.' by FarSpace
Submitted on 2008-09-09 18:48:21 CST
Lots a good stuff, awesome podcast.

What I like is when the MMO's give you something else to do besides leveling, I like when MMO's do that with building things like items to cities and bases, some thing you can work for, on your own or a group.


And CoH/V in my opinion is the best group game I ever played, there are too many reasons why to put here but it was the only MMO I ever grouped in right from level one almost all and the entire time too.

Even though IMO TR is absolutly awesome for combat and war like battle field fell already, I like that TR seems to be finaly adding this stuff that is needed in MMO's finaly too.



'Your game needs to be...' by Mittandra
Submitted on 2008-09-11 15:11:05 CST
Planetside.

The more you talked the more I was missing good old Planetside. Ok, they had 3 (originally 5) region based servers but for us Europeans it was always Werner anyway. You could create a character on any server though, so there was no barrier if you also wanted to hang out with your american friends.

In planetside you:
- Did not have to pick a class and stick with it. You could change skill sets whenever you liked (there was a 24 hour cool down though) and so unlock any skills you desired from a wide and varied list, ranging from stealth ninja with a knife to fighter pilot or Giant Robot Operator.
- Low level characters could be as effective in battle as max level characters. The increased levels only offered more diverse choices. There wasn't a need for a sidekick system since everyone could do their part. If you didn't have the skill points needed to become a tank driver you could still help out as the tank drivers gunner.
- Everyone could join any battle going on as long as there was room on the play field.
- The world was persistent AND what you accomplished in game affected the state of the world and your empires through a bonus system.
- All equipment was the same for everyone. Time spent in game did not affect your ability to play effectively or competitively.
- You got a tremendous feeling of accomplishment from other goals then levelling; I remember I used to go to the Planetside website every night after a session and view my stats. You could see your kill score soar, measure your score against others on the server, or in your guild. Or just see how your guild was doing in comparison with others. Or how your Empire was doing for that matter.
- The game was rewarding to casual and hardcore players alike.

Too bad no one tried the Planetside formula again...



'PS' by Token
Submitted on 2008-09-14 18:41:39 CST
@ Mittandra

My favorite game ever. I wish I knew where it went wrong.



'EU/US...why must we be divided?' by Graham
Submitted on 2008-09-14 19:53:31 CST
The topic you covered regarding the whole EU/US thing has been the bane of my gaming life. Started off in a mixed Euro/US guild in Everquest and much fun was had by all.

Then as people splintered off to different games, my US friends went one way and my real friends went the EU way. It always drove me crazy that there was a divide between the two communities. The only games I recall that allowed me to swap to either was Everquest 2 and Tabula Rasa (I think).

Having played on both sides extensively though, I must say I much prefer the US side of things. Yes, theres a time difference thing and yes, the ping is 150 or so worse (which seems to make no difference whatsoever) but the communities are so much better on the US side. EU English speaking servers are plagued by people who well....umm dont speak English. Mainly because the companies are too lazy to port their games to Russian/Spanish etc. Its not racism on my part, I just like to be able to communicate ideas to a group.

I also assumed (wrongly) that the retard factor would be much lower on EU servers but it seems stupidity is universal (yay for inbreeding).

Just curious Shuttler, are you just joining the GAX crew in WAR or you creating any more toons in the CoW guild? They seem like a really nice bunch of people. I was thinking about heading the GAX route too but hmm...how do I say it politely? Ok, I cant, 25% gaming genius and 75% fps inbreds sums up GAX for me (though I do still love it!).