The MMORPG Monthly Fee . . . Is It Worth It?

4 10 2009

WOWDouble$15 bucks a month . . . should I pay it?

Time and time again I will see people become somewhat interested in an MMORPG, only for them to turn the other way once they hear of a monthly service fee.  Now not all MMORPGs these days have a monthly fee.  Many of them, like the highly acclaimed Runescape and Maple Story, all are free to play and download (of course they charge for in game items or better graphics).  Nevertheless, people cannot seem to wrap their heads around why they should pay for a game after they have already payed for it once.  At one time I thought the same way.  Why should I shell out money to this company for some unknown reason, when I already put down $50-60 on the original game box?  Where does all this money go to?  How will I benefit?  Until you answer these questions, you truly never will know why you pay that monthly fee.  Of course, these are the same people that don’t have any idea how much upkeep it takes to run a smooth online role-playing game.  It is a necessary evil, one that is tough to deal with at first but gets easier as time goes on.

Probably the number one reason why MMO companies need that $10-15 dollar fee is to maintain servers and the patches that come with them.  When dealing with thousands of people, or even millions if you are talking from Blizzard’s perspective, you need a strong hardware line to support all of that data.  Without it, all that work you put into building your character would be as dust in the wind after a week or so.  Even with all that money that Blizzard gets (hundreds of millions per month), they still continue to struggle with lag issues and other maintenance problems that come up after every patch.  Technology has advanced quite a ways in the last few decades, but we are still not at the point where complete lag-free online game-play is possible.  It will only become possible if people continue to donate to the cause.  It may seem lame at first, but paying a monthly fee for a game you are enjoying shouldn’t be that hard to swallow.

/PLAYED

Another thing people take for granted is the amount of time they are giving to these games.  Now, a simple question.  How long does your average video game last these days from beginning to end?

Ten hours? Twenty hours?  Maybe thirty to forty if it has a decent multi-player setup or a quick premise with lots of replay value.

That is absolutely nothing compared to the amount of time one puts into a “single” character within most of these MMO worlds.  After playing both Asheron’s Call and World of Warcraft I noticed a shocking statistic.  The average amount of time per character was between fifteen and twenty days played.  Now multiply that by 24 hours and you have a lot of freakin’ hours.  And even though that may seem like a lot of time, that is nothing compared to what some of these MMO junkies put in.  It just annoys me to see people complain that they are bored with a particular MMO, when they don’t realize they have put in between 600-800 hours into it.  Damn, if I put that much time into a game I’d probably be bored with it too!  The difference is that you are spending a hell of a lot less money by playing an MMO than you would with the dozens of short single player experiences in this day in age.

I believe that people have just become ungrateful and have taken for granted the amount of enjoyment that an MMORPG gives them.  The genre may not be for everyone, that is a given.  Some people don’t like grinding out levels for hours or running the same quests over and over again to get that one unobtainable weapon; especially when they realize it will become obsolete by the next expansion pack.  Those that play MMORPG’s are players that enjoy a great story, have a broad imagination, and enjoy playing with other people.  Sure some online games may have a crappy player-base, but those couple of people that become your “allies” in these games more than make up for it.  Some of the players that I befriended throughout my MMORPG times have actually become my friends in real life.  Amazingly enough, people have even met their future spouses in these games.

VoidHole

In the end, great MMORPGs can paint a pretty picture, but it cannot get there without the pastels and brush; two things that the player and the host company must provide.  Just remember that there are hundreds of MMO’s out there, some free and some not.  Each one gives you a trial period, which can generally last between two weeks and one month; plenty of time for you to decide whether or not it is the game for you.  So ultimately yes, it is worth paying that fifteen or so a month to keep your favorite game running.  Just don’t be like the people on most game forums and gripe about every single thing you don’t like about said title.  If you don’t like the game anymore then don’t play it anymore, nothing is forcing you to turn that game on time after time except your own addictions.  Just take a break every once in a while.  After all it’s just a game . . . that you pay a monthly fee for.

Though it doesn’t seem so bad now does it?





Entering Azeroth Again

9 05 2009

WoWBox

Heh, its been a nice month break but I decided to log back into World of Warcraft again today.  Haven’t logged in since 3.1 so I’m gonna have to get used to all the changes, as well as get a new spec going.  Good to be back though.





How to Recruit Like-Minded Players Into Your Online Guild

6 05 2009

ac1

After playing through several different allegiance oriented MMORPGs, including Asheron’s Call, Everquest, World of Warcraft, and many others, I have discovered one important thing: people tend to be selfish. Though the intended idea of an MMORPG is teamwork and fellowship, most of the time it tends to be the exact opposite. Many players seem to try to get the most out of you by asking for favors or free items to help progress their character. Others will join an allegiance for the primary purpose of using its services and then leave once its usefulness has expired. Just how can a guild leader avoid these situations? Well, it is simple. Just do a little research beforehand and follow the tips after the jump.

The first step in creating a great guild is to find the purpose behind it. Have you played the game enough to truly understand how things are run? Do you have enough friends and supporters to help create the foundation for the guild? Will it be primarily PvE (Player vs. Environment) or PvP (Player vs. Player) based? All these have to be thrown into the equation before you follow through. Too many leaders create a guild without having the proper backing and then wonder why their group fell apart only after a week or two. Get in touch with people that have guilds of their own and ask them for advice. Each successful captain of his or her ship has a story to tell and experiences to share, which are sure to help you on your quest to create the ultimate guild.

Now step two is all about presentation. Depending on the game you are playing, there are several little appearance features that you should take advantage of while forming your guild. For instance, if you are playing Asheron’s Call, be sure to get a nice villa or mansion in an interesting or exotic location. Decorate the front and inside of the settlement in order to show off your experience and tastes. If you are playing World of Warcraft, design a cool looking tabard (cloth worn over the breastplate) that represents the identity of your future allegiance. If you are a PvP guild, go for a darker looking tabard with a fierce animal or weapon on the cover. If it is PvE oriented, have a lighter color like blue or green that represents exploration and adventure; or hey, it can even be pink with bunnies on it to show that your guild is mostly for laughs. Whatever you decide is ultimately up to you, and the decisions you make will be the guiding light in reaching other like-minded people out there.

The third step is incredibly important and it all depends on who you know beforehand. A good way to ensure that you find the right people for your guild is to make it “invite only” for the first few weeks. This means, only invite friends, family, and the people those two groups recommend. Run a few quests, raids, or PvP sessions with these new recruits and see if they pan out the way you expect. As you continue to get more and more members through this method, you will establish a positive reputation for having a unified group. More and more free agents will be drawn to this and seek a chance to get in on the fun. The longer your guild is around, the more people will look to join it. Now the next part may take some extra work and may not be for everyone, but if you can find the right connections, it will be worth your while.

You probably guessed step four, as it is the centerpiece for a lasting guild relationship: the website. Though one could say that all a guild has to do is just meet in game, you have to remember that there will be times where that is not possible. In the MMORPG world people have agendas, appointments, work, school, and so on. Also, some of your guild mates may not have access to a computer that has the game downloaded on it. By having a website, players can meet in an easy to access venue to discuss pretty much anything. In fact, a better term to use instead of website would be message boards. And unless your friends are spoiled brats, they probably won’t mind if you don’t have some elaborate website with interactive graphics attached. I personally recommend either Provision or GNU for your message board choice; primarily because they are free and easy to operate. Hooray for free things! All in all though, there are dozens more to choose from, so just surf the internet or ask a guild mate that specializes in Information Systems for assistance.

Step five is communication and in a game like World of Warcraft that revolves around instancing and questing, it is essential to have some live chat going. Ventrilo and TeamSpeak seem to be the popular ones these days, and from personal experience, neither are difficult to set up. It will require you getting access to your own private channel (which may cost a few dollars depending on the program) and then relaying the network address to your guild mates. Naturally, a headset and microphone are important as well, as they are the keys to communicating on the channel. Yes, hearing lots of people all at once can get annoying sometimes, even more so if someone leaves their microphone on with their music playing full blast. Luckily, that is what the ignore button is for.

Okay Mr. Leader. You now have a background, establishment, website, communication service, and means of accepting people into the guild . . . now what? Well, just do your thing. Based on the game you are playing, run whatever it is that interests you and your guild the most. Have polls on what everyone would prefer to do at certain points in time. If you are a raid based guild, have everyone leave a note on when it would be most convenient for them to get together. If your guild is predominantly PvP oriented, then just assemble a group every time you are on, or just join a previously started one (hey, you’re the leader, you shouldn’t have to ask to get in). Also, be sure to let the achievements of your guild known when you do something groundbreaking. If the MMORPG you are playing has a primary message board, post on that. Partnering with other guilds is also a great way to establish contacts and make connections. It’s all about who you know, both in the real world and the fantasy world.

Just remember that a guild is what you want it to be. It should stand for what you enjoy doing the most, what your beliefs are, and the people you choose to accept. Like-minded individuals will always find their way into a guild that is kind, accessible, and full of opportunity. The more you bring to the table, the more people will line up to get their fill. No matter what the game, just make sure you routinely check on your guild, your website, and the communication server; nothing like one of the three going wrong right before a meeting or guild event. I’ve definitely learned that the hard way. Nevertheless, no matter what you do or where you go with your guild, just remember one last important thing: have fun with it.





How Massively Multi-Player Online Games Have Affected the Gaming Industry

24 04 2009

A small re-write of my article on online multi-player games.

wowpvp11

It is quite amazing how far gaming has come over the last twenty years or so. What was once a field full of arcade shooters, platformers, and side-scrolling adventures, is now populated by first-person shooters, yearly sports titles, and of course, MMOGs. The most popular of the MMOG genre is the MMORPG, which is an online role-playing game where thousands of people collaborate together in an online world. At first, the genre seemed like any other, but the concept of online play has definitely put the MMORPG into its own classified area of video gaming. Role-playing itself is very addicting, but adding a live virtual world full of real people definitely adds to that addiction. It is a genre that can lead to dangerous happenings if not managed correctly, and is a genre that truly has affected the gaming industry; both in a good and bad way.

Now we see the positives of a fun online world where players can consistently play together, but there are some problems with the genre. First off, the most glaring weakness in the game-play is the repetition or “grind” factor. Ever wonder why people play these games for such a long period of time? It is because the character progression is that of a level-based system. Every level requires a certain amount of experience points to advance to the next one, with new monsters, items, and objective along the way. Combat is generally very simplistic, requiring only one or two unique attacks to dispatch foes. While this might not sound so bad, the problem is that you will have to kill hundreds or even thousands of these same type of monsters to continue gaining more power. And after a while that progression will feel like trudging through a swamp based on the extremely slow pace.

Yet people continually pump out monthly fee after monthly fee, primarily due to their addiction to their virtual character or “avatar.” This is bad for the gaming industry in a way, because these same people will neglect other games. Based on previous experience, I can safely say that when you are involved in an MMORPG, you will not bother with any other game. No matter what the quality of console single-player games that emerge, you will be so addicted to that online world that every other game will feel awkward by comparison. Does this mean the MMOG game is perfect and has no flaws? The answer is no. The games in this genre are probably more flawed than any other genre. Repetitive combat, lack of good music, and mediocre graphics are usually the culprits, and one would think just how these people can play these games for so long. The answer is simply mental . . . a mental addiction.

No matter the case, MMORPGs effect on the genre has been good in that it has pushed the bar for future online games. Yet at the same time bad because of the attention it draws from other quality titles in different genres. Online gaming uses tempting lures like free trials and invite-a-friend to get you into their world, where they then hook you with the bait. Online gaming is a continual “carrot on a stick” facade that keeps you playing with additional content; giving you the expectation that you will one day get the best gear and become the most powerful player. However, it is all for naught. Online games are a huge time sink and are not really worth the money and effort. Despite this, games are all about fun, and as long as you manage your time correctly, any title and any genre can be worth giving a shot.





How PvP Combat Has Affected the MMORPG Genre

15 04 2009

This is a slightly updated re-posting of my popular article about MMORPG PvP.

wowpvp1

“The present – World of Warcraft”

Player vs. player combat (PvP) has certainly evolved over the last ten years. From split-screen play to online connectivity from all over the world, the concept of being able to play against other people rather than a computer is ingenious. There is a certain competitive quality that emerges when two humans throw down that just can’t exist in single player games. As time has gone on, this feature has infected several genres, including: first person shooters, platformers, real-time strategies, and even role-playing games. No, I’m not talking about traditional ones like Final Fantasy or Breath of Fire; instead I mean the division of role-playing that took the world by storm, the MMORPG.

The “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game,” or MMORPG as it is commonly referred, is pretty much just that. These games usually require a dial-up or broadband connection, allowing you to then enter an imaginary world where you can play alongside thousands of other people. Chatting, role-playing, participating in quests, exploration, all of these are usually the most popular aspects of an MMORPG, and it is real easy to get caught up in the madness. Over time though, players began to grow tired of mindlessly trudging through brain-dead AI and began yearning for a chance to battle each other. In the mid-to-late nineties several MMORPGs began utilizing this feature. One in particular, was the underrated Asheron’s Call.

Just like any other MMORPG at the time, whether it was Ultima Online, Runescape, or Everquest, the main attraction of the game was the player vs. environment (PvE). Exploring vast worlds with friends, working together to beat quests, and just chit-chatting the day away was always what we would do the most. Yet, soon after we had spent hours upon hours of building up our characters, there was something that each of us wanted to prove; who was the “stronger” player. Any of us could defeat the computer controlled monsters, but what we wanted to see was who developed their character the best. Thankfully, Asheron’s Call offered a player vs. player feature, and even though we were on a white or “PvE” world, the game offered a chance to become a “player killer” for a short amount of time. That is when the fun started.

ac1

“The past – Asheron’s Call”

Spells flew, swords swung, and bodies dropped, ah the carnage that ensued. Thanks to Asheron’s Call’s use of realistic physics, players could dodge spells or arrows, and use the environment to their advantage — all in real time.

No turn based fighting or techniques that act like homing missiles, just good old fashioned twitch-based contact, similar to that of first person shooters. Asheron’s Call was truly ahead of its time and paved the way for advanced PvP combat in later MMORPGs. Dark Age of Camelot followed up with a unique PvP style that incorporated class based combat and actual objectives. These included stealing particular relics, capturing towns, and competing in events similar to “king of the hill.” Later, console based online RPG games such as Phantasy Star Online would introduce player vs. player combat. Though limited, it featured quick based combat and knowledge of how to counter particular weapon types. As time went on, more and more MMORPG companies grasped the importance of a PvP feature and just why it was needed in a genre supported by millions of people.

Speaking of millions, does World of Warcraft come to mind for anyone? Using the popularity of their franchise name, making an MMORPG was probably the most intelligent thing the company ever did. Thanks to the Warcraft title and the work they put into the project, World of Warcraft has sold well over 10 million copies – meaning well over 10 million players. And just like many MMORPGs before it, Blizzard introduced a PvP system similar to Dark Age of Camelot‘s. Though a little less polished due to the rough balance of some of the classes and the lack of a true “physic” system (Asheron’s Call), there was plenty on the table for any newcomer to sink his/her teeth into. Objective based battles, worthwhile equipment rewards, and quality graphics all brought the experience alive.

Yes, while every company making an online game should consider player vs. player combat, there is also another factor they need to consider: balance. An issue in most MMORPGs today is the lack of balance consideration when updating the PvE or PvP. The two definitely do not go hand in hand, and with each update, the player base may become separated based on the two different styles of play. For example, a PvE player may want their particular class to do more damage to a type of monster, yet if this change takes place, it may affect how much power that player may have over another human player. Knowing what types of changes and alterations should be made before each patch is something that every MMO company needs to look into beforehand; as it has led to the collapse of many titles in the genre.

dfall1

“The future – Darkfall”

In the end, player vs. player combat continues to evolve in the MMORPG genre. In upcoming games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Darkfall, the PvP that is being promised is expansive, with the latter having infinite possibilities. Whether it be objective based, faction based, or a total free-for-all, PvP will always be needed due to the competitive aura it creates. Also, games that have this style of play tend to have more last-ability than others, as it just happens to be an extra thing to do when the primary part of the game has been beaten. Nevertheless, the genre is still young, so anything can happen. After all, it is a genre that requires a little imagination on the part of both the developer and the player.





World of Warcraft Patch 3.1 (Dual Spec/Ulduar) Now Live!

15 04 2009

ulduar1

To think I wrote a rant just a few days ago about the lack of stuff to do in this game; I guess Blizzard heard me.  Patch 3.1 arrived today, to the glee of millions of bored MMORPG fanatics.  Things didn’t go smoothly though, since a majority of the servers were down till as late as 9 PM EST.  Nevertheless, Blizzard has apparently fixed the problems, since I am now able to get online.  Now to go over what’s new with patch 3.1:

  • Ulduar raid, with both 10 and 25 man versions
  • Ground mounts can now swim
  • Argent Tournament – A new PvE battle zone in which you help particular factions fight for their respective cities (rewards you with weapons, tabards, mounts, special items, etc.)
  • Dual Specialization (Finally!) – A 1000 gold fee is required at the beginning, with standard costs implemented afterward — Free respecs rewarded when you first log in
  • Some minor Wintergrasp changes (more NPCs, vehicle tweaks)
  • New VoA Boss
  • Talent tree revisions for all classes

All in all some major stuff taking place here — which is fine by me.

See you all in game!





Ulduar Where Art Thou?

10 04 2009

ulduar

I admit, I’m a Warcraft addict.  Not just from the largely popular World of Warcraft, but the series as a whole.  I’ve always been a fan of the Warcraft line, dating back ten years ago when it was a kick-ass RTS series.  Nevertheless, my guild has been bored as of late, with many of them not even logging in due to the tedium of the current endgame.  The problem is that there just isn’t enough to do after you run through Naxxramas for the twentieth time.  Sure it’s exciting to see how well you can tank, heal, or DPS, but after a while the fights become so easy that you can do it blindfolded; I like the term “rolling your face across the keyboard” though.  It’s not enough that it’s too easy, the trash is so troublesome that most of the guild go AFK when it comes to clearing all the extra monsters in the Plague and Military wings — ugh.  Also, the guild isn’t trying as hard as they used to, which results in wipe, after wipe, after wipe (yea I’m talking to you Thaddius).

Now I play a Death Knight, which so happens to be the new “huntard” class in Wrath of the Lich King.  Though to protect my class choice I must say that is not entirely true.  Any class can put out good DPS, but it takes someone who knows their gear, rotation, and talents to truly produce the best damage output.  It is this element of the game that I have been truly obsessed with for the last few months.  Watching which runes are currently available, all the while trying to use your rotation amongst all the chaos is why World of Warcraft is such a brilliant game.  Unfortunately, because it is an MMORPG, it consistently needs “patches” for players to stay interested.  A lot of ignorant players today wish for the game to revert back to its earlier days, but they couldn’t be more wrong.  I wouldn’t wish that kind of grinding upon anyone to be honest; it really was ridiculous.

So now that Wrath of the Lich King is entering its 6 month mark, it is time for the next big patch.  Of course with it will be some errors, bugs, and plenty of downtime, but the end result will truly be worth it.  I am displeased at the Death Knight losing its dual wield power with the talent changes, but it just opens up some new doors and playability choices.  It’s a good thing I just got Death’s Bite two weeks ago; it will give me a chance to try out the Unholy changes.  Also, some of the new weapons that Ulduar is introducing look spectacular, with rogues getting the most love (not that I’m surprised) with all those daggers to choose from.  The focus definitely seems to be on “Armor Penetration,” which up till now hasn’t been a particularly spectacular statistic.  Though I’m sure enough it, like expertise, will result in it being more of an asset.

So all in all, for the sake of those poor bored addicts, please bring out patch 3.1 soon Blizzard.  At least there’s PvP . . . damn retribution Paladins.