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Posted: Nov 29th 2007 1:04PM (Unverified) said

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Actually, we could probably have our cake and eat it to. We're able to change instances now to be heroic. Why not put a Caverns of Time NPC in front of the old instances so that lower level characters can go back in time and experience the original dungeon, while higher level characters can experience the new big bads who moved in?

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 2:55PM (Unverified) said

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Totally my thought. CoT is the way to make old instances revisitable.

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 3:15PM (Unverified) said

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Strictly speaking, Evolving an MMO would be accomplished by a superior competitor arising and killing off World of Warcraft, then Blizzard responding by building another completely different game in response that kills off their competition.

The funny thing is, this is still the process. In this article, you notice that WoW isn't really changing that much. They don't have live server events. The lore and world are completely static.

They apparently feel that their energy is better spent 100% on new areas instead of trying to progress the plot in old Azeroth. They want to expand into new markets without having to explain that newcomers to the game have simply missed out on early content.

Because Blizzard has gotten so conservative about the gameplay in WoW, this gives competitors a chance to outbuild them, offer a basic game with more features and better lore and a more compelling universe with a more dynamic endgame to play. Kind of like if you mashed up the best ideas of EVE Online with the best of World of Warcraft, that would be pretty cool.

HOWEVER, Blizzard is (correctly) betting that there are no competitors who have the creative freedom to outdo them, who are also well-funded enough to execute in the next two to three years - by which time Blizzard will have THEIR next MMO ready. Probably something based on Starcraft, since they're doing a new Starcraft RTS that can pave the way.

It's clear that future MMO's will have to contain expanding gameplay models to sate user demand for a progressive experience as an MMO ages. It's not enough to just add content, you have to add new ways to play the game, new motivations and completely new categories of rewards as well as progressive lore.

* * *

Re: permanent alterations to game world content.

I suggest that Blizzard could maintain a limited number of original flavor servers where newcomers would be encouraged to create characters to play through the game as it originally existed, then receive a free server transfer to a regular server when their character reaches max level.

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 3:16PM Scopique said

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"By all means keep lower-level instances in the game for new players to learn the basics of group tactics, but is there really a need to keep all of the high-end instances lying around empty and unused?

How can you advocate the keeping of low level content but trashing the higher? That's even worse then the reverse: new or lower level chracters would never get to experience what the higher level character's have. It would essentially be Blizzard giving new/low level players the shaft: "Sorry, suckers. You should have been lining our pockets sooner!"

Although one option would be to simply instance the instance: lower level player would see the original content, while higher levels would see new content. But that kinda blows the whole point out of the water, doesn't it?

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 4:12PM (Unverified) said

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I agree with some of your points Coherent, especially about not having to explain why new players are missing out. However, I don't subscribe to the belief that there are no companies out there able to out-do Blizzard, or beat WoW.

Copique - How do I advocate keeping low-level content? For the reason I outlined in the post - it's required to teach new players how to play the game to a higher standard. I'd love for the lore in WoW to change and grow, but I'm willing to see some parts of it stay the same if it means a (hopefully) better standard of player.

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 5:12PM (Unverified) said

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I think you missed the key point I was making, which is that Blizzard doesn't think there are any companies able to out-do Blizzard, or beat WoW, _in_the_next_2-3_years_

I'm sure you're thinking "BUT WARHAMMER..." but we'll just have to wait and see about that, won't we? But Blizzard certainly isn't acting as if they think it's a major threat.
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Posted: Nov 29th 2007 5:32PM (Unverified) said

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Additional thoughts:

It's all very well to think that this or that MMO might be able to "take WoW down" and give Blizzard a bloody nose, but a company would need an unlikely set of fortuitous coincidences to actually accomplish this:

FIRST; they need to actually have the writing and art direction to create a more compelling universe than Blizzard has. This sounds easy, but in practice it's about as easy as someone ACTUALLY producing a bestselling book when a first time author sits down to write the Great American Novel.

SECOND; they need to have incredible financial resources. $30-50 million MINIMUM, to both produce the MMO and secure the hardware to run it on. These financial resources don't usually come with no strings attached, which leads to:

THIRD; Creative freedom. Your financier will want creative veto on the project, he doesn't want to throw money down a hole. So you get your best, most innovative ideas being second-guessed by someone who is sweating that ANY RISK will cause them to lose their investment. So your creative vision is likely to be chopped up into pieces and analysed by a committee who throws all the best parts out.

These are pretty tricky for ANYONE to manage, even established companies with consistently award-winning products and a winning creative staff like Blizzard. It's kind of a miracle that WoW turned out as well as it did.

The only other company who might, might _barely_ be able to manage it: Bioware. But they're not going to make it to product in less than 3 years, which STILL gives Blizzard plenty of time to execute. And Blizzard is a proven MMO hitmaker while Bioware is a neophyte, so it's still an uphill battle for Bioware.

The only reason that Bioware might still beat Blizzard? Blizz won't be fighting too hard or dirty, not against Bioware. I think Blizz would be honored to be beaten by Bioware.
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Posted: Nov 29th 2007 5:01PM (Unverified) said

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When the fate of MC/BWL/AQ was first raised in the runup to The Burning Crusade, Blizzard's claim was that everyone was sick of those zones, and they'd rather serve up 100% new content than make you go kill Core Hounds again.

Personally, I think it's a mistake for all the reasons listed. It makes the world feel not just static, but dissonant. In a world of level 80 heroes marching on Arthas, Onyxia seems like small potatoes. I'd love to see all the Azeroth raid content exiled to the Caverns of Time and the zones repopulated with new mobs/quests to reflect the "defeated" status. Getting Blizzard to put real dev effort into story/lore/narrative content is like pulling teeth, though, so I doubt we'll see it.

I suspect they've got market research to back up their decision - people don't play MMOs primarily for a story experience, which is why none of the upcoming releases have a dynamic story/world as a major bulletpoint, as The Matrix Online did. Because of the way you have to continually throw out old content as well as create new, it would be an expensive proposition (unless you had a truly revolutionary creative pipeline) and expense means you can't cater to a limited niche.

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 5:52PM (Unverified) said

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I still think you COULD provide the living lore content IF you had some way of executing it efficiently over all of the hundreds of server shards that exist. But the cost is prohibitive.

While I'm sure you're correct about the market research showing that monster killing is more popular than story engagement, I think story engagement would BECOME more popular if it weren't static and unchanging.

It's basically fatalism: nobody cares about the story because they know that nothing they do can possibly affect it. If they felt personally connected to it, they would care very much indeed.

So you need to figure out how to connect individual players emotionally to the story and lore. EVE handles this by allowing guilds to take over territory and engage in wars. That's one way.
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Posted: Nov 29th 2007 5:47PM (Unverified) said

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The one thing that drives me crazy about WoW is how static it is. I understand the logic, you want to have a consistent game play experience for new players and for re-rollers. But, if thousands of players have killed the bosses in URBS (which is a ghost town now) or ZG, lets move on and give players a sense of accomplishment other than just the occasional green or blue.

I love the idea of re branding some of the old "high end" instances and turning them into quest hubs. Or make them world PVP zones (think competing grave robbers) where players compete for forgotten treasure.

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 5:52PM (Unverified) said

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These approaches are mared by technical limitations. For example, putting 'old content' on special servers means that the servers would not be able to be supported, since the code base has to remain the same across servers. Further, replacing old instances does indeed mean scraping them and wasting much effort. What will probably happen is that the level 60 instances will either be reworked such that level 80 players could enjoy them, or a heroic mode would be added. However, the heroic model as it stands now is strictly dependant on faction progression, and the old instances do not have faction association as far as I can tell (like 90% of post TBC people, i jumped straight to outlands upon hitting 60). Another issue is getting people to do these instances. If there are so many instances for a particular gear level, then it will be more difficult to find PUGs to do these. Its hard enough finding a OL PUG run, i've spent hours in PUG queues with nothing to show for it.

However I do like the basic idea of added level 70 suited mobs to the old endgame instances and making it worth our while to go back there (appropriate loot, etc).

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 8:05PM (Unverified) said

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I am in almost exactly the same situation, but I have a guild. I leveled my hunter to 70 with a casual guild, we didnt' do much instances, as in 5 people of the same level. Further since I'm a hunter it was hard to find PUGs for anything. I ran ZA and ST a bit, and that was it for pre-BC instances.

Post BC, basically same thing, just did a handful of instances until 70. After about a week of /played at 70 I finally finished all the quests you can do solo. Finding a group for the 3,4,5 man group stuff is just a PITA, i have a good dozen of those quests in my queue that will probably never be done. Its so hard to find people at the exact same point of progression that it's just impossible to find a group. If you do find a group, then chances are most people inthe group won't get anything out of it, ie they dont have the quest, or have already done it. To do the Ogri'la stuff, you need to do 4 or so 5 mans, i did manage to get it done one night and spent like 6 hours doing it. At least you can do the skyguard dailies for a bit without requiring the group work.

To my mind, Blizz has really set a very hard barrier between people who want to enjoy the post-70 content, and those who will spend literally all day playing to get a few quests done (or really, waiting around to get group members to get quests done). It takes so much more effort at 70 to get the gear you need to advance, but the difference is huge. I think I doubled my dps, and I know I can double or triple it again, just due to gear. (think about that, a fully epiced player being 5 fold better than a newly minted 70).

Then there's the issue of the Hunter, where you are scorned and can't find a PUG to save your life (how many PUGs say 'just need hunter and gtg'), then you show up in the high end stuff and find out you have no idea how to play in a group, because you never played in a real group. For example, I ran some people through slave pits, it was a complete joke. We were doing stuff that would wipe you in five seconds flat in a heroic, but since you are basically 10 levels above the mobs, you can practically solo it. We finished in in about 30 minutes. Then you get to heroics, and wipe on the first trash mobs, and realize you have no idea how to play your class.

But fear not, there is a demand for hunters at 70. freeze trap becomes hugely important, in some cases you are the only method of crowd control your group has. And hunters are usually #1 in DPS, so without us the raid wipes because they cant kill bosses.

Anyway, long rant, but yeah end game is very hard, and a huge time sink if you let it. But if you can afford to play two days of 5 hours then you can run kara. You will need to find a guild who is willing to help you get attuned, there is no other way (in my mind) to do the attunement. But if you have at most 10 hours a week to play, you can do the high end stuff. It helps if you can find a group of similiarly minded people and make a firm schedule. Lastly note there is a ton of stuff to do at level 70, alot of it is repetitive but i urge you to check out PvP in battlegrounds, I found that to be alot of fun (especially AV). You just need to organize your time more, which is tricky.

So to sum, this is what you can do solo at 70.

1) Farm mats for profession leveling
2) Farm rep for certain factions (that don't require dungeons).
3) Play in Battlegrounds
4) Finish all those outland quests you didn't do (the new 2.3 makes it real easy to find quest givers, but beware that most quest chains have a point where a group quest is required (or several).

With two people, you open up a little more, now you can do Arena and 2man quests.

For raids, heroics, etc, you need 5 people obviously (or more).

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 6:34PM (Unverified) said

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"It's basically fatalism: nobody cares about the story because they know that nothing they do can possibly affect it. If they felt personally connected to it, they would care very much indeed."

Allowing players to meaningfully affect a storyline in any sort of macro sense just isn't feasible given current technolgy. Branching storylines are hard enough to implemental in single-player RPGs, and MMOs function under an order of magnitude time crunch. World events could be improved if you had the technolgical chops to build them to run in a hands-off fashion over dozens of servers simultaneously (the AQ War Effort in WoW was actually not a bad attmept, it's a shame they didn't try to expand on it with the Scourge Invasion).

However, I don't even think it's necessary to affect the content to be engaged by it. Every other form of media can successfully draw the viewer in emotional despite being entirely passive. I think comic books are the best model here - frequent, constant, varied updates that makes the player want to check back in with his/her favorite stories every update. And by frequent, I mean monthly at the least.

It's a shame the IP was so completely destroyed by the time The Matrix Online launched, because they seemed to have a good plan and tried to execute well on it. Whoever makes this work is going to have made a significant breakthough in how fast and cheap they can produce high-quality, bug free content.

Posted: Nov 29th 2007 7:10PM (Unverified) said

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People don't need to ACTUALLY be able to affect content in order to FEEL like they can. Live content provides the dynamism that most people need in order to emotionally connect with current events. The key word is CONNECTION, making people feel as if they have a personal relationship with the lore or characters in the lore.

Maybe fighting alongside a live actor playing Thrall, saving his life or carrying out his orders in an epic live event would be enough for someone to invest their heart and soul into the lore chain. That's all it takes sometimes.

Of course you're correct though, it would have to be monthly or even weekly to keep the momentum alive.
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Posted: Nov 30th 2007 10:44AM (Unverified) said

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I am always amazed about how many people in WoW (I've been in the game from the start) seem to think the amount of world content once you have hit the level cap is sufficient.

I alway cite Asheron's Call as a great example of an evovling world, even though this was on a relatively small scale in terms of content quantity.

A town getting hit by a floating citadel left a huge crater which, over monthly updates, was gradually repopulated with trees (meanwhile npc vendors moved over to a nearby hill)

In another update, another town had all its npc vendors kidnapped and they didnt return for a couple of months.

And each winter, snow would come to the world. Not just existing snowy areas but environmental change across the entire world.

Meanwhile blizzard rehashes the same old festivals for the most part.

I agree that major story arc components take time to develop but there must be more scope for localised or environmental changes which would make the world a lot more dynamic.

Posted: Dec 31st 2007 6:29AM (Unverified) said

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"A perennial problem of MMOs has been that, despite a player's actions in the game, things never really change. "

Don't tar all MMO's with the same brush.

Some are designed such that a single players actions can and do, shape the world/universe.

WoW is not a good example of a MMO.

It is a good example of a well constructed video game.

Posted: Nov 30th 2007 1:11PM (Unverified) said

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For player driven content, world of warcraft will never achieve its potential due to its mass player base. To keep these people happy, and subscribing it will just remain as is, and i must say, its good at what it tries to do but for more invloved and player driven experiences and challenegs it is best to look elsewhere to be honest.

I have played a fair few mmo's and when it comes to being able to log on and play for 30min to 2 hrs warcraft is probably the best, but if you want somthing more invloved, in which your own actions can have an impact on the virtual world you live, take a look at eve online. This game has an intense learning curve, and is as complex as any game i've seen - but the mechanics of the universe make for the ultimate sandbox mmo.

Eve online's player driven content is focused mainly on player vs player combat which is not to everyones tastes, but the way that PvP is attached to the endgame of PvE caters to those not favouring the PvP experience. It would take too long to explian what I want, but I think people who have played world of warcraft for a long time and still remain unsatisfied in some manner i reccomend looking at eve.

Posted: Nov 30th 2007 1:14PM (Unverified) said

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Your best bet for this sort of experience is Second Life. The problem with things like evolving content and live events is the horrendous lag produced (Anyone who played AC in its early days remembers this). Until bandwidth issues are solved, there's little chance such MMO's will establish a real foothold. For those of us who don't want to invest $15 / mo. or hours of our day playing, NCSoft's "Dungeon Runners" offers an excellent "free-to-play" model for both old and new MMO players, and has the potential to be huge--if it acquires a solid playerbase.

For more information:
Second Life: http://www.secondlife.com
Dungeon Runners: http://www.dungeonrunners.com

Posted: Nov 30th 2007 2:43PM (Unverified) said

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The problem is the way WoW was design from the outset. You basically have zones that are set for specific character levels and they need to stay as sandboxes so those characters of that level can continue to utilize them. So what's wrong with that? It means that once a person progresses pass that zone level, that zone pretty much becomes obsolete to them, unless it has a city within it. Thus what's created is an 'event horizon' effect where the world behind you basically disappears because there is nothing there to drawn you back to it. Thus players are always moving forwards to new zones to keep up their interest, yet those previous zone have to stay there for newer players of course.

It doesn't have to be this way though. For example, cities are a perfect location to house a myriad of different leveled instances. I mean think back to some of the D&D adventures and how they created interconnected adventures that spanned variously levels. For example, new attacks of kobolds in Goldshire might lead through a twisting turning series of different instances that eventually lets you discover it's all being orchestrated by a demon who has housed himself deep in the bowels of Stormwind, preparing for a massive attack on the surrounding lands. Thus there could be various instances that might allow 10th, 30th, 50th, and 70th level players all to participate on different leveled instances in the same area.

So the above can keep more world areas alive and active but does that really make the world dynamic? Not really and I think something along the lines of what Charles mentioned about Asheron Call would be great. Again the problem is that even the most minor changes can cause dramatic repercussions on the surrounding area. For example, if an entire small town of NPCs got captured and it became barren for a month, what happens with the quests related to that area and the characters who will need to use them? It would mean Blizzard would have to create a whole new slew of alternate quests in a nearby area to help level those people up. That's a lot of work.

How did Asheron's Call handle this Charles or were those NPCs just mainly selling things and not handing out quests? If they were just merchant NPCs, it'd be much easier to do.

Paul's right though. You'd need an MMO with the design mechanics more like EVE Online to create much more of dynamic living breathing world. Be really interesting to see a fantasy MMO game with the same mechanics as EVE.

Posted: Nov 30th 2007 3:18PM (Unverified) said

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Shadowbane...
Still the best game mechanics and user alterable world

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