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Endgame

The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part three

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

There's a climb we can make, if we try.
Today marks the last entry in my better models for MMO endgame progression series, the follow-up to my series on why MMO studios should abandon raiding. And that means providing two more possible models along with something of a thesis statement. But it also means that at this point I'm far more willing to wander off into the woods with these ideas. The first part had slight twists on standard formulas, the second had ideas that was a bit further afield, and this one features two ideas that are still almost entirely unrefined.

More specifically, today's concepts are more about tackling the very principle that progress has to be tied past a certain point to things that you get. You earn a thing and then you're better. But there's no reason that progress can't be oriented the other way, with the gear (etc.) just being a gating mechanism for your actual forward motion.

The funny part is that a lot of these systems aren't really at odds with one another; they can coexist without too much trouble. But then, that's the nature of the beast.

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The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part two

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Crafting

Yes, there must be a better way.  And there are better ways.
If you read yesterday's Soapbox, the first in my Better models for MMO endgame progression series, with a fair bit of awareness, you probably noticed that the models I presented were, well... safe. Normal. Not too far outside of the realm of what we already have in some games, in other words. Oh, sure, they were functional and expanded compared to what you normally see in games, and they weren't reliant on high-end raiding, but they were still derived from the same space, which is part of the point.

But that's not nearly as far as the rabbit hole goes. So let's start moving further beyond what's already common. Let's start heading into stranger territory.

As before, the models presented here are not super-refined balanced labyrinths of systems; they're the outline, the skeletons, the fundamentals of how these concepts could work. And even at this stage, they're able to go in directions you don't find in numerous MMO endgames. So let's jump right into it, shall we?

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The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part one

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

I don't think the all-bear model is sustainable, though.
Last month, my three-part Soapbox series on reasons studios should abandon raiding as the core mechanic of their MMOs produced no shortage of comments. One of the persistent refrains from the pro-raid side was, as expected, "if you're so smart, why aren't you proposing alternatives?!"

The obvious answer would be that it wasn't the point of the articles. The series was about reasons to drop raiding, after all. But it's also not as simple as "here's what games should be doing" because there are countless alternatives. Tons of alternatives. I can think of at least six off the top of my head.

So for this new series, let's consider models that don't rely upon raiding as an endgame progression model. Some of these are close cousins to endgame models found in games currently on the market, some of them are not, and none of them has been designed with fine details or lore or what-not in mind. They're drag-and-drop, as it were. The point here is explaining the multitude of options available for an MMO's endgame that don't rely upon raiding for their focus. Today's article will cover the first two of six I have in mind.

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The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV's big fanfest reveals

Fantasy, Classes, Expansions, Endgame, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log, Subscription

This is, what, five whole months away?  I can't wait that long!
Christmas came early for the forward-looking Final Fantasy XIV player this year. I know some people are upset at the fact that there were more revelations in the Japanese fan festival than in the ones in Vegas or London, but the timing is different. (I'd also point out that the expansion was announced in Las Vegas.) We've gone from having only a dim view of what's coming to having a pretty clear picture of what awaits through the next few month.

One of the things that awaits is, of course, endless yelling about Machinist. Because boy.

So let's start unpacking the stuff we learned from Tokyo. I say "start" because there is no way to get everything in one column, certainly not with deadlines and other considerations to take center stage. It's going to be a few months, but there's a lot to chew on just about 2.5, even if we ignore all of the expansion stuff, which I have no intention of doing.

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WildStar's next big update and holiday surprise

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, Endgame, News Items, WildStar, Dungeons, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Now if you'd jut say that Glory is available from shiphands, we'd be moving somewhere!
The first major WildStar update of 2015 is available on the test servers now. Yes, there's a little time before it actually goes live for everyone. Creative Director Chad Moore took the opportunity today to explain to the community everything contained within the new update, starting with the addition of two new dungeons (the Protostar Academy and the Ultimate Protogames), a new Shiphand mission, and the addition of veteran-level Shiphand missions that can still be cleared solo or in a group as you'd like.

This update also includes new housing options, cosmetic options for characters (including the ability to edit your appearance post-character creation), and the addition of the new Glory currency for completing dungeons and raids, which can be exchanged for high-end equipment. Last but not least, it's the update that includes the long-discussed drop of the Datascape raid down to 20 players, making it less of a challenge to assemble a roster for this content. While it remains to be seen how well the update actually plays, it looks to be filled with a number of positive changes for the game.

In other WildStar news today, the studio is running holiday promotion during December. "Carbine wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and spread some cheer by giving out 12 Days of Boom Boxes," wrote Community Manager Tony Rey yesterday. "Everyone that has logged into WildStar during the month of December (12/1-12/15) will receive these sweet little bundles of potential."

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2014 report card

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), Expansions, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2014 report card
In 1996, Richard Bartle published a study of MMO gamers that eventually led to his 2003 book Designing Virtual Worlds, which was at the time the de facto MMO genre's design bible. Of course, this was before World of Warcraft hit the scene, but many of the principles Bartle laid out still hold true. In fact, if you don't believe me, take it yourself: GamerDNA still has an online test based on the Bartle study.

Bartle categorized players based on their interests in the game; I would like to do the same this year as I did last year for Star Wars: The Old Republic since it's a good way to measure the game against the average expectations of certain types of players. Bartle divides us all into Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers. I'll explain what each of those means as I discuss the different aspects of SWTOR. If you know what that means and so you have a point of reference, my profile is SEAK, which means that I interact with all types of players.

For fun, I've added a grade-card-style of rating system: A, B, C, D, or F. Just remember the information I give about that score counts for more than the score itself.

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Destiny previews The Dark Below and still offers no raid matchmaking

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Endgame, News Items, Consoles, MMOFPS, Destiny

It'd almost be tragic if people remembered the game existed.
The first expansion to Destiny, The Dark Below, is launching on December 9th. Some players will get new content out of it. That's not editorializing; the official preview of the mechanical changes says outright that the update will bring new content for some and new play mechanics for all. Mechanically, the updates focus around upgrading Exotic equipment, raising character levels to 32, and the addition of Legendary gear that sits below raid equipment and Exotics.

Bungie has also reaffirmed its commitment to not adding in any sort of matchmaking service for the game's raids while praising third-party sites that allow players to find others who wish to take on these raids. This is the equivalent of refusing to own a clock while complimenting your neighbor's sundial. Despite this fact, the developers are aware the demand for this content exists, and the team states it's looking into designing content for this particular audience.

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The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 3

Culture, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Sometimes you just need to cut away the disease.
In parts one and two of this Soapbox miniseries, I tackled four of the reasons the MMO genre should abandon raiding as a central gameplay element, but one key argument has been left out until now: The social aspect of raiding.

Whatever else is true of raiding, it is definitely social. Communities spring up and keep going largely based on that raiding community, to the point that it's easy to assume that everyone in a game's population raids. There are lengthy discussions about raiding, about how to raid, about tips and tricks for clearing raids. The social aspect of raids is what I think has kept them around so long; it's easy for a designer to look at that sort of engagement and see it as vital.

Yet there's more to the story than might be available at a glance, and the social aspect is not without steep costs. Those social elements do not carry the weight of everything else... mostly because they aren't as strong as they appear.

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The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 2

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Time to take on the stock.
In yesterday's Soapbox, I had some things to say about why it's time to dump raiding. I'm writing this before I've seen the comment responses, but I'm willing to bet that a fair amount of angry shouting was involved in the comments because that's what I usually expect. But I wasn't done, as suggested by the whole "part 1" thing in the title header.

For those don't feel like reading the whole thing, the short version is that raiding is too expensive to develop for too small a portion of the players. This is a solid argument, but it's standard: You hear it every time this debate comes up. In some ways, it's the foundation of the argument against raiding beyond the reality that most people say they just don't like raiding.

There's more to be said, though, and there are more serious issues up for discussion. Raiding isn't just expensive in terms of development. It's expensive in lots of ways.

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Here are the tier 17 armor sets non-PUG WoW raiders can loot in Highmaul

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Previews, Endgame, News Items, Subscription

Don't worry, if you're in Mythic, you still get to feel superior to everyone else.  If you get lucky, anyway.
With the first raid of World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor right around the corner, Blizzard has released a preview of the Tier 17 armor sets in all their glory. There are three variants of each set: the Mythic version (which has a unique skin compared to the others), the Heroic version, and the Normal version. Raid Finder raids no longer drop tier sets, thus reducing the overall number of available sets by one from the end of Mists of Pandaria.

Player opinion seems to be somewhat split on whether or not the sets are good matches for the aesthetic of the expansion and the individual classes, as well as the split between the Mythic versions and the other versions of each set. The raid that drops these pieces, Highmaul, will be available starting on December 2nd for Normal and Heroic, with Mythic launching a week later on December 9th.

The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 1

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Sorry, Truce.  You deserve better, but you get this.
Raiding is no longer doing MMOs any favors.

I've compared raiding to open PvP in the past, and the comparison still holds up. It's something that a lot of games developed in response to a specific genre-defining game have featured. But it's not doing those games any favors, and it might be time to take a hard look at this gameplay element that games survive in spite of rather than because of. If we learn nothing else from WildStar's issues when it launched into what should have been an ideal environment, it's that raiding certainly isn't driving players into a game's waiting arms.

But I don't want to just say that and let it roll around on the floor. Let's actually break the argument down across a couple of articles this week. Why does raiding need to shuffle off of the main stage, definitely as the default endgame model, perhaps altogether? I can give you six good reasons.

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EVE Evolved: What does Thera mean for EVE?

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, Lore, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
If you've been keeping up with the recent news updates on EVE Online, you've probably heard about the upcoming Rhea update scheduled for December 9th. This mega patch will introduce the new tech 3 Tactical Destroyer ship class, Sleeper incursions into normal space, hands-on WASD flight controls, and 101 new wormhole systems (including 25 that are limited to small ships). The new wormhole systems have had all of their planets shattered by an as-yet unknown stellar phenomenon, and clues as to what transpired there will be hidden in the rubble. This infusion of new content and story will mark the first time the wormhole storyline and gameplay have been significantly expanded in over four years.

Each of the new shattered star systems is guaranteed to have at least one outgoing wormhole leading to normal space at all times, increasing the likelihood that pirates will catch you exploring or farming them. And since these systems won't have any in-tact moons, you won't be able to put up a permanent starbase to retreat to if hostiles appear. I'm pretty excited for exploring this new lawless frontier, but it's a unique shattered star system called Thera that I'm most looking forward to finding. Thera will be the first and only wormhole system to have fully kitted NPC stations and will serve as neutral ground for anyone who wants to live there. It's been described as the Mos Eisley of EVE, a permanent home to pirates, PvP corps, and smugglers looking to make some quick ISK.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the Thera system could revolutionise EVE for a lot of players and where the EVE storyline could go as a result.

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WoW previews Highmaul raid, kicks off anniversary events today

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Lore, Endgame, News Items, Dungeons, Subscription

And this time, slightly less than a year between updates!
Are you ready to start in on the raid cycle of Warlords of Draenor? Yes you are; that's what you do here. You can start by checking out the latest World of Warcraft development blog that shows off Highmaul in all its glory. The raid's release will be staggered into four parts, with Normal and Heroic releasing on December 2nd, Mythic and the first part of the Raid Finder difficulty releasing on December 9th, and the final two wings being added to the Raid Finder on December 16th and January 6th.

Highmaul contains seven bosses, three of which are optional and two of which are mandatory. Players will take on Kargath Bladefist to kick off the raid experience, while the ultimate encounter leads players against Imperator Mar'gok, the pinnacle of ogre power in the region. You can also take the time to play around with the game's new Twitter hashtag campaign while you wait. That won't help you with the raid at all, really, but it will help pass the time.

In other WoW news, Blizzard will be kicking off its previously announced anniversary events today. Both the 40-man, level 100 version of Molten Core and the Southshore vs. Tarren Mill battleground will become available to players through the raid finder and battlemaster queue, respectively. Everyone who logs in will receive a molten corgi pet as a happy birthday present from the team. The events end January 6th.

The Nexus Telegraph: Is WildStar's raid size change too late?

Sci-Fi, Endgame, Opinion, WildStar, Dungeons, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

You cannot play potential.  You cannot enjoy what could be fun.  You can only play the game that there is, and a pile of wasted potential does not make a game worth caring about.
Very few people are going to contest that scaling WildStar's biggest raid down to 20 people is a good move. Some will, yes, but when 400 players are working on content five months after release, that's a good sign that it's not doing the most basic job of getting people to play it. Bringing Datascape's size down is an indisputable good thing.

The question, of course, isn't about that. It's about whether it's too small a change too late in the game.

Make no mistake, this is a change that is significant enough to merit an announcement, but it's one that just missed the big patch we finally received not too long ago. (My initial reaction to that is middling, for the record, neither bad nor really a break from form or something that justifies its long delay.) I would be surprised if we see this change actually live in the game before next year. And it's a change of more conceptual significance than anything else because unless someone very quietly managed to clear Datascape without telling anyone, the end of that raid has gone unseen.

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WildStar is scaling Datascape down to 20 players

Sci-Fi, Endgame, News Items, WildStar, Dungeons, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Yeah, it's all right to just comment with LOL to this one.
WildStar brought 40-player raids back to the forefront. The game is now pushing said raid size back away from the forefront, as the game's 40-person raid pinnacle is getting scaled down to 20 players. The official post on the subject notes that the number of people entering was far too low and the attrition rate far too high, so the raid is being rebalanced (but not nerfed) to account for having only half of its originally designed population inside.

Several reasons are cited for the changed, such as the game's combat working best with a smaller number of people, the lowered demands on computers, and a consistent raid size for future raid content which will hopefully make guild management easier. While the topic stops shy of saying that the 40-player versions are never coming back, that is certainly the implication. So it'll at least be marginally easier to form a group for Datascape soon if you're able to get through the first raid successfully.

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