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Under the Hood

Under The Hood: Factional Warfare

PvP, Under the Hood


As sort of an addendum to the last Under The Hood on player choices and consequences, I present to you this article. I didn't have room to add my thoughts on factional warfare, unfortunately, and it's a system that really deserves an article all its own. Why is this such a major factor in most MMOs? Why is it that most major MMOs today have clearly defined sides? Why are those Horde jerks so mean in World PvP? It all boils down to the classic factional warfare model.

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Under The Hood: Choices and Consequences

Culture, Game Mechanics, Under the Hood


Despite the persistence of most MMOs, there's one thing that the majority of them lack. I am, of course, speaking about consequences for your actions. Sure, you can kill some NPCs for experience and you yourself level up, but what about the world? The NPC just respawns and continues on his merry way, ready to become fodder for another adventurers weapons and skills. You gain some money and items. There's no real tangible effect on the world as a whole. What about exploring the truly excellent part of MMOs, the persistence? What about making a player's choice actually affect the game world?

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Under The Hood: Colored Segregation

Economy, Game Mechanics, Under the Hood


There are a lot of different game mechanics, ranging from the downright simple to the ethereal and hard-to-explain. I've talked a lot about the more subjective stuff, such as lore and paradigms and this and that, but only a few times have I hit the nitty gritty. So this week, I'm taking things to a controversial (not really) place. Judging items based on their color and how fantasy MMOs follow the same color patterns for identification, at least to a certain point.

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Under The Hood: New Beginnings

Game Mechanics, Under the Hood


Part of any MMO is starting from scratch. Whether you just started a new MMO, or a new character, the first few hours playing can determine whether or not you want to keep playing that game or character. So why is it that most MMOs have a lack of early game content? Countless times I have heard players complaining how hard it is to get into a game because the early content is all about grinding. In a sense, though, this ties into last week's article, and the desire of developers to have you keep giving them all your wonderful green money.

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Under The Hood: Stories and Lore

Lore, Opinion, Under the Hood


Part of any game is how the lore of the world interacts with the players although a lot of times the players don't realize it thanks to boring quest descriptions. World of Warcraft has the rich Warcraft universe behind it, Lord of the Rings Online has its own lorebook, and City of Heroes and Villains has a richly detailed history of super-powered beings. So why is it that we don't see the lore at the spotlight all that often?

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Under The Hood: Puzzling Developments

Puzzle Pirates, Game Mechanics, Under the Hood



There's an interesting counterpoint to the increasing amount of games following the traditional MMO mechanics layout. No, I'm not talking about space MMOs and the mechanics they follow. We covered those last week! I'm talking about the gradual seepage of puzzlers into the genre. It's a budding paradigm, and has both failings and virtues. Naturally, it's time to dissect them.

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Under The Hood: The Depths of Space

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Under the Hood


Riding on the coattails of my last article, I realized that it would be a good idea to explore that new frontier. No, not cowboys and Indians. Outer space in MMOs is rapidly becoming the new "generic fantasy continent(s)" that almost every other MMO takes part in. It's also pushing the envelope, in one case letting players practically run your game, and in another cases exploring new and varied game mechanics.

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Under The Hood: Strategy on a Massive Scale

Game Mechanics, Under the Hood, MMORTS


Ask any MMORPG player out there how much time it takes to play their game of choice, and the answers will range from the incredibly long to the delightfully short. And they will almost always be measured in how long it takes for you to level (one hour, one day, one year, etc). But real-time strategy games don't have any dependable way of measuring player level, and still need to keep the player playing for a long time.

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Under The Hood: Player Economics 101

Economy, Game Mechanics, Under the Hood


One of the more contentious points of an MMO is how it treats its economy. The average MMO runs the gamut of no real economy to speak of (besides vendors and drops), to a fully player-run economy such as the one in EVE Online, and everywhere in between (the middle point seems to be crafting and auction houses). So which is best. Well, if the EVE players and, by association, elite-like players in general are to be believed. It's the player-run economy.

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Under The Hood: Character Customization

Game Mechanics, Under the Hood


One of the biggest complaints about Tabula Rasa (as well as one of my personal issues with the game) was the lack of impact character customization had on your actual character. More and more players are putting stock into a large amount of customization options, wishing to look, move, and sound different from their herd of fellow players. When a game, such as Tabula Rasa, ignores this vital aspect of the social experience of MMOs, they garner a lot of criticism. Especially from very vocal British expatriates.

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Under The Hood: Free For Now

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Under the Hood


There is a veritable glut of free-to-play MMOs, both in development and on the market. This much is certain. It especially originates around the Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, and China. And some of the smart designs of these free-to-play games are gradually working their way into more mainstream, American and European MMOs. But how do these games stay in business? And how do they relate to the traditional design of monthly fees?

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Under The Hood: Running Out Of Time

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Under the Hood


It's very debatable, but the biggest investment into any MMO is time. It's one thing to just pay to play the game, as there are several per-month services you can pay for, such as cable television, or car insurance, or sometimes simple things like a book club. But no normal service, however, require both the time and monetary investment like an MMO does. They are designed from the ground up to be full of grinding, time-wasting, and slow experience gain. But why is that?

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Under The Hood: Going Live

Culture, Game Mechanics, Lore, Under the Hood, Roleplaying


Live events. Where developer interacts with players. Traditionally, this has been a pretty contested battlefield, ranging from forums, to chat rooms, to game masters. Where it really comes together, however, is in the classic legacy of live events, where developers and game masters interact with the players in-game. But not only that, they assist in furthering the story, or fleshing out the game world. But where did live events come from?

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Under The Hood: The Ouroboros System

City of Heroes, City of Villains, Game Mechanics, Quests, Under the Hood


In most MMOs, once you hit a certain level, quests from before you hit that level turn useless and defunct. This sort of mechanic keeps players from going back and experiencing old stories because they leveled too fast, and really detracts from the overall feel of a game. What if I wanted to go back and play old quests (World of Warcraft, I'm looking right at you) and get some reward for them? Well, thankfully, City of Heroes/Villains has just implemented the Ouroboros System to allow you to go back and play previous missions you couldn't. But how is this going to affect the industry?

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Under The Hood: Pseudo-MMOs, part two

Game Mechanics, Under the Hood


I realized in my last article I promised to explore the viability of pseudo-MMOs as an expanding market, but it appears I will have to renege on that pledge. I've been getting a veritable glut of the names of games that incorporate MMO-style play in a distinctly non-MMO structure or environment. So instead, here is a brief exploration of the Massive Single-player Offline, or MSO, market, as well as a few online games which share MMO elements.

The one which absolutely fits every single criteria for an MMO except for online play (and a rare few others) is Final Fantasy XII. This game, like no other, incorporates MMO-style play into an expansive and engaging single-player environment. Friendly NPCs, hunting quests, main story quests, instanced environments (monsters respawn after leaving and reentering a zone), real-time combat, non-random encounters (you see it, you fight it), and a distinct waypoint system. It's best described as the solo player's MMO.

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