Monday, 20 February 2017

The power of memories: a quest for the essence of MMOs

Last week, I was chatting to my friend Rakuno. He was reminiscing why he was going through this "long, weird streak of burning out on MMOs": "after playing MMOs for a while it kind of feels like the road is the same no matter the game", he said. And he has a point. Other than artistic, visual differences and varying lore settings, all MMOs boil down to the same formula: gather experience (level up), gather gear, gather currency... maybe fight some challenging bosses, craft stuff, dress up or decorate your house. There is no definite end goal, no satisfying "You WIN!" button at the end; in fact, there is no end, there are seemingly always more things to do. Indeed, MMOs would be shitty, grindy RPGs, if not for that single defining element: the other people with whom you share this virtual world.
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Friday, 10 February 2017

Drawing diary: January

After finally having finished my new year's card design I didn't have to think about what my next drawing project would be, because Kay of My Open Sketchbook had it all covered. Kay namely came up with a 30 Day botanical drawing challenge, and because I love plants, the decision to participate was easily made.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Artificial versus designed difficulty: a critique on SWTOR's master mode story design

I'm usually not your typical "armchair game designer", as some bloggers jokingly call themselves: I like (or don't like) games as they are and don't have any pretensions of coming up with an original design of my own. However, a discussion I had the other day with Conrad about the newly released master mode (in addition to the available story and veteran mode) for the Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne story in Star Wars: the Old Republic made me think about difficulty design in MMOs.

If you've been listening to Corellian Run Radio last Saturday (and if you're a SWTOR player who is interested in the latest content, I totally recommend the show), you have already heard some critique on the way the difficulty of story chapters is increased between veteran and master mode.* Let me be clear: I'm not saying that master mode is too difficult; what I'm saying is that it's a shame the difficulty is not increased by adding new mechanics, but by simply increasing stats. In other words: by increasing the artificial difficulty.

I didn't have much time to explore this game design term much in CRR's podcast episode, so I am taking the opportunity to do so here, as well as sharing some ideas to improve the experience of master mode chapters. I will try to do so in a way that makes this article relevant for MMO gamers that don't play SWTOR as well, but feel free to ask me anything in the comment section if things aren't clear. Disclaimer: the amount of nerd is strong with this one, so I won't blame you if you happen to fall asleep halfway (though I appreciate it if you wouldn't snore in the comment section).

Friday, 3 February 2017

My to be read pile

This week's Five Fandom Friday topic is - once more - not about gaming: it is about reading. I used to fill my hours reading anything I could get my hands on as a child. At school, we had weekly tasks, and each week I finished them as fast as I could, so I could spend half of Thursday and the whole of Friday reading. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that at university and since I now need to read so much professionally, I don't feel like reading for fun so much anymore. And now there is gaming, too, to distract me. 

Fandom Friday seemed like a good opportunity to look at what books I have laying around that I want to read this year. Turns out it's a very diverse company! I love reading in my native language (Dutch) as well, but somehow I don't have any Dutch books waiting for me at the moment.

Monday, 30 January 2017

LOTRO changes I'd love to see in 2017

In the beginning of the year, I wrote a post called SWTOR changes I'd love to see in 2017. What about the other MMO I play, though, Lord of the Rings Online? At first I decided against writing such a post, because I am sure (contrary to SWTOR) none of my suggestions would see the light of day and that's a depressing thought. But then I read LOTRO Legendarium: My LOTRO wishlist for 2017 on Massively OP and it was so radically different from my own list that I decided to go with it after all.

The Massively OP article suggests some nice quality of life changes, such as a virtue and currency overhaul, that would make life easier for the everyday player. Some proposals will definitely be addressed this year: Standing Stone Games has already revealed that the developers are discussing where to go with the story after Mordor, claiming it's a new beginning for player characters rather than an ending. We also know that player character models will get attention (hopefully with new hairstyles becoming available). However, no pressing gameplay matters were addressed.

In this article, I will feature things I'd love to see changed in LOTRO that are of vital importance to me as an endgame group player. I'm going to keep it simple and restrict myself to three. You are warned: they are absolutely unsexy and not easy to sell to the playerbase (as in "hey guys, look what we're working on now!") - hence I'm not believing they'll ever happen. However, I cannot overstate the impact these three changes would make.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Who is Tyth? The War for Iokath and the Old Gods: SWTOR raid boss speculation

After having focused on storytelling since Knights of the Fallen Empire, the call of SWTOR players for multiplayer content (the "MMO part of SWTOR") in Star Wars: the Old Republic has become stronger and stronger. While the Knights expansions have attracted new players that were looking for a KOTOR experience, many old time players - endgame oriented ones in particular - have left the game in search for new multiplayer challenges. It is this MMO focused playerbase that the SWTOR dev team addresses with their latest announcement: SWTOR will release a new raid this year.

As an endgame fuelled gamer, I am thrilled by this news. It means that the year has barely started and my number one wish of SWTOR changes I'd love to see this year has already come true! Even better news is that we won't have to wait until the end of the year. You can listen to everything the developers had to say about the upcoming content at their January 26th devstream.

Of course I don't want any stone left unturned, so in this post I will get you up to date with the news, and then I will share some of the suspicions I have about the bosses we may come to fight in this upcoming raid.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Drawing diary: December

It's time for the first Drawing Diary entry of 2017! I know it's the new year and all, but for this one we will briefly travel back in time to the final weeks of 2016. Drawing in December revolved all about that one thing I had to make: the new year's card (dun dun dun). After all, I promised you guys I would send you one if you signed up for my card swap! Unfortunately, that horrible thing happened that typically occurs when you ' have to' do something rather than just do it for fun without pressure: I suffered from a creative block - I had no idea what I wanted to put on my card. Eventually, I forced myself to sit down and draw all the nerdy creatures that I encountered in 2016.