So, I’ve started playing World of Warcraft again. In large part to play with a couple of friends. The wife and I have been playing a couple of weeks now, but we’ve yet to actually play with the friends we came to join. You see, they started before us and as such they are about ten or so levels ahead. We have been trying to catch up, but since they keep playing also we essentially only succeed in keep the gap consistent.
Another friend of ours decided to join us too. A little later than us. He’s about ten or so levels behind us and in similar fashion he is trying to catch up but is really only keeping the gap consistent.
People keep telling me that it’ll be okay when we hit the level cap, which will only take a couple of months (or so they tell me). For the moment, the wife and I are splitting our time between some characters to try and slow ourselves down a bit, which will let the man behind us catch up but lets the people in front of us get further away.
I really dislike this, and it happens in every game. Well, not in EVE. Whenever I get into discussions about class based or skill based systems, after going back and forth for a long while I always end up settling on the fact that either system works and either can be better and that it all depends on the quality of the system. But one tangent that always emerges is that I wish less MMOs were level based.
I understand that, in general, people like levels, because it’s an easy way to measure progress and be rewarded. Ding! But levels divide your players, which can be good (spreading them out over different level appropriate areas) and bad (you now have to deal with special coding for any PvP interactions around the power increases levels provide and prevention of power leveling, etc). In my opinion, games need to find other ways to reward people, and to separate power from what is essentially time played. In EVE, it doesn’t matter if you’ve played for 5 years or 5 months, once you get into a ship the only thing that matters are the skills related to that ship. And a 5 month player can kick the ass of a 5 year player given the right ships and situation. But when was the last time a level 15 killed a level 80 in WoW? Never? Is it because the level 80 is better or because he’s been around longer? Neither actually, it’s because the game doesn’t allow people of that sort of disparity to fight in most cases because they are well aware of the futility of the position of the level 15 player.
We need an alternative to levels/time defining power in fantasy games. And we need ways for people to play together no matter how long they’ve been playing without starting over.
Eric over at Elder Game put up a good post about why skill based systems are bad (or at least, not to be undertaken lightly or by fledgling designers… like me). Dig through my archive here and you’ll see me go back and forth on the subject of skills versus classes.
In Eric’s post, he uses EVE as an example, and the game is mentioned in most of the comments there. And it got me thinking…
EVE looks like a skill based game. It has all the markers of one. You have a list of skills and you can train any skill you want, making powerful combinations or gimping yourself by choosing things that don’t work together, as long as you have the prerequisites for that skill. But, as I’ve noted on a number of occasions, what I like most about the design of EVE is that ultimately your character matters less than your ship.
In EVE, if you have level 5 in Frigates and level 5 in missiles and a slew of other skills, those don’t matter at all if you are currently flying a mining rig outfitted with only mining lasers. Despite being able to choose and learn any skill, EVE is actually a class based game with talent trees. Your ship is your class, and the modules you can outfit it with are your talent trees. Certain ships are designed for certain types of play. You wouldn’t take a giant hauling/mining rig into a dogfight even if you did load it with weapons because the ship isn’t designed for fighting. It would be like trying to play a priest as a tank in most MMOs. Doable? Sure, with the right items, plan and situation, but it isn’t the best option by far.
At best, EVE is a highly templated skill based game, but if you play the game entirely as skill based without ship considerations it quickly becomes unsustainable from a character stand point as you are gaining skills willy nilly that aren’t improving your ability to either a) fly the ship you have better or b) progress you toward flying a different ship that fits your play style better.
Even after reading follow ups by Ysharros and Psychochild and the comments on all three posts, I still think that EVE’s sort of gear controlled skill based system is the way I would go if I were to make my own MMO, largely because I really dislike permanent decisions in games that force me to create alternate character to experience new play styles. Rift by Trion is attempting to bridge a gap here by allowing archetypes of warrior, rogue, mage and priest to build and maintain several sets of souls (skills, talents, etc) that actually can radically change the way the archetype plays. If that works, it might open the door for someone to try fantasy version of EVE where you can have any skills you want but are constrained in what matter by what gear you are wearing when you leave town. And that’s a game I definitely want to play.
Update: Another voice in the wilderness, Rampant Coyote.
for being better than I expected it to be
Eddie Murphy was once a foul mouthed comedian. He used to make rated R movies. But a few years back he stumbled into a gold mine of family oriented Disney films. Meet Dave is another one.
Honestly, I went into this movie expecting it to be a pile of crap, or at least another bland family film that I knew would make money but wouldn’t interest me at all. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. Meet Dave was funny, genuinely funny. Sort of a mix between Galaxy Quest and Starman, it is about aliens who travel to Earth in a giant space ship that looks like a human. This is because they are about an inch tall, so the human shaped ship also doubles as an android allowing them to move through the population unnoticed. They have come because they are planning to suck the oceans dry and take all the salt in order to save their own world. Of course, on the way to destroying our planet, they learn that maybe we aren’t so bad and might just be worth saving.
Anyway, I enjoyed it… I don’t think I would ever pay $10 to see it in the theater, but I would absolutely throw it in the rental queue on Netflix.
Last year’s attempt to participate in the NaNoWriMo did not go so well. I’m hoping this year goes better. I don’t have any more unmarried brothers, I can’t afford any vacations, the open projects at work don’t look like they are going to surge, so this may just be my year.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, which story I want to write, and I’m still floundering, unfocused. So, here provided is a list of the things I am thinking about doing, cast your vote.
- The Jumpgate War: In the future we have finally discovered how to travel between distant star systems, in two pieces, the jump ship and the jump gate. The ships are large hulking vessels, expensive and requiring monstrous amounts of power to jump the ship across space. There are very few of them. Once they find a suitable planet, the crew sets down and installs a jump gate and dials home, with a source at both ends the gates are far easier to use. The nations of Earth (and its nearby planets) have their own goals in the universe, and it turns out that we are not alone.
- Superhero Harry Potter: Those three words are the easiest way to describe my idea without spending pages to lay it out. A girl, the daughter of superheroes, comes into her own abilities, has to deal with High School and maintain her secret identity.
- “A Willful Destruction of Life”: This is a very odd idea, because it is no idea at all, it is just a title… the thought here is “Come up with an interesting title, then create a story that fits it.”
- American Apocalypse: A story about the US after terrorists detonate a nuclear device in Washington D.C. on inauguration day, essentially wiping out the political side of the federal government.
- Land of the Fairer Sun: A fantasy tale about the return of incarnations of forgotten gods, the rise of a brand new religion of a single god and the kingdom caught inbetween.
I’m also trying to put together a writing group this year to meet on a semi-regular basis, probably at my house, so we can cheer each other on and maybe keep each other from quitting.
15 days until go time…
I have been playing EVE Online again. This time a bit more aggressively that before. I’m doing more combat, and only doing mining as an AFK task when I have better things to do. One thing I really enjoy about the game now is that they have added more agent missions to the game since I last played. Before it was either “Do this supply run.” or “Go here and kill a few pirates.” Now the missions have a little story.
One of them, and one of the more infamous ones, is Worlds Collide. Two cartels are fighting and a supply ship has been caught in the middle. They want you to rescue the crew from the disabled ship. And most people will tell you that this mission is nearly impossible. Which is it, if you get it “too soon”.
However, one of the main reasons people find it so hard is that the mission is actually a departure from the usual stuff you do in the game. Even with a little more story, many missions are still of the “take this there” or “kill these guys” types. So when you are told the story of two cartels at war and the disabled ship, most people’s first thought is to kill them all and save the crew of the disabled vessel. But if you read the story, if you pay attention to the details, your contact tells you that concerning the two warring cartels… they don’t care, they’d sooner just sit back and watch them destroy each other, except for that stuck crew.
When you approach the mission point, the first one, you find yourself with two gates to choose from and a half dozen or so fighters on each side. The key here though is that you are between the gates, and while the gates are 45km away, the fighting factions are 90km away. Its a race. You could fight them, but you don’t have to. You can just run to the gate and warp to the next area.
Either gate you take warps you into a shit-storm. One side is admittedly easier than the other, but both sides are still rough. With the frigate that most people are likely to be piloting at the point in the game where they get this mission, fighting isn’t really an option. In fact, surviving at all isn’t that high on the probability list either. But, while you do warp into a hornets’ nest, you also are within 16km of the next gate. Again, you don’t have to fight. Just defend and run.
If you make the next jump, the final area is your disabled vessel with about a dozen fighters flying around… but these aren’t the rough customers of the last area, in fact, these hijackers are the kind that practically explode if you breathe on them too hard. Make your moves, draw them out, fight them, its a fairly easy win.
And that’s essentially what your agent tells you to do… rescue the crew, forget the cartels.
One of my favorite missions so far. Strategy over brute force.
It seems odd t’ say that thar be a seedy underbelly t’ Puzzle Pirates, but I be jus’ nay ready t’ believe that so many swabbies be actively roleplayin’. This underbelly I speak o’ be greed.
When ye get on a ship t’ job an’ pillage, th’ expectation, I would think, be that ye would hit th’ high seas until either th’ rum runs ou’ or th’ hold be so full o’ booty that th’ water threatens t’ flood in through th’ port holes. However, ever’ time a ship sets sail wi’ me aboard, after we`ve attacked an’ beaten one vessel some o’ th’ other shipmates begin clammorin’ fer the’r share o’ th’ booty. Now, booty be nay normally split until we return t’ port, so ye end up wi’ half th’ boat demandin’ we return t’ port after one successful swashbuckle.
On the’r part, this be very short sighted. Fer one, if ye feel th’ need t’ leave, ye`ll still get a share o’ th’ loot when ‘t gets split later. Ye dasn’t be havin’ t’ be present. Th’ other, an’ more pertinant issue, be that when yer crew be sixty ruffians, an swabbie split o’ e’en a haul o’ 50,000 pieces o’ eight will only be about 500 pieces, maybe a wee more or perhaps a wee less.
Th’ irritatin’ thin’ be that these swabbies jus’ will nay shut up. Cryin’ like infants they`ll keep demandin’ we port an’ split th’ cash, swashbuckle after swashbuckle, an’ if ye know anythin’ about th’ way th’ puzzles work ye know what that means. If ye dasn’t, well, if ye be talkin’ then ye aren`t workin’. So, get back t’ work, ye barnacles!
I command you, if you have any interest in seeing Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, then do so in the theater. A good theater. Drive many miles if you must.
I will admit, when I first heard of this film I though to myself, "A movie about sailing and boats." But as I learned more of the story, an English ship sent out to sink, burn or capture a particular French ship finds that the French of in fact hunting them, it got more interesting. Still, even after seeing some previews and scenes and interviews with cast, the movie didn’t really call to me.
However, the movie is fantastic. And as the title of this little review suggests, the cannon battles between the two ships litterally rocked the theater. This is definately one of those films that just won’t be the same at home…
… at least until I can afford that home THX theater.