Of MMOunts and Water Allergies, or "Hey, where'd your sheep go?"

So there the nugget was, doing Trade Runs in Forsaken World, while a faintly bemused nugget-boy watched from behind his book. The nugget-boy, you see, is not a gamer.

Forsaken World Trade Runs in a PvE server are extended run-around-a-lot quests you do to get rep, which you can then exchange for tradeable gold.

They are an incredibly mindless MMO version of a TradeWars style planet-hopping trading game, and go something like this:

1) Get Trade Run quest from Merchant NPC
2) Buy stuff from Merchant NPC
3) Open map, click on map location of next merchant NPC, let computer autorun your toon
4) Read a book, go afk and make a sammich, watch a movie in the other window, or - in this particular nuggety case - fall over on your side like a beached whale, and stare rather blankly at nothing
5) Repeat until you've gotten the maximum amount of currency allowed in that run
6) Hand in to Merchant NPC
7) Do it all again

Showing incredible restraint, nugget-boy managed to wait until the third or fourth instance of nugget falling over on her side, and lying beside her laptop like a blankly staring beached whale before asking, 'Umm... what are you doing?'

Nugget: I'm waiting for it to autorun to the next trading post. By itself. I did mention a bot could play this game.

Nugget-boy: I... see...

Continuing with business, Nugget falls over a-la beached whale a couple more times, only this time, nug-toon is dismounted because she decided to ride into a silly body of water.

Now, as all we MMO players know, MMOunts are generally highly allergic to water. There is absolutely nothing surprising about a large sheep vanishing upon contact with a small body of water.

Except if you don't play MMOs.

"Hey," quoth nugget-boy, "Where did your sheep go?"

Nugget: Uhhh *thinks furiously about how to explain what, on a fresh look, seems like utter insanity*

Nugget: *DING!* It's allergic to water!

Nugget-boy: O.O But where did it GO?

Nugget: It uh - it hid in my bag!

At this point, hysterical giggles are starting to bubble up from beneath the batter, but the nugget bravely manages to suppress them.

Nugget-boy: Your sheep fits in your bag?

Nugget: Uh, yes. It's allergic to water so it jumps in my...heh bag... and once I'm on dry land I just... haha... take it out again because you know it really fits so well in my... heeheehahahHOHOHOHO!

By this point, I've infected Nugget-boy with teh giggles, and we're both laughing hysterically at the ludicrousness of the whole thing.

Maybe this is why MMO-wise at least, this is usually done in the company of other fellow MMO-folk, or alone.

Still... Nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to inspire a healthy dose of absurdigiggles, woot!

Forsaken World - Names Have Magical Powerz!

Forsaken World's priest class is a sad example of how dev confusion with class roles, and naming classes 'priest', 'cleric', 'non-ninja monk', 'medic' (or any other name players tend to automagically associate with healers if they've a) played any of this sort of genre at all, or b) played D&D), influences class perception.

Or more specifically, it's a negative example of how to handle a class that has three talent paths or specs, with one of them focused on healing, and the other two being no-holds-barred DPS of DOOM!

Because that's what priests in FW are. Two of the trees are flat out damage dealers, one more PvP focused, one more PvE focused. They are not inferior to other damage dealers in any way (once high level enough and people get their skills blah blah), and they do, in fact, have the highest Damage Per Hit (DPH) of all the classes, if not the highest DPS.

If FW priests don't spec for healing, they are NOT healers. They heal for about as much as an even-levelled potion.

And yet the LFG tool classes them as healers, no matter what. Main healers, to boot.

Silly devs are silly!

This is where I conclude that the problem is the word 'healer', and how people (including designers) define healers. What they've done is put a Franciscan, a Templar, and a Dominican together and said, 'Wut! They're all priests!' Well yes, but they're not all healers. And that's the problem with the LFG system, and player perception once they see a word that they associate with 'HAELZ!'

The LFG does this with vampires as well, classifying them as healers, but here's where an odd thing happens. And here's where player perception straitjacketing class roles due to poor naming really comes to the fore.

You see, vampires, exactly like priests, have one healing spec and two damage ones. The healing spec is a main healing spec. It is on par with a priest main healing spec. It is, without any argument, a main healer.

The other two specs are damage dealers, very competent ones - again with a PvP and PvE emphasis.

Yet no one in instances EXPECTS vampires to be specced into the healing tree.

LFG with only vamp for heals, and the vamp isn't heal-specced:
Ugh! Crazy system! It really needs fixing. Sorry guys. Yeah understood, it's cool.

LFG with only priest for heals, and the priest isn't heal-specced:

... and so on -_-

Most amusingly, the ONLY class where all three specs are some kind of party support with low to average DPS, and high to average party support is the bard. Which the system classifies as 'support healer only'. Go figure.

So all those ancient superstitions about Namez having POWWAH? >.> They're right.

flickering colours » On Achievements: External Motivations

Videogames are a unique kind of game in that they can justify their own rule systems with fiction. Juul calls this coherence. An obvious task for this kind of fiction is motivating the player, which usually occurs by assuming an identification with the primary avatar, and motivating that character with fictional circumstances. Essentially, since the player is play-acting as the avatar, they take on that avatar’s motivations as their own. More traditional or classic games don’t bother. They take it as a given that they player wants to play, and say “If you want to play, then you’ll accept that this is winning and this is losing,” among other things. This is fine, this is how sports work: there is no objective reason for putting a ball through a hoop, we just do it because there are people over there trying to stop us doing it, and we want to show we’re better at this than they are!! The problem comes when we mix and match these kinds of motivating systems.

Fascinating stuff - never quite looked at the 'story' part of videogames from this angle before. That and lots more!

Forsaken World - Give me an honest whore over a fickle courtesan any day

Soooo having gotten past level 40 on my vampire chick, I've finally encountered the portion of FW that I'd been wondering about since I started.

PWE, as I've said before, is absolutely rapacious about slurping money out of your wallet - and they're very good at it. Which has had me feeling slightly uneasy since I started playing FW - this is all TOO reasonable, TOO possible to play... for free.

But now, after level 40, I've found the Pay2Win aspect.

And I like it. Yes, I like it.

I like it because it doesn't affect me at all, which renders FW effectively, truly F2P for me. It means I can spend money on fluff when I feel like it. It means that whatever cash I want to drop on FW won't be to counter the OMG PLZ LEMME SKIP THE GRIND PLZ.

Out with it nugget, how does the P2W aspect actually work!

Well, once you hit L40, you get to do two quests in the Arena of Souls in Lunagrant Forest - the area, not the instance. After you've completed those two quests, you go back to your class trainer, and you'll be able to train Masteries and Resistances. You'll need 15 gold (not soulgold, gold) on hand in order to complete the next quest - train a Mastery or Resistance level to 5 - but this quest is effectively a free 5 levels of either Mastery or Resistance, since upon completion, you're refunded with 15g.

Each level of Mastery or Resistance up to L20 increases the power of what you train by 1%. After that, according to forums (the game's not been out that long in English), it becomes 2%, presumably at L30 it's 3%, etc.

Masteries and Resistances increase your base damage for that given mastery/resistance independent of gear. They're a direct buff to your character. And in a fight which presumes gear and class are equal, the one with the higher mastery will always win. Hello, Pay2Win!

The pricing is as follows:

L1 Training: 1g
L2 Training: 2g
L3 Training: 3g
L4 Training: 4g
L5 Training: 5g (By which point you've spent 15g)
L6 Training: 6g
L7 Training: 7g ... and so on.

FW's mechanics control the 'base' worth of gold through another quest series involving a cash shop item. That cash shop item (Mercury Statuette) costs US$0.50 (20 Eyrda leaves), and, if you aren't lazy and go off and do a quest with it, will return 5 - 6g in well... gold. If you are lazy, it only returns 3g, but it's immediate and you don't have to do anything. Now, presuming that you aren't lazy, and you do your quests (which have a daily cap, even though they're associated / only possible with a cash shop item), you'll get an average of 5g per statuette, IF you buy the statuettes from the cash shop. (Players tend to sell the statuettes for anywhere from 3g 50s to 4g.) So what this means is...

L6 Training: 6g (US$0.60)
L7 Training: 7g (US$0.70)
L8 Training: 8g (US$0.80)
L9 Training: 9g (US$0.90)
L10 Training: 10g (US$1.00 - and by which point you've spent US$4)

But that's not really very much nuggeet! And that's true. At L10 it certainly isn't very much. But (I believe, not sure yet) masteries go up to L100. And there are ?8? masteries and ?8? resistances. Consider that the pattern continues, and I'm not sure that L20 = 20g, it may be 40g - basically no one who's trained that high has posted stats on it yet, so it's all up for speculation. But with that in mind, this begins to look awfully like the classic Wheat and Chessboard problem. Only the wheat is coming directly from your wallet.

Nugget, you crazy thing, you LIKE this?!?

Well, yes, I do. You see, I'm playing on Storm, which is a PvE server. No world PvP, all PvP is duels or guild 'wars' - which are consensual affairs. I don't have the mindset where I need to 'keep up' with other people - I just need to keep up with *myself* to an extent where I am happy. And that whole thing about the whales in F2P models applies - I really don't care what the whales do, as long as they do the spending that makes PWE say yes, yes, we shall continue this, it is indeed viable - leaving me able to potter around the rest of the game.

If you care about being the biggest kid on the block, and care that it isn't 'fair' that people can buy power, you won't like this. If you play on a PvP server, you probably won't like this (PvP kinda goes out the window once you are PvPing with your wallet). But as far as I'm concerned, I don't care if someone spends US$100 to kill mobs faster than I do. All gear in FW is Bind on Equip, so though you could say, 'But eventually it will inflate until you HAVE to cash shop to do instances!' well... that's not true. You can just buy the gear. And again, the whales principle applies. And really, there aren't all that many whales out there.

What's more, if this works out, it means that FW will NOT constantly drain my Willpower Resource to not buy stuff to make the grind less horrible - precisely because there's a steady stream of income for PWE from masteries and resistances.

And what's best of all, to me, is that this system is honest and transparent. You get exactly what you pay for. You don't play lottery after bloody lottery at $0.50 in the HOPE that you'll perhaps get a stat upgrade.

Pay2Win - long live the honest whore.

Forsaken World - Nugget's New MMO Toy in a Nutshell (1st week review)

I haz new MMO toy!

After a week or so of playing Forsaken World, including checking out their cash shop and comparing prices, I've come to the conclusion that if you're currently playing WoW (or DDO, or LotRO, or EQ, or Aion, or... well... you get the idea), and want to tour other MMO places, but aren't really looking for something new, Forsaken World is just the ticket.

It's the least rapacious PWE game I've played, and it's very much tailored for the English-speaking market, which is reflected in every aspect of the game. Most of PWE's games are obviously developed for China, because that's where they always launch first - which is entirely reasonable considering China is their home base, then adapted for English-speaking markets. Forsaken World, however, was obviously developed from the ground up with the English-speaking market in mind, with nods to China, with full intentions of trying to grab a substantial piece of the English micro transactional pie. (I refuse to call it Free2Play, since that term covers so many styles.) And from 1 week of FW, I think they have a pretty good chance of succeeding.

FW is the first PWE game where I'm saying, "Hmm... This is good enough and I'll play it for long enough that I WANT to spend 15 dollars on it this month, because I'll get as much worth as a subscription. But... I don't know what I want to buy." All the other PWE games that I've tried are NOT like that.

What's more, FW has some interesting mechanics in and of itself for the classes. Unique mechanics - which is why I said it's sort of a WoW clone - but with different classes. For instance, the bard class actually *gasp* uses a rudimentary form of *GASP* music, actual music. Or, well, chords, anyway. XD Which is not the same as music, but still... Basically, you can play sets of different chords to trigger different effects, and the chords really are accurate. For example, C and D sound like C and D based chords. It's really quite cute. So, er yes, this is the new toy!

So while FW is not really something new - Guild Wars is something new, Eve Online is something new, Atlantica Online is something new. Forsaken World? Nahhhhhhh... But it is VERY polished, and PWE even wrote the quests all properly in English this time. (Most of PWE's quests, if you READ them, are bizarre when rendered in English - but in FW, are properly done.)

PWE is also experimenting with a triple currency system - important in a F2P game - which I've never seen done by another studio before. It's very impressive actually. It's what makes FW much more interesting (and playable) to me than the other PWE games I've played. Basically, there's your cash shop currency (which you can exchange for in game gold); there's in-game gold, which can be traded between players, is gotten from a very few quests, and is limited in circulation (at this point) because the control of the creation of it is intentionally highly limited - inflation is always a killer in F2P games because money in this genre of games literally falls from the sky; and the third currency - which makes the whole thing intriguing - soul coins - which are quest reward gold that you can ONLY use on NPCs and cannot ever be traded with other players. It's the third currency that holds all 3 together, and makes FW really playable.

In other F2P games from PWE newbieness is a horrible scraping hardship when it comes to gold, thereby pushing you towards the cash shop. But in FW, I'm actually enjoying it enough that I WANT to pay PWE money, I just haven't decided on what yet. And I find that fascinating. It's precisely because, unlike other PWE games, FW doesn't make you go through Hell and high water if you want - oh, a mount, for instance. You can get one through pure in-game means. Which in turn, leaves me feeling a lot less blackmailed than PWE games usually do, and reinforces my awe at PWE. I didn't think they could truly adapt to an APPEALING model for the English-speaking market, but FW is exactly that.

PWE is obviously experimenting with different degrees of monetisation thoughout all their games. They used to do a top down model - what works for the flagship, Perfect World, they then reproduce throughout all their other titles. But now, they're changing/tweaking for each title they publish, some to a greater extent, some to a lesser extent. Jade Dynasty is their apotheosis of the virtual lotto world, but not all of their games are like that. At least, not anymore.

By implementing the three currency system, PWE has given players a kind of welfare system - but not exactly because players still have to earn it. It definitely gives players a playability buffer. Which also makes me wonder what effect the third currency is having on their direct profits. Oh, they run the lotto system at the same time, but it also alleviates the OMGthisisunplayable without forking over cash initially. So I'm wondering if it brings more cash long term, because it eventually converts more freeloaders into paying customers. Certainly, it makes their games a lot more pleasant to play - the ones of theirs I've tried without it are a bit insane at lower levels due to the money issue. Not even having enough to buy basics from AI, or having to watch that like a hawk is no fun. Whereas in FW, I have almost no money I can trade to players, but I don't really care and am happily running around watching my vamp chick's boobs bounce (yay boobies), because I have a break-even-not-stressed amount I can trade with AI. This makes me a happy little noobie nugget.

Which leads me to the most interesting point. With FW, PWE has earned my goodwill for the first time. I want to pay for stuff from them, not because I feel forced to in order to progress, but because I think the game is entertaining enough that they deserve it. As someone who works in marketing, one of the things I've learned is that customer goodwill is invaluable. It'll be fascinating to see how FW, and other PWE titles continue to develop.

And for those of you who care about such ratings, in ze nuggetty opinion, Forsaken World is an AAA MMO title.

Melmoth on a Separate Sub-Species of Drooly Doom!

Actually I have a theory that fantasy female warriors have evolved as a sub-species separate from other members of their race, and are actually entirely hairless apart from the hair which they grow on their head, which is often a veritable mane, long and luxurious enough to make male lions weep and the TRESemmé marketing department drool; they’re like a sort of semi-hairless cat, only less wrinkly, and not so prone to licking their own genitals, despite the hopes and desires of many a randy male gamer, I’m sure.

HoTK - A different look at instances

One of the games I'm playing on and off (and satisfying those occasional gaming rat-pellet urges with) is Heroes of Three Kingdoms.

Some of HoTK's systems are very different from what I've seen in western games - including MU*s. One particularly striking difference shows in how they handle instances, which aren't exactly instances as we commonly know them. Rather than being places to go to kill scads of things, instances in HoTK are instead re-enactments of historical battles. They're a little like what Alterac Valley would be if it were a Totally Epic PvE Experience (don't start ;)).

The Xiliang Rebellion (which is what the pics in this post are attempting to show...) is a pretty good example of what HoTK instances are like. You're supposed to 'protect' Ma Chao (some illustrious general fellow), while he charges into masses of enemies in a frothing ball of rage. I say 'protect' because really, the guy is pretty damn durable. You're side-kicking him, more or less. He's certainly more durable than you are at the minimum recommended instance level. In a different instance, (but in the same vein), you're supposed to defend some pretty lady general (Sun Ren) from dastardly assassins as she perches on her horse and rains fiery arrows down upon her enemies - since obviously, women can never be screaming frothing balls of rage. -_-

It's an interesting dynamic, though, because it means that all the instances take a set amount of time - no more, no less. When you enter Xiliang Rebellion, for example, what you see is:

Victory: Yan Xing dies
Loss: Ma Chao Dies
Time to Completion: 25m

And so Ma Chao basically charges his mad way through balls of enemies over the course of 25 minutes, and your job is either to heal him, or kill all the enemies before they can wear him down. Ma Chao is level 60, the enemies level 20-24, but there are hordes of them. There are 3 'bosses' in his way before he gets to the final boss, one in each camp which he (and you) stomp through, systematically killing everything. It's attrition at its finest. If you can kill fast enough, or keep Ma Chao healed enough, you'll win. And the best part is, it isn't draggy. Even on repeatedly running the instance, it doesn't drag. In fact, it does feel kinda epic before you outlevel it. And since it always takes the stated amount of time (unless your frothing ball of historical rage dies), it works very well in terms of parcelling out playtime. 'Oh I only have 30 minutes to play today, what shall I do? Aha! There's my favourite frothing ball of historical rage. Let's get going then!'

However, while it generally works pretty well, you probably won't succeed if you are alone, at the minimum level, because Ma Chao will probably die before he gets to the last boss, or at the last boss (the condition for the win). These things are meant to be done in groups, after all. It's not a total loss when you go alone, though, because Ma Chao usually survives at least one boss, if you're solo at minimum level - meaning you'll usually be able to get 1 boss 'token'. Naturally, with a full party (6) of minimum level, chances of Ma Chao surviving and killing the final boss are much better, but what I find interesting is that you almost always get some sort of reward, no matter what your playstyle (unless you go afk).

Even more interestingly, there's something called 'charity'. How it works is, if you / any other punies are in the instance, and there's one high level (65+ in a level 20 instance), if the group succeeds, and the last boss dies, each level 20ish (even-levelled to instance) puny will get 2 tokens. These 2 tokens are given in addition to the reward for winning the instance at the correct level, and they can only be used by level 65+s, and they disappear once you leave the instance. So, in effect, it rewards level 65s for helping punies, but it stacks the deck in terms of social power play, thereby encouraging people to be polite to each other. Because if the punies aren't polite, the level 65 can say, 'Fuck this' and leave without killing the boss. If the level 65 kills the boss, but has been mean to the punies throughout, the punies can then say, 'HAH! I'd rather VANISH these tokens than give them to you! Thbbbbpttt!'

And it does, for the most part, work.

In fact, it's only a problem when the 65 is a total n00b. I didn't think you could be a n00b in PvE, PWE games are that easy, but...

At any rate, I've only had a problem once with a n00b65, and even the problem was kinda funny.

Xiliang Rebellion in HoTK is the first time in years that I have had someone FORTY LEVELS higher than me leech off me.

There I was, killing the hordes of mobbies and keeping Ma Chao alive, and n00b65 was doing nothing at all - except rolling need on the common rewards. XD

It's only happened to me once though - and I could have quit the instance rather than carrying him... I was just so curious to see if he would ever do anything at all.

All in all though, it's a refreshingly different approach to instances, and while it's not something I'll want to do all the time, I do like short stints of it now and then - particularly since it always takes exactly as long as it says it should, and no longer.

Turbine! Ye gods! Thou fools!

Of course, with the recent influx of new players and the fact that Turbine have changed the dungeon system, such that running any dungeon will now reward you with a number of tokens which you can spend with a vendor to gain armour set pieces, and which is now also coupled with a dungeon interface that lets the group teleport instantly to the dungeon from anywhere in the world (sounding familiar?), dungeon running with pick-up groups has become a lot more impersonal.

Therefore, instead of the usual polite greetings and ‘how do you do’s at the start of a dungeon run, followed by an exchange of business cards, and perhaps a short but powerful Powerpoint presentation on the complexities of your class and what paradigms you can leverage in order to empower total performance for your group’s orc-stabbing synergies, you instead enter a dungeon and get:

“Good morning, my name is Dildo Daggins and I’ll be your Durglar…uh, Burglar today. What can I offer the group? Well, I’m not a rogue in the traditional sense, but instead I offer a complex class combination consisting of debu…”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”