If You Had To Pick One Game Studio

Massively’s daily grind column was unusually interesting this morning. The question was: if you could play only one studio’s MMOs forever, what would it be? I totaled the responses. Here are the results:

***

Blizzard 16
Sony Entertainment 15
Funcom 8
Trion 5
CCP 4
Cryptic/PW 4
Arenanet 3
Turbine 2
NCSoft 2

***

I would betray Trion and safe-pick Blizzard, although I’d like to see Everquest Next first. I was surprised by Sony’s polling strength. EQN is a game I didn’t mention in my “what do I play besides Rift?” post a few days ago.

I really like the EQN character development concept–focusing on one character being able to do everything (which is one reason I like Rift so much, and now you can have all crafting and gathering skills using store unlock scrolls.)

On the other hand, a lot of the EQN reveals we’ve seen since August have been very average PR-flavored fare that make Paul Sage’s E3 coverage of Elder Scrolls look relatively wonderful and forthcoming.

An example is the crafting “dev diary” posted a few weeks ago. Fifty collectible materials. More than ten metals and ten types of gems in five tiers. Harvesting. Make tools. Make better tools. Find crafting recipes.

Wonderful, you’ve exactly equaled vanilla LotRO? That was my thought. Except for something called a “claim” that the devs refer to a few times. I have no idea what that is. They didn’t explain it. So.

Several months ago I read Syp (Biobreak) and TAGN write about how they lost interest and momentum mid-Storm Legion in Rift. I knew at the time that one day I’d experience what they were saying, and sure enough, this weekend it hit. I’m level 55.

I don’t know what the Trion level designers were thinking with this quest flow and zone design. After the initial Storm Legion entry zones, the follow-up zones are big and directionless. I went all over Eastern Holdings last night and couldn’t find a quest hub. I just did the “carnage” quests and an invasion.

Seratos has quests and a beacon-lit direction, helping the Caretakers, but I don’t care. Tonight I did the instant adventure daily in Seratos, which was fun popcorn grouping, run around and kill things.

There is a golden adage to fiction writing: if at any time your writing isn’t developing character (either the character of the protagonist or the antagonist, or the major players), you are wasting your time and risking losing the reader. That is happening here.

Rift has always had too many NPCs and not nearly enough development of any of them. Queen Melia is cardboard, like her blank expression. Meanwhile, I always smile when I hear that the Queen in Guild Wars 2 has decreed this or that, or has decided so-and-so. That is immersion and character building.

I’m not at all calling out the Rift writers. Maybe there is a disconnect between the writing and the actual world building. Also, I believe some of the Storm Legion writers are no longer writing on Rift. Also, Trion is always trying different creative things here aside from the standard quest hub format. Did it work? Public opinion says it didn’t.

Anyway. Text is surely the cheapest form of quality reproducible entertainment in the world today, and it remains the most effective in useful ways. It drives me crazy when an MMO fails in an aspect that would cost them so little to improve so much.

Trion has an exemplary and lauded F2P store presence and handling, but the fiction writing is flat to the point of raiders crying in the forums to be allowed to just skip leveling and not have to deal with it.

What would be the biggest, most immediate improvements? Trion should use fewer NPCs and factions, while making each of those as vivid, interesting, alive, and important to the game world as possible. The player should also get a good introduction before they start doing tasks and quests for some random NPC or faction.

The player should also understand the stakes of failure. The stakes should always be increasing, and ideally they will involve the player in some way that they care. To care about the world, the world has to be worth caring about, and that means liking and befriending the NPCs. I’m sounding like a broken record on that point.

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About Silverangel

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4 responses to “If You Had To Pick One Game Studio

  • Wilhelm Arcturus

    For me the EQN dev post about metals and gems and tiers and what not was disheartening. I have really come to dislike the “sorry, copper is no longer your metal, you must now do everything in iron and never look at copper again!” style of crafting progression.

    If they want to be sandbox, they ought to at least give mind to how games like EVE Online do it, where there are common materials that are easily obtained, and then rarer ones that are tougher or require some degree of risk to obtain. The most complex recipes still requires a lot of the common material, so it is always in demand, the market for it is regular, people can make a living just providing it.

    But no, we’re going to have tiers and the usual things where the middle tiers become completely unsalable or outrageously expensive because demand is so low. It is like they haven’t played EverQuest II.

    On Rift, I still feel like I am just missing something in Storm Legion. I mean, story has never been strong for me in the game to start with. So you may be right, that something about the zone design is conspiring with the weak story to just pull the rug out from under my momentum with the game.

    Of course, I have been playing WoW again, where they have been stronger on story. I knew why we went through the portal for Burning Crusade, while I was vaguely aware that something bad was going on that we needed to get involved with in Storm Legion.

    And while I have decried the over-the-top solo focus of WoW zones post Cataclysm, there are quite a few that tell fun stories that get you invested. At least through that particular zone. It can be a bit uneven though. I got through a very fun zone the other day and ended up being pointed to one that hadn’t been revamped much since original WoW. So it was back to “Kill 15 Jadefire Satyrs!” Why should I do that? Oh, because you don’t like them. Check. I’ll get right on it.

  • Jackie

    There is a new crafting video on Massively today that shows some new…things. Good point about sandbox/tiers/wut? I honestly haven’t played much sandbox at all though, so I can’t comment on that angle.

    I’m hoping some story will pick up in a later Storm Legion zone. It’s also an ambiance thing, too. I know the Jadefire Satyr area! And I don’t mind the zone because I’m an elf being an elf doing good elfy-healing-environment things there. The Storm Legion zones I mentioned in the post are big, hideous scarred, ruined places. On the other hand, Outland in WoW is hideous and scarred, but it also has such an amazing otherworldly beauty. WoW uses color so well.

  • Wilhelm Arcturus

    Heh, they did spiff up Felwood a bit. The Jadefire Satyr quest is no longer about finding and slaying between 2 and 6 of four different flavors of Satyr. Now it is just bulk rate, any dozen Satyrs you can find. And there are some of what I will call the “new style” quests scattered around the zone that require you to do something other than kill or deliver.

    I think my biggest complaint about Outland was that the quest philosophy seemed to be something like, “Well, if killing 10 is good, then killing 15 must be better! And killing 30? Great!” But most of the zones had a great individual theme in color and style. I think I began to appreciate Burning Crusade more after I had been through it the first time. The second time through I was able to pay more attention to the details and do some of the faction stuff. I still ride my talbuk mounts around town.

    In Rift, my forward character just got totally overwhelmed in Seratos. It is big, which isn’t a bad thing, but doesn’t give you a feeling of vast space the way West Karana did back in EQ. It is a lot of cluttered little valleys and such. I ended up wandering past four quest hubs before finally hitting a settlement at the far side. It is like the Balkans. You go up one valley with no idea that there is something on the other side of the ridge.

  • Jackie

    I’ve been doing IA’s in Seratos, and it’s more fun that doing the Necropolis caretaker quest hubs. It’s no wonder those guys are dying off with no proper fortifications. Tempting to continue the WoW comparison by comparing Saratos to Plaguelands, but there is not much point.

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