Early Access MMOs and Burning Out
May12

Early Access MMOs and Burning Out

There is a lot I dislike about paid early access / pay-for-alpha, much of which I’ve already written about here. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that I think these schemes encourage burning out before a game even launches.

I’m worried about this particularly in relation to ArcheAge. I know a surprising number of people who bought the $150 alpha access pack. And on the one hand, I’m excited that so many people are into the game! On the other hand… if the dedicated players are in the game now, in May, will there be anywhere near this level of commitment once it launches for real in early Fall?

If I luck into getting a free alpha/beta key for a game, I will probably dabble with it but I won’t feel obligated to try and wring the most out of my playtime. However, if I paid $150 (or any amount really) to get access to a game I’d want to dive in with abandon immediately and get my money’s worth!

Historically, of course, the first few months of an MMO are the most exciting. The playerbase is at its happiest, there’s huge swaths of content yet to be experienced, and we all blissfully bumble around not knowing where we are or how things work. If you buy and play the alpha now, though.. will you still be playing the game five months from now? If you are still playing, won’t most of the mystery have worn off by then?

tumblr marpi1nZbi1r9n04yo1 400 Early Access MMOs and Burning Out

from http://noobwowplayer.tumblr.com/

It just strikes me as yet more splitting of the playerbase in a genre that requires concurrent numbers to survive. To experience that Zeitgeist, that rush of everyone being new.. you basically have to luck into an alpha key or drop $150 right now. By the time the game launches a number of the current crop of breathless fans will have moved on after playing for 6 or 7 months (which is not unreasonable).

I miss the days when barring a few lucky beta testers, we all got to start an MMO at the same time. It seems like games now charge for the ability to participate in those glorious first few months when we’re all noobs, and it’s a bummer.

Friday Five: Silly Things I Thought as WoW Newbie

While I dabbled in Everquest classic, WoW was really my first MMO. And boy, was I a noob.

(Props to the IRC crew for contributing to the list. Also bottom-stirring yogurt eaters for life, suckas!)

1. Shaman can tank.

Shaman did (maybe still do?) have a shield equipped in the default character screen, so I figured they could tank. To be fair this was back in the day when most of us didn’t really understand the game’s mechanics, so I made it all the way to Wailing Caverns before someone explained that tanking required this thing called “aggro”.

2. You drop items when you die.

Many WoW players came from more hardcore MMOs. This point is from friend and guildie Aurelia: “I thought I would drop items and have to retrive my corpse when I died (like in Asheron’s Call) so I never fought anything I wasn’t absolutely sure I could kill. I didn’t die until level 20-something.”

3. Spread points over talent trees.

What’s better than focusing on one thing and doing it well? Putting a single point in everything, including both the healing and shadow trees at the same time! Then you’re prepared for everything, right? I wouldn’t want to miss out on a spell….

4. Broken gear is gone forever.

More than one guildie reports that they too assumed as a newbie that broken gear was broken forever and you just had to buy/find more of it. I also couldn’t figure out how to sell things to vendors OR how to drop items (look, I was new), so every time an item broke I would just put it in my bank. I recall thinking at the time, “Man, this seems like poor game design.”

5. Hunter’s Mark indicates your target.

Attention baby night elf hunters from February 2006: I’m sorry. See, there I was, a newbie priest, just roaming around doing my quests when suddenly this large arrow appeared over a mob. Well clearly the game was telling me to kill this thing next! I mean, it didn’t seem to move my quests along any, but only a very wrong person would ignore an obvious UI element like that.

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Tips for New Twitterers

The Newbie Blogger Initiative is going on in May! If you are a new blogger, podcaster, or video maker then check it out! If you are looking for new things to read and listen and watch, also check it out!

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I’m always a little torn when it comes to Twitter.

On the one hand I think it’s been bad for blogging because it has taken conversation away from blogs and into a 140 character format that is pretty useless for critical thought. On the other hand, Twitter not only provides one of the best syndication options around, particularly in a post-Google-Reader world, but also is an amazing tool for meeting other bloggers, staying on top of industry news, and (gasp) making friends.

At the end of the day, if you’re not hanging out on social media you’re missing a lot of fun. So below is some advice I have for new bloggers who are just getting started on Twitter. Let me emphasize that this is stuff that works for me, but your social media is all about you. Do what feels right, man.

1) Announce your creative efforts on Twitter. Twice even!

Sometimes people worry about promoting their own work. Maybe they’re shy, or they don’t want to seem conceited. Perhaps they’re worried about being seen as a term I absolutely loathe, an “attention whore”.

Whatever! If I follow you on Twitter and you have a blog (or podcast or YouTube channel or whatever), I want to hear when you post something new. Sing it, my creative friends. And if you create something you’re really proud of or posted about it at a weird time, retweet it the next morning or later in the day.

2) Follow people.

Unless someone’s account is protected, everyone is on Twitter to meet people, have conversations, and earn followers. Sometimes I get weird about following someone who is “popular” or particularly cool, and that’s just silly. That is why they’re on Twitter!

Once or twice a month I make an effort to find some new folks to follow, whether it’s taking people up on their Follow Friday suggestions or snooping on a friend’s following list (I have totally done this to both Syl and Belghast) and adding anyone who looks cool. Find a new blog you like? Follow them on Twitter right away!

Internet math shows that the more people you follow, the more people will follow you, but that’s not really the point. The point is getting the most out of Twitter — seeing the most conversations, the most news, the most opinions. Meeting as many people as possible.

3) Talk to people.

You’re following a ton of people. Now what?

When I first started hanging around Twitter I would just kind of post a few things a day and then sit back to see what happened. While this was fine, it didn’t really encourage interaction and Twitter never really clicked for me. Nowadays over half of my tweets each day are directed to specific recipients, and I retweet and favorite other people’s stuff a lot more. You can’t just wait for people to interact with you — get out there and start chatting!

Even if you’re not interacting directly with someone, it’s great for newbie bloggers in particular and the community in general to tweet links to other people’s content. For what it’s worth, “science” has determined that people get the best response on Twitter if they make 8-20 public posts a day. I certainly am not saying that you need to stick to that, but it just goes to show that you can tweet quite a bit in a day without irritating folks. (I used to be paranoid about tweeting more than twice a day, seriously.)

3b) Don’t be afraid to unfollow.

It’s Twitter. You’re following someone, you’re not married to them. (Probably. Unless you are married to them in which case ignore this point.) If someone stops interesting you, or changes their subject matter, or says something you find unreasonably jerky, just unfollow them. It’s okay. It’s your feed, and you can curate it as you want.

4) Try to avoid being relentlessly negative.

So this one is kind of a personal opinion, but I find it exhausting when a twitter person is negative the vast majority of the time. You know the type — everything from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night is a slap in the face! That video game change is stupid. This game is for idiots. That platform is bringing down the industry and oh my god free to play makes me want to hate vomit ALL OVER EVERYONE ALL THE TIME.

Everyone has bad days and I’m not saying you have to be a Stepford Tweeter. And if there’s something that is offensive, then by all means talk about it! But I enjoy a Twitter-er more if they, overall, talk about stuff they like rather than stuff they hate.

5) Be consistent with your subject matter, particularly early on.

This one is tough because we are all diverse people with hopefully diverse interests. For example, I obviously like MMOs, but that’s not my one all-consuming hobby. I also like to learn new recipes. I have seen just about every horror movie ever. Lately I’m really into bicycling, and doing a lot of reading on bike repair and working on improving my distances.

That being said, by far the primary focus of my public tweets are related to games. It’s just kind of easier to have an identity if you focus on one interest, and your followers generally know what to expect, too.

Answering Questions about ArcheAge

Someone sent me an email with a whole lot of questions about ArcheAge, so I figured I would save it and my responses and turn it into a post. Ta-da!

Liore’s ArcheAge FAQ

1) Are you still crazy about this game, Liore?

Yes. Yes I am. However, I am also not playing it at the moment! I played enough to know that ArcheAge will be super duper fun and I want to play it obsessively, but I would rather not do that in Alpha. I want to wait until I know my hard work won’t be wiped before launch, and I have a bunch of friends with me.

2) There are a ton of possible class combinations, made by mixing 3 of the 10 possible talent trees to form your own build. Can you switch later on, or are you committed each time you choose one of the 10 to use?

You can switch at any time for a nominal in-game fee. However, skills level up as you earn XP which means while it’s relatively easy to level your first 3 talent trees to maximum, once you’re out of leveling quests it takes a lot longer to level up additional trees. Not impossible at all, just grindy. You don’t lose levels on a tree once you’ve earned them, so you can switch it in and out of a build freely.

3) Have you had any exposure to PVP? How is the open world fighting?

I have not yet had any exposure to PvP! This is how it works in AA:

i) Roughly half the zones on the East and West continents are oriented towards levels 1-29, and do not ever allow same faction PvP. Presumably a group of the other faction could ride in and attack Newbie Town, but it would be a lot like level 60 Alliance attacking Crossroads — fun but futile overall.
ii) The other half of the zones on East and West go through varying states of unrest, from none at all to full on war. At some of these stages you can be killed by your own faction, which if reported will eventually get them thrown in jail. (If you are patient you can wait for “Peaceful” mode to do your business in those zones.)
iii) The North continent is 100% all PvP, all the time. This is also where the castle sieges take place — I believe there are 6 castles and up to 60 players on each side of a siege. Also, if you go to the other faction’s continent it is also all PvP all the time for you, but that’s probably obvious.

Note that your house, your boat, and your mount cannot be completely destroyed. (I think your boat can be permanently stolen though? I’m not sure.) People will totally steal your trade packs, which are bunches of materials that people cart and trade around the world for money and currency. If your trade pack is stolen, you will receieve 20% of its value while the thief gets the other 80%.

4) Are there dungeons and raids, and if so how many players do they support?

There are no raids that I know of, although there are big wandering world monsters that require a large group. There are dungeons. I haven’t done any, and I have no idea how they are or what you do or really anything. I am all about the farm, yo.

5) Tell me about naval battles! Are they awesome? Do you get your own ship?

Yes they are awesome! Players will get their first boat at about level 20. It’s.. a dinky 2-person rowboat! And if you’re not careful you will be eaten by giant jellyfish and seabugs!

Fortunately there are many more boat patterns available for the low price of Gilda Stars currency and materials. (Remember that materials in ArcheAge pretty much means “things you / your guild personally grows” so that can take a while.) You can get speedy catamarins, submarines, giant pirate ships that come with cannons…

As for how battle looks and feels, here’s a video from the Korean version with a big ship battle.

6) Can you give any more details on player housing? It’s all in the world and not instanced, right?

That is correct! There are multiple levels of houses, from one room shacks to big mansions. As with ships, each take an increasing number of Gilda Stars and trade packs to build.

There are building zones all around the world, including the North PvP continent if you are feeling sassy. You can set your home to be accessible by everyone in your “family”, and build your farms and some crafting stations around it. You can also build furniture, set up fences — heck, I saw one house that had a tea party set up on the roof.

Your house can be attacked by enemy players, so if security is your top priority set up your home in a safe zone.

7) What is combat like? Are there a lot of abilities?

Combat is similar in format to WoW — tab target, hit hotkeys. The number of abilities is not limited like Guild Wars 2 or WildStar. I have only played a certain flavor of archer, but I am able to move while using just about every ability.

8) Anything other little details?

Man, there are so many other things! The UI is functional but could use a little more control over sizing. I’d give it a 7/10. There are no addons. The character generator is crazy elaborate. Personally I plan on buying the $50 level of founder pack, which will give me headstart access, a patron subscription, and some store credits.

Monday Random Nerd Things

I am short on sleep and long on real life things to worry about this morning, so just a few scattered bits of news today!

* Last week Ellyndrial and Chris from Game by Night interviewed Paul Sage from The Elder Scrolls Online for Game On Podcast. I wrote about the interview for MMORPG.com, and you can find it all here!

* I played about 6 hours of Child of Light, Ubisoft’s new “JRPG-style” game, and it’s really good. The art design is beautiful, like really really beautiful, the music is great, and the gameplay is solid. My only complaints are that it’s a little too easy on “Normal” mode if you’re already familiar with JRPG logic, and the dialogue sometimes goes to silly lengths to rhyme. That being said, the game is absolutely worth its $15 asking price.

* Over the weekend I watched the movie Knights of Badassdom. On paper it looks amazing: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, Jimmi Simpson, and Danny Pudi in a movie about LARPers fighting demons? Um, yes please! In practice though… what a waste. Knights of Basassdom committed the greatest sin a movie can make — being just okay, I guess. It never settles on a tone, and just wastes a lot of great nerd humor. I suggest just watching the trailer and then imagining the rest of the movie.

* I haven’t done a Backlog Project update in a while because I haven’t been playing non-MMOs lately, okay? Don’t judge. Anyway, yesterday I finally completed Mass Effect 1! It took like two years because I insisted on trying to visit just about every planet and drive over its precious native wildlife with the Mako. Anyway, I knew this game would be amazing and have a great ending, and it did. I need to consider it some more, but I feel like 1 may end up being my favorite in the series.

Also in backlog news I fired up Surgeon Simulator and played it for 10 minutes. Then I marked it as “Not Interested” in my spreadsheet. Damn you Steam sale madness! I think next on the list will be The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.

* The Newbie Blogger Initiative is happening right now, and to contribute I made a short video with an overview on how to create a podcast.

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