The Loneliest Gamer

This week has been a very lonely one for me.  At work I have moved desks and am essentially cut off from the rest of my department.  At home my husband has started raiding again. And online, my usual haunts have been mysteriously absent of people.

There’s a couple people I’m seeing more of through RIFT, but they are either stubbornly clinging to a server on which I’m no longer playing or clapped in irons by a spousal leveling contract.  I’d like to have my own spousal leveling contract, but due to his general aversion to elves, my husband’s distain for RIFT edges ever closer into the ‘hatred equal to the power of a thousand burning suns’ territory every time he takes a peek over my shoulder.  I did manage to beg and whine at him for a contract involving alts in Guild Wars 2, but who the heck knows when that will come out.

All of this running around and being lonely has got me thinking about a couple of things, namely server structure and Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events.

RIFT is a petty good game.  It’s well put together, astonishingly bug-free, pleasant to look at, and enjoyable.  The rifts and invasions are fun, bringing the community together and fostering a sense of camaraderie.  As fun as it is though, I can’t help but feel that something is wrong.

I’m going to use RIFT as a bit of a whipping boy here.  I’m sorry.

Spirit has been chanting a little mantra to herself for the past few days: “Shatterbone, Defiant. Shatterbone, Defiant.”  This is because she’s getting a guest pass into RIFT for the weekend.  She needs to remember which server to roll on, then she needs to remember which faction to choose so that she can play with her friends.

Of all that has come out of the standardization of the MMO industry, these two mechanics are the most ridiculous.  They are unintuitive and anti-community.  For a game whose heart of hearts is playing with your friends, splitting your playerbase by server and then further by faction is idiocy and if it weren’t for the fact that there isn’t (yet) anything better available, it would never have lasted this long.

That and it just pisses me off.

I have always been attracted to the rough and tumble, the tribal, the gritty.  In DnD when the GM asked me to roll an elf (because of course, all girls play elves /eyeroll) I rolled a wild elf, covered her in grime, squatted on his posh couches, and made a point of depositing hunted game on his carpets.  I enjoy playing the uncouth and the wild, the grease-spattered and industrial.

In a game that separates its players by ideology there is no room for me on the side of the ‘good guys’.

Even getting beyond the server hurdle, finding a server to play where all my friends are, the ideological differences are enough to make me froth.  I must either be shoehorned into a society in which I don’t fit (I get enough of that in real life, THANKS!) or abandon some of my friends by the wayside.

These issues can be ignored or put up with, because I know that in Guild Wars 2 it will be different.  I’ll be able to play my rough and tumble charr with grease stains in her fur and join my friend the impeccably groomed asura whose first invention was a servitor golem so he’d never have to sully his hands with manual labor ever again.  We’ll be able to play together even if we initially chose different worlds because we’re not chained down to one.  Gone will be the days of playing the same character to level 20 or so ten times because all of your friends are scattered to the winds.

For now however, with my friends fractured, I have to settle for playing lonely.  That brings me to my second thought, a worry that hasn’t been sufficiently laid to rest yet by the promise of Guild Wars 2.

Dynamic Events

Using RIFT as a foil again (and its spiritual predecessor, Warhammer Online), the promise of dynamic events both excites and worries me.

In a perfect world you will either be in an area with a healthy population or playing with your friends.  We’ve heard repeatedly about how events will scale to accommodate more players.  Hordes of skritt will grow more numerous, broodmothers will become more cunning and use new skills.  What we haven’t heard about (at least as far as I know), is how well scaling works in the other direction.

The dynamic event analogues in RIFT are the rifts, footholds, and invasions.

  •   A rift is an event that randomly spawns on a single point in the map.  Mobs spawn from the rift and players must battle them.  When entering the influence of a rift you see on your right how many of what mob must be killed to advance the rift to the next stage.  Mobs range from multiple low level mobs to more difficult higher level mobs and even occasionally large bosses spawn.  Once the rift is closed each player receives awards based on their participation regardless of party affiliation.
  •  Occasionally a rift will spawn raiding parties.  These parties of ~5 mobs will travel along roads (which are normally safe) towards populated areas (quest hubs).  Invasion parties, if left unchecked, will gain a foothold.  This appears as an item in the road around which the raiding party congregates.  To destroy it you must kill all the mobs and then destroy the foothold item.
  •  Invasions are zone-wide spawning of rifts and raiding parties.  In an invasion the above two scenarios are happening everywhere on the map.  Roads become impassable and quest hubs come under siege.

In a perfect world the events are extremely fun.  Join a public group and defend your world.  The fun breaks down when you find yourself as a lonely gamer.

It’s possible to vanquish a minor rift by yourself if you’re very good and you play smart.  Raiding parties and footholds are a little more problematic, and major rifts should not be attempted by a player off on their lonesome.

During invasions (which only occur if the population can support it) players tend to congregate near quest hubs, fighting off the raiding parties and nearby rifts, as well as looking for the invasion boss who rewards some pretty sweet prizes.

If you are a lonely gamer off on your own in an awkward part of the map and an invasion spawns you are in some serious trouble.  The rift events scale downward very poorly, and that is my concern about the dynamic events of Guild Wars 2.

During and shortly after launch the events will be massive affairs of pitched battles with potentially dozens of players taking part.  What happens months, years down the road when the newest expansion content is the hot thing?  What happens when we’re all battling Palawa Joko in Elona (I’m calling that now) if someone wants to roll a human in Tyria?  Alone in the world, will that character be capable of completing dynamic events on its own?

I’m fully aware that a charr taking down the Shatner single-handedly sounds a bit ridiculous.  I don’t expect massive events like that to be soluble, but I also don’t expect them to be the bread and butter of the dynamic event content.  It’s not unreasonable to expect the pirate invasion outside of Lions Arch to be soluble.  If one person is attempting that mission if they pull carefully I think they should be able to complete it.  Perhaps they are not able to put out the fires and kill pirates, so maybe I could drive off the pirates but the buildings will have burned down and then the villagers must rebuild.

We already know events will be multifaceted.  What I want to know is if I’m going to be punished with impossible odds on top of loneliness should I find myself forced to play alone.

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  • Comments (9)
    • Yarr
    • April 14th, 2011

    Not to worry, I’ll be starting up Yarr’s Rent-A-Skritt service, for times when there aren’t many players around. For a very reasonable price you’ll be able to rent as many as you need to help with any dynamic event. And remember, the more of them there are the smarter they are, so be sure to check out some of my special ‘Hoard-O-Skritts’ package deals! 🙂

    Seriously though, shards as a design need to go away. If anything, it seems companies don’t want to use the GW/EVE/GW2 type setup because then they can’t charge the $25 per character transfer fee down the road when servers thin out.

    Having been through the Aion server merges and free transfers (which like most things NCWest does, were completely botched), the whole concept is outdated and leads to nothing but problems.

      • Tigerfeet
      • April 14th, 2011

      Hahahaha! Rent-A-Skritt, I love it 😀

      Yeah, those companies will trot out reasons like server stability for splitting the playerbase like that, but that doesn’t mean splits have to be permanent. In RIFT and WoW I’m playing in Gaza, with roadblocks at every intersection. In GW & GW2 I’m playing in America where I can drive from sea to sea without interference.

  1. a lot of interesting points here tiger, have to agree on the divided factions as well. surely there is a way to provide meaningful pvp and more than one leveling path for alternate content than dividing people up and ensuring people can not play together omfg i think guild wars 2 does that! amazing.

  2. During my demo play I stepped into a centaur camp all alone and was able to fight my way in. By the times I got to a boss two others had joined me and we faced him together. Although I’m not sure the boss was there when I was alone, or if he would have been impossible alone. That was the equal level event and it seemed like it scaled down enough for me. I did an event beneath me that was easy and one above me that kept killing me. No sidekicking when alone or no sidekicking in the demo? So if you are in an acceptable area for your level I think it will scale down enough to be possible.

    There will probably be parts where you are meant to get overwhelmed momentarily. For example if that pirate group is seen coming I’m not sure any number of players will be able to fully stop them outside town. They might be meant to take the town briefly and toggle the event to drive them out. You can hopefully drive them out with any size group but not until after they kill some NPC’s and start some fires. To properly fluctuate there will need to be points where the players are losing or dynamic events will never get to explore parts of their chain.

    • ArcherAvatar
    • April 14th, 2011

    First, I’d like to give you a nice hug and a mug of hot coco (with tiny marshmellows) after reading that.

    Second, you’re talking apples and oranges and here’s why;

    The rifts in RIFT are designed as group content, and that game’s solo content is more of the tried-and-true we’ve already seen a dozen times, eg; quests, exploring, etc (although they do have a nice new twist with the relics or artifacts or whatever they’re called.

    That game is also still handcuffed by the ‘trinity’ system, although less so than it’s predecessors due to the ease with which they allow you to swap out builds (I think they’re called Souls in that game.)

    The dynamic events in GW2 are not just supplementing quest content… they ARE the content for that game. There are NO quests. The DEs (not all but many) are designed with the idea of very small numbers of players being involved as a possibility, as well as scalable for much larger numbers of players (a recent interview specifically said for more than 100 although they haven’t tested the upper limits thoroughly yet.)

    In addition, GW2 has not handcuffed itself to the antiquated (and imo seriously flawed) ‘trinity’ system of classes. EVERY class in GW2 can function quite well in multiple different ways and this increased versatility just makes for more robust and useful characters. I’m certain players skill levels will still be a significant factor in degrees of success, and a determining factor in what content can be realistically taken on solo, but I wouldn’t have that any other way to be honest.

    (It is my considered opinion that the number one factor that increases the difficulty of correctly balancing classes in MMOs is the out-dated trinity system. By finally moving past that GW2 has given itself the best opportunity to turn out a correctly balanced game in both PVE and PVP… sorry side issue there I guess.)

    I also think the number of design features that ArenaNet have already talked about that are clearly focused on developing more positive behavior and a greater sense of community and cooperation amongst it’s players will contribute significantly to the fostering of an environment where players just simply ‘feel more connected’ as they travel through the world.

    It’s long be my opinion that gamers are actually really nice people for the most part, but serious design flaws in the games (flaws that specifically foster antagonistic/hostile emotions towards others) have essentially turned ’em mean.

    I’m generally a nice enough guy, but if you just snatched a resource node right in front of me I’m probably not going to feel too good about that, and a few minutes later when you ask for help with something you’re probably not going to get the response you’re hoping for ya know? This type of BS is at epidemic/rampant proportions in just about any MMO you can think of, and you’d have to be a freakin saint to not be affected by it all, but it won’t be present in GW2. Sainthood not required… just relax and have fun.

    I know it’s frustrating waiting for it… who knows when it’s release date will be?? (I’m trying to pass time in other types of games personally – ME2, Magicka, SC2, etc…) I simply can’t bring myself to play in a MMO right now, because I know I would simply be frustrated at every single turn and thinking things like, ‘I won’t have to put up with this crap in GW2.’

    Hope lies on the horizon, and will be all that much sweeter for the wait… hang in there kiddo.

    • Msenge
    • April 15th, 2011

    Yes, given the size of the Shatner you would indeed need many people to help you collect the large amount of solvent needed to dissolve him 🙂

  3. Holy crap Archer, thats a blogpost of its own!

    You make some excellent points (Tigerfeet and Archeravatar). I’m hoping that the sidekicking system will really help to bolster populations at the lower end of the spectrum.

    I know that when it comes to how I’ll play GW2, I’m going to be a roving adventurer – getting into all kinds of scrapes and just hoping to experience the world. So, if you find yourself in a tight squeeze just drop me a whisper and I’ll come-a-runnin’.

    • ArcherAvatar
    • April 17th, 2011

    I just re-read your post Tiger (I do that sometimes with the blogs I visit regularly and when no new info on GW2 has come out in the last week or so…) and it reminded me of another facet of your comments that I wanted to reply to.

    In general I would have to agree with your sentiments on the rather ridiculous ‘black and white’ division of server populations with a ‘good’ faction and an ‘evil’ side… curiously, there is one exception to that for me…

    If the game provides more than just 2 factions (eg; a dark and a light side) and those factions are not locked to a particular morality, then I find that sort of division lends itself to more interesting interactions. (That is provided of course that the game’s DEVs aren’t complete morons and allow all sides to still communicate with one another… anyone ever heard the saying ‘sticks-n-stones’…?)

    Odd numbers of factions seem to have the most interesting dynamic (imo) and it’s one of the reasons I was so happy to hear about the WvWvW PvP in GW2… including the third server is brilliant, and is going to make for much more entertaining situations.

    The whole ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ thing has been completely worn out (not to mention the fact that most philosophically inclined folks see it as a complete construct/illusion in the first place.)

    P.S. Please let us know how you and Spirit got on during the free time in RIFT over the weekend. Cheers.

      • Tigerfeet
      • April 18th, 2011

      We did quite well in RIFT 🙂 We found out she could only level to 15 and there were invisible walls around the entirety of the newbie zone, which was dissapointing because we wanted to at least show her around. We didn’t get a chance to run her through a dungeon, though we tried to 3-man Iron Tombs. For the record? Not possible with level appropriate characters and no tank.

      I remember when WoW Cataclysm was in the works I was hoping that there would either be an entirely new faction, or that goblins and worgen would be able to choose horde or alliance. ANYTHING to relieve the monotony of sameness.

      I’m definitely looking forward to WvWvW too. Battleground style PvP has always been my favorite. I prefer a good melee PuG to organized matches any day.

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