Are choppers sexist?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 April 2014, 2:16 am
Blizzard this month started a collaboration with a TV series American Choppers to produce Azeroth Choppers. And the way I heard about it was by reading my MMO blog newsfeed, where several feminist blogs complained about that move as being sexist.

I find that complaint itself very sexist. It suggests that women could not possibly be interested in choppers. That is like saying that World of Warcraft, which is a game about hunting and killing, is a game for men and could not possibly appeal to women. Female gamers have fought long and hard to be recognized as being equally interested and good at games about killing. Why should women not be interested in choppers?

Feminists complaining about choppers are reinforcing exactly the gender stereotypes that true gender equality is trying to overcome. I would find it extremely insulting to women if anybody suggested a marketing campaign linking World of Warcraft to knitting and quilting in order "to appeal to women". Gender equality requires us to forget about those stereotypes, and to recognize that men and women can be equally interested in the same things. Putting male/female labels on items like choppers or cooking pans is unhelpful.
Tobold's Blog

Voting with your wallet
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 April 2014, 12:39 am
Syl recently asked in an image in a post "If I'm supposed to vote with my wallet, then is a wealthier man's vote more valuable than mine?". Obviously a trick question. Just think of the situation where voting with your wallet is the most direct and obvious: An auction. Does the wealthiest man in the room win all items in the auction? No. Because that wealthy man is at the auction to buy antique furniture, so he won't outbid you on your Star Wars collectible action figure. You win the auction for the action figure not because you are the wealthiest person in the room, but because that action figure is worth more to you than it is to anybody else in the room.

In the realm of games, that is most obvious with MMORPGs that have a subscription business model. Voting with your wallet is a $15 a month difference. For a large majority of players their wealth plays no role in the decision of whether to subscribe to that game or not. The question is rather whether that game is worth $15 a month to them, because they have that $15 but might prefer to spend it on something else.

Now Syl asks where developers get the information from what the players want. Easy. By watching the money coming in. Of course that isn't extremely specific, you can't easily identify a single feature that players want or don't want that way. But Blizzard most certainly has mountains of data for each of the expansions of World of Warcraft showing how many people resubscribed and how long they stayed after resubscribing for the expansion. And those data allow them to rank those expansion in terms of which one the players liked the most. Which then can influence design decisions for future expansions. That also works when comparing two different games: World of Warcraft makes a lot more money than Darkfall, so game developers from other companies rather try to emulate WoW than Darkfall. The devs got the information about what players want from the market.

In Free2Play games people spend very different amounts of money, and thus their votes count more or less. Some features are in some games because of some "whales" spending hundreds or thousands of dollars because of those features. But many other features are designed around getting free players engaged enough to value the game highly enough to spend at least a few bucks. If MMORPGs have a strong trend towards Free2Play games, it is because players DID vote with their wallets on that issue. Many companies reported increased earnings and profits after switching from a subscription model to a Free2Play model. And apparently they have enough data to consider the move in the opposite direction as suicidal. If a game earns more money after switching to Free2Play, obviously a sufficient number voted with their wallet that they would like to spend more than $15 per month on that game. Plus you capture all the players who value the game at $5 per month, who were previously excluded. If you count every dollar as one vote, Free2Play simply got more votes than the subscription model.

That doesn't mean that whatever game feature or business model gets the most dollar votes will replace all others. Just like in a political election the minority might be sizable. So if too many game companies decided that theme park MMORPGs are the way to go and nobody makes sandbox MMORPGs, then going against that trend might be a wise decision. Better have a large market share of the minority, than a tiny slice of the majority market. There will always be room in the market for at least one subscription game, although it isn't obvious whether there is room in the market for a subscription game that isn't called World of Warcraft as long as WoW is around.
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What is the state of The Elder Scrolls Online?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 April 2014, 8:14 am
Today I had a mail from IGN in my mailbox, who did a review of The Elder Scrolls Online and gave it a not really great score of 78. That is the day after reading the PC Gamer review which gave TESO a 68. A look at Metacritic reveals a familiar story: A bunch of reviews from release day giving the game high-ish scores around 90. And then reviews with lower scores trickling in over the three weeks since. Average score thus trending downwards, currently at 78, which is less than stellar.

I wonder if the actual players show a similar trend. I have no idea how many copies The Elder Scrolls Online sold, apparently Zenimax only published how many people signed up for the free beta. That is borderline misleading, because obviously not everybody interested in a free beta will then want to pay the price of a full game plus a $15 a month subscription. I would be really interested to know the actual sales up to now. The only data I have is the very imprecise Xfire score compiled by the Nosy Gamer, which shows TESO being played less than SWTOR or FFXIV, and only slightly more than Aion.

Now in the MMORPG blogosphere there is frequently talk of the "three-monther" MMORPG. Many triple-A MMORPGs post-WoW have lost the majority of their initial players in the first three months. But personally I believe that over half of that three-month loss happens at the end of the first month, because that is the first time where a player has to decide whether he actually wants to pay a subscription for the game he is playing. Now I've read some stories about accounting irregularities with TESO, where basically you couldn't play your free month if you didn't have $15 on your credit card. All game companies are trying to force you to sign up for a subscription, so usually you need to subscribe and then actively unsubscribe before the free month ends if you don't want to pay any subscription fee. But the end of the first month still remains a rather important milestone. Too bad that as we don't even know initial sales, it is unlikely that Zenimax will reveal how many players they lost after one or three months.

In the specific case of The Elder Scrolls Online there will be another important milestone after two months: The Wildstar headstart begins May 31st. It is inevitable that *some* players will decide to switch from TESO to Wildstar, but very hard to predict how many that will be. Warlords of Draenor will probably be too late in the year to really make a big dent into TESO player numbers any more.

Up to now I have no data which would suggest that The Elder Scrolls Online has better than mediocre success. But if somebody has data that suggest otherwise, I would be very happy to hear them. From what you know, how is The Elder Scrolls Online doing?
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The value of trash mobs
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 April 2014, 3:09 am
My pen & paper role-playing campaign uses Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition rules. 4E rules are excellent for creating epic combat encounters. As I wrote in our campaign journal yesterday, this week we had an encounter which involved an evil cleric, a vampire, a basilisk, and five minor vampire spawns. So the players need to assess the relative danger that those 4 different types of enemy pose to them, and make tactical decisions which enemy to take out first. And the rules system gives them daily powers, powers they can use once per encounter, and powers they can use every round to select from. So as long as players enjoy that sort of tactical games, 4E makes for really great epic fights.

What 4E does much less well is trash mobs. "Classic", that is earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, had more, but smaller encounters. For example the Keep on the Borderlands (Caves of Chaos) classic D&D module from 1979 has 64 encounters, but most of them are small and with just one type of monsters. So you meet 9 kobolds in one room, and then 3 orcs in the next, while 4E would rather do fewer encounters, but each having several monster types. In earlier editions of D&D all spells are "daily" powers, so if you use your magic missile in one fight, you can't use it in the next. Thus a series of small encounters works as a challenge of resource management. In 4E players would just use at-will and encounter powers if they met 3 orcs, and thus spend at best a healing surge here or there in a series of small encounters.

Thus my 4E campaign looks a bit like a MMORPG raid dungeon without trash mobs: There are only epic boss fights. Or rather, there are boss fights, and non-boss fights which aren't any less epic. No need to grind through trash mobs which pose no real challenge to the players. Or is there?

A reader commented yesterday that my players were frequently rather timid, and not very heroic. And I began to wonder in how far that is my fault: If every single fight they enter is a life or death epic struggle, no wonder that they are rather careful. Maybe I need more trash mob encounters, where my players without much effort dispatch 3 orcs. Maybe there is a psychological value to trash mob encounters in making the players feel strong and heroic, and then less afraid of the epic boss fights. After all, there must be a reason those trash mobs are in every MMORPG raid dungeon.
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Designing massively multiplayer games for multiple players
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 April 2014, 12:53 pm
I was browsing the web and came across the PC Gamer review of The Elder Scrolls Online. And what struck me about the review was the following paragraphs:
One of The Elder Scrolls Online's biggest weaknesses as an MMO is that it often becomes a worse game when large numbers of players are involved in the same activity. While questing in the High Rock area of Stormhaven I was directed to a monastery that was under attack by bandits. I was given two quests: put out six fires, and deliver healing to four injured monks. Credit for completing these objectives is only granted to the player that performs them, which means that I was put in indirect competition with every other player in the area—and given the linear nature of the game's zone, that means a lot of other people. The monastery might have been on fire, but there weren't enough fires for everybody: which meant hanging around waiting for fires to respawn so that I could get the credit for putting them out. Badly-designed quests like this one are common, and even when your objective is more deftly constructed you are always aware of the conga-line of players waiting to do the exact same thing that you are doing. This takes the game to some strange places: I'll never forget the time I traveled back in time in the guise of an ancient warrior only to find a room full of doppelgangers jumping about, dancing, and waiting for a boss to spawn. Immersive it isn't.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a particular weakness of The Elder Scrolls Online. I pretty much had the same experience in my Wildstar beta weekends: Wildstar has a feature called challenges. The first time you kill a certain type of mob in a area or click on a certain type of item, you get a loud "Challenge begins!" message, telling you that you should now kill X of those monsters or click on Y of those items within a time limit. Sometimes there are several levels possible, with numbers displayed on how many monsters/items you need for bronze, silver, and gold level. And rewards for those challenges are good, for example bags, gear, or crafting resources. But these challenges are obviously designed so that you can achieve them IF, and only if, you are the only player in the area. If you start the challenge and then realize that another player is also doing it, you'll both fail, or at best get bronze.

I consider that to be extremely bad game design for a massively multiplayer game. What those challenges teach the players is that other players are the enemy, who make you fail your challenges. With the timed challenges of Wildstar the effect is especially harsh, because you get an actual "You failed!" message shouted at you. But of course outside challenges Wildstar has exactly the same problems as mentioned by PC Gamer above: Players compete for mob or resource spawns, and it breaks immersion if you are one of many "Chosen Ones" all doing exactly the same stuff.

All this teaches players that the optimum number of other players in the same zone as you is zero. If you had the choice to play through that zone with other players or alone, you'd chose alone for most of the content and only do group content with others. At some point in the future we might actually see a MMORPG which offers the option to play through single-player instances as a feature. There certainly would be interest in that. But then the whole business model of MMORPGs collapses: Why should you be required to pay more money to play multiplayer TESO than to play single-player Skyrim, if most of the time when playing TESO you wished you were alone in the zone? Same for Wildstar, although it doesn't have that obvious single-player game to compare it to.

Fortunately there are also some bright spots. For example in Wildstar, if you need to kill a boss mob for a quest, you don't need to kill that boss mob alone, or be the first one to touch it. If you come across that boss mob already in a fight with other players, you just need to get a single hit in, and you still get full credit for your quest. And then Wildstar, as many previous games, has public events, which are hard or impossible to solo, and thus make you quite happy if there are other players around when you want to do them. So designing a MMORPG in which other players are actually an advantage is possible. I just think that developers need to carefully design all the features in the game to check how they are influenced by there being multiple players around. Telling somebody that he failed because somebody else tried the same challenge is a bad idea. Creating situations where players are automatically helpful to each other would be a much better plan.
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The Favorites of Selune - Gardmore Abbey - Session 13
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 April 2014, 5:40 am
In the previous session the Favorites of Selune vanquished the undead mage Vandomar, and recovered his journal for Berrian Velfarren. Now Berrian was able to give them some important information from that journal: The templars of Gardmore Abbey had brought a chaotic artifact from one of their crusades, and stored it in the Hall of Bahamut in the vaults. Berrian suspects that this artifact has something to do with the fall of the abbey, and asks the heroes to investigate. The vaults are one of two dungeons under Gardmore Abbey, accessible either via the barracks or the Hall of Glory. The vaults pre-date the abbey, having been a minotaur temple before the templars arrived. Since the fall of the abbey, minotaurs have moved back in, but so have gnolls. After constant fighting between the minotaurs and the gnolls, a mysterious leader arrived who was able to unite the two tribes.

When discussing what to do next, the group did not go for that obvious choice, the vaults. Instead they remembered that they had never finished the other dungeon under the abbey, the catacombs. They had cleared that dungeon, but had run away on facing the "end boss", a human who apparently was creating and controlling undead. Feeling more powerful (after a recent level up), the group decided to finish the catacombs first before tackling the vaults.

So the group made a plan of battle on how to enter the large room in which they had previously encountered that "necromancer". But on rushing in the surprise was that the place appeared to be empty. Another surprise was that the ranger who had opened the door got poisoned by a contact poison on the door handle, which hadn't been there on their first visit (which is why they didn't check for traps). So they all went into the room, which was full of sarcophagi. And after they had all moved, the sarcophagi closest to the doors, and thus right next to several of the characters, opened and released five vampire spawn undead. And from the other side of the room, the "necromancer" (who turned out to be an evil cleric), a vampire, and a basilisk rushed forward from hiding to attack the group.

The vampire spawn mobs were just minions, and quickly dispatched. Then the heroes made a probably wise decision to concentrate on the basilisk first. The wizard dazed the basilisk, and the warrior marked him, so the basilisk never got around to launch his area of effect poison attack, and died two rounds later. The vampire did some damage to the sorceress, but was the next to go down. The evil cleric was the toughest opponent, and caused the most problems, stunning several characters with an area attack. Although this wasn't their first "boss fight" in Gardmore Abbey, it was the first time where the group properly realized that the bosses in this place who had cards from the Deck of Many Things had some degree of control over those cards. The cleric had three cards, and used all three of them over the duration of the combat to good effect. But ultimately the Favorites of Selune prevailed, and got the three cards as well as a vampiric dagger from the vampire.

At that point I had expected them to discuss the cards from the Deck of Many Things, and how to control them. But instead they decided to go straight for the vaults. They chose to enter via the Halls of Glory, where they encountered the group of rival adventurers again, which they had already met three times (or rather seen signs of once, and actually met two times). As the previous encounter with the rivals had ended with the Favorites of Selune threatening the rivals to leave the abbey "or else", the group felt justified to now be true to their word and they attacked the rivals without further negotiation.

Now the rivals had obviously just been in a fight, and killed some spiders, so the group thought they would be in a good tactical position. But then they rolled somewhat low on initiative, except for the ranger, who did some serious ranged damage to the rival's wizardess. But the Favorites of Selune were all grouped together in the entryway, and to their surprise got attacked by the rival's drow rogue from behind. The drow had powers to make himself invisible, and thus was able to strike with great efficiency against the ranger and the wizard. Then the rival's "tank" warrior attacked from the front, making entry into the room difficult. And the rival's wizardess hit most of the heroes with a fireball.

At this point the sorceress came up with the idea to cast a dark cloud between the two groups, blocking line of sight. The cloud also damaged the rival's tank. The idea was to be able to concentrate on that tank and the drow, but the plan didn't work out like that. On being attacked the drow made himself invisible and teleported away, while the tank moved back through the cloud and into the room. So the Favorites of Selune found themselves with absolutely no target in sight, and in disagreement about what to do next. The sorceress was afraid that if she stopped maintaining that dark cloud, the group would be hit by a barrage of prepared attacks from their rivals. The wizard proposed to run away. But the cleric and the warrior had already used some of their strong daily powers to buff themselves for combat, and didn't want to completely reset the fight. With the Hall of Glory being partially ruined and missing its roof in parts, it seemed impossible to contain the rivals there while resting. So they needed to work out a plan on how to continue the fight from here. And as it was getting late, we decided to stop at that point.
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My Wildstar Easter weekend experience
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 April 2014, 1:05 am
This Easter weekend was a Wildstar beta weekend, which Wildstar does instead of an open beta. Now the first thing to say about this specific weekend is that technically it was a step back: Carbine had done a complete overhaul of the user interface, and the UI 2.0 still has some bugs and issues. Friday I even had some crashes to desktop, but that was fixed by a patch by Saturday. But there are still visible bugs like the "do you want to use this mount/taxi yes or no?" window only showing the yes and no button, but missing the rest of the window. Or messages not disappearing, or old, wrong, message flashing up again. Or the datachron automatically popping back up every time you minimize it. At the start I was even missing my quest tracker. And weirdly enough I was able to fix that by using a /command from World of Warcraft: /reloadui. I don't like to call Wildstar a "WoW clone", but under the hood there are some surprising similarities in the engine of the two games.

So this weekend I played my warrior and medic to level 15, and then started an esper, which I probably will finish at a similar level today. One surprise in that experience was that the esper turned out to be a more suitable healer class for me than the medic. Better flow in combat, with and without the use of self-healing. The warrior remains my choice of main, but at this point esper would be my second choice. I also did a detailed comparison of my preferred two paths: Settler and explorer. And I decided to go explorer, even if some of the jumping puzzles can be annoying. I never found out how to get up that tower in Exo Site N22 in Celestion, even after going a long way around and climbing a different tower with flowing green platforms, which for me were impossible to jump to. The settler path has more useful perks, like buffs and better path powers, but the path missions are all kind of boring. Explorer is less useful, but more fun.

By playing the different classes I learned a lot about the Wildstar combat system. The good news is that you don't need to be a circle-strafing, mouse-turning twitch gamer to play Wildstar. In fact, much of that action combat system is fake. If you think that your superior movement skills will enable you to dodge all mob attacks, you are in for a bad surprise. The monster standard damage will always hit you and can't be moved away from. Movement helps against the "telegraphed" special attacks, but a well-timed interrupt achieves pretty much the same without the need to move. If you are old school and just stand there and do your spell rotation, you will still do fine, provided you have a good spell rotation.

I much improved my spell rotation after realizing something important about the so-called "innate" ability, which is the only ability you can't select or change or modify on your hotkey bar, it is fixed to the "R" key. For some reason, probably as an experience from other games, I had thought of that as a get-out-of-jail ability to be used sparingly. But it turns out that the cooldown is only 30 seconds, so there is really no good reason not to use it in every fight. As that innate ability often replenishes your resource bar, using it at the right time in your spell rotation makes a huge difference to your damage output.

At level 14 in Wildstar you get player housing. That turns out to be a huge money-sink, which probably is a good design decision. To be precise, you don't just get a house, you get a whole floating island in the sky of which the house is the central part. That house can be decorated, and some of the decoration adds to the rate at which you gain rest xp. But for me the house wasn't actually the more interesting part of your floating island. Because there are 4 smaller and 2 larger other plots on your island, and you can do other useful stuff with those. You can decorate them with FAB kits you find, or you can put things like gardens there, where you can plant seeds and harvest them. Or you can have a plot on which mineral nodes spawn. Or a crafting station. All very useful.

For crafting I also changed my mind. I originally wanted to go armorsmith with my warrior. But it turns out that all the tradeskills that make gear are money sinks. Even if you spent hours gathering resources, you still need bought resources to make gear, and the cost of the bought resources is higher than the selling price of the gear. I like the system where you can choose for yourself what stats your crafted items should have, but for a first tradeskill for a first character when money is still tight that is not such a good idea. So I will go relic hunter / technologist. Most of the potions and buffs you can make with that combo are much less useful than crafted gear. But you can craft a lot of stuff without bought components. If at the end of the day you craft all your found resources into potions and sell those, you will make money. As I found money to be tight in Wildstar, at least while the economy is young, that is how I will start out.

Overall the beta weekend left me content that I have pre-ordered the game, and with a much better idea what I want to play and how to play it. Can't wait for release, but that is still 6 weeks ahead.
Tobold's Blog

Wildstar beta weekend plans
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 April 2014, 11:58 am
I have a long weekend before me, 4-day Easter weekend. Which happens to coincide with a Wildstar beta weekend. Now I don't want to play the beta too much and then get bored on release. But I do want to use the beta weekends to make some decisions on my release main. The last beta weekend already helped me to decide to go warrior as a class, and this weekend I'm trying to decide on a path.

Now the path decision for me is between settler and explorer, after having tried all four paths in the low levels. The scientist path is for people who like to read all those lore books in games like Skyrim, but I was never that interested in game lore. Call me a snob, but in my experience the writing in games isn't all that great, even if you compare it to "pulp fiction" fantasy novels like Conan the Barbarian. And if you have to find the lore in bits and pieces, you're usually missing half of the picture. I also tried the soldier path, but the "extra" activity of the path was way too similar to what I was doing already all day long when questing.

In the low levels I did like the settler path, because it is a bit like a scavenger hunt with picking up resources everywhere. But at level 10 I realized I would want a resource gathering tradeskill, and so now I wonder if all that gathering isn't again going to be too much of the same. I was more skeptical of the explorer path at first, because I am not a huge fan of jumping puzzles in MMORPGs. But I played an explorer to level 10 and there were some cool parts like being able to run along specially marked explorer flags to get huge speed boosts. At least the flags were marked with an explorer symbol, so I assume other paths can't use those. I assume the trampoline mushrooms are useable by everybody.

So what I am going to do this weekend is mainly to play my level 10 warrior / settler some more, maybe up to where you get housing, and do all the settler path missions I come across. Then I'll see if there is a bit more variety there than just gathering resources for building buff stations. I hope that after a few more levels I will be able to decide whether settler is the path I really want to play in the long term.
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Tyranny of Dragons in the marketing department
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 April 2014, 1:55 pm
So 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons will be out this year, and a bit like a World of Warcraft pre-expansion patch there is a huge D&D marketing campaign in the build-up to the release, called Tyranny of Dragons. If you are playing D&D in any sort of "official" setting, you'll be fighting the Cult of the Dragon. So far, so good.

But if you want to see an example of how heavy-handed it can get if you want to move an existing campaign onto the current marketing train, you don't need to go further than PAX East, where Acquisitions Incorporated played their public D&D game. I found the introduction of the Cult of the Dragon rather badly done. The DM had to bend the rules quite a lot to give the enemies a surprise round, because the narrative didn't even talk of an immediate ambush. The heroes walk out of a tavern, there are guys standing there, so from that point on, if a combat breaks out, why would anybody have a surprise round? And don't tell me that the DM didn't fudge dice there to get to that neat situation where everybody but the group leader was down before anybody could act.

So, yes, I understand the requirements of the marketing department to introduce their new material. But they way they did it really wasn't elegant. It sure served the purpose of establishing the Cult as "the enemy", but as I player I would have felt railroaded there.
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Weekend recommendation
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 April 2014, 3:16 am
Blackguards is on sale on Steam for $19.99. I've been playing for several hours yesterday, and found the game quite interesting. Definitively not for everybody, because the turn-based hex tactical combat is hard, and character creation and development system is even harder. But every single battle in the game is carefully set up, and frequently has special conditions that make each fight quite unique. And the character system allows for any weird combination you can think of, for example my main character is an archer with healing spells and buffs.

Be warned that this is not a casual game. Also, depending on how you skill your characters you can easily end up with having taken too many abilities with too low scores, which will then make combat feel rather random, as you only hit half of the time. Concentrating on a few things fixes that. Overall an excellent game if you love turn-based tactical fantasy combat and don't mind having to think while you play.
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How important is the character creation tool for you?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 April 2014, 3:18 am
In a first-person view game, you don't see your character at all, or at best his arms. In a third-person view game your character is on the screen all the time, but you only see him from the back, and usually you are concentrated on what is in front of him. Only in more passively controlled games, like The Sims, do you really get a good look at your character. So when I was reading about the incredible character creation tool of Black Desert, a Korean MMORPG, I wondered whether that was really so important to MMORPG players. Yes, you can modify individual strands of hair of your avatar in that game, but isn't all that detail ultimately lost when playing the game? Have a look at the final characters in that video: After hours of creation you end up with a bunch of same-ish looking people.

That isn't to say that you can't make good character creation tools in MMORPGs. City of Heroes was exemplary in that you could make very different looking characters with the tools provided. But in that case the costume was part of the creation process, while in many other MMORPGs the look of your armor depends on the gear you found. As clothes make out a major part of your look, the character creation tool in those games is then often full of sliders which don't do much. Do you want your nose to be a centimeter longer, or your cheek bones a bit higher? Or do you simply not care, because once he is in the game, nobody is going to notice those minute details on your character?

Games like World of Warcraft or Wildstar at least have a wide variety of very different looking races on offer. Nobody is going to confuse your pink pigtailed gnome with your troll, or your chua with your mechari. Other games, like Black Desert or The Elder Scrolls Online, stick to humans, and that limits how different two characters can look from each other. As long as your character isn't wearing a helmet, hair style and color is still quite a visible difference. But the length of your eyelashes or diameter of your biceps you took hours to plan in detail risks to be completely unnoticeable to the world.

What do you think about character creation tools in MMORPGs? Should we have a detailed one like Black Desert has in all of our games? Or would you rather have less options, but more visible differences between characters?
Tobold's Blog

Age of Wonders III
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 April 2014, 2:13 am
I've been playing the new Age of Wonders III for about 20 hours now, but my overall impression is one of disappointment. I feel that all the elements needed are there for a great 4X fantasy game, but the balance between them is so horrible that it spoils the experience.

Let's start with resources. As you would expect, there are a lot of them. There is gold, mana, production, knowledge, and happiness being produced in each city. And it quickly turns out that the only one you ever are short of is gold. Mana you always produce more than you can spend. Production you have enough to make production times not the limiting factor, you simply don't have the gold to pay to start production. Knowledge is for researching spells, of which you will have all long before you won. And happiness you increase to get more gold.

A similar lack of balance exists with the size of the typical map and the number and speed of your armies. While that is annoying enough for the player, the AI frequently can't deal with that. Using a flying army or underground path is far more effective than it should be, because you can frequently find undefended or just very lightly defended cities in the enemies' hinterland. Overall that makes the game lack defined frontiers, everything appears to be open to attacks from all sides.

One the one side Age of Wonders III has a very nice system for leveling your heroes with different abilities. On the other side I have rarely played a 4X fantasy game in which the heroes felt so useless in the campaign game. There are very few points on the map to explore where a hero in the army would be necessary to scoop up the loot. And most of the time you don't want to move most of your heroes in the campaign game, because some moron decided that it was a good idea to make you lose the game if any of your secondary heroes dies. The current primary hero of the map can die and will come back a few turns later, but if you lose a secondary hero, it is game over. So you can only ever send them out to do the safest of actions, for which of course you wouldn't have needed a hero in the first place.

By pure coincidence it turns out that today is the release day of Warlock 2. Not bad for a genre that was presumed to be dead, two major releases in a month. I might just have picked the wrong game.
Tobold's Blog

Pen & paper campaign outlook
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 April 2014, 3:22 am
For the last two years I have been running a Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition campaign as a DM. As we only play every two weeks, we only made it to level 8 in that time, but as a DM I get additional "play time" out of the campaign by writing and preparing the adventures and encounters. Now one important thing to keep in mind (because very few other people will tell you), is that there is no one way to "do it right" when playing a role-playing game. There is a huge panoply of different opinions over what a role-playing game is about. And once you played different campaigns with different people in different circumstances you realize that what works best for your campaign depends on the people around the table. And it isn't as easy as asking them what they want to do, because they usually aren't very clear about it themselves. You just need to experiment a bit, try out different things, and see how your players react. If everybody had a good time at the end of the evening, you are on the right path.

What I have learned about my particular group is that 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons is a very good system for them. They all played World of Warcraft, and the 4E powers system and class balance is very much suited for them. I try to get a balance between role-playing and combat in my adventures, but I do notice that if I do a session without combat my players get itchy, while they are perfectly happy to do a session with only combat. I still think that a certain balance between the two types of content is best, but I know not to overdo the role-playing requirements.

Now I have also been experimenting with different kinds of adventures, or adventure sources. Currently we are in Madness at Gardmore Abbey, which is a pre-made 4E mega-adventure which I am playing close to as it was written. The Reavers of Harkenwold was another adventure I ran like that. Other adventures I took and modified, for example the Keep on the Shadowfell, which I shortened to a "best of" version and rewrote the story. And then there were adventures which weren't originally 4E adventures, like the Standing Stones of Sundown or Ravenloft: In those cases I used the basic story of the adventure, and created a 4E-style encounter-based adventure myself based on original material. Finally my next adventure will be completely original, written with the help of a fellow blogger (/wave Stubborn).

Now all of these adventure sources worked. But the experimenting and stitching together of different adventures did have one negative side-effect: My campaign isn't much of a campaign. It is a series of adventures with links between them, but no over-arching story. And as we didn't know where we were going from the start, we also did fairly little in the area of character backgrounds and personal stories, which to some extent explains the lack of interest in role-playing. I feel we could do better than that. But probably not in the current campaign with the current characters.

So my idea is to still play two more adventures after Gardmore Abbey in this campaign, to get players to the paragon tier of the game. And then we will do a complete reset and start a new campaign, still 4E D&D, from level 1 up. But this time I will use adventure material which is designed for a full campaign, not a mix of adventures from different sources. So I will be able to explain the campaign world to the players first, including the general role of the group in that world, before they choose which characters to play. And I will borrow some rules from other systems, like 13th Age "One Unique Thing" to create with each player a background story which fits into that campaign world. So hopefully the overall result will be somewhat more coherent than my current campaign, and lead to better identification of the players with their characters.
Tobold's Blog

Choosing a class in Wildstar
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 April 2014, 9:52 am
I pre-ordered Wildstar, and as a result I have beta access during special beta weekends before release in June, or rather headstart end of May. So what does one do in beta, when one knows that the characters are going to be wiped, and the purchase decision is already done? Well, choosing a class for example. I first tried out all the classes through the first two zones, to level 6. That eliminated engineers from the choice, as I still don't like pet classes. And the two classes I liked the most were medic and warrior.

Now at first I thought I would go medic. The medic's combat mechanic is front-loaded, that is you start with full resources and get to cast your most powerful spells right away. Only once you depleted your resources do you need to fill them up again with a different spell, which can be either a small damage spell, or a small healing spell. As a result easy fights go very fast. But playing the medic a bit longer, to level 10, revealed that this wasn't actually all that good. The resource recovery actions are quite weak and slow, so whenever a fight is harder you spend a lot of time just recharging.

The warrior works the other way around: Starts with no resources and needs to charge resources first before he can use his more powerful spells. But in practice to level 10 that actually worked better than the medic: The resource charging action is fast and not so weak as the medic's one, so a few hits with that and than a finisher works fast enough on easier mobs, and much better than the medic on harder mobs. The warrior also deals with multiple enemies much better, as his attack have a wider arc.

What finally made me decide to go for the warrior on release was crafting. The warrior wears heavy armor, so a good crafting combination for him would be armorer and miner. Weaponsmith and miner would also work. I like that, because I like node-based resource gathering. The medic wears medium armor, which would require survivalist, skinning leather from creatures. I like that less well. So I tried something else with the medic, relic hunter plus technologist, but I found the potions he made not half as useful as crafting armor.

Are you going to play Wildstar on release? What class will you play?
Tobold's Blog

Fifty Shades of Grey Online
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 April 2014, 3:48 am
I hope you didn't get too excited about the title, because there is no such thing as a massively multiplayer online game called Fifty Shades of Grey Online. I am just using that example to discuss the curious fact that Fifty Shades of Grey, the novel, sold 100 million copies and most people considered that to be okay, but you can't make a video game with the same sort of content. As Ben Kuchera recently remarked in Polygon, if you would offer a person the opportunity to go anywhere in time and space and have any sort of encounter, they would be more likely to choose something sexual than an encounter where they kill other people. But video games, which *do* give us the opportunity to go anywhere in time and space, in many cases only allow us to kill stuff.

One frequently cited reason for the absence of sex in video games is that games are for children. As an European I always had trouble understanding why extreme violence would be okay for children, while even mildly erotic stuff wouldn't. But there are even stronger arguments that tell me that games aren't really for children any more: Polygon reports that over 90% of mobile games have in-app purchases, and those require an adult understanding of the value of money. Children accidentally spending money in games because they can't understand the limits between game and reality, or the value of money, is not okay. And companies like Apple or Google need to do more to prevent those "accidents" from happening, e.g. with better parental restriction options in the iOS and Android operating systems specifically aimed at in-app purchases.

But the average video gamer is not a child. And just like it is okay to have books for adults, it should be okay to have games for adults. And I don't just mean sex. I would consider it far more important for games to grow up and cover a wider range of human interaction than just shooting each other. If we can manage to protect children from content in books and videos that they are too young for, we should be able to protect them from content in games that they are too young for. And then we can make games that have a greater appeal to adults, or have business models that are more suited to adults.
Tobold's Blog

The Favorites of Selune - Gardmore Abbey - Session 12
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 April 2014, 6:02 am
In the previous session the Favorites of Selune had entered the tower of the wizard Vandomar, looking for information on how the fall of Gardmore Abbey might be connected to the chaotic Far Realm. They know that Vandomar was in love with a paladin, Elaida, who was killed during the siege. They had found and fought a flesh golem with Elaida's head. Now, after a rest, they headed up the stairs of the wizard tower. There they found a door which was frozen shut, but the dwarven warrior opened that door with his shoulder without problem.

In the upper floor room of the wizard tower they found several blocks of ice with creatures inside, one of which contained a card of the Deck of Many Things. There were also four tables with frozen mummies on them, and finally Vandomar himself, who was moving around but also looked quite frozen. Vandomar invited them in, talking about his desire to preserve everything in time. He also wanted to preserve this encounter in time, and with a wave of his snow-globe staff shut and refroze the door (with the ranger still outside, forcing her to spend a round to break the door open again).

Having rolled good initiatives, the heroes attacked Vandomar before he could cast any spells. But then of course the four frozen mummies animated and joined combat. Now Vandomar and the mummies had lots of powers to slow or immobilize people. But with the Favorites of Selune being strong on ranged damage, that tactic wasn't all that effective. The warrior used a power to pull two mummies and Vandomar next to him, and most heroes concentrated their fire on the wizard, who thus died quickly. The mummies took a bit more time, but overall it was a quite successful combat for the group.

So they got another card for their Deck of Many Things, got the snow-globe magic staff from Vandomar, and found a book of Vandomar's notes which appeared to contain the information they had come for here. They also got enough experience to make it to level 8. So we decided to make this a short session and do the leveling-up between sessions.
Tobold's Blog

Not warming up towards Landmark
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 March 2014, 8:14 am
If you work for a company in Europe, you'll most likely have a lot of holidays, anything from 4 to 8 weeks per year. Americans tend to have a lot less. For me that is the explanation for a curious design feature of EQN Landmark, now in closed beta and not actually having Everquest Next as part of the name any more: You lose your claim and everything you built if for some reason you don't log in for 5 days. So a week of holidays without a laptop, and you're wiped out.

While I was considering the Landmark closed beta, because it has more features and is much cheaper than the alpha, I am not going to play a game which doesn't allow me to leave for a week. If that stays in for the release version, I can't see me playing this for long, or paying money for it. Maybe SOE is planning to sell claim protection for real money, but otherwise I have a hard time to understand this short claim period. 
Tobold's Blog

Playing evil
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 March 2014, 5:54 am
I was reading an article in the New Statesman about how horribly players behave to each other in the sandbox game DayZ. And that got me wondering whether bad behavior is inherent to all sandbox games, or whether certain game design elements push it.

History shows that the default human behavior in face of a threat (like a zombie apocalypse) is to cooperate and work together against that threat. And that can happen in a MMORPG too, for example players regularly worked together against the harsh game environment of the original Everquest. But many sandbox games are famous for their especially sadistic and cruel player base. Which isn't exactly helping in making sandbox games more popular.

What do these people think when they do such evil things in a game. Is it them just playing at evil, or do they have evil streaks in their character for which they have no other outlet? Or are they just bored and try out every single one of the options the game gives them, without thinking that their victim is another human being, a player behind that avatar they are torturing? Because if it was just that, then maybe such games should simply be programmed with more options for positive, collaborative behavior, and less options for cruelty.

What do you think?
Tobold's Blog

A tale of two user interfaces
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 March 2014, 8:18 am
I received an invitation to participate in the beta of World of Tanks: Blitz, the iOS version of a game I played a lot on the PC. But I decided to look at a gameplay video on YouTube first, because I was worried about the UI and controls. And it turned out that Blitz is using the same controls as other iOS tank games: Virtual thumbsticks. You hold your iPad in both hands and use your thumbs in the lower left and right corners for control. Of course you can also put the iPad down and use other fingers. But the virtual stick control remains the same. And I can't play anything with those controls. Unlike real thumbsticks you don't get any tactile feedback, so the experience is very different to that of a gamepad. I ended up not playing Blitz at all because I hated the controls.

What I was playing instead was The Collectables from Crytek, although I'm not exactly a valued Crytek customer. I played none of their Crysis games on PC. And there is a lot about The Collectables that you might dislike: It is Free2Play with cards that come from random boosters, plus it uses an annoying energy mechanic, where after 7 games you run out of energy and need to wait hours (or pay) to play again. But the controls are brilliant! The Collectables is a tactical third-person shooter and it is astounding how well that works with just a few taps. Your squad moves where you tap on the screen. Only if you want to be in cover you need to drag and drop individual soldiers, and honestly, to me it seemed the cover wasn't doing much. In addition you can easily drag and drop action cards onto the battlefield, for example to heal your soldiers or to throw a grenade.

I much prefer the Free2Play business model of World of Tanks to that of The Collectables, but in the end it was the controls of those games that decided which one I ended playing.
Tobold's Blog

Multi-cultural gamers for a multi-cultural community
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 March 2014, 8:01 am
There is a discussion ongoing in the blogosphere, of which I'll just link to one post, Better Gamers for a Better Community. Quote: "We all like to think that bigots and trolls are a loud minority, but what can we say about that silent majority? Are they not facilitators and complicit in the abuse due to their silence?". The idea basically is that gamers and especially gamers who write, should strive to create a better community in strict adherence with better cultural values.

Wait a minute.

The cultural values of whom? If you scratch the surface off these wonderful words (who wouldn't want to be a better gamer for a better community?), you'll find out that the underlying conflict in which one side is accused of being bigots, trolls, and abusers, is the discussion of political correctness, with the people pushing us towards "better" cultural values are very much on the ultra-liberal side.

The problem with that is that not everybody is ultra-liberal. For many of us more moderate human beings, some of the extreme political correctness appears hard to understand, if not borderline fascist. For example the politically correct Apple app store has a policy that a game should not depict "people from a specific race, culture, government, corporation, or other real entity as the enemies in the context of the game". And thus proceeded to reject the game "Tank Battle 1942", because it showed Germans and Russians as enemies. They then backpedaled after people pointed out to them how ridiculous that was.

If you know your history, and then watch modern films or TV shows, you will frequently find that history has been "corrected" by ultra-liberal people to rather show events in a way that fits the ultra-liberal world view better, rather than how it really was, for example on gender roles or with respect to slavery. To me that is very George Orwell 1984, "He who controls the past controls the future."

The "silent majority" that often fails to speak out when these ultra-liberals complain about something silly, like a video game character with high heels, are NOT "facilitators and complicit in the abuse". They simply do not share the cultural values of the person complaining. That does not make them "indecent people". There simply isn't just one "decent" set of cultural values. Certainly not over the whole length of history, but not even if you just look at today, not even in one country among people who are nominally of the same religion. And sometimes there are simply no easy answers to a problem, for example if you have to decide between the value of granting religious freedom, and the value of gender equality. Is it okay to forbid a muslim woman to wear a veil? I don't think that there is an easy answer to that question based on a "better" cultural value shared by everybody.

I reject the fascism of ultra-liberal correctness. I would consider myself a liberal (in the European sense, not the US American one), but I abhor zealots of any flavor. The world is full of many cultures, and there is no such thing as one set of cultural values that is inherently superior to all others. We need multi-cultural gamers for a multi-cultural community, not 1984-style groupthink aligning everybody to a single set of cultural values and dismissing every other culture as "indecent".
Tobold's Blog

Understanding 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 March 2014, 6:23 am
On this blog I discuss all sorts of games that I play, from pen & paper role-playing games to computer games on various platforms. And sometimes the comparison of very different games, or making links between the discussions about those very different games, can be enlightening. That caused me to rethink my position on 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons.

The thing is that for me "4th edition" is not just a label, but really a 4th version of something I know. I played through all the previous editions. Mostly 1st edition AD&D and 2nd edition, a bit less 3rd edition, and now 4th edition since two years as a DM. I also played a bunch of other pen & paper roleplaying games from other companies. Thus my way to play 4th edition D&D is not based solely on what is written in the 4E rule books, but is based on over 30 years of experience with pen & paper role-playing games.

Pen & paper role-playing systems all have holes in their rules. Different systems cover different aspects of the game better or less well. Early systems, and that means especially early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, did not talk a lot about the actual playing of a role, in the sense of interactive story-telling. Yes, there is some sort of story in an adventure module like the Tomb of Horrors or Keep on the Borderlands (Caves of Chaos). But the bulk of such an adventure was always a huge dungeon full of traps and monsters. It was some years later that modules like the UK series or Ravenloft started to put more of an emphasis on the story and the played interaction between player characters and NPCs.

Some people preferred that sort of interactive story-telling to the hack'n'slay ways of old. Other companies developed RPG rules systems which put a lot more emphasis on the story (and were often much less detailed on tactical combat rules). Personally I came to the conclusion that it would be best to mix the two, somewhere around the 50:50 mark. And I found that the "best practices" of role-playing are easily transferable from one system to another. For example in the 13th Age rules system there are very nice rules on character creation which encourage a player to come up with "One Unique Thing" about their character, like "I am the lost heir to the fallen dwarven kingdom". That rule works for pretty much every pen & paper system, and I'll certainly use it for my next 4E campaign.

The consequence of all that is that the 4E campaign that I am playing is not "4E as written", but is the 4E rules augmented with 30+ years of experience and rules from other systems to plug the holes that 4th edition has. Thus if somebody tells me "you can't role-play in 4E", I disagree, my campaign certainly isn't like that.

But when we recently discussed MMORPG design, I said that players tend to follow the incentives that the game gives them. So I find it important for a MMORPG that it doesn't make one path (like questing) far more rewarded than everything else, because that leads to everybody following that one path like a herd of lemmings. While you *can* do other things in MMORPGs than following that path, the game often lets you know quite clearly that "you shouldn't do that", by giving you no or inadequate rewards and thereby discouraging you from doing anything else than the lemming path. And then I realized that while maybe not expressed that way, the problem that people have with 4th edition is pretty much the same: If you don't have the experience and "best practices" of role-playing, you would probably end up playing 4E as written in the rules and adventure modules, and then it becomes just a series of encounters with not enough role-playing in between. The 4E rule books and adventure modules give no incentives or encouragement to role-play, so if you don't resist the general "pull" of the system, you end up doing something too linear and boring.

Now even for 4E enough years have passed that there are adventures with very different qualities here. The first 4E adventure Keep on the Shadowfell is horrible regarding NPCs, and does a very bad job of introducing them and making their motivations clear to the players. The "story" of Keep on the Shadowfell ends up being "we fight through a dungeon and kill the boss mob at the end". A more recent adventure like the Madness at Gardmore Abbey we are currently playing is already a lot better in that respect. But still I found myself modifying stuff in the Gardmore Abbey adventure, to improve the role-playing part of it. And the presentation of 4E adventures always has one part of the adventure being page after page of encounters, while any information about story and NPCs is written elsewhere, and it isn't always evident on how to mix that story part with the tactical encounters.

I remain convinced that of the many pen & paper role-playing systems I have played, 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons has the best tactical combat rules and the best class balance. Which for me and my group makes it the perfect rules system, because we can fill the holes on the story-telling side with rules from other systems. It would be much harder to play a story-centric system and try to add the tactical combat rules of 4E to it than the other way around. Having said that, I think that 4E Dungeons & Dragons is probably not a good system to learn pen & paper role-playing games with: The tactical rules are complex, and there isn't enough information in the rule books to assure good role-playing. Having said that, this isn't edition-specific. Previous editions were just as bad to teach people how to role-play, and 5th edition appears to be only a bit better, with rules like the "background" instead of free choices of skills and talents.
Tobold's Blog

Pre-ordered Wildstar
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2014, 12:33 pm
Kudos to NCSoft: The pre-ordering process for Wildstar was one of the smoothest that I have seen for a long time. When you buy the game and already have an account, they helpfully ask if you want to apply the game code to that account, and then lead you through the subscription options. They even accept PayPal for both the purchase and the subscription.

I recommend the standard edition. The deluxe edition appears to have only a few virtual items thrown in, of which probably the hoverboard is the only remotely interesting one. Devs promised more in detail discussion of the deluxe items for next week, if you want to wait. But mostly the deluxe edition appears to be an option to give them more money just out of appreciation.
Tobold's Blog

Monetizing Minecraft
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2014, 2:30 am
Congratulations to Teut Weidemann on winning the Evil Game Design Challenge 2 at Casual Connect Europe last month. Although I am not sure whether he is proudly sitting in a corner, stroking his white cat, or whether he is somewhat embarrassed and got into trouble about the "wrong" kind of publicity with his bosses at Ubisoft about this. Because this is a challenge which does not have a very easy, straightforward message. Some people will watch the video and just find all of their prejudices about evil game designers confirmed. Others will like the "evil" version more than the original.

The challenge was to make an "evil", Free2Play version of Minecraft with maximum monetization. Three designers present their various ideas and the audience votes for the best one. And while of course there are ideas on "how can we make people pay", many of the ideas are also about "how can we make players not lose interest in the game". And those ideas are similar to the ideas that you would have gotten if the design challenge had been "how can you make Minecraft more fun". People are willing to pay for a game they have fun with.

What was interesting about the exercise was that monetizing linear themepark games is obviously easier than monetizing sandbox games. But the video shows that the latter is far from impossible. So if you want to know how Everquest Next and Landmark are going to make money once they are released, watch this video!
Tobold's Blog

Wildstar paths and Bartle types
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2014, 4:12 am
In 1996 Dr. Richard Bartle published "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who suit MUDs", describing what came to be known as the "Bartle types" of killer, achiever, explorer, and socializer.  Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey later turned that idea into the "Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology", an online test where by answering some questions you could find out which type you tended towards,which made these player types very well known in the MMORPG community. So it wasn't surprising that many people who wrote about Wildstar tried to explain the "paths" concept in that game as representing the four Bartle types, even on Wikipedia (until somebody edits that out). Which is utter nonsense.

If you put the Bartle types on a graph, it shows that achievers and explorers want to interact with the world / game, while the socializers and killers want to interact with other players. The other axis is whether the interaction is competitive (achievers, killers) or not (socializers, explorers). Now if you look at the four path of Wildstar: Soldier, Explorer, Settler, and Scientist, they are all about an interaction with the world / game. The Settler path has a tiny social component in it insofar as the buff stations you erect can be used by other players; but to do the Settler missions you do not need other players, you only interact with game elements. All four Wildstar paths would better be described as appealing to explorers and achievers, while they won't appeal much to killers (defined as player killers, not monster killers) or socializers.

In fact as far as Bartle types go, the four paths are pretty much the same: You get a list of things to do in each zone (achievers like to complete that sort of stuff) and you need to go to various points on the map and click on things (explorer stuff). The differences are in details that can't be expressed on the two axes of player/world and competitive/non-competitive interaction.

The Wildstar Explorer path is for people who like jumping puzzles and good views. Plays pretty much like the vistas in Guild Wars 2. Curiously there isn't much exploring to do, except of exploring how to best jump on to a high place. But the locations you need to visit are clearly marked on your map.

The Settler path ends up having more exploration elements than the Explorer path, because you need to gather extra resources to power up those buffing stations. As the resources aren't marked on your map, you actually need to explore to find them. Well, to some degree at least. Of course you run across plenty of them while you just do normal questing.

The Soldier path is all about killing monsters (not players). You go to marked locations on the map where either you have to kill a specific semi-boss type NPC, or hold a position against waves of monsters.

The Scientist path allows you to scan wildlife with your drone, which gives some minor buffs sometimes, but mostly provides you with more text windows to read. If you are interested in lore, and the type of player who read every book in Skyrim, this is the path for you.

I do like the idea of paths. The different paths will appeal to the preferences of different players. You just can't force these different preferences into the corset of the Bartle types.
Tobold's Blog

The Elder Scrolls Online is nauseating
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2014, 2:25 am
For some people, that is. And I mean that literally. And it is an important factor I forgot to mention yesterday in my listing of criteria for choice. If you tend to suffer from video game motion sickness, The Elder Scrolls Online with its stronger camera movements due to the cursor stuck in the middle of the screen is more likely to make you nauseous than other MMORPGs.

I experienced that myself. Actually I didn't play Morrowind and Oblivion because of video game motion sickness, although Skyrim was better in that respect. TESO is somewhere in between, I can play it if I zoom out to max and play in third person view, while I can't play it first person.

And in the spirit of balanced reporting, Wildstar is probably more likely to cause epileptic fits, with all its colorful, flashy animations.
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