Massively OP Podcast Episode 234: ArcheAge’s game changer

    
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It's official, I can't tell the difference between this and TERA now.

On this week’s show, Bree and Justin erupt over Gamigo’s upcoming ArcheAge business model shift, scramble to grab name reservations for WoW Classic, speculate over the future of MMO innovation, and more!

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

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Mark Temby

Listen to your podcast each week (from Australia) and enjoy it.

You were talking about the tendency of games to become just murder simulators. May I suggest giving work orders a try in Legends of Aria.
I think for Bree in particular this could become your favourite thing.

Will be interested in your thoughts on this sometime in the future.
As an old school UO player I’m loving work orders in LoA myself.

cheers

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TomTurtle

One of my recent frustrations with two of the MMOs I play is how incredibly opposed players are to anything new outside of more of the same. It really feels like there’s only room in their minds for more combat-related activities and that’s it. It’s like a deathgrip on what MMOs are allowed to be.

I understand why they feel that way, such as worrying about less resources being spent on what content they enjoy, but I’m biased and I want what I want.

Developers have the issue of creating content that lasts and “sandbox” features could help alleviate that. When I recently dived in on the battle pet system in World of Warcraft, I got a great deal of entertainment out of something that’s been relegated to a side activity by many. Technically it’s combat-related, but still, it was something different and engaging that is apart from the “main” combat activity. I definitely would have been spending less time on the game had I not come across it.

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ShadowReaver661

When talking about ArcheAge Unleashed, Bree mentioned that Allods Online had a subscription server. That was the first time I had heard of such a thing and am currently now looking into it as I was a huge fan of the world the devs had created, but could not accept how pay 2 win the game had become. I might even lend more info on that front if I find the server to my liking as I am sure that it will be an extremely small community.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

It’s a real thing! <3 It launched a lot longer ago than I thought though, haha. Here's the official linky. I’m a bit curious how it’s doing now too.

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ShadowReaver661

I took the plunge, found me a guild, and have begun the grind to lvl 85!

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Jim Bergevin Jr

The thing I ask is when did we get to the point where non-murderhobo stuff has come to be expected in MMOs? What is the actual lineage here? The MMO came about from the MUD days, which came about from the CRPG days, which came about from the kids sitting in the basement with paper, pencil, and some strange looking dice.

At no point along that path was there an option or desire to be an interior decorator or a seamstress. Exploration and killing was what the RPG genre has been all about. The world of an RPG is meant to be looted for treasure and better weapons, and the monsters are meant to be killed to save the princess/village/kingdom/world. That’s a job that has always been for the Murderhobo. All the Martha Stewart wanabes deserve to be slaughtered by the Kolbold Invasion, or evil Wizard sitting at the bottom of the dungeon.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Er, Ultima Online? And then Star Wars Galaxies? And the non-murderhobo MUDs before them. That’s where those ideas came from.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

But yet, why? The root grandaddy of all this still had nothing to do with playing house in the middle of dungeon crawling or rescuing the princess. In my early days, there was not one single person I knew who wished they could play a coach potato in their dungeon crawls.

The CRPG gave us the ability to adventure without having one be the DM. We liked the idea of online because it gave us the opportunity to crawl even when one or more of us were miles away.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I knew hundreds of people and whole guilds that did nothing but decorate and run crafting enterprises and player cities and roleplay taverns. The cool thing was they existed right alongside the murderhobos and the PKs. The even cooler thing was you could do both. :)

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Sure, that’s what a bunch of people did once they were given the opportunity to be a Twi’lek table dancer and ignore the fact that the universe needed saving, but my point is why anyone thought that was a necessary element to add into the classic form of the RPG. There were more than enough programs and other games for that sort of thing.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I was talking about UO when it launched in 1997, not SWG. And the founders of the genre – your Garriotts, your Kosters – were trying to build functioning virtual worlds, not just combat sims with extra people. As we discussed on the podcast.

I am not sure continuing to engage with this discussion is going anywhere when you’re talking about twi’lek table dancers. Cheers.

Godnaz
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Godnaz

lol..
shrugs and goes back to tending virtual gardens and crafting furniture

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Jim Bergevin Jr

My apologies. The downside of attempting a conversation while on my mobile at work. My comment refers to discussions I have had with people in the past of a similar nature. Getting back to the roots of our genre here, the heart and soul of the RPG has always been about the Epic Quest and the Grand Adventure, and of course the Adventuring Hero (or as per my preference the Party of Adventuring Heroes) who set out on that path. To this day, this still remains as the core of the RPG, and the MMO, even though we have gotten into the habit of leaving out the RPG half of MMO.

In the context of this conversation, it asks the question what is heroic about being a Twi’lek Dancer? The answer is “Nothing.” Let me reference the precursor to even our Pen and Pencil Adventures: can anyone tell me the name and significance of any patron or employee (aside from Butterbur) who was at the Inn of the Prancing Pony when our four Hobbit heroes arrived there to meet Gandalf? The answer of course is no. Because no one there had any significance to the Epic Quest and Grand Adventure, aside from Strider/Aragorn and our Hobbits. Like the RPG genre, the pinnacle of the Fantasy genre was all about the Epic Quest, and focused on our Heroes braving the Wilds and facing down evil in order to save the world.

The easy answer to my question above as to why add in the Housing and Crafting elements is, of course, the same answer as to why we have the Gear Treadmill. It was to keep people paying to continue to log into the game. In the case of Housing and Crafting, it was to “encourage” interaction between players, which would help lead to people continuing to attempt to live out their virtual lives even longer. Nowadays, there are plenty of choices out there that weren’t there back in those days. Games that quite frankly have better “Playing House” options than we have within the RPG genre. And I absolutely partake of those games when I need a break from the Grand Adventure.

Ultimately, being a murderhobo in MMOs is normal because that is exactly what the heart and soul of the RPG genre is. Going out there as the Adventuring Hero and vanquishing evil! That’s why things like Housing and Crafting have always been secondary, as I believe they should be. What has always puzzled me is this notion that an MMO must contain these types of things to be considered good, or even worthy of playing. Yet, the original Guild Wars had neither, and it (arguably) can be considered one of the top 10, if not top 5, MMOs created. Why? Because it encapsulates perfectly what the Heart and Soul of an RPG is and should be.

That is why I, at least, enjoy the RPG genre, and by extension, the MMORPG genre. I find that anything else simply dilutes the Heart and Soul of what makes this genre great – that Grand Adventure to complete the Epic Quest.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

I think it’s always been there. The early tabletop era was much less rules-driven or considerate of ‘balance’ later forced upon it. The very term ‘murderhobo’ was coined to mock a player who just powers through by slaughtering everything instead of roleplaying and storytelling.

When you talk about the MUD era, remember all the social MU*’s (Which dwarfed the combat MUDs). In the decade prior to my moving to MMOs I played exclusively on social MU*’s where every combat was adjucated with the consent of both parties beforehand — If it didn’t serve the story for both players it didn’t happen no matter what the rules said.

Things got a lot more gamed-up once the 3D MMO hit the stage.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Yes, there have been a lot of social spaces back in the day. Some jazzed up the glorified chat room more than others. My reference is more towards the direct lineage of the D&D days through the modern MMO, and our current MMOs are birthed from those that really “murdered” the systems that those original combat MUDs had and the reasons why those systems were implemented back in the day.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I’m honestly not sure where your ideas about the “roots” of the genre come from. LegendMUD in particular was big on things like social spaces, trade, emotes/moods, and so forth, which is why these concepts ended up in the Kosters’ early MMORPGs. The first MMORPG simply wasn’t based on D&D, nor was there any unspoken rule about playing a world-saving hero – except from certain types of players, of course, who brought that baggage with them from more munchkin experiences and single-player genres.

In any case, looking back into pre-MMORPG genres to justify a modern exclusion of the virtual world activity you find distasteful but that’s been flourishing since the first virtual world MMORPGs seems as odd as looking to Pong to determine what features belong in all video games.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

I guess it’s a matter of perspective. My progression was from the days in the basement to the Wizardry days with my friends, many of whom moved onto the MUDs of which were Fantasy Role-playing based and, iirc, the MUD for which that particular subset of “games” take their name. At the time, we may have been aware of the more social pre-cursors, but they had not interest for us whatsoever, so were essentially ignored. Personally speaking, I was still more interested in the single-player games with occasional LAN party and didn’t really find an interest with Multiplayer (despite my friends’ best efforts) until Guild Wars came along.

It’s not that I find the notion of the virtual world distasteful. Quite contrary, I find them fascinating. Nor do I intend to come across as belittling those who do enjoy those “side activities”. However, it’s just not something I find intensely interesting when I am playing an RPG, just as you don’t find the combat as interesting as the more social aspects. Nor do I suggest (as a whole) that those things should be removed, except as an experiment to see what kind of MMO could be made without those things (including building it without PvP). For me, the original Guild Wars comes closest (of course PvP acting as essentially end game there) to being a successful experiment on those grounds.

To be honest, I find myself sympathizing with Robert and that silent group of gamers out there, because I really am one of them. I have only the mildest of interest in things like traditional end game raiding, and only so far as it is content to consume. I firmly believe in giving every the player the opportunity to experience the game in the manner they find most enjoyable – be that as a completely single-player experience start to finish, or being able to purchase every single virtual item created in the game from an NPC vendor (or like-wise learn to craft them) – including end game exclusive items. But unfortunately, I just don’t see that as being realistic. Certainly we have seen the RPG evolve over the decades, and the MMORPG evolve over that time as well. The evolution will continue, and I think we will see an eventual need to try to classify what the future brings with separate terminology – like we do today with the Sandbox and Themepark. For me, looking at history, they have all kind of gone hand in hand for decades, it just ends up being what captivated us the most at the time.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

To clarify, I do find good combat interesting – I explicitly said I prefer games where you can do all of the things. It’s just that murderhoboing is just one more thing in the pile of things offered by a broad virtual world; it shouldn’t be the only or even most important thing, because that’s plainly boring people right out of the genre. I say these things so often people must surely be tired of it. <3

I think it's interesting your formative MMO experiences were in a post-WoW MMO like GW1. It really doesn't have too much in common with the early foundational MMOs of the genre; it's a 2005 MMO with an overt card game lineage, not a 1997 MMO with a MUD lineage. I personally loved GW1 to death and do consider it an MMO, but I'm usually attacked for saying so. I definitely wouldn't consider it as deep an MMO as the larger sandboxes, but I also think it’s got more of the free-form sandboxy spirit than most themeparks that people would slot into “traditional MMORPG” without hesitation.

Draxar_Natinde
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Draxar_Natinde

I think we have perhaps lost a few things in translation over the years (so to speak). Going back, the early days of our computer games were about seeking to capture some of what we were doing in the realm of tabletop RPGs. And much of what we were doing in those early RPGs was NOT combat. Combat took a long time and there were many other aspects to the adventure: intrigue to be unraveled, traps to avoid, places to be explored. All of that made it an adventure, not just combat. We were content to be guided, to gain XP, and to advance relatively slowly (if at all). We only had 20 levels in D&D, after all. And other games didn’t have it at all — I can easily recall the fun we had playing merchants in Traveller, and for those not old enough to remember, there were no levels or advancement (for the most part), and combat was deadly enough when you were a merchant character it was something to avoid completely. We bought low, sold high, evaded pirates, customs agents, and had a good time.

But when we first start towards MMOs, we didn’t really have the technology. Oh sometimes it was attempted: EQ attempted to have thieving skills at launch, and Befallen was rife with traps. But it didn’t work well. And then through the evolution of MMOs we somehow adjusted our expectations, always towards advancement, always towards what I get when I level, always adjusting towards the mechanics and how to grind/beat/outwit the mechanics, as if THAT was the game itself.

We need a paradigm shift, and a lot of that needs to come from us.

People voted with their wallets, and the fantasy combat simulators that we have are what we’ve come to want and expect. It does not have to be this way though, and there is the precedent: the early RPGs rose from combat games, after all. The challenge will be to show those people what being a merchant is like in a post-WoW world where everything was a combat simulator of some sort. What that “role playing” bit really means after the MMO title.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

I think the lesson to be learned is that a lot of these things have always been there side by side: Sandbox and Themepark; Free to Play and Subscription; Open world and dungeon crawls. It is our perceptions, based on what appeals to us as individuals, that formulate our memories and what we think was important at the time.

Going back to Guild Wars, there’s been an age old argument of whether the game is primarily a PvE game or a PvP game. There are many on both sides. I have always felt it was a PvE game at heart because I am a PvE player. But the truth is, it’s actually both. Likewise, for me, RPGs and their successors are about the Heroic Adventure and Combat because that is what my friends and I enjoyed so those were the campaigns and games that we gravitated towards.

For us, being a merchant is a non-starter. We get up out of bed, get dressed, go to work, and cook in that daily grind called Life. Doing that in a game has never appealed to us in the slightest. I would rather be something in game that I cannot be in Real Life – that Adventuring Hero who is on an Epic Quest to save the World from the Ultimate Evil. That’s never gonna change.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

The most formative was indeed Guild Wars. Mostly from two points – there was no monthly cost, and the henchmen which harkened back to what I was looking for in RPGs like Wizardry and Eye of the Beholder – that party based dungeon crawling with distinct classes.

I had considered Lineage and EQ back when they came out, but it always came back to the fact that I did not want to continue to pay a fee to play a game I had already paid for. Like I said, my friends had tried to get me into many of the other games that were out in those days, UO included, but PK incidents kind of turned me off to the player interaction thing at the time. And it always boiled down to refusing to pay to play. Heck, I was almost there with SWG. I remember standing in the store with box in hand ready to make the purchase after reading about some Eve-like incident in one of the gaming mags and thinking “That sounds pretty damn cool.” I had dabbled a bit when a friend let me play on his account, but it just didn’t hook me, so the box ended up back on the shelf.

I am thankful now, with Free to Play, that I can go back and experience games like EQ again. Sure they are world’s different now than they were at launch, but it is comforting to return to the days that made me love being an RPG gamer.

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G0dl355

Vanilla Star Wars Galaxies had tons of offbeat skill lines that were all popular.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

I think it’ll be more than just AI that unlocks the next generation of MMOs. It will be about the engine (and AI). Content creators aren’t engine developers or AI engineers.

I don’t hear much about Lumberyard nowadays, but something like that needs to happen before we can ‘get there’ as Bree says.

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sophiskiai

The discussion about AI as believable NPCs made me think of the LARP groups I used to be part of. There was one group which went to run around the woods every weekend, and 4 to 6 people would be the PCs while another dozen or more would be the NPCs – some people wanted to PC as much as possible, some people preferred being NPCs every time, most people were somewhere in the middle.

Then there were the big weekend LARP events where you’d get a couple hundred people, most of them buying expensive tickets to spend all weekend as their characters, some buying much cheaper tickets to attend as monsters and spend most of the weekend being given costumes and directed by the staff.

I’m wondering if those sorts of dynamics might be replicated once VR matures and we get proper virtual worlds for people to inhabit? E.g. “get a cheaper monthly sub and some exclusive cosmetic items for your character if you spend X amount of hours each month being an NPC!”

Possibly the biggest worry with scaling it up would be oversight, and finding some way to ensure that people wouldn’t use their NPC time to give their PC friends some advantage…

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Wakkander

Gregor looks to the left and right, desperately seeking some escape. He could hear their voices drawing closer, it was always the same. These simulacra of men, sharing the features and appearance, but not the soul. Possessed of immense power they wander the land, if they make for themselves a lair they use it almost exclusively to hoard their treasures and show off trophies of their bloody work, though rarely do they ever seem to visit one another’s realms of horror. Not even dragons could match their avarice and cruelty. He heard them, now within sight. “Hey guys, the rare ogre is up” the one in front tells his grim companions. Creatures of death had come for him once more. Gregor took in a deep breath, and neither for the first nor last time, made ready to make a stand against the murderhobo’s known as ‘players’

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Hostagecat

Does nobody remember A Tale in the Desert, which has been around for ages, and has absolutely no murder…. I agree games haven’t always been this way and for us to accept it is stupid. I love my combat in game, but i can see the life of a tradesman being attractive to some.

I think the problem is its easier to appeal to murder lot, they tend to be the majority of players. I think we see the funneling of players to endgame is easier on developers. I cant prove it but appealing to other styles of open play is harder on the developers to code and resources. Its easier to design and code end level play than it is to appeal to the traders and diplomats and explorers and so we have the world we live in today.

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PanagiotisLial1

Yes the AI has a lot to be desired.

I like at least that there are some (scripted) events of groups of npcs fighting each other, talking to each other, playing music, going to sleep/wake up etc

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Saxon Myers

It depends on what they reveal for ArcheAge Unchained