Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

6 February, 2012

I’m pretty good at playing MMOs
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 1:25 AM

I’ve not been feeling too well lately. My better half came home with some sort of plague that made her lose her voice and become bedridden. I’ve mostly been worn out, not sure if it’s from me taking care of her or some form of her plague trying to drag me down. Either way, I’ve been trying to get some extra rest in.

I’ve managed to play some MMOs, though. And, I’ve realized something: I’m pretty good at playing MMOs.

Less dying in LotRO

Over at Kill Ten Rats, Zubon writes about missing some achievements, using the example of LotRO’s “The Undying” deed as an example. It’s an interesting discussion, and one I won’t re-hash here. As I said in the comments, though, I might have more sympathy for this point of view if I hadn’t gotten the achievement on six of my seven initial characters. The one that “got away” was when a friend asked me to help and he got us in over our heads. But, it’s interesting to think that some people had a incredibly hard time doing this, with an example of someone “only playing safe quests” in Zubon’s article, when I was able to do it on most of my characters without any special preparations.

Elite bug endurance in DDO

In my regular DDO group, four of us plus two hirelings usually, we are tackling quests on Elite. So far we’ve done nearly every non-raid quest on Elite difficulty up through level 16. There have been a few exceptions (The Crucible and In the Flesh being the two exceptions so far), but for the most part we’ve been fairly resilient. Our group is currently level 20 (maximum level) with pretty middling gear; nothing too impressive currently, though.

The other night we were doing a really rough quest: Running with the Devils. This is part of the Vale of Twilight series and is a rather unusual quest in many ways. The enemies you fight are good-aligned, meaning a lot of gear and abilities you have might not work. My “Pure Good” weapons that do extra damage to non-good enemies were rendered less useful. As a ranger, I took “evil outsider” as a favored enemy, and these enemies are not evil. The Paladin in the group wasn’t getting her new capstone abilities. The Wizard/Rogue who has the Pale Master prestige enhancement couldn’t use her potent undead forms since the enemies do double damage with their light spells.

We tried the quest on a previous night and wiped. We tried two more times in our last session and finally on our last attempt we made it through. We changed our strategy, such as me finding a Greater Chaotic Outsider Bane weapon I could use on the AH for a reasonable price. We stretched ourselves to the breaking point, learning the layout after our previous wipes and finally managed to get to the end. Now, I will admit that we used some of the cash shop options (buying a cash shop resurrection cake after a wipe instead of having people run back through the wilderness area to get to the quest), but it still took some cleverness to get to that point. On top of this, one of the mini-bosses was bugged for part of it, a djinn that was invincible and tossing us around for the first half of the quest. When we got to the place where he normally spawns, we were able to take him down. But, we endured a lot more damage than needed. It was a quest where we had to use normal MMO tactics like pulling enemies, using line of sight, etc. I felt it was a tremendous victory.

I’m beastly in EQ2

In EQ2 I’ve been raiding with that restrictive guild a bit. On Saturday someone was running a program to parse the damage logs as we did a small raid. The results? My DPS for one zone was top at 216. The next highest was 169. Not bad for someone who hasn’t quite spent an obsessive amount of time playing. (The flipside is that I took 2 deaths because I pulled aggro from the tank, whereas nobody else took even a single death….)

Okay, it’s probably not 100% due to my awesomeness. This is a relatively new guild with people who haven’t played low level characters much, so some people are probably warming up to their roles. Part of this I’d also attribute to what I’ll call the “Death Knight syndrome”. See, my character is a Beastlord, the newest class added to EQ2 and available in the latest expansion. Just like the Death Knights from WoW’s Wrath of the Lich King expansion, there’s some pressure to make them more potent in order to get people to want to buy the expansion. With Beastlords coming at a time when not many people are running low-level content, the design goal was probably to have them feel super-powerful at lower levels to blast through content fast to get to the “real game”.

Also, the class mechanics are based a bit on random events, so it’s also entirely possible I’ve gotten really lucky. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. :)

Not artificial in DDO

My final story of how awesome I am comes from DDO again. A recent sale had me buying the Artificer class (another newly introduced class you have to pay for that seems rather powerful). With most of my alts, I like to roll a character on a new server to take advantage of per-server bonus favor microcurrency awards. So, I rolled a new Artificer on a new server. Note that Artificers are pretty BS. They get access to the most powerful ranged weapons in the game. They have a durable pet. They can self-heal themselves in many situations (and, yes, my character is a Warforged so I can self-heal). They also get a special rune-arm weapon that gives them even more power. Definitely over the top.

So, I’m joining pick-up groups (PUGs) to do quests on elite. One PUG I got into is one of those that supports the horror stories of PUGs. At level 5, the group decided to go do a rather notoriously hard low-level quest on Elite difficulty: Irestone Inlet. This quest is brutal because it has wandering stealthed enemies in an open area, so it’s easy to stumble across a nasty group of fighter and casters. It also has ogre enemies, which hit low-level characters brutally hard. A group has to stick together and fight cautiously to avoid overpulling or you will wipe for sure. This group? Well, let’s just say that someone did say, “Leeeeroy Jenkins!” in party chat. I’m not sure they realized that’s not a good thing to emulate. Add to this that the party healer was a hireling instead of a player.

It comes down to a few of the party members wiping to enemies but running to a local rez shrine to get back into combat quick. There was literally 20 party deaths in the quest summary at the end; none were mine. At one point all the rest of the party members had gotten killed a bit too far from the rez shrine. I was going to have to get their soul stones and drag them back a bit. But, first, I had to kill the enemies. Using my repeating heavy crossbow I kept the enemies at bay. I dodged around the incoming spells from the casters and clerics. But, I messed up: my shots hit an enemy from the next group away, pulling a whole new group. I was able to send my pet in and whittle them down. Not fast enough for the rest of the party, though, as the person with the cleric hireling disconnected, and then the other 3 people in the group left the party. Leaving me alone in a brutally tough quest only half-finished.

Know what, though? I finished the damn thing without dying. My better half asked me if I got any bonus xp awards from it; sadly, no, since the reward is based on the highest level character that had ever entered the quest. But, I got an even better reward: the smug satisfaction of knowing I wasn’t the dead weight of the group.

In all honesty…

Okay, for every story like this there are tons of stories of me noobing it up. Since I’m an MMO developer I like to think I have a more analytical mind than the average player. (Maybe not quite as analytical as the brightest developer minds, but not bad.) But, I think in the last two situations my advantage was picking the super-powered shiny new class.

What do you think? Do you feel that you’re a cut above the average MMO player? Do you find you accomplish things that others seem to find impossible? If so, why do you think that is? If not, why do you think lets others achieve more in MMOs?


  1. Your Artificer story was pretty bad-ass. :D

    Comment by Victor Stillwater — 6 February, 2012 @ 1:33 AM

  2. I think you are indeed better than the average player today because you think about the game, the mechanics and play with a different attitude and mindset.

    What’s the difference? The by far too common mindset nowadays is to see there is new content or a new game, Joe Average just logs in and expects everything to be like in say WoW. Any change to the interface or mechanics already seems to annoy this kind of MMO gamer. The more the more different it is. This type of player didn’t exist in the beginning and I wonder when exactly they entered the fray, probably during the high time of WoW.

    They move on after a few days of having logged in for a few minutes daily and after having completed this or that event. Few games manage to turn players into raiders like WoW or seem to make them stay at all, but even then people rather seem to clumsily have to be trained for every encounter without thinking themselves about it. That’s a major difference, nowadays it seems people depend on the raid leader incredibly very much as the person to explain them anything and letting him and him alone figure out things. There is even an option in the dungeon finder that you are the person who can explain others the dungeon. To put it bluntly, very uninvolved players who would not have even thought about trying to raid years ago do it today.

    I call it the vicious circle: player char power has increased over the years, while mob difficulty has decreased and they have become mobs for show, you mow them down by the half dozen nowadays without breaking a sweat. Add cutscenes and all that to it, it’s a more cinematic kind of gameplay and often lacking any challenge. You don’t need to fight hard, push buttons to win.
    TBC was very nice, dungeon and raiding-wise… :) Raiding got a lot easier, raiding for everyone, in WotLK. Now enter Cataclysm: Dungeons are a little harder compared to the ultra easy and VERY boring WotLK farm dungeons. What wasn’t in farm mode in WotLK?

    People got used to google talent builds etc. but reading guides that require some thinking seems to go out of fashion. Unthinking copying seems to be common nowadays. You can totally baffle people by wearing a green or blue item with perfect stats for your class or build. Why do you do this, they wonder, wearing a purple epic item with inferior stats for this build/class. This kind of players likes to mention that they play for fun and like to use the term “casual” to describe themselves.
    It’s that mindset that lead to the changes of talent trees to something where you have little choice and where it is actually impossible to do wrong, no matter how oddly you distribute points.

    Kudos to your DDO dungeon run! What brings you respect also brings you rather the opposite from some players.
    They explain their fail and you doing it solo this way:
    1.) You had better gear
    2.) Your char was buffed with shop items
    3.) Which makes you a total fail
    4.) You exploit bugs
    5.) You have nothing better to do all day
    6.) The most recognition they are capable of is asking where you got your build/setup from

    I think MMOs are too easy nowadays. Afraid of scaring players away through difficulty. Making leveling through the world extremely boring and by far too easy for many players. “Story”, more sophisticated and involved quests become quite common. But the difficulty of the encounters themselves remains very low, more like in theater, it is definitely not intended that anyone can fail during the story at all.

    Now think from your designer point of view about it and wonder how you can make an appealing game for all the many more different kinds of MMO gamer. So many contradictions to get under one hat that at one point you wonder why you bother and didn’t become a web developer, car mechanic or decided for any other kind of job. Hopefully not. :)

    Comment by Longasc — 6 February, 2012 @ 3:08 AM

  3. Your EQ2 success probably is mainly because you’re playing a beastlord. I say this from similar personal experience. Although I’ve played EQ2 since there was an EQ2 I had never stepped into a Battleground until a few weeks ago. I’d also never read much about how they worked, although I assumed, rightly as it turned out, that they’d be pretty similar to WoW or Rift instanced PvP playgrounds.

    When my beastlord capped his AAs at 100 in the mid-30s I thought I’d pop in and have a look. In the first BG I had absolutely no idea what was going on, where to go, what to do – anything. I just followed everyone else and attacked anyone not on my team. When the match ended and the scoreboard came up, I was very near the top for Kills, Killing Blows and DPS. I’ve done a lot more Battlegrounds with my Beastlord since then and while the number of kills and killing blows I get varies, I am usually in the top two or three across both teams for DPS. Since I still have only a vague clue what I’m doing, only play my Beastlord once or twice a week so have no muscle-memory for his set-up and have very little intuitive understanding of his abilities, I have to assume that his consistently high DPS is down to the class being overpowered rather than any skill of mine.

    On the substantive topic of being awesome at MMOs, it’s been my experience over the many years I’ve played that being competent is a lot more fun than being really good. On the odd occasions when I’ve felt that far in the groove with a character that I seem to be having a significantly easier time of it than people around me I’ve generally chosen to shelve that character for a while and try something else. Although I can’t say it’s been a problem all that often !

    Comment by bhagpuss — 6 February, 2012 @ 3:21 AM

  4. One of the big, big dividers in DDO is how well you move to avoid attacks. It’s huge. And if you have a long history of playing in games like Everquest or EQ2, you don’t do it at all. I’m guessing that you learned to do this a long time ago, like my friend Karaya. I’m learning it, but still pretty newbish at the whole thing.

    Based on the time you guys came and played with us, I’d rate you as a better player than me.

    Of course, this means little in EQ2. There I suspect that you’ve focused your gear and development on maximizing DPS, because that’s the logical minmax strategy at low levels. For years, though, we didn’t play that way.

    Comment by Toldain — 6 February, 2012 @ 9:41 AM

  5. I think that devs and experienced gamers have a knack for picking out the core mechanics of a game and automatically (even subconsciously) min-maxxing their own approach to them. It’s certainly something that I’ve seen in my own game play as opposed to my wife’s play. She’s a smart woman, but I simply have more gaming under my belt, a career in games and my own game designs I work on in spare time. I can do things in games that she is in awe over, but seem like gaming-as-usual for me.

    I don’t think I’m good at these things, mostly because I see players who are a lot better and know I have a lot of room for improvement. It’s the same when I play volleyball; I know I have a lot of room to grow, but I’m almost always the best player in the room. Much of it is just that I’m not playing in the top tiers, to be sure, but at the same time, I’m in a weird middle ground that’s beyond “hobbyist” but below “professional” (at least in volleyball and game design… I’m a professional artist).

    Still, I think I’m peculiarly geared to be good at games, though I think it has more to do with experience and proclivity than any sort of inherent ability or awesomeness. I’ve just played more, and games interest me. I *get* games better than most that I associate with.

    …of course, they, in turn, *get* piano playing or basketball or programming far better than I do. *shrug*

    Comment by Tesh — 6 February, 2012 @ 11:37 AM

  6. I agree with @Tesh’s comment about “getting” games. I love games of all kinds and have been playing forever but there are certain facets of gaming like strategy, reflexes, and crunching numbers that just don’t come naturally to me. It’s very frustrating. But it’s one of the reasons I like TTRPG and LARP the best of all games: they rely more on roleplaying than game mechanics.

    Comment by Djinn — 6 February, 2012 @ 12:55 PM

  7. BTW, this is one of those posts where I tried to “hide” the main point in with another subject. The real topic I wanted to focus on was how overpowered “new” classes tend to be; a literal “pay to win” that people who deride “free to play” tend to ignore a lot. I think that point got lost in the post; I blame my fatigue and illness from the last several days.

    Anyway, my point wasn’t just about how awesome I was, but also about how picking the shiny new class always seems to be a winning move as far as raw power goes. WoW’s Death Knights were able to switch to multiple roles pretty easily (originally with just a stance change), impinging on some of the advantages the “hybrid” classes were supposed to have. (Worse, Blizzard seemed intent to remove as much of that flexibility from Druids as they could after WotLK). DDO’s Artificers are raw power, and EQ2′s Beastlords are obviously fairly potent according to the damage logs. But, I suspect that people who bemoan “pay to win” would only point to DDO’s Artificers as the evil option.

    Anyway, thanks for the insightful comments, as always, even if it seems my original post went a bit off target.

    Comment by Psychochild — 6 February, 2012 @ 6:01 PM

  8. Are new classes perhaps more powerful because there exists a player base which is already used to higher level characters? A way to encourage existing players to stick with the new but low level character, or perhaps a way to make new players feel that they have something special of their own, to somewhat stave off the frustrations of looking at established high level players and their seemingly super-powered level-capped characters.

    The Warden and Runekeeper were both quite powerful compared to the original LotRO classes as well, so it does seem to be a trend.

    The Artificer does sound rather godlike, however; I’m glad we have one in our adventuring party.

    Of course, every party should also have a Psychochild, where possible.

    Comment by Melmoth — 7 February, 2012 @ 9:03 AM

  9. Melmoth wrote:
    Are new classes perhaps more powerful because there exists a player base which is already used to higher level characters?

    I could buy that if the power tapered off over a bit. LotRO’s two new classes didn’t seem particularly overpowered at max level. In raiding, it seemed that a Warden tank was preferred in some situations, but Guardian tanks weren’t made obsolete. (It was Champions who got a bit of power that made Guardians feel useless in some group content.) Rune-keepers had their attunement system they had to deal with, so they were pretty potent but nowhere near as flexible as just about any other class. (Hunters and Loremasters had a lot more utility and crowd-control abilities, for example.) It is interesting to note that Turbine did give everyone who purchased Mines of Moria 2 extra character slots so they could try out the Warden and Rune-keeper easily.

    Compare this to the Death Knight, where my old TBC raiding guild had about 3 Death Knights when they started raiding WotLK content. Death Knights started at level 50 (of 80), so they didn’t need to be overwhelming at low levels. As a Feral Druid that took pride in being able to do good DPS and an offtank in a pinch, Death Knights made my build seem completely obsolete, to the point where I went Boomkin despite being a Feral practically since launch. (This is probably one reason I dropped out of WotLK content early, I wasn’t playing the character I really wanted to and didn’t want to become yet another Death Knight.) It took a long time before the nerfhammer fell on DKs and brought them into line. I think part of that was to ensure that people bought WotLK; I’m sure there were some worries around the Blizzard HQ that people might not adopt the second expansion as eagerly as they took to the first.

    The Beastlord and the Artificer seem much more like the DK. Super-powerful and multi-talented. I didn’t even go into how Artificers can do traps as well as Rogues can. Only thing missing to make them super-über is evasion, and a 2 level Monk or Rogue splash does that. And, as for Beastlords, I got comments the other night from party members about, “Wow, I’d like to one-shot enemies like that, too!”

    To my eye, it seems pretty consistent that when a new class is introduced into a typical MMO, it’s going to be noticeably more powerful than other classes as a selling point. It might also be a way to keep high level ennui in check as you state, but I don’t feel that’s the primary intent. Given that many WoW players had a lot of alts and loved the low-level game, why did DKs start at 50? Maybe I’m reading malice into where there’s only stupidity, though.

    Of course, every party should also have a Psychochild, where possible.

    Careful, the friendly fire from the AoE sarcasm ability gets a lot of complaints in groups. ;)

    Comment by Psychochild — 7 February, 2012 @ 11:48 AM

  10. How a guild dies

    [...] of the flexibility of the rules for the guild is that there were no forbidden races or classes. I've written before about the power of new classes, and I was relatively overpowered for the content we tackled. I like to think that this was also [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild's Blog — 6 October, 2012 @ 11:03 AM

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