Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

8 August, 2015

Odds and Ends in the games I play
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 8:06 AM

Blaugust, day 8

So, it’s been a week mostly talking about Bartle player type perspectives on the games I play. Let me go into a few more small bits about the games I currently play to round out the week.


Story is interesting in both games. DDO is based on the Eberron campaign setting created by Keith Baker. (Although, Turbine never consulted with him, despite having some background in MMOs.) It’s an interesting setting with a lot of depth. Lots of people didn’t care for it, though, and wanted good ol’ Forgotten Realms. Later expansions added FR areas because the Astral Planes are a thing, but I found that new content to be a lot less interesting. But, there are little snippets of story in the world from quest chains and voiceovers to give you a good feel for the world without there being a grand overarching story.

FFXIV, on the other hand, isn’t shy about giving you a bunch of story; after all, that’s kinda what the FF series is known for now. There are the Main Scenario Quests (MSQ) that gate access to a lot of features, where you had to complete the MSQ to even access the new zones of the expansion! The story is fairly well written, with fleshed out characters and even some decent voice acting, although they changed most of the English voice actors for the expansion for some reason. Your character is the “Warrior of Light” (just like everyone else, of course), and your character is mostly a silent cipher, like in TSW, but your character does at least stoically nod rather than mostly stand there.

I’ve said before that there are two stories in MMOs: the one written by the developer and the one shaped by player experiences. The problem is that the developer one is easier to promote because it’s a shared experience, whereas a player’s experience is essentially “let me tell you about my level 60 Summoner….” But, I still say that ultimately it’s that second type of story that is more engaging to each player.

Hardcore vs. casual vs. the rest

In a discussion probably as old as MMOs themselves, there’s an eternal conflict between the hardcore and the casuals, and the middlecore stuck somewhere in between. The argument goes that the hardcore elite want something to challenge them and give them special recognition (usually through rewards) for defeating that challenge. People who don’t have the time, friends, and/or ability to tackle that content don’t want to be left out of a game they’re paying for as well. The hardcore are usually a tiny fraction of the playerbase although they might have more connections in the game and might help retain other non-hardcore players better.

In DDO, there are endless discussions about how hard or easy the game is. Once you know the quests and have accumulated power from reincarnations and storing up good equipment, the game becomes much easier. Both of the groups I play in notice that our TR characters are much more powerful, able to tackle Elite challenges easily. So, people with dozens of reincarnations with dozens of boosts to character power would probably find these a breeze. So, they go to the forums and complain the game is “too easy” for them and want Turbine to increase the challenge. But, this would make the people wandering into the game completely fresh feel potentially a lot more frustrated. I know there were a few quests in our first lives that were dreadfully difficult at level for both groups, despite being pretty good players with pretty solid builds.

FFXIV has the usual “raider vs. casual” arguments we saw plenty of in prior games, particularly in WoW. The elite raiders want hard content and don’t want to slog through normal content to get there. But, again, those elite raiders are a tiny fraction of the population, with most people eventually going to dip a toe into content they defeated in the first week. Making content the elite can skip over is a waste, and making content that only the elite will be interested in is probably not the best financial option.

I kind of wonder if the hardcore players who want more challenge would be willing to pay extra. Have a “super-hard” mode that requires a special subscription payment, or have a “raider’s access” fee to help pay for active development of high-end content that will only be played by a small number of people.

Clone vs. homage

I’ve mostly been talking about these games as a player, but let me slip back on my developer hat for a second and talk about FFXIV. It’s interesting that the game failed so miserably in its original incarnation, but then had a massive turnaround and is one of the most popular MMOs right now. Given the rate that WoW’s subscriptions are falling, FFXIV might become the most popular game in the near future.

But, how did they accomplish this? Unfortunately, it seems a lot of the solutions to FFXIV’s original problems was “make it more like WoW”. As I mentioned on Monday, the producer of FFXIV joked that his game wasn’t free-to-play because WoW isn’t free-to-play. Now, I’m happy for FFXIV’s success and absolutely believe that their success is a good thing, but part of me wishes it hadn’t been from sticking so closely to the WoW model. From everything I’ve read, there were massive problems in much of the game beyond the gameplay, particularly the UI and general game performance. It would have been nice to see them try to keep more unique elements of the original gameplay.

Aside, one week into Blaugust

I kept telling myself I should post on here more. I kept putting it off. As I said, there are some reasons I don’t want to talk about in public for this. So, I decided to do Blaugust almost as a dare to myself. I figured with some motivation I’d stick with it.

A bit shout out to my fellow Blaugust writers, particularly Belghast who has been organizing this circus. I don’t participate in the community as much as I’d like to because of limited time (I do play 2 MMOs, after all), but knowing they’re out there has given me some fire to write more.

Here’s to the rest of the month being as productive!

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  1. I’ve long thought that those who write and develop games may not be able to just play and enjoy them, all immersed like the rest of us. My thinking was you may not be able to lose yourself in a world because you couldn’t ignore/not see the mechanicals behind it all.
    Thank you for this week’s posts which show that the makers of worlds are dreamers too.

    Comment by Atheren — 8 August, 2015 @ 9:59 AM

  2. To be fair, there are some good developers and designers who cannot play a game for fun. Dr. Richard Bartle, a good friend of mine, says he no longer plays for fun. I think there are a fair number of pure engineers who love the tech side and the challenges there without necessarily being in love with the specific games.

    I find that I can temporarily “turn off” my analytical side and play, then do a post-game analysis. Very useful skill to not lose touch.

    Comment by Psychochild — 8 August, 2015 @ 9:00 PM

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