[Misc] EVE advertising, Flexi raids in WoW, E3 and the rush of FPS MMOs

Apologies for this being a bit of a mashup. I should probably post more often rather than waiting till I have a few items together.


This banner was part of a banner ad for EVE Online on rpg.net. This is their advertising slogan. “Be the villain”. And they wonder why their community has a terrible reputation, and only 4% of the player base is female.

Just saying.

I’m still playing through my first month in EVE quietly, deliberately not getting involved in corps or PvP because I just wanted to get a feel for the flow of the game. By far the most compelling part so far is the Facebook-like skill training system. I don’t mean that as a knock to the awesome economic game, beautiful graphics or fairly dull PvE. But the skill training is surprisingly compelling (or perhaps not if you’re used to Farmville). So perhaps it is not surprising that the devs have introduced a new mini game in the recent update – I can’t personally comment on it since I haven’t really figured out probes in any case.

The immensely clever thing about this game is the gamification of boredom. PvE activities like mining are made deliberately dull to encourage player-ships to hang around while players are reading something in another window, making them easy prey for wannabee pirates. ie. the pirates are pretty much guaranteed easy player prey, whilst the miners/ distributers can still make enough credits to shrug off losing the odd ship every now and then.

And as long as everyone roughly gets what they want most of the time, no one will get pissed off enough to leave. It’s actually pretty clever, but still boring. Before anyone comments, I realise that the PvP game is where most of the fun is, just joining a corps is a massive hassle and my goal here was just to get a feel for the game.

One of the  main issues with EVE is always going to be how the devs can balance making the game accessible to newbies while allowing the longer term players to enjoy the advantages of lengthy playing time. For all I’m told that newbies can easily fly with PvP fleets (if in the right role), I still see a  lot of fleets in chat that have far more rigorous requirements.

Are you flexible?

One of the features coming to WoW in the next patch has been dubbed flexible raiding by the devs. In addition to LFR (25 man) and  normal mode (10 or 25 man) for raids, there is now going to be an inbetween version that lets you bring any number of players between 10 and 25 and scales based on how many you bring. The flexi raids also are on a separate lockout from either LFR or normal mode, and drop loot that is also between LFR and normal mode loot.

I’m cautiously hopeful about this new raid mechanic. At the beginning of Cataclysm, like many other people, I commented on how forcing 10 and 25 man raiding to the same lockout would impact on casual raid guilds. Back in the day, we used to run fairly chilled out 25 man raids and the more hardcore raiders could still go off and run their own 10 mans at weekends. After the lockout changed, we compacted into a casual 10 man guild where the more hardcore raiders could still raid with the main group and everyone else could come to alt runs or LFR.

The new flexi raids mean that if people want, we could return to the old Wrath raid pattern. I expect to see a lot more public flexi raids being run also, where raiders and their alts can chill with other raiders from their realm in a non guild exclusive environment. Given that more choice is good, I’m going to welcome the new raid type.

What it means to 10 man normal raid groups, I’m not sure. If like us they raid successfully but at a cost of rarely being able to include less hardcore raiders (I realise I am using hardcore in a different way to heroic groups Smile ) and often having a couple of people on the bench, it will be tempting to just shift to flexi raids and throw in the odd normal mode as an extra if players want.

Blizzard are also releasing more information about the next patch, which looks as though it will be rather more interesting than the current one. The Godmother has a quick summary of some of the new upcoming  features.  I actually applaud them for releasing the current quieter patch over the summer period, because players don’t really want to feel stressed to play MMOs when the weather is nice (I live in hope).

What E3 brought

I’m not really sold yet on either XBone or the PS4 as a next gen console, my PS3 is still looking pretty good and PC gaming has rarely been better*. However, I’m going to bow to Sony’s PR guys this week because their video on how the PS4 lets you share games is a winner; at least it makes them look as though they understand gamers rather better than Microsoft. I wouldn’t write the XBone off though, MSoft have a very clear vision of their customer – someone who loves watching sport, playing ‘core’ video games online with friends, and isn’t that price sensitive. We should just call the console the XBROne and have done with it. Imagine my surprise that the Microsoft E3 presentation a) showed no games with female protagonists and b) involved a scripted rapey joke at the expense of a female presenter. Like I say, they know exactly who their target audience are. And yes I do enjoy watching them get mocked for it in the national press.

* I will probably eventually pick up a PS4 to play whichever version of Final Fantasy we are up to now (15 I think) because old habits are hard to break.

I am also seeing (finally) a rush of FPS MMOs lined up for the next gen consoles. Between Destiny and The Division, along with Planetside 2 and whatever MMOlike features are planned for CoD et al, it will be interesting to see how both the monetisation strategies and gameplay catch on with console players.

And the game that most intrigued me was the Plants vs Zombies shooter. Like Liore, I think this is an interesting way of opening up the genre to a different audience. I kind of want to play a Sunflower that spits sunbeams, even though I’m not big on shooters.

Building a better auction house

Auction Houses are incredibly convenient in MMOs, and I love them. I’ve spent many happy hours staring at an Auctio… (editor’s note: no one will believe this!). Let’s just say that I’ve been able to use auction houses to earn some gold and equip characters in just about every game where they exist. I’m not a hardcore businesswoman in games but if you don’t mind spending a bit of time to figure out the market/s  it is a whole other side and challenge to MMOs.

I know it’s not as immersive as meeting up with other players to trade but this is one of those sad places where just about everyone is happy to trade immersion for convenience. But I could love the auctions  so much more if I could do more of these things with them:

  1. I want proper programmable searches. So if I have a few items I am watching (maybe there is some item I often farm and sell) or maybe something particular that I’m looking out for, I just hit my ‘search A’ button and it comes up every day. It needn’t be any harder than setting up filters on an email program. eg. In Warhammer my Archmage is an Apothecary and might want to buy dye ingredients and sell dye, so it would save me a lot of time if I could set up a standard button to list all of those things currently at auction, to help me decide what to make/sell/buy. Really what I’m asking for is user-defined categories.
  2. I want buy orders. So if I want to buy some metal ore at a specified price but none is currently up on the auction house, I set up my buy order (eg. buy up to 80 cobalt ore at 2g per piece) and deposit however much gold that would cost, and as soon as any auction goes up with that raw material at that price or less the buy order kicks in and it gets automatically bought and sent to me. The buy order doesn’t need to be secret, maybe sellers can search through them and decide which one gives them the best deal before they sell. Sell orders could work in a similar way.
  3. I want records built in for what recent sales of any goods actually sold for so that I can easily check. In WoW you can get an addon to help with this but why not have that information built in and available to everyone?
  4. Guild/ Alliance auctions. I know LOTRO and WAR have a category for guild only auctions and I really like this ; it’s a good way for making nice items preferentially available to the group of people who you regularly play with (which will actually benefit you in the long run also). But I’m not sure how ofter people bother to check the guild auctions. There must be some way to notify people of when something they might like is available — maybe some ability for a guild/alliance auction to mail out to people if a nice epic that would be an upgrade for them goes up. Or maybe have the guild auctions available in a different location (in WoW, if the guild auctioneer was in Dalaran, it would be much more frequently checked).
  5. Buy and sell guildies. Everyone has people in their guild they’d rather sell off or trade in, right? Why stop at raw materials?
  6. Advertising. If I’m a crafter, why shouldn’t I be able to advertise in the Auction House or around the game? Spamming the trade channel is so 2004. I’d pay good gold to get a raid boss to wear a tabard reading:  ‘Spinks! For all your blacksmithing needs!’ or have a custom shout when it wiped a raid saying something like, “Thank goodness those lamers didn’t buy their armour from Spinks, or I’d have been in real trouble!” (I’d pick Razuvious by the way, because I hate him so much.)

Some of these would call for fairly heavy duty database work, but what is an AH but a database anyway? And it’s not as if Blizzard don’t have the money.