The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly

From what I can tell, the second most common complaint leveraged against character creators in MMOs, is the ‘idealized’ avatars, or the inability to make a ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ looking character. The first complaint is lack of options. However, there are plenty of games that make ugly characters just fine (albiet unintentionally), and that usually doesn’t pan out well.

As for non-standard characters, we should at least have options that are immediately visible. Here’s some of the easiest ways to look different:

Height – makes you immediately recognizable in a crowd. This is a relatively easy feature to include, which ends up in only a handful of MMOs. The real challenge here is how to portray short people. Most games screw up at this point, because you can’t just scale it down. You have to understand anatomy, which programmers usually don’t.

Build – most games fail at offering a choice of body-types (if at all). Go to your local grocery store, and just people-watch for an hour. There is such a great diversity in proportions, builds, and types in everyday society. It’s not just a matter of a “fat <-> skinny” slider. People have distinctly different builds, so let us leverage them to make a unique character. Let me make a character that looks like Benjamin Franklin.

Age – MMOs are probably the worst offender. Blinking in the digital sun, we’re typically are born as standard, idealized 20-something recruits. Changing the hair color to white really doesn’t look like ‘age’ when the model’s still 25. I’d like to create a wizened, crotchety old man. Or in the spirit of combat classes, at least a grizzled old world-weary veteran.


So there you have it, just a few things that character creators would benefit from. Not original, but they’d easily be improvements. But what about you? What was the best character creation system you’ve ever seen (physical customization — not just costumes)?

Will MMOs ever be too massive?

Sandbox MMOs are constantly pushing the boundaries of how large, and how complex a digital world can be. The boundaries are starting to burst with the upcoming DUST514, which is linked in real-time to EVE Online’s already massive universe. As it stands, they claim that learning every skill in the game would take 7 real-time years. With this trend towards bigger and more complex MMOs, do you think an MMO can become too big?

Millions of hardcore players lining up to get their pre-order of Hello Kitty Online

Can you imagine a scenario in which the digital world is so large, that you can’t experience it all in one lifetime? Many of us suffer from the ‘steam summer sale pile’, buying more cheap games than we have time to ever play. Could a single game be so vast and complex that you’d have to pick and choose what aspects to specialize in? And would that be a positive, or a negative?

I’d wager that there exists a ‘critical mass’ at which point a game becomes so content-rich that it is no longer enjoyable. There’s something special about being part of a living, breathing, massive digital world. Drop me into a rich, finely crafted cyberpunk city and I’ll enjoy it for a good while. But what happens when you procedurally generate 10,000 worlds, each with hundreds of cities, all in a state of economic, political, military and environmental flux? I’d probably be overwhelmed.

So share your thoughts… where does the line exist for you?

Massively,
-Machination

Slacking

Well, I admit it. I’ve been slacking. But among my psychotic real-life schedule, I’ve picked up a couple of the more obscure MMORPGs and got a good taste of ’em. Ryzom caught my attention because it has a richly detailed crafting system, and the ability to create your own skills. Battlestar Galactica Online snagged me because as a fan of the show, I of course wanted to participate in a story alongside the heroes I knew.

I can’t speak much for Ryzom yet, but Battlestar Galactica Online struck me immediately as an enjoyable experience. Constantly battling the other faction’s players and AI, while flying through the beautiful cosmos that are so prevalent in space combat games. And then the music hooked me. There’s something strange and yet comforting about flying around in the black.

At any rate, I thought I should at least let you know why I’m slacking on the blog, and where you can find me. Both games are free to play, so experience at your own liesure. I’ll not be pursuing either of these seriously, but if something strikes me as particularly stellar, I’ll write up a Design Spotlight.

Morosely,
-Machinaion

[That’s a Stupid Idea]: The End Is Near!

Hello ambiguous gaming blog community! It’s time for another decrypted idea, and this one’s real simple:

MMOs bear a startling resemblance to a reality TV show. The best ones have a well-thought out, rich storyline that leads up to a definite ending. And like most reality TV shows, MMOs tend to run beyond the normal lifecycle, shutting down only when they are no longer profitable. What it means, is a ton of ‘filler’ content. It means that each ‘season’ (expansion) must introduce some antagonist even greater than the one before.

Most importantly, it means that the story will drag on in chunks until the producers decide there’s no money left to be had, at which point it is promptly scrapped. Sound familiar?

Totally saw that one coming

So why not make an MMO with a pre-defined ending time, say 3 years from launch. The main world story could be richly detailed, with major events planned on a monthly basis that lead up to the finale. And WHAT a finale that would be! I mean, most MMOs don’t even last that long anyways, right? Might as well go out with a bang.

Would you participate in that spectacular finale?

Would anyone still play it knowing that it will end?

Don’t all games have to end eventually?

Food for thought.

Musingly,
-Machination

One Month Later, Credit is Due

It’s been one month since I’ve hard-wired this blog onto the great and endless grid of the internet. And since then, I’ve created 4 recurring features (albiet at unpredictable intervals). Perhaps a bit more than I can chew, since school is threatening to start up again in September.

At any rate, I’m rather pleased with myself for coming out of the shadows of lurkerhood and starting a blog. However, I’d never have done so without inspiration from the Gaming Blog Nexus and the Newbie Blogger Initiative.

If you haven’t heard about it, these are projects to help foster support of one another in the gaming blog community. So check it out! Perhaps you’ll discover something new!

Merely,
-Machination

[Get Critical]: Subscriptions

First off, this isn’t a discussion about free to play vs. subscriptions and the inherent evil of one or the other. So save your righteous fury; it won’t be needed here. This is a list of subscription types, and the positive and negative effects it has on developers and players alike. We’ll take a peek at how it changes a company’s motivations, and some psychological differences in how gamers feel they have to play.

Just remember that at the end of the day, the quality and community of a game will typically outshine whatever payment model it’s using. So, with our critical-goggles firmly in place, let’s inspect the 3 types of subs!

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[That’s a Stupid Idea]: Altaholics Anonymous

As promised, I’ve decoded another page of my subconsciously encrypted notebook, and found another stupid idea to make you think “What If?”

Some of us (like myself) are considered Altaholics, in that we can’t ever seem to get a single character to level cap. We try every single race, class, or starting combination. Our login screens are positively teeming.

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