Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Back to Routine

I am back to the once a day ~30 minute regimen that I have been trying to follow. I'll have an update on how I hope to develop that tomorrow with my weigh in. For today I'll just give a vine link (Bonus points if you can tell what I was watching on TV.)

Now, let's talk about the last two posts in the bunch I've been scraping together over the weekend. UI Add-on talk with Jon Wiesman and Quality of Life Features with Jeremy Gaffney. (I consider UI add-ons to be a quality of life feature because it allows the community to create quality of life features that the developers have on the back burner while they deal with more pressing issues.)

The entry from Jon Wiesman says very little about the UI itself. He confirms that there will be user created add on capabilities; hell, it's the title of the post. Beyond that the entry is mostly about Jon Wiesman's coding philosophy, particularly when it comes to tools for developers. He talks about his history at Sony and about a frustrating experience he had trying to use a particular language to create a pretty simple tool he'd developed. The point he makes at the end is that he wants his tools to be easy to use. A suite of tools for programers, do be sure, but easy to use and understand so that if you are the type of player who wants to program a UI mod that you don't throw your hands up in frustration 20 hours in.

I hope this is the case. I think the full add on support in World of Warcraft has been one of the things that has strengthened the game over its near 10 year history. Sure, having an open source UI means you sometimes have problems. You have to police your players a little bit harder to make sure they aren't using add ons to trivialize or automate game play. Some companies use this as a reason to have a ridged UI. SWTOR, for example. Face facts, hackers are going to hack. Having a hard coded UI did not prevent speed hacks or bots from being all over SWTOR for the last year. I am not a programer, but I think the pros outweigh the cons by a country mile on this one.

The next post o the list goes into some Quality of Life Features. This was an interesting blog for me partially because I would think you need a population who's life you are trying to improve the quality of. Things like adding mailboxes to areas that you didn't expect to be congregation spots. Or simple changes to correct unforeseen problems, such as adding new mailboxes because when there was just one some jack-hole would sit on it with his biggest mount and drive everyone nuts. For some reason I think of these types of features as reactionary. But Jeremy Gaffney makes some good points. He is talking about the steps that they are taking to help players focus on having fun and less about point A to Point B uneventful travel. Roads that increase movement speed, Quests that pop up, completing quests remotely via communicator. (Something that is less immersion breaking in a sci fi game. I get that a little bird flies in every time I get or send a mail in GW2 but...come on!? On the other hand, it is convenient.) He touches on the Twitter length quest text plan, and I have to agree this is a quality of life feature as he is defining it. long quests are interesting sometimes, but five minutes reading is five minutes of not killing, or exploring, or whatever you'd prefer to be doing. If you want to spend that time reading, then there is a journal with more details for you to read, or he suggests being a Scientist and seeking out the deep lore in the world.

Gaffney seems to diverge a bit and drop some information about the sort of things that Settlers will do in the world -- providing quality of life to other players around them. Settlers can build speed boost stations along roads, build mount vendors in town or create additional taxi points across the map. He describes these are quality of life features, but I don't agree exactly. These are game play elements. It will be nice to have them, but if I'm not a settler there is nothing I can do to influence their presence. They feel more like quality of life for my character instead of me. Mouse Over Targeting is a good example. That was a huge quality of life feature in Warcraft, it changed how I played the game dramatically, especially when healing. It didn't change how my character interacted with the world, he still cast his spells on the people who needed healing, but it changed how many clicks I had to make, improving my quality of life.

A side issue that these Settler things bring up for me. How is the Settler encouraged to build these structures. MMO Gamers have a tendency to do what is rewarding over what is fun, or what is friendly. Sure, building taxis in a low level zone is nice. It helps new players get around and have a good time...but what's in it for me? That fuzzy feeling in my chest is nice and all, but I could watch kitten videos on You Tube. How does it help me get powerful equipment.

In these Dynamic games, such as Rift and Guild Wars 2, the content is amazing for the first month or two, but then the majority of players are max level and off doing max level things. The number of players in low level zones is minimal, double digits are often uncommon. This makes these interplays between paths seem more of a hindrance than a quality of life. What will Wildstar do to fill zones 6 months after launch? Are we going to see systems that encourage players to return to whence they came? Will they implement a Cross Realm Zone technology like World of Warcraft has done. This is a fairly important aspect to consider given the topic of the blog entry.

Well I went off the rails a bit there, I need to write these before I start to get sleepy.

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