Monday, March 11, 2013

Uplinks on moving day

Nothing too dramatic going on here, but I did move around the furniture in my bed room to give us some more floor space so I can stop doing sit ups in the hallway. Now I just need to get back to that. While arranging things I found a stack of papers I'd printed off from a workout site with a plan for a couple months of exercise. The subject is heavy in the same way that I am, sedentary, high calorie diet, emphasis on processed foods. The difference is the goal, more of a beefy strength focus, where as I want to restore a lean frame. I may use it as a guide though, now that I feel I have the base abilities needed.

Now, onto Wildstar, there are two uplinks originally slotted for this entry, but I am going to squeeze in the entry from this Friday on PVP at the end.

The first Uplink comes to us from October 29th, 2012. It asked the following question: What are your favorite examples of machinima today? What do you think makes a good piece of machinima?

A fun question. I am not a machinima creator, so I don't know much about the process. But I do know what I like to watch. Here are a few of my favorites.

A finalist in one of the Blizzcon contests, Don't Make Me Get My Main.
A finalist in a contest involving the Ataris new album (at the time)

An episode of Blizz Blues. ( I recommend all of Blizz Blues a now discontinued series by @akamikeb)

The Blogger editor is starting to get angry at me for embedding so many videos. So I'll mention a few others. How about Blind. Some people like old school stuff. How about The Grind. Or there is Myndflame, a creator who is still active today, I remember his early WoW stuff, Illegal Danish. The entry at Wildstar has some good discussion, and links to other Machinima people liked (Mostly WoW, but there were 3 that featured other games. Funny how having a base of 10 million players allows for some truly talented fans to rise up.) The entry wraps up with an address from Chris Hanel, a(the?) Cinematics Designer at Carbine. He lays out some of the ways that the team can offer support to fans. It's a good read.

The next entry on November 12th, 2012 asked the following question: Given science fiction's prevalence across movies, television, and books, why does it seem like there are so few sci-fi MMOs? What do you think can be done to widen the sci-fi MMO field?

An interesting question, certainly, but one I'm afraid I don't have any thoughts on. There is an entry related and a developer analysis provided as usual at the Wildstar Blog, but I have nothing of interest to contribute.

And the final Uplink from this last Friday 3/08/13 asked this question: We've talked about game balance previously, but this week we'd like to focus on PvP. What are you biggest frustrations with PvP? (For context, the Game Balance Uplink I have slated for a post later this week along with a couple of others.)

This is a very meaty discussion, one that if I had more time before leaving for PAX would give its own entry, but I'll try and stay concise...who am I kidding.

The first big issue that came up was Gear versus Skill, as it does frequently surrounding PVP in MMOs. The general consumer seems to be saying within the last year or so that they don't want gear to matter in their PVP, they want skill to trump all. As a counter argument Guild Wars 2 structured PVP has no leveling or gear progression. As a result its appeal appears on the surface to be limited. Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) The Lead Systems Designer on World of Warcraft. recently stated that the gear grind is one of the key hooks to Warcraft's PVP success. Could a system be designed that provided a meaningful and rewarding system of progression where skill still trumps gear?

The very interesting diametrically opposed frustrations expressed on this issue is a real challenge to deal with. 
BlimeyGames: When a system allows the same rewards for someone who doesn't play as much as someone who puts in a lot of effort.
compared to 
Jar_Nod: Being able to buy PvP gear with honor. Then it turns into a "who spent the most time in BGs" rather than "who is the best"
My personal frustration surrounding the issue of gear is that when a system is put in place to reward the most successful players with advanced rewards they become more powerful and as a result remain ahead of the curve. This seems to create a "rich get richer" problem which inevitably leads to introducing a way for less successful players to catch up to the arms race. Jen Gordy, Senior PvP Systems Designer commented on this issue by laying out a rough sketch of the plan for Wildstar PVP. They intend to use an Elo rating system that you may be familiar with from League of Legends, and that better gear rewards will be available to highly ranked players. Further explaining that the ranked matchmaking system will match players of similar rank, and an unranked system will be in place that will match players of similar gear levels. This is interesting, but I wonder how many players are needed to make this system work correctly. I was a big fan of SWTOR PVP until the ranking system fell apart because it was not cross server so the populations could not support a diverse degree of player skills. This is probably my number one concern with Wildstar structured PVP at this time. I hope we see a system set up in tiers or leagues and some sort of gear limitations inside those leagues, something automatic though. I'd hate to have it be like the old FFXI days where you had to carry around all sorts of different level appropriate gear in case you needed to run a certain mission with a friend.
The next big issue was about Crowd Control effects and the ability to kill players inside the duration of effect. In general people seem to dislike when they can have 100% of their health eliminated either inside a single stun, or through skilled Crowd Control juggling that removes control from the affected player for extended periods of time. This is a serious problem in World of Warcraft PVP, most of the game at the high level is managing crowd control and burst to eliminate healers.

Chris Lynch, Lead Combat Systems Designer addressed this one, he explains a combat system in Wildstar called "Interrupt Armor" which is a Crowd Control protection that must be depleted before a Crowd Control will take effect. This is an interesting system, kind of the opposite of SWTOR's resolve bar which provides protection to the player after a certain amount of Crowd Control has been applied. To fully understand it, I would have to work with it, but he does go on to explain that this could be used in PVE encounters as well.

A final concern brought up by players was the feeling that the games become static after time. I don't know that I can agree with this concern. If a map and game style is designed well players will establish a strategy that works. Then their opponents will develop a strategy to counter it. Then a counter counter strategy has to be deployed and certain compositions and routes become viable and a threat, so further adjustments to play are always needed. It is a community driven evolution to the game. What we see in casual Warcraft PVP is a strong concern with just farming kills in the midfield of the map. This results in a stagnation of game strategy because players aren't interested in winning the game, only winning their fight. Look at Starcraft and League of Legends for examples of games with limited scope that require a lot team and player strategy and reaction to the opposing team's strategy or perceived strategy.

That's it for me today, hopefully the videos at the top lightened up all these words.

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