Seeing MMORPG inspiration in other games

We’ve been playing a good amount of Gloomhaven this last week, partly because Star Wars the Old Republic had issues that kept us from playing two nights in a row. In Gloomhaven we’re busy chasing the achievements to unlock new classes, plus also doing quests to earn enough money to start buying some ‘enhancements’ to our favourite characters’ cards.

Playing some of the more advanced classes has me feeling serious Lord of the Rings Online vibes. The quartermaster, to me, really reminds me of the warden: a tanky character with a mixture of close combat melee and short-range spear attacks who has some buffs and self-heals.

Also there’s the Soothsinger, that again makes me immediately think of the minstrel class in LOTRO as I watch it in play. Like in the MMO, this class is a support class who makes everyone else in the party shine, oh they do some nasty stuff to enemies by screaming at them. Admittedly the Soothsinger lacks the heavy damage that the minstrel can bring if specced for it.

That’s not to suggest Gloomhaven is “LOTRO the tactical RPG”. It has some very unique world-building of its own, and most of the other classes fit high fantasy closer than they do Tolkien’s world; more Dungeons & Dragons than Middle Earth. It also seems to draw inspiration from tabletop RPGs somewhat as well. The advantage / disadvantage rules for the modifier deck, for example, is terminology that D&D 5E popularised (if not invented).

Advantage can avoid the dreaded ‘x0’ modifier

Whatever the inspirations for the game’s elements, they gel well together and represent a very enjoyable whole. We’ve talked among us about the board game that the PC game was developed to emulate, but personally I prefer the graphics and rules-automation of the PC version. It certainly has helped us to learn the game by having the programmed rule interpretations to lean on rather than only our collective interpretation of what should happen. This mirrors our experience many years ago with the Sharandar Magic the Gathering computer game. In that case we’d played the collectable card game for a few years beforehand, and it was only in seeing the computer game interpreting certain specific card interactions, that led us to realise we had misread or misinterpreted such rulings in the past!

Posted in D&D, Gloomhaven, LotRO, MMORPG | 1 Comment

Neverwinter’s Module 21 announcement

I read while I was ‘away from keyboard’ via Shintar’s Neverwinter Thoughts blog post about the surprising major changes coming to Cryptic’s Neverwinter Online MMORPG. The addition of the Bard class is a very welcome new feature. The only potential downside for husband and I is the discussion on whether we both level one or chose between us on who gets to play one, playing two of the same class has always felt a bit weird in any MMO, and we’ve struggled with this when new classes were added before – playing two Paladins and two Warlocks together didn’t gel well.

The class overview speaks to potential complexity in the Bard’s gameplay. Songs have numbered notes to execute, with the possibility to ‘quickslot’ a song’s note sequence to avoid manually playing them every time, but with a limitation on how many songs can be short-cutted in that way. It sounds complex and intruiging, but in an action MMO like Neverwinter I’m slightly more wary of mechanically complex classes. In active combat there are more distractions to overall such as telegraphed enemy attacks to dodge or the need to re-position, and this may render the songs fiddly to execute.

As Shintar points out, update Module 21 includes some “huge changes” to the concept of levels and levelling in the game. Both are to be brought into line with the pen and paper game: the level cap will be squished down from 80 to 20 and the game will use the “milestone” alternative system for levelling as opposed to the accumulation of experience points. Apparently, according to the official FAQ blogpost, the transition from levelling to end-game gear grind was “a tough transition for a lot of players”. This chimes with previous experience of returning to the game (notably during the Ravenloft and Chult eras) – if you hadn’t kept up with the gear grind in Neverwinter then you were in for a very rough introduction to, if not effectively locked out of, new content due to the massive increase in item level each time. Although some improvements were made for the Undermountain modules, I did feel the difficulty overall of content felt rather “swingy” compared to other MMORPGs.

Of course, for more regular players this change may be a more negative experience, maybe transforming the game beyond recognition. MMORPGs always change their systems, and there have been changes in this game and others that I’d prefer to roll back, we’ll see very soon what is shakes out like in reality!

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Bunny pride!

It’s that time of the year again, where my Everquest 2 characters get some cute new familiars as part of Everquest 2’s support for Pride Month. As with previous years there are three new multi-coloured familiars available for free all month, Baghpuss has a post up with the details of the new bunnies.

My husband and I have encountered our share of ill-informed or outright hostile language in the many years we’ve been MMO gaming, even if it wasn’t specifically aimed at either us. I’d like to say it’s less an issue in 2021, but I fear recent political trends in my own country and others has rowed back on progress made. It feels like Pride is more important now than ever.

My Shadowknight is my de facto pride character in Everquest 2. He remains all year round in his slightly garish but fabulous ‘transmog’ and always has one of the bunnies out as his appearance familiar. I love that this game allows us to choose a different appearance or disguise for our non-combat pet (and also the mount!). Although it is not a concern in World of Warcraft, in some MMOs the pet also gives utility or stat boosts to your character so it is great to be able to choose what it should look like without ‘nerfing’ your character’s combat potential.

Other characters will keep their chosen bunny out as they race across Norrath for the month to show their own support!

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG | 1 Comment

Gloomhaven and rng

While visiting family and friends last week, I gave Gloomhaven a try and discovered a rather excellent cooperative, tactical-rpg of dungeon-delving. It’s an interesting combination of gameplay styles that, so far, has kept our gaming trio occupied in the World of Warcraft content break (pre 9.1).

The game has a few key pillars: turn-based tactical combat, deck building and collection as character progression and classes as pre-built characters that you collect. This latter aspect is like other games I’ve played before including Final Fantasy 14’s original class/job system, Vindictus and even Skylanders. The characters are all interesting and evocatively designed with some real diversity in species and class design that strays away from the most obvious fantasy tropes. You unlock more characters through gameplay, another RPG staple mechanic, which for me at least is a strong motivator to actually work towards the achievements. I happen to like getting more classes as I’ve written about before.

The bulk of the gameplay is combat, there’s not much else to the dungeon delving except defeating opponents though it is entertaining enough, hopefully, to keep us engaged for some time to come. Looting gold dropped by creatures is an action economy decision, your character has to move to a pile of gold and end turn on it to pick it up, when the last creature in a map dies all un-collected gold is lost. That’s a mechanic that I’m less keen on as it could easily lead to low group funds in a game where gold and ability upgrades (a k a card enhancements) seem pretty expensive.

The card as abilitybar reminds me somewhat of Guild Wars or Wildstar’s limited abilityset systems. You have more cards than you can wield in a given adventure. Some cards when used become ‘burned’ and cannot be used again, others when used are discarded, and there are more ways to get discarded cards back than burned ones. So the gameplay is centered on what cards you have available now, what you have used and ensuring that over the length of the scenario you do not run-out. It is easy to go too full out early and to start to ‘run dry’ before reaching the final fight. If you have less than two cards available either in your hand or your discard pile, then your character becomes exhausted meaning they are inactive for the rest of the adventure.

+1 this time

One major aspect of the gameplay is the randomisation that is applied to each attack, via the modifier deck mechanic. Each character has a modifier deck, and the attack is modified by a random pick from that deck. The numbers of each type of modifier (e.g. -1, +0, *2) is applied to damage before it is dealt. It seems to lead to somewhat ‘swingy’ combat results. That or the random number generator system doesn’t like us, we always seem to draw the dreaded *0 modifier each every single scenario regardless of its rarity. I imagine in MMORPG terms I’d find this amount of rng that so overtly modifies my character’s attacks in combat to be annoying. Complete misses or 0 damage hits seem rarer, I think, in WoW or similar games outside of specific boss mechanics. In Gloomhaven characters make a lot fewer attacks that have more importance compared with MMORPG gameplay, so the rng feels much more impactful here.

Overall this tactical-rpg has proven a surprise hit that could last a few months of sporadic sessions. It’s still in Player-Test mode and more content is promised so there scope for a good amount of longevity too. We’ve not delved into the depths of character customisation yet (said enhancements), it’s early days and money is tight, but hopefully in conjunction with swapping to different team setups, it’ll be enough to keep us interested.

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I’m off visiting family and friends for a week with some tabletop roleplaying time set aside but no real MMO gaming planned.

Have fun with your gaming in the meantime!

Posted in MMORPG | Comments Off on AFK

Webconference overload #SWTOR

I spent over six hours on webconferences and web-meetings today with work. It varies but some days are just like that, what with the whole team working from home. So I had to smile at the irony when playing Star Wars the Old Republic this evening and realised just how prescient of the last year for many office workers the game was with its Holo-calling options.

Whether it’s our group (‘the bubble’) calling NPCs, or our bosses or mentors on a quick 1-2-1 meeting, our characters rack up a lot of holo minutes. I’ve always loved the use of holo-communications in the game.

In other news, we’ve arrived on Nar Shaddaa, a planet that always delights me when I’m there. Maybe I just love the neon city-planet aesthetic?

I was shadowing one or other friend’s Imperial Agent storyline if the vicinity to have a more group-oriented experience, but I’ve decided to stop. At some point I fancy replaying that class storyline as I feel like I’ve forgotten enough of the details for it to be enjoyable once more.

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A classic mode for SWTOR?

The news that the release date of Burning Crusade Classic is June 1st, has me thinking today not of when my character will be rushing through the Dark Portal, but rather of how such a return to earlier times could be handled differently. I will no doubt take my ‘moo’ druid healer through to Outlands, but husband and I have decided to take a break from WoW until 9.1 arrives. We’ll jump on the Classic train again once we have some more Retail content to play through. The all-devouring horde of characters in Hellfire Peninsula competing for quest mobs and objectives on launch is likely to be something to behold, but not something I’d want to actually experience.

The launch of BC Classic also brings with it a new split in the playerbase, some characters (and their players) will move to Classic-only servers, others will move on to Outlands. That splits an already fractured playerbase – already there was the Retail vs Classic divide, but now we have Classic split in two. So, this morning I began thinking whether there would be a way to play the nostalgic version of your MMO of choice without splitting the playerbase on totally separate servers.

My idea actually was based on Star Wars the Old Republic, the game doesn’t have its own version of Classic or Progression servers as yet. As we played the Hammer Star flashpoint for the first time last night on our newer Imperial trio, I was struck by the desire to see the flashpoint as it was originally. No veteran mode, no bolster to level 70 and no healing stations at every boss. Our characters were level 22 when we started, and level 25 by the end, one of those dings came from the hefty experience reward for completing a Conquest daily mission.

The tuning seemed a bit bizarre, very early on there was a static group of about 6 or 7 mobs, including two gold droids, at a corridor intersection and we wiped several times from the brutal damage. It didn’t help that our main CC abilities didn’t work on droids (Mind Trap and Sleep Darts x2). We got past that by dual healing with the companion on backup, but eventually we learned to use our shorter-duration disables (stuns, etc.) to allow us to defeat larger groups without needing to ez-mode it.

Flashpoint tuning issues aside, I was also struck by how fast levelling is now. You really miss the sense of the planet zones you are passing through when you only do the class and planet storylines. All those side quests added so much more depth to galactic and local conflicts. We could just choose to do them anyway, but I feel the game could do with a switch to turn the clock back. Here I think separate servers would be a bad idea: let’s not split the playerbase unecessarily. If you could either create a Classic mode character, or even, switch on Classic mode, that would allow player characters to still see and interact with each other in some form (whether trading, roleplaying or PVP).

The mode could switch off level scaling, disable certain features like Conquest, and bring experience gain back down to vaguely ‘classic’ speeds. That would allow the option to play through planets in a manner close to the original launch experience. I’m not actually that interested in the idea of playing classic versions of the classes, a separate server with a classic ruleset would be needed for that as mixing characters together with modern and classic skillsets doesn’t sound feasible. Personally I like the idea of a mode instead so that classic and non-classic characters still see one another on Fleet or in the open zones. Alt levelling seems like a bigger thing in SWTOR than in most MMORPGs, so giving more control to players on the pace of that would be a real boon. I may be naive in thinking that a Classic mode, whether fixed at character creation, or as an in-game toggle, might be easier to implement than recreating the classic rulset?

This idea was also inspired by all the Skylanders we’ve been playing, platform games have a long history of having a difficulty setting, action RPGs like diablo also do this so it isn’t so far removed from MMORPG-land. If instanced content like dungeons and raids have difficulty modes too, why can’t questing have a new mode to allow us to set our own pace?

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I like new classes (and I cannot lie)

I’m a fan of having new classes to play in gaming, there isn’t such a thing as too many options in my opinion. It means I reactively disagree with statements like “we have enough classes already” when discussing MMORPGs – something that I’ve heard said a few times on notable podcasts covering the genre. It is also one reason why I’ve remained invested in Everquest 2 (26 classes so far), there is always another class I can dip into for alt-play if I’m bored with my main.

A low-level alt in EQ2

Recently, I’ve had a number of conversations around the lack of new classes to World of Warcraft: nothing new in the last two expansions, and only one new class since 2012. The obvious counter-argument to adding new classes is the ‘balance’ issue. While I understand the reasoning behind it, personally, I think all the newer classes added to the game have been overpowered for at least some of their time in game, so does it really matter if new classes are given some time to shine? PVP fans would probably disagree with that, but that’s outside my area of experience and interest.

Much more than the addition of a new playable race (i.e. species), a new class offers me the stronger incentive to want to level a new character. In a game I have played as much as World of Warcraft, that’s a good thing since alt levelling has always been my “end game” much more than the traditional gear/progression grinds.

There are some obvious gaps in WoW, the bard archetype for instance is completely missing even though there are a few examples of NPCs that are bard or minstrel-like. Sadly, knowing the tone the game often sets, I fear the bard if added to WoW would be heavy-metal inspired with “air guitar” flavoured abilities. We already have a skeleton boss doing just that atop his ‘pile of bones’ stage in a dungeon, and he’s not the only musician of that ilk. Let’s just say that would be off-putting instead of inspiring in terms of me wanting to level such a character.

Not my kind of bard…

From more recent inspiration, in Revendreth there are some very interesting NPCs with a scholar vibe. That’s a workable class, FFXIV presents a good model of what the class could be. Maybe it could even re-introduce some of the Scribe profession features long-since discarded, a buff spell that acts like the old craftable stat buff scrolls for example? Again from FFXIV, there’s the Astrologian: what about adding a tarot-themed class with some heavy links to the Darkmoon Faire? That could be a very lore-embedded new class option possibly with abilities that have randomised or varying effects based on the ‘card’ drawn by triggering a specific spell.

Combat scribe ho!

This post was inspired in part by a discussion of two home-brewed classes for D&D 5E on the podcast Dungeon Master of None (the Illrigger and the Warlord). As well as being interested in playing new classes, I also do have an interest in making them myself, I released my own sub-class for the 5E ranger (the Signalleer) on DMs Guild in early 2020. I was reminded by some slightly random web-browsing that this is not a new thing. It’s funny how the Web never forgets – as it took me way back to 2000 when I was still invested in the Mystara world setting for D&D. I’d completely forgotten that I wrote and submitted two ‘Prestige Classes’ for the 3E of the game to the official community run website for that world. Reading them twenty years later I was rather happy with what I’d designed, if only some MMO or TTRPG company would pay me to indulge in this passion for new classes…

Posted in D&D, EQ2, MMORPG, TTRPG, World of Warcraft | 3 Comments

May the Fourth Be With You! #SWTOR #HappyStarWarsDay

I’ve seen a few messages on social media platforms to remind me that it’s May 4th and “Star Wars Day”. I’m enjoying my recent return to the Galaxy Far Far Away in SWTOR, so it’s well timed!

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Missed updates and EQ2

So I read over at Inventory Full that Overseer Season 3 had arrived, something I’d missed completely at the time. This means new quests and more potential gear rewards. My characters still need a lot of gearing up as I’ve not played that much Everquest 2 of late.

Even if I’m not adventuring that much, I can find time to log in and collect rewards or set off missions. The agents have a cooldown after hand-in, so optimal play requires two logins a day which is a bit more of an ask. It’s that or setting off missions every other day if I only login once.

I do like the Overseer system, a break from logging into World of Warcraft seems to be on the cards given how slow the next content patch is in arriving. So, some of the time I’ve been spending every day or two on Callings and World Quests I can instead devote to Overseer.

There are certain types of gaming news that I could do with knowing about, such as updates like this. Not every game patch or update has something that I’d be interested in, and I play a number of MMORPGs so digesting all the news about the genre can be exhausting. Twitter isn’t so useful even if it is one of the platforms of choice for such updates – the important tweets usually get lost in the deluge. My blogroll is probably the best source of news that I have at present since I follow bloggers who talk about the games I play, but even that’s not infallible as I do not have the same level of time to read as I used to.

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