Author Topic: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.  (Read 22384 times)

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Joe

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Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« on: September 17, 2013, 12:44:50 AM »
     People will often cringe if we compare a game to WoW. The "hardcore" player base for oh so many reasons. However, to disabuse ourselves of strategies Blizzard used to create the most successful/profitable game ever is foolish. Figuring out what that magic recipe is isn't as easy as it looks either. As players we get so caught up in the shiny baubles of game expansion that we forget to look at what changes are taken to keep existing content fresh and relevant.
     One thing that WoW did to keep subscribers was to obsolete certain aspects of their own game at early levels but keep much of content relevant and expedite the path for new players. They set a pace that allowed brand new players to blitz through old content and join their friends in battling for the high level content. Multiple tactics were used to achieve this: Experience for PK arenas, Starting Dark Knights at level 55, and special leveling gear that grew with players were issued for a small price. With leveling gear grouping for zones at low levels became relatively obsolete since the exp boost was smaller as were stat boosts offered by dungeon gear. This was a brilliant move. The majority of the populace tended to stay at the end game so lower level groups grew scarce. Additionally, moving through quests at a faster rate felt like measured progress as opposed to dungeon spam for now irrelevant equipment.
     The grinding through old content was less monotonous and Guilds were continuously refreshed with new blood and continued to vie for top gear, new zones, and guild server pride. Blizzard also scaled accessibility of their game to an aging player base with careers and kids to think about. You could still be hardcore or you could still tread water and feel relevant as a casual.

     I believe what limits the populations in Arctic is the lack of desire for players of ages past (I first logged on ~'95) to relearn obscure paths and keywords to complete a zone. Fighting is different. Most of us are very willing to die relearning a fight because that's the "action" of the game. What I don't have is the energy behind learning keywords that are/should be very general in zones I've done dozens of times.
     There are multiple times over the years where I've been stumped at a specific place where I had to "shift" or "slide" an object. I've been frustrated when I gave a quest object to a mob but didn't "deliver" it to him and the quest just sputtered out. Why on earth would I spend the time to relearn Crytic forest when I can just go kill a billion pigmies and move on to the next tier of what I barely remember?
     Historically, the response from Arctic's staff has been "lower exp on pigmies, and they'll be forced to go to crytic", "make the exp to level higher and they'll get bored of killing pigmies for 7k exp","Make a new grind for another mechanic (ranks)". None of that resolves what makes me bored. 18 years and my poor memory coupled with a lack of desire to explore every nook and cranny... I really just can't give a damn about how to very specifically twist a tree branch.
     I know if I tried to move it in real life that I would pull it, push it, lift, rotate, twist, shift, slam or whatever to move the damn thing. When I finally moved the object (however it moved), I would see with my eyes. In game terms that motion would be captured in the description.
     I'm pouring what energy I have into my career these days, and in about 5 years I hope to be a director at a medical device company. I want to bring another new therapy to market in the US and Europe, and shake hands with more patients who didn't stand a chance before. I want to marry a girl (ok maybe not the current one...shh) and have a kid or two and watch them grow. Maybe I can take on a DJ gig at a local club again or spearfish regularly off Catalina...and I still want to enjoy my time on Arctic and I want to experience the variety that so many wonderful builders have spent to create this wonderful world.

     Yes, builders included keywords into the game. Those KW are as much their legacy as the rest of the zone. I agree implicitly. Yet who will see the 99.9% of their efforts now when only 6-10 people are on a night? Certainly not me. For all their labors spent on descriptions and mobs and cool events/stories I will not continue to enjoy them because of one lousy trigger that prevents me from finishing the main path of the zone.
     This is not to say there shouldn't be secrets. There should be a plethora of them. This game has lots of secrets, perhaps more that the waning player base can really take advantage of. Arctic's population has always celebrated those who could balance ability, charisma (allies), knowledge and intelligence as our most respected players. These days it feels like knowledge stifles our ability to feel measured and parceled success in the game.
     So, it is of my opinion that most of the low to mid-high zone's should be obvious to players old and new. New zones, revamped zones and places with really rare and wonderful items are loaded could stay rare. So long as they too continued to evolve I'd be quite happy for years to come. I would love to be able to find and move through a majority of the game with simplicity while looking over my shoulder for the PK sneaking up on me rather than getting bored at a wall with a gem in it.

     If this game were to take strides similar to Blizzard's philosophical approach about game maturity, it may re-energize returning players and may even recruit some new ones in the process. I know I would certainly enjoy roaming through the game with greater vigor than I have this current wipe.
     Sorry there is no tl:dr. people have made this argument before though less verbose and been shot down plenty of times. That's good actually. Making things simpler without a proper plan or a genuine understanding as to why could ruin Arctic just as well.

p.s.
I do believe this can be achieved through multiple methods, from wanderlusting kender drops of maps with hints, straight up keyword simplification with event enhancements or minor object/room description enhancement to better lead the player in the right direction.

Cheers,
Joe (Hem, Locky)
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 03:36:50 PM by Joe »

Jorquin

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Re: The balance of obsolesance and maintaining relavence of existing content.
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2013, 07:25:35 AM »
if you're gonna post walls of text, add a tl;dr.

i took one look at this after i opened the thread, and just thought to myself "no".

sart

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Re: The balance of obsolesance and maintaining relavence of existing content.
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2013, 11:00:16 AM »
I thought that it was extremely well written.  I have often compared parts of Arctic to the other games.  I myself maxed out characters in Everquest, WoW, and many others.

However, when comparing to WoW you have to realize that the game will soon die.  Bliz did not invent that strategy of simplifying low level content and catering to the end game... SOE used it on EQ1 and 2.  However those games died as well.  Simply put the games low level content was vastly more fun than the end game content.  The newness of it.. the excitement.

I would almost argue for the opposite of your post, that blizzard should take a page from the Arctic playbook and wipe.  You see the wipe back to square 1 once a year is what negates your whole argument.

I will agree that obscure keywords suck.  If I am trying to turn in a hide I should be able to get it to work easily.... because if I was really there I would just say "hey man can you do something with this damn hide?". 

I like the hints on kender maps.. I think that is the golden nugget of your post.  I have touted notable npcs giving hints for a long time.  Theros should know something about this damn emerald hilt for sure!

SArT

Hoss

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Re: The balance of obsolesance and maintaining relavence of existing content.
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2013, 12:38:29 PM »
* I had to edit this so I could read it * - Hoss

TL;DR version: Player would prefer Arctic get dumbed down a bit.

People will often cringe if we compare a game to WoW. The "hardcore" player base for oh so many reasons. However, to disabuse ourselves of strategies Blizzard used to create the most successful/profitable game ever is foolish. Figuring out what that magic recipe is isn't as easy as it looks either. As players we get so caught up in the shiny baubles of game expansion that we forget to look at what changes are taken to keep existing content fresh and relevant. One thing that WoW did to keep subscribers was to obsolete certain aspects of their own game at early levels but keep much of content relevant and expedite the path for new players. They set a pace that allowed brand new players to blitz through old content and join their friends in battling for the high level content. Multiple tactics were used to achieve this: Experience for PK arenas, Starting Dark Knights at level 55, and special leveling gear that grew with players were issued for a small price. With leveling gear grouping for zones at low levels became relatively obsolete since the exp boost was smaller as were stat boosts offered by dungeon gear. This was a brilliant move. The majority of the populace tended to stay at the end game so lower level groups grew scarce. Additionally, moving through quests at a faster rate felt like measured progress as opposed to dungeon spam for now irrelevant equipment. The grinding through old content was less monotonous and Guilds were continuously refreshed with new blood and continued to vie for top gear, new zones, and guild server pride. Blizzard also scaled accessibility of their game to an aging player base with careers and kids to think about. You could still be hardcore or you could still tread water and feel relevant as a casual.

I believe what limits the populations in Arctic is the lack of desire for players of ages past (I first logged on ~'95) to relearn obscure paths and keywords to complete a zone. Fighting is different. Most of us are very willing to die relearning a fight because that's the "action" of the game. What I don't have is the energy behind learning keywords that are/should be very general in zones I've done dozens of times. There are multiple times over the years where I've been stumped at a specific place where I had to "shift" or "slide" an object. I've been frustrated when I gave a quest object to a mob but didn't "deliver" it to him and the quest just sputtered out. Why on earth would I spend the time to relearn Crytic forest when I can just go kill a billion pigmies and move on to the next tier of what I barely remember? Historically, the response from Arctic's staff has been "lower exp on pigmies, and they'll be forced to go to crytic", "make the exp to level higher and they'll get bored of killing pigmies for 7k exp","Make a new grind for another mechanic (ranks)". None of that resolves what makes me bored. 18 years and my poor memory coupled with a lack of desire to explore every nook and cranny... I really just can't give a damn about how to very specifically twist a tree branch. I know if I tried to move it in real life that I would pull it, push it, lift, rotate, twist, shift, slam or whatever to move the damn thing. When I finally moved the object (however it moved), I would see with my eyes. In game terms that motion would be captured in the description. I'm pouring what energy I have into my career these days, and in about 5 years I hope to be a director at a medical device company. I want to bring another new therapy to market in the US and Europe, and shake hands with more patients who didn't stand a chance before. I want to marry a girl (ok maybe not the current one...shh) and have a kid or two and watch them grow. Maybe I can take on a DJ gig at a local club again or spearfish regularly off Catalina...and I still want to enjoy my time on Arctic and I want to experience the variety that so many wonderful builders have spent to create this wonderful world.

Yes, builders included keywords into the game. Those KW are as much their legacy as the rest of the zone. I agree implicitly. Yet who will see the 99.9% of their efforts now when only 6-10 people are on a night? Certainly not me. For all their labors spent on descriptions and mobs and cool events/stories I will not continue to enjoy them because of one lousy trigger that prevents me from finishing the main path of the zone. This is not to say there shouldn't be secrets. There should be a plethora of them. This game has lots of secrets, perhaps more that the waning player base can really take advantage of. Arctic's population has always celebrated those who could balance ability, charisma (allies), knowledge and intelligence as our most respected players. These days it feels like knowledge stifles our ability to feel measured and parceled success in the game. So, it is of my opinion that most of the low to mid-high zone's should be obvious to players old and new. New zones, revamped zones and places with really rare and wonderful items are loaded could stay rare. So long as they too continued to evolve I'd be quite happy for years to come. I would love to be able to find and move through a majority of the game with simplicity while looking over my shoulder for the PK sneaking up on me rather than getting bored at a wall with a gem in it.

If this game were to take strides similar to Blizzard's philosophical approach about game maturity, it may re-energize returning players and may even recruit some new ones in the process. I know I would certainly enjoy roaming through the game with greater vigor than I have this current wipe. Sorry there is no tl:dr. people have made this argument before though less verbose and been shot down plenty of times. That's good actually. Making things simpler without a proper plan or a genuine understanding as to why could ruin Arctic just as well.

p.s. I do believe this can be achieved through multiple methods, from wanderlusting kender drops of maps with hints, straight up keyword simplification with event enhancements or minor object/room description enhancement to better lead the player in the right direction.

Cheers, Joe (Hem, Locky)

Joe

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Re: The balance of obsolesance and maintaining relavence of existing content.
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2013, 03:30:03 PM »
* I had to edit this so I could read it * - Hoss

TL;DR version: Player would prefer Arctic get dumbed down a bit.

It's about balancing the pace of the game at lower to mid-high levels for returning/new players. Particularly, on older zones.

I didn't add a TL:DR on purpose. I will however, change the title. :)
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 03:36:11 PM by Joe »

Joe

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Re: The balance of obsolesance and maintaining relavence of existing content.
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2013, 03:38:23 PM »
I thought that it was extremely well written.  I have often compared parts of Arctic to the other games.  I myself maxed out characters in Everquest, WoW, and many others.

However, when comparing to WoW you have to realize that the game will soon die.  Bliz did not invent that strategy of simplifying low level content and catering to the end game... SOE used it on EQ1 and 2.  However those games died as well.  Simply put the games low level content was vastly more fun than the end game content.  The newness of it.. the excitement.

I would almost argue for the opposite of your post, that blizzard should take a page from the Arctic playbook and wipe.  You see the wipe back to square 1 once a year is what negates your whole argument.

I will agree that obscure keywords suck.  If I am trying to turn in a hide I should be able to get it to work easily.... because if I was really there I would just say "hey man can you do something with this damn hide?". 

I like the hints on kender maps.. I think that is the golden nugget of your post.  I have touted notable npcs giving hints for a long time.  Theros should know something about this damn emerald hilt for sure!

SArT

I think WoW should wipe and have a full loot PK system too. Just because Arctic has that right however, doesn't mean that Arctic can't learn from Blizzard.

Jorquin

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2013, 06:57:42 PM »
i skim read your post, and i cant really connect with it at all. i love exploring, it's the only reason i really play arctic anymore. the problem i have is i'm quickly running out of things to solve that i know exist, or that are practically possible (some of the quests remaining for me to solve are just so abstract that it's debatable whether they were intended to be solved by anyone other than those pushed in the right direction). if i could wipe my memory clean and start anew today i would do it in a heartbeat, because its what i enjoy the most.

you should learn to relish in figuring out how to twerlimerize that branch.

Joe

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2013, 07:37:52 PM »
i skim read your post, and i cant really connect with it at all. i love exploring, it's the only reason i really play arctic anymore. the problem i have is i'm quickly running out of things to solve that i know exist, or that are practically possible (some of the quests remaining for me to solve are just so abstract that it's debatable whether they were intended to be solved by anyone other than those pushed in the right direction). if i could wipe my memory clean and start anew today i would do it in a heartbeat, because its what i enjoy the most.

you should learn to relish in figuring out how to twerlimerize that branch.

I still figure things out. I still explore. The difference is coming up on content I've hit numerous years before and the desire to re-figure out things that are old hat. Kudos to you for enjoying what you're doing. Even as a child I never enjoyed putting the same puzzle together over and over again. I sought out new puzzles to entertain me...and again, spamming synonyms on a stone you know will somehow rotate is hardly intellectual.

Jorquin

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2013, 07:08:11 AM »
neither is not writing down how you did it in the first place...

Valenore

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2013, 11:00:24 AM »
Like many, I have played off and on for 16+ years.

I agree that the keyword / obscure quest is a hindrance to me.   I never enjoyed that part of the game especially the vain search for synonyms as you have mentioned.  The easiest solution to that would be to either create a standard verb for common actions i.e. anything that involves lateral movement uses the keyword "move", anything that involves rotating an object uses "twist", anything that removes debris/covering is "clean", etc.  Another alternative would be to equate all synonyms so "twist", "rotate", "turn" and "clean", "clear", "scrape" all worked equally. 

Looking at what games like WoW have done is fitting.  One key difference between a game like Arctic and WoW as far as leveling is concerned is that in WoW all gear you get at non-max level is useless at max level while in Arctic a group of mid levels can load decent gear if it all was not already deep rented.  WoW avoids the need for pwipes by constantly releasing newer high end content, gear, and raising the max level.  This in effect wipes the player base because a level 85 might as well be level 1 if the max level is 90. 

What I feel could be learned from WoW is the way gear is handled.  Having limit gear is a key component of Arctic and you can't completely get away from that, but the biggest impediment to me playing is the fact that I can run through 20 zones and never see a decent item drop (meaningful +stat, +dam, 20+dmg weapon, etc).  Ranks augmented this for a while, but you easily reach a point of heavy diminishing returns on them.  So given my limited time I don't see the point in playing when most of my time zoning is with little hope of seeing any benefit. And if I do get a few pieces of gear I am less likely to take risks with it because I don't have the time to spam zones for several months collecting  other people's decays so a loss of this gear would lead to my quitting until the next wipe.  The best solution I see to this is keep max 3 and less gear limited but make the rest of gear no limit with low load percentages.  This would be somewhat similar to how WoW handles gearing.   I am willing to play and go zone if spamming a zone 10 times means I will likely get the item I want from there. 





Tajs

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 12:12:54 PM »
Just a note to the "no gear is loading".. There are so many zones in the game now, that if you pick one of the more uncommon ones, stuff will load or drop locates. Spamming for spells is how it is now and that sucks, it would be double up on sucking to spam for eq  to imo.

But I do agree that some of the kws of, say, Terk are pretty weird and creative stubboness to solve. But generally the older zones are pretty straight forward.

Hoss

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2013, 01:00:06 PM »
I agree with a lot of you on the point of some keywords just being ridiculously difficult to figure out, no player wants to spam keywords with no clues to discover that they need to type "twiddle candle gently to the left while hopping on one foot". That kind of game play is not something I support, and I do agree that we have zones in game currently that fit that bill. I do however, very much like the puzzle solving aspect of Arctic and I think that is a huge draw for the majority of the players. Solving that difficult zone, and holding on to the secret combination gives you some power and is very rewarding.

I also would agree to some level that the way Arctic handles some of the equipment is a little archaic and does not lend it self to casual game play. When I look to see how much gear is actual in rent, it always makes me ask myself if Arctic just has too much gear. While it might be sad that some goon has rented Nightbringer, there are 10 other weapons that are not even rented. I do not want players to spam dko over and over and over again because it is the easiest zone to gear up on so it is a delicate balance and will take some serious sand-boxing to solve. Anyway, I'm offtrack...

Since WoW is a common item in this thread I will agree that puzzle solving is not something found in WoW and that most of the game play and content is spoon-fed to the player. While this might be attractive to some, it is a direction that I do not think Arctic would benefit from. Are there some lessons to be learned from other online games? Yes, of course. Are we going to implement them or try to copy these games? No, we really must find that unique fit for what works best for us and move forward with it.

Am I looking into keywords? No, I am not right now. They are on the docket, but a bit far down the list of priorities.

Zozen

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2013, 01:51:22 PM »
The main reason to have areas that Terk creates and the creators that are in a similar vein as him is that it adds content for the few individuals that play that enjoy the challenge of actually reading through room descriptions and finding the keywords within that content that might take multiple areas intertwined to solve. What was brilliant *cough* about Terk was that yes, he made it so you have to read a lot and basically look at everything in a room but he gave you a reason to go there: great experience, coins, and useful items. Thus, an area like the mine that is deep--which has layers upon layers of content can be great for the casual player that just wants to kill things and get xp or the player that wants to spend hours (days) learning all the secrets for the gear. Both have their rewards and its win-win for all involved. Some of the older (especially low-mid) zones have no reason to go there (no xp/coins) except to solve their secrets, which in the end can be fairly worthless (newer content has added better items that are easier to get/learn/solve.)

Keywords: either commit them to memory or write them down once you solve them, it's easy to make a notepad document with all keywords for each zone you go to. some are a pain (is it combine or merge or join or assemble or...) but whatever, its all a time sink anyways.


Joe

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2013, 02:00:46 PM »
neither is not writing down how you did it in the first place...

 I used to focus on the pk aspect of the game more than zones. If you forgot something it was easy to find a group and someone would know the kw and you could guess it from the description. These days its a lot more solo work.

 Back then the cloud didnt exist. What you're suggesting is keeping a journal for every game you played 20 years ago? There were a LOT of rpg single player games back then that required it and I did make a few arctic journals but if you think keeping those took priority in college or the great opportunities in life we have in our 20's any beyond then wow...i'm really sorry man.

reed23

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Re: Balancing the pace of the game at low - high levels.
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2013, 03:37:05 PM »
The problem with the obscure zones is that if you currently don't lead them and know how to solve them to the fullest, you are at a huge disadvantage on the top-tier competing part of the game.  Ranks, EQ, and Spells.