MMO Sneak Peek

I recently checked out two MMO’s: Eve Online and World of Warcraft. I actually did this once already. I just downloaded the trials and see what they are about. But I never got too far in any of them. For some reason, I decided to give it a second try again. This is what came out.

Eve Online

My Podcast compare Nick Lalone is active on the Something Awful forums. He has been always telling me about the awesome thing the Goon Fleet did in this game. This is due to the fact that Eve Online gives players a lot of power to shape the world. So when enough players get together, they can seriously shake things up. So when Nick got back into Eve, I decided it would be a good idea to check back in as well.

My previous experience with Eve was very short. It basically crashed on me constantly so I wasn’t able to even finish the first few missions. This time around it ran fine. I was surprised about how the game changed. It kicks off with the amazing character creation system.

It could very well be one of the best character creation systems so far. This kind of technology could do wonders in other games as well and could be easily expanded for the production of games and animated movies.

The actual game has a slightly improved tutorial system now, so goals are clearer. I finished the basic tutorials and all the mission from the mining tutorial. I wanted to do the exploration tutorial too, but I suffered from an acute loss of interest in the game.

The weird thing is that on paper, this is totally up my alley. I enjoy Sci-Fi and space a lot. Yet, there is just to much wrong with Eve online for me to enjoy it. The character creation is awesome but completely redundant. There is a half-assed interior on space stations you can walk around with your character in. But it so obviously just a tacked-on, more awkward, resource hungry skin for the available menus that I turned it off very soon. Most of menus seem to be cluttered and overly complicated. They seem to have been created for people, who play the game very differently. Presumably, after hundreds of hours and controlling a vast commercial empire, I would see the point in all those dials and buttons. But right now, all it does is to make simple tasks very complicated. It also taints and underplays the things that should be fun and rewarding. Want to buy ammunition? You have to click to am entire tree structure of all available items. Good luck finding what you are looking for. Even when you find it, you don’t feel like doing this ever again.

And you know what? I don’t even think this complexity is necessary. I have the hunch that it’s mostly just bad interface design. So for example, the entire interface uses freely placeable windows. Cumbersome but practical if you want to display a lot of information at once. But then, I wanted to compare two items to another – a typical example where a windowed interface shines. Except I can have only one item details window open at the same time. FAIL

So the story goes like this. I learned how to mine asteroids. Mining takes a lit of time but at least I could let it run and do something else meanwhile. I then had to create a bunch of items. The tutorial also told be to get a special mineral to produce them. I couldn’t find this mineral. After a lengthy, frustrating search I just bought the mineral. This is also when I found out I have enough money to buy every item the tutorial ever requests me to manufacture. In fact, I have enough money to buy a decent selection of space ships. But I played along, I produced some items, even an entire space ship (which felt no different than manufacturing a handful of a munition). I finally was awarded with a brand new, bigger space ship. Which I could have also bought all along. And which I wasn’t allowed to pilot in the trial anyway. Yeah, it was a disappointment every step of the way.

World of Warcraft

So World of Warcraft recently got this Starter Edition deal where you are able to play the game for free until level 20. Afterwards, you get no more experience. You also can’t join guilds or trade items in any way (presumably to prevent excessive Gold Farming). I like that deal a lot and after the bland Eve Online experience, I thought I check it out.

The last time I tried World of Warcraft, I didn’t get very far. I started as an Ork Warrior and got to the third village. The repetitiveness started to show and I got out while I still could. This time around, I started a new Ork Warror and got almost up to level 20. I enjoyed the game a lot more now. I heard it’s because they streamlined a lot of the early quests with Cataclysm. They seemed less grindy to me. Sure, there was a lot of “Kill 12 boars” and fetchquests. But I think I recall my first experience to be more repetitive. It may be because they often tie the quests from each village to each other. So it’s not just “Kill 12 boars” but the entire village is being attacked by boars and the next quest is to find out where the boars come from, etc.

One of the things I enjoyed a lot were the professions. The first time around, I quit literally as I was just about to get an opportunity to learn them. This time I became a miner and a blacksmith and started to mine minerals and craft stuff. I also got into cooking and crafting first aid materials. I realized this is something I generally enjoy very much across all games – gathering materials and creating something out of them. It’s what I liked about Lost in Blue and Monster Hunter.

In terms of interface and user experience, World of Warcraft is just so much ahead of Eve Online. Especially the beginning quests are wonderfully polished. The interface is cleaned-up and easy to use. Buying things, looting dead enemies and leveling up is clearly communicated and feels pleasant and rewarding. It become completely obvious why so many people are compelled to put so much time into this.

There are downsides as well. The entire experience feels a bit on-rails. There is little evidence of players being able to somehow influence or shape this world. So all the events that inspire your quests were artificially created just for their sake. More importantly, the game is easy. There are thousands of ways to heal yourself but I never actually had to use them. This undermines all the crafting and cooking A LOT. Even if you create all the bandages and reinvigorating snacks, the best way to use them is actually to sell them. And that’s not very fun. I still died a lot of course. But it was mostly because I accidentally attracted too many enemies at once. Also, the fact that I couldn’t trade items impacted my profession as a blacksmith. There would be a lot if items I couldn’t craft because I didn’t have goods that were meant to be traded from other players. The mining profession didn’t feel very rewarding too. The mining spots at the place where I started were rare and didn’t yield anything other than copper. Finally, when I got into dungeons, I noticed that the game seems to be in dire need of healers. After 20 minutes waiting for ONE healer to show up, I decided to try a different kind of character.

I don’t know if I stay with the game. I’ll check out some other characters and professions to see how the gameplay differs. But on the other hand, I just found myself longing for Monster Hunter – a game where gathering resources feels more meaningful and the combat feels more dynamic and challenging.

Did you play any MMOs what where your impressions?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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