Group Tactics for MMOs

Whether you’re using magic, science, or good old muscle power; whether you’re fighting computer-generated foes or other “live” players, there are a few basic tactics that are common to all MMOs, and indeed to video games in general. Surprisingly, a lot of experienced players are unaware of the basic underlying tactics, which prevents them from realizing their full potential. I’ve broken this down to five main ideas: prioritize targets, focus fire, pick your battleground, protect your team, and use every advantage. There are exceptions to most of these rules, but they remain true in 99% of MMO content that I’ve seen. Read more »

No man is an island, entire of itself

In the time since I started playing online games, back with EverQuest, things have changed in a lot of ways, mostly for the better. There’s one area though in which modern MMOs haven’t shown a great deal of innovation: social tools. In the last decade, I’d argue that there have been three meaningful new ideas for social tools in MMOs. I’d like to talk about what we have and what we lack. Read more »

MMO Expansions – What Do They Need to Succeed?

As I’ve been playing LotRO again, I’m naturally interested in the upcoming expansion, Rise of Isengard (RoI), coming next month to a computer near you. But this got me to thinking – on a basic level, what do I expect from an expansion in any MMO? I’d posit that the central points are content, new mechanics, and new life. Let’s look at them one at a time. Read more »

De profundis clamo ad te, Eru

Well, then. It’s been ages since I posted here. I really need to take shorter naps.

* rim shot *

What the hells happened here? Why so silent for so long? In short, I felt that I was repeating myself. I was starting to feel like a grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn. I do love writing though, and I do love games, and this blog has been silently accusing me. Staring. Judging.

OK, ok, fine! I’m writing! I’m writing! But… I’m going to try changing my approach here and see how that works for me. Rather than pontificate about general game design issues, I’m going to focus more on the games I’m currently playing. There’s likely to be a bit more of a player perspective than before, but I’ll continue to relate things to the general design issues behind them.


Cool. Let’s go. Read more »

Updates! New Games! Stuff!

I’ve been pretty busy in the last few months with work; we just finished a rather massive project launch that ate into my life a lot more than I could have ever guessed.

I’ve had time to play a few games, though not as many or as often as I’d like, in the time between my last post and now, so without further ado, here’s a scattershot overview of a few games that crossed my path this summer. Read more »

Just not getting it

I’m a big fan of Roger Ebert’s work.  I read his movie reviews with a general sense of enjoyment, both at his acerbic style and at his insight into the medium he enjoys so much.  He loves film and that love comes across in his work.

As arguably the most prominent movie critic in the world, Ebert holds an unparalleled position of power and influence over that most tenuous of subjects – What is Art?  Sure, there are myriads of critics who write about stage productions, about books, about ballet, and about everything else that people do that can be criticized, but film has a central place in the artistic views of the average American in the 21st century.  Besides music, film is (I believe) the most commonly appreciated art form in American in the 21st century.

So when the foremost critic of one of the foremost and most influential of modern art forms talks about whether something is Art, people listen.  The problem is, Roger Ebert hasn’t got the damnedest idea what he’s talking about when he talks about video games. Read more »

Revenge of the Fallen… Earth

I’ve been quite enjoying Fallen Earth for the last couple of weeks, as time has permitted in between business trips.  It’s a DikuMMO set in a post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon, featuring a fairly robust crafting system.  That crafting system does some things very well, and has the potential to do more. Read more »

Online Addictions – or “When is it bad to retain players?”

Wolfshead posted an interesting article bemoaning the state of the MMO industry, and in the comments, Psychochild raised a very interesting question: “At what point do designers go from building a fun and compelling game to ‘[p]urposely crafting an addiction so you can squeeze bags of money out of your players'”?

That’s a fascinating and serious question, and one I think deserves a lot more consideration.

On the one hand, the better designed a game is, the more fun it is, the more we want to play it.  For many players, it’s clearly quite possible to cross a line between enjoying a hobby in a healthy and responsible way, and succumbing to an addiction.  MMOs can inarguably become black holes into which we pour our time, energy, and money.  So there’s a point beyond which it’s unhealthy for a given player to play, or perhaps a manner in which it’s unhealthy for a given player to play.

So if you’re designing an MMO, how should you take this into account?  If you’re playing an MMO, what should you look for? Read more »

And then what?

Well, it’s been awfully quiet here, hasn’t it?  I’ve been taking a break from MMOs for the past few months, and haven’t had a lot of game-related stuff to post about as a result.  Instead of grinding away to level up my chars, I’ve been grinding weights and cardio, lost 25 lbs, and put on a moderate amount of muscle.  I keep listening for the ding noise but haven’t heard it yet.  Maybe I need to adjust my sound options IRL.

I have spent some time playing console games lately, and thought that was worth a quick summation.  My XBOX360 has had a fair amount of use, and I’ve found some great games and some that didn’t impress me as much.

Read more »

Defining persistence

Motstandet posted an interesting article on That’s a Terrible Idea yesterday, and it got me to thinking about how we define “persistent” in regards to video games.

Read more »