Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tipa Dungeoncrawls

Tipa reports on the good time she is having playing a game called Dungeoncrawl. Dungeoncrawl is a descendent of rogue which my mundane alter-ego played in the early 80's as a CS grad student. It was able to present a graphical UI and a 80x24 CRT "glass tty" terminal. There were strange monsters, odd potions, magic scrolls. Sometimes you could find an arrow where the field that held the damage modifier for the arrow had become corrupted, so that the arrow did, oh, say, 1,396,419 points of damage every time you hit with it. So you would become invincible, only to die to a poison arrow trap when you became a bit uncautious. And there was no resurrection, you had to start over with a new character at level 1.

I spent lots of time playing that game instead of writing my thesis. rogue led to Hack and then Net-Hack. And now to Dungeoncrawl, it seems.

Tipa relates:

Modern RPGs don’t have one tenth the complexity and depth of Dungeon Crawl. They also don’t have text graphics. Modern games are graphically astounding but have lost a LOT of of the play value of these RPGs from the 80s and 90s. This is the root of my frustration with modern-day MMOs. Way too much focus on making beautiful screenshots. Almost no focus on letting you stretch the boundaries and go your own way. A game like WoW forces you into such a narrow track — every class has pretty much one best way to kill something — that there’s no surprise people get bored so quickly.

Even old Everquest started out a lot more open. There were plenty of ways to fight creatures. You could kite, quad kite, fear kite, root and rot, charm kill, charm cycle, or tank and spank. It all depended on what skills you had available. The problem was that not all these strategies were created equal. Some classes were far more able to kill critters than others. Of course, this leads players, who are now paying customers, to call foul.

I'm no exception. I remember going into East Karana (funny that Tipa should call her blog that) to farm spider silk with my monk. It's something he could do to earn some cash to get the really good weapons he needed to be successful. But if there were druids in the zone, forget it. They would be pulling all spiders in the zone, running around like maniacs, and then killing them all. I'd get nothing. I would have to just turn around and go somewhere else, or play some other toon. Like this redhaired elf enchanter I just rolled up.

Success in Dungeoncrawl involves mastering multiple styles, and employing the one that is most suitable at any time, something I like in a game. I like a game that requires, patience, intelligence, flexibility, and determination. The downside to that is that the more a game asks of players, the fewer players there will be. The fewer paying players, that is. So, I don't see that happening.

Finally, Tipa asks the eternal question:

But shouldn’t RPGs, even MMORPGs, be more about the journey than the end? Racing through content to get to the GOOD stuff is the mark of a game without imagination. The game should be as fun and rewarding at level 10 as at level 100. If old, free, text-based RPGs can do it, why not games with hundreds of millions of dollars behind it, like WoW?

To me, this has as much to do with what a person brings to a game as the game design. I know people who thing the most fun thing to do is to level from 0 to 20. They do it constantly, and switch around races, classes and zones to vary the experience.

Still, the structure of the games contributes to this. MMO's now have more quests, lots more quests. With rewards. This is a good thing, it would seem Players surveyed by Nick Yee of Project Daedalus point out that it also makes everyone very reward focused. When you "play" with something, that sort of implies rthe lack of any discernable goal, doesn't it?



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