kent_allard_jr: (Default)
In mid-2007 I posted a few entries on my dream of a pulp MMO. (See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.) For some reason my mind keeps returning to the idea.

My current thought is to have a completely different setting for every character archetype. So the cowboys go to Bury Your Dead, Arizona; the detectives go to Gotham; the archeologists start in the Central American jungle. (The archeologist wouldn't be prohibited from traveling to Arizona or Gotham, he just wouldn't have much to do there; the same would go for the other archetypes.) In this fashion, players would be encouraged to have stables of characters, because each would be able to do different things and the experience wouldn't get stale.

(One thought is that the login screen would look like a pulp cover, with random screenshots for artwork and little character portraits on the left-hand side, golden age comic book style.)

Another factor that might encourage diversification would be a collective gathering of experience points. All characters in a stable could draw from the same pool, and instead of each character getting tougher with every adventure -- so your detective is bouncing bullets off his chest after many missions -- more points would allow them to build more "heroic" characters, like Doc Savage or Batman.

This system would reduce the sting of character death, allowing for more options. Even permanent character death could be a possibility. Jack Cowboy might die, but all of his experience and loot would revert to the player, so he could build another toon of equal ability.

It seems a bit Quixotic to fantasize about a project I'll never get to work on, but there you go.
kent_allard_jr: (profile)
Prompted by this Matthew Yglesias post, I mentioned the all persons fictitious disclaimer to my girlfriend Kimberly. It's now so standard, I mused, that "I bet even Star Wars posted it somewhere."

"I doubt it," she said. "What do you want to bet?"

We wagered that if she was right, I'd buy her flowers, and if I was right, she'd create her own World of Warcraft character and get her to level 5.

Alas, we watched the end credits to A New Hope ... and there was no all-persons-fictitious disclaimer. I have to visit a florist, and Knights of Morningside has lost a potential recruit.
kent_allard_jr: (creativity)
I've never seen Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but caught a few minutes of the restored print on TCM last week. The film quality was amazing, and the scene I saw -- a delirious vision of a Jazz Age Whore of Babylon -- was captivating. I hoped to watch the full movie later, but alas, our DVR screwed up the recording (damn you Time Warner Cable!) so I'll have to wait until after the holidays.

Metropolis has already occupied a corner of my subconscious, though. On Sunday I dreamed of being trapped in a Metropolis MMO. (I don't know why I have so many MMO dreams. Once I was in a distant WoW expansion, set on the Moon, where I wandered out of town and was killed by a 200th-level squirrel...) I don't think it would have much commercial appeal, since you had to toil in the factories at low levels, although you got to reset your genetic structure every time you died. (In my dream gene splicing was done with fuzzy virtual Legos.) I did get to drive through the high-level city: It was under a dome, where the city's elite lived in open-air compounds around a suburban street. Big Sister's televised messages, strident to the proles, were whining and pathetic when delivered to the elite, who jeered and laughed at them anyway. A lot like our own world, when you think of it.
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
I don't know whether to trust these sales rankings, which claim that Pathfinder and D&D are matched in sales, but they must be sobering for WotC nonetheless. I suspect (with little real evidence) that it's due to 4e's lack of support. I regularly glance at ENworld's newsfeed, and it always looks as if Pathfinder has more stuff coming out. It may be amateur stuff, it may be low quality, but apparently it's enough to get folks to buy their products.

Meanwhile, part of me wants to buy the World of Warcraft expansion, which is coming out soon. (Apparently the 4.0 rules patch was just released.) Should I endanger my relationship to see Azeroth again? Can I trust myself to play long enough to say hello to old guildmates, to explore the new zones, and then quickly return to a blissful WoW-less retirement? My better angels are answering "no" to both questions.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
As I recall World of Warcraft and other MMOs have fairly crude rules for determining whether monsters attack PCs. Most monsters will attack as soon as they enter the PCs threat area, this "threat area" being inversely proportional to the PCs level. This makes some sense, but it means monsters will still make Kamikaze runs against high-level PCs who run too close. It's stupid, and annoying for the player, too, who just wants to get to his high-level dungeon without fighting all the Murlocs in his way.

Here's one way I'd model monster behavior, if I could. (No idea if this would be impractical to program, take too much processor power, or what have you.) Assume PCs and monsters can be classified as "low aggression" and "high aggression." "Low aggression" creatures only attack out of fear or self-defense; they get no material advantage from killing. "High aggression" creatures, on the other hand, attack to get something from their victims (meat, money, XP, or whatever). Also assume, for the sake of argument, that higher level monsters always defeat low-level PCs, and lower-level monsters never defeat high-level PCs. (This isn't true, but it's a close enough approximation for the chart.) Given these assumptions, rational monster behavior would look like this:




PC Aggression




Low

High

Monster Aggression

Low

Lower-Level

Ignore

Hide/Flee


Higher-Level

Ignore

Attack

High

Lower-Level

Ignore

Hide/Flee


Higher-Level

Attack

Attack

(Sorry for the crude formatting. I'm too lazy to do HTML tables by hand, and I'm only willing to waste so much time cleaning up Word HTML for an LJ entry.) In this table, "Lower-Level" means the monster is weaker than the PC, "Higher-Level" means he's tougher. "Ignore," "Hide/Flee" and "Attack" indicate the monster's responses.

Now if you assume PCs are all "High-Aggression" then the monster's decisions are easy: They should attack weaker PCs, hide or flee from the stronger ones. This alone would make the game more interesting (it's hard farming creatures who flee at the sight of you), but I think it'd add another layer of interest if certain players can be perceived as less-aggressive. This would work especially well if players could advance through non-violent means.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I'm just about done with my new computer: Finally ported my email (GHOD that took fucking forever), and there are just a few other things to move (my CC2 fantasy world maps, among other stuff), requiring one last login to the old machine before putting it out to pasture.

The Gateway runs like a dream, and I've usinbg programs that were barely functional in the past. The big one has been Star Trek Online. [livejournal.com profile] ecmyers and [livejournal.com profile] moonlightalice have reviewed the game on Tor.com and I recommend their take. My reaction, so far, is that the "away team" play is pretty pedestrian, while starship combat seems challenging and fun. It's challenging for me partly because I'm not used to using letter keys (ASDF) for movement, and I can't remap them to the arrow keys (which are used for shield orientation), so I end up with a complicated array of keystroke and mouse combinations (steering with the mouse -- with quick clicks to switch between attack and defense modes -- punching numbers for weapons, arrows for shields, E and Q for speed control ... oy). Some of the battles have been nail-biters, and in one case my ship was destroyed by the explosion of a defeated enemy. (My ship was also destroyed when some idiot self-destructed outside Earth, but that's another issue.)

Anyway, if you want to join me, my toon is Captain Zarmayr (yes, the name of my WoW main) of the USS Amirani, and my game edress is Zarmayr at Fantomah (the latter being my Champions Online username, naturally).
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I see that Cryptic has done what they should've tried 6 months ago: Released a free demo. Now you can play in the opening area up to Level 15 for free. As I've said many times, I like the system and would be happy to see folks try it out.
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
Alright, I know this is futile, but ... The new patch cleared up a lot of the performance issues, removing perhaps my greatest reservation about the game. If you're curious, a WoW Players Guide to Champions Online was posted recently.

Also, one of the cool things about Champions Online is you can pick up random objects and throw them at people (at least if your Strength is high enough). I'm a huge fan of the Action Comics # 1 design, so I couldn't resist pulling this stunt:
From Superhero MMO Screenshots

Just in case you wondered ... the gangbanger who took this in the face didn't last long.
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
I've been playing Champions Online a lot recently, and I've found that I like it. Mechanically it's a lot like City of Heroes/Villains, but the environments and the missions are much less repetitive, and much more interesting. I can't say there's no grind, but it doesn't seem to have more than any other MMO. If nothing else, the quests are very quick, so you aren't stuck fighting the same bad guys for very long.

From Superhero MMO Screenshots
Characteristics and so forth resemble the Hero System's, but only on a superficial level; naturally, you don't have the same freedom you would in the tabletop RPG, since it would create absolute chaos in an MMO. Costume design is the main creative outlet, and as always I created three sexy super heroines. My main is "Ms. Natural," pictured on the left; she got the name when I realized she looked like an R. Crumb character.

Champions Online is not flawless, by any means. The game is quite buggy, more so than any other MMO I've tried. It requires a lot of memory, good graphics card, etc., and since my comp is a little old there's a bit of lag all the time. (I don't know why MMO's go the heavy graphics route, instead of following WoW's more inclusive example, but there you go.) Still... I like it, and it may be worth your time. If anyone wants to join me my screen name's Fantomah (yes, taken from my City of Villains main).
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I haven't talked about World of Warcraft recently. Many of my friends have drifted away from the game, and I've largely stopped playing and lost interest. Nevertheless, I was shocked to discover that Knights of Morningside, our three-and-a-half year old guild on Moonrunner, had been disbanded. It turns out our current Guild Master, Gonjaman, had been hacked; the hacker robbed our bank and shut us down. Obviously, entrusting our money to a guy named "Gonjaman" may have been been a bad idea ...

It got me thinking about the job of guild leader. Knights of Morningside had seven: [livejournal.com profile] bigscary, [livejournal.com profile] negativeq, [livejournal.com profile] kokoinai, myself (briefly, and badly), [livejournal.com profile] peacewood, [livejournal.com profile] wellgull and Gonja. Of all of them, [livejournal.com profile] kokoinai served the longest, and may have been the best. I'd say the three characteristics of a good Guild Manager were the following, in reverse order of importance:
  1. Availability. GMs had many administrative duties, and the best GMs were around a lot to perform them. Surprisingly, though, this was probably the least important GM characteristic.
  2. Temperament. The best GMs don't lose their temper and don't indulge in pointless fights. (This was my failing.) A guild is little more than a chat channel with a bank; the GM has little real power, and if he or she is overbearing people will just get up and leave.
  3. Trustworthiness. Don't steal, or let other people steal, all the guild's stuff!
Personally, I think it was great that KoM had rotating leadership; I think it allowed us to stay together for years, while most guilds fall apart in months. If it wasn't for the hack we'd probably still be around years from now.

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August 2012

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