MMOnday: How well will role-less raids work in Guild Wars 2?

Besides the announcement of the release date for Heart of Thorns (October 23), the expansion for Guild Wars 2, the game’s developer ArenaNet shared some exciting news about upcoming group content that would be introduced: raids. Unlike many other MMORPGs, Guild Wars 2 does not utilize the “holy trinity” system for classes which traditionally has gamers playing either a tank, healer or DPS (damage dealer) and instead has everyone doing damage while using self-healing spells and timing their dodges correctly to avoid damage. This difference plays heavily into how group content is approached, both by players and the developers.

Unfortunately, I never got into dungeons in Guild Wars 2. In other games if I were playing tank I’d enjoy keeping enemies on me so others could whittle down health, try keep allies alive as a healer or compare my damage output to party members as a DPS. You may notice that all of those roles include not just myself, but my teammates. I’m doing something for the group. In GW2 it never quite clicked, because I’d always feel like a single player with no way to see how much damage I was contributing and nothing as dramatic as constant taunts or heals to throw out to really influence the tide of battle on a regular basis.

Raids will now cater to parties of up to 10 people, but the mechanics won’t be substantially different than the current 5-man dungeons. Each character will still solely be responsible for damage, although some of the new class specializations may have more impact on the group such as stat-boosting buffs or heals.

I’m definitely willing to give the game’s group content a second look and anticipate the storytelling that will come along with it. I just hope dealing damage can feel more meaningful when 9 other players are doing the same thing next to you.

If you haven’t tried the game, it is now free-to-play (but don’t call it F2P)! So go enjoy it and think about whether or not it’s worth buying the expansion.

MMOnday: Are gender-locked classes acceptable in 2015?

Trion has announced a new free-to-play Action RPG-MMORPG (a la Diabo) called Devilian Online, but one thing has sorely tempered my expectations for the title: gender-locked classes. While gender diversity for players may not be expected in established franchises, games which allow a player to create their own characters are generally expected to have a range of customization options; the choice between a male and female character is important for many MMO fans. I should know, I spent a semester studying gender expression in World of Warcraft during college and spent a lot of time interviewing both male and female players on why they chose their character gender and what it meant to them.

There was a great variance in preference, with some players choosing their own gender to play as in-game because they could identify with their characters more and some choosing the opposite gender so that they could enjoy the form of the opposite sex (this was mostly straight males). Some female players who played as male avatars also expressed a desire to avoid unwanted attention from men while playing.

In MMOs there are no right or wrong choice when it comes to gender, except for when there isn’t a choice. Devilian Online will not ask you whether or not you want to be a girl or a boy when you start the game; each class has a predefined gender. If you choose to be a Beserker or Shadowhunter you’re going to be a guy, conversely Cannoneer and Elementalist will have you playing as a female.

The game is not new in Asia, with it being announced in 2012 and released last year in Korea after extensive testing, but it does raise questions about how comfortable gender locked games should feel in today’s market. Does gender matter when you’re playing MMOs? Or are you alright with the lack of customization?

MMOnday: Why should we pre-order?

 

Dear Gaming Companies,

Why do we need to pay for your games before they’re ready to be delivered? Are you not confident that your product’s quality will speak for itself upon release and that people getting their hands on your content may kill hype for your title? Why is it fair for you to start accepting our cash when you can’t even give us a release date… or a time when your game will be out of “beta testing”?

Sincerely,

Retry Level

Guild Wars 2 brought a lot of attention to a dire situation in gaming today: the pre-order plague. MMOs are perhaps even more egregious offenders in some cases; some free-to-pay titles have priced pre-launch access bundles at $200 (we’re looking at your ArcheAge). Since companies are out to make a profit and the more money they can secure the better, this isn’t a trend that’s likely to stop. Telling people to forgo pre-ordering and them listening would be nice, but not likely to happen.

Instead it would be great if at least a few companies decide to take the higher road. Being able to pre-order for a head start on launch day is easy to forgive, but taking money for expansions that have no firm launch date is ridiculous. Not to mention those awful retailer-specific bonuses which cause gamers to lose out on content because they refuse to buy multiple copies of the same game at different stores.

What are your thoughts?

MMOnday: TCG, the next frontier

Trading Card Games (TCG) have always been popular, particularly Magic: The Gathering which garnered millions of fans and was banned from many schools across the US, along with Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Some are drawn to the strategy involved in creating decks, others the collection aspect, and still others from the social elements involved in sitting down and competing against other players.

Magic has video game roots going back all the way to 1997, but the real fun began back in 2002 with Magic: The Gathering Online. The popular physical card series finally had a MMOG to call its own and fans could now interact all over the world. The game is still alive and kicking today, with the Leagues feature set to return after a 6 year hiatus. Although MTGO is a Windows-only title, Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers expanded the series onto consoles and later onto iOS.

With such a storied history, it is perhaps surprising that Hearthstone, Blizzard’s relatively recent attempt to take on the online TCG field, has been able to make the genre look so much more appealing than MTG has over the past 10+ years. On paper, it certainly sounds as though the older, already established TCG franchise should have been harder to dethrone than it was. So what exactly did Hearthstone bring to the table that Magic hadn’t? A simplified experience. Blizzard made sure its debut didn’t require reading a novel-length rule book and familiarizing oneself with complicated card mechanics that were sometimes situational at best. And people loved it (MTG fans, I have heard, still prefer their hardcore game however).

So what’s coming next? An Elder Scrolls online TCG, apparently. Their free-to-pay card battler will be debuting to take on Hearthstone and is called The Elder Scrolls Legends. The game will also draw upon an established fantasy universe. Perhaps the game will strike a balance between the simple rules of Blizzard’s title and the more convoluted set touted by older games such as Magic.

What other online TCG games can we expect in the future? Is this a new fad for fantasy franchises?

MMOnday: How will VR change our virtual worlds?

Massively multi-player online games are known for their immersive qualities; after all, MMORPGs in particular are famous for their vast and intricate digital worlds in which millions of people play out a second life as a glory seeking hero. The genre has seen massive improvements since the mid 90s and contemporary games feature much more detailed environments for players to explore than was ever possible. Gamers are still not “in” the world though. It is hard to forget you’re using WASD to move and sitting in front of a screen. Many titles are also in 3rd person which is something we don’t get the privilege of having in our real lives.

Will virtual reality headsets be the wrecking ball that tears down the final wall between us and our characters? And will Miley Cyrus being riding it in white undergarments?

Killing 10 rats may again be interesting when done while wearing an Oculus Rift, for example. Shiny new gear may lose its appeal though if there aren’t plenty of mirrors from which to admire yourself.

How do you think VR will change our MMOs? Looking forward to reading your comments.