Player Housing | MMOrgue 8

Player Housing | MMOrgue 8

In a break from our usual format, we’ve invited a number of correspondents onto this episode to discuss the ins-and-outs of different versions of player housing, and how different MMOs have incorporated owning your own home into the worlds we participate in. Through these conversations, we’ll discuss Second Life, Everquest II, Star Wars: Galaxies, Star Trek Online and City of Heroes.

We’ll also talk about the announced shut-down of SWG, the upcoming changes made to World of Warcraft’s Trial Account, and a press release that should be THE BEST NEWS EVER … and why it has disappointed Jeremy so much.

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Show Notes:

Supreme Court upholds decision to strike down Violent Video Game law
Originally penned in California, the law included dubious wording that would result in heavy fines against retailers that sold “excessively violent” video games to minors.
There’s lots more, but let’s just say… it was bad news for gamers! And NOT just because we wanna get our frag on, and witness our buddies’ heads explode in fountains of gore.

What it came down to, was First Amendment rights in the US. Our freedom of speech, and whether or not video games qualified as a protected form of artistic expression.

According to the highest authority we honor, they do.

In fact, their decision on this matter went so far as to quote their similarly favorable judgement on FILM, from the 1950s.

This decision sets a precedent that cannot be denied or overruled – that Video Games now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with books and films, as a protected media under Free Speech. Furthermore, it places additional faith in the non-government agency, the ESRB, to continue doing their part in ensuring that the content we are now guaranteed the freedom to enjoy, is appropriately categorized for our consumption.

With the decision handed down by the Supreme Court, we should now also be free from hearing about lawsuits over the “offensive” nature of some games’ content, and story after story of litigators attempting to blame the gaming industry for the bad behavior of modern youth. Not that complaints about violent subject matter will ever really go away… but at least, with this ruling as a foundation, the cries may quiet down to something more reasonable.

Second Life // EverQuest II
Guest : Ruth

You worked as a GM on Second Life for several years…

I’m an outsider to that game, or simulation, however it’s generally categorized. But as I understand it, the concept of “Player Housing” as defined by the MMORPG market, is a bit of a misnomer for SL.

In fact, housing in SL more-or-less -IS- the entire game, isn’t it?

What issues arise from having an entire economy and community based on personal property and infinite customization? (A specific anecdote to explain a point would be good here, if possible)

I don’t foresee any other MMO in the near future offering similar functionality to what SL offered. But if a developer chose to attempt it, are there any primary pitfalls that you might point out to avoid when implementing a similar system?

Now… let’s move on to EverQuest 2…
Demo Video 1
Demo Video 2

EQ2 included options to:
– Place pre-made objects in almost any position in your home
– Own several different homes/apartments
– Visit other players’ homes
– Through the use of log files and macros, even allowed an external editing tool

How did EQ2’s system stack up against SL?

How well did EQ2’s housing system mesh with its adventuring and crafting components?

Any major drawbacks of the system?

I, personally, consider EQ2’s housing system to be superior to anything else I’ve seen on the market in terms of striking a balance between customization and ease of creating esthetically pleasing atmospheres. Your thoughts?

SWG
Guest: Heather

Let’s start with SWG, since it is, at this point, mostly ancient history…

Player City and Tatooine House Interior (2:40 for house, 9:35 for Mall)

I’ll admit, I actually “employed” myself within this game, as an interior decorator. Briefly. I would go to peoples’ houses and rearrange their belongings in more pleasing ways, or provide them with specific projects (like aquariums, fireplaces, complex furniture, etc) for a small fee.

The fact that this game launched without a means to move items on the Z-axis felt like an absolute insult to gamers, considering how much they talked up the option of building your own home and decorating it however you liked. Eventually this was added, but workarounds like using a built-in staircase were common for many months.

They even added pitch/roll/yaw eventually. Jerks.

This game was known as a sandbox, leaving players to create their own fun from the ground up, and housing was no exception to this rule. Decorating a home required vast amounts of imagination, as there was very little pre-made decor. Sure, architects could make furniture and such, but after a very short time it all looked the same. Coming up with original-looking designs was more fun than actually adventuring, in my opinion.

As for the homes themselves, and the placing of them… hoo-boy… SWG was always plagued with issues regarding server stability and sync issues (at least up ‘til when I quit just before the NGE), so placing a home was sometimes a crap shoot. I knew people that’d lost entire homes and millions of credits worth of belongings, because their brand new spacious pad just up and vanished when the server randomly burped.

The pristine wilderness known to be so abundant in the Star Wars universe was dotted with harvesters, homes, factories, warehouses, shops, cantinas, shuttleports, and more… everywhere you looked. When cities were introduced, it only made the urban sprawl even worse. However, I would like to note that no other game has, to my knowledge, incorporated a series of local governing controls like SWG had for player cities. You had zoning controls, taxation, a voting system, and even a population census at the city hall. Very robust, even if utterly worthless in the long run.

STO / COH:
Guest: Sean

STO

Ship Interiors were never intended to be offered at time of launch. But a small, vocal minority of players within the community continued to LOUDLY pound the drum for this feature, continuing to insist that it was a necessary part of the Star Trek experience.

Eventually, Cryptic broke down and gave players Bridges. But with zero functionality. Eventually full interior layouts were added, but most players see them as worthless fluff. The sole function that cannot be accessed from elsewhere, has become a pain in the ass instead of a welcome diversion (Mission Replay).

Now, here we are more than a year after launch, and there remains very little functionality within ship interiors.

Sadly, this mimics how Cryptic treated Base Building in COX…

Before we move on from STO, I’d like to dig out some opinions from YOU on the matter of ship interiors, and player housing…

Q&A:

  • Many episodes of Star Trek take place entirely within ship interiors… If you, as a player, had to give up customization of your interior, to play missions similar to those, would you be OK with that?
  • Is the fact that this feature appears to have been rushed, a commentary on the developer in any way, and their ability to be swayed by a vocal community?
  • What additional functionality do these ship interiors need?

OK, tell me more about how Cryptic treated Base Builders in COX…

City of Heroes was launched in April 2004. Super Group Bases added in the paid expansion, City of Villains in June 2006.

Options: Small, Medium, or Large. Big rooms separated by corridors.
At launch: ~12 walls/ceilings/floors, about a dozen functional items, and ~100 decor items.
5 years later: 8 or so functional items added, removed clipping of placed items.

Once a very active community (chat channels, contests, forum activity)
Cryptic ignored the base building issues until they sold to NCSoft in 2007.
NCSoft continued ignoring it, except to nerf the storage availability. (2500 items, down to 30)

Part of Issue 13 was slated to include lots of base stuff. (DATE?)
When Issue 13 was split into two separate updates, the base features mysteriously vanished from EITHER set of patch notes.
Attempts to get commentary on this were met with silence, or locked threads.

In 2008 a dev named Sunstorm took on the role of Base Building Developer
http://boards.cityofheroes.com/showthread.php?t=126267
He started a thread asking for some suggestions for additions and improvements to bases, made a few more posts, and then went silent. In October 2009, he posted that he’s still working on some stuff for bases. http://boards.cityofheroes.com/showthread.php?p=2355311
But in December 2009, someone noticed that his forum name was no longer red. That only happens on the forums when a staff member is no longer employed.

  • So, what are the primary issues that Bases faced in CoH?
  • What role were they supposed to fill, functionality-wise?
  • The silence from developers is scary, disappointing, and a lingering dark blotch on their overall PR efforts. Is there anything they could say at this point to make up for these bad decisions?
  • Cryptic Studios is now behind Champions Online, which will soon be implementing “Hideouts” as a form of Player Housing. Do you have any sage words of wisdom for them on the subject, to assist in avoiding the pitfalls of the past?

————————

Tease of the Week:

Darkcryo Entertainment has announced Firefly Universe Online!
– No funding.
– No licensing.
– No names on the credits.
– No public access to the company website.
Color me beyond skeptical. I’m almost insulted.

Also, as a quick update to last week’s F2P-dedicated episode, I thought I’d point out that none other than World of Warcraft, the juggernaut itself, has decided to take a step in that direction. They are upgrading their Trial accounts to remove the time limit, and instead impose a level limit of 20. But you can make as many characters as you like.

Yay? Let’s face it – WoW at level 20 is pretty darn lame, and Blizzard has spent so many resources making their end-game and raid content top notch that this lowbie junk is just as old and busted as it’s always been. Despite some sites running with a headline of “WoW goes F2P!” just to draw in clicks, this is nothing of the sort, and will probably result in less than a blip on the subscription radar.

NEXT WEEK:

  • I will be digging deeper into the EVE controversies.
  • Also, based on feedback I received re: Hellgate, I will be trying out the Open Beta which opens June 30th. And I’ll have some initial impressions to share.

Play smart everyone, and remember … sometimes an emote is just an emote.

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