Archive

Archive for the ‘MMO Concepts’ Category

“What is my Definition of an MMO” or “MMO Existentialism”

May 2, 2012 1 comment

I am an MMO player. I have been an avid MMO players for some time, going on nearly 10 years now. I love this genre of video gaming. There is just something very natural and recognizable about a world where unlikely heroes coalesce and cooperate to defeat the larger threat. A world that goes on when you have logged off and gone to sleep. A world which has it’s own heartbeat.

Lately though, I have struggled to try and define for myself what playing an MMO means to me. Is it that you get to play with more than 30 people? Is it that there is a deeper sense of community through guilds/corporations/forces? Is it the ability to meet random people from around the globe with similar interests in gaming? Or is it something deeper?

The MMO genre has grown almost exponentially in the last decade or so. As the genre expanded, it has also evolved and the qualifications for what makes an MMO has also morphed significantly over time. These days almost anything that features a substantially large number of players playing together is called an MMO. The browser-based MMO reared its head, and today MMOs like Battlestar Galactica are approaching 10 million subscribed users.

I think for me an MMO is all about the people playing it, it is about the community, and the connections and relationships you make along the way.

It is the difference between the dread you feeling logging into Team Fortress 2, not knowing what batch of colossal idiots you might be randomly paired with on your team, vs. logging into a group of dedicated individuals that you trust to have your back in that battleground or that dungeon.

It is the difference between 14-year olds getting high on superior reflexes and calling your mother a orge vs. people that genuinely care for your well-being both in-game and in real life.

It is the difference between RNG screwing you over vs. RNG’s attempts foiled by a well-coordinated team of individuals that strive together for a common objective.

It is the difference between knowing that you won the game for your idiot team vs. knowing that unless you had your friends and guildmates sweating and bleeding next to you, you would never have accomplished that particular objective.

For a casual gamer like me, an MMO is a community, a band of brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters (I had to!). For me, an MMO is about being able to log in, have fun, play to your heart’s content and have a team that backs you up.

For me, MMOs are all about people.

Categories: Bronte, Guild

MoP Floodgates pt. 4: “Guild Perk Changes” or “You Will Take it And You Will Like It”

April 10, 2012 1 comment

The level 21 guild perk, Have Group, Will Travel was a huge blessing. But with cross-realm raiding, this has an even greater impact that usual.

As someone who regularly runs raids through the fantastic OpenRaid.eu website (I am on there as Jehangir), this little perk is fantastic because you have people from potentially 25 different servers coming together in a raid instance to get some achievements, transmorg gear and have some fun. MoP is removing this perk altogether, meaning every raid member will have to fly to the instance manually.

Blizzard stated that their reason for doing so was because they wanted players to get out in the world and interact with it and each other. This clearly does not apply to cross-realm raids. In addition, the meeting stones (unless moved inside the instance) are useless because you cannot summon someone from another realm to your realm’s outdoor environment. The only other viable option then, is to ensure you always have a Warlock, so you can get going as soon as people are summoned.

The perk that replaces Have Group, Will Travel is called Ride Like the Wind, which increases your flight path speed by an unknown amount. Now understand that this is flight path speed, not flight speed, which means that after getting your flying mount at the level cap in MoP, unless you are an alt leveling, this perk will be largely useless to you.

There is another change that I came across. Chug-A-Lug has been replaced by The Doctor is In. Chug-A-Lug effectively cut your flasks costs in half. The new perk will help a little sure, but it is highly situational and not as uniform an advantage in a competitive raid. On the plus side though, the new perk will likely help boost cloth sales and prices. But then again, the supply demand curve could actually screw sellers as well.

MoP Floodgates pt. 2: “Hodge Podge” or “Maybe, Maybe Not” or “What Got Cut From Launch”

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment
Click to enlarge

"The hell do you mean 'The rum's gone'"?

Hodge Podge

Here are some random new pieces of information on the upcoming expansion:

  • Humans and Orcs are slated to receive updated character models next
  • Pandaren may have a “dragon turtle” mount
  • There are 8 core buffs, and they will be shown as a number on your UI (e.g. 5/8), with information on which ones are missing
  • Character customization has been revamped, and if you have played the Diablo Beta, you will be right at home with it
  • The giant statue in Jade Forest will be destroyed as a direct result of the Horde-Alliance war
  • Guild experience caps will be removed
  • Here is an interesting statistic, during The Burning Crusade, less than 1% of the player base saw the Sunwell raid
  • We could see content patches every two months, since raid tiers are “supposed” to last four months, with smaller content patches in between
  • World bosses are back, with Anger in Kun-Lai Summit and Fear in the Dread Wastes
  • World bosses will have unique mounts in their loot tables
  • “The new LFR loot system will grant a bonus roll when you have an item purchased from one of the Pandaren factions. These tokens can also be used to purchase the normal epic gear that is usually associated with factions. This extra roll works in all three difficulty levels. If you win a roll in LFR and the boss has no item for you, you will get gold instead.”
  • Quests of all difficulty levels above (and including green) will give a flat amount of guild experience, allowing lower level players to contribute to guild leveling

Hodge Podge Analysis

Most of this actually sounds fine. I have always been a fan of world bosses, so that is a plus point in my book. The buff management system also seems intuitive. Instead of looking through 25 odd buffs to see if you are missing anything or using addon help, one glance will tell you which critical buffs are missing.

More content is a double-edged sword though. Putting out content faster implies Blizzard may not have enough time to polish everything properly. Let’s take a look at some silly and largely meaningless statistics for number of raid encounters in each expansion:

  • Vanilla WoW – MC (10), BWL (8), AQ40 (9), AQ20 (6), ZG (6), Naxx (16) = 55 Total
  • The Burning Crusade – Karazhan (10), Gruul (2), Mag (1), SSC (6), TK (4), ZA (6), Hyjal (5), BT (9), Sunwell (6) = 50 Total
  • Wrath of the Lich King – Naxx (16), OS (1), Eye (1), Ulduar (14), TotGC (5), Ony (1), ICC (12), VoA (4), RS (1), = 55 Total
  • Cataclysm – BoT (5), BWD (6), TotFW (2), Firelands (7), DS (8), BH (3) = 31 Total

I know they also (re)released the Troll instances, and create three solid instances leading up to the Deathwing conflict, but they added more instances to the previous expansions as well.

My point is that we are getting much lesser content at the end game with Cataclysm. One could say that the 1-60 new player experience revamp may have taken a chunk out of this, but I fear that with bi-monthly patches,  we may be getting more content patches, but lesser content in them.

Click to enlarge

"It may look like a cyclone, but that is a monk's fart."

Maybe, Maybe Not

Some features are still up in the air. They are either under debate, or they will be implemented shortly after launch.

  • Titles, if made account-wide, will be available on other characters only after you reach the level where you earned it
  • Mounts will be account wide, and this will happen shortly after launch, if not right at launch
  • There might be another Troll dungeon, bringing the number to four, after Zul’Farrak, Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman. It will be called Zul’Panda. I made that last one up.
  • The 10-man and 25-man shared lockout may be revisited.
  • A third battleground, which didn’t make the cut, is modeled after DOTA
  • Pet battles may come to WoW-Remote
  • Visible librams and quivers may not be implemented by launch

Maybe, Maybe Not Analysis

Account-wide titles and mounts are a no-brainer. I know MMOs are very much married to the grind, but if you have put in a significant chunk of time to obtain something rare on one character, it is just cruel to force you to start the grind again on a new character.

The 10-man and 25-man shared lockout is a tricky subject. As much as people moan and bitch about how this is taking away loot opportunities from them, two facts will always work against the reversal of this decision. First, it would imply that larger guilds would have their work effectively tripled, with the 25-team splintering into two 10-mans, or three 10-mans (with reserves/alts), every week, and therefore put a lot of pressure on players that have grown accustomed to one lock-out. Second, it would be ridiculously unfair to small guilds that only (can) run 10-man content, as they will miss out on nearly 5 times the amount of loot they could get their hands on, if they were a 25-man guild.

The DOTA battleground got cut from launch, but apparently it will still make its debut in Mists. I am very excited about that!

Visible quivers might be cool for (cross)bows. But what about guns? Do we get an ammo pouch? Or perhaps a criss-crossing bullet vest?!

Click to enlarge

"We have decided to reuse the opening set from Inception."

What Got Cut

Some things got cut:

  • There will be no Tri-Spec
  • Monks will have an auto-attack, the previous plan was to only have specialized attacks

What Got Cut Analysis

Tri-spec would have been nice, but it is not a game-breaker. No auto-attack really would have made monks unique. Oh well!

More posts on the way, stay tuned!

“GW2 Information Overload” or “An MMO After My Own Heart”

February 23, 2012 1 comment

The NDA for Guild Wars 2 was lifted this week, and the information poured forth, an unending tide of opinions, impressions, videos and screenshots. Perhaps not coincidentally, The Secret World also revealed its launch date, June 19th, 2012. Smooth Mr. Tornquist, real smooth!

Since I am not in the closed beta, my impressions of what it plays like is based entirely on the plethora of online previews that popped up between the beginning of this week and now.

Kotaku’s Mike Fahey listed 10 things that he learned from the Guild Wars 2 beta. It is an interesting read, full of promise and praise, so take it with a grain of salt. Fahey’s post has no new screenshots, but there are a few interesting videos, one of which highlights the absolutely massive scale of the game’s cities. It also appears Fahey may be a little suicidal with his digital avatars. Massively’s Elizabeth Cardy and Shawn Schuster put up their own impressions of the press beta event from over the weekend. Cardy focused on marco-level concepts, such as leveling, grouping, combat and healing, whereas Schuster spent more time with the character creator, questing, classes, skills, items, look and feel of the game.

Several bloggers also had their impressions of the game:

  • My dwarf brother Werit naturally only focused on the  PvP aspect, and how he feels it compares to WAR.
  • Spinks is prudent, and feels that we shouldn’t expect something drastically different, just the next step in the MMO evolution.
  • Syncaine feels that the game will fuel the biggest e-peen measurement races in MMO history, and that may not be the worst thing!
  • Keen was kind enough to rummage through the mountain of videos from the event, and come up with the most informative, entertaining and useful ones.
  • Ravious might need a towel!
  • Syp is glad that his feelings about the game are being reinforced though all the glowing praise from over the weekend, but he is focusing on two aspects that stand out for him: character creation, and the lack of reliance on the “holy trinity”.

Massively also put up this new piece today, detailing how crafting works in Guild Wars 2. Being able to gather everything at any time from the get go (no more collecting copper nodes in noobland for three hours before moving higher up the ladder), a lack of node competition, and salvaging all seem like great ideas on paper, and drastic improvements on the “Everything. Takes. Longer. ™.” formula every MMO is guilty of. I am excited, not as much as I am excited for The Secret World, mind you. But I am very excited! I will most certainly be trying this out when it releases.

“Will Torchlight 2 be Out Before Diablo III?” or “Just Let Me Hack-n-Slash Something!”

February 20, 2012 1 comment

There are some new screenshots for Torchlight 2 out. They are at the bottom of this post if that is all you came here for. Click after the jump.

Torchlight was a sleeper hit, and rightly so. It came out of a small studio, it wasn’t a “AAA” title, and no one expected it to be so damn addictive. But at the end of the day, Torchlight was a great hack-n-slash game that presumed very little, and delivered tremendously. When Torchlight 2 was announced, people joked that Torchlight 2 could be out before Diablo III. Given the silence from the Blizzard camp about their dungeon crawler’s release date, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Lately though I am beginning to feel a little trepidation regarding Diablo III. The game is designed to be a grind-fest, where you run dungeons over and over again for better loot, higher levels, and more gold. With the addition of the RMT Auction House, the game actually encourages this gameplay, and from a designer’s perspective, why shouldn’t it? It implies players will spend more time in the game. But consider the fact that Blizzard most popular game of all time is an MMO, and I am beginning to wonder how much of the MMO grind may have permeated into the development mantra for Diablo III.

Look, I understand that the two games have separate development teams and that they are different genres and different universes, but at the end of the day there is an omnipotent authority over at Blue that directs all endeavors of the studio at the macro-level. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to assume that when faced with the question: “How do we keep players coming back to the game?”, someone with over a decade of experience with WoW would (in)advertently suggest an MMO grind concept, which would then would bleed into Diablo III. Because as much as I love MMOs, I hate the quintessential concept that exists in all of them: Everything. Takes. Longer. ™.

I know Diablo is a grind-y game by nature, but I hope elements in the game don’t get as bad as having to run Arathi Basin over three thousand times to get from neutral to exalted. Just sayin’.

“Hump Day Randomness” or “A Central Theme be Damned!”

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

I had quite a few ideas for a post today. but as I cleared out my Google Reader for the day, things kept popping up that I wanted to talk about. Eventually I decided I should just make a crock-pot, hodge-podge post that is equal parts random and lacking a clear focal point.

RIFT is going F2P

Well, sort of. They are doing essentially what WoW did. RIFT will be free to play up to level 20. You can access the capital cities, several zones and play on any server, and there is no time-limit cap. I played RIFT beta in a limited capacity. I have always been fascinated by what I read about the game from other bloggers, but I never felt an adequate amount of compulsion to go out and purchase the game to figure out if I like it. This simplifies that. I can simply try the game, and it’s various classes, and see if this is something I see myself playing long-term.

Analyst Predicts Elder Scrolls 6

As a journalist IRL, sometimes I can’t help but wonder why people choose to publish such content as “news worthy stories”. The title of the story is all the new information you need. The rest of it is either a backgrounder or a filler. Not to mention the fact that this is stating the obvious. It would be like me predicting that the sun would rise tomorrow over Europe. Or that Peter Molyneux’s next game will be another over-hyped letdown. Or that despite the “WTF Pokemon?” camp, people will return to WoW in droves come patch 5.0. Seriously. Stop that. You are wasting your time, and mine. And I got nothing of any significant worth from the story.

Well actually it did lead to the creation of this section of this post.

But that’s it!

Markco got Banned from D3 Beta

This was ridiculous. Markco has reigned supreme on the gold-making strategy throne for quite some time. He shifted his focus from gold-making in WoW to gold-making in D3, but with disastrous results. His strategies started netting him in the excess of 11,000 gold an hour, while operating perfectly within the confines and mechanics of the game. However, it seems that making too much gold can be labeled “exploitative”. No offense Blue, but if you think making too much gold by using in-game mechanics, that are available to every player, is exploitative, than perhaps you shouldn’t have introduced RMT for digital items in the same title.

Why we Need More Fights Like Ultraxion

I recently started reading posts from The Grumpy Elf, who looks suspiciously like a Worg. He recently put up ten reasons why we need more “pure DPS, less dance” fights like Ultraxion. It is a pleasure to read, and gives you some perspective on why fights like Ultraxion can actually be good for you, your guild and the WoW community at large.

“Power-Leveling Professions” or “Money is Time, Friend”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Power-Leveling Professions

A lot of gold making blogs out there will tell you to capitalize on the need for this generation of instant gratification to get what they want with minimal effort, even if the path they takes ends up costing them a lot more than the fair market price of the item. Examples include buying rare companion pets from from vendors in Netherstorm, and selling them for 200-400% their normal price, or buying that rare recipe that spawns once every half hour on that vendor, and auctioning it for 10 times the normal price. This makes sense to me. There is gold to be made at the expense of other people’s laziness, and their unwillingness to put in some extra effort that will save them currency in the long-term.

But then there are those times when I power-level my professions, irrespective of the cost of materials, because for me, hitting the profession level cap is far more important than saving the few thousand gold I will save by farming the materials myself. And therein lies the tradeoff. I make a lot of gold at the auction house, I am very good at it. Even in the inflated market of Cataclysm, I can net between 7-10K from the AH on a weekly basis, so money is no object to me in-game. As such, if I have a choice between spending that money that is just lying around, or investing hours upon hours, flying around, tapping nodes for those precious minerals one pickaxe-striking-node-animation at a time, I will always go for the former.

Am I a Lazy Gamer?

Does that make me lazy? I am generally not a lazy person, and given my nearly masochistic impulsion to pursue the most mentally debilitating of achievements in-game, I am certainly not a lazy gamer. When I started raiding on the new toon, my DPS was just about the tanks. This wasn’t acceptable to me. So I read up online, I theory-crafted, I painstakingly tweaked each and every little statistic, and gemmed, enchanted and reforged my heart out. I am now in the top four DPS’ers in the raid. Most importantly, I am not a lazy person in life.

The point I am trying to make is fairly pedestrian in nature: just because someone is buying your good at several times the market price may not be because they are lazy or ill-informed. It may simply be because they value their time over their money, because the ratio for the sheer amount of time invested farming, just to save those precious few thousand gold coins simply does not make sense to them. The process still ended up taking over two hours to get from skill 197 to 423, where I called it a night because I was moments away from a nosebleed! If I had to gather, say, the 320 units of Cobalt Ore alone, I could have spent somewhere between 5-10 hours farming. And that only got me skill points between 350 and 415. As far as I am concerned, paying 2-3 times the average market value for said ore, for me, is well worth the investment.

As someone who has played the auction house to his advantage since the game was in its infant stages, this is the first time I have gone all out, and spent “whatever it takes” amounts of in-game currency to power-level my professions, effectively filling the pockets of enterprising auction-house entrepreneurs. I have to admit, it feels pretty good to have enough gold to be able to blaze right past the arduous farming lane, and onto the endgame of a given profession, because let’s face it. The game is designed so you benefit (both personally and financially) when your profession is at the max-level, and not by selling copper scale pants all day. It is an interesting new perspective, one that gives me cause for pause (that should be a meme) and reevaluate how I view the market.

And then the goblin in me rears his green head, and asks, how can we use this new revelation to our advantage!

“I Miss the Gold Old Days” or “Vanilla Nostaglia”

January 20, 2012 3 comments

Gold then.

A while back I put up a post titled: ‘“I Miss 40-man Raids” or “Vanilla Nostalgia”‘. Turns out that isn’t the only thing I miss about the vanilla days.

One of the systems that has gone through a radical transformation over the last seven years of WoW has been gold acquisition. I remember when gold was a highly sought after commodity. Having 100 gold in your inventory at 60 was a big deal. When buying a Krol Blade meant you had to save up some cash for a long, long time. I remember when the highest price on the AH would be three figures. Putting up something for 1K gold would get you ridiculed general and trade chats.

Daily Quests: Then

Um, we didn’t have any.

Daily Quests: Now

One of the ways to acquire gold these days (if you are not an enterprising Auction House player like myself), is to simply do the allotted 25 daily quests daily. If you got an average of 17 gold per quest, you would end up getting 2975 gold in a single week from just quest turn-ins, never mind the items you would pick up for vendoring or auctioning. I think that is a tad ridiculous now. Making nearly 3K guaranteed gold in vanilla would make me one of the richest players on any server. These days, thanks to inflation, this is the “norm”.

Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder: Then

A vanilla player would gawk at you stupidly. This was not even fathomable then. Hell even PvP was with players of the same server, and queues could be up to an hour long for AV.

Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder: Now

The sheer volume of gold you can make from DF and LFR is technically infinite. LFR will net you about 170 gold every week, so that is negligible. But you could technically keep queuing in DF all week, making 25G every run, in addition to whatever items you pick up for the AH or for selling to vendors, not to mention loot for your characters, disenchanted crystals and gold made from unfinished quests.

Gold for Experience: Then

If you hit the level cap of 60 in vanilla, any quests you finished past that point would result in getting you squat in addition to the quest rewards (be it currency or gear).

Gold for Experience: Now

Now, after you hit the level cap, the experience you would normally gain from turning in a quest gets converted instead to gold. I leveled my hunter in Cataclysm from 81-85 via Mount Hyjal, Deepholm, and a little bit of Twilight Highlands. After hitting 85, all the quests I finished in Uldum, the rest of Twilight Highlands, and Vash’ir nets me gold for experience. This concept was unheard of in vanilla WoW.

Gold now.

I hit level 85 in Cataclysm less than two months ago (I think), and I have over 50K gold, and that is with minimal effort and time invested. The point of this post, as was the case with the last one, is not to berate the WoW of today. The game has gone through an evolutionary process over the last seven years and a lot of changes are for the better. I just remember the good old days when being able to make copious amounts of gold was a skill and not a god-given right!

What do you think? Do you feel all this convenience is a good thing for MMO evolution, or has gold-acquisition been made too easy?

“There is a Disturbance in the Force” or “SWTOR Several Players vs Player”

January 19, 2012 4 comments

Slightly imbalanced!

Empire < Republic.

I don’t know what it is about the Dark Side of the Force, but clearly it is very alluring to human beings. With the Empire outnumbering the Republic forces by a considerable volume, it was only a matter of time before the imbalance in the PvP blew up in the Republic collective, melting faces. My question is this, did no one really see this coming?

Now I love BioWare. Aside from the mediocre Dragon Age II, I don’t think they have released a game in recent memory that has entertained me beyond expectations. What boggles me is how is it possible that so much time, effort, energy, money and resources were poured into a top of the line AAA MMO, and the multiplayer aspect of it is broken? Take Tol Barad for example. It is an open PvP zone most of the time, and anyone can come and go as they please, except for when every 2-3 hours there is a power struggle with both factions vying for control of the zone for the next 2-3 hours. The horrid mechanics of Tol Barad notwithstanding, what is great about this zone is that the system throws everyone out at the start of the fight, and brings in an equal number of players to face off. If 10 horde queue and 20 alliance queue, only 10 from each side will get in to ensure the fight is balanced.

Despite sinking millions of dollars into SWTOR, and, as my friend Matthew would claim, “revamping and or polishing the best WoW has to offer”, somehow they missed this little possibility. The forums are now ablaze with players up in arms about the whole fiasco, some even saying they are thankful for it, because now they can quit before the payment cycle kicks in after the first free month. Ouch. Offering incentives for players to come slaughter one another in world PvP is a great idea, if BioWare can ensure that the an equivalent number of players from either faction will engage in battle. Given that BioWare already had data indicating higher numbers in one faction, this should never have happened in the first place.

I have always been partial to being an early adopter. The initial feedback about SWTOR is positive, not overwhelmingly so, but the kind that piques your curiosity the more opinions you peruse. However, it is BioWare’s solution to this and similar future debacles that will determine if I ever invest in the title. And yes, I too will be joining the Empire!

“Handicap Accessible” or “LFR = Looking for Rez”

January 9, 2012 6 comments

For those of you who played WoW from the very early days, do you remember when:

  • Attuning for Onyxia meant weeks of farming UBRS with 20 people
  • Clearing to Lucifron took a half hour and a wipe or two
  • We used to raid with 40 people
  • Paladins were Alliance-only, and Shamans were Horde-only
  • Since each boss dropped only two tokens, that meant a 40-man raid would get geared from MC (assuming nothing every got DE’ed), at least 20 weeks, or five months
  • Vendorstrike was the longest running joke since you could take out Sulfuron Harbinger

What these factors have in common was that the end-game was designed to be conquered by only the most hardcore of players. It took time, and skill, and effort and energy to coordinate a team of 40 people, and some how avoid any idiocy. Raiding, gearing, attuning took time, effort, energy and patience.There were no 25-mans, no 20-mans, no 10-mans. A raid was 40 people, period.

First the 40-mans were reduced to 25-mans. Then 10-mans were added, but the coordination required for 25-mans was rewarded by putting in gear of a slightly lower ilvl in 10-mans. Then they were balanced out as well, and heroic modes were added. And finally we have LFR. Today you can log in, queue for LFR, and be raiding with the now-largest raid size (25), in a matter of seconds. There is no skill requirement (unless you equate ilvl with skill), there is no filtering mechanism for determining if an individual knows what to do in a fight. The bosses hit like pussies, the loot drops like rain, and WoW’s much-elusive end-game is officially accessible to any and all M&S. Hell, bots could get better results.

My point is that WoW is no longer just accessible. It is now handicap accessible. People that have no propensity for raiding, who actually don’t mind AFK’ing through most of LFR and then rolling need on everything that drops are flourishing, their lives made easier. The world’s largest MMO has all the mechanisms in place to allow an individual to play the game as anti-socially as humanly possible. Skill is no longer a requirement. Decency is no longer a requirement. All you need is a level 85, and a heartbeat.

If this post is too negative, I apologize. I don’t mean to be. But if you join an LFR raid, score consistently in the top three for DPS with your crappy gear, and your group wipes time and again on Ultraxion trash, it tends to strike a nerve.

Image courtesy of The Death Knight Diaries.

(Sidenote: if you are on the EU servers, pop in Aggamagan server, Alliance side. I play on a Night Elf Hunter called “Jehangir”.)

“A Question About Fallen Earth” or “Image of the Day: Under-boobs”

October 4, 2011 18 comments

Any European players playing Fallen Earth (now or when it launched F2P?) What server will you be on? Let’s team up, because I am definitely playing it post October 12.

And enjoy the digital side and under-boobs. It’s a plague, I tell you!

Categories: F2P, Fallen Earth

“Does Anyone Have Anything Nice to Say About WoW?” or “Are We WoW’s Biggest Problem?”

September 28, 2011 11 comments

11.2 million people still play World of Warcraft. Yet it seems to me lately that no one has anything positive to say about it.

Most MMO bloggers I follow and read have played it at some point or another (a lot of them still do), yet 9 times out of 10, if there is an opinion on something related to WoW, it is seems intrinsically married to some element of negativity, scorn or outright malice. I am not excusing myself from this barrage of endless negativity, I am as guilty of this phenomenon as the next guy. But it does make me think: does no one have anything nice to say about the most successful MMO in the world?

When Ragnaros was hit over the head with the nerf-bat, we all ripped Blizzard a new one. “They need to design content better”, said some (myself included). “The game is become too casual”, said others. “This is the final nail in Blizzard’s rapidly sinking coffin”, was one ambitious claim. Yet everyone continued to play it, and raid, and talk about the next raid. I was able to dig up a few (partially) positive responses to the nerf in Firelands (Variant Avatar and Manalicious), but aside from that, most of the feedback was deeply mired in barely-concealed hostility.

As an example, here are some of the reactions:

  • Kurn felt the “hardest part on Alysrazor was NOT killing her faster”. In all fairness, Kurn’s group seemed to have a lot more fun because the content wasn’t as brutal as it was pre-nerf. That being said, Kurn felt the nerf was a slap in the face this time.
  • Morynne felt that the Firelands bosses, particularly the first few, had started dropping like flies, making the content a little ridiculous.
  • Lonomonkey was upset that in “the end, our efforts were for nothing and no one told us”.
  • Coriel was felt that Blizzard was not tuning the nerfs well enough. For one thing, it seemed rushed, and second, Coriel’s guild was just recovering from a tough raiding summer only to realize content had been made dumber.
  • Ben’s sarcasm was barely masked: “After numerous complaints about fairness, Firelands Elementary is also changing its policy towards grades. Many parents apparently feel that grading children makes the stupid kids feel awkward and embarrassed, and as such, the new grading policy will reward all children with an automatic “A+++”, just for showing up.”
  • Matticus raised an interesting point, that it had been only 10 weeks since players had been in Firelands. The nerf-bat normally didn’t hit the main content for at least six months. He felt it was way too soon.
  • Vixsin echoed Matticus’ concerns, and felt that the nerfs came too soon, and they were too strong.
  • Gevlon, as one would expect, didn’t hold back, opening a scathing post with “…Blizzard practically accepted that their raid design has failed”.
  • Even Tobold was upset, saying he didn’t feel like Blizzard was sticking to their guns, primarily because they couldn’t identify which guns they wanted to stick to.

We complain that Blizzard takes too much time between content, artificially lengthening the life of the expansion. But if they bring out the nerf week in as little as 10 weeks, we still complain that it is too soon. Even Transmorgification, a really cool and rather well-received new feature, was not exempt from the criticism. Some people complained that Blizzard had implemented the system after seven years, and that was too little too late. I must admit I was a little upset. I had held on to the Tier 2 Judgement set for four years, and finally cleaned out my bank a few months prior to the Transmorgification announcement.

Seriously, does anyone have anything nice to say About WoW? And more importantly, is it possible that the problem isn’t Blizzard’s policies or rapidly changing gears in their core systems, but that no matter what they do, we as a group will never be satisfied?

“Starting Anew” or “A Case of False Guild Advertising”

September 23, 2011 9 comments

Starting Anew

As I have mentioned a few times, I have started playing World of Warcraft again, but this time, I am trying something new:

  1. I am playing on the EU servers. I had been playing on the US servers, despite moving halfway across the world, and the latency was barely manageable. I have a latency of about 100ms, which spikes occasionally to a maximum of 150ms. Very manageable.
  2. I am starting from scratch. I have a new account and as such no money, no resources, no BoA items.
  3. I am playing as Horde. I have never played as a Horde character before, save a Tauren Hunter that I got to level 20 on launch day back in November of 2004.

I am having a blast going back to the basics. But even as I marvel at the fluidity of quest design and quest-hub-hopping (that should be a term), I am painfully aware that soon I will hit level 60, and then I will have to bear through the endless field of perpetual depression that is Hellfire Peninsula.

I am already level 50, an Undead Frost Mage called Cladtyrant. Bronte was already taken, and I didn’t feel like naming myself Brôñtë, because that is just foolish. The amount of experience needed to get to level 50 seems to have been cut by three-quarters from the vanilla WoW days. I remember the time when getting to level 60 was a marathon endurance test of your mental capabilities, as your reservoirs of patience ran thin and you trudged along painfully to the end.

A Case of False Guild Advertising

In my teen levels I was approached by the guild master of the guild I am currently in. “Join us”, he said. “We are a social guild that believe in helping one another and working together toward common goals. We can help you level and provide you with necessary guidance.” Up until that point, I was leveling solo, and I was in uncharted territory (Horde), so I asked a few questions pertaining to requirements and rules/regulations, and finding everything quite “casual” in nature, I agreed to join.

At this point, that seems to have been a mistake. The guild was level 1 when I joined. It is now level 4, so its not like I am benefiting immensely from perks. Every time I have asked a question in guild chat, be it quest-related, a plea for help with a particular area, or just a random comment, I have been met with resounding silence. The irritating aspect is that whenever I see a question in guild chat, I respond 9even do my own research on WowHead if needed) to try and be helpful. Even then there is no response, no “thank you”, or “hey I didn’t think of that!”, or even an “OK.” There is just silence, and silence, in this case, is pretty far from golden.

The “grouping” phenomenon seems to have permeated every aspect of the guild and people only seem to talk to certain other people if they are part of their sub-culture. I feel like I am playing a single-player game with guildmates who could easily be mistaken for well-scripted NPCs with their own lives. They simply don’t acknowledge my existence. And that is not how a massively multiplayer game is supposed to function.

You know there is a problem with your guild if you have a more meaningful conversation with people you randomly group with in instances than your own guild mates.

I want to confront the guild leader, asking him (her?) if they feel the least bit remorseful for completely misleading me. More recently, raiding seems to be getting into the picture and the guild is putting resources together towards forming a dedicated 10-man. That is cool, and whoever has the time should certainly get to use it as they see fit. Except it seems the guild is increasingly branching away from a casual to a raiding guild. Hell, they are even completing guild challenges on a daily basis.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Should I confront the guild leader? Or should I bide my time and see how things go?

“WoW Evolved” or “The Problem with Overtuning Content”

September 15, 2011 8 comments

The Game is Evolving, But the Players are Not

The problem with WoW’s current raid progression is that it simply isn’t accessible. Innovation after seven years of being the market leader implies that boss fights need to continue to evolve beyond tank-and-spanks and massive-mob-rushes, but it also has the added drawback of increased complexity. Ordinarily this shouldn’t be an issue, as players continue to learn the more they play and the more they encounter more complex fights. But WoW is an MMO, and that implies players come and go, and the average skill level fluctuates.

I read recently that there are several times more inactive WoW subscribers that once played WoW, than currently active (10 million +) WoW subscribers. I myself have unsubscribed four or five times. This effectively implies that aside from a few hardcore players, most of WoW’s core players continue to rotate. Raids see new players (or older players that haven’t played in a while) returning to newer, scarier, bigger, crazier boss fights. What I am trying to say is, the game is evolving and metamorphosing, but perhaps the player isn’t.

“Overtuning” Content

A very tiny percentage of the raiding population in WoW (which itself is a small portion of the overall population, I’d imagine) has conquered the Firelands raid, a fact most bloggers, including Spinks, agrees with. When most of the player base in your MMO is unable to even see (let alone down) the last boss of a raid instance before you are gearing up for the next raid tier, there is a problem. I have no factual information to support this, but this heavy-duty overtuning may well be the reason WoW has been losing a steady (not worrisome, but steady nonetheless) stream of subscribers since Cataclysm released.

The solution does not lie in nerfing the instance to make it more accessible to more players (as is apparently due, this very week), or introducing a “lower difficulty” setting (*groan*), it is to revisit your design principles and ensure that your instances are more accessible to the raiding population to begin with. This straddling the fence with content that is ridiculously difficult, then incredibly easy, and then painfully difficult again has us all confused. Hell even Tobold would like Blizzard to stick to their guns for once.

Blizzard recently said the Deathwing encounter will be the longest and the  most complex encounter in-game. So clearly the message isn’t getting through, but until the instance is actually released, I suppose there is always hope.

“Treating F2P With Some Respect” or “The F2P Gold Rush Continues”

September 13, 2011 2 comments

End of Nations is an MMORTS, one of the first of its kind, and has generated a fair bit of press because of its decision to go free-to-play. Davis Luehmann, Executive Producer for the game says they decided to go with a free-to-play model because the game focuses on large-scale multiplayer, and as such, the game’s fun factor will be directly tied to the number of people playing. As such, the team decided to “minimize the barrier to entry and maximize the fun.”

It is a flimsy response, born out of an inherent need to justify the free-to-play model, and mired in the inconsistency of it’s own premise. Time and again I see similar responses from developers who cannot bring themselves to openly admit that F2P has proven itself to be a financially sound business decision, one that has netted several other studios profits despite an initially abysmal response via other business models. I don’t understand why it is not acceptable for developers to simply state that they don’t feel a subscription-based model will be in their best interest, and they feel their product will be financially sustainable, even profitable, if they followed the F2P model.

You could argue that I am reading too much into this statement, but then I present to you the rest of this interview over at Massively. The “pay-to-win” argument is the first thing that pops into my head (and, I am guessing, the minds of most others familiar with MMOs and the rise of F2P in general) and another free-to-play title emerges in the market. When asked about “pay-to-win”, Luehmann was quick to point out that the game “will not be selling pay-to-win items that give one player a significant gameplay advantage over another”.

He also added that many of these items will be available for purchase via the in-game currency. But the game also features an “optional subscription option”. This is where the argument starts to fall apart. If the model is truly F2P, and the cash shops only provides cosmetic benefits, why have a subscription option? Surely the number of players that would like to decorate their tanks with that perfectly colored purple frill are too few to merit the option. Despite the claim that subscription players will have no advantages over free-to-play players, Luehmann says the subscription option will yield “significant value and convenience extras.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am one of the people actually looking forward to a decent MMORTS, and End of Nations if a strong contender. I just find it mildly insulting that developers continue to use rhetoric and poorly formed reasoning to justify their payment models. Just come out and say it:

We are a small studio, we don’t think subscription-based retention will be a possibility for us. We are thus offering a free-to-play model because it has proven to be successful, and because we would like to be profitable, which is our right as an independent business. However, in order to ensure we are not missing out on anyone who does want to pay a monthly fee, we are keeping the subscription option open.

That would have been an honest statement, one that would have netted my confidence and not made the developers sound like pretentious dicks who think players are too dumb to read between the lines and understand what is truly at stake.

Categories: End of Nations, F2P

Article of the Week: “Older Gamers More Likely to ‘Pay to Win'” or “Average Transaction is $14”

September 12, 2011 7 comments

Did you know the average freemium player spends $14 on average during each transaction at the game’s online stores? Neither did the folks over at Flurry Analytics, which is why they conducted an independent survey to determine some trends in iOS and Android gaming. Considering that their sample size was 20 million users across 1.2 play sessions, I’d say their results maybe quite accurate.

Gamers between the ages of 13 and 34 represent more than 80 percent of smartphone game time. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 spent the most time gaming, which accounted for 32 percent of total time. At the next age group, 25-34, time gaming dropped slightly to 29 percent.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the older gamer was far more likely to spend cash to unlock new gear or content, as opposed to spending hours grinding the content to eventually have a shot at it. This actually resonated with me personally. A decade ago, I would not imagine spending extra money on an MMO (or any other free game) that I had already purchased at full-price. As I have gotten older, and the hours in the day continue to shrink at a regular pace, I have, self-admittedly, engaged in online transactions to save me time farming the same content or gear.

The most recent example of this would be the Machina Sniper Rifle that was released for Team Fortress 2. You could obtain the rifle in a few ways:

  • Pre-order Deus Ex: Human Revolution for $44.99, get the Machina (and 7 other items) completely free
  • Pay $1.99 in the Team Fortress 2 Mann Co. store and acquire the Machina
  • Spend a lot of time on trade channels, trying to exchange the Machina for another unique or special item you may have
  • Use the in-game crafting system to melt down existing weapons and craft it from scratch

I had already bought Deus Ex for the Xbos 360, so I wasn’t about to dole out another $44.99 just for the items in TF2. I spent about 15 minutes in a trade channel before I realize it will take me some time to find something that the other party wanted badly enough to trade me the Machina. I even dabbled in crafting and quickly realized that I would have to sacrifice quite a few weapons to get it. Finally I had a look at the store, and realized that for a measly $1.99, I could skip all this aggravation, and so I did.

Personal example notwithstanding, it goes on to show that the freemium model works, and it actually seems to work better with increasing age bracket (and presumably disposable income). If anything, with the exponential rise in mobile gaming and increasingly powerful operating systems, this trend will only continue to gain strength.

Via Massively, on MSNBC.com.

Categories: F2P, MMO Concepts

“The MMO Gold Rush is Dead” or “But the F2P Rush is Just Beginning”

August 28, 2011 2 comments

About a week ago, Tobold spoke about how he feels that the MMO gold rush is over. In the wake of the phenomenal and unprecedented success of World of Warcraft, several MMO developers popped up all over the map, and the market was flooded with clones, underfunded or badly designed (original) ideas, or incomplete products as studios rushed to capitalize on the MMO gold rush. Tobold goes on to argue that the F2P model actually forces developers to make better games because otherwise the player will not move past the free content.

While I am not entirely in agreement with the last statement, for we have seen several games that purposely restrict content and box it into “paid content”. These models, which limit what the players can experience in the start, at least for players like me, have no appeal. Free-to-play to me implies that I should be able to experience the game in its entirety at the start. I should not be subjected to archetypes that I am not interested in, or a class that I have no interest in playing. Sure give me the content in paid categories higher up in the levels, with more areas opening as I opt to pay for them, but if you show me limited content in the very beginning, I will likely leave in the very beginning. This is probably the reason I cannot move past the first few levels in Champions Online: Free for All. Because the only archetype that I thought I would enjoy, I am having next to no fun with.

That being said, I think the F2P gold rush is just beginning. With the resounding success of several games that switched from a subscription model to F2P (hello LOTRO), more and more studios are producing AAA titles that are free-to-play with cash shops. Just today, one of the most hotly anticipated new MMOs and one of my favorites, The Secret World revealed its payment plan. There will be a subscription (which I will pay gladly), but along with it, the game will feature a cash shop for “clothing and convenience items” to avoid the pay-to-win slippery slope so many other studios have been accused of. I thought this was interesting. They are not F2P at launch, but depending on the success of the subscription-based model they have a cash shop all set and ready to roll at launch. Shrewd Mr. Tornquist, very shrewd.

The bottomline is that the MMO genre is in a constant state of evolution. Old, anachronistic and archaic concepts are beginning to bore the pants off of veteran players. WoW, despite constant innovation, an accelerated timetable for endgame content and now with more Vitamin C, continues to lose subscriptions. Now granted they still have over 11 million active subscribers, but the dip is noticeable, tangible and quite possibly a herald for the coming times. F2P is the latest gold rush in the MMO-sphere, and it is here to stay a while, because it allows developers to milk more doubloons out of their players with with every single content update, cosmetic or otherwise. I don’t expect this gold rush to change any time soon.

Categories: F2P, The Secret World

Game Design: “Newton’s Third Law of MMOs” or “I love playing MMOS, I Just Hate What I Have Available to Play Right Now”

August 24, 2011 8 comments

Spinks has a great post up on what makes choice fun in video games. Spinks postulates that choices that have unclear outcomes, no outcomes or unwanted outcomes are not fun. I completely agree, but I think this is because of the inseparable nature of choice and impact.

Newton’s Third Law of MMOs

Following Newton’s third law of motion, every action has an equal or opposite reaction. The world would rip apart at the seams if this rule was violated, for it forms the most fundamental of the natural laws. When translated into the game world, every choice should have an equal impact. Whenever this impact is unwanted, unclear or non-existent, the game world starts to lose its coherence and relevance for us.

I believe that choice and impact are conjoined twins, inseparable from birth, and forever married.  Choice and impact are interlinked inseparably. Every choice should have a measurable impact. No impact, or a not favorable impact makes the game less fun. When you choose to fire that spell, the immediate impact should be the monster being set on fire. When you choose to mount up, the impact should be faster movement speed. But these are examples of choices and their impact at the most basic level. This concept is then extrapolated throughout the game at the middle and macro-level.

Perhaps the clearest recent example of a choice creating a massive dent of an impact in the game world is the binary choice you have to make in the first Chapter 1 of The Witcher 2. Each of the two choices have completely divergent paths, with different quest hubs, locations, NPCs, missions and monsters. You would have to play the game twice to fully take in the whole world, because if you don’t go back to the choice after finishing the game once, you have effectively only played half the game. I honestly believe this is what made The Witcher 2 a lot more fun. The choices you made had an immediate and powerful impact on the game world, and the world reacted, and acted, differently to you based on your past actions.

This is not to say The Witcher 2 was without flaws, or it didn’t have choices that actually went against this principle. For all of it’s wonder, The Witcher 2 suffered from unclear choices. A dialogue option that seemed perfectly harmless and in tune with a desired outcome would actually result in a completely unwanted outcome. The impact of the choice, therefore, would be unwanted, rendering the choice, and by larger extension, the game, not a lot of fun for players.

But perhaps nothing is as irritating as no impact for your choices. Mass Effect 2 stands out as a classic example of this. Some here may disagree, but aside from different animations playing out different versions of the event the Renegade/Paragon system had next to no lasting impact on the main narrative. Pressing the right mouse button may send that NPC hurtling through the window, or pressing the left button may spare his life, but in the larger context of things, it meant nothing. One could argue that the impact is immediate, i.e. the fate of the NPC, but the choice should have more of an effect than a simple binary output matched exactly with your binary input.

I love playing MMOS, I Just Hate What I Have Available to Play Right Now

See ya next week!

Extrapolating from this admittedly weak example, MMOs are especially guilt of this phenomenon, where the choices you make have next to no impact on the game world. If you accept a quest to kill ten rats and save the town granary from being overrun, the the quest will subsequently be offered to a hundred others after you, as it has been given to a hundred before you, and even yourself, should you choose to undertake the same mission as an alt. The impact in this case is masked via the amount of gold, items or experience given. But given that the central premise of the game is of you being a hero, it sucks that your choice for helping that granary hero has had absolutely zero impact on the game world. Similarly, after acquiring the best gear in game, and teaming up with 39 of your best friends, you have taken on the might of Ragnaros and his minions. Yet the very next week, he is back in his lair, complete with the lowest form of trash mobs, and as one of the guardians of said world, you have effectively had no impact on the game world. I understand that the farming mechanism has become a steeple of MMO progression and longevity, but that does not absolve MMOs from violating this choice-impact mechanic.

This may be part of the reason Cataclysm was so well received, and why the phasing mechanism was lauded. After six years of the same rats being killed over and over again, and the same bosses being farmed, the world has finally moved on, and although the impact on the world was both through player actions (the end of the Lich King) and external factors (Horde invading Northshire), the impact of the choices you had made in the last six years had a visible and tangible manifestation in the game world. Of course this change was only reflected in the vanilla zones and The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King content was left untouched. But that is a topic for another argument.

All of this boils down to my recent detachment from the MMOs that I cherished and played for so long, because the choices I made had only personal rewards and the larger impact remained to be seen. At the moment, none of the MMO’s installed on my machine pique my curiosity. When playing them, regardless of the choice I make, the game isn’t fun, because I simply don’t care about the impact. Because the fact of the fact of the matter is, I love playing MMOS, I just hate what I have available to play right now.

“Champions Online: Superhero Simulator” or “Global Agenda: Superagent Simulator”

August 10, 2011 2 comments

The wait for the next generation of MMOs is unbearable at this point. I have quit WoW. World of Tanks simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, but it was a barren wasteland, and I rarely came across any players in the first 22 levels in a “well-populated” server, so eventually I just got tired of playing solo and quit LOTRO as well.

I have now downloaded both Champions Online: Free For All, and Global Agenda: Free Agent, partly because I am itching to play an MMO, and partly because they were in my Steam “free to play” section, and it was just convenient to download and install both clients.

Superhero Simulator

I had a lot of issues, I mean a LOT of issues, with Champions Online. I despised the title to the point that I could not bear to play the game a month past the initial “free” month. Even back then, must have been September/October of 2009 or thereabouts, I thought Champions Online would have benefited greatly if it was a free-to-play title, because it had a lot of things going for it. I am not saying free-to-play titles are allowed to have broken game mechanics or unpolished gameplay, not at all. I am just saying that it didn’t make sense to call it a AAA title when the game was dramatically and drastically altered on launch day itself because of blatant balance issues.

When I logged in this time, using the same username/password that I had used nearly two years prior, I was surprised to find my original characters still intact. Now because those characters no longer fit into the free archetypes that free accounts have access to, I could not load the world with those characters and play to my heart’s content, but I was grateful that my old characters were still intact after all that time.

I made a new character. I should rephrase, I am in the process of making a new character.  had actually forgotten how incredible complex, deep and fun the hero builder tools could be in Champions Online. With literally thousands of combinations, even with in the free account, you can create a truly unique looking hero.

Superagent Simulator

A lot of people who play this game had remarked that you could play Global Agenda for any length of time without feeling like you are tied down to a raid or dungeon run at a designated time. You could jump in and out of missions on the fly and play as your schedule suits you, not the other way around. Given the sheer shortage of time that has become the bane of my existence lately, this was a major plus point for me.

I have only played the tutorial of this game so far, and I have been quite impressed with the way the single-player (near) obligatory tutorial section is designed. It has a cool storyline, plenty of interesting cut-scenes and it introduces gameplay mechanics in interesting and unique ways. So far I have had a blast and I will continue to play it until I have a good enough handle on the game to start tackling mission and get into the MM part of this MMO.

“Tore Telara a New Rift” or “Superheroes Squabble” or “Battlestar Galactica: In-browser”

January 28, 2011 4 comments

RIFT

The new Rift trailer kicks a lot of (rift) ass. The battle between the Ascendants comes full circle, birds get caught on fire, and it is revealed that if you have giant tusks, you can kick some serious ass! Seriously though, it is the most ambitious trailer for Rift to date and although my work schedule not permitted me to play at all, I was really glad to hear they were expanding the beta window to Saturday. That implies I can squeeze in a few hours and hopefully get a good idea of what Rift is all about. I will have a full write-up over the weekend, as soon as I figure out whether the NDA is in effect because there seems to be conflicting information on this. (Perhaps you can answer this one Scott?)

Let me also say that I was very pleasantly surprised that a representative from Trion Worlds actually responded to my ill-advised gripe about installation and launch problems I had with Rift. Not only that, he actually offered to help and look into the matter. I don’t quite know what I like / dislike about Rift just yet, but I have to say, they’ve got mad customer service skills yo!

Watch the new trailer embedded below:

Superheroes Squabble

DCUO launched mid-January. The game seems to be doing fairly well, considering new servers are being added to the game days into the launch. Champions Online also went F2P, and I don’t think anyone has any confusions about their decision to announce a launch date right around the launch of DCUO. I am going to try my hands at Champions Online again. I have had my reservations with the game, but it has been out nearly a year and a half now, and I am hoping most of the bugs have been filtered out by now. And if Patrick’s post is any indication, the launch went a lot smoother than the disaster we faced on the original launch day back in September 2009. The option to play F2P is also quite welcoming, despite the fact that Massively.com doesn’t think the locked archetypes are a true representation of what the game may have to offer. If you want to know anything and everything about the revamped title, you can read Massively’s write-up here.

Will I try DCUO? Not yet. I’ll give it a few more months. The initial response is, admittedly, enticing. But I don’t want to get burnt again by spending my heard-earned doubloons on a sub-par game because I got sold on the hype.

Battlestar Galactica: In-browser

While we are on the subject of trailers, the folks over at Big Point have released an in-game trailer, crafted from 100% in-game footage, and now with more Vitamin C! I have to admit, despite my initial reservations about a Farmville-esque botched attempt at re-creating the fantastic universe, I am a little surprised at how detailed, graphically rich, and accurate an in-browser game can look these days. Am I confused? Did they decide to go with a full-blown 3D engine and I missed that memo? Or are those graphics a little ridiculous for an in-browser game?

I haven’t yet, but I will sure as hell sign-up for the beta now! Take a look: