Tuesday, April 15, 2008

That's a 50 DKP Minus!!!

This will be a relatively short post where I won't explore too much as it is quite late already (like a week).

PvE Balance. Necessary in many singleplayer and multiplayer games where players take on AI/scripted opponents. Imbalance disrupts 'flow' straying too far into boredom, whether that be to easy or not exciting, or too hard, whether that be incapable of doing or too adept for the player's skill level.

In WoW endgame, this sort of balance is maintained for PvE raiding guilds via the release and arduous testing (public test realms) of new content every few months in what is know as content patches. Although the recent Burning Crusade expansion has undoubtedly added a plethora of content, it is primarily the addtional content added later that keeps PvE interests in the game. One problem with this is Blizzard's tendency to make high level content available to casuals (or at least easier to access) and make the hardcore players efforts redundant. As a PvPer and general non-carer of the state of PvE in the game, those problems do not interest me greatly. However it is necessary to acknowledge the consequences of these changes, as while it is an excellent business decision on Blizzard's behalf (most of player base is casual), it does lose face and playerbase with critically acclaimed and often promoted raiding guilds (such as Nihilum). While this may not affect Blizzard's income much (if at all), their game does lose reputation on the hardcore gaming scene. Avid anticipation for new MMOs such as War and Conan are examples.

Below: WoW - "I see", said the blind man

Although I have mentioned clear actions and goals sometime before, I feel the need to stress it again here. The ability for a player to move on to a new part of the game is as important as holding interest as every other element. Confusion on directions, illogical or inaccessible placement of key game progression components or even just unbeatable opponents are all good examples of difficulties that result in lack of player motivation. Even in well polished games like Crysis, this is evident. Without spoiling too much of the plot, when the Island is frozen solid by the alien technology, there is a scene where you must escort one of your team members to a warmer zone. There is little to no visual indication where this place is and upon finding it, you realise your friend is still back where you left him or dying slowly somewhere in the tundra. You basically have to end up shoving him in the right direction, while shooting enemies, with around 50 seconds to complete the checkpoint objective. It is very frustrating and the cause of many reloaded save games, something a player should not have perform.

Below: Crysis - The visuals will make you weep ... and then the AI will.

So how does one avoid these sort of problems? Testing. Test test test test test. Everyone. All demographics, level of intelligence, player types and/or age groups. Get a general idea of what elements are problematic and cater them towards the people who need help. We shall have to at some point do this with the game we are developing as releasing a product that does not make sense straight out of the box is a recipe for failure. If and when the game can be played easily by someone newly introduced to it than we know it is ready.

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