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Discussion Topic: LoTRo, more linear than other MMO's?

dragonacedragonace Member UncommonPosts: 1,185

 

I decided to make this a seperate topic rather than respond to a current thread, since I'd like to see other people's opinions on this topic; not only for LoTRo, but for all level-based MMOs in general.

The question I posed in the Title is what I'd like to see discussed.  It seems to come up quite a bit with those that find LoTRo is not the game for them; which is fine, as we aren't all going to like the same games.

The part I don't understand is how any MMO that uses levels is not considered linear?

They all start at level 1 and as you progress you gain higher and higher levels, and in order to gain higher levels you have to gain more exp.  So, as a natural consequence of gaining higher levels you have to move to new areas to find more exp.  in order to continue the leveling process. 

In this way, yes, LoTRo is a linear MMO.  In fact, it is even more apparent than most games because of it's epic story-line (even though it is entirely optional) which is laid out in Book and Chapters.  You start with Book 1 Chapter 1, and it goes through Book 11;  Book 12 will be coming out in a month or two.

However, I fail to see the difference between this progression and any level-based progression.  You start out in lower level areas with mobs of various levels (Usually levels 1-10).  Then you are introduced (through following the quests or exploring), to gradually more difficult areas.  These areas are filled with progressively higher level mobs and quest lines.

There is nothing stopping a player from hoping on a horse and heading off to whatever area they choose to be in.  In fact, I know of some players that have totally skipped the beginning area for the race they started since they liked the areas of other races better.

If you think the area is "too easy" you can just skip it and go to another area.  There are some quest-lines that you may miss if you choose to progress this way, but there is nothing that is required (not even the epic story-line is required).  In fact, you can skip every single quest completely and just level with wandering around and killing what you like; however, it will probably take you longer to level than someone who just concentrates on quests.

As with any MMO, LoTRo is what you make of it.  You can choose to play it however it is the most fun to you.  It doesn't "force" you to do anything that you don't choose to do.  They have purposefully designed the game to have a story-line that does "flow" from level 1 through level 50.  However, just like a lot of our favorite RPG games (Oblivion, Baldur's Gate) you can choose to fore-go the main plot and just do side-quests.  Or, you can just wander the country-side at your leisure and not do any of the quests.  Personally, I think you'd be missing out on a lot of very well done content; but again, it's your choice.

So, that brings us back to the original topic.  Is LoTRo more linear than any other level-based MMO's?  What experiences that you had in game brought you to that decision?

Let's try to keep this flame-free.  Thanks.

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Comments

  • xenogiasxenogias Member Posts: 1,926

    Right now I think its simply the lack of areas that makes people call it more linear than others. I personally dont have a problem with the way things are but if I was to guess that would be it. Even after the beginning areas you move to the breelands. After that its off to Lonelands and shortly after you can split your time between the LL and North Downs. Eventually you move to Esteldin area in the ND and leave the LL behind. After thoes you can head to Evendim/Trollshaws. Get done there and you finish up with either Misty Mountains or Angmar or a mix of the two. For me personally that was plenty and I even completely skipped the old forest along with a couple major instances that had multiple quests and I found plenty to do and still do at level 50. With my alts I am hitting some of thoes places I skipped and its keeping some of the slower levels entertaining.

  • dragonacedragonace Member UncommonPosts: 1,185

    Originally posted by xenogias


    Right now I think its simply the lack of areas that makes people call it more linear than others. I personally dont have a problem with the way things are but if I was to guess that would be it. Even after the beginning areas you move to the breelands. After that its off to Lonelands and shortly after you can split your time between the LL and North Downs. Eventually you move to Esteldin area in the ND and leave the LL behind. After thoes you can head to Evendim/Trollshaws. Get done there and you finish up with either Misty Mountains or Angmar or a mix of the two. For me personally that was plenty and I even completely skipped the old forest along with a couple major instances that had multiple quests and I found plenty to do and still do at level 50. With my alts I am hitting some of thoes places I skipped and its keeping some of the slower levels entertaining.
    Yes, perhaps that's part of it.  Since LoTRo is newer, it is going to have less choices (as in unique areas) in those mid-levels.  That was probably a big reason they included Evendim as soon as they did.  As it gave a new area for the 30s-40s to quest, explore and gain levels.

    I think another part that might contribute to why people think it's more linear is the lack of quick transportation (outside of grouping with high-level Rangers) to other areas.

    Say for instance that you are in Esteldin doing quests and that is your bind-point.  Now, you decide you want to hop over to the Lonelands or even go to Garth Argawen (sp?).  If you are a mid-level Human you can shave off some time with the Port to Bree trait that Humans get, but if you are not... that's a really long horse  ride!

    The same can be said of any areas that are not connected with the quick-travel options.  For all the criticism that LoTRo gets about being small... it can take quite awhile to get from point A to point B especially if you've never been there before.  I guess that is one of the drawbacks of it being setup like a real map instead of the "magic worm-holes" method.  (Barring quick-travel... which uses the "magic worm-hole" method.)

    On the subject of the limited variety in the mid-levels:  was that any different than the host of other level oriented MMOs?  Until more expansions came out, I'd say EQ2 was even more limited in it's leveling opportunities.  You get very, very used to Antonica or Commonlands.  :P

    Pretty much every MMO I've played has that issue when it's first released.  The general shape that comes to mind is an hour-glass, or in some cases a funnel.  Meaning that the starting areas are fairly diverse, offering a variety of different areas and experiences to begin with.  Then as you approach upper teens  it begins to narrow down and ultimately by the high-20s to mid-30s it has narrowed down considerable.  Then depending on the game it either stays with that narrow path or then opens up again as you gain higher levels and approach the level-cap.

    This may be an intentional design element to bring players together so that its easier to form groups, or it may be that the funding just did not allow for more content at those levels.  Either way, it most definitely improves with the age of the game.  It only makes sense that a game that has released multiple expansions and been around for years and years will have more choices to level a character than a newly released game will have.

    Thats why I don't understand why so many people seem to hop from game to game to game, constantly rushing through to the level-cap, then getting frustrated that there is nothing to do.  Then, they decide the game is not for them, and the cycle repeats itself.  Seems like if that is the way they like to play, it would be better if they waited 3 years or so before they tried out a game.  That way, they'd take a lot longer to get to level-cap and there would be a lot more options for them to try out along the way.

    Well, I've rambled on enough for this post.  Thanks for the discussion.

  • YeeboYeebo Member Posts: 1,359

    You touch on some interesting points.  Among class/ level based MMOs where PVE combat and questing are the only methods of advancing your character, I don't think LoTRO is in particular more linear than most. 

    One thing that seems to irk a lot of players is the "bottlneck" of the Breelands around the late teens.  However, I think this is actually by design.  I believe the idea is to give everyone a chance to meet other players before the game starts to open up again.  There really are a lot more quests (even if you stick to solable ones) than any one character can do before they gray out from 25 or so on.  There is also the fact that LoTRO is still pretty new.  I imagine more "paths" will be added as the game is expanded.  Even the current game has more "paths" than the launch game.

    However, you also notice that there are a hell of a lot of qualifiers in my opening above.  I think you have a good point about levels, that inherently makes your experience more linear than a point based system.  However, level based games also sometimes have separate avenues of advancement.  For example in EQ II you can level soley as a crafter.  In SWG you can level soley as an entertainer of crafter.  In Vanguard, you can level soley as a crafter or dimplomat.  Even in level based games that don't have non-combat classes, you sometimes have more options.  For example, in DAoC you can level purely by doing PvP in addition to the "quest/ grind" route. 

    Some players also feel that pure grinding MMOs are inherently less linear than quest based MMOs.  When you are following a quest chain, you have to do a series of tasks in a particular order.  In a grind game, you just wander aimlessly until you find something you can take on without getting butchered.  So it can feel a little more open.  Of course the trade-off is that what passes for "gameplay" is standing in one spot killing crap for no other reason than to watch a little XP bar inch up.  I find that to be about on par with paying someone 15 dollars a month so that I can have the "privilege" of doing their housework (in terms of excitement), but to each their own.

    In any case, the point I'm trying to make is that the general design of LoTRO is pretty linear when you look at all possible MMO game designs.  One of the nice things about it is that it's slow paced.  It's more of a Sunday Drive game than a NASCAR race.  And you can always stop the car and get out for a while.  You can fart around with chicken play, decide to get really serious about your crafting for a while, learn to play the Lute, spend a week in town learning new emotes, challenge your guild to a game of tag, go back to old zones for exploration deeds, or step into Monster play and never come out again. 

    But eventually, if you want to advance, you do have to get back in to your car and start driving.  And a road is a line.

    I don't want to write this, and you don't want to read it. But now it's too late for both of us.

  • dragonacedragonace Member UncommonPosts: 1,185

    Originally posted by Yeebo


    You touch on some interesting points.  Among class/ level based MMOs where PVE combat and questing are the only methods of advancing your character, I don't think LoTRO is in particular more linear than most. 
    One thing that seems to irk a lot of players is the "bottlneck" of the Breelands around the late teens.  However, I think this is actually by design.  I believe the idea is to give everyone a chance to meet other players before the game starts to open up again.  There really are a lot more quests (even if you stick to solable ones) than any one character can do before they gray out from 25 or so on.  There is also the fact that LoTRO is still pretty new.  I imagine more "paths" will be added as the game is expanded.  Even the current game has more "paths" than the launch game.
    However, you also notice that there are a hell of a lot of qualifiers in my opening above.  I think you have a good point about levels, that inherently makes your experience more linear than a point based system.  However, level based games also sometimes have separate avenues of advancement.  For example in EQ II you can level soley as a crafter.  In SWG you can level soley as an entertainer of crafter.  In Vanguard, you can level soley as a crafter or dimplomat.  Even in level based games that don't have non-combat classes, you sometimes have more options.  For example, in DAoC you can level purely by doing PvP in addition to the "quest/ grind" route. 
    Some players also feel that pure grinding MMOs are inherently less linear than quest based MMOs.  When you are following a quest chain, you have to do a series of tasks in a particular order.  In a grind game, you just wander aimlessly until you find something you can take on without getting butchered.  So it can feel a little more open.  Of course the trade-off is that what passes for "gameplay" is standing in one spot killing crap for no other reason than to watch a little XP bar inch up.  I find that to be about on par with paying someone 15 dollars a month so that I can have the "privilege" of doing their housework (in terms of excitement), but to each their own.
    In any case, the point I'm trying to make is that the general design of LoTRO is pretty linear when you look at all possible MMO game designs.  One of the nice things about it is that it's slow paced.  It's more of a Sunday Drive game than a NASCAR race.  And you can always stop the car and get out for a while.  You can fart around with chicken play, decide to get really serious about your crafting for a while, learn to play the Lute, spend a week in town learning new emotes, challenge your guild to a game of tag, go back to old zones for exploration deeds, or step into Monster play and never come out again. 
    But eventually, if you want to advance, you do have to get back in to your car and start driving.  And a road is a line.
    Good analysis there Yeebo.  You brought up some good points I hadn't really thought about with some of the other MMOs.  That was the main reason I decided to post this as a separate topic to try and keep it on a more discussion or analytical nature.

    Perhaps that was something that the developers felt that was lacking in current MMOs, a purposeful direction to the story.  So, they decided to make that the core part of the game, and give that the most emphasis.

    I must play a bit different than most players though.  My first character made it to level 40 before I even finished book 2 of the main story.  I just had too much fun wandering around and picking up random quests.  Then I'd decide to move on to a different area after I'd freed up enough quest slots.  (That is something they really need... more than 40 quest slots!)

    I actually did a lot of quests multiple times even before I had picked up the actual quest because I happened to be in the area and other players needed help, so I'd just jump in.  Then when they found out I didn't even have the quest, they would ask me if I wanted them to help me complete it again, after I'd went and talked to the NPC.  :)

    That's why I really wonder how people can say that they've done everything and are now bored.  Or that the game is too linear for them and it doesn't let you decide what you want to do.  Heh, I'm still discovering new quest lines that have been in from day one, but they were tucked away in an area that I had never visited before, or I had dropped the quest because I needed to make room for new ones.

    Nice to see the discussion going along.  Thanks all for keeping it civil as well.

  • DonnieBrascoDonnieBrasco Member Posts: 1,757

    Finally, an intelligent topic! :)

    My 2 cents, before trolls start ruining it :(

    I have a lvl 48 main, and 4 alts: 35,30,25,20 - mainly due to cross-crafting. Main is a historan (scholar+weaponsmith), 35 is an explorer (tailor and raw mats), 30 tinker (food+jewelry:), these 3 can really work for each other, my 25 armorer and 20 woodsman really work for themselves only (being a guardian and hunter), but the armorer can supply mats to the jeweller and the woodsman leather to the tailor, so even the "little ones" help the higher fellows.

    Thus said, and knowing that some crafting quests do require the toons to be a certain level high (i understand this is against gold farming as well....), I must level them along with my main if I really wish to be self-sufficient. Now, that takes a lot of time, but what is worse, I really do have to do the same quests 5 times (not all of them, but most, especially if I can't find groups to join to do the FS quests).

    This is not a complaint - I am still enjoying the game, but *at this moment* there is still little alternative so as to which quests must be done to level up a character.

    With the upcoming (paying) expansions I do not only expect Turbine to increase level caps and add just new high level areas, but I really think it would be a sensible option to add new starter (lowbie), and middle-level areas, with quests etc. If this happened, new players joining in the next couple of years could really be "different", such as levelling up in Rohan, Gondor, Mirkwood etc - and not only Eriador. This would make raising alts a joy as well, as you'd be able to access new areas with every new toon... and new quests, of course. This way, the titles "Ernarden of Rohan" would really mean something :)

    DB

    Denial makes one look a lot dumber than he/she actually is.

  • solareussolareus Member Posts: 3,165

    Find Lotro the same as any other mmo I've tried. There is actually more areas in this games start then Lineage 2's release. The quality is area construction and the mood of  particular sections is very well done and carry a good amount of atmosphere . 

    Think there is an illusion of being more linear because of the epic storyline , but since the there is a main "story" that everyone follows it feels cramped. The reality is that there is absolutely no difference between having one big coherent story or a game that just has a bunch of random tasks, the only true difference is that with LotrO the grouping is a constant flow, and player interacting with other players is much higher then any other mmo. I think itis great game design ant has keept me playing for a full year now.

    In response to DB's level cap, that will not happen, what will happens is a lot more extensive game areas and items to get. You have to have read  the same interviews that I did that raising the level cap is not a proper option to advancing mmo's.

    "Freedom is just another name for nothing left to lose" - Janis Joplin
    image

  • airheadairhead Member UncommonPosts: 718

    Originally posted by dragonace


     
    1. The part I don't understand is how any MMO that uses levels is not considered linear? ....

     In this way, yes, LoTRo is a linear MMO. 
    2. There is nothing stopping a player from hoping on a horse and heading off to whatever area they choose to be in.  ....  If you think the area is "too easy" you can just skip it and go to another area.
    3. As with any MMO, LoTRo is what you make of it.  You can choose to play it however it is the most fun to you.  It doesn't "force" you to do anything that you don't choose to do.
    So, that brings us back to the original topic.  Is LoTRo more linear than any other level-based MMO's?  What experiences that you had in game brought you to that decision?

    1. TRUE. Any mmo with levels and quests is 'linear' in this sense. Such games could involve quests during these phases (wow, eq2, lotro) or could involve a more 'farming mobs' approach (archlord, shadowbane, eve, ac2 in some parts). When you step back far enough from the whole thing, there is not that much difference between these two methods. Some people make a big deal about them, but farming is just going out and doing something to meet some self-set goal (get enough stuff to craft x for example). And questing is just doing what NPCs ask you to do, to get blah, to meet some goal (use x, craft y, get skill z, etc). LOTRO is a little more quest oriented, skewing experience gain per unit time towards questing instead of just farming. Some people may incorrectly interpret that to mean more linearity, but it's not really, just a different method of gameplay.

    2. I sort of disagree. That is essentially the way MMO worlds control and steer the players. There is not some list of things and places you are forced to go to. MMOs limit you and constrain you by having places you can not go to, (until you are a higher level). You are free to go anywhere that is the same level or lower level. (well, IF you want to actually kill something or do something, you will limit it to that... if you want to just commit suicide, then sure, you can go anywhere).  But IF a game has levels, then of course it's going to be this way. Compare it to something like Max Payne (a game I hated for it's linearity btw). You walk down a hall, open a door, kill some mobs, loot... maybe get a cutscene. Then open the ONE DOOR at the end of the room, walk down the new hall, etc etc ad infinitum. I only lasted an hour I think. Now THAT is linear....extreme. Any virtual world blows that out of the water.

    But if a game has levels, then the world has levels, and then it has places you are not supposed to go. This is fine too imo. Personally, I get more immersion if the 'boundaries' between these areas are less defined. It's more interesting to me if you have to talk / read / research / explore cautiously, If going down some ally or into some forest will get you killed quick, and I have to figure that out for myself, then it's more suspenseful imo. Most MMOs hold the player's hand too much in that regard imo. lotro is guilty of that hand-holding no more or less than any of the other games out there (eq2, wow). But that's not really the point of linearity vs nonlinearity is it?

    Ultimately, lotro is like eq2 and wow. Quests, areas, and level-imposed limitations. No more linear or nonlinear than those two games imo.

  • WrymstrumWrymstrum Member Posts: 196

    Well if you do the comparison to WOW, LOTRO is more linear as far as the zones you go through.  WOW had two separate continents both with zones for all levels.  There was also more variety in the feel of the zones.  In lotro's defense I feel like the zones in lotro have more content in them.  Also the more spread out people get the harder it makes finding groups.  So a more linear approach is actually benefitial in that way.  Over the past month I leveled my loremaster very quickly and in general I found getting groups very easy, even on a so called "low pop" server (nimrodel).

     

    For a heavily quest based game like LOTRO, I think having a somewhat linear zone progression is a good thing.  If a game was based more on grindng mobs then I think it needs to be more open ended.  AC 1 was the perfect example of this.  There weren't even really zones.   It was just a gigantic island continent.  The starter cities were scattered over the land, and the further away you went the more dangerous things got. 

    ~~~ Currently Playing ~~~
    LOTRO- Guardian Wrymstrum & Lore-master Stabler on Nimrodel.

    Conan- Zoltar <Angels of Death> Guardian on Stormrage.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Ohh I like this topic. Intelligent conversation!



    First of all, I'd like to point out that "linear" has become just a forum "buzz word" just like terms such as "grind," "hardcore," and my favorite, "vaporware."

    The real meaning behind the word has been lost, people have a vague understanding of what the word is suppose to mean and the proper context in which to use it in this forum environment, but they don't really understand what it really means.

    In MMORPG lingo, linear best falls into the dictionary.com definition of "extended or arranged in a line: a linear series." What this means, is that the player character follows a straight line from point to point to point as they progress their character. There is very little room for deviation or exploration, or simply that there are very few, if any, alternative paths to advancement.

    As someone else stated, you go from the Level 1-10 zone to the 10-20 zone then to the 20-30 zone etc. You go from this quest to the quest after it, and that takes you to the next quest, and so on.

    This is best characterized by the standard MMORPG question for general chat, "I'm level XX, what zone is best for me to level in?"

    I think many at MMORPG.com see the word "linear" and think "classes, levels, quests, raiding" and they are only partially right.

    The only difference between modern, quest based games and the sand-box games of old is that the quest-based titles provide direction. Before, /con systems where the only way to tell if an enemy was too powerful for you to fight, so you'd stick to areas where things were more "at your level" until you became strong enough to /con the tougher stuff and be capable of handling it. UO didn't have anything other then trial and error. Is this really any more or less linear?

    I don't think so. It's still a progression system based off of your relative power in comparison to the game world. Even in a sandbox game, you could go to a new area and find the mobs way too challenging for you. The only difference is, in a quest based title, one that many here would call "linear," you are guided to content appropriate for your level.

    So does this mean that the title is really more "linear" or simply that it provides more direction?

  • airheadairhead Member UncommonPosts: 718

    Originally posted by heerobya


    I don't think so. It's still a progression system based off of your relative power in comparison to the game world. Even in a sandbox game, you could go to a new area and find the mobs way too challenging for you. The only difference is, in a quest based title, one that many here would call "linear," you are guided to content appropriate for your level.
    So does this mean that the title is really more "linear" or simply that it provides more direction?

    Clearly 'more direction'. Quests are just that... direction. Most players are now demanding that a little number be next to the quest (quest-level) so that they even choose 'appropriate direction'.

    For the sake of thought experiment, imagine a game that had levels (characters, mobs, etc). It could even have quests let's say. But no numbers. No quest level numbers. No level numbers attached to mobs. You then went out and did stuff. You start loosing, you run away... (wow, that boar was tough!). You kill rats with ease. You have to be 'guided' by experience, what other players tell you in the tavern, what kinds of adjectives and adverbs the NPC dialog contains, what books in the town library say, etc. To me, such a game would be more immersive and fun, but that's just me. Less direction is more fun to me...

    But that's not linearity. Linearity encompasses numerous aspects:

    - more than one way to do something, complete some task, finish a quest = nonlinear. When you have a quest, and you must do A,B,C and ONLY A,B,C, then that's more linear than having 20 other different 'methods' of completing that quest. Most MMOs (lotro included) fail on this point imo.

    - more than one kind of character you can be. For example, you can choose to spec more for stealth and theft or be more more of a swashbuckling fighter. Most games limit you in regard to this choice at character creation (lotro, eq2). WoW had the most interesting choices with the talent tree, (between eq2,lotro,and wow), but games could go a lot more in the nonlinear direction imo if they allowed for more character customization in regard to playstyle throughout the life of the game.

    Ultimately though, 'nonlinear' is really just a measure of choices. The more choices, the more nonlinear the game is. That's how I use the term at least. Coming from a mathematical background, nonlinear equations would have more than one solution, and nonlinear systems allow for more chaotic and unpredictable dynamics etc.

  • CropperCropper Member Posts: 198
    Originally posted by heerobya


    Ohh I like this topic. Intelligent conversation!



    First of all, I'd like to point out that "linear" has become just a forum "buzz word" just like terms such as "grind," "hardcore," and my favorite, "vaporware."
    The real meaning behind the word has been lost, people have a vague understanding of what the word is suppose to mean and the proper context in which to use it in this forum environment, but they don't really understand what it really means.
    In MMORPG lingo, linear best falls into the dictionary.com definition of "extended or arranged in a line: a linear series." What this means, is that the player character follows a straight line from point to point to point as they progress their character. There is very little room for deviation or exploration, or simply that there are very few, if any, alternative paths to advancement.
    As someone else stated, you go from the Level 1-10 zone to the 10-20 zone then to the 20-30 zone etc. You go from this quest to the quest after it, and that takes you to the next quest, and so on.
    This is best characterized by the standard MMORPG question for general chat, "I'm level XX, what zone is best for me to level in?"
    I think many at MMORPG.com see the word "linear" and think "classes, levels, quests, raiding" and they are only partially right.
    The only difference between modern, quest based games and the sand-box games of old is that the quest-based titles provide direction. Before, /con systems where the only way to tell if an enemy was too powerful for you to fight, so you'd stick to areas where things were more "at your level" until you became strong enough to /con the tougher stuff and be capable of handling it. UO didn't have anything other then trial and error. Is this really any more or less linear?
    I don't think so. It's still a progression system based off of your relative power in comparison to the game world. Even in a sandbox game, you could go to a new area and find the mobs way too challenging for you. The only difference is, in a quest based title, one that many here would call "linear," you are guided to content appropriate for your level.
    So does this mean that the title is really more "linear" or simply that it provides more direction?

    You make alot of good points, but the one difference between the older sandbox skill based games and the current crop of level based linear games (yes, I just used the stereotypes you're arguing against, but bear with me) is the combat rolls.  In the old sandbox games you might be outclassed by an enemy, but you could on occasion pull a victory out of your butt because the combat rolls were based on fixed values as opposed to most level based games where the level difference is also calculated in ability to hit and damage amounts.  I would also argue that giving your character a level and signifying the quests with a level takes some of the spirit of adventure out of the game as you're less likely to try a mission that has been marked as too hard and you're less likely to try to explore an area if you know it's considered to be above your level.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Agree 100% airhead.

    Only problem is, every choice, every alternative path, every option has to be programmed, tested, balanced, etc.

    Hence, I never trust 3rd party or "Indy" games to have that kind of variety of content. Not that they don't have good ideas, innovation, or new and varied concepts, but doing all the programming, testing, balancing, etc. takes man power, man power smaller developers never have.

    What I'd like to see, is MMOs that release more then just "end-game" content.

    I know after a certain point in a game's life, besides alts, the majority of players are at the "max level."

    But instead of just increasing the max, branch out!

    Create MORE content for the existing levels.

    I mean, imagine if Blizzard had kept the level cap at 60, even during the release of Burning Crusade and the upcoming Wrath of the Liche king, but they went back and rebalanced all the old 40-person raid content, maybe even added more. Created "hard" mode for the old level 60 dungeons... etc.

    I'm talking radial expansion, or horizontal expansion you could call it, rather then JUST verticle expansion like EVERY MMO with levels has so far done.

    Release a new race, but with more then just level 1-20 content, give me new 20-70 content too!

    I dunno.. it's wishful thinking, I know.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Cropper, I've always been a big fan of removing that kind of level based calculations.

    I mean, if I'm level 20 and can only do 100 damage a swing, then LET me do 100 damage a swing versus a level 60 character/mob.

    That way, if you have more people, you could STILL beat a high level player,mob.

    By adding in hit chances and miss rates etc. based off of level, you make it impossible for ANY number of low level players to kill (or even f-ing HURT) a high level player/mob.

    I hate it!

  • WrymstrumWrymstrum Member Posts: 196

     

    Originally posted by heerobya


     
    The only difference between modern, quest based games and the sand-box games of old is that the quest-based titles provide direction...
    I don't think so. It's still a progression system based off of your relative power in comparison to the game world. Even in a sandbox game, you could go to a new area and find the mobs way too challenging for you. The only difference is, in a quest based title, one that many here would call "linear," you are guided to content appropriate for your level.
    So does this mean that the title is really more "linear" or simply that it provides more direction?

     

    I have to disagree here.  Maybe my perspective is different because I started out playing Asheron's Call.  There were a lot of factors that kept AC world design and level progression from feeling "linear".  First of all, the game was skill based (somewhat similar to oblivion if you had a chance to play that).  So you weren't always restricted to killing stuff withing +/- a couple levels of your character.  A level 60 player could go kill level 40 mobs at a high rate and get as much xp as killing level 60 mobs slowly.  Or you might fight level 80 mobs extremely slowly but getting more xp per kill.  You had much more freedom in choosing what to hunt. 

    In addition there weren't true zones in AC as you have them in more modern MMO's.  The world was just one gigantic zone.  Of course newer games like wow, coh, and lotro have seamless zones, but they are still zones.  You just get this feeling like the world has been sectioned off, and a lot of times they put in bottlenecks between the zones.  The world doesn't feel as natural or open as it did in AC. 

    Turbine actually made a creature distrobution map that kind of showed how the game flowed.  You can see it's kind of radial.  You have certain starter cities and as you go outward from them things gradually increase in difficulty.  I'll see if I can link the map.

     

     

    So it was really a combination of the skill based level progresstion and the world design that made AC feel so open ended. 

    Oblivion, while not an MMO, is another example of how to make a non-linear sandbox rpg.  They used level scaling, which I'm not a big fan of actually.  But it definitely was open ended. 

    ~~~ Currently Playing ~~~
    LOTRO- Guardian Wrymstrum & Lore-master Stabler on Nimrodel.

    Conan- Zoltar <Angels of Death> Guardian on Stormrage.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Very interesting.. that is a cool map btw.

    My bro found a map online of the original Legend of Zelda on Nintendo... that was cool.. but anyway...

    I do play Oblivion, just upgraded my PC so I love rocking Oblivion on max settings...

    but, in Oblivion, the mobs automatically level along with your character. There are no newbie zones or difficult zones, it all automatically adjusts to your level.

    It's both genius and frustrating.

    I know there are mods you can upload that changes this, but it is an interesting design. Obviously, would never work in a MMORPG... well, I guess you could add code to the combat calculations that automatically buffed/debuffed certain modifiers like damage, chance to hit etc. hmmm....

    Oblivion does have a very linear point A to point B main story line, but it's a single player RPG so this is expected. The multitude of side story lines and the fact that the game automatically adjusts to your character make it a very open ended game...

    It'd be very interesting to see the same design principles brought into a MMO environment.

    I think I covered it in my old "My Perfect MMO" blog...

    But what if instances automatically adjusted to your level, and the number of players in your group (or if you were solo) ???

    And you had the "main" story line entirely in instanced scenarios.... but the rest of the game content was divided into a typical "this zone/area is this level range" type of thing?

    Would it be the best of both worlds? A very linear main story line the progresses as you progress? and a wide open world that allowed you freedom of exploration and variety?

    You'd have to make it so that there were no +/- modifiers based off of level in the open world, unlike WoW where a level 20 can't even hit a level 60 character, and if they do it's for like 1 damage.

    Thoughts?

  • WrymstrumWrymstrum Member Posts: 196

    Just to be clear, AC did not use level scaling on mobs like Oblivion does.  I was just saying that they are both have skill based level progression.  Your character level was irrelevant as far as your chance to hit or the damage you did.  What mattered was how high your attack skill was measured against the defense skill of your target.  I could go into a lot of detail about how this made things fundamentally different from level based games, but for brevity's sake I'll just say that it made it so that you had a lot more freedom in what level mobs you could fight.  This also meant that the level of players that could participate in certain content was much more wider.  You weren't locked out of "end game" content until you hit the cap, which is something that I really despise in level based games.

    ~~~ Currently Playing ~~~
    LOTRO- Guardian Wrymstrum & Lore-master Stabler on Nimrodel.

    Conan- Zoltar <Angels of Death> Guardian on Stormrage.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Oh I definetly understand your point.

    Oblivion, old UO, pre-CU/NGE SWG...

    I'm a fan and vet of skill based games...

    Heck, in UO you could raise your combat skills to near-max in a day of grinding...

    I'm just saying all games where you have some kind of "progression," i.e. you get better/more powerful the more you play, are in some degree "linear."

    Even in a skill based game, you go from a Swords skill of 30 to a sword skill of 40, and you can't kill the more difficult mobs until you progress you skills from point A to point B...

    It's also very linear if you think about it...

  • WrymstrumWrymstrum Member Posts: 196

    Originally posted by heerobya 
    I'm just saying all games where you have some kind of "progression," i.e. you get better/more powerful the more you play, are in some degree "linear."
    Even in a skill based game, you go from a Swords skill of 30 to a sword skill of 40, and you can't kill the more difficult mobs until you progress you skills from point A to point B...
    It's also very linear if you think about it...

     

    Well, you're mostly talking about character progression, which I tend to think of as a separate issue from world design.  I think the original poster was more referring to linear world design, or the idea that as you play the game you go on a set path.  They are related to some extent, in that once the world is created your character progression determines what areas are viable for your character to play in.  But the design of the world is the primary factor. 

    I think a good analogy is the comparison between a train and car.  They both use the same basic method of moving, but the train must move along the set track while a car can drive along any road in any direction it wants.  In an mmo your character progression (linear or not) determines what areas you can go to, but in some games you will be taken along a set path while in others you are allowed to have a more open experience. 

    ~~~ Currently Playing ~~~
    LOTRO- Guardian Wrymstrum & Lore-master Stabler on Nimrodel.

    Conan- Zoltar <Angels of Death> Guardian on Stormrage.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Originally posted by Wrymstrum


     
     Well, you're mostly talking about character progression, which I tend to think of as a separate issue from world design.  I think the original poster was more referring to linear world design, or the idea that as you play the game you go on a set path.  They are related to some extent, in that once the world is created your character progression determines what areas are viable for your character to play in.  But the design of the world is the primary factor. 
    I think a good analogy is the comparison between a train and car.  They both use the same basic method of moving, but the train must move along the set track while a car can drive along any road in any direction it wants.  In an mmo your character progression (linear or not) determines what areas you can go to, but in some games you will be taken along a set path while in others you are allowed to have a more open experience. 

    That was exceptional. Thank you.

    By big thing with sandbox MMOs..

    While yes, you may be able to hop in your car and drive where ever you want to, is there any where to drive to? Does each road lead you to more of the same thing?

    At least on the train, you know you are bound for cool sites and experiences.. hence, why people refer to more linear games as "amusement parks."

    Make a sandbox MMO with a vast amount of content, where you have the freedom to do as you wish, but you also have a vast amount of content to choose from... I'm all for it.

    Problem is, developers seem to think that the two options, trains and cars, have to be seperate. That you can't create a game with lots of content, but the freedom to go to the content that you wish to go to, instead of just being led along on rails...

     

  • airheadairhead Member UncommonPosts: 718

     

    Originally posted by heerobya


    Agree 100% airhead.
    Only problem is, every choice, every alternative path, every option has to be programmed, tested, balanced, etc.

     

    hmm... don't know if I absolutely agree with that. Granted, that's the way it is now, I don't know if it has to always be that way.

    For example, 'programmed'. Currently, to script a quest, you create a sequence of instructions, tasks are done, the quest state moves through some finite state transition diagram until completion or possibly failure. This state-transition, along with dialog and NPC actions are 'programmed'. Isn't it possible to write a program that generates random state-transition diagrams based on some overall constraint? I think there are a couple of games in dev somewhere (read about them some time ago) that are working on having dynamically generated quests. Don't remember the name, sorry.

    And then 'tested'. Well, if the quests were dynamically generated, then really impossible to test. Would have to do some other kind of lower-level testing. Where given state-transition diagram X, it will work. Then prove it will then work for all possible state-transitions (quests).

    And finally, 'balanced'. I would define balance as content that is not impossible and not too easy. In other words, the avoidance of the extremes of unplayability. If the content is dynamic and generated internally, then just make it self-modifiable. In other words, if quests seem to be failed too much, the system would just tweak them to make them easier, and vice versa if the quests were too easy. Yet another benefit of not hard-coding the quests to begin with.

    NOTE: this is kind of off point isn't it? sorry about that. Just that you objected to total nonlinear gameplay because of the dev costs, and I just had to counter that dynamically-generated-content can be both self-regulating and low-maintenance, (granted it would hard to do to begin with... lol)

    EDIT-NOTE: also, somebody mentioned nonlinearity in regard to areas is what the OP meant. This applies to that as well. Instead of having scripted level mobs in various locations, the mob-level could be dynamic and changing and self-adjusting. Then the whole concept of scripted areas-of-level-X goes away.

  • YeeboYeebo Member Posts: 1,359

     

    Originally posted by airhead


     
    Originally posted by heerobya


    Agree 100% airhead.
    Only problem is, every choice, every alternative path, every option has to be programmed, tested, balanced, etc.

     

    hmm... don't know if I absolutely agree with that. Granted, that's the way it is now, I don't know if it has to always be that way.

    For example, 'programmed'. Currently, to script a quest, you create a sequence of instructions, tasks are done, the quest state moves through some finite state transition diagram until completion or possibly failure. This state-transition, along with dialog and NPC actions are 'programmed'. Isn't it possible to write a program that generates random state-transition diagrams based on some overall constraint? I think there are a couple of games in dev somewhere (read about them some time ago) that are working on having dynamically generated quests. Don't remember the name, sorry.

    And then 'tested'. Well, if the quests were dynamically generated, then really impossible to test. Would have to do some other kind of lower-level testing. Where given state-transition diagram X, it will work. Then prove it will then work for all possible state-transitions (quests).

    And finally, 'balanced'. I would define balance as content that is not impossible and not too easy. In other words, the avoidance of the extremes of unplayability. If the content is dynamic and generated internally, then just make it self-modifiable. In other words, if quests seem to be failed too much, the system would just tweak them to make them easier, and vice versa if the quests were too easy. Yet another benefit of not hard-coding the quests to begin with.

    NOTE: this is kind of off point isn't it? sorry about that. Just that you objected to total nonlinear gameplay because of the dev costs, and I just had to counter that dynamically-generated-content can be both self-regulating and low-maintenance, (granted it would hard to do to begin with... lol)

    EDIT-NOTE: also, somebody mentioned nonlinearity in regard to areas is what the OP meant. This applies to that as well. Instead of having scripted level mobs in various locations, the mob-level could be dynamic and changing and self-adjusting. Then the whole concept of scripted areas-of-level-X goes away.

    DAoC had very simple dynamically generated quests.  You talk to an NPC and they send you off to kill a random nearby mob, or to deliver a package to a random NPC.  If I'm not mistaken, I think SWG has something like this as well. 

    Oddly, the best implementation of it that I've seen in an MMO is Anarchy Online.  When the game generates a mission, you have a series of sliders so that you can have the missions emphasize things your characater is good at.  For example, if you set the sliders one way you'll get a lot of stealth missions where you sneak past enemies to steal something, or sneak to a taget and assasinate it.  If you set them another way, you get lots of missions where you break down the door and kill everything that moves.  The missions can be set for solo or party play.  And each mission has a random reward.  You can have the terminal keep generating missions until you see one that gives you a peice of gear you want. 

    The thing that I think is really brillant about the system is that no-one has to spend a lot of time designing different mission types for different character classes (or party make-ups).  You let the players balance it themselves, and ensure that it has a reward they desire themselves.  It's a really good system, and I've never been able to figure out why it isn't implemented in more MMOs.

    That said, I would not want dynamically generated quests to be the only form of questing in a game.  One of the strengths of a linear series of pre-scripted quest chains is that you can give them a rich backstory, and design them in such a way that a narrative emerges from them.   I actually think this is one of the strengths of LoTRO, the density of well written and scripted quests is much higher than you will find in most MMOs. 

    I don't want to write this, and you don't want to read it. But now it's too late for both of us.

  • YeeboYeebo Member Posts: 1,359

     

    Originally posted by heerobya


    By big thing with sandbox MMOs..
    While yes, you may be able to hop in your car and drive where ever you want to, is there any where to drive to? Does each road lead you to more of the same thing?
    At least on the train, you know you are bound for cool sites and experiences.. hence, why people refer to more linear games as "amusement parks."
    Make a sandbox MMO with a vast amount of content, where you have the freedom to do as you wish, but you also have a vast amount of content to choose from... I'm all for it.
    Problem is, developers seem to think that the two options, trains and cars, have to be seperate. That you can't create a game with lots of content, but the freedom to go to the content that you wish to go to, instead of just being led along on rails...
     

    This is one of my pet peeves about sandbox MMOs.  Why can't you just plunk down compelling series of quest chains to go through or other scripted content ?  Why does "sandbox" always equal "Content is a crutch for the weak!"

     

    Two of my favorite offline games are Morrowind and GTA.  In both of those games you have your choice of following along with the story, or just screwing around and making your own fun.  I tend to go back and forth. 

    I love having the freedom to do just about anything I can think of.  Beat down old ladies for cash, try to do the most insane jumps, grab a gun and go on a killing rampage until the cops show up.  Morrowind is even better.  Design new insane spells, depopulate a town because someone makes a snide comment, become vampire, get every pillow you can and make a pillow tower (there used to be a whole website devoted to Morrowind pillow forts!).  All that stuff is a hell of a lot of fun. 

    But if it was all there was to do, I'd get bored pretty fast.  For me, those things are just breaks from the main point of those games, which is enjoying the narrative.  A really interesting (if somewhat cliche) crime story emerges as you run missions in a GTA game.  Morrowind had literally dozens of story lines that you can follow through quest chains.  In fact the main quest line was just as good as any a more typical linear RPGs.  Another really good examples of nailing that balance between "open" and "content" is the Fallout games, and those are ten years old.

    Why is it that offline game developers have been gving us sandboxes with rich compelling stories for years, while MMO developers can only give us one or the other?  To me inventing a bunch of systems and putting the burden on the player to make their own fun is just lazy design.  "OK, here's a bunch of mechanics...go have fun now."  Is it really that much more work to put a few well written quest chains in?

    One game that had a real opportunity was SWG.  They had a great sandbox game (pre NGE).  When WoW game out and smashed industry records, the devs were like "Holy crap, you mean players like content?!?  Who knew?"  If they had just laid down a bunch of quest chains in their existing game (train tracks to return to your analogy), they could have had the first GTA in MMO space.  And one with a fantastic IP at that. 

    But they went waaaay overboard.  They thought that every damn part of the game had to be strictly linear.  They threw out the baby with the bathwater, imo.

    I don't want to write this, and you don't want to read it. But now it's too late for both of us.

  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979

    Oh Yeebo why are you so smart!

    That's EXACTLY what I'm trying to say.

    Why do we have to have A, or B, but not A and B?

    You were right that SWG had great potential, they *tried* to create content with the monthly story arcs and the Theme Parks (Rebel base, Jabba's Palace...) but in the end, it was all just poorly implemented and buggy as heck.

    Then, of course, they threw all their progress out the window with the NGE.

    Give me Oblivion + WoW...

    Morrowind + LOTRO...

    That is why I have high hopes for Bethesda's MMO and for Bioware's MMO.

    Hopefully they will give us a great, linear, story driven experience that rocks the socks AND open, sandbox style elements.

     

     

  • WrymstrumWrymstrum Member Posts: 196

     

    Originally posted by Yeebo 
    Some players also feel that pure grinding MMOs are inherently less linear than quest based MMOs.  When you are following a quest chain, you have to do a series of tasks in a particular order.  In a grind game, you just wander aimlessly until you find something you can take on without getting butchered.  So it can feel a little more open.  Of course the trade-off is that what passes for "gameplay" is standing in one spot killing crap for no other reason than to watch a little XP bar inch up.  I find that to be about on par with paying someone 15 dollars a month so that I can have the "privilege" of doing their housework (in terms of excitement), but to each their own.

     

    Of the MMO's I've played (which includes AC, COH, WOW, and LOTRO) Asheron's Call was the only one that was "pure grinding".  There were a handful of quests you could run that would give you nice XP bonuses.  They were repeatable quests that could be done once every couple of weeks.  But for the most part, it was a pure grind to gain xp.  What kept this from being a snooze fest (besides exciting combat) was the random loot generator.  Every time you looted a corpse it was like the lottery.  You never knew what you would get.  Items had various stats (damage, quality, attack & defense modifiers, buffs, etc) that were all randomly generated.  Most of the time one or 2 of the stats would be decent, but every now and then the stars would align for you and all or most of the stats would be great.  Then you had an amazing weapon.  The dropped loot in every other game has not even been comparable.  It's 99.99% trash and the other 0.01% is a mediocre purple drop you might sell to a twink. 

     

    Anyway, being grind based may have contributed to the open feel of the game, but there were other aspects that IMO were much more important.  I've mentioned some of these already.   If you made a mmo that had the following characteristics, I don't see why having lots of quests would have any effect on the "open-ness" of the game.

    1)zone-less so that you weren't just getting channeled from one zone to the next with higher and higher level mobs. 

    and 

    2) a non-linear level system that gave you more freedom to fight mobs of varying levels (and thus do quests of varying levels as well). 

    The second is probably the more significant characteristic.  As long as a game sticks to the linear leveling system (i.e. you are only affective against mobs withing a level or two of your character) your choices are going to be severely limited.   If you fight something or do a quest too many levels below you, the game nerfs your XP.   If you try to fight or quest a few levels above your character, the game makes it extremely difficult to survive.   So you end up stuck with a small portion of the content being viable. 

    Think of it this way.  Suppose you created a man character in lotro and played a bit until you were in the mid teens in bree.  What if you could go back to ered luin and do the content there with no penalties?  Or you could get in a group and go do stuff in north downs.  It's still quest based, but open ended. 

    ~~~ Currently Playing ~~~
    LOTRO- Guardian Wrymstrum & Lore-master Stabler on Nimrodel.

    Conan- Zoltar <Angels of Death> Guardian on Stormrage.

  • dragonacedragonace Member UncommonPosts: 1,185

    WoW!!!

    Very nice discussion all!  I'm very impressed with the thought-provoking ideas being tossed around.  I chose not to quote anyone's post in particular because they are all worth reading.  If this keeps up we might have to petition for a sticky!  :)

    A couple quick responses to some items that were mentioned while reading through the responses, :

    What I was referring to in regards to LoTRo not being as linear as some would seem to suggest is the flexibility of moving around to other starting areas.  For example, if I start as a Hobbit; I don't have to do levels 1-15 in the Shire.  I could decide to hop on the quick-travel horse and go over to the dwarf starting area, or the human starting area, or the elf starting area.

    Granted, in order to level (since it's a level-based game) I'd need to stick to areas that are designed for my level of character,  and provides quests that my level character could complete.  My point on that subject was that you can indeed skip areas if you decide that you don't like them.  For instance, a poster had stated that they had skipped the entire Old Forest area, as they just didn't like that area.  LoTRo does give you the freedom to do that if you choose.

    I guess what prompted that thought was that I've seen a few different posters state how they absolutely hated quest such-and-such, or they couldn't stand doing area x.  My immediate thought is always, "Well why did you do it then?"  That was what I was trying to convey, that there are no make or break quests that absolutely have to be completed. 

    Even with the epic story-line quests it's possible to do some of them out of order, and complete some areas and not others.  Granted, it makes more sense if it's done in order; but it is possible.  On one of my characters right now; I have book 2, chapter 7 or 8, book 3 chapter 4 or 5, and book 4 chapter 1 all in my quest journal.  So, even that part DOESN'T have to be completed in 1,2,3, etc. progression.

     

    Now onto what has kinda sprung up from this discussion.  How do MMO's provide directed content but not loose that "free-form" adventure and exploration experience that a lot of MMO players like?

    A few posters mentioned the idea of areas kinda  similar to how AC was setup.  I'd also like to throw the original SWG into that discussion as well.  It was fairly similar in setup as how some of you described AC, except for some of the higher level areas were different planets as opposed to just far away on the same continent.

    SWG was similar to AC though in that you could usually expect to find fairly low-level mobs close to the starting cities.  Then as you moved away and explored more, the more dangerous things became.  Once you leveled high enough so that the entire planet was not much of  a challenge, that was where the more "exotic" planets (Lok, Endor, etc.) came into play.

    One thing that SWG did to some extent, and perhaps AC did as well; but I'd like to see more MMOs do.  The occasional higher level mob spawning into areas that were normally visited by lower level players.  Now, I'm not suggesting that every 10 minutes a very high level mob come through and wipe out all the newbie players.  (Heh, just had an image of my early EQ days and the Priest of Discord getting aggroed. )

    Now I know that LoTRo does this to some extent as well, but I think it's a bit too rare.  Plus the ones that spawn in LoTRo are too valuable and sought after by higher levels, so a lot of lower level players never even see them because they are usually killed 5-10 seconds after they spawn. 

    A signature mob here or there on a rare spawn timer is nice to have as well, but what I'd like to see more of is certain triggers that cause area wide chaos from time to time.

    Here is an example of what I'm thinking of:

    There are a lot of wolves in the Shire, and a lot of quests require killing wolves, plus there are Deeds that require x number of wolves be killed.  So, whenever x number (Turbine would have to determine how often they wanted the event to occur, so they'd have to decide how high to set the trigger point) of wolves are killed in that area.  It triggers an area-wide event.  What kind of event would it trigger?  Well, the skys the limit!

    For instance, they could have the wolves spawn as higher level and with more aggressive AI for a certain period of time.  Or, they could have Wargs spawn every now and then in the place of a wolf.  Or, even a full-scale assault of wolves on all the villages of the Shire for a set amount of time.  Basically whatever they wanted to design.  Perhaps even have a half-dozen different possibilities that could trigger and the result is picked at random. 

    Now, extrapolate that same type of event, or at least the possibility of that event occurring out to every area across the whole server.  They could even link them, so that if x number of these events trigger in a certain amount of time it could trigger a whole other list of events that only happen if a certain number of the other events have triggered first.

    One other type of event that I had thought of was for every time that a group killed the 2 Wight Brothers in the Great Barrow instance, that it triggered the wights to spill out of their normal area and roam all over Bree and the surrounding areas.  Then, it could trigger new quests to spawn from NPCs inside of Bree to deal with this new threat.  These quests would only be available for a limited amount of time, as the wights would eventually be killed, or de-spawn on their own as the timer on the event expired.

    Well, thats more than enough for this post.  Congrats if you made it all the way through and didn't fall asleep. 

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