Monthly Archives: April 2016

Faction PvP Warfare Failures

Faction warfare has served as the backbone for dozens of MMORPGs’ PvP rule sets. The beauty of such a system is that players have no shortage of human combatants yet are still protected by a large community. Free for all PvP like in Eve Online offers a very different dynamic, one where concern for player safety isn’t a high priority. Faction PvP provides the player base the flexibility to engage enemies on their terms with a worthwhile incentive for doing so (if the developers did their job well).

Faction War MMORPGs

Dark Age of Camelot gave us this potentially amazing system first with an ongoing three way battle between the mythical realms of Hibernia, Albion, and Midgard known as Realm vs. Realm (RvR). Most would agree that Dark Age of Camelot handled this subgenre’s ensemble effort very well. The three way system kept all powers in check and wars were waged on a constant basis. Those envisioning castle sieges, rallying war cries, and armies clashing were pleasantly rewarded for their playtime. Gamers to this day continue to reminisce fondly over the enjoyment they found in DAoC.  Factional PvP remained in a bit of a lull until World of Warcraft’s Alliance vs. Horde hit.

Dark Age of Camelot PvP

Dark Age of Camelot

PvP in vanilla World of Warcraft was light hearted fun but had no meaning until the release of battlegrounds. Even then, the benefit of participating in that PvP benefited only the individual. This allowed for a casual stroll into PvP lane but was a far cry from Camelot’s emphasis on the collective over the individual. Unfortunately for those like myself who enjoy organized PvP in MMOs, the studios and publishers decided to copy the commercially mega successful World of Warcraft over Dark Age of Camelot. Of course, I would argue WoW owed very little of its success to PvP. But when trying to make bank off of copycatting, developers often find it difficult to determine which features should actually be unique. PvP with all of its moving parts apparently didn’t find many champions for change amongst the slew of World of Warcraft knockoffs.

Thus, the vast majority of games eschewed many-faction, collective reward focused PvP in favor of two faction, individual reward PvP. That’s not to say there wasn’t some innovation in PvP systems outside of factional warfare (Eve, Silkroad Online, DarkFall), but again those games simply don’t offer that fine balance of danger and safety. As two faction became the norm, games began to cater more towards instances, quests, and the PvE crowd. Two faction PvP is impossible to balance, with Star Wars: The Old Republic probably proving that better that anyone else. The zerg always triumphs and typically draws the more hardcore players, exacerbating the problem further. Without outside aid, the lesser of two factions has no chance. And thus PvP stagnates and forces developers to focus on PvE or instanced PvP to maintain players. It wasn’t until the announcement and release of Guild Wars 2 that we would again see a game with true focus on multi-faction PvP.

Guild Wars 2 PvP

Guild Wars 2

Unfortunately World vs. World, the name for this system in Guild Wars 2, failed to live up to Dark Age of Camelot’s legacy. For one, guilds oddly mattered very little in World vs World. Two, the developers balanced PvP around small engages and not large ones. Three, the reward system failed to compel players to “fight for their homeland”. Fourth, there is very little continuity between the semi-instancing and resets. Certainly many people enjoyed and still enjoy World vs. World in Guild Wars 2, but it proved to be a far cry from the bar that Camelot set.

Camelot Unchained, the upcoming MMORPG spearheaded by none other than Mark Jacobs who oversaw the creation and development of DAoC, might revitalize factional PvP. It also might not. There are a lot of good ideas, but will they come together in a fun package? Time will tell. But in my opinion there are a few key factors for success to which Camelot Unchained or any faction warfare MMORPG must adhere.

Guilds

Guilds need to play a prominent role in the leadership of their respective factions. It’s easy to think that because everyone already has a “home” with their faction that guilds aren’t critical. After all, competition would be between factions and not guilds. Right? Yes and no. While factions give players a direction to exert their efforts, they don’t inherently do so in an organized fashion. Like any military branch, there is a certain chain of command to keep engagements organized. Guilds are what take us from pick up groups to at least somewhat organized war parties. They also play a critical role in the socialization component.

Camelot Unchained PvP

Camelot Unchained

Engaging in, and especially succeeding in, faction warfare contests will need to provide some level of reward commensurate with the effort. That’s basically the crux of MMOs that effort gives reward. While player rewards are nice, guild rewards create a more community driven environment. Unlike PvE focused MMORPGs, faction war MMORPG guilds care about what others guilds are doing. Progression in these games isn’t just about finding twenty people with the proper gear score, but finding twenty other guilds on which your guild can rely.

Guilds must be rewarded and emphasized for a faction warfare MMORPG to succeed or the gameplay will devolve into a mess of PUGs akin to playing Battlefield on a public server.

3+ Factions

Two faction warfare doesn’t work. One side gets bigger and attracts better players. Then everything just spirals out of control. It’s fine if PvP is centered around non-persistent battlegrounds like World of Warcraft. In that case though the whole faction thing sort of loses its meaning. What does it really matter who your friends and enemies are when everything gets swept away thirty minutes later?

Personally, I think I would most enjoy ~7 factions. This allows developers to add some real character to each faction. Alliances and war targets would be much more dynamic and interesting with a higher number. Unfortunately, it also requires a larger player base to enact effectively which is a risky proposition. Employing something like 3 or 4 factions is a simple balance mechanism that keeps faction warfare competitive. When one side grows too large or powerful, more factions ensure there are adequate numbers to even things out.

Focus on PvP

MMORPGs have evolved a lot in the past fifteen years. One game can not and should not try to do it all. A strong vision is essential to delivering a product worth playing. Creating a game that tries to cater to PvE and PvP blurs the vision, splits resources, imbalances one or both for combat, and brings dispassionate players that contribute to an uninspiring community atmosphere. Of course there is more to MMORPGs than PvE and PvP. Additionally, PvE content does not necessarily hurt PvP content. The trick is unifying all of the features with one concerted goal. In the case of this post, that would be delivering the best MMO factional warfare experience possible.

Delivering that experience requires players to fight each other at all junctions. When I see an MMORPG touting multi-faction warfare, I want the content in the game focused on that. This means that the primary (or only) method of advancement should be PvP. Crafting, balance, quests, and even PvE content should funnel into the grand ole war. If it doesn’t then that’s a sign that it’s either not a factional warfare game (and is just a game with a factions) OR the developers don’t have a clear idea of what they want to deliver. In the first case, that’s not necessarily bad (unless you want faction wars). In the second case, that’s a sign to me that the game is setting up for failure.

Time Will Tell

I really do hope to see factional warfare modernized. It’s an underused player vs. player mechanic that only an MMORPG has the scope to fulfill. There are games on the horizon, but it’s still too early to tell whether they’ll succeed. Time will tell if MMO faction PvP will get the treatment it deserves.


Top Eight MMORPGs with the Best Quests

Questing is perhaps the most fundamental form of structured content in MMORPGs. It forms a huge portion of the content for of genre, and virtually every MMO utilizes at least a few quests. Even sandboxes usually include some, if only to help players learn the mechanics.

Considering that, it’s a bit strange that MMO quests are so often lacking. Far too many games make them nothing but a chore to slog through on your road to endgame.

Yet this is not universally true. MMO questing is capable of providing content with compelling storylines and/or unique and interesting mechanics. We’ve ranked the best MMO quests paying attention to overall narrative, individual pieces of content, adherence to game world lore, and unique game mechanics.

8: Star Trek: Online

A boarding party during a mission in Star Trek: Online

Star Trek: Online has a somewhat different take on questing. Each mission is meant to replicate, to at least some degree, the episodic format of the Star Trek television shows. This makes each mission significantly longer, meatier, and more story-driven than you’d find in the average MMO.

The quality of individual missions can vary a bit, and the stories aren’t always terribly gripping, but it’s definitely a welcome change of pace from the usual grind, and if you’re a Trek fan, there’s a definite note of nostalgia, though ST:O’s missions don’t always echo Star Trek’s story-telling style as well as they might. Such is the disadvantage of a combat-focused MMORPG.

ST:O’s dual combat models also offer a welcome level of variety. Most missions will include both ground-based segments, where you control your character and bridge officers, and space combat segments, which do an admirable job of replicating the look and feel of battles from the Star Trek shows and movies. While the ground segments play mostly like traditional MMO combat, space combat is entirely different beast and of a style quite unique in the genre.

7: World of Warcraft

MMO Quests: The Miracle of Aessina World of Warcraft

When it first released over ten years ago, World of Warcraft set the tone for MMO questing for years to come, and as we’ve discussed, MMO quests are not always stellar, so that’s not entirely a good thing.

But while it’s true that much of WoW’s questing is mired in mediocrity, that’s not always true. Some of the most memorable, best quests in any MMORPG belong to WoW. Over the years, the developers have implemented many storylines that rise above their fellows, such as Wrath of the Lich King’s bittersweet Crusader Bridenbrad story and Cataclysm’s epic Elemental Bonds story arc.

It’s also worth noting that WoW’s questing experience has steadily improved over the years. Every expansion has brought with it more diverse mechanics, a stronger commitment to epic story-telling, and higher production values. Thanks to Cataclysm’s revamp of the old world, most of the oldest and clunkiest quests have been streamlined and improved.

And if sheer volume is what you’re after, WoW offers more content for the quest fan than just about any other game. After more than a decade, WoW has enough quests to keep a player occupied for months, if not years.

6: The Lord of the Rings Online

The logo for Lord of the Rings Online

Lord of the Rings Online uses a similar style of design to World of Warcraft for many of its quests, which, again, is not the best recommendation.

However, it also features an epic storyline spanning the entire game — which is still being expanded on regularly — and that is a cut above the usual rat-killing tedium. You can expect to visit iconic locales of Middle-Earth, from Moria to Gondor, and interact with major characters from the books. Each quest in Tolkein’s MMO world continues to pull players deeper into the lore. Characters’ journeys echo that of the Fellowship, slowly marching toward Mordor and offering new perspectives on the familiar events of the The Lord of the Rings.

5: Neverwinter

MMO Quests: A mysterious Foundry mission in the action MMORPG Neverwinter

The professionally made quests in Neverwinter are not much better than those you’d find in any other MMO, notably only for their use of solo dungeons with traps, hidden treasure, and exciting boss fights.

What really makes Neverwinter interesting from a MMO quests perspective is the Foundry, a tool for players to create their own quests. Of course, throwing open the floodgates like this makes for a lot of sub-par player-made quests, but player reviews make it quite easy to separate the good from the bad.

And make no mistake: Many of the player-made quests in Neverwinter are of an incredibly high quality, equaling or surpassing the professional content of many MMOs. Players also tend to offer a greater variety of content than most developers; expect puzzles and mysteries as well as more traditional combat-centric quests. Arguably, the best MMORPG quest system belongs to Neverwinter thanks to its user generated content.

4: Defiance

A mission introducing the EGO program in the shooter MMO Defiance

Defiance’s side missions are quite unremarkable — the kill ten rats quests of all kill ten rats quests — but the main story missions are actually of a very high quality, with a colorful cast of characters and lots of exciting, epic action.

Unlike most MMORPGs, which provide an endless string of NPCs that are interacted with briefly and then forgotten, Defiance tends to focus on a relatively small cast of core characters that follow you throughout the game, echoing the type of main cast you’d see on a TV show. Not surprising given Defiance’s pedigree. This allows each NPC to have a lot more depth and be a lot more memorable than you’d see in most MMOs.

Obviously, if you were a fan of the lamentably cancelled Defiance TV series, the story of Defiance the MMO will appeal to you greatly, but if you’ve never watched a single episode, Defiance’s story missions stand on their own as an exciting sci-fi adventure that anyone can appreciate.

3: Star Wars: The Old Republic

The intro to the trooper storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic

From the game’s very inception, Bioware has shouted from the rooftops that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be an MMORPG that puts story first. And for the most part, they succeeded.

True, the side missions in SW:TOR are rarely memorable, but the main storylines, and especially the unique storylines for each class, are of a quality rarely equaled in the MMO space. They can easily rival the story-telling of the best single-player RPGs.

Not only is each class story of an incredibly high quality, but they also sell the unique feel of each class very well, making each a truly unique experience. Play James Bond in space as an Imperial agent, or be a bastion of peace and healing as a Jedi consular.

The one downside is that SW:TOR questing content is still quite mechanically dull. They may give you a really good motivation for killing those ten rats, but you’re still killing ten rats. And the developers really love button bloat.

2: The Elder Scrolls Online

MMO Quests: An Aldmeri Dominion zone in The Elder Scrolls Online

One of the problems with quests in MMORPGs is that developers often take a “quantity over quality” approach. Elder Scrolls Online takes a different tack, offering slightly fewer quests overall but making each one a significantly more substantive and compelling experience.

There’s also more of a sense of exploration and adventure when questing in ESO. Most quests are just found while exploring the world, with little or no signs pointing to them, so you need to seek them out. This could be frustrating, but ESO’s world is so detailed and so brimming with lore collectibles, skill points, and treasure that wandering is never dull.

The stories in Elder Scrolls Online are not particularly memorable as a rule, but they at least rise above the (low) bar set by the average MMO, with at least some memorable characters and stand-out moments.

1: The Secret World

MMO Quests: A cutscene during one of The Secret World's issue seven storylines

So far on this, we’ve covered games whose quests have excellent stories, as well as those who provide mechanically interesting quests. Yet only one game consistently hits the ball out of the park on both fronts. Only one game views quests as worthy of all the same mechanical complexity and spectacular production values as the best endgame content. These are the criteria worthy of the prestigious title of MMORPG with the best quests.

That game is The Secret World.

On the one hand, every main mission in The Secret World offers a strong and compelling story, provided through fully voice-acted cutscenes and readable items found along the way. Nearly all of TSW’s missions tie-in to the main story in some way, and even those that don’t feature emotional or exciting stories in their own right. There is no filler here.

On the other, TSW’s missions also feature unique, interesting, and often devilishly challenging mechanics.

Much praise has justifiably been given to TSW’s investigation missions, which feature puzzles and mysteries of incredible depth and complexity. Often investigation missions will require research into real world topics, and entire websites have been created by Funcom simply to serve as clues. Both these things blur the line between gaming and reality in mind-bending ways.

But TSW’s inventive mission design doesn’t end with investigations. Also breaking the MMO mold are sabotage missions, which feature a combination of stealth gameplay, light puzzles, dodging traps, and other inventive mechanics. Sabotage missions also help sell the game’s horror setting better than anything else, presenting you with terrifying monsters that you can only flee, not defeat.

Even TSW’s action missions, which focus on combat and are the closest to traditional MMORPG questing, also often provide light puzzle gameplay or other unusual twists, like vehicle mechanics.


Play Games Because They’re Fun Now

In the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching Albion Online, Camelot Unchained, and Crowfall. The thing is, I already know a lot about these games and their value proposition to the MMO world. So when I research these well known upcoming titles (at least in the MMOsphere) I’m looking into recent core gameplay changes, YouTube videos of the latest game builds, public release updates, community feedback, and general hype levels. It then struck me that I’m doing this in large part as a reaction to my engrossing playtime with Black Desert Online.

Black Desert Online Horse In Rain

So much more to riding a horse in Black Desert

Whenever I really get into an MMORPG I tend to want to cement my place there. I want to justify spending money on microtransactions. My brain translates that to calculating the possobility of something better on the horizon. Logically, I realize the utter futility of these efforts, especially when ‘on the horizon’ is over a year away in the case of Camelot Unchained and Crowfall. But I have a huge issue with loss aversion and that translates to a fear of ‘wasting time’ on a game. It’s not lost on me how silly that notion is for an entertainment product. Yet in my adult life I’ve done this time and again. This sort of ‘confirmation research’ is not limited to MMORPGs either.

I have a strong tendency to look at upcoming multiplayer games and compare them to my current crop of multiplayer games. It’s especially noticeable with MMORPGs and MOBAs because they both require such large time investments. I think it’s a lot easier to play something like a multiplayer shooter more casually for a number of reasons (like The Culling, which I’ll plug as a fun hunger-games-like diversion). FPS systems are more intuitive and more primal. I immediately understand with any typical shooter game that I need to aim my weapons, click my mouse button, and possibly proceed to an objective to win. Sure, there are nuances, but nothing like learning the interactions of over a hundred champions in League of Legends.

MOBAs, like the aforementioned League of Legends, involve a huge time commitment to get the most out of the game. The interplay between League’s 130 champions and 194 items (at the time of this post) is not something one picks up on their first game. Or their hundredth. And with the meta constantly evolving, what I knew a few months ago may no longer be true. Many of the items that existed four years ago when I first started playing League of Legends are no longer even in the game anymore.

League of Legends Items

Visual approximation of the number of League of Legends items

As many readers will undoubtedly know, MMORPGs also involve a huge time commitment. Even in games where reaching max level is a comparatively trivial affair, that time might still equal a full-fledged AAA title. Then there is the ‘Keeping up with Joneses’ need to acquire more loot, more achievements, more gold, or whatever goals the MMORPG emphasizes. MMORPGs were founded as virtual worlds, a place to live with an alternate identity. Living another life isn’t a one and done experience.

These time commitments aren’t inherently a problem. Many people really enjoy diving in and committing to one multiplayer game (or like the idea of doing that, such as myself). The potential problem is that multiplayer games require other people. Some genres need larger audiences than others to function properly. MOBAs with small populations lead to long queue times and difficulty providing balanced match-ups. MMORPGs with small populations don’t even retain their very essence considering the antithetical relationship between ‘massive’ and ‘barren’.

All of this leads to my way over-analyzing the future states of these time intensive multiplayer games. In the process, I lose sight of why I’m playing the games now, which is that I enjoy doing so. Not only does it lessen my entertainment value due to some bizarre first world problem fear of the unknown, but it wastes productive time. Maybe this is an issue isolated to myself. Like most things though, I am rarely ever unique in any line of thinking. There are always more people sharing a rarely discussed opinion than appears on the surface.

unique just like everyone else

As noted earlier, this a line of thinking that surfaced during my adult life. As a preadolescent, time was always on my side. I didn’t fret about whether or not I would be using skills from a game or activity six months later. Even with school and sports, I had plenty of opportunities to engage in a myriad of activities. Not only did my weekly availability have more openings than the present, but I also had over a decade more of life in front of me. As an adult, that lack of time is further compounded in the gaming world by more choices than I ever had as a teenage kid. MMORPGs of today outnumber RPGs of any kind from the 90s. This is where the anxiety sets in making sure the ‘right’ game gets played.

The right game is not so cut and dry though. There is a huge element of timing that impacts the worthiness of a game. Life circumstances change frequently in adulthood, emotions may run high or low, relationships evolve and deteriorate. What is the right game today might not be appealing in a year. Camelot Unchained or Crowfall might be that game when the time comes, but it’s an unknown until the future becomes the present. No amount of research will change that. It’s not just the what for a game but the when.

John Lennon (and a slew of others before him) famously said that ‘time you enjoy wasting is not time wasted’. We play MMORPGs and other games because they are fun here and now. Overcomplicating matters by looking beyond that scope only serves to damage our enjoyment of the present. It’s an attitude that’s worth adopting for years to come.


Vendetta Online: EVE’s Unsung Competitor?

EVE Online is a game that generates strong feelings. Some love it, some hate it, but everyone has an opinion. Whatever side you take, it’s clear the game has carved itself a strong niche. It has a very passionate core fanbase and has achieved incredible longevity within the MMO space. With the recent outbreak of World War Bee, EVE is in the headlines more than ever these days.

A planet in the space MMO Vendetta Online

There tends to be a perception that EVE’s lasting popularity is at least in part due to a lack of competition within its particular niche of space-based sci-fi sandboxes.

But that perception is not entirely rooted in reality. Take, for example, Vendetta Online. It’s a relatively obscure MMO, but for the past ten years and more, it’s been quietly chugging along, providing an extensive sci-fi universe for aspiring space ship pilots to explore, exploit, and battle over. It offers many of the same features as EVE, and can even boast some accomplishments EVE lacks.

I decided to take a look at Vendetta and see how it stacks up relative to its more famous cousin.

Earning my wings:

The most immediately obvious difference between EVE and Vendetta is their wildly different control schemes.

EVE has often been criticized for its rather stilted and sometimes arcane controls. It’s a game of menus, and it feels very artificial. It doesn’t deliver on the fantasy of darting through space as an ace pilot.

Vendetta is a completely different beast.

Vendetta Online gives players much more immediate and direct control of their ships and makes piloting a much more realistic affair. Twitch-based controls give players the freedom to dart and weave through all three dimensions.

Combat in the sci-fi sandbox Vendetta Online

To get into more detail, Vendetta offers a choice between two control schemes that can be easily swapped between at any time based on preference or the needs of the moment.

The first, default option is an “aircraft” style mode where much of the piloting is simplified. Point the mouse in the direction you want to go and accelerate (or decelerate). The game handles the rest. This is extremely intuitive and easy to pick up, though it does lack a certain degree of precision and can be slightly awkward in certain circumstances that require a more careful touch.

The second mode is more interesting. It aims for realism by giving players the freedom to move their ship in three dimensions as an actual spaceship would. Vendetta has a near-total adherence to real Newtonian physics. Hope you paid attention in science class.

This mode is obviously a lot more challenging, and it comes with a real learning curve. It’s pretty easy to end up spinning wildly out of control, the stars blurring into a nauseating kaleidoscope around you.

But despite that, I quickly came to prefer the controls in Vendetta Online. Learning curve or no, it offers much greater control and precision, and personally I just found it much more fun. It is so true to life that it just immerses you in the game utterly, and it’s a beautiful thing when you get it right. Even something as simple as gliding into a docking port becomes a thrill. I never imagined a mere control scheme could make such a difference.

I imagine that experienced players with good twitch skills and a strong stomach could pull off some truly spectacular maneuvering, and I expect the high end PvP in Vendetta must be something else.

Dockng at a station in Vendetta Online

Those who are not quite such sci-fi nerds may have a different experience, but I kept hearing Kara Thrace’s voice in my head throughout all my time with Vendetta. If you ever wanted to be Starbuck, this is the game for you.

The one downside is that Vendetta’s realistic control scheme makes looting rather difficult. How you collect loot in this game is to simply fly into it, which sounds perfectly easy, but small loot boxes plus big empty space plus hyper-realistic physics leads to some real frustration. I spent more time than I’d like to admit fluttering about in little spirals desperately trying to impact the loot right before me.

Maybe there’s an easier way, but if so, the game needs to make it clearer.

Like the flight controls, the combat in Vendetta is simple in concept but potentially complex in practice. In essence, you just point and shoot.

But once again, the scale of space and the realistic flight model makes things a bit more interesting. You need to anticipate, firing at where the enemy will be, not where they are. The game helps a little with this with a reticle that attempts to predict enemy movement, but it’s not perfect, so there’s still a fair bit of player skill involved.

I imagine that progressing through the game and unlocking an ever greater variety of ships and weapons would add a significant degree of depth and complexity to the system, as well.

This is a recurring theme in Vendetta: The basics are very simple and easy to grasp, but it’s clear there’s a vast well of complexity waiting to be explored once you get past the fundamentals. This stands in stark contrast to EVE, which also offers incredible complexity but tends to throw you into the deep end and hope you learn to swim.

An escort tutorial in the space sandbox Vendetta Online

One minor complaint I have about the combat is that the game plays a sound whenever one of your shots successfully connects with the enemy. This is a good idea in theory, but the particular sound they use is a rather harsh and obnoxious beep, and it can be rather grating.

The wider universe:

From what I saw during my trial period, Vendetta appears to offer a fairly similar selection of potential activities as EVE Online.

PvP is clearly a major focus in the game. Vendetta players must ally themselves with one of three factions. The enlightened Itani Nation are at war with the militaristic Serco Dominion, and players of both sides can clash over various objectives in deep space.

The third faction is the Union of Independent Territories, or UIT, which is neutral in the conflict. Players of this faction can potentially play both sides of the Itani/Serco conflict, which is a pretty interesting twist on the traditional model of MMO factions.

There are also NPC opponents in the form of renegade machines called the Hive, though I’m not of the impression that PvE makes up a huge part of the Vendetta experience.

There are also missions of various types, including mining, trading, and research. Vendetta has separate leveling paths for each type of activity, which can affect what types of ships you have access to.

Making a jump to another sector in Vendetta Online

I also noticed what appears to be a fairly extensive reputation system, allowing players to make friends (or enemies) of a variety of NPC factions throughout the galaxy.

On the whole, Vendetta Online comes across as a very deep and full-featured sandbox experience, almost overwhelmingly so.

Of course, I doubt it can quite equal the vast and near baffling complexity of EVE Online, nor the scale and viciousness of its politics, but what game can? For some, being a little less complex than EVE can even be seen as a virtue — it’s brutally steep learning curve is legendary. Vendetta clearly has an intense learning curve as well, but it’s at least a slope rather than a cliff. You can, to some extent, ease into the experience.

On the other hand, Vendetta definitely lags behind EVE when it comes to production values. EVE is a beautiful and graphically advanced game, whereas Vendetta’s relatively low budget shows in its visuals.

That’s not to say Vendetta is an ugly game by any stretch of the imagination. Its star fields and planetary vistas are quite nice to look at, and overall the game’s visuals are at least decent on average. But it’s not going to compete with EVE, or any newly released MMO, in that regard.

One other area where Vendetta exceeds EVE Online — and basically every other MMO, for that matter — is the sheer number of different ways to play it offers. Its developers have made it a goal to make Vendetta playable on as many platforms as possible.

Traveling to a jump point in the sci-fi sandbox Vendetta Online

So Vendetta is playable on the PC, of course, but also Macs and Linux machines; on Android, Windows, and iOS mobile devices (including smartphones); in virtual reality on the Oculus Rift; and even on the Ouya.

And all players play and interact within the same game universe, regardless of platform.

That’s pretty damn impressive.

Conclusion:

Vendetta may not have quite the same level of scale or depth as EVE, but it’s a pretty rich sandbox in its own right, and it’s accomplished some impressive things for a relatively obscure title.

A common refrain from many people is that they’d play EVE Online if it provided a more intuitive or realistic flight model, and for those individuals, Vendetta seems an obvious choice.


Why MMO Achievement Addiction Leads to Real World Complacency

One of the most important aspects of developing an MMORPG is world building. MMO games are crafted to entice us to live in an imaginary, virtual world. Designers and writers create the lore, the founding inhabitants, the very truths that make this fictional planet or universe function. Within these virtual worlds, we are further enticed to do more than simply exist. We are compelled to, and indeed even ask for, methods in which to progress our virtual lives. Where our virtual avatars live and breath, we set them on a path towards achievement.

Just as we do with our own lives in the real world.

matrix virtual world

Inhabiting multiple worlds simultaneously presents some challenges.

But in achieving goals in the virtual world, we inevitably sacrifice some level of achievement in the real world. This isn’t said to set a tone that MMOs or games of any kind should be avoided. Like appreciating art and indulging in entertainment, games are another outlet in which we can grow, relax, and learn. MMORPGs as a subcategory of games are no exception. However, in contrast to the real world, MMO games offer a compelling package where the real world has trouble competing. So while games offer many positives, it’s all too easy to lose sight of one’s place in the real world.

There are a few key reasons why this is the case. And to understand why MMOs can be so addictive at the cost of real world success, we need to examine these reasons.

Perhaps the most compelling difference between real and virtual worlds is the rate of achievement. Goals in the real world often require long term planning, execution, and even a bit of luck at times. Some of this is the fault of human nature, where we look too far out and think too big. Two of the more common goals in human life are job promotions and fitness improvements (weight loss, muscle gain, heart health, etc). Both of these are long term endeavors and despite hard work and dedication, they may not be reached due to uncontrollable factors such as a bad boss or injury. One of these two common goals even requires a hefty dose of maintenance. Once a desired weight or fitness level is achieved, the battle then begins to maintain that status quo. Maintenance of achievements is certainly not common in MMORPGs.

legendary equipment vs college degree itme

It’s a lot less time consuming to pickup a bunch of legendaries than to finish college.

Within MMORPGs, achievement is rapid and appealing to our “now, now, now!” society more than it would have been to past generations. (Side note – what would George Washington have thought of World of Warcraft?) We measure the rate in which we gain levels, complete quests, acquire loot, build houses, and craft armor in minutes and hours. Not weeks. Not months. Not years. As if to emphasize that fact, many modern MMORPGs employ a set of achievements simply called ‘achievements’ where points are earned for little to no gameplay purposes. When we play in these online worlds it is easy to grow complacent with our real world status with virtual achievements around every corner.

Another addictive component of MMORPG achievement that accompanies rapid achievement is guaranteed achievement. Imagine if at work your boss told you that at the completion of your next thirty projects, you would receive a raise. Would you work harder? Could you foresee a few willing late-nighters when you’re on that twenty-ninth or thirtieth project? Knowing that completing a particular set of tasks will lead to certain reward is a powerful motivator. It’s why a number of gamification based productivity apps have sprung up over the past several years. Of course, the major flaw with these apps is that you determine the reward for your work. They can certainly help achieve goals, but your boss isn’t going to care about your level on Habitica (formerly Habit RPG).

By comparison, systems in MMORPGs are much more constrained than their real world counterparts. It allows game developers to guarantee results based on completing certain tasks. It’s a significant psychological driver that compels us to play more to gain more. The virtual MMO worlds in which many of us spend hours upon hours do so because the next reward is just around the corner. All one has to do is put in the time and effort and that next level, skill, or weapon can be theirs. We call this the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. It’s no wonder that many gamers get sucked into these worlds not just for entertainment, but to the detriment of their non-virtual lives.

Now, both rapid and guaranteed achievement have been discussed before as factors in MMO addiction. However, I feel one area that is noteworthy but undermentioned is that in a given MMORPG, everyone is gunning for roughly the same few things. This is especially true in themepark MMORPGs where the player goals boil down to more loot and more levels, essentially the ability to kill more powerful things. In real life, that would be akin to everyone in the world working as a soldier to improve combat effectiveness.

world of warcraft achievements list

World of Warcraft achieves more achievements!

Sandbox MMOs offer a little more variety in goal setting but not by much. The result of crafting or playing the marketplace still typically boils down to power and/or influence. It may not be physical power that every player fights over, but in sandbox titles players are still limited in the scope of long term goal planning. There aren’t any non-profits in MMORPGs dedicated to cleaner water, humane treatment of animals, or the eradication of a disease. There are no comparable life paths in MMORPGs for park rangers, serial monogamists, amateur magicians, and hobbyist woodworkers. So even though sandbox games may offer a more realistic world experience, it’s still not the real world. On the other hand, it does mean that MMORPGs of all types allow someone to focus their efforts much better than perhaps in the real world.

Those who have already found their calling in life aside, it’s no wonder MMORPGs can entertain players with days or weeks of playtime. How many of you have ever searched for ‘what should I do with my life’ or ‘what is the meaning of life’? Although this isn’t indicative of actual search queries, Google presents 296 million results for the former question and 371 million results for the latter. Finding purpose is human nature and from almost the moment of entering a given MMORPG, that purpose is clear. It’s another reason we can find ourselves so addicted to our virtual world with complacency or even apathy towards our own.

Finally, humans are social creatures. Online virtual worlds allow us to interact with each other in ways that not even other forms of internet communication tools can compete against. Although MMORPGs lose out on intimacy of interactions vs. the real world, the interactions are clearly more accessible. Meeting a new person in a game is less likely to result in a lifelong friend (though it can) because there’s not as much effort required in creating and maintaining the relationship. However, it is a lot easier to meet people as everyone can hide behind anonymity for as long as they wish, and there is an immediate common ground amongst all of the game world’s inhabitants. MMORPGs offer us the ability to stay connected to others with less effort and a lower fear of rejection. It’s yet another reason they can become so addictive at the cost of real world endeavors.

I love MMORPGs, and I do struggle at times with bouts of addiction. This is especially true for recently released titles. I think the best method for staying grounded is to first understand these reasons. Once we understand them, we can apply what makes them compelling to our everyday lives. Angela Duckworth, late blooming psychologist, offers tips with that same mentality. If you ever find yourself in a spiral of addiction, consider what it is that’s driving said addiction. I believe the combination of setting shorter term goals, focusing on challenges directly under your control, understanding activities from which intrinsic satisfaction is derived, and regular social interaction in a comfortable manner are all tangential takeaways from MMO to improve one’s first life. And in doing that we might find even more enjoyment in our second life.