Tag Archives: Diablo 3

Comparing Top Eastern vs. Western MMORPGs

The MMORPG gaming culture differs slightly between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, and game design varies accordingly. While there are no hard and fast rules, Eastern games tend to put more emphasis on quality graphics and on grind-based gameplay.

Neither model is better or worse than the other; it’s all just down to personal preference. But since most of us do tend to prefer one style or the other, it can be helpful to look at how Western and Eastern games in common genres compare. Maybe you like the ideas behind Neverwinter but would prefer a game with a more Eastern flavour, or enjoy the deep mechanics of Black Desert but want something with a more Western style.

To that end, we’ve compiled a breakdown of similar Eastern and Western games in some of the more common MMO genres.

Themepark: World of Warcraft/Final Fantasy XIV

World of Warcraft remains the undisputed king of Western MMORPGs, and even after having fallen from its peak quite a bit, it’s probably still the most successful MMO on the market.

Stormwind City in the Western MMORPG World of Warcraft

With that said, Japan’s Final Fantasy XIV has been enjoying an impressive level of success since relaunching as A Realm Reborn. Like its Western cousin, WoW, it has managed to survive as a subscription based MMO in a world where free to play and buy to play are now the norm.

Both offer very similar game mechanics that will be familiar to anyone who’s played themepark MMOs. In both, you’ll find standard tab target combat, kill and collect quests, and trinity-based group roles. FFXIV’s combat is a little slower, employing a 2.5 second global cooldown, as opposed to WoW’s 1.5 second GCD, which is lowered to one second for some classes.

Both offer deep if sometimes inconsistent lore drawn from the venerable franchises both games are based on. Final Fantasy’s graphics are more advanced and often stunning, but WoW’s have more personality.

FFXIV does offer a few features that WoW lacks. Most notably, any character can learn any class and swap between them at will, essentially eliminating the need for alts. It also offers a player housing feature, though housing plots are limited and it can be difficult to grab one.

On the other hand, World of Warcraft has the advantage of being faster-paced and less linear, and it has been around for much longer, giving it a vast reserve of legacy content that could take a new player months, if not years, to fully explore.

A forest zone in the Eastern MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Both are very polished games with a wealth of content, but there isn’t a whole lot to distinguish one from the other. If you’re already established in one, there’s little cause to switch. If you’re new to both, try both for an hour or two and see which feels better.

Sandbox: EVE Online/Black Desert Online

Icelandic made EVE Online is one of the great successes of the sandbox genre. It’s been around longer than World of Warcraft, and while it’s never been a household name, it has managed to maintain a healthy and loyal fanbase for a very long time despite being a relatively niche title.

Exploring space in the Western MMORPG EVE Online

Recently it’s been given a new rival in the sandbox field in the form of the Korean MMORPG Black Desert Online, which so far seems to be have been well-received by sandbox fans.

EVE and Black Desert are very different games in a lot of ways, but they’re both very complex, very deep games, to an extent few other MMOs could equal.

EVE is a sci-fi game that takes place in the depths of space. While you can design an avatar, in practice your character is basically whatever ship you’re piloting at the time. Black Desert employs a fantasy setting; depending on your perspective, this can be seen as a source of welcome familiarity or a lack of creativity in a genre already dominated by fantasy. Black Desert boasts impressive visual character customization to help you stand out from the crowd.

However, while it’s easy to look different in Black Desert, your character’s abilities may not be so unique, as it does rely on a fairly standard class system. EVE Online, meanwhile, has a skill-based advancement system that allows every character to grow in any direction they like.

EVE’s core gameplay is a bit stilted — it is often viewed as a game of menus and spreadsheets — whereas Black Desert utilizes a very flamboyant style of action combat. Most would agree that Black Desert has better minute-to-minute gameplay, but we haven’t seen it create the kind of devious politics, epic wars, and shocking heists that have come to define EVE Online. EVE is a game of lower lows, but also higher highs.

Both are very complex games with a steep learning curve. EVE is probably a little harder to learn — but if you’re a true EVE fan, you probably view that as a positive.

EVE is another game that’s managed to maintain a subscription-based business model, whereas Black Desert is buy to play with a cash shop.

A maewha character in the Eastern MMORPG Black Desert

Both are solid choices for the sandbox fan. Black Desert has the edge for those who want to explore a beautiful and detailed fantasy world, or those who want more natural-feeling gameplay, but EVE is a better choice for those who want to make their name on a cutthroat frontier and engage in politics on a massive scale.

Action combat grinder: Neverwinter/Vindictus

Neverwinter and Vindictus are both games with intense action combat and a strong emphasis on grinding instanced content as opposed to the open worlds of more traditional MMORPGs.

A cave in the Western MMORPG Neverwinter

Neverwinter is developed by American Cryptic Studios and is based on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting from Dungeons and Dragons, but it does take a lot of liberties with D&D mechanics, so it doesn’t hold as much appeal to pen and paper fans as you might expect.

Korea’s Vindictus is published by Nexon and serves as a prequel to Mabinogi, another MMO from the same developer.

Of the two, Neverwinter is a little closer to a traditional MMORPG and offers a slightly more robust experience. It does have open world zones to be explored in addition to dungeon crawls, and it makes at least some effort to be a full-fledged RPG, whereas Vindictus is more of an arcade experience, putting a laser focus on constant dungeon-crawls.

Notably, Neverwinter offers a standard set of classes and races to choose from, whereas players in Vindictus choose from pre-established characters and can only customize them to a limited degree.

Neither game is going to win much praise for its story-telling ability, but Neverwinter has a slight edge in that regard. Similarly, neither boasts top of the line graphics, but Vindictus tends to look a little better.

Both offer as their main virtue brutal action combat, and while both games’ combat is excellent, a slight edge should probably be given to Vindictus for offering slightly more depth and interactivity. In Vindictus, players may, for instance, grab objects from the environment — or even enemies — and hurl them as crude projectiles.

Both games are free to play and offer a lot of gameplay without spending a cent, but in both cases you’ll eventually have to make use of the cash shop if you want to maximize your performance in the later stages of the game.

A character in the Eastern MMORPG Vindictus

Neverwinter is the better choice if you want something closer to a traditional MMO experience, but Vindictus is superior if you want to focus on maximum brutality and mayhem.

ARPG: Diablo III/Devilian

Once again proving that Blizzard is the goose that laid the golden egg, Diablo III is the biggest name in the action RPG field. It had some stumbles at launch, but following the well received Reaper of Souls expansion, it’s now in a very healthy state.

A crusader character in the Western ARPG Diablo III

There isn’t a lot of competition for D3 from the East right now, but if you’re eager for an ARPG with some Asian flair, Devilian would probably be your best bet, at least until Lost Ark gets a Western release.

In terms of core gameplay, they’re both very much the standard ARPG fare. Click, kill, loot, repeat. Devilian modifies the formula slightly by giving players alternate demonic forms they can transform into for a temporary power boost.

Diablo III is pure buy to play — no micro-transactions at all, though you do need to buy the expansion separately — whereas Devilian is free to play with a cash shop.

Most would tend to agree that Diablo is the better game, but Devilian does have a few advantages going for it. It is a bit closer to the traditional MMO experience; you’ll be sharing the game world with other players, and there’s some degree of visual character customization. By comparison, Diablo III is closer to a single-player game with co-op support, and players can only choose their class and gender.

A screenshot from Korean ARPG Devilian

It’s also worth noting that Diablo III hasn’t gotten any significant content updates in quite a while now. There’s some speculation over a potential expansion announcement at this year’s Gamescom or BlizzCon, but right now it’s only wild guesses and rumors based on dubious evidence. For now the future of the game is very uncertain.

8 Ways MMORPGs Can Eliminate Grinding

Every MMORPG currently available employs some method of grinding for advancement. And it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way.

Grinding is the act of completing (typically repetitive) tasks primarily or solely for the purpose of character advancement by expending minimal effort. If the reason you are questing, killing mobs, chopping trees, or raiding dungeons is for ph4t l00t, levels, or to breach some gated activity then it’s grinding. Don’t get me wrong. I know some people like grinding. Grinding can be relaxing. Meditative even. But the entire market is saturated with grinding-centric MMORPGs so we really could use a game with a different approach.

The difficulty developers typically run into when combating grinding is keeping character progression alive. Many would say this is the greatest flaw of Guild Wars 2. They’ve created an advancement system that’s almost eliminated grinding at the cost of any interesting character progression post max level. Yet despite this if I wanted to create an alt and level him to 80 then a grind would still stand in my way.

Like the good MMO Bro that I am, I have compiled an eight item checklist to combat grinding without sacrificing character progression.

  1. Horizontal Progression – Think Guild Wars 1 here. Tons of skills that can be changed out. The problem GW1 had is that these skills were set once a mission or PvP round started. This stymies advancement because players only had a limited number of skills that would breach the ‘top 8’ for their role.
  2. Dynamic Combat – We MMO vets know that our classes or roles come with a right way to play and a wrong way to play. It’s ridiculous. It’s made more ridiculous by the fact that these roles are fairly easy to master. Combat should require adjustment to the situation at hand. Horizontal progression gives us this opportunity. Players should be able to change out and even buy skills or skill sets on the fly with some cooldown penalty or power up cost. This creates an ever changing battlefield.

    guild wars 1 skill choices

    Skill Choices in Guild Wars 1

  3. Useful ‘Level 1’ Characters – For some inane reason, game developers hate new players. Level 1 characters get less skills and less hit points. Then they get crushed. Then they have to grind. Good horizontal progression means new characters just have less options. OK – yes, they’re still at a disadvantage. But they aren’t useless. Give them some starter skills and let them participate from the start.
  4. One Character – There is no need for multiple characters or classes. Even if the game devs want to use a ‘holy trinity’ balancing mechanism, we still only need one character. Going back through the same content to get the same rewards is unnecessary.
  5. Reward Overcoming Challenges – I was so happy when I saw some instanced MMOs implementing challenge ratings for dungeons. Unfortunately, they weren’t really more difficult. They just required better gear. Even worse, some of them created systems were it was more efficient to farm the easier tiers. The best rewards should go to those stressing out and risking a loss. And it should be available from day 1.
  6. Dynamic Content – Not to be confused with dynamic combat. Dynamic content means never playing the same game twice. How? Think MOBAs like League of Legends. Think innovative shooters like Overwatch. Think randomized dungeons/enemies like Diablo. Think survival games like Don’t Starve. Think player missions replacing generic NPC missions. Think procedural generation like every game genre that’s not an MMO is implementing. Create game content that requires reaction instead of repetitively reinforcing the status quo.
  7. Rankings – Prestige. It’s all about prestige. You can replace some character progression with prestige by implementing rankings. Don’t make people feel bad about themselves though. Hide rankings below a certain point or create casual vs. competitive rankings. Casual = Progressively increased, mostly effort based rankings. Competitive = ELO ladder type rankings (yes, this can be done for PvP, PvE, and even crafting). Implement season ladder rankings alongside permanent ladder rankings if it makes sense. Rankings are extremely underused in MMORPGs.

    Diablo 3 seasonal ladders

    Diablo 3 ladder system

  8. Eliminate Legendary Gear – Don’t force best in slot gear ‘choices’. Epic loot is bad. Give people real choices by creating gear with randomized stats like in Diablo style games. This can lead to interesting changes in how people build or play, but wouldn’t be imbalancing. All this gear would be roughly the same effectiveness but with different stats or different skill modifiers (see Dynamic Combat above).

I’m not saying doing all of these things is easy. There’s a fine balance to making an intricate and dynamic system work. But the point is to incite and reward critical thinking instead over rote grinding.