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Diecast #122: Drew Karpyshyn at BioWare, Destiny, Assassins Creed, D&D

By Shamus
on Monday Sep 28, 2015
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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster. Episode edited by Rachel.

Show notes:
00:40 Drew Karpyshyn Returns to BioWare!

(To work on SWTOR.)

09:00 Let’s got full frontal fanboy over Guild Wars 2!

And then we remember the endgame…

24:00 Destiny: The Taken King

Now that our shooter is a success, let’s try to build some sort of story to support it!

46:00 Assassins Creed

Rutskarn has played Black Flag and doesn’t have all negative things to say about it.

53:00: Dungeons and Dragons

Let’s talk tabletop games because this site is all about that topic!

1:09:42 MAILTIME!

Damn it, Chris!

Comments (149)

  1. Phill says:

    Ah Guild Wars 2. I loved playing it as a solo player running around levelling up. It did a whole lot of things right. Group PvE content however was something it did very, very badly. The lack of ‘endgame’ (max level dungeons, raids) didn’t bother me partly because the group stuff was so bad I’d have had no interest in doing GW2 raids even if there were any (the open world bosses that required some co-ordination weren’t great either), and partly because there was plenty of solo stuff to do – I was slowly working my way to map completion before I eventually moved on to other things.

    On the subject of nice art, Final Fantasy XIV is the game that has currently sucked me in, which has all the beauty of GW2 in my opinion, but better gameplay. It is the first MMO I’ve tried since WoW that actually has decent group instances, dungeons that are fun. It may have sucked a few years ago when it launched (to the point that they took it offline for a few months while they completely reworked large parts of it), but now it is the only MMO that matches the fun I had with early WoW.

    (On the subject of FFXIV being completely rebooted, the in-game story starts with a cataclysm in the recent past and everyone mysteriously having no memory of what happened before this unmitigated disaster – I wonder if that was always the story or whether it serves an in-game joke reference to the relaunch of the MMO and the “we will agree to never talk about this again” attitude to the original launch).

    • Thomas says:

      I still find it funny/weird that FFIV is the only success story of that big wave of MMOs. And after being such a disaster originally. It might even genuinely one day take over WoW.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Incidentally, GW2 has been tweaking stuff since it came out, and is adding end-game stuff with an expansion coming out next month.

      Just sayin’…

      • Mike S. says:

        All of which is of course true of SWTOR as well. I’m always a little disheartened when the Diecast hits the subject of SWTOR, because the criticism is all pretty much based on the state of the game at launch. I may have disagreements when it comes to e.g., later Mass Effect games, but at least we’re talking about the same game, and there’s much more depth to the critique. (At least of ME2. ME3 is more of a punching bag.)

        I don’t have a real dog in the fight– I played SWTOR through about two and a half of the storylines before the MMOness of it all wearied me. (Though I still think the character stories are decent, and played through a bit more when they did XP bonuses that made the non-story content relatively skippable.) But my wife’s been a steady player since shortly after launch, so I’ve had a front-row seat. It’s pretty clear from Bioware’s treatment of it that while it never became the WOW-killer that would have justified its initial investment, once that was written off it became a second-tier MMO that financially justifies continued development at that lower level.

        (I doubt it will ever make back that original investment. But that only matters if you have a time machine. The inability to recover those sunk costs are why you have writeoffs– you don’t want to throw good money after bad, but there’s also no reason to shut down something making an annual profit because it can’t cover its development costs. That money’s gone, regardless.)

        While the fundamentals like the engine and graphics are what they are, they’ve added multiple story bits, a bunch of multiplayer content, and PvP space combat. They’ve put in various convenience features in response to early annoyances. And between the big universe-changing expansion they’re about to launch and hiring Karpyshyn, it’s clear that they’re doubling down on story. Probably on the theory that interest in Star Wars is going to be on the upswing in the next few years what with one thing and another.

        (And of course they’re going to make it easy for new players, or returning players who don’t want to grind through the original story again, to get to the new content quickly if they want to, by starting at level 60.)

        I don’t know that it will get me to come back. But the idea that the company is blindly wasting its resources strikes me as less likely than SWTOR having found its level for the nonce, and that justifying moderate effort (if not the all out development crunch of a AAA blockbuster) and hiring a solid writer to oversee it.

        (As a sidenote, the idea that Karpyshyn represents an optimistic tone feels odd given that the Dark Energy Ending of Mass Effect is attributed to him. I’d call that a lot of things relative to the ending they chose, but not “more optimistic”.)

        • Shamus says:

          ” Probably on the theory that interest in Star Wars is going to be on the upswing in the next few years what with one thing and another.”

          Yes! I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me. WoW is in decline and Force Awakens could be the Next Big Thing. This move is starting to make a lot of sense to me.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          Yeah I actually like SWTOR, And I’m saying that as someone who does the free to play. It’s actually not that hampering at all. Yes you can buy upgrades with real money, but similar to the subscription system in EVE, other players can buy those things, and put them up on the market for credits. I’ve gotten all the same advantages that subscribers have by getting them off the market without ever spending real money.

        • Blackbird71 says:

          Have you read any of the details of the changes in the new expansion, or the response to it on the SWTOR forums? Granted, forums often contain some of the worst attitudes among a game’s player base, but the information released so far has not inspired a great deal of optimism in SWTOR’s future.

          In fact, one of the biggest issues brought up every week has been how close the expansion is to launch (October 20th or thereabouts if I recall correctly), and how few details have actually been released, tested, or discussed.

          • Mike S. says:

            My knowledge of the forums is second-hand through my wife (who reads them more than I sometimes think is healthy :-) ). But my impression is that the default tone regarding everything is relentless negativity with a side-order of “this disproportionately hurts my [class/combat role/playstyle]!”

            Which doesn’t mean Bioware doesn’t mess up. But I’m inclined to wait through the launch and the inevitable teething pains before trying to figure out if it’s a success or failure. Just the fact that they are doing a major story expansion rather than self-contained planets strikes me as a step in an interesting direction, at least. Ditto the decision to streamline the well-intentioned but way-overambitious companion setup.

            (Even if they had managed WoW numbers, I doubt they could have done justice to five unique companions for every class. As it is, their companion quests are forever left as stubs, including a few that are completely bonkers. “Hi! I just came back from executing my father for the treason of hiding my Force powers from the authorities! Let’s get married!”)

    • Grimwear says:

      Ya I’m a huge fan of Guild Wars 1 (still play it on occasion) but Guild Wars 2? Nope. I played on release and aside from the glitch that melee weapons couldn’t hit some static objects (never good when playing war), the removal of the holy trinity along with forcing skills to weapons just made any instances just a terrible ordeal. I literally had the same experience that Shamus detailed in his post entering Ascalon Catacombs to do an explore quest and we all just got wiped incredibly hard. Not fun at all. Second problem is that Guild Wars 1 can be played solo with heroes (customizable npc companions). During the lead up to release they said you could complete the main campaign for gw2 solo as well. What this means is that you’re there alone fighting things which means that there isn’t a challenge. No fun builds just fighting some random creatures (that infinitely respawn no less so make sure you aren’t stopping for any reason) and was just a horrible experience. The worst part was the “final” story boss who isn’t the dragon they constantly reference (you need a full group to enter an instance and kill him) but rather another repeated floating eye monster. My “final” fight was literally shooting it with a gun for half an hour until it died. Very disappointing.

      • Phill says:

        Around the time that GW2 came out, MMO forums everywhere were filled with people wanting games to do away with the trinity concept. It was going to be the new silver bullet that would usher in a new era of ‘better than WoW’ MMOs. You just don’t see many people asking for that any more. I think GW2 proved that trinity-less design isn’t automatically a winner.

        I believe GW2 is adding dedicated proper healers in the new expansion, which will be necessary to be successful in the new raids.

        Incidentally the new magic bullet is action combat. Apparently this is what is going to rejuvenate the genre. The devotees of the idea apparently being convinced that any action combat system must automatically be better than any tab target system for all possible players.

        • Thomas says:

          That’s an old magic bullet too. Tera even had controller support and it didn’t do magic for it. It was the thing that kept me playing it for the longest, but ultimately MMOs just don’t do what you imagine they should do (except EVE maybe) and they always end up being a weird mish-mash of conflicting design goals.

          Games like MOBA’s and Destiny and Steam Survival Games are taking _1_ thing an MMO does and doing it better. It’s hard to compete with that.

          I mean Destiny is essentially end-game MMO content with some grinding without the random strangers everywhere all the time, which is basically a dream MMO and also why every MMO has been horribly flawed. They’re greatest attraction just doesn’t do what you want it to do. A lot of MMO’s end up being places to meet people and then play games with them, and once you’ve got your friends/guild other people are just superfluous.

          • Phill says:

            Not my dream MMO. Probably the dream for all the people who just want to get to end-game as quickly as possible on the assumption that that’s the whole point of the experience. Yeah, for them WoW basically amounts to sitting around in Ironforge / Orgrimmar waiting for instance matchmaking to stick them into an instance, and Destiny (and other MMOs like Skyforge) do that pretty well. It’s almost a PvE MOBA rather than a PvP one.

            Which reminds me of all the powerlevellers in WoW who got to max level as efficiently as possible, and then complained there wasn’t enough content. “I’ve deliberately skipped most of the game content, and now there isn’t anything to do…”

            For other people though the point of MMOs is the whole thing. For many early MMOs (and the MUDs that came before them, and tabletop RPGs before them) the idea of getting to max level wasn’t even on the table as an obvious goal (or the concept didn’t even exist in the game). The point was to be a character in the world, and explore, do stuff, whatever. I think the increasing focus on ‘end-game’ and shortening of the levelling process, while great for the end-game focussed people (and ultimately leading to a Destiny-style design as the logical end point) is catering the most vocal group, while the people who are happy pootling around in the world having fun are just…quietly having fun and not kicking up a fuss on the forums. They, as a group, are increasingly badly served by more recent MMOs

      • Tapkoh says:

        Oh, it was worse until very recently. When they did their “New Player Experience” patch, they swapped around some story bits and deleted others. You met some NPCs who say “Thanks for doing X” and the like, but you had not seen them before. You were then introduced to them and did actually X in the next story segment (which are now separated by 10-level gaps), if at all. I think they swapped things back to the way it was originally, but never gave a good reason for the initial butchering in the first place.

        The dragon instance now has a solo mode, but I found it difficult in bad ways and not fun. Actually, that kind of sums up my entire gw2 experience, now that I think of it.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      GW2 is the very first MMO, and so far the last (still play it, though not often).

      I never quite got what people like(d) about WoW, and after mentioning some of my concerns with GW2 (infinite respawn, stupid meaningless quests, slightly ridiculous throwaway personal story, deliberately complicated character system…), I was told that it was better than WoW in all of those respects.

      Soo, maybe MMOs are not for me? I’d imagined a persistent shared world where things happen and where something I do will affect others, not a theme park where everybody gets to hit the troll on the nose and gets some loot to show for it, then needs to spend solid hours repetitively clicking to generate throwaway items to level up crafting skills… I did and still do enjoy the setting, the landscapes … just wandering around in some parts can be pretty enjoyable but that breaks down as soon as you team up with others. Go somewhere, kill everything, don’t stop or the group has moved on, get your levels so you can go to another place and kill everything there and seriously don’t ever look at the flavour text! …
      … maybe MMOs are really not for me?

      I keep thinking that if an automated quest logging tool that allows you to limit interaction with the environment to dealing damage is universally seen as an improvement, maybe we should not have that many small meaningless quests in the first place? Nobody reads them, and you couldn’t take them serious anyway. If you do them, they are completely inconsequential. There must be a way to do this better! EVE looks interesting but unfortunately I have an offline life, too…

      • Phill says:

        Every MMO has its unique qualities. One of the ones GW2 has is the event / boss farming trains in some zones, where a zerg of people teleport around the map to slaughter open world bosses in well practised order at great speed. Great if you are looking to farm gold without paying any attention to what you are doing or the world you are in. Utterly horrible if you want to be able to pretend that the dragon you are killing is a meaningful enemy to the area and a significant threat – how can he be when you kill him every 10 minutes within seconds of him spawning.

        Other stuff is personal preference. I was okay with the GW2 character system. My wife hated it – especially the weapon swapping to get different abilities. We both preferred WoW over that (talking about early days WoW – it has changed a lot since then, and I’ve not played the last two expansions at all).

        Everquest Next – should it ever actually get off the ground (it is somewhat delayed by numerous restarts, and a change in ownership that disrupted stuff) – is at least aiming for the sort of thing you are looking for. Their grand goal is to have a world that does change permanently in response to player actions to some degree. Players keep killing orcs in an area? Eventually the orcs move elsewhere. No-one goes to a village to help out there, it slowly gets oveerrun and abandoned. Lots of people go to a different village and do questing there, the village slowly turns into a town. Bandits come or go to where there is stuff to prey on. That sort of idea.

        Whether a) it ever comes out and b) works anything like that in practice (or in anything but a trivially boring manner) is an open question, but it seems like a worthwhile thing to attempt.

        On the subject of not reading the quest text original WoW used to force you to. I liked it. No objective markers on the map, or anything like that. You had to read the words, think about what they meant and do what they said. Sometimes the directions weren’t all that precise, and you had to search around. Anyone remember Mankrik’s wife, in the Barrens? Introducing markers on the minimap to show quest objectives rather undercut that. I ended up running in to a quest hub, grab all the quests without reading them, and then navigate around the map to the objectives killing stuff as I went, without the slightest idea of what I was doing or why. Far more efficient for quick levelling and a ‘smoother’ playing experience. And far less involving. I remember some quest lines quite fondly from WoW, but mostly from when I first started playing

        • Zak McKracken says:

          That Everquest thing does sound good to me. Been thinking that rather than have respawning enemies, there should be frontiers where they keep coming in or somesuch. Nothing breaks immersion like having just finished a hard battle and while you’re still catching breath, the guys just respawn right in front of you. They should have to re-take the place.

          … I guess that a scenario where there’s a source of enemies may have other problems: In times with lots of players, there’ll be base campers who kill all the low-level mooks right where they enter the playable area, so there’d be only a small part of the land with any fighting going on — though there must be some inventive and interesting ways of defusing that situation.

    • Ivan says:

      GW2… I still haven’t given up hope but it still has serious problems (I could go on forever so i’ll just summarize). I was just on 2 weeks ago and there was a new living story event, it was nothing but following the zerg around the map as fast as you can trying just to hit monsters just to get credit for being there.

      GW1 had actually dangerous monsters in different areas. GW2 the monsters have like 2 or 3 abilities that you ignore while you aggressively kill them as fast as possible. The best PvE encounters were during an event that had about 9 solo boss fights and they were intense, well balanced and a lot of fun. Never saw anything like the Queen’s Gauntlet again.

      GW1 had tones more skills and abilities and you would pick one elite skill and base your build (7 other skills) around that. GW2 elite skills are generally something mediocre on a 90s cool down and there’s like 3 class specific skills, and maybe 3 racial skills that are generally ignored cause they’re all worse than your class elite skills.

      GW2 has two damage types, normal and condition. Condition damage builds still get the short end of the stick in tones of ways some that seem to have been addressed during my hiatus but there’s still the fact that you cannot customize your weapon skills at all. So with a condition build you’ll usually have fewer viable weapons to choose from and even then 2 of your 5 skills are usually almost completely irrelevant.

      I want to love the game but they’re doing a lot of things wrong.
      The combat system is a lot of fun though and I do enjoy PvP where even those weapon skills that you don’t like using become relevant.

      Oh yeah, also maybe dungeons and boss fights would be something more than a damage race if you would stop giving bosses immunity to 9 out of every 10 crowd control spells? Defiant is such a poorly executed mechanic…

      • Gabriel says:

        The “trash mobs” in Heart of Thorns are tougher and more interesting – and they’ve introduced a “break bar” mechanic that seems to have wholesale replaced “defiant” in HoT, although I don’t know if they’re porting that back to the core content (doubtful.) It’s much more satisfying and clear about what’s going on, and the end effect is more potent than “random guy’s useless knockback works and resets the bar.” They’re also putting more time into fractals (which typically have more interesting encounters) and have explicitly said that they recognize dungeons are kind of lame and that they won’t be putting more into them- it’s all about fractals and raids now.

        Not that this necessarily solves even a large chunk of the problems you cite, but I find it heartening that they do seem to recognize them and be working on possible solutions.

  2. Liam says:

    What’s Desinty? :P

  3. Bropocalypse says:

    I like D&D 5e, though it could use a few odd alterations here and there: Dexterity is a little too strong compared to Strength(which has become, in my opinion, more of a dump stat than Charisma) and Rangers in particular are underpowered and not very interesting, though an optional ruleset available online corrects that one.
    Other than nitpicks of that nature, I feel it’s a strong system.

  4. Wide And Nerdy says:

    The Friendly Local Gaming Store, having to compete with the digital storefront pricing have become better about hosting gaming events. Those are good places to meet gamers and start games. Shops in the past that were entirely devoting their store space to carrying product are now including a table. At least that’s the shift I’ve seen where I live.

    Also, Shamus. You mentioned a “Dimensional Grabber”. Are you thinking of the “Ethereal Filcher”?

    And lately the DM advice I’ve seen has not been the “assert your authority” kind. I have seen some advice for trying to maintain the sense that you’ve accounted for what they’re doing and that you know your world well enough that you’re not just making stuff up. But mostly I’ve heard “don’t squash your player’s creativity, try to find ways to go with what they want to do unless its just plain gonna wreck your game. And make sure everyone is having fun.”

    It can be glorious when your DM goes along with what you want to do. I came up with this idea to use shrink item to pack a bunch of alchemist fires into a single container, essentially creating a nuke. Looking back on it, there’s a lot of reasons it shouldn’t work (and its very expensive to boot). But the DM came up with a scenario where we needed to repel an invasion of high level outsiders and because this was Eberron, the kingdom we were working with was able to use the setting’s elemental binding technology to create “missiles” to mount my “warheads” on.

    The campaign came to an unceremonious end when my character got hit by a fireball and all the ones I was carrying on me exploded annihilating the party and the dungeon we were in.

    You laugh about the Windows naming for RPGs, but we do have Paranoia XP.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      The way I often hear it expressed is “Find ways to say ‘Yes’ to your players. ‘No’ as a blocker is boring; ‘Yes’ will lead to interesting and creative situations.”

      • TMC_Sherpa says:

        I think the better answer is yes but

        • Mike S. says:

          Tabletop writer Robin D. Laws favors “Yes, and…”

          (Which I think is a borrowing from improv– you never flat out deny a partner’s contribution, but the same is true for them when you throw back a new complication.)

          • TMC_Sherpa says:

            I’m doing to go with the useless “It depends” on that one. If everyone is starting from scratch then absolutely “and” works great. Most of the campaigns I’ve run in the last forever have taken place in the same world, that way when I can’t get everyone back together after session 3 I have some new chunks defined for the next one. I now know how the thieves guild (its what they wanted, who am I to say no) operates, I’ve fleshed out temples of Melora, and there is a new King courtesy of the last campaign (1). I will liberally use “but” to fill in details the players don’t have when we play in that particular universe. Am I being selfish trying to protect the world I created? Absolutely.


            1) That campaign lasted as long as 4E which I’m pretty happy about (2)
            2) They did lose in the end but they all survived, they backed the king and not the prince but that’s a story for another time.

            • Mike S. says:

              Agreed on the “it depends”. I’m old school enough to prefer a more strong-GM model as a player. Partly because I’m lazy, partly because collaborative worldbuilding can sometimes lead to tonal problems.[1] I want the GM to be flexible and open to ideas that expand the game world in interesting directions, and to default to saying “Yes, and” (or “you can try”) where there isn’t a good reason not to. I also have no problem with their saying something is impossible or unavailable where appropriate. But for other groups, anything up to troupe-style play with a rotating GM each adding their own elements to the world (introduced AFAIK by Ars Magica, but now adopted by other games) has worked very well.

              [1] Though I’ve become a fan of collaborative character creation that ensures that, instead of the paladin and assassin meeting in a tavern and deciding to go spelunking, the characters have a web of shared interests, acquaintances, and history that explain why they’re together.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                I want a GM with a strong hand.

                I want a GM with an easy touch.

                I want somebody who will spend some time.

                Not make up BS as a lazy crutch.

              • TMC_Sherpa says:

                YEEESSSS! The old you all answer the kings summons and now you’re a party makes me want to cry. When I start a new game I basically want two things from each player. A short term goal and a long term goal. That doesn’t mean they’ll get what they want but it lets me work on areas they find important. I combine that with the theme I want and everyone lives happily ever after.

                Example: My 4E game started with only one player. Short term goal was join the thieves guild and long term was steal something precious from the king (who had murdered his father for reasons he didn’t understand and come into play later). My theme was lesser of two evils. He got kicked out of the guild almost immediately so there was that I guess.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Let me also say I love the wartiness of DnD. It gives me the sense of a world that reacts to what I do and doesn’t simply conform to our collective wills. Things don’t just happen because its kind of what we agree should happen, the world pushes back. Is it completely realistic? No. But there is a certain realism to a world that has lots of complicated rules and unexpected interactions. It fuels creativity as well.

      I tend not to take a game completely seriously anyway. I prefer the goofiness that can emerge from something like this.

      Pathfinder FTW.

  5. Ilseroth says:

    Actually, I don’t like most MOBAs but I did get into Smite. Smite has actually gotten fairly popular and is the current #3 and apparently is making a lot of money despite having a fairly reasonable free to play model. (30 bucks for all characters past and future, as opposed to LoL/HotS which will cost you hundreds of dollars)

    But you aren’t wrong, almost every MOBA is failing horribly except LoL (because it is the biggest), DOTA (Because it is the oldest/backed by valve), Smite (Because it plays differently and on console as well as PC), and HotS (Because blizzard)

    Also Josh, you said the issue you had with MOBAs was the controls/perspective, I do suggest Smite, it specifically is played in 3rd person behind the character with more actiony gameplay.


    Just so I don’t have several posts; Regarding MMOs dying, the issue is that as opposed to other game styles, MMO gameplay hasn’t been massively iterated upon. I got into MMOs around Everquest 1 and I was getting really excited as new MMOs came out. DAoC came along and the advancements in how combat and multiplayer PvP worked, City of Heroes provided a game where every quest line had a back story that was more then “I need feathers, go kill birds.” (in addition to having a completely psychotic character creator)

    I could go over every MMO, but the important bit is when WoW came out. WoW came out, old MMOs died and every dev team that had even slight interest in making an MMO suddenly changed gears to try to compete with WoW. That specific quest hub structure, that specific hotbar ability rotating combat, that dungeon/raid focused lategame.

    It would be like if when Oblivion came out, every single RPG just were all Oblivion clones. Yeah we got a couple of them, but even the attempts at clones played significantly differently (usually poorly.)

    While we do slight iterations now, after years and years, the issue is that they aren’t different enough, and the base gameplay just feels too boring and derivative for people to actually get into it in a whole.

    Rutskarn mentioned ESO felt like at least a decently made game… but the issue is that if you are interested in MMOs you have played probably dozens of “decent” ones… and considering how long MMOs take to get into, decent is just not good enough.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      I’ve always said that aping another MMO’s gameplay style is a huge business mistake. It’s like trying to convince someone to move to a new city and buy a new house because it’s just like the one they already have, except that they can’t take their furniture with them and their kids have to start over from first grade.

      • Ilseroth says:

        Well the issue at the core of it is, unless the other MMO is not online anymore; if you are missing literally *anything* that the other game has and is enjoyed by it’s players, they’ll just go back.

        I can’t count the number of times a friend of mine who was a WoW fan was like “Hey I am so excited to try out *insert MMO here*, it’ll be great to finally play something other then WoW!”

        A week after the launch of that other game: “Oh well, it was missing *some small feature here*, so I decided to go back to WoW. Besides most of my friends play WoW anyways.”

        • Chauzuvoy says:

          I think the real problem is that network effect you referenced. Even if a game you like does everything you want it to, you’ve got to either shift to a totally new community or convince your WoW-playing friends to switch. Especially when the subscription model was king, nobody really played more than one because they were such a huge time investment that you’d be doubling your monthly payment but get less out of each game than you would be by picking one. And all your friends already played WoW.

          • Ilseroth says:

            Yes and no, I have seen whole guilds switch MMOs, and they almost always swap back even if they bring their whole community with them, just because something was missing.

            I think both are integral reason why WoW was the mainstay for so long.

            • Trix2000 says:

              This pretty much. My old WoW guild had a time when a whole bunch of people moved to SWTOR (myself excluded, as I was not interested in another MMO at the time). The stated/implied intent was it was going to be a permanent move.

              Most if not all of them were back in a couple months. They clearly had fun with it for a while, and even did some endgame… but clearly there just wasn’t enough beyond the novelty (STAR WARS!) to provide real staying power.

              Now, for myself I’ve tried and gotten into a fair few MMOs in my day (even some fairly obscure ones), but very few have had the ability to hold my attention for more than a couple months. The ones that did:

              – TERA, for amazing combat and a surprisingly interesting world (and for not being too grindy for my tastes). I’m still subscribed even though it’s FTP and I don’t spend a ton of time with it anymore, but I’ve invested enough that I can’t let go just yet (nor do I want to). It’s still fun to mess with.

              – Wildstar, for feeling like an actual sort-of upgrade to WoW-style MMOs. There’s a lot still to be desired, and I ended up falling off it too… but unlike most MMOs I try, I came BACK for a little while because it was pretty engaging on the whole. With it going FTP literally today, I’m actually thinking of dabbling in it a little again.

              – Archeage, for being the first MMO I’ve played where I don’t feel like I have to level or kill stuff to have fun. For having an economy that I actually felt like thinking about. And for having pretty neat ship combat. :) Still spending a decent amount of time on it even after a year (and recent server merge).

              The ones that don’t make the list are too numerous (and random) to mention, but a lot of the time the only draw I had was novelty in characters/concepts… which lasted only as long as I could stomach grinding a bunch of levels again.

    • krellen says:

      I don’t think WoW actually killed any other MMOs (other than the ones that were set up to kill it): before WoW, 100k subscribers was a hugely successful MMO. The world’s second-largest MMO, Runescape, peaked around 2 million players, and it’s Free-to-Play (and runs in a browser, and has a very family-friendly moderation policy). MMOs were never the market people thought they were; WoW was an enormous statistical anomoly, not an untapped market.

  6. Thomas says:

    There’s lots of 2nd tier MMOs which still get released. They tend to be super grindy and popular in the Asia as a cliche.

  7. Thomas says:

    Talking about Destiny and shooters as MOBA, – is Titanfall dead? It really seems like it didn’t shake the world like it was meant to

    • 4th Dimension says:

      It did, the problem form what I can unserstand is that there wasn’t much to it beyond that shake. It had that nice asymmetric game mode with titans and nothing else. So once you master the basic game systems there wasn’t much more content to play for.

      • Squirly says:

        That’s the impression I get as well – it’s a polished game and a lot of fun to play, but there isn’t much there once you start scratching the surface, or dig too deep. At some point it becomes too basic and “easy” for top players and there is nothing there for them to master and improve. The hardcore players don’t stay long and your pool of players starts dwindling, only picking up occasionally when the game is on sale.

        Same thing goes for Evolve, I think, though I haven’t played it myself.

  8. MechaCrash says:

    The derogatory term you’re looking for for people who don’t do all PVP all the time is “carebear.”

    • 4th Dimension says:

      It’s not “Filthy casuals”? I have been taught wrong.

      • Mike S. says:

        They’re different slurs, though it’s an overlapping Venn diagram. You can be a filthy casual who only wants to play PvP, but doesn’t bother to pay the remotest attention to gear, build, or rotation. Likewise, you can be a very dedicated roleplaying or crafting or PvE minmaxing carebear who has zero interest in interpersonal conflict.

        (In SWTOR, my wife is a dedicated carebear, but by no means a filthy casual. I was decidedly both– when we’d team she’d make or buy me gear so that I wouldn’t be completely useless. :-) )

    • Trix2000 says:

      I always found the term a little silly. I mean, it’s supposed to be an insult that I care about other people?

      Hardly take it as an insult anyways, it’s just that weak of a term to me. Though to be fair, I do PvP on occasion.

  9. Grudgeal says:

    I always thought Drew Karpyshyn’s last name was emphasis on the second syllable. So, Kar-PY-shyn.

  10. Abnaxis says:

    There’s a Guild Wars 2 expansion coming out next month! You guys should totally come back and play it again! I’m totally not plugging it because I’m, like, the only active player in the d20 guild you guys made(I never represent though [I totally nested exclamations{Inception!}!]!)!

    Also, I like a lot of the new changes they made. Also-also, a lot of the things you guys complained about got fixed, e.g. (supposedly) they’re doing stuff about the “everybody does damage” problem.

    Also-also-also, I think I’ve sent 3 mailbag questions about it. Specifically, I asked (paraphrasing) “Does it matter if a game like GW2 fixes problems post release?” and since–specifically–all the things you guys keep complaining about in GW2 got addressed or are being addressed to some degree, well, does it matter?

  11. Bropocalypse says:

    It’s worth noting that even if D&D’s market share is smaller, as a whole they’ve been selling more books than ever. Tabletop gaming as a whole is become more popular than it has ever been. The folks at Shut Up & Sit Down have noted that the hobby has undergone a Renaissance, which they attribute not only to new and fresh ideas, but also to the internet which allows those fresh ideas to flourish and helps people to connect in new and more convenient ways.

    • Mike S. says:

      Yeah, a friend does a podcast with another writer, and one of their occasional catchphrases is “Too bad the hobby is dying!”, usually after reporting on another record-breaking Kickstarter or the 60,000-odd people attending Gen Con. The variety available in the age of easy self- and online publishing is pretty breathtaking compared with when I was getting started, where a lot of the competing games were “D&D, but in the milieu or with the fixes I prefer!”

      And there’s a lot more conscious attention to what you’re trying to accomplish and why, and making sure that all the players are on roughly the same page. (So you don’t wind up with three people who want to murder kobolds and take their stuff, and one who wants to pursue a career as a tavern singer/spy and has no interest in underground home invasion.)

    • Raygereio says:

      Tabletop gaming as a whole is become more popular than it has ever been.

      I wonder if we have the recent financial crisis – from which we’re still feeling the aftereffects, to thank for that.
      People have got less money to spend on entertainment and other frivolous things. And PnP gaming is very cheap hobby, compared to the other things your average nerd is into.

      • Thomas says:

        Tabletop gaming as in boardgames is in a renaissance though, with stuff like Tabletop being a huge success, and boardgames are pretty expensive. Even Cards Against Humanity, which everyone seems to play and know about now even if they aren’t a nerd, feels expensive to a lot of people.

        I guess videogames are even more expensive. Videogames were affected hugely by the recession, it was basically what killed off the AA studios (after colliding with terrible industry trends).

    • Supahewok says:

      I think the internet is responsible for a lot of things I’ve been noticing lately. Old ideas, expansion of mediums, and artisanal goods all, I feel, have been making a comeback since the recession thanks to the internet.

      I’m just gonna give a few personal examples. I’ve been interested for a while in getting involved in charcuterie (the craft of making preserved meats), and the moment I look online I can find all sorts of resources for it. Nearly all are less than 20 years old (including books), and most are 10 years old or younger. Its just something that people in America just didn’t know how to do until some enterprisers learned how to do it overseas, brought it back, and let information spread over the web. Its possible that the same thing could have happened pre-web, but it would’ve been far slower, traveling by print alone.

      I’ve also got an interest in martial arts. Little factoid: In the Sherlock Holmes story following the one with Moriarty, Holmes attributed his survival to a form of martial art called “baritsu”. This was a (maybe intentional) misspelling of “bartitsu”, which was an actual mixed martial art that had a focus on fighting with walking sticks, taught out of a single club in London with a minor presence in magazines. The club closed up by 1902 and bartitsu for the main fell out of living memory… until 2001 when someone found the original magazine articles and began putting them online. Now some folks have pieced together the original form, released a book, and teach it. Its a small following, sure, with maybe a few hundred practicioners world wide, but without the web it would’ve just been another little piece of forgotten history.

      Another martial arts example, I gained in interest in learning Wing Chun kung fu after reading about it and seeing the movie Ip Man. I was able to google and find a school for it about 25 minutes from my parents’ home. Its another case of a small, niche activity greatly benefiting from internet exposure, particularly as it almost went extinct. All modern practicioners can trace their “descent” from Grandmaster Ip Man, who died as recently as the ’50’s I believe. Its grown out from that one man, to having a few hundred or thousand practicioners worldwide today, all in the space of 70 or so years. And its been expanding rapidly in the past few years, after the movie Ip Man was released, something not possible without the internet.

      And in the realms of video games, in the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of revivals of old genres fallen by the wayside, which gets talked about often enough that I don’t feel the need to go into it.

      I think that this “Renaissance” is simply the Information Age maturing and fulfilling its original potential, now that its had a couple of decades for people to learn to use it and develop tools for hobbyists to add to it and collaborate over it. Its far more widespread than simply tabletop games. There are lots and lots of old ideas being revived all over the place and being given another chance, if you go out and look. And not just old ideas either; plenty of evolution and novelty has been happening too, quite a bit of it informed by the revived old ideas.

      • Mike S. says:

        I agree that the net and its elaborations are a huge enabling technology. (RPGs were an early and wildly successful beneficiary of the emergence of Kickstarter.) But I think the proliferation of niche and artisanal hobbies is a preexisting trend that it strongly amplified. Things like craft brewing and the first wave of new boardgames (Settlers of Catan, Cheapass Games, etc) hit when the net was a much more limited phenomenon. Reconstruction of obsolete crafts and fighting arts from research goes back at least as far as the 60s and the Society for Creative Anachronism.

        My gut feeling is that it’s a reaction to the high-water mark of mass culture around the middle of the last century. For decades, aspirations were aimed at getting away from shoddy, nonstandardized products to the clean, the scientific, the hygenic, the streamlined, the regular. That peaked somewhere around the late 50s, and then things started to slowly shift the other way.

  12. 4th Dimension says:

    Masterfull dodge there Mr Shamus of having to explain why there is no D&D content any more. One might almost think that Mr Rutskarn likes RPGs, but that can’t be true since he like never mentions them ever.

    MMOs: In my humble opinion (although I mostly play F2P stuff so my PoV might be questionable) large MMOs are pretty much dead, and in their place are a whole lot of PvP games with built in matchmaking and progression so you have to grind for better stuff/cosmetics. And these are often F2P with various levels of fairness. Basically WoWs got replaced by LoLs, DotAs and on the medium end of spectrum by World of Tanks and such games.

  13. Canthros says:

    Guild Wars 2 is fantastic for people with altaholism, but the PvE side is rather shallow. (It’s still where I spend all my time, though. Not a big fan of competitive gameplay, personally.)

    I think it’s OK, but dungeons are definitely not fantastic. I don’t know if the stuff in the expansion next month is really going to fix any of that: the existing dungeons are not being touched, but they’re adding some larger, instanced group content (10-man ‘raids’). And, then, there are also fractals, which are sort of mini-dungeons.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Regarding raids, do Tequatl or the Triple Trouble count as raids?

      Supposedly they’re adding at least 1 boss that requires mass coordination like that…

      • Canthros says:

        I haven’t been watching the reveals, really, but I was under the impression that the raids coming in HoT are all 10-person instances, while Teq and RGBWurm are both world/zone boss events. Whether Teq would offer the sort of experience Shamus &c. are missing, I don’t know.

        • Ringwraith says:

          I like the idea of Triple Trouble’s Evolve Jungle Wurm, except the only way have devised thus far to tackle the 120-player minimum (out of 150 maximum per map, just getting this far is tricky) completely successfully requires an hour of setup.
          It’s a shame because I really do like the idea and the actual fights themselves, but I’m not hanging around for an hour being present to listen to verbal instructions to eliminate afk’ers. Plus the rewards aren’t even that good.

          Tequatl on the other hand is lot easier to cobble together a mass of people (and doesn’t need quite as many) and get them to do roughly the right things.
          Not needing to evenly split manpower between three different fights across the map which all need to finish at approximately the same time also helps a lot.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          I’d like to think they would, but the TTS guilds have gotten quite good at managing even a pile of n00bs into reasonably effective squads, and have gotten to the point where the main world/server almost always wins and even the overflow worlds are winning sometimes. Similarly, the regular dungeons have gotten learned well enough that even a moderately skilled guide can lead four players who’ve never been through the thing into a fairly successful run in only 2-3 party-wipes, and if the group is mostly experienced and has good communication, pretty much all dungeons are 10-20 minute experiences and it’s fairly easy to earn like 5 gold an hour going through dungeon paths. THAT’S where the “lack of depth” complaints come in, in contrast to the complaints from when XX-siders dissolved that they places were too punishing and provided too little reward. (Okay, that armor repair is free now doesn’t hurt either. There’s no point in stripping down and dying a lot just to slog through something. Except if that’s your thing. There’s a couple of HoD commanders that like doing WvWvW raiding with naked zergs because they find it hilarious.)

    • Ivan says:

      I like to tell myself that an expansion is a great opportunity to take things that didn’t work the first time and totally revamp them and try again, but I’m pretty sure this is just wishful thinking on my part and I don’t have any reason to believe that A-Net will be so much more competent this time around. I’m hoping to be proven wrong though. GW2 started off with a lot of cool ideas and a really strong skeleton but they never really managed to refine it on a game play level.

  14. Abnaxis says:

    Oh my gosh, my high school buddy was CRAZY into Red Alert. I played with him a few times, but after a while I got tired of losing…

    I still hear “HOT!” whenever I see a movie with someone on fire, but after decade or so I finally stopped saying it in contexts where no one will get it.

  15. KingJosh says:

    “Be a human being, who is in a game with other human beings.” –Rutskarn

    Wait, you found human beings to play with? Where?! There aren’t any at the stores *I* shop at…

  16. Jeff says:

    I remember your original post about GW2’s endgame, Shamus, and I remember agreeing with everything.

    I’ve recently gotten back into GW2 though, and I don’t know if it’s because the general skill level of the player based has increased or something, but the dungeons aren’t really painful.

    Plus the new areas have some pretty engaging mechanics.

    • djw says:

      I lucked out when I played GW2 in having a player in my guild that was extremely good at figuring out the crazy crap in those dungeons and then leading groups through them. We actually managed to clear all of the dungeons we attempted with him leading us.

      I realized how unusual that was when I ran with pug groups. Every single one of the pugs turned into a futile zerg that ended in rage and despair.

      • Ringwraith says:

        I really dislike Guild Wars 2’s dungeons.
        I actually like their fractal dungeons way more, as they’re often far less complicated, and have less enemies between major points, (which almost always got skipped in dungeons anyway), and have some actual variety as they’re a randomised sequence of mini-dungeons. They certainly have their problems as well (most of the difficulty of doing harder ones is enemies take and deal more damage, and this utterly breaks the pacing of some of the fractal sections, and some things can instantly down you if made of glass), but I enjoy them a lot more than dungeons, even though some of the paths of mainline dungeons have been honed down to times like ten minutes.
        They’ve also got some cycling endless event chains that they’ve been honing since Orr so the latest, the Silverwastes, is kinda fun for bursts of holding forts against enemies and then having a map-wide boss fight.

        Dungeons mostly get way too complicated though. They seem to be put in for the sake of it, like the fact the first dungeon has a path which turns into Ghostbusters, complete with stream-crossing avoidance.

        I was drawn in by a friend in a very friendly guild though, and they’re very easy-going with what you want to do, avoiding some of the elitism with the advertised dungeon party list, and in the higher fractals especially because damage scaling is eventually pushed way beyond normal dungeons, having more utility is actually really nice to have. Being the best theoretical DPS is no good if you’re on the ground all the time.

        There are so many things with Guild Wars 2 which I really dislike. I’ve been wanting to write up stuff on what I do and don’t like about it, but I also don’t want to because I feel it’ll come off like a really negative rant for much of it, and I’ve already done that with their abysmal handling of the run-up to their expansion (which finally has a date).
        I still like the easy pick-up-and-drop nature of it though, really helping casual play. I don’t feel obliged to do much with it, although there is some stuff I can keep doing, and there’s entire sections of the game I rarely touch (like World v World), but I can still boot it up and have some fun murdering through some poor enemies for laughs.
        I have so many mixed feelings about it. I wish it was better, there’s so many things which are bafflingly broken or lacking.

        The lack of proper statistical treadmill is still really, really nice though. Also they like giving you out free things like free level-up items just for logging in now.
        Look, I’ll stop now.

        I could talk about League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm instead, maybe? (No, that’s a terrible idea).

    • Disc says:

      I think the only reason they ever really were hard was because the game didn’t actually teach how to make most out of its mechanics along the way and forced people to learn the hard way. Lack of holy trinity for MMO vets plus unexpected, often unique to the dungeon, gameplay challenges didn’t exactly make it newbie friendly experience. Now that all the info is out there and with a (currently) somewhat steady metagame to follow it’s nowhere near as painful as it used to be.

  17. Kerethos says:

    I played enough of SWTOR to finish one class questline. I found that storyline (Sith Inquisitor) to be very amusing – possibly because I gave no shits about the whole “darkside/lightside” stuff and just picked the sensible option all the time, so I ended up neutral in the end.

    Also, the woman who voices the female inquisitor (Xanthe Elbrick) is great. I picked that class and gender entirely based on her performance, and I want to hear her make more game voices.

    But once the class quest was over I quit. Because the gameplay isn’t fun, it’s just “watch the cooldowns” and story can only carry the game for so long.

    Graphically, I don’t mind how SWTOR looks. But it never ran as well as that level of graphics should. They might have fixed it now, but I quit years ago now and the gameplay was still pretty dull.

    • Mike S. says:

      I played without regard to light/dark too (turned off the indicator for conversation, though it’s not as if it’s generally hard to tell). One thing that was endlessly amusing was the way it graded on the curve.

      My Smuggler with a heart of gold who nonetheless expected people who could afford it to pay for his services? Neutral. (Sample dark side decision: deliver the drugs-I-mean-“spice” I’d been hired to carry, to the person I’d been paid to deliver it to. That also lost points with Corso, who seemed to be unclear what his chosen profession of “smuggler” entails.)

      My Imperial Agent, loyal to the Empire (if not to the psychopath space wizards who run it) and entirely willing to kill to protect it if necessary (but not inclined to torture puppies solely for entertainment)? Light +2! (Sample light side decision: arrange to have a whole bunch of slaves poisoned painlessly, when the local Sith Lord wanted them to die in agony.)

      The game actually supported the arc I wanted for the Agent very closely. (Based on and named after Poul Anderson’s Dominic Flandry, if anyone here’s old enough for that to mean anything to them.) Sometimes the dialog was even spot-on.

      By contrast, my advice to anyone thinking of playing Smuggler is to assume a basic loyalty to the Republic rather than trying to play a Han Solo/Rick Blaine “I’m not in this for your revolution” type. Many missions, especially in the later acts, make no sense if you’re not already an enthusiastically self-sacrificing patriot. You’re allowed to be snarky, but not really cynical.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Ohh I remember that forced labour/experimentation camp quest very well. I lost my shit when I realized how will they assign light points. And this is after they tried drilling into you that Empire values efficiency and being pointlessly evil and backstabby will NOT be tolerated. And now we have a clear example of an megalomaniac abusing his high position in order to torture slaves simply to suit his own dark desires. And they award lightpoints for acting as an Imperial agent should.

        On the other hand it might be said that Empire is not completely equal to Dark Side. Poisoning all those slaves so they die a peaceful death is not an action taken out of fear or rage/aggression, but could be said also out of compassion. Back on the previous hand I’m not doing this because of those reasons, at least my char is. I don’t care if they are in agony or not their deaths this way are draining away the resources of the Empire. So it’s a neutral to slightly evil (not compasion empathy) action.

        • Mike S. says:

          Poisoning the slaves painlessly being light side is defensible given the available choices. (Modulo the fact that no one but Force users should actually have light/dark scores, since everyone else is just muddling through without access to a massive morally-polarized energy field.) Stuff being both Dark Side and counterproductive to the Empire’s efficient operation is thoroughly canon. (Gee, Lord Vader, maybe stop murdering experienced officers in fits of pique?) As you say, the game can’t really judge your character’s underlying motives, but Dark Side practically requires prioritizing (negative) emotional goals over anything useful.

          (Strictly speaking, “passion” could be for justice or love or truth or protecting fluffy bunnies. In practice…)

          It’s more the different standards for different sides: merely being less horrible in the Empire makes you a certified saint (able to take advantage of Force-aligned items!), while merely not being utterly altruistic leaves you morally dubious on the Republic side.

      • lurkey says:

        >make no sense if you're not already an enthusiastically self-sacrificing patriot

        Eh, I dunno. Since my Smuggler got that “Privateer for teh Republic” job, she managed to:

        ”  pocket a shipment of prototype weapons on Taris and sell them to highest bidders;
        ”  pull the “I rescued you so now you work for me, got it?” stunt on the fleet of bleeding heart smugglers who previously shipped meds to front lines;
        ”  make a pirate fleet give her profit cuts on Hoth and their leader love her;
        ”  spring a former mafia boss from prison and make him work for her;
        ”  take over her Nemesis profitable and dirty business on Voss;
        ”  and finally, get the pirate fleet plunder both Republic and Empire ships while they were fighting each other.

        I think she’s done rather well for herself. :-)

      • Vect says:

        I played my Imperial Agent as mostly Light-Sided but willing to take Dark-Sided/Neutral options if they seem like they are clearly the most logical/beneficial to the Empire. For example, at the end of the Taris storyline my agent had a crazed Jedi running her own cult defect to the Empire.

        And yeah, I got really annoyed with Corso really quick. Taking any option that isn’t “Goody Two Shoes” or “Chivalrous Gentle(wo)man” just ticks him off.

  18. Cybron says:

    I love taking D&D’s framework and then using it to run stuff it was never meant to cover. One of my fondest D&D-related memories is using 3.5 to run a buddy cop mystery solving campaign that ran like a police procedural. Forensic wizards, rules and regulations for using divination magic, jurisdiction conflicts, the whole 9 yards. At one point their nemesis was a necromancer who’s MO was insurance fraud. It’s something about taking the material everyone is familiar with and subverting it that is very fun to me.

    Rutskarn is spot on about published bad DM advice. The fact that anyone at all takes stuff like John Wick seriously continues to amaze me. In some of the RPG circles I visit “try communicating like adults” has become the go to advice for resolving most the majority of RPG group issues.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Before my friend started GMing he was greatly impressed by Wick’s books. That said I think it was largely because he was both inexperienced and very stressed about the possibility of not being able to cope with what the players would be likely to throw at him. Now that I think about it I should probably ask him what he thinks of that advice now, after he GMed a little.

      Personally I only flipped through Wick’s books so maybe I didn’t give him a chance but from what little I read it seemed to me he postulates a very antagonistic relationship between the players and the GM. Basically a “101 ways to screw the players over” and “20 favourite reasons why players can’t do this cool thing”.

      • Cybron says:

        That’s not far removed. He seems to believe that the role of the DM is to punish players for attempting to resist being punished, by any means necessary. He also seems to believe that character suffering is the key to a good time. It’s a philosophy I vigorously disagree with.

    • Mike S. says:

      Wow. Somehow I’d missed Wick’s work, but having looked at one of his columns I can’t imagine why anyone would game with him twice. I’d thought that sort of adversarial killer-GM style had gone out with the 80s, or possibly with graduating high school.

      (“Oh, look, with absolute control of the universe I can totally screw you over!” Well, yeah, sure. Well played, sir. Let me get you another barrel of fish to shoot.)

      • Cybron says:

        From what I understand, his formative campaign was a darker-and-edgier super heroes game run at a college RPG club in the 90s. That explains a lot, really.

        • Rutskarn says:

          John Wick is my favorite figure in the hobby. Not because I agree with even a quarter of his counsel, not because I’ve found any of his games especially well-designed, but because in a hobby given frequently to stagnation he is never boring

          A typical John Wick game is a pretty firm foundation with equal parts exceptionally good and exceptionally baffling design choices, and if either is more common it’s the latter.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            To me that is the essence of the experience. I think some tabletop designers make a mistake making the rules too smooth or balanced or streamlined. Warty goofy rules make for fun and unexpected outcomes.

          • Cybron says:

            I think they’re fun to read and think about, less so to play. His way of thinking is very odd some times.

            Case in point: the Legend of the Five Rings RPG is perhaps Wick’s best known game. It is a game wherein, assuming one GMs the game as Wick advises, the player is all but assured to meet a terrible end through a combination of conflicting political interests, rigid social rules, and intentionally convoluted ‘gotcha’ etiquette that you incur serious punishments for breaking. Luckily, playing a ronin (a masterless samurai outside society proper) offered something of a way to avoid that, though it had other serious disadvantages (you had none of the protections of a clan).

            So in his next samurai game, Blood & Honor, he ‘patched’ that by forbidding anyone from playing ronin and writing a sidebar about how stupid ronin are and how no one should want to play one.

        • Mike S. says:

          Mine too as it happens, minus a decade. I started playing in my first and most memorable Champions game the year Miller’s Dark Knight came out, when Watchmen and Miracleman were on the stands. There may have been some influence. (IIRC, Matt Wagner’s Grendel actually put in an appearance.)

          My own character was by his nature pretty four-color, but the GM’s world decidedly wasn’t. I think Wick and I may have taken different lessons from the experience, though. (The GM in that game and I weren’t always on the same page, but he wasn’t going out of his way to break my character.)

          But obviously it’s an old article, and the only thing I’ve ever read by Wick. So I don’t know if the perspective there is moderated or exacerbated by his later work.

          • Cybron says:

            Ah, but he was GMing the campaign in question. So he’d be the one going out of his way to break characters. Which I’d guess was exceptionally popular during the dark and gritty era of comics.

            His later work, last I saw, has not moderated in the slightest. He’s published a book called Playing Dirty that is basically all about being an asshole to your players.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      AD&D is the main RPG system I’ve been playing (soo sad I don’t play any more these days!), so I was curious what Rutskarn’s complains would be.
      … and actually they don’t apply to me: We’ve only ever been using the base ruleset, some monsters from the monster compendium, but only the ones that weren’t all weird, and then put all of that in a setting, and running campaigns which were mostly made up by the DM, ignoring the different AD&D settings.

      A few years later I found that we loosely followed the advice in XDM . Which is mostly “if you don’t like a rule, out it goes!”. That worked pretty well, most of the time.
      Though I do wonder if there are other systems which support this style in a better way.

  19. Muspel says:

    I wonder if SWTOR is doing a tie-in of some kind with one of the various upcoming Star Wars movies/spinoffs, and they wanted their top writer on it.

    • John says:

      I doubt that there will be an explicit tie-in, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, say, a few NPCs with the same last names as those of characters in the new movie show up. I mean, KotOR itself has references to Boba Fett and Lando–or, more properly, to men who are undoubtedly intended as their ancestors–if you know where to look.

      • Thomas says:

        Oh! I’m thrilled at the thought of the EU scraping every scene and character in the new films to be repurposed in whatever they’re doing in their thing. There’ll be a whole questline in the Old Republic devoted to explaining how they invented rolling-soccer-ball droid technology.

        And then another questline and flurry of codex entries explaining how they lost the technology again. And then Wookiepedia can track all the times the technology was invented and lost and come up with an economic theory for why the idea keeps appearing and disappearing. Two economic theories.

        It might sound like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not, I love this stuff :p

  20. Joe Informatico says:

    IIRC, in 2nd ed. AD&D, there was some weirdness with the mage experience table. Most of the classes would need roughly double the experience of the previous level to level up, e.g. a fighter needed 4,000 XP to earn level 3, 8,000 XP for level 4, 16,000 for level 5, etc.–up until around level 10, when XP levels equalized. But for mages around 5th or 6th level, there was a spot where they didn’t need double XP. I don’t know if someone at TSR did the math wrong, or if it was intentionally designed that way, but just as mages got their first really good AoE spells, they got a jumpstart in level advancement.

    Also, for fun examples of D&D’s mechanics and economics taken to their logical and disastrous conclusions, I will point you to Dungeonomics. The author was an RPG writer and worked on the Elder Scrolls MMO before she started mixing D&D setting assumptions with medieval economic history.

    • Wooji says:

      The Ad&D 2ed. XP curve is wierd for most classes since it’s based around different classes advancing at different pace.

      Wizard is the slowest class to level 1-6 but go through 7-10 faster then most other class but will still be the last class to hit level 20.

      Wizard needs 3 750 000 xp (i think) for level 20.
      Fighter needs 3 000 000 xp
      Clerics only need 2 500 000 xp.

      And so on.
      When your fighter hits lvl 3 you Wizard will be level 2 and your Cleric will be lvl 4 or 5 if they all have the same amount of xp, which they might not have if you go by the rules as writen since thiefs for example gains additional xp from using thief abilities and rangers get bonus xp from using ranger skills.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        To say nothing about the rules for getting XP for treasure. Thats actually something I kind of feel like would be worth bringing back. This way, the players would be rewarded XP no matter how they accomplished their objective.

        • Wooji says:

          Didn’t Star Wars Saga edition (3,5E) kind of bring this back?
          I seem to remember that XP wasn’t just “You killed CR x monsters so you get y XP” but rather a “You completed x objective so you get y XP”

          • Matt Downie says:

            That’s basically how most post-AD&D games do it, in theory – you get experience for solving problems and surviving peril, not for killing things. Although most of the problems and perils are things trying to kill you, and most players respond by killing them back, so it often amounts to the same thing.

  21. Nyctef says:

    @Rutskarn: You mentioned the one-level / CR thing on twitter but I didn’t understand what you meant at the time – thanks for the explanation! :)

  22. Aaron says:

    so on kotor online…are you sure you were thinking the game and not real life

    “by the time i was in my mid teens i realized the endgame sucked, the economy was boring/broken and the graphics sucked!”

    you tell em shamus you teenage rebel with bad vision you!

  23. squiddlefits says:

    Rutskarn, did you roll a 1 when doing the electronic hardware skill rolls?

  24. Rodyle says:

    Was really hoping for another update on Josh’s Metal Gear vision quest.

  25. krellen says:

    I have a minor bone to pick with Rutskarn:

    Yes, 3.5’s chart does refuse to give numbers for enemies more than 8 CR away from the party, but it does not say “no reward for this” for a CR 8+ (it does say that very thing for a CR 8-). It says “players should not ordinarily be able to overcome a challenge of this magnitude, so we can’t make an easy chart answer for how much experience the encounter is worth. We leave it up to you.”

    If you feel your players legitimately overcame the full danger of the encounter, it’s not really that hard to follow the clear pattern in the chart to devise an appropriate reward (and if they got outside help, that would be considered a mitigating circumstance lowering the overall CR).

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think I can understand the initial reasoning behind not gaining more than one level at a time. Depending on how often a group can (or can’t) get together, it would often take many months to the best part of a year to get a player to level twenty. This is kind of appropriate because by the time you get to level twenty you’re basically a demi-god.
      I imagine the rule may have been put in place to prevent the scenario where after a month real time (and possibly less in game) a player can say “yeah last week I was a stable boy, and this morning I drop-kicked Cthulhu”, which by the sound of it is what is going to happen with Ruts’ group.
      Don’t get me wrong, David was a genius for fighting Goliath at range, but he wasn’t standing over the cooling corpse saying “oh man I suddenly know how to snipe three people halfway across the battlefield with one stone.”

      • Rutskarn says:

        But the problem I have with this is that experience points–no matter how solid and roleplay oriented your group are–exist as an incentive first and foremost and an accurate simulation of being a homeless violent autodidact as a distant second. And it feels extremely cheap to rob players of the incentive to punch above their weight class, use cunning tactics, or minimize their risks.

        Besides, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and–while the characters are abstract and can’t be directly observed–I can say for a fact that these PLAYERS are thinking harder, learning faster, innovating and growing more than any knock-down drag-out group I’ve ever been part of.

        • Mike S. says:

          XP and other forms of radical character advancement are probably the most purely “RPG” element in the field. They don’t represent anything from the genres being simulated. (Fantasy characters might get an occasional cool item or become king, but pace Dragonball they generally don’t go personally from having trouble with giant rats to being able to arm wrestle dragons. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had fundamentally the same abilities in the last episode of Star Trek as they did at their first appearance.) They don’t have parallels in other games. (You might get a binary like queen promotion, but a rook does the same thing in the endgame as at the start; the racing car doesn’t suddenly gain the ability to teleport to Park Place for getting around the board ten times.)

          It was obviously a brilliantly innovative Skinnerian reward mechanism, and rapidly became nearly obligatory. (To the point that I’ve seen game designers prominently note “there’s no real reason for this game to have advancement, and it doesn’t make much different in play, but players really hate it if you don’t include it” in their design notes.) But it’s something that really needs to be treated as a pure gameplay element– what’s fun? what’s interesting? what’s broken?– rather than trying to figure out what it simulates. Because the answer is generally “nothing in this world or any other”.

          That could mean giving a boatload of experience for a clever win (as a reward for punching above their weight). Or it could mean not doing so (because the whole point of the story is for them to succeed as scrappy underdogs rather than become obviously epic figures). But I can’t think of any reason for it to be other than the GM’s call to make.

          • silver Harloe says:

            XP is one of the ways D&D shows its origins as a miniatures war game with role playing tacked on. XP fills the slot where in war games units advance through conditions like green to trained to veteran to elite based on how much combat they’ve seen. HP and the active/dead binary (as opposed to scaling ability with how much damage you’ve suffered) is another symptom of this. Early versions of D&D were also obsessed with morale (on paper – rarely did I meet a GM who bothered with it in practice), which is a very common war gaming rule. Remember the ‘max followers’ substat associated with Charisma? That was the number of mook minis you could put with your main mini. Even saving throws, dice for resolution, and the cold calculus of death are more at home on a map where you moved a line of impersonal tanks from one hex to another.

            D&D slowly, very slowly, waded from the war game side to the RP side of the pool, whereas the games it inspired were freer to take some of its ideas and jump right into RP side – often carrying some war game baggage without realizing why or what it game from. “Baggage” isn’t the right word. There’s nothing wrong with XP or HP, per se, but a casual perusal of the Amber Diceless RPG or FATE Core will show you how distant you can get from these ideas if your main concentration is on role play.

            • Wooji says:

              Levels and Classes are probably the two things i dislike most about D&D.
              Sure it can be great fun at times but to me it always feels a bit wierd, “You killed orc nr. 23 and now you know how to throw fireballs, congratulations!”

              (Which can be great fun at times but not my prefered type of game.)

              But this mostly comes from growing up on BRP based game systems and other point based systems where advancement is done all the time in small chunks and the spellcaster might go from “not knowing fireball” to “knowing the basics but mostly failing if trying to use in combat” on to “competent use of fireball” and finally “GOD DAMN IT STOP USING FIREBALL ON EVERYTING!”

              • Phill says:

                The original rulebooks (1st edition, anyway) were explicitly clear that gaining experience didn’t actually gain you levels as such. They gained you the ability to gain a level, but to actually convert that experience into a new level you had to go back and study with a mentor. My vague memory was that you had to spend a number of weeks equal to the level you were gaining in training, and spend X amount of gold – can’t remember the numbers even slightly. My hazy memory also says that once you reached a certain point, you could self-train by spending twice as long, rather than study under a higher level NPC.

                In practice, most of that was swept under the rug in my experience, and the rule became more of “you can’t level up in a dungeon, you have to go back for at least a nominal amount of time”.

                (Which is also the reason for the “not gaining multiple levels in one go” rule that Rutskarn objected to. What it was actually doing was saying that gaining more experience in the world wouldn’t gain you any more XP points past a certain point- you had to go back for training to convert that new experience into a new level of ability by reflecting on what you had learned, and practicing and training. And that new capability would open your mind to understand new experiences better, allowing you to gain more XP points).

        • Cybron says:

          I absolutely agree. XP is a reward. If your players do something crazy, let them have their reward. Overcoming great odds with brilliant/stupid plans is my favorite part of RPGs.

          That said, XP isn’t the only form of possible reward. I play a lot of Traveller, where character progression is tied to time, not combat, and we still get up to plenty of crazy things. Motivations have included money (looted and nearly collapsed an intergalactic bank), survival (disarmed and confused a fully armed and crewed pirate vessel with an unarmed scouting ship), and political allegiance (captured two enemy starship with a bunch of planes and grenades).

          Give players reason and opportunity to overcome out-of-depth challenges and they will amaze you with their creativity.

          • Matt Downie says:

            I’m trying to GM de-Skinnerified Pathfinder at the moment. So instead of XP we level up whenever it feels right, which is roughly every three sessions. Instead of finding predictable amounts of loot, and spending it in magic item shops, the basic +1 items you need are gained as innate powers. Unique magic items can be found, or possibly crafted, or earned through questing – but can’t be sold to buy a +3 ring of protection. Money can be spent on role-playing purchases, like buying a tavern, or building a castle, without impacting your adventuring abilities.

            So far it’s going pretty well – but it puts a lot of pressure on me to make the setting and encounters interesting and real enough that players are motivated by trying to achieve things in the world, rather than pure self-empowerment.

            Regarding the subject of gaining three levels for pouring a bucket of holy water on a vampire, I don’t really like the idea. Pathfinder starts becoming less fun at high levels, when magic can do anything and the numbers become increasingly unbalanced. And experience points, to me, represent you becoming gradually toughened up by your experiences. Plus it’s asking a lot of inexperienced players to make three levels’ worth of character building decisions in one go.

            • modus0 says:

              Plus it's asking a lot of inexperienced players to make three levels' worth of character building decisions in one go.

              This I think, probably had a bit of influence regarding not being able to gain more than one level at a time.

              The game designers probably wanted player to gain a level, and spend some time getting used to whatever new abilities they may have gotten, before having to worry about another set of new abilities.

              Just consider, a character played organically from 1st level to 10th is often going to look (and probably play) different than a character of the same class/race/ability scores that was built as a 10th level character.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          I don’t think you’re wrong, I just think its down to different styles of play. I love to come up with clever ways to meet encounters, but for me the reward for doing so is the story that comes out of it, the knowledge that I was clever, the idea of getting one over on the DM. The rewards are intrinsic in the victory itself.
          Whereas reaching level 20 is something that takes time and effort, and not a little luck. If I were to max out multiple characters in a year or less, it would become banal.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that for me the “reward” is having fun playing the game, and crafting an interesting story in an organic way with my friends. And seeing our rise in strength happen over a great deal of time just makes the story that much more interesting. When I read Shamus’ D&D campaign I was never worried about who had what stats, I just wanted to see what would happen next.

          Again, I don’t think anyone else’s opinion is wrong, this is just how I play.

    • modus0 says:

      Also, it’s not saying no reward for “not doing it right”, but because there’s (usually) no feasible way the party, without heavy application of DM-fiat, should have been able to do that.

      If a 1st-level party manages to take down a Great-wyrm Red Dragon, either the DM gave them gear far, far, far above what they should have, or he fudged the dice rolls so bad he might as well have been playing without them.

      And that dragon would (if XP were awarded), grant the players about enough XP to hop straight to @10th level, which would not just be problematic for the players to figure out 9 levels worth of advancement on their characters, but also for the DM who now has to throw any 2nd-9th level adventures out, due to the party being over leveled.

      On the flip side, the party also doesn’t gain XP for killing creatures with a CR of 8 lower than their level, with the justification that it was such a trivial encounter, that they didn’t actually learn anything.

  26. Steve C says:

    GW2 combat was *not* limited in potential. The problem was that it was so deep and interesting that nobody understood it or even realized it was there. That issue was completely on GW2 though, not the players.

    GW2 had a combo system that was hidden. For example if you fired arrows through a field of fire then they were fire arrows. If you activated something in a water field then there was a burst of healing. There were tons of these (~90?) and required multiple classes working in concert. Basically instead of a tank/healer/dps system, GW2 had a melody, chorus, beat, crescendo system. Dungeons would an exercise in synergies and timing as opposed to roles.

    It really needed players to fully understand this mechanic in solo play before introducing them to dungeons. This was a huge fatal error on the game’s part because it never did explain any of this at any point. Instead they went the “unicorn puke” method for spell effects. Way way too busy and no hope of figuring out what your teammates were doing at any given time. Plus the GUI didn’t adequately explain what was happening to you or why.

    I did GW2 dungeons with Shamus, Josh, Jared and a few others here. It took me forever to even notice this mechanic and didn’t until the twentysided crew stopped playing. I only noticed it because I did a dungeon with PUGs much later. I noticed I had a full stack of regeneration buffs on me for the entire dungeon. Nobody in the group knew why. After it was over I was curious and went looking on forums/wiki for the reason. 100% the game’s fault though for screwing this up.

    • Phill says:

      Absolutely. I gather that well organised groups that design their builds to maximise the effect of combos can in fact do insane damage. But for most people it is just something that happens randomly from time to time, and doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference. There is just a target glowing white under the load of 1000 glow and particle effects, and a lot of people doing there own thing. As you say, the game fails to draw any real attention to this stuff.

      In fact, the fact that you can effectively collaborate with people without having to communicate with them (no need to get into a party to complete objectives, organise roles etc.) means that players are trained by the game to have to talk to the other players working with them, which is a further disincentive to use combos – if that’s the only time you’d need to communicate with people, then you’ve kind of got into the habit of not communicating which makes it that much harder to break out of.

      So you have a combo system as the only thing that does require careful coordination and communication, which more or less hides itself from the player to a significant degree, in a game that almost discourages communication with random players out in the world.

      That, I think, was GW2’s biggest failing, for all that it got a lot of stuff right.

    • Ivan says:

      It may be a GUI issue or it might be a balance issue. I’ve been aware of these basic interactions from the start but I never felt that they were strong enough that I should go out of my way to trigger them. There’s really only one that I know of that has some use and that is to “leap” through a “smoke” field in order to gain “stealth”. No other effect feels substantial enough to bother with 90% of the time.

      Maybe you do have a good point about the interface though, maybe the idea is that these combos should be triggered multiple times during an encounter so that their effects add up and become significant when you’re triggering 10 or 20 of these interactions, but not knowing what 99% of them do or understanding why it would be helpful is certainly a huge barrier to understanding why they help at all.

      • Steve C says:

        It is definitely significant when triggering 10-20 of them and doing it routinely. (At least it was, I haven’t played GW2 in forever.) The combos have a multiplicative/exponential growth to them and many can stack. There was a GW2 pvp video where 4 players successfully fought against 20 and won. They earned that win by proper positioning and knowing exactly how to use combos. Combos made that much of a difference.

        The combo system was interesting, deep and incredibly powerful. It was just implemented in such a terrible way that it might as well have been an ultra-rare drop.

  27. Mersadeon says:

    This is why I love Shadowrun, despite its flaws: it really facilitates bullshit plans that go wrong halfway through. Blowing up buildings, deliberately calling in the police, kidnap your own Johnson…

    I once had them get a contract to kill themselves by a Johnson they crossed before. They ended up faking their deaths to get the money, then they killed him at the handover with a cartoonish idea – bodybags filled with explosives. They nearly blew themselves up, but they made it. Levelled the corner of a nightclub and killed a few civilians, but, well, Shadowrun.

    • Cybron says:

      That sounds like an amazing session.

      I wish I could get into shadowrun, but something about the mechanics rubs me the wrong way.

      • silver Harloe says:

        Good News!
        You can use any rule set for any setting with some preparation and thought.

        • Mike S. says:

          Though the application of some rulesets to some settings is like duct taping a wrench to a screwdriver handle to make a hammer. You can do it (and back when D&D and about three other games your local game store might not even carry were the only options, people did). But there’s something to be said for using a tool designed for the task.

          These days, of course, you’ve got a choice of a bunch of multitools like GURPS and Hero and FATE, as well as a wide variety of specialized tools for particular genres or playstyles. (It’s no doubt possible to jury-rig D&D into something that could cover a Nobilis or DramaSystem game, but it would probably be actually easier to write a game from scratch.)

          • silver Harloe says:

            Well, yes, just like how Turing proved that all languages with certain parameters had equivalent computing power, yet there are nevertheless many languages you don’t want to write many programs in, there are also many RP mechanics you don’t really want to use.
            But my point was more like “if you hate the mechanics, but love the setting, there’s no reason to give up.”

  28. Timelady says:

    So…like…is there a tier on Rutskarn’s Patreon that is less about money and more ‘Send this person a care package of food and baked goods every month so he doesn’t die from malnutrition?’ Because I’m sorta wondering if that needs to happen…

  29. Zagzag says:

    As someone who’s played and enjoyed Guild Wars 2 since release, I have to say that it’s a weird game in many ways. Even big fans of the game often like to pretend that the original “personal story” doesn’t exist after they’ve seen it all for the first time, though the devs did learn a few lessons that they’ve used since. It’s never felt like the design of difficult content and “endgame” had any particularly clear vision behind it, in sharp contrast to most other features.

    At first the idea was that GW2 had no endgame, you were “meant” to play it because the world was fun and full of things to do, not to do dungeons or raids. However, the game did have dungeons, so people naturally latched onto them and started treating them like they would in WoW. There were some poor, and quickly patched, design decisions that made it more efficient to just repeatedly farm the first boss, leave and start again, since dungeons had no real loot and the only reward was cosmetic skins that you worked towards with a token system.

    The other issue was that the difficulty of a dungeon’s explorabale mode had little to do with the level it was rated at. Ascalonian Catacombs, the lowest level dungeon and so the one that most players would try first, was actually the second most difficult piece of content in the game when it launched. Six other dungeons were easier and more traditional (often a great deal so) with no indication given to the players. My theory here was that this was more of an accident than anything else.

    These two factors turned a lot of people off the game once they’d “exhausted” the levelling zones and were looking for something else. Just like Shamus and co, they concluded that the engame was bullshit and lost interest.

    Players continued to clamour for a proper end game, so the developers added one, a mode called Fractals that had its own mini gear treadmill based around infusing your gear to be immune to one shot attacks that would otherwise wipe the group. More difficult fractals had tougher foes, but also steeper infusion requirements, so you had to play through lower levels to gear up. This treadmill, however, was separated from the rest of the game, since a full set of infusions meant nothing outside of fractals. Fractals was arguably even less rewarding than dungeons, and largely abandoned by the developers for a great deal of time.

    Now we have an exapansion coming that adds more difficult fractals (and something of a rework) and raids, both things that the more traditionally endgame focussed players have been asking for.

  30. SpaceSjut says:

    Butt Creed Black Flag.
    I threw this into the corner after the umphteenth attempt to get a follow-and-eavesdrop-mission where I had no idea which route teh evilz would take with redcoats everywhere and where grtting spotted was to a good part up to RNGsus – at least it felt that way.
    The ships? Great. The sticking-knives-in-people? Great. The sneak-behind-that-guy-but-neither-come-to-close-or-too-far-away-missions? Seriously. Fuck that shit. It grew worse with every part of the series.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Those were probably the most frustrating parts, otherwise I mostly enjoyed Black Flag. That said it was very clearly an attempt to cash in on the ship combat from AC3 and I think AC3 sea battles were more fun, perhaps it was all the busywork that BF surrounded the ships with.

      That said I kinda threw my hands up in disgust at the AC3 narrative and gave up on it so I hardly cared during BF. At this point it’s basically a theme park showing of some period characters and events and especially during BF I felt like it completely threw out any pretence of “grey and grey morality”.

      Actually, how does Unity (I have no personal experience after hearing it barely works, especially because my machine is a bit behind the curve at this point) play out in this respect? I remember people were suuuper excited at rumours of the French Revolution game when they first came around (either it was about AC2 or after AC2 before they turned it into a trilogy) precisely because of a lot the grey morality.

  31. Galad says:

    Re: What Ruts said in the last couple of minutes, basically “With the advent of the internet there should be more people playing roleplaying games, I don’t know what’s stealing them.” – I feel like shooters are stealing them, not MMOs. They are easier to get in and out of, they don’t need or want a story, and if they have one it’s often a nice bonus (Borderlands: whatever). There are some shooters that function well as an addictive MMO without their drawbacks, some notable examples being CS:GO and Payday 2. Whereas, me being an RPG fan, at least in theory, I’d play and love a 100-hour RPG once, and if I try to get back into it, I’d feel much less inclined to go through all the way because I already know how the story plays out.

  32. krellen says:

    Oh, BTW: if you have questions about how running or playing in a tabletop RPG over the internet works in reality, feel free to ask. I’ve been running and playing in Skype- or Teamspeak-enabled games for over a year now.

    First observation: combat is often very awkward and clunky, especially when using systems designed with miniatures on a mat in mind.

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