Cooperative Game play in MMORPGs

Massively Multiplayer Role playing Games – Then and Now

 

Players began to interact through online role playing games in 1979, when Roy Trubshaw along with Richard Bartle developed the first text-based multi-user dungeon. These multi-user dungeons originated from the tabletop fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons and allowed multiple users to log on as characters and explorer a series of rooms and objects. Advancements in technology through the 1989’s, online role-playing games evolved from text-based MUDs to graphical and auditory worlds. In 1991, the first graphical MMORPG ‘Neverwinter Nights’ was released, followed by ‘The Shadow of Yserbius’ in 1992. They were followed by Ultima Online that was considered the first modern MMORPG and is credited with popularizing the genre. In 1999 we saw Ever Quest and Acheron’s Call; these three were considered the Big Three of the 90’s. These were the roots for the monstrous MMO titles to follow.

Modern MMORPGs are now at the forefront of graphic technology, providing rich, immersive worlds that can now support up to thousands of players at a time. But what makes MMORPGs offer a unique game experience that facilitates socialization and fosters the formation of close relationships and communities. For me personally, I have always loved playing games that are social over single player experiences game experience that facilitates socialization and fosters the formation of close relationships and communities. For me personally, I have always loved playing games that are multiplayer social experiences over solitary single player experiences. The fact that I can meet new people online when playing in this virtual world coupled with the friends I play with make this experience extremely enjoyable. I have been a part of one of the top 25 ranked guilds in the World of Warcraft where I met some gamers online that became really good friends in real life. However, social interaction is the differentiating factor between MMORPGs and conventional single player games.

 

Customers need to perceive cooperative game play as necessary

 

One of the key goals for a successful Massively Multiplayer Online Game has been the core idea of building community. But that should not discourage you to remove the single player opportunities in game. Internet games, even more than in the real world, are populated by introverts; and introverts desire activities that they can enjoy alone until they are ready to interact with others.

You may find the above statements contradictory; how does one balance a game’s challenges to support cooperative play while still maintaining a viable single-player environment? The answer is a simple one; rather than attempting to make every aspect of game play equally accessible to solo or cooperative play, create instead a variety of activities. Some of which are oriented toward playing alone, while others are oriented toward cooperative game play; together they serve toward a balanced social environment.

Take for instance World of Warcraft’s Questing system. As a player in the vast expanse of Azeroth, Outland and the alternate Universe of Draenor, players experience a wide array of things to do. There are a lot of daily quests offered to the players. Some of the quests are soloable while others require you to band together with multiple players marked as group quests. This is a nice blend of single vs social setting. At times people even group up to do the soloable quests just to increase the efficiency. This time however they have a choice to do so.

Another example would be the raiding system in WoW, which is the epitome of Player vs. Environment setting I have seen in any MMO; this is the best example of cooperative game play in an MMO setting. Now take a look at the garrison system implemented in the current patch of Warlords of Draenor, the player has his own instance where he plays the role of a commander in a garrison that acts as a base of operations for the Alliance or Horde in this new world. Both are extremities, but as a player who loves cooperative game play – there are times where even I need some time off the fast pace of raiding, this is when I turn to single player elements of the game. This is one of the major reasons why people just can’t keep off MMOs.

 

 

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Cooperative Game play in MMORPGs

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Love and death are powerful forces. They bring people together, they tear them apart. I’ve never played an adventure game that handles both concepts with such a deft touch as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Developed by Starbreeze Studios, this is a truly wonderful tale that masterfully immerses you in an emotionally rich, fantastical setting. While the actual challenge on offer is minimal, the story is so strong, the lands traversed so beautiful, the music so enchanting that the lack of difficulty is not an issue.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons tells the story of two boys who have already struggled with the loss of their mother, and are now faced with the reality of a sick and dying father. The village doctor expresses to them that they must travel to a special tree where they can retrieve what is needed to cure him. The journey takes the brothers through bright, beautiful landscapes meeting both friend and foe along the way in a Never Ending Story-esque epic.

Any words spoken in this title are not words at all. It’s gibberish not unlike what you would hear from The Sims, though decidedly less silly. It threw me at first, even prompting me to stop and ensure that I had the correct language chosen in the settings – only to find that there was no language setting at all. Still, you are never left wondering what a character intended to say. Through actions and situations, the message is always clear. It’s as if the developer dispensed with dialogue in much the same way a child removes training wheels from his bicycle.

The true genius of this game is in the way that it uses game mechanics to connect the two brothers to each other, and the player to them. Both brothers are controlled simultaneously, one with the left stick and left trigger, the other with the right stick and right trigger – as the player, you are the common link. It feels a bit clumsy and takes some getting used to, and though it becomes easier with time, I never quite felt like I ever got the hang of it even as the game concluded. Fortunately, nothing about this title is particularly demanding from a platforming perspective.

You serve literally as the physical bond between brothers

Regardless, as clumsy as it can be, this control scheme is ultimately paramount to feeling the bond that the brothers share. The older is stronger while the younger is smaller, giving each a unique approach to puzzle-solving situations. They also react in their own ways to characters met during their quest, more clearly establishing their personalities. Serving literally as the physical bond between the two brings you ever closer to them as you play.

None of the aforementioned puzzle sequences really serve as brain teasers; it’s typically clear as to how to solve them, only a matter of going through the motions. Still, these situations are effective ways to develop the brothers’ relationship, and they rarely overstay their welcomes. Through the sub-three-hour play-through, I only grew slightly weary of a sequence which had the two siblings climb a wall while tied to each other, one serving as an anchor while the other swung to a handhold. It was a great sequence that seemed to stick around for just a tad too long. Beyond that slight hiccup, the game is paced beautifully from start to emotional finish.

Through actions and situations, the message is always clear

 

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an exquisitely told story set in a world overflowing with personality. It’s an immersive, emotional gem that’s not to be missed.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Guild Wars 2: The MMORPG tradition continues

Introduction

Guild Wars 2 draws from the game mechanics that made the original Guild Wars one of the most popular online games and adds a fully persistent world. Like its predecessors, Guild Wars 2 does not have a subscription fee. The original Guild Wars from developer Arena Net challenged the standard notion of monthly subscription fees for massively multiplayer online games. Focus was shifted from monthly fees to expansions and an early model of micro transactions with expanded character slots and cosmetic items for characters. While the game was highly successful with the different pricing model, focus on player-versus-player combat arenas, and captivating narrative and lore, the game still suffered from glaring issues with an overemphasis on instanced world sections and an extremely limited character level maximum set at 20. From the debut trailer and early gameplay previews, Guild Wars 2 set forth as an ambitious sequel that aimed to fix the original’s issues while also making significant changes to the gameplay and greatly expanding on the game’s amount of content.

Creating the ultimate hero of Tyria

The expansive character creator allows players to select from the five races of Tyria including Asura, Charr, human, Norn, and Sylvari, in addition to the eight professions of guardian, warrior, engineer, ranger, thief, elementalist, Mesmer, and necromancer. As well, players select various answers in a biography section that ultimately determines the characteristics of their personal storyline in the game’s narrative. Each of the game’s races begin in their distinct home city that serves as a central hub for the quests in their personal narratives. The original game limited players to humans, while the sequel expands with the battle-hungry and giant Charr, Norse-inspired Norn, highly-intelligent and powerful Asura, and botanical and tree-based Sylvari.

The eight professions available to players are similar to the equivalent of classes in other role-playing games in that each handles combat differently based upon their specialized equipment, skills, and traits. Professions such as warriors and rangers return from the original, while the time advanced in-between games has resulted in new technology within the world of Tyria. The engineer class in particular takes advantage of a wide range of technological devices from blunderbusses and deployable weapon and tool kits. Many of the skills available to players focus on providing engaging encounters with enemies versus the MMORPG norm of dull and lackluster combat. Both the game’s distinct races and professions are balanced with one another, resulting in entertaining gameplay no matter the combination selected during the character creation process.

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If those options weren’t enough for customizing characters, players can activate two crafting disciplines at a time from a total of eight. Crafting disciplines range from leatherworks and armor-smiths to chefs and jewelers. Each of the crafting disciplines can be used by any profession, but some work better with others in regards to the items that can be produced from combining harvested resources and discovered recipes. Just as with leveling one’s character, players earn experience points and gain levels with the various crafting disciplines to unlock additional recipes and such.

A dynamic journey

Two primary sources of the engaging gameplay are the adventure and exploration aspects that continually propel players to spend countless hours roaming the lands of Tyria. A major change in the gameplay mechanics is how instances are handled with world sections outside of cities. The original game limited cooperative play in the actual world sections to groups of players that formed in towns, which resulted in towns functioning as the only true MMORPG environment. In the sequel, players now adventure alongside others in the world sections that result in a far more engrossing and true MMORPG experience. Just as with the cities, players enter into various instances of the world to avoid over-population of characters.

The implementation of true MMORPG sections enabled the introduction of dynamic events into the game’s various environments. Dynamic events are quests located in marked areas of the environment that enable any players whom pass by to participate immediately with the continually-repeating objectives. As a result, the world of Tyria is constantly in motion with NPCs and monsters roaming about the environments and participating in battles and other various activities that players can either choose to complete for additional experience or avoid in favor of traditional quests. The dynamic events are varied in regards to their objectives that may range from fetching items for an NPC to participating in a boss battle with other players.

02

Exploration also plays an important role in providing incentive to players for traveling around the entire world. From discovery of new areas to reaching vista points, there are a lot of experience points awaiting players that simply wish to explore the game’s massive world. Vista points in particular are an entertaining diversion that require players to solve a brief jumping puzzle through the environment to reach a certain spot that in turn rewards experience points. With such an expansive and varied world, exploration of Tyria is both an entertaining and worthwhile diversion to the game’s narrative and other quests.

Graphics

Guild Wars 2 looks absolutely stunning; character models are meticulously well-crafted, the water effects look lively and believable and the scenery is diverse, open and ridden with intriguing secrets and beautiful vistas. Guild Wars 2 does a fantastic job of transporting you to another world, although as a trade-off, a rather high-end machine is required in order to run the game with many of the setting cranked up and even so, you’ll likely experience some frame-rate drops during heated moments.

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The game is also susceptible to the occasional texture pop-in and visual glitch; although thankfully these graphical foibles do not occur frequent enough to pull you out of the game. The soundscape, which consists of intense battle ambiance and a beautiful orchestral score composed by long-time video-game composer Jeremy Soule, best known for his work with The Elder Scrolls series.

Overall

If you have been playing online role-playing games for several years, then Guild Wars 2 will feel like a refreshing trip to a different world. Gone are the tedious bits of grinding, cookie-cutter quests, lackluster world-building and generic high-fantasy concepts that have plagued so many other game’s in this genre. Guild Wars 2 instead eviscerates all opposition by offering up a massive chunk of content that will have you bewitched from the character-creation screen all the way up to level 80. The brilliant systems in place, constant surprises and endlessly joyous exploration, questing and PvP content will leave you breathless, and that is all framed by a beautiful world crying out to be explored.

If you value a ton of top-quality content for a not a lot of money, then Guild Wars 2 is the game to play. It’s approachable, addictive, and immersive and above all refines MMO’s in every conceivable way. While the gameplay and graphical glitches are disappointing, they aren’t big enough to negate the impact of this wholly amazing online role-playing game that will keep you occupied for months on end.

Guild Wars 2: The MMORPG tradition continues

AESTHETICS in Elder Scrolls V: SKYRIM

AESTHETICS

 

Skyrim is all about creating a world that seems believable and something that got across that culture. It is a little more fantasy based but, Skyrim is a game with a realistic feel to it, putting great focus on every aspect of the game environment.  It has an interesting bend to it because you discover the nords on a different level. You learn more about them, their world, their architecture, culture and many more things. Exploring and doing things is the main motive.

Environment 04

Looking closely at the environment – Not exactly detailed

The series is relatively straight outside of prototypical fantasy environment, but Skyrim’s art design has a slight off kilter edge. Looking closely at the scenery reveals  plenty of rough edges, poor textures and a few other things reminding you that this is a world to be taken in as a whole rather than inspected closely. Inspecting other elements of the game closely reveal other flaws, though some may reveal themselves immediately apparent without to work hard to see them.

City 01 - From below  City 01

Solitude City view from below                                 Solitude City view from the castle

 

Skyrim has numerous towns, camps both rebel and imperial and large cities, each with its own distinct remarkable architecture and a feel to it. For instance, the images above are from Solitude City, the base of operations for Imperials. It has a grand feel to it not just because of the mountain top location but also because of its closeness to the sea and its prosperity thanks to the East Trading Company located at its base. It just doesn’t give you a sense of a true nord city, instead it is more influenced by the other culture. The ruggedness lacking here can be found in the city of Windhelm, the base of operations and the home of the self-proclaimed High-king of Skyrim. These images for Windhelm give the player the feeling of being in a stronghold, different from the city of solitude.

Windhelm 02  Windhelm 01

  Windhelm City view from the gates              Windhelm City view from the Mountains

 

Take a look at a few new vistas in the underground world of Skyrim. As a player enters these locations one would expect a dark and horrid world which Skyrim delivers yet, there are moments one has to travel through these fascinating areas that just are aesthetically pleasing. There is synergy yet there is an eerie feeling around this; one look and the interest curve goes up.

Underground 1

Skyrim Underground areas surrounding certain dwarven ruins

 

Let us have a look at a few other cities especially Whiterun. This city is located at the center of the continent of Skyrim and is a great grassland surrounded by mountains. It has a huge castle at its top that houses the Jarl of Whiterun, and it is a strategic location for many of the things to come. It’s one of the first cities the player visits after a long and tiring walk from a near death escape and a completing a few quests at a nearby town. It is the first city the player experiences if the player follows the introductory quest chain. There is something fascinating about this city, considering its location right between snow-covered peaks a perfect location of a large patch of grassland with this city located on a hill at the center. Visible from far away and definitely a place to live in. Bethesda has done a really good job in giving the players a feel of a world so harsh but with elements that resemble real world and our real world desires, like owning a house in such a beautiful location.

whiterun 01

The city of Whiterun

 

Oblivion the predecessor to Skyrim, was more kind of standard European fantasy, and with Skyrim the developers did everything to make it feel like it’s the home of the Nords. It’s more of an epic reality, and the world is filled with dramatic views in every region of the game. The developers and artists have definitely worked hard on making every experience unique, the players are amazed no matter which region they walk through. There is definitely a rise in the interest curve whenever a new player enters a region they haven’t explored before.

The players experience each race differently as compared to the earlier installations of Elder Scrolls. There is a lot of customization in the character looks, new systems involving decals, face structure, scars are definitely a point to be noted.

 

To summarize this section, the world from a player’s perspective feels like a place that is not all cold and snowy but feels like you want to EXPLORE IT!

 

AESTHETICS in Elder Scrolls V: SKYRIM

Witcher II

Pinning down precisely what makes the world of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings so enthralling took me some time. It’s not that the fiction is particularly “mature,” though that’s undoubtedly a term that will be tossed around until the next hyper-gritty fantasy game pops up. Think about it for a second: The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, is a crag-faced, cat-eyed, gravelly-voiced mutant hardass who only stops screwing and fighting when occasion calls for a philosopher, at which point he dutifully duels scholars and monarchs with a tongue as sharp as either of his two swords. He is a character straight out of a 15-year-old boy’s misused English notebook; the wounded warrior poet who, by the way, gets all the consequence-free sex he can handle, since he’s totally shooting blanks, bro. And sure, he’s stoic — but he’s also got a sensitive soul somewhere beneath that scar-laden chest of his, damn it.

 

No, what makes the Witcher’s world so absorbing is an amazingly cohesive and consistent visual vocabulary that is — and I know this is going to sound ridiculous — far more logical than is typical for fantasy games. The impoverished fishermen of the riverside village of Flotsam shuffle around in nothing but ruddy underwear. Dumpy town guards patrol in filthy rags that still bear their national colors. Ornate attire is (for once) consigned solely to the upper class. Buildings look planted and properly dilapidated. This may seem a small thing, but from the first minutes of the game, it’s clear how much effort has gone into researching how a society like the one portrayed would look; this medieval civilization, infused with — but not dominated by — magic and mystery (props to developer CD Projekt), is just awesome.

 

Similarly impressive: the degree to which the story changes based on your actions. Game makers (and publishers, and shareholders, and preview writers) love to crow on about choices and consequences. Hell, if you buy the PR spin, every single BioWare game in the past decade has been a watershed moment for cause and effect in video game storytelling. But frankly, the lofty language usually leads to a letdown — the best we usually get are mundane tics on a morality slider that may or may not unlock a new dialogue tree, or perhaps a new companion somewhere down the road. I’d go so far as to argue that the only stable of games that’s been quietly, consistently offering a serious set of genuinely game-altering forks-in-the-road for nearly a decade now is Acquire’s Way of the Samurai series.

 

Not anymore.

 

While we have the underlying storyline of murder, intrigue, and (more stupidly) amnesia to which The Witcher 2 continually returns, the minutiae is wholly malleable. The allies Geralt makes on his journey and the enemies he combats shift with your mood swings; larger decision points alter the landscape of the world dramatically, but even minor events can cause repercussions much later in the game — and how the whole thing ends is entirely your choice. Reading after-action reports from fellow players is like a game unto itself. Nobody seems to experience quite the same scenarios.

 

Not all is well in the Pontar Valley, however. Combat, for instance, is a serious problem made even worse by a poorly implemented, obscenely difficult and unhelpful opening segment. Plow into battle unprepared, and you might as well expect the worst: Even on moderate difficulty levels, this is not a game in which potential sources of aid can be ignored. Traps, bombs, magic, daggers, pre-battle potions… every tool in Geralt’s arsenal is an absolute necessity.

 

Once I got the basics down, the extremely acrobatic, constantly active feint-and-parry style of Witcher warfare became seriously enjoyable — just don’t expect the prologue section to teach you much of anything valuable. And even when I finally felt like a proper monster-hunting mutant badass, I occasionally came across the rare room or fight so absurd that I had to wonder if CD Projekt understood the limitations of its own combat system. Geralt in a room too cramped to allow for falling back and trap placement? Battles before which you have no time to meditate and drink potions? No thanks.

 

Worse still, the user interface only exacerbates the combat system’s flaws by forcing the player to keep an eye on everything but the melee itself. Geralt’s vigor (read: mana) meter, health meter, buff/debuff indicators, and equipped spells/items are all scattered across the screen, which is a serious drawback when you’re surrounded by screeching harpies.

 

But not even a terrible introductory sequence can take away from what is otherwise a fantastic game. Sure, the story is goofy, and at times the fighting is offensively clunky. The world isn’t as colossal as the first Witcher’s, and the ending is a bit of a tease. But in a time when I rarely bother to finish single-player games, I’m happy (and slightly embarrassed) to say that I’m already several hours into a second play through of Assassins of Kings. And I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

 

Pros:

  • Engrossing world
  • Story has more branches than a sycamore
  • Technically astonishing
  • Great voice acting.

 

Cons:

  • Combat takes getting used to and never becomes fantastic
  • Pacing problems
  • Too many quick-time events.

 

My Rating: 9.2/10

Witcher II

ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM

Initial Walk-through and Interest Curve

 

The game does an excellent job of throwing a new character in the game and guiding them in a subtle way through the initial game-play.

1

  • The game begins with you being carted away with a bunch of prisoners, tied up to a small village with a few escorts. There is a lot of dialogue you can look around but cannot move a typical introduction scene, the dialogues do get you interested and how every NPC reacts when you look to them makes it a little realistic. The scenery is beautiful snow everywhere and a medieval setting.
    • Definitely a slow yet curious start!
    • The interest curve drops a little considering that you cannot skip that scene.
    • If the player listens to the conversation then it’s clear you are in the middle of some war.

2

  • Right after your little wagon ride, you are given the ability to customize your character, race, body type, facial details and finally a name.
    • This definitely gets you interested,
    • If you are new to the game it is even more exciting
    • While for the players who have been playing earlier Elder Scrolls will realize that there is a lot of detail.
    • Rise in the interest curve. Exploration to its core, gives the player a lot of replay ability with different story, race, quest chain etc.

3

  • You are destined to be executed despite you not being a part of the rebellion. You watch a few people get slaughtered, you hear a loud roar in the skies. This is interrupted by you being called to the execution stand. Here you see a dragon fly in and disrupt the entire thing. Nothing makes sense after the first shock-wave shot from the dragon and meteors start raining down.
    • Spike in the interest curve!
    • Players experience confusion and excitement!

4

 

e

  • Right when you get back up on your feet, there appears a basic set of instructions on how to move and where to go. And immediately a quest is added to your log. The game does well in getting you accustomed to the mechanics and different UI elements.
    • Interest curve steady, but the fact that you cannot use your hands is a double edged sword. On one side some players like the buildup, while some impatient ones can’t wait to get their hands on a weapon.

a

  • You follow a NPC through a series of action packed events dodging the dragon until you reach a converging point, here the game gives you a choice to follow the one who was about to be executed yet helped you escape OR follow someone that was with the people who would eventually execute you (But in this case he did not issue the command).
    • A great start to a series of events, though you are still unable to use your hands.
    • Impressive experience, great visuals, audio.
    • Prompting the player to choose a side in such a situation is definitely a pathway to replay ability. (Be the good guy one time and the bad guy one time)

b

  • Once you choose a side you enter a tower and depending on the side you choose, you encounter the opposing faction to fight against and take their armor and weapons. Here you are introduced to combat mechanics.
    • Interest curve fluctuates, though still pretty high.
  • After a series of events you escape the town, and can choose to follow the NPC or find your own way. The game slows down its pace considerably. You get to interact with the different people at the first village. And that leads you into the massive world of Skyrim.
    • Exploration at its best.
    • Excellent changes in the pace of the game.
    • Interest curve changes but has excellent transitions.
      • A slow start > Bombastic experience with the dragon scene > Choice of choosing a side > Fight Sequences > Slowing down as you escape and reach a new destination.

c

THE MAP TO SKYRIM

 

 

ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM