January 27, 2013

How to change my cautiousness to optimism for TESO

Some might be wondering what will shift my stance from cautious to hopeful when it concerns The Elder Scrolls Online since it has admittedly been the first fantasy MMO, let alone MMO in general, that has actually garnered a real interest in me and I have actually decided I wanted to beta in a long time. Well that’s a complicated question, but I think it deserves a few bits of analyzing.

First thing on that list, for me at least, will be open world that isn’t locked down. This is a bit of a loaded response, of course, because it’s hard to gauge this one. But to put it basically I want to explore and I want to roam at my leisure, not to have overt or covert barriers in my way preventing me from doing that. Most MMOs have covert barriers, usually through artificial level stigmas or just enemies that are flat out impossible because you don’t meet an imaginary toughness rating. Some games have a very overt barrier as in things are just plain locked out to you until you actually hit that level or do something special. I want to be able to wander about and explore, and that is very important to me. And artificial barriers don’t help my view either. If I see an interesting creek down in a valley, for instance, I don’t want to run towards it only to meet the world wall and be told I can’t go on. That is frustrating in and of itself. While Zenimax and Bethesda are promising a huge world, I am remaining reserved there.

Second thing that is important is my immersion factor. I like to RP, in fact I think I can say that is the one thing that has been killing my enjoyment of MMOs lately, is there is no way to feel a part of the world itself and thus my desire to RP in it is diminished greatly. Part of this stems from the fact of feeling like I am just being led by the nose from point A to point B, giving me no chance to break from the tired and worn path and look around for myself. In short if I am following the same path that someone else just beat down not more than five minutes ago then it’s already ripping out my immersion. But also offering me the chance to become the character I create in the world is also a huge step in that direction. This is something a lot of MMOs these days also don’t offer, because you are still in their very tight and limited story. If I see a cave I want to explore it, being told I can’t just kills it for me. Again, Bethesda and Zenimax are promising a lot in this case, but it is something that has caught my eye. RP for me isn’t always hanging out at the local tavern and conversing because I just can’t stand sitting around doing nothing all the time, but actually integrating events going on as a part of my character to. So this is a big part for me.

Third; the freedom to play my way is very important to me. Regardless of what people will tell you of current generation MMOs that have recently come out, there is very little choice or options on ways to play your character in those games. Once the dust begins to settle and people start figuring out how things work, stats, builds and gear all start floating towards a singular point. There is no denying this fact, even in TSW specs, gear and abilities are already doing this. People denying this are just purposely being blind and obtuse. The concept, right now, of me being able to play a rogue that can tank it up, or cast spells or range or really a lot of things has caught my interest a lot. My character concept before has always been sort of roguish, but because of the lack of utility and playing my way that current MMOs offer, I was often left being more of a warrior character just to fill in that tank role. These are things that matter to me and I want to have the option to be sneaky one moment or just go all out smash the next or just blast people in the face with fireballs or heal others when I want to.

Fourth, crafting has to mean something to. This is something I think all current generation MMOs have missed on greatly. Crafting has been more or less shuffled off to a basic after thought in the current MMO climate and it leaves much to be desired. As I’ve stated elsewhere, my biggest memories of MMO times don’t always come from the dungeons I go through or how many people I beat down in PvP, but just hanging around in a local town and creating things for others that want it. In UO, I use to hang around Brit forge just either making weapons and armor or repairing gear for people. I built up a small reputation based on that even, and when I wasn’t there I would run a shop that sold fairly well. I would love to be able to do stuff like that again, to just sit and relax some days and converse with people while making stuff. In short I hate being idle just to be idle, I like to actually be doing things while socializing.

Fifth, the team based game play actually has to be strong and engaging. I am a team player when I am not socializing or forging. Solo play can be fun but tends to get dull. In a game that emphasizes that socializing and teaming are key points, having the game mostly being soloable just doesn’t cut it for me. It harkens back to those D&D table top days for me of friends gathering around exploring dungeons and what not. This doesn’t mean that it requires the holy trinity, though that does help, but people should be able to fill in those roles they enjoy, and I want to know that the content is challenging and engaging. I think the major problem people have with the trinity is that it just makes them think the content is all tank and spank, which is dull. But if the content itself offers greater challenge for the team as a whole, not just a simple tank and spank mechanic, then it goes a long way in enforcing those roles, not taking away from them.

Finally, the game play has to be balanced. I don’t mean every class has to be the same but there needs to be a way to counter things so one spec or build doesn’t rule them all. This is a trap that many MMOs fall into, which leads up to my above statement that despite all the work and claims of people saying choice matters, in the end certain specs, abilities and gear just end up trumping out in the end. Things need to be balanced so that everything is viable in its way to allow for all play styles those chances. This goes for PvE and PvP. Changing tactics is smart, but changing builds because I am planning to do one thing or another isn’t. I shouldn’t have to require a specific build for PvP or PvE I should be just as viable at both as long as I can use my abilities and skills smartly.

These are some of the things that would need to be looked at for me, it’s not a completely comprehensive list, of course, but it’s a start. I won’t lie and say that the fact I can make a werewolf character, something most games haven’t really offered before, hasn’t caught my eye either. In fact, it was the first question I asked. My interest wasn’t that high when they said no, but now that they’ve been saying yes you can, it has actually intrigued me more. It’s a wait and see in the end, but I am trying to keep my expectations grounded until I learn more information. I haven’t really cared for most MMOs these days because of how static and linear they are and they fall into the basic MMO traps.

Anyways, leave comments if you can. And as a side note, despite me saying I would never start one again, I decided to anyways. I am forming a guild for TESO in the Ebonheart Pact, currently; The Black Wolves on Guild Launch. Ebonheart being my most logical choice because I actually like the Nord and I really hate elves, and I’ve always hated elves since I first saw them in D&D; a clich├ęd race as any. Guilds aimed at being a bit more tight knit this time, not aiming to be a huge guild, focused more on small team and skirmishes. And definitely for the RP. If you want to join you can check out the application, or if you just want to chat on those forums, you are more than welcome to.

January 25, 2013

Reigning in the Hype Train

I am sure many have seen the recent TESO trailer, and as far as trailers go, you have to say it looks amazing. In fact, my mind’s eye sat there and tried to actually price it, and I can only guess that trailer alone cost a few million dollars to create. One can probably surmise the type of game play they are aiming at for the game, but one can also look at and guess what levels of the trailer are just flash and not actual game play. After all, the concept of people running along siege bridges and such that way just seems, boggling on a gaming scale, let alone an MMO scale. Trailers like these often leave me face palming because of the fact they do elements that obviously will not be in the game.

This alone brings up the not so quiet part of my mind about hype. Now, let’s not get anything confused here, this trailer is all about hyping the game up. A lot of flashy elements and such and as others, such as Taugrim, have already dissected, some of the potential game play elements are demonstrated in the trailer, but you also have to consider what to strip out.

Now, hype from a lone stand point is something you do want to build for a game but it has to be tempered. Otherwise you risk the burden of over hyping something, which a lot of games these days suffer from; i.e. someone creating shoes too big for them to fill. While it’s nearly impossible to temper people’s expectations of what will happen, as much as you want to hype your product up you should also set a baseline of what really to expect, otherwise you run the risk of hitting that same problem a lot of other games, MMOs in particular, always run into that they hype themselves up so much and people just are left bewildered by what is actually delivered.

I can understand that there are just some things not ready to be talked about because they are still finalizing designs and trying to figure out, once and for all, if the work they are doing will be possible, but developers should at least be forthcoming about what is currently possible in their game as it stands and let people be pleasantly surprised if something is added above and beyond what they have currently created. Take for instance, one of the more recent MMOs said it had action combat that wasn’t about standing still and trading hits with opponents on the field of battle like the big named competitor on the market. However, once the game was played many people found that said game was indeed just trading blows between enemies with just longer animations creating a flimsy illusion of action style combat. In other words, they hyped that up so much that it turned out flat and they didn’t clarify what they were talking about.

I don’t fault companies for trying to hype up their product, after all, if they don’t get their name out there they won’t get as many sales, but they still need to ground their hype otherwise the proverbial backlash when all your promises you made were just hot air or thinly disguised illusions results in a negative backlash that will cost you in the end. So the end result is very much a required tempering of what is and what isn’t a proper way to hype up your game. Be responsible with your hype and don’t over reach it, be forthcoming about what you know works, and be transparent about how it works. Don’t try to sell your systems as “different” from the competitor because it looks flashier. People will notice, and when people see this they will call you on it.

But this isn’t just on the developers shoulders. This also relies on the players shoulders to. A lot of players have a tendency to over hype their favorite product as well. Many have a tendency to make up stories about what is actually going to happen in the game, so much so that the hype train actually invents new things that are going on instead of actually being about what the game is. Try to keep yourself grounded on what has actually been said, otherwise the backlash to your favorite game will be just as bad as all the other backlash that has been going on.

As far as I am concerned, TESO is the first fantasy based MMO I have actually been interested in in a long time. But I am being cautious, because a lot of what the developers are saying are things I’ve heard before. Especially about the way they describe the crafting system, which for me is a very important part of MMOs that just has never been paid more attention than basic lip service. It’s a wait and see thing, but I know I will be a part of the Ebonheart Pact if I like what I see.

January 13, 2013

Blind devotion is not healthy to your favorite MMO

I don’t think it is a small thing to say that fanboism or fangirlism has become more rampant lately in the social media market. I can understand why it happens and in fact I don’t deny that I've had a lot of my own moments in the past, but it has become even greater in the MMO market. Now, one might argue what defines a fanboy or fangirl? Well, to put it simply a fanboy or fangirl is a person so devoted to a product or idea, that no matter how much you try to prove that problems, and no matter how blatant the issues, people will make excuses and defend it. If you feel a direct ire that moment someone says something negative about something you like you want to correct them, or worse, punch them you might be fanboying/fangirling. And make no mistake, everywhere for almost anything you can find a fanboy or a fangirl for something. The MMO market is rife with them.

Before I get started, I will just put this out. If you are the type of person that gets easily offended because you don't like it when people might have a different opinion from you or might even point out the negative flaws of something you loved, then you might want to stop reading right now. I am not going to make apologies for my point of view. If you disagree, that's fine. If you plan to write an 8 page frothing hate list of why I suck because you didn't like any of my points, then well, go some place else.

Now, for me, again, I admit I had my moments where I would fangirl over things and defend it staunchly. But lately, I've been trying to distance myself from things so I can take a more objective look at the stuff I use to sit there and defend saunchly. The reason this article is coming up is because of a recent debate I found myself in over on the The Secret World forums, as well as a recent controversy that cropped up with the closing of City of Heroes and the outright fervor that those fans have towards their personal gem.

Now, on the controversy that cropped up with The Secret World is actually something I quite agree with; namely that the combat is not very engaging and that many aspects of the game, a game that was supposed to be built on mystery and secrets, tends to do a lot to actually rip you right out of that immersion. There are several elements that do this to me in that game, one being the combat system which as ingenious the idea might be, are not as deep as some people might make it out to be. On top of that the “stealth” missions don’t feel very stealthy, as you tend to casually stroll past the enemies instead of actually trying to be stealthy about it, and even then there are only a few of these missions where not agroing baddies is even required (I say agro because by all accounts they can see you).
I was not the one who brought this point up, of course, someone else started the thread but I put my points in about why I thought the combat system was shallow and a lot of the games mechanics did a lot to damage my immersion factor into the lore and story (which is what I actually like about The Secret World) but once I stated that came in the fanboys and fangirls and the apologists (which one is worse you take your pick) trying to come up with all manner of excuses. My favorite excuse is that I just didn't understand the ability wheels, which regardless of what people believe, is not that complicated once you get into it. The other argument always boiled down to it was just like WoW, SWTOR, or pick any other MMO on the market, and thus the argument was invalid, to which my reply was straight forward no, it wasn't  While elements were similar in respects, the strategic use of abilities, while maybe limited in those mediums was still there and in many instances I would at least be required to put some thought and effort into my attacks instead of just watching a counter go up while using a builder then using a consumer after every 5th hit. The response were hilarious in that respect with how many people just kept trying to repeat the same answer as before that I just countered, by saying I either didn't understand the ability wheel or that it was just like any other MMO.
I used several instances of evidence to back this up in fact, including tanking (which I think most people know I do) and such. Pointing out as a tank the only strategy you really have is spin to win (basically all you do is use an AE builder with an occasional consumer or two), with very little deviation from that. Avoiding attacks is one thing but there isn't even a reason to do that after a point and the few instances before nightmares that interrupts are needed really aren't  and even in nightmares interrupting isn't exactly required except for a few screw you powers that the bosses might use. They are useful but that’s about it. It boils down that I am generally adding in particular abilities and attacks just to break up my tedium, not because I need them, but because it’s not as engrossing as people might have you believe.
Then of course there is a lot of immersion breaking moments about the game. Again, this is a game built on the idea that the world is secretive and such and everything you do is hidden from the public eye, as it were. But you spend a lot of time going from point to point with assault weapons on your back, some of them well past military grade hardware, and no one bats an eye lash. Then of course, the aforementioned stealth missions which aren't really stealth, only a handful of which require you to avoid things. You actually just walk to the point that you stay out of the agro range of critters, nothing else. They might actually be staring right at you, but as long as you are out of that predefined radius that says they attack you, you are fine. Then of course there is the constant combat from one point to the next that just really takes me out of the game and ruins my immersion factor for the story as a whole. In short, it’s not a very engaging system, as many of the fans might have you believe.
And there in lies the problem. While people were pointing out this flaw with the system itself, and well-constructed posts about it, the fanboys and fangirls kept parading the deniability card and just kept trumpeting those same two tag lines I mentioned above. Well, here is a basic fact, you can like something but that doesn't mean you have to blindly accept the faults of the game, especially if they are the faults that are causing more actual harm than good for the game. If something doesn't feel fun people are not going to stick around for it, and trying to tell people they are wrong because you think they are dumb is not something smart to say, especially since your game has evidently, by the companies own admission, not hit the magic numbers they were hoping for.
This of course brings me round about to City of Heroes, and leaving me feeling an unhealthy need to find cover. Now, as far as communities go, City of Heroes players are generally helpful and do a lot of things for the community, as a whole, but they do have their dark side and to a point they can be the most rabid fanboys and fangirls on the planet. At any moment you might mention a game that could potentially rival or even beat the game, these fans would do anything to talk smack and belittle the product no matter the differences or at worse, how much of an improvement it might actually be. In fact, if you point out the negatives about the game, City of Heroes players would be the first to jump on the bandwagon of apologizing or outright denying the evidence at hand. I would know I use to actually be a part of that particular bandwagon, sadly.
But the most telling sign, to me at least, is how surprisingly many people actually believe that City of Heroes was wildly popular. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, these people believed that hundreds of thousands of people were flocking to their game on a regular basis, especially towards the end. Not all of them thought this, but many of the more vocal groups did. Some even tried to claim that City of Heroes had revolutionary game designs that no one has ever done before or since, to which I really get confused at because the only thing that CoH brought to the table that was actually new was User Generated Content to MMOs (known as Mission Architect in game) and was such a colossal disaster that even the games producer threw a massive hissy fit when people began misusing it. It was bewildering on so many levels that I am left reeling at times just trying to understand this frothing fanaticism that was being demonstrated on a level that I don’t even think God has witnessed. Hell this level of fanaticism even sparked ChaosD1 of MMOGrinder.net to repeatedly say in several of his reviews for CoH fans to "stay well the fuck away from any site his review appears on" because of how frothing they could be.
Now, I am not here to condemn or condone the shut down, and I do agree, partly, it was poorly handled. But the lengths people go to try and claim that their product was somehow pulling out magic numbers demonstrates either how much blind faith they actually had, or more likely the reality they don’t understand the difference between revenue and profit. They even believed that there was some grand conspiracy to shut down the product because it was still profitable, but every time I do the math, it just doesn't add up (and looking at other people's math that have actually sat down and done the math to).
Others have actually dissected this before, but let me put it this way; running an MMO is not cheap. Now while CoH was pulling something like $10 to $12 million a year according to the last report, it was also evident that the game was steeply declining and in fact Freedom did little to avoid this decline. It also points to evidence that with those numbers CoH had less than 55,000 subscriptions, probably even fewer thanks to the cash shop, and that is the money used to keep the game running. Of course if you just take those numbers as they are, you think, then the game must be doing great. Well here’s the catch-22, revenue, again, does not equal profit, and all those developers (Paragon Studios reportedly held 80 at least) the cost of running the servers with technicians, the cost of internet, the cost of basic building utilities, employee training, employee benefits and all other overhead, my figure which others have even done in greater detail, have shown either two outcomes; City of Heroes was either just barely treading water (ie breaking even) or worst case scenario, was operating in the red.
Again, I don’t condone or condemn the actions and several of the points raised are valid by players, but some of the reactions are just baffling. One of the arguments presented about this was how the developers would be out of work and such, but those same people turned around and said just cancel the other project. So in the resolution of that the solution to keeping the CoH devs from being fired was probably firing the other developers on their other project? That would have been around 40 or more developers out of work by that, possibly even as high as 60, because that entire company would not be devoted to working on City of Heroes as admitted to by several of Paragon staff.
Other points that come up are things like how games like AION or such aren't doing well in America. Well, they are doing fine in Asia. Here’s the problem with that line of logic. CoH bombed hard in Asia, and at the end there wasn't doing well in America either. Yea, it’s easy to see conspiracies whenever you narrow your vision and just focus on one or two things about something that goes on, but you have to actually look at the whole picture on the grand scale.
Yea, I know for a lot of people that CoH was their love, the game they enjoyed and in that instance, their first MMO. Like Scotty said in the episode Relics, “You never love a woman like that again.” And the same can be said for your first MMO. Through all its faults and imperfections, you will love it because it was your first. It is what introduced you to the genre. I do miss CoH and what it was, but what it became is not the game I originally loved.
Now, my intent is not to make people mad with my points of view or even to try and dissuade them from loving their favorite product, but loving something doesn't mean blind devotion to it. You have to understand and admit that even if you love something doesn't mean it was perfect. The numbers speak for themselves in that regard, because a perfect system that everyone loves would have people jumping over each other to be a part of it. You have to admit to the flaws of the product and understand them and at least constructively point out why they are flawed. Yes Men do not help get the weak points of your beloved title fixed, and if you really want that level of exposure, you need to be sure that you help get those weak points fixed or improved, otherwise they could be game shatteringly detrimental to the longevity of your loved product. Change is a necessary thing in the life of an MMO, and sometimes things need to be changed, re-balanced and improved just to make sure the game survives, especially if they are part of the key features.

January 11, 2013

Resource Managing in MMOs

So in a weird twist I want to discuss resource builders, as they currently stand in MMOs. Personally, I find resource builders to be outmoded. Why? Because it tends to interrupt the normal flow of the game as it stands as all you end up doing is pushing one button repeatedly until you build up enough of an X until you can actually use Y. This is made even more frustratingly complicated when it is combined with a cool down. In short, they are disguised mana bars, and it doesn’t change how they function. This is one of the things I really do not like about TSW’s combat, for instance. I sit and spam one button 5 times to build up resources so I can get the best possible effect out of my consumers. It doesn’t evoke strategy as mind numbing approach to whack-a-mole.

Needless to say, the function of the mana bar has changed over the course of the life span of MMOs. Originally, the mana bar was just reserved for the mage types and thus they had increase resource management while physical weapon people were left maybe with cool downs. So this ends up giving mages double duty.

As time went on the mana bar was spread to other classes. In games like Dark Age of Camelot everyone had an energy bar, which was just a different name for mana, and basically everyone had to play resource management next to cool downs. It was a basic solution to an otherwise nagging problem of one class being heavily restricted while the others were not. WoW of course tried to change up that formula by giving each of the resource bars its own name, such as rage, or focus, or mana or what have you. But even that wasn’t enough as later on they would add a second resource bar to every class increasing the need to micro manage, and this is still on top of the fact that powers had cool down numbers.

Now, the latest version of resource building is some bizarre twist on what WoW does, basically where everyone has to build up their attacks to be able to use their best stuff. CO does this with its energy bar and TSW does this in spades with their resource bar for every single weapon set up you could have. The level of micro management is getting tedious, to say the least.

Why I don’t like this is because it is tedious micro-management and adds too much busy work. They can cut the entire middle part of building the resource entirely and just rely on cool downs and base it on an acceptable level of DPS that they would like it to reach in a reasonable avenue. Hell, CO has near practically abandoned the need of resource building as almost every power set over there now has some way to return energy without using an energy builder.

So, this is how I would view the future of resource builders in MMOs. They are gone. Yep, that’s right, resources builders are gone. The only reason I would have some sort of resource is for flavor but not something that dictates the flow of the actual enjoyment of using the abilities. All of the abilities that would need it would have a cool down to give an acceptable level of DPS. If there was a resource it would influence something like giving you better defense or a bit more damage on certain attacks, something to make it less tedious overall than sitting there spamming the exact same key over several times until you can unleash your attack to consume said resource and begin the process all over again. The only, and only place I would put a resource builder is a type of charge up attack that allows you to use an ultimate power, but only reserved for the best of the best abilities, not your entire attack chain.

Basically put, this is yet another step that I think the next generation of MMOs will need to take. The resource builder doesn’t really have a place anymore in this day and age of gaming. It is one of those outmoded systems that needs to go the way of the dodo, as games these days keep pushing more and more to be more action oriented and less turn based in the MMO genre.

January 3, 2013

Defining a Hero and Super Hero and why modern Super Hero MMO doesn't work

It’s a weird but easily seeable dilemma these days that people obviously don’t understand what makes a hero anymore, let alone a super hero. Why do I bring this up? Because I was thinking back on the many “discussions” I’ve had on the subject and almost every time the point was brought up about what makes a heroic person, or a super heroic person, the people involved always answer by the sheer fact of how much ass they can kick or how they can shrug off the best of the best hits. Needless to say, my answer to that is pretty much, no, that’s not what makes a hero or a super hero, that is what makes a Mary Sue.

Let me try to explain this reasoning. Heroes are people that accomplish unreasonable goals that defy the odds at great personal risk to them. So, what would make someone a super hero then? Well a hero would have to be someone who could defy the odds against normal things that can happen; a super hero would be someone that defies the odds against the impossible. So let’s look at it from another stand point; a man in a subway sees a little girl fall on the tracks while there is an oncoming train. Without much thought he dives down, covers the little girl between the rail lines and shields her. His quick thinking and selfless actions make him a hero. And for the record, this really happened. The man lived, despite the odds at great personal risk to his own life to save someone else. This act makes him a hero without question.

Heroic acts can happen every day from every day people and it’s these qualities when someone steps in and protects others at personal risk to themselves that marks them as a hero. So, if that marks a hero what marks a super hero? Some would say super powers but for me that just doesn’t seem quite right. While someone with super powers can indeed do a heroic thing, that doesn’t make them defy the odds if they can’t personally risk themselves in the long run, so for a super hero the odds usually have to be steeper and the end result would cost them something they hold dear to themselves or their own ideals. This would be the mark of a super hero. This is generally what is conveyed in comics when it concerns a super hero, the risk isn't so much to themselves as it is to their lives and the people they care about or their personal ideals.

So this is the crux of the problem with a modern MMOs take on super heroes. The character (aka the hero) and player have no personal risk to themselves in the long run. So, how is this dilemma fixed? Quite simply to be able to have a super hero in a modern MMO the challenges would have to be equally super to overcome, but that is something difficult to do, because so many people have misguided belief on what really makes a super hero. So this enters the world of why the current generation and past generation of super hero games actually aren't doing so well in the eyes of the mass market. The lack of that personal challenge, that despite what some people believe, just isn't there in a game where people can shrug off hailstorms of bullets without so much as flinching.

In short, the challenges are usually just not there for a medium where being a super hero is the staple. Let’s take for instance the difference between Superman and Batman. Superman is a very iconic and popular American super hero. However, if you took him at his own merits without the personality or anything else, all he is, is a walking Mary Sue. He is immortal to practically everything with only a few plot devices even actually able to cause harm and he is nearly capable of doing tons of things, which to the point just make it impossible to realistically causing harm. What separates Superman and elevates him to a more heroic status is the fact that he has personal risk in the people he cares and loves and at times his own moral compass is challenged on what would be the best course of action and what would be the right course of action. And once in a blue moon, Superman is actually put to the test with a foe or baddie that can actually hurt him thus giving him that super heroic quality. After all, it is the risk that he takes that actually interest’s people and how he goes to stay true to who he is, not the fact that he can fly, has heat vision or can lift unbelievably heavy objects. If we were to just take him on his physical abilities alone and forget everything else, Superman would be a dull, boring character and unlikely that he would have lasted as an iconic character for the near century he has been around.

On the flip side there is Batman. Batman has done super heroic things but he is just a man. However, he is on that dangerous precipice where he is becoming an uninteresting character now. Batman has faced odds that typically would defy even super hero logic, and lately it’s boiled down to him “always being prepared” which absolutely makes no sense when you actually think about it because some of the situations he’s found himself in would have no standard for being prepared with. If you were to discuss, at length, you would find people saying he is the most relatable hero to people because he is an everyman. To which I say, bullshit. Bruce Wayne is a rich kid, with tons of money that affords him a lot of what he can do. He’s intelligent, that much is certain, but it seems that as long as he has his utility belt and “time to prepare” as any argument boils down to, he is unstoppable. This has gotten ridiculous lately with Batman because he’s become such an unstoppable force on almost every situation. His personal risk factor has diminished while his immortality status has climbed. He’s sitting on the precipice of crossing the line of hero to Mary Sue, since he seems to be prepared for everything that could potentially cross his path, and in a lot of events, he’s been prepared for the impossible to the point that some people would have to at least be able to scream bullshit in their minds. He’s distanced himself, practically, from every weak link he might actually have, and he’s pretty much become a hollow person now going through the routines if you take Batman as he is now.

So what do these points have to do with this discussion, well back on point let’s discuss a super hero game. The problem with the current and past super hero games is that the hero characters often have the character at first start out challenged, but as the game progresses the challenge does not remain constant and actually declines greatly. Some might argue that their super hero should not get hurt, or they should be invincible to everything but this doesn't make a heroic character. This makes a Mary Sue. As the game progresses, in the super hero genre, the challenges have to match or more often, exceed what the heroes (aka characters) are capable of doing. If they don’t, then they aren't heroes anymore and they've just went from being super heroes to Mary Sues. If the toughest enemy in the game, by the time you reach that point, doesn't even present a threat to the character then there is a fundamental flaw and people recognize this fact, even if subconsciously. While some think that a super hero should be an unstoppable force, again, this is not what makes a super hero.

The players have to be at a personal risk to lose some how to keep the game interesting, and there are many ways to convey this risk other than just making a really tough bad guy. Of course, if you were to listen to some conversations on this subject, people believe heroes must always win to be heroes. The answer to that is no, they don’t. There are many instances where heroes don’t always win or they come out having to compromise their very own beliefs in order to actually save or help people. These are things that are missing from the current super hero games, the personal risk to the character and reasons to drive themselves to grow and become better at what they are doing.

Basically put, if the current super hero MMOs want to actually convey being a super hero, they need to stop being bad guy beat down simulators and start actually presenting challenges that would test the resolve and metal of the players involved. While some players would say such things are dumb and don’t convey a super hero, the plain fact of the matter is they are wrong. In short this type of person thinks challenge is bad, and they think that not being able to win because they refuse to learn is terrible game design, but even that can be conveyed in comics that the heroes do not always win. It’s almost the same vein as people hating roles because people think roles don’t exist anywhere else, when they can physically be proven to exist even in the most meager of jobs and even in comics with super teams.

But, to put it simply, for a super hero game to actually garner interest past a costume creator or characters with fantastical powers syndrome, the game actually has to present something that challenges the player and thus the character to still be considered a hero. It’s easy to set up a system that allows a character to mow down a swath of bad guys, that much has been proven three times in three different MMOs, but it’s an entirely different thing to present situations that challenge the players; mentally, character physically, and objectively.

A character should not be a walking unstoppable force and called a super hero, that’s just dull. But what needs to be created for modern super hero games is other facets to convey. Take Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. If you just tried to do straight up brawling in that game against swaths of gun toting foes, you would be dead quickly. The game encourages and outright demands that you actually tactically think of the situation or even just stealth past the stuff without causing a ruckus. Some of the encounters and situations even require that you just be able to figure out a puzzle within a time limit, things that mentally challenge the player instead of just physically challenging how many bullets they can soak up before their life bar hits zero. These are things that a modern super hero MMO needs to take into account. After all, which would be more risky to do, jump into a group of bad guys with your invincible character, or entering a warehouse and having the information to know that if you trip a single alarm or alert a single bad guy the hostages you came to rescue would be killed instantly. These are facets that need to be introduced into the modern super hero MMO.

In short, it's easy to make a game based solely around a bad guy smack down quota, it's harder to actually put in things that require the player to think like a hero. The former has the ability for cheap and instant gratification for a few hours, maybe a couple of days, the latter has the ability to keep interest for a lot longer and has the bigger payoff for the company in the long run. These are things developers should be thinking about in the long term.