It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

1:28 And yay did God visit the forums to see if his creation was good. But lo did the forums say ‘No, God’ and ‘God no!’, and they did explain unto God why only a newb would create man in a such a way. And the forums did then show God how to create a man who would have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

1:29 Then God became confused. For though one post on the forums did say ‘Create unto ye a man in this fashion, and your man shall be the greatest upon the earth’ verily did another spring forth which declaimed the first and spoke unto God ‘nay, create man in this way or let him forever crawl upon his belly and suck dust for all the days of his life’.

1:30 And God did consider bringing floodwaters on the forums to destroy all life under the various topics and every creature that has the breath of life in it. But quickly did God realise that there were no living creatures on the forums, only phosphorous manifestations of vitriol and invective.

1:31 So God destroyed man and made him again. And again. And again. Until eventually God thought ‘sod it’ and hit the random button and hoped for the best.

1:32 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, he wasn’t sure about it any of it any more.

2:1 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he went and twiddled with Jupiter for a bit, because it was without form, and void, and he could play around with it without suffering the truculent criticism and dissent of alternating prepossessions.

And so, some six or seven thousand years hence, man is still a complete and utter shambles today, even after the great re-roll around Genesis 6:9.

In other news, I spent a few hours on the DDO forums last night trying to determine a sensible build for a new character, because stat choice can have a large impact on the viability of a character and is largely set in stone once the character is created. After searching around for absolutely ages, I concluded that there definitely wasn’t a Flood Forum button anywhere to be found. So I picked a path which looked about right (and which the forums will tell you is tantamount to deciding to eat the serviettes at a Michelin-starred restaurant rather than anything from the menu), and got on with trying to play the game under the pressure of several fathoms of guilt and inadequacy which had built up over the course of my browsing.

After such an evening of reading the forums, I can’t help but expect that I’ll login with a new character one day only to be confronted by a huge ‘NO! WRONG!’ sign, whereupon I find myself summarily ejected from the game, my account deleted, and the game in the process of uninstalling itself from my hard disk drive.

I really wouldn’t mind an MMO where I could customise a character’s abilities based upon the alien concept of them sounding fun, while still being able to fulfil a role within the game. Or, if ‘learning to play (in a very specific way determined outside of the game by spreadsheets and data mining)’ is still to be a requirement, then perhaps it would be sensible to postpone those decisions which require learning until after I’ve had a chance to play.

10 thoughts on “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

  1. Van Hemlock

    Guild Wars does seem the complete antithesis of the DDO character creation and development minefield.

    I know I know, why don’t I marry it if I love it so much. You know, I think I will! Invites soonest, RSVP!

  2. Telwyn

    DDO is moderately unforgiving in that you can easily create an underpowered character by trying to be a ‘jack of all trades’ or by not researching stats and enhancements in advance.

    The playerbase is another thing of course. In my short time in that game trying to play with a guild and with PUGs (the perennial problem of joining a game late and being miles behind everyone else) I found it to be by far the worst crowd for ‘build-snobbery’, much worse than anything I’ve encountered in WoW, LoTRO or anything since. This was pre-F2P on the EU servers which were pretty low populated by 2009, top heavy with level capped veteran players so I guess that’s not surprising…

  3. Vatec

    Rift – It really doesn’t matter what you pick from 1 to 50, you can respec cheaply pretty much at will, and you can have up to five (soon to be six) different builds available simultaneously, so if the one you picked is wrong for =this= situation, one of the other four (five) probably isn’t. Are there cookie cutter builds? Absolutely. For the most part though, it doesn’t matter.

  4. darkeye

    I was playing Rift for a few days recently, and attempting to quest on Ember Isles on my rogue, which began as an absolutely painful experience. None of the four builds I’d soloed to cap with worked, not even a ranger with boar, it was 50/50 if the pig would last a fight with a single mob, and if he didn’t I’d get squished. I could have gone ranger/bard but wasn’t sure of that, hadn’t any bard skills and no money. Going to the forum there was one build that everyone seemed to be using, or variations of same build (Riftstalker/Assassin/Bladedancer). That’s a pretty extreme example, where only one build is the right decision, so much for choose your own build, it was a little to do with poor gear but there was huge difference for me between the ‘super’ build and others. Still it’s an improvement over DDO, I can’t play that because of the complex character creation, and reading the forums does take away a lot of the fun and time that could be spent playing the game. So ummm, Skyrim!

  5. Vatec

    Yep. The deeper you get into the Rift endgame (raiding, high-rank PvP, soloing Ember Isle, soloing chronicles), the more likely you’ll have to use a cookie cutter build. But at least it’s both cheap and easy to do so -and- you can carry other roles around for other situations and break out the cookie cutter only when you need it.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s certainly better than picking an advanced class at level 10 and being stuck with it, for just one alternative. And yes, I know you can still choose different builds within that advanced class. But rumor has it that it gets fairly expensive to switch around after a while….

  6. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    There are two levels in DDO (and probably in most MMOs).

    1. The normal level. Want to run through low level quests on normal? Maybe solo with a hireling? Perhaps you created a “well-rounded” character like the ones you played in tabletop? Did you accidentally roll a halfling? You’ll do fine.

    2. The hyper extreme level. Want to solo raids as a caster without spending spell points? Want to go through all quests on elite level with 3 of your friends? Want to tank bosses five levels above your character’s level? Want to disable traps in some of the hardest quests in the game? Time to do some planning.

    I think frustration sets in when you want to go from the first level to the second on the same character. It becomes frustrating when the character you played quite happily at levels 1-8 suddenly gets slaughtered at levels 15+. Little quirks in the game, such as ACs that mere mortals can achieve being absolutely pointless after about level 13, etc. make it tough on people. The stop-gap measure is to make it so you can respec easily. The true answer is to make content based on challenging the player rather than just testing against numeric thresholds. This is much easier said than done, though.

  7. Melmoth Post author

    @Gank: It’s not a rip off, it’s sociable linkage, something I must try to do more of myself, but my style of post doesn’t seem to lend itself to doing that very often.

    @Bronte: I think you’re right with Rift, in that they’ve solved the very initial problem of having to make decisions without having knowledge of the game (although maintaining class restrictions seems a bit arbitrary), but from my experience it quickly became clear that there was still really only One True Way to build a character based on whether they were going to be tanking, healing or doing DPS.

    @Van Hemlock: Of course we all know that you can only invite seven other people, and you’ve filled four of those spots with heroes already.

    @Telwyn: The game evidently lends itself nicely to the min-maxer style of play, and thus that’s how the player-base developed. It just seems a shame that the greater the freedom given to players to customise their characters, the more restrictive the range of ‘acceptable’ builds appears to become.

    I think that perhaps EVE and Guild Wars are the games that have given a level of freedom which doesn’t seem to have ended-up actually shackling the player-base further.

    @Vatec: Rift is an interesting case study, because I’m not entirely convinced that it isn’t just the illusion of freedom which the game presents; yes one can respec at will, but into what? Generally it’s into a tank role, a healer role, or a DPS role, and within those roles there’s not all that much flexibility. Or so it seemed to me, but it’s been some time since I last played it.

    @darkeye: Perhaps cookie cutter builds are always going to be with us in MMOs, but I find that to be a sad state, that an ‘absolute and correct build’ exists and that once it has been discovered then players should adhere to it in order to complete content. It makes me wonder as to why they bother to implement the ‘option’ at all, and whether something like Vindictus, with its fixed characters, perhaps provides a more honest solution.

    @Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green: “The stop-gap measure is to make it so you can respec easily. The true answer is to make content based on challenging the player rather than just testing against numeric thresholds. This is much easier said than done, though.”

    In the case of SWTOR, I wonder if $200,000,000 could at least have gone, in part, towards trying.

    I think DDO is an exceptional case, where there does seem to be two levels of difficulty (outside of the individual dungeon difficulty), and I accept that this is probably to do with the fact that when the game was originally released, content was only provided up to level 10, and so perhaps the disparity can be explained in the fact that by the time they got around to adding new content, they already had a small dedicated player-base who all had highly tweaked and optimised level 10 characters, and thus they provided content for these people; which was entirely sensible at the time, but of course does make for an excellent example of a highly strung, over tuned system for a game that has gone free-to-play and opened its doors to the general public.

    The issue seems to come from the ‘pressure of others’ that MMOs naturally provide. In Skyrim I can build a ridiculous themed character (some might call it an RP character), and still complete content and thus enjoy the game, but that’s only because there are no other people relying on my character to perform in an optimal fashion.

    I suppose it comes down to whether there are actually that many players who want to create unique and individual characters and ‘exist’ in these virtual worlds, or whether this genre has always been about picking a role and performing to the best of your ability as a cog in the machine.

  8. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    I think you’re right, Melmoth, and the old level cap influences a lot of the game. More than one person has mentioned the “AC becomes pointless after level X”, where X is some number a bit above 10 (the old limit). Difficulty takes a sudden jump upwards, in general, around there. This shows another potential weakness of free-to-play, as there’s less financial incentive to go back and rebalance the system, and more incentive to sell things like respecs to “help” you fix prior mistakes. This assumes you aren’t ready to reroll the character, though, which becomes a lot easier as you get more experienced and can blow through low level content eaisly.

    The expectations of other people is also a huge issue. I posted up on the forums the first build that I took to max level (15 Monk/5 Rogue) and people soundly tore into it. Since I hadn’t over-optimized the character it was labeled a “flavor build”. I also had a few PUGs make comments, including “where did you get that shit (build) from?” I enjoy the character just fine, though, and have run high level content. I can do epic traps with the character, for example, and tear living creatures (that can be sneak attacked) wonderfully. I have fun with it, even if others look down on it.

Comments are closed.