Monday, October 31, 2016

I Know When I'm Not Welcome : AQ3D

I haven't played much AdventureQuest 3D since it went into Open Beta. Indeed, I haven't played much AQ3D at all so far, just dabbled. Any impressions I have of the game come from the first three levels, although it should be emphasized that this an MMO where Level 13 apparently counts as "end game".

As I've attempted to explain in previous posts, the cheerful, child-friendly cartoon visuals belie the steep leveling curve and unforgiving difficulty setting of this decidely un-casual MMO. It wasn't until I read this post on Artix Entertainment's website today, however, that I realized just exactly what kind of a truly elitist, hardcore game AQ3D is setting out to be.

In getting on for two decades of playing MMOs I can't recall ever seeing any developer talk down to all but their hardcore players in such an un-nuanced way. I thought Yoshi P from Square Enix was a tough customer but he's a pussycat compared to this.

Indeed, the last time I can recall anything even approaching this level of passive-aggressive disdain directed at the customer would be when Abashi (or was it Absor?) repeatedly referred to players who pushed back against the EQ grind as "bottom-feeders".

The linked post has to be read in full to appreciate just how dismissive the underlying ethos appears to be towards the more casual or, perhaps, just less obsessive player but here are a few choice quotes:

They are jumping in and trying to coast on the coat tails of their stronger team members

 They are taking up a valuable seat on the team that could be filled by someone level and gear appropriate

You might think it's not fair to only allow top level players access to the hard to earn gear. You're wrong.

The higher level players have worked hard, gotten to or near the level cap and played through much of the game's content that is still waiting for you lower level players
This, bear in mind, is in the context of players of a game in Open Beta, who are trying to see and enjoy a limited-duration Halloween event. Granted it's only one part of that event, a dungeon wing "balanced for five level +13 plus members to tackle with some difficulty" but even so the solution is harshly exclusive rather than warmly inclusive.

Where most modern MMOs would use scaling, mentoring, smart loot or one of the many non-divisive methods developed over the past two decades to allow friends to play with friends regardless of the level of their characters or time in the game, Artix Entertainment has found a much simpler method of dealing with those pesky coat-tail grabbers. Level-lock them out.

As I think I said before, if you're one of those bitter vets, yearning for the days when it was uphill to the dungeon both ways in the snow, when low-levels knew their place was watching you strut around the bank in your high-level gear, well, there's no need to wait for Brad McQuaid to bring back the good old days - AQ3D is ready for you right now.

None of which suggests AQ3D is going to be a bad game or even a bad MMO. It just isn't going to be the MMO I thought it might be. And probably not one for me.

Maybe it's time to write this one off. Leave it for the hardcore. The players who have "worked hard" at playing a video game. Perhaps I should just get out of their way and go somewhere I might feel more welcome. I might take another look at Villagers and Heroes for that elusive cross-platform MMO fix.

Passive aggressive? Me? Well, who started it?


  1. You're so funny. I almost want to put on my Puny Player Pants and give this a try. I haven't read anything about the game that makes it sound interesting enough to suit up :D

    1. I actually think it has the potential to be a pretty interesting MMO - it's just that I struggle to think of any MMO I've played where the visuals are so at odds with the gameplay.

  2. I haven't played WildStar myself so i might be wrong but I remember the first announcements being very comical and fuzzy (doing quite well in Cataclysm's Raid-or-Die environment p.o. ing the casual player base) yet it later profiled istelf as a hardgrind game (to high commercial success, right?).

    WoW's increasingly cartoony artstyle (in the same vein that Warhammer's increasingly odd proportions etc. are cartoony) hides an increasingly casual unfriendly gameplay.

    Basically, to too many developers, us 'filthy casuals' are basically peasants lured in with funny figures fit to bring in the lucre, but otherwise their focus is on their own coterie's of 'hardcore' premaders (which is rather perplexing if you consider MMORPG's were in part popularized because the logistiscs involved with steady Pen-and-Paper RPG campaigns were too annoying for many).

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's getting flashbacks to Wildstar's marketing from the combination of cutesy graphics and desire to be hardcore!

      That said, I didn't think that dev post in its entirety sounded as bad as Bhagpuss' choice quotes made it seem. There was mention of players being frustrated by the groups they got because they couldn't actually do the content - so they want to make it so that being blatantly not ready for the content won't even get you access. That's restrictive, but hardly something I would consider elitist. Are there a lot of MMOs that will let you walk into any and all group content without any kind of restrictions? Because most of the ones I've played had minimum levels for entry and such.

    2. Wildstar certainly had the cartoon graphics, wacky writing, hardcore gameplay combo but as I recall all of that was telegraphed very clearly almost from the beginning. Here it does seem to come as something of a surprise although I'm guessing that the previous two AdventureQuest games had similar gameplay to this one, so the developers didn't feel the need to explain it up front because their fanbase would know what to expect. Anyone ever play one of their other games? Apparently they were/are very successful.

      As for the elitism, it's a term I've been called on before and I think it means different things to different people. I quite like a bit of elitism when it means holding to a higher standard but when it means a Velvet Rope approach I think are so many better ways to achieve the same ends these days.

  3. That might be a bit of a harsh read on that announcement. The problem seemed to be that they made this hardcore content and then thought "nah, nobody will get their friends to help them twink this!" like they had never even heard of EverQuest.

    Still, the response was a mis-read of the situation and they should have gated the content in the first place. It makes them sound like rookies who never played an MMO before, because anybody who has knows that players will get into anything and everything if you let them.

    1. You should have seen my first draft! I had to tone it down quite a lot just to get to "harsh".

      It is odd because as you say it's an entirely predictable outcome and this is these guys' third online, multiplayer game. It's not even as if there's anything particularly unpalatable about level-locking content. If they'd done it from the get-go no-one would have batted an eyelid.

      It was the tone and phrasing of the post that got my goat rather than the actual content, anyway. I actually think some of the more ameliorative phrases that I didn't quote are almost worse than the ones I did - "Even if they go in with the best of intentions, they die in one hit, miss more often than not, and drag down the overall DPS of the entire team" is excruciatingly patronizing, for example.

      Anyway, don't get me started again! Best to just walk away.


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