Wherein Old Friends Are Treated Ruthlessly

October 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

For many reasons, I am in the midst of a tidy.

If I’m not careful, my packrat tendencies will take over, and suddenly I’ll have floor-ceiling stacks of Huge Amounts Of Stuff™ occupying every room of the house just in case.  Which leads to then being known as Crazy Hoarder Man, and that won’t end well.

So every so often (more every so than often, unfortunately, but life is like that) there is a tidy.  I get all ruthless, and everything and anything that does not have a purpose marked out for it, or has outlived its purpose, finds itself on the fast-track to rubbish-tip doom.

Some things, however, tend to be exempt.  Games, for one.  Those handy-dandy dvd cases are easy to store, don’t take up much space, and every so often it’s fun to put the disc in and have a blast.

Today, though, I am looking at a pile of MMO boxes.  They’re not the single-player games; I’m looking at World of Warcraft and expansions, Lord of the Rings Online and expansion, Warhammer Online, Aion Online, and a few others.  They’re games I’m not going to play again, and even if I was, the clients are so far beyond the version on the discs that I’m better off… downloading the client from the publisher anyway.

To add to their woes, I’m not even playing these games anymore: not only do I not have the time to play them in any meaningful fashion, but I don’t even want to.  They have outstayed their welcome.  They have gone from being the sort of friends that were erudite, fun and exciting to the sort of house-guests that smell, use up all the toilet paper without replacing it, and use up far too much shelf-space.

Ruthless time; they are more than surplus to requirements.

And here I am, mourning their fate.  They *were* all old friends (well, except you Aion.  Least said soonest mended, and all that), and those boxes are the only physical non-sentient thing that reminds me of the fun I had in those games.

Now they are gone.  I shall wallow in nostalgia for a while.  With a lovely cup of tea.

Cheers,

Hawley.

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Moments

March 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I was out soloing in Stonefields.  It’s a fun place, and I’ve progressed through about half of it.

For a while last night, during the late afternoon/early evening, it was buzzing.  A major Death invasion popped, so there were plenty of rifts as well as invasion forces buzzing about.

Fantastic, thinks I.  A bit of rifting, a lovely chunk of xp to take me towards level 26, and with luck some people to sit and heal.

After a short while, I had one of those moments in gaming that sticks.  And by sticks, I mean something that I can bore my grandchildren with when I’m old(er), senile, and think they’re munchkins come to steal my socks.

To the west of Granite falls, there is a wardstone that is precious close to a rift-pop, and they were close enough that I could stand between them, and heal the group fighting against the rift, and the group fighting to defend the wardstone.  Both groups were luckily a part of the same raid, but it was a small raid with just a couple of groups in it, and as such I was the only healer.

That’s right.  Two small groups, a dump-truck full of monsters, and one Hawley.

And for a full five minutes I was, to use the Elite ranking system, more than my usual Deadly and all the way into Elite.  I kept that raid upright, chucking heals, using cooldowns, and generally having a ball.

I had hit one of those Moments, one where the rest of the world seems to be hanging on *my* actions, and mine alone.  It was through my actions that every member of the raid stayed upright, it was through my actions that our desperate struggle continued, and it was through my actions that we held out long enough for another group to arrive; this swayed things enough in our favour that we won both fights.

What makes me remember a game is Moments such as this.  Those times where suddenly, I feel like the most important person on the server.  A great game will give the opportunity for everyone to have these Moments, because it’s from these moments that great war stories come.

It’s also what makes me want to log on and play again.  Well done, Rift.  Keep it up.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Internet Hotness

February 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A short while ago, I decided to see if I could get Shaman Herewerd through the magic 10,000dps barrier with the gear he had.  He was quite comfortably in the 8,500dps region, and without major gear upgrades, all I could think of was to change the way that I prioritised the use of my skills.

That meant research on the internet.

This is because I would rather go to somewhere like [insert website of choice here] where someone else has spent a good few hours smacking training dummies and working out the numbers, than go and smack training dummies for a few hours myself only to come to the same conclusions.

Numbers are good like that; you have to be specifically trained to make them lie.

So, armed with someone else’s numbers and someone else’s opinion, I was able to take a shortcut, and with a short amount of research, trial and error I was able to gain an extra 2,000dps, thereby hiting the 10,000dps mark (just).

Of course, I didn’t just take the nice faceless man off the internet’s word for it.  As well as research, there was trial and error.  That testing, allowed me to form my own opinion.

Of course, it was perfectly ok for me to do that; I was just searching for information with which to base my own research on, using it to come to my own conclusions.  I was in no way just looking for something to copy.

No, definitely not, no.  Not at all.

Because if I had, if I’d just been looking for the latest Internet Hotness, if I was just taking what the internet said was Teh Bestet and not using my own noggin, then I would be at the wrongest end of the Wrong, Wronger, Wrongest Scale, and would most likely find myself in the same MMO Gaming Hell as those who buy accounts off ebay, buy gold from disreputable internet firms, and play in beta tests *and never submit bug reports*.

I suppose the big question isn’t whether or not using the internet to try and improve our game is cheating, but whether or not we allow others to take away our right to play in the way that we want to.

It’s something I’ve been pondering for a while now, and something that I will no doubt be pondering for some time to come.

Ysharros, she-queen of Stylish Corpse, wrote an entertainingly enlightening piece on World of Warcraft’s Tol Barad.  Whilst reading through her recommendations for aspiring victors, the part that resonated most with me was this particularly wonderfully written passage:

“VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ‘em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy.”

It reminds me very much of; “They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way.”; I’m not sure that Wellington was just being all cool and hip when he tripped that one off in 1815, and things haven’t changed as far as most MMO players are concerned.

So it’s not just grabbing talent specs or gear setups from the internet; we also play in certain ways when given a choice.  The way that “everyone knows”, with the heavy implication that only noobs don’t.

But I suppose the thing that really got me thinking about this was me attempting to go raiding in World of Warcraft.  It was only a few raids, but there was quite a lot of preparation.

There was going on Youtube (other video sharing websites are available.  Possibly.  I don’t know really, I’m just trying to be fair) and watching videos of the various bosses, what they do and how they can be defeated.

There was reading strategies from various internet sites such as WoWWiki (now I *know* other such websites exist.  You can check them out too), and then there was checking the guild’s website to see if anything particular to our guild’s attempts had been posted.

And this was all before turning up at whichever boss was to be our sacrificial altar, and hurling ourselves at it.

Of course, the reason for studying all of those strategy guides was so that we didn’t have to find out what abilities and phases a boss has at the sharp end; it means less time spent wiping on the boss to learn how to defeat that boss.

But it also highlighted how scripted the World of Warcraft bosses are.  If we deviated from the plan, we died.  If someone was slightly off game, we died.  If someone forgot what their role in the operation was, we died.  There wasn’t much give, there wasn’t much slack.  There was no place for thinking outside the box.

There was just the following of the plan.

I’m sure there was a gentler time, a more beautiful time, when raiders would go out raiding and not have to follow such a strict strategy.  That individual raiders could mess up, but the raid team could recover.  When it was an individual’s skill that mattered far more than just their ability to follow a list of instructions.

And no, I’m not talking about when a raid team is so over-geared for the instance that they hardly need to bother.  I’m talking about when the raid instance was still a challenge for those involved.

Now it seems to me that players are more than willing to point out when things are going wrong, and that it’s *all your fault*.  Because *you are doing it wrong*.

*Thicky*.

I like to think of it as one of the joys of PUGging, but it doesn’t just end there.

A few posts ago, I commented about Sage-Mage and his amazing advice.  Well, Sage-Mage isn’t the only know-it-all, flinging out advice like a monkey-poo-flinger, expecting everyone else to be the sort of thicky-thicky-dullards who would not only need his advice, but thank him for it.

PUGging has loads of them, because MMO gaming is full of them.

Even I, at times, have given out advice.  I would like to think that my advice was clear, concise, and cogent, but I’m also pretty sure that all of us monkey-advice-flingers tend to think the same about the advice we’re flinging; clear, concise, cogent.

And, no doubt, they’re pretty sure that their advice is being flung at noobs that *require* said advice, because if they weren’t noobs, they patently wouldn’t *need* said advice.  Good, experienced players already play in a good, experienced way that needs no advice.

They are already Doing It Right™.

I sometimes wonder if the only way to play correctly, to be seen to be Doing It Right™ is to follow the sage advice freely available on the internet.

Well, it’s certainly easier.  It was easier for me to start off with someone else’s hard work, than it was to do all that hard work myself.

There is also the opportunity to devolve oneself of all responsibility, should things go wrong.  It’s not *my* fault, it’s this lousy talent spec/gear set I got from the internet.  I was just *testing* it out.

Yet I suppose the ultimate irony is that all this theory-crafting, all the strategy guides, all the nasty-cheaty websites that tell us which monsters drop certain gear and the easy ways to complete quests are a sign of a healthy, happy community.

Players who are happy about their game want to tell the world, and the internet lets them.  Heck, I’m happy with my hobby; I love MMOs, so that’s why I blog about them (as opposed to blogging about cheese, or doric columns, or any one of a myriad things that I quite like, but just make me happy, as opposed to Happy).

Quite often it’s a healthy community that makes us want to play in the most optimal way.  Sub-optimal is great for characters in a novel.  To be honest, every novel I’ve read which had Captain Awesome as the protagonist has not been a favourite read.  I want sub-optimal in my heroes; I want to see characters strive for success, I don’t want it to be guaranteed from the first page.

Lord of the Rings, source for so many fantasty backrounds in books and films as well as those of the MMOs we play, has a sub-optimal hero.  Short, fat, big hairy feet; at first glance, Frodo is hardly the poster-hobbit for death-ninja missions (or even holidays) to Mount Doom.

Yet when it comes right down to it, I don’t think of playing sub-optimal.  I might have once (such blissfully naïve days), but not any more.  Sub-optimal doesn’t just lead to not being able to see or do everything you might want.  No, it leads to something far worse.

The censure of our peers.

There is no winning and losing within an MMO.  But there is winning when other players are in awe of us and losing when they think we’re nothing more than a noob.  I sometimes think that “Noob” is the greatest insult to an MMO player, and quite a lot more insulting than any of the more pithy Anglo-Saxon-based insults the English language is home to.  At other times, I’m sure it is.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why seeking guidance from the internet is so enticing, and so popular.  Take the most optional build for your class from the internet.  You might well end up a clone of everyone else with the same class, but at least you won’t look like a noob.

Same goes for following the traditional methods of levelling, of instancing, of PvPing, of raiding.  Innovation is something that devs get involved in; as a player, shut up and follow the established rule.  Show yourself to be a dangerous anarchist with your own opinions, and show yourself to be a noob.

Noob!

Cheers,
Hawley.

It’s just this game, y’know?

January 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There have been quite a number of brews consumed in the Household Hawley this last week.

Some of those lovely cups of tea have been consumed because (I hear) the human body requires a certain amount of liquid every day or suffer something known as “dehydration”; a lovely cup of tea sounds like the perfect antidote.

Other lovely cups of tea, those blessed brews, have been spent in deep cogitation.  I wish I could say that it was the sort of deep cogitation that results in the sort of thinking that solves third world debt, or brings peace to the world, but it wasn’t.

I was pondering what to do about my MMO habit.

There are a number of reasons for this.  First, it allows me to drink a quite phenomenal amount of tea.  Second is that my preference for subscription MMOs means a certain outlay each month.  Third is the fact that it would be nice to go on holiday at some point this year, and have the cash to really have a good time.

Goodbye Fallen Earth and Eve Online.  You are both great games, but you both need more care and feeding than I can afford to give you right now.  I need a game I can pick-up and play, and just as importantly put down and leave.  Both of you need more than just a few hours a week to get the most enjoyment out of, the most game out of.  You’re both filled with fantastic game goo, but my life is too busy to put in the time required to advance through the game.

It’s not you, it’s me.

World of Warcraft, for all its faults, does at least let me put it down and leave it for a few days without me feeling like I’m missing out (apart from those dailies, that is).  And yes, it’s *easy*.  I know everything I need to know about it in moments, the normal mobs are so easy they might as well just queue up to give me their lunch money, and sometimes I feel like the only reason I’m playing is the raiding with my mates.

That, and World of Warcraft can be farmed to death whilst watching films or telly-o-vision.  Yes, it’s *that* easy I can play it with most of my headbrain focused on something else.

One could say that the catalyst for a lot of this tea-based thinking has been the hype-machine that is Rift, and to a certain extent that’s a fair statement.

Now, at this point I feel it’s only fair to say that I dislike beta gaming for a number of reasons.  Yes, it’s *free* gaming, and yes, it’s a great way to have a look at a game and decide if it’s worth shelling out for.

But it’s also gaming to a countdown (that pre-release character wipe), and I find that players tend to play differently during a beta than they will on a live server.  Maybe it’s because everyone there knows that none of it matters in the long run, so we might as well all get on and have fun.  Maybe it’s just that beta players are nicer, or that the percentage of idiots is higher on a live server, but I find that leaving the utopian playerbase of the beta who play to the spirit of the game is soul-destroying when I have to go back to the jerks who are playing to the letter now that the game is for keeps.

Yet, after pre-ordering Rift, I did get an invite to Beta 5, and I did try it out.

If anything, I tried it out a little too much.  I wanted to try a few of the different souls out, but I didn’t want to be bored of the starter zones before the game had released.  Same went for trying out all of the classes or all of the souls.  I created a few characters, tried out a couple of souls that I ordinarily wouldn’t, finished the starter zones for one character each on the Defiant and Guardian sides, and explored a little on the Defiant side, which included the closing of a few rifts and the thwarting of a few invasions.

I was not offended by the starter zones.

Boy, that’s a statement there, isn’t it?  “I was not offended”.  It’s almost (but not quite) as bad as damning it with faint praise, but the truth is that there was nothing offensive in the starter zones.  Nothing screamed at me; “Abort! Abort!”; there were no game mechanics that looked like they were really going to ruin my day a few weeks ago.  They were well put together, didn’t have any obvious gaffes, had quests leading me by the nose through the zone, and introduced me to the world rather nicely.

I think a lot of us forget that starter zones aren’t just the start to a game, and that games designers have a duty to those players who are just starting their first MMO to provide them with an introductory tutorial that is inclusive and welcoming, rather than harsh and bewildering.  It’s not about the old lags, it’s about the fresh blood coming in.

As a result, it’s going to look like a lot of other starter zones for a lot of other games (in exactly the same way that all table-top role-playing games have a “What is role-playing?” chapter at the front of the rules, that all of us long-term players moan about having to skip).  But then again, it’s not like us seasoned MMO veterans are going to be there for long, is it?

I would much rather the developers spent much of their time ensuring that the areas of the game where I will be spending much of my time are fun, interesting and original than spending all of their time creating an all-singing, all dancing starter zone that I’ll be done with after a couple of hours.  Age of Conan’s starter zone was amazingly well done, but leaving it was an anti-climax.

Likewise, there are no “new” quests that I could see.  Hardly surprising, really.  Collecting stuff, delivering stuff, killing monsties, assassinating “persons of interest”; as it’s really hard thinking of something that doesn’t boil down to one of those four concepts, complaining that the quests are same-old same-old would be a step too far even for hypocrite me.

So it’s hardly surprising that it doesn’t seem at all different to the current crop of MMOs to the casual observer.  Especially if that casual observer spent a couple of hours, and didn’t get past the starter zone.  It didn’t seem much different to me.

There were a couple of things that niggled in the back of my headbrain, and it was the good sort of niggling that makes me want to investigate more.

I just like the game.  It’s not the sum of its parts, and it’s not the individual parts that make me like it.  I could start attempting to quantify why I like it, but all I would be doing is repeating a lot of what can be found already on the joyful meeting of minds that is the internets.  I’ll just say things like lovely artwork, world design, and the rifts themselves are wonderful, and intriguing enough to make me willing to fork out the money.

It made me smile as I played, and I like that.  I was happy to fire it up and start playing, and I needed more than a little self-control to put it away and not ruin my fun at launch.

Part of me still wonders if I’m making the right choice.  From what I have seen, Rift does look to be a very good game, and quite possibly the best fantasy-based MMO that I’ve played.  Yet there is still a part of me that wonders if deciding to play is the best thing to do; that part that reminds me of all those hours, days, months, years that I’ll be “throwing away” by choosing to start a new game, and leave existing characters in existing games.

But then again, if this game is better, and leads to more fun than I am currently having, then I’m more than happy to move on; if it was numerically quantifiable, I can’t help thinking that many of the gamers that would quite happily cut their own grannies for gear that’s only a few ilevel points better than their current gear would trample aforementioned grannies in their rush to be at the head of the levelling curve.

Besides, with the pre-order subscription offer it’s half the price of other games.  This helps my bank balance with saving up for holiday spends, as well as the dawning realisation that it will soon be time for my pc base unit to be replaced.  Mmm, new pc…

Cheers,
Hawley.

Fun and Raiding

November 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Having read the posts of my more erudite and talented peers, recently there has been a few posts regarding behaviour whilst engaged in the playing of MMOs.  The marvellous and fabulous Arbitrary has a lovely post here, over at Spinksville, for example.

Personally, I blame the parents.  I really do.  Parents are both omniscient and omnipresent.  They are all powerful.  Especially where questions of plumbing and automobile maintenance are concerned.

That’s in later years, though.  In more formative years, the Parental Unit is usually there as a moral compass, as an arbiter of fairness, and as a method of injecting the youngster with the appropriate amount of manners.

Those building blocks form the part of our personalities, as well as providing the framework for most, if not all of our interactions as a member of society.

So how is it, with the Parental Unit being omniscient enough to know when ears have not been washed behind, or teeth not been brushed, and omnipresent enough to be there when they are really, really needed, can they have really messed up by not bothering to tell us how to survive the peer-pressure world of the internets?

When I were naught but a wee bairn, computers were large things that occupied entire rooms, replete with large tape reels and entire walls’ worth of flashing lights.  They would sit there and store customer databases for large corporations/banks, whilst idling between attempts to destroy the world (or just astronaut crews) and attempts at gaining their own sentience.

To put it another way, there was no internets when I was younger.  Even so, it was shoddy of my omniscient and omnipresent parents not to see the way the future was shaping, and impart upon me the required etiquette lessons to survive online.

Shoddy.  I am so disappointed.  They were *so* close to getting it *all* right.

Ah well.

As a result, I’ve had to muddle along.  Just like, I’m sure, we all have as we’ve partaken in the birth of a new culture.

Within that culture are further subcultures, of which MMO Gamers are but one subculture.

Into all this steps I, your genial host.  I started to wonder at some of these unwritten rules because I’ve been looking forward to getting back into raiding properly in Cataclysm.  I might well even make an effort at the Radiance Grind, and see if I can raid as one of the Free-to-Play Peoples.  Who knows?  I am a one-man raiding renaissance at the moment.

I have, of course, been pondering whether it’s possible to have fun whilst raiding.

Now, if you ask them, I’m pretty sure that 99% of all raiding guilds or (guilds that raid, if you prefer) will answer that “Yes, we have fun raiding”.  It’s only natural; raiding, just like any other game activity, is *supposed* to be fun.  At the same time, no-one wants to put themselves forward as the Moon-Faced Assassin of Joy, especially when they’re attempting to recruit more players.

In point of fact, the only 1 percenters I can think of are those po-faced guild websites I’ve seen, wherein one must be screamingly, ragingly *hardcore*, and everything else must be sacrificed at the Altar of World First.

Luckily, I don’t need to associate with them.  All the raiders I know are cool people, with not an MFAJ amongst them.  It’s not just my belief that it’s possible to have fun whilst raiding, *it’s my experience*.

Professionalism isn’t about being HARDCORE!  It’s not about being the online equivalent of “Po-Faced” Harry McGlum on a particularly grimace-y day.  It’s not even about treating the game as if you’re being paid to do it.  It’s about balls and attitude.

It’s about having the balls to think; “I can do that”, when faced with impossible odds.  It’s about having the attitude to continue on, even when the impossible odds seem to be winning.

Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is my sense of humour, and not just when gaming.

I’ve always felt that “professionalism” is about respect.  In MMO gaming, that’s about respecting your fellow gamers and seekers of entertainment; your raid team mates.  Turn up on time, with the right gear, in the right place.  And respect your fellow players enough  to take your turn on the bench when the situation requires it.

Not acting like a wanker is really important when it comes to having fun when raiding.  And yes, it can be really difficult at times for me to maintain that professional attitude.  What can I say?  Acting all wankerish comes naturally to me.

Now, there is a rather valid question to raise at this point; “When does the fun go too far?”

I’m terrible when it comes to practical jokes.  In most situations, practical jokes just seem to be a more advanced form of bullying.  Not only does the victim of the practical joke get to be ridiculed (usually in public, so everyone can have a good laugh at their expense) but if they don’t “join in”, then they don’t have a sense of humour.

To me, it’s a bit like having to thank someone every time they punch you in the gonads.  I fail to see why it’s such a harmless and funny activity.

To me, the fun goes to far when someone can end up hurt, physically or psychologically.  The line is easier to see in the real world than it is in an MMO; non-verbal communication makes up so much of our contact with other people that we struggle when it’s no longer there, and as a species Homo Geeksor is not yet capable of discerning the exact postion of The Line through text or voice communications, never mind be aware of how far they have crossed it.

To me, the fun goes too far, that line has been crossed, when someone is ending up having a bad time.  When the raid leader is frustrated at no-one else seeming to care about progression; when those on time have to wait for the laggards; when those with provisions have to cater for not only themselves, but the ill-prepared.

When someone is having a giggle at everyone else’s expense.

And there is an expense; time and effort aren’t cheap.  That’s time and effort that could, for example, have been spent with family and sundry and assorted loved ones.

So wasting time by doing something “funneh” that causes a wipe, or leaves everyone in deepest of deep doo-doo?  That’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s definately not a fun practical joke.

Yet I can’t help feeling; “No Wipe, No Foul”.  A joke cracked at the right time can not only lift spirits, it can make them soar.  Laughter is part of what makes us human, and such wonderful, creative, beautiful souls.  It shines a light on our frailties, and makes kings of paupers.

I worked for a company that, for a short time, banned laughter in the workplace.  No word of a lie.

And yes, it was just as stupid in practise that it sounds in concept.  Absolutely.

So apply that to raiding.  Are MMOs there to be taken so seriously that we’re not even allowed to laugh whilst playing?

Humour serves another function, and that is to remind others that “I am here”.  It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and raiders are, on the whole, part of a crowd.  It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team sport.  Yet everyone craves individuality, especially when it’s so easy to get lost amongst so many of our peers.

It’s easy for raid leaders.  They’re easy to spot.

Regular members of the raid need to rely on our personalities to get noticed, and no-one wants to be noticed for being a grumpy wanker.  Not only does everyone notice the funny member of the raid, but they’re always happy they’re coming along.  Fun begets fun, after all.

Sometimes it’s more about how we do a thing, rather than how well we do it.

Yet at other times, it’s about concentration, and putting our game-faces on.  I wonder how many times a raid team has had a last attempt of the night.  Orders from the raid leader are for serious attitudes, no unecessary chatter, no being silly.  One last do-or-die attempt before leaving our fantastic worlds, and going to back to our humdrum every-day world?

It’s a valid position to hold.  Work hard, make the most of it, because that evening’s raid is over no matter how it ends.  It’s that whole “going down guns blazing”, but for a modern, geeky audience.

We subsume our personalities into the whole, for when the whole succeeds, we as individuals succeed.  Or something.

Success.  Success brings fun; those heady and exciting moments where the boss hits the dirt, and it’s trez time.  It’s exciting, it’s joyous, especially when it’s the first time that big bad boy has dropped.

Is it worth removing all fun from the exercise, to have that fun later?  I think not.  Part of the joy of the thing is in attempting it, not just in the divvying up of the spoils of victory.  Even divvying up trez gets boring when there’s no challenge to gaining it.

It’s also worth pointing out that we are all beholden to each other, and ourselves, to have fun.  To ensure that the fun doesn’t go too far.  To not act like a wanker, and to not misinterpret a comrade’s actions as those of a wanker.

It’s about losing any judgemental attitude.  “Not in my raid” might end up with you being the only member of your raid.  And yes, I realise I’ve just lost 50 dkps for saying that out loud.

In the mean time, we can all muddle along whilst we try and sort out the rules of etiquette for our own weird, wonderful little subculture.

But, whilst we do, give the fun a break.

Cheers,
Hawley.

P.S. Well done to everyone who has got this far.  Here is a picture of a kitten.

 

When Guild Invites Attack!

January 5, 2010 at 11:13 am | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I’ve been pondering the nature of guild recruitment.

Not so much the whole “Put more in than you take out”, or even “The guild bank is my playpen” sort of individual philosophies of being a member of a guild, but the behaviour of the guild as an entity as it recruits.

I suppose one of the issues with pondering the nature of guild recruitment is that many guilds are a bit like shops filled with fashionable clothing to me;  I look in the window, but only as I’m walking by, and more with a sense of wonder and terror at what I see inside.

This isn’t to say I’m not a joiner.  I enjoy being a part of a guild.  I enjoy a good amount of guild banter, and I enjoy spending time grouped up with guild members.

I happened to be clan-less in Fallen Earth.  I was happy bimbling about, but sometimes it’s nice to have other people to chat with.

Every so often, an invitation to join a clan would pop up on my screen.  I might get one per evening, sometimes two.  They were completely unexpected and unsolicited, and made me think of them as a sort of spam invite.  Once, I got someone asking me if I wanted to join a clan, but I was afk at the time, and when I got back and realised someone had started a private chat with me, I think they’d gone off.  Or they felt so bad at my inadvertent rejection they were off crying in the dark.

Now, I don’t want to name a specific clan, because I don’t want to bring them into any sort of disrepute, and I don’t want to upset their members.  So I shall call them the Boot-Hill Regulators.

Most of the invites I received were from one or two members of the Boot-Hill Regulators.  Fine, thinks I.  It’s not too hard to have a short chat with someone and find out if they actually want to join a clan, but having said that, it’s not too hard for me to just click on “Decline” and then have a short chat with the inviter/recruiter and find out what they want to invite me into.  No harm, no foul.

But then, the invites changed.  And it was multiple times per hour, until I think the recruiter must have realised they were upsetting quite a number of people, if regional chat was anything to go by.

The Boot-Hill Regular Cadets were recruiting.  And they were doing quite well, it seemed.  But I felt slightly depressed.

I mean, it’s all well and good getting spam invites from a clan, but to then start getting spam invites from their feeder clan just felt like… demotion.

Now, I wouldn’t even think of joining a guild without one of two things; a recommendation from someone whom I trust (I can be very trusting) or some research.  I then like to have a short chat with someone from the prospective guild.  If they can survive my typing for a few minutes and still want to invite me, then I reckon I can join.

Of course, now that I’m all growed up, I’m a lot more mellow than I used to be.  Which means that I’m also less worried about the methods that guilds use to recruit.

Once upon a time I might have felt superior about choosing a guild, as opposed to just clicking on the first random group to spam out an invitation my way.  Or feeling superior about my chosen guild being a select group of death commandos, as opposed to any random assortment of dweebs and no-hopers.

But now that I *am* all growed up, I don’t mind.  I find it strange that a guild that was previously more than happy to spam out invites to all and sundry decides that it needs a feeder guild, but hey, I’m not on the inside so I wouldn’t know.

What I do know is that MMOs are a social sport.  And we all get to be social in our own way.  For some that means staying solo, for others it means getting in a guild.  And seeing as there’s no right or wrong way to find a guild, clicking “Accept” to a spam invite is just as valid as my taking someone’s recommendation.  Or days of meticulous research.  For some people, a large guild is what they want.

I’ve never been a member of a feeder clan.  It’s because I’m just far too special a snowflake to be in anything so pedestrian as a feeder guild.

But you know what?  I’m now pondering that.  Would it be so hard?  After all, many guilds have a getting-to-know-you period.  MMO players are pretty good at vetting each other, in so many different ways.  And a feeder guild is just another way of vetting, but with the added pat on the head for not being a monkey when you get to move to the “real” guild.

Maybe one of the reasons that feeder guilds have always made me feel a little queasy is that I worry that I wouldn’t make it out of the feeder guild.  Do I want everyone to look at me like I’m the special kid who got kept back a year?  The fear is there, but it’s not like I’m some sort of deranged howler monkey; I’m smart, I have social skills, and I have even been known to be erudite.

As it is, I followed Syp’s recommendation (see, I told you I can be very trusting) and joined up with Casualties of War.  So now I don’t need to be worrying about spam invites any more.

But how hard is it to create an alt?

Cheers,
Hawley.

That warm feeling in my tummy defined

December 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I remember reading an interview with some of the developers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (that’s the first one, not the sequel that’s just been released) shortly after it was released.

From a game design theory stand-point it was really interesting.  Yes, I do find that sort of thing interesting, special geek that I am.  What was most revealing was their design philosophy as to player “rewards” during the single-player campaign.  They stated that rather than give a big payoff at the end of a level (most usually done by virtue of the end-of-level boss fight and a cut scene), their aim was to give out a “That was cool!” moment, every thirty seconds of gameplay.

With a constant drip-feed of reward, there are no “dead” parts to the game; parts that you endure, in order to get to the good stuff.

It worked for me; I was hooked, and that game remains one of my favourite gaming experiences.

MMOs are usually all about the big payoff.  Get a new level, and BANG!  New Stuff!  Then there’s instancing and raiding; it’s all about the boss fight, to the extent that anything else in the instance is automatically termed “Trash”.  I suppose that’s how much we care about the bits between boss-fight payoffs.  The trash is there to be endured…

I’ve finally realised what the underlying reason for my enjoying Fallen Earth so much is.

The post-apocalyptic setting, the humour (that just clicks with me in exactly the way that Blizzard’s doesn’t), the crafting, all of these are things that add to the enjoyment, but aren’t the main reason.

I’ve finally figured out that the reason that I really, really like Fallen Earth is that I get rewarded so often, and sometimes it’s over the smallest things.

I don’t need to get to the next level to gain a reward; every time I do something new, or craft something new, or gather from a new node, I get a reward.  Every time I peel back another layer in the fabulous crafting system, I get a reward.  And the best thing is that I feel like I’ve earned it, because Icarus have chosen not to make it easy for me.

I’m being rewarded constantly, and that gives me such a warm feeling in my tummy.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Welcome to Earths…

December 4, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Whenever I see comments on various blogs, at least one person will state that they’re not quite sure what to make of Fallen Earth, or exactly what it is about Fallen Earth that attracts them, but invariably they state that whatever it is, it’s working, and they’re enjoying the game (somehow).

Well, that’s prompted me to not only put down why I’m playing Fallen Earth, but also Lord of the Rings Online; They’re both games I love, but sometimes it’s good to actually think of *why* I love them, as opposed to taking it for granted.

Let’s start with Lord of the Rings Online.  I’ve been playing it longest after all:

Combat:
I like a number of things about the combat system used in Lord of the Rings Online.  The combat isn’t as fast and frenetic as in some other MMOs, but it’s fast enough that combat is a time when making the right choice of what to do (run, fight, which skills to use) is important enough to get right first time, but will rarely punish me for needing to change tactics part of the way through.  And I like the way that I have plenty of options for what to do in a fight.  Lots of skill options mean combat rarely follows a strict rotation of key-presses.  And seeing that combat is a large part of fighting evil, that’s a good thing.

Gear:
Okay, the Radiance Gating has annoyed me, and I don’t think it’s a good inclusion, but for most of the game, opportunities are not limited by equipment worn.  A case in point is my LoreMaster, Herewerd.  Poor Herewerd got a pair of trousers at level 35, and for one reason or another, I forgot about them.  Herewerd went to most if not all of the instances in Shadows of Angmar (poor chap didn’t do much in Moria, as I was concentrating on Hawley), and went to The Rift numerous times.  Every so often someone would inspect him and giggle, but I honestly kept forgetting to change them, because they were okay enough, and game-play wasn’t suffering.  It’s only now, at level 53, that a quest reward of a pair of pants has meant that Herewerd has new pants.

The View:
I love the look and feel of Middle Earth.  The ruins of Annuminuminuminas are wonderful, and I love the way that the landscape seems to behave in a way that doesn’t make it look overtly themed (this is the volcano zone!) or too overtly fantastic.  It looks like it could exist, and that makes me smile.  What also makes me smile is seeing so many places from my childhood imagination, realised on screen.  Bree is a lovely MMO town, and looks like it developed organically, rather than being created all at once.  And all the little places from The Hobbit make fill me with wonderful nostalgia; I honestly teared up when I found three stone troll “statues” around an old campfire in a recess in the Trollshaws that first time.

Classes:
I love the way that the classes interact with each other in a group.  Bringing the player rather than the class is all well and good, but such a noble sentiment can destroy some wonderful individuality that, when in a group, forms a synergy where the group is far stronger than the sum of its parts.  Or something.

Having a defined role is one of the things that makes grouping attractive, and all the classes in Lord of the Rings Online are valid thanks to the class design.  Apart from the Captain, which is obviously evil because of the fact that they make groups just… more.  Evil.  Evil I say!  And yes, I’ll be levelling mine up with skirmish after skirmish.  Oh yes…  I can be evil too…

That Middle Earth thing:
The whole Lord of the Rings franchise doesn’t grab me in the same way Star Wars does.  But I think the books are wonderful (claims they’re not well written is a little unfair; try reading some other literature from the same period.  The writing can be a bit… dense.  In the same way that neutron stars are bit dense), and the films were some of the best fantasy films I’ve seen.  But whilst it’s not my favourite, the intellectual property does give everything within the game a resonance that other MMOs can’t.  Going to Northrend meant a new area to play in; levelling, instancing, grabbing trez.  Going to Moria meant following in the footsteps of The Fellowship.

That’s a whole different league of fantastic, and one of the many reasons why I’m so excited about Besieging Mirkwood.

And now the new kid, Fallen Earth:

Crafting:
I haven’t spent this much time focused on crafting since Star Wars Galaxies.  And whilst I sometimes wonder if Icarus are all frustrated Star Wars Galaxies fans, I don’t care overmuch because they’ve made a game where the time I spend crafting is as valid as the time I spend doing quests, or killing mobs.

They’ve even made resource nodes plentiful.  Suddenly it’s not about finding a node as you wander around; I’ve been following crazy dot-to-dot routes as I’ve been questing.  Just a few minute’s resource hunting can net me enough to keep my crafting queue going.  Nodes are plentiful, but even if I’m short of a couple (or more) things then I can find them for sale at vendors.

And the stuff I’m making is useful.  It changes the way I look, it improves my ability to do things within the game.  And eventually I could make a car.  Fantastic!

Difficulty curve:
I love the difficulty curve.  Getting my head around combat took a while, and is still taking it.  Spending APs is something I’m learning as I’m going along, and I’ve probably made horrendous mistakes already.  I’ve only just got to level 5, despite several hour’s worth of play.

Right now, the last thing I want is another cookie-cutter MMO that shares so many similarities with the last few games that all that seems to change is a few names and the associated new gimmick.

Humour:
I always think that humour is a dangerous thing to put in a game.  Not only is everyone’s sense of humour different, but it can be really hard to make humour that fits within the game, and isn’t just self-referential.

I play World of Warcraft despite the humour, which for me has become worse and worse through the years.  Lord of the Rings Online is very po-faced, but then again I’d much prefer that to some ill-judged comedy.

Fallen Earth, being set in a Post Apocalyptic version of Earth, seems to be getting its humour just right.  It’s sarcastic, it’s rude, and it’s coarse.  But then again, it’s a world that has lost pretty much everything, so you can imagine that survivors might well be sarcastic, rude and coarse.  They’d have earned the right to be all three…

The View:
Much has been remarked about the way that Fallen Earth looks.  Usually it seems to be negative comments.  Well, the game quite obviously doesn’t look like it was made in the same century as Aion, and Lord of the Rings at three years old still looks far, far better.  But what Fallen Earth has achieved is a look that brings forwards the feel of a world that’s hit the end.  It evokes emotion (in me at least), in a way that something over-polished might not.

Starting the game in the Embry Commonwealth, there’s a mish-mash of ruined and partially ruined buildings, with oriental-themed tents and pagodas sitting incongruously alongside them.  Towering over everything, like the spine of some long-dead dinosaur, are the ruined remains of a monorail.

But the strange vista works, as it’s the clash between pre- and post-apocalyptic worlds.  It hangs together because everything that’s seen has a sensible rationale behind it.  The tents and pagodas are new buildings created by the Lightbringers, one of the factions within the game, and their Taoist leanings influence their architecture, whilst the ruins of a bygone age speak for themselves.

The pace:
I think what I love most about the game is that I don’t feel forced to play at any speed but my own.  So what if I decide to stop and smell the roses?  Do I have anywhere to be?  Fallen Earth seems to have attracted players who don’t feel that the end-game is where it’s at; Icarus seem to have decided that the whole of the game is important, rather than the content at maximum level.  This is more than refreshing; it’s fabulous to find that there’s a game that wants us to experience every moment of playing, rather than rush us through the early part of the game.

To this end, gaming life seems to be designed to be more fun and less grind.  I’ve not been bored yet; with so many valid options for my game time, I’ve found (like many others) that I have too much to do in the game.  And this is me having just hit level 5, with too much to do.

Right now, it’s a great time to be playing in either Earth.  I’m finishing typing this as Siege of Mirkwood finishes expanding my Lord of the Rings Online, and I’m starting to look for a clan in Fallen Earth.

Squee!

Cheers,
Hawley.

The Shape of Things to Come?

November 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Posted in General, RMT | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I’ve been thinking about In-game Pre-order Items a lot recently.

It was the pre-order for Siege of Mirkwood that really brought this from a back-of-the-head simmer to a front-of-head ponder.  And, after many brews and much pondering, I reckon it’s time to ramble at length about how I currently feel about pre-order items.

Tied heavily to this are my views on Real Money Transactions.  Whether that’s buying gold from a 3rd party, or from an in-game cash store, it’s still parting with real money for in-game benefit.

And I suppose that’s where my issue lies.  At least on the surface.

I pay for a game so that I can play that game.  It’s a simple transaction.  In the case of a subscription based game, I then pay that subscription so that I can continue to play the game after the first month.  Any other justifications are our own; at the basest level, we’re paying for permission to play.

MMOs are released by businesses, and a business exists to make money.  So they make that payment as attractive as possible.  This means periodic content updates, as well as server maintenance and upgrading.  It means ironing out the bugs, and improving the polish on the product.

They also want to make sure that they get as much cash as possible, and one upshot of that over the last few years has been the rise of the pre-order item.

There used to be a strange sort of prissiness about pre-order items.  They had to be cosmetic only, as any sort of in-game bonus would destabilise the natural order, and earthquakes would destroy the planet.  Or something.

Then power-creep started, and suddenly items with tiny bonuses were on offer; soon after, it was items with good bonuses, or mounts, or more character slots, or pets, or faces, or all sorts of items that collectors (who are a big chunk of the MMO gamer pie chart) would want for the sake of completion.

Suddenly it’s not enough to just buy the game; we have to buy the game early enough, and from the right places, to take advantage of the best pre-order offers.  Quite often that means getting in early enough for a Collector’s Edition.

For the businesses releasing these games, it’s a great thing.  It’s their best opportunity to make the most money in the shortest amount of time, and they are doing their utmost to make the most of it.

Now, if I was the conspiracy sort, I’d comment that pre-order items were a highly successful form of consumer grooming.

I remember discussions where cosmetic items were justified and allowable because they were purely cosmetic.  They were a way of “thanking” those players who were in from game launch, without giving them a horrendous advantage over those who started playing later.

Nowadays, no-one even sniffs at stat-bonus pre-order items.  How long will it be before armour sets and weapons are offered?  Full set of purpz at 60?  Suits you, sir!

They’re fantastic sweeteners.  And because we get used to getting them as part of the game bundle, we get used to thinking of in-game items at the same time as spending real money.  And if we do that, we end up feeling that it’s ok to spend real money, and get those items at the same time.  From there, it’s a short step to buying them from an in-game shop, using real money.

More and more games will be heading down the Real Money Transaction route.  But at the same time, we’re all supposed to hate the black market that has sprung up around MMO gaming, and all the chances of losing everything that we work for in these virtual worlds.

Well, one way of killing the Black Market stone dead is to offer those same services in game.  Can’t be bothered saving up 4 meeeeeellion Filthy Lucres for that mount?  Buy it from the in-game Cash Store.  Want that funky Sword Of A Hundred Painy Dooms?  Well, you could raid for it and hope it drops, or you could just work an hour’s overtime and pick it up from the RMT Armoury.  Need to be at a certain level to go instancing with your mates?  Buy levelz from the Admin Store.  Instant, painless, and most of all it’s unlikely to end up with you finding all your characters nekkid and your current account maxed out at the overdraft end.

That’s one end of the scale.  We’re already at the other end, which is paying for content.  I’m not talking about the “free” content that comes with the subscription, but the content that comes as part of an expansion.  That would be a paid expansion.  “Some” content should be free, but “Enough” content can be paid for without complaint.

Now, I can be fantastically stingy when it comes to games.  I will happily pay for my subscription every month, but boy do I hate it when I feel like I have to part with real money to experience “some” content.  Yet I’ll not only happily stump up some cash to pay for an expansion, I’ll actively look forward to it.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.

As a society, we’re now willing to pay for digital content.  As in, something that cannot be held, except on a hard drive.  We’ve gone from paying for a music on a disc, to music that we download.  The same is happening for games and films.  And with the advent of streaming services, we’re stepping even further from our standard concepts of “ownership”.  Will we soon look at in-game items in exactly the same way as we look at downloaded music from a certain fruit-named behemoth?

It’s one of the reasons why I’m looking at Pre-Order items with more and more antipathy.  Even Single player games are getting in on the act; Dragon Age: Origins was shipping with so many options and Pre-Order items that I just ended up feeling confused and slightly dirty from checking them all out.

I miss those nice and simple days where I paid my money, and I got a game.  I didn’t feel that I had to buy a game from a particular place, or at a particular time, otherwise I’d be STUPID for missing out on such FANTASTIC offers.

It’s probably my fuddy-duddy gene getting all nostalgic, or maybe it’s seeing all the changes that seem to be appearing (or at the least worried about), and wondering if the games we used to play will be gone, in the face of casual-friendly drop-in/out MMOs; all free but with shark-like cash-stores circling around…

I understand that cash-stores in games mean that we could all play our MMOs for free, and only pay for what we *want* to play or use, but I still can’t help worrying that this just opens us up to the Land of the Grind.  Because if the only way for the game to make money is from Real Money Transactions, then surely they’ll make games which make most use of it?

There’s a lovely little saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Maybe the road to heck is paved with pre-order items.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Fallen Earth lands

November 26, 2009 at 10:58 am | Posted in fallen earth | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

It’s as if the universe at large has demanded I play Fallen Earth…

I post on one day that I’m going to get Fallen Earth (but I’m a little cash poor at the moment); the next, Fallen Earth is half price on Steam. Now that’s what I call customer service!

No, I’m not getting paid to advertise that. Honest.

I actually found this out just before going to bed last night, in one of those; “Oh, Steam wants to update. I wonder why?” sort of ways. Well, I must admit it was all I could do not to immediately buy it there and then.

I’m going to stop now, in a Hawley In Short Post Shocker! (Full post on page 7) sort of way, because it’s not really in my nature to want to do any marketing machine’s work for them. I just wanted to do my little happy dance that it’s half price.

Cheers, Hawley.

PS: Thanks to Jamesy, who commented in yesterdays post. Appreciated.

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