Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Moving on Over

Hey all....just a notice that this site has now moved to:


Direct link here.

Go ahead and update your bookmarks. This site will have a lot more features for me to play around with...hence the move. I appreciate everyones support on this site...so tally-ho onto the next one.

D out

P.S. Please excuse the mess on the new site while I clean it up a bit. It might get a bite dyslexic over there....so be warned.

Left and a bit off center.

Oh man. I always had a sneaking suspicion that the mainstream media did not "get" games...well, more of a strong notion really. We've seen great examples of this lack of understanding due to games being scapegoats over the past couple of years for everything from youth violence to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (...ok, I made the last part up...). The latest article that I read that shows how clueless these people are. It's a piece from the BBC technology desk. Here's the beginning of the article:

"With more than eight million subscribers, World of Warcraft dominates the online gaming market but some strong rivals are gearing up to take it on."

Wow, that's quite a bold statement and it's one that we've all debated before...."Who will kill WoW?". Double wow, the BBC is getting into the debate...so they must know something we don't. Who are these "strong rivals" they speak of. Glad you asked...here they are:
  • Age of Conan
  • Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Star Wars Galaxies
...I'll wait while you guys settle down from laughter.


OK, everyone settled down now? Saaaweeet. Moving on.

Now, I know my readers are intelligent enough to know why that list is full of shit...but hey, I blog and like to talk, so I'm going to go through the exercise anyway.

Age of Conan:

This won't even come close to touching WoW. Actually, Conan will be lucky to know WoW's half cousin's dog's sister's boyfriend on his father's side. One reason...Conan is for adults. It will be rated A, which means Battlenet kiddies need not apply, which means the audience is limited, which means niche market, which means not a snowball's chance in hell of "taking on" WoW...ever. Conan will probably see around 250K users which is around 3% of what WoW has at this point.

Lord of the Rings

This one is tougher to call because, like Brad McQuaid mentioned, it's an x-factor...so I have no idea how or why the BBC is calling this one a contender when the jury will be out for some time to come. It does have the look and smell of an alternative to WoW, but that's all it might turn out to be. I've said it before, LoTRO is a solid offering right out of the gate, but it will be about a year until we know what kind of weight it has to throw at WoW. Right now, I'm hearing that LoTRO has in the neighborhood of 500K+ subscribers....and no, this is based on nothing but what I've heard, so save the emails please. Let's put it at ballpark of 100-500K right now, that only puts LoTRO between 1-6% of WoWs numbers. So, it's still got lots of room to get there but honestly, I don't think it will....nor do I think that is Turbine's intention.

Star Wars Galaxies

Are you out of your frackin mind!?

So there you have it. This BBC piece seems more like an editor going up to a correspondent and saying,

"You know what, those video games seem really hip and in with the youngins...slap me up something for tomorrow would ya?".

"But sir, I know nothing of video games. I usually only write about PDAs".

"Bah! Pick a few from this alphabetized list. Call them. Get some quotes and give it to me in the morning."

"Ummm. OK. Sure."

I'm still of a strong mind that the game that will really challenge WoW won't be known until it's actually challenging WoW. Any predictions on what that game is will usually be full of Murloc dung (...this blog included...). My guess, and strap on your Murloc dung suit, that game will probably be designed by Blizzard.

D out.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Challenge

Bah! Brent said the word "innovation" on his latest podcast...don't worry, he'll be suitably flogged for doing so. He brought up a little question near the end there, and like the sucker that I am, I will have to bite on it. The question is as follows (paraphrasing):

"Does the desire for truly significant innovation in MMOs actually mean that you're looking for the invention of a new genre of games, or are you not looking for the innovation of the MMO genre as much as you're looking for some small feature development that will add to the overall "cool factor" and immersion of the MMO genre without completely breaking down all of those afore mentioned design patterns that we've come to know and love...".

Now, in some way, I've already addressed this issue, but I'll go over my position on this whole innovation thing again...so some of this may be repeating myself just a tad. First, we're not going to see any innovation in 2007 or 2008 MMO offerings. What we're going to see is a handful of highly polished MMOs doing 2-3 things very right. These next two years or so are also going to be standardization years in which MMO companies informally agree and implement feature sets that players expect in their games, i.e. customizable interface, PvP, Combat, Crafting, changing world...etc etc. I'm not expecting a redefinition of the genre...what I'm expecting is an incremental feature development that adds to the MMO experience. What I'm also expecting is for each MMO company to launch HIGH QUALITY games...with no excuses of why they couldn't do so. Call me anal, but I want high quality software.

Does the MMO industry need innovation? Not right now they don't. What they need to do is execute what they currently know correctly and with a high degree of quality...and, of course, mix in a few features here and there to differentiate themselves from the competition. The reason other MMOs got spanked by WoW in 2004-present isn't because of a lack of innovation...it's because of a lack of quality, fun and accessibility. That's it.

Now, the biggest proponents of "innovation" in my little circle are Garry and Ryan of MOG...hands down. I have said this before, that I don't think we're going to see the type of MMO that they want for some time to come. We're at the flat part of the innovation curve right now, so we're not going to see much in upcoming titles...although, I think most will be fun to play.

D out.

P.S Brent, I've scheduled your flogging for 3pm on Sunday...hope that time is good for you :)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Starcraft MMO? Maybe...

I don't usually post on the weekends, but this is an exception.

According to this, the next Blizzard MMO will be Starcraft. I still consider this a rumor until I hear otherwise from the belly of the beast. I suggest you treat it the same way. Regardless, we will find out on May 19th.

D out.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Toddler Rules

My 2 year old has one of the best bibs everrrr. Going to write this down for you all because I crack up at it every time I read it. It may also remind you of a certain segment of the MMO player base....

Toddler Rules
  1. It's mine if I like it.
  2. It's mine if I think it's mine.
  3. It's mine if it looks like it's mine.
  4. It's mine if it's in my hand.
  5. It's mine if I can take it from you.
  6. It's mine if I had it for a while.
  7. It's mine if it's yours and I take it.
  8. It's mine if you left it at my house.
  9. It's mine and it can't be yours in any way.
  10. It's mine! Mine! Mine!
...hehe...I love it.

D out.

More on Gods and Heroes

Some very good info about Gods and Heroes found here if you haven't seen if yet. I've mentioned before that I have reservations about the minion system. Well, the interesting part of the article states:

I run into the field, minions in tow - if I haven't mentioned it before, this whole minion thing is really really cool - and poke the stag with my pike. Nothing could have quite prepared me for what came next.

"...really really cool.."??? I was really hoping she'd expand on that statement, but alas, she didn't...so my skepticism remains. I think it the only way that this "icky" feeling about the minion system will go away is if I play it or someone I trust tells me otherwise. The feeling about minions is completely unjustified, I know, but it's something that I haven't shaken about the title at this point. The combat, however; looks outstanding. The interview above gives some information regarding the "paired animations', in which the enemy reacts to your hits...and I find that feature very appealing.

For those interested in the loot system for G&H, there is this to read. Very nice indeed.

D out.

The Grab Bag

Funny how things can go from zero to sixy over a course of a day...so let's get to it. This is going to a link/editorial post, so grab some popcorn people.

First up is a very interesting article from from the Escapist regarding the plight of modders within WoW...and oh my gawd do I ever feel for them. One of the more revealing entries in this article reads:

After he put so much into the compilation, Mazzlefizz felt betrayed by the community. It wasn't pleasant having such a small issue be the most discussed portion of MazzleUI. "There's just so many young, immature kids, so many bloated egos and such a high degree of self-entitlement. Complaining and criticizing are just the status quo," he said, before adding that not every experience he's had with users was awful. It's just "the negative aspects have outweighed the positive aspects lately and have caused me to … question the time and effort I put into developing my add-ons." To date, MazzleUI hasn't had any significant updates. MazzleFizz keeps busy collecting bug reports and has gone back to just playing the game.

(emphasis is mine)

Lots to say about this....actually, this one paragraph could be blog fodder for a week by my standards. Developing mods for the WoW community must be like cutting yourself and then wading into a pool of sharks with personality disorders. I used lots of mods when I was playing WoW and I have nothing but respect for the amount of time and effort that these people put into their work. I highlighted that one part because it reminded me of a post I did a last month regarding that sense of entitlement that gamers have in regards to access to all levels of a gaming company. I have always thought that gamer culture has this HUGE misplaced sense of entitlement in which they believe a) I shall be able to talk to the CEO at any time, b) I deserve the best right now, c) everything I think is wrong shall be fixed...now, d) all devs shall acknowledge my issues and concerns...now, e) I'm the most important player in the game and everyone else is newbsauce, f)...bah...I'll stop there...you get the picture. You can also see how the bloated egos come in as well. I've encountered a couple of these people in my travels and I just want to throttle them...grrrrrr. Why gaming companies and modders put up with these idiots is beyond me. They are not the normal player...they are social rejects with a superiority complex and need medication, not attention.

Next up, CoH released Issue 9 and it looks like its making a good impression. I haven't gone and checked it out yet, and honestly, I don't know when I will given the other things that I've got up and coming. Anyway, finally, after 2-3 years CoH/V has a crafting system. Too little too late? We'll see.

On the LoTRO front, there is a nice summary of impressions on Turbine's latest MMO over at Gamebunny. One of the summaries there brings up a good point...will LoTRO be the first MMO which has an ending? We all know what the ending is for this story, so it just makes sense that this may be the case. Turbine can prolong this as much as they want, because let's face it, there is a lot of material in those books to be had. There will be an end, no doubt...the big question is what, if anything, will they transition to when the end does come?

On the social commentary side of things, this bit of non-sense came up this week regarding gay marriage in LoTRO. Alright, my stance on this? In the context of LoTRO, there were no gay marriages...at least within the main story line. Given that, gay marriage of two dwarfs within LoTRO makes as about as much sense as a Hobbit with a ray-gun and jet pack. I really don't care if gays marry in the real world, but it doesn't mean we rewrite creative works and games to support it if it doesn't fit in the original context of the story.

Best for last, and I want to thank Cuppy for bringing this to my attention. Apparently, a new race and new adventure zones are coming to EQ2. One word...wow. The new race is called the Arasai and the new zone is Neriak. This is a dark Fae race that will compliment the recent additions from the EoF expansion. This is really great news for SOE and yet another example of how they've really turned EQ2 around from the shipwreck that it was. The only bad news about this is that I will now have to go back into EQ2 to take a look. OK, maybe that's not so bad after all :) Anyway, good show SOE...keep 'em coming. See, it's stuff like this that makes me wonder about why they're even considering taking on Vanguard.

D out.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Got Nothin

Crap! My mind is uncharacteristically blank today, so this won't be much of a post but we'll see how it goes.

Last night was a good night in LoTRO. I had a quest in my log called Retaking Weathertop. It's actually the last part of a chain quest (I think)...and man, was it ever a pain in the ass to finish. The second to last encounter was the insane part. It was against this Uru-Kai (..is that how you spell that??) who had about 9500 HP...hands down the toughest mob that I've come across so far. How many times did I try this quest? Glad you asked...five times over about 3 days I tried finishing this one up. I was finally able to be a part of a group full of guildies and we took him down in no time. Yayyyy for me.

One of the strongest hands that LoTRO has for it right now is that it really knows how to tell a story within the quests you are doing. This is especially apparent with the group and chapter quests. If you've tried LoTRO and put it down before you tried one of these story driven quests, you've made a mistake...pick it up again and try one out.

There are some criticisms about the game's combat and interface etc. To tell you the truth, I don't notice those things as much and I'll be damned if I know why that's the case...because those things usually would bother me. I have a very strong connection to my character and his role in the world. The landscape and the graphical implementation, like I said, really fits my eye...so maybe these combinations are hiding the common flaws of the game for me. I was golfing with one of my friends last year, and we got to a hole that I really liked. It was a nice dog-leg right, par 4 hole. I usually did very well playing this hole because it just fit my eye and my game. My friend hated the hole and usually did not do so well...a point of frustration that I took as much advantage of as I could /evil grin. LoTRO seems to be that kind of game for me right now.

D out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Quest for the New Shiny

Don't worry, this won't be another Brad posting...the man is getting flogged enough as it is right now, and I won't be saying anything else until there is something new. However, the main sticking point of his last post was the technology needed to run Vanguard optimally. Apparently, you don't just need a new video card, you need an entirely new system. This just isn't a line of thinking that started with Vanguard, it seems to be a problem (yes...it's a problem) with most PC developers. They design games for computers that don't exist...and it's getting tiresome really.

I remember when Doom III came out. Boy, was I excited for that one. I read all of the previews, saw all the videos and looked at all the screenshots. I loaded it up, and "enjoyed" the slide show that I was presented with. Sigh. No problem, I've done this before...off to the forums for tweaking and optimization hints. I got the game running smooth and my conclusion...the game sucked. It looked good...but it sucked. The game was just a haunted house simulator wrapped in a graphical tech demo. I played for about an hour and then uninstalled it. There you go, a game that brought my machine to its knees and it wasn't really a game, it was just a graphics showcase. Why oh why....

Oblivion. Great game. It has the story. It has the gameplay and the character development....but man, the amount of .ini tweaks and mods I needed at the time to actually get a good framerate was mind boggling. EQ2...and I've said this before, this game was absolutely unacceptable in terms of framerate when it came out. That technical barrier to entry was at least part of the reason why it didn't launch so well.

This almost seems to be a North American phenomenon...and I have no idea why. Why devs seem to insist on developing a game for computer specs that the majority or players do not have or cannot afford. Their reason...."We want our game to look good 4 years from now". My answer, "I won't play your game now, let alone 4 years from now, if my machine slaps me across the face for installing your game." Devs seem to be more obsessed with shiny graphics than interesting game play and story lines....and we as players are too. What's the first thing players say about a game, "It looks really nice", or "The game looks gorgeous". How the game actually plays is usually what comes after how it looks. Of course, some would say, "Hey, this is a visual medium. Of course we're going to comment on what we see first." Sure, it is a visual medium, but I would argue that it's a game first and eye candy second. Yes, there is a balance between the two. A great game that also looks great is optimal. I just think the pendulum has swung to far to the graphics side of things...hence part of the reason why VG finds itself in a bit of trouble and WoW finds itself with 8+ million players. I'm not a game designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that there are ways to cheat to make things look good....like the creative use of textures to make a low poly object look spectacular. I'm sure there are other ways of "cheating" as well and I hope that future MMOs use these more and more as we move forward.

WoW was created for the "common" computer and it has graphically lasted 3 years, which is close to a forever from a technology perspective. Honestly, it probably has a good 4-5 years left in it. So, whats wrong with developing an MMO for today's computers, maximizing your player base at launch and getting a good 7-8 years of revenue from it? Answer...nothing.

D out.

P.S Just as I finished this, I noticed that Ancient Gaming Noob also wrote a piece on the technology side of Brad's post as well.

Possible PoTBS Delay

I was going over the news this morning and reading the latest Pirates of the Burning Sea dev log and I came across this little tidbit of info:

"So, if we go down the route of a big box release (though it’ll still be available via digital distribution) it will require a delay in the release date. I’m not excited about delaying the game, but I am excited about a great launch.

The reason we haven’t talked in more detail about this is because we don’t have a signed contract with a distributor. Having been through a number of these legal negotiations, you never know exactly what’s going to happen until you have a signed document. So while we may delay, we’re still aggressively working towards finishing the game now, and have been putting our contingency plans in place."

So...prepare yourself for a possible delay in the release date of PoTBS while they sort out their distribution issues. They don't say how long the delay will be, but I can't imagine it wouldn't be too long...could it? Also, this "contingency plan" of theirs may make this delay disappear...so, we'll see.

On the good news side, they are going to be expanding the beta for the game. So far, they've been very stringent on who gets into the beta, but it looks like the flood gates may be opening soon.

From a development standpoint...it looks like they're polishing the game at this point, which is a good sign for a solid launch. We'll have to see if they "get" what MMO players are now expecting of their games in a post-WoW world.

D out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

LoTRO Snag

OK, something is definitely not right in LoTRO right now and it hit me right in the face last night. Training and repair costs are insane....insane I tell you.

First let's talk training. I dinged from level 19 to 20 two nights ago and I said, "yayyy". So, I went to Bree to get my long awaited heavy armor skill, a rez skill and I think Parry II. I had about 90-100 silver on me. It pretty much took all of that to train up on two skills. I think the armor skill was around 50 and the rez was around 35-40 silver. I couldn't afford the Parry II nor could I afford to upgrade to any new armor or repair my current armor. Ooooookaaay.

We got a group together last night to do the quest "Retake Weathertop" (a very fun instance btw). We died a couple of times, the group decided it was too hard (even though it was white to us) and we all went on to different things. Before I logged off for the night, I went to repair and I had about 45 silver on me...the repair cost 65 silver. I managed to sell some stuff to cover the cost, but now I'm pretty much broke..and missing a skill because it's too expensive.

Tell me...how the frack am I supposed to save up for anything if all of my money...and I mean all of my money...is going to repairs and training. I think a horse costs 4 gold, so at this rate I will not be getting that anytime soon. I noticed this trend at around level12-ish and it's really showing it's ugly head at level 20+.

Note to Turbine. My repair costs should not be 50% of my total income. My training costs should not be 110%-ish of my income. Between levels, with questing and cashing in "trophies", I have about 100-115 silver on me. No, I do not buy a whole bunch of stuff on the AH and I keep horse travel to a minimum...which is another gripe, 10 silver for a horse ride???!! There's another 10% of my income between levels.

I heard little whisperings about the economy of LoTRO being a tad unbalanced. From this player's perspective, the costs for running your character are waaaay out of proportion to your income.

Anyone else seeing/experiencing the same thing? Looks like the devs are looking into it, but man oh man it hurts.

D out

Monday, April 30, 2007

...that icky, icky feeling.

Just wanted to add a couple more places you should look for reactions to this whole thing.

First is over to Cuppy, who is, ummm, pissed and doesn't hold back her opinion of what's going on....part of the reason why I like reading her site.

Second is over at Broken Toys who makes the same point as I did regarding the upcoming MMO market and Vanguard's tough fight to stand out in it.

As I'm reading the coverage, a lot of folks are not taking that posting by Brad very well...no, not well at all. This is part of the reason why Brent suggested that he not talk anymore...this point will be well proven at the end of all this I'm sure. Some people are looking at this passage specifically:

The only fix here, again, is time. Vista (especially the Ultimate edition, which is what's being pushed to gamers) wants fast components. Direct X 10 hardware and software will help a lot, especially when there is a DX10 version of Vanguard. A native 64bit client of Vanguard will eventually help a lot too. Bottom line: by the end of 2007, a lot more people should have upgraded, especially if Microsoft succeeds with Vista and native DX 10 games. And if they really push Gaming for Windows like they did, say, the Xbox 360, the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 should be a very different landscape for PC games in general and Vanguard specifically. Was the Vanguard tech ahead of its time? Yes, and there has been a price to pay for that short term (although many people are able to play with older machines - why? Different configurations, different settings, different thresholds for lower framerates, etc.). But MMOGs ideally never end and if you've architected your engine to both push the limits of existing and near future technology as well as easily employ future technologies, then you have a game that doesn't look dated one, two, even three plus years down the road. And that's what we did with Vanguard - so we feel some pain now, but if we can keep the momentum going, this decision pays off in the long run (big time).

The last I checked, Vista was not doing so hot in terms of gaming. In fact, if you were to look at Vista/DX10 as a platform launch (like the XBox360, or PS3), for gaming it was the worse launch in recent memory. How many games launched with the launch of Vista? None. Zero. To date, and correct me if I'm wrong, people are still encountering video card driver issues. Dell recently announced that XP will continue to be an option for their customers since Vista is such a clusterf^%$. So Vista is not ready for gaming and Brad is betting on Vista for Vanguard....ummmmm. From what I'm seeing/hearing/reading, no game is betting on Vista for it's success and that platform has zero buzz in the market right now as the OS of choice for gaming.

This is not good...not good at all. Say if Vista is ready for gaming prime time by 2007-2008, MMO gaming does not work in a vacuum. By that time, like I said, Warhammer will be hitting the scene, LoTRO will be entrenched (plus expansions) and WoW and/or EQ2 will be ratcheting up the marketing RPMs for their next expansions.

D out.

Ever get that feeling...?

So here is a thread you want to keep your eye on for the latest events surrounding the future of Sigil/SOE/Vanguard...whatever. You'll see a post there from Brad (...yes, it is long..and no, it really doesn't say anything he hasn't said before). He goes on, again, about why Vanguard is where it is, what types of players he wishes to target, how they are going to get players interested in Vanguard ("viral" marketing term is used again). He also restates how they overshot the system specs in terms of technology. He gives some insight on what features he wants to bring into Vanguard in the future...but honestly, and I'm cringing as I say this, I don't know how realistic those point really are. I don't even know why he commits that much writing space to future features when they have so much work to do getting other things up to speed. He's already talking an expansion and/or relaunch of VG come 200x...huh??

Here's an interesting thing regarding audience targeting. He was hoping to target burned out WoW players and he mentions LoTRO as an x-factor game. He wants to target those WoW players and he knows that those casual players will move to LoTRO...and understandably so. The window to grab those players is shrinking fast and I don't think VG has even the slightest chance on getting any of them. If you put a bored WoW player in front of VG and then in front of LoTRO...guess which one they'll pick? I'll give you a hint...it's not VG.

Here's what's not fitting to me with this whole thing:
1) SOE is taking a game which will take a lot of time and resources to "fix" and bring to SOE standards (please keep "SOE standards" bashing to a minimum. plskthx). And they are doing this why...?
2) When VG is "fixed", besides the diplomacy system, SOE/Sigil will have a similar product to EQ2. No one has yet been able to convince me that this is not the case. At the most, we'll have a Pepsi vs Coke kind of thing with VG and EQ2.
3) The window for VG to maximize it's potential is, IMHO, gone...especially in the context of the coming 2007-2008 titles. LoTRO is turning out to be the best casual PvE experience right now. If they hold on past Pirates of the Burning Sea, Gods and Heroes, Conan...and gawd help them, Warhammer, they may stay that way. You mix WoW and EQ2 in there and...yikes.

Granted, if this was 2005-2006, then my whole view on points 1,2 and especially 3 would be completely different.

I'm missing something. Something about SOE taking/partnering/merging (whatever) with Sigil/Vanguard when they (SOE) already have a VG-like product. Something about all these long posts from Brad (we're now at four I think). You know what, it may be nothing. This may just be a simple case of Brad giving it a go and now, when it's not working out, he simply needs help.

You know what, that's probably what the truth of it is...and some have us have been in that situation. You try one of those projects on your own, like finishing a basement, or fixing your car's transmission by yourself. You end up calling your dad who patiently comes over, fixes what you've screwed up, pats you on the back and says, "Now, next time...ask for help stupid."

Regardless, how the relationship between SOE and Sigil works out will be something to keep an eye out. Obviously, my thoughts on this aren't done yet...yayyy for you eh? :)

D out.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'm too sexy for your hobbit

Still having a blast in LoTRO and I thought I'd post up some screenies for ya.

And of course, I asked this guy for a photo op and he said yes...wow, I'm star struck:

One thing I'm noticing about LoTRO is that the armor looks really, really good. I don't think I've had a combination yet where I look like some sort of fashion retard.

D out

I Still don't get it...

Well...apparently this is happening, i.e. SOE is taking Vanguard. Can someone please tell me why this makes any bit of sense? Anyone...? And don't say "because" or I'll feel the need to smack you :)

...shortest...blog posting...everrrrr.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I say hi, you say low.....

Man...going through that Beatles song and finding a good title for this blog entry is quite challenging. Next time, I'll pick a song with more meat in it.

Of course, this is a follow-up to my entry regarding leaving a game. Sometimes I get comments on these entries that are either very good or add something to the post that I didn't cover...or both. This one was both and had some good points in it, so I wanted to bring it to the front. It was posted by The Ancient Gaming Noob and gives some pointers on what an effective "good bye" post would be. Thanks Wil:

I think you can leave an effective parting message if you work at it. You have to want to send a constructive message. Since most people just want to say, "Screw You (insert company name)!" you rarely see such posts.

First, avoid drama. You are probably best off just saying that you're taking time off from the game. That thwarts all but the most obtuse "can I have your stuff" posters.

Second, detail, with examples, why you've grown tired/frustrated with the game, again without drama or over the top declarations.

Third, mention some good points like what drew you to the game. You were there for a reason, right?

Fourth do not pretend to represent some undocumented group of players. Just because you are upset with the game doesn't mean everybody is. Contradictions to generalizations about the player base exceed responses about who gets your equipment by a large margin.

Finally, do not have any expectations that anything is going to happen ever because of what you wrote. Even if you write something so powerful that it moves the staff to look into your issues, you're unlikely to ever find out.

As for "why" people leave these posts, it is the same reason my wife stomps away and slams the door when we argue and I hold the upper hand. She is mad, she is not getting her way, and she wants to demonstrate that even if it serves no purpose whatsoever.

(I, on the other hand, sulk and get really passive-aggressive... and that happens more because I am usually on the losing side.)

(You also get a comment form when you cancel your EQ2 account. I just saw it yesterday!)

D out.

TCSG LoTR Progress

I finally have gotten into an area that I haven't been in beta and now the fun has really started. I've hit the Lone Lands and man are there ever a lot of quests in that little Inn at the start of the zone. I went there for a couple of delivery quests (...and out of curiosity..) and I must have picked up about 12 more in there. In the center of that zone is a huge hill with a bunch of structures at the top...it looks very impressive. No, didn't get a chance to go up there for two reasons, 1) I think I'd get my ass handed to me...yeah, it looks like it would and 2) I don't have a quest for that place, at least I don't think I do. Regardless, I was killing mostly wolves, goblins, orcs and of course, boars. What is it with developers obsession with boars? They put so many of these things in games that it's starting to boarder on fetish....which is disturbing on so many levels. Anyway, as I was killing things, my quest log would update about three quests at a time...which I absolutely love seeing. It really gives me a sense that I'm accomplishing something with what little time I have to play. Great job Turbine! I'm looking forward to logging in tonight. So, it looks like they've hooked me again....bastards :)

I do have a concern about LoTRO...and it's a small one and has only been a small nagging of my little voice and that's the level cap. Now, I have never been to level 50 in this game just yet, but I'm wondering how long it will be before the first player hits that cap and how long it will be before I and other normal (yes...usually the first person there is a bit of a freak /wink) get there. Once we do get there, what will we be doing...raiding? Grinding for titles? Crafting? No idea, and I hope that Turbine has a solution for the end game that doesn't fall into the WoW rut.

For me, level 50 is going to take some time and so far I'm enjoying the ride, which is the point in my humble opinion. Captain Belmirus of Gondor is level 17.5 right now and is kicking some goblin ass and having a blast...so there.

Oh, and in case you haven't seen it yet...and this is a really nice feature...here is a list of some funky titles you can get in LoTRO. Here is the link the the info from Ancient Gaming Noob...but if you're lazy, here they are here:

  • the Adorable - Recieve 100 /hug emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Alluring - Receive 100 /flirt emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Befuddling - Receive 100 /confused emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Beloved - Receive 100 /kiss emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Dull - Receive 100 /bored emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Harassed - Receive 100 /beg emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Helpful - Receive 100 /thank emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Infuriating - Receive 100 /angry emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Insulted - Receive 200 /rude emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Intimidating - Receive 40 /cower emotes. This can only be incremented 2 times per day.
  • the Naughty - Receive 100 /scold emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Ridiculed - Receive 100 /mock emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Victorious - Receive 40 /surrender emotes. This can only be incremented 2 times per day.
...heh, amazing. I'm going to have to get Cuppy's character to blow me a lot of kisses and scold me a bit. Ummmm....ok, that comes out a bit wrong, but you get the idea ;)

D out.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

TCSG Article over at Virgin Worlds

So here's the article I handed into Brent for his contest. Didn't win with it, but Brent promised me a fruit basket of some sort (.....long story...).

...so, if you're not sick of me yet, get on over there and read it. I really enjoyed writing it, so I'll probably send Brent more stuff in the future.

D out.

P.S. Brent...love the little pic you put in there. Classic.

Warhammer is Delayed

...again shocking news that I never would have seen coming. Tobold got the recent news letter (mine is sent to an account I have no access to right now) so I'll send you all there to take a look.

I'm actually glad they did this because this makes me think that they really do get "the polish" message...but we'll have to wait and see to really make the final judgment on that one. Two down for "getting it", 5-6 more to go for 2007.

Now, with it being foretasted to Q1 2008, there is still a possibility that they'll push it out to Q2. I'm not getting that vibe yet, but prepare yourself for that possibility.

D out.

You say Goodbye...and I say Hello

This is something that I've wondered about for a long time...why do people even bother posting on a MMO forum that they are leaving the game? Why do they think that other players who read the forum even care what they do with their gaming time? Why do they think that posting in a forum is more powerful than voting with your dollar? Do devs care about these posts at all? Lastly...why must every responder after such a post insist on posting "Can I have your stuff"? :)

First angle...why do they even post these types of messages? Well, first and foremost I guess it depends on the person who's doing the posting. This person could be saying goodbye to a lot of friends who's company they've come to enjoy. Another motive could just be the venting of pure frustration on a certain aspect of the game...this type of person my not even follow through on actually quitting. They may have encountered a loot ninja or some other type of frustrating aspect of MMO life and just said, "Frack it!" Either way, people who even post this seem to think that this message is important to convey...or why else would they even bother.

Second...do they really think that people care about them leaving? I think they do, at the very least, those players who have played against or with this person want the chance to say good bye to this player. I had such an experience with one such player in WoW. Before Blizzard ruined world PvP, most battles that I enjoyed where in the Crossroads area. There was this one Rogue on the Alliance side who would just wipe the floor with anyone he engaged. Some time ago, he posted on the Gilneas forum that he had to leave due to the birth of his new child and I posted to say goodbye (one of the two times I posted on the WoW forums). I respected his play skills that much. He later came back, at which time I rolled an alliance toon just to say hi to him.

Why wouldn't people just leave instead of posting? I mean, bottom line is that MMO companies are businesses and surely voting with your dollar has more of an impact than just posting a "goodbye" or "screw you guys" in the forums. Well, some people may feel that just canceling the account leaves a loose string. After all, when you finish a phone call, you just don't hang up the phone...you say "good-bye" first, then hang up. When you leave a friends house...you don't just walk out the door without saying goodbye. I know....there are plenty of circumstances where you do, but in most cases you say "goodbye" then you exit stage left in whatever situation your in. Even in most monthly transactions like phone service, you call up someone to cancel the account first and then you stop paying...kind of like saying goodbye I guess. So, the forum avenue seems to follow the same kind of model for leaving a service of some kind.

Do devs care about these forum posts? I think they do...especially when there is a pattern evolving right in front of their eyes. People leaving could point to a design or game play flaw. It could point to a PR problem that the company has. I think they do read these posts just to make sure that they can intercept these issues before they become too big. I've seen some good "I'm leaving posts" and some bad ones...and I'm sure that the devs get a wide range of useful and useless information from each post that involves the departure of a player.

I'm not really going to cover the "Can I have your stuff" replies, because it just seems to be an MMO forum culture thing...and a stupid one at that. Regardless, it seems that these type of posts are quite useful to the player, the community and the devs in some cases.

D out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Getting your Hobbit On

LoTRO launched yesterday and I must say that it was very smooth indeed. Seems like there are lots of people reporting the same kind of thing across the internet tubes. Good compilation of thoughts over at Kill Ten Rats....so go check it out. So, they're off to a solid start and they've got some good momentum behind them....now let's see what Turbine does with it.

I logged in last night with my Captain and did about 3 or 4 quests and then called it a night. I didn't get to level 16 with that effort, but I was just happy to be progressing again. The town of Bree was just full of people and the whole world looks to be well populated. One bad thing though and this isn't a knock against the game...the chat channels are getting a little bit nutty. I had to turn off /trade, /advice and other channels due to the smack-down and trash talk that was going on. There were a couple of people who said, "hey guys, just send insulting tells to each other...", but these idiots would have none of that...so they proceeded to pollute it for everyone else. Ummm, what the heck is wrong with you guys? Seriously. Anywho...they're turned off and I'm sure they'll stay that way. Ahhh nuts, now I can't get any advice or sell anything :)

D out.

I'm Still Not Dead yet...

Tobold put up a counter to my blog entry last night and I just wanted to do some clarification here. I put a comment on his sight as well.

Couple of things...I never said what Pardo stated about the was "...not true" as Tobold suggests in his counter. What, in fact I did say was that it either "....jumped out at me", or "...it bugged me" and finally "...struck me as an odd thing to say." Before that I illustrated, quite sarcastically of course, the reasons being the end game (key words here...end game) grind that most players are encountering with respect to raiding, farming, reputation and crafting. Never said what Pardo stated was "not true".

I then went on to say how much content there is and how my wife is actually running out of levels before content...to that, Bravo to Pardo for keeping her suitably entertained.

Now, take this with a grain of salt please. I'm not "smacking down" on Tobold...far from it, because the stuff he wrote in his counter to my article is perfectly valid regarding WoW. It does have a lot of content (2000 hours? Sure...easily). It is extremely fun to play from 1-70. I think we're both on the same page, we're both just a little burned out on WoW, and we both never expected it to last forever.

Thanks T :)

D out

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Neglect in a Box

....as my wife calls video games.

So, LoTR launch day is today and I'm really excited to get into this game...finally. The beta was really nice, but it had the effect of getting me too familiar with levels 1-15...so you can imagine how painful it was to go through those levels for a fourth time. Kind of makes me think about not getting into betas anymore...but not quite. I can't exactly report and review stuff for you guys if I don't get in there.

Couple of articles that I want to point out in regards to LoTR....both are closely related to each other and tackle the question of innovation and LoTR. The first is a review of LoTR. The first paragraph of the review says it all really regarding LoTR:

"In almost every other important aspect of the MMOG experience, LOTRO manages either to extrude the gameplay into some new form which hasn't previously been explored, or to simply buff up and polish an experience with which we were already familiar."

That there, ladies and gents, is your theme for all of the MMOs that will be released in 2007. Sure, it encapsulates LoTR very nicely, but notice the buzz word in there..."polish". You'll see that word used for PoTBS, Warhammer (really 2008...but I'll put it in there), Gods and Heroes etc. Yes, you do have permission to tar and feather me if it's not used for the other titles...and yes, I am expecting one to prove me wrong. Anyway, great review and well deserved for a solid title.

Second article is regarding innovation... and the author seems to be as tired of the word as I am. He's right, and I've mentioned this before...we are not going to see any innovation in MMOs for quite some time. I really appreciate guys like Gary and Ryan, and maybe they are ahead of the curve in terms of gaming expectations, however; I think its a great sign of maturity when software companies concentrate on quality out of the box. This is nothing but good news for the industry and lays some great groundwork for innovations that people are calling for.

I don't know, maybe the author is right...maybe we've already reached the innovation ceiling in terms of feature sets and that the issue is purely technical. People keep calling for innovation in mechanics and they cry "WoW RIP-OFF!!" when they see titles like LoTR. Well, I'm sorry, but standardization is bound to happen because some things just work really well. Everyone reads books. The mechanics of book reading haven't changed in hundreds of years. You've got your paper, your book spine and your print. Lets say I change the mechanics on you...there you go, all of your favorite books are now in Jello format. There you go...I've innovated...and yes, I'm being a smart-ass. Thats what you get when you try and innovate on things that aren't broken in the first place.

D out.

I'm not Dead Yet!

My gawd!! Who would have thought that PC gaming is not dead. This...this is just shocking. OK, so let's just drop this whole prognosticating of the death of PC gaming. It's not dying. It will never die. It is the main technological driver for gaming, not consoles...end of story. You "PC gaming is dead" people are getting up there with the apocalypse people in terms of credibility...and they're not exactly batting 1000. If I read one more article on this subject, I will personally send the author a box full of angry kittens. You've been warned.

Interesting article with Rob Pardo over on Next Generation. Some great insights on creating what is one of the most popular games in PC history. One small little thing jumped out at me though...and it is small, but it still bugged me.

WoW is as close to a cash-generating machine as you’re likely to find, so it’s easy to imagine pressure being applied to take advantage of this audience. He says the reason why WoW is successful is because it delivers a lot of content; not just a grind; and that content takes time and creative effort to produce.

(bold my emphasis)

Ummm...okay, so I'm going to assume that Rob has played WoW at the end game which usually involves a grind for rep (...to get better gear...), or grinding for gold (...to guy better gear...), or grind for mats (...to make better gear...) or raiding (...to possibly get better gear...). It just struck me as an odd thing to say. He is right though, WoW offers a ton of content. My wife was questing last night in WoW and she was mentioning how she will probably run out of levels before she runs out of quests. She's not looking forward to the end of questing though...she's not the grinding type, so the game is essentially over for her at 70.

D out.

Edit: Check out an addition to this article here.

The Devil may Come

I figured it would be a good thing to express the flip side of being the hero in an MMO...being a villain. Certainly, there comes a time when a lot of us just want to misbehave in a game and cause people some good ol fashioned heartache....virtually of course.

Current games are very limited in their evil offerings right now. Sure, the player is usually able to choose an "evil" race and usually these "evil" races live in darker areas of the world....ohhhhhhh, I'm shaking in my booties already. That's it though. Oh, fine then, some of the quests have you doing deeds of questionable moral value (...think Dark Elf in Vanguard..), but do quests alone a villain make? There's got to be something more to being evil than just picking a faction though. Of course, we have Eve Online and the players that choose to be pirates. These players really aren't making an evil choice...or are they? We've got to think of something beyond just ganking and griefing.

Let's start from the beginning. It's my belief, in this world, nobody is really born evil, we're usually taught how to be that way...so why don't MMO start off like that. Every character starts as a neutral character with absolutely no concept of what is right and what is wrong. The only entity that knows the difference is the player behind the character. Now, the game has to support good and evil choices. OK, I've accepted the quest to save the queen from the giant ant creatures, but they're offering me more to kill her....hmmmmm. Full teams of players could sack a village for no reason. There could be quests set up in the game that ask the player to do stuff like this. As the player performs evil acts, they themselves become more and more evil.

So, why would a player want to do this? Just like being a hero, do players really want to play the bad guy? Most definitely. When I watch/listen to actors in interviews (an activity I don't do often), one of the themes that come up a lot is how much they love playing the bad guy. Bad guys are interesting to play due to the range you are given. Heroes are bound by certain rules and codes....a bad guy has no such boundaries. You can save the kitty cat from the tree by climbing up there with a ladder...or, you can shoot it out with your 12 gauge shot gun. The choice is yours how you want to interact with the world.

It could probably be argued that being an evil character is true freedom of gameplay. Bad guys play a pivotal role in any story. They are the ones with the giant "laser" pointed at the earth. They are the ones with their trigger finger one the big shiny red destructo button of doom. They are the the ones that give the hero his/her chance to be lifted up above the rest. Without the villain, there can be no hero...so why not give players that role. Why not allow players the chance to define, shape and create player heroes by being the toughest badass player on the server.

D out

Monday, April 23, 2007

You've got to read this...

...and please spread it around. I want this on every corner of the internet by this time tomorrow. Link it...post it...email it.

Bill Harris from Dubious Quality just put up something that should smack King Asshat right in the head (...intellectually speaking of course). The post is called A New Low.

Every gamer should memorize that FBI monograph so that we are armed with facts when we come up against asstards.

Well done Bill.

D out

It's Buffet Day

So we'll start off with some podcast news. First up is the guys at MOG have posted up show number 61. Their guest for the show is Denis McCauley from gamepolitics.com. This show deserved some mention because they tackle all of the issues behind the recent events at Virginia Tech. Gary and Ryan bring up a very important fact about what happened and that it is the issue of how mental health played into this whole thing. It looks like this kid was just sick in the head ...well, obviously. That, unfortunately doesn't seem to be the focus of the debate...because hey, politicians will get more votes if they "save children from video games" than if they tackle mental illness. As usual...it's guns, video games and media in general (rap music or movies) as the central issue. Sadly, we will see more events like this happen again until we address the real issues of why people do things like this. So, thanks Garry and Ryan...great show boys.

Next, looks like TelonCast is signing off for good now. Mikael has decided that Vanguard is not the MMO for him I guess and has opted move on to other things. I'm really not surprised to tell you the truth. If you look at the podcasts, they've been getting shorter and shorter...also, his tone and enthusiasm seem to change at around show 6-ish. It's hard enough to keep a podcast going...it's even harder when you don't have a passion for the game you're playing. He's starting another general podcast called Wildly Divergent in the near future. So, good luck to Mike with his future podcast.

LoTRO has announced their first update called Shores of Evendim. Check it out for feature details and such. It's great that they are already announcing new content and like I said, I'm really eager to start to experience this game after the level cap is removed.

So Brent keeps posting content from his recent contest and one caught my eye on Friday. The article hits an angle I never really thought of, i.e. how could the VG team keep moving on their vision despite having the MMO successes and failures to draw on since 2001-2002 (or whenever they actually started designing VG)? That's a really good question. They saw the massive success that is WoW and how it absolutely killed EQ2 at launch in 2004...and yet, they stuck with their vision. They saw how well Eve Online was doing, and yet, stuck with their vision. Nat has a point, this vision may have just translated to either bad design or outdated gaming norms that just don't appeal to gamers anymore. Remember how I said that the word "potential" has an expiry date...well, we're really close to it I think.

There are some who think that Sigil is in a bit of trouble and that SOE may be a candidate for taking over Vanguard. I really don't know what to think about that. One question is: Why would they? They already have a fantasy game in EQ2. Why on earth would they pick up on another one? Given EoF, EQ2 has just finally come into it's own and, in my opinion, is on par with WoW in terms of game play and accessibility. SOE spent two years getting to this point with EQ2, why would they spend the money, resources, and another 2 years getting VG up to snuff? Personally, I think they have their hands full with something else...because besides the station pass thingy and the new launcher, SOE has said nothing about what they're doing next (more knowledgeable people...please correct me if I'm wrong).

D out.

The Gaming Blahs

There seems to be nothing going on right now...and that usually means that something is going on.

Do you ever have one of those weeks when you've had a busy day at work, you've made dinner for the family, gave the kids a bath, put them to bed. You then turn on the computer and settle in for some gaming...and then, nothing. You just stare at the computer screen for 15 minutes wondering wtf you're going to play? I've had one of those weeks. A week where I turn on the computer, stare at it, fiddle around a bit and then leave to go do something else downstairs....it's very weird. I think I watched more TV last week than I have the last six moths combined.

It's not as if I don't have anything to play. LoTR Online...check. My Captain is up to level 15 and my Champion is up to level 7. I guess I could mine nodes and work on my crafting but the crafting system really hasn't motivated me in this game just yet. Eve Online...check. Skill training is still going. Silent Hunter 4...no so check. Lots o' bugs in the game still, so I continue to hold off really getting into that one. Vangurad...no so check. I haven't logged into that game for a bit and it looks like that adventure is coming to an end for me. WoW...account canceled. I didn't like doing it, but it had to be done. My wife and her friend are planning to start a couple of alliance characters in the future, so maybe I'll resub around that time. BC fell really short in my book, but maybe I just need a new perspective on the game and start fresh....but then again...

I'm in zero betas right now, so I have nothing to report there....so what the heck have I been doing lately? Well, I've been going gang busters on my guitar playing (...yes, I can play. No, you'll never hear me play, so don't ask :) . Oh yeah, and barre chords are the devil!!). The good news is that even though there is really no news, there is still lots to talk about...so stay tuned for the usual stuff from TCSG.

Bah...I usually get into this game blah state once every 1-2 months and then it promptly disappears. LoTR launches tomorrow, so I can finally get past 15, so I'll be going gangbusters on that title as soon as I can. My goal is to get past level 30 by June because come that time it's "Avast you sorry sacks of entrails...hoist the main sail!!"

D out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ahh Crap

I've been tagged...not once, but twice. Damn you Cuppy and Bildo...I will get you eventually.

So, here it is: 5 Reasons that I blog:

1. I needed someplace, please, anyplace to write my thoughts down about MMOs. I've laid low for quite a while...browsing webpages, reading forums (but not posting...dear gawd, never posting). I find that keeping all of these ideas in your head without some kind of outlet was not good for my sanity :)

2. I really don't have any real gamer friends....or none to really talk to about gaming on a regular basis anyway. I'm finding people I would have never really talked to if it hadn't been for this site. I'm finding this whole blogger/podcast community network is starting to form all around me, and I like what I see.

3. Writing down my ideas sharpens and shapes them...especially when someone comments and changes my perspective on an idea (...this happens more than you think...)

4. Networking. You never know what doors will open if you write about what you love.

5. This point comes from me looking back on it from where I am now. It still amazes me that people actually read what I write down. It amazes me that I have readers actually. It amazes me that they take the time to post comments.

No one to tag, as I'm sure everyone has already been hit. Plus....the madness has got to stop somewhere.

Gods in the City

OK...now that I've purged my thoughts on current world events, I can now move on.

A very interesting interview regarding Gods and Heroes over at MMOG Nation, and once again, a flag has gone up in my head...albeit, not a red one. This flag is sort of an off-yellow-ish with a hint of pink in it.

I'm going to highlight two questions that I found interesting. Alone, they say something for sure, but taken together, they remind me of something we've seen before.

MMOG Nation: We’ve heard elsewhere that the goal is to make leveling “slower than in other games,” while avoiding the feel of a grind. Can you give us an impression of how long you’re hoping people will take to work through the game’s initial content? What elements are being worked into the game to ensure that a slower leveling curve doesn’t feel grindy?

Travis George: We don’t have a goal at all of making leveling slower than in other games. We do have a goal of making leveling happen as almost a side result of playing a really fun game, exploring a cool world, and fulfilling really interesting quests. We think it’s much more important for players to be wrapped up in what’s happening in the world rather than staring at the level bar. With all of the amazing loot and rewards to earn—individual feats, gear, minions, minion gear, individual minion feats—there will always be something at every point along the way that players will be excited to discover.

First of all, amen. When a game keeps me focused on the adventure and fun that I'm having instead of my level progress bar, then that is a huge accomplishment. In a lot of games, that level bar is the main focus of the player and it seems that everything else they're doing is kind of a side show. Vanguard is one of those games...same with WoW (obviously). Personally, the most recent games where I'm not looking at the level bar would be CoH, LoTR and EQ2...but that's just me.

OK, second interesting question and answer...and this is the final thing that raised my odd colored flag:

MMOG Nation: You’re shipping a very stripped down Massive game at launch; no PvP, no crafting, no housing. PvE Questing and great-looking squad-based combat seems to be the focus. Do you think this puts you at a disadvantage, given the large number of Massively Multiplayer games shipping this year?

Chris Launius: We think we will have a pretty solid offering when we launch. We are shipping a different MMO than other games that have come out so far. Our game offers features that aren’t being offered in any other MMO out there—squad building and squad combat, visceral action combat, and the deep minion system. In addition to player feats we also have a separate string of special moves and abilities called God Powers that allows you to command the powers of your selected Deity to help inflict massive damage on your foes and protect you from a crushing defeat in a glorious and spectacular fashion.

There actually is a form of player housing in the game, which we call player camps. Each player gets their very own camp where your minions are stored and upgraded; it’s also where you find your personal bank and postal service. These camps should be bigger and more elaborate than most player housing available in other MMOs.

We do recognize the importance of crafting, and want to take the time to make sure we have a crafting system that fits in with our gameplay mechanics and systems. We have chosen to focus on the core game mechanics and work on adding the crafting experience post launch.

When Gods & Heroes ships, we feel that it will be a fantastic product that will definitely have a major place in the market.

So, at first release Gods and Heroes will be centered mostly around combat and crafting will come in later. OK, so we have a game here that (a) does not make you look at the level progression bar because it's a lot of fun, and (b) will be about combat at launch. Does this sound familiar to anyone. Anyone...? Bueller?...Bueller? Yup....City of Heroes.

Now, this is not a bad thing. City of Heroes is a great game but it unfortunately is all about combat and it offers nothing else for players to really do besides that. Of course, Issue 9 is coming out very soon and will introduce a crafting system to the game. I remember reading the CoH forums at the time and some players asking about crafting, and the devs said almost the exact same thing as the folks at Perpetual did. Now, 3 years after release, crafting is being introduced, which, may be a tad on the late side.

If Perpetual is going to go the route of City of Heroes, then we're going to see a very popular game...at first. If they don't introduce other aspects of game play within the first year, then we're going to start running into problems. Sure, it may have great animations, visceral combat and an innovative minion system...but a game purely based on combat and questing will only carry you so far.

I'm sure that they'll roll out something quickly and I'm far from shrugging off this title because, hey, I love the Roman period....but damnit, I'd better be able to wear a my crafted off-yellow and pink toga too.

D out.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


All this hero talk got myself and Cuppy mentioned on the EQ2 Players Town Crier.

...I really don't know what to say about that. Once again, I am speechless ;)

All of this was spawned off of a comment I got from one of my "online" friends Kevin.

Which got me thinking...if any of you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, just send me an email and I'll try my best to talk about it. I may not get to it right away because I tend to soak an idea before I write about it.

Anyway, good to see TCSG mentioned on EQ2Players. Damnit....now I'm all giddy.

D out.

When we all fall down...

You know, I wasn't going to say a word about what happened recently regarding the event at VT...because I really don't trust myself in making this whole post either about a) gun control, or b) The King Asshat (need I say more) or c) video game violence (see b).

You see, I'm Canadian, so the (a) option has never registered with my brain for anyone to need (note the word "need" not "want") a gun. It's just a cultural difference there. I just think that this murderer would have done less damage had he only had access to a knife or baseball bat. I was a big time hunter when I was in high school. I hunted rabbits, deer and of course, moose. I made it point to use only a single shot weapon, as I personally thought that if I didn't hit the animal the first time, I didn't deserve it. So, I never got the whole for semi-autos for hunting thing. This is just my take, and I know we all have our own. The whole thing just makes no sense what so ever.

I'm a gamer at heart, so it absolutely infuriates me to hear King Asshat and now Dr.Phil (W...T...F!!!). We as gamers know that millions of people play video games. We as gamers also know that if there was any correlation between school shootings and video games, we'd have a bigger problem on our hands than we do now. I get angry enough when a guy like this thinks he had the right to take other peoples lives because he can't deal. It gets me even angrier when lawyers, politicians, TV show hosts and "news" reporters use a high impact event like this to push their own careers along. We've got real families suffering here and these talking heads can't get their heads out of their ass.

As for part (c), well, it's closely linked to King Asshat because thats the drum he likes to beat...repeatedly.

As a father of two little girls, this thing absolutely scares the shit out of me. We haven't had that many of these school shootings up here, but we have had them. Part of me never wants to let my 6 year old go to school again. Part of me just wants to say, "ok, everyone hand in the guns now...enough is enough". Part of me wishes that kid didn't kill himself so that he could truly understand what the moms and dads of those kids are feeling. But, hey, I really can't have any of that...realistically anyway.

D out.

P.S Sorry to law abiding gun owners.

P.S.S I'm not sorry to King Asshat...you truly are a D bag.

P.S.S.S Rush as the voice of common sense...amazing and bravo.

CALLER: What I really think is an issue is video violence, video gaming. I will guarantee you, I'll bet my last dollar in my pocket, that this shooter will be found to have been a compulsive video gamer, and when people are living that kind of lifestyle -- and college students do this a lot.

RUSH: (sigh) Let's say you're right. Not every video gamer goes out and murders 33 people on the college campus though. There's more to this than that. We can find all kinds of societal problems and ills, but the fact of the matter is that whatever you would look at as a bad influence -- video games as you mentioned -- it may desensitize people, but it doesn't turn everybody into mass murderers.

I know it's natural that everybody wants to throw their theories into this, and perhaps come up with perhaps a unique explanation or to understand, and I think it's natural, because people have a tough time accepting a relatively simple explanation for something of this scale. But how many people are playing video games out there? How many millions of people play video games, and how many millions of people have guns?

If you start blaming the video games, you may as well demand video game control because it's the same thing when you start trying to blame guns for this. You have here a sick individual, an evil individual who committed a random act. But if you want to start blaming the video games, this guy was this or that, weeeeell, then you've gotta maybe talk about banning them because that's the same tack that's taken with guns. You got one guy who used a gun that's it. You're falling prey to the same way the Drive-Bys propagandize, and that's, "Well, we need gun control! We gotta get guns out of the hands of people."

So you gotta be real careful here not to paint with broad brushes on these things. You gotta be very careful not to plug this into your own individual political prism, because then you become no different than what the Drive-Bys are doing. If you just wait, eventually we'll find out more than we want to know about this guy, and you're going to have to listen to what's reported about this guy with keen ears, and you're going to have to read with sharp eyes out there, because the Drive-Bys are going to report about this guy in ways that will advance their political agenda because that's what this story is to them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Square of Pi to Slay the Dragon

OK, so I addressed the first part of my friends questions regarding the "hero" aspects of MMOs, now we have this one to go over:

"O.k. enough on that. But another topic you should tackle is something to do with numbers and MMOs. Are they inexorably linked? Is it possible to ever get away from that system? If not, then people will always deconstruct the game down into statistics, formulas and numbers. It will always boil down to numbers, and now fighting that dragon becomes less about an epic battle as it is making darn sure your math and formulas are correct. Love to hear more of your thoughts on both these subjects."

First up, are MMOs and numbers linked in some way? Well, the technical answer is yes, they are and yes they always will be. There will always be a mathematical model to your character, a mob, a weapon and even a tree. I guess what the real question would be is, should the player see that math in the form of stats...and should they be able to calculate or maximize success based on the numbers they see?

OK, well, lets pretend that we hide those numbers away from the player. They are still there, they're just in the background working away during combat, or crafting or what have you. Let's say you've been playing the game for about 3 hours and you've killed a lot of rats and bears, but now you see your first humanoid. You've never encountered this creature before. There is nothing over its head giving you any information. No "elite" tag. No level. No hit points. Not even a con color. As for yourself, you've picked up some new armor and a sword during your first 3 hours, but there are no stats on them. You don't know the DPS...there is no strength modifier (that you know of anyway..because its hidden from you). So, you have some choices. You can (a) go in there, attack it and see how you do, or (b) assume that its too tough, and go on killing other things.

OK, now, lets put in some numbers. You know your level. You know your DPS. You have all sorts of character stats and your equipment is about average. Now, same story, you've been killing rats and bears for the last 3 hours and you come across your first humanoid mob. There is an indicator over its head signifying its level and difficulty relative to you. So, you have some choices. You can (a) go in there and attack it, or (b) don't attack it and move on.

Wow....same choices for both. So, knowing your stats and not knowing your stats doesn't change your choices in game. However, not knowing your stats and its stats does throw in a kind of mystery twist to it. Sure, your choices are the same...but I bet your heart is racing a bit faster when you have no idea what the outcome would be. But, is this fair to the player? To give them no cues at all on whether they can win an engagement or not...or to give them no indication on whether they can craft an item. If we don't want every encounter to come down to a number crunch for a player, then what have we got? A couple of things:
  • Visual cues. Give the player some sort of visual cue on whether a task is possible for them. This could be based on color, or size, or shapes. You can have difficult mobs look really bad-ass and simple ones look easy. Difficult mobs could have a chain of skulls around their neck, saying to the player, "Hey, I've pwned these guys. I can pwn your sorry ass".
  • Audio cues. Give the player some kind of audio indicator like a huge roar from the mob that shakes the very ground they stand on....that'll do it. An audio cue could be the mob laughing at you as you're trying to hit the mob and doing no damage to it.
  • Story cues. You can put some sort of dynamic indicator in the quests or story, telling the player that these guys are tough and that you may need friends.
So the options are there to give the player some notification on whether or not they should attack, or craft, or harvest or whatever...we just need people who are smarter than me to flesh them out and give them a try. We as players have to also be willing to give it a try as well. Part of the issue is that I think most players are so use to the current stat and equipment paradigm that any change away from that may be a bit too much. Very few people like the idea of a mystery encounter...they want to know if they can beat something before they attack it. They want to know if its worth they're time if they engage. They don't want to get so frustrated by dying over and over to the same class of mob.

So, will there always be numbers? Yes there will be...somewhere. We're crying for changes in the MMO space. It would be interesting to see how the player base reacts when change really comes knocking on our door. Oh look, it's a dragon and you've seem to have forgotten your calculator.

D out.

P.S Thanks Kevin for all of the fodder :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gary Responds

Gary of MOG was kind enough to post a response to my "MOG no longer Massive or Online" article. I thought I would bring it up front for everyone.

"Hey Guys...Gary here from MOG here

When I said that I was done with MMO's right now it's more of a frustration with the current market...

We are absolutely going to be trying Conan, POTBS, Tabula, and probably every other MMO that comes out...

We LOVE the genre...it's just in a really boring place right now...consoles are forging on creating some really great experiences while MMO devs are giving us alot of the same over and over again...it's frustrating...

As for your first commenter I am sorry you think that we stopped making sense for giving what was supposed to be a monumental title(D&L)a shot...and at that time Shadowbane went completely free!! Why wouldnt we try it out...we didnt play SB in it's hay day...

Do we have a drink once in awhile...sure

Do we crack some jokes...sure

Do we talk about video games...sure

That is what we do...hopefully we make you chuckle at something and you realize we are talking about video games here...not Global Politics...it should be FUN!"

Glad to hear that they're going to stick it out and try all of these titles. It's going to be an interesting year.

D out.

We Don't Need Another Herrrrroooo

...blah blah blah...Thunder Dome.....

So a friend of mine left an interesting comment on in my blog posting "Careful what we wish for...". He essentially has two things he wants me to comment on, so I'll handle them one at a time with different posts. OK, so the first part of his comment was this:

"I'd love to see your thoughts (and maybe those of Brent, Cuppy, and others) on the topic of "Everyone Wants to be a Hero".

To me that's one of the biggest challenges MMOs face. In single player games, you ARE the hero. You feel special, you are driving the story, it's all about you. You get all the "stuff". Most adventure/action/fantasy novels and movies have a hero, or maybe a small band at most. But in an MMO, everyone wants to be a hero - powerful, cool stuff, and slaying the dragon at the end.

Just thinking about things like removing gear, stats, attributes, etc. That's the hard part - how then do you define a character? How do you know you're the hero in the MMO and the guy who just logged into today for the first time is the village peasant by comparison? Is that even important?

I'm not sure a world can be created where only a few rise to a true hero status while the rest of us take up occupations like the town smith, a merchant, a scholar or a mercenary. But in books and movies that's typically how it is. Would we, as a community, be o.k. with playing a game where we have fun, we contribute, we have a place in the society of the MMO, but are not the uber hero in the uber gear? I guess SWG initially took a stab at that kind of concept by making it realy hard to become a Jedi. ..."

OK, so we all need to feel like a hero in an MMO....no doubt about it. Like he said, in single player games, movies and books, the hero is a special character that drives the story. He/She is given this large task that is usually larger than himself. Obstacles are thrown in the way. Badguys are killed/beaten up/smacked around/humiliated etc and in the end we get the girl, the white picked fence and the 2.5 kids. Why...why...why don't I feel like that in an MMO?

As I thought about his question, the more I thought that if a player does not feel like a hero, then maybe its a failure of imagination to put yourself in that role. Of course, it's harder to put yourself in that role if you are not made to feel unique...which is, again, very hard to do when the guy next to you has the exact same outfit as you do. To be made to feel unique within an MMO with 5-6000 other players on a server is not an easy design problem to overcome. Can you imagine the amount of money and resources it would take to create the assets needed to make it so that 5000 characters are not the same....in any way? That would mean differing skills, powers, weapons, armour, quests, crafting for everyone...jeepers. From a software point of view, it just can't be done. So, designers do what they do now...they create a handful of classes and other skill and equipment sets. From there, permutations and combinations fall out to give the illusion of uniqueness. So, I doubt that the feeling of a hero will not be had from a design standpoint...if you're looking for uniqueness.

So, what else can we offer? A story. We can give the player a story to throw themselves into. You know, save the princess, fight off the evil Duke and his minions...ummmm, collect 10 rat pelts because of some fetish that Zergub the Gnome Tinker has. But, that really isn't unique because everyone else will do those quests as well. If we're all experiencing the same story/quests, how are we to be made to feel the hero? Simple, you imagine that you are. You put yourself into that role and pretend that this story is unique to your character...and when you think about it, it is unique. You're level 40 Tauren has not experienced saving the princess yet, or defeated the Duke even though you or other players might have already. We just have to give our imaginations permission to bring us to that "hero place" we bring ourselves to for single player games and PnP sessions.

MMO's are a different animal from single player games because you're not brought into the story right away. An MMO just presents the world to you and says, "Here you go...make your mark". It's up to us as players to make our own story in these worlds. I know, we're kind of trained to expect visual media to tell the story for us...but I really do think that we need to take up some of the slack if we really want to feel the hero.

D out

Monday, April 16, 2007

MOG no longer Massive or Online??

So, it's no secret that one of my favorite podcasts out there is MOG with hosts Garry and Ryan. These guys present a very good editorial and opinion podcast on MMOs...added to that, they've really stepped up their media content with both the MMO Minute and Cognition. However, in show #60, Gary said something that made me go "Whoa???!!". He said, "...We need some innovation. Until something comes out that is so innovative and just knocks me down...I'm almost done with MMOs." Ryan feels the same way and it looks like their interest in the genre is being "stripped away" with the current MMO offering. Again...whoa??

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to argue their point because they do represent a segment of the current MMO audience...but it still stuck me as a really weird statement to make for these two guys. Why? The reason I listen to shows like MOG and VirginWorlds is because I respect and trust their opinions on games that I'm interested in. If Brent were to message me and say, "Darren, go by game X...you're going to love it", I wouldn't hesitate. Actually, Brent is the one who put me onto Ryzom and the MOG guys convinced me to try Eve Online again....both of which are great games. I'm sure, there are people who listen to these guys and try many games based on the coverage they give. With their focus now including XBox 360 titles, this just widens the net.

Now, if Garry and Ryan are not going to try titles like Conan or PoTBS or Tabula Rasa, I wonder if they are making a mistake by not putting both feet in the pool for 2007. I've said it before, 2007 is a pivotal year for MMOs. If imitation breeds innovation, the next couple of years are going to be nuts in the MMO space. As a listener of MOG, I want to hear what they have to say on all of the MMO titles coming out in 2007.

Oh well...I hope it was just an "off the cuff" statement made out of a level of frustration. Loosing that MOG angle on MMOs would just feel wrong IMHO.

D out.

Careful what we wish for...

Before I get started, I want to emphasize something about my last post. No, that post was not an "I told you so" sort of thing. This site really isn't really a news site, it's more of a random thought/editorial kind of gig....but regardless, I still have a measure of responsibility to the public discourse within the MMO community. I don't have a very large voice, but I do have one that people hear. As such, I tend to refrain myself from pressing panic buttons very often. What I read last week, regarding SOE's decision to hire David Christiansen, where obvious knee jerk reactions that had nothing to do with the hiring or it's business implications and everything to do with pre-existing hate-ons for SOE. Still sitting back and watching this one though... and I hope that we can muster a better analysis of something like this next time it comes around.

Moving on....

Innovation...Innovation...Innovation. If I hear or read that word in the context of MMOs one more time(besides this article...heh), I'll scream. OK...so the current state of MMO's being stale is duly noted...thank you very much. So, what are some of the features that some are asking for:
  • Get rid of the dice rolls....make it more skill based. OK, so this is going to be done in Conan I believe, so the jury is still out how this feature will play out. I have to agree with this point to some extent. When all is said and done, there is still a measure of chance to the current MMOs. You sit there, press buttons on your action bar and the game tells you if you hit or not. What I fear about "skill" based MMOs is that the game becomes all about movement and nothing at all about skill. I can't get rid of this image of a bunch of bunny hoping players jumping over each other in order to get behind their opponent. /shiver
  • Make it more like a FPS. I'm not not convinced that this is really an innovation. It more sounds like borrowing from another genre to me...so tell me why this is an innovation again? If you make an MMO more like an FPS, then it's only a matter of time before FPSs get stats and become more like MMOs. Are we really asking for a merger of the two genres here? If all we really want is a persistent world FPS, then why are we buggin the MMO guys and not the FPS guys to do this?
  • Get rid of stats. OK, thats a possibility. I'm assuming since stats don't matter, neither does level or equipment then, because they're all closely tied together in order to measure the progress of your character. So, how would a character grow within the world. I know we want the world to change...but how would the character change with it? Would we get a more Eve-like system? Ah-ha...no, because that would not be innovation, would it...it's been done already. If there is no character growth, why should I play an MMO?
  • Give players complete freedom within the world. Sure...we can do that, to an extent. There must be boundaries in place because they define the game you're playing. A game with no rules is not a game. This is a truth that applies to every game from poker to billiards, so there is no different for MMOs...time to deal with that fact.
There are other types of "innovations" that we want that I haven't included and I'm sure everyone reading has their own list. For the most part, we're going to see some of these in 2007. New crafting paradigm in PoTBS, skill based combat in Conan, player "freedom" in Warhammer. I have no idea why we're not being patient to see how 2007 is for "innovation" and then analyzing the results for 2008. Last year, we bitched about there being no MMOs. Now we're bitching about all MMOs being "like WoW"...even before they're released it seems. Are we really that hard to please?

I don't know, maybe our expectations are a bit too high on what these MMOs can give us. Like I said, every MMO that is coming out this year is doing something a little different...offering it's own little twist. Heh, the MMO community in general right now kinda reminds me of a typical Ottawa Senators fan..every time they loose the playoffs, these "fans" ask for everyone to be fired and for the team to be rebuilt from top to bottom. In this yearly ritual we go through, they always seem to forget how much fun the regular season was.

D out.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

When the bow breaks, the cradle will....

Well, there is value to waiting after all...isn't there.

What's the lesson here boys and girls? Before extracting your pound of flesh, be sure it's not your own leg your getting it from.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fallout MMO news

Now, this is very interesting. Why? Because of this little gotchya:

"In a special clause of the purchase agreement, Interplay agrees that "full-scale development of its FALLOUT MMOG will commence within 24 months of the Effective Date of this Agreement" and that "Interplay will have secured financing for the FALLOUT MMOG in an amount no less than $30 million" within that time frame or forfeit its license rights for the MMO.

Similarly, "Interplay must, in addition, Commercially Launch... the FALLOUT MMOG within four years of the MMOG Development Commencement Date, or again, "Interplay will immediately lose and permanently forfeit its license rights under this Agreement." If and when the Fallout MMO launches, Interplay has agreed to pay Bethesda 12 percent of the game's sales and subscription fees for the use of the Fallout IP."

Keep an eye on the Fallout MMO, because this clause will play heavily on the quality of this title coming out of the gate.

D out.

The Generosity of Players

Well, I was logged into Eve again, and this is how may day went:

Log into vent. Hey, there's a ratting channel, lets go see if I can join them.

"Hey guys. This is my second day in 0.0 and I was wondering if I can join you for some ratting?"

"Not too sure. We're only ratting six belts, so there won't be much to go around for more players right now. But hey, we'll join up with you later with some alts or I'm sure other players can help you out."

"OK, I'll just hang out here and chat with you guys while I figure out what I'll do."

...hockey chit-chat ensued. GO SENS GO!!!

"What kind of ship do you have Bel?" ..Bel is my usual nickname I go by in most games.

"Oh...a Caracal."


"Yeah, I know. I really suck at Eve right now...hence the reason why I'm in 0.0, to make some cash for upgrades. Empire just wasn't cutting it in terms of cash flow."

"Well...we can fix that up. I have an extra Ferox that I can give you..."


These two corps members then went on getting modules, the ship and giving me a whole bunch of advice about training and ratting and, well, other useful information that I've already forgotten. I was literally beside myself as they handed all of this stuff to me...speechless as it were.

When everything was equipped, I took her out for a spin and it was very nice indeed. I tried to do ratting on my own, but I had to bail out of the fight because I didn't want to scratch the new paint too much.

My second day in 0.0 and my corps mates remind me why I like MMOs so much. I'm keeping names out of this post due to the nature of Eve, so they'll probably never see this....but thanks guys.

D out.

The Walls have Eyes!!

It's getting insane again and the seven horsemen of the apocalypse are on the move. Why? Simple...SOE hired a VP of Business Development from IGE to to head up Business Development and International Operations. That's it then....I got lots to do before the fit hits the shan.

So far, the only people who have been even close to level headed about this is Cuppy and Brent (who agrees with Cuppy and will say no more). Everyone else seems to be, well...not so much. Now, don't get me wrong, these guys may prove to be right at some point...but right now, I just think that they are over reacting just a tad.

Look, SOE is a business and their job is to make money. David Christiansen has experience in business development and will help the SOE's corporate strategy to make money. Yes, this is an odd move due to IGE's affiliation with RMTs and such....but that's all this is for now, "odd". Saying, "well, hey, this means that SOE is now going to expand station exchange and start making RMT a core business model" is jumping the gun at this point. So no, SOE making this move does not mean that they want to eat your babies, steal your lunch money or give you a wedgie.

OK, so what if these guys are right and SOE does expand RMT and this guy is heading that initiative up. Well, here is the fun part....vote with your wallet. Don't buy SOE products. You see, thats the fun of being a customer. You get to decide where your money goes. You get to decide who to support. However, predicting doom, raining frogs, dogs and cats living together etc. , to what is right now, a non-event, just weakens your position and the point you're trying to make.

For me, I'll sit back and see what unfolds. Let's leave the crystal balls packed up for this one and actually comment when something REALLY happens with this story. Wow....that would be a switch, wouldn't it.

D out.