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, 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'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, 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 :) 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 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 there.

Oh, and in case you haven't seen it yet...and this is a really nice 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...)., 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. 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. 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 say "good-bye" first, then hang up. When you leave a friends 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 go check it out. So, they're off to a solid start and they've got some good momentum behind 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 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 " 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 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 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 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 ( get better gear...), or grinding for gold ( guy better gear...), or grind for mats ( make better gear...) or raiding ( 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 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 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.

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 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'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'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'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 so check. Lots o' bugs in the game still, so I continue to hold off really getting into that one. 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 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 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 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 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. 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 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'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'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 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 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 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'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. 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 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?, because that would not be innovation, would'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." 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 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.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Journey

OK, so Eve continues it's love/hate relationship with me. Man, playing that game reminds me of a girl I dated in high school once. She's very pretty and is a great dancer, but sometimes she'll kick you square in the balls.

I opted to start communicating with my corps again (yes, I've been kinda silent while I figure this game out) and start the journey to area of the game which I haven't experienced yet. The corps officers immediately wanted me on vent and catch me up on things...which was really nice. They answered all of my stupid questions and even gave my sorry/poor ass some cash for supplies for the next month or so.

I did some equipping for the journey and started my first journey in 0.0...and I was very nervous for the trip, despite the corps telling me that the path is all clear. I mapped out the path and off I went, each jump I checked local for anyone who wasn't green or blue to me. With all of the talk about 0.0 that I've heard over the past year, I honestly thought that I'd be blown up after the first jump. Suffice to say that I made all jumps into 0.0 without incident and now I'm ready to experience Eve in a different least, that's what I'm hoping.

Not too sure how much longer I will last in Eve given the MMOs that are coming out. PoTBS is a definite right now, and it's coming out in June I think. Let's face it, Warhammer will be a Q1 2008 release (at the earliest). Conan hasn't pushed any of my buttons at all...yayyy, I can chop off heads and it looks good, but what else? Oh yeah, their magic system is very interesting. Gods and Heroes is a possibility but again, the only thing I see right now are the animations and that ultimately won't sell me long term....and honestly, I'm still suspicious of the minion system. Who knows who will be on top of my play list at the end of's interesting to speculate though. My guess is PoTBS, Eve and LoTR right now.

D out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Battle of the with more anime

It is said that there are three things you should never talk about amongst strangers: sex, politics and religion. Well, two out of three aren't bad I guess ;)

On the topics of sex (man...just typing the word should bring those 'ol hits up eh?). Some women decided it would be a swell idea if she sold herself for her flying mount in WoW. This goes up there in my "WTF" category. We all wonder why politicians, lawyers and moral police are all over the game industry these days, it's because of people like this. Opportunistic morons, *cough* Lieberman *cough* Jack Thompson* cough cough*, will seize any opportunity for power and this stunt is just giving them more fuel for their crusade. I really don't care what you do with your free time...heck, jump off a cliff for a flying mount for all I care. What I do care about is when your actions end up putting more rules and regulations on me and others because of your apparent lack of foresight. Man...we're devolving right before my very eyes.

I read a very interesting interview with Richard Garriott regarding the "Culture Clash" between East and West, as well as in Europe to some extent. One of the reasons I hate...yes, hate...Korean MMOs in general is the art and character models. I hate the fact that everyone looks like an asexual schoolgirl. However, I could never figure out why Koreans love it and why North Americans, in general, hate it. Here's a good explanation:

“Asia has a whole set of unique differences,” says Garriott. “Some of these are subtle but important. But one of the most obvious is what a heroic character looks like. In the United States, a heroic character is often very buff, broad shouldered, square chinned, and barrel-chested. The dashing hero is a very clear idea to us. In Asia, characters who look like that are always the bad guys, always.

“The people who are the good guys are young, nerdy, skinny little kids who survive against those big people because of an inner strength that somehow manifests his slight frame. And so when we create heroic characters and try to send them over to Asia they’re saying, ‘why are you making me play these big, dumb brutes who are clearly evil’. That’s a big disconnect.”

Wow...they think big/muscular people are evil and skinny/small people are good. Ummm, I'm not going to touch that one, but it's extremely interesting.

Most of you who read here probably listen to Brent over at VirginWorlds. He announced the winner of his contest in episode #63. The winning article is here...and I'll get around to blogging about the things Julie says later. To answer your question, yes, I did enter and you'll probably see my article up there within the next couple of weeks. No, I didn't win because, quite frankly, Julie rocked with what she wrote. So, grats to Julie...well deserved indeed.

In the rolling article treadmill that Brent has set up for the next couple of weeks, Cuppy's submission showed up yesterday. She tackles the non-issue of girls in games. I agree with her. I have absolutely no idea of why gender is such a big deal to some gamers and why it has anything to do with the games we play. Gamers are gamers, end of story. However, and I've posted this comment over at Cuppy's website, I do think that women fill in a vital roll in our gaming community. Women are natural community builders...they always have been, always will be. Men, well, we're good at smashing stuff. Good thing is that MMOs are a game genre in which social networks go out and smash stuff it's win win for both sexes really. What really surprises me is that women don't equal or slightly outnumber men in MMOs. It's mind blowing to me that this is not the case.

D out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

This fell sergeant...

Julius Caesar, Act II, Sc. II
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

- Shakespeare

Oh dear, Darren's quoting Shakespeare....he's finally lost it. No, no I haven't, I've just ascended to a higher plane of blogging. Well, not really, but it sounds cool, doesn't it? heh...

Anyway, a couple of things have come across the tcsgamer newsroom here (...don't ask for a job in the newsroom please, I only pay the monkeys with bananas. Thanks). First up is DDO and details of their upcoming changes for Module 4: Reaver's Bane. Some of the highlights include:
  • Level cap increase to 14.
  • More enhancements to customize your character with.
  • New Outdoor areas
....damnit, why couldn't they have had all of this at launch. Blows my mind. I still think DDO is one of the best MMOs that people don't play. Any game that makes a Rogue useful in a group gets high marks from me. If they finally get the level cap up to 20 with even more outdoor areas, I may take a peek again.

More news on Vanguard and death penalties. Seems that they changed the way death was to be handled:
- You will no longer leave a corpse when you die; instead you will drop an essence.
- You no longer leave items (Soulbound or not) on your essence.
- Essences will return a large amount of experience upon retrieval.
- Your essence will decay after 70 hours.
- Altars will still allow you to summon corpses from before the patch on 3/30/07 (Build 1799), however, you are unable to summon essences.
- The amount of experience lost when you die has been decreased.

After some feedback they pulled the changes since they were just "experimental" to begin with. It's interesting how the whole subject of death penalties becomes a "Hardcore vs Casual" debate. I've mused about death penalties before, so I'm not going to rehash it...but I haven't talked about the so called "hardcore vs casual" element in the MMO world ( least, I think I haven't).

So let's start with definitions. What is a hardcore player, what is a casual player. These are my own definitions...and don't you dare whip out Webster on me.

Generalization Warning...repeat, satire ahead. Oversensitive gamers who can't handle a little truth wrapped in a joke stop can only end in tears if you don't.

The Hardcore Player (Geminus Hardicus Obsessivous Maximus)

A Hardcore player of MMOs, from my point of view, is someone who borders on the obsessive compulsive. They will explore and know every corner of the of the game and it's mechanics. They will know the perfect build of every class and every obscure piece of equipment that you would need to be leet. If you want to know the difference between a +4 sword and a +5 sword, he'd know and then tell you how much you're gimping your character with the +3 sword.

These types are fueled by pure emotion and tend to go ape-shit on things that would make most go "meh". They take great pride in what they've done online, but have no clue on how little it really means. They're on a quest for the best stuff and they'll spend as much time as necessary to get it.

They are also the core of most guilds. They are the ones that get things done in terms of progression. They will be helpful to others in terms of advice, however; they won't group with you if it's at the expense of their own progress.

The Casual Player (Geminus Softicous Erraticous Maximus)

The casual player wants to experience the whole game at their pace and nobody else's. They're quite happy with the +3 sword, thank you very much. They usually have a family, kinds and a job. They need to balance all of that and have a hobby as well...enter the MMO game. They know the game, they just don't care that there is a secret passage at the end of Thull Mountain and if you start this chain quest you can get a +1 bonus to Reaver faction which will then open the access to a +2 enchant for gloves....after that, a recipe will drop for a +4 sword.

Casual players tend to group up with they're own kind as they usually feel pressured to stay on until 3 am to finish getting weed-root off of this 2 hour spawning mob. They love their character but have no problems rolling an alt when they get bored or want to experience different game play. They want to experience all the content but know that will probably never be the case due to the time constraints they have.

Some casuals will form the core of a guild, but in a social way, not in a content progression way. They will help others, even at the expense of their own progress. They appreciate the hardcore people around them but wish they would calm the $%#@ down.

D out.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The CEO Monologues

OK, last post on this topic unless something new comes up. Last week I mentioned Brent's ( article regarding Brad's latest post on the state of Vanguard. My post earlier of "Leaving Brad alone", was only half of what needs to happen for this game to move forward...I feel that Brent's post is the other half.

If you haven't already, you need to go take a look a the comments section of Brent's article. First, I don't think I've seen a VW blog post with this many, it's always great to see that the community is talking. Second, the community seems to be split into two camps. The first camp are those that think this communication by a CEO is great. They love this kind of access and they feel that it opens up the community and keeps them informed. The second camp are those that feel that Brad should not be posting these least not without some sort of filter.

I've been thinking about my position quite a bit, and I really have not changed to that much. Yes, I still think we should leave Brad the $#@% alone so that he can focus on what he needs to focus on. I also think that communication with the gamers on forums should be left to the community managers and some devs...end of story. You may recall that back in March, I posted this article, giving Sigil high marks in keeping the community informed. I believe that this was Brad's second posting like this, and at the time I was very impressed. "Wow...two posts from Brad about the state of the game? Nice". Although I was concerned about how long it was (more about that in a minute), it was a good thing. When the third one came along and I looked at the content, I started to say to myself, "hmmmm...something ain't right". Once post is great, two is cool, three is pushing it a bit...especially from the CEO. Honestly, in the third posting, he repeated quite a bit of what he said in the other two. So, my red flag went up.

I said this on Brent's site, but I'll say it here. I really don't think a CEO's job is to directly communicate to the customer base like this. If I and 1000 had a problem with an AT&T service, I don't expect the CEO of that company to post somewhere about the nitty-gritty details of what went wrong, what they're doing about it and how great it will be in the future. Usually, I get a customer rep giving me the 411 on all of that. One point of contact, one clear message, we all move on with our lives. I really don't understand why gamers think they have some sort of divine right to access everything from the janitor to the CEO of a game company. Sure, it's nice, but I don't think it's really that healthy. These guys should be developing and thinking up new stuff for us to play, not fending off people in the forums. The forums of all places!!! Jeepers.

Now, on the length of the article. One thing I learned about debating in a forum of any kind, besides the futility of it all, was that the longer your argument post was, the more someone can pick apart your argument and turn the debate to fit their agenda. You leave it short, and the amount of wiggle room you leave for someone to maneuver and control the argument is reduced significantly. Part of Brad's problem is that he left it wide open for the trolls and the haters to have at him. He could have said what he said on the main website, not in a forum and he could have kept it short.

I think Brad has played all of his cards right now and another posting from him in a months time would not be a good idea. I may eat those words, fine, I can live with being wrong...but I'm not trying to sell a game.

D out.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Great PoTBS info! Read it now

I know, I never post on a Sunday...and I'm sure there is something in the heavens that will smite me for it, but I had to give you guys this info.

It has some great stuff on Pirates of the Burning Sea. I was going to get this game anyway, but now I pretty much have too. The way crafting is handled is pure genius and something that I've never encountered before. I love the idea of contested ports...this may be the game that really gets me into PvP. One thing though, I want to be a Pirate, but I also want to be an Officer of the English navy....decisions, decisions.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the read.

D out.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Virgin Worlds above the fray

The tubes are still a hoppin with commentary over Brad's recent comments on the current state of Vanguard. As of yesterday, I think almost everyone that I read posted something on what he had to say....except for one person. I was asking myself this very question yesterday, "Gee wiz...I wonder when Brent will comment on this." No, I didn't actually say "Gee wiz..", but I did imagine Brent somewhere in a dark basement with his collection of voodoo dolls thinking something up. I'm positive that just before he was about to poke my voodoo doll in the right eye, he delivered.

When I was reading the blogosphere about this, mine included, we were all hitting the target of the issue, but Brent hit the bullseye...especially with the point of a CEO making that many comments on a public forum regarding a product. Brent is right, there is no filter between Brad and the community...and there should be, especially in this industry where emotion usually trumps logic and facts. Brent illustrated this point best when he wrote:

"Everyone, including me, has criticized Blizzard for its (apparent) disdain for its players and the gaming press. They do not talk much, and when they do, the statements are precise,sterile and unwavering. Just the facts. No explanation. No whimpering. I call this "acting as if" and it is one of the most powerful business tools. Brad needs to "act as if" Vanguard is exactly what he wanted. He needs to show no sign of weakness. He needs a crazy militant PR manager to keep him buckled down. Admitting weakness to the trolls of the web is a surefire way to expose your own underbelly to some prodding."

To my knowledge, and correct me if I wrong, there is no community manager for Vanguard. If that is the case, they need to get one and quick so that there is a filter/buffer between the team at Sigil and the community. Don't get me wrong, it's really nice to have an open channel to the CEO, but I think that time has come and gone. I don't want to see Vanguard fail from a slow bleed caused by underbelly wounds.

However, despite what Brent wrote, I still think we should leave Brad alone now. Oh yeah, and Brad should "hush up and hire a new art team". OK...I changed my opinion a bit :)

D out.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Day that will never end

This will probably be my only post for the day. I've got a half day meeting plus a "teambuilding" event here at, sucks to be me ;)

Not much coming out of my usual news sources this morning...but lots of bloggers are picking up and commenting on Brad's latest post on Vanguard. No shortage of opinion there. Some are predicting the doom scenario for Vanguard, and some are analyzing the areas that Brad touched on: Performance, Server population, Marketing etc. I liked Ancient Gaming Noob's take on it the best so far. Cuppy went to town on Brad and pulls no punches on how she sees the situation. Note to self: Don't release an unfinished game or Cuppy will kill me ;)

...I still think we should leave the guy alone though ;)

D out.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

OK, I lied...well, kinda

...but not intentionally. I more or less misplaced the memory of me doing this.

Remember when I said that Silent Hunter 4 would be my only single player purchase for 2007. Well, not so much. I completely forgot that I purchased Sins of a Solar Empire. This game is created by Stardock...yes, the same company that brought you Galactic Civ II. I absolutely love this little indie company to death. When I heard that they were making a Homeworld II, meets Gal Civ II meets...and I'll say it...Eve Online (my characterization btw...and no, it's not an MMO but does have that vast space feel that Eve gives you), I had to get it. The big bonus is that pre-order customers get into the beta...yayyy. If you want to know what a beta is like from Stardock, here is a snippet from Brad Wardell's expectations of a beta:

Sins of a Solar Empire Beta 1 Objectives:

The goal of beta 1 is for us to test out the game engine. How well does it run on a wide range of PCs? How is the perfomance? How is compatibility?

There has been much discussion on by players who note that our games usually require few "patches" to fix major bugs. This is why. We release publicly the games during early beta to nail down these issues long before it hits the shelves.

These days, many "beta" programs are little more than late-term demos designed with marketing in mind as well as nailing down final balancing issues. That's not what this beta is for.

There will be at least 3 major beta releases. Possibly 4 depending on how well public feedback is.

There are no NDAs involved. If you don't like what we're doing, tell us. We do not require NDAs precisely because we don't want you to feel any constraints on giving feedback.

Most of you have no doubt played games where you later hear the beta testers didn't think the game was ready for release but they were stuck under NDA. I've never seen an example where the beta testers were wrong.


For a beta, the game is rock solid and a blast to play. It scares me to think what the final product will be like.

D out.

The Value of a Comment

I get some really great comments from my readers for my articles....and I love all of them. I got a really good comment for my "Get it on like Oprah" article a couple of days ago from Psychochild that I think deserves to be brought to the front:

"Heya. As I said in other places, this was mostly an April Fool's post. Mostly. The post was certain attitudes taken to extremes. This is part of what I think April Fool's Day is all about: saying and doing things that you can't say or do other times, with the hopes that someone gets the point.

The biggest issue most devs have is what I say in my post: people who won't take, "We know that won't work," as an answer. Even if we step through our reasoning, there's always some room for wiggling and haggling and anybody with enough tenacity will always have enough ammunition to continue the fight.

Note that this isn't just an issue with people on forums. I've had to nip quite a few arguments in the bud in my current work. The difference is that as a lead designer and someone who influences who gets paid, I have more control over the argument. But, there's a reason why people like Gordon Walton call the design process, "knifing your babies." Sometimes it really sucks to have to dump your super-cool idea. The main difference between a professional and an amateur game designer is the ability to recognize your ideas with no future and being able to abandon them in the cradle."

...great comment dude. Thanks.