Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SWTOR Character Page

I updated my SWTOR Character page, sort of, listing all my toons. If you're looking for me online, I'll be on one of those characters.

Monday, April 23, 2012

30 Days—Or, Who Is Valuable?

When Mama Ain't Happy . . . ©BioWare
I hate when a game (or just the game company) forces me to play a certain way that is contrary to my normal gaming mode. When I reached endgame during Wrath of the Lich King, I ended up grinding dailies for reputation, rather than questing for new story content; and don't even get me started on the crapfest that is high-end raiding. Sometimes, as with this past week, it isn't so much my playstyle as the underlying motivation that changes.

So after the hubbub from the non-50s out there over the bestowal of 30 free days to SWTOR end-gamers, as the "most valuable players" in the game, Dr. Greg Zeschuk announced a revision of the "gift" to include people who had been playing a lot, but hadn't quite gotten to level 50 with any one character. All a player had to do was get their Legacy up to level 6. Since any activity with all characters in the Legacy gives Legacy XP,  this rewarded players with multiple alts. As of the time of the revision announcement, I was about 60% through Legacy 5, so last Sunday I played my highest level character (in theory, making the most progress per hour toward L-6), a mid-30s Sith Assassin on Taris. I hadn't been playing Tollkirsche much at all since achieving Legacy status in the first place. I am not fond of the game mechanics of the Assassin/Shadow advanced class. But on Sunday, I spent over eight hours leveling both Tollkisrche and my Legacy. I won't say it was unpleasant, the first part of the Inquisitor's Chapter 2 is interesting enough. and I am looking forward to having a new companion at the end of Taris. But I was playing to level, which is something I though I had gotten away from in SWTOR, what with BioWare's vaunted Fourth Pillar. As it turns out, I should perhaps have concentrated on helping Sctrz, because I ended up attaining L-7 this past Saturday, before the noon Sunday deadline.

Sctrz was not so lucky. On Saturday after some discussion, we started a character on Sctrz' account that I could play to help her level her Legacy, but that would not interfere with any of her existing characters for which she wants to know the story. Thus Serise was born, a tribute the drawings of  of Forceheal. I didn't start to actually play Serise until last Sunday evening, a week before the deadline, and then only got her up to about level 10, barely making a dent in Sctrz' Legacy. Sctrz had schoolwork far more important than any video game, while I have had some time both at home and while away on business to play plenty of SWTOR. She ended up playing quite a bit over the course of the week, and I never really got back on Serise to level her any further.  Right now, Sctrz' Legacy is almost 4, I believe. She just isn't that valuable to EA/BioWare.
"Serise." Drawing ©strawbeki
In the end, it's only 15 bucks, not that big a deal in the financial scheme of things. And it is nice that BioWare realized they had insulted a large chunk of their playerbase and tried to make amends. The problem, similar to En Masse's tone-deaf "MMO-FO" TERA campaign, is that EA Bioware seems to have forgotten who their long-term playerbase is or is going to be. Granted, this may be fan myopia on my part since I think of myself this way, but the long-term subscribers are going to be those that feel they are getting their money's worth out of the "leveling" game, not the PvP arenas or the end-game raids. Paraphrasing someone whose comments I've lost, it would be one thing if BioWare had said, "Hey level 50s, stick around for a bit, we've got some cool stuff for you to check out." Instead, by stating that those people milling about at "end-game"—and whom EA/BW were afraid on the brink of unsubbing—were BW's most valuable players, they implied that anyone else—including people who had been subscribing since before launch day, and were still leveling, however slowly—was "not as valuable." Even the adjusted requirements leave some out in the cold.

Those who didn't understand the outrage over the free month, versus the 7 free days for former players or the free weekend for anyone that just passed, didn't get that the offended players could tell these were obviously marketing ploys, phrased in a "please come back" sort of way. The free month could have been phrased that way, and I would have found it more palatable. I don't see the inconsistency in attitude from the slighted segment of the fanbase at all. Nor do I see the outrage at the outrage at all helpful. Those who were upset had a legitimate complaint, those that didn't have a dog in the fight had no business sitting in judgment of those that did. While I agree that people can be offended where no offense was intended, and sometimes that can seem silly, isn't that at the root of many harassment claims? The standard in those cases is not intent, but effect. EDIT: Sadly, many fans take things too far; I don't know if that happened here.

So going back to my original point in this post, in the end it is not the $15 saved or spent by my gameplay this week that peeves me. It is the fact that I shifted from enjoying the story of SWTOR to pursuing a certain level, just for some meta-game benefit. I felt I had to play, not that I wanted to play. It became a job of sorts rather than a source of relaxation, the way a hobby should be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day 15 - In Which I Share My Computer Desktop Background and Why I Chose It

Autumn Leaves, Mount Vernon, Virginia, USA by rowanblaze
Were you expecting gaming-related art or something? I will admit that I had the WoW 5th Anniversary wallpaper for a while (the one with all the faction leaders looking badass). And I've had Rift screencaps and such. But, for the last 6 months or so, I've been using the one above: a picture I took myself with my then-new Samsung Infuse smartphone. Some coworker friends and I were visiting George Washington's plantation, Mount Vernon—just south of Washington, D.C.—last November. On a path leading up from the Potomac River to the Family Crypt, I stopped and took this shot of the autumn leaves. It's probably the most beautiful picture I've ever taken; I'm not exactly a great photographer. So I chose this background for my Asus G73 and my Infuse because it has a personal connotation.
Gougane Barra, County Cork, Ireland by SkyHigh
This is the background on my computer at work, a picture by "SkyHigh" I found on Wallpapers-Room.com: The church at Gougane Barra, County Cork, Ireland. I love misty, overcast weather and lush vegetation. I enjoy Seattle and the Pacific Northwest for the same reasons I love this picture. Granted, this appears to also be an autumn shot. Like many people, I love the fall season with its crisp weather and the brilliant colors on the leaves. I think I could spend hours just enjoying the tranquility of this place. Of course, in reality, it's probably overrun with tourists. :\

Friday, April 13, 2012

SWTOR: Sibling Rivalry

Dexy sat back in her seat, thoughts of Coruscant receding behind her. Even though Skavak was still out there, and the Butcher had a price on her head; out here in the black, she was free. Riggs glanced sidelong at her.

"Well, Cap'n, we'll be on Taris in no time."

"All right, let's get this astrogation chart Risha wants."

Riggs should his head. "Do you really trust this lady?"

"Not fully, but we may as well check out her story. Assuming she's honest, this job'll make us rich, and that's after I pay off the Butcher."

Corso shrugged as he unbuckled his launch straps, then head down the stairs. "If you say so, Cap'n. For what it's worth, I don't trust 'er any farther than I throw 'er."

Dexy rose from her the pilot's chair, stretching. "We'll be alright, as long as you've got my back. If this doesn't pan out, I'll dump her out the airlock."
Corso made a face and headed toward the hatch. "Well, I'm gonna go check on the cargo and our stowaway."

———

"MAKO!" Chico came bounding up the ramp of Renegade I, Gault close on her heels. Over her shoulder, she said, "Get the ship prepped, I wanna be airborne in ten."

"You got it, boss," the Devonian responded cheerfully, and headed off to the engine room. He had a right to be. The bounty on the Ithorian grifter had been generous indeed. Then again, Hutts never take kindly to being conned.

"Mako, where are you? Do we have another job lined up?" Chico called, making her way up to the command deck.

Mako turned from her spot at the holoterminal. "Yep, this one is in Republic space though. Some minor crimelord known as Rogun the Butcher has a high bounty out for a smuggler who lost a weapons shipment on Ord Mantell. Would be lucrative, but the smuggler has proven elusive. Other bounty hunters have sighted--but lost--her on Ord Mantell, Coruscant, and Ragoon VI. In fact, a few have lost their lives in the process. Quite the gunslinger, this one."

"All right, got a name and face?"

"Pulling it up now."

Chico gasped as the face of a red-headed woman in her early thirties appeared on the monitor. Mako caught her reaction. "Dexy Sunfleur, Captain of the Centurion Nightingale. Do you know her?"
Chico didn't look at her slicer. "Yeah I know her. I'm surprised you don't know my real last name, what with all the contacts and feelers you have in the 'net, Mako. Dexy Sunfleur is my sister."

Mako was non-plussed, and Chico stared to the holoimage.

"What have you gotten yourself into, little sister?"

What Kind of Legacy Is This?

I feel cheated.

The SWTOR Legacy system is completely oriented around convincing an otherwise bored—and rich—level-50 player to role an alt. It does little or nothing to encourage an altoholic with an already full stable of alts to continue playing. Even the "family tree" feature is overly limited, orienting around children and maybe grandchildren of your max-level character (which I suppose fits the Anakin Skywalker-centered idea behind the legacy system). My tree is completely flat.
Legacy Hedgerow
The other items in SWTOR v1.2 are basic quality of life features meant to bring the game up to speed with the rest of the MMO genre (e.g., guild banks, customizable interface, color-matched outfits). There is some additional content in the form of a instance or something, but that's all above the level of any of my characters anyway, so doesn't affect me right now.

Unlike STO's character interface, there is no space for a backstory in-game. Hell, I can't even officially name my ships. Your character simply shows up, ready to take on the galaxy. Oh yeah, they may or may not have siblings, rivals, spouses, allies, children and adopted children. What, no Apprentices? Mentors? Parents? I was hoping for a little more flexibility in defining the relationships between my characters. Not to mention the layout of the "family tree" itself. My Sith Warrior, as a "sibling" (distant cousin really) of my Trooper, can only have one other ally or rival then only children or adopted children. Heck, because I ended up putting my Trooper at the middle, she can only have two siblings and then posterity. Unlike the triad of Luke, Leia, and Han, I cannot show that all my Imperials even know each other—or any of the Reps, for that matter—much less are allied to subvert the Empire, as part of the Imperial Mercenary Corps. That's still stuck in my imagination and here on the blog. Maybe because I work with relational organization software on a regular basis, I am sensitized to what the diagram could look like with only a little more flexibility programmed in.
The Legacy I wish I could do.
I haven't even started on the very expensive "perquisites" of the legacy system. Like Syp, I am surprised that there is apparently so much credit overflowing the coffers of maxed-out characters that they need huge money sinks like the ones found in the Legacy unlocks. If, as they say, time is money, then the converse is also true: money is time. I planned on finishing out out all the stories of my characters and maybe then they'd have more story content either through patches or expansions. Most of these Legacy Rewards will be forever beyond my in-game budget, simply because I am unwilling to spend the TIME to accumulate that money. But you know what? Guild Wars 2 will be out soon, and The Secret World . . .

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 14 - In which I Relate Something That Upsets Me

It is sad that this comes up the same day that I wrote my DAW post. (Also, the procrastination bug hit me again regarding the 20 Days thing, sorry.)
 Oh yeah, we all get a Tauntaun Pet. © BioWare
Unfortunately, this is the perfect day to cover this. BioWare announced earlier today that all currently active accounts with a level 50 character will be getting a free 30 days at the end of their current billing period. Even though I have been paying and playing regularly since the headstart, because I have chosen to explore multiple alts and storylines, I do not have a level 50 character. Therefore, I am excluded from this reward for "loyalty."

As I have on occasion in the past, I was going to rail against elitist behavior in the gaming community, the idea that a certain way of playing is superior to others. The PvPers who think that PvE is Stoopid and vice-versa. The folks who think the "the game doesn't even start until endgame." I play frequently and for long periods of time, almost every evening, in fact. My style of play happens to differ from all the rest. FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been known to rant about other playstyles myself. I try not to do that any more. As long as other players are enjoying themselves, who am I to say they are wrong.
My EPEEN is huge, but I am so lonely. ©Blizzard
The elitist jerks (hey, they use that term without irony, so will I) who tell other players, "L2P n00b or GTFO," can suck it, as far as I am concerned. But it's one thing coming from other players, it's another thing entirely when the game company slaps a set of loyal customers in the face and says essentially you fuckin' suck," however inadvertent that slap is.

I am withholding long-term judgment, assuming this was a not-well-thought-out scheme on the part of BioWare, and that they will fix it. But there are other games on the horizon, and since BioWare has shown no loyalty to me, I see no current need to show any loyalty to them.

Developer Appreciation Week: The Storytellers

A few years ago, Scarybooster over at Scary Worlds founded a celebration in the gamo-blogosphere. A celebration of the men and women who create in this wonderful medium and genre we call MMORPGs. Thus, Developer Appreciation Week was born. I've written a couple of posts devoted to DAW myself, over the years, and this is no different.

This year as I contemplate the things that are most important to me in the role-playing games I have been involved with, I want to thank the storytellers, the lore keepers of these wonderful worlds we occupy. The scenery designers make beautiful locales for us to explore; the model-makers create grotesque and wonderful creatures for us to kill (or protect). But the storytellers make us care—or at least they make me care—about those worlds. They give the worlds and their inhabits history—a raison d'être.

The Rift lore team, led by Lindsay Lockhart (sadly, no longer with Trion) and Nicholas McDowell, fleshed out a world being torn apart by supernatural forces. They created two major societies and several constituent communities with their own cultural values. They provided backstories for myriad individual characters, giving them motivations, prejudices, personalities.

The Warcraft creative team, led by Chris Metzen, tell a story of warlike humans, noble orcs, righteous demons, and magic-addicted elves across thousands of years of history on a planet far removed from our own, yet full of pop culture references that make me laugh and sometimes scramble to figure out what I missed.

The writing team at Bioware, [EDIT: formely led by Daniel Erickson and currently] led by Alex Freed (special shout-out to Hall Hood, who answered my query), working within an expanded universe rivaled only by that of Star Trek, has woven a history into one of the gaps of that Galaxy Far Far Away, making me personally like or dislike computer generated companions, care about pixel children who are pilfering pixel water in the underbelly of a pixel city, and hunt down virtual villains for personal vengeance, like a Charles Bronson or Liam Neeson movie.

There are more, too many for me to name. Thank you all for your tireless efforts. No one appreciates you for what you do the way I do. Even I don't appreciate you the way I should.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 13 - In Which I Discuss Some People I Admire

This one seems a bit shallow to me. The original says "People (players/bloggers) that you admire." I don't really admire people for in-game achievements, or blogging either. When it comes right down to it, neither is really an admirable pursuit, per se.

I do kind of admire the folks who diligently run guilds in the various games I play. People like Ryan and Maric of the Republic Mercy/Imperial Mercenary Corps in SWTOR spend a significant amount of personal time making sure other players have opportunities to have have fun as a group. Plus, they have to ride herd on a diverse group of personalities and put up with a lot of drama. Other people I want single out in this regard are the guildmistress of my old WoW guild, Mutiny (Uldum), Peeplett/Bigboned--a lovely woman and a great guild--and Elementlistly, the guildmaster of Simple Complexities (Estrael) in Rift.
Now who is really admirable to me? The soldiers that I work with on a regular basis. They put up with a lot of crap in an effort to keep the rest of us safe, usually without getting much appreciation from the general public or their own superiors. The press often focuses on a few bad apples that really ruin the reputation of the hard-working, low-paid, frequently-in-serious-danger men and women of the Armed Forces. If you are a current service member or a veteran, you have my thanks.