Rants tag

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

TSW Character Profiles: LoneStarBelle

If you can gain all the possible abilities in TSW on a single character, why would you ever need more than one? For roleplaying, silly! (By the way, the Faction Missions each tell a different side of the story.) Here's the third of my character profiles for my TSW toons:

Samantha "LoneStarBelle" Hawthorn
As military brat growing up near Waco, TX, Samantha Hawthorn loved comic books, especially the X-Men; though when playing with her friends, she insisted on being Wolverine as opposed to Jean Grey or Storm. Her parents made sure she had a healthy respect for firearms, regularly dragging the whole family on hunting trips and to the firing range, where Sam received training in various rifles, shotguns, and handguns.

Sam's interest in history was kindled when her family was stationed in Germany for several of her teenage years. The story of the rise and fall of the Templar Order fascinated her. This interest led to a career in academia, where she did her Ph.D. dissertation on the subject. By her late twenties, Dr. Hawthorn had become an assistant professor of History at Texas A&M University, specializing in Medieval European History. She was on track to receive tenure just as she was visited by the Bees, then the Illuminati.

Now that she is aware of their modern incarnation, Sam is more than a little disappointed that she was not contacted by the Templars before the Illuminati reached her; something Kirsten Geary has noted with a more than a bit of Schadenfreude. KG ironically refers to Sam as her Lone Star Belle, given her proficiency with firearms and fist/claw weapons—and her business-like demeanor.

The unfortunate living and the fortunate unliving only briefly find themselves staring down the business end of Sam's trusty weapons. With an intense gaze and an inquisitive mind, Dr. Hawthorn tackles the mysteries of the Secret World with gusto, but looks to subvert her new employer's aims whenever possible.

Sam the LoneStarBelle is my fashionista. She has always worn more varied outfits than Dortmunder or Poppyshock. Especially in the week since I discovered the Valet addon, thanks to guildmates, now Sam has several outfits that I change on a whim. Also—partly because of this fashion trend—I have decided to complete all of the inner circle abilities before trying to finish a preset deck on Sam. This will get me not only the coats awarded for each weapon, but also all the "Starter Deck" outfits. In my NaNoWriMo effort from November 2012, the character based on Sam had a poster of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in her office—and was on the cusp of a promotion at the University.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

QOTD: Magic

When we started playing Everquest all those years ago, just being able to run around in a three-dimensional image talking to actual people on the other side of the world seemed more like magic than any of the spells we were learning in the game. Like anything, we got used to it and began to take it for granted.
Arthur C Clarke postulated that any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic. But after a while, both the most advanced technology and the most advanced magic become mundane. My lovely bride and I were talking today at lunch about technical advances in the past hundred years, and how things we take for granted today didn't even really exist when we were teenagers, nor did anybody back then realize what the second decade of the 21st century would be like. I carry in my pocket a computer more powerful than the ones used to get people to the moon and back, but I use it to slingshot explosive birds into pig shanties, and chat with people I've never met—most of whom I probably never will. But . . .

Stand Together
But we come together each night in worlds of our collective imagination; communicating across continents and oceans; and casting spells, swinging broadswords—or flying spaceships into the Black. No longer isolated, no longer alone in our adventures, with only pixels and AI to keep us company. There are real people behind those avatars, real people who love the same activities we love.

And that, my friend Bhagpuss, really is magic.

Guild Wars 2: An Apology

Apology: A formal justification . . . In literature, an autobiographical form in which a defense is the framework for discussion of the author's personal beliefs.

This is my final response to TAGN and Solf on TAGN's testament to his own malaise with clarifications and additional thoughts. Having realized I will convince no one, here is my analysis of GW2 and why I play:
Like most MMOs I have played, each zone in GW2 is largely distinguished by terrain theme: Snow, Jungle, Desert, Farmland, etc. In each zone, there are a multitude of activities to participate in, based on your preferences. I believe the first person to reach 80 way back in September did so almost exclusively through crafting. I reached 80 through a combination of combat, exploration, "dynamic" events, "hearts" or renown quests, story quests, crafting, and dungeons; whatever suited my mood (and that of my lovely bride) that evening. The player experience at 9 is much the same as at 79; but again, I find that to be the case with every MMO I've played. That makes them no less enjoyable to me for being somewhat routine. I like following the story of the area, and my character progression in the sense of the experiences I encounter.

A half-organized group of friends can go into a GW2 dungeon and figure stuff out. A PUG will have a hard time, unless most of the players know the fights. Many of the first groups of players were frankly knocked on their asses, and then told everyone the dungeons sucked. GW2 Dungeons are chaotic affairs. The tank (yes there are tanks) doesn't always have control of the mobs, people have to spend time healing themselves and others and even reviving fallen comrades. The other night, I was able to slowly revive my group-mates while dishing some damage and keeping myself healthy, until three out of four fallen comrades were rezzed and the giant spider was dead. In a standard trinity-based fight, we would have wiped.

I personally like the group combos where, for instance, I may lay down an AoE fire and then any ally shooting through it will get an added burning effect on their shots.

Tyria itself, as has been said by other commenters, feels both alive and humorous. I've never been in another MMO city that felt more like a real city than Divinity's Reach. The NPCs are constantly talking to each other. If you stand there long enough, you will of course hear stuff repeated, but the spoken dialogue gives the NPCs character beyond just standing there waiting for you to sell or buy stuff from them.

Solf is slightly mistaken, you can have all the weapon abilities you'll ever get long before you reach 10, if you get all the weapons available to your class. Traits on the other hand, accumulate all the way to 80, and they affect the way you play: the weapons and skills you use. And the skills; I'm 80, and still am accumulating skills. Do I use them all? No, but then my traits are such that some skills are less effective than others. The elite skills are very important in dungeons, where I'm waiting to pop the skill as soon as possible after the cooldown.

Solf is using hearsay, making claims about dungeons he's never played in, at levels he's never reached. All he can really say is that he got bored at around level 30 [his own clarification] and quit. If, based on that, you think you would feel the same, don't waste your money.

If that makes me fanboy, then find me a palm leaf to wave. I didn't come into my GW2 fandom through hype or loyalty to the original Guild Wars. I am a fan because I have a good time playing.

Monday, February 25, 2013

TSW Character Profiles: Dortmunder

Here's the second of my character profiles for my TSW toons:

Karl "Dortmunder" Eichenherz
Recruited by the Templars from Dortmund, Germany, Karl Eichenherz is a former forensic pathologist in his mid-thirties. Trying to connect with his spiritual roots in his youth, Karl studied Germanic Paganism and the Judeo-Christian Bible. Shortly after swallowing a Bee, Karl was invited to Templar headquarters in London. Upon arriving, Karl delved into the library's arcane collection, finding such ancient theologies and ceremonies as Blót and Hebrew temple sacrifices to have their origins in the rituals of Blood Magick. He also found an affinity with blade techniques, training in the Crucible under the Templar Master-at-Arms, Brigadier Lethe. While at Temple Hall in London, Karl befriended French archaeologist Dexrina "Dex-y" Sunfleur, who became his mission partner and lover. The first time Dexrina kissed Karl, her lips left a permanent red buss on his cheek. Karl is a taciturn observer of human behavior, and sees his work with the Templars as an extension of the investigative work he did in his prior career.

Being the character I use most often when playing together with my gaming partner and bride, Sctrz, in TSW, Karl is my Doppelgänger: the character that looks like me or an idealized me. Eichenherz is a pseudo-German surname that literally translates as Oak(en)heart, after my first character in WoW, a male Dwarf Hunter. "Dortmunder" has several connotations. The I.A.V. Dortmunder was an Alliance capital ship in the pilot episode of the long-lamented Firefly. Dortmund is a city in Germany and the terminus of an Autobahn that I frequently traveled during my most recent visit. Lastly, a fellow blogger, Kadomi, who is from the city, insisted that no character named Dortmunder could possibly not wear the colors of the city's eponymous football (soccer) team, yellow and black. Honestly though, the more I think about it, the more I wish I'd used "Dortmunder" for his surname and "Eichenherz" for his nickname.

More to come . . .

QOTD: A Voice of Dissent

As the Human Torch would say . . .
The Ancient Gaming Noob is debating whether to buy and play either Guild Wars 2 or Mists of Pandaria at a bargain. Most of the responses were positive toward GW2, especially at a discount; considering that it is subscription free. And then came Solf, a voice of dissent out of the desert. I don't know what the protocol is for wholesale copying of comments from someone else's blog, but to fully understand what my response, you have to read his whole comment, so here it is:
Since everyone and his mother seems to be so ‘pro gw2′, here are my two cents.

If you generally like character-progression gameplay in Rift and WoW — e.g. five man instances, like skill progression with level ups (getting new skills as you level up), this kind of stuff — then odds are you might be seriously disappointed by GW2.

For the certain definition of “nothing” there’s “nothing” to do in the game after level 20. You can get all skills that you’ll ever need (excepting I believe elite ones which are often situational at best) by that level and then it is just “keep killing stuff using the same buttons forever”. And don’t forget the auto-scaling mechanics which basically mean you’re not supposed to ever feel e.g. too much overpowered which might be fun sometimes etc.

And the stuff I’ve heard [emphasis mine] about GW2 dungeons and group mechanics (back when I played which was early fall) was uniformly horrible. Taking away the holy trinity doesn’t magically make your game awesome, it only takes away the holy trinity. Which is replaced by what exactly? Everyone fending for themselves? Which doesn’t seem such a great group mechanic to me.

In short, for a certain kind of player (me :P; the guy who likes challenging small-group content in Rift and WoW [back when it used to have one]), GW2 is nothing but a disappointment.

What was that Syncaine said? “If GW2 fixed all the MMO problems, I’m so glad so many games got it totally wrong.” Some such.
Upon rereading Solf's comment, I see that he never even went through an instanced dungeon. So his judgment on the topic is hearsay. Having been through at least a couple different GW2 dungeons, I can say they are interesting, if sometimes frustrating. Like many fights in WoW, Rift, and others, there is a key to each fight in GW2. They are seldom simply "Tank-and-Spank." Here is my response, with some fixes:

TSW: It's like a big game of Marbles.
Solf, I hope you’re playing TSW with that gaming philosophy, since it will take you hours and hours of gameplay to get all the possible abilities, even after you’ve maxed out all your gear. Entertaining trinity-based dungeons with good storylines that fold into the larger world, as well.

As for GW2, I like it. For most definitions of “nothing,” there is plenty to do even after reaching level 80. The game doesn’t have a ton of depth, but I continue to reassess the skills that I have at my immediate disposal depending on the current fight, or the one I just lost. Like TSW, the limited buttons create a strategic element to the game (by strategic, I mean the time you spend on your current abilities outside of combat), since you can’t have every oh-shit ability spread across 48 or more action buttons.

The original GW maximum level was 20, if I recall correctly, including the ex-pacs. It’s my understanding that this was the case in the original design of GW2, and there were many complaints this past autumn about the way content is gated by the increased number of levels. And despite downleveling, I can still faceroll my way through the starting areas on my max-level engineer.

And if you don’t like the dungeons, then maybe you aren’t playing with the right group of people. Despite a similarity in names, tanks in a real battle do nothing to draw fire from the opponent other than being amongst the highest damage causers. And other than patch-you-up field medics, the healers are all in the rear, nowhere near the steel-raining artillery. There are tactics involved that don’t require a big (or little) dude in heavy armor shouting taunts at the enemy. And battle itself is very chaotic. In that respect, I think the dungeons in GW2 are very realistic, far more so than trinity-based fights (which can also be a ton of fun).

I’m guessing that no one reading this has found a predominantly PvE game really challenging for at least a decade. Much like in-game crafting, there’s only so much you can do to make button-and-mouse-based combat challenging, before you suddenly make it impossible for any newbies that may come along. I eagerly await a VR/Holodeck style game where we all have to actually learn fencing and blacksmithing techniques, but I’m not holding my breath.

As for Syncaine, his smug default position that nothing awesome has happened in gaming since the turn of the millennium brings nothing the conversation about the current state of gaming.
Full disclosure: regarding MoP, I have little to say. Other people enjoy it, I found it to be the same ol' same ol' now boring WoW when I tried it this past fall. If I am an apologist for GW2 and TSW, I most certainly am not for MoP, despite having enjoyed WoW for years. In some ways, that makes me as bad as Solf and Syncaine.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Swapping Gear in TSW

This is a response to an issue my friend +Mario Delgado (aka @tententacles) was having with swapping gear sets in TSW. He would get an error saying he can only have one elite ability on the bar at a time.
I did a little messing around and found nature of the bug. I'm guessing the different builds have the elite abilities in different slots, like this:

Elite ability "Slow the Advance" in Slot 7, but . . .





. . . elite ability "Go for the Throat" in Slot 5.





Gear manager swaps ability slots from left to right, not all at once, so swapping from that first bar to the second will lead to the error. Swapping the other way is error free.
Solution: Keep your elite abilities in the same slot for different gear sets. I don't know how much that would affect your rotation, but with the different elites in the same slot, I had no errors swapping gear sets, either through the GM interface or using the chat commands. Since the elite is usually on a long cooldown, I have it in slot 7 where it won't be in the way when I'm using hotkeys.
Also, I feel a little behind the times here, but apparently TSW is modable. There are a bunch of addons available through Curse.

Friday, February 22, 2013

TSW: The Last Train to Cairo

As you may know, I'm finally articulating backstories for my characters in The Secret World. Yesterday, I'd run into a roadblock on my Templar, "Dortmunder," and was discussing it with Scrtz, both because I wanted input about her character, "Dex-y," and because she's a great collaborator of ideas. Anyway, she mentioned that she thinks of Dex-y as being an archaeologist. Since she plays AR/Pistols, with a dash of Hammers, I assumed she was thinking of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

"No," Sctrz said. "More like Indiana Jones."

"You're in luck," I said. "I was reading on Wikipedia that the next issue will have the new Whip auxiliary weapon."

Dex-y Cracks That Whip

Between leaving dreary Solomon Island for sunny Egypt and news of Issue #6, I think Sctrz has taken a renewed interest in TSW; which is great for me, since I love this game.

Video of the Day: I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)

This morning I woke up and checked Twitter as is my wont. A link to this song was right near the top. I hope you enjoy this delightful performance by the multi-talented Commander Chris Hadfield as much I did. The Wexford Gleeks and Barenaked Ladies are awesome, too. It sounds a bit glib, but the song really did bring a tear t'me eye.


Growing up, inspired by Star Trek and other shows, my best friend and I dreamed of becoming astronauts on the space shuttle and touching the sky. Cmdr Hadfield and his crew-mates really have. He also posts amazing photographs of terrestrial regions taken from the cupola of the ISS. If you're not following him on Twitter, you're definitely missing out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TSW Character Profiles: Poppyshock

I've finally started to write down the character profiles for my TSW toons. Here's the first:

Hinageshi "Poppyshock" Miyamoto
Hinageshi was born in Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan, but moved to Tokyo in her teens to study electrical engineering the University of Tokyo. Despite rigorous coursework and excellent grades, Hinageshi became involved in the Tokyo punk scene, cropping her hair and dying it a yellow-green and painting designs on her face on evenings out. On the night of the explosion at Orochi Tower, Hinageshi was visited by the Bees, followed a short time later by the monks of the Dragon. Having received training in Kendo in her youth, as well as her collegiate studies in electricity, Hinageshi took the Blade and Elemental Focus as her primary weapons. A sharp sword makes short work of undead and living flesh alike, but she takes every opportunity to bring Thor's Hammer down on her foes. Despite her rebellious appearance, "Poppyshock"—as she has come to be known—has a no-nonsense attitude, and a devotion to a personal code of justice that borders on the fanatical.

The original Poppyshock was a female Draenai Shaman character I played in WoW. I came up with the name while going through the baking/spice aisle of the supermarket. Hinageshi means "poppy" in Japanese and is not unheard of as a girl's name. Miyamoto is a Japanese surname meaning "(one who lives) at the shrine." Poppyshock is the character I tend to play when Sctrz is not available to play TSW.

More to come . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Movie MOAR-athon: 3 Mini Reviews

So for some reason, I ended up seeing three theatrical releases in four days over the weekend. Beautiful Creatures on Valentine's Day, Warm Bodies on Saturday, and A Good Day to Die Hard on Sunday. Spoiler alert, these are going to be reasonably positive reviews because, since I am not a professional movie reviewer, I don't watch movies that I think suck. So in order of awesomeness, in my not so humble opinion . . .

Honorable mentions:
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Watched this on Netflix Saturday night. Surprisingly good show, for a quiet evening at home. It even made me want to see MI:III some time, even though I heard it sucked.

Much Ado About Nothing. Watched on Friday evening. A perennial favorite (see my "avatar" on the far right of this page). I love the rapid and natural delivery Branagh gets from his Shakespearean players. It made sense that he was tapped for Thor.

And now for the main events (again, in order of awesome):

#3: A Good Day to Die Hard
It's been 25 years since John McClane saved most of the hostages in Nakatomi Tower from Hans Gruber and his pack of Aryan bond thieves. I think each of those 25 years is etched onto Bruce Willis' face. Seriously, why are all of these geezer action stars from the 80s suddenly appearing in movies again? It was cute in The Expendables, but it's getting kind of ridiculous now. That's all I'm gonna say on that.

Die Hard 5 is a fun flick. I haven't seen a Die Hard movie in the theater since the original, and I am not fully confident that I did then. I missed Die Hard 4 entirely. So I can't really speak to the "this isn't truly Die Hard, and it sucks" camp. If you want to see an awesome car chase or two, spectacularly unrealistic gunfights and big explosions, this is your movie. There's a plot, I don't know if it really twists unpredictably; but I was along for the roller-coaster ride, and had a lot of fun watching it.

#2: Beautiful Creatures
OK, is it Twilight for Witches? Ish. In the sense that it's based on a Young Adult novel, about a teen witch—sorry, "Caster"—named Lena, and the boy who loves her, yes it's exactly like Twilight. The plot is much more epic in its consequences though, since Lena's mother wants to subvert her power to exterminate mortals and take over the world. Plenty of PG flavored romance and special effects. And who can pass up Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson chewing the scenery as aristocratic Southern mages? I would say their accents are atrocious, but I know people from the Deep South who talk that way. All in all, a charming bit of popcorn fun, especially if you are in that target audience, or are capable of channeling your inner 16-year-old girl. (I don't know who gave Alice Englert those sunken cheeks in the poster. She doesn't look like that at any point in the movie.)

And my personal favorite of the weekend:
#1: Warm Bodies
This one is adorable. From the shades of Romeo and Juliet (he loves her, her dad wants to shoot him in the head) to the funny, eloquent inner monologue of the main character who can speak only in moans, this is a great date movie. While there are a lot of "messages" in the movie, what I took from it was the inference related to my own life. "R" wanders through his unlife like a zombie, until he meets and falls in love with Julia. I think many of us wander through our lives like that: not feeling much, not fully alive until we have someone to share it with. We may even think everything is fine, until we realize that it wasn't, that there is something more. Maybe it's not romance or love we need. In my case, it was. Go see it. The poster is right, there's nothing hotter than a girl with brains.

I love you, Sctrz—my Julia.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

TSW Protip: Gear Manager Is Your Friend

I'm cheating here and reposting a section of a longer post for fellow guildie and Twitterite @tententacles. More protips available in these posts.

Gear Manager Is Your Friend . . .
. . . but I think it's a slight misnomer. I've tried to explain this before, but I don't think it was effective. You don't need multiple sets of gear for Gear Manager to be effective. Yes, you can carry around enough gear to effectively fill any role in a group, but chances are—at least early in the game—you'll want to simply upgrade gear you've got rather than accumulate different sets. On the other hand, you're quickly obtaining so many abilities that you'll soon have far more abilities than you have currently equipped. Some abilities are clearly useful for fighting single opponents, while others are far more suited to mowing down groups of mobs. Gear Manager comes in very handy for quickly flipping between sets of abilities even if you only have one real set of effective talismans. If you like macros, you can also set buttons to "/gearmanager use name" where "name" is the name of the saved gear/ability settings.
If you're making macros to assign to buttons, it helps to name your sets the same between alts (I've switched to the simple "AoE" from "Mass Mobs," for instance.)

I've gone over skills and abilities in the past. I don't plan to write any guide showing any überl33t Flavor of the Month Deck that I think you should follow. I can only say that I am having little trouble so far with my chosen decks, and I only want to point you in the right direction. I linked this Deck Builder the other day, as well. It's awesome for seeing at a glance which active and passive abilities produce/exploit which states (Afflict, Weaken, Hinder, Impair) and what weapons may create synergies when used together. And it's accessible from inside the game, through the web interface (though this may not be ideal). You can also use whatever passive abilities you may have learned, regardless of whether you're currently using the weapon associated with them. So that Blade HoT passive can be used even if you're currently using Blood and Fists.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hostile Gamer Environment: Gamer Survey, Part III

(Links to Part One and Part Two and the whole thing mashed together.)

And so we begin to wind down the Gamer Survey results. But not before everyone gets all riled up about the caustic environment that can be in-game chat and VOIP, other people questioning everything from your ability to play the game, to your gender and sexuality. Give me Barrens Chat any day with its endless Chuck Norris Facts and people asking where to find Mankrik's wife (although I'm sure it deteriorated into nastiness at times. General chat is filled with such inanities that I usually just turn it off, making a custom channel with just Guild, Party, and maybe Say, so I can interact with players in my immediate vicinity. But what happens when the party you're in is the source of the insults?

(One more time, remarks from respondents are in quote blocks and Helvetica font. All remarks used were edited for uniformity of spelling and grammar, and to maintain anonymity.)

Online Insults
In June, I wrote a post about insults and epithets, words people use to lump other people into groups that may or may not be accurate, and almost certainly are derogatory. It's something I personally feel strongly about, since as a child I was bullied and picked on until I grew big enough to ball up a fist and break a nose or two. To this day, I am particularly sensitive about being made fun of, and have an oversize sense of justice.

We'll look at these questions together, because they two sides of the same coin. My intent in asking was whether the respondent interpreted or intended remarks as insults. Gentle or friendly ribbing as to someone's abilities may not be insulting; but they can cross the line if we're not careful. Also, I intended for the second answer (irrelevent characteristic) to include inaccurate statements (i.e., calling someone a "fag" even if they are heterosexual.)

First, the responses from female gamers:
I just wanted to add a note that although I said earlier that I had not been a victim of insults in a game, there have been times when I had been a victim but not due to the circumstances listed in the other two choices. The only times I've been a victim when I was playing male characters and the people who were tossing the insults either had no idea I was female or it didn't matter at all to the situation. The first series of events was in Ultima Online where people harassed *anyone* they could because there was no behavior moderation at all in that game. It was completely anything goes and people there acted like they were in Lord of the Flies. The other times was related to guild leaders who went crazy and screamed insults at members when they stopped doing everything the guild leader wanted.

Even when I play my female characters, I seem to repel the typical sexist, etc. type of behavior from others, but I have seen it happen time and time again to friends who seem to attract the weirdos in every game.
I usually play female characters, but not always. As I have mentioned before, my nom-de-blog is actually taken from my Main in WoW: Rowanblaze, a human female priest. I am pretty sure on at least a few occasions other players assumed I was a female player, but usually that's not the case for me.
I tend to keep my gender on the downlow, so as not to provoke unwanted insults/advances.
I don't blame you.

Although I've never directly been negatively called for because I'm a woman, I do remember the days (this sounds old, but it actually was only 5 years ago) that people would be surprised to learn I was one. This mostly was through using Vent after we'd been clearing some cave for a while already. Perhaps I'm lucky (your survey will tell!), but people have always been inviting me to come help out with their raid and were happy if I could come. If anything, I'd almost feel more positively discriminated than the other way around. Perhaps this really depends on which game you play as well: I've always thought the LOTRO community was very friendly.

I used to be annoyed when people would refer to me as "he", even though they could see I was playing a female character. Those people who assumed that everyone around them was male were *always* male themselves.
I almost always take a character's gender at face value. It's simply easier to think of them as being male or female based on what I see, not what gender I think the player may be. On the other hand . . . (sorry about the quality)
As a female gamer who is not feminine in the slightest, it's always fascinating to me to see different viewpoints on how people feel they're treated. I have only ever personally been targeted due to my gender once, and that was an extreme circumstance (guild drama). I have no doubts whatsoever that people make sexist remarks all the time and that some even erroneously believe that women are not as good at gaming as men, but I myself have so rarely been a target of it that it's a foreign concept to me in some ways.
It sounds like you've been lucky, given some of the other responses. :) Guild drama is never a good thing, and I try to avoid it myself. We had several players in my WoW raiding guild, Mutiny (Uldum), that were gender-bending their avatars (including my own Rowanblaze). I'll always remember the guy we called "Joan." All of his characters had "Joan" in their name, starting with his paladin, Joanofarc. I very quickly got used to hearing Joan's masculine voice over Ventrilo, and thought nothing of it. We also had female players playing male characters. Now, were there occasional jokes made about gender and stereotypes? Yes, but I think happens in almost every casual group of friends, with rare hard feelings. I was lucky to be in a raid group with very patient leaders, and we didn't have any guild drama that I can recall.
I personally haven't been a "victim" of insults regarding my gender, but my gender has been victimized. In male-heavy guilds I've seen a lot of, "so-and-so sucks because she's a girl" followed by a hasty, "but that doesn't apply to you" when they remember I'm in that gender camp. Or, "I don't believe you're a woman, you play too well." I have been accused of being male and using a voice modulator in Vent. But, I've also had people apologize for suggesting I suck off an officer to get favors—after they realized I'm a woman. Apparently the suggestion would have stood had I been male. =)
One's gender or orientation has no bearing on his or her ability to play a game. At least they realized how inappropriate the suggestion that you were giving out blow jobs for favors was considering you are female. It's a shame they didn't realize it's insulting to anyone to suggest they are exchanging sex for status.

How male gamers answered the questions:
(Not every remark below was necessarily made by a male gamer, I'm just breaking up the post a bit.)
~I once was invited to a group in City Of Heroes and as I was Kinetics they expected we to have the mandatory Speed Boost skill. After that back they all ran off in separate directions but all wanted healing, with the expected abuse for not being able to do so. I exited the mission, quit the group and left them all to die.

I intentionally didn't pick speed boost until level 49 just to spite players that thought they knew how I should be playing/building my character.
Playing the healer more often than not, I have often left a group in the lurch because of the poor behavior other players. I was once laughed at for using a sub-optimal spell (Frostfire, when I was specced Arcane). I was in a PUG where frankly it didn't matter, and I simply thought it looked cool, nothing more. Unfortunately, the other player took it up on himself to tell me I was "doing it wrong" and boast of his own expertise as a Mage (he was not playing one at the time). It would have been, far better if he had whispered something like, "Hey, Frostfire is really meant for Frost and Fire Mages. You're not getting the best DPS by including in your Arcane rotation." Instead, he tried to humiliate me in front of the rest of the party. We'd barely started the PUG. I /ignored him and dropped group, leaving them to their own devices. Maybe it wasn't the most most mature reaction on my part, but I don't play any game to get berated by punks who think they are Überl33t.
I had to think long and hard about whether or not I have ever insulted another gamer. I don't think I have ever explicitly said "l2p", but I am pretty sure that there have been times where I have been critical of other gamers’ performance. I have also been guilty of telling 3rd parties that "person x needs to l2p."
I have been guilty of whispering to another player about the abilities of another, but I don't think I have ever directly criticized a player without offering a constructive solution. I become more incensed about the the behavior of players than their gameplay. The quickest solution to lowering my own blood pressure is simply to drop group. I have better things to do with my gaming time than get worked up about another player.
While I have not been the target of harassment, I have witnessed horrific harassment of women and minorities in games and on game forums.
Unfortunately, so have I. Even the implication that someone is a member of  a particular group and therefore inferior, whether they actually part of that group or not, is repugnant.
I don't expect to be treated any differently than anyone else in a game and I don't think I get treated differently either. I will play a game on a more casual mode as long as it is still fun. I don't play competitive games.
I rarely play competitively, sPvP in GW2 is a lot of fun though.I certainly have never done any tournaments, like WoW Arenas and such. I am not sure whether it because I am not competitive or because I am too competitive.

A couple respondents offered solutions to rudeness:
I may have been insulted, but I'm pretty laid back and don't stress about that stuff. I /ignore the person and get back to playing. So I don't remember any instances, but it may have happened.
I avoid game forums for similar reasons as /ignoring people. It's not worth reading the dreck in order to find a few gems of information.
On rare occasions within LOTRO, there are people who are rude, obnoxious, degrading, and demeaning. Three good options exist to deal with those people: report it as Harassment with in-game tools, put them on Ignore where I never have to see them, and tell my friends who can "close ranks" and keep those bad eggs at bay. Be good, and others will be good to you.
That last bit is ultimately all we can do. The Golden Rule is in full effect. I wish there were more I could do as an individual to stem the tide of nastiness, but I can only control own little corner of the Internet.

Percentage Totals (out of 104):
Thirty-two (31%) lucky respondents have never been insulted in online games. The other 69% of us (72 respondents) have had to deal with rudeness and even bigotry. On the other hand, 86 (83%) of us are gentle folk who have never insulted anyone online, with 18 (17%) rapscallions running rampant through the survey.
Whew!
Thank you to everyone for your enthusiasm and encouragement. Once again, I apologize for my procrastination. I was hoping for a few shortcuts, when it would have been faster if I'd just done my homework in the first place. I'll leave you with two final, hopeful remarks from respondents.
Nowadays, I feel being a woman in gaming is 'normal,' and I think this is simply because there are so many more of us. I never get any surprised responses when people get to know I'm a woman. And that's how it should be. :) (Then again, this might also be because I pug less, and because I often play together with my "significant other", which places me in a category.)
You're right, it is how it should be. I often play with my S.O., as well.
Female gamers are coming into their own. No longer are we in the shadows!
I sincerely hope that's the case going forward—in every aspect of life, not just gaming.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Purely Cosmetic: Gamer Survey, Part Deux

Welcome back, everyone. After all that lovey-dovey stuff in the last post, it's time for some hard hitting survey bloggerism. From here on out, we see questions that every respondent was asked, regardless of gender or relationship status. It begins, innocuously enough, with a question about the types of games you play. Or so I thought. (Remember, remarks from respondents are in quote blocks and Helvetica font. All remarks used were edited for uniformity of spelling and grammar, and to maintain anonymity.)

Genre of Games Played
Male respondents (66 total):
Female respondents (38 total):
I did not expect this question to stir up any controversy, but . . .
Why wasn't RPG on the list? Currently engaged in some Fallout and Mass Effect.
Well! The missing SP-RPG category was simply an oversight on my part. I encouraged respondents to add it in as part of their remarks at the end of their survey, but none did besides the commenter quoted above. So I have to assume at least some of the "Other" responses were for the SP-RPG category.
Civilization isn't an RTS.
Here, we have a question of definition. I am not sure how else to categorize Civilization; but then I would also include SimCity in the RTS genre, even though there is no fighting in it. In my view, the "strategy" comes from the effective use of resources to grow territory, regardless of whether one is fighting an opposing army, or simply an unruly budget. So what genre is CIV? and would SimCity also be in that category?

In any event, possibly because of my audience, every respondent plays some MMO regularly. Most of the other percentages are remarkably similar between genders; though again, the sample size is too small to gauge any true reflection of the gamer population at large.
And the total percentages (out of 104 participants):

Customization Options
Another perennially hot topic you may recall from this summer is the issue of, shall we say, inappropriate costuming for female characters in our various games. I saw more and more complaints about the dearth of body-type and armor-coverage options as the year went on. People don't all want their avatars to run around as if they're part of a Frazetta painting. I myself am of two minds here. There are times when I am perfectly OK with a skimpy costume on an attractive female computer generated model. However, I also find that sometimes the choices are ridiculous. Take for instance, the high-level female human cultural medium (and light) armor in GW2. I find myself clothing my females in "practical" garb, unlike some people.

In asking the following question, I wanted to find out how people feel about about how gender/sex is portrayed in the games they play. I wasn't concerned about non-gender costume issues like oversize shoulder pads or unrealistically huge swords.
Male respondents (66 total):
Female respondents (38 total):
Regarding portrayal of female characters: I only play games that offer a choice of how you present your character. If I'm railroaded into having to have an overtly sexualized character, they won't get my money. Choice is the key term here: I don't care if other people want to run around in a chainmail bikini, but give me the option not to please. ;)  Oh and that goes for female NPCs too: variety and/or equitability with male NPCs is better.
The game Tera, while not offering much by way of variety in physiques, is at least egalitarian in the distribution of skimpy costuming. I have other issues with the game, stemming from poor marketing choices, so I have not experienced Tera first hand.
I've often been disappointed that I can't make weakling casters for male human WoW characters. They always look like steroid freaks, no matter their vocation. It's a very minor complaint, to be sure.
This had never occurred to me, though I did avoid human male characters in World of Warcraft, which are uniformly muscular. Another respondent had a great suggestion:
On the characterization options, sure we'd all like more and better of those, but since I always play the least human options available the often very poor representations of humanoid males and females doesn't usually directly affect me. My advice is always play a talking animal of some description. Give it a gender-neutral name and no-one will even know what sex it's meant to be, and they certainly won't ask.
I have yet to play a game where there wasn't at least some sexual dimorphism across the "races." Even GW2, which is praised for that aspect of the Charr and Asura models, has some dimorphism; though it's not as pronounced as the racial model in WoW, where the least human-like races show the most extreme dimorphism.
It would also be great if I could play a female character in ANY modern day FPS, I mean seriously, that is just blatant discrimination.
Agreed here, especially regarding any FPS set in the present or future (or some semi-fantastic past). A realistic FPS set in WWII might not have female infantry, but any game with Space Marines—Hi, Games Workshop :P —has no excuse.

And the totals (out of 104):
A Note: Assuming those who checked "never had an issue" only checked that (because what else would they do?); if 42% of respondents never had an issue (53% of males and 24% of females), then well over half, 58% have had some issue with either character physique or costumes in the games they play (47% of males and more than three quarters of the female respondents, 76%).

I intend to post the last two questions of the survey tomorrow. (Keep your fingers crossed.) People had lots to say about the tone of player dialogue in online gaming.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Finally! The Gamer Survey Results, Part I: GamerCouplehood

It has been far too long in coming, but I have finally produced the graphic analysis I want from the (now closed) Gamer Survey Scrz and I conducted in August and September of 2012. My sincere apologies to all the participants and other interested parties for the long delay in publishing the results. I am excited to present them to you now with some explanation of the various questions we posed to each gamer. Each of the graphs below is clickable, if you want to see it full size.

I received a couple of comments regarding the definition of gamer which I will share in a second. As far as the survey goes, this is an implicit question. By completing the survey, the respondents declared themselves to be gamers, whether the rest of us would consider them as such is irrelevant. (Comments are in quote blocks and Helvetica font. All comments used were edited for uniformity of spelling and grammar, and to maintain anonymity.)
I consider myself a gamer but you may not, LOL. Non-gamers (AKA my wife) tell me all I do is play games. Other gamers, meanwhile, are perplexed when I tell them I only have an hour or two to play just now. I just can't win! As much as I love to play, I've managed to keep bigger priorities in my life just that—bigger priorities. It constantly shocks me how shocked almost every other gamer I talk to is by that.
Even though I'd played WOW for hours a day for almost four years (single at the time), I didn't really consider myself a gamer until I tried my third MMO, LOTRO. And that was after I'd started this gaming blog. In retrospect, I totally was a gamer.
I ticked we were both gamers prior to meeting, neither of us actually would have described ourselves as gamers way back then (we played megadrive type games and PC RPGs) It's only since we've been playing MMOs that we consider ourselves gamers. Plus our gaming history stretches back for around *cough* 15 years so the term may not have been invented :P But even so, wouldn't have categorized ourselves as such.

Gender
My lovely bride has told me on several occasions that I just don't get sexist issues from her perspective. I have to confess this is true. Despite being concerned with sexism in all aspects of life—including in the gaming community—some issues I view as "no big deal" are actually a very big deal to my female friends.

ONE HUNDRED FOUR (104) people took the survey, about two thirds (66) of whom were males, and one third (38) females. With such a small sample, I can't know whether that reflects the gender breakdown of the larger MMO community. I say MMO because this blog is almost exclusively about MMORPGs; and, as you'll see below, every respondent "confessed" to playing them. I used the gender question to break down the results.
Relationship Status
This question leads into the next. But if a respondent didn't have a significant other, we didn't ask the next two questions about S.O. gaming habits and influence. The legal status of the relationship was not relevant, so we composed it as generally as possible. Female respondents were somewhat more likely to be in a relationship at the time of the survey.
Female Relationship Status
Male Relationship Status
We'll return to include our single comrades in the next round of results.

Gamer Status of Significant Other
So about six months ago, Sctrz and I had a couple discussions stemming from recent gaming news, specifically a PR faux pas made by a developer from Gearbox, creators of Borderlands 2. The Mechromancer character was described as a "girlfriend mode" apparently because it was/is easier to play than other character types in the game. It made me curious about how female players got involved with gaming in the first place. Specifically, what is the likelihood that a gamer, regardless of gender will be attempting to introduce a female to gaming, versus introducing a male to gaming. I was hoping to get more gay and lesbian respondents to confirm or deny my hypothesis, but only a few took the survey.
Female Respondents (30 total):
Regardless, the males seem to have the most "opportunity" to get their significant other interested in gaming; though I'm guessing most already have, and their S.O. simply is not interested. I hope no one has an S.O. openly hostile to their hobby.

Male Respondents (46 total):

S.O. Influence on Gamer Status
So how much influence does the gamer exert on their significant other to start gaming? Hard to say. All of the male respondents were gamers when they met their S.O. (None were influenced to start gaming by their S.O.) On the other hand, none of the female respondents have an S.O. that does not also play, at least some of the time. I realize now that perhaps I should have separated "hardly games" and "never games" in the prior question. Don't give up hope, guys; almost a quarter of the male respondents have successfully introduced their S.O. to gaming.
Now, I know that we are looking at both sides of the same relationship in some of these tallies. That is, both partners responded to the survey, which is great. A full 80 percent of the female respondents were already gamers prior to meeting their S.O. and that's wonderful to see. It's also cool to see how many relationships were formed over multiple sessions of WoW or other games.
I'm refining the text of the remainder of the results, but I wanted to get this first part out to you since it's finished. Perhaps the juiciest questions and answers are yet to come. Lots of good comments in the survey remarks. Stay tuned.