Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Everybody Was Scrivno-Dancing!

There was a total party going on in Agartha last night as the Beyond the Veil crew hosted TSW Lead Writer Joshua "Scrivnomancer" Doetsch for an extended interview. Scriv graciously shared his background and experience as a writer of novels and video games, and also valiantly fielded questions from the community about Lore and Canon both obvious and obscure. We also got some tantalizing hints about future directions for the storyline both in Tokyo and Beyond.

Chat was active both in game and on our Livestream, and I'm sure the show will be an even bigger hit when the remastered version is released—hopefully later today.

I hope everyone has a great Friday and a great weekend. I know I will, because after a month away, I get to go home and kiss my bride.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Like a Stroll in the Park

A snippet of a story project I'm working on.
Samantha stepped out of the portal, and the stench of the corrupt sea hit her. The ancient Viking longboat was like an old friend that she would have been happy never to see again. There was a chill in the air she hadn't expected. The Five Burroughs were sweltering in the dog days of July, but the Fog had somehow locked Kingsmouth Town in an eternal October. She walked down the draw, sighting Boone's camp just off the road.
"Dr. Hawthorn!" he greeted her as she approached. "Long time, no see."
"I'm surprised you remember me, Mr. Boone," she replied.
"Call it a knack. It's my business to remember folks. How've you been? Looks like your adventures have taken you to sunnier climes."
"I've been everywhere, it seems. Ms. Geary keeps me busy."
He chuckled.
"And how is Kiki these days?"
Sam grinned.
"She's fine, I suppose—as long you don't call her that to her face."
"Fair enough," Boone smiled.
"Well, I want to check in on the folks in town before . . . Say, you don't happen to have seen a new group of Orochi agents around, have you?"
"Not any new ones. Just the folks out on the bridge north of town, and at the airport. And at the base camp. Y'know? There are an awful lot of those corporate types around. But I haven't seen any new ones. Of course, you don't all come by here to chat."
"True. All right, then. I'll see you 'round, I guess."
"Keep your head down," Boone tipped his hat, and Sam returned the gesture with a smile as she strode off toward town.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Updated History

Cheating a little here:

My current repertoire includes EverQuest II and The Secret World.

My main game right now is The Secret World. My lovely bride, Scooter, and I loved sunny Egypt after months in soggy Maine, but we're now traipsing through the snowy mountains of Transylvania. It's the smartest story and skill/ability system on the market, in my humble opinion. The recent updates "The Last Train to Cairo" and "A Dream to Kill" feature the most enthralling storylines I have followed in an MMO. I currently have a toon in Egypt's Scorched Desert, and two in Transylvania's Carpathian Fangs.
Between Christmas and New Years Eve, we decided to try something a little different, after looking into a couple F2p titles, we started playing EverQuest II. Our first two characters were OK, but we chose poorly on our starting area and tired quickly of the polar tundra around New Halas. Picking up again with a Ratonga Conjurer (me) and a Half-Elf Warden (Scooter) we restarted in Greater Feydark and are currently in the second zone of the continent, Butcherblock Mountains.

Guild Wars 2 is on the back burner. I had a blast in my recent stint as a Norn Mesmer—Greatsword Mage, FTW. GW2 is a ton of fun (the most important thing in a game), easy to jump into and play for a few minutes or a few hours. The game has a good skill/progression system, great graphics, plenty of lore, and just a touch of whimsy—without going overboard. I have a human Engineer at the max level of 80, and several other characters at lower levels.

I love Rift, playing regularly from the beta tests in January of 2011 through October of the same year, partnering in-game with my beloved Scooter. I cannot say enough great things about this game, or the developer, Trion Worlds. It's not perfect, but the polish and responsiveness of the game and company are things other devs should aspire to. For reasons not really clear even to me or Scooter, when our toons hit 50 (max level) the wind went out of our sails, and we really had no desire to continue playing the game. We recently got involved again, with House Stalwart, but discovered that something about the game causes us both eye strain.
I played Star Trek Online from just after its release in February of 2010 until May of 2011. I dipped in a toe again in June of 2012, checking out the Duty Officer system and other developments to the game. With the recent Legacy of Romulus expansion, I started up a new Romulan Captain and got my Main up to max level. Amongst all my MMO characters, I am still most attached to my STO crews in many ways.

I had a lot of fun with Star Wars: The Old Republic, from mid-December of 2011 into August of 2012 after pushing to achieve 50 (max level) and finish up the story on my Imperial Agent. I was initially very excited about the story-centric gameplay. The game has a lot going for it; but in the end, the way BioWare and EA have managed the game and community has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I played World of Warcraft from June of 2006, when a friend got me hooked, until October of 2011. I have two level-80+ characters, plus many more lower-level ones. I tried the Pandaren starting area in the Mists of Pandaria expansion (in October, 2012), but got a "been there, done that" feeling from the experience.

Neverwinter is a fun third person shooter/D&D hybrid, and I love my half-Orc Great Weapon Fighter. I didn't get very far, but it was a nice diversion.

I have tried Lord of the Rings OnlineAge of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, and Defiance, but found them not to my taste.

Please see also my character pages. Links above.
~~~
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Lessons in Scrivnomancy

This Thursday evening, the BtV crew will be interviewing Joshua "Scrivnomancer" Doetsch, currently serving as Loremaster-in-Chief for The Secret World. We have set up a forum thread for fans to ask Lore and Story questions. If you have any questions for Scrivnomancer, you can ask them through the thread, or in the comments below.
You can catch the live show this and every Thursday at about 7p.m. EST (12 midnight, UTC) on Holosuite Excess. You also can subscribe to the remastered episodes through Holosuite Media's RSS feed, through iTunes (with older episodes here), and through Stitcher.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Into the Underworld

Sometimes we step away from the keyboard and mouse, and go out into the sunlight for a real adventure. Of course, we don't always stay in the sunlight. This morning—very early for a Sunday—I met with some co-workers who are traveling with me, and we made the 2.5 hour trip from El Paso, TX, to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.
Before taking the plunge into a place of interest or dungeon, it's helpful to know where you'll be going. We started at the natural entrance to the cave (seen at the top of the diagram) and covered the blue and red paths. (The green path is for ranger guided tours only.)
From the bat amphitheater through the natural entrance, we descended 750 feet under the surface of the escarpment. If we had been here at dusk we could have watched the bats depart from their home (The Bat Cave) in search of insects to eat. Of course, the best time of year for that is in July and August as the bat pups join the hunt.
We descended into the twilight zone, and this was the last sight we had of the entrance. From here on out, any light was artificial.
Our adventure was just beginning though, as we entered a world unlike anything on the surface, where the seemingly delicate forms had been molded over millennia. (Much of the light and shadow you see in these pictures was designed by a theatrical lighting designer.)
We encountered beings of stone ranging from very the small through man-sized (as at left) to the epically gigantic (see below). In the short term, we were more a danger them than they were to us.
Like guardians of the underworld, they both beckoned us forward and forbade our interference in the affairs of their realm.
The cave holds several reminders of the precarious nature of the initial explorations made by our forbears. This ladder, or what's left of it, descends another 200 feet into the chamber below, much of it swinging free in the open darkness.
Rumors of the Cave's demise have been greatly exaggerated, though it is more dormant now than in times past. This has more to do with the climate of the Chihuahuan Desert than human activities. In fact, Gaia is more than prepared to erase the evanescent passage of these flitting humans. On the path laid out for us, the pale foundations of new stalagmites are already growing.
Millennia hence, those foundations may form something like the Rock of Ages, a behemoth ancient in the extreme. It looked upon us as we might look upon a mayfly, perhaps casually contemplating what it must be like to only measure our lives in years instead of eons. Wondering why we would possibly think that it might be cleft for us.
Not everything was awe inspiring. The dolls put on a play for us in their tiny theater of gossamer stone. We laughed in delight, applauding their grand drama.
Strange to encounter a Portuguese Man-o-War floating serenely as we passed. (If not for the magic of our artificial suns, we would not see our own hands, much less the great treasures around us.)
Over 100 years after Jim White first set foot inside the cave, we flitting humans have yet to explore the entire system known as Carlsbad Caverns. From the highest point in the Big Room, I took this parting shot. In an attempt to make this post like my WoW Nerd in Deutschland series, I wracked my brain to try to remember any place like this pre-Cataclysm (about when I quit), or any other MMO I have played. I mean, sure there are caves, and they may have pointy things on the floor and ceiling, but there is nothing like this amazing world we explored today under the mountains of New Mexico.
~~~
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Of Endings and Beginnings

I used to make you happy once upon a time. . .
~Bernie Taupin, "Mendocino County Line"
First, a semantics lesson. In Middle and Modern English, "Apocalypse" has primarily been understood to mean something like "the end of the world." But it comes from the Greek title for the last book of the New Testament, which gives the clue to another meaning: "a revealing."
They were given power to kill MMOs via trolling, nerdrage, apathy, and budgets.
Yesterday, Massively broke the news that Sony Online Entertainment has announced the closure of not just one, but four underperforming MMOs: Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms (end date for both: 31 March), Vanguard, and Wizardry Online (31 July for both). Later in the day, SOE president John Smedley, got on Reddit to try to assuage the concerns of fans and gamers.

My fellow bloggers, Syp and Harbinger Zero have offered perspectives. But the most wrenching I have read is from Bhagpuss, as he describes what it was like to watch the lights go out on the EverQuest II beta. While Bhagpuss points out that he started playing the launch version of EQ2, it was bittersweet. He would never return to his former character, or his home in Baubleshire.
"I waited out the apocalypse, alone with my cat. There he is . . . just a few seconds before oblivion claimed us both."~Bhagpuss
I can't believe I'm actually crying right now, myself. I once watched a video of the last minutes of Star Wars Galaxies, that was cleared away apparently to make room for SWTOR. I cried then, too.

The ephemeral nature of the games we play has been a running theme of this blog of late. Unlike movies or books—or even offline games—that we can go back and experience again, the worlds of our favorite MMOs only there for as long as they keep the servers going. Life is full of endings. And we feel the loss. I talk a lot about the business side of MMOs. Unfortunately, business concerns are behind many, if not all of the decisions that affect our games. Business is cold, hard; but our hearts are warm and tender. If we are lucky, much like the Apocalypse of the Bible, the SOE-pocalypse will mean not only the tribulant end of an era, but also the beginning of a glorious new one.

Treasure your experiences, for all too soon they will only be memories. Now, if you are near your significant other, your child or your pet, gather them in your arms and tell them you love them for me. For I am far from all of mine.
~~~
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Beyond the Veil Updates

After a break last week due to technical difficulties, the BtV crew was back in force last night discussing Egypt, Atenist lore, and upcoming events in The Secret World.

Meanwhile, I am behind again in promoting our previous Tier 73, "A New Year," when we discussed the ever tardy Game Director's Letter, this time with Tilty subbing in for Mr. Bylos, as well as the Krampusnacht/Holiday Hel event and more.

Be sure to catch us next week on Thursday, 30 January, as we have a live chat with Joshua "Scrivnomancer" Doetsch, the lead writer for The Secret World. All your Lore questions will be answered, but only if you ask them. (I may want to caveat that with, "We probably won't get a ton about future (e.g., Tokyo) Lore.")
You can subscribe to the show through Holosuite Media's RSS feed, through iTunes (with older episodes here), and now through Stitcher. Be sure to catch the live show tonight and every Thursday at about 7p.m. EST (12 midnight, UTC) on Holosuite Excess. Beyond the Veil is produced by "Xander Hayes" and Holosuite Media.
~~~
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Death Knight Love Story

Hugh Hancock of MMO Melting Pot has done a great service to the community in the past, writing posts that crystallize the currents of the MMO blogosphere into short digests with links to various other bloggers posting on the topic at hand. Not only has it been a good way to find new blogs to follow, he has honored me on occasion with a mention.

Today, I thought I would return the favor. The Melting Pot has fallen somewhat silent of late, due to another project Hugh has been working on. He's made some posts on a couple blogs I follow—and that touch on subjects of interest to me—promoting his new machinima film Death Knight Love Story.
In the first post I noticed, Syl, the MMO Gypsy, hosted Hugh's discussion of the music of the film. In the second, Hugh talks about the likely cause of ballooning MMO budgets with the venerable Tobold. He may have guest-posted on other blogs I missed.

Finally, here's Hugh's announcement on his own MMO Melting Pot. The animated film follows the star-crossed story of two brave souls caught in the middle of the epic struggle to defeat one of Azeroth's greatest menaces, and features the voice talents of Jack Davenport, Anna Chancellor, Joanna Lumley, and BRIAN BLESSED as Arthas, the Lich King.
Part 1 of Death Knight Love Story is now available to watch for free at http://www.deathknightlovestory.com/.
~~~
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can We Talk?

The Aggronaut has a post this morning stating that blogs are not community. Upon reading the title, I was all set to disagree, but he makes some salient points. I tend to think of the little group of blogs that I read regularly as a community, though I know they are not. And other readers of the blogs I read do not read all the blogs I read, or even my own blog. (How's that for convoluted, Bel?) And yet . . .

And yet, I encounter many of the same blogs I read in other people's blog-lists. Some blogs focus exclusively on one game, and develop a dedicated pool of readers—and perhaps fellow bloggers. But what happens when the focus of the blog changes? I blog about games I am playing now, and issues in the industry that interest me, plus meta-blogging posts like this. That doesn't interest everyone.

Maybe I have a stronger sense of blogging community because I actually have ended up playing in guilds with fellow bloggers, right from the fleet I joined in my first venture outside of Azeroth, not long after I started blogging myself. (I believe the FNS is still somewhat active in STO.) Even now, I am part of cabals in TSW that are either mostly fellow bloggers, or castmates on Beyond the Veil. I am also technically part of House Stalwart, in Rift—because of my blogging connections.

I also try to foster community (or at least friendships) in my own little way. It's not much and it's not organized, but it is purposeful. I feel I was fostered in my fledging days, and want to pay it forward when I can. So I encourage my friends in the blogging community where I can. I can be argumentative on occasion, and some of my readers and commenters may think that is divisive. But in the end, I do hope no one has their feelings hurt, even if we disagree. And I do my best to encourage them on their own blogs.

But if someone doesn't engage with me, I can't say I lose much sleep over it. I also generally try to stay away from toxic people who criticize more than just the game design, but also attack others who do enjoy the game. I am happy with my little groups of friends, though I try to be welcoming to new ones.

I know I don't have a large readership in the grand scheme. But in the end, I Have Touched the Sky is really for me. I know that sounds egotistical, but it's true. And I believe it's true for every blogger to some extent. We blog because we feel we have something to share with the world, with the community.
~~~
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Secret Monday Was a Nightmare

The Knights of Mercy met yet again for Secret Monday. Scooter took the night off due to an early morning, and so I was "bach-in' it" for the evening. With Syp having just completed the Gatekeeper challenge, we gathered up the first 5 Knights that came on and decided to cut our NM teeth on Polaris. FOr me it was the first time in a Nightmare level, and wow, they aren't kidding with the name. In all honesty, we got our butts handed to us repeatedly by the first very first boss. Syp's GK victory had occurred so early yesterday that he was fighting a losing battle with the ZZZ Monster, and bowed out before we got locked out of the Instance.
Hey we're all wearing Orochi Uniforms; what could go wrong?
By then Pid was on and we decided to knock out a filth run one-shotted the first couple bosses, and then came up against our second serious challenge of the night. The filth puppy wasn't the hard part. Flappy pooping all over the group proved our downfall.

I've got a little criticism for Funcom on this particular event. To engage the players, you need high intrinsic rewards (e.g., fun, novel gameplay) and/or high extrinsic rewards (e.g., loot) The current Nightmare "Enter the Filth Phase 2" provides neither. The fights were fun, in the regular version, but quickly became repetitive. The fight in the NM are not more fun, just more challenging, but the loot is not commensurate with the increase in effort. Funcom needs to either bring the rewards up to at least the equivalent of Elites—or better yet, NM, or revamp the fights completely, or those tentacles will still be there months from now. I'm guessing it would be easier to change the loot table.
Action! Sorry, WickedTryx was offscreen.
Not wanting to end Secret Monday (or this post) on a low note, we decided to run a scenario (that I didn't get any pics of) without the Uniforms on. We had a blast blasting stuff in the Castle.

I also wanted to say—and I may elaborate later—this is what guilds are for me, a group of friends that get together to help each other, cheer each other on, celebrate our victories, and laugh through our defeats. Basically, to have fun. Any more serious tone would be (has been) a turn off. If I want to feel like I'm working, I'd rather get paid for it.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Is It Greed, or Good Design?

Picture, if you will, a design studio in Irvine, CA, circa late 2009:

Jo Mount Specialist is hard at work, studying skeletons and body mechanics or something. Jo's supervisor comes and says:
"Jo, I have new project for you. We want you to take one of the pegasus designs and convert it for a new flying mount."
"Sweet," Jo says. "What do you need?"
"It needs to be semitransparent and have bright points of light in it like stars. The idea is that it's sort of a rideable constellation."
"Sounds totally wicked; is it a new drop for the next raid wing?"
"No, we're gonna sell them in the item store for like twenty-five bucks a pop."
". . ."
The House that Thrall Built
Within a day of the Celestial Steed going on sale, they had sold over $2-million worth. I don't think there is any way of knowing how much time and money went into the development project, but if it was based on previous designs, it wasn't more than a few thousand. (EDIT: Full disclosure: I never purchased this mount or any other from Blizzard, though I did buy a couple of the minipets "for charity.") Blizzard decided it was an excellent source of revenue, and now there's a whole line of $25 mounts, not to mention the $10 companion pets. Was the endeavor any less artistic for being sold rather than included with the subscription as some quest reward or loot?
I'm sorry but if every designer's goal is to maximise the amount of people and profit, then they would theoretically need to create a game that appeals to the broadest variety of interests but we know that doesn't work...
~J3w3l of Healing the Masses, in a comment on a recent post here
Au contraire, ma sœur. You need go no further than World of Warcraft to find the epitome of appealing to the broadest base possible, and let's face it, succeeding. The problem is that WoW is an anomaly that nearly every game company since has tried to replicate, with none even approaching similar success—by orders of magnitude. Blizzard's success with WoW has fed their ability to keep the fire going, as pointed out by Psychochild in a comment on my post yesterday. And other games that require subscription access are expected to have as much content as WoW, since the monthly "rent" each player pays is about the same.

Now, don't confuse me with a Blizzard apologist. That same broad appeal has thinned the WoW broth considerably in my opinion, and there any number of games I feel are better. But they are all more . . . niche, if you will.

Also, don't confuse my reference to "developer" as being about individuals. "Studio" or "publisher" may have been a better term. I can guarantee that for many people involved in making, say, SWTOR, or even Rift, the idea that they could garner several million concurrent subscriptions and compete directly with WoW did not seem too far-fetched. Looking back, it seems like folly. But in the early, heady days of development and investor meetings, potential profit was talked about at least as much as graphics and mechanics.

That doesn't mean they don't want to make great games. But, no matter what mission statement or manifesto a game studio puts out, deciding on the business model has to be part of the earliest stages of the design of a triple-A MMO, especially if they are making the game with other people's money.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Don't Step on the Long Tail

The hardest part of writing a post every day is the actual sitting down to write. Currently, I have little access to the internet during the day, which forces my writing to after work, when I'd rather be eating and playing an MMO with Scooter; or to the wee hours of the morning, when I'd rather be sleeping. I guess I just need to get to bed earlier. On the other hand, I am making a bigger effort to read the blogs of others, which inspire some great ideas . . . that I have trouble following up on. >.>

Busy Busy-ness

The other day, I was mildly taken to task by C.T.Murphy for focusing too much on the business side of MMOs. We players are the modern patrons of the gaming arts. No major game sees the light of day without a solid business plan to recoup the cost of developing it, plus a tidy profit. I have played quality games with varying business models from full sub-only, to full F2P/cash shop. And the reasons I may have stopped rarely had to do with the payment model, in and of itself.

But it's a topic I find fascinating because of the economic decisions we make as gamers and game developers. In a perfect world, we could all create art of our own choosing without regard to how we're going to put food on the table. But the reality is far different. Do you want to know why Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa? It wasn't love or her beauty, it was a commission. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo? A commission. Most art throughout the ages was created to feed the artist (including slave artisans, and attempts to appease the gods).

However, money is an influence. I am not just thinking about my own personal costs, but the costs for my family to play. As Kemwer pointed out somewhere that I have lost, if you have children capable of playing, but not capable of paying, then you face far more than just $15 per month on a subscription. On the other hand, I paid a sub and paid microtransactions (MTX), as well, for items from Star Trek Online's store. And for pets and such in Blizzard's store. Times and circumstances change.

Thus, discussion of business models fascinates me. And since this is my blog, I shall follow my own whims.

Capturing the Long Tail

Tobold brought to my attention this article by Pathfinder's Ryan Dancey, wherein he discusses the advantages of what we might call the hybrid business model of MMORPGs.

The Y-Axis is revenue paid per month. The higher up the line the more money a person is paying. The X-Axis is the number of people willing to pay at that level. The traditional subscription system creates the "box" in the middle – a certain number of people are willing to pay the fixed-price subscription. The problem with this model is that there are some number of people (in the green area) who would be willing to pay more per month but can't because the subscription price is capped, and some number of people (in the purple area) who would be willing to pay something but can't or won't pay the full price subscription amount who generate no revenue because the subscription is the minimum payment for entry to the game.
~Ryan Dancey
Regardless of how the demand curve is shaped, it will follow that pattern. Hybrid models take advantage of every price-point that people who want to play the game are willing to pay. Are some exploitative? Yes, but that threshold is in the eye of the beholder. And generally those people will cease to play the game—possibly sharing their opinion of its exploitative nature on the internet.
The sign a game has failed is when it is closed, not when it begins to accept MTX payments.
~Ryan Dancey
I have in mind a post on the games I feel have good MTX vs. those I feel are exploitative, but I wonder if I would bring anything new to that discussion.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Friday, January 17, 2014

POTD: New Companions, New Adventures

Yesterday was busy! And exhausting . . . it looks like rather than a 3-day like most people, I will only be getting one full day off. Even I don't have much time, but I wanted to post a couple pics from Wednesday evening in Norrath with Scooter.
Meet "Sally," the mini-cognatic bixie bopper, my first fluff pet in Norrath. I got her by completing "Sniffwistle's Superior Attacker" near Kelethin. Coincidentally, Scooter named hers "Sunny."
We also discovered the Taxi service, only minutes before earning out first mounts. Scooter has quite the lead foot.

Tonight we'll hit level 20 for sure, maybe more. I hope everyone enjoys your Friday and whatever length of weekend you get. :)
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ding, Level Four!

Four years. Almost a tenth of my life. So much about my life both in cyberspace and meatspace has changed in that time. This blog has grown from humble beginnings to slightly less humble middles. This fourth year been a banner one for I Have Touched the Sky:
Rescue puppies
4 Balls of Cute
I've posted 223 times since my last blogoversary, including this one. July was my most prolific month, where I managed to average just over one post per day. My most popular posts of the year:
3. Dead Horse Discussions: F2P Rears Its "Ugly" Head with 1113 hits
2. DAW4: ArenaNet with 1431 hits, I'm gratified it's not all controversial stuff
1. Barriers to Entry: More Revenue Model Discussions with 9481 hits, also making it the most popular post I've yet written.
You guys are sometimes a lively bunch. I was totally not expecting two of my biggest posts in this sense to be right before my anniversary. In terms of "audience response":
1. What Is Pay to Win? with 19 comments not by me
2. Wildstar: Class or Race? with 16 comments not by me
2. Social Mobility, or, No Class with 16 comments not by me
4. More Dead Horses: Money May Equal Time, But It Will Never Equal Commitment with 14 comments not by me (Honorable mention because it also got a lot of hits.)
Something else I tried to do this year was to become more community oriented on Twitter (I would on G+, as well, but there are logistical issues). And so I reTweet links to people's blog posts, giving my own little spin in an effort to generate interest. I do it because it's fun, and the 140 character forces a certain kind of creativity. I had no idea until fairly late in the year, how much attention that effort had garnered:
-Best of Bio Break 2013: Blogging and podcasting community shout-outs
-Tales of the Aggronaut: Vacation Catch Up
I've played a lot of games this fourth year of the blog: Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Defiance, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, EverQuest II. I think that's it. Maybe not much compared to some other gamers, but I enjoyed my time in each game; some of them more than others. I'm sure you've followed the exploits of the Knights of Mercy on Secret Monday, a great chance to meet regularly with friends from SWTOR and elsewhere.
Many, many thanks to Ocho for this.
Prepare to be Schooled
In April, I was extended an invitation by Antida and Xander to join the cast of Beyond the Veil. Not only has it opened up a level of of access to a developer studio I never thought I would get, it's been a wonderful chance to meet and spend time with a bunch of great people who share my enthusiasm for The Secret World. I love you guys!

I often find myself like Neo in the Matrix. No, no, I don't think of myself as the promised one. What I mean is, despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoy playing MMOs, and I appreciate the efforts at world building by the developers, I can't help but see the numbers flying past in the background. That's why I truly find little difference between, say, a rogue and a mage. They serve the same purpose, to make the health bar of the bad guy get smaller. Everything else is special effects.

I have made great friendships through games (and blogging) that I never would have, if not for these activities. And I am grateful for those friendships and experiences. But when I say the activities are trivial, it's exactly what Arcadius said: "It’s all vanity and chasing the wind. Sound and fury . . ." In the end, we haven't fed the hungry or created world peace. We've played games and argued about it.

These worlds created for and by us are so ephemeral. Stop paying that subscription or walk away from the game, and what do you have to show for the hours and years you've spent? Memories, maybe some long-distance friends, if you're lucky. Not much else. But we continue because it is worth the stress relief and enjoyment we get from playing.

Thank you to all my commenters for providing your perspective and insights throughout the year.

And last, but of course not least, I want to thank my gaming partner, the light of my life, Scooter. If you guys think I am exasperating online, imagine what it must be like to live with this opinion monster. I love her—madly, desperately—and I am grateful for her unwavering support. It's been a great year! Here's hoping for many more.
~~~
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Power Leveling

I just had a thought. One of Blizzard's (and other game companies') biggest headaches through the years has been illegitimate power leveling and gold farming, along with the various hackings and stolen accounts/items that go with it. What have they done to prevent it? One thing has been to lower the relative price of many expensive aspects of the game (like mounts). While some players decry this as simplifying and dumbing down the game, it also disincentivizes the illegitimate purchase of gold through RMT. Other games simply simply introduce RMT directly into the game in various ways, like making mounts available in the cash shop.
What about the other aspect, power leveling? There have been various approaches taken so far; one of course, is to shorten the leveling game, despite increasing the number of levels. What might be another way to get players into the portion of the game many seem to want to be, quickly?
~~~
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Hornets' Nest

Back away slowly.
I seriously did not expect the hue and cry over my weekend posts. Many people delivered impassioned arguments about why there is such a thing as pay-to-win—or at least pay-to-make-someone-else-lose—and the ability to change classes is the Devil's doctrine. I'll make a few more comments and then let you guys duke it out in the comments if you so choose. You probably won't like what I have say.

Trivial Pursuits
That's what I think is really behind the cry of P2W. The awareness that the game is trivializing something I like to do.
~Arcadius
Arcadius has a point, and I certainly have railed against games that trivialize my preferred playstyle myself. The truth is that the way I play is trivial, and the way you play is trivial. and the way sports fans watch football all weekend is also trivial—to anyone not involved in it. While I thoroughly believe that recreation and hobbies are important for health and other benefits, the specific way people spend their leisure time is trivial to everyone else. Because the rest of us don't care. The only person in the debate that managed to express anything close to a legitimate argument was Balkoth regarding his top-end raid group. And sorry to say, but he provided his own evidence as to why top end raiders are just as trivial a market segment as any other special interest group in MMOs.

The funny thing is, the insta-90s are coming, is it that hard to imagine the opportunity to skip right to raid-ready status (for a fee)? No one—at least at Blizzard—is talking about selling top-end gear for RL cash.

Is Nothing Sacred?

Fredric March, Carole Lombard, & Walter ConnollyMeanwhile, what Syl calls the Last Bastion of Character Restriction is showing early signs of crumbling. Allod's has started offering the chance to switch character class (for a fee). Upon hearing that some of us approve, the naysayers said nay.

Now a while back, when they introduced the ability to change race, faction, etc., I remember the folks at Blizzard saying basically that changing class was beyond their technical capability. I don't know if that is really the case any longer, if a bit complicated. Of course, the conversation seems to have shifted over at Syl's blog, from what I understood to be a fairly permanent change in class, to a more fluid, switch at will kind of class swapping, akin to the weapon swapping of TSW, or the multiple professions of FFXIV.
As a “player,” I'm primarily the facilitator and observer of my characters. They tell me what they want to do and I help them to do it. It needs to be consistent with their worldview from a perspective that stands within the culture of the virtual world in which they exist. (This is not role-playing, by the way).
~Bhagpuss, over on Syl's post.
Only for a certain definition of role-playing, Sir Bhagpuss. I have never heard anyone express their relationship to their characters this way before. Syl countered by declaring that she is her character, it is an avatar, and better to be able to multi-class than to hop alts on a whim. I am somewhere between, I personally love my alts, but I wonder if I would have developed into an altoholic if not for certain game mechanics in WoW, namely classes and rested XP.

Don't get me wrong, I would love for there to be a valid in-game reasoning for such a change. I came up with head-canon for why my Shadow Priest switched to Discipline, even though the in-game reasoning was flimsy at best, and instantaneous.

Over on his own blog, Klepsacovic expounds on why he doesn't think class swapping is a good idea, but much like the anti-P2W crowd, he decides that his personal feelings should dictate what is or is not available to the rest of us. I responded thus:
I'm with you, changing classes doesn't make sense for us. I couldn't imagine Rowanblaze as anything other than a Human Priest. I bet changing the race or faction of Kelpsacovic doesn't make any sense to you either. But the option is available for those players who are interested in changing faction or race. This would be the same thing. An option. A reformed warlock who took some time out to study the arcane. A warrior who felt the call of the light—or the shadow—set down the sword and board for vestments and staff. And aren't deathknights, at least from a lore perspective, converted from many other classes? There are plenty of RP justifications for changing class. If other players have the option to change the class of their character, how does that really, honestly, affect you?
In the end, players may rage all they want on the forum and the blogs, but if the game companies see an unfulfilled demand that they can monetize, you can bet they will do so.
~~~
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported LicenseIf you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.