Rants tag

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

Monday, January 30, 2012

Playing "Against Type"

In April of 2010, I wrote a post as part of a larger blogger discussion of the kind of characters we play in the games we play. In it, I mentioned my "altoholism" and my tendency to role healers and specifically females.
I'm still an altoholic, though I've branched out from healing into tanking and occasional DPS (I am spectacular at neither). Rowan, my High Elf Cleric in Rift, is a hybrid, tank/healer. More than sufficient for the duo I played with my lovely bride, Sctrz. She played Enura, a Stabbity/Splosive Rogue, purely for the DeePS. My DeePS/Healer Mage, Ochroma, was harder to manage with Sctrz' Tanky Warrior, Cerrene. In our little dungeon-running group in WoW this past year, I settled into the DPS/Off-healer/Off-tank role befitting my Draenei Enhancement Shaman, Poppyshock. I do like the versatility of hybrid classes.

Something has happened though in terms of the preponderance of females in my character stable. Looking at my SWTOR toon roster (half of which has already been introduced); of the eight characters, only two are female. There are a couple reasons for this: SWTOR has decent male avatars, for one. The other is the fact that part of the game is the companion affection system, including certain companions being romancible. For now, these certain companions are the opposite gender of your player character. While I didn't mind my avatars being female in other games, they were also non-romantic. In fact, in writing short stories and attempting to plot out longer stories, I have had great difficulty thinking of my female leads (based on in-game avatars) as having lovers. Even if I RP a female, my lovely bride almost always roles a female also, and any romance there is a lesbian romance. (An aside, it's funny RPing romance online with my RL romantic partner as she sits with me in the same room.)

Now I did role those two females (haven't introduced them on this blog yet), and I do intend to go with the romance options as they come up. I am not quite as grossed out as Syp by it; though admittedly, he may be more grossed out by Vector's connection to a hive mind than the romance itself. But for the most part, I did role males because I have a difficult time imagining myself being the female in a romantic relationship, even if I do actually like Twilight.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quote of the Day: Carrots

Copyright: Williams and Sonoma
The spark was lit. Quests! Direction! Level 55! I keep thinking about how much I love the freedom to just choose to do whatever you want in games, but I frequently need to get reminded that sometimes I really need that carrot to get me back on track.

While many people are happy to strike out on their own and do their thing, I've always preferred to be drawn through the game by the story. This was not always the case, exactly. I like real-time strategy games a lot, though the last one I played seriously was Command & Conquer: Generals. Once I started playing MMORPGs--read: WoW--I found that I wanted to find out the stories of the characters I encountered. Some of them wanted me to do stuff for them; others, when the time was right, sent me on my merry way to the next place that people needed an adventurer. I explore and find interesting nooks in the Worlds I visit, but mostly I like a reason to go somewhere. Much like Conan the Cimmerian, "I live, . . . I love, I slay, and am content."

Oh! and sometimes, the cake is not a lie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Journey

Kaylee: How come you don't care where you're going?
Book: 'Cause how you get there is the worthier part.

For me, the Journey always been the point of playing an MMORPG, from my first days of World of Warcraft through last night playing Star Wars: The Old Republic with my lovely bride. It's a theme I have returned to repeatedly on this blog, sometimes more pointedly than others. But I feel it necessary to repeat myself again: If you race past leveling content to the end-game and find it inadequate, you have only yourself to blame. Don't blame the developers for not supporting your style of gameplay. They worked plenty hard for you to enjoy the story as you level. If (in the case of of SWTOR) you spacebarred your way through the cutscene conversations in an effort to kill as many droids and womprats as possible on your way to 50, you're doing it wrong.

WoW has a rich and varied lore extending from the original Warcraft RTS through Cataclysm and beyond. I loved discovering Azeroth and my place in it. I have my issues with the game and how it has changed over the years, but that is mostly because of my personal preferences. Some of them involve how the leveling process (and therefore story) was foreshortened in favor of an end-game playstyle I had little interest in.

Star Trek Online has some cool stories, building on the lore of Star Trek, obviously; and I feel the developers at Crytpic did a great job honoring the past while delving into the future. My captains and their crews were fleshed-out characters with motivations and reactions fitting Starfleet and their respective personailties as I saw them. I tell myself I will go back to check things out one of these days, what with the F2P model STO has shifted to.

Rift had a great story to tell, with two factions trying to defend their world from invasion by supernatural creatures, each with strongly held beliefs about how to go about it. I understood my characters' place in that world, even though I felt that in many details, what they were asked to do did not fit their stature as superbeings themselves. That and having to level alts through literally the same content caused me to develop an ennui about the game. I do wish Trion the best though, and I am technically subscribed still. Though when the current cycle ends, I doubt I will re-up.

So we come to SWTOR. BioWare has catered to my style of gameplay, with a focus on Story and the Journey of my character. I really don't care about end-game. I may do a few operations with the Imperial Mercenary Corps and the Republic Mercy Corps. But I am not interested in running the same thing over and over again. I did that for a while in WoW and didn't really enjoy it, though I liked the camaraderie of Raiding with Mutiny of Uldum (and White Widow back in BC days).

When I reach max-level and the current end of the story, I will likely retire that character and play another. There are those who dislike not having the choice of where to go in SWTOR. They say the game is too much on rails. That is fine, it is their opinion. However it is a design decision that conflicts with their preference, it is not an inherent flaw in the game itself. Are there features I would change or would like added to SWTOR? Of course. But I am enjoying playing both my solo main and my SLC main with Sctrz. When I stop enjoying it, I will quit the game. I won't rage-quit, I haven't yet done that with any game, I've simply lost interest in playing further.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rant and a Half

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.’’

I respectfully disagree, Mr. Emerson. "To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men" is pure hubris.

Some people are really not going to like this. In fact, I may even lose followers over it. But mine is the opinion that matters here, where I have the final say. Go post your own opinion on your own blog.

I have not been terribly consistent in my efforts to be evenhanded on this blog. I've tried to dedicate it to shiny happy feelings about the games I am playing. I try to give honest assessments of games I've played. If I don't like a game, I don't bag on it or the people who developed it. I just move on and play games that I like to play.

I see people in blogs, comments, and Twitter denigrate others for choosing to play this game or that, insulting their intelligence. "How could you possibly like that piece-of-garbage game." and "I think I just threw up a little in my mouth." Then they can't fathom why others aren't playing their own favorite game.

To those rage about this game or that on the various forums and Twitter as if they've been personally slighted, I will say this pointedly: SFTU & GTFO. This is not your private universe. Other people people live here, too.

I want to reiterate, I am not talking about the people who have constructive suggestions and opinions about a particular game or the MMORPG genre as a whole. I am talking about the snooty people who think and say that others are inferior for liking certain games, and the nerdragers who think the game company somehow owes them something besides what they have already provided.

I see a whole lot of people declaring that this or that design decision is bad, and that a game or genre will ultimately fail as a result. These are the Malthusians declaring that the market only has so many potential customers, leading to every new game competing with and poaching players from other games. Meanwhile games like WoW in 2004 blew previous assumptions about the size of the market out of the water. And the market is bigger today than ever before. If you can design a better game, get out there and design it. More power to you. I sincerely wish you the best; don't be surprised if you don't attract the playerbase you think your game deserves.

It's OK to say you did or did not like a game and give a reason. It's another thing entirely to say the game is stupid because it lacks a feature you think should be there or it is not implemented the way you think it should be, and that those who do like the game are clearly ignorant, stupid or both for liking it. It's like saying Basketball is stupid because it isn't played on ice, or that Hockey is stupid because there are no wickets.

Constructive criticism and suggestions are welcome at BioWare, Blizzard, and other game development companies, I am sure. However, they owe you nothing but doing their best to make and maintain the best game they can from their perspective. Some mistakes will be made, but not every design decision you disagree with is a mistake. You are neither an employee nor a shareholder. You are a customer, free to take it or leave it. Rather than waste your time and effort on raging, just go do something else.

Vote with your pocketbook. Thousands of others do exactly that in every market. If you don't like a game, stop playing, stop giving them money. If you do like a game, play it. Raging on the forums does no good to anyone, and in fact harms you and the forum community more than you realize.

Now there will be some who claim they are entitled to their opinion and should be free to express it. I don't have the right to tell them to shut up. I guess what I am really saying by that is that I don't have to listen or value your opinion. You are not contributing to the discussion when you rage against design decisions, especially when you say, "same old tired game design" without offering any solution. Especially when you try to establish your gamer cred by declaring that you gamed when gaming wasn't cool.

If you want a sandbox game, there are plenty out there, like Wurm, EVE, and Minecraft. If there is not enough PvP in a game, find one that does have enough. If raiding is your thing, go find a game with a lot of hardcore raids. A given game does not have to be all things to all gamers. Try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Roleplaying in SWTOR

So I was headed into the city with my lovely bride on Saturday to do some shopping, and we were talking about my Imperial Agent, Versteckt, and the Rattataki mercenary, Kaliyo, his companion. I was complaining that even when as a Bond-style spy, I am playing a part to ingratiate myself with, say, a terrorist cell, I lose affection points with Kaliyo when I am not a belligerent SOB. I am roleplaying a spy who is also playing a role, and my companion "doesn't get it." She seems to lack the understanding of subtlety I need as a partner. I even went so far as to say I don't like Kaliyo because of this trait.

Note my descriptions: I have an emotional response to the way my computer generated, non-player companion is acting.

Sctrz said it's a simplistic AI. I don't think it's AI at all. Some dev team designated the points lost or gained with each response (it may have been partly automated, given the way the 1-2-3 responses are all similar.) But beyond the technical aspect, I dislike having to think about how she will react to a conversation response I feel is appropriate to Versteckt's personality and motivations.

Yesterday on my Sith Assassin, Tollkirsche, I finally got to the point where I have a second companion, the pirate Andronikos Revel. Since the Inquisitor story currently involves him it makes sense from a RP standpoint to take him along. Besides, I want to see what a different companion is like after 20 some-odd levels with Khem Val, the buzzkiller. And guess what, the Dashade got all butt-hurt about it and went off to the ship to pout! AND I ACTUALLY FELT BAD.

For those that said (without ever playing it) that the storylines of SWTOR would inhibit their ability to roleplay, I present my likes and dislikes of these characters as evidence to the contrary. Think about that for a second. I am talking about an emotional response to a character in a computer game. If that is not both compelling roleplay and storycrafting, I don't know what is. Isn't tabletop RP basically the same thing: players reacting on behalf of their characters to the story or scenario that the game master is presenting?

I realize that some forms of roleplay are far more "open" to the player's preferences on how to interpret the characters than SWTOR is. But I would argue that there is far more built-in opportunity for RP in SWTOR than any other online game I have played. Sometimes you can play the role you are given, and still enjoy the story.

Now if I could just lay down to sleep on my bed in the Captain's Quarters.

Monday, January 16, 2012

QOTD: Intellectual Dishonesty in the Old Republic

There is a sort of intellectual honesty about the evilness of the Empire, while the Republic comes over as the people who would like to be the good guys, but never really manage.

I think this is my struggle with much of the Republic story I have seen so far. A work buddy and I have discussed repeatedly that, despite the presence of an external Sith Empire in this game (as I had envisioned for years before the prequel trilogy ruined it), the Old Republic is already showing signs of the Empire it will become at the time of "Revenge of the Sith."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two Year Blogoversary!

Photo (c) Rosemarie Gearhart
Or, as my now almost 17-year-old daughter once put it, two candles.

I was not nearly as prolific this second year as I was the first, writing barely more than half the posts I did in 2010. Gratifyingly, as I became more consistent in posting this fall, more people visited my page, with an all time peak month in December, 2011, with 4,686 pageviews (according to Google). I got over 10,000 hits in 2011, over 2,000 were return visits.

To those of you that have come back to read my stuff over and over, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I especially want to thank my fellow bloggers Scarybooster for being so entertaining and supportive, and MMOGamerChick, who introduced me to the larger game-blogging community, and who is as lovely a person in RL as she is online (and who just reached her two year mark, as well).

In terms of gaming, I played a couple new ones and continued to play some old ones, but I am still subbed to only two. Rift was huge in my gaming as I played to 50 with Sctrz (DGF). We joined a small group of RL friends and ran dungeons in World of Warcraft for about half the year. It was fun, but I had to make room for SWTOR and I felt I had played all I wanted to of WoW, so I unsubbed in late November, without fanfare.

Because WoW and Rift took up so much of my gaming time, I unsubscribed from Star Trek Online in May. With STO going free-to-play, I may pick it up again. I loved the space combat, and I loved the story potential of my Captains and their crews. It is still the game I have discussed the most on this blog, with 63 tags including this post.

I am still subbed to Rift because of a 6-month plan, but I have not played in a couple months other than to peek around. Trion did great job with the launch, and frequent updates and events. It's a gorgeous game. But I am an altoholic, and there is very little replayability in the game. Perhaps in the future I may return.

Of course, Star Wars: The Old Republic has loomed large in the past couple months. A flawed, but fun game, I am seeing a lot of replayability through alts, though there are plenty of people who disagree. I promise I won't turn this into a SWTOR only blog. It is a gaming blog, and SWTOR is my focus right now. :)

A lot changed in my real life, as well. My job description changed a bit, with more training materials development, and less travel and time on the podium. Sctrz is no longer my Dear Girlfriend, she is my Lovely Bride. We are adjusting to married life, with all the bumps along the way. She is the best thing that has happened to me. I am surprised she puts up with all my shit. I love her dearly, and I am grateful she is as into games as I am.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rendezvous in the Desert

Chico stepped out of the relative cool of the Mos Ila spaceport, squinting at the harsh light of Tatooine's twin suns. The redheaded bounty hunter surveyed the dusty settlement that passed for a town with obvious disdain.

"What a crappy little planet."

"A crappy little out-of-the-way planet," someone responded from behind her. Knowing that lilting drawl anywhere, Chico turned and flashed a rare smile at the man approaching, his cloak billowing out behind him.

"Still wearing those silly sunglasses, I see," she teased. "Still playing Imp, as well, 'Furshteckt'?"

"Visual Enhancement & Augmented Reality System," Versteckt corrected, adopting the oh-so-proper Imperial Accent of Dromund Kaas, then returned to his Revanthine drawl. "And yes. It's a dirty job, but not everyone can fly around the galaxy in a hotwired ship on a Great Hunt."

"Yeah, well, you know it's all glamorous blood and burns for me. And how did you know Renegade I was stolen?"

Versteckt tapped his VEARS. "Altered registy markings. Reports of a Mantis stolen out of Kaas Spaceport. Don't worry, the owner never filed a report--at least, not one that reached 'The Propeh Othoritehs.' So are you already planning to steal a Renegade II?"

Chico grinned again at that, but didn't answer. "So why did we get called to this Force-forsaken sandheap again?"

"Nadea thought it would be far enough out of the way that we could parlay with representatives of the RMC--" Versteckt wrinkled his nose in vague disgust. "--without the Imps or Reps catching wind of it."

She started walking toward the swoop rentals. Ironic that speeders were harder to come by than spaceships. Versteckt fell in step with her.

"So has Keeper figured out what your "name" means?" she asked.

"If he has, he hasn't mentioned it. Imagine his surprise if ever comes across "Tollkirche" and realizes he's a plant, too."

"Speaking of, how is our red friend?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen him since the insertion on Zygerria. I've heard he's gotten himself apprenticed to some sexy blonde Sith Lord. I suspect he's doing quite well. I was sorry to hear about what happened on Hutta. How is your little slicer working out?"

"I feel like a mother sometimes, she's so young. But she's eager to help, and quick with a pistol or meds in a fight."

"Good to hear. Have you 'brought her into the fold'?"

"Not yet, I don't think it will take much prodding though. She hates the Empire, and the Hutts. What about Rattataki?"

Versteckt shrugged. "I sent her to speak with some of her underworld contacts on Coruscant before leaving Balmorra. We'll rendezvous on Nar Shaddaa. She's just a hired gun. Hired by Keeper at that, perhaps to keep an eye on me. But she's not the type to snitch."

Chico sighed, shaking her head. "She's a flight risk. Play your cards close to the vest."

"I always do."