Rants tag

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rol(l)ing Casters

Last week, Syp brought up the ability to move while casting as part of a list of things he thinks every MMO should have. While most of the items were minor quality of life features, like AoE looting, his comment section got blown up by people who thought moving while casting was the worst idea ever. He even went so far as to post again, expanding on his reasons for including it.
Oh noes, casters that move!
I am firmly in the move-while-casting camp. After years of being frustrated by my inability to move while casting, I just learned to accept that I needed to stand there and take it while trying to out-DPS my assailant, dumping as many talent points as possible into interrupt mitigation. I was so far gone that one fun pugger said, "Oh I see, Hazel is an in-your-face finger-wiggler." I was so used to mobs (and players) attacking me directly that I didn't even move back when I had a tank to divert attention away from me. Rift and SWTOR have similar mechanics, though I played more melee style on my Cleric. And combat in SWTOR is a faceroll. Then along came TSW and GW2. (Sounds of Gregorian chants: "Aaa-ahhh") I don't want to ever go back.

While trying out MoP recently, even the shaman I used—with a mostly melee abilities—felt handicapped when having to settle down to cast a lightning bolt or something. As a caster in previous iterations of WoW, I got stun-locked too many times by a rogue coming out of stealth to buy into the "melee have to move in close, so ranged casters should have to stand still" excuse. The warriors might have a little more justification to cry about moving casters in that context. From my perspective, it certainly never felt balanced.

TSW and GW2 are both balanced to necessitate dodging, and moving while casting. Those who stand still usually die. I'm also not talking about continuing a cast through a drastic move like a manual dodge mechanic, which still interrupt casting in both games. I'm talking about casting while simply running (or walking).

You could say I never learned to play my clothies properly. That's great, until you think about the DPSers (or even the tanks) that blame the healer, when they the ones moving out of range or out of sight of a long cast heal.

The old-school arguments about things being correct the way they were—the "if it ain't broke" argument—forget or ignore that almost everything in a game is a design decision. Balancing this or that class against another can be done a bunch of ways. Tell me this, old-schoolers: was there ever a game where the casters dominated so thoroughly that the devs made the decision to nail their feet to the ground?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All Things in Moderation

This post has sat a long time in draft form; really just a bunch of links, which you'll discover are several months old. It started out about the same time as the sexism kerfuffle surrounding Jennifer Hepler and her comments about stories in games. Another incident from around that time involved sexist comments made by Aris Bakhtanians about his own teammate, Miranda Pakozdi, and her reaction to it. I myself wrote about sexism in gaming about the time of E3 2012, and I still owe you guys the results of that survey Sctrz and I ran a month or so ago. This post is not about sexism. It's about forum/comment moderation, censorship, and Freedom of Speech.

The reason I decided to dredge the topic up after all this time is that some anonymous coward made a trollish comment about another blogger on one of my older posts that was caught in my moderation net. Not only were the coward's comments patently untrue, they were insulting and vulgar, and they brought absolutely nothing to the discussion. I promptly deleted the comment from my queue.

Now, I pre-moderate comments on posts older than two weeks, because I had heard a lot of spam comes through for those. (Why? I don't know, but it has held true.) I let newer comments post directly, only policing them if they are spam or otherwise inappropriate. Anyway, while I may disagree with bloggers and my own commenters, I will not permit this place to become a den of trolls.
Mmmm, roast hobbit!
There are several viewpoints on this topic. River over at High Latency Life eloquently gave his reasons for not moderating, citing his opinions on Freedom of Speech and censorship; even sharing a story of a troll on his own blog, and the eventual resolution. His post was in response to Spinks' post on moderating her newsfeed and commentary in the wake of the above-mentioned Hepler hoopla. While there are some who may decry insulating oneself from differing opinions (and justifiably so), Spinks and I make a distinction between expressing an opinion and rude behavior, including nasty comments on the internet.

Mike Elgin at Datamation makes a great argument for blocking people from your feed, that I would extend to include your forum (if you run one) and your blog comments. He makes the comparison to Meatspace situations (political rallies, nightclubs, cocktail parties) where it is entirely appropriate to remove someone who is being a jackass. Why should an online venue be any different? Mike also helpfully lists the sort of people it is OK to block (or moderate). I highly encourage you to go read his post even if you don't come back here afterward.

"But, Rowan," you may be saying. "We have to let these people have their say even if we don't like it. What about their rights?" A good example of this is Reddit. Hey, anybody has the legal right to say just about anything they want. However, A) not all speech is protected (i.e., threats, slander/libel, shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater), and Two) even if it is, I don't have to listen/read it or include it on my blog/forum. In the middle of a article about sexism and bullies that mentions the Bakhtanians-Pakozdi debacle, Becky Chambers of The Mary Sue sums up my take on Freedom of Speech:
"This is where I think some people have a misconception of what “freedom of speech” means. Free speech does not give you carte blanche to speak without consequences. You are free to say what you like, but you are also responsible for your words and actions."
So the folks over on Reddit can exercise their Free Speech and try protect creeps and assholes, but Gawker (and the rest of us) can out those creeps if we so choose, even if the Redditors turn around and trample their own Free Speech principles as a result. I don't care, that crap ain't goin' down on this blog. [EDIT] Let me clarify the inclusion of this last paragraph. The owners of Reddit claim to allow an anything-goes, Wild West of a forum on their site, and therefore they attract the scum of society, who think they deserve the protection of anonymity. They don't. There is no basic human right to hide behind a username. I use a nom-de-blog partly to protect my own anonymity, but I don't claim a right to it. Nor am I posting clandestinely-taken, sexualized photographs of women, underage or otherwise. As was eloquently pointed out in this comment on a Gawker article, Brutsch is simply "getting the full free speech experience." As has been the case in the past (c.f. Dixie Chicks, Don Imus, and others) there are often consequences to our speech and actions, even if they are not administered by the legal system.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Daily Grind: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation In MMOs

I was reading several blogs posts over the week or so, and an interesting little pattern emerged. Several different people posted varying items regarding doing things fun vs. doing things for a reward. This harks back to a discussion I carried on with MMOGC, Elementalistly, and others not long after Rift came out, regarding what is content vs. what is grind.
So after this I WILL be the sharpest tool in the shed?
Badges, Levels, Achievments, and Points), Scott says,
Points, levels, achievements, and badges are tools. Like any tool, each can be used in positive ways or negative ways. In most cases of gamification, BLAP is being used as an external reward to get players to do something. While this can be effective in the short term, there are long-term consequences to focusing behavioral change around external rewards.
In The Risks of Rewards, Scott notes, "Using rewards to control behavior is how we treat animals. Humans deserve better." Chris Hecker explicitly states, "Tangible, expected, contingent rewards reduce free-choice intrinsic motivation." Beyond the Skinner Box of leveling, many MMOs have jumped on the "Achievement" bandwagon, giving aspects formerly of only intrinsic value (i.e., pet collecting, exploration, or guild membership) extrinsic rewards like titles or even loot. In his most recent entry on the topic Meaningful Gamification, Scott points out, "Rewards used in a controlling manner undermine internal motivation, and thus applications of gamification to create long-term change can do more harm than good in the long term." Reputation grinds and the like keep people playing for now, but eventually they burn out, because what had been fun has become a chore.

Of course, both Scott and Chris are discussing applying game-like rewards to non-gaming situations, but the same hypotheses seem to hold true within game systems, as well. Keen is tired of doing chores in games. "Anything that mimics a checklist of activities that must be done before doing what you would rather be doing is most likely chores." So is Jewel the Laughter Zombie's husband, wanting "to know why WoW punishes him for playing the game."
B.F. Skinner and friend
In a separate post where he encourages Blizzard to remove levels from WoW, Keen notes, "Time to level has been reduced so much that much of the content is now missed/skipped/worthless." This was a problem I encountered while playing through the Cataclysm content with my newly-recruited gaming partner, Sctrz. We skipped entire zones because we had out-leveled them before even arriving. GW2 solves this issue by down-leveling characters to the zone, keeping everything a challenge no matter the level.

In a guest post on Penny Arcade, Jamie Cheng details the pitfalls encountered by the developers of Don't Starve in trying to assist players in playing figuring out how to succeed at the game. Too little structure, and the testers simply did not know what to do next. Too much structure (quests), and players spent too much focusing on those short term goals to the detriment of long term enjoyment. And worst of all, when the quest lines ended, the players assumed the game was over. I'll let you read that article to see what their eventual solution is, the game is currently in closed beta currently available to try here.

A lot of games I have enjoyed—and the ones I enjoy now—involve extrinsic rewards in many ways; that is, rewards unrelated to the task at hand. Not to pick on WoW, but I've heard that many players are not happy with heroic-dungeon/raid gear being placed behind reputation-grind gates in MoP. I recall the TBC era furor over the "of the Shattered Sun" title; at the time purchasable with a 1000-gold "donation" to Anchorite Kairthos. Players who decried that move by Blizzard ignored the time/money equation, and the time-sink/grind for other titles available at the time. I am sure you, Dear Reader, can recall several examples of grind, or fun that turned into a chore, from your own gaming experiences. If I am doing something for fun and relaxation—say, gardening—then it is a hobby. If I am doing it for some other reason—say, to feed my family and keep clothes on my back—then it is farming, and work. Going back to Keen's quote about chores, if I have to do something not exactly pleasant, in order to be able to do something I want to do, then it is a chore and a grind.

QOTD: Emergent Gameplay

Sorry this is a little old, but I came a cross this doing a little research for another post.
Note that in the few instances where World of Warcraft develops emergent gameplay, most players are complaining.
While amusing from the outside, and perhaps in retrospect not dissimilar to the Corrupted Blood incident, referring to the slaughter of everyone—PC or NPC—in all the Capitals through an exploit as "emergent gameplay" is like calling the actions of a person coming along and knocking all the pieces off the board in the middle of someone else's Monopoly game "emergent gameplay." Tobold implies that players should just grin and bear it, as if to say, "Oh look at the piteous WoW players whining about how unfair it all is." He goes on in his own comments to compare this hack to the cesspool of betrayal that is EVE, which also includes a great deal of meta-game intrigue. Sorry, that is not emergent gameplay, that is griefers shitting all over everyone else trying to play an honest game.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

QOTD: How Is That Not Social?

I read about something that happened in the WvWvW match between Yak's Bend and Sanctum of Rall (and some other server that apparently wasn't involved). Slurms shared the story on The Tyria Chronicles, it was originally posted on Reddit by Groundstop:
I believe I can speak for a large number of people from Sanctum of Rall when I say that tonight something happened that I never would have expected.

While playing WvWvW tonight against Yak's Bend and Northern Shiverpeaks, we were greatly upset to discover that someone had hacked their way into our Garrison on the Sanctum of Rall Borderlands and stole our orb. We then watched as the orb flew around the map before finally stopping in Yak's Bend's Ascension Bay to be placed upon their altar.

So far, this story is similar to a lot of the stories that have been popping up as of late, tales of hacking and cheating to get the advantage. This next part is where it gets really interesting though. We were nearly instantly contacted by the leader from FOO, one of the major guilds on Yak's Bend. Turns out that they were as bothered by the cheating as we were, and they wanted to make amends in the best way that they could.

Yak's Bend, under the leadership of FOO, collaborated with the leaders of EPIC from Sanctum of Rall in order to organize the trading of Ascension Bay. We were allowed to seize Ascension Bay entirely unopposed such that we may take back the orb that rightfully belonged to us. In exchange for this kindness, we in turn left Ascension Bay immediately after capturing the point so that the zerg from Yak's Bend could take the keep back. Aside from a few pugs, not a single attack took place from either server while this exchange took place. It was quite possibly one of the most impressive things I've seen since this game came out.

I would like to thank Yak's Bend for suggesting this exchange, and for ensuring that the deeds of the many overcame the negative actions of the few, and taking a risk in letting us seize a stronghold for the purpose of rectifying a mistake.

TL;DR Someone from Yak's Bend hacked the SoR orb from our Garrison, Yak's Bend let us take their keep, seize the orb, and leave without killing a single SoR player in order to make up for the hacker.
This is the kind of pro-social behavior I am seeing across the game, even if it was initiated by an anti-social cheater.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another Answer to "Videogames or Life?"

Megan, an aspiring educator over at A Guy and Three Girls, went on a tirade about video games and gamers the other day, claiming that gamers "do not have a real social life. The only interaction they get with people is between a headset. Is that real communication? . . . [Children] should not be allowed to play a video game where all they do is shoot a gun. That to me is called bad parenting. What are you teaching your children?"
I suppose that would be bad parenting, though I doubt very many parents actually do that. I wonder what the source and true target of Megan's ire are. Does she have an acquaintance who behaves this way? Because, personally, she doesn't describe any gamer I know. She does seem to be talking mostly about console gaming, what with the "sitting in front of a TV" references and all. But since we tend to be lumped together by the non-gaming public regardless of the hardware/software combinations we use, I went ahead and responded, as did Landiien of Please Enter Your Initials. If you read Megan's post, my response may make more sense.  Here's what I said (with some very minor edits):
Before video games, there was TV. Before that it was Rock-n-Roll and comic books. Every generation has some form of entertainment that the previous generation (or others within it) considers brain-rot, contributing to societal decay.

Your initial premise is flawed. You personally don't like video games, therefore you dismiss their value out of hand. This is the same mentality that endangers music and arts programs in public schools across the country, not to mention physical education programs, despite the growing obesity epidemic affecting Americans of all ages. All things in moderation, humans need a balance of physical and mental activity, work stressors and opportunities for fun and relaxation, not to mention social connections. If you're decrying video gaming to the exclusion of all else, you're right, but in that sense a gamer is no better or worse than someone who spends all their time in front of the TV, in a gym or in a bar. However, you seem to think any amount of gaming is harmful.

As an educator and a gamer, I find many opportunities to relate to my students, drawing on our common experiences in games, as well as other aspects of life, like sports and literature, to illustrate my points and help them learn something new. Use every experience you gain to help your students learn, but don't dismiss their hobbies as worthless. You run the risk of equating their interests and their personal worth, as well as alienating them and shutting down the learning process.
In her title, Megan implies that playing video games and having a life are mutually exclusive endeavors. On the contrary, with proper balance, playing video games can be an enriching recreational activity, potentially full of social interactions as least as rewarding as any meat-space friendship. After all, what do we usually do with friends? We get together and have fun.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not the Girl the ESRB Warned You About

This is a gaming blogger's dream in a hot election season. The Maine GOP is attempting to take a page out of the Lieberman-Kohl Playbook and brand a World of Warcraft devotee unfit for public office. (I just learned way more than I wanted to about the ESRB, and Tipper Gore.)
Colleen Lachowicz is a Democrat candidate for Maine State Senate. She also plays #WoW and has a level 85 (maybe higher now) Orc Rogue named Santiaga. The state Republican Party has published a flyer (see below) and launched a website devoted to Ms. Lachowicz' gaming hobby and perhaps inappropriate commentary on a (surprise) liberal blog she frequents.
Deaths per second? If it were only that easy.
Naturally, this has caught the attention of several news outlets, including Ars Technica, NBC News, The Daily Mail, Forbes, and even the BBC. Even the presumably conservative contributer at Forbes says, "I would prefer to vote for a candidate based on issues of their policies rather than their personal lives."
Looks like Family Values to me!
I try not to get political on the blog, but this is thoroughly worthy of ridicule. Even though I have identified as Republican for most of my life, this is the first election cycle where I am really not sure how I'll vote in November. I tend to be fairly centrist on political "assessment" questionnaires, which means I have issues with both sides. But the Maine GOP really takes the cake. As was pointed out by of Ars Technica:
The average American watches more than 30 hours of television per week. Many other Americans spend their evenings and weekends at the golf course. Yet it's hard to imagine anyone suggesting that devoting 22 hours per week to those hobbies made a candidate too lazy to hold elected office.
Ms. Lachowicz has responded to the GOP, thoughtfully including the ESRB's profile of a typical gamer. Sixty-five (65) percent of households in the U.S. include gamers, and 75 percent of American gamers are old enough to head to the polls on 6 November. Sounds like Middle America, just the votes we're looking for.
To his credit, the incumbent candidate, Tom Martin (R), doesn't appear to be involved in this clumsy smear campaign over a "so what?" matter. He has not weighed in thus far on the matter. I hope that if/when he does, he indicates his own desire to debate the political stance—not the hobbies—of his opponent. What would be really funny is if he plays WoW, or some other video game.

The State Department seems to think a gamer can be be trusted with our national security. But if the GOP thinks that a gamer is not fit for public office, perhaps, as a gamer, I am not fit to vote for Republican candidates.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

MoPping Up: Impressions of the Latest Iteration of WoW

FOREWARNED is FOREARMED: This post contains some early spoilers for the Pandaren starting area: but chances are you either know already because you're playing, or you don't care because you're not.

Sctrz had expressed interest in checking out Mists of Pandaria, and I was curious to see some of the changes myself. So this past Saturday, she logged into her trial account (made in 2010) and I created one specifically for this opportunity. Naturally, we roled Pandaren; she, a Hunter, and I, a Shaman. The Monk class, of course, is only available to those who have purchased a license for MoP. But the Pandaren race and starting area are open to anyone playing the game, which is cool.
A Roguish Shaman
I considered a Rogue, but decided to go with the Shaman class, because I am slightly more familiar with it. However, I still had Rogue on the brain when picking the colors and fur pattern, leading to a Shaman with a bandit mask.

As you can see from the screenshots throughout this post, Blizzard's cartoony style for WoW is in full force, and the setting is gorgeous. I've never had an issue with the art of WoW, I find it creative and a clever way to allow for a wider range of machines to run it, without it looking like crap on older technology.
Cute cubs.
Now for the issues I have. And yes, I will make comparisons to other, newer games.

First, MoP has a relatively slow pace of gaining abilities. Spamming lightning bolts while getting the occasional auto-whack in was a really boring way to spend every battle until level 3. Then I was given some insta-bash that was on a long enough cooldown that it was only useful once or twice per fight. A couple levels after that, I got Earth Shock, which is also on a once-or-twice-per-fight cooldown. Eventually, I got a heal. While it's nice not to have to seek out a trainer every other level, the acquisition of new buttons to push seems glacial. Perhaps at higher levels, I would get more abilities at once. I can't recall how SWTOR was at early levels, but both TSW and GW2 seem to deliver new skills very quickly, also without having to see a trainer. That they limit the number of skills available for any given fight also makes an interesting dynamic, compared to an action bar full of empty buttons. Or buttons with such specific uses that when it does come time to use them, I can't remember where they are or what they do. SWTOR suffers a similar problem, honestly. I had several abilities in SWTOR that I was not aware of just sitting on my bar, waiting to be used. Also, imagine my disappointment that, upon picking the Enhancement (dual-wield) talent spec at level 10, I did not receive an off-hand weapon. SWTOR did raise the bar in that regard.
Silly Rabbit! Carrots are for Pandas!
Another aspect of WoW (and SWTOR) that I do not miss is the competition for resources with other players. After having trained in skinning, I forgot that I was capable of doing so and turned around to a recent kill, only to find another player skinning it. Now, admittedly this was my own fault. But the incident was no less irritating to me, and put GW2's system in stark relief. On several occasions during the few hours that I spent on the Wandering Isle, another player would come along and "steal" a gathering node or quest item as I was fighting my way to it; no jumping in to help, the way I have found players do both in TSW and in GW2. After all, there is absolutely no benefit to the other player for helping me. In TSW, mini-bosses are shared kills, at the very least, everyone involved getting quest credit regardless of grouping. In GW2, players get credit for all kills, as well as rezzing fallen players.
Is that a . . . flipper?
As has been discussed at length, by me and others, GW2 has "instanced" gathering nodes, shared kill credits, etc., that encourage cooperation rather than competition among strangers. Some people see this as a negative, that it discourages formal grouping. But I see it as a positive, because now I group up for social reasons, not because I am forced to in order to get quest credit. It's a more natural, fluid way of grouping, and there are plenty of stories of cooperation, even in sPvP. Although perhaps understandable because of the trial account, I couldn't even invite Sctrz to group with me, so we played alone—even stuck in separate instances of the island.
Finally, a dragon to slay.
There may be some informal grouping in MoP, I think. For instance, slaying the dragon spirit in the above screenshot seemed to be an open event that anyone participating got quest credit for. But that may have been NPCs helping me out.

In the shot below, my character and his two NPC helpers were arranged rather strangely, IMHO. Not sure if it was a limitation of the WOW engine, or something else. It's a great shot though.
It's a balloon, not an elevator. 9.9
The story of Shen-zin Su is excellent, among the best I have seen Blizzard tell. I did like the increased voice work throughout the island, evidence that in many ways Blizzard is keeping abreast of new developments in the MMORPG genre, and putting their own spin on things. However, having been spoiled by SWTOR, TSW, and GW2—each of which has a different approach to presenting quests—I found myself skipping the quest dialogue boxes, some of which only repeated what was being said aloud, though other times I missed either story or essential info and had to go back and reread the quest.
The great Shen-zin Su himself
After saving the day on Turtle Island, I came to the inevitable choice: Alliance or Horde? While efforts have been made in the past to depict the Horde with misunderstood nobility—honor above and so on—the description of the Horde in the choice dialogue is somewhat negative, while the Alliance, no group of saints, is painted in idealistic terms. I picked Alliance because Sctrz had—didn't really care myself.

I don't like the fractious bickering of the Horde and Alliance, but Blizzard has repeatedly insisted that will not change, despite what the new cinematic may imply. It is after all World of Warcraft. However, there are no real wars between guilds in Guild Wars 2—I'm not sure how much there really was in the original—and no one seems to mind. But if the threat of mass zombiefication or the destruction of the world itself are not enough to overcome old prejudices and personal grudges, then the discovery of a whole new race of sentients, as well their continental empire, certainly would not be. Both factions are led by characters who are at best buttheads, and at worst under the influence of sinister forces. Within minutes of meeting him, KING (not emperor) Varian Wrynn said to my little party in no uncertain terms that any Pandaren who had joined the Horde were to be considered the enemy, and "fraternization of any kind will not tolerated." He also felt it necessary to share that he had been forced to compete in Horde arenas as a gladiator, and still hasn't gotten over it.
He's still a dickhead.
I find it tiresome, and have since early in my WoW experience. The warring-factions approach artificially fragments the community for no real reason other than PvP. The lore-based reasons for sub-factions (like the Tauren or Trolls, or the former inhabitants of Theramore) staying with a major faction become tortuous, straining credibility. Why would a Magocrat of Dalaran, born a citizen of Kul Tiras, ever refer to the monarch of Stormwind as "my King"? Trion figured it out, and got rid of factions in Rift. TSW only has factions for flavor and PvP. GW2 got rid of warring factions entirely, basing PvP on totally different systems—systems that don't interfere with PvE, by the way. These systems enable me to pick the race/class I want to be and still play with my friends.

So at the end of the day, Sctrz and I hung up our Pandaren costumes, our curiosity satisfied. I feel no need to return to Azeroth anytime soon. Apologies to Leori, my KoM guildmate to whom I fibbed about playing on Saturday morning. It doesn't matter what my BNet ID is, since I don't intend to log in again anytime in the foreseeable future. This is should not be construed as any kind of dig on those still playing in the Mists of Pandaria; I hope you have lots of fun. It's just no longer a game that interests me.

P.S. I have uninstalled the Blogger app from my phone. You'll have to live with any typos in posts until I can get to a real computer.

QOTD: More on Socializing in GW2

You have, in arguments like this, a number of people who proclaim how incredibly social they are, how they love being social, how, to them, being social is the whole purpose of the game.

And then they go around and say that when they played Guild Wars 2 they didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t make any new friends, and considered all the other players around them as nothing more than NPCs. They go on to say how they’re pretty much only social when they’re forced to work together with others. . .

In Guild Wars 2 socializing is much more organic where in other games, to me, it often feels artificial.
~Ayane, commenting on Syp's "Playing Together Alone Together"

My own comment followed:

Just last night, my lovely bride and I were attempting to reach the Breached Wall Vista and Skill Point. There were several people who helped out a lot encouraging us, helpfully showing the way, and fighting together to get through the jumping puzzle; and yes, we used chat/say. Another player with a funny name fought alongside us in a dynamic event. I complimented him on his cleverness, and he thanked me. Not long after launch, my guild was doing the Weyandt's Revenge jumping puzzle in southern Lion's Arch. A random player spent almost hour illuminating the pitch black cavern so stragglers from our group could get through. These are just a few examples of highly social behavior, not forced by the developer, but encouraged through the removal of competition over resources.

Contrast that with my weekend experience in WoW, where I never saw another person talk, was constantly irritated by inconsiderate players taking resources or quest items as I fought right next to them, and forced to choose between old friends and new allies, by the DEVS.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Guild Wars 2: Playing in a Sandbox

Syp has a great post today basically about "parallel play" in GW2. Go read it. I'll wait.

I would draw the following analogy: Imagine, if you will, a city playground, or perhaps a fast food restaurant play place. There's a jungle gym, some swings, maybe some theme, like a sailing ship or an Old West stockade fort. For safety, it's all surrounded by sand or other soft ground cover. Children are at play on the fort. Some of them may be friends; most are strangers to each other. But many get into a rousing make-believe scenario: Pirates on the High Seas, maybe, or Cowboys and Indians. They're all shouting and having fun with each other. Even if some of the children are not directly playing with others, as long as there is no bullying, everyone can have a good time.
Paradise Park, NL, Canada
But at the end of the day, their parents take them home, and they may or may encounter each other again when and if they return to the park. There is not likely to be any exchange of contact information among kids who are not already friends. Was the massive group play not a social situation?

I'm frankly amazed at the dissenting opinions in the commentary of Syp's post. I guess it boils down to "you only see what you're looking for." I find that not worrying about competing for resource nodes or quest mobs is far more relaxing than having some ignorant or malicious person come up and "steal" the item I have spent time and effort to reach.

At the same time, I have no problem rezzing or being rezzed, an extra benefit since everyone can do it, no matter their profession. How is that not social?

Also, my group buffs (when I have some) benefit everyone in range, not just my party members. How is that not a social?

These player avatars are not mindless drones. They are people I can help or receive help from. How is that not social?
Grandmama's Playground, Zombie Parent's Guide
Who can legitimately say we’re not grouped just because our portraits aren't on the left side of each other’s screens? If we’re working toward the same goal, buffing and healing each other, reaping the benefits of a kill or a Dynamic Event, I’d say we’re grouped just as much as any PUG, and without the heartburn. If you don't speak, that is on you. If you see other players as no more than tools like the NPCs, that's on you. Most people I have "played alongside" through a tough area are quick with a "Thank you" or even a suggestion to take on another challenge nearby. With no need to make a formal group, we just go do it, then part with cheers. How is that not social?

I have my guild for social events and chit-chat. Much as Syp said, I don't need to have a deep philosophical conversation with someone as we kill spiders. GW2 is a very social game, precisely because I am never *forced* to group with anyone for other than social reasons.