The stereotypes, they do nothing!

The past week or so, I have been playing on a few different servers. My friend Jeremy started playing WAR again and tried joining me on Dark Crag, but he really hated the Open RvR rules. So we looked at the other servers and their populations and gave Volkmar and Phoenix Throne a try. Phoenix Throne seems to be the most balanced and heavily populated Closed RvR rules server for WAR. It’s also an Role Playing server.

When I played MUSHes, man, it was nothing BUT role play. That was why you played. The whole RP thing never appealed to me in a more modern graphical MMO, though. I think that most people playing on RP servers are doing it to try and escape annoying, petty jerks. Maybe some of them role play … but I don’t see much of it. Just some people talk like Greenskins and don’t use normal grammar and spelling.

And now, to the point. Today I had to stop playing for a while because I felt really angry over the people on Phoenix Throne I was in a scenario with. Obviously, as destruction, we were not doing so hot in T1. The scenario chat was constant arguing and yelling at each other. Sarcasm, insults, etc. I found myself thinking that over on Dark Crag, the “immature script kiddy” server, I never really saw this kind of stuff going on. Everyone knew they were there for one purpose, to win. And yelling at each other does not win a match. And if you really can’t stand it, you leave.

I guess I expected more from the mature, role playing server crowd. My mistake.

Ignorance is the name of the game

I spend way too much time reading blogs about WoW, WAR, and pretty much anything related to MMO’s at any level. Obviously everyone has their own opinion, and I am no different.

I understand the people who are into nuts and bolts of a specific game. These people are the theory crafters and mechanic explorers. They don’t wonder if things are “good” or “bad”, they are looking for “how”. The truly great people in this mindset can see a big picture, large trends, that are all built on the little, tiny nuts and bolts of how things work.

I also understand the complainers. The frustration and the heartache of how things can really suck. I empathize with these people quite a good deal. This entire blog stemmed from my dissatisfaction with being a guild leader. My frustration with World of Warcraft when it came to the higher level (social) game. I would like to think that most people in this category are driven by the idea of “I want more.” I know I want things to be more fun, more engaging, more consistent, more well designed. I’m not content to see a game and say, “It’s good enough.” Because that’s just not possible.

And, lastly, I see a group of people who are just fine with things. They have mastered their game, wether it has problems or not. They are blissfully content to love their game. They wonder how anyone could question how fun and awesome their game is. The most dedicated and pure form of these people are not the fan boys. Fan boys will argue with you. These people, at their hight, will ignore you. Because, that’s how they accept the game they play. Ignorance is bliss.

I think we all pop around between these three in our times playing games. Leaning towards one or the other. Everyone of us living in our own little hell. At least one of those three types dresses up their hell nice and has Ikea furniture in case anyone ever visits.

Im n ur data, killing yur stereotypes.

An interesting read over at Ars Technica today.

My favorite classes in college were socioloy courses. And part of sociological work is getting your hands on data and trying to form the data into useful conclusions. It’s part data mining, part theorizing, and mostly all crazy. And this is no different in my eyes. You get the data and you compare reality to what people say. You can come up with some really interesting correlations.

Like, how average the average MMOG player really is.

Ok, I’ll bite on “Seven Favorites”

Syp over at the Gameriot Blogs posted a list of seven favorites about Warhammer Online. And, me being a little lazy, took the time to write some of my own down.

Favorite Zone

So far, the T2 Open RvR areas of Elf-lands are my favorite. I really like the rocky crags of the Shadowlands section of the zone. The fog could be rendered better, but it’s a nice touch.

Favorite Race

Man, this is a tough one. Right now, I’ll say Dwarves. And I don’t even play Order actively. Something about their design and look really appeals to me. The tough little annoying jerks I know they are in PvP is also a draw.

Favorite Career

Again, a touch pick since I really am drawn to several. Shaman has a very cool mechanic that draws me towards playing them. But, at heart, I suspect I’m an aesthetics guy and I really like the look of the warrior priest. But, in the end I’ll give it to the engineer. Dwarf plus turrets and guns is a win.

Favorite WAR Feature

Keeps. Period. Taking a keep, while not the best implimentation, is my favorite part of the game. Defending or attacking, I love the entire concept. I know keeps are in need of some real re-design, but this is where the rubber meets the road for a PvP game.

Favorite Skill

To me, this is like asking for my favorite fork or knife in the kitchen. Uh … all of them? I use some more than others, but I don’t have a favorite. A skill is a skill is a skill … right?

Favorite Scenario

Having never made it past T2 (YET!), I’m limited in my choices here. I’ll say Mourkain Temple. Mostly because it’s a simple scenario, yet few people seem to really play it at it’s face value. Not to mention that since my main career is a sorceress, it’s a great scenario for AoE spells. Muhahaha.

Favorite Live Event

I’m not an event person. I actively avoided logging into WoW anytime there was a holiday event, so I’m not partial to these at all. But, the most recent Night of Murder was really low-key and very well done. These events that are really “icing on the cake” and not a whole other slice of cake I feel obligated to eat are my … uh … cup of cake.

It’s amazing how much my likes and dislikes seem to be contrary to where I spend my time in the game and what career/race I play. I’m a little surprised.

The Warhammer Online Tier 2 “Sweet Spot”

I have not been veraciously playing WAR like I played WoW. I log in, I play, I log out. No big deal. And those sessions have slowly payed off. Aside from playing better and mastering my class more, you earn influence for the open RvR sections of the game. So, once I hit class rank 18 and realm rank 18, I had tons of blue and purple gear to pick up from the warcamp rally masters.

You could look at this as a grind, no different than grinding purple gear in WoW. Except, I did this guildless without any real dependency on twenty four other people. All pugs. Just playing the game. I like that.

Being Sick of Being Sick

I hate sinus infections. They are the worst way of getting sick I have ever experienced. The last time I had one, I went to the doctor to get antibiotics so that my throat didn’t feel like someone was kicking it every time I swallowed.

When I was younger, being sick was a day off from school. Before I go any farther, I’ll let you know that I’m not going to talk about how idyllic or halcyonic it was to get sick when I was younger. When you are a child, sickness is just a stuffy head, a fever, and lots of boring daytime TV. I’m pretty sure my youthful constitution shrugged off most sicknesses without any major issue, and I was a pretty sickly kid. Maybe I had a couple bouts of walking pnemonia, but nothing major. And I’m also certain that before the age of thirteen, being sick and groggy had almost no impairment on my judgement. That’s why children need parents. Forced medication, forced bedrest, and forced back to school when we KNOW that we are not better … not yet.

I’m not going to write about that at all.

When you are me, which is never, being sick breaks your weekly rythm. I hated school. I just can’t abide being teached at. My memories of being sick as a child really seem glorified only by the fact that I hated school so much. But work, I can do work. And I like my job. It’s a good job that lets me complain, feel accomplished, and pretend I am riding a mechanical bull. System administrator is not nearly as logical and consistant a job as many people tell me they think it is. Being sick just pulls me right out of the loop. It’s like a forced vacation where I don’t go anywhere nice and I don’t go outside, and I don’t drive with the music on, and I don’t go to lunch with my co-workers. And, on top of all that, sickness usually means I am in pain, or stuffed up, or my sinuses are making a pact with some foreign bacteria to wage guerrilla warfare against my throat.

I usually go back into work long before I am well. And I am convinced that just stepping outside into the fresh air is the best medicine. Besides, who wouldn’t want me back at work even if my head isn’t totally clear. Sometimes the best ideas come out of the foggy groggyness of a mixed up mind. You know those ideas. The ones that have you scratching your head the next day thinking, “Why would anyone do this?”

Things I’ll try to remember when I am making an MMORPG.

This is a list of things I want to see an existing or new MMORPG address. Some of these are totally pie-in-the-sky ideas and I know they aren’t easy to do. That’s ok, because having an idea and trying to do something creative is very valuable. More valuable than just rehashing the same old stuff.

No server shards. This might well be up there in fantasy land, but I don’t want to have to re-roll, or pay to transfer a character in order to play with my friends. I don’t want to have to coordinate friends playing on my server. My character data can’t be more than a couple kilobytes in size, so there’s no reason it can’t really exist on every shard at one time.

No crafting. Don’t even bother. Unless you are making Barbie Dress Maker, being a seamstress should not be how I spend time in the game. Sewing, farming, fishing, and making armor are all things boring people in town do. Don’t make me do it.

Levels aren’t mandatory. I know, I know, everyone is doing it. But don’t limit yourself. Think about other games out there and how they handle character growth. Levels aren’t inherently evil, but you don’t have to just make me grind out eighty of them to let me grow my character. Honestly, I have other things to do.

Have a vision and don’t lose it as you grow. Think about combat and how you want it to flow. Is it fast and brutal? Is it slow and methodical? Is it somewhere in between? If you can visualize how you want the game to feel and play, you can keep true to that vision. This, in turn, means the people who like that vision will want to play your game, and they’ll keep playing as long as you don’t suddenly get amnesia and forget what made people fall in love with your game.

Be better at theory-crafting than your players. Do I need to elaborate on that?

Don’t hide your game from me. That is, let me in on the secrets so I can play the game as well as I want to. Don’t make me have to reverse engineer your game to be good at it. I don’t want to “discover” your game. I want to play it.

Don’t make me run places. Seriously. I understand that you want your world to seem HUGE and EPIC. But holding down the “w” key or using auto-run is not fun times. You should also be sure that no one ever has to run back to a previous town for five minutes to just finish a quest. That’s really frustrating.

Graphics should be good and consistent, but they don’t need to be amazing. I know the flash makes good screen shots and makes people go “ooohh” and “aahhhh”. But after three months, when people have turned everything down so they can deal with twenty five people on their screen casting crazy stuff, it won’t matter so much. Better to spend that time adding depth and color to the world, instead of shadows and bump-mapped surfaces.

Do you want player opinions? Make your game client gather the data. I would rather answer questionnaires in the game every month than know that your number one source of player input is a bunch of jerks posting in all caps in the forums. I think I die a little bit inside every time I visit forums these days.

Gear isn’t character growth. It can be important, but it should always be secondary to skill and character ability.

If your game is about grouping up with people, I want to see options and features. If your concept of a guild is a banner over a character’s head and a chat channel, you’re doing it wrong.

I think that’s it for now. Sometimes a good list is a good venting.

Does it even matter?

Recently, many blogs I read have been making some comments about Warhammer Online subscription rates.

And, I have to ask why this matters. EVE Online, which I consider to be a great MMO with a vibrant and active community doesn’t even have 250,000 subscribers according to MMOGCHART. Those charts also say Planetside never had more than 60,000 subscribers, and I sure had a lot of fun playing Planetside for a couple years. If you subscribe to the monkeysphere theory, anything over maybe 500 people is just not going to matter to you as an MMO player.

There are, really, only two ways the numbers can influence the game. One is psychological, and the other is an indirect quality of the game. People might abandon the game under the concept that the game is not reaching it’s intended 500,000 subscribers. Or that the game isn’t as succesful as World of Warcraft. The more realistic impact is that the game is that the drop in subscribers based on estimates means a cut in services and support from Mythic.

In the end, though, I don’t think that the difference between 300,000 and 500,000 will matter when it comes to the game. If it’s fun, play it. If it’s not, don’t.

High Definition Cable

This is the long and annoying story about how I came to have HD Cable.

Many years ago, when cell phones didn’t have cameras on them, I purchased a very nice, 36″ Sony television. At the time, this was a monster TV and only crazy people had anything larger. I lived in constant fear that this three hundred pound glass and plastic device might crush me or anyone visiting my house. Up until recently, this was how I watched cable TV, played Nintendo Wii, and rocked out on my Rock Band Machine (also known as an XBox 360).

My brother, who lives in a mansion with his wife and tiny little dog (who looks even smaller next to the house), purchased a television and replaced his 50″ Sony rear projection TV. I have seen his new TV and it’s as large as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, except instead of being full of stars, it’s full of pixels. His old TV was in good condition and he offered it to me on the cheap. And knowing that I would rather have someone come get my three hundred pound television because it was good, rather than have to lug it to the dump, I decided to “upgrade” to a larger, more highly defined moving picture thing. Arrangement were made and I secured a truck to move the larger television to my house. I inquired about twelve able-bodied men seeking adventure and fortune to go on this dangerous mission, but Enterprise (the rental company) had no one willing to risk it. Something about wives and children and bad backs. So, I opted for the help of my father and brother. Despite the trouble of having to keep the TV upright at all times and it being pretty heavy, I reminded myslelf that I wasn’t moving my old TV and it made the work easier. After a single, short three hours or so, the new, larger, more highly defined television was in my living room. We hooked it up to the cable and I saw what I have been told is ugly, analog television on a screen that was surely straining it’s best to not take offense.

The very next day, a co-worker showed up to take my old 36″ TV away and have it threaten his wife and friends with a good crushing. And had that been the end of it all, I could have slept easy knowing my Rock Band Machine would soon return from Ye Olde Microsofte Repaire Centre and I would play Rock Band 2 with my new amplifier and speakers (a whole other story) and even larger screen. And even better, I was told the images would be of definition so high, I would be amazed and hand out cigars at work and everyone would envy me.

That last part was true. Rock Band 2 was, and is, awesome. But when I went to watch cable TV, I got nothing but snow. The new TV insisted that there was “No Signal”. I took my smaller TV from upstairs and hooked it up to the same cable and showed the larger TV that there was signal. It didn’t believe me. I consulted with experts on the internet (of which there are millions). I consulted with my brother. I plugged the cable into any of the ports on the pack of the television to which it would attach. People even offered me VCRs so I could watch TV. Maybe I seem old fashioned by not having HD TV, but I am NOT going to hook up a VCR in the year two thousand and nine. No way.

I tried everything and still, “No Signal”. I gave up.

And two days later, when my lovely and smart and attractive girlfriend came over, the TV decided that there was a signal. And we watched cable TV and everyhing seemed to have gotten better. For days this charade went on. The television pretended it was fixed and I watched boring and silly shows for about five days. And then the TV either felt it had enough, or maybe that I had enough and it was back to “No Signal”. No popping noises or sparks or anything. Just snow and static. I remembered what I had done before and I skipped to the end. The “giving up” part.

I called Time Warner Cable. And when I say I “called” them, I mean I started an online chat with a sales-person. This person told me I needed digital phone service. He was a liar. But I still listened to him talk about pricing and digital cable. I made sure they were not going to send people to my house, which the cable company seems intent on doing even if you are a good customer and don’t owe them money. I “upgraded” to digital cable, which is the only kind they sell tuners for, and picked up my digital cable channel changing device from a local cable store.

And now I can watch cable in a miriad of screen sizes ranging from “horribly squished” to “so clear I can see everyone’s pores”. I also have so many channels that I often make a base camp around channel 100 and plan my ascent towards channel 200 after a good nights rest and a meal of hot dogs and peanut butter crackers. I hear there are music channels in the 900’s, but frankly, I’m pretty sure that’s an urban legend.