Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous 10

Apr. 17th, 2012


The end is the beginning is the end

Well, livejournal has served me well for almost six years, but it's time to move on. I will not be posting to this blog any more, and will be making future entries at:


See you there! :)

Apr. 12th, 2012


Sharing the charter!

So I thought I'd take a moment to share, with those that may read here, the working draft of our forthcoming GW2 guild charter, as compiled by our two co-leaders (myself and my good friend)! Suggestions and critiques welcome, but please understand if I don't feel the need to edit according to said suggestions. :)

The short version:

For those not wanting to read the passionately long winded document below, allow me to summarize the major points:

-This is a guild of friends, that truth governs everything.

-We are fine with the idea of being small and friendly, and feel no pressure to recruit lots of people just for the sake of having lots of people.

-Don't be dicks to each other. Various people means various sensitivities. Hate speech is a solid no-no, and won't be tolerated.

-Guild chat is out of character, but feel free to roleplay wherever else you like, with our express encouragement. Respect roleplay wherever you encounter it.

-Go ahead and join other guilds. Many of us will default to this guild, but join others as well.

-You must be 18+ (or fool us into thinking you're 18+) to join this guild. We'd like to deal with you, not your parents.

-Don't be dicks to other people, when out and about in the game, while representing us.

The Prime Directive:

The first and most important "prime directive" of our guild is a mutual, enjoyably amicable connection with gaming friends. This is the singular "rule" that every element of our family points back to. This connection should be with the guild in general, but is most important between members and leadership, because if the leadership can't stand to log in, due to members we find less than a perfect fit, the guild falters. The leadership of this guild are not superior beings, or better than anyone, but being the ones shouldering the "responsibility" of "captaining the ship", our continued connection and agreement with the direction of the guild is of paramount importance to its maintaining a leadership presence, given that those of us with this heightened "responsibility" are volunteers.

A guild is a circle of friends. As soon as this this connection fails completely, for any reason, there is potential cause to discontinue membership from one end or the other. No one will ever be a member of this guild "on a technicality" or "because we can't come up with a good enough reason to kick them". If the leadership feels that that an individual doesn't fit, no "rule 27, section 4a" will be cited, the incompatible element will be removed, and wished well in their future endeavors. This is an entirely suggestive designation, and always must and will be.

Quality over quantity:

There is no content in GW2 (that this guild is "officially" interested in) that necessitates a "bigger guild", and so we will make no extraneous, artificial effort to have a "bigger guild". Every person that is in the guild is here for the pleasure of their company, and the low pressure, friendly environment we hope to comfortably maintain. It is the opinion of this guild that the phenomenon that occurs in other games of "there's this core in-crowd that are all friends with each other" should make up the entire guild in a game like GW2. Since no logistical requirement for guild size need be met to be "functional" in GW2, we default to the elements of comraderie, and honest personal compatibility. We default to the prime directive.

Mutual Respect:

As a guild that focuses on friendship, it is imperative to us to provide a comfortable environment for everyone. As each person defines their comfort differently, we will default to a few guidelines that are likely obvious and go without saying to anyone “in with us” enough to read our charter. Seriously, this part is really only a formality, because we assume our friends know that:

Playful ribbing aside, it is the expectation of this guild's membership that we will not be venomous or intentionally hurtful to each other. There’s a clear difference between joking and being a jerk, and we’re expected not to cross that line. It’s an organic and situational line, so I can’t draw it for you. But as adults, we’re expected to understand that obvious difference between “lol” and inappropriate. Basically, be respectful.

As such, hate speech of any kind will not be tolerated. Duh. That’s never funny.

If a problem occurs between members, we’re expected to solve it discretely, if not privately. If you ever feel like you can’t handle the differences between you and another member on your own, the leadership is ready to help mediate. But we ARE operating under the assumption that we’re all friends and this won’t be an issue very often.


Many of us like to roleplay, some of us prioritize it, some of us do not prioritize it. For this reason, guild chat will remain an out of character tool of player-level community, and members desiring roleplay are free and encouraged to roleplay with each other (or with outside friends) in any other capacity they wish. Please be generally respectful of roleplay ventures in all facets of the community, as while we may not be a "roleplaying guild" we are certainly a "pro-roleplaying" guild.


This miraculous function, which allows you to join many guilds, choosing from moment to moment which to represent, chat with, and apply "influence" to, is supported and encouraged by the design of GW2, and we would be idiots to tell you (or even ask you) not to join other guilds. As a matter of fact, we would much rather you join guilds for specific, hardcore, team play interests (such as focusing on harder explorable mode dungeon runs or competitive PvP) than try to bend this guild's vision to fit those interests, and know that you will always be welcome to hang your hat here. This doesn't mean that we will never do things as a guild, and thus we ask, as a courtesy, that if and when you find yourself playing together with members of the guild, you shift your active guild to this one, so we may then logistically benefit from the communal fun we are having. This is not a rule or a mandate, but it is a request of courtesy. The leadership will almost definitely treat this guild as their default setting, but even I have intentions to join other guilds if I see a good RP concept or extraneous interest group!

Adults only:

The leadership of this guild have agreed that we will limit membership to those of eighteen years of age or older, or those that can convince us beyond the shadow of a doubt that they meet this distinction. Basically, if we can easily detect "you're... not an adult", you may not fit as part of this guild. This is not an ageist discrimination, or something against younger people, nor is it a carte blanche to shatter the above mutual respect expectation with grossly inappropriate language without any kind of personal filter, what this is is one more degree of comfort and legal safety for us to hang out as adults without worrying about raising the ire of parents that might be listening through the computer speakers. Basically, we'd like everyone in the guild to be self-contained, personally responsible adults, and an agreeable age of general majority is a good place to put this line.

Represent us well!:

This generally goes without saying, but bears mentioning. When you have our tag over your head, (as opposed to representing other guilds) please do your best to portray the same respect and decorum that you'd hope to see from others within the guild. This includes not contributing to overt and offensive public "trolling", but most importantly means (as mentioned above in regards to roleplaying) not raining on others' parades out in the world. It's really hard to logistically do this in GW2, so this mostly falls on social interactions outside the guild. This doesn't mean you have to stand there and "take crap" from people who are being unreasonable jerks, but at the same time, I think we can agree that adding to a situation like that with further negativity is below us.

Apr. 10th, 2012


Let's talk GW2 guild leadership ethics that work!

This is not another lecture where I tell people that want monogamous WoW-style guild membership to be policeable in GW2 that they are on glue, I've posted in tons of those.

What this is is an examination of just what leadership ethics WILL work in GW2. This entry is both for myself, someone thats "gets it" to share ideas, and for those that don't to perhaps step out of the shadow of the social debt they have given and received for the past forever's worth of other MMOs, and actually look forward to GW2's "open relationship" style of guilding.

I'll start with an excerpt from my forthcoming GW2 guild's charter:



This miraculous function is supported and encouraged by the design of GW2, and we would be idiots to tell you (or even ask you) not to join other guilds. As a matter of fact, we would much rather you join guilds for specific, hardcore, team play interests (such as focusing explorable mode dungeon runs or competitive PvP) than try to bend this guild's vision to fit those interests, and know that you will always be welcome to hang your hat here. This doesn't mean that we will never do things as a guild, and thus we ask, as a courtesy, that if and when you find yourself playing together with members of the guild, you shift your active guild to this one, so we may then logistically benefit from the communal fun we are having. This is not a rule or a mandate, but it is a request of courtesy.

The thing many would-be guild leaders usually overlook with the GW2 guild approach is it's actually a BOON for us (speaking as a leader type) as well. Guilds in other games have to often put forth a "catch all" sales pitch to get people to join for focused purposes. "We do this1, this2, and this3 regularly" (in hopes of having enough for this2), often snaking around the guild concept like crazy people just to get that "number of people online" higher and higher, because somehow that makes you more awesome as people to play with.

It doesn't, though.

What it does is make you a diluted, often stressed out bunch of people holding members based on a "sales pitch" that you're not sure you feel like upholding this week, but they're depending on you, but it's not fun, and now you're burned out, grouchy, unapproachable, and don't want to deal with the inevitable people issues that pop up among such a large and diverse set of players...

*deep breath*

What GW2 allows you to do is form a guild of people. That sounds pretty obvious and silly, so let me elaborate. You form a guild from the core folks that are with you at the onset, and the only "sales pitch" required is "we are these folks, we like this, want to join?" and people that like that will give you a shot. If they like that, they might be around often, and your pool of people increases... but because it's understood that everyone who joins is also a multifacteted, self-enabled player with interests that could change from day to day, the guild, also formed of the same dynamic entities, from top to bottom, understands this, and when the group that formed for reasons of "these people that like this" feels like immersing themselves in that, they log onto that guild. When they don't, however, no pressure is implied by the leadership to "chameleonize" the guild to keep up with shifting interests, instead the leadership themselves have the same option to go join their "thursday night asura knitting circle RP group" guild when the mood strikes them. It's genius that understands that guilds are made of people, who are organic entities with organic, dynamic interests.

Now, a common rebuttal from the "monogamous" crowd often looks like this:

"If I'm putting all this work in having a great guild, you owe me your solitary allegiance!"

My response to this is... why are you "working" in your leisure time? If it's work, don't do it. If it's a labour of love, why would you want to lock in some people that tomorrow might not be in line with your vision, and would rather hang out with those knitting asura for a day, when the game allows them to do so? Is that their problem for being incompatible with your guild, or is that your guild's (or your leadership style's) problem with not being compatible with the game? I'd lean on the side of the latter.

Now, I know what you might be thinking, O "people that don't get it", how is your guild supposed to gain prestige and reputation if people are hopping around all the time? My response to this is twofold:

1) If people just don't want to give you that much time that often, maybe your concept isn't all that hot, or perhaps it feels forced. The great thing about GW2's guild vision is only the TRULY GOOD guilds, the ones with decent, agreeable, socially adjusted people will thrive, because anything else will get cycled as a "small doses" society. It's ok that your guild vision isn't perfect for GW2, maybe you're a top end raiding guild in other games where people are poisonously married for life, but this isn't that game, it's time to adapt for the sake of enjoyment.

2) The major bragging point for guilds in GW2 isn't "look at all my people, we're awesome", it's "see this person? They are in 10 guilds, and spend most of their time with us, we're awesome!". GW2 is about "independent funtractors", individual players in a world where everything they do is a choice centered around them, not alliances, guilds or subscriptions we feel we have to get our money's worth of, but a moment-to-moment quest for enjoyment, where every moment interacting with other players is a mutual gift, not a contract written in blood. Learn to appreciate the gifts, and you will be happier in GW2.

To summarize, guilds in GW2 will need to adopt a mentality that everyone, including the guild leadership is entitled to do whatever they want (within the game's limits :P) today, with whatever people they want. Capitalize upon this, expect people to capitalize upon it, enjoy the time you get, and realize that demanding more of that from your guildies is the fastest way to get less.

Live and let live. Play and let play. Can anything else be called fun?

Thank you for reading :)

Mar. 2nd, 2012


Guild Wars 2: There are many reasons like them, but these three are mine.

You know, there are a gzillion "reasons to love GW2" lists out there, naming 10-20 details from graphics, to music, to the "no holy trinity" combat model, but in defense of recent sidelong glances fearing that I might be going a little loopy in my fanaticism for the game, I felt the need for a short, pragmatic and largely straight, pure fact based list of my own.

Even if half of the subjective hopes of quality and "sparkle" fall on their faces, here are my clear, calm reasons why this game will still be amazing and worth every bit of excitement being aimed at it.

#3: It's your game first.

GW2 acknowledges that the game needs to, first and foremost, cater to the person that bought it, even when the inevitability that "hell is other people" threatens to intrude on your fun time. From the ability to log in socially invisible, (for those days where you want to play, but you're not in the mood for socializing) to a guild system that empowers the individual to give as much of their time, and not a moment longer, to whichever of many guilds one has joined for various interests, GW2 is built to belong to the person that buys it, one at a time, empowering the player to have a relationship with the gameworld (and its community) that is as strong as two self actualized adults entering a healthy (and sadly rare) marriage, as opposed to two teenagers dating "because we're supposed to want to have someone, right?", or folks staying together "because divorce is too expensive". Guilds demanding "monogamy" will inevitably fail, because said monogamy is not mandated by the game's mechanics, (indeed, it's conceptually discouraged) where guilds that gain loyalty because of their unteachable, unenforceable strength of character will thrive, and become the rightfully successful examples of community they deserve to be. All of this because the game belongs to the player, who is not pressured by subscription to log on, nor obligated by guild to give any more of their time than it is worthy of to the player, based on mutual connection. GW2's community will be built one empowered person at a time, with content designed to maintain fun with or without the support of other players, and that's why it will rule.

#2 It's your game for good.

I touched on this above, but it's worthy of its own point. The "B2P" (Buy to play) model of GW2 removes the ever present (especially in this economic landscape) pressure to get your money's worth out of a subscription fee. Beyond this, however, lies the greatest genius of this approach: GW2 is free to redefine "endgame" in a way that removes all obligation for there to be a higher, competitively approached and exhausted PVE mountain to climb. In short, the story of GW2 can end, it can have finality and be absolutely free of a need for "I did this and you didn't"-ness to its most important story elements, because there is no obligation to keep you coming back for new conquests. You bought the game, and if beating the game is your endpoint, you can leave and never look back until a new mountain is eventually erected. If, on the other hand, you wanted to stick around, GW2 is presented as a world to live in, a world to defend, not a world to simply conquer just to exhaust for resources toward the next conquest, and the next, and so on, and so on. With a personal effort, you can potentially "beat" GW2, because it's your game, and your world, to explore at your own pace, with no meter running, and no over-arching PVE race that you have not purposely opted into, and then, you can live on and enjoy each day for a new reason... or quit for months at a time, with no ongoing rat race pulling you back. Your game, on your time, whenever you want, no more, no less. That's why it will rule.

#1 It's your game to share

All of this "yay I don't need anyone" I'm cheering for might make it sound like I'm some misanthropic sociopath who plays MMOs just to people watch and never speak to another soul. The truth of the matter is, I can't remember the last time any MMO made me say "I can't wait to do this with other people" this loudly! I'm a leveler, with way more time on my hands (for gaming) than many of my friends, and while City of Heroes has had "sidekicking" tech for years, that game hasn't been something in my field of interest, and so this feature is probably one of the biggest selling points of GW2 for me. Furthermore, while so much of GW2 caters to the individual, that just further empowers said individual to make only the contacts, and join only the guilds that are 110% compatible with the player's true heart's desire in the game. With the almost nonexistent "advantage" to focusing on tight-team-mandatory content for any reason but pure enjoyment of that very brand of fun, the world of Tyria 2.0 is truly the individual's playground to seek and share with only the best of company. No more "putting up with the only good healer I know", no more "friends or progression", debates, no more "I hope they pick me" moments, GW2 is about a beautiful world designed to be enjoyed by and shared with those that will get the most out of this individually empowering, community driven vision of the MMORPG.

Is it for everyone? Probably not, but I look forward to the day my collector's edition arrives in the mail, and I can say, with passionate certainty:

This is my game.

Thank you for reading :)

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


Feb. 3rd, 2012


A new hope among MMOs?...

My horde guild leader is going to kill me when I say this, but I hadn't even given SWTOR a second thought, had no plans to try it, until I'd heard some guildies in mumble talking about it, then I was curious, so I asked about the "Sith Assassin" class I'd heard of in passing, and then I was hooked enough for the purchase... subsequently curtailing how much time I'd spend with said horde guild.

A month later, I think I know enough to give a review of sorts, so here we go...

Right out of the gate, "release growing pains" understood, SWTOR is a well rendered place for those MMORPGers that will take pleasure in having their "E-home" in the Starwars universe. It does what it must, and it does it well. I am impressed and satisfied that the game will hold its own as a "place to live" for escapist fans of the saga. That being said, I have found some particularly personally relevant places where the game, as a game, could improve. Other people can raise other points, but these are mine.

Straight up, the story oriented approach is SWTOR's biggest and most fun addition to the genre, and serves as a bridge to the forthcoming GW2 iteration of the personal story in an MMO. To be fair, LOTRO was doing it before both of them, but SWTOR's approach is, somewhat, flexibly personalized to moral choices...

Which brings me to the downside of said feature.

Moral choices in quest flow are innovative, curtailing logistically impacting rewards toward moral choices is interesting... but this is a subscription MMO, and so many people will feel steered to the logistically sound choices, not necessarily the "character driven" ones. The subscription model brings with it an undercurrent of efficiency (for your paid time), so tying logistical rewards to "roleplaying" decisions shoots this feature's own foot off, in a way.

For example: My "main", for the longest time, made "darkside" quest conversation choices, regardless of what they were, in order to unlock the use of the darkside attunement merchant. Sometimes I literally turned my head and gritted my teeth as my character did things so dastardly as to make little sense, just so my opportunities to advance logistically would be maximized. Yes, I intended this character to be evil, but killing a civilian woman in cold blood just shouldn't be something to gain *any* kind of game-related advancement. Logistical implementations of "RP" like this only perpetuate the age-old stereotype that players make a choice between role-play and game savvy: in this context, the role-player will delay their access to a merchant, the "gamer" will lean on one side, regardless of how "out there" it gets, to reap the rewards. In essence, the player is "punished" for having a character concept that isn't "handlebar mustache evil" or "puppy kissing good". And they say only Sith deal in absolutes!

Next we come to another amazing feature that both helps and hinders solo play (the most important building block of an MMO in 2012) : companions. I love the companion system, it's such a boon to soloability to have a second set of hands, but, again, it has its flaws.

First off, while Bioware is awesome for implementing intimate relations with your automated RPG partners, the execution of this ideal in TOR has a few problems (aside from the admitted mistake of delaying same-gender romance options, to be added in the future) that hamper the full enjoyment of the feature. Primarily, while it makes sense that, of course, every companion being their own person, they have strengths and weaknesses, while tank and healer companions come with a "mode" to simply do damage, the reverse is not true. Now you might be thinking "so what?", but follow me along this train of thought...

My main, a Sith assassin, was a backstabbing, "impale your spine with a double bladed lightsaber while my tank companion holds threat" force ninja. Good times, just as I intended to play him, awesome! His "romance option", and more importantly, my favorite companion he has access to, is a dual wielding, squishy melee DPS with no threat abilities to speak of. Seeing the problem? One of the merits *and* faults of the solo story progression, is it's often difficult enough to both expect you to have your companion (which is fine), *and* expect that your choice of companion compliments your character, tactically speaking, within the realities of the "holy trinity". Furthermore, quests that have rewards to equip your companions force you to choose one companion at a time to equip, essentially asking you to pick a favourite...which I have... except she's the "wrong" favourite for the role I had chosen to play, and she's my romance option. I disagree with the existence of that "wrongness". My assassin is now tank spec, for the sake of working with his ladyfriend, and while I don't mind the assassin tank spec (even though it has too many damned buttons to juggle) it wasn't my first choice for this character, and I had to make an imperial agent/operative (whose romanceable/favourite companion *is* a tank) to get my backstabbing fix. I honestly think Bioware should put a threat/defense stance on every companion, heck, even a healing mode would work with most non-backstabbing DPS styles. Just make every companion potentially "trinity complimentary" to whatever the player wants to do. As a more minor point, that I realize would be next to impossible to fix, I personally (were I in charge) would also prioritize getting "romance options" into the mix as early as possible, (or at least with more consistency) as these are likely favourites. Some classes don't see their "other half" until late in the game, while others meet their significant other before they leave the newbie zone, and that's somewhat wrong, in my opinion. Companions as a whole are a net positive, I'd just like to see them tweaked, and the game is still young.

Finally, this is more a "jarring after playing WoW for so long" point, but I found there to be not enough solo-accessible options to enable fluidity of leveling and advancing stories while questing, given that 1/4 of all classes rely upon or use stealth (thus not killing everything in sight). In short, too few quests, too much implied requirement to use alternate sources of XP such as PVP, the rail shooter, or group content, to bridge between quest hubs, while keeping quests "yellow" (meaning "on par"). If it's intended that one do things other than questing to level, there need to be more options of the solo-enabled variety. A dungeon finder would somewhat address this (not because dungeon finders are the end all be all, but they DO address the supply/demand issues of the trinity, and make a DPS player's instancing feasible while leveling), but so would a PVE side venture resembling LOTRO's skirmishes, since the companions just make that option so very doable. Whatever they do, for a game that encourages replay via alts to see other classes' stories, the "I don't want to do all the side quests again" options are very niche-y (PVP/rail shooter) or are co-dependent (heroic daily quests/flashpoints) in a game elsewise promoting individual autonomy, with communal attachments being "optional", (the way an MMO should be in 2012).

As stated above, SWTOR is a great game, but it could be better. The question now is how fast will they adapt to the needs of their players in light of intense competition. This game will have a minimum subscription count guaranteed by the words "Star Wars" and "Bioware", whether they cash in on that opportunity to have more than that remains to be seen. Until GW2, I will likely remain subscribed, as I'd like to see the stories, but if anything's going to chase me away prematurely, it will be the above nagging points grating on my nerves.

Thank you for reading.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Jan. 23rd, 2012


The future of the MMORPG: The rise of the "independent funtractor"

*blows the dust off of the blog*

Well then, a healthy bout of writer's block, and a strange sense of "nothing worth writing about" amidst barrages of news kinda put TFTV to sleep for awhile, but there's been a term gestating in the back of my mind for months, so today I'm going to think out loud and share the process with you all as I flesh it out:

Today's term is "Independent funtractor".

In the days of EverQuest's unchallenged dominance, and influence on the direction of MMOs (including WoW), if you wanted to "be a somebody", it wasn't as much your own skill that mattered (but it still did), as it was who you knew. Guilds, raid teams, even looser-knit circles of recurring play-partners were key to getting anything "of note" done. Indeed, at the onset of the MMO's emergence, the novelty, and a huge "feature", was the ability to play with other people. Because of this, people tolerated (to varying degrees) and gravitated to microcosmic concepts of community co-dependence and things like guild loyalty, consideration of your neighbor's time, and the impact you had on it, which were addressed and handled at varying degrees of success. Things like group-earned loot and the "trinity" of tank/heal/damage added spice to the soup, and group/guild leaders succeeded and failed at the social minigame that was just as important to killing dragons as individual player competence.

The novelty of this "cool, we can play together over the Internet!" sensation was bound to wear off, and it did. It's still a draw, to this day, but it can't be used as a huge pillar to sell a game anymore. Stripped of novelty, a lot of glaring holes can be seen in this monolith of gaming standards we have enshrined.

First off, the fact that no matter how good the game is, a bad experience with another player can do lasting damage to your success or enjoyment is a horrible business model, when selling to the individual: the only sales pitch that matters. To tell someone "to see the end of the story, bring 24 friends, and make sure X number of them are willing/able to do the high pressure roles", is not a pitch that today's consumer will generally tolerate in an RPG with story that starts as a personal, solo pursuit.

Story is a huge part of any RPG. You create a character, and have fun exposing that character to a world, its story, and often the other people "living" there. The developers of the world can control one of those two important variables, and as trends have indicated over the years, it's important to rein in the negative influence of the other (the community) over your fun, since the developer generally can't control it. It's an axiom I've applied to LARPing in the past:

"The problem arises out of the fact that many of the features of the product are or are enabled by the customers themselves, who often exercise their paid right to refuse to be the product, because they are customers."

When this circle inevitably presents itself, the MMO, as we know it, starts to crumble. Game designers can dull the impact of this cycle, even prevent it from manifesting, to a degree, by slashing certain elements of co-dependence, and they have already begun.

In WoW: Continuing the ethic that gave birth to the dungeon finder, the raid finder puts the final nail in the coffin of "needing an army" to finish the story you started by leveling solo.

In SWTOR: The fact that the game itself is "online, parallel dragon age in space" as it relates to its story is right in line with this "selling to the individual" ideal.

In GW2: The personal story, the exterior, open world dynamic events, the home instance: everything is pointed at the individual player interfacing with the game in a way of their choosing. In fact, the ONLY feature that necessitates co-dependence is the dungeon content, and even that is smoothed by the absence of "the trinity".

Online communities can and will still form in our favourite MMORPGs, it would be kind of silly if they couldn't, but more than ever, games are marketing to and designing for players one at a time.

A common complaint aimed to this line of thinking (particularly the dungeon finder type features) is that it kills the sense of community, and that's a fair point, but my respectful rebuttal is that the worst sides of each other that we see in the more "gear treadmill" type games (like WoW) are brought to the surface by the idea that there are two kinds of content:

1) "Grind content", whether it means leveling faster, gearing faster, maxing rep or chasing achievements, it's easy to see "the journey" in the common MMO as something to be pursued with personal efficiency, even when grouped, (this is why "hard heroics" failed in Cataclysm: it's grind content, not seen as the place to be hindered by another player's reflexes) because this isn't "the real game", this is somewhere that other people tend only to "get in each other's" way on the way to...

2) The endgame. You're done, you're there, now it's about competing to get loot, competing for DPS, competing in PVP, etcetera. Again, we're either in each other's way, or holding each other back, OR we're in the perfect group. If not in said perfect group, you're paying for a product you're potentially not as happy with as you should be, and it's all because of an element of the product that the developer has little or no control over. This actually has less to do with the "looking for" features, and more to do with the overall design of the game itself: empowering "them" to dictate "your" game.

This is why the MMORPG of the future needs to be less about "them" and more about you. The more happy, self-empowered "independent funtractors" are drawn to an individually engaging game, the more will be around to deal with group undertakings, which then turn into opportunities to meet people that WANT to be there, as opposed to players using each other to reach an objective that "you'd better not cost them".

A community that doesn't "need" each other is then freed up to "want" each other. And if they don't, they're welcome to that too, because if they don't need each other, they won't inhibit the folks that would rather want each other.

One of the only votes against all of this is the indirectly and unfortunately cultivated desire to "control" each other's progress, be it through shunning someone with a bad reputation, or perhaps "the only tank" dictating the pace of the whole guild/raid's pace of enjoyment. I'm afraid it's not in the best interest of the MMORPG industry to leave these "sacred cows" of social policing alive, they need to die, because that guy with the bad rep, and those guildies hoping that the tank makes up with the guild leader should not have the quality of their own funtime dictated by others that didn't pay for those other players' subscription/game. The ones providing the service (the developers) need to lessen the impact of these scenarios, because even an MMO is populated one player at a time.

Don't need your gaming community, want it, because if you don't want it, you certainly don't need it. The games out there are slowly enabling this for you, so capitalize!

If you're still here, thank you for reading, and be mindful of how you can be an independent funtractor in your MMORPG of choice, because it's not about them, they're not paying for your subscription/game, it's about you, and you, and you...

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Oct. 19th, 2011


Going on record: The nebulous change that needs to happen at Blizzcon.

Alrighty then. It's two days until Blizzcon, time for some hardline predictions, and for me to put my chips on the table.

First off, let's look at the playing field:

-SWTOR is ticking down to launch, apparentlyborrowing a lot from WoW (8-digits of safety is hard to ignore) except the heavy hitting legendary Star Wars IP. They are still a reason for Blizz to up their game, but all Blizz has to do is "something" innovative to counter the SWTOR "threat". The one major "innovation" I have heard coming out of SWTOR is perfectly in line with my major prediction, so keep reading!

-Many MMOs that have innovative (or "new to the foreground") features that WoW does not possess have done exceptionally well for themselves with the minor exodus in the wake of the highly experimental Cataclysm. Blizz gambled on "let's make it hard, because gaming matters", and people who play games for reasons not tied to raising their blood pressure or dealing with a stressed out, abusive community went elsewhere, myself and some of my friends among them. I have no problem admitting that Cataclysm, in taking itself too seriously, was too hard in the wrong ways. Yes, I called for that, I was even eager for it, and no, I did not expect it to do what it did. Blizz and I both gambled and "lost" on Cataclysm. Time for a change.

-And change is rolling into position! Guild Wars 2, like WoW in an EQ-dominated industry years ago, has built itself around "what WoW does wrong" without outright saying it. Attacking every sacred cow WoW holds up out of habit, from guild monogamy to community co-dependence, no one is forcing WoW to innovate and evolve quite like GW2 is. Don't believe me? WoW pretty much swiped GW2's personal customization engine right out from under ArenaNet's nose, and improved upon it before GW2 was even launched. Blizz is watching GW2. While GW2 is free (monthly) and not designed to addict you through continued monetary investment, like the subscription model, let's be honest here, it's the best "catch flies with honey" strategy ever, as gamers only have X hours in a day, and will only seriously commit to one of these two titles. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? I do not expect WoW's subscription model to change, but I do have predictions based on this "need to act" position the above scenarios have put WoW in.

Before I get to the predictions, I do feel I have to say that even my own "musts", "needs" and "haftas" are hyperbole. WoW could just add levels and areas and would stay "strong" for years, indeed perhaps even until they were "done". Loud voices would rage and scream, but eight digits take a long time to degrade, perhaps just long enough for "Titan" to show up. That being said, I don't think WoW will phone this one in. Here's what I think *will* happen:

Something for "me".

Blizz is great at putting out stuff for your friends to enjoy together, that's a large appeal for MMOs, but in trying to get folks to return to that "playing with friends" foundation, they encouraged the same "recruit warm bodies" problem that has plagued this stagnating community, and indeed genre, for far too long. Guild levels and rewards are a great idea, and I'd like to think my happy little guild used them right, we stayed true to our core concept, and took progress as it came, like a gift, not a goal, and certainly not a mandate. The problem with guild levels is the same as the inherent "group or you're nothing" element of the game: the competitive nature of WoW. It's a number, to put next to other numbers, and so guilds still expand beyond their "intent", and we're back with the same mess. What WoW needs is to realize the mess they made and throw a bone to the folks that see this happening, and aren't buying it. Guilds, grouping, and playing with others need to go into the "optional" category, so they happen out of desire, not out of competition. The greatest innovation of GW2 is that no one "needs" each other, so every grouping is (in theory) formed out of a sense of "want". If your guild disbands, (in GW2's vision) it doesn't logistically hurt you. If no one is online from your friends list, it doesn't logistically hurt you. You therefore guild and befriend only those you want to, not the ones you "need to". It's time WoW PVE worked away from players playing against each other and toward playing with each other. Do I support rewarding the logistical headaches of group organization? Absolutely, but not to the degree WoW is founded on, it needs to change.

So how do they do this? They make the dungeon finder, raiding, everything group-y, or to put it more plainly, everything in other players' (meaning not the individual subscriber) hands, *optional* to progression. There are many ways to do this. They could capitalize upon their backlogged plethora of instance maps (or just make new ones) to do "skirmishes" better than LOTRO, they could do solo instancing better than RIFT's chronicles. This is Blizzard, if they put their minds to it, it will be awesome. They could have the storyline of their quests continue "beyond" the level cap, make it a personalized quest of progression, loot and character improvement, they could have their "personal story" (like GW2, SWTOR and LOTRO) become something personally empowering up to and beyond the base "now you're ready to group" level. They could also have areas devoted to "you're all grouped, you have no say in the matter, you can come and go as you please, now kill this boss" type content (ala RIFT and GW2), like a PVE wintergrasp. Now you can easily claim that I just described the raid finder, and I acknowledge that, but it's not the same. Overworld, dynamic events with individual rewards are a different animal, and bring together a community that wants, not needs, to be there.

Of course, in doing any of this, they have to go full bore, because if they're going to even start to make the dungeon finder, or mandatory grouping content in general "optional", they need to support it, because we all know that, once you get into the dungeon finder, anything short of "as far as you can get on your own" is seen as a "why are you here on my time" infraction in the "we have to group to progress, gogogo" paradigm. It's not nice, it's not fair, but it's the nature of the beast. If people want to progress in groups, they should be there because they like that experience, not because it's their only choice. Put something soloable or self-motivated in the game, and the only people that will be in queue are the people that SHOULD be in queue: the people that enjoy that content. The biggest failing of the dungeon finder is that this is the exact opposite of what happens. Counter-social "I'm not here to have fun" types queue up for their personal progression, and inflict their mood on everyone else. I would see both the "I don't feel like grouping" *and* the "I'm just here for the VPs, not for you" crowd BOTH funneled into progressively relevant content that doesn't inflict or expose them to things they don't want, that being tight, co-dependant grouping with strangers because their friends aren't online, or don't exist as such yet. EVERYONE wins in this scenario EXCEPT the "if I don't like you, you shouldn't progress" control freaks... and to be frank, fuck those guys, no one's paying them, we're paying Blizzard, and Blizzard needs to immerse players one at a time, not just in groups.

If individuals *want* to be online, maybe they will group. If they do, that's awesome, but if they don't... they will still want to have fun. You can't make a group when everyone's logging out because all the established players are racing around them and the individual doesn't have a team. It makes that individual "conform" to a team, or take their chances in the dungeon finder, sometimes trading in their enjoyment. That is what needs to die, Blizz can't back that model anymore, there are games coming that oppose it, and Blizz needs to get with the program. Blizz needs to stop gunning for your guild's $75/150/375 a month, and start going after your $15 a month!

So that is my major prediction. It's nebulous and lets me say "I told you so!" to many different possible outcomes, but I fully hope Blizzard will surprise me with something I haven't thought of.

Quick list of minor points I think MIGHT be thrown in the pot:

-Model upgrades. Their excuses are running out. Make the new models toggled, (ala EQ) and all excuses are gone. Make it happen.

-Further expansion of personal customization. Perhaps even bordering on "player created". They've expressed interest in player generated content, but a "mission builder" is pretty far fetched for WoW.

-No new race or class, just game-changing features. They spent lots of time on "updating infrastructure" with Cataclysm, it's time to go forward, and races/classes are sideways movement, not progress.

-"Sidekicking". They can't raise the level cap any further without having a way for capped characters to "downlevel" to play with leveling friends.

-Talent restructuring that de-emphasizes "trees" and favors "traits". Make 30 classes for real, fully developed and conceptually set. Let them tweak their look and feel via slotted alterations. At the very least, make this an endgame path after trees are filled out.

-Still hoping for housing. This is one of those "everyone else has it" features that Blizz can't afford to ignore for much longer. This also scratches the PGC itch.

There are two things to be excited about when real competition knocks on Blizzard's door: what the competition offers, and what Blizzard does to counter it.

WoW me, Blizzard.

-Thank you for reading

Oct. 13th, 2011


A map of potential roleplay pitfalls in Guild Wars 2

I'm in a GW2 mood today, so today we write about GW2! Sound good? Great!

Seriously though, after researching and reading about the various races of GW2, I see a lot of roleplay (abbreviated to "RP") possibilities, and most of them make me excited to step into the updated world of Tyria. However, I'd be lying if I said didn't see pitfalls in many elements of the established societies and races of this lush world. Today, I'm going to point out these potential pitfalls, so that responsible RPers can avoid them.

First off, to define for yourself what I mean by "responsible RP", you can see my past writings on the subject:


In short, responsible RP is RP that is inclusive and aware that RP requires an audience of equally invested characters to maintain interest in the conversation or scenario. One of the elements woven between the races of GW2 is conflict, and conflict, if done right, can be fun for RP... but there's a fine line where it becomes overbearing, uncomfortable and the opposite of fun. There are some specific points where this comes up on Tyria, and here are some of the points, in my opinion, to watch for, listed by race.


The big one is, of course, the fact that Charr traditionally dislike, even hate humans. Their ancestral warring with humanity exists in their blood, and any human expecting to immediately be buddy-buddy with every Charr they meet for the sake of RP is fooling themselves. That being said, the RPer that has chosen to play a Charr has many options at their disposal to get past this barrier to enjoy the company of players that have chosen to play human, while sticking true to their character. Charr respect strength, and strength comes in all forms, from physical, to magical, to "spiritual". Finding common ground can be as simple as a member of the ash legion appreciating the nimble advantages of even a human thief.

For races interacting *with* the Charr, steering clear of housecat references is a huge help if you want to get past the armour and into their respect, and make no mistake, befriending a Charr is all about respect and honour. As mentioned above, Charr respect strength, so simple things like straight posture, and a strong sense of self can get to that point faster. Of all the races, Charr are the toughest nut to crack, they are the former "Villains" of Tyria, and present a vast array of new horizons and RP challenges both for those who portray them, and those guilded to them, trying to fit in with their ways.


From one end of the spectrum to the other, Norn can be the most laid back, easiest to befriend race on Tyria... but don't fool yourself, they can also be your worst enemy if you insult them in the wrong ways. Norn players can capitalize on the loud, brash nature of their culture to bridge the gap with almost any other race's archetypical hangups, but the one thing they should be careful of is that, for reals, no one likes a braggart. Norn are all about glory and their personal saga, but Norn players need to keep in mind that every player is the centre of their own story, and not to drown out their fellow players with their loud Norn personalities. Ham it up, heck, Norn it up, but don't forget that, logistically, while your Norn can solo almost everything, roleplay is hard to do alone.


As a longtime follower and lover of this new race, you would think I'd skip these guys as "perfect", but no, even my beloved flowers have some things to watch out for to keep from being "that guy/gal" in your local RP circle. Straight up, inquisitiveness can be cute and endearing, these guys have the chance to be the Data/Spock of GW2, in the vastness of their "tablet smarts" coupled with the limited spectrum of their experiences among "human" quirks, but it can be overdone, and it can stifle RP when you're stopping every other sentence to explain things to the Sylvari. The "need to be filled in" can quickly become an "it's all about me" vacuum in any group RP. Mind this line, and your Sylvari will quickly become a boon to perspective instead of someone avoided for dragging out a simple scene. Also, be careful that their innate "empathy" doesn't become "metagaming". I think that's self explanatory. To again draw a parallel from the Star Trek universe, you're Counselor Troi, not a mind reader. Picking up on moods and such can be fun, indeed, those Sylvari interacting with Sylvari might even deign to send them OOC private messages to tip them off such as "you may sense that I'm nervous, but hiding it well".


Reciprocating the Charr issue, humanity's main hangup is indeed the same ancestral war, and the Charr have been the humans' "monster in the closet" for most of their lives in this timeframe. This could lead to some very interesting, horizon-broadening RP, but it has to be enabled at both ends. Typically, in fantasy MMOs, humans are painted as the diplomats that try to hold things together, and GW2 humans can indeed utilize the same ideal to bridge themselves into respectful discourse with just about anyone, if they set their minds to it. Much like Norn, humans have an easier time relating to other races due to their "middle of the road" stance, and the fact that their Queen is a central figure in establishing amicable relations with the other races of Tyria is a big help!


I've saved the best (in the context of this topic) for last. Oh, Asura, with your built-in condescension, and your overdone superiority complex, how on Tyria do you expect us to RP with you without throttling you? Of all the races of Tyria, the Asura worry me the most in the hands of the worst kinds of MMO RP'er. Like WoW gnomes, only without the inherent, functionally installed love for their friends, Asura are almost too much to bear... and the Asura player needs to be conscious of this if they want to play with other people on an RP front. Don't dull your Asura-ness, play the race because you love it, lean into it, and enjoy their special, snarky flavour, but please, please, if you are concerned with the size of your friend list among roleplayers, keep in mind that you're not playing a novel where the writer eventually gets around to showing off your better side, you need to engage your fellow RPers sooner than that. Realize that you have an uphill battle ahead of you in inter-player relations, as it relates to the archetypical hangups of your race: you are supposed to be self-absorbed, snarky little geniuses, tolerating the bumbling, giant bookahs as you invent to the tune of the eternal alchemy, but you're also (if you get where I'm coming from here) a roleplayer interested in the mutual audience that makes RPing fun. My Asura is going to be fascinated by the other races, trying to learn what makes them tick, and I can only recommend that some degree of this exist in the heart of every Asura RP'er. At the very least, it can't hurt to have an adventuring Asura "fake it till you feel it", for the sake of "diplomatic progress". Now, on the other hand, players interacting with Asura need to know what they are getting into, and cut them some slack. You are a denizen of a world that knows of these creatures' legendary intellect... and the ego that comes with it. Working together, the Asura's interaction with other players and races doesn't have to be as complicated as I've made it sound, and it can be a fun time!

"Group because you want to, not because you have to"

I'm going to close this entry out with a disclaimer that perhaps should be at the top. GW2 is unlike most other MMOs out there, in that we don't logistically "need" each other very often, if at all, unless we take a serious interest in explorable dungeons (and even then, if there's a dungeon finder, you can self-motivate that involvement as well). Roleplay has always had a level of co-dependency built in (unless you enjoy talking to yourself), but it's a little different in GW2, in that not only are we free to advance without sucking up to each other, but that also empowers us to be far more choosy as to who we "let in". Maybe you're the world's most "lone wolf" Norn, and you're content to be left alone... until you find that pack that accepts you. Roleplayers are empowered in GW2 to stick right to their guns without fear of it logistically hindering them... but they are simultaneously put in a game that is built around random acts of teamwork. Build your character's world as you will, but bear in mind that, if you are the kind of player that wants to be active with others and roleplay with them, just like in real life, compromises may be required, ideally leading to a character's personal growth. Be ready to accept the consequences of your character style, and to adapt if need be.

Remember, you can't (sanely) roleplay alone. You can solo or self-involve most of GW2's content, but the experience is so much sweeter with the immersion and comraderie that comes from roleplay, if that's your thing.

I'm sure I've missed some points (and I really should go make breakfast), but that's what comments are for! What further RP challenges do you think lie ahead for the people of Tyria?

Thank you for reading. :)
Tags: ,

Sep. 26th, 2011


Why the craze for soloability in an MMO?... I'm glad you asked!

Given the nature of my recent "demands" of the MMORPG genre, I've heard many variations of this comment:

"What you are looking for is a solo game! Stop complaining about our MMO, Oblivion is that way!"

And they're not always talking about the *game* Oblivion! I can understand why people would get up in arms like this, they think their game isn't broke, and overt fixing is bad, or they don't want developer time wasted on a demographic that "doesn't belong" in an MMO, or many other reasons. I'm not here to tell them they're wrong to have their opinions, but their words are something I've run my demands through like a strainer, because they may have a point. What follows is what I came up with, and why I still think that soloability and "personal attention" in an MMO are crucial to its growth and its overall health.

-Everyone logs on alone: I'm not going to dwell on this, because it's just me being a broken record, and you can search my posts here and elsewhere to see where I've beaten this dead horse, but in short, if you can't entertain someone when they are alone, they won't be around long enough to potentially form a group, and without something worthwhile and engaging to do alone, everyone potentially becomes a high-maintenance annoyance to their guild and friends. The game exists and is paid for by the individual, and the "entertainment model" needs to reflect that. Ok, I'll stop now.

-Explorable world x1000: So why would I solo in an MMO over a single player game? Most single player RPGs have an explorable world, but MMOs take that feature to new levels, new heights. It's a signature feature of any MMO that the world is large, dynamic, and beautiful enough to not only hold, but entertain a vast populations of thousands of players at a time. I have yet to ever hear of a single player RPG that has the world size associated with a good MMO, with the added bonus of, yes, running into living breathing players out and about doing their thing, bringing that world to life.

-Forever alone, together: Just because I'm soloing, doesn't mean I'm alone. I'm in a guild, full of my friends, and that is an important distinction that many people seem to forget. This angle often gets met with "play a single player game and run yahoo messenger in the background", but there's more to it than that. My LOTRO kinship and my WoW guild are loaded with soloists, many of which are crafting junkies. As a result, no one ever wants for anything crafted. True soloist crafting junkies of a certain breed do so AS their interaction with other players. They slave over the forge/loom as a way to empower their friends in the field. If I find things that my friends need, that I don't, I can mail it to them. No single player game (that I'm aware of) offers this. This is a perfectly viable and acceptable way to enjoy an MMO with friends.

-The option to group: "Forever alone" isn't always forever. In every soloist crafting junkie or achievement hound, there lies the potential, the opportunity to be the next great instance tank, arena gladiator, or raid leader. Today, they may find that insane, but who knows where tomorrow's flight of fancy will take them? MMOs, good MMOs, are loaded with options and paths to bridge that curiosity and facilitate a change in game approach, should the mood strike someone. In a living breathing world, career change is always an option. If that soloist is chased away due to a lack of content, a lack of reason to be present for that change of heart, the grouping community misses out.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, (and Isengard just finished patching...) but there are plenty of reasons why the individual can and has the right to demand even an MMO consider them, to maintain their patronage. No one is asking the grouping game to die, but in today's day and age, no one pays to be a "have not", and reasonable solo-appreciating MMO players are a very real demographic that deserve due consideration.

One final note to this end, I must acknowledge all that Blizzard has done as of late to bridge the singular player into the story of WoW. Between making 5-man content (now developed around the presence of a solo-available dungeon finder) an important part of story, the raid finder doing the same for the story that has always existed in raids, and initiatives like the molten front (which, while an eventually annoying daily quest hub, had some good ideas on a "personal attention" front, which Blizzard has claimed are "building toward something"), they are starting to "get it", and I am excited for Blizzcon, which, and I'm calling this now, I'm hopeful will introduce a feature to continue this trend to entertain the individual, to keep them immersed in WoW, be they social butterflies, or the kind whom the forge and their customers are their best friends.

So, you see? We're not so crazy after all!

Thank you for reading. :)

Sep. 21st, 2011


Story as reward is outdated, or "Sephiroth Vs Atma weapon"

This has been brewing for awhile, so this entry promises to be long and meandering, you've been warned!

As I've written here and elsewhere before, my video game RPG "foundation" lies in the "Final Fantasy" console games, and those like it. These were rich stories that played out in largely turn-based format, with most of the "roleplay" taking place in the form of story involvement. These games involved a personal investment through character gearing and customization, from materia to junctions to utilizing this weapon over that. In Final Fantasy, if you knew what you were doing, and utilized the resources you came across in an efficient and intelligent manner, you advanced the story, and made your way to the last boss, who also was more than defeatable if you were smart and played intelligently.

Another signature feature of the FF genre was that, off the beaten path, outside, above and beyond the main core story, there was a looming, less than obvious threat of a difficulty level far beyond even the last boss of the story. This was there because, without fail, there were people that were such skilled competists, they needed not just (or perhaps "not even") a story immersion, but something to sink their teeth into logistically, that would usually involve hidden sidequests to get the ultimate weapon, and to grind levels considered absurd to those just wanting to see the story and "finish the game". These "side bosses" were there for people that didn't want to finish the game, they wanted to BEAT the game.

Blizzard could learn a lot from this model.

One of WoW's major flaws (in my opinion... if that needs to be said as part of my post) is that every major story starts solo, via quest storytelling, and progresses until you need 9 or 24 other people to finish it. We tolerated this for years because WoW was the unquestioned king of the mountain, developed better than even many single player games, people would log into WoW to be part of the world and many would just fill their own stories in, in lieu of the fact that they didn't feel inclined to enter that 10/25 person drama fest.

But then... other developers realized the opening.

Obviously I don't know every iteration of this initiative, but between LOTRO's "soloization" of their epic, core story questline, GW2's development of the "personal story", SWTOR's large, loudly touted focus on the personal attention of their game, and even RIFT's development of the "Chronicles of Telara", other games have started noticing that the whole "paying to be in a world where hopefully you can find enough people to finish the story" was starting to wear on MMO players as a gaming paradigm. When scheduling, personality conflicts and varied skill levels in a game trying to "matter" perhaps a little too much gate people from finishing what they started, people get worn out. When you get told at stage 99/100 that you're just not quick or connected enough to finish what you've been working on for weeks/months, people get tired of that real fast, when there are options... and there are, now.

"But it's an MMO" you might say, "you play it with other people"! Both very true statements, but as I've said here a zillion times, "everyone logs on alone". If the individual doesn't feel important enough (in a market where the competition will let them be so), why should they stick around to be part of a group? Let me be clear that I'm not advocating that the game needs to be an interactive cutscene, I don't mind jumping through some hoops to get to the end of the story... but WoW's model is about more than that. To see the end of the story, I have to jump through hoops... and hope 9/24 other people jump with me, at the exact same time... to finish the story.

Straight up, raids are story content. I spent a lot of time in WOTLK RPing and spinning the storyline in a way that made "we'll just do the 5-man content" sound like a fitting endgame for my circle of friends, because that's all we were comfortably capable of, and most of us had no desire to go on a recruiting spree or PUG the final bosses of ICC, which is what would have been required to "finish the story" the way Blizzard had presented it. This has been the most broken aspect of the RPG/story element of WoW since its inception, it would be like my final fantasy game tying those optional bosses to the storyline, and that's just wrong... now that there are options to illuminate that fact, and there are, now.

Enter the "looking for raid" feature.

This may be the missing piece of the puzzle, and I'm really really hoping this does the trick... but it's still waiting for 24 other people to leap through hoops to finish the story, a story you started on your own, with your first few quests. That story belongs to you, and empowering the community to keep you from that final cutscene is still wrong... when the competition is working on correcting that wrongness.

Simply put: The idea of advancing *your* story as a reward for connections, for other people's skill, essentially empowering the community to keep you from it, is outdated. Gear, loot, numerical things, these are just fine as a reward for these extraneous things... but story? Story is to be told. Not when your friends get it, not when the stars align and 24 strangers have a lightbulb go off over their head... it gets told as *you* are ready to hear it, or people will go where the game understands that. No one pays to be a "have not". Not anymore.

I'm hoping that 5.0 (or perhaps LFR) will come with this realization on WoW's behalf. Because Sephiroth is not Atma Weapon.

Thank you for reading. :)

Previous 10