Coyness does not become thee

coyness2Or, the lady doth protest too much.

Yes, there’s a meme going round. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. If you’re going to do it anyway and are rather flattered to have been tagged, just bloody do it. Don’t go on and on about how you don’t do memes and how they’re beneath you but {dramatic sigh} you’ll do it anyway just this once.

Coyness and popularity contests, the High school mentality in a nutshell — God save me, I thought I’d left that behind 20+ years ago.

A meme is just a thing. It goes round. If many of the people are doing it for popularity / I’m so cool / I didn’t tag you so you’re not reasons, don’t be a dick and perpetuate it. If you hate them for the shallow social bacteria they are, fine. But don’t try the dress on while moaning how it makes your bum look big.

Just do it. Or don’t do it.

And most of all, don’t bloody rant about it on a Saturday morning!

I’ll tell you what though, with the amount of downstream/sideways whining about this, you can bet it’s the last bloody meme *I* ever cheerfully pass on, thinking it would be enjoyed as a simple pastime or ignored by those who didn’t wanna. I guess passing on typhoid would have been better received. Sheesh.

(And no, this isn’t aimed at you. Or you, or you or you. You guys are fine and I love you. It’s the REST of YOU lot out there. You know who you are. If you don’t, you’ll know when the hot wind of my withering scorn passes over your head.)

(It’s withering scorn. I didn’t have beans for dinner, honest.)

A large step for CoX, an even bigger one for MMOs

coxmissionarchitectjpgI wasn’t going to comment on NCSoft’s new Mission Architect system, planned to go live sometime in March, largely because plenty of others have already done so, but then it occurred to me that more exposure for a good idea can’t hurt. Even if you don’t play CoX (and I don’t, right now), it’s worth a look at how NCSoft designed this, especially if you’re one of the people who believe, as I do, that (some degree of) user-generated content has got to be in the future of MMOs. It’s probably not the only answer down that road, but I suspect it’s a prominent part of it.

Look at crafting/trading: whether it’s in fantasy-WoW or scifi-EVE, there’s no real, dynamic trade if there’s no way for consumers to request supply from producers. Sure, you can post stuff on auction houses, but that’s largely a case of post and pray. More to the point, if you make FoozleNoses and Bob needs 100 FoozleNoses but NONE have sold on the AH in the last 3 weeks, you’re unlikely to be making and selling any since there appears to be no demand, and Bob starts to believe FoozleNoses just don’t exist. 

Enter purchase orders. I’m pretty sure EVE had them, but my memory is at best coy and at worst downright mendacious, so forgive me if I’m wrong. EVE *should* have them if it doesn’t. Hell, every game should have them. Sadly, it’s much, much easier to design an Auction House interface that it is to work out a proper purchase order system to go with it… even though the latter isn’t exactly rocket science. Some games have them, or had them — I’m pretty sure Horizons (remember that?) had one back in the day.

Sure, you could do what businesses in real life do and have done for millennia: find someone who makes what you want and go to them to place your order. They may be next door, down the street, in the next county or in the next country, but what doing business is all about.

Except I’m not DOING business in an MMO, I’m PLAYING at doing business. There is a real, huge difference. It’s not that we’re not taking it seriously, but play /= work. When kids play make-believe, they do it quite seriously, with proper attention to what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean they’re working at it. And when I run a business in an MMO (or try to, most games make it damn near impossible to play as anything other than a glorified medieval Gordon Gecko), I take it seriously but I do not want to have it become work. I’ve been there, and it’s called SWG, and is closely followed by the slouching Burnout Beast.

Trying to make contact in game with someone who sold something I need on the AH and thus may or may not actually produce what I need on a regular basis, and then getting them to supply me — have Devs actually TRIED doing that, ever? It was hard enough in SWG, which is a game predicated around player trading and crafting (or was) and which has a relatively robust email system. And seriously… I have to try to contact someone who may or may not log on, may or may not speak English (or whatever I speak), may or may not respond, and then may or may not actually adhere to our agreement, with no obligation or accountability on their part at any point in this process? (Or on mine, for that matter.) So maybe, in a few weeks, if I get lucky, I’ll have the FoozleNoses I need? No thanks. Neither am I going to sit in TradeHub001 making endless requests on a chat channel — sure, that might have been how it was done in EQ back in the day and how it’s done in WoW now, but that doesn’t make it a GOOD way, it makes it a “we couldn’t be arsed to cater to crafters so you’re just going to have to spam a channel” Dev-way.

I’m not saying I want everything now and I want everything easily. I’m certainly not saying I want to be able to do everything myself, because a trading game (or sub-game) by definition needs people to interact with or it’s a lot less entertaining. But, if I’m going to “seriously play” at being a trader, then I need a vaguely reliable, timely way of contracting suppliers. THAT isn’t rocket science either. Purrrchaaaase Orrrders. It’s not that hard to say, and it’s not that hard to design.

And that’s just for trading — heck, you could restrict it to materials-trading or whatever you want if you didn’t want to kill your Auction House, though I seriously doubt that would happen anyway. Some people like to order, some people like to browse. No reason you can’t please both.

I’ve pondered “player-generated content” before and, sad to say, my imagination usually lets me down. That’s because our MMOs have become variants on “Kill Ten Rats” and the only real ideas I could come up with were… you guessed it. But then I remembered SWG’s new(ish) Storytelling mini-system — you can buy props, stage settings, effects doohickeys (smoke machines), NPCs, monsters, whatever — and you can place them, load them up with lines and/or treasure, and voila: user-generated content. It can be a show, it can be a treasure hunt, it can be an epic fight. Or it can be all three — bird, plane, pterodactyl!

So here’s what I think: if we players are given the tools, I suspect we’ll come up with some pretty non-killtenrats stuff. Maybe not all of us, maybe not even most of us — but most Neverwinter Nights players never made a dungeon and there were still enough talented guys who *did* that you could be playing them till 2012 and never have to make one of your own. We don’t ALL have to be content-creators — but being empowered to become one is going to be a huge step forward. I’ll be fascinated to see how the Mission Architect system works in practice, when it’s launched. If I’ve the funds, I may even have to resub to CoX just to try it. Who else plays, and where?

Realism through a fuzzy lens

victorian_gothicCommenting elsewhere and going into a mini-rant about the Victorian Era made me think of Steampunk (which us closet punkers/punkettes have been writing a bit about lately, especially with reference to Gatheryn), and together they made me ponder realism in games.

See, I detest the Victorian era as a whole. It was bigoted, supercilious, self-satisfied, stupidly sentimental yet coldly cruel, and incredibly hypocritical. It was also, of course, an era of unmatched exploration, discovery, and invention. (Artistically, however, I’d contend it was kinda stale, apart from the emergence of the novel as art form, but that’s getting a bit rarefied even for this blog.)

On the other hand, the Victorian era does make a really cool setting for games. I loved Cthulhu by Gaslight even though we didn’t really play Cthulhu all that often (mostly to preserve what little SAN our chars had left). I suspect Victoriana would make a great setting for online games too, visually — grimy streets, plush interiors, rags and riches, danger and/or adventure lurking around every prosaic, gaslit corner. It’s the age of Sherlock Holmes, H Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, the Industrial Revolution and its contrasting Romantic Movement. It’s the age of Babbage, Charles Darwin, Dracula, Extraordinary Gentlemen and, of course, Hyde and Mr le Ripper.

So yes please, definitely slap me some Victorian-era setting. But don’t include (too much of) the bigotry and self-satisfied fat-cat cruelty unless you allow me to be some cheeky young sprat who fights it (or upper-class twit who discovers there’s more to life than cricket on the green and promenading in Hyde Park). Gaming is entertainment, similar to movies, and most of us like a healthy dose of rose-tinted nostalgia with our historical entertainment. Show me the great gowns in Elizabeth but don’t bother with too much of the scofula and starvation, kthx. I’m not saying I’m happy to throw historical accuracy out of the window, because usually I’m not, especially not in settings that purport to be “historically accurate.” (You should see me get all irate about stirrups on saddles before that piece of riding kit had actually made it to Europe.) But in games especially, we have a great deal more latitude. Medieval becomes “fantasy-medieval” where we can take all the fun bits and leave all the bits we don’t want, or even take only some of the fun bits, like the Hanseatic towns & league, and ignore other bits like the Reconquista; and the same principle can be applied to any other era. The idea, in games, is to make a thematic era recogniseable without necessarily making it 100% accurate. Verisimilitude, that’s what we want.

But while I’m happy for the realism to be a little fuzzy, what I’m dying to see is a little more depth in the portrayal of a given era. Don’t just make a grandiose Victorian-ish city — make a grandiose Victorian-ish city that has people in it! I mean, more than just the 2 vendors near the train station and the 18 quest givers scattered around from the docks to the creepy churches to the flower market. Vanguard’s New Targonor was a great concept and looked pretty good, but it was sterile, empty, and dead (and also a lagfest of almost Ironforge-esque proportions);  Khal, one of its Qalian counterparts, was a little more lively but I kept wondering where all the people in this supposedly-bustling town actually lived. And besides, when did a dozen static NPCs become game-shorthand for “bustling”? Twelve is not bustle. It’s barely a small crowd, and only if you pack them into a broom cupboard. Bustle only starts at 25, and that’s the rule (that I just made up).

I realise that adding NPCs whose sole purpose is to move around and provide background colour requires resources, both to create and to run. But I’m long past the point when I can see a few houses, with a few NPCs standing always in the same place by these houses waiting to quest me up or buy my rat tails, and not find that ridiculously UNrealistic. There’s got to be some kind of middle ground game design can find between hogging all the resources on “decoration” and creating places that are devoid of life. Some settings require it more than others, and the “teeming masses” Victorian era is, to my mind, certainly one of those. Frankly, I’d give up many many polygons in order to gain many many “fluff” NPCs.

Better yet, have some sort of rolling NPC-call where only part of the created colour-extras show up at any given time. Create, say, 50 of them, and use 30 of those at a time; after a while, have some of them go away and bring out some of the other ones. That way I’m not always seeing “Kevin the Cheeky Urchin” when I pass the corner of Tentacle Steet and Lepidoptera Lane; sometimes I’ll see Bob the Miserable Brat (his cousin), and other times I may see Sam the Shady Sausage Salesman (last name Dibbler, of course).

Oh and hey, designers — listen to your artists, and vice versa. “Really pretty” (sorry – “visually stunning!!”) does NOT equal “atmosphere.” There’s more atmosphere in some of the much less polished older games than there is in most of what’s been touted as “amazingly atmospheric” in MMOs in the last few years. Atmosphere, my kingdom for some atmosphere.

…makes Ysh a dull girl

workI guess the tank didn’t do their job properly, because I’ve caught a deadly amount of work aggro this week. I therefore figured I’d see if there’s any particular topic folks visiting this blog would like to kick around and/or read about. Not traditional, I know, as these things are usually done over the weekend (as with Tobold’s Open Sunday threads), but needs must. I haven’t got the time to write a proper entry today, but I can at least apologise for it and put the rest of you to work. 😉

I’m headed back to the translation salt mines. Speak up, I can’t hear ya from down there!

 

EDIT — Yikes, something horrible has happened to my theme when I view the site. If it’s happening for you too, a) it was like that when I found it and b) I hope it’s fixed soon!

Naming a Champion

In spite of my fervent attempt to avoid any enthusiasm about new games in general, and Champions Online in particular, Syp’s regular outpouring of cool screenshots and information is proving hard to resist. For one thing, I don’t think anybody is immune to the lure of the superhero and I’m no exception; and for another, it’s looking pretty damn good.

I never really got to play Champions as a tabletop game (an intro session doesn’t really count), though I had a friend who’d been in a campaign that had been going for years and who waxed lyrical about the freedom and complexity of the system. Superheroes are cool, yes, but for me they’re at their coolest when they’re multi-faceted — more Watchmen or V for Vendetta than Batman the TV series, if you see what I mean. (Which is not to diss the latter at all, which has an enduring and unique camp charm.) I like my heroes to have, at very least, a darker wrinkle here or there. Heroism — and that includes super-heroism — is at its most powerful when it involves a measure of sacrifice, if doing the right or necessary thing is difficult and somehow costly. I like dilemmas. I also firmly believe that story is rooted in character (and not the other way round, for the most part), so complex characters are essential to any enjoyment I may derive from story-telling.

Deep analysis aside, however, what got me thinking yesterday was leafing through the “Rate My Champion” section of the official website and looking at the various names and looks people come up with. Yes, this is a shallow pursuit, but looks and name are integral to designing a good superhero and, to be honest, I tend to spend ages deciding on both even for my characters that aren’t super-powered. Names are important: a character’s name may mean nothing to anyone but me, but it resonnates for me and that makes a difference when I play. Which is why I’ll never have a character called xxSlayAxx; I’m not bothered if you do (much), but that’s the online-game equivalent of a cold shower for me.

I recently gave my worse half the nickname of “Mr Methodical” because, unlike me, he usually knows what he needs to do and in what order and spends a fair deal of time making sure stuff is correctly planned for and laid out. Even in games! (My attempts to emulate this usually end up with 2,487 pieces of paper scattered around my desk and me having no clue what the scribbles on them mean.)  It then struck me that this wouldn’t be a bad superhero name: it doesn’t take much to imagine an obsessively organised person with all manner of neatly laid out tools, maybe an underground forensics lair (with humming devices and machines that go ping), and possibly a Mr. Monk-like compulsion to neatness or other repetitive activities. Mr Methodical might be a bitch to go on missions with unless you’re prepared to wait 3 days for him to come up with the perfect plan of action, but he’d be invaluable in terms of research and investigation.

Sadly, I don’t appear to have a real life superhero name. Tangent Girl? Mr Methodical suggested that I cook a mean potato (baked, roasted, sauteed, saladed, you name it), but “The Tater Maker” doesn’t quite have the ominous quality I’m looking for. I suspect I’m just not ominous enough to warrant a myserious and ominous nickname. Fortunately, that won’t stop me from making such characters when Champions comes out.

What’s your real life superhero name, if you have one? I’d ask people for names they plan on using when the game launches, but that’s akin to industrial espionnage in MMO terms and I don’t want anyone to send out flying mechanical (or mutated) monkeys to hunt me down.

Serenely Seeking Sixth Screenshot

Spinks tagged me for this growing MeMe (read: me! me!), and while I’d like to think my ego is small and well-behaved, being namechecked turns it into a ravening Hulkish brute. That, and it’s a fun meme. The originator, incidentally, is here.

Like many others (as you’ll see if you follow the meme threads up and across and around), the screenies I have available on this machine are only the tip of the iceberg. Ah, if I’d known in 2000 or 2002 that I’d want my Asheron’s Call, EverQuest, and UO screenies… or my AC2 beta screenies… or even my Horizon beta screenies… Those were the days. Sadly, my occasional fits of deleting (because this comp only has a *cough* 80 gig hard drive) apparently led to my deleting screenshots with it, so I don’t even have my Vanguard or EQ2 or EVE screenshots anymore, and some of those were rather nice. Maybe by the time I’m 80 I’ll learn to have a little more foresight.

I’ve been taking a few WoW screenies since I’ve been back, but loads of people have much better ones, and I tend to take landscape shots more than anything else. For amusement’s sake though, the 6th screenie in my WoW screenshots folder is rather fitting, given the blog name. (It’s been cropped and resized.)

dead_aeternal

The for-real sixth screenie, though, I picked from my SWG screenies folder. It’s partly nostalgia (isn’t that what most screenshots are for?), but also partly to illustrate what cool things SWG let you do and other games should let you do, though in many cases the actual implementation could be improved.

tcp-lifeday-2007

It’s the sixth in a series of screenies I took that day — Christmas Lifeday 2007 at Galactic Senate city on Test Center Prime. The vegetation is the result of special Lifeday presents you could only open outside, that would cause a riot of wookiee-goodness plantage to flourish wildly for half a minute or so before disappearing. The rest is player-set decoration (or should that be player set-decoration?), the possibilities of which have expanded even more since the introduction of the Storyteller props & systems. The red-robed Wookiees are NPC “props,” for instance. (If you really need to know, I’m the Zabrak second from the right in the front row, with the baby Gurreck pet. That Kashyyyyyyk bantha isn’t mine, it’s just trying to sniff my butt.)

Now, I’ve done my share of griping about player cities in SWG, mainly because they abetted (if not caused) the progressive ghostification of the “real” cities and especially their cantinas, but then again there were many other things driving nails into that particular coffin (the increasing uselessness of the doctor profession as anything other than a buff-machine, and so on). Besides, the benefits of player cities were pretty enormous. I still have a wish-list a mile long for how those should have been done, one item on which would be allowing us to add ROADS or at least PAVEMENT so that our cities didn’t look like jumped up campgrounds plonked on the grass, but still… it’s a great and essential idea in principle. Fluff to the Nth degree.

And yes, fluff and player-driven stuff like housing, decoration, city-building and event-holding really DO promote community. They won’t create it for you, but they sure do make it easier. If you want to get a gathering together it’s a damn sight more fun (and attractive) to hold it at the Spanking Tusken Cantina in Spinksville, Tatooine, than to just mass up in front of the bloody starport. If you want people to lounge about and chat, it’s a damn sight easier to achieve if you have furniture players can *gasp* sit on.

Nostalgia isn’t always a waste of time, especially in MMOs. What we’re nostalgic for is (mostly) stuff that we really enjoyed, which makes it a signpost for future development.

But enough of the tomfoolery and MMOetaphysics. Now to try and get people who haven’t already been got… TAG, you’re it!*

— Melmoth AND Zoso from Killed in a Smiling Accident. Yes, you both have to do it.
— Pete S at Dragonchasers
— Wiqd at iMMOvation
— Ethic at Kill Ten Rats (not all of you — I’ll let other people tag the rest of your nefarious crew!)
— Sara at Symptom of a Greater Cure
— and last but not least, especially if it’ll make the bloody man post, Genda at Grouchy Gamer

PS: Not being tagged doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It just means my stabbing finger didn’t hit you when I was blindly poking through my blogroll. Can someone lend me some LCD-screen cleaning fluid?

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* Psst, if you’d like to be tagged and I missed you, just comment. Nobody said six was binding. I am not a number! I am a free meme!

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(EDIT — curse you, Spinks, unto the 6th generation! It’s all your fault that I’ve added about 73,239 (hyperbole? moi??) to my feed reader. Gah!)

(EDIT 2 — 6 tags just isn’t enough when you have a gajillion blogs linked and 100+ reader feeds. GirlIRL, you have been TAGGED! Git ‘er done!)

Get to da Slaya’ (WAR Public Test Server)

As announced here, yesterday.

WAAAGH!!!

The PTS is back in business for your testing pleasure at 5:00PM EST! With this weeks turn of events on the Public Test Server we’ve had to shift things around a bit! What does this mean for you?

Good question! When you log onto PTS you will be greeted by the grinning faces of Greenskins and the grim resolve of Dwarfs – The Slayer & Choppa will be available for the first time to all players. These long awaited careers stand at the ready for your inspection and we can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

When logging into PTS tonight you will notice all characters have been wiped, you won’t be able to copy your character during this phase. This is because we want as many players as possible focusing on the new careers and helping us whip them into shape before their big debut!

In case you were wondering this means that the Zone Domination test planned for tonight will be postponed until next week. We’ll post more updates on it as it approaches, so stay tuned – It won’t be something you’ll want to miss!

We’ll have plenty of Tier 4 testing in the PTS phases to come for now enjoy the new careers and be sure to post your feedback on the Official PTS Forums! With your help we’ll continue to make 1.2 even more awesome.

So Get BERZERK Get FURIOUS Get TO DA CHOPPA!!!

To try ’em out or not to try ’em out, that is the question. I like test servers, and I like helping to find the “zomg his head is on backwards, how did this get through?!” issues, preferably before they reach live… but on the other hand I don’t want to spoil the anticipation of the careers’ live release either. My enthusiasm for WAR remains undiminshed, though my enthusiasm for playing WAR has waned rather sharply — there just isn’t enough fluff in the game for a, err, fluffer like me; so I’m afraid that previewing the careers before they’re live will only take the shine off them too quickly.

Anyway, for those of you not burdened with such philosophical considerations, there they are!

Begone, Skills!

I’ve been mulling over this for a while, but was sparked by reading this Elder Game article on the purpose of loot where it’s mooted that items-as-verbs is one way to stop the items arms race where no item is exciting because it’ll only last a few levels and/or because there’s always a better one waiting around the corner. Making items too powerful means you end up adjusting the world to always take them into account, at which point your uber-powerful items aren’t uber-powerful, they’re either average or de rigueur for tackling content, or both. Items-as-verbs, instead, provide only a temporary but more useful benefit that needs to be activated by the player, or is activated only under certain circumstances.

Thinking back on my tabletop days, where I was as excited as the next nerdette when I found a kick-ass magic sword or hat or whatever it was, makes me wonder why I’m so “meh” about items in MMOs. Part of it is what that Elder Game article describes — if items drop frequently (and they have to, it seems, in MMOs, or nobody’s happy; and even if they didn’t, farmers would ensure a steady supply so “rare” is an increasingly rare thing as far as items go) — where was I? — oh yeah: if items drop frequently and if all they really do is give you +1 to CharStat003, it’s hard to get all breathy and keen. I think our tabletop games fell somewhere between Scrooge and Monty Haul: we got a fair bit of silly or use/limited stuff, some pretty decent stuff now and then, and very rarely, we’d find that thing that makes you go Ooo. I well remember the kick-ass sentient!!! sword I found that made my ranger’s life difficult for the rest of her career. Who needs kids when you can have talking swords?

Another thing I didn’t have to deal with in my tabletop days was the plethora of skills my MMO characters have now. I don’t remain all that cool under combat pressure, so I happen to think I have way too many skills, since I almost never remember to use the ones that would be perfect for those rare but often deadly situations. This is very arbitrary, but I’m starting to think that if I need more than one toolbar for my common-use skills (let alone 3!), I have too many of them. When encounters become a question of learning which sequence of buttons to press in what order… well, maybe we’ve gone full circle back to the numbers-geekery of yore where it’s not about what you’re seeing or what’s happening, but about how to do the only right thing at exactly the right moment. While I realise that sort of activity is actually fascinating for many, all it does for me is make me want to do something else.

Now, I’m not saying we should do away with skills entirely. I like skills. I like having a selection of abilities that I can pick from depending on what I’m fighting. For me, however, fighting is usually a means to an end and not the end in itself — it leads to the fun corpse-loot-box, which I’ve always enjoyed opening (even if all I get is a manky bone and a piece of linen), it advances my characters a bit, and it moves me forward through whatever quest(s) I’m doing. And, that being the case, having 38 skills I need to remember (multiplied by my usual ridiculous number of alts) instead of, say, a dozen, means I just plain don’t remember most of them.

Ironically, in most cases it really doesn’t matter at all that I can’t remember most of what my gals can do. Many of the skills overlap, where one will do X amount of damage and the other will do X+1 amount of damage but is on a longer cooldown, and yet another does X amount of fire damage so it’s more useful in some cases than others… and so on. Some are really useful but on such long cooldowns I just don’t remember I have them, or can’t use them when I do remember them. And some are just plain crap. Personally — and I’m sure this won’t be a popular view — I’d rather have a few less skills that are a little more memorable and/or effective. I’d rather forget to use a handful of my abilities at most, rather than probably about half of them.

Sure, we get taught these skills progressively as we level, at least by most games out these days. (I’m not talking about skill-overload at level 5, 15 or even 25; even *I* can manage at those levels.) Even so, we have too many of them. There’s a skills arms race just as there is an items arms race, and it’s not easy to get excited about the 12th ranks of ClassSkill005.

So, aside from maybe a few less skills, I’d also like to see a few more “tailored” skills. I’d call them skills-as-verbs, but I think they’re verbs by definition since we choose when to activate them. I’d like to see skills that kick in only in certain specific situations; that’s already available in games, it’s just not very common. Something that activates for tanks when they’re at a certain low health percentage, or something that activates for healers if their target takes a certain (large) amount of damage. Or, if the Trinity has been banished too, maybe it could be something like an OhCrap! heal that activates for a mostly damage-based character if they take a really big hit — or a “That’s my friend, you bastard!” attack that would activate for mostly assist-type characters — and so on.

On the other hand, providing those might mean we end up with even MORE skills I won’t remember to use. We could make them auto-use (not exactly a new concept in MMOs, every pet class has that, not to mention that’s exactly what auto-attack is), but would that then lead to us spending more time watching the action rather than watching — and mashing — our hotbars? Actually watching those really neat animations and effects those artists slave over for our enjoyment? Perish the thought.

No, of course I’m not saying everything we have and can do should be automated; I’d be the last to say that, since I’m so rabid about being at the keyboard to actually get a playing experience. But a little more specificity in when a skill is useful and a little more choice in auto-activating them might be nice. The difficulty might be implementing that so playing doesn’t become an exercise in sitting back and letting your macros do the job for you — but since that’s already an option on all the major games I know about (maybe not a legal one, but certainly one that people aren’t shy about exercising), that sounds like crying over milk that spilled so long ago it’s turned into cheese right there on the floor.

In case you missed it everywhere else…

fenceMythic’s official WAR forum is in the house. Yes, that links to the Herald page, but there’s a shiny new FORUM button in the top right. Go there. Click it. (Take a couple of minutes to go through the login process.) See the almost-empty forums before the ravening, illiterate, brain-dead flatworm hordes get to it. (Clearly I’m not an official forum ho — if I were, I’d have spelled that as “hoards.”)

Let the brain-cell pillaging begin.

Yes, I do think official forums are a good idea, on the whole. I also think it’s damn near impossible to keep up with what-all game devs might be saying and where even with official forums, especially after months without them, unless those poor devs are utterly restricted from posting anywhere outside the official forums. Which is a little too jack-bootish for my tastes. As usual there is a fence, and I’m sitting on it. I’m thinking of planting some flowers.

Edit: As an expat-Euro (now living in the US) I have to second Spinks’ hearty BAH HUMBUG to the fact that EU gamers can’t even SEE the new “official” forums. Not a word I use often, but in this case it’s more than apposite: LAME. Llama Lame. Liberally larded with Lame.

February Foofery

Prequel: well holy crap, “foofery” is an actual word. And here I thought I’d get a neologist’s badge. Bah!

Foofery – Noun
1. a frivolous activity, often of a goofy, silly, and/or foppish manner. Similar to folly.*
2. a semi-serious attempt by one blogger to keep her blogroll (and other things) up to date.

1. This is a very interesting article about MMO Community Enhancement. Go read it. Then read some of the stuff it links to.  I think Tobold pointed me at this in a recent post, but unlike Tobold, I agree with almost all the suggestions in there, caveat being (as the article in fact states) that not all solutions are appropriate for all games or all communities. At base, I agree with the fact that community and chat tools remain woefully inadequate in this game of find-me-anywhere portable electrofoolery.

2. Hear ye, oh new Citizens of Blogland! If your blog template doesn’t yet have an RSS feed link (and most should), or if it’s not very prominent, please add it or make it so! RSS = Really Simple Syndication, and it’s how most of the blog addicts serious readers get their daily fix. In normal-speak as opposed to geek-speak, the little magic genies watch for blog post updates and funnel them into a client which shows said updates without requiring a specific visit to a specific blog to check if there’s anything new. (Yes, you’ll still get page hits.) Clients — or “readers” or “aggregators” — include Google Reader, which I can heartily recommend as simple enough for ME to figure out in minutes, especially for those who already have a Google account.** (As an aside, if a page you want to get a feed for doesn’t have an RSS link and you’re using Google, just copy the main page’s URL into the handy-dandy box provided and hey presto! new feed.)

subs_add_reader

Hat of ... Snobbery
Hat of ... Snobbery

3. I had a third item, but RL-phone aggro just drove it right out of my head (not a difficult feat even without telephonic interruptions). Oh, duh! The foofery itself. If I’m on your blogroll — for which, thanks! — and you’re not on mine, let me know. I’ll put on my Hat of Supreme Taste and Snobbery and decide if you’re worthy. Actually, if you can string two words together coherently and post more than twice a year, you’ll probably make it. My supreme taste and snobbery is very inclusive.

Unnecessary epilogue: what’s with Firefox suddenly thinking I want to save image files (ya know, PICTURES) as html files? Apparently it’s not Firefox’s fault — oh yeah? Then why does http://blahblahblah.jpg try to save as “url.htm”? Someone’s being stupid, and for once it’s not me. Fix! AT ONCE! (I know, I could just use Chrome, but Chrome is a himbo. Firefox is my Heathcliff — heavy and prone to fits of rage, but rugged and handsome.)

(And if you really want to know — or see me torture a helpless metaphor a little more — that makes IE the really creepy guy who lives in your building that you can’t get away from; he pretends to be helpful but what he’s really doing is drilling little holes in the wall of your bathroom so he can watch you in the shower. Or an ex- who does the same. Your baggage, your choice.)

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* The grammatical error isn’t mine: “of a goofy […] manner” indeed.
** And if you don’t, I have about a zillion gmail invites left. Just let me know who to send one to.