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SWG – I informed you thusly

It’s been linked all over the place these last couple of days, but I’m going to add a link here for the perhaps 1.2 people who may not have seen it elsewhere.

“It” being Raph Koster’s article, in which among other things he states

Well, my opinion is Jedi are evil. Heh.

I couldn’t agree more. The absolute BEST time to be in SWG (despite all the compromises and cuts and issues mentioned in the post) was at the beginning, before the first damn-it-to-the-ninth-circle-of-MMO-hell Holocron ever appeared on the scene. Brute force is not a good way to be doing anything in a game, unless all you care about is getting something just to say you got something.

I’ve never been like that, which is why I was so comfortable in SWG. And I know I’m not like most people, and that many people I know did (sort of) enjoy the Holocron grind — or maybe they simply enjoyed being able to say they were keeping up with the Jedi-Joneses — but yes, there was a time before Holocrons and the whole time after.

It skewed planetary economies, for one thing. It skewed player relationships, for another. And it turned the game into a giant, afk-if-possible grind-fest. That can’t be right. A repetitive activity is only a grind if it’s overly long and/or becomes tedious – but the profession grind, that was a grind and it fundamentally changed the nature of the game for a lot of people I knew, myself included. And everyone else, of course, as we ended up with NGEs and CUs and all the sturm und drang those brought with them.

The other thing that broke SWG, in my opinion, was caving in and putting in a loot system. But maybe that and Jedi aren’t that unrelated. Some players seem to care mostly about opening loot boxes and achieving things, even if they don’t value the achievement at all after it has been obtained.

Eh, I’m getting bitter and maudlin. Go read the article for yourself. Extra points if you know the title reference.

SWGeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

That pile I was talking about last month? It just got bigger.

SWGEmu1

One of my favourite games EVAR and one I miss perhaps even more than I miss Asheron’s Call (which was a wonderful MMO-virgin game nevertheless). I miss it like the spousal unit misses UO or hardcore raiders miss EQ. I followed SWGEmu a number of years ago but time, life and the state of the emulator’s progress back then conspired against me and I never got to try it out.

This is about to change. Well, in 2 or 3 days when my pooey internet allows me to update.

I’m not even going to mention the NGE and the CU and if you don’t know those acronyms you’re much better off, trust me.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I’m really excited about this. My workload is pretty heavy right now but I may have to make time (i.e. lose sleep) for this one.

A propos nothing, it’s the game I was playing just before I got caught up in the Warhammer hype and started this blog. That was back in 2007-2008. Man, that was a long time ago, and despite all the changes they’d brought to the game it still had something unique going for it. Can’t wait for that update to finish…

Elite: Dangerous, you’d better be worth it…

… because so far I’m not impressed. Let me count the ways.

(Warning to those who aren’t long-time followers: This is not about the Sims and there will be f-bombs, because this is a rant. Which means it will also be entirely subjective and unreasonable. Switch channels now if needed.)

(And here’s a link to the game if the recent hype has passed you by. It’s Elite, only more. Or maybe it’s single-player EVE. I’m not sure, because I haven’t played it yet.)

1) The launcher is more interested in selling me new paint jobs than in getting me to the game.

2) There’s no proactive “Would you like to download the game now” or even an automatic-but-stoppable “I’m downloading the game now, because if I don’t you’ve wasted $60 on a game you can’t play”. You have to find the right option and click the right option. Fair enough, but do me a favour, Frontier: make the option REALLY OBVIOUS, m’kay? Like I just did.

3) There are separate play and log in buttons. Why? Can I play without being logged in? I wouldn’t know, because I only just discovered that what I thought I’d downloaded wasn’t the game, it was some sort of training simulator I think.

4) I don’t know what I did download yet, because when I told it to actually download the game (which again, should have been auto-fucking-matic, what is this, 2002?), it removed the option to play whatever it was I’d downloaded. Because you know, it’s so much more fun going to my blog and ranting about why I can’t play the tutorial while the game downloads in the background.

Seriously Frontier, those are some fucked-up launcher design and functionality decisions. And now, because I don’t live in a city and therefore have pretty crummy internet, the day I had BLOCKED OFF SO THAT I COULD PLAY YOUR GAME AND WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT I’M ACTUALLY USING LOTS OF CAPS is going to be spent playing something else.

And right now I’m steamed enough to /ragequit entirely and just NEVER play the game, but that’s sort of cutting off my nose to spite my face and I’m not actually much of a grudge-holder (except in one specific case and we don’t mention that), so I’m sure I’ll play eventually.

Just not today, and with a nasty taste in my mouth because my very first encounter with the game, via the launcher, was frustrating and annoying. Not good.

Rant over. Next week we’ll do puppies and unicorns, I promise. (Maybe.)

Here, have a picture of what I’m looking at while I wait to be able to play.  At least my wallpaper is very soothing (credit added for those who love it so much they want it too).

Elite FU Dangerous

Kickstarting Pathfinder Online

I really shouldn’t spend money when my 2012 Q4 taxes are due, but I did it anyway.

Bill Murphy must have hit just the right button on Facebook because I read his post, clicked through, and pledged $35. I liked the possible benefits if this project ever comes to fruition.

However, since I’ve only just heard of this game and haven’t acually read anything about it yet, and because said tax payment cheques have to be in the post today and I’m about to go out… I’m an ignorant dork who just pledged some money.

If you’re also a dork who likes sandbox MMOs (ignorance is optional), consider pledging. There are 9 hours to go and the funding goal is almost reached.

Click here to find out more.

PS: There’s even a token woman in the long list of dungeon designer geeks on that page! Go tokens!

A little light reading

From Rampant Coyote’s “Why the AAA Games Industry is Screwed” – an always-interesting blog with a link to a fascinating article.RC’s post itself is short and to the point, but if you don’t have this blog on your radar, you probably should.

The article linked is long but well worth the read if you have even an armchair interest in the industry, as I do.

Death March: The long, tortured journey of Homefront

“There is an expectation,” explained one producer, “that if you spend eight months developing a demo for E3 that does really well in the press, then that’s eight months well spent. Because you just sold another 500,000 copies of the game. It comes down to this very, very bizarre math. … No other industry would actually let you work like this. … So a lot of people are abused in the gaming world. Especially for marketing and things like E3. And I think that’s a business problem.”

I won’t comment – partly because it’s way too early in the morning, I’m under-caffeinated and I only just read it, and partly because it’s one in a long stream of “OMG how can an industry with so much potential get like this?”.

Well okay, maybe one little tiny comment. As a player and not a developer, I don’t necessarily care who makes my games (actually I’d rather it were smaller studios, since I have a cynical dislike of any megabusiness, even in gaming), but if the giants are screwed, will the indie studios be good enough to pick up the slack? There’s some amazing stuff coming out of indie studios and I’m not implying they’re not capable, but there’s a certain level of… glitz and glamour, I guess, associated with the humungous productions which – as it does with Hollywood blockbusters (whether they’re good or not) – does contribute to the buzz, anticipation and pleasure that flies around AAA game releases.

For me, gaming these days is almost as much about the anticipation for a game as it is about the game itself (which might be worth pondering further). While I decry the hype-wave fairly regularly, I also don’t shut it off completely because sometimes it’s fun to jump on.

Hype doesn’t make the game, of course, as we well know – I won’t even name names. But still… I’d miss the glitz if it were to vanish. On the other hand, I’d gladly ditch the glitz if developers and studios were able to feel a little more stable and not work psyche-breaking crunch hours. I’m not the first one to float the ridiculous idea that a little job security and a little less insanity in the workplace might make for a better industry in the long run.

Maybe part of the problem is that game studios seem to be run like Hollywood studios?

Auction Houses: Pandering to those who hate crafting

This. Elder Game’s The Case Against Auction Houses.

But I mean, what are you gonna do, not have an auction house in a modern MMO?

Sure! There’s no reason every MMO should have an auction house. Lots of MMOs implement it unthinkingly, because they believe it’s a mandatory back-of-the-box feature. Few MMO developers take the time to think about the ramifications of the feature.

I’ve got a lot to say on the subject myself, as a self-professed crafter before anything else in MMOs, but having ignored most of my work over the weekend I’m now forced to actually do some in order to pay the bills. Bah humbug.

Also: I miss SWG. The whole crafter/merchant/harvester thing did sort of turn into a second (and sometimes third) job, but it was the most fulfilling crafting and selling in any MMO, evar.

The Secret World – But HOW is it different?

People keep asking me this and I haven’t managed to put together a satisfactory, canned, 10-words-or-less answer yet. I couldn’t manage 10 words or less if someone was sitting on my tongue, anyway.

However, I did comment over at Scary’s place (go there, it’s very scary), and I’m going to be cheap and paste my comment here because, flippant as the comment is, it does encapsulate some of what makes TSW different.

People keep asking me “But HOW is it different?” and I either can’t answer or have to spout a wall of text. Lately I’ve been keeping it to tidbits:

– I get to blow zombies up with shotguns / magic / napalm / IEDs
– I get to slice zombies into little pieces with sweet-looking katanas & fist weapons
– I get to melt faces with fire magic
– All of this while wearing a corset and a cute baby-blue bra. Or leather pants and a trenchcoat. Or a T-shirt with a kitten on it.
– The music is the ONLY game music I’ve ever liked enough to keep it turned on
– NPCs say the F-bomb. This pleases me in a game, since I use it too. Plus I like pseudo-hippies who sound like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now (or Blue Velvet for that matter). F*** yeah!

Before someone reports me to the potty-mouth police, I’m not advocating swearing like a sailor. It’s not really the F-bombs. It’s the fact that, so far, the adults in the game talk like… well, adults, and not like… well, MMO NPCs. You know – “Prithee, brave adventurer, I have heard of thee! I needest help riddething mythelf of the awful rats that have infested my petticoats. Help me and I shall give thee a rotten apple core and my dead father’s old boots!”

Hyperbole, moi? But you get the idea.

I’ve added a TSW Screenshots page where, assuming I have correctly figured out how galleries work, I shall be adding a hodge-podge of screenshots. Assuming I can remember to take them in-game.

You can blow their heads clean off.

Other things that make TSW different, for me:

– It’s dark. Not lighting-dark – I’ve been asked that by a few folks who have seen screenshots that all seem very low-light / dark-toned. The sunlight is very sunlight-y, and there’s a normal day/night cycle. Maybe hype-screenshots are more impressive when they’re dark things. But no, the game isn’t dark in a lighting sense (unless, you know, it’s night – and even that’s not too bad – or you’re in a cave or a basement… but I digress). It is dark in a mood sense, while also being a little humourous, at least in the first zone. Things become a lot darker and a lot less humourous in the second zone, and that’s all I’ve seen so far.

ANYway, point is: it’s dark in a moody way. Bad shit is happening in these places and, while the Zombie apocalypse is blackly funny, it’s also very creepy. So far TSW has been pretty good at the creepy vibe.

– The game is beyond chock-full of references. Off the top of my head, John Carpenter, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, David Lynch, Coppola, various Clint Eastwoods – and they’re just the obvious ones. I’m pretty sure there’s even a Eureka reference.

– EDIT: NPCs have very interesting things to say if you’re after lore & clues & info. Click on the chat-bubble and select a topic – note, however, that each topic usually has at least 3 entries, sometimes more – so always click a topic again! It will get a tick on the line when you’re done with that topic (though sadly the tick isn’t persistent – you may have to write down who you’ve talked to).

– Making notes is a great asset in this game. I like this. I had notebooks full of notes for Asheron’s Call, and I miss having to pay attention like that. Yes, you can play the game like a WoW-jock, but if you dig you’ll find all sorts of interesting corpses. Er, info.

– This one-server many-dimensions thing the Nazgul kindly linked for us last week (here it is again) is a nice twist. No need for alts on other servers – just hook up with your buddies, regardless of what “dimension” they’re in,  and you can play together. The hardest part is fitting this in with the jargon & concepts we already have. A dimension is not a server and it’s not really an instance – and if we call it that, people are going to get awfully confused. I’m going to think of them as Bubbles, because I’m odd that way.

– I can advance at my own pace. Yeah yeah, I know many games purport to have that. But take the first zone, Kingsmouth, for instance. There are probably 30-40 different missions you can do there (I pulled that number out of my backside, so don’t go hating on anyone if it seems low). They’re scattered all around the zone and if you don’t explore you won’t find some of them. Point is, almost all of them are repeatable after a few hours – it comes out at more or less once a day for most of them. If you’re a content-devouring, get my shit and move on to the next place kind of player you can do that – but if you’re someone like me who has trouble leaving their comfort zone, or who likes trying out new weapons and whatnot, then you can keep redoing stuff (at diminishing returns) until you’re comfortable enough to move on. I like that.

Enough for now. I have a day off (I hope) and I intend to spend it playing, not blog-posting. Even if I should be installing an air conditioner for my office and a CPU cooler for my computer. Meh – tomorrow.

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