Blaugust Day 8 – The Morning After the Night Before

So for the first time in a week of Blaugust I’m sitting in front of my screen with no clue what I’m going to write.

This doesn’t actually happen to me that often. My writer’s block — if it’s even worthy of the name — isn’t the blank-page-terror variety, it’s more the lack of self-confidence variety that convinces me even I don’t care to read what I might write – and if I don’t like it, why would anyone else? Come to think of it that’s probably the self-sabotaging variety, and I’m quite certain I’m not the only one to suffer from it. One of the things one learns from depression and anxiety is that one may be a unique snowflake, but lots and lots of people also suffer, most of them quietly, internally, and often ashamedly. The components of our uniqueness are shared by billions.

Okay so I didn’t intend to hit that whole depression / anxiety / mental health note, especially on a Saturday, especially on a blog that purports to be mostly about gaming, but I have an e-friend I’m extremely fond of struggling their way out of denial as we speak and it’s on my mind. That friend posted some incredibly personal and brutally honest, super raw stuff a few days ago, and did it again yesterday. And a literal horde* of friends, e-friends and acquaintances — myself included — came pouring out of the virtual woodwork with words of encouragement, shared experience and support. When brain chemistry decides to screw with you on a daily basis and make you believe (as in my case) that the only way to achieve peace and get some rest from one’s demons is to simply not be there anymore, one of the hardest things to remember and believe is that we are not alone.

It’s only due to the loveliness and kindness of some of my oldest friends that we are still friends, 25 years down the line. When I was at my worst in terms of depression I dug a big hole, crawled inside it and pulled a rock over myself; that’s what I do. If *I* am sick of listening to myself about what hurts, why I’m sad for no reason, why I can’t even make it out of bed some days and why I burst into tears for no good reason, how could anyone else possibly want to?

Depressed people tend to treat themselves about as kindly as Genghis Khan treated towns that wouldn’t surrender. Depressed people treat themselves with a cruelty they would never display to their own worst enemy. Depressed people tend to forget that just as they would never not be there for a friend, their friends want to be there for them. If only we knew how to let them.

So if these words strike a chord and you also own a large villa in De Nile, reach out. Here, to friends and family, on Facebook (seriously – inane as the medium is, it’s actually pretty good for that kind of thing if you’re careful about your sharing circle), on your blog, on your rooftop, to a professional — wherever. Just do it. I didn’t, and I spent probably 5 years longer than I needed to in a state I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And as far as depression goes I suspect mine was one of the milder cases. Point is, it doesn’t matter if it’s mild or not — when it hurts, it hurts. The belly of the wolf is a nasty place to be. Don’t live in it alone.

Well. That wasn’t at all what I intended to write — or hell, for all I know maybe it was. I didn’t have an intention when I sat down and sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. But let’s lighten the mood a bit. It is, after all, Caturday.

And now for something completely different

In other news, Exploding Kittens was hilarious.

exploding-kittens-5
A selection of safe-for-work deck cards

We ate like pigs, drank just enough to make everyone merry, and had a lot of fun. I even ended up wearing a real Cone of Shame (my Husky came home from the vet with one a few weeks ago and never actually needed it, so there it was) which I sincerely hope will not end up on Facebook, though I’m quite sure it will. Wearing the cone of shame is now a house rule method for obtaining a new Defuse card (but only if you played the Defuse through Spay/Neuter card). A game takes all of 10-15 minutes to play, 20 if you have a player who insists on examining the strategy of every card he might play (the fucking strategy is DO NOT EXPLODE!, dude!) and another player who insists on reading aloud and roleplaying every card that’s played (me). We played 2 games with the NSFW deck and another with the SFW deck and both decks were excellent. The SFW deck might make your kids a little weird but all the best people are weird and it is in fact perfectly clean, if super-skewed, humour.

goatbuttt
A not-so-safe-for-work (or kids*) card

That’s all for now, folks. See you tomorrow.

* Yes, I know what I did there. I’m a lit major, remember?

The Secret World – Kickin' it Halloween style

For Halloween 2014, The Secret World store offered goodie-bags that you can open and that will share the bounty with up to X (10? 20?) people around you. I bought a couple of those with my piled-up veteran reward cash and stood around in Agartha with everyone else hoping to catch a few other-people goodies of my own. And I did. I mostly got clothing items, but I’m ok with that and Mysericorde now has an almost complete Baroness Samedi outfit, along with a Bloody Wolf pet (but no spectral cat).

Mys_Samedi

Some of the goodies include make-up options that open up, including one Goth-chick Mys is likely to wear for a while:

Spider makeup

As well as a Crow-style makeup and a Death’s Head:

Corbie stare makeupDeaths head makeup I’m probably not going to look for groups to take me through the Halloween content, because grouping (I’m in heavy hermit-mode these days), but also because I don’t mind missing out. It’ll be back next year, by which time I might be able to take it on.

Protecting Paragon City

Since it was covered extensively elsewhere, I didn’t comment on last week’s news that City of Heroes is being shut down by NCSoft – you know: work, travel, yadda yadda.

Dusty Monk, however, has an excellent and personal reaction post to the news, and it seems the fanbase are getting organised to try and prevent the game from closing its doors. Go read it. Snippet:

I don’t usually participate in fan or community organized movements.  I’m keenly aware that businesses are businesses, and once a decision has been made, most of the time no amount of fan outcry will change that.  But this is important to me.  And there are some cases where the community did make a difference.  Perhaps this time it’s different – perhaps we can show that are making this decision that it does matter, and that there is still money to be made here.  So I’m getting involved, and I hope that perhaps you will too.

I agree with Dusty that once a business decision like this has been made, it’s usually pointless to Canute the inevitable – but I also agree that when we care a great deal about something, we should be prepared to speak out for it. I could make political parallels… but I won’t (other than saying: whatever you believe, politically, GO VOTE; democracy doesn’t work if people don’t show up).

I played City of Heroes at launch, leaving a still-buggy (if enjoyable) Star Wars: Galaxies to do so, and still remember my friends making fun of me for spending literally 3 hours on my first character’s costume. Actually, it may have been 4. I didn’t play it for more than a few months, because that was the Year of Major Game Launches (WoW, EQ2), but a bunch of us had a blast for the time we were there, if only because of:

– KAPOW; come on. No combat beats KAPOW!! combat.

– FLYING; ’nuff said (but boy CoX did it well).

– COSTUMES; also ’nuff said. Actually, that one needs to be COSTUMES!!!

– FLEXIBILITY; alone, in groups, in duos – didn’t matter how you wanted to play, you could do stuff and you could usually get to doing stuff pretty quickly.

Flying!!! … in COSTUME!!! … soon to KAPOW.

I returned to CoX a couple of times over the years, and always enjoyed my stay. It didn’t grab me, truss me up and enslave me the way some of my other games did, but it was there, it was fun, and it tried to do some interesting things. I wrote about the Mission Architect system a few times in 2009, and although it was immediately picked up by players as an excellent venue for exploiting xp and whatever, the idea was still brave and I’m glad they tried it. I still think we need some way for players to create some of their own content, and I’m sure it’s something we’ll see more of in games as the years go by.

So when I heard the news last week I was a little shocked, though the game is over 8 years old and we all know no MMO lasts forever (especially not at NCSoft, it seems). I’m not much of one for post-mortems, but I am interested to see if fan reaction to this news can actually make a dent in a decision that was probably made thousands of miles away and based purely on numbers and finances. What if the game were concatenated down to a couple of servers, instead of however many they currently have? Could it be run by a skeleton staff? Is it worth it? We don’t know that, but we won’t find out if we don’t try.

And I happen to think City of Heroes might be worth saving. /insert saving heroes ironic joke here.

Per Dusty’s post: go here to sign a petition trying to keep City of Heroes open – and keep a few Devs in their jobs, incidentally. There have been entirely too many layoffs in the games industry in the last few years already. At this moment the petition is 13,550 strong – make that 13,551, since I just signed it.

And, if you think you can do it politely (and all of you are paragons of courtesy here), it might be worth posting on this forum thread. Staff may never see the petition, but someone official will be moderating that thread, so we can add our voice there (until it gets locked, says the cynic in me).

Go forth and protect!

EDIT: Sente has also posted on this, as I’ve discovered upon catching up with my RSS feeds… Sente’s had a lot of interesting things to say about CoX over the years, so if you don’t read his blog already, you should do so now.

EDIT: Pete at Dragonchasers has also written. Lo, the movement grows and I’m late to the barricades bandwagon!

EDIT: But wait! There’s more! Syp and Ardua, respectively. I’m running out of amusing things to say on my edits. And Tobold thinks we’re hypocrites because we didn’t play the game this year. Whatevs. That said, his Kickstopper idea is pretty funny.

EQ2 – Bonus XP Weekend April 23-25

Title says it all, really. If you play EQ2 and you adventure, you’ll be getting more xp from Friday (today) 3PM Pacific to Sunday 11:59PM.

I’m not linking to the wallet thingy – find your own!

No mention is made of crafting xp and although I want to say that usually bonus xp weekends include crafting, I won’t, because this would be the time I’d be wrong. I’ll be able to confirm later on today when it kicks off. I have a crafter or two, don’tcha know.

Damn those Joneses

I don’t care about the MMO Joneses. Really, I don’t.

So why do I so often feel like I’m being compelled to a particular activity in MMOs? If that’s not pure Keeping Up Syndrome I don’t know what is.

Take bonus XP weekends, for instance — when those are running, every time I log on I feel as though I’ve GOT to do something that generates xp, or I’m wasting my playtime. The thing is, as I said over at Dragonchasers (in this very good post), I have no problem levelling crafting characters — it’s what I find enjoyable after all — and I have no desire to level adventuring characters. Or rather, I don’t feel compelled to have max-level characters. If my gals level I’m not going to cry about it, but it’s not a particular aim of mine. There’s nothing in EQ2 I want to do that I can’t do at lower levels, and that includes harvesting.

(Which reminds me, I did say I’d do an EQ2 harvesting post. Oops. I will. Really. Maybe. I don’t know if you’re worthy of knowing the seekrits!)

The same goes for events, and I’ve posted about that before. Events are fun, events are great, but at some point I end up feeling like I HAVE to be doing them or I’m somehow missing out.

This is what I find odd. I don’t feel the need to have adventuring levels, and yet I do feel pressure to get some kind of xp — adventuring xp if I must — when there’s a bonus xp weekend on.

The whole concept of “missing out on” stuff is weird and slippery. Some things I don’t care about so I don’t feel as though I’m missing out. But then there are other things that, on the face of it, I don’t particularly care about but still end up feeling needled with if there’s some kind of event associated with them.

How many bloody glass baubles can you possibly want on one account anyway? That was the deal with Frostfell (Christmas) this year: log in every day with every character and get a present for each and every one of them from Santa. I did that for a few days with ALL my chars on both accounts, after which I wisely decided my world doesn’t need that many presents. But I still felt needled, if distantly, to log on. “Log on! You’re missing out! This stuff is being given out FOR FREE and you’re not getting it!”

Part of me says “So what? I don’t need it!” but the part that gets needled doesn’t understand the whole “don’t need” concept. If it’s there, it must be obtained/striven for/taken part in. Even as I opt out of doing this I can feel the pillars of a consumption-driven society shake under my feet. As above (RL) so below (MMOs). Okay, enough metaphysics.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is what drives so much of the playstyle I don’t understand. Is that why people raid? To get stuff because it’s there, it’s there for them, and they therefore HAVE to get it whether they really want or need it in the first place? I’m sure there are lots of people who enjoy raiding for its own sake, but I also know there are tons of people who don’t like raiding at all and only do it for what they can get from it. If you go by what people say, anyway — which isn’t always entirely reliable, I guess.

Anyway, the long and short of this is, as Pete said: Play the game; don’t let the game play you. And that includes playing on your expectations.

Fack off I’m stuffed

“Guests are like fish: after three days, they both begin to stink.”

I have no idea where that comes from, since it could be attributed to just about any culture anywhere, but it’s very true. As I’m discovering, it also holds true for game events, though I’d say the decomp rate is a little slower.

EQ2 currently has 3? 4? — a lot of events running. There’s the Frostfell event, where you can go get a present every single day with every single character, make a ton of fun stuff that can only be made in the Frostfell area while it lasts, as well as do a relatively entertaining little dungeon and earn tokens to buy cool ice-themed furniture and armour. Then there’s the City Festival event, which made its debut in Kelethin a few days ago — that’s much smaller, but it still boasts a nice selection of housing items and clothing to obtain — which you won’t be able to access for several months once the festival leaves, since it’ll be touring other cities at the rate of one a month in the meantime. It makes use of the city tokens that were introduced a few weeks ago as rewards for doing writs (adventure or crafting). Then there’s the Will of the Tyrant event, which is a prequel to the upcoming Sentinel’s Fate expansion and includes a relatively short quest that can be done on either side for a title and some story info.

I think that’s all the events right now, but I might be missing one. Or two. At any rate, Frostfell and the Kelethin festival both bog off today, and — as I finally get to the point of my post — I’m rather glad to be seeing the back of them. There really is such a thing as partying too much.

I know, I know, I could log on and just ignore them, and to some extent in the last week I have. But knowing there are furniture and deco and clothing items to be got, and harvesting to be done… it’s like a constant tiny goad to me. I enjoy those things, see, but I have done. so. much. of them in the last few weeks that I feel like Mr Creosote being offered one more wafer thin mint.

It’ll be nice to go back to just randomly bimbling about. And EQ2 is such a great game to randombly bimble about in.

Launch Daze

I’ve finally realised that I’ve outgrown wanting to be around for launch days — be they for entire MMOs or just for events in said MMOs. Most of the time launch day is laggy or buggy, which latter will generally mean the servers get taken down for some emergency hotfixes, which means you either get to stand around lagging or wait around to get back online.

Most of the time playing on launch day is more waiting than playing, and more irritating than fun.

I’m sure there are lots of people out there who will tell me that nothing beats the excitement and the shiny-new, still wet with dev sweat smell. Well, not for me. I’m misanthropic enough to dislike the crowds of ravening fans, be they pixellated or standing in the street with me. Waiting in line for a movie to open? So not me. Waiting in line to get a book on launch day? Please. I wasn’t there when A Christmas Carol was published and it’s still a cracking good story.

It’ll all still be there tomorrow. It’s not as impossible to avoid spoilers as people seem to think (especially since I don’t have a cellphone umbilical, which means I really can get away from the rest of the world), and most spoilers aren’t much of a problem anyway. And you know what? It’ll taste just as good tomorrow, too.

In the meantime, those of you who love the crush and bother of such things can rest assured you’re one step closer to the front of the line since I’m not in it. Me, I’m going to check out EQ2’s new Frostfell event. It launched yesterday (or the day before, I forget) and should be both stable and somewhat less hysterical now.

And here, have some dragon screenies for lagniappe. I took em, you might as well see em!

Dragon in Lavastorm
Tunare quest dragon - "Whaddaya mean, you don't speak wood elf?!"
Dragon motif in Everfrost
Being John Scroogeovich

Events, schmevents!

Or: Ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggity beasties.

I’m not usually a huge fan of events in MMOs. Let me qualify that: I used to be, and then somehow they got to be more of a chore than anything else. Much anticipated, much hyped within a game’s community, but then they roll around and you have to do eleventy-zillion things before zomg-time-runs-out!!11oneone! And somehow, imperceptibly, you slide from having fun at game events to feeling like you have to cover every last piece of an event with every damn alt (which for someone like me is a lot of alts) or you’re not getting your money’s worth, or your achievements’ worth, or whatever it is.

Happily, EQ2 is breaking that mould for me somewhat. For one thing, the events in EQ2 are either nice and long, or short and sweet but recurring. As an example, this year’s Hallow– wait, Nights of the Dead celebration runs from October 21st to something like November 9th; that’s almost three weeks to get your ghoul on which means that there is absolutely no hurry. Even the slackerishest slacker, like me, can manage to leisurely stroll at least ONE character through that in that kind of time-frame. As for the short-sweet-recurring ones, those would include the monthly Moonlight Enchantments event, which contains five different fairy-themed mushroom rings that you can visit with any or all of your characters, one at a time. Those only last something like 48 hours, if that, but if you don’t get there this month there’s always next month.

NotD app armourWhat’s even better about both of these events is that they offer kickass fluff rewards. (There might be useful rewards as part of the Nights of the Dead thing too, but that kind of stuff doesn’t tend to stick in my mind.) The Moonlight thingies let you collect tokens that you can use to buy a vast range of faerie/nature themed housing items, from grassy squares to full-size trees to pixie plushies, not forgetting various kinds of temporary mounts like leaf-strewn magic carpets or unicorns. The Halloween event includes a set of appearance-only armor, collection shinies that fight back, various housing items and all manner of other crafted, quest-rewarded, looted and clicked goodies.

Since it’s all fluff I feel no particular push to do them. I am doing them on various characters and I’m enjoying the events, but I don’t have this feeling that if I don’t run everyone through it, or run at least one person through everything, that I’ll be missing out. people_china_zIf there are any particular achievements linked to these events (other than the “Take part in seasonal events!” one) I’m not aware of them, which is just as well. There’s nothing quite as good for damping my enthusiasm than to have something be almost nothing but achievement-chasing — which was one of the things I really disliked about my brief return to WoW at the end of last year. That and the fact that suddenly the whole world and her dog was doing whatever event was going on at that time. Sure, people should do them and it’s fun to see people doing events alongside you, but when it’s the equivalent of rush hour at the beach I just end up wanting to pack up my plastic shovel and go home.

Not content to have had two events running concurrently, EQ2 has thrown in a few more for good measure. There’s the “find out what happened to that nice Erollisi goddess woman” event thingy, which is ooookay. The Plane of Love zone at the end might be fun, but I’ve only putzed around in it long enough to know that I was badly outclassed trying to be in there on my own; the quests that led up to that plane I found to be, frankly, extremely tedious, even if they did try to tell a story. For one thing the story was presented in massive chunks of NPC exposition, which is never the best way to present any kind of lore, and the quests themselves were of the run-back-and-forth across 8 zones variety that I’ve already railed about in the past. Pillar-to-post quest design is lazy lazy lazy, and if your story requires some kind of constant return to the quest giver then you should at least try to mix things up a bit so you’re not just doing A–>B–>A–>C–>A–>D–>A and so on. That’s just plain boring. All the same, even that event offers some fun but not must-have fluff/housing thingies, so you can be sure I’ll find a way to get through that zone someday.

Aside from all that eventy goodness, there’s something going on with the teleport spires that dot the Norrathian landscape, which is a nice nostalgic shout-out to those of us involved in the first spire-rebuild event some years ago. That one’s very quiet, but it’s still there and I’ve done a few repeating quests to earn some tokens to… buy more fluff items!

In any event (see whut I did thar?), the point is I can miss these things if they don’t appeal. I don’t think games should ever, ever,EVER hand out stuff that’s in any way important at these events, so that people don’t end up thinking they have to do them. Having to do a game event is like having to go to work for the holidays when you’d rather be on a beach in Maui — it doesn’t exactly fill a player with fuzzy feelings and enthusiasm. And yeah, I know, nobody is actually holding a knife to anyone’s throat in a game but if you make a reward required enough (by other stuff, by peer pressure, whatever) then you really are making something as close to compulsory as MMOs get.

So hand out fluff or hand out nothing — give out temporary rewards that make people laugh, give out decorations and appearance items and whatever else you can think of, as long as it’s more cool than important to have — that’s all fine by me. But most of all, make sure your events are FUN. Shockingly enough, that seems to be getting forgotten a lot of late.

Gotta go, I want to run the Haunted Mansion one more time! Got another vampire mirror to get!

Warhammer Online — Dem bones

Glerk! I’ve been attacked by the Mythic viral marketing viral virus thing!

I could tell you that a strangely dusty and creepy camphor-smelling creature delivered them, but actually it was only the UPS guy, and maybe he likes mothballs; who am I to judge? In any case, I shall report faithfully what I found in the shipping carton ancent gem-inlaid sarcophagus. Abject apologies for the poor quality of the photos: my digital camera died a little while back and I had to rely on my phone. Mythic, send me a camera next time too, m’kay? (It never hurts to aim high!)

So what’s the deal here? If you’ve been playing Warhammer Online lately, or keeping up with the news, you’ll know all about it. If you haven’t,  it’s all about Mythic’s Rise of the Tomb Kings event relating to the new Land of the Dead area that’s opening up late this month. Short’n’sweet: you’ll be able to find skullies on various internet gaming sites, each skull bearing a cartouche of hieroglyphs. To translate said glyphs, you need to have worked out the translation from the “rosetta bones” that have been sent out to a bunch of worthy (and less worthy, like myself) bloggers. Getting the translation right may let you claim goodies.

There are links to the bone-recipients and skull sites at the bottom of this post.

First off, dem bones demselves. Click through on all pix for a larger view.

rosetta-bones-US

Note the little US flag — for those who don’t know yet, similar but not identical bone-and-hieroglyph puzzles are running in all manner of different countries, so it’s important to note which country a given bone (or set) belongs to.

Yes, I know you can’t see all the letters on there; maybe next time I’ll get a nice tibia and fibula the way Syp did but in the meantime I have a (right?) pelvic bone and one of the vertebrae. Maybe if I close my eyes and wish real hard I’ll suddenly find David Boreanaz telling me we need to go catch bad guys. Mmm…

Ahem. Moving on. The letters on the pelvic bone (E, Y, L) and the vertebra (C, N):

bones-Cbones-E

bones-Lbones-N

bones-Y

Next up, the map — note the X in the top central part. Something tells me that might be important.

x-marks-the-map2

I know, I know, it’s not well-framed. This ain’t Truffaut, it’s Tut-mania. A scarab stopped by and let me know that this is “part of a treasure map. Players can visit the marked locations in the Necropolis of Zandri to get special tome unlocks… and maybe more.”

Now for the diary entries. Pix, then transcript.

diary-day-2
Diary of Doom, Day 2

Diary of Doom, day 7
Diary of Doom, day 7

Day 2

Found a tomb entrance in the cliff face as we skirted the river. The stone doors were ajar so we could squeeze in. All except for Falcone, that is. The fellow’s like an ox, ‘n that big axe of his wouldn’t be much use in a tomb. I told him to stay put ‘n keep an eye on our gear while the rest of us went down.

Stairs ‘n passages met us beyond the doors. Walls scrawled with odd pictures, paint peelin’ with age. Lots of traps too I figure. I says this to Tinari, since he thinks he’s some sort of thief. He said there ain’t a trap invented what he couldn’t beat.

Funny he says that, ’cause that’s right when the door shut behind us ‘n a swarm of beetles started pourin’ into the hall. Mazza screamed like a tarn ‘n we all got to runnin’. Piccione caught his foot in a snare, ‘n yelled for help. DiBiano started to go back for him, but stopped when he saw how many beetles there really were.

Any of us could’ve saved Piccione. But then again, who’s to say those bugs wouldn’t have come out on top? When Piccione started screamin’ it made me glad I didn’t take the risk. I looked back at him, but all I could see was his arm wavin’ madly, the rest of him hidden by that black beetle swarm.

No one was of a mind to stay. Tinari made good, though, ‘n found a hidden passage that got us back to the river. That must’ve been trapped, too, ’cause the ceiling fell in just as the last of us was comin’ out.

We walked back to the doors, which were now closed. Falcone was pickin’ through our gear like a robber. He leapt to his feet when he saw us. The doors had slammed shut just a few moments before, he said, ‘n he reckoned us for goners. Then he noticed Piccione was missin’ ‘n shut up.

Day 7

A sandstorm forced us to seek shelter in a cave. Once inside, it became clear that we’d made a mistake. This is no cave, but is instead a Nehekharan tomb. The memory of the last tomb ‘n Piccione’s screams are still with me. The horror, the horror…

Later…

Those of us what are left decided to risk the storm rather than face Mazza’s fate. I’m gettin’ ahead of myself. Mazza’s dead now, ‘n I think I’ll miss him more’n the rest.

We’d been in the tomb an hour, maybe two. The storm outside was getting worse. Mazza started singin’ to raise a smile or two, but all he raised was the dead. All of a sudden, a woman’s voice, smooth as silk but thick with menace, rang out around the tomb. Mazza stopped, dumbstruck, walked towards the voice. Me, Falcone ‘n Bonfiglio tried to stop Mazza. He lashed out, knocking us down. Which, truth to tell, is probably what saved us.

When I got up I saw Mazza starin’ into the eyes of a corpse-woman, ancient and linen wrapped. She smiled ‘n gently touched his cheek. He grinned but the pleasure was all to brief. A burst of sand shot from the lady’s palm ‘n tore its way through Mazza’s head.

The sand on the floor began to writhe, ‘n everywhere we stepped there was hungry scarabs. Even Venezia was awakened by the commotion. We grammed what we could ‘n left Mazza behind.

* * *

Bone-bearing blogs:

A High Latency Life
Bio Break

Da’Toughest
Epic Slant
Keen & Graev’s
Rainbow MMO
Tome of Knowledge
Werit’s

Sites with Skullies:

Kotaku —  MMORPG —  Massively

I haven’t been tracking the rest-of-the-world event bones, but Greg at TOK posted this link over at MMOZONE for the EU puzzle which should at least provide a starting-point . Good luck!

Hope feeds nostalgia

Apparently it was never really feasible to have an ever-REALLY-changing world as proposed by Atriarch (which, while technically still in development, I don’t expect to see anytime soon?). It’s not a huge surprise — the maintenance and attention that kind of thing would require, let alone the over-arching, constantly-amended plan for how the game would progress and how you’d keep newbies and oldies happy… Probably not something anyone wants to take on, not when they can make another static WoW-clone and do much better than if they wept blood and actually created something a little different.

Still, several games have had some measure of change in the game world, and I don’t mean simply the addition of new zones or the “many many years have passed, the world looks like this now” you get in EQ2. One town in Asheron’s Call was nuked to oblivion not long after the game launched… and a few years later, was in the process of being rebuilt. Another quiet, bucolic, mostly ignored town got nuked later on. There were bad guys, and they were serious about their nuking.

It wasn’t really a world in which what the players do change much of anything — the same monsters would keep spawning in the same dungeons and drop the same quest loot, but at least it wasn’t entirely frozen in amber. Adding wreaths and baubles for holiday-weeks doesn’t count as “change” by the way — that’s the MMO equivalent of getting a Glade plug-in: it’s not fresh, it just vaguely smells like it.

I’m not sure it’s possible to have an MMO world where player actions continuously and forever impact the world in major ways, since that could mean having to make content for almost every player individually, and not even Warren Buffet could pay for the legions of staff that kind of thing would need. Hell, my friends and I had a hard enough time coordinating a couple of tabletop campaigns with at most a dozen players that we decided to set in the same world — small actions, butterflies, DMs freaking out as their side of the world collapses around them, and so on. Not good.

Another thing Turbine did a few times in Asheron’s Call, however, was smaller events. Big enough to draw lots of players — “Quick, the Clantons have ridden into town! Asheron commands you!” — but small enough to have a rapidly diminishing impact-ripple. Fun if you were there, no big deal if you missed it.

That, I admit, I would like to see a lot more of, even though that also implies a great deal more on-the-spot work from the game staff. Which makes me realise — back in the day, we’d see Devs (or their non-player-side ilk) in game on a fairly regular basis. Sure, they were like Visitations from God, but you did occasionally get to see them and even *gasp* talk to them, or get stomped by them, or both. Maybe I’m just not playing the right games, but in my experience the only time you get that kind of interaction anymore is during betas (not counting QA-interaction on test servers, which is usually pretty consistent).

My point isn’t that I want to be visitationed by Devs, but rather that the reaching in of the Hand of God in the form of mini- (or mega-) events is something you won’t usually see players complaining about. Yes, it would have to be carefully designed. Yes, it would have to be carefully carried out, too, because one bad thing that tends to happen at these is that Joe McGratify-Me starts whining that Ben AverageGamer is getting all the Dev attention, that he’s a filthy teacher’s pet, and that these events are just little clique gatherings for the select few (from which the whiners are excluded or, presumably, they would be less busy whining and more busy trying to prevent anyone else from getting in the clique).

Yes, it’s probably utterly unrealistic in the current day and age of MMOs. What, have staff actually interact with players? Who am I kidding? Most MMO companies seem to want less and less player interaction, unless it’s through the much safer (and still combustible) medium of forums or some such. Lots of us crustier gamers remember the various “scandals” involving volunteer and/or paid in-game staff, as though one juicy (and possibly entirely made up) tidbit could cancel out all the GREAT community work and help those people provided. I guess the feeling these days is that any direct interaction with players is only asking for some kind of lawsuit, or at least a giant 187-page whine-fest thread.

Which is a shame. MMOs were a lot more fun and surprising (hence, you know, fun) when the membrane between players and makers in-game was a little more permeable.

(Thanks to Spinks for inspiring the thoughts that led to this. I may steal, but hey, I credit. 😉 )