Poll Saturday – 5 September 2015

asuraI didn’t play Guild Wars 2 for more than a few weeks (not for any nefarious reason, just had other games and things to do), but I know a lot of people who do and who have loved it. I also know a lot of ink was spilled this week concerning the raids and whatnot. So now that passions have had a chance to cool a little, here’s a poll, just to see how folks feel.

I tried to balance the possible answers but I have NO pretensions to knowing how to build an unbiased poll. And this is just for kicks – mostly I wonder how the raiders feel about it. My general impression is raiders always love more raids, but since they didn’t exist in GW2, are even the raiders worried about what this might do to the game as a whole, not to mention to the community and the general tone?

Feel free to expand in the comments.

EDIT — Edited to remove the don’t know / don’t care answer which I wasn’t intending to allow in the first place since they don’t bring much to the table. Apologies to the person who got one past me. 🙂   OK fine, I put the Don’t know / don’t care answer back in. I still don’t see what it’ll bring to the discussion, but I am nothing if not pliable when it comes to the whims of my readers.

EDIT2 – The damned poll isn’t behaving. I give up. By all means add 18 ‘other’ answers as you like. /le_sigh

Blaugust Day 31 – Ultimation

[Which was the only reason I wanted to call yesterday’s post Penultimation. Ah well. Next year.]

I’ve been too busy and/or sleeping (meece feeding every 3 hours overnight, Ysh-face =  >:-|  ) to check Feedly yet this morning — whoops, afternoon, even for me — but I’m sure our Blaugosphere is full of these posts. And I’m equally sure there’s an ambivalent mix of OMFG IT’S DONE IT’S DONE IT’S DONE SOMEBODY GET ME A BUCKET OF TEQUILA AND SOME FIRECRACKERS!!! — or maybe that’s just me? — and “Damn, it’s actually done. We did it! However much we posted, however well we posted, however much we read and commented and liked and hi-fived — it’s done. Huh. I might even miss it. Just a little. While I down my second bucket of tequila.”

441-ambivalent-anger
Thank you author. I have no idea who you are because following links led me to a site in Iran, not much help, but thank you.

It’s been a trip. I’m not going to get all number-y on you because TAGN is so much better at it (remember girls, math is tough!) and did his Blaugust wrap-up post yesterday. Not because he’s a teacher’s pet or anything, just because he’s Borgishly efficient. I’m tempted to keep prefacing my posts with Blaugust all the way through September and October just to give him something to curl his lip at in Feedly.

(Okay, Blaugust is over, I guess I should stop picking on him. Pax.)

A little more seriously though, while I suspect TAGN has 83 times the traffic I do, the sources of our traffic are oddly similar so there’s no reason for me to reprise his analysis. I thought I’d get a significant traffic boost from Blaugust, but I didn’t really. I got quite a boost over January – July 2015, during which I barely posted, but this month’s numbers are comparable to last year’s numbers at this time. Which is nowhere near what they were 3 or 4 years ago, but that’s basically what happens when you stop posting; I’m surprised as many people still did visit throughout the Great Stylish Drought of 2013-2014. (Apologies to California.)

The vast majority of my traffic comes from search engines and always has. The most viewed post this month was the silly, glib and utterly throwaway post about the WoWspansion, by which I mean it was even more glib than usual for me. That would me mildly irritating if I didn’t already know that’s how things go — my most-viewed post ever is another throwaway one with a simple link to a FF XIII post on Gamasutra – that’s it. I guess it shows up on search engines a lot.

I’m getting more traffic from Twitter now than I used to, which isn’t hard because I got practically none, and I’m sure I have the lovely @RowanBlaze and his RTs to thank for that — not to mention everyone else who has RTd me, of course. I’m getting quite a few new followers over there too, bafflingly. I suspect I just don’t get the basic point of Twitter, which seems to be to follow as many people as possible in the hope of having as many people as possible following you so that you can say “Hey! I have Xty-million followers, that’s 1.27 more than you!” Or something. The “Oh yeah, I know you” people I follow back. Some of the “Um, who? But sure, you seem interesting” people I also follow back. The obvious bots (you know, Egghead icon, 78k tweets, 0 followers) I block. As for the rest, I just hope my insignificant, glib and usually irrelevant tweets vanish into the raging torrent of their 6k+ followed feed.

As you can tell, I’ve spent some time on Twitter this last month, probably more than I have in 5 or so years. It’s kinda neat to be able to bat silly little text-snippets back and forth with people almost in real time… but it also makes me deeply uncomfortable. Being on Twitter ‘live’ is like having a thousand tiny lampreys nibbling at your soul. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m really good at multi-tasking except, apparently, when it comes to social media. And I don’t think one is supposed to be on Twitter the same way one watches an episode of House on TV — or maybe people watch TV like they watch Twitter these days, with 0.3% of their attention, while doing 5 other things. I don’t know. It makes me feel old and vaguely Luddite. Luddite-y? Luddite-ish?

I posted every day, which is cool, mostly because I didn’t expect I was going to  — although in hindsight I’m not so surprised. I’ve never had any problem waffling. It’s the interesting, useful, perhaps even thought-provoking content that’s been so conspicuously absent from this blog for the last few years, and that’s what I’m agonising over. But if Blaugust has shown me one thing, it’s to stop bloody agonising and just do it. If I truly am blogging for myself, as the lady keepeth protethting, then surely it doesn’t matter what I write. Just because a post (or three years’ worth of posts) isn’t interesting doesn’t mean I’m not capable of being interesting or thought-provoking anymore. Right!

Right?

… Anyone?

…. Bueller?

 

– – – – –

PS: Meece still alive and doing as well as can be expected. Feeding them is still a major PITA. I think we over-estimated their age – they now appear to be about 4 days old, so they were 2 days old tops when we found them. Brought them to our vet just to get their opinion and everyone there went aiiiiieeeeee hanta aieeeee tularemia leper mice outcast unclean! so we came home again. (Our vet is a lovely practice. I’m being overly facetious.) I’m just waiting for their silly little mouths to get big enough to make feeding less of a hit-and-miss, make-sure-they-don’t-inhale-it-and-DIE kind of tension-fest.

Blaugust Day 28 – You Don't Say?

Metrics and traffic and referrers, oh my!

I actually don’t care too much about those, though there is something hypnotic about clicking on all the little metrics bars for all the different time periods, at least here in WordPress. But I checked the Comments info out last night and it did make me laugh, so I’m sharing it with you. Actual numbers have been removed a) to hide my shame or b) to not shame others, or c) because they really don’t matter — take your pick.

The screenie below shows the comments each month for the last 12 months, starting in September 2014. The smallish peaks (December and April) coincide with me doing a lot of Sims Legacy challenge posts alongside  WoW-Draenor and my usual fluff. January – March see me putting out exactly four posts each month, which doesn’t really give people much to talk about.

2015 blog comments

And so we circle back to Kanter’s decision to comment on at least one blog post a day during Blaugust. I loved that idea and though I haven’t actually kept notes (even mentally) of whether I’ve commented every day or not, I’m pretty sure I’ve managed at least one comment on one blog every day for the last 26 days — not counting my own, obviously.

I’m probably even happier about that than I am about blogging every day, because the latter is purely a self-involving exercise whereas the former requires me to interface with other people, something I’m occasionally happy to do in spades (with appropriately long sanity breaks in between) but don’t like to have to do all the freaking time every day every week for a whole freaking month and not just a February month noooo a 31-day month and can you tell this is starting to wear me down?

I’ll tell you one thing about blogging every day, commenting every day, and interacting on Twitter every day* – it does get to be a habit, and one I’m not sure I want to give up. It brought me back to my blog and other people’s blogs and has renewed my enthusiasm, if not for MMOs, then at least for talking about them with other people. I’ll just have to find that proper balancing point between ‘often enough’ and ‘so often it makes me want to chew my keyboard’.

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* Which has been by far the most exhausting part of the whole endeavour, for me. I enjoy it, but God it’s tiring. Expect me to go Twitter-mute for a while without warning.

 

Blaugust Day 27 – Game MMOver?

Well, at least by now I’ve learned how to type Blaugust and not Balugust, Blagaust, or Blasgut. Small victories, folks — small victories.

I’m careening full-speed ahead on my tabletop RPG kick. It’s energising me far more than the thought of any MMO has in the last [insert time span]. In fact, thinking about tabletop playing has energised me far more over the last 4 or 5 years than MMOs have; the fact that in half a decade I still haven’t managed to get myself a regular group with a regular game is entirely my fault and not that of the poor games I’ve perused, pondered and reminisced over. Like my writing (what writing, we ask?), it’s something I really, really want to do — in the case of tabletop gaming, because I actually enjoy it as a social activity and because it’s a great creative outlet… But, as with “proper” writing, I spend more time wanting to do than actually doing. Again, this is entirely my own fault. Time to stop QQing or going down nostalgia lane and DO SOMETHING about it. But for now, let’s talk about MMOs.

MMO QQ

Last night, as I lay wide-awake after too much coffee too late in the day and too many creative juices churning with no outlet (they should make a pill for that), I wondered once again whether I’ve finally outgrown MMOs. I’m not the only one to ponder this during Blaugust or indeed at any other time of year, so perhaps it’s simply part of growing up and growing older, this wondering whether we have outgrown the things we used to love so passionately.

Perhaps. But it’s been 15+ years since I played Ars Magica and I’d play it again like a shot given the chance, so clearly I haven’t outgrown that — or moved on from tabletop RPGs. Not playing because I lack the gorm to get a group together /= having outgrown it.

I think my problem with MMOs is that I have nobody to play them with. Which may seem like a rather sharp about-face given my usual stance on solo vs. group, but that’s playstyle, not playing. I’ve always preferred bimbling around by myself in MMOs — I don’t mind mine being the only butt I see onscreen… but up until a few years back there were always a bunch of other people also bimbling around at the same time, single-butted or otherwise, and I was in constant contact with them through chat.

alone together

In Asheron’s Call we had a large and active monarchy (guild) and loads of people to mess around with even using the incredibly primitive chat. A number of the AC monarchy people moved to Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, and we had friends both old and new cursing the not-so-primitive but also non-functioning chat. We moved from SWG to (City of Heroes, briefly, then to) World of Warcraft, so there again we had old-old friends, new-old friends from SWG, and new-new friends from WoW to chat with on various channels.

And that’s sort of where it ended. I moved on to EQ2 in 2006 or so, and while I made quite a few new friends there, it wasn’t the same either in quantity or in quality… and it only went downhill from there. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of MMOs, and while that’s a good thing in many ways, one of its less social effects is that it has diluted my pool of available friends and acquaintances when it comes to having people to play alone with, together. We’re all still playing, yes (albeit probably not as much as we did back in 2005), but we’re not playing the same games.

Or not at the same time, anyway. Many of us hop around from one game to another, myself included. In the last 5 years I’ve played more games than I care to count, but none of them for more than 3-6 months at a time. We try new games as they come out, and for a few weeks I’m back in the halcyon days of having plenty of folks I know in-game to talk and mess around with… and then I lose interest, or they lose interest, or for whatever reason we move on.

bored

I really thought I’d come home when I started playing the SWG Emulator, as my posts back then attest. There were only a dozen or so of us playing but it was enough to keep the social momentum going. And then… one by one, folks dropped away. Including me. My enthusiasm was in full fire in April this year… and by July it had petered out to nothing. I haven’t logged on in over a month and my houses are probably on fire (well, houses don’t burn, but you can be sure my harvesters are gone). The worst part of it is, I don’t really care.

Because MMOs simply aren’t as much fun when the O doesn’t stand for “Others”, whether their character is on your screen or whether it’s just the characters they type in guild or global chat.

You can never go home

The social aspect is by no means the only reason MMOs are going stale for me, even if it’s a large part of the reason. I know I can slaughter 10 foozles over and over again for ages in the right company, because — well, because I’ve been doing it for 15 years in 30 different games. But there’s another rub: the 2015 foozles have better graphics and perhaps slightly better AI, but the beast itself hasn’t changed substantively.

It’s undeniably another reason why MMOs are going stale for me — even I, with my enormous capacity for repeating content, might be reaching my limit. I stumbled across this post from 2011 just now while looking for links to something else, and it shows that the growing malaise with endlessly doing the same thing in MMOs isn’t exactly new. How quickly we forget the dawn of time when everything was shiny and fun, even after 10,000 foozles. Ah, 1999, those were the days.

But that’s human nature, I suspect.

Back to the beginning

And so we circle back to tabletop RPGs. I started playing MMOs in 2000 because a friend told me it was just like tabletop roleplaying, only online*! You could play with other people at any time of the day or night!! You didn’t have to wait for your half-dozen friends to have a free weekend and pile everyone into a small UK house for 72 hours every 3 to 4 months!!! You could even play alone if you had to and get eaten by a pixellated grue!!

I didn’t get into MMOs because I played computer games (although I played quite a few, including MUSHes). I got into MMOs because they were supposed to be just like tabletop gaming, only different.

Turns out they’re too different, at least for me. I can’t roleplay in an MMO, for various reasons described elsewhere — or rather, I can but I don’t enjoy it. And the thing about roleplaying is that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Sure, some events will resemble other events, some plots will be rather similar to other plots, but those just add to the RP lore and mythos in your mind and in the shared memories of the group.

That element of creation, permanence and effect on the world — even an imaginary one — coupled with the social aspect is what I’m missing in my MMOs. It’s not that MMOs have become crap, or worse than they were, because if anything they’re improving (even if the WoW model is getting a little stale); it’s just that I can no longer pretend I’m getting out of them what I got out of tabletop RPGs.

So while I may dabble in my usual MMOs for the foreseeable future, I’ll be turning my energies to the tabletop arena. It’ll recharge my batteries and who knows, it might even help me recover that sense of fun in online gaming.

dark side

You’re welcome to join me. I’m going to set up some kind of social phlumphty-phlump (AKA I have no idea what to use — Google Hangouts? Vent? Skype? Roll20?) to chat with anyone who’s interested in trying (or returning to) tabletop gaming.

 

* You did have to pay exorbitant phone fees in the era of minute-based internet connections, but we won’t go there.

 

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 24 – Shadowrun: Hong Kong – a brief review

You can get it on Steam.

It’s what I ended up playing the most this weekend, and although I’m only a little ways into it (I think) I figured a brief review wouldn’t hurt for those who are considering picking it up. Note that this, like any other review I might do, is entirely subjective and does not aim to offer anything but my own impressions.

I backed the Kickstarter campaign awhile back, not because I’m a Shadowrun PC game fan (I didn’t even know there had been any) but because I’m a Shadowrun the tabletop game fan. I had the first edition rules and a few modules, and for me Shadowrun is probably the tabletop game that got away — we played it a few times and I was keen to do more, but after the usual romp through D&D / AD&D our group went down the White Wolf path and into all things Vampire for a while before transitioning into Ars Magica, which is what we played for several years until I left for the States in 2001. (And what the group is still playing as far as I know. Without me. Bastards! I know some of you read this!)

Mr. Plastic-Face. Shouldn’t be creepy but is.

All of which is to explain that I approached the game as a tabletop role-player and not as a computer gamer. I had no particular expectations of the game other than that it would allow me to immerse myself in the rather fun Shadowrun mythos for a while. For an approach based more on having played the two previous PC games, check out Wot I Think on RPS; I agree with a lot of it from what I’ve played so far, but I wanted to add my own take on the tabletop or more RPG elements.

The intro is a rainy, grainy, typical cyberpunk/noir tale of things gone wrong shown through a series of moody and evocative semi-animated panels. Some will no doubt miss the grand and expensive full-action cinematic, but I loved the format because it leaves more room for my own imagination to fill in the blanks.

2015-08-21_00007

After that you’re thrown into a normal computer-RPG adventure where you track down mysteries, deal with NPCs good and bad, help the downtrodden or do the treading, and gradually unravel both your own main story and the stories of the group that’s decided to help you out.

RPS is right in saying that there’s a lot of text, but — though I didn’t know it when I started — that was exactly what I wanted from this game. It’s been like playing a tabletop adventure where I’m the only meatsack player and everyone else is computerised, including the GM. The descriptions are long, ornate, even florid on occasion… and they bring me right back to the grand old days of reading out boxed text from Castle Greyhawk or the Temple of Elemental Evil. (It didn’t take us long to grow up from purely parroting those out to doing our own flavour and descriptions, but still, boxed text is just one of those things you never forget.)

Heoi

I’ve even kept the music on, which is something I literally never do in games because no matter how long the loop may be, it’s always a loop. And it’s often way too rumpty-pumpty martial or deedly-wheedly fake-Medieval for me to be able to bear it scritching at my brain for more than a few minutes at a time. The SR:HK music is low-key for the most part and well-adapted to the environments, although it does go up and down in volume in certain locations with no apparent rhyme or reason. I can live with that – even though I’ve kept the music turned on, I’ve also got the volume for it down to about 30%.

The exploration gameplay is fairly standard – click to move, right-click to pan, click on things to interact with them – and the combat gameplay is probably nothing too new either (I wouldn’t know, I don’t play many of these games). It’s turn-based and was quite easy to pick up on. This is a plus for me, since I’m far more interested in the story than in the combat.

2015-08-22_00009

But it does lead me to one of the game’s failings, which is the utter lack of a tutorial. There are a few help screens that are more useful as a reminder than as an introduction, and basically that’s your lot. Fortunately I elected to play on Easy mode — because as I said, I’m far more interested in the story — and wasn’t penalised too badly for making the odd mistake; and after a few fights you pick up most of what you need to know. But still. There’s zero help on the Matrix and what you might want to do in there, or how, so it’s a good thing I’m a cyberpunk fan and could figure most of it out for myself.

2015-08-22_00002
In the Matrix

There’s no real help on how stats and skills work, what builds you might want to use and how you might want to develop your character, other than rather ironic warnings that you don’t want to mess up your own development or that of your crew, because you can’t go back and that would be bad!

In fact after a few hours of play I restarted with a new character, partly because I did mess up my xp allocation a bit and partly because the archetype I chose (Decker, i.e. hacker) was already far better covered by one of my crewmates. My second character is a shaman and although there’s one of those on the crew also, two shamans on the same mission crew isn’t as redundant as having two deckers.

I played quite a lot over the weekend so I’m probably a dozen hours in. Not being very well-versed in these games I’m not sure how far into things I am, but it feels like I’ve just hit the opening of the second act — not even, in fact, because I have a couple of missions I want to wrap up before I move on (and the game kindly reminded me to consider doing just that). I’m a very slow player in these games because I like to read everything, talk to everyone, and interact with every last object, so a super goal-oriented playstyle might have got to the same point in 2-3 hours if not faster.

My character choices throughout have been consistent with the persona I play in most games: street-smart, cynical, skimming on the border between legal and not, but generally a decent person. I give NPCs the benefit of the doubt and let people live when they surrender (including the rather fun ghoul crew-member you can get). I try to find non-violent solutions where possible, and the game gives you quite a few of these and fully supports not killing everything in sight. I don’t shoot my mouth off too much — just enough to exemplify my characters’ usual distaste for any kind of authority. And so on.

vamp queen

All in all I’m having a great time, as evidenced by the fact that I totally forgot that I’d invited folks to check out the ARK server I can fire up when needed. ARK didn’t get loaded up at all; nothing did, actually, since SR:HK was the only game I did play this weekend.

I’ll definitely play some more as soon as time allows, and this might be the one and only SRPG game of the last 10 years I actually finish. For some reason I usually lose steam about two-thirds of the way through (DA:O, DA2, DA:I…). But I have a feeling that SR:HK’s combination of screen-based running around and text-based depth is exactly what I’m looking for in a SRPG. Yes, it has a few flaws — the lack of newbie help, for one, and the rather unwieldy inventory and team UIs; for example, I can’t check my crew’s stats when trying to buy weapons or armour for them — is that because their gear updates (which it may do, but not in any way that’s been mentioned to me in game) or because they forgot to include that functionality?

But ultimately, when it came down to spending crowdfunding on tutorials or content — as I’m sure it did — I’m glad they opted for content. I’m at a little over a dollar an hour for my entertainment right now and that’s excellent value for money in my book.

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 21 – Anti-Motivation and Other Things

Well. I guess instead of moaning about it on Twitter as I’ve been doing for the last half-hour, I might as well moan about my lack of motivation here — especially since my lack of motivation includes the lack of motivation to write a blog post, so complaining about my lack of motivation with my waffly skills should use up at least 200 words, by which time I’ll be 40% there. (There being the Blaugust 10-sentence, 2-paragraph, to-my-mind 500-words-ish rule of content requirement.)

Twitter has been no help at all — well, except for TAGN, who alone responded to my plea for help — and maybe MrC, who totally enabled my displacement activity.

gotnotmotivation

Apparently some people actually have lives and jobs and things to do on a cool and breezy Friday morning other than post a week’s worth of Tweets in an hour. Or provide a desperate blogger with post ideas. Or, better yet, write them for her.

OMG there it is! I should have found myself a guest blogger! That would have been such a cool thing to do for Blaugust, too! Curses.

In the spirit of carpe diem, does anyone want to do a guest post on an incredibly high-profile, Jon Stewart reads this, up-to-the-second, content-stuffed bloggy mountain of infinite delights? If so, apply to the Huffington Post. If you’d rather an obscure cavern of confusion, apply here.

You’ll get acclaim, pride, self-confidence and the absolute guarantee of no free T-Shirt ever. And you’ll be the first guest poster here. (And quite possibly the last.) (Despite the tone, this is a serious offer.)

[Okay, 238 words, only 262 to go. I can do this!!]

TAGN inspires, I perspire

Under the Drunder You Go

Drunder Prison-World may be the most awesome thing ever… It’s basically EQ2’s answer to Lord of the Flies or Escape from New York* with 8,000 Snake Plissken wannabes. You can read the whole post for yourselves, but the basic idea is that the biggest asshats in EQ2 will find their entire account banished to an exile server from which they may never escape, as determined by Customer Service GMs. People can also opt for a one-time, no-refund, one-way transfer to Drunder if they think they’re hard enough. People also have to have a paid subscription account to EQ2 for this, which is just kind of weird. Because the rest of the scheme is totally not weird.

Aside from the obvious issue of let’s-just-make-a-new-account-they’ll-never-know-it’s-me-bwahaha, which I assume they’ve thought of (no of course I haven’t read the entire thread, what am I, made of time?), and the inevitable whining that will ensue when people transfer over for a lark and are forcibly made to understand the meaning of the term “one-way only”, does this have a chance of working at all? My guess would be asshat players will either find a new account to be an asshat on, or will find a new game to be an asshat on; of course if they pick the latter it’s no longer the EQ2 staff’s bailiwick so problem solved.

At any rate it’s a new idea in an industry that always needs new ideas, and it could lead to some interesting server-ruleset variations if this experiment works. And if it removes the worst offenders that’s a good thing. Not that I have any idea who the worst offenders are or what they have to do to earn that dubious distinction. Even in EQ2, which is one game where I follow global channels, I don’t follow the global-global channel because it’s invariably full of over-sharers, eejits, or crashing bores who think they aren’t.

My favourite MMO mount

Hrm. All of them. Okay, probably this one — as the mount you can’t actually ride except for 10 seconds in a specific zone with a one-hour cooldown. (Can you say L-A-M-E?)

Shinri

I’m terribly boring when it comes to mounts. I like to get the weird and wonderful ones but when it comes to actually getting around I’m 100% utilitarian. They need to move without too much jerk, wobble or bounce (yes, the mounts), they need to not fill my entire screen (Pandaclysm dragon-mounts FTW), and they need to match my outfits — by which I usually mean my pets. So here’s my most common mount in WoW, which probably counts as my favourite.

winterspringers

A crafting profession memory!

That’s easy. All of them. I’m a crafter in games, it’s what I am as much as what I do, and any adventuring that happens (including levelling, in most games) is an incidental by-product. Most of my EQ2 characters are max-level crafters — or were an expansion or 2 ago — but haven’t made it out of the teens or twenties for adventuring. I had no less than three accounts for SWG back in the one-account/one-character days so that I could experience all the crafting professions. I pick games based on their crafting options — and yes, I’ve been disappointed many, many times. Which doesn’t mean I don’t play games where the crafting sucks (WoW is an obvious example), but it does feel sort of like playing with half a game. And so we segue neatly into…

Why is there so much Cheese in WoW?

Because cheese is awesome. Because cheese is better than cake and better than pie, as I have stated before (see the no free T-shirt link above if you really want linkage). Because a world without cheese might as well be a world without air. My glorious leader said so:

How do you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?

Yes, I’m French. What of it? You wanna take this to Drunder? EDIT — WordPress is either Francophile or Anti-French. It ate my DeGaulle caption. But since it was about cheese, maybe WordPress just really likes cheese. Thanks for spotting that TAGN!

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* I totally made that reference before I’d read TAGN’s post about it. GMTA or something.

Blaugust S -15 – Lost in the ARKger Games

I passed on ARK when it was on the Steam Summer Sale, and then regretted it — but regretting missed Steam Sale opportunities is like a twice-yearly ritual for me anyway — so when it was on sale again yesterday I went ahead and picked it up.

One of the reasons I passed on it before was the vast amount of ZOMGPVPganked stuff I read about it, until I realised that ZOMGPVPgank mode isn’t the only one available for the game. You can play solo, on a restricted server, or on other people’s servers. Which at least gave me the chance to dip my toes in the water (metaphorically – you want to be careful about actually doing that in ARK) yesterday and see what all the fuss has been about.

In case you live under a rock like I mostly do, ARK: Survival Evolved, as it’s officially called (because it’s not a real game these days if it doesn’t have a colon somewhere in its name) is… a survival game. In which you try to avoid dying from: heat, dinosaurs, cold, exhaustion, dinosaurs, lack of oxygen, dinosaurs, starvation, dehydration, swimming dinosaurs, the weather, dinosaurs, and (if you want) other players. And that’s only the methods I’ve discovered so far.

It’s less One Million Years B.C. and more LOST or The Land That Time Forgot, though given the costume similarity some confusion is understandable.

ARK_million years
Does my bum look bigger than hers in this?

Aside from the basic premise — don’t die — which is a fairly important one, there are more extended goals. Escape from the Island is the obvious one, though I’m not sure how achievable it’s meant to be and since I haven’t even left the beach I started on, it’s hardly a priority for me yet. Tame dinosaurs!! is another and yes, it must always be spoken or written with exclamation marks. Duh. I haven’t got to that yet either.

Heeere, dino dino dino!
Heeere, dino dino dino!

You’ll also find the standard game goals of exploration, character levelling and skills, building (so that you don’t die from being stomped on by a distracted brontosaurus), and killing shit so you can take its loot (so you can make more shit and aren’t so easy to kill when stomped on by a distracted brontosaurus). And last but not least, there’s finding out what the giant glowy towers are all about, which I suspect ties in with the whole survive-and-escape goal. Unless it opens up a Master Of The Dinosaur Island option, which I’d be okay with too.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

For my trial run I decided to play in single-player mode, which means you can pause the game and the world doesn’t persist when you’re not ‘logged in’. After getting my ass handed to me a bunch of times by dodos, pteranodons*, some kind of giant turtle-thing and a whole freaking school of blood-frenzied megalodons before I’d even made a pair of shorts, I played in dumbed-way-the-hell-down-for-21st-century-slickers mode. In fact, the game lets you customise all manner of things from how tough you are, how tough the dinos are, how long the day/night cycle is (or how long day and night last individually), how quickly you go through food, and so on. You get 24 sliders to play with, not counting the basic ‘game difficulty’ one which I set to jeez-why’d-you-even-bother-buying-the-game?! Because death gets boring after a few run-throughs.

Thanks to Dracosaurian and the ARK wiki
Thanks to Dracosaurian and the ARK wiki

The very first thing you notice — other than being almost naked and definitely not alone on a beach – is that the game is stupdendously beautiful, at least on my spanky not-quite-new-anymore machine. I can’t run in ultra settings because I only have a ‘lowly’ GTX970, but the high settings weren’t bad at all.

Brontosaurus

The next thing you notice is that everything that isn’t you either wants to kill you or won’t hesitate to kill you if you are foolish enough to attack it — even the trees. Since you start with nothing, you literally have to bang your head fists against a few trees in order to get some basic materials and yes, you take damage every time.

After that you realise that time is passing, tick-tick-tick, that you’re near-naked, surrounded by dinosaurs, dinosaur-infested jungle and dinosaur-infested waters, observed by ominous structures in the distance (which almost certainly have something to do with the glowy carbuncle on the inside of your left wrist), and that you’re probably about to die quickly and unpleasantly (chomp!) or slowly and unpleasantly (brrr!) if you don’t start doing something about it. And all you have is your hands.

Which is fine, because it’s enough to start pulling up berries, leaves, rocks and whatever else you can fit into your capacious and invisible pockets. And soon enough you have enough to cobble together an axe-like thing, which makes you more efficient at getting more stuff to make more stuff to oh shit it’s dark and cold and raining and I don’t have a fire and I’m dyyyyyyiiinnngggg….

Dark night 1
The night *is* dark and full of terrors

So you find a tutorial, because it’s one thing to admire the landscape and quite another to realise that sundown will likely kill you. This one (written) and this one (YouTube) were both basic enough and helpful enough to get me past that first half-hour of frustration. If you’re more used to this kind of game and its UI/controls than I am, you might not even need those. I kept banging my head on the desk because I couldn’t move the mouse to the icons on the right-hand side of the screen (until I realised they’re status icons, not menu icons…). It was just a happy coincidence that the YouTuber chap started in the same spot as I did – or vice versa. But I can tell you that the S1 spawn (I think) on Footloose island, or some such name, is a good, relatively safe spot to start. Yes, even with all the dying I did, because most of that dying was self-inflicted.

Rebuilding
Rebuilding after yet another death

And so you make yourself a couple of tools, eat a couple of berries, kill a couple of dodos, and become cocky enough to investigate the actinic shaft of light shouting Oi! Come check me out! to every gamer within miles. Fortunately I’m the only one on this version of The Island, and when I investigate my first one I get a few goodies like a sling and a flare gun. A little while later (after having levelled, gained some new crafting recipes, and become engrossed enough to totally forget about screenshots) I spot another one a little ways around a headland to the south-west, and I hurry to investigate it before sundown. Being careful of my megalodon nemeses, who mostly avoid the shallow channel between my spawn spot and that other headland apart from the occasional foray, I swim and scuttle over and am rewarded with a thatch foundation, 3 walls, a doorframe and a door. Since I’d already built and placed four foundations at my starting point I was stoked, as this would be the start of a proper house…

Supply cache!
Supply cache!

And then the sun went down, the rain started, the temperature plummeted, and as soon as I stepped into the water to get back to my side of the channel the game warned me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t just cold, I was about to freeze to death. So — disappointed but smarter — I quickly placed my single-foundation hut just off the sand, closed the door behind me, lit a torch, and stood there waiting for daylight.

And that’s where I left it. Tune in next week for another episode of LOST in the ARK!

After a few hours of play, my basic impressions are that it’s definitely a fun game, if you like that sort of thing, which I do — and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I also think it’s probably a lot more fun with friends, so Mort and I may try running a local two-player version when we can find the time (and if I can drag him away from his renewed love-affair with EVE). After that, once we’re not as likely to be a drag on whoever takes me/us in, I may try to see if anyone is running a more-people server, because joining a tribe probably opens up a whole new dimension of fun, and who doesn’t want to be an Ooga-Booga? I probably won’t touch the PvP side of things but that’s ok, I don’t have to.

I even got used to the insanely annoying non-MMO controls pretty quick, though I’m sure I will suck at combat until the end of time. But that’s ok. I’ll find a dino or something to protect me.

– – – – – – – – –

* I’m lying about those. They actually flew away from me before I could hit them, with or without an axe-type-thing — which was probably the only thing that prevented me from impaling myself on their claws.

 

Blaugust Day 16 – Halfway There

TL;DR: Yay! Halfway! Animal! Stats! No Project: Gorgon play! But ARK! Yay!

I’m certainly not the only one to be doing this kind of post today/yesterday — and those were only a few of the links I could have done, because I’m shamefully behind on my RSS feed.

Point being:

halfway-thereOr screw calm and just:

animal smallEvery morning as I sit down at my desk I’ve been moaning and whingeing to myself about having to post. And then I’ve been moaning and whingeing to you lot about having nothing to write about. And yet every day I’ve produced around 800 or 1000 words of text (which, if you remove all my tangents and parentheses, probably comes to about 200 words a day but fortunately nobody said tangents weren’t allowed).

Odd how that happens, eh? Yoda was right. To do something, you just do it. And the flip-side of that is that you need to give yourself permission to also not do it. (I’m lookin’ at you, @hestiah! You’re not bad or a failure for not wanting to / being able to / having the energy to post every day!) Yoda’s such a Zen dude.

As many others have noted, however, this pace is a little excessive for me. I’m already noticing that sharing bits of myself every day is quite exhausting and that it’s costing me more (emotionally, creatively, whatever) than it’s bringing me, which is the opposite of what this blog was meant to be. It’s supposed to be a charming boutique-type outlet, not a Black Friday Sale. But it’s equally undeniable that just sitting my ass down and writing stuff (as I used to) is producing the results I’d hoped for: I’m recovering my sense of myself as a blogger.

Now that we’re two weeks into the initiative, it’s fairly obvious I am getting traffic from Blaugust, but the weirdest thing I noticed from glancing at my stats was that the more I post in a single day, the more views I get. Two weeks is hardly a representative sample, though it was a trend I noticed years ago on the odd occasion when I posted more than once in a day. (Maybe that’s not as weird as I think — but although I’m quite decent at some types of math, statistics are voodoo as far as I’m concerned.) The other thing of note is that Twitter traffic has increased significantly, which is no surprise as my Tweets used to be protected (i.e. limited to my friends) and now they’re not.

There will be no Project: Gordon today, because the launcher decided it needed to re-download the whole client instead of just the patch so I sent it to stand in a corner to think about what it did.

And now I’m going to try to end a post before I hit 500 words, because it’s Sunday. And because after not buying it in the June sale, I’m going to get ARK and try it out. Blame Aywren. Ooga-booga!

Blaugust Day 14 – Don't be a Jerk

TL;DR – Project Gorgon… no wait, we’ll do that tomorrow. Introvert vs extrovert: don’t be a dick. Oh hey, I should be fired (from MMORPG).

I sat down to post about Project: Gorgon, which I finally got round to trying out for an hour or so yesterday, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I didn’t really get anything done other than being killed in a couple of interesting ways and trying to talk to a wolf who, shockingly, refused to respond in any way but by “Grrrr”.

As I was using my Google-fu to try and figure out where the game had put my screenshots, I saw that Twitter had some updates and clicked over to see this, from Aywren:

Click it. Watch the TED talk. Nod in agreement if introvert (vehemently in my case) or look bemused if extrovert.

And this scratched an old, old itch in my brain, one I still can’t reconcile and one which will presumably never change. Why is it that introverts can understand and empathise with extroverts, but the latter can’t seem to extend the same courtesy to us?

I’ve been here before. (I’m not going to add any other links because that post is dripping with them. The solo vs group introvert/extrovert debate has been going on since before some of you were born.)

Is it just a case of majority privilege? When white people — like me– in the West say we’re not aware of privilege, or when men say they’re not aware of it (especially white, anglo-saxon men), their saying they haven’t noticed something isn’t proof that it doesn’t exist. You may not have noticed that it’s raining but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that it is, actually, raining. (And don’t get me started on the fact versus opinion debate or we’ll be here all week.) Extroverts may not notice that pretty much everything around them is built for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Check out the TED talk, she’s much more eloquent about it than I am.

facts_huxleyI have no hard data but I’m pretty sure extroverts outnumber introverts*, just as group-type players outnumber solo-type players. And I will avoid the obvious fallacy of drawing a direct parallel between introvert and solo, and extrovert and group; even to me things aren’t that cut and dried. All the same, there are some definite parallels in terms of behaviour.

Extroverts tend to think everyone is like them — or if not, that they should be. My family has its fair share of both personality types, and it was my misfortune (and to be fair, my great good fortune) to be raised by a very extroverted mother. She claims to be an introvert but she recovers energy from being around people, which to me is one of the classic signs. She positively thrives on having people around. Me, I thrive madly for a very limited time, after which I become increasingly grumpy, bitchy, and anti-social. There comes a time when I have to physically get the hell away from everyone (or almost everyone) in order to feel like I can breathe again.

Point being, I get that my mother is like she is. I don’t tell her she needs to be more like me — I don’t even think it, because it’s pointless. She is what she is. There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert.

And if that’s the case, why does it seem to be such a bad thing to be an introvert? Why does every last extrovert in the galaxy feel we introverts are somehow weird and mutated from the norm? My aunt (an introvert who spent her life pretending she was an extrovert and ended a bitter and angry woman) used to tell me literally ALL THE TIME to smile more. To look pretty. To smile. To not be so quiet. To not be in my corner. To smile…

spock-the-introvert-and-kirk-the-extrovert

To this day, being told to smile makes me want to punch something. Fortunately for the somethings I’m very conflict-avoidant and just punch myself mentally instead.

I’m generalising terribly here and I know it, but that’s because one can’t rant without drawing a few lines in the sand. So here are mine:

  • Extroverts: please, please try to understand (and empathise with) the fact that being around people, even people we love, is extremely exhausting for introverts. We are not like you. We should not have to be like you. If you desperately need other people, which I get that you do, then please find another extrovert to spend time with for a little while. Introverts are not closet extroverts who need to be dragged forcibly into the joy of in-your-face-ness.
  • Groupers: please try to understand that solo players often like to play by themselves, and respect that they do not have to justify this to you. Just because your playstyle is the majority one doesn’t mean we have to shoehorn ourselves into your mould. If you desperately need other people to play with, which I get that you do, then please find another grouper to spend time with for a little while. Just because solo players like to chat does not necessarily mean we’re frustrated groupers who just need to be taught how much better life would be if we could only learn to doublethink group all the time.
  • Introverts: please try to understand that extroverts aren’t really, literally, physically trying to suck the marrow from your soul. They can’t help being energetic around other people, it’s who they are. Understand that a little tact when needing alone-time can go a long way and that the OMFGGETTHEHELLAWAYFROMME! posture is the opposite of tact.
  • Solo players: please try to understand that groupers feel games are designed for them (you know, that MULTI- in MMO, because apparently ‘multi’ is synonymous with ‘always with others’) and that you are breaking the rules when you persist in wanting to play by yourself.

Okay fine, that last one was a bit obnoxious; but I am very, very tired of a battle that’s been going on for years. I will never surrender, which makes it even more exhausting. Being in a minority does not make it wrong to be me — because if that were true, then on a global scale that makes it wrong to be male. Yes, it’s that ridiculous. Or left-handed (which I also am). Come to think of it, being left-handed was seen as wrong until not so long ago – my left-handed mother had that hand tied behind her at school so that she could learn to write the ‘right’ way.

Being in the majority does not make you the only possible iteration of a thing. Being the ‘norm’ doesn’t mean that the non-norm is wrong, except possibly at the extremes of that case. Please bear that in mind next time you mentally castigate someone for being in your face, for not being in your face, and for wanting or not wanting to group.

– – – – – – – –

As a final aside, I found this while I was looking for an old MMORPG.com column I wrote on the solo/group subject. As the more astute among you will deduce, that’s my real name. Wait, no. It’s my pseudonym! Whoops.

BURN THE WITCH!
BURN THE WITCH!

The forum post itself doesn’t seem to be there anymore, which is a shame since I never saw that at the time — or maybe it’s a good thing. I didn’t read comments and forum posts over there because of the inanity and vitriol-quotient, so it’s probably for the best. But I sure did like to stir shit among the masses now and then. And no, I don’t really have Bruce Campbell’s chin — there is only one Bruce Campbell.

– – – – – – – – – – –

* Though apparently not by as much as we introverts tend to think

 

Blaugust Day 13 – the Dreaded Doldrums

TL;DR – Much soul-searching as to why I’m ‘meh’ about games. Need people. Don’t want dungeons. Insoluble. Inconceivable!

I keep calling them that, but I think it’s more than the usual “I’d rather be outside reading a book” summer thing. I have a million games I could be playing and yet, as I have lamented more than once of late, I’m not really playing any of them. Not to any degree of involvement, anyway. Actually, when looking for posts to link in that previous sentence, I realised that those two “what shall I play?” posts were in fact not weeks, but rather months apart (January and July). Which means I’ve been feeling this ‘meh-ness’ about gaming for some time.

meh_catFirst I wondered if it might be that I’ve simply grown tired of MMOs or, *gasp* gaming in general. I still have fun playing Sims 4 now and then, though admittedly that’s not a particularly demanding game; but I don’t play for ‘demanding’ so that’s not an issue. I log into WoW more out of duty than any particular desire to do so, but I am paying a sub (and have been for the last 5 years – I might want to rethink that) so I might as well use it. I haven’t logged into EQ2 for almost a year now, even though I love that game. I check in on The Secret World now and then, but that game is demanding, specifically in a theory-crafting kind of way which doesn’t particularly motivate me. (More on TSW some other time.) I’m not logging in to SWGEmu much and if my vendors burn up, I’m not really bothered. Aside from those there’s The Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar and Project: Gorgon, and that’s just all the MMOs I have I’m not playing. And I really want to play Project: Gorgon. I’ve backed the Kickstarter and all. But… meh.

And it’s MMOs I want to talk about in particular because I think I know what’s going on.

I don’t really have anyone to play with anymore.

It galls me vaguely to even say that. I’m an introvert. I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I don’t mind — in fact I very much enjoy — bimbling around by myself in games… provided there are other people to chat with. And there’s the rub. While I’m an introvert, I’m also a sociable player and I like to share the experience with people I know. Which means I’m not counting General Chat in any game as an acceptable alternative. Taking part in general chat is like bathing in a sewer — and not the clean, clearly lemon-scented sewers Baghpuss mentions.

Part of the problem is that I play odd hours. I’m not much of an evening player for one, and I’m in a weird time zone for another — 2 hours behind the US East Coast and an hour ahead of the West. (Granted I’m not playing from Australia or Thailand, which I’m sure presents even greater challenges.) I play during the day, which means I tend to interface most with Euro times — and that’s fine, when it works.

Another issue is that while I know eleventy-thousand gamers through Twitter, Facebook, blogging and just general gaming, we’re all playing different games — so even if they’re online when I’m online, chances are we’re not online in the same virtual world or server. And while I am acquainted with many, I don’t really know who they are in the various games; my occasional attempts to hook up with folks in games tend to fall flat because of issue 1 above.

Then there’s the fact that I am primarily a solo player. I did game with bloggers and e-friends at one point, and we even made guilds together, but because I am not particularly keen on the group thing, I don’t really fit in. So I slip out of touch. And then everyone moves on to another (usually different) game and/or stops playing, etc. etc. etc.

I’m beginning to think I’ll have to embrace the group thing in games. I don’t mind grouping at all (ask my SWG buds, if you can find them), but the primary purpose of grouping in most games is to run dungeons and I would really rather not. I’m certain I’ve explained why elsewhere but I can’t find a link, so in 10 words or less: dungeons = too much visual / auditory input for me. I’ve tried the whole desensitisation thing (thanks to friends who kept telling me that if I did lots of dungeons, I’d start to like them), I’ve tried running them with friends (helps because no PUGs, doesn’t help with the whole input-excess thing), I’ve tried running them in different games (and some are less bad, e.g. FFXIV, while some are awful, e.g. WoW). I’ve tried turning off the particles and turning down the sound, but then what exactly is the point? Oh, right — items.

GWdungeon
Makes my eyes bleed (From the GW2 forums)

I am not motivated by items. So the absolute primary reason to run dungeons, which is to obtain stuff so you can run the next dungeon and get even more stuff… just doesn’t matter to me. The only items I care about are my crafting tools, my housing deco, pets, and the occasional piece of clothing. And even then I’m not always motivated enough to get those that I’d crawl over broken glass to get them (i.e. do long & boring quest lines and/or dungeons).

So while I do occasionally run through dungeons by myself when I’m high enough to not get my ass kicked, it’s not something I make a habit of. And it’s not something that really floats my boat or rocks my world.

I have the uneasy feeling that what I really want — which is to be in an MMO for more than 2 months at a time, to have a couple of dozen folks I can hang out with, and to feel at home again in an MMO rather than like a visitor — may not be available to me right now.

Well then. I shall just have to stop whingeing, pull my socks up, and pick a game. Then *I* can be the one player that’s always there even when everyone else ups and wanders off.

Eenie-meenie-minney-mo… PROJECT: GORGON it is! On with the download! And if you decide to join me, chances are you’ll find me as Ysharros*.

– – – – – – – – – –

* Except in all the games where I’m Eloise or Heloise or Alouette or – yeah, whatevs.