Archive for March, 2009

Canary in a Coal Mine

Posted in 1 on March 27, 2009 by XLCS

First off I love The Police.  My favorite band, seriously!  So I know the song’s directed at a chick who can’t deal with real life.  But somehow… it seems appropriate to my current take on MMOs.  Or rather, my attitude to what MMOs have evolved into.

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect
Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect
You live you life like a canary in a coalmine…

Now I started playing MMOs with EverQuest.  One of my best friends and I played it for a good year together and had a friggin’ blast!  It was a great experience, a new experience.  We joined a guild of kind-hearted folks – Sacred Order of Unity.  Yea not the best name, but good folks and a long overdue shout out to Caloak and Nimble. 😉

Anyway, I split EQ for Anarchy Online when the later came out.  I had a sweet gig going with a Bard in EQ, I loved twisting and killing a dozen mobs at once via kiting.  But even though my best friend stayed in EQ, I needed something different.  And Anarchy Online was the first SciFi MMO… awesome!  Unfortunately it was also the first megalag fest ever.  For as cool as it was, the lag was crippling.

BTW, my friend stuck with EQ for a long while afterward and hit the higher-end 50+ content.  EQ had hellacious leveling requirements and the death penalty was NASTY.  Made the game play a lot more exciting, and frustrating, than what MMOs have now.

Shortly after Anarchy Online, an intersting fantasy MMO came out… with Realm vs. Realm comabat!  Keeps and seige and holy shyte!  So there I was in DAoC.  Found a great roleplaying guild, Glastonbury Irregulars, one of the premier roleplaying guilds in fact on Nimue server. About a year went by, and the original crew of the guild faded away as they are want to do.  When the last of the original members left, I was handed guild lead.  The following year was a long drawn out fading of the guild.  A brutal affair in retrospect.  The remaining members were a great crew, but only a handful, and we tried in vain to keep the guild afloat but eventually new MMOs came out and GI (DAoC) dissolved into the ether.

Lesson = when it’s over, it’s over.  Don’t try to keep it going, it’ll just drain your will to rez.

Some of our crew stuck together and formed shards on Planetside and Star Wars Galaxies.  Planetside wound up being a long term, on-and-off affair, easily the longest MMO run we’ve had.  By my account, we were in Planetside for a good 5 years.  But SWG was the true renaissance of Glastonbury.  Roleplaying was reignited, and Stash really made that guild shine and prosper.  Oddly enough though in my case, I had actually purchased a second account for the game… but wound up ditching it early on for real life reasons.

Lesson = when RL calls, you go with it and don’t hesitate to drop a game.

Shadowbane came and we had a good run.  Awesome concept for an MMO, but oh lordy the bugs and server queues were just too much to deal with for long.  First in a long line of subpar MMOs that I left early with no regret.

Lesson = buggy games, no matter how cool a concept, are not worth spending time and money on.

I think that’s about the time that MMOs started becoming something different… less long-term endeavors and more of a run of buggy, blatantly cash-cow business turds that were plopped out to try to get people to subscribe to them.

Then came World of Warcraft.  Best MMO ever?  I dunno, I quite after 4 months.  Loved it up to the point that the Honor System went in.  I had no problem dropping it after HS.  Beforehand, I could be out soloing and run into a Alliance faction character, and have a good 1v1 PvP encounter.  Our guild would go out together and have some pretty good PvP runs.  As soon as they changed the system though, it became a huge PK fest, zergs of level 60’s farming 40’s in lower end zones.  To me, this was way too much BS to deal with as a level 43 struggling now to reach epic level.  Drop?  Aye, and how.

Lesson = No matter how popular a game is, if you think its sucks, it probably does.

Since then it’s been a cavalcade of subpar MMO endeavors… Vanguard was a jewel.  What a turdburger.  Hellgate: London actually wasn’t all that bad, but the PvE line was much too short.  Age of Conan was pretty awesome, until I reached level 40-ish and just became utterly bored with it.  Didn’t even bother getting into the PvP aspect of AoC.  Just couldn’t keep playing it when the content dropped out.  And that’s really what MMOs should concentrate on – content, content, content.  You can play a single-player RPG and have 50+ hours of immersive content, and get your $50 worth no problem.  But why… WHY… keep subscribing to an MMO at $15/month when the content is crap?  Or the game mechanics suck?  Or the end-game is boring?  Crafting?  Um, not for me, thanks.

Lesson = If a game developer keeps telling you everything’s going to be better after release, or if a game seems too good to be true, it’s probably false.

Even roleplay has a limit.  You need something more to the world, the mythos, the content, to keep roleplay up.  Otherwise it’s just Real Life or Sims.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to roleplay – when the environment is conducive to it.  But when the game for all intents and purposes is over, it’s over IMO.

Nowadays it seems like MMOs are developed for about 6 months of content.  Maybe that’s just my gauge.  But the last few MMOs have been like that for me.  I must caveat this with an important personal point. While I do play alts, I tend to focus on ONE character.  I rarely play alts to any level of consequence.  So my time line in an MMO is fairly linear.  I play one character to max level, experiencing the content appropriate for that character.  Then the end game or end of content comes around.  And then… ?

So this finally brings me to Warhammer Online.  I hit 40 with my main recently.  It was completely uneventful.  I enjoyed leveling my main, I had an idea of what I wanted him to be before the game released, played him through and enjoyed the class thoroughly.  I enjoy playing him in RvR, even though RvR has been mostly a amoebic lurching forward and back with little tactics involved.  I wish RvR was a little more like Planetside, with more tactical opportunities.  But that’s a symptom that in general, the end-game in WAR is lacking.  It’s extremely repetitive.  Fort/City raiding is attrocious.  What’s worse is that as I said – leveling my main was actually enjoyable.  There was actually a good variety of things to do in order to level up, PQs, scenarios, RvR, basic quest/hunting.

But once you hit 40… it rapidly becomes repetitive.  You have to farm dungeons for wards in order to be viable for Fort/City raids.  RvR – even though Mythic made it much more complex and varied by increasing the zones – is still just a back and forth leap frogging of BOs and keeps.  Without being able to use group tactics and terrain pinch points and such to mix it up, it’s the same as DAoC’s RvR.  Even by limiting CC and such there’s still the RPG element that allows for imbalances to be exploited.

I’ve been listening to some podcasts that have also foretold the coming drop off.   I think the writing’s on the wall for this Engineer.  I’ve been loosing interest in WAR at an exponential rate since hitting 40.  Now I rarely log in.  I’d still like to play WAR and have good RvR experiences – be able to log in after work and havea n enjoyable night’s worth of gaming.  But… I hear the chirping plea of a waning yellow avian angel…

Canary in a coal mine?  Sure, OK.

Oh yes I cut her from my heart, like a big loud stankin’ fart… to her I shall never return… I met my match, and I got burned…. – Early Cuyler, Squidbillies

Over-stimulation. Not the good kind.

Posted in 1 on March 5, 2009 by XLCS

Alright. Like a lot of my friends my age (cough), I grew up watching “personal computing” evolve from Wolfenstein on Apple II’s to the internet to our current free-form genetic freakshow known as social networking. MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Twitter, etc. etc. And yea, I’m one of those who think sitting down at a bar or coffee shop and engaging in conversation, however inane, is far superior to hording a list of names online and being Tom’s friend.

But, I have to admit, I joined Facebook and it has made keeping in touch with old friends whom I’ve lost touch with, or would loose touch with otherwise, a lot easier. There are some upsides to social networking.

I’m also a closet geek, although I’ve not built a computer in several years now and only browse the upper tufts of the greener pastures that I happen to wander onto. Mainly old personae from the now absorbed and digested Tech TV clan. I’m also into news and music aggregators (oh, another techie euphemism!), especially to get a full range of political and musical genre. Keeping up with these by visiting website, reading blogs, DLing pod/vodcasts, etc. turns into a couple hours plus some nights. So rather than try to ingest all this stuff on a regular basis, I figured I’d follow them on Twitter, and shortly afterward using Friendfeed.  Twitter is the aberrant love-child of social networking and some sort of frenzied, hyperactive Chernobylitic beast.  Twitter is hypernetworking, micro-blogging.  Other micro-blogging/posting services are Jaiku, Pownce (bought & undergoing a transformation), Tumblr… they all share in common a streamlined format suitable for short, rapid-fire posting.

IMO they’re hedging their bets on being able to be used on broadband cell networks so people can update, post, etc. from their cell phones.  More micropurchasing to come kiddies!  In the mean time, these services cost nothing, have no advertisement revenue, and in some cases don’t even have a business plan.  Yet they have extremely high valuation based on the free-to-use, no advertising, not-having-a-business plan thing.  In the case of Twitter, they’re valued at $250M!  They do not have a business plan.

How these sites generate so much investment backing is another story, for another blog, to be aggregated and tweeted about at another time… back to the subject at hand!

Now, Ive got plenty of friends on Facebook but my “RL” friends don’t really extend beyond the typical social networking site… if they’ve even gotten that far. Twitter and Friendfeed are definitely for people who either work in the tech industry, or are plugged into a computer all day long and have easy access to this stuff (note that last part, as many companies block social network sites and programs).

So everything was Cool and The Gang for the first week or so. Granted, I couldn’t really attend to the wave of information any better than before, since I still had limited time to actually consume what is now still the same medium of data.  Only now it’s more of a shotgun blast of unfiltered TMI rather than sniped stuff I wanted to pick off.  Really, people think that other people want to know exactly what they’re doing or thinking at any given moment…?  Really?

I guess I’m not a Twitter person.  In fact now I’ve grown to actually despise the so-called “hyper-social” tools. First off – tweets. You tweet, they tweet, we twitter.  Can someone just take the Baseball Bat of Manliness, repeatedly clobber me upside the head, until all this fairy dust is washed from my brain in oozing streams of crimson gore? Secondly, and this is the most important part – a crazy amount of tweets are inane, utterly ridiculous, “OMG I just wiped my ass and my finger broke through the toilet paper!” posts with nothing as remotely interesting as the aforementioned brownfinger.

That’s not to say that all twittering is equal or utterly useless.  A lot of the news & music aggregators, as well as the less self-absorbed professionals out there do post actual useful and informative tweets, even if it’s bit-sized links to something.  But there is enough non-essential, self-absorbed twittering going on to definitely make this hyper-networking the digital equivalent of someone whispering “Who farted?” to make everybody laugh for a brief, uncomfortable moment in the cubicle farm because someone wanted to break the silence of actual productive work.  It’ll probably shake out like the video sites where 99% of content is just time-wasting, brain-numbing, cud for the chewing.

Seriously, here are some very recent, choice tweets from high-profile techsters and pundits who I’m following, hoping to get some breaking news or at least something vaguely interesting:

back in the office (after 2 day move to new apt in SF) tons to do.. email count: 720

About to dye my hair blonde. Pkg “does not rec for med brown hair or darker”. Is my hair med brown? This will either be fun or end in tears.

Blonde ambition update: No tears! It’s lighter but no crazy change. Def strawberry blondish, not flaxen. Took forever! I like it I think.

i rarely eat breakfast and probably should more often. i did today. why is it that im more hungry for lunch when i do than when i don’t?

getting ready to redeye back to nyc — still kind of amazed by duke energy intrvu. *why* can’t the lights stay on in a storm exactly?

And now everybody is twittering, blogging, snarging, blerging, and smurqing (those last couple will be invented soon, sold for millions, and dumped after the personal data is mined, I’m sure). Better yet… this is the kind of stuff that Congresspeople and Senators were doing during the Presidential address the other night!  What the hell?  It’s bad enough when someone in a trend position thinks they’re popular enough to tweet about their toast being too dry, but supposed political leadership… during a f@#%ing Presidential speech?  Even technophobe John McCain somehow manages to twitter quite often.

It’s TMI.

p.s. – That gives me an idea… TMIr, the new nano-blogging cloudspace app for your phone!  Who wants a piece of this startup?  We’ll make p’zillions!

The other white meat

Posted in General Gaming, Warhammer Online on March 3, 2009 by Stash

Hello mates. Sorry for the long absents. It’s really all my fault, see I was the major poster here, and well I got side tracked. I blame Syp personally, reading his Blog got me to look into other Blogs. And of course he had that podcast, oh gods I couldn’t miss that. That got me into looking at what other Podcasts there were out there and I stumbled upon 40K Radio.

 

See a long time ago I use to be a tourney gamer. D&D, Warhammer 40K, Battletech, Etc. if there was a tourney within 500 miles of my home I was probably there. Modeled, painted, sculpted, and modified miniatures, and sold them. My gaming help me pay for Collage even. I was fairly heavy into the whole thing, and over time I sort of got out of it, having moved on to the SCA, getting married and working far far too much.

 

But those damn guys at 40K Radio. I started thinking about Modeling again, creating custom miniatures like I use to. I’m not sure I want to get into the gaming side of it, I might with a good friend or two, but I doubt I’ll ever get to the tourney level again.

 

So that’s where I’ve been when not playing Warhammer Online. I’m sitting with a paintbrush in my hands. So I have to apologize, I shall endeavor to post more often, and expand to Warhammer 40K stuff. Hell I might even give away some of my old modeling tricks here.

 

But stay tuned, with the release of 1.2 today I have a few thoughts I’d like to share. Some good, some bad, some silly.