Sony

Straws, Backs and Camels Part 2 : Consoles

My first post about the last straw – losing it on a company was about Electronic Arts. That was way back in 2010. My self imposed EA exile lasted all of almost a year, but I caved in when Dragon Age 2 launched. (Dragon Age is one of the best RPG games out there, ever. DA:2 was a disappointment in comparison, but I still just couldn’t help myself). In the past seven years I am certain there were other principled stands I should have / could have / would have taken but nope, I haven’t. Glad I could so firmly stick to my ideals.

For years I have struggled with the console world. I was X-Box, to X-Box 360  (friends were there), then they switched to PS4 when the new models came out, and I followed. I love PC gaming more for the most part but gaming on a 60″ TV is fun and consoles allow a different kind of gaming with my son as well. There are two things that have always bothered me with consoles. First, is the lack of backwards compatibility. If there was backwards compatibility out of the gate I would definitely have stuck to X-Box One, but once I learned I needed to keep my own system anyway then that gave me the freedom to move to a new system. Both have to stay plugged in regardless. Of course, there is no true technical reason that the old games cannot play on the new hardware except the console makers do not want you playing the old games. They want you buying the new games. So in Microsoft’s greed to try and force me to buy new X-box consoles and games I went to the other team and have spent thousands of dollars between the console, games, and monthly fees. Sorry X-Box, your fault.

The second thing that has always nagged at me is the lack of cross platform play. While console makers have explained this away over the years we learned yesterday just about how much bullshit they have spewed.

Fortnite, by accident, allowed cross-play between PS4 and XBONE. By hitting a switch on their server configuration. The consoles didn’t even have to do a thing. It works as a native function. All of these years of not being able to play with friends, and making purchase decisions based off of that.. I was rarely and perhaps unfairly incensed by that news. Gaming by definition is all about the friends. Console makers are holding back on us because, well, they can. Think of all the times you needed help in a game, or had a hard time with unfair matchmaking, or wish the player base was just a bit bigger on your console so you could enjoy the system and game you bought more fully. It’s available. They just won’t let you have it.

I understand why. Sony, the dominant player, is forcing people to choose because they realize (much like my situation) that people are choosing their console over their competitors. It makes financial sense to them. Although, people who have already made their decision have already made their decision – unlikely someone who has invested their gaming in XBONE after all these years is suddenly going out to buy a PS4. Xbox is getting better with this allowing cross play with PC gamers on titles designed for it (Looking at you, Sea of Thieves!) of which I have participated in and it works gloriously. I doubt the purchase decision is that quantifiable and perhaps as hard to quantify as the extra joy the people who play on PS4 would get by being able to play with their X-friends. Make no doubt about it, not a single console player on either side would not be thankful to have this option. In fact, it’s a no-brainer. In every sense of the statement. I hope enough people care enough to voice their displeasure to Sony.

I’m done. I’m not buying another console game. I’m not supporting Sony anymore. And, if a new console comes out, and for some crazy reason we decide to hop on that train again, it will be going back to Microsoft. This by the very definition is voting with my wallet. Yes, I know it’s not going to have any impact, and I will write emails explaining why to Sony, who won’t care because of the millions of others of people who probably don”t care.  But I do.

 

Start the timer. Let’s see if I can break my previous record. I mean, this is also the very definition of first world problems. Next week I take on people who double park!

Gaming Week #20

While it may seem like perfect sense I didn’t realize that for reporting purposes people actually use week numbers. Last week was week #20 for the year and it has been awhile since I have shared what I am playing and figured it was a good way to start the week off. Canada had a long weekend – Victoria Day Weekend (The May two-four weekend, as it is commonly called) celebrating the life of Queen Victoria. Canada does holidays well, and the date changes every year but it is always the Monday before the 25th day of May – this ensures the long weekend status. Two-Four is also Canadian slang for a case of beer, since there are 24 beer in a standard case here. It reminds me of the quote “Education is important but hockey is importanter”. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Where have I been spending (and not spending) my gaming time?

MLB The Show 2015 : Majority of time, but nearing completion

Well, I played three weeks of this title before calling it ‘mostly complete’. Sure, the game goes on indefinitely but in my second season of “Road To The Show” I was promoted from relief pitcher to starting pitcher one third of the way into the season. I pitched well enough on my remaining 20ish starts to win both the NL MVP and the Cy Young award. Those were always my goals in the game. I am still with the Nationals, I bargained hard for a huge pay increase (MVP plus CY Young should be 25+ million a year (Scherzer gets 30M annual and he didn’t win both of those awards in a season..)) but the Nats had a 510k option on me. They did offer a 5 year, 10 million deal but when I said I wanted a 5 year, 100 million dollar deal (a bargain, I assure you) they scoffed, and used their option on me. So I am playing the season mad at my club, and there is no holdout option. I’ll have to play the season but thankfully I am an unrestricted free agent at the end of it so I can go to where I please. My goal there is to get to the American League so I don’t have to worry about hitting. Screw you, baseball purists. I was playing this nightly but with my major goals accomplished, I may pitch a game or two a week to see what kind of salary I can pull in year three but for the most part this game is no longer my focus. It was fun, and highly recommended if you love baseball.

The Secret World : Back in the saddle

With Baseball monopolizing my time I haven’t played much TSW but I did carve out some time this weekend. I am going through every quest in every zone to experience it fully. This is one of those games that if you don’t do that you might miss out on a gem. I am pretty much finished the Savage Coast and already have my main quest-line pointing me to Blue Mountain, but a few side quests remain that I want to finish before moving on. A small annoyance here – I wish the mini map changed the color of quest givers based on status, so it is easy to see what is doable. For example – white – never completed. Yellow, completed once, repeatable. Black, completed, not repeatable. I am currently putting a map marker on each as I complete them (with the label “done”) to mark off which ones I have finished. I haven’t been able to find a mod to do what I want =) I am still using Sword/Fist and still have over 100 AP and 40 SP. The story is amazing. I feel like I have so far to go just to catch up but this is definitely a game that is rewarding to stop and smell the roses along the way (they usually smell like corpses, unfortunately).

Dragon Age Inquisition : Abandoned

I really enjoyed the game at the beginning but it quickly became “chore”-ish the way the game was fleshed out. The main enemy, once revealed, didn’t really intrigue me. Once I cleared out all the quests and sub-quests and challenges and flag markers/camps in four or five “zones” it felt like that was all I was going to end up doing for another hundred hours or so. I found the combat boring, and the wall of text texts on areas and items made me curious enough to read, but feel like my gaming sessions were turning into failed Oprah Book Clubs. Furthermore, relationship management with my team was like pulling teeth. Travelling to each one just to see if they have anything interesting to say to make sure you don’t miss anything  became entire play sessions. You would think they would sit around a small camp nice and easy for you to approach, but no, they have to spread to the four corners of the camp just to kill more time. I am shocked they just don’t approach you when they have something to add to the game play. The other shocker to me is that in a single player game, I can’t change my class. I rolled sword and board tank but want to play around with an archer class and I would have to re-roll (after 30 hours). It’s single player. Who cares. Let me change and try, and change back if I want to, or change to something else. Have an in game fee if you like or some “punishment” but still, this is complete silliness that you can’t do that. I would still have to worry about gear and learning how to play – but again, single player. Stupid barrier. I may go back if I run out of things to play, but the chances of that happening are slim. I still think the DA series failed by not giving you a persistent character across the trilogy (a la Mass Effect)

EQ Progression Server : Upcoming

The nostalgic fool that I am, I am jumping into this game. Tomorrow. I have no clue who else will be playing (I know both Wilhelm and Bhagpuss will be in some capacity) and I am still torn on race/class. I may be a Gnome (the same class I did beta with and the same avatar I was an EQ guide as) or may go Troll once again – although I do dislike the new Troll graphics. Guk and the swamp was where my quintessential MMO experience was fleshed out and truly born, while the Minotaur caves in Steamfont was one of my fondest gaming experiences. I’ll make up my mind at some point. How long I last in the classic world remains to be seen but I have to go even just to visit. It will be wonderful to see starting areas with population again. Nostalgia is always temporary fun.

Summer is here, and I garden (don’t laugh! The vegetable kind!) and play outside, and don’t focus a lot on gaming so the EQ thing has terrible timing.  There is so many games coming up that I am curious about but we will see how the summer unfolds.

Bite Sized Gaming

A Bhagpuss musing over at a post about MMO monogamy at Bio Break

“I would really love some genuinely casual MMOs to come along where I can play for half an hour and see satisfying, meaningful character progression. Don’t believe it will ever happen though.”

Fear not Bhagpuss, there is definitely room for that style. I am playing a certain title right now, that I get to log in for 20-40 minutes, have a LOT of fun, AND also have meaningful character progression! I even wrote about it recently. Yup, baseball! I wrote about this as well in 2010 when I first noticed the gameplay. This style is also found in multiple sports formats. What is brilliant about this format is that you only play the exact plays your character is involved in. This makes a three and a half hour baseball game take about 30 minutes as a starting pitcher. It’s far, far less as a position player (pitchers only play ever couple of games in relief, and start every 5 games)

Currently, I have a right handed relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals (MLB The Show), who got his first start in the big leagues. I pitched a complete game, 1 hit shutout, and received 1215 points to improve my character. I also have a backup goaltender for the San Jose Sharks (NHL 2015), and my son recently signed a minor league deal in FIFA 2015. While I haven’t bought American football games for a while I am aware they had the same kind of personal player development (even to the next level, in NFL 2006 I think I got a small part in a movie for my quarterback..) All bite sized gaming, all meaningful progression towards small goals (character improvement) and larger ones (having your team making the playoffs / win championships) and even amazingly huge goals (get inducted into the sports hall of fame).

Of course, I suppose that you might actually have to like sports to play these games. But at least there is a proof of concept to work towards. Sure, these are single player games but I think MMOs could take a page out of the style and make a title or two. Probably through Kickstarter. And while it is not an MMO, it isn’t any much different than playing MMOs as single player RPGs which is pretty much the norm anyway, and pretty much my only experience in the excellent title The Secret World.

This style and kind of gaming is really important for me now because as Liore discusses Time Management and Gaming there just aren’t enough hours in the day to game, and how is that prioritized with family, work, etc. I thought I would share my day yesterday, and I expect it to be just as normal and busy as all of yours. Once it is dissected though you see there isn’t a lot of time for personal gaming in a family and work environment.

  • 6:30 wake up. Feed dogs, take them outside. Make breakfast.
  • 7:30 pack lunches, change, get ready for work, get the kid on his bus
  • 8:30 arrive to work
  • 5:30 leave work
  • 6:00 cook dinner
  • 7:00 play frisbee with the kid, shoot hoops
  • 7:30 watch first period of NHL playoff game (actual game, Rangers v Capitals) with the kid
  • 9:00 pitch a digital baseball game
  • 9:30 Work out
  • 10:45 watch rest of NHL game, plus overtime
  • 11:30 shower
  • Midnight bed

There isn’t really anything I can cut out there to get more gaming time unless I sacrifice time with my son or my workout time.  And while that was my my full day yesterday often there is evening work instead of gaming or hockey playoffs, but really, during the week there isn’t much time to be a gamer – unless I start waking up earlier, or going to bed later. Is sleep really that important?

AAA Ball

Unlike the silliness of the term ‘AAA’ in video games AAA in baseball means the last step before the big leagues. And that is exactly where my right handed pitcher is during his climb to The Show – the PS4 MLB 15 version. I haven’t played a baseball game since 2012 and even back then I was very enthused with the RPG elements. No different here. Part of the reason why I bought the PS4 was so I could play the uncontested champion of baseball games and I am really glad to be back into it.

“Road to the Show” is the only game style I have played. It’s perfect, since you only control the plays your player is involved in. That still means 6 (ahem) to 9 (yay!) innings of pitching, depending on how I am making out. My son made a second baseman and it’s funny to see that he can be done a full game in 6 plays. Three at bats, and three fielding situations. This makes the long, 162 game season far more manageable. I couldn’t imagine having to play all of those innings. It also lends perspective on how much players make. Robinson Canoe, the top paid 2nd baseman this year would have made around $25,000 per play in that same situation.

One clever thing they did (in Canada, anyway) was nationalize the cover. I am pretty certain the catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays was not the cover star in Texas. Still, there was Russell Martin staring at me at my local Best Buy.

It is subtle touches like that that I really appreciate as a consumer. This wasn’t needed to make me buy the game, but by putting my favourite team’s best off season acquisition (and a Canadian player, to boot) on the cover really shows they are making the effort to talk to me as a consumer. Now, if only he could raise his batting average above .200 once we get out of April. Still, this is why baseball is awesome. He has another 140 games to fix that.

The game itself honestly didn’t blow me away as I first expected. The visuals are good, the baseball play is very solid (which is the most important) and they did put a lot of effort into making things more realistic. This is especially true that each stadium now has a sun cycle and shading that mirrors the actual ball parks. That is very cool, but I don’t notice a lot of it as a pitcher. For me I am just really excited to get back into a baseball game and especially one that I get to choose where and how to improve my player.

I was drafted by the Washington Nationals and I already asked for a trade. I don’t think the GM was very happy with me for doing that (probably not common for a minor league player asking for a trade after their first year) but hey, I eventually plan to hire Scott Boras so this is in line with expectations and behaviors from that camp. I’m in the middle of spring training of my second year and they have me middle relieving. Middle relieving!! Clearly they didn’t watch my four complete game shutouts with the Syracuse Chiefs. I will be a starter in the bigs, and I will get a Cy Young to my name. It just may take time, patience, and a beginner pitcher game options setting.

*as per the ‘Read the post and get $$$’ tag, I won a Google Play $15 card in the USA on my trip! Unfortunately, I live in Canada so I can’t redeem it. If you want to win the $15 card, just make a comment below and I’ll randomly draw from the group! Baseball related comments – why you love (or hate) the game, your favorite team, etc.

I Switch Teams

I am unashamedly pro Microsoft. I game on Windows 8, have a Surface Pro 2 that I love and admire (upgrading to Surface Pro 3 soon), I even had a Windows Phone at one point! (It broke.. they have limited handset styles in Canada so ended up going back to android). And yes, I had an Xbox and an Xbox 360. I make fun of people who love crApple products and seriously, didn’t Sony last innovate with the Walkman?  Microsoft has been a joy for me for gaming, computing, working, travelling and working, you name it. Their products fit my needs. I use my PC for *my* gaming but use the console for gaming with my 9 year old. It works better for joint games.

So yeah, I bought a PS4 on the weekend.

First off it was an accident. My wife mentioned we should get an Xbox One. I mentioned I’m not sure if it is the “right-gen” move for us. I explained the differences that I was aware of (and there are a LOT of examples in the above techradar link below the graphic) to which she said “Let’s get a PS4 then – we already have an Xbox 360” and we did. (I had to take the wife green light to buy while she was still willing!) Seriously though, a lot more went into it than that. Here are some of the main reasons – in no particular order.

  • Baseball. I love baseball games. I haven’t had one in years. Yes, I did the 2K series on my PC but that wasn’t the same as the good baseball games. It was a default and only option. PS4 has the exclusive, hands down best option for baseball. I play sports console games a lot and miss baseball. I only had one choice here for that reason. It wasn’t the deciding factor but was enough of a factor here to list.
  • Lack of backward compatibility – I get it, I know they both work that way but it drives me nuts. Surely they can figure out how to build in an emulator. I would have 100% stuck with Xbox One if it was backward compatible – it wouldn’t have even been a thought or possibility to switch. They left themselves open to consideration here. I am not ready to abandon my 50+ title Xbox 360 yet, we still play the Lego series, Diablo III, heck, even Destiny on it. Why take up 2 HDMI ports? I still think there would be a profitable workaround here if either company took it seriously – if the desire was there.
  • Graphics – the native 1080p is a big deal to me. The tech is already “old” in terms of computer comparison so why get a system that needs a workaround to get there? How is anything not built in 1080p native in this tech world?
  • Friend recommendation – I have a friend who is console crazy. He is on top of everything. He uses it for full entertainment (TV, Netflix, gaming, etc.) It is his primary device in his house for him and his family. He had an Xbox 360 and was a huge fan of it last gen. He switched, and told me why, and recommended it. I don’t stay on the cutting edge in console land like he does, so right away it held a lot of weight. He isn’t a fan boy of any kind and I really trust his opinion.

So based on those things I switched teams. From Green to Blue. I got “The Last of Us” remastered bundle, a second controller, Disney Marvel Infinity 2.0 (with Avengers and GoG packs) and Destiny. I wanted to see what the high quality graphic difference was. Setting it up was mostly painless. It’s a simple machine. Plug it in, hook up Wi-Fi, and run with it. The menu navigation will take some time getting used to (and most review sites put that as an Xbox strength over PS4) and funny enough the hardest thing getting used to is the color. It was always so green, now so blue. In fact, I really only had one problem with the whole setup.

My email address.

I have had the same Gmail account since Gmail started – it has been forever! I use it for my “junk” mail (that is where I sign up for newsletters, etc.) and it is my primary email setup for all online games and services. When I went to sign up for a PlayStation Network account it said my email was in use. I assumed it was because it was my SOE account for EQ and EQ2 so I tried to recover the password. I got a link in my email address and went to reset it and they asked me for my birthday. I put it in and got an error – that isn’t the birthday assigned with the account. I definitely know my birthday. So, assuming somewhere I had signed in for some PlayStation service I couldn’t remember I dug in and called tech support (who answered very fast and was very friendly) and it turns out my Gmail account is tied to a PSN account – in AUSTRALIA. Tech support NA can’t help me. I have to call Australia.

I am not getting long distance charges so tried both Skype (closed) and email. I received a response 24 hours later about how they don’t release email addresses and that one is now “dead” and I have to use another one instead. Nope, I am NOT accepting that. It is my email, I have had full control of it, I have NEVER received a confirmation email for a PSN account, and Google is awesome – anytime someone has tried to access my account outside of North America they have stopped them AND sent me a warning that someone tried and from the EXACT city they tried from. So, Sony wants to kill my email address because they don’t have the necessary preventative measures to ensure people don’t use fraudulent email addresses? On principle, I can’t accept that.

The reason they gave was odd – that they are “closing” the account and old email addresses can’t be used. I am guessing there is some value on that account (or something) but I am just confused that someone was able to open an account via my email address without validating it. Even if there is value, just wipe it clean, and let me start fresh with it – it isn’t even on the same side of the planet. Little things tend to agitate and annoy me sometimes (clearly I am the owner of the account, so let me reset the PW and use it. It’s mine) and yes I have several other email addresses but this is the one I use for gaming. Final thought and reiteration – they screwed up by letting someone use an unverified account, so fix it. It is your issue, not mine.

On to the good, I think I like the controller better. It feels smaller and longer in my hands. The sticks have a larger, softer top (or so it feels like) so it is comfortable on my thumbs. If found it easier to aim and shoot in Destiny, and the compact placement of the triggers and RB/LB connections seem sensible. As I play along on it I’ll be sharing anything that stands out with the change. I am really looking forward to “The Last of Us”. It is still too early to tell and I am not sure if I feel great about the change – change is weird – it’s like learning a whole new system. Because that is exactly what it is.

Did you switch? Do you PS4? Do you have any suggestions or tips for a PS4 newbie that you wish you knew when you picked up the system? Would love to hear from anyone reading how their experience has been.

EQN Landmark – 4 Extra Closed Beta Keys

First off – check out these amazing player creations already – amazing work by EQN:L Trailblazers! Imagine a sandbox world filled with those….

Alpha is ending, and while I haven’t been playing as much (here comes the wipe!) I definitely will be rebuilding and trying again when Beta starts.

Here is the good news – as a Trailblazer, I have FOUR unlimited access beta keys to give away (that I will have around March 26th). If you are interested in one, post in the comments below, I’ll randomize them off and email them to the email address (that I can only see) in the comments section – or figure out how to get them too you without sharing your info with the world =)

Simply post why you want one – although your answer will have no bearing on receiving. Will be a random draw -curious if I even get four people Tesh? you interested? =)

 

Everquest Next: Landmark Alpha Launches

Founder’s Pack

I have never been much of a blog to cover the latest news, but this was in my inbox bright and early this morning. I am really close to pulling the trigger on it – I am interested in building, and the pace just might be my style.

Of course, I miss the old days of getting invited to betas and alphas for free, but hey, I’m bored and looking for something new.

Anyone who reads here in?

 

League S4 Goals – Failed!

And I am just fine with it. Taking the plunge and focus into ranked play, but starting at the bottom of the barrel was a LOT to overcome. The truth is the Solo Queue ranked system seems to rewards games played. Bad streaks, bad luck, whatever – as long as you plow through you’ll end up where you want to be.

I just ran out of time.

Bloodstone-Lissandra_io1scg

To test the whole ranking theory I leveled up a second account and it placed me a full league ahead – and didn’t force me to trudge through 200 games. So I actually *reached* my goals by not using the established system. It will be interesting to see if they work on improving that at all for season four. They already have a ton to work on with Jungle/Support fixes, items, a stale meta, etc. I did find two new champs I am deeply in love with playing – Lissandra (above) and I’ll save the second for my next post. Truthfully, I am even getting ‘meh’ on League.

I am accepting that I am not really a gamer like I used to be anymore. I used to keep up on the news, be excited for releases, try everything, get into every BETA possible… and now? I think I am just more of a hobbiest. I am coming to terms with that. What I am really excited for isn’t any upcoming game or title (well, for one there is another ‘memory lane title’, and another that won’t be out for years). The thing that has me excited again is seeing my old friend Wolfshead posting again. He is covering a bit on the next iteration on the EQ franchise and his initial observations seem to indicate that gamers like he and I should accept which gamers are being targeted now. And hey, even if they finally DID make the game I always wanted, having gone from hardcore to hobbiest, I’m not even sure if I would end up playing it anyway.

 

 

 

Playing the Free to Play Field (Non-Committed)

Kind of feels a bit like speed dating.

As good a time as it is to be a gamer these days with all the free-to-play options I am actually a bit sullen. Unlike my wife, I just can’t commit to any games. I could argue it is because of the game themselves but I am starting to think it is more because of the payment model.

I have downloaded a lot of FTP games lately.

Star Trek Online: I have updated it 3x, logged in only once, and haven’t been past character select

Star Wars The Old Republic: Perfect to play as a single player game to check out the storylines now that it is FTP, but I have only managed 8 levels and 3 play sessions over the past 30 days.

EQ(1): Nostalgia. Log in and run around with the old toons. Cannot be bothered to figure out how to play it again =)

GW2: I update it and log in but I never got the feel or enjoyment from this game. I call this FTP because there is no sub!

LoL: I play a match daily still, and it’s getting my best playtime.

Of them all League of Legends is the clear cut winner as I am navigating through a SoloQ ranking system. So there is an investment there, a goal, something to measure my playtime against. I so very badly want to give the others a fair shot but my time is at a premium and I just don’t feel invested – or have enough carrot/stick to GET invested.

When I jumped back into WoW I had a goal to reach max level, and gear up enough to get into Looking For Raid. And since I was paying a sub to play there was an automatic investment.

Maybe that is it – the sub fee helps commit you to the game. Do you find the same thing?

More Lawsuits

Got this little Diddy hot on the heels of the EA suit.

“If you had a PlayStation Network account, a Qriocity account, or a Sony Online Entertainment account at any time before May 15, 2011, you could get benefits from a class action……”

for more information clicky here

I’m guessing I got it because I am in their database already. I’d rather have Canadian Tire Money than Station Cash though.

Tell Me What You Want (What You Really, Really, Want)

I think MMO nostalgia makes us funny people. Just yesterday I was thinking about EQ and the amazing times had there with people I still consider ‘amazing’. Hell, I even went to my first ever guild message boards (circa 1999) after a 3 year hiatus to go say “hi” and see who was still kicking around and posting (long after the guild being retired). Funny enough there were people still poking their heads around there from time to time.

Of course, that led to a EQ1 trial download, and boy, is that game ever ugly. After dying to starter mobs a couple of times (yes, that’s right, starter mobs can kill you!) and running out of mana halfway through my second fight, I had to laugh at myself. This was the world that made me fall in love with MMO’s and the concept that gaming can reach a far greater audience than a saved game file on my hard drive. It had slightly less graphical appeal than minecraft. I lasted all of fifteen minutes before logging off, promising myself to actually give it a fair shot when I had more time, and left to go read some blogs.

My first MMO was EQ, then DAOC, then WoW. I played pretty much every MMO in between in either beta tests, short stints, or trials, but those three are the only three that captured my playtime for any significant period. All three are very different, of course, and are as reflective of a time period than anything to do with MMO.

What do we want from a MMO? Hard to figure that part out when I’m not even sure I know what *I* want. My off the cuff response to ‘what does Isey want from a MMO’ is pretty quick and easy to answer:

“A non-instanced, strategically paced, skill based, single world, sandbox style, relationship conducive, emotional driven fantasy world that I can enjoy in chunks of one hour (or less) two to three times a week (or when family/work time allows).”

Long answer, I love the thoughts behind this guy, and this guy, although it’s hard to envision how the three would combine into an actual playable game (and I could easily link another half dozen bloggers who write about games I would play).

Ok! Easy enough. Let’s get to work on that.. wait a minute.. does that really sound so good?

A lot of the systems and styles us fogeys keep discussing and clamoring for are things that have been already been dismissed in current and future game design as ‘quality of life’ improvements. As much as I say (and think), I want that 30 minute boat ride to Freeport, or having to speak in different languages to a complete stranger on that boat to improve my Erudite (15) language skill, it’s easy to remember fondly but harder to actually play that way again. That 30 minutes would be half (or all) of a current play session for me.

And, while I can sit here and write about the systems, styles, and innovations I want (or think I want) from a MMO, the systems themselves do not really matter. I want a MMO that can illicit the emotion of the games I used to love. And  I’m not sure that is entirely possible, but still remain hopeful.

What I do know is that in 10 years from now I probably won’t be searching down my old WoW guilds to see if anyone is still kicking around.

Happy Birthday, EQ

EQ was my first MMO girlfriend. She was a bit cranky, and demanding on my time, but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing (looking forward is another matter). Those sweet, sweet evenings spent together shaped my gaming expectations and experiences. It is true that you never forget your first.

EQ Nostalgia after the break.

I beta tested EQ, and it set me off on a flurry of beta tests since, nearing the 20 mark. Inspired by Oz’s memory post at KTR I thought I’d share a bunch of stuff from that wonderful long forgotten world. A world where I experienced my first online friendships, guild drama, out of game connected to in game drama, sense of gaming accomplishment, responsibility, and of course, bittersweet dissapointment at the end of it all.

EQ had a lot of leeway when it launched. They were doing something completely different, a 3D “mainstream” Fantasy MMO. The challenges in the game were tough – the rewards few and far between. Levelling for hours could result in a 2% XP increase – or worse, a 5% decrease, depending on how you fared. I, like Oz, played on the test server. I started with a troll shaman named Zraka, and got to 30ish before moving to a troll warrior, Braack. It was with Braack where I experienced most of my trials and tribulations. I still remember how I met my first guild.

I stumbled upon a small group of adventurers pulling alligators in Sol Ro (I believe that was the name of the zone). The name that stands out to me the most is Engrid – a dark elf. They were looking for a tank. We started as a few, and turned into a full blown group in no time. Somehow my tanking wasn’t important – I had SoW on and was responsible for pulling. I would run out, grab a bunch of crocs (or alligators, seriously, they all look the same), and bring the bunch back to the group. After we started getting them down I would run back out, and grab a bunch more. We chain pulled them for hours, and we got into a great flow where I would bring back a whole mess of bad guys just as they were finishing up the first pull. It ended up getting a bit silly, we killed multiple hundreds and hundreds of the beasts with swift and reckless enthusiasm. The xp flowed like cheap wine at Olive Garden. Everyone commented how it was one of the best times they had had in EQ up to that point. Engrid, an “alt” of Velm, esteemed Cleric of “The Grove” guild, noticed I was untagged and suggested I go to their message boards and introduce myself. I did. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Grove wasn’t what I expected. All adults, playing a kids game and having a great time. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from a Guild in a game such as EQ, but quickly I found I was at home. Oz from KTR was also in that guild. I believe he was an officer or other important type person. In the Grove I finally had a plan – I could log in and do events, or at bare minimum have people to spend time with – which made the game that much more incredible. I was starting to understand this whole MMO thing and how great it was – and could be.

To keep things shorter and sweeter, from there we levelled, grew, did some raids (on the testserver it was always a multi-guild events), experienced Guild drama in a few forms – from bringing in the “wrong” people into the Guild (quotation marks – wrong isn’t quite the right word, just people who were different in temperment and attitude than the core crew – some of which I recommended to join with us), Loot drama in a Giants raid (stemmed from me as well – I asked a question about loot to a raidmaster who was running a raid – a faux pas for sure, but new territory for me that I didn’t understand. Quick and important lesson learned!) to Guild fracturing – some old time members who were at the top of the level and loot chart started realizing they wouldn’t “advance” anymore under current circumstances, so ended up leaving to a bigger and more hardcore guild (believe it was Primal Brood at the time – again, been a long time!). None of this “drama” will be new to any of you folks – it still happens on much grander scales in current MMO’s. It was still many of my MMO-life lessons though, and something I learned from way back then, and have tried to avoid/improve upon in current times.

While enjoying life as a guildmate in an incredible group of people, I also became part of EQ’s Volunteer Guide program as Stalbik, on the Rathe server. It was interesting and fun – the GM hall and equipment available was sweet, as were the commands and capabilities. After a year in the guide program I was promoted to the Lieutenant Guide in charge of Training and Testing – mostly other, new guides. We had tests and scenarios that had to be passed and a whole program that had to be navigated to be successful.  Those Guides you dealt with that you hated because they wouldn’t help you, or couldn’t give you a clear answer? I probably trained them. Don’t throw tomatoes, our scope and mandate was so limited there really wasn’t much we could do. This was a great learning experience as well, dealing with developers and Sr. GM’s as we navigated issues from small (stuck, lost items) to big (harassment, racism) all under such strict and unworkable parameters. I will admit that personally I was able to help about 70% of the people who petitioned, and usually received hearty thank you’s and cheers. That other 30% was impossible to deal with – many with legitimate complaints or issues that just didn’t fall under our scope of responsibility. I dealt with the major jackass to the most polite and kind people. Around this time we were trying out live events – and while limited in scope and size it was a fun twist to bring to the world. The program was volunteer but still took up about 20 hours a week for me, and eventually I had the choice to either enjoy the game as a player, or as a Guide – there wasn’t room for both. Having as much fun as I did I chose being a player and just ensured that I was super polite and understanding when I had to petition myself.

There were not gigantic guides on the internet for EQ – at least, none that I could find or use. You would literally have to explore and find things on your own. Of course, all that has changed, but I fondly remember things such as the Tower of Frozen Shadow (which I talk about here a bit at the end). We were levelling and came accross the structure. There were no instances in EQ, so you could guage the size of an area or building by just looking at it. We entered and spent hours exploring, killing, and dying, and finally getting enough of a hold of the place to go get reinforcements to come back and clear the place. That sense of exploration was wonderful in EQ, you could literally stumble accross things you had no clue about, and because there was no Quest-only structure to level (it was all mob grinding) you would explore to see if you found a sweet spot. Many days and nights were showing friends great little tucked away areas we had discovered and spending the night levelling, waiting for that one piece of elusive loot that had a .5% drop rate of some rare, named mob.

I don’t remember exactly when, or exactly why, I ended up leaving. I do remember a lot of the people who brought me into the Guild, such as Velm, moving on to other guilds, and other people not being able to maintain the time commitment in EQ to enjoy playing. The levelling curve was devastating. As people left, and my own work commitments became busier, and searching for a change, with the release of DAOC and many of things keeping me in EQ moving on or changing, I left the wonderful world of EQ. If EQ would launch today it would no doubt be an utter failure – but I will not and am not interested in talking about what that game did wrong – the past is the past, after all. I will simply remember the first night we held hands, and later kissed – all the while living in an imperfect world avoiding what the future would no doubt bring. Your first will always bring up an emotional side, and many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture the moments of our childhood – the real childhood, or the MMO version.