random thoughts

Spring Cleaning: Old Post Drafts (Part 1)

All bloggers have a bunch of post drafts started that either get revisited and completed or sit in post purgatory, waiting to be further inspired or expanded. I hate letting those linger. I have a slew of them in my folder and for funzies decided to go through them and either finish them off or delete them. I have done a pretty solid job of not letting them hang around too much with the oldest one only backdated to 2014. For each I’ll list the title and the gist of the post depending on what I had in the body, and what I plan to do with it. The result will be a nice and tidy back end for I HAS PC. (Mind out of the gutter please)

“Stats Fun” (2/26/2014)

This entire post was in reference to one I read over at Kill Ten Rats that made my day – which in turn linked to an XCKD comic about germs. The basis was that in a world of seven billion people “one in a million” events happen seven thousand times a day. I found that very cool, and made a post saying that it was cool. That post had absolutely nothing to add to the conversation in any way, shape, or form and I didn’t complete it or continue it for that reason. That is why I am giving it the Outcome: delete here too. I didn’t even save the link on the draft, which is a shame, because I still remember how much I loved that post.

Here is a link to that comic though, Google found that easy. I sent it to a woman in my office who is a germophobe and a uses hand disinfectant often. She hates me now.

“Patent Trolls” (3/20/2014)

The entire body of the post was just a link to an article I read on the Economist about patent trolls that I must have felt strongly about one way or another, but I didn’t go beyond the link. I often email myself things as a reminder to think about them or revisit them and here is that same sort of style. I clearly wanted to do something with it, but didn’t, so now I am  Outcome:deleting it as a post that never was (or will be)

“WildStar – Over The Shoulder Shooter with RPG Elements?” (3/31/2014)

First off (to get it out of the way) yes, I know, it is called a 3rd person shooter. Someone corrected me on that on another blog recently – I do not know why I have a hard time remember that. The term always escapes me and I default to the less eloquent (yet truthful) “over the shoulder…” tag instead. I am working on it. This post started as a response to the first WildStar video I saw, and was yet again a look at gaming terminology and how it is inadequate. MMO, quite literally, is any game that is online with other people. There is no succinct or precise number accepted by the industry. “Massively” is not defined. In this post I explored that due to the action style of the videos I was watching for WildStar whether or not we could consider it more like Mass Effect than WoW as it definitely played more like it. I gave suggestions on some other, equally terrible acronyms such as MMO for marketers to use (for free!) such as:

  • LBOG (Lobby Based Online Game) – this would suit Diablo, Destiny, etc. quite well (and more accurate than MMO)
  • FPSRPG (First Person Shooter Role Playing Game – genre-bending! Great buzzwords for a marketing department)
  • OSORPG – I have NO CLUE what I meant by this one. Only Sometimes Online RPG? Hrmpf. Stumped here.

While the Outcome:delete here is obvious due to it being a bad post all around and the WildStar train has left the station, I do feel somewhat good that games like Destiny and The Division are showing that “MMOs” don’t need traditionally interconnected zones to be considered a world. I have argued for a while now that World of Warcraft could be better suited as a lobby based game and that I think it will end up there in a couple expansion cycles, once it is available on consoles. I feel more connected in the Destiny world than I have in a long time on Azeroth. I also, not oracle-like in that article said I would go play WildStar when it went F2P. It didn’t take a genius to call that at that time, trying to launch a hardcore sub game in a world of quality free-to-plays, even that early in its life cycle.

“MMO Connections” (3/31/2014)

I am a nostalgic fool to a fault. I get sad when I visit old places that have gaming meaning to me (in game) and even when I visit my old message boards from the EQ test days I get a lump in my throat. It’s odd, and probably unhealthy.  I can’t even really put my finger on it. My old WoW guild boards are gone, but they restarted them (only to see the guild look like it stopped raiding and growing, in “comfort mode” and they have new boards that I sometimes visit just to see who is there and what is going on. I felt so connected to so many people from my raiding days. I would literally spend 30-40+ hours a week with them – so yes, I miss them. I do have to let that all go sometime though. One a larger note, this is why I will probably never feel satisfied with any MMO again because I can’t dedicate that time ever again – and it is that kind of commitment that really makes a game special. I sorted out quite a while ago that it was me, not them that was the problem. (Them being MMOs). Anyway – back to the point, of which Nostalgia is strong.

This site, The Burial Grounds, was hosted and organized by an old guildmate of mine from DAOC. It was a great premise – when you were done your adventures with your online characters there were monuments for them. There are unique designs, banners, tombstones, everything, including where they lay (and shooting star backgrounds!). It also worked as a way to connect old gaming friends together as many people remember the character name more than the human being name (not judging). It was multi-game and I think a great, fun service. He stopped posting there in 2008 but I always thought it should be brought back to life as a great way for people to find old friends. Here is an example.

Due to my strong feelings about this, I am going to Outcome: Save and Finish this post at a later date. Maybe instead of waiting for someone else to retake up the mantle, I will!

“What Gets Measured Gets Done” (5/1/2014)

This was a post from WildStar beta where they rank your performance based off of stats. I lamented on a  I was 3rd in DPS (out of three), 1st in staying alive, and 2nd in healing. I received a bronze reward for this. It bothered me because I knew how hard healing was in Stonetalon Lair (at the time, in beta, anyway – when it was all hardcore) so on my action slots I took a heal over time ability to help take the pressure off of the healer on my rotation. This did make my DPS suffer a bit but I felt I should have been better rewarded by staying alive the best and also propping up the healer. Instead, the tunnel vision DPS guys get the glory. And the girls, apparently. I don’t even know if that mechanic is even measured in WildStar anymore and it isn’t like anyone is playing, right? I’m so sadface about WildStar – I really wanted to get through the main story line but it forces me to feel like I need to take Ritalin just to play longer than an hour. It is not working for me.The concept of measuring is still valid in MMOs in general, and has been debated to death and back to life again (post zombification?) and I have nothing new or exciting to add to that discussion in that post. Outcome: Delete due to relevance

There will be a few parts to this as an ongoing “feature” until I clean it all out. It is fun to look back before moving forward.

I Win at RNG

I think most gamers have a love AND hate relationship when it comes to Random Number Generators.  The entire MMO genre is built upon RNG and I remember the old camping structures in EQ where you could spend hours, days, or weeks waiting for a specific mob and/or specific drop. We are largely playing large Casino style games in the background, with invisible dealers. Instead of leisure suits we dress as elves and orcs and wield swords instead of cigars, and beer glasses instead of shields. (Can you tell I was in Las Vegas two weeks ago?)

The Grumpy Elf talks about his recent spat of terrible luck and I agree with him on a lot of points about WoW. When I was playing WoW I most enjoyed it because I was able to advance my character through dungeon runs and grinds, doing activities that I personally enjoyed. Bad luck and RNG is an outcome for him that is causing a lot of frustration in his goal to advance and improve his in game character.

I have spoken the random nature of our games in the past, even talking about the Star Wars PnP game and how they introduced awesome random elements:

SW was played with all d6 – and on your rolls you always had to had an off colored dice. That dice was the “special” dice. We called it the fate dice. It may have officially have been called the ‘Force’ dice. I’m not sure. Its been 15 years. The crux of it? You rolled real bad on that dice, even if you rolled all 6’s on the others, and crazy things would happen. Crazy bad. It also worked in the reverse, where a good roll – on that one dice – would make amazingly incredible things happen. Out of the ordinary. At least, that is how I remember it

I have always been a fan of randomization for the ‘surprise’ effect it can have. Good or bad – when exceptional things happen is when good stories happen. Nothing truly great would happen if the outcome was always measured and expected. This lead to some awesome gaming and story moments in Blood Bowl – here is the outcome of the story (click on it if you want to read the whole thing):

Without going into too much level of detail, with a lot of luck and some well skilled players I won the game 4-1. At the end of the game, I only had 2 players left on the field that weren’t Injured or KO’d (KO’s happen for temporary out of game injuries. After the ball changes hands they get to roll to see if they come back in or stay down for another drive). He had all 11. Goes to show what you can do against a frustrated player who wasn’t used to the Movement and Dodge ability of the Wood Elf team.

With a little lot of luck, some skill, I was able to beat all odds. Try doing that in your Raid team if 3 healers go down.

In that article I was against the predictability of raids in WoW where if someone dies it is gameover. That design makes only predictable outcomes fun and leaves no room for unpredictability. Move X, mash Y buttons on sequence, rinse, repeat, win. Nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary can, or will, occur.

Love it or hate it RNG is here to stay and I believe games can be better built around that fact. If the systems are built to be supportive of RNG (and not make RNG an automatic failure state) it can make for great gaming memories. At the end of it all, those memories and experiences are what keeps us all gaming to begin with, right?

Last week I was at a NHL game and decided to support a charity event by buying  50/50 tickets. When I gave over my $20 (for 20 tickets) I didn’t for one moment actually believe I would win – who actually wins those things? What I believed is that I was supporting a Children’s Hospital and that the money would go to good use.

So yeah, that is me (in the middle) and I won. When I was reading the ticket I didn’t actually believe it at first! The girl (on my left) who sold me the ticket told me that after she sold me the tickets she turned to her friend and told her that “that guy was so nice – I really hope he wins for good karma!” and on my right is David Desharnais, #51 from the Montreal Canadiens. He was a really nice guy and I’m a big fan of the team so that was a nice bonus. So thankfully my credit cards will now be gone along with some other household debt. I will treat myself a little as I need a new set of goalie pads (I still play twice a week) which will cost me a couple thousand.

My point here isn’t to gloat in my good fortune, but to instead point out that I wasn’t playing to win – I was playing to support charity. Winning was just a very lucky, very random, very unexpected side effect of participating. If you focus on why you are playing more than the outcome of playing you may just find some happy surprises along the way.

Our games used to mean much the same way when they felt more like virtual worlds instead of the achievement based experiences we are left with today, but that is for another post.

The Grove at World’s End

Leonard Nimoy died on the weekend. I have fond memories of his art through TV, Movies, and games and many others have and will memorialize him much better than I ever could. I read his last tweet as I was following his passing and I found it absolutely beautiful – words to remember, and that is what I want to share here.

I have been really nostalgic this week. On one hand I have the realization that for all intensive purposes my life is half over – and that doesn’t make me sombre by any means – I have lived quite the life and am good at the fact that I probably have a good chunk more to. I start everyday with a smile, satisfied with the life I have lived and just try to be nice to people in general. You don’t have to wear a cape to be somebody’s hero, after all. Still, in moments of reflection and “why nots” coupled with my trip down nostalgia lane, sprinkled with Mr. Nimoy’s quote has me thinking.

I’m going to try and get the band back together. Figuratively, of course. We weren’t a band, but a guild. And by back together, I mean going to try and get people to log in for an evening to just say hi and catch up. Even for just one night. With EQ being free and the Testserver still alive and well that isn’t the hurdle – the hurdle is tracking everyone down. I have some emails, I have some last known whereabouts. I have friends of friends. I have the internet. The funny thing is I don’t even know if anyone cares but the guild is actually still in tact and it even has login dates and whatnot in the guild management window in game (patched, back in on the weekend). There is a setting for this.

The World’s End was a funny movie about a washed up guy that has been trying to get his old crew together years later to finish a pub crawl. I wish this event had this sort of ambition, but really, it doesn’t. It is just to get a bunch of people who were friend’s and guild mates at one point into an old game we used to enjoy. Some may not like the idea but at the end of it all, why not? It definitely won’t hurt anyone and at bare minimum if a handful show up and have fun then that is enough for me. I can relate to Gary King on everything except the washed up part *cough cough*.

While there is a setting I don’t have any sort of purpose or activity yet. The main goal at this point is to drive people to the old message boards. Find them, and get them in one place. Once we have a captive audience we’ll try to organize from there.

I already reached out to an old guild mate  based off an entirely old email I came across and got a positive response. The most fun part is that our boards are still up so we have a natural meeting place. Wish me luck, I’ll need it! I’m sure I’ll update here now and again on how it is going – if it goes at all. If you happen to know anyone who spent time on the EQ Testserver at EQ launch until early 2000s I’d appreciate it if you passed along this adventure – who knows, maybe they will know someone who was a part of The Grove at the time (or Primal Brood, which ended up taking on a good chunk of our members to take them raiding). It was a small enough community that there is a good chance they will know someone from The Grove at some point. Whether or not they can feed them to the board is a whole other challenge.

The link to our boards is here. There is a post in General about getting together. Anything anyone can do to help, it’s appreciated. We also aren’t against a time constraint either, so would appreciate any suggestions if anyone has done anything like this before.

My Influential 15

One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) and he recently posted an Influential 15  list – started by another blogger and other sites are also playing along. The parts I read indicated not too many rules, but just do not overthink it – only take 15 minutes, and list them out.

This sounds like fun. I am going in chronological order!

Mario Bros (arcade) (1985)

I spent most of my allowance money playing this game with two of my best friends at the local bowling alley. It was close enough to our school that we could run there at lunch breaks, and always went right after school as well – but just for 20 minutes before racing home. This introduced me to the side scrolling platform [honorable mentions: Ghost and Goblins, Castlevania, Bionic Commando]

Hardball (c64) (1987)

Two teams – the red, power hitting team and the blue, speedy team. That was it in this baseball game. My brother and I played for hours at home – nice to not have to be at the arcade. (I always got stuck with the blue team). [Honorable mention: Madden (I still buy it every few years]

Police Quest (PC) (1987)

My first foray into the Sierra games series (King’s quest, Space Quest, etc.) and it was always a weekend event at one of my friend’s houses who had it. I think it took us 6 months to complete, since we only had limited weekend time (we mostly played outside – kids those days!)[honorable mention – Maniac Mansion]

Street Fighter (Arcade, SNES) (1987)

Another arcade favorite the one on one bragging rights was a blast. Learning the combos, fighting friends (and arcade enemies) for the right to stay on the machine for the next challenger… flipping a coin for the left or right hand side. All sorts of home field advantages. [Honorable mention: Mortal Combat]

Star control 2 (PC) (1992)

Exploration, adventure, discovery. Space. Has anyone come close since? I am avoiding throwing my money at Star Citizen yet watching it closely. That is a completely separate blog post. [Honorable Mention: Wing Commander. If only for the space.]

Doom (PC) (1993)

We had huge contests at university with Doom – inter dorm rivalries. My philosophy class suffered fiercely. I made a philosophical argument about augmented reality to the prof and he BFG’d me. University was so cool. [Honorable mention: Half Life]

NHL 94 (SEGA) (1993)

Oh Sega hockey, with the one move that would score 100% of the time.. that was up to you do defend properly. Both ends of the rink, there was that ONE move. Yet it was still awesome. Plus bleeding heads.

X com (PC) (1994)

Turn based mastery. This is on many ‘best of ever” lists, so not going to explain its full awesome-ness. Many have explained it better than I ever could. Xcom is the perfect example of a game you loved but refuse to play it again. I have it through steam. It sucked to relive it – but awesome the first time around. We are not conditioned to accept failing the first X missions before we have a chance. (see what I did there?) [Honorable mention – Civ 1 – bit of a stretch, but very turn based]

Baldur’s Gate (PC) (1998)

I had played a lot of Pen and Paper games and this one reminded me the most of them. I hadn’t played a lot of D&D at the time  and this was my first real foray and experience into that. I don’t even remember if I won or what happened in the game – I just remember the hours spent hunched in the darkness… in amazement. Just one more encounter. One more.

Rainbow Six (PC) (1998)

The AI could be buggy as hell when you were planning your rescues, but this was an AMAZING shooter – one shot and you are dead, get caught/spotted and the hostages are dead. Great premise and superbly executed at the time. You could do many missions in many different ways and had the choice of your own path. The planning and thinking part was as exciting for me as the executions. And oh yes, permadeath! [Honorable mention: Counter Strike]

Everquest (PC) (1999)

The MMO game changer that has spawned 100 clones, for better or for worse (often better, jaded vets may argue worse. It doesn’t even matter anymore. It was awesome and really kickstarted the genre.) It has ruined MMOs for me since, but that is also because of the testserver play environment (hint: community). The rose colored glasses often adorned!

Sims (PC) (2000)

Sims the original was the first game that I could get my girlfriends to play. And my non-gaming roommates. It was the first time I realized games could be for everyone. Then I invented the Wii. (or should have, at least). All that being said, I am pretty sure the things my girlfriend at the time did to the Sims (or tried to do) made me realize that maybe she wasn’t the one. Sicko. May have saved my life.

Dark Age of Camelot (PC) (2001)

My second MMO I played the heck out of and my first real PVP experience was also amazing. I also played on the testserver (Pendragon) and the strength of the community there really improved the overall experience. Sadly, game developers have learned that test servers make bad for the quick hitting types of testing they want with enough sample size, and they don’t really exist anymore. The lesson they should have learned is that smaller, more dedicated communities make for stronger ties. Another post. DAOC taught me to embrace PVP and how humans always beat AI on experience – always.

World of Warcraft (PC) (2004)

What to say? The most successful MMO ever made took an inaccessible genre and made it easy for everyone to participate. While I have spent my fair share of time arguing WoW has hurt the MMO space in many ways, you cannot argue against its influence. I still go back every expansion, do the theme park rides, /hug and /hi to my friends still playing, and then out again.  I think the next MMO Blizzard makes is going to say a lot about what they have learned from WoW. I’m intrigued.

Battlefield 2142 (PC) (2006)

The multiplayer FPS I judge all other FPSs against. It was great. It was better than great – it was awesome. The kits, the vehicles, everything. COD always felt too twitchy and gamey in comparison (even the DICE successors did) and I started playing more strategic, slower paced shooters afterwards. BF2142 was just the perfect balance for *me*. [Honorable Mention: Project Reality]

That’s It!

There is my list! Crazy, and a *bit* sad that the most recent game launch on my list is 8 years old already, but influence is influence. As I re-read this there were a few I wanted to add (RTS such as Warcraft -or- Command & Conquer) but I decided to keep it pure – the ones that spoke to me first. I’m sure as I read through other’s lists I’ll have many an “aha!” moment. I hope mine brought along some positive smiles and memories!

Scarcity and the Canadian Lynx Story

The Canadian Lynx is an interesting predator. It lives almost solely on the snowshoe hare – and is very effective at catching, killing, and eating them. While that is not particularly interesting in itself (a cat predator eating a bunny for dinner) what is fascinating is the lifecycle the Canadian Lynx is doomed to repeat.

Because the Lynx is so effective at catching and killing the snowshoe hare, and as the Lynx breeds and adds more to its family, they end up almost hunting the snowshoe hare to extinction. At this point the Lynx population start dying off because of the scarcity of food. There ends up being a tipping point where the Lynx has almost hunted itself to a dangerous level of near extinction – at which point, the showshoe hare starts repopulating. Rinse repeat. Every 10-14 years or so.

Nature works in such fantastic ways – ideally, if Nature were sensible she would introduce another predator to hunt the Lynx (humans can hunt them, but they are typically in very remote and unseasonable locales) thereby keeping the lynx population fairly consistent, also keeping the snowshoe hare consistent. This does not happen.

In gaming terms I do not believe the population of gamers is growing to the extent to support the companies that make the games, and the excess of titles that are on or coming to market. We are the snowshoe hares and companies are the Lynx. I think we are seeing the result of the nature of the market adjusting for this realization though as games are funded in other ways and the profileration of the indie genre as a viable way of game making once again. This creates different payment and cost styles and overall is healthy for the environment. It is a positive adjustment.

This Lynx metaphor is also a good one for our economy which requires being in a perputal state of growth. Eventually that growth will not be realized and things will reset. Hopefully we are smart enough to not be doomed to repeat like the Lynx.

Les Miserables

No, the headline isn’t even a half ass metaphor for the emotional state of the typical MMO veteran player right now.

It’s about the movie/musical/video game (wait – what?)

Les Miserables is one of those instances where I really am reminded how little I know, and how uncultured I am. The movie is the first experience I had with Les Mis (that’s the trendy short form, right?) and of course was driven by my wife’s desire to see it more than mine. She had participated in the school play when she was a kid.

I just thought Les Mis was a play, and always was. That is certainly what it was to me. Cue instant Wikipedia interest article to learn that:

  • It is a book written in the 1860’s
  • The English version is 1500+ pages
  • Has a really engaging and interesting plot line
  • Is ruined by singing

Maybe that last line isn’t fair, since Les Mis is most famous for that – but after reading the plot summary of the original works – damn, that would make a really deep and disturbing visual feature. The singing part feels like it ruins what could have been completely amazing movie if they focused on the plot and character development.

Due to the time period I am sure the book doesn’t read so smoothly.

Besides being utterly embarrassed I didn’t realize the musical stemmed from one of the great literary works of all time (arguably) is that completely my fault or the fault that modern day society only consumes it from broadway?

Keen and Graev Hacked

I read a lot of blogs, and while surfing K&G’s this morning turns out the ‘Devil Hacker’ hacked the website.

I’m curious if they had some post up picking on hackers or something, or just negatively reviewed a game they were playing and some fanboi took offence.

Conspiracy theorists: perhaps this is the beginning of targeted attacks on bloggers! Maybe there is a Clue type meta-game. “I suspect [Tesh], with the [DDOS attack], in the [Server Farm].

Bloggers beware.

Conventions

Sorry - not that kind of convention!

One of the best blog articles I have read recently was at Elder Gamer regarding genre conventions in our beloved MMO’s. It hits on a lot of interesting and valid points, and is a great read. I find it interesting that a lot of the ‘outside of the box’ MMO design discussions (from the armchair folk) tend to look for solutions to twist those around, and try new things. It’s true that we are trained as gamers to expect certain things, and when they deliver on those expectations the moans from the crowd are ‘oh, just like that game’. But we play on. When we throw out interesting and possible ideas that go against those expectations – but make sense to us – it’s likely a non-fundable industry idea. We went from WoW, to games that want to be like WoW (but different!), to games that want to be like games that aren’t quite as successful as WoW because copying WoW has failed. In most industries change is enacted by a need in the market. You get the outliers who work to make that change on their own to position their product or service in a better market position, but those are few and far between. If oil prices and the education about the environment weren’t so front and center in our everyday lives, then we would all still be driving gas guzzling cars – and why not? If it’s the most inexpensive way to create the product, and socially acceptable, that is what we are going to get. Now car companies are struggling to catch up on making fuel efficiency and alternate fueling methods the forefront of their companies – because people actually want them now (and governments are forcing them to). It’s all demand – on different fronts.

The fun part with Elder Gamer’s example, that in AC2 they didn’t want an ammo slot for arrows and how it didn’t work for them then – is that WoW is moving that way now. Goes to show how long, and what it actually takes to, make such a seemingly minor design decision. Imagine the timeline on the bigger ideas.

Where am I going with this? Cutting my lawn! (after the break)

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