Nodding Wistfully

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.

A Guild’s Life

I often enjoy how perspectives change. This is just a self evaluation, even on this blog. Back in 2008 when I started blogging I closely followed and often agreed with Wolfshead and Tesh when it came to virtual worlds and the opportunities that existed in our space to make games that had meaning. We were all very aligned on what was missing for games that lacked tangible impact on enjoyment and entertainment. This attitude and optimism stemmed from experiences I enjoyed in the frontier days of the MMO – before homogenization, before “casual” play and most importantly, before instanced content. Yes, WoW changed all of that, for better or for worse but that didn’t come out of thin air. I often discuss now that it’s not that I want the same games we had – the EQ  and DAOC experiences can never be replicated or repeated – but I really want that feeling again. The unbridled amazement, discovery, and joy that games once brought. Along the years I start realizing the true world building and discovery isn’t coming anytime soon in this genre and you learn to accept and quietly take what parts you can still glean and enjoy. This is when you enter your own nostalgic space and make the best of what you have.

I still visit my original EQ Guild forums (The Grove) and yes, I still have my login and password and still have access to guild only forums. I have 484 posts there. Few of us visit, and fewer still often. I stop by randomly once a month, see who has said hi for the most part, see what people are playing. That is tie that is 20 years old. I don’t even go to my high school reunions.

I was looking for my quit thread and couldn’t find it. The reason for doing so was that I think I vaguely recall blaming EQ for it’s harsh death penalties, separation of friends due to level disparities and content difficulty, requirement for hours of grind. (etc.) You know, all the things that have since been fixed but have eroded the communities with play within. It started as a small research assignment to see at what point and for what reason I had given up on EQ. At some point EZBOARDS was bought by YUKU and the search functionality is bad now (like – non functioning), and it has unregistered some of my posts but also has them tracked as mine. It is weird! I did find some nice gems I wrote 15 years ago that had things in it such as:

2001: when things started getting tough  “For me, I will remain a grover even if I am the last one left. I have played EQ since beta, and have never enjoyed my play time as much now. I owe a lot of this to Velm, who took me under his wing in oasis, and showed me truly how to enjoy the game. I just ran with it from there, some bumps along the way, of course, but all in all, I have never had more fun in any game.:” (I am still in the guild and the random times I have logged into the testserver the only player on from that guild)

2001: as things were falling apart “When we started losing people, everyone panicked, and we thought of solutions to ‘fix’ the guild. REcruit, do weekly raids, etc. etc. I was a big part of these conversations as well, I have to admit it. That is where we were wrong. It was never broken. Trying to fix it broke it more. I made a comment to an ex grover, now a part of another guild, that I am liking whats going on now.. people who dont want to be here are not. People who do, are. Its not based anymore on if we can do raids, get epics, etc.. those remaining are long resigned to realize that its just not gonna happen within ourselves, we have to go to others for that . What it is based off is people who like the tag, and each other, playing a ‘game’ and enjoying each others company. If you can handle that, stay and have fun with us. If not, go, enjoy your time, send me a tell sometime, and maybe I can see if I can get us killed somewhere sometime. Somewhere along the lines when the grove changed from a group of friends, to a raid/epic/uber group, is when it got lost. Its reverting back now. Im fine with that. I just dont know if anyone else is. For me? I will be in the grove until I am last member, or Griid /guilddisbands it. Or if Griid kicks me out. IF any of that happens, happens, I wont join another guild, because really, whats the point?”

A few years later when I popped in to say hi:

2005: “Troll. Very busy little troll =) I miss MMORPGs, well, not entirely, but I miss the way they *were*. I was thinking about the old Grove days, when I first was invited along, and those were fun, fun times. Reallly fun. I stuck with DAOC for a long time, Did COH, beta tested away (currently testing Matrix Online) but is it just me or are MMORPGs really dumbed down? I don’t know if it is just because it was my first, but for all of its downfalls, EQ really had some twisted sense of accomplishment and danger attached to it. Current games there feels like there isn’t any inherent “risk” factor, (no risk, no reward! =)”

I couldn’t find my quit thread. It was driving me nuts. Did I even write one?

What I did find was a lot of different quit threads. And they were heart wrenching to still read now. In a game like EQ if someone quit your guild it really felt like they were quitting your family. In a small, tight knit guild when you lose key people you lose the ability to do things. The actual capability of you to enjoy the game is now lessened. That is just crazy. There was also so much good support and friends talking about life. You can literally go through years and years of conversations there and see people start the game, join the community, their journey there as a guild member, the drama that happens, the good that happens and their goodbye when they leave. It is a very crazy historical perspective of some important and defining gaming years of my life. I spent hours pouring through threads with the initial sole purpose of finding a specific thread of my own but ended up reliving some really strong memories – both fond and upsetting.

Some fun threads revolved around new game launches and if people would participate and where they would be. No one was able to get back together in any way that resembled what we had. I am not an overly emotional person – especially when it comes to the past – but when there is an artifact like our guild boards preserved perfectly like that it feels like it is in real time and is still going. It still feels alive for the sole fact that it is there. I am thankful that it is but also don’t want to get stuck reliving a past that can’t possibly exist again. I just became completely drawn in reading those boards. A lot of this also has to do with the formative parts of my years and how I was growing as a human being at that time.  All of that rolls into one another to create a perfect storm of nostalgia and wonderment. And at the end of it all, I can’t help but think that if I put more into the communities that exist that I would get much more out of them.

For all the power of emotion and nostalgia that still rests there, I game with zero of those people now. The only one I even know who participates in BlogNation is Ozmandius at KTR but he hasn’t posted in a couple years and while we were both serial posters on the boards I was the one that left and we never really connected afterwards. This entire post organically grew from a little research to support some gaming events I have experienced that could never be duplicated in any world (which I am still going to write) and it took me to a place that I wasn’t quite prepared for. Still, it was an amazing personal journey through a group that defined my expectations for a virtual community and ruined most chances for any new game to live up to.

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!

Nodding Wistfully – RMT, Gold Farming, and Jared.

Nodding Wistfully is a newer post-type here that has little content, but refers to a fellow blogger’s content that I either agree with strongly, or think is a very worthwhile read. Yes, I’ve only done two of them so far, but plan on continuing them!

PlayNoEvil has a great annotated video interview posted up that is an interesting watch/read. I just noticed that it’s from end of October, and sadly I missed it up when it was posted. It’s an interview with a Gold broker for the secondary market in MMO’s.

While I think there are ample opportunities for developers to harness the income from the secondary market, and/or design better ways to slow the practice in their online theme parks, it’s good ‘other side’ perspective content to consume. It’s 40 minutes long, so at bare minimum just read the annotated portion.

Quick note on Vindictus and what they do to stop/stem hacked accounts – when you log in from a new IP address you can’t do anything negative to your character for a short time period. Can’t sell things, can’t destroy items, and can’t use the mailbox. I thought this was a pretty interesting, non-invasive way to slow down account theft. Figured that is worth mentioning along with the theme of the above post.

Nodding Wistfully : Diku

A thankful nod to this article over at Qblog from Mr. Dr. Bartle. While I started my MMO adventures in EQ beta, I still didn’t understand where the holy trinity actually came from.  I’ve always disliked it, writing my own musings on how silly it all is, and the challenges of getting people to adopt something that may be different. Even if it is better.

I found the link through Zubon’s ‘Most Typical Member’ post over at killtenrats (which I’m not going to link directly, as this post doesn’t really add to his thoughts on the matter).

Read, enjoy, dream of change.