Daybreak (SOE)

Portal Knights Inspiration

I know, I should stop. Landmark is what Landmark is, and no amount of wishing for private servers with complete autonomy (paid for, of course) and entire worlds that can be changed, explored, and molded will change that. Oh the adventures to be had. The game is what the game is and I should just accept that.

Except I can’t, because I think it would be perfect in a private server model. And I am going to keep dreaming (and writing) about it. The latest inspiration is from Portal Knights, a game my son and I are playing together. It is in early access, and on steam, and checks off every box that I want Landmark to be (except one).

  • Persistent, private world? Check!
  • Sandbox-y, build, conquer, create? Check!
  • Explore, discover, surprise? Check!
  • Character Development? Check!
  • Modern, believable graphics? NO. *sadface*

Portal Knights has three character classes (Ranger, Warrior, Mage) that all play just a bit differently. In the simplest of terms you could say it is a more focused Minecraft. It has all of the building elements of Minecraft but more RPG built in. You start on your own private, floating island and through discovery find and unlock a portal. This leads to a separate floating island with different resources (mobs, plants, trees, ore, etc.) which also has portals. Some islands have dungeons, boss mobs, and the like. Each world, currently, has 49 different floating islands. I can setup homes and crafting stations in each (which is overkill) but there is that option to personalize each of the islands. The time swaps between fighting and resource collecting (and a day/night cycle) keeps the game play fresh.

I have my private world and can do what I will with it. I can also invite up to 3 friends to explore my world with me, through Steam friends, and/or LAN. It’s a great setup. We have been having more fun with PK than Minecraft and my son is level 15 while I am level 13. One of the better parts is that we can have our own, private worlds plus a shared one for when we can play together. You can advance in, around, and outside of each. Whatever you have on you when you visit a world you have. It’s that great mix that a world moves on without you, but yours can’t. You can have your cake and eat it to.

It’s fun, addicting, and the first boss battle I did was simple enough – but it is always exciting to drop a boss in any game. I look forward to continuing to explore the worlds and enjoy the game for what it is – did I mention it was in early access?

While enjoying it for what it is, I can’t help but think Landmark could have a similar setup, where you could explore other people’s worlds when invited and they even have a better setup to personalize your world with dungeons and mob placement. That is the version of the game I really want to play.  I am also being consistent here, as I have argued for World of Warcraft to have private, paid for servers as long ago as 2008. I think that is the kind of model that is going to have a future. Portal Knights is where we spend our gaming time now and it has been a polite, engaging distraction. Hopefully other worlds follow.

Missing the (Land) Mark

Like my dear Landmarkian friend ( Landmarker? Other guy who plays?) Bhagpuss, I went back to Landmark now that it is a “real” game, completed and everything.  For a quick recap on how I felt about Landmark: it was an awesome time killer. I was an early tester of Minecraft and Landmark could be the next big thing! Although I hate action combat, there was enough in Landmark to get me excited about Everquest Next. It was a fun tool slash simulator to run around and play in. I even built an awesome serviceable home. (That link is important later).

Sure, there was no game there, so to speak, but there was a grind and building and exploration and a grind. It was a visual update to Minecraft without being able to change much of the world permanently – just your own little plot. Beautiful graphics, great movement animations, great scenery. The future was bright.

I stopped playing. Really, I got back involved in EQ (Progression servers) and my serial game play nature doesn’t let me delve into more than one title effectively. Besides, there was a lot of work to be done from it’s Alpha state and since I was a founding member, I could come back anytime and check out the changes. I just didn’t bother. Part of that was the fear of the time I would lose “playing” a “game” that had a long way to go before being done and the other was that I was engrossed in other games. It remained there as something I couldn’t wait to see shape and grow and then get back into when the time was right.

The time never was right. EQ:N was cancelled and there was even more doubt about what Landmark would be. I kept playing other games. Bhagpuss started posting about it again and I became interested and updated the game, and loaded it back up for fun.  I made it to the selection screen, made a character, and had to log off for some reason or another. It sat another week. I forgot about it. I found it again. Loaded it up, to find I made a character in a space suit, whose first tutorial job was to build a castle. Good, fitting, scenario.

While it should have been a futuristic colony I did appreciate how easy it was to click “castle parts” and build a castle. No more messing around with various shaping tools. I also got a dream plot of land – waterfront! Without any effort. No clue how it got there and what went into that random choice.

The server population was low, and a quick glance around was a sea of other barely started tutorial land plots. Not what you would call a vibrant, inviting neighborhood.

The landscape was dotted with half built castles as far as the eye could see. What WAS interesting, mind you, was the first row of the building tool in the screenshots – the game had saved my Claims from alpha, including my home sweet home ‘Isey’s Mountain top retreat’ (which I don’t recall naming as such, but was accurate as I remember it.). Sadly, I couldn’t build that due to a lack of resources and props. I suppose there will be some work to do in Landmark after all. What I could build though was my dragon mouth (the link far above, that I said was important, is for this reason). I did have the resources for that so stuck it on the side of my vanilla pre-fab castle just to see if it would work.

Fully satisfied in my initial building experience I continued down the road of the tutorial, stopping right after I bought the Dungeon pack where it seems I can build my own mini dungeon with NPCs and the toolset. While I didn’t get far two things became crystal clear to me. The first being that I couldn’t set up shop there. Too empty, too many people started there an didn’t finish, there was literally not a single building completed as far as I could see. Just a couple tutorial pieces. I am tempted to keep the waterfront but more curious to go explore and see where (if) the community is.

The second moment of clarity was that if I didn’t log off immediately I would be sucked in and lose a few hours of my afternoon, which I could ill afford to sacrifice today.

/quit

It’s a dangerous title and one I am not sure what I will do with. What i am certain of is that if it was indeed the next minecraft, I would pay a lot of money. If I could host my own server where my guests could shape and build the world, and not just a small plot of land, that would be worth a lot of my investment. As the way it stands now, not so much. I will play it for sure at some point. I often struggle when I want to give money to a company if they would only do one thing I want that they don’t do. It feels selfish of me. Still, I will hold out hope that they sort out a hosting business model so they get their money, and I get my updated Minecraft-esque world to build, shape, and populate with imagination.

Everquest Not Next

There was little surprise with the announcement of the cancellation of Everquest Next. Some hopes and dreams were minorly dashed as a game that never really was a game was finally ended the way it began. As an announcement. EQ:N was never really there so the announcement that they officially ended their prior announcement that they were building some successor had all the shock of telling a 25 year old that Santa wasn’t real. Well, duh, dad, I’ve known that since I was seven. Thanks for keeping the illusion alive for a while there though.

The real question is now, is what is really next? Next for EQ, and next for MMOs? There is no future so bright shade wearing on the horizon.

Daybreak and EQ are fortunate to have the huge success of their TLPs and continued ways to get a subscription fee. Really, I bet they are the third highest subscription gaining MMO out right now if you count it that way (after WoW and Eve, is anyone even collecting subs anymore?). They can (and should) ride that train to the next sell point. Remember Columbus Nova is a private equity investor and they normally run on 5 or 10 year investments. Get an asset, ramp it up, sell it to the next, bigger PE firm. Columbus wants a high return (many PE firms think it is a failure to not get 20x, or at least, that is a waste of their capital) so it probably makes sense that they would cancel something that would take a huge investment with little clear chance of success. I’ll be back to Phinigal soon as I finish Pillars of Eternity (or unless X-COM 2 has DLC out by then). I can only give one game at a time my attention and EQ TLP is currently sitting in second place.

For MMOs in general this decline is good for them. It’s good that people have stopped trying to out budget and out muscle WoW. It’s good that developers are realizing that you can’t build an excellent graphically represented top ten MMO feature list and jam it into a soulless world and call it an MMO and reap profits. In the mindset of what spurs innovation and better business/ thinking:

  • “Business as Usual”  – until
  • “Crisis” – which leads to a necessary
  • “New way of thinking” – which, once realized leads to a
  • “New Reality” – which once executed, leads to
  • “Business as Usual”

Good businesses skip crisis and self create a new way of thinking, but that doesn’t happen often in most industries and definitely not gaming. MMOs already hit “crisis” with the huge failures of TESO, Wild*, and major MMO closures such as Warhammer Online. The “new way of thinking” is occurring with the Kickstarted and crowdfunded niche titles. We just haven’t seen the new reality yet.

But we will, and hopefully that creates games that aren’t just bullet pointed feature sets, but worlds to explore. The focus you see in these new kickstarted titles does give some hope. EQ:N also gave some hope.

The only hope I have now, is patience for a new reality.

[link to TAGN for all sorts of good coverage about it.]

The EQ True Box Server

I thoroughly enjoyed my foray onto my first TLP server when Ragefire and Lockjaw were recently launched. I made a few posts about it and stepped away due to learning that a new server would be launching soon – and did not want to “lose” my time investment. At the time I left EQ it was the first game I had paid a subscription for since WoW a few years ago, and it was a great investment. The “fun” return on a 1999 based game for all intents and purposes is quite ironic in this current world of amazing and free games. The hook was initially nostalgia, but afterwards, it just proved to be a better game for my tastes.

So, with the December 9 launch of the Phinigal Server I am proudly announcing my return to EQ. Again. And for a long haul.

Starting in three months.

This time the expansions are locking at a rate of 90 days, no vote. This is great. I hope they stop expansions before craziness of mercenary NPCs (and whatnot) make it into the game, but who knows. The 90 day start time for me is my always conundrum of what-character-to-play-AND-STICK-WITH-THIS-TIME and to which i have it down to Enchanter or Wizard. Kunark starts in 90 days, Enchanters get Breeze at 16 in that scenario, and leveling to 30 just got infinitely better. If I sell myself on the Wizard (which was the most fun I had in EQ in forever) then I start early – if not, I get 90 days to avoid over camping (and finish off Fallout 4). Or, if I be sensible and roll a Cleric for free groups and loots I can start right away too.

The True Box server is actually being supported by the program makers of multi box software. I was digging deep on some googling threads where the owners of the programs were encouraging their paying users to not violate the ToS  on the new server. Some even publically announcing they wouldn’t be using their time to write code to fix any blocks Daybreak puts up. A prominent dev of that software even mentions he thinks that it could bring down EQ boxing completely on all servers if they push hard on the Phinigal server, when there are every other server you can box on at Daybreak’s support. Fun and odd balance that relationship is, and will be fascinating to see how things play out.

To clarify, all True Box means is that multi-boxing on one PC is now banned – you can pull out 3 separate laptops with three keyboards and still do it.

Gaming life is good – Fallout 4 is fun for what it is, TSW continues to drive a great single player experience stuck in an MMO (imagine if it was built like Fallout where your choices impacted the world permanently and you could actually solve some of these mysteries? Missing out on a huge opportunity!), Star Wars: Battlefront is a great time waster and soon I’ll have EQ to itch my true MMO gaming desires.  I find myself with not much to add to the conversation, but also nothing to complain about. I’ll take that.

Half Pregnant

They say you can’t be half pregnant.  This is what slows me down from blogging, the thought that you are either in or out. I’m on the line. It has been awhile since I have posted and like most excuses reasons, they are varied and plentiful. It was partly time, passion, focus, desire and gaming. The Pie chart would look like this:

I know. Fancy. I still read a lot of blogs but I used to dedicate some serious time to reading and writing. Hobbies are fun and all, but I found new ones that also took away my time. At one point I thought I would shutter the blog on my anniversary (August 27th, Happy 7th!) but that felt really melodramatic and over the top. Especially for something that I have loved so long. If I set it free I wasn’t so sure it would come back, and being a nostalgic fool that would be hard to handle.

I have really stepped up being healthy. I get up at 5:00 am everyday, have a coffee, read the news, and then work out. I track my progress and stay focused. I have lost a lot of bad weight and added good muscle weight. I also have been focusing a lot on my diet. I feel happier, healthier, stronger and more satisfied with how I feel. I think it might add years to my life. I still drink beer and eat bad food now and again, but it’s in balance. This does seriously cut into my gaming time as I used to play late night when my wife went to bed. With a 5:00 am wake up time, I know that time is better spent with the sleep I need. C’est la vie, something always has to give!

And yet here I am. A burning desire to belong to Blognation ™ and to write, and to game (and think about gaming). Here I am, half blog-pregnant.

But I have been gaming!

The Everquest TLP servers have been amazing. I finally stepped away after getting multiple toons into the 30s as there is a promise of a bot-free TLP coming around Christmas time. One character logged in at a time would really take away the distractions of having every named camp perma-camped by AFK mages. It is a big problem. Also, the single person running full raid teams. I am looking forward to really playing it again once they launch that server as interdependence and team play was key in the core experience. The best part about EQ TLP is that they did modernize grouping and looting, while retaining a lot of the magic. I just do not want to invest more time in characters that I will be leaving behind, and preserve much more of the core experience when I go back. They haven’t announced whether or not you can transfer there (guessing no) but if that announcement comes that you can I may continue a bit. Either way, strange to believe that my time in Everquest actually isn’t over after all these years – and in many ways it is the only place providing a satisfying MMO experience.

True to my word, I am playing WildStar again! I said I would go back when it went F2P and I am there. I am really enjoying the story line and even the 5 man adventures. I do plan to take one Exile and one Dominion to cap to experience the story. It is a fun, furiously-paced game and in many ways is EQ-opposite but a nice spacey distraction when I have 30 minutes to play. They have fixed a lot of what made that game less fun and it’s worth playing now that  you can do it at your own pace. I will be giving them some money soon, as I do like supporting games that provide me with fair entertainment for my time.

I also downloaded Project Reality 1.3, which is now a standalone product. I am hungry for a FPS experience and this one was the best one out there, so I am going back. The download just finished last night (all 6+ gigs) and really looking forward to carving out some time to play. It is another one of those games that really need you to dedicate distraction free and focused gaming to get the most out of (and give the most in). Project Reality has provided the best platform for  memorable FPS gaming and it’s gritty realistic and rewarding of patient game play (and team play) is completely different from the other options out there.

EQ tore me away from The Secret World and although I am only playing it for the single player experience, there is a lot left to enjoy there and I also recently updated it. I am still at the savage coast and a ton left there to explore as well.

Feels good to write and good to be back to pluck away at things.

The Hunt for Red V

Reading the Daybreak forums for progression servers I came across an update to the class stats from the post beta information. This one had more respondants of people who (seemingly) actually participated. It is also a fun way to look at what people say versus what they do. They are still very similar. I am not going to break it down at all, but linking to them here. And stealing a class graph picture for fun.

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So, basically, Mages are liars. I think we all knew that deep down. Due to the OPness of mages they are everywhere. The group that downed Nagafen was mostly mages. (Yes, Naggy is already dead.)

I finally did start my adventure on Ragefire, and did it by still not deciding what class I wanted to play. I quickly made several and started messing around early levels to see which fit. Wood Elf Druid made the most sense (due to my mostly solo-ish playstyle and desire to be wanted in group if/when I could) and as suspected that area was really busy. For fun I rolled a Gnome Shadowknight and Steamfont was also the busiest I have pretty much ever seen. Still, I did what I always do with my Gnome characters. I go hunting for Red V.

Braack was my EQ proper troll name but in my flurry of messing around with 6 characters I ran out of my standard names, so named my Gnome my Troll name. Not that I expect anyone to recognize me. Gnome Shadowknights weren’t possible in EQ classic (if I recall correctly?) so this is further proof that the progression server isn’t really class, you need Project 1999 for that.

Ak’Anon has a mechanical maintenance crew and the entire city has plenty of mechanical help. From Scrubbers to Sweepers to Guides you can’t walk very far without encountering a Mechanical friend. And like most technology, sometimes they go bad. When they do go bad the seem to congregate in the area where other ‘bad’ gnomes are, Necros and Shadowknights guildmasters. Those two groups live side by side. This is a great area to level as there are snakes, spiders, skeletons and rogue clockworks in abundance – and it is rarely overcamped. There is also a named that spawns (Red V) and when you kill him you get a box, that filled with 4 items (blackbox fragments) from the other clockworks makes a rusty box. This rusty box get’s turned into the GM of the Warriors (Malik) and you have a chance to get a really nice item. Also – while hunting down here, please remember to keep your scrap metal. You can turn that in accross the pond from the entrance to that area for faction, money, and more goods. I leveled to 5 in this space. Red V was camped by a cleric for a good while but he buffed me up (he was level 8, so they were very helpful) and let me cycle in for Red V now and again.

This reminded me of the good of grinding in an area. I didn’t have to read quest, run around, collect, run back, read quest.. I just stayed in an area and killed things. A lot of them. It’s a nice view.

There are a lot of “no drop” items that take up a lot of space if you aren’t careful so they are normally left on. After spending a couple hours in the same spot, doing the same thing, chatting with the dwarf I realized I was having a lot of fun. I didn’t need to be entertained or cut scened, just play, grind, xp, level, chat, and enjoy.  There is often a Zen to the right level of grind.

This play session also reminded me of some of the great parts about EQ. First, is no instancing (or at least, no real instancing. I hear they have some server version in the starter areas due to the server being at cap, but I haven’t seen that in play).

The three biggest I was reminded of:

  • Getting higher level buffs from higher level characters (my HP went up 30%, and AC up 15% from cleric buffs) and in most games they don’t want lower level characters having an ‘easier’ or ‘fun’ time leveling. In EQ, you could get great buffs that changed your power level. Nothing wrong with getting help from a veteran player.
  • Your items are your items – and you can give them away when you are done with them. Even to a lower level character who would then become more powerful as a result. Character locked items is one of the bigger failings of modern day MMOs. Especially in PVE games.
  • The Mob items are actually items. I spoke about this before and it is awesome. If the skeleton you are about to kill has a mace, or scythe in his hand(s) when you kill it is lootable. Such a small thing but very important for immersion.

What I wasn’t planning on is that I didn’t have the faction to turn in the quest. I didn’t quite realize how much SKs were hated by our close to kin Warrior brethren. I need to go grind faction to turn in the quest. Which means back to the mines, as the scrap metal quest is the only one nearby that gives Gemcutter faction. Looking at my items above all that armor was found on skeletons in the area, and raising 9 plat in a play session isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Solid haul.

I’m back and it’s fun. It’s really, really slow in comparison to what we are trained to like but it feels like a nice leisurely stroll into danger and death -instead of the normal sprint. How much endurance I have remains to be seen. I didn’t even really plan on playing the SK but once I got it in my head to complete the Red V quest I got into a zone. It is a quest an area I had done with all of my gnomes – even though the big winning item is the Bull Smasher – a small race only mace that is awesome. Even if you got that on your caster you could give it to your friend – or to one of your other characters. I also got a ton of bone chips which sells well to necros.

I went for maximum nostalgia on this one and really need to choose a character and class I plan on sticking to. Who knows, it might just end up being this guy.

EQ Ragefire PRE Launch Class Survey Results

I haven’t started my adventures on the EQ progression server but wholly expect to this weekend. It is probably a good thing as well due to the slate of problems – the funniest of which, is a full server. For a 1999 game that still requires a subscription. Goes to show the strength of nostalgia.

I am still struggling with class choice – do I do something fully new and have a new adventure? Pick a class I am comfortable with so I don’t have to relearn everything? I enjoy playing most class styles and types but due to limited play times I do not get the benefit of working on several characters. This is why I fully appreciate MMOs that let you have one character and try different roles. Unfortunately, EQ is the furthest thing from that. Also, due to the extra, super slow leveling experience (yes, the extra extra emphasis is necessary) if I am going to have any fun and make any friends in game I am going to have to pick one and just go with it.

While pondering what to play I came across this survey conducted by a community member (totalimmortal) that statistically is +/-5% accurate (~400 respondents) which provides all sort of interesting information categorized in interesting ways. Including class, race, age, playtime, timezones, if they have a significant other and if that significant other supports their EQ progression server participation (I kid you not). Cool graphs and what not follow, taken directly from the link.

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I am surprised cleric is so high and same with enchanter – I never recalled the latter being a top class. I wonder how much of these responses are “what I think the server will need/want” versus “what I want”.

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Humans playing humans online. How boring! Gamers and their comfort zones. Put a tail on the Half Elf and I bet that shoots near the top. The only surprise for me here is that Erudite is so low, as they are the best magic casting human class and with Enchanter so high as a class choice I expected that to also be reflected. I do suppose that the Monk also impacts the human statistic since monks are human only.

There are a ton of other neat stats there so I encourage you to go visit. Here is my favorite insight though:

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With this news, that almost half of the entire interested population is going to leave sometime after TSS, which makes me wonder if they should ever get there. Still, that is 12 (I think?) expansions in. That will take some time to get to. As mentioned prior I love learning about class/race combos and stats and do believe all MMO companies should be forthright with that information. This isn’t post launch information but is still helpful for me to frame my own mind about who will be out in the EverQuest world.

After much thought I know that I will end up soloing a lot, so I need to lean towards a class that can do that well. That makes me lean magician, druid, or enchanter. Bards used to be decent soloists but here is the other problem – I don’t even really remember and updated 1999 information isn’t really a thing. I’ll have to Google Fu. Enchanters are always wanted in groups and I can be a Gnome which I am leaning towards heavily. Of course, I could just roll a Ranger because Wilhelm feels so strongly about them.

In the meantime, bring on the data. Hopefully by the time I figure out a class this weekend the servers will be both online and accessible.

 

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.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, EQ!

I am bad at remembering dates. I have only managed to wish Happy Birthday to my first MMO girlfriend twice in the past 7 years – in 2009 and 2014. Thankfully I have people on my blogroll who are much better at this than me (and better at many other things as well, but let’s focus on the current topic, shall we?)

In 2009 I shared a story about how I found my guild and what we shared in that game. I also linked to the discovery of an in game dungeon and my exploration of that place with my friends – with no guides, videos, or predetermined strategies. We went in and explored blind. It was exactly the sort of thing you would do in a Dungeon and Dragons Pen and Paper session. That remains one of my best gaming memories and always will – because there is zero sense of discovery in games now. They aren’t built that way.

Last year I explored the pain and suffering that EQ brought and how everyone has one of those stories – and now they are fondly remembered. Funny how many old gamers define the greatness they remembered with the pain they endured. That’s not something I recall Grandma and Grandpa relishing in memory of everything they suffered through. Though I suppose there is truth to that because they often talk about the people they suffered with. Oh, human nature.

This year I thought about telling more EQ stories because there are so many, and with my recent discussion of trying to get the guild back together that would tie into that nicely. Truth is people who haven’t lived EQ stories can’t fully appreciate them – much like I can’t completely when I hear other stories about other old worlds such as Vanguard, or Asheron’s Call. Besides, I have never really been that great of a story teller although I do try. Joseph Skryim does a great job of telling stories if that is the kind of content you enjoy consuming. I know I do. (I also like writing them, but work to be done!)

I am also not just going to write a bunch of paragraphs linking to my old content and other blogger’s new content. I am going to create some original content! And that content is a realization I had about the difference between MMOs of today and MMOs of yesteryear. This thought actually spawned from a discussion I had with Syncaine about F2P in which I argued that a gated subscription model really isn’t a subscription model at all

That short discussion lead me to think more on it and decide it would be worth fleshing out a post from, and I have been plucking away at that post both in my head and in my drafts folder on and off since. The truth is that I had no reason to bring it out. The F2P, B2P, Sub model debate always rages on and while I have confidence in my viewpoint it doesn’t change much about what is currently out there. It could (and should) change what comes in the future. But I am getting ahead of myself.

To flesh out my argument is to be clear on this: gated subscription games aren’t any better than a slow XP curve in a F2P game where you can buy XP enhancement potions. The gated content ensures you can only experience it at the rate the game wants you to, and this forces you to subscribe for longer periods of time. A true “all you can eat” model would have the game open to you fully for you to consume at your own pace and will – and once you are done you can stop subscribing and wait for the next expansion. People who argue that subscriptions and F2P are that different are just looking at it through the lens of what they prefer. They are, in fact, completely similar in the sense that there are artificial barriers put in place in your gaming that you have to pay to get past. The downside of subscriptions is that you can’t pay more to break those artificial gating and barriers, you are forced to pay monthly and consume the content at a pace that may not  be optimal for you.

Syncaine’s argument above is true in some regards but really, when did MMO companies become our parents and have to treat us like children? I know that even with unlocked content that guilds and communities would form that would be responsible in consuming content at the pace they feel comfortable with. Bear with me a bit longer, I am tying this back to EQ soon!

All of this, and even the core of the Sub/B2P/F2P argument is because of the fundamental shift of where MMO games are currently and where they are going. MMOs are – in effect – just giant lobby games now. You sit around in your instanced Garrison waiting for your LFR or LFG to pop to instantly transport you to another instance where you will go through the achievement and advancement motions with 5-19 strangers for 30 minutes to an hour before either getting ported back to your Garrison, or logging into an alt to do the same thing. We are playing giant lobbies. All of the quest and world content are one time consumed and never visited again. Back in 2009 I did the math:

The WoW quest system, while mired in mediocrity (typical escort/kill/collect) is a HUGE part of their development costs. WoW currently has 8027 Quests (searchable at wowhead.com, at least). How many of those are “endgame”? 223. WoW has 7804 planned obsolescence quests. While you could argue the quest system is just a means to an end to GET to the endgame – how many 5/10/25 man instances could you build in place of the 7804 one off quests?

and of course, two expansions later, those numbers are even larger. I even explored the other, planned obsolescence content at the time:

WoW has ~80 pre-cap instances, (when you count instance wings and heroic modes) and only 22 targeted for max level. Isn’t that split in reverse? Shouldn’t there be 20 instances before the cap, and have 80 instances when you hit the cap – wouldn’t that make it harder for players to “run out of content” fast when the game truly begins?

of course, in that article I was arguing that we need less wasted (and boring) levelling content and more endgame focused content. Still that same idea applies that if WoW was a lobby game right now no one would really tell the difference. Even zones could be instanced (and some are in other MMOs for ‘overflow’). Games stopped being virtual worlds a long time ago and current MMOs should embrace that fact and just be more honest about it. They aren’t fooling anyone.

Back to EQ and her birthday – EQ was a true virtual world at the time. It really was. There are several reasons for this.

  • No instancing – wherever you went, every dungeon you visited, every area you traveled through you saw real people. Whether you wanted to or not. Just like the real world.
  • Travelling times – at certain levels it was dangerous to travel alone so you made friends fast – safety in numbers. Everyone has a crazy travelling story in EQ. I remember learning new languages in game when on the boat to Freeport. When was the last time you took a road trip with friends and family?
  • Downtime – non ADD game play styles meant there was time to stop and smell the roses – and build relationships. People who ski talk about the time in the chalet just as much as on the slopes.
  • Need for others – Corpse runs were a thing, yes – but everyone had their turn for bad luck and needed to turn to the community for help. And because everyone had that experience complete strangers would take the time to help you. People relied on one another. Not unlike our lives now, where I rely on the police for safety, the butcher for meat, and the farmer for lettuce. Inter-dependency.
  • Sense of discovery – you could find things in the world that weren’t mapped out. In game auto-quest resources and sites such as WoWHead weren’t fleshed out for EQ in the early days. It wasn’t as easy and it wasn’t as accurate. You could stumble upon things that were wonderful. When I was in NYC last month we found this little pizza joint and it was amazing. I didn’t find it on YELP, it was just there, and we went in to check it out, ate amazing pizza, and had a few beer together.
  • Hand me downs – gear was gear. I could take it off and give it to friends when I was done with it. I could give it to my alts. I could sell it to anyone. Imagine if you tried to sell your old TV on kijiji and someone forced you to stop? Your items were yours to do with what you would.

All MMOs have moved away from these six things (even EQ) because they weren’t efficient and weren’t “fun”. Even BoE / BoP is to just slow down progression. Yes, these are giant fantasy game environments but I find it odd, and a bit sad, that the more they mirrored the real world the more they felt like virtual worlds themselves. And now that they aren’t virtual worlds – now that they are just a set of loosely interconnected achievement / advancement experiences – we need subscription gating, F2P gating and B2P expansion gating to keep people hooked. I used to log in to Norrath because it was a virtual world. I logged in to hang out with friends and “see what was going on” – and what I could maybe help out with, or explore, or do. I didn’t need any falsified reasons to extend my visits. Now it’s to gain a level, or upgrade an item slot, or grind faction. I am not visiting a world, I am visiting an opportunity to advance a specific part of one of my characters for a specific reason. It’s all very institutional and boring.

The world is a different place now with being so interconnected and phones glued to palms. I am not advocating for a return to how EQ was a virtual world as the community would reject it. I am celebrating what it was for it’s time though. We need to move forward, not backward. The challenge with moving forward is what things do our MMOs require to once again make them virtual worlds and not vending machines? What makes a community today, and how do we build that into a game? And most importantly, does anyone have the courage to make it?

Happy Birthday EQ! Thank you for providing us with this wall of text.

Sony Sells Everquest

I didn’t see this story making the rounds in BlogNation and probably due to the Massively and WoW Insider closing news – which I do want to address briefly. While said so much better by so many in our space, the loss of those reporting sources will be missed. I checked both frequently weekly. WoW Insider hit this blog with a linkback many years ago (June 2009) and it created a fun discussion. The link was about how many kids were born into our our WoW guild at the time.

Since the guild was formed at the beggining of Burning Crusade, we have had 12 kids born into guild members. Hell, that’s a solid 10 person raid group (with rotations, even). It’s a fun thought – a group of adult gamers grouped by an in game tag sharing parenting tips for newborns (after they read the Yogg-Saron strats, mind you)

That generated me a few hits and it was fun to be linked to by a major gaming news site. Other guilds chimed in on how many kids they had spawned and it was a fun little competition.

Massively also linked to me recently so it is nice when the big guys recognize us little guys – that is community building and I’d often see them do it to additional sites.

SOE will now be Daybreak Game Company – an interesting choice of words  that may tie the hopes of H1Z1 to the “new” studio. Mr. Smedley is the President of DGC and at least we can be certain of fun and interesting tweets for some time yet. The real positive news for the change is that the company can now produce games for the Xbox One platform, opening up a lot more opportunity in the console space.

“We will continue to focus on delivering exceptional games to players around the world, as well as bringing our portfolio to new platforms, fully embracing the multi-platform world in which we all live [emphasis added],” Daybreak president John Smedley said in a statement.

That same quote makes me wonder how much of their future is on multi-platform focused games as opposed to PC only (ie: MMOs) and like much of the announcement things will become more clear in time. Since the company is a private investment firm, not only were details not shared of the purchase but we won’t have quarterly earnings reports to look forward to over-scrutinize and read into. We will be at the whim of whatever their marketing departments decide to share with us (which isn’t that far from what we get from public firms otherwise).

Hopefully EQ and some of the legacy titles continue to get the investment into them that they return to the company. Again, will be very interesting to see.

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

In the romantic comedy “How to lose a guy in 10 days” A reporter is writing an article with that name – and wants to prove she can lose a guy in 10 days. On the other side, the guy, a big advertising exec takes a bet that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The result is genuinely cute (but mediocre) – no matter what she does that would make most guys afraid he sticks it out. Both are trying to win a bet. It’s not high on my recommended list, but a funny thought. If there are two people with exact opposite intentions, how to they get along? Is that the same opposite forces working between MMO developers who are trying to get as much money as possible for their product, and consumers who want as much bang for their buck?

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

The truth is in real life that doesn’t work that much. Quick on the heels of WildStar’s decline and some other big launches over the years, lets have a look at 10 ways to ensure you can push those gamers and consumers away from your product.

#10  A flawed vision

I don’t disagree with having a vision – that is critical! What surprised me with WildStar was that I don’t know who created the vision or why. Did they consult with players? Did NCsoft buy into it? I ask these things because I get it – I understand if McDonald’s offers the Super Grease and Cardiac Bacon Burger because they are speaking to their customer base. So Gaffney and targetting the 1% vision was the outcome, but who approved and funded that vision? Why would he no longer be running the company when he achieved what he set out to do? With brands I always believe to be who you are. KFC will never attract a healthy eating segment. Be who you are, and be proud of it. In gaming that means design your game for the audience you want – niche or not. I think you see this improving with recent Kickstarter projects – we’ll see if and when they deliver on those.

#9 : Have key people leave the company near/after launch 

There are a few WildStar examples of this, but also some bigger ones in the past. I get churn, but nothing signals failure more than people leaving/fired who built it or spent years building the community – no matter what reasons are shared.

#8 Gate content in silly ways

Content needs to be gated, we get it. Do it in a way that isn’t insulting to the intelligence of the player base. I would be playing (and paying for) SWTOR if they didn’t make certain quest rewards contingent on subscriber status. I would be more fond of LOTRO if they didn’t make character classes gated by an expansion that isn’t required for them to play in the first place. This goes beyond cash shops though – if you have a subscription, don’t add a cash shop that gates content. If you aren’t a F2P or B2P title, don’t gate content with needless and obvious grinds. I would have played Mists of Pandaria a LOT longer if progression wasn’t gated behind daily quests.

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

Games like WoW and EQ lived on as much in the fansites as the games themselves. I still read WoWinsider and I haven’t played the game in a year! Allakhazams was pure gold back in the day, and look at sites like MMO-Champion. You need a community to support and hype your game. WildStar lost it’s busiest podcast (among others) and some community news sites. Companies need to celebrate, support, and nurture those sites. When you lose those who are most enthusiastic about your game it sends a bad signal to the community.

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

The industry has to mature sooner or later and start treating customers like every other industry – rewarding loyalty, and customers, with things not just to do with who spent the most money the earliest (paid beta, collector editions, etc.) That guy that has paid a subscription to you for 5 years? Give him a title, or perk, or hell – a free month. Do something to recognize the growth that individual has provided you. I know some do this well with early beta access to future titles (etc.) but I strongly believe this is an area developers and publishers can greatly improve on.

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

There is a lot of heat on both sides of this argument – I won’t link to the gamer definition discussions, or the Blizzard developer quotes – but it is out there – and companies that aren’t aware, or mindful, of how they represent different views of the gaming community in their games will have a much harder go of it going forward.

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

Warhammer online comes to mind here the most. “We have PVP! PVE! PQs! We have EVERYTHING!” – and they did. Everything except an immersive, reliable, consistent and balanced gaming experience. Too much hype. Less sizzle, more steak. With marketing budgets making up more and more of development costs these days, I am one who firmly believes that money is better spent on development. People will market your game for you if it is actually good.

#3 : Charge a subscription

I know some people like subs. I know some people prefer them and won’t play games without them. The truth is that a large portion won’t even touch a subscription. This is all fine and good (again) if the company doesn’t mind having less users paying more. I believe hybrid solutions are the way to go and that will retain the maximum amount of players. The all or nothing approach of a subscription doesn’t work as well anymore. There need to be stages and varying access levels for it to be accepted by the majority. Yes, it works for EVE and WoW and the jury is still out on ESO – but WildStar will almost be certainly going to F2P – as have everyone else. There is a reason for this.

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

Not ironic behind the previous point and cash shops aren’t inherently bad on their own. #2 and #3 are interchangeable in order. However,  a bad cash shop is as much the kiss of death as a bad subscription. Cash shops should be always available, never annoying. Let players know there is a cash shop, let them know the sales, then leave them alone and let them play. Constant reminders and popups are a great way to lose the community by sheer annoyance. I did spend a LOT of money in League of Legends, who never did anything silly with their cash shop. In hindsight, I spend more money per month in LoL than I did with a subscription in WoW – but didn’t regret it once. I had the choice of when and how much to spend.

#1 : Lack of immersion.

This is the number one problem for me personally, so I listed it as #1 although I am sure other people will have other thoughts on that. While reflecting on WildStar the truth is that while I loved the setting, the style, the characters and so many things they did right – the worst thing they did was constantly drag me OUT of the immersion. They had an announcer for so many things – challenges, dings, etc. It took the world away and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game. Sure, the point may be to play a game, but I play these kinds of games to feel like it is more than just a game. I want to get into it and feel like my character is helping solve the poisoned river that is destroying the town. I don’t need the 4th wall to be broken with an announcer voice telling me “f&*cking awesome job, cupcake” when I do get it done. EQ immersed me by the third person view alone that was standard back then. The game was through my eyes. DAOC through my realm’s reliance on my actions. WoW has it’s easter eggs but it really dug down in the lore overall. You felt like you were in Azeroth. Let’s get back to to immersion.

Do you agree? I admit these are very personal to me but I also feel they have merit to what is going on in the marketplace as well. Some are more obvious than others and the rankings could wildly change depending on who is reading them. Overall I think it is a good barometer of some huge issues in our hobby and I’d love to play a game that avoided these 10.

Vanguard – Feelings of Missing Something

The Ancient Gaming Noob has an amazing write up  and that for many, Vanguard wasn’t much but a failed blip on the radar. For others, it was a dream, a vision, a job (that may or may not have ended in a parking lot), a failed save by SOE. It is part, all, and none of those things – depending on who you asked. I was surprised to learn not too long ago that Bhagpuss has Vanguard as one of his favorites – and reading through the other links at the TAGN article it was an awful lot to many people. Somehow, now I feel I missed out. Much like this “goodbye Vanguard” post, just a little too late.

Vanguard was originally a dream for me. As an EQ pioneer (alpha test, beta test, EQ guide) I soured on EQ because I solely played on the test server. When they wiped it on us many left, and that was the end of the magic of that community. MMO communities were pretty tight back then – partly because there weren’t many of them (or many of US on them..) but the testserver population was even more so tight. We needed each other. Everyone knew the major guilds, everyone knew the major gamers, because there were so few – and Norrath was a dangerous world to be alone in. You couldn’t be. We weren’t.

When things started changing and people leaving and guilds merging (as mentioned before – a few of us are still on our original EQ test guild boards – they somehow still exist, and a handful of us visit now and again) the EQ world changed for me. I tried to start over on live servers but getting to level 50 was so hard to begin with. Starting again? No way. I began to be bitter about the things in the game that drove us to need one another (grind, loss of xp on death, loss of items after 24 hours of death – this happened to me once.) and when I quit EQ I wasn’t happy with EQ. Odd now, how much I miss it. (The original “it”. The new it I still visit with all of it’s newfound glory and mercenaries!)

Thankfully for me Dark Ages of Camelot had launched and I promptly joined the testserver there (Pendragon) and quickly formed a guild (Legends) with other testserverites – and Legends became the leader of the Midgard Guild Alliance. It was awesome! I ended up being the Shadowblade TeamLead for a stint too. The PVP meant we needed each other even more but the magic of testserver communities was put under pressure there. Not enough people to test the content the devs wanted. ToA launched to PVE grind away our PVP magic and opening up the testserver to auto-levelled max levelled characters (they did let us transfer off) ruined the game for us as well. Couldn’t find the same magic on live servers. I knew all of my enemies in DAOC and that part made the game so fascinating. (Zarbix is out  – watch out!)

Some went to WoW, some went to EQ 2. I brief-stinted EQ 2 on their testserver but didn’t get hooked. WoW is where I did, and first found, and then built, a community there on a live server. Then Vanguard was announced.

Vanguard for me was the opportunity to recapture the magic that EQ was. WoW was “great” but instancing and other things took away some fundamentals I felt were important to community. I still stand by those, with the way the WoW community has evolved, but I don’t really blame them – its the scale that got in the way.  There were high hopes for Vanguard. I had high hopes for Vanguard.

The first cracks of disappointment were in beta – loved the blood mage, struggled with the PC specs, but the world was huge and wondrous. I didn’t buy because my chugging PC couldn’t handle it. That, and the comments and reviews of the game from people I trusted drove me away. I did try to pop back in when it went F2P but had little patience with it and it just felt off. I regret that now.

So I am left with the feeling that another world is lost that I would never see. Isn’t that a funny feeling? The game, the world was there for so long but I didn’t give it the time. Visiting this blog (through TAGN)  has so many pictures of the world and I wonder what exactly was the point of the Strange tower ruins near Drathel, in Plains of Anguish in the level 45-50 section. Who built them? What mobs where nearby? I wonder if that is an MMO way of looking at a screenshot – wondering how I would interact with it if my character was there.

I find it fascinating those who stay to the end, until the plug is pulled. Is it beside manner? Last grasps? A group of connected people enjoying what they can, while they can? From my experience, when the experience is gone it is really gone. Thankfully that is what memories are for. I probably would have the same.

A MMO being shut down – a world “sunsetted” is much like a famous TV show being cancelled. Whether it is Cheers, or Seinfeld, or a CSI knockoff that lasts 8 episodes – the fans of the show, new or old, always have strong feelings. The difference with shows is that they syndicate or you can buy the DVD boxed set. When a MMO world is gone it is a missed opportunity to enjoy something built by people, enjoyed by thousands, and loved by many.

Maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed Vanguard but I didn’t give it the chance – and maybe developers need to deserve that chance more. Or perhaps, just maybe, I needed to be more patient and give it a bit more time when it had the time. I’ll be more cautious of that in the future.

Thankfully, we have EQ and the Simpsons that just seem to run forever.

Player Servers

Is SOE trying to be a company for the people suddenly?

The idea of separate server rulesets is not new in MMOs with PVP, RP, PVE and other combinations but they don’t go far enough to offer real player choice. While not released (and just being discussed) I am liking the thought that SOE will give playing players a vote on specific rulesets – and they will create those servers to play on.

I still believe in taking it to the next level and allowing MMO players to rent (and pay for) servers with moddable rulesets.

This works well for FPS games and should for MMOs as well.Tesh and I bandied about the thought of it way back in 2008 and he on his blog in 2010.

First Person Shooter server rentals are good and hosts can customize map rotations, community rules, how many players per side (etc.) They are normally rented by clans or guilds and its great – the clan/guild provides the base community and the server populates (or not) based on their choices and base participation. Good servers with fair rules and fun communities tend to be busy. Even “asshole” style teabagfests find solid participation. Why?

Because servers attract different types of people that can play their favorite games the way they want to, and the way it is accepted by the particular community they agreed to join. The premise makes sense. Let people adjust the way they want it. Enough players will flock to what they want to play. Everyone is happy. Publishers get sub fees AND server rental fees, or some sort of combination.

The bullet points from my 2008 post are still valid. I’ll rehash them here. They are WoW centric (and a bit snarky at the time written) but really, insert any MMO acronym and it still makes sense.

Keep public servers still, offer this as a secondary market. All private servers are still hosted and controlled by Blizzard and all core mechanics stay the same.

  • At any given time in your WoW career, 95% of the world is unavailable to you anyway. You are either too high of level, or too low, or haven’t grinded X random raid boss 100 times to get the gear to go onto the next boss.
  • Could create a persistant world – Guild and individual housing? Why not? You don’t need 20,000 plots of land per server. Since it is a smaller and more dedicated playerbase Blizzard could create the tools to impact the world and leave your mark. World events? You wait until you have your players online then fire them off – every player gets to experience it. Think guaranteed Gates of AQ event. How many got to participate in that? NPC’s can remember you are the hero (as you would be in this realm) and not just chat tag %t “is a hero of the realm!” until the next person grinds the faction, or turns in the quest.
  • No Chuck Norris – unless you want that. The Chuck Norris type spammers (who stopped fitting on my ignore list 3 years ago) can all migrate to their own private server and spam away, patting each other on the back along the way, without annoying a single person.
  • End to Gold Farmers – Since I have to privately invite you to my server, and flag your account, no more fighting for resource nodes with thousands of bots and illegal farmers. Yes, you still have to go collect the items (preserving the ever so important time sink) but if you have to clear 6 mobs to get to a node, you don’t have to worry about jerkoff_001 swooping in and stealing it right as you kill the last one.
  • Characters on private servers can be ported to other private servers (not public). If I have a private server, and decide to close it down, everyone on that server still keeps their characters, items, everything – and can go to a new one. Conversely, if we meet a new friend and want to invite them along into our private little happy world – they don’t have to start from scratch if they have already been on a private server, they can port their characters over and play.
  • Wow isn’t really an MMO anyway (once you exclude the inflated-broken AH) and is just a group experience. Why not give me the choice on who gets to play within that group experience?

We could add a lot to that list that are smart and fun ways to enjoy the games, such as vanilla rule sets (etc.) and activating expansions only if the server renters want to, and when they want to.

Why force people onto the same rules when no one can agree which ones are good? Besides a single shard game (such as EVE) are there really any valid arguments against smaller, more specific, tighter knit communities on more varied rulesets? Let’s give up the entire running accepted illusion of “massively” and just let them be the multiplayer online games they really are.

Quote worth Quoting

I love reading Bio Break’s quote of the day and read Syp’s blog daily. Sometimes I find quotes on other blogs I really enjoy, so I may throw one up now and again. Here is one I read today!

“SOE has sent a message that H1Z1 isn’t just another Zombie-themed survival sim where the story ends when you get killed, looted, and teabagged”

AstralEcho MMOBsession

AstralEcho is part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and what spoke to me about this quote is the accurate humour of it all. This is what seems to be the major complaint (and attraction) of DayZ, but also what is keeping away zombie enthusiasts such as Izlain and myself.

Have a great weekend!

Housing I Would Buy Into (or Rent/Lease)

Housing is all the craze and I’m loving the options. My first (and best) experience with housing in general was in DAOC. We had this nice, big, shiny Guild House! It had crafting, and portals, and trophies.. and was an awesome place where guildmates would spend downtime or whittle away at their trade skills. While there were limitations, it was something that was very cool, was ours, and it promoted spending time together in between the big battles.

I didn’t do housing in any other game – WoW was my predominant after DAOC and doesn’t have it, but I have heard good things about EQ2 housing, LOTRO, and even Vanguard (through Bhagpuss). I can’t comment on those, but I *can* comment on WildStar housing, and ask some questions about WoW’s upcoming Warlords expansion, and some general quirks and oddities about housing in general.

First off, WildStar housing is amazing. I can’t believe the level of customization available. Everything scales, and a pistol prop can quickly become a couch if turned and sized correctly. Your starter plot of land has enough for 4 FABkits (preset style plugins) and two backdrops (larger slots) and I have used a garden (that you can plant seeds into that find around the world) a relic garden (relic is a tradeskill collection item – so they actually grow there and you can harvest) a kiddie pool (funny) a couple party kits with bbqs and the like, and my favorite so far is the Moonshine Stein. You literally get a challenge to produce booze within a set time frame, and doing so successfully gets you a neon beer sign (that you can then scale, twist, and hang to your delight). Yes, you can even drink the stuff and get drunk. There is a fun line of functionality and coolness to items you can place around your yard and inside your house. The best part is you find housing items just by questing and killing mobs. There is also a whole tradeskill (architecture) dedicated to building housing items, of which I did not get into. I wish I would have taken more pictures of my house before beta ended, and I look forward to building a new one come launch. The more items your house has, the greater the rested XP boost you get. So its form and function.

WoW’s Garrisons look to be similar yet less customizable and more plug and play(ish). I only read the announcements and have not seen videos or followed it too closely, but both WS and WoW’s housing suffers from? Separation of community.

Listen, these housing ideas are cool but all instanced. The fun part of building them are completely awesome I agree – but it just further segments the community. I get it – there isn’t enough land in the world to make the housing – and there are some tools available (you can make your housing plot private, friends on, or public in WS) but its still segmentation. Why not make it easy? It isn’t that hard to do.

First off, have GUILD housing. Guild houses can be far more extravagant than typical homes and all guild members automatically get access.

Secondly, soon as you build your own house it automatically goes in the same instance as the Guild House. Each guild member does.

Voila. Now, instead of housing, you have  community. A neighborhood even. A neighborhood tied around a commonality (which is how most communities – digital or otherwise – foster).

If you aren’t guilded you build neighborhoods around “services” – crafting halls, transportation hubs, etc. You put some conveniences in that people want to be around, and draw them to that area and give them the opportunity to build their own communities. For even more fun you could build them around landmarks, statues, wonders of the world (planet) – anything to attract people around a certain area will give them the opportunity to build communities. The boat between continents in EQ, while crappy to wait for and too long of a trip, fostered an awful lot of friendships.

I know I am greatly simplifying a cause and effect but I also don’t think this needs to be complicated. Aligning personal space within community space is just common sense, right?

Does any game that I haven’t played do this better (or worse) than the ones I mentioned? I am genuinely fascinated to hear real experiences instead of feature set sheets!

Trolling EQ

Fisdib is almost ready to start farming the Minotaur Caves in Steamfont, and for fun I decided to check out all my existing characters on the Testserver. Its been hard to hop back in mid stride having missed a lot of things over the past, oh, 12 years (hence my fresh start with Fisdib). My two main EQ characters on my main account before leaving were Zraka Chakakhan and Braack Baccarat – both trolls. Looking back this surprised me and I am not sure why I chose trolls. I am not a fan of the new


 

models but perhaps the cartoonish nature of the old ones was fun. Regardless, for reasons unknown, trolls it was. I spent a lot of gaming time as them in EQ (and picked troll in DAOC as well) before moving on to Alliance-y type races and avatars in WoW and beyond. I may examine that decision in a future post. I had a main enchanter on a second account but I leant that account to a guildmate a long, long time ago and don’t even remember the login. No worries, free 85 and all that.

I decided to roll a new troll to see what the experience is like. Would it be as familiar as the Steamfont Mountain experience? Only one way to find out! I rolled up a Shadow Knight (so few Troll choices… Shaman, Warrior, Beastlord, SK) and boy, Innothule Swamp is a LOT busier these days. You can’t step out into the water without aggroing mobs and several pile in on the fray. This makes it a difficult start (haven’t found the troll mercenary giver-person) so I logged into my main Warrior to see what items I had to hand down. I had a lot! [Side note: this reminded me of how much I hate current BOE/restrictions on loot.]

I decided to finally move Braack out of the Great Divide and make the trek to Grobb to twink out my SK. This led to my next cool new EQ discovery – the mapping function. Pick a start zone, pick an end zone, and follow the glowing trail to there. Thank god – would have been hell for me to sort out the journey. I still expected a LONG run, but thankfully there are world portals to quickly zoom you between zones and planes and zones – so the other prodigal son returned to the swamp. I almost zoned into Guk for fun.

Twinking made things easy and I quickly leveled up. Getting the feel for it and now I am torn on whether to preserve the leveling experience and learn as I go, or to just do more reading and research and jump into my fee 85. Right now I don’t have a *purpose* in EQ – I have just been doing it for nostalgia, so that makes it a tougher decision. It isn’t like I am rushing to level to raid, or have a regular group of friends to grind/level with. Questing is a pain in the ass in EQ (keep getting no drop items that I don’t know what to do with..) and EQ was never one for story. I’ll sort it out. I think I may put a new character through the new-new character experience and see if that provides better next step clarity. The experience so far of the old-new character experience has been consistent with what I remember, and I think that is great.

The next chapter is up to me. Which is a fun, open thought in a MMO universe wrought with hand-holding.

The Prodigal Son Returns. Or Something. (Hint: It’s Something)

Fisdib reappeared in Ak’Anon on a quiet winter’s day. It was a momentus occasion! I was exhilarated! I was excited to visit memory lane! I was excited to experience the changes!

I was lost.

Of course, now there is a map function (which is VERY handy) but I completely forgot how big Ak’Anon was. Within minutes, things started feeling familiar. I remembered things, recognized NPC’s, areas.. it was like going back for your high school reunion. No one looked as good as I had remembered, and felt like I was tripping over my own feet often, but it was just as I had remembered it. I’m going to spare you the screenshots. They do look terrible.

I went outside and while Bhagpuss had mentioned they had redone Steamfont Mountains but it still seemed familiar. The big gully to the left (where a rat first killed me) – the kobold camps over yonder. I killed a few skeletons to get my bearings and logged off. I don’t know how to inspect items that I loot to see if they are upgrades! Annoying that a mouse hover only lists its name. Anyway, I’ll sort it out. Racing to level four to get my pet (assuming they still come at level 4…) and random thoughts!

  • 4 levels for spell upgrades – I can’t remember ever having to wait that long for anything in current MMO land – I feel like I am being punished. [note sarcasm]
  • I am afraid to go anywhere in the zone at level 3. I mean, I don’t know what is out there and where it is (and isn’t) safe. I am looking forward to exploring once I get a pet I can sacrifice.
  • I feel like I am getting a LOT more loot in a starter zone than the ‘good old days’ – is that true?
  • My guild still exists (I know this because my main is still in it) yet no one has logged in in a long time – still fun to see the tag though!
  • Quick easy entry to Plane of Knowledge right outside the city. Definitely don’t remember that =)

This will be a fun distraction while I wait for EQN:L closed beta and will be fun to line up experiences with memories – especially to learn how the game has changed versus how I remember it. I am really excited to kill me some minotaurs in that mino cave though, and relive the long, winding trek to Qeynos by foot from the zone. It’s like a pilgrimage for me. There is probably an easy port somewhere but not for this Gnome. I want to time the sucker.

Nostalgia just feels good sometimes. In short, controlled bursts.

Quick update here – I had started this post, didn’t finish, but kept playing. So now instead of making a whole new post I am just going to add some additional thoughts here at the bottom. So this is PART 2!

I am disappointed they took away all challenge at the early levels. Sure, fighting a higher con enemy should be tough but they took away linked mobs! So now do I not only have a mercenary to help ease the pain (which is nice as a solo player facing EQ) but unlinking mobs that OBVIOUSLY should be linked? I got to 4 and my smorgasbord of spells. I was excited! Now I could split the kobold camps with my pet and I even have a mercenary tank to also protect me. I remember this part always being a challenge in old EQ, but was looking forward to a challenge. MMO starting lands are challenge-less. Completely devoid So I was excited to actually have to fight hard on something.

I carefully clear the Kobolds around the camp, the solo ones around the trees and I get ready for the 3 pull around the fire. I have it planned out that I’ll send the merc on one, the pet on another, and I’ll take one straight up and should be able to get them down with enough spacing that subsequent pulls are easy. The pet and the Merc will hold the extra aggro and aren’t strong enough to kill them – and I will drop one by one. Splitting tough camps is an art form! The mobs con yellow but with three of us (me and two pets) I feel I can handle it. I cast burn and am about to send in the pet and merc when I notice it – the other two don’t come. I sit beside the fire killing the 7 kobolds (3 by the fire, 4 in tents) one by one, as they all just watch from two feet away.

And I feel un-immersed. bah. Disappointed even.

Look, I get it. They made it easier because of the entry level roadblocks to new players in an MMO world devoid of challenge (but full of achievements). The fact that they are still around and expanding after all these years is amazing – and the fact that I left as a regular player in the early 2000s probably means I shouldn’t complain. It did take away the enjoyment I was having of reintroducing myself to the game, and that is a fair observation.

Tigers, stripes, all that. Out the window!

 

 

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!

What Is In a Name?

One of my first AHA! (and simply HA!) moments with Everquest was in their Guide program and how the EQ name filter worked.

The name filter was manual. Every guide on at the time would get a popup box asking if the proposed name was suitable – and guides simply clicked “yes” or “no”. This lead to some pretty hilarious interactions as you might guess, as people try to “beat” the name filter.

  • “GiantShlong” [no]
  • “BigSchlong” [no]
  • “Big5chlong” [no]
  • “BigSchlOng” [no]
  • “LittleDong” [yes]

Kidding on the last one, although that would had been a frustrating outcome for a guy trying to explain his manhood size via a pixelated avatar. Eventually, the guy would choose “Mehlan” or something such as that and get the big “yes”.

This was a little bit like Whack-a-mole as you only had X number of seconds (10 I think?) to say yes or no. If you missed the 10 seconds it was an automatic yes, and if you said no, it went into an automatic deny filter for future dong-size-exlaimers (and such.) So in essence we were building a name filter one click at a time. This wander down memory lane leads me to contemplate further on names – my in game names in particular.

My very first EQ character was Fisdib – complements of the name generator. The memories I have with Fisdib defined to me, what an online world was. Mystery, intrigue, learning, exploration – oh, the exploration. Hell, I remember in EQ beta being the first gnome people in Qeynos ever saw. It wasn’t easy to cross continents back then. Fisdib died when the beta ended – I was accepted into the EQ Guide program and recreated a gnome, Stalbik, to be the avatar supporting EQ gamers and EQ brass. It was a lot of fun.

When I gave up guiding I couldn’t just be a regular player and was drawn to supporting EQ through the test server. Zraka was another name creator (so good back then!) and I settled in strong on Trolls but wanted to tank.

Braack was born. My EQ main. Last name was torn between BigMacAttack or Baacaarat. Wisers head prevailed and I went with the latter. I also went with Braack in WoW as my first character. Other names I have used often in my MMO career is Briike (an alt, just a play on Braack) Bleyzn (several games – DAOC and EQ to WoW – last name Saddle (I know, hipster creative!))

Most of my WoW raiding career was as Couchon (Pig en Francais) which fit a shapeshifting elf somehow. Of course, my American friends just called me Couch, and Ottoman, and other furniture items. I was a guildleader as Couchon and that is what I am best known as in good old WoW. After moving druid-dom to alt status, Isey was my Enhance/Healing Shaman and my class of choice. I also love tanking on my Pally – but only 5 mans. Sad – I don’t even remember my Paladin’s name! (and not resubbing to find out for you).

Poivre, (Pepper en francais) is my typical handle on FPS games. Seargeant Pepper. No one ever gets that. I am too old.

As the games change and the people I play with and around change I still tend to stick to the same names – and its often fun when you get a whisper “are you Braack from EQ?” -or- “Are you Couchon from WoW?” often followed by CHEERS and I am [insert name] from [insert game]  – and its great, in this global community, to run into people that way. That is like saying “Oh, I have a cousin in China. Do you know them?”

I’m curious if other people stick to same naming conventions and/or have their favorites they stick with. How do you approach your handles in games?

[off to EQ testserver to recreate Fisdib..]

 

 

The Pain and Suffering of EQ (Happy Birthday!)

Makes it memorable for us old MMOers. The dying breed. Consider this story from the EQ boards:

Unrest was and might still be one of my very favorite places in the entire game.  I had SO much fun there back in the day that even when I should have been far, far away I was still in the basement grinding lt.blues because I just didn’t want to leave.  My Rogue became “Uber” for the first time there with his bloodstained mantle, tunic, Dwarven Work Boots and Jagged Band.  I made good friends there, several of whom I keep in touch with to this very day although they haven’t played in years.  It was a true bonding experience.  No PoK or Nexus in those days.  We had to walk all the way from Qeynos to Freeport dodging Giants and Bandits and all manner of Griffs and other nasty things.  We trod through Highpass and then, after racing past the Orcs and Gnolls, we emerged into the dreaded Kithicor,  Everyone died but my rogue who dragged his friends corpses to the commonlands ZL where they looted and we continued on our way.  Then on to Freeport, boats, islands, more boats, into Butcherblock, Dagnor’s Cauldron with more nasty things to dodge and then, at long last, the Estate of Unrest.  Just getting there was epic in and of it’s self.  It took us all friday night after work, and most of saturday and sunday as well.  We bound at the entrance and stayed there.  We started the trek in single digits and emerged as mighty twenty somethings.  To this day the entire journey to and final departure from the Estate of Unrest colors the glass through which I see the game of Everquest.

Mack

Most EQ players have those stories. I won’t rehash mine (but parts of it is linked in the post below from the good old days!) but needless to say everyone who recalls what was good about EQ recalls something challenging, unavoidable, or painful – and how they overcame it with friends and/or random strangers. Community of course is the word, and not the same kind we are building these days. And that is also ok, because our sense of community with Facebook and Global connections has also changed. Uphill both ways, so to speak.

I am a terrible boyfriend of EQ. The last time I remembered to wish her Happy Birthday was in 2009. Regardless, she will always love me back as long as I log in. And she doesn’t even want presents anymore, just attention. So once again, on her birthday, and say thank you to how EQ shaped my life (online – and a bit otherwise too) and glad she is still out there being her.

I’ll visit soon.

Hopes and Dreams and Tools

Could EQN:L lead to a full blown platform to make our own games? While I don’t think so, I like to be positive and for a change think “why not”.

Very blue ocean thinking but take Landmark, add in Story Bricks, and an item editor\creator and quest builder and voilà – you have many tools to make custom MMOs. From my understanding not much programming is needed. The world building tools alone in EQN:L have proven that even I could build simple town assets or landscapes that players could traverse. Programmers are making the tools better all the time, lets make them great, add some scripting and unleash the collective MMOspace’s imagination.

I‘d bet we’d finally start seeing the games we want.

The best FPS I have played was community created with Project Reality (by Black Sand Studios) who have literally spent YEARS working for free, in a community across the globe in partnership. Graphics, scripting, game modes – everything!They have produced the best paced, most realistic shooter on a 10 year old engine. Rumor has it this effort will lead to a standalone title – I wish them the best and hope it happens. It has won many modding awards. Imagine if they had even better tools than were available for that old game (Battlefield 2)

Take MMO/World Building tools, and unleash them to the world. You know collectively gamers would come up with something incredible. The landscapes some alpha players have created in EQN:L rival those in published games I have played. Human beings have a desire for art, sharing, and collaboration – all things needed to create a true next gen MMO. Many would share their talents just to get creative license and experience on a project – which could lead to bigger and better things.

We crowdsource funding, why not crowdsource talent? Zooppa does this for companies. Instead of getting one solid idea from an advertising company that has been institutionalized, throw it out to the passionate creators on the planet. Put in an incentive, and watch the magic unleash. The proliferation of cheap HD cameras, computers, and editing software has pushed this renaissance – the tools. Are we really that far off?

Heck, we can build immersive, amazing games on 24 hour contests imagine what we could do with months or years. I believe all of us have a game – or part of a game – to share. Together we could make that a reality – if we only had the tools.

How could a publisher benefit? Many ways. Way back in 2008 I was arguing for different revenue models that could be beneficial for both player and developer. Licensing, % of sales, buying and selling of the creative content itself – EQN:L is building a model to support this already. Picture it on a bigger, grander scale.

Having a glass is half full kind of thought train here. I’ll return to regularly scheduled pessimism shortly.

 

I Still Can’t Build

.. but I am having a lot of fun trying. Some shots of my “progress”

A hole you say? Yes. I was able to craft dynamite and threw 10 sticks (one by one) in a single spot. Explosives could end up being a lot of fun in this game. They need to tune it so its more random on the explosions – its  pretty perfect cylinder down.

Starting to take shape. I ended up taking out the bottom one and moving it up more to top of the mountain. Still not really a dragon’s head, but obviously something with a mouth (obvious, right? RIGHT?)

Distressing and aging rock will be an art form. I did mention my art ability…

The fire doesn’t show well. I did fire nostrils and the fire in his throat is actually from the fireplace in the house. Except I can’t get a picture of either from front on right now (will need to build scaffolding..) its the angle of everything.

I am just putting this in for the lighting/shadows effects. They are really well done.

I am no where near getting this done or near some really, really amazing pieces of works that pros are pulling out in Alpha but its fun and I feel like I am learning the tools, and getting better. I farmed out most of the top end stations and items in the game so its kind of “hurry up and wait”. All you can do is build and harvest. Soon, they’ll add water, and underground caverns (etc.) which will then really bring the game to life.

I’ll stop posting pictures unless I really get it together – go check out some amazing ones. It has been fun seeing other’s create and learn to create as well and I’ll start posting less on pictures and more on gameplay, looking ahead, etc.

Soft Posts

I have been travelling for work the past couple of weeks (and doing so until this weekend) so I haven’t been working on my masterpiece (*cough cough*) in EQN:Landmark. And I am missing the game.

My travel PC is a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and as I have mentioned in the recent past, I love the unit. Its awesome on planes, the battery life is amazing, and I have adopted the pen input to take over what I would have used to have used my mouse for. It’s a great machine. Bit pricey, but huge fan.

Problem? Integrated graphics. The stats on a MS Pro 2 are actually pretty beefy:

Surface Pro 2

Technical Specifications

  • Software
  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Exterior
  • Dimensions: 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 in
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Casing: VaporMg
  • Color: Dark Titanium
  • Physical buttons: Volume, Power
  • Storage* & Memory
  • 64/128GB     256/512GB
  • ————————–
  • 4GB RAM      8GB RAM
  • Display
  • Screen: 10.6 inch ClearType Full HD Display
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (widescreen)
  • Touch: 10-point multi-touch
  • Durable display
  • CPU & Wireless
  • 4th generation Intel® Core i5 Processor
  • TPM Chip for enterprise security
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology

I am not telling you all of this because I get a cut – I am actually telling you about it because by all accounts, this game should play EQN: Landmark but it doesn’t – some texture issue that everything above ground (props) render nicely, and I get great FPS but the VOXELS textures all come up black – so hard/impossible to build, impossible to mine/collect (anything but trees).

I am SUPER excited for when they fix this (they say they are) because I am looking forward to drawing my building items. The pen input and EQN:L should be a nice match made in heaven.

The building bug has hit me and it reminds me of a story we use in our business discussions.

Three bricklayers are all working on a site. A man walks up and asks the first one:

“What are you doing?”

He answers “laying bricks”

He asks the second man – “What are YOU doing?”

He answers “building a wall”

He approaches the third man, who is working with a big smile on his face – “And what are you doing?”

He responds

“I am building a cathedral”

Go build cathedrals. Its all about perspective.

A House Isn’t A Home (without a Dragon’s Head)

I haven’t been building much but have been playing with the outside of my home. The inside is the intricate work that I don’t have a natural eye for (and there aren’t that many “props” in game yet).

Outsides are dramatic. People can see them from miles away. Your outside is likely to make people decide if they want to see inside. I really don’t care about any of that – I am just trying to learn the tools. With that said, here are some pics!

This is the front entrance. Bit of a rocky path to get there. That design is built in as part of the tools (and it is very popular right now – there aren’t many “ornate” ones)

This is the view of my crafting terrace. There is actually a path down through my main room and through the mountain to get there.

This is the beginning of my Dragon’s head that will protrude out the side of my mountain. Eventually the mouth will be a second entrance to my house (And to the crafting area). Plans are to have smoking nostrils (torches), glowing eyes (light stone) and a fiery throat (fireplace). We’ll see how it goes. Again, ZERO artistic ability, but curious how much I can fake it using the tools.

For example, the bottom part of the jaw I made a flat, elongated trapezoid using line and select tools, then added triangles and angled corners rotated and different sides (to be jagged), and then the smoothing tools to take away too much jaggedness (still needs more smoothing.) I then copied the bottom jaw, and rotated it (see the blue arrows? and placed it away. Now I just need to build out below the jaw and above the jaw and meld it into the side of my mountain. Lots of work to do.

Also, I am currently building it in dirt. Everyone has lots of dirt. After it is done you can “paint” it with stone or other materials to match up.

Couple final shots:

This is the view from on top of my chimney. I put in 4 torches for faux smoke. I see I have a new neighbor… building into the mountain across the way. The box you see is my current “claim area” and restricts where I can build. I haven’t figured out how to turn it off for screenshots yet.

Here is the view down from my chimney. Again, the scale and detail of this game is amazing (that is the top of my dragon’s head, for reference)

Last but not least there is where I am in case you wanted to go check it out. It is on COURAGE server, Ledge zone (which is a tier 2 zone). Feel free to stop by and use the crafting stations.

I HAS HOUSE

It’s not pretty. I have zero artistic or architectural ability. I do have patience, however.

I got the LINE tool (which is quite the grind) which requires tier 3  crafting stations. This makes roofs easy to make. Basically its great for slopes, ramps, etc. So, armed with all(?) of the tools in game currently, let’s build. here is how she looks so far.

That view is from the back. The left side is a chimney (complete with fire) and the little left side ramp is a basement carve out through the mountain where I put all of my crafting stations. The engine is really good for when you extend anything into the existing geometry, it fits it in really nice.

This is a picture of the inside:

That’s a fireplace with copper around it. Yes, it does look warped – I was messing around and testing the shape tool. The game does right angles so well (and so much) I wanted it to look old and weathered. Lots of work to do in that regard. There are prefab chairs, carved table, and iron pitcher (full of beer, I promise you.) The wall pattern is standard stone, and the floor is “granite”. I am going to do some mantle work (etc.)

My place has no windows, and I’m sorting out how I want the door to look. Once I sort that I’ll get better pictures. I really just planned on teasing you this far.

Oh, the bottom HOTBAR?

In order: My Gold Axe Veridium Mining Pick, Shape Tool, Add Tool, Delete Tool, Smooth Tool, Line Tool, Paint Tool, and Heal Tool.

This last view may give a better idea of how high the plot actually is. That brown rectangle dangling in midair is a sifting tool that just decided to stay there. Again, this is chimney/crafting patio side from almost on the ground (still up a hill, definitely not sea level!

As much as I love my mountain top, when water finally makes it into the game I’ll be building lakeside. Always been my dream.