Blaugust

Post Blaugust Era – September Preview

Funny thing about habits is that you miss them when you aren’t doing them (I quit smoking over two years ago). That is the way I felt when I missed what would have been my 32nd consecutive post. Much like hitting the gym, a day of rest is a good idea now and again. OF course, my excuse was that I was on the road for work and by the time I got home and got my family ready for first day of school today, I was out of time AND energy. There are some fun, new changes coming to I HAS PC this month!

I HAS TWITTER

Ok, very late to the party here, but @ihaspc is now live and I have been adding folks that I follow and dipping my toes in there. I also put a feed on the widget bar over there. Any tips, let me know! I am big into facebook because that is an easy platform to manage (personally). Should be fun to learn a new social media platform and if you see me screwing something up, please laugh at me. And then tell me to correct it. But do the laughing part, because if you can’t laugh at me, who can you laugh at? Please add me, and suggest good people to follow!

I HAS CHAMPION

Sure, it was by a randomized dice roll but if I didn’t have luck, what would I have? Although I have a small sidebar you see the proud Blaugust Championship graphic displayed at the top. Blaugust was awesome and while I won’t be posting 1 a days anymore, I am committing to three times a week minimum. Blaugust renewed my already solid passion for blogging and it’s stronger than ever. I enjoy posting more. I enjoy connecting with others in Blognation and Anook has been a really fun source and inspiration for posts and community building. So, thank you Belghast, for making our community that much better.

I HAS HOUSECLEANING

A friend of mine manages www.ihaspc.com and he can’t sort out the linkback errors and issues (he is having it on his blog too) and much to my shock and surprise, ihaspc.wordpress.com is available and I snagged it. I am going to back up this site, move it to WordPress hosted, but keep the URL and just point it there – no exact timeline but expect it in the next week or so. I am not bailing on him as tech support I am bailing on the unfair expectation that my friend is supposed to be my tech support in the first place. He is a busy family man and I respect that more than the needs of this site. At least, once WordPress hosted, I can bug them for the proper support unashamedly. I *may* mess with the themes once it is WordPress hosted, so be warned. Maybe the site will actually look good.

I HAS GAMING TO DO

Queued up for September – XCOM: Enemy Within, The Walking Dead 400 Miles AND Season 2, and I am going to MMO something. Either LOTRO, STO, EQ2, GW2, SWTOR or TSW. Yup, that is a long list, but I am going to commit to a month of MMO’ing and share it here. I’ll be asking for your help in deciding what title at some point soon.

Blaugust just felt like a warm up. September is going to be an awesome month!

[ignore this just testing something.]

WildStar’s Fast and Dramatic Decline

I am getting the feeling my other report (Wildstar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline) was a bit too optimistic. Perhaps the sky is falling after all (at least on Nexus).

Be prepared for some hard hitting journalism today on the final day of Blaugust.

Exhibit A

First – the President of Carbine, Jeremy Gaffney, announced this week he is no longer the President. He announced this on Reddit and the official forums. The official title talked about how he is “taking on a new role” and if you read between the lines he doesn’t really share whether or not he was asked to move on or personally decided to. A snippet (and the link)

I have a personal “no bullshit” policy (which I think I’ve infused Carbine with as well), so let me give some context here without getti

“Focusing on family” is most often, in my opinion, a horseshit excuse you hear from executive types (usually departing with a forcible shove). 

He then goes on to share that he is  going to focus on family – he is a cancer survivor and I love his candor and openness. Having been through that it is really hard. His moving over letter is the type of thing WildStar fans have come to know and love about him. Gaffer was the man behind the vision, preserver of the style of MMO they wanted to build – a grindy, 1% focused, hard game a la World of Warcraft 2004. Him moving on is also the sign that that seemingly failed vision is now looking at a more causal focused game.

Exhibit B

One of WildStar’s best (and most popular) fansites – WildStarFans.net had it’s creator stop posting and updating. Players became used to visiting here for the latest and up to date news. Originally he left things pretty open and  said he was reprioritizing and focusing family (sound familiar? Isn’t that the hotshot excuse you hear from executive types when making up an excuse that the Gaffer talked about?) and was non-committal on whether he was still playing the game or not.

He did edit his farewell post and post that he was still playing – but he didn’t share any specifics if he was enjoying the game or if that had any part to do with it. Regardless – fansites and podcasts are the pulse of the community of the game, and bring the community together. When the most popular ones start going the way of the Rowsdower (equivalent to a Nexus dodo bird) then you know things are bad.

Exhibit C

I was listening to the WildStar Nation podcast this week (again) and the 4 hosts announced that their next podcast, #50 (they have been podcasting WildStar for a year) will be their last. This podcast was getting 30,000 downloads a month (which is 10% or 30% of the WildStar subscriber base depending on what numbers you like – WildStar isn’t sharing) and was usually the #1 downloaded WildStar podcast (stats were shared by them on various podcasts). It was a pretty somber mood from the guys (Haystack, Militus, Dopamine and Bear) and they were just honest that one of them had already quit and the other’s were having a hard time logging on.

They are funny guys and one of those tongue in cheek remarks was along the lines of “WildStar was able to kill a guild of 500 people in 6 weeks”. They had a guild and that is what happened. 500 gone / disbanded in 6 weeks. Craziness. I have enjoyed the WildStar Nation podcast more than I actually got to enjoy the game so sad to see them go. The truth is, again, the pulse of the community here. If the biggest fans of the game aren’t sticking around then who is?

Why Again?

While that question may sound like it is referring to us looking at why the game didn’t grab and keep the attention of the fans of the game and general MMO population it is actually also the answer.

Why again, would we build in barriers (40 mans, attunements) into a sub fee MMO while the entire genre is moving to easier and more accessible? Just to be different? Who said that is what players actually want?

That fun answer is that some players did want it – and some are now fighting WildStar for now switching to easier (making some attunements steps more reasonable, etc.) 5 mans are supposed to be fun and fast now, easily completable by 5 random strangers (not so in WildStar). Raids are supposed to have varying levels of difficulty so everyone can have the experience. Why are we designing games the same way we were playing them 8 years ago – when the games from 8 years ago that are still going strong have so drastically changed themselves to fit what gamers want?

Gamers don’t have the time to slog through “that” MMO – there have been reports that people need to grind for 3+ hours a raid night to just get enough cash to buy consumables and pay for repairs for that 6 hour learning raid. That prep is unacceptable these days – and it is really no surprise. Gamers pay billions of dollars annually to speed things up – look at Clash of Clans, for example. The whole business model is speeding things up. People do not want to go slower. Especially in a sub fee environment where the gating feels like it is just to stretch out your sub.

Add to that, they built in a cash shop where you could buy CREDD with real money to skip some of those grinds. And we all know that the only game that can get away with having both a subscription fee and a cash shop is World of Warcraft.

Suddenly my November F2P conversion  prediction is looking really solid. And that’s not to be a jerk – I’ll actually go play when that happens. There is a lot of Nexus I want to explore.

All of this also makes me think of ESO – a game I have never played. How is it faring? Did it find it’s niche? I wonder this because is there really any room for a newly launched MMO to have a subscription fee anymore? The falling (wild) star would indicate to me that there isn’t.

 

 

I Has Blog Title

A fun and side product of Blaugust has been bloggers finding various topic-filling days and sharing them with one another. These community style posts are great – it’s part “getting to know you” and it is always fantastic to see the varied, differing and interesting viewpoints in and around BlogNation.

With a couple days left and a dozen or more draft posts on the go I don’t need this post to keep me chugging along, but I really LOVE the idea and think it is a lot of fun! Over at I Have Touched The Sky is one of those topics – a look at why that blog is named how it is, and a question to other bloggers on how they came up with their own blog names.

I’m biting.

When I was ready to start my blog the hardest part for me was finding a name. I spent hours and days thinking on what to name this future award winning blog – centre of the BlogNation universe and place of sharing, growth, and quiet contemplation. (*ahem*)

Back to reality – some of the obvious choices for me was using my online names and history – Braack (EQ/DAOC), Bleyzn (DAOC) or the more time-relevant Couchon (Wow) and some of their adventures. Couchon’s Couch. Braack’s Bachelor Pad. Again, all amazing selections – perfect for any young blogger trudging out on their own. Of I also tried to work in “Worlds” and “MMO” somewhere (and glad that I didn’t now as I like all gaming..) so it could have been Couchon’s Couch in Canada or Braack’s Bachelor Pad in Berlin. The more I type those the more I think I should make another blog..

Back to reality (again) – I hated internet memes and especially the LOLcats and everything around to do with stupidity and the internet (wipe that smirk off of your face, dear reader). The whole I CAN HAS and things that surrounded that internet dumbery (yes, I just made that word up – it fits!) I delivered my own dumbery and actually wrote down I HAS PC when asking my friend to find me a URL.

Surprisingly (*ahem*) it was available!

My friends laughed as I said it and honestly I was tired of thinking about it and just wanted to start writing – so I went with it. It was kind of like pulling the Bandaid off really fast by the end of it all. The “Life and Interwebs” tag came later as another homage to not taking things to seriously.

In the end I am happy with it – it is my own little corner of BlogNation and while I wish I had some sort of compelling or exciting story to share about my silly blog name – I think it reflects the blog, the relaxed nature of how I talk about things here, and the people who enjoy stopping by.

I Win X-Com

Lovely game.

I think there were some great opportunities to flesh out the plot and story much deeper but perhaps that wasn’t core to the tactical “sim” from the outset. The production quality, gameplay, and spirit to the original was kept well in tact and exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t sure if it would live up to my high expectations – but it did. Ultimately a satisfying gaming experience.

My favorite squaddie “Pitbull” didn’t end up the sacrificial lamb at the end of story which would have been very fitting but there was no way for X-Com to know she was my favorite. Would have been a nice death to end the story and plot elements but not that big of a deal. I immediately jumped into the expansion and playing through again – will be interesting to see the improvements.

I am most excited for The Long War mod to the game – it feels like it would be the better game of the three (counting it as it’s own) but I really want to get through the expansion first that introduces new elements. It is like playing in the minor leagues. I was in AA with the original and now I’m in AAA now but gunning for the big leagues. I upped the difficulty this time around (the first was rarely a challenge) and I am excited to move up. Have a couple weeks ahead of me to get there on my current gaming schedule. It plays on my Surface Pro 2 so bonus that I can play off my main gaming rig.

My first few thoughts on suggested improvements still stand (reprinting them below for ease of reading) plus some more:

  • Squad facing – I loved this in the original game as placement and cover for your squaddies was paramount. Avoiding flanks, coverage, safety, etc.
  • Challenge – yes, I am on Normal, but it is pretty easy (so far). I’m glad it is not as punishing as the original and I can always up the difficulty on a new campaign but not really interested in restarting. This isn’t surprising of course.
  • Base placement – you pick a continent but not an exact place. I was always a fan of Northern continental bases. What other game let’s you make Canada a focus, where you can save the world and eat a lot of Maple Syrup?
  • Squad armor graphics – little too much I think. I wish they started off more like soliders and less like Mechs.
  • Squad size limit – give me 8! Why not 10?
  • Map sizes – Maybe it is just because it is early for me (15 hours in) but all the maps seem really thin. Not much to explore. Go forward in the way you are facing and you will find the bad guys. In the original I loved having to cover all sides of the ship.
  • Map flavor – need more interesting backdrops. Every UFO I have shot down lands in the woods. I want it to crash into a football stadium
  • Choice of Nations – this is nitpicky – but I want some Canadian troops! Didn’t get one. Maybe that is editable with a mod, but I kept waiting for my own, personal, Captain Canuck.

I know you are thinking “Thanks Isey! Thanks for looking at a game well over 2 years old” but thanks to our good friends at steam they are giving away this awesome series (both the original and the expansion for $16 CDN). Or they were rather, last week. (it will probably be on sale for $6 bucks in another month or so). If you haven’t played this game now is the time. Even if you never played the original this title does enough to show you what all the hubbub was all about. Tactical glory!

I’ll report back after the Long War Mod and all the difficulties and challenges that represents as that will be truer to the original X-Com experience.

Happy Birthday to I Has PC! 6 Years Old!

Belated. It was yesterday. This is a nice reminder that I am terrible at birthdays!

August 27, 2008 was my first blog post ever. I can’t fully recall why I started blogging – I was spending a lot of time on various blogging sites and my comments kept getting longer and longer. I think I finally decided that it would be easier to write my own posts and link back instead of annoying the author of various sites with my incessant rambling and observations.

I didn’t think much on a style or theme and I just picked one and ran with it. Some of the old posts are fun to read through and I often link back to my old posts – mostly when there is an “I told you so” (WoW needing to link armor stats to role type – 2008! – which they are finally doing in Warlords of Draenor) or revisiting a viewpoint I had stated previously that I still felt relevant.

Sometimes when I go back and read posts I think there have been some really great ideas that would translate well into modern MMO land and other times I felt like I was just another blogger with the same feelings on the same old topics. I quickly found some circles of blogging friends and while many are gone now (Writers Resting In Paradise Blogroll to the right) many persist today. And as I find new sites and read new blogs, or people discover mine, I expand my blogroll. With my sports background and slant I call us BlogNation much like the Red Sox Nation or other groups that align around commonality. It hasn’t stuck anywhere else that I can tell, but I figure if I keep writing it maybe it will someday.

My style hasn’t changed too much. I am a pretty “conversational” blogger – I write as if we are having a pint at a bar. Throw out an idea or opinion and welcome a counter discussion. This is a fun way to blog because I always keep my mind open. Some would argue I write as if I had already had 10 pints at a bar. That has been known to happen as well.

I had two extended “vacations” from blogging – six months starting January 2011 in which I became very, very sick (lost over 60 pounds, night sweats, swollen glands, couldn’t stay awake for longer than a couple hours at a time) and had every symptom of lymphoma from a textbook. They spent months testing and digging (lymphadenectomy, bone marrow, you name it) and I was actually checked into a Cancer centre for weeks – except they didn’t find cancer. I was at infectious disease specialists, all sorts of specialists, no one found it out. And one day I just started feeling better again. They kept wanting to cut me open to dig around to find out what happened but I stopped letting them. That time was pretty scary, caused me to withdrawl a lot, but also to celebrate life a lot more in the end of it all. Nothing quite like being certain you are fighting for your life – even scarier when you don’t what you are fighting against. I found it hard to justify spending hours blogging when I didn’t know how much time I had left.

Could be why I have a soft spot for charity and people raising money for diseases and causes. Hell, a month ago, my entire team and partner network raised thousands of dollars at 1am in a bar (in 30 minutes) if I would shave my head – in the bar – so yes, of course I did. It is only hair and will grow back.

For the record, it is growing back terribly. Still worth it though.

My second vacation was when I was battling divorce. Gaming was an addiction for me in many ways – not that I couldn’t stop, but being unhappy in my marriage drove me to game more. She loves TV (I hate TV) I love games (she hates games) – so never common ground. We ended up finding common ground (pretty easy when you have an amazing kid) and our marriage has been great ever since. Something about the first 5 years that is the challenge, as there are curiosities if people can (and will) change. In the end letting people be who they are is critical to loving and understanding each other. I am not suggesting my advice to marriage counselors still though. It works for us!

My three personal favorite  posts:

1) Greatest Fantasy Movie Ever (2009)

In this one I attack the silly idea of healing by describing what the typical raid encounter would look like if it was a blockbuster movie. You don’t see Gandalf sitting in the back row during the battle casting heals on Legolas, do you? In it I suggest a better way (slower paced combat, blocking and dodging graphics) – its dumb that a 10′ sword goes through characters entire bodies. Hits should cause REAL damage, and instead of inflating numbers, having glances, misses, and dodges should make up the difference. I like to be immersed – swords and axes cutting through immobile toons doesn’t cut it. I want MMO combat to be more like MOVIE combat. When your sword goes through someone, that’s when the blood comes.

I linked back with a GREAT example from Batman: Arkham in a more recent post. The tech and will is there. This should be the next innovation in MMO combat. In that game you rarely get hit and when you do you feel the impact. It shows that with 10 mobs around you you can still have contact combat. Besides, in this hyper-world of ADD and circle strafing, slowing it down and having combat meaningful and impactful would be a great innovation.

2) Can the End Game be the Game? (2009)

I tackled how silly leveling is and how Wow is wasting resources on planned obsolescence content, and that if more resources were created for “max level”, repeatable content instead of one and done quests – there would be better, and more content, for all. I see a lot more agreement on this type of idea today – if your content doesn’t really start until the “end game”, why not start there in the first place?

3) The 6 Wheeled Car (2008)

This was my PVP slanted point about relative power. DAOC and WAR showed me the biggest fundamental flaw in PVP games – you have such ridiculously giant disparities in power between levels. A level 1 can’t even HIT a level 40 – that makes no sense (again, immersion.). So my idea here is to have levels multiplicative. So 40 level 1s could indeed be an EVEN match for a level 40 character. Or 4 level 10s or 2 level 20s. A level 40 is “god mode” in comparison to level 1s and that just feeds into my #2 post above – if your PVP character has to level 40 levels before being able to enjoy the game, why have levels so multiplicative? This alone ruins open world PVP. If you had relative power levels it could make open world PVP thrive.

Funny looking at that they are all old posts. I haven’t seen these concepts used in my modern day gaming yet but I still hold that they would be a welcome offering for gamers who like immersion and could enhance a current day MMO offering.

So 6 years. 325 posts (12 drafts) and 1144 user comments.

My blog isn’t that popular and I am fine with that. It has been a journey and I believe the journey is the destination and I never stressabout who is reading and how many comments there are. That part is is important for anyone who blogs or who wants to blog. I know I’ll be around for another 4 years (at least) doing this so I will have a 10 year anniversary. Health and life willing.

Looking  forward to more of this journey with you – and thank you for stopping by. I do enjoy the company.

Ice Bucket Challenge

A phenomenon is sweeping the world right now. Kids, adults, politicians, celebrities, baristas, judges, landscapers – hell, just about everyone – is dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads. After doing so, they nominate some friends to also dump ice water buckets over their heads (typically within 24 hours). All of this bucket dumping is for a good cause – it is to raise funds for ALS. The “rules” are if you didn’t dump a bucket you have to donate money instead. Most are donating AND dumping water. There are Instagrams, videos on Facebook, twitter – all over. Everywhere except Blaugust.

To date it has raised almost 90 million dollars. Not bad at all.

The story here is great – and it’s time to bring it to Blaugust.

First off – what is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

I watched a YouTube video of someone recently diagnosed and it runs in his family. He shared how scared he was because typically you live 2-6 years after diagnosis. Here is that video – it is very powerful because it comes from someone with ALS. (You HAVE to watch past the 2 min mark. Skip past the male-bikini car wash if you must.)

There have been a lot of fun and interesting ones. Here is Leonardo DiCaprio (compliments of David Beckham) who adds in a social justice twist and challenges the CEOs of major gas companies AND the Prime Minister of Canada.

Patrick Stewart declines in the most fitting, sophisticated way that you would expect him to. At least he wrote a cheque (probably big!)

There have been a lot of “ice bucket fails” as they call them, but really, as long as the money is being donated who is to judge at a person’s skill of dumping ice cold water (or getting dumped on). They add some humor.

And some Epic ones – check out Paul Bisonette from the Phoenix Coyotes!

So I am even going to depart from my norm here. I am a pretty private when mixing my private life and my blogging life. I have always had a level of discomfort with my career and my hobby and in “my generation” it was (is) often unfairly looked down upon. So while I talk about my family here often I do post under a gaming name and tend to keep things as my “other life”. Anyway – I was challenged four or five times through my social circles and work, and even my entire family was challenged so we did it together (and had some fun with it).

That isn’t my normal hair – or outfit!

I challenge:

Wilhelm – The Ancient Gaming Noob

Bhagpuss – Inventory Full

Izlain – Me vs Myself and I

and

Belghast, father of Blaugust!

Remember – you don’t have to dump a bucket of ice water over your head if you choose to donate!

Death, Taxes, Gaming.

“The only guarantees in life are Death and Taxes” is one of those old quotes that stand the test of time. Having been playing a lot of X-Com lately I caught myself doing something that I regretted afterwards which made me think about death in gaming a lot closer – and I realized I didn’t like what I found (with my own behavior). The stage is set.

X-Com is a tactical game where the goal is to defend the Earth from alien invaders. As you play you encounter new aliens and start learning why the invaders are there in the first place. Slowly but surely I have been piecing together the puzzle and while doing so, doing a pretty good job of keeping Earth away from panic. I have lost Mexico as a supporting state of the X-Com program but the rest are pretty safe and secure. (Sorry, Mexico). One of the great parts about X-Com is that the soldiers you use on field missions can improve with experience, and gain ranks and access new skills and strengths. They also die – permanently. All that being said they are generally devoid of any personality and the skill trees are standard – so you can have the exact same soldier where the only difference is name and nationality, plus some stats that influence how they behave in game. My favourite squaddie (short form for squad mate, I’m not sure if that’s standard terminology but that is what I use!) is “Pitbull”. She is an American support specialist. I don’t even know her real name (if squaddies live long enough, they are granted a nickname). Pitbull has saved my other squaddies and often has single handedly changed full outcomes. She is max rank now and never, ever misses a shot. She is amazing. I love seeing her lead missions and is the closest thing I have to a “super soldier”.  She has helped me advance so far in this game. She died yesterday, and I did something I never thought I would.

I reloaded the earliest saved game so I had her again.

This was perplexing to me. Reiterating here – I don’t even know her in game name, she is a “tool” in my toolbox to stop the alien invasion. She has no personality outside of her shared and easily copied skill set. The reason why this perplexes me is I was reminded of death in other mediums and comics, for example, I HATE when people are killed off and they are always brought back. It sours the experience. With that long winded intro I am going to look at a few games where I have experienced death, and some observations (and questions).

Comics

Thalen’s post “On Retcons” popped up on Anook this morning and it reminded me of my own views on death in the comics medium. I hate it. When Superman “died” the first time it was made out to be a HUGE event in the DC universe. I was a Marvel comics guy through and through but I still bought that edition so I had it preserved – a moment in history! It was in 1992 and I thought it was a brave, bold move and that the comic world would be shaken up forever. Think of the stories they could build off of this! The other heroes picking up the slack, how the DC Universe would change without Superman.. wait – what?

The death of death having meaning, you mean.

Superman taught me one thing. Death is temporary. Death lasts exactly three months in the DC Universe. That tainted comic deaths for me forever. Of course, Marvel is equally (if not more) guilty of this – my favorite comic book character is Colossus, from the X-Men. He has always been my favorite since I was a kid. Sure enough, read through his “life” here at the Marvel Wiki and its a disgusting ruin of an amazing base character. Deaths, rebirths, alternate realities, blah blah blah. I’ll never buy another comic. To me, there is nothing wrong if you run out of content and much like Thalen’s article (where Nick Fury was sun-setted quite nicely for his character and then brought back in a poor way) just let the stories end. Harry Potter ended. The world is fine with that. If you tinker too much with your assets they aren’t assets anymore.

Gaming

I have four instances in gaming that stand out to me with gaming and death. The first is the aforementioned X-Com and “Pitbull” eating a Muton sandwich. The second is going a bit further back but very similar – to Blood Bowl, another turn based game that you can improve your characters and I had a whole post based around the antics of my Wardancer. I ended up losing her to randomization eventually – but she had to stay dead because it was a live game vs another human being.

The third instance  is in the Walking Dead – when the protagonist died (we all saw it coming) It clearly felt like a part of the narrative and the introduction of the true protagonist all along (the little girl). It felt satisfying how he died, and how he kept her safe for so long.

The fourth is in Mass Effect 2 – at the ending attack on the Collectors depending on what actions you took your squad mates would live or die. I cheated on this one too (shame on me) because I was emotionally invested in the characters I had spent so long developing with.

Inconsistent behaviors to me considering my comics stance? At the same time since they are different mediums, can I be excused? The Comics rant is pretty consistent with my Walking Dead experience – the narrative. At the end of it all I react to death in games on different motivators and in the above examples of X-Com and Blood Bowl I had ties with my characters through achievement. They weren’t fleshed out or personal but they helped me achieve things in gaming and because of that I wanted to protect them.

In Mass Effect 2 I wanted to protect them because I had developed a relationship with the characters and wanted to preserve that. Like protecting your little brother from harm.

In the Walking Dead I accepted the death as part of the overall narrative and that death actually improved the experience overall. Great story, great sacrifice.

So I ask you – do you go out of your way to save your protagonists or let the dice fall where they may? Is it different depending on game or genre? We all know MMOs care nothing of death or penalties, but what about other games when those deaths are more permanent?

 

Bloggers are Old

One of the interesting observations about reading through the various “Influential 15s” that was circling around not too long ago and the more recent “21 Questions” in the past couple of weeks is that it really shows the age of most people blogging. We are an old bunch! The Starting computer/first game for the TOP 10 straw poll I pulled from the existing posts out there is as follows:

  1. Atari 2600 (11)
  2. Pre-home systems (arcade/pinball) (5)
  3. Original Nintendo (4)
  4. Sega Megadrive (3)
  5. Commodore 64 (3)
  6. Zx Spectrum (2)
  7. Apple 2e (2)
  8. Intellivision (1)
  9. Colecovision (1)
  10. Original PlayStation (1)

33 responses is about the same they do for Presidential polling right? While the one person had a PlayStation (which came out in 1994) the rest are all solidly pre 90s. So either Blogging is art (hah.. I called it art!) for the elderly gamer or we are just suckers for writing about lists of things. Perhaps both. Will there be a OneNote challenge for the next list?

me pondering my next post

This is not a “Blogging is dying” post by any means. I see a ton of activity and read and participate in a lot of blogs. I am just curious where the youth *are* on the net. IF they aren’t blogging, let me guess – they are on Twitter? YouTube? Podcasting? What medium is the up and coming space for the next generation of pundits that are talking about our favorite pastime?

Maybe they ARE blogging and I am just not in the blog-circle. I am genuinely curious of the thoughts and opinions of the gamer who only grew up with WoW, and want to know where to find it. Also, just socially, what would it take for the youngins to start and maintain a blog? I am curious if the groups that do the Newbie Blogger Initiative and other community building ideas are reaching the young or if its just not the way things are done anymore.

For the record, I am 40 years old. That may be young to some of you – I am just curious where the 20somethings are talking about their games and why they aren’t on my lawn.

Steampowered Hoarding

 I am staging an intervention. Yes, for you. I know, odd that you just randomly came to this site and realized that there was in intervention just waiting for you? Don’t leave – stay. Here, I wrote a letter about my feelings and I am going to read it to you. One moment, Dr. Drew is just in the other room, entering now.

Tell me how you really feel…

Dear You,
 I am here today because I love you. Throughout my blogging life, you have supported me in everything I have wanted to do. You stood proudly in the comments section – even when I wrote bad posts, replied to me in your own comments section and even put me on your blogroll.  I always admired your sunny outlook on life and love of helping people. Over the last 12 years your involvement with blognation has been inspiring. It caused the whole interwebs to take notice providing us with an opportunity to become closer as we did something good for others together. I miss doing this with you.

Person, your Steampowered Hoarding has become a problem that you cannot control on your own. It is affecting your relationship with the whole blognation and me. Friday night, when James, Mike and I came over for dinner, you smelled like alcohol when you answered the door. You bought a humble bundle while we ate, and you kept sneaking back to the computer room to buy Friday night steam sale titles. By the end of the evening, you had mixed up all of our names, and the names of the games you had just bought.

We have reserved you a spot at a treatment center. They are expecting you tonight. It is not far from here, and a taxi has agreed to drive you. I have already packed a suitcase for you; it is waiting in the car. And, you don’t have to worry about finances, the treatment facility has contacted Anook and arrangements have been made. All you have to focus on is getting well.

You won’t have to worry about the house, the dogs, or the blog. Willhelm is perfectly capable of taking care of the dogs and Bhagpuss will do the housework on his own and Zubon will come by to help with everything. Your Steampowered hoarding doesn’t have to go on any longer, help is waiting for you. Please, will you take the treatment that is being offered to you today?

Love,
 Isey

what your Steam Library looks like

Letter outline compliments of writing an addition letter 411

 I try not to use STEAM too often. Ever since that fateful day when they stole $18 out of my wallet and refused to give it back. I started looking at them for what they really were – an enabler! They assist people into the sick, sad and pointless Steampowered Hoarding and once you start, it takes a full intervention to get out.

Looking at my own Steam library is what showed me the light. Here are games I have yet to play (or even install) because I got such great “Deals” on them:

  • The Witcher 2
  • Skyrim
  • Batman Arkham City
  • Dota 2
  • FEAR 1
  • FEAR 2
  • FEAR 3
  • Guardians of Middle Earth
  • War in the North
  • Mortal Kombat Kollection
  • X-Com Enemy Within
  • …. and more if you count less than 10 hours played…

I know that list is nothing compared to most, because I only STEAM socially. I’m not a heavy user like most. Some weekends, the odd party during the week. I’m not addicted – I don’t wake up in the morning and STEAM or anything like that.

The solution is clear – just don’t buy unless you plan on playing the game in the next 14 days. It’s a simple rule. If you haven’t bought it already there is a reason for that. If you are only buying it because it is on sale, then you probably don’t really want it to begin with.

The best here is that it will ALWAYS go BACK on sale on Steam – so if you miss it once, don’t fret – you will have ample opportunity to buy it (and probably not play it anyway) when it goes back on sale again another time when you aren’t playing or planning on playing it anyway.

Steam does a great job of giving such great deals that hey – you are silly NOT to buy. It’s like I tell my wife – if it’s on sale don’t buy it for the sake that it is on sale – buy it if only you really want or need it. You still have to spend $20 even if it is %50 off from $40 – and you don’t gain the difference in your pocket – $20 isn’t magically appearing in your wallet when you buy it.

Please – if you or someone you love STEAMS, call the hotline. It has to stop!

 

C=64

Funny how we are sometimes reminded of how things were. The 21 questions post from yesterday really had me looking at my gaming roots with question #(whatever the question was) and I thought long and hard about my Vic-20 and C-64. I googled M.U.L.E (one of the best games I recalled from those days) and was searching around for a graphic to insert.

By doing so, I found this list. That link is a link to the top 100 C=64 games of all time.

Wow, just wow. Out of the top 20 I remember playing 14 of them. Out of all 100 I remember playing a LOT of those. That’s crazy! And while I recall fondly M.U.L.E (ranking #17) I also now remember a lot of others that were amazing classics at the time. #8 Archon, was one of my favorite games of all times. I just completely forgot about it. If you grew up on the Commodore systems go check it out – guaranteed to bring back some amazing memories!

I’m 40 and my memory is failing.

The Sega list for Sonic Ultimate Games Collection (linking Izlain) is a cool list and my best friend in public school had a Sega that we played the crap out of. Golden Axe especially (and football..) There have been so many games that I am starting to forget about them.

My first real PC was a Compaq 386 SX-16 (google for a picture) and I paid almost $4000 dollars for it. A whole summer of wages (minimum wage was $2.95 when I started my first job) plus a loan from Grandma. That was when I was introduced to Starcontrol 2, Xcom, and Civilization. World of Warrant (RTS) and Command and Conquer. So many classics!

Although, I also recall that I used to dial up and go to BBS’s to try and do an online D&D and chat in 8 bit text glory.

As I get older I start to believe that knowing and remembering history is more and more important. Even for gaming.

21 Gaming Questions

Questions are fun! Especially about gaming. I found this through the tech-support friendly Welsh Troll who links the original author and other bloggers there as well. Off to the races!

When did you start playing video games?

I started playing video games right when the Commodore 64 came out. I had a family member who worked for Commodore (I actually had the Vic-20 first, but really started gaming on the C64. So, 1982? I was 8. My favorite games are all from there – Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, IK+, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, Pool of Radiance, M.U.L.E!

What is the first game you remember playing?

I actually programmed (on a tape drive no less!) my first real game. It was an arkanoid clone. It was amazing. Other early games that come to mind is HARDBALL! for the C64 – played that a lot with my brother early on. There are so many. If I had to pick one defining game I would choose M.U.L.E. It had everything that made gaming great for me.

PC or Console? 

PC mostly, but I also own a Wii (which is now rarely used) and an Xbox 360 which I use for co-op gaming with my 9 year old. Telltale Lego series mostly. We recently graduated to Diablo III there. (nice stretch, eh?)

XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

Xbox and Wii (Wii is dusty…) – got ahead of myself on the prior question…

What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 

Best is a tough definition! Longest stretch was EQ, DAOC or WoW. I pumped weeks of my life into those games. The best memories for me though is anything on this list.

What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?

I honestly don’t even recall. I think every game has a good point, none I have ever played would qualify as “the worst”

Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Splinter Cell – I never got into that series. Solid Snake just seems like a jackass. Even his name is. =)

Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

Beach Head 2002. It reminded me enough of the original beach head and I played that a lot longer than anyone should have =)

What are your favourite game genres?

RPGs, MMOs, and Sports games. Baseball in particular, which makes me a sad panda for both PC and XBOX.

Who is your favourite game protagonist?

The ones that I make in my games. Me! =) I did love The Grey Warden in DA:O. Who was also me.

Describe your perfect video game.

Non grindy, community oriented, engaging to the mind and heart.

What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Alyx Vance, HL2.

What game has the best music? 

I’m not music oriented and I often play with the sound off.

Most memorable moment in a game:

Ragnaros kill in WoW. Defining moment for me in raiding and gaming. When he popped up for the first time it was JAW dropping. Heart raced as we executed our strategy. Amazing moment.

Scariest moment in a game:

I’m very jumpy in scary games – I remember some zombie dogs in one of the Resident evil series.. but can’t recall exactly which one! They jumped out, I spilled my drink all over my keyboard, had to buy a new one.

Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

Not even game related – but I was in a game, EQ, and my daily questing partner shared with me that he was suicidal. It was a real, human connection in a virtual world. We sat there just talking for hours about it. If it was in person I would have hugged him and bought him beer. Unfortunately, I could only be a digital supporter and it felt so helpless that I couldn’t truly help him, or be there for him physically. I remember the place too – it was on the shores of Lake of Ill Omen. It’s a powerful gaming memory for me that spilled into real life.

What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

I read blogs mostly, and on my blogroll over there—> are the ones I read the most. I sometimes go to joystiq or gamasutra and the like, but for the most part, its blogs.

What’s the last game you finished? 

I did a round of Civ 5 recently, that was the last. Also finished Diablo III act 4 in anticipation of act 5.

What future releases are you most excited about? 

Everquest Next is top of mind, Star Citizen if they actually start making a game at some point.

Do you identify as a gamer?

Yes! Among friends and family I’m known as the gamer geek.

Why do you play video games?

It’s active entertainment. I consider TV/MOVIES passive entertainment. I hate absorbing content by watching and listening – I like to contribute to content through actions!

There are my 21 – I kept them pretty short and sweet but some were hard to not expand a bit on. 21 ended up taking me a lot longer than I had expected – but it was a fun look back (and at present) to think about.

YAR!

YAR! is a nostalgic MMO word for me. YAR! Was the rallying cry of my EQ test server guild, The Grove. Anytime anyone logged in there was a /gu of YAR! And usually the same number of responses per number of guildies on. I carried YAR! to DAOC and again to WoW in the guilds I was a part of and kept it a tradition. I’m not sure if any of the guilds I was a part of still use it, but I can still be found “shouting” it out when I log in to various games if I’m in any sort of guild or clan.

Funny too – not sure who, or why, it started and the last time I tried pulling it out in a new guild I was in they asked if I was a Pirate. Silly kids, Pirate speak is YARRR! And although Pirates are way cooler than Ninjas YAR is not the YARRRR you are looking for. This is a scary thought to me as I also need to replace my Tragically Hip slide in my PowerPoint with a Justin Bieber slide to remain relevant. I am getting old.

Joking aside (inside?), what does YAR mean, and where did it come from? Google-fu time (they need a Google-fu exclamation equivalent for Pirates. Sounds too Ninja-y)

Word Origin and History for yar
growling sound, imitative, attested from c.1300.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Growling sound makes sense. Imitative? c.1300. What was going on in the 1300s?

According to Wikipedia, lots.

As a means of recording the passage of time, the 14th century was the century which lasted from January 1, 1301, to December 31, 1400. Political and natural disaster and black death ravaged 4 khanates of the Mongolian Empire. Consequently, the Mongol court was driven out of China and retreated to Mongolia, the Ilkhanate collapsed in Persia, the Chaghatayid dissolved into two parts, and the Golden Horde lost its position as great power in Eastern Europe.

I knew the word was always super cool. I mean, not black death ravaging Mongolian Empire cool, but cool nonetheless.

YAR! Was, and is, more than that. It was our rallying cry – our call, our sign. Our secret handshake! Our “Nanoo Nano”. Our kicking of the jukebox. Our “D’oh” (only much less stupefying). It was something we all did and it made our guild who we were.  A symbol, if you will.

So, if you ever see some old guy running around saying YAR! In a MMO it is probably me. Feel free to /kick, but that won’t stop me. I’ll be YAR! (ing) for as long as I play MMOs.

Start With Why

I try to read a book a month. These books are mostly non-fiction and are business or personal growth related. I love thinking in general (its a gift, I tell you) and as such picking up books and reading and learning feels like I am developing both personally and professionally. Someone once told me that the person you will be in 5 years depends on the people you meet and the books you read. I find some truth and comfort in that statement.

I recently read “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek and I’d categorize it as a pretty simple premise but a game changer if you could execute it in life, work, relationships, and elsewhere. The basic premise of the book (and I am keeping this very simple) is that if you drew a circle that had three layers, it could look like this.

golden-circle

What Mr. Sinek argues is that most companies focus on WHAT they do. Dell builds computers, for examples. They then tell you HOW they do it – the have a great processing facility and it allows for personalization and you can change features, chips, memory, hard drives (etc.) and get it built just for you – for a cheap price. They never tell you why though, do they? The book argues that a company like Apple always starts with why, then explains how, and then shows a product that is the outcome of the why and how – not the other way around. Profit is never a “why” either. In very generalized thoughts and terms he demonstrates the companies that start with why  has made them industry leaders – in some cases changing complete industries and in even more extreme cases the world. He also argues that if you don’t start with why you can’t achieve the same results, and that starting with why creates an inspiration that team members, co-workers and customers can all rally behind – which creates that success.

A simple example of how to apply this is personal health. If you focus on the WHAT and HOW of personal health it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. I need to go to the gym 4x a week and work out. I need to drink less beer. I need to eat better, less bread, less deep fried foods. I need to take the stairs instead of the elevators. The WHAT and HOW of personal health doesn’t actually sound that great.

If you started with WHY, you may look at those things a bit differently. I want to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to be able to work and provide for my family. I want to be around long enough to play with my grandkids. If you start with those whys suddenly less beer, and more time at the gym, and taking those stairs don’t seem that bad after all.

Its a must read. Please do. It’s on Audible if you like books that way, can even be your free trial book.

Can the golden circle be used in Personal gaming? Of course it can. Clearly developers are starting with WHAT and HOW and not WHY. WildStar started with we are going to create a game that WoW would have been if they didn’t get off course. (WHAT).

We will do this by not making the same mistakes as Blizzard and keeping the game catered to the 1%, with attunments and a tougher levelling and raiding experience. We’ll reintroduce 40 man raids. (HOW)

They never really explained WHY.

I want a gaming company to think with WHY first, instead of “how much profits can we make if we do yet another twist on a theme park”. I bet if a gaming company really started with WHY, we would get that inspiring and engaging MMO we are all waiting for.

 

Ask and Ye Shall Receive (the 1%)

Below is an excerpt from a  post by Carbine Studios’ Jeremy Gaffney on why the 1% is important.

Here’s some quick philosophy on the subject (still in the office at 6pm Sunday so I’ll have to be brief):

We do believe in catering to the 1% (actually a few different 1%’s). We spend more than 1% of our time on them. Why?

Well, the 1% grew over time in the MMO market. It used to be that few people were at the end game stages of the MMOs, but of course as time passes the percentage of players there grows. And some who hated PVP as noobies learned they loved it, and some who struggled in dungeons took on veteran dungeons and learned to raid, etc. So that “1%” of people who do the hard end-game content has grown a bit (it’s still not pervasive per se; and the toughest raids are still only finished by a fraction of the playerbase).

Several factors apply:

1) The 1% are pretty vocal. If they report back to the 99% that the elder game sucks, guess what? Lots of people leave – why bother levelling up if no love was put into the very top content? (Well there actually answers to that, but I’ll leave it for brevity).

2) Over time, your “1%” content becomes easier – better loot drops, people get more skilled, level caps raise. So that percentage our of time spent actually over time does get utilized well.

3) We devs often ARE the 1%. If you make a game you don’t love, it’s pretty damn hard to make it good. We want a game we want to play too. There are a disproportionate amount of hardcore raiders/PVPers in the industry (and probably also in those passionate enough to post here or on other MMO sites for that matter).

4) There’s some magic involved. Picture a game with no nigh-inaccessible content. You can go anywhere the first month, there’s nothing left unseen. From one perspective, maybe that’s great – there’s no earning your way into Counterstrike maps, and that game’s pretty damn fun. But from another…I dunno, it’s pretty tough to have a mysterious, huge-feeling world when you can trivially do it all, and even in games I don’t want to or don’t have time to raid in I’d like to know there’s more out there. That’s arguable though.

………………. (some cut out, hit link above to read the whole thing………

Anyhoo, there’s tons more on the subject, especially as we do more reveals later this year on elder games, deeper dives on features, etc. Maybe we’ll muck up some of the execution (don’t believe so at the moment, but there’s lots to do still. I don’t expect or desire any “gimmes” from the MMO communities as a whole; there’s been enough hype in recent years in the biz that the proof HAS to be in the pudding for us and future games).

But strategically we have a set of goals that we feel passionate about. Opinions welcome.

Sounds sensible right? But what if by catering to the 1%, you actually only got the 1%?

NCSoft earnings report shows a converted income from WildStar of 27M in April, May and June. Since the game launched in June you can put that down as box sales. It’s 59.99 for a Standard edition and $74.99 for deluxe, so in the interest of best guesstimates let’s draw a line in the sand of in between – $66.99 – and that gives you ~400,000 in box sales. IF CREDD income isn’t reported.

I suppose the pre-order sales slump prediction was true.

Now, 400,000 is a LOT of boxes and if anyone felt the game was growing, or even held that number of players then it would be an unarguable success! Unfortunately, by all anecdotal accounts, servers are emptying – and fast. WildStar nation is moving their guild (already) from Rowsdower to a higher pop server (and spending $1000 in the process). I mentioned how empty things were. Even Syp, who is loving the fact that challenges are easy now that his server is empty is noticing the same thing. WildStar Nation who do a weekly podcast about the game use their best guess at 30% retention. It’s all guesses and experiences at this point – but no one has said, anywhere, that the game is growing.

The pessimist in me has a couple thoughts here – one, that my swift conversion to F2P will come true (that before I even played the game). The other is that that date will be on our around (or at least announced) by November 13th. Have to keep players once WoD drops, no? The pessimist in me (its a very small part, I promise) also thinks back to when I suspected that companies STILL make more money going box plus TEMPORARY sub fee for X months before the inevitable F2P conversion – and maybe Carbine is playing that card.

The optimist in me hopes that Carbine sticks to their guns and vision, and is happy with 130,000 subs and can focus on growing the game the way they always envisioned it – and that they can cater to the core they always wanted to. I still won’t play it that way, but I respect EVE Online and I don’t play that game either.

Unfortunately respect doesn’t pay the bills and who knows what the expectation and pressures are from NCsoft to Carbine. What I know for sure is that if it indeed goes F2P and/or B2P I will go and participate in the community. I’ll even support them with payments.

Either way – change will be coming to WildStar and whether it is good or bad will depend on what actions they take (something HAS to change) and what camp you are in when it is changed.

Diffusions in MMO Gaming

I just read an amazing book and while I am saving that for another entire post one part stuck out to me. That part was in regards to the explanation behind how, and what rate, new technologies spread throughout societies. That explanation is called the “Diffusion of Innovations” and was written back in 1962. It was recently updated in the 2000s and it is popularized by a Professor of Communications, Everett Rogers. It’s a pretty cool theory in our tech driven world and it makes sense.

The author used it to prove a point for a business argument. I immediately thought of paid beta/alpha tests.   The theory goes like this (basic format) for adopting new technologies.

The theory goes that new technologies are best picked up by Innovators, who evangelize to Early Adopters (who purchase on their recommendation) – and then it gets a bit of steam for the Early Majority to pick up, and the Late Majority now sees a lot of people using it and they don’t want to be left out. The Laggards never buy but only adopt when it’s been standardized, cheaper than their current option (etc.).  I may have bastardized the whole Theory – but that is the way it was explained in the book I read.

The argument goes that for new tech its best to solely target the Innovators and the rest sorts itself out. If you target the Majorities (Early, Late) they don’t understand why they need the tech as they would if it had gone through Innovators and Early Adopters. It makes sense – who knew we needed DVRs until TIVO? Now they are a standard cable box. (for the record, TIVO is an example of a failed new tech – they went straight to the mass market and people weren’t ready / didn’t understand)

Of course, with my love of gaming, after reading this theory in a business book I wanted to try and apply it to what we see in gaming.

Applying the theory makes sense with the “pay for betas” trend we have been seeing – and in which I have participated. This makes sense – if you get the early innovators and they start blogging, podcasting, and sharing their experiences with others you may be able to get Early Adopters involved. This has actually created a revenue stream for SOE. This has been working really well for Archeage as well – I have been reading great blogs and stories around blognation. While that particular one isn’t my cup of tea (I’ll be a Late Majority for AA – if at all) I’m still reading and thinking about it.

For early Betas the theory doesn’t work as cleanly for two reasons – one is because characters get wiped because its software and not new tech – this causes people (like me) to not invest as much time or evangelize as much to other people. I spent more time in Landmark than I did in WildStar and if I knew my efforts would exist, I would still be playing. If I was still playing, I’d still be blogging and posting pictures about it. It’s fun, it’s a grown up Minecraft. If it can be as commercially successful and trendy as Minecraft remains to be seen. The second way the theory is a stretch for gaming is that MMOs in themselves aren’t really new anymore and the curve is meant to represent the adoption of new tech.

Despite that I still think it makes sense that gaming companies reach out and engage their best players and potential players as early as possible and get them talking about it – good or bad. Conversations and top of mind – the buzz – is always important.

The other way to look at that curve and apply to gaming is possibly the population curve of a MMO.

  • Innovators = Alpha
  • Early Adopter = Beta
  • Early Majority = Pre-orders
  • Late Majority = Launch
  • Laggards = Post-launch purchasers

Looking at it that way  works with the overplayed market share % as well – and isn’t it true that at launch most new games peak anyway? This doesn’t replace the Gartner Hype Curve but fits along with it. For all NEW MMO launches (post-Wow) it seems that every game except for WoW, and EVE, had peak subscriber base at launch. That is a sobering thought to the importance of launch to developers. SWTOR, AOC, WAR – are there any that ended up with more subscribers than boxes they sold at launch?

If that is indeed the case and we can apply it directly then a MMO has ~90% of it’s maximum player base at launch.

Since I read about the theory through a second hand source I am going to get to the source material and read the actual applications. I have a habit of looking at a lot of my experiences through a gaming lens (service, loyalty, math, experiences, heck, even family!) and I suppose that in itself could be a measuring stick of my passion for this pastime.

Half Time Housecleaning

At the midpoint of Blaugust I am taking a breather. It’s been a flurry for 16 days but a LOT of fun – I find the daily posting isn’t too tough even though I had a couple travel days for work AND a couple travel days with family last week. It has been fun because I have been getting more traffic – I am not sure if that has to do with Anook or the posting frequency. I know not all of the posts have been my strongest but the effort has been there. Consider this post a half time Blaugust post.

My blog has been around for quite some time – my first post was August 27, 2008 – coming up on an anniversary! I’ll probably forget about it on that actual day – it was top of mind right now for an odd reason. 6 years, a few patches where I didn’t post much, a TON of life changes as well. Interesting to look back on where I was then, and where I am now.

The Housecleaning aspect is that IN THE PAST ALL OF MY TITLES WERE IN CAPS – I don’t know why I made that decision, but I did it for years – so I have been going back and fixing that. Also, all of my posts back then had a “break” in it at some point in the text forcing click-throughs to read it. Again, not sure why I did that either. No reason to inconvenience visitors. I have been taking those out too.

I’ve gone through various iterations of Categorizations and tags – I now categorize by the publisher or developer (Blizzard for Wow, for example) instead of each game individually – I don’t know if they serve any value in the internets besides having people click through and I am guessing that they are rarely used – so I have kept it simple. The tag cloud is now my last sarcastic, attempted wit or parting remark instead of an actual tag – again, not sure if tags have any functional use outside of the blog.

If categories or tags are important, please let me know. If they are helpful somewhere out there, I’ll adjust accordingly. I’ve been blogging for 6 years and I still don’t know why some things are the way they are, or even best practices.

Linking still isn’t working but my webmaster is an old guildmate friend of mine who has never billed me for the URL www.ihaspc.com and he is a family man, and its summer (and he is a boater) so I don’t like to pester. I do feel bad if people are linking and I can’t thank them for it, respond, or become a part of any side conversations but I am sure blognation will go on fine without my track/piggybacks (for now!) hopefully when we get it fixed they will back-update.

I am going to play around with some new themes. I have had this one since day one – and while I like it because it is the same one I have had, I am curious if a fresh look would be better for readers. Besides, TAGN seems to change annually and he is one of those gold standards of bloggers that I respect and admire (him, Bhagpuss, and Zubon) – those are blog-titans of course though, so no surprises there. My Blogroll on the right is all blogs I love reading which is why they are there – makes it easier for me to track my favorites! I added some links on my Blogroll  – found some great articles through this initiative and Anook.

Is there anyway to make Blogger and WordPress be more friendly? I love commenting on WordPress sites (it keeps track of who I am so simply!) I figure they should be better friends.

There is my Blaugust half time. I still have 15 drafts in the bank and finding inspiration everyday. At bare minimum, even if I don’t manage to finish Blaugust, I think I am a better writer for working a bit harder on finding/fleshing out topics and being consistent with posting.

Bare minimum, I appreciate the support from everyone else out there who HAS PC.

 

Confusing Sales

I understand the mindset behind the Steam sales – a lot of times they are games that have been out for months – if not years, so getting $1.99 for a $19.99 game past it’s prime has some sense behind it – because normally, you would just get zero.

Regardless of what customers you piss off.

What I don’t understand as much is why prime games are discounting before they even launch. It is creating a culture (that is probably already created) of discounting that once you go down, you can’t get away from. This is why Subway now sells $3 meal deals where once they were $10. They discounted to $8, then to $6, then to $5, and now $3. Soon they will have to give you money for you to eat their “food”.

This first happened when Green Man Gaming discounted WildStar, arguably one of the biggest MMO launches this year (or even the past two years) offered me a 25% discount. Now they are at it again, with 25% off Civilization: Beyond Earth. A game I was happily going to pay full price for.

Yes, sure, perhaps the only thing getting hurt is the retail price of new games but all this is proving is that the base price of new releases is based on nothing anyway, and that we are just getting fleeced from the get go. As an industry this launch discount is a bad practice and hurts the industry overall.

Save the discounts for Steam sales after the game has had it’s run, not at the point where there should be the most excitement and most willingness to pay full price and support the game. I have zero loyalty to GMG for this and if the only reason why you are buying from a company is because of price discounting that company probably won’t have a long run at things – if pricing is your only advantage, anyone can easily copy that.

For an industry that has been around for so long, it still feels like it is making young industry mistakes.

Au Revoir WildStar!

Zero surprise to anyone that reads hear semi-regularly that I was headed down this path. WildStar has some potential and the business model is pushing me away further than the game itself. IF it was buy to play +expansions or free-to-play I’d be exploring Nexus. It’s neither and I don’t feel right paying for a game I am barely playing. Another time I’d be there. Just not in the cards.

I was looking forward to unsubscribing for the sole sake that perhaps because I am voting with my wallet they would take my feedback seriously. No, I’m not faking it with a “I’m quitting post” on the forums, I’m not bluffing. I actually did – look!

Easier to cancel than Audible!

They didn’t even care. Not even a “hey, why are you leaving?” exit survey. Just a click, and I’m gone. I mean, I’m sure they liked my money, but I guess they really don’t need it – or don’t want to know the reasons why. I find this shocking in the digital age (and I often do) that there is no cheap and simple to implement improvement survey so the devs understand what, if anything, is driving players away. Maybe they already know, or *think* they know, but another missed opportunity!

Money is why these games are made. However, until MMOs become less transactional, and more relationship based this industry is going to continue to pump out the same thing. Kickstarter is a nice start due to niche support options but you have things such as Star Citizen (which seems more like a professional money raising company, not a gaming company), Camelot Unchained, and the like. The best of the best when it comes to businesses and brands in general build a bond of trust and a relationship with their  customers who become evangelists for their brands. They take the time to build that relationship through their messaging, their support, and their connections with their customers. Want a simple and cheap example?

This company Grovemade makes iPhone cases out of reclaimed skateboards and other recycled materials. No two are alike.  My wife bought one. It cost $100 and shipping to Canada. When it arrived, there was a hand written note in it – that said “This one has an extra cool design in it – enjoy! I loved packing it for you  – Steve”. It made her feel individualistic (extra cool design) and personal (I loved packing it for you) and guess what happened one year later, when it started chipping? She bought another one. I suggested she spend $30 like my SURVIVOR case for my Galaxy s5 but no, it’s $100 bucks because she connected with that company.

Relationships are hard to build between a company and user in a game with millions of “customers” – I get it – but let’s put in some effort. The best thing going for MMOs is that the relationships don’t need to be that way, they can exist solely between gamers – and that will carry a lot of subscriptions a long way – but at some point the company needs to matter to the person as well. People love Blizzard and go to Blizzcon. People love SOE and go to (SOEfest? What is that called?) You need that dedication to survive. WildStar, by all accounts, does a good job of reaching out to the crowd (weekly podcasts, posts on forums, etc.) so kudos there where it is due. I just am boggled that after 8 years of development and a huge launch, with apparent Gartner Hype Cycle crashes that you wouldn’t want to ask people leaving exactly why.

For me, I could have chosen several.

  • I don’t get the same value out of a subscription fee payment
  • I can’t put in enough hours to earn CREDD instead
  • I didn’t find a guild or make bonds (my friends on my friends lists – guilds I were considering – outright vanished)
  • The game world left me behind – felt empty in the sub 20 areas I was adventuring in
  • The Dominion side seemed to have even larger population issues, but I enjoyed that side more

Not much they can do about that list, but if enough chose the first bullet point maybe they could use that when strategizing about a F2P strategy. The second through  fourth points would point to server mergers (or transfers). Maybe they wouldn’t act on that information but at least they would have it – and with information you can make decisions with more clarity instead of guessing or hoping you know the answer.

Best of luck WildStar and looking forward to the “return to WildStar for 10 days!” or free trial email to see if you were able to guess at and fix the things that lead me to leave in the first place.

 

 

5avourite 5ives

On the heals of 10 questions on WoW, I admit that my favourite pastime in WoW is 5 – man dungeons. It used to be raiding, but I don’t have the luxury of that kind of time anymore. That post got me thinking about which 5 mans in particular stuck out for me – so here we go, starting a 5avourite 5ives and hoping that maybe it catches on – would love to hear other people’s 5avourite 5 mans.

Fight Club  - The 5irst rule of 5ight club

Now, some housekeeping and simple rules of 5ive club – there are no rules. It doesn’t have to be from WoW, or even a 5ive man in that case. Not all games have 5ive mans but try to keep it to introductory grouping (ie: first instances, etc.) I know that 5ive mans can be limiting to open world games (are there any outside of EQ? Vanguard?) and that using 5 instead of F is probably really annoying by now. No matter – I am staying on brand (5-you!). All that being said, if your game doesn’t have a 5ive man but a grouping experience that you would count as that because your favourite game is designed that way, then by all means, share!

Pick one, or several. No matter. Write what you will. Have fun!

My 5avourite 5ive is Black5athom Deeps. (that’s the last misplaced 5, I promise!)

The ‘Deeps’ label always made me laugh. Felt like a spelling error. Shouldn’t it be depths?  Were they being funny reminding the peeps to bring the deeps? Anyway – this was my first 5 man ever (sigh: nostalgia? Again?) and I ran it over and over and over. I became a resident expert of the BFD in the 25-27 level range of Whisperwind. The best part is that we stumbled upon the entrance by accident, and already had 5 friends questing – so we went in, no guides, no clue on what to expect – a proper unscripted adventure.

First off, the back story –

Situated along the Zoram Strand of Ashenvale, Blackfathom Deeps was once a glorious temple dedicated to the night elves’ moon-goddess, Elune. However, the great Sundering shattered the temple – sinking it beneath the waves of the Veiled Sea. There it remained untouched – until, drawn by its ancient power – the naga and satyr emerged to plumb its secrets. Legends hold that the ancient beast, Aku’mai, has taken up residence within the temple’s ruins. Aku’mai, a favored pet of the primordial Old Gods, has preyed upon the area ever since. Drawn to Aku’mai’s presence, the cult known as the Twilight’s Hammer has also come to bask in the Old Gods’ evil presence.

I’m not sure if there is more to it than that – nothing I could find.

The entrance is very cool because it is of standard fantasy fare – an old temple that leads below

looks inviting

 and that leads into a nice broken staircase, or of course, jump down. You swim under the water and the entrance is into a cave. You don’t spend very long in the temple itself.

real men jump!

From there  there are twists and turns, stealthed mobs, and all sorts of glory to be found. You can actually miss parts and find dead ends. It’s a bit convulated and you can miss bosses and other fun areas if you don’t explore the nooks and crannies. There is a very direct route through the end, but the first time we missed 3 full bosses – Lady Sarevess, Old Serra’kis, and Gelihast.  Gelihast was a “d’oh” moment but I became quite famous for showing new adventurers where Old Seraa’kis was.

Those lines exist in certain instances in games now because people get lost. See WildStar.

On this Map Lady Sarevess is through an underwater cavern (2) , and we missed Gelihast (3) because we turned right too early. Old Serra’kis (6) is underwater and way off the beaten path so that’s a little more understandable.

I am ahead of myself.

The first boss is Ghamoo-ra. He is a turtle. I tamed him with my hunter. He dropped green armor, I believe it was the first green armor I had seen. Typical tank and spank fight (most were at this level.

Lady Sarevess avoided capture my first run through but never again. Basic fight except she spams forked lightning so required tanks to turn away from the group. She dropped the first blue bow ol Braack ever had. Blue items felt really epic back then.

Lady Sarevess

Gelihast (3) guarded a shrine that gave a buff. He is also the first real test in BFD and if I recall correctly did some serious damage. Murlocs would wipe us in that room as they were fleeing low on health they would chain aggro – and could grab Gelihast as well.

Gelihast

Lorgus Jett (4) was always confusing for us alliance. He never dropped loot. Ever! Why put in a mob that didn’t drop loot? We thought perhaps it was a bug. Turns out, its a horde only quest line. Every time we killed him we prayed that the loot would finally drop. It never did. He also spawns in a few different areas so was also confusing. I’m really curious what he was there for for the Horde quest. He brought an element of mystery!

Lorgus Jett

When I checked WowWiki for a refresher (all pictures here compliments of them!) I found a boss I didn’t even know about – a summonable boss but only for the Horde side. I am skipping out on that one here, because I honestly had never fought him. So much for being an expert! (Boss 5 on the map)

The 6th boss Old Serra’kis dropped an awesome dagger graphic  and I came back with my rogue to farm a pair. Drowning while fighting him was always a threat and people would sometimes get turned around in his cave, lost, and drowning. you had to take a long way back after killing him but the swim was always awesome after a boss kill and loot drops.

Old-serrakis

Twilight Lord Kelris (7) was what we originally thought was the final boss – he is fun and casts mind control and sleep, so those are always interesting to deal with when you are new to a game. (remember, we are talking launch time here, people!) It’s a tricky room with a few LOS pulls (first time we used those too). Overall, like most of the place, a straightforward fight.

Twilight lord kelris

We wiped before entering the final room a couple times – every time we brought new people through if we didn’t warn them enough. There are for braziers to light in the room, and each attracts a pack of mobs which are pretty easy to kill on their own. If you hit all four they will overwhelm any rookie group – and new people would often run around clicking on all of them – because they could.

That lead to the final boss, Aku’mai.

Don’t let that grainy picture fool you, he is gigantic and a site to behold as a young instance runner exploring a magical place. Dragon sized. It was my first epic battle, we wiped several times before sorting it out. This was before people tanked at level 25, remember. Before dungeon finder, glyphs, all sorts of modern conveniences. The instance was uphill both ways! After you kill Aku’mai you can get a port to Darnassus. We stood around the giant hall at the end searching every nook and cranny – did we miss something? Is that it? We really didn’t want it to end.

7 bosses (8 if you are Horde – damn you!) in sprawling underground caverns hidden from the world beneath a temple. Not much more exciting than that. Of course the exploration and shiny newness of it all is what made it special to me in particular and it is a place that I’ll remember fondly in my dungeoneering career.

I’m glad that it hasn’t been remade and curious to see if Blizzard ever does – I know they like re-purposing content – and I’d be fine with that. Would be interesting to see if they could recapture what I loved about it and I am actually very curious if the sprawling style and unclear pathways turned other people off from it. As far as time goes, this one took a while to run when it was new to you.

I’m sure someone out in blognation has done this before but if not, I’m really curious what your favourite 5 man dungeons were. (See? I didn’t 5 that one! I did promise!) and if you already posted about this some years ago then just pull a Blizzard and re-purpose that content.

Be Verwy Qwiet – We Hunting Zombiesh-Type-Creatures!

I picked up Dead Space a while ago (for free, thank you EA) and have been picking away at it. Throughout the first hour of Dead Space I realized something. I haven’t said a single word. Actually, my character hasn’t even made a sound. I don’t even think he grunts or groans.

That’s odd.

I can assure you, that if I was an Engineer-turned self-savior on a ship infested with rebuilt zombie-like human corpses of killing rampage with only a laser cutter and two other humans alive on board with low chance of survival or hope on a behemoth of a futuristic mining ship that I’d say something about it.

Even just a “yes sir” or a “holy $h*t!” (probably a lot of the latter).

But nope, I just plod along, carving up the beasties and building hope.

DS 2 and DS 3 the same way?

I get why gaming companies don’t give a voice to their protagonists because they want it to be you – but really, there is nothing less human than a character who doesn’t even say “Yes sir!” when given an  order or even mumbling things to themselves about “just my luck”. Especially in harrowing circumstances.

Even more odd is that because he has a full face shield on you could completely hollow it out and digitize the sound so it isn’t that far off what someone would expect. Certainly, it wouldn’t feel like too much work for the extra immersion that would provide.

I normally don’t play games with sound – when I get the chance to play games sometimes its when my wife is watching TV. If I don’t have a headset on its on mute anyway – FPS’s (especially survival horrors) kind of require sound so you can hear things sneaking up on you so I am extra dialed in on the sound aspect. I keep waiting for my character to say something – anything.

So far, me yelling at the screen isn’t having the same effect.

10 Answers About WoW

Like many bitter exes (that keep going back) I have done my fair share of beating up WoW on this blog although it always came from a place of “tough love”.

I learned of 10 Years – 10 Questions through Tales of the Argonaut (hat tip!) but the direct questions are asked over here at Alternative.

This looks like fun and I decided to do it – for Science! (or something). I am making a blog post about it (although there are plenty of ways to participate – email, Google docs, etc.) so go check it out!

 1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I had a friend, Lorendous, who was a good friend of mine and guildmate from DAOC. He left DAOC for Wow but I held strong. After the Pendragon community was trashed by Mythic I had enough, and finally followed my friend there. My history of MMOs started with EQ, to DAOC and then to WoW and while I have beta tested, bought, and played everything in between EQ was #1a and WoW was #1b. I could actually reverse that if you count personal impact – they are very similar in shaping my gaming life.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

Hunter. Sadly. To be fair though, I only got him to level 20. I recently did a post about his LBRS solo runs but to be more honest my first “main” character was (is?) a Night Elf druid. Couchon. He was the one I found my first guild with, the first I got to max level, raided with, etc. Oh, the stories. My old guildies still call me “Couch” no matter what game, what toon, or what class/name.

I switched mains years later to a Shaman (needed the heals, chain heal was king and we were in SSC) and I LOVED enhancement and the unique nature of totems and what Shaman brought to a raid group. I also have a top level Paladin so I can do 5 mans in LFGs  while tanking and a rogue too.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

Solely my friends. Same with server choice. I was Alliance and did not have a choice in the matter. Later, I did roll Horde but I new everything about the Alliance in and out and had such a comfort level with that side that it made more sense for me to keep rolling there. I did join a Horde guild with some friends once but I only got to level 70(ish) and really, I have so much going on Alliance side I just stayed there.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Not beating A’lar. It was a roadblock for our guild. We could always get under 5% but never won. A guildie was last man standing when he was at 1% (Greenteabag) and that sticks out. It tested us time and time again but we all showed up and did our best. I did, by myself at level 90, long after the guild was gone. It was still satisfying, but I wish we got him. I think its odd that I chose a failure moment as one of my most memorable but the hours we spent together there was bond-building.

Most other memories are around raiding and progression. We were a family, casual guild (that at one point had 13+ kids BORN into the game..) and we were a top 10 progression guild on our server at one point. That was fun.

.... finally ... sorta

…. finally … sorta

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

5 mans. It wasn’t always the case – first it was raiding, but I can’t take the required time to raid anymore (work, life, family, kids) but I love 5 mans. The Dungeons, the lore, the teamwork – it’s how I learned to love tanking because its the fastest way to 5 man glory, progression, and gear to do all of that. It’s actually why I quit Wow in Pandaria – they took away the ability to grind rep through tabards in dungeons and I absolutely HATE dailies – my whole end game was a series of dailies. If I would have been able to grind rep through dungeons I’d probably still be playing.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

UBRS. It was the first tryout guild run I did with the Grey Rangers, and I was accepted into the guild. That one decision changed my entire gaming career from that point. Druids back then were OK for healing but absolutely essential for Innervate. I was good at Innervating. (yes, its one button. That was tongue in cheek!).

Grey Rangers was a 40 man guild, and it was hard because to field that large of a team we had people in our guild that didn’t really fit. With the announcement of the next expansion going to 25 mans, we broke apart the guild and made our own. Still, in GR I was able to experience all of Molten Core and BlackWing Lair. Our 25 man guild was a blast and some of the most fun I ever had in gaming.

It all started in UBRS.

At the gates, with my druid.

At the gates, with my druid.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I’d have to resub to pull that. But I’d almost be afraid to. I was a 4x a week raider, 3-4 hours, 6-7 days a week. I also had top level crafters of almost every profession. I roll 4-5 max level characters (Rogue, Paladin, Shaman, Druid, Hunter) so to add it all up would be tough. I’m genuinely curious though, if I ever sub again (or get a 7 day pass…) I’ll check it out!

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Shit no. Wait – does skimming count as reading?

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

When I bailed on the guild I founded. It had changed a lot (I had stepped down from GM) but still a LOT of good people there. My gaming life started changing and a few of my closer friends left to a separate server. I still have a guildbank alt in my old guild and my hunter, and when I sub I go in to see who is still in the guild. I stay pretty quiet though, I bailed on those people. I am still amazed at the number of people still playing in that guild. The commitment is amazing.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Almost got divorced! A pregnant non-gaming wife will have that effect on your marriage when you are 4+ hours a night, plus constantly on the guild boards, etc. etc. While that is true, it also gave me the confidence and leadership skills. I run a rapidly growing business and it actually helped teach me how to manage people, competing interests, many personalities.

On the whole, WoW added more to my life than it took away – I still have a bunch of Facebook friends from those days and I sneak back in during expansions to poke my head around. It’s not a home anymore for me, more like a cottage – go there for the odd season, evening, or weekend and it’s familiar and fun. The same neighbors are on the same lake and its nice to say hi and rekindle friendships.

And 5 mans. Fun to run those new 5 mans.

Gender Stereotyping My Dogs

Blaugust has been fun and I am surprised I made it this long. I already have made more posts in August than all of July. I find myself writing a bit quicker, and leaving it all on the page. My old style was write most of it, leave it, revisit, edit edit edit… now It’s just write, re-read, feel good, publish. Kind of liberating.

I have 16 drafts already done. Some of those are older drafts but most are things that I have sorted out in my daily routines – I find little inspirations and start a draft post so I have the seeds to revisit and post away. Most have still been in and around gaming but this one is not. A little social experiment, shall we?

I have two dogs. One is a boy and one is a girl. Which is which? I’m going to describe some traits, personalities and things about them and want you to guess which is the boy and which is the girl. For each descriptor, the one dog is the first description, the second description is about the second.

A is black and white, B is red and white

A is smaller (half the size), B is bigger.

Both are crate changed – A keeps its blankets rolled and organized, B’s are scattered and strewn about.

Actual beds. Correct order

A  prances, B struts

A is smarter than B

A is older, B younger.

A is obedient, B is a rebel

Both are loving companions.

So, which do you think is which?

The reason why I even wrote this post was because when I was observing them I thought “wow, that’s crazy”. There are two ways to look at this – one, the obvious one, that A is a girl and B is a boy because the traditional traits and descriptions provided tend to lean that way. That a smaller, tidy, prancing, smarter, polite and obedient dog is the female. The pink blanket in for good measure.

The second way to look at it is because it is so obvious perhaps I am writing this to “throw you off”. To show that while certain things are obvious and “typical”, that I am sharing them in that way so start to get you to think the obvious and its a twist of some sort – because we have preconceived notions.

If this was a chapter in a Malcolm Gladwell book (it would be a bad chapter, to be fair…) he would quote a psychological study that would explain how people’s brains absorb that information and their preconceived notions come into play. That given only specific – and limited – information, people tend to think a certain way. This isn’t a well written Malcolm Gladwell book (unfortunately) and you are left with my thoughts.

The truth?

A is a girl, B is the boy. I caught myself remarking how their personalities (the first is 5 years older than the second) were so perfectly suited to their sex. He’s the goofy, clumsy, “dumb” but loveable pup and she is the pretty princess – both the same breed with different pedigrees. I wasn’t messing around. My own self check after thinking that was that none of those traits are actually suited to specific genders and it was something for me to be mindful of in the future.

WildStar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline

This is not a “the sky is falling” Chicken Little recount of what I see going on in WildStar- this is a general feeling and mood about the game. Read a lot  blogs, forums, and even fan sites and there is an underlying thought that subs are bleeding and the bugs and hardcore nature of the game is putting off a base population. More on why I think that later.

I chronicled my short history and love of WildStar here – a game by all accounts I should be fully engaged in yet barely logging in and my highest character is still (all together now) level 18. I will be cancelling my sub but I still have a couple weeks left to play. I’m not sure if I am even going to bother logging in. Here’s a link to the 13ish posts about WildStar since I started beta. Good and bad – mostly good at the beginning, less good now.

In three months I only opened around 21 of my boom boxes and I’ll have 70 or so waiting for me if I ever log back in – that 21 figure is a lot of fake too – some days I ONLY logged in to get my boom box. Silly that I am Over Rewarding myself. Even sillier, is that I think I have spent more hours listening to the guys at WildStar Nation at their podcast than I have playing the game live.

Aside: I don’t spend a lot of time listening to podcasts – I have my staple audio selection for the week (hour drive each day for work) and that staple is the Economist audio edition (nerd alert?), whatever book I have on tap for the month from Audible (Start With Why by Simon Sinek) and the WildStar Nation podcost. I typically save the WSN for when I cut my lawn. I have a riding mower and a couple acres, and its a solid hour and half on the John Deere. (nerd/hick yo!)

Back: The WildStar Nation Podcast – I was listening to one today (while cutting my lawn) and they were also speaking about the apparent decline of the game. One observation was when one of the casters was talking with someone from Enigma and when prompted, this was the reply from the player regarding what is going on with one of the top raiding guilds in the world, and the top progression guild in the WildStar world right now. This is a paraphrase (but a great excuse for you to go download their latest episode and listen!) – the raider said the guild LOVED the 20 man content – it was awesome. They attuned 70 40 man raiders and now are down to 40 – the bare minimum.

The future of 40 man raids is jeopardizing the game. Sound familiar?

That is when it struck me – WildStar is a game created by developers who claimed that they wanted to build WoW like it used to be, and not make the same decisions that “ruined” WoW. That seemed to be the boilerplate design of the entire game. And that is when it struck me. Rose colored glasses. In that link Arcadius talks about how nostalgia is a cruel mistress and he has a couple of his own links in that article to other bloggers who tend to agree.

“The trouble with nostalgia is that it’s a fleeting thing, and it’s something that’s better left in the annals of your mind.”  Me vs Myself and I

“That driving sense of nostalgia often doesn’t last long beyond the point when you return to the time/place/song you were nostalgic for.”  The Ancient Gaming Noob

(there I go linking TAGN again. I’m going to need to start paying him royalties. At least it is me linking Arcadius’ links!)

Bear with me here on this argument.

Is it any surprise that the games we are playing are underwhelming when they are being created by people who have their own nostalgia about how games are supposed to be designed – on top of our own nostalgia on how they are supposed to be consumed? Now look at a couple of the biggest Kickstarter excitements in MMO nation:

  • Camelot Unchained : DAOC nostalgia
  • Star Citizen: Wing Commander/Privateer nostalgia
  • Pantheon: Rise of the – bah, never mind (but still nostalgia driven..)

You get the picture.

Seems nostalgia could be as much of an enemy of game designers as well as the players. WildStar and present company included.

SKYNET – Turing AI

I was reading an article over at TAGN (which I do often – and I’ve linked to him quite a bit recently so not linking that post directly today – may be accused of over-linking!!) The article is his play through of  Civ 5 with friends online and what happens to their strategies when anyone drops and the computer AI takes over. Basically its a gong show with little consistency with what the AI chooses to do after you leave. You would think (well that may be a bit presumptuous – I think) that it would be sensible for the computer controlled AI to watch what moves you have done over the past x number of moves, and continue along the same course – if you tend to work with countries on things through diplomacy while beefing up a ground defense, it wouldn’t make sense to suddenly divert all of your resources to build a navy now, would it? (hint: something like that did happen to him. It didn’t make sense to me.) After reading through his well written article and my personal experiences with Civ 5 it dawned on me that the AI programmed there is probably preset by ruler and attached to current units/research tied to what year it is. So, when you drop from the game, the computer AI completely ignores what you felt were sensible moves and immediately reverts to its core thinking regardless of current state.

That feels like poor programming to me. That is immediately what I thought. Then I pulled a great big “WHOA NELLY!” and thought what in the hell do I know about programming AI – hell, programming in general? (yes, I think in italics.)

Turns out very little. I can’t imagine trying to program an AI for a game that complex. For games such as World of Warcraft you would expect the average AI to be pretty simple.

Spawn. Stand there until one of three things happen

a) a player character walks within X units of you (aggro radius)

b) you are hit for damage from a player character

c) you are idle for x minutes so path somewhere.

In the event any of those happens, the AI is also simple enough to imagine –

a) chase them for x units – if you reach them start attack sequence, -if you don’t then reset

b) move x units to player character – begin attack sequence, or

c) walk to coordinates.

I don’t even know if this is how it works but it makes sense to me. And it also feels like the type of sensible “if-then” arguments in programming.

So programming is easy peasy! Seriously though, imagine the layers and thoughts and concepts being building an AI capable of being a fair challenge in a game that has so many complex options, moves, ideas, player skill levels and the like. Imagine the investment that would take to make that game engaging and make the AI make sense. Obviously a bit more than Sid was willing to invest.

But fear not, gentle reader – for I HAVE programmed a computer based AI! It was for a math based game 23 years ago in Turing, in high school. (does that even exist anymore? Turing?). There were three difficulty levels and it was pretty easy to code  – The hardest level, aptly named Satan, was perfect. It would calculate every possible remaining move on the board and always make the right move to win, recalculating every possible move every time. If you played a perfect game against the AI (Satan) – AND had the first move, you would win. If you made one mistake or he had the first move, you lost.

The second level (Einstein) was based on the same formula, but had a 30% chance to choose any move BUT the right move. I programmed in human error.

The third level (Gumby), the easiest, was based on the perfect game formula but only had a 30% chance to make the RIGHT move, making a wrong one 7 out of 10 times.

Of course that is incredibly basic but the theory was there was always the opportunity to have a challenging game. Einstein or Gumby could go on streaks and make the game fun, and due to the chosen percentages if you weren’t very good at the game there were different options to enjoy it. This, at a most basic and root level, a math game on an 8 x 8 board. (I also tried programming in background music in Turing, but that is a completely different story).

The point of this entire post and the way I want to end this is twofold:

1) A newfound appreciation for programming gaming AI, and imagining the complexity and vision behind programming for that that must be required. If anyone has any insight on this I would love to hear it!

2) A curious question – has anyone gone up against GOOD gaming AI in the past – and if so, where, and why was it good?

I don’t ever recall feeling like gaming AI giving me a fair run for my money but I bet I am missing a big one or two out there that have.