EA

The Beauty of Complexity

Simple is always good but sometimes you find beauty in complexity – even if you trip over it. Time and time again in The Secret World (blog sites, forums, etc. I have been doing a lot of reading!) I am discovering suggestions to build your own decks and pay attention to different states. These states can cause interesting synergies during game play.

Take my Blade/Fist deck for example.

My ‘builder’ attack is an AOE called BLADE TORRENT. It does PBAOE ‘Frenzy’ damage and causes a lot of hate. It is a tanking move. Doesn’t seem useful for soloing.. until you also add a passive called PERFECT STORM.

PERFECT STORM adds a damage over time component to BLADE TORRENT and also sets an afflicted state to enemies it hits. Another passive I have, DARK POTENCY, increases my penetration chance every time I set an afflicted state. I have two other passives that work off of penetration – FLUID DEFENCE, which increases my damage every time I penetrate and IMMORTAL spirit that gives me a heal over time effect when I penetrate. (used different emphasis methods for in game states, skills, etc. Hopefully doesn’t read too annoyingly.)

I am not sure how much things can stack but theoretically  I hit 4 mobs. Each of those 4 mobs should increase my penetration chance. When I penetrate not only do I do more damage but I also heal myself. So as I set more afflicted states I increasingly penetrate and increasingly do more damage, all the while healing myself. This build lends itself to area of effect grinding, don’t you think?

I have other tanking abilities currently that increase my survivability but I am going to see if I can find other skills or passives that feed off of penetration or afflicted states. Most passives are cross weapon (meaning you can use them regardless of what weapon you have equipped) so the best thing I can look for is some more active abilities that set afflicted states or penetrate directly.

For example, as per Sylow in the comments in my last thread, I can also lower damage done to me by 30% (3% stacked 10 times with 12 Gouge) every time I penetrate an enemy. Add that to the crazy penetration scenario above.  I am  not sure how things stack – there is a nice Automatic Rifle passive that sets afflicted state every time you use a frenzy attack (which Blade Torrent is). So I am extra curious if both passives set separate afflicted states, meaning I should be able to double up on the afflicted states doubling my penetration? I am sure there are caps and what not. This level of complexity needs some sort of DPS calculator to sort all of that out.

I think I am understanding that correctly. Thankfully, in game at least, in TSW you can search by state or effect so it’s not so hard to build that out and look for skills and abilities that complement each other. This website has a searchable wheel.

I could see this level of complexity being a turnoff to some players but personally I am welcoming it right now – especially because all we have seen MMOs do (for the most part) the past 10 years is to become oversimplified. WoW lost a lot of magic when they homogenized their game. I can’t help but wonder if the complexity of TSW is hurting, or helping attracting long term players to it. It’s currently having a positive effect on me.

Modern Cars and TSW

Features on new cars have taught us to be really terrible drivers. I haven’t looked over my shoulder to go backwards in three years (reverse cam) and I drive a truck. I was driving in a colleague’s Mercedes Benz and he doesn’t have to do shoulder checks because his car tells him if someone is in his blind spot as soon as he turns on his signal. Parallel parking is a lost art form, with entry level cars performing the task for you now. All of this is wonderful until that exact moment one of those systems fails you and you are out of practice with it. This happened to my colleague with the Mercedes Benz, he was rear ended which broke his sensor on his backup cam and he forgot it was broken. The next time he backed up he hit a pole, further damaging his bumper. Things become automatic and it is hard to get out of habits.

This is how I am feeling in The Secret World.

Modern day MMOs have spent so much time conditioning me to be stupid in questing in games that it is hard to break out of the mold. My body was having an adverse reaction somewhat – thinking? You want me to THINK in game? no no.. find the shiny breadcrumbs! If they aren’t there, download a mod with them. I refuse to THINK while gaming!

(quick side question, what accent did you play that out in your head, of my mind arguing with myself?)

Rest assured, I haven’t lost it. It is just a bit uncomfortable – completely in an amazing way. It is fun to getting back to thinking and using some research and head space while gaming.The Secret World is now my go to game, and I still have so much to learn. I just finished every mission in Kingsmouth (except the group instances.. all old MMOs should patch out group missions after their game is 2+ years old and/or make them solo-viable) and the times where I had to go spoiler sites did cause me to /facepalm here and there. Things are only obvious when you expect them to be. Thankfully I am unlearning my bad habits and getting into the flow.

My Character Sheet is here and after I finished the Champion starter deck I got a nice, free Kill Bill-esque style jacket so I went shopping to match out the outfit. Swanky!

Truth be told, there is something about shopping in this game that is oddly fufilling – even moreso than real life shopping. Perhaps it is because I couldn’t walk around with a rapier in the real world while doing so. The new challenge for me as I venture into the Savage Coast is sorting out how to properly progress. I have blown most of my cash on clothes, but I have a ton of Sequins of Solomon Island that I should sort out what to with. I have also broken down every single non-upgrade item so I am sitting on 25 of 50 inventory spaces with crafting mats. I am still getting through quests without trouble with my almost standard Templar – Champion Deck (I added a single target blade attack to help with big, single mobs). The challenge for me right now is I have 25 SP and 100 AP and I don’t know if I should be rounding out more inner wheel items to be better prepared, or starting to explore into the outer wheel. I do know I eventually want to fill out the Preacher Deck (for the outfit, plus I already have some Blood Focus abilities) and also the Paladin Deck – but I think I am getting way ahead of myself. People always talk about roadblocks and tough areas in TSW so I am cautious to spend points when the game isn’t forcing (or even strongly encouraging me) to do so.

The Secret World launched when I was raiding in WoW which is why I skipped out on it at the time. It is nice to be discovering it now, so expect more posts on the subject. It is also nice to have a single game to be excited to login and play again. I am looking forward to exploring group play and maybe actually getting in game with people I know. There has been some life in Kingsmouth which is good to see and two different role players have interacted with me on different occasions (I am on a RP server). All in all, this has been a great experience and I am finally starting to understand the good things people have said about this game over the years. Nice to experience it for myself.

EA Earning Their Reputation

Shocker to many of you, I know.

For me historically I have been an EA supporter. I remember back in the 80s if your game had the EA logo pop up during loading screens you were in for a treat – a good game

shiny!

Even publically on this blog I had  defended EA due to my own experiences with them and since most people don’t click old blog links I’ll except from one where I shared terrible customer experiences with gaming companies, and EA was actually the best!

Gold Star? You will never guess it, because they are the most evilest and terrible gaming company on the planet – EA games. I had two tickets with them this year, one for BF2142, and a second for Warhammer Online. I get the immediate auto-generated response – again, I am fine with this as at least I know my submission got through. My BF2142 issue was responded to, and solved, within 24 hours. My Warhammer Online problem was responded to the SAME DAY. So, all evil aside (I am pretty sure reading blogs and whatnot they actually hate their customers – right?) at least I know that they support their products and respond to me as a customer.

I have 47 posts tagged “EA” which makes it over 10% of the blog posts here. While I didn’t discount the experiences of others who had negative dealings with EA I had to judge them on their own merit to myself. And I did.

I still do.

I gave up on EA during a stock announcement where they simultaneously announced layoffs to improve their stock price, disrupting the lives of many of their employees while also announcing they were hiring. You know, out with the experienced above minimum wage employees and in with the kids you can exploit.

Oh, for giggles, the ending quote of Mr. Brown in the same article over at Gamasutra.com

“Because so many of our games ship in the holiday quarter, the team size adjustments tend to follow in the same timeframe. However, EA is growing and several of our studios are looking to hire talented people.”

Maybe you should move those talented, experienced people you just fired over to the new studios? Just a thought.

I stopped buying their games completely for a good while. Of course I went back to finish my Mass Effect trilogy and picked up titles here and there while not bothering to support or celebrate the company. In order for me to finish off some titles I did have to buy EA. I lasted two years. They still kept on chugging along

I still managed to challenge them on some decisions and made fun of Peter Moore because his entire blog was full of ads and spam.

There is no excuse for that level of an executive to not keep the blog clean. If you don’t want to manage it, turn off commenting. If you want it to be a place where you can connect and engage your customers, do so. If you want to start selling Gucci, Coach, and Ed Hardy knockoffs just leave it as is.

And even called them out on some well deserved accolades and company events that did kind of point out their consistency lately.

CEO resign? Check.

Voted America’s WORST Company (again!) ? Check.

Part of a class action settlement, that anyone in the USA who bought any (or all) of three titles, on any (or all) of four platforms? And you can make up to 8 claims for a total of $162.96. ?

Check.

But overall in the history of this blog there are far more positive/neutral posts on Electronic Arts than negative although that is about to skew worse. I have been battling with EA over $5. That is the short story.

The long story is this. I had an Origin account, and it is tied to the same email address I use for all my gaming. I like keeping games, online services, MMOs, etc. – all in one gmail account. Easy to login, easy to find past information. So I had an origin account that had Dragon Age Origins on it plus all the DLC. I loved DA:O. I played that and Tiger Woods golf on the account (the free to play web version game). When I stopped supporting EA, I stopped logging into my Origin account.

When Dragon Age 2 launched I tried to get back in it and there were problems with it. I tried getting support, it wasn’t helpful, and eventually since I was gnawing at the bit to play DA:2 I made a new origin account and figured I could merge the two at some point, if EA ever figured it out. Fast forward to now (years later) and Dragon Age Inquisition I really wanted my DA:O info in there. The Dragon Age Keep wouldn’t work for me on my first account (although it recognized it, and also recognized the login and that there was a saved game file there ) but it worked for the second. I held off buying DA:I until I could get it sorted. Several emails no dice with EA.

Deep breath, still with me?

I could login to Origin fine and see my historical purchases and everything, the keep just wasn’t working. I reached out through twitter, they tried a bunch of stuff, and (once again) passed me back to EA. When I logged in to get support, it said my account was locked. I assumed it was because I was accessing from a new IP address. Nope, turns out it is banned for a “payment dispute”.

Not what the dispute was, or when, or how much, but there was one. And oh, because of that, they weren’t removing the action on my account. Guess who it was from? NOREPLY@EA.COM. In order for a dispute to exist there has to be countering opinions. I don’t have one on the matter currently, because I was not informed or aware there was an issue to begin with.

Not only did they not tell me the amount, or when the issue happened, they didn’t give me the opportunity to respond. So frustrating. So more phone calls and tickets opened later I am still sitting with the account locked. Except I can login (and download games…) and looking through my purchase history there is a $5 funds missing from some ongoing order (its a 15 digit number, no game name, or title) that bounced way back in 2011 when I wasn’t even playing their games. Pay Pal bounced it (probably because it was unauthorized).I am just guessing here, it was 4 years ago. I have ALL of my emails (yay gmail) and a search had no email from EA letting me know that it bounced. I am really confused.

Apparently so are they.

All I want to know is:

  1. What the charge was for, to verify if I even made it.
  2. Pay the amount (if true) because I do pay my bills (especially when I am told about them)
  3. Talk to someone directly who can pull this information and/or share it with me (I can verify the account)
  4. Unlock the account, and have access to my old DA:O game and the saved files.
  5. Be able to exchange information in a manner that is convenient for me (email is great for both sides. NOREPLY is not.)

Customer support is to find a resolution, not frustrate and roadblock every step of the way. Every email is from “noreply” and the ticket system is still a one way street for them. The call capability is nice, if you can wait 254 minutes and when you do get a call they can’t do anything except pass a message to the other team, who will email you from NOREPLY with what they did or didn’t find.

I have spent more hours trying to resolve this than I have put into EA games lately, and it is extra frustrating because I have a lot of EA games for my PS4 (Need for Speed Rivals, NHL 15, DA:I) and all of them want me to connect to Origin so it is annoying.

Yes, I could use my second account (or even make a new one) but it is the principle of it all right now. I want this fixed. It has been 4 years, cmon EA.

Out of sheer curiosity I decided to check the EA stock. Since clearly they have stopped taking care of customers like me, their stock must be plummeting as well. You always read bad things about EA, so how is voting with the wallet going?

Almost the best it has been – ever. Either I am an outlier, and one of the only people having these issues with EA or we are complacent as purchasers and care nothing for Customer Service.

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

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

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

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

#10  A flawed vision

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

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

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

#8 Gate content in silly ways

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

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

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

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

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

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

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

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

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

#3 : Charge a subscription

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

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

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

#1 : Lack of immersion.

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

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

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.

EA Innovating?

I have a Love/Hate relationship with Electronic Arts. When I was a young gamer on my $3500 386 SX-16 (price is a date reference. I worked all summer to afford it..) getting a box with the EA logo was getting a good game. It was synonymous for me. They really did have some blockbusters. Perennial sports title buyer (football, hockey) and all around brand supporter.

I defended EA during some tough times on this blog, and then they ultimately lost my support as a longtime customer due to expansion pack shenanigans, communication weaknesses, pulling sports games from the PC and most importantly for the flippant way they promote how they fire people.

Big corporations trading on stock markets do stupid things to remain “valuable” to short term thinking.

Now, enter EA Access – currently just for Xbox One – and suddenly EA looks pretty smart. They are mass discounting some major titles in exchange for a subscription. $4.99 per month, or $29.99 annually. They are also adding in some pre-launch perks (play Dragon Age:Inquisition first! Never buy another roster updated Madden title again, just pay your sub and get the next gen..)

In a world of Songza and Netflix this points to going in the right direction. The true value hinges on what titles make it to the vault (the platform of available games) but EA has commented that once a game gets there it stays there – so as long as you are subscribing you can always go back.

IF this service was available on PC I would subscribe. I have a bin full of X-box games I’ll likely never play again, and each one an oddly priced $60 – the “standard” fee for a new box. If they make most titles available the value is there if you just buy a single EA title a year. It’s a huge departure from the tied to nothing $60 box fee. It could be a disruption in the market.

I’ll watch this closely. I am intrigued, and this could be the future of how to consume gaming content alongside free to play. I may actually become an EA customer again. This is clearly a customer focused strategy if implemented properly.

Dead Space is Free

In what looks like an effort to increase Origin downloads/logins, EA is giving away Dead Space and it’s either out of the goodness of their hearts or just an incentive to give up your soul to the Origin platform.

I never played Dead Space and it received a lot of accolades so I am doing it. Free is a good price. I have a love/hate relationship with EA (43 posts tagged EA) and while many of my favorite games have come from EA, the way they run their company and the way they treat their employees makes it near impossible to support them. Heck, I even hate the way they blog.

But I do support free. For now. If I start getting EA only ads once Origin is in I will change my mind.

My Influential 15

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

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

Mario Bros (arcade) (1985)

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

Hardball (c64) (1987)

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

Police Quest (PC) (1987)

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

Street Fighter (Arcade, SNES) (1987)

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

Star control 2 (PC) (1992)

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

Doom (PC) (1993)

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

NHL 94 (SEGA) (1993)

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

X com (PC) (1994)

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

Baldur’s Gate (PC) (1998)

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

Rainbow Six (PC) (1998)

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

Everquest (PC) (1999)

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

Sims (PC) (2000)

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

Dark Age of Camelot (PC) (2001)

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

World of Warcraft (PC) (2004)

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

Battlefield 2142 (PC) (2006)

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

That’s It!

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

Corporate Governance

This sat in drafts and I never got around to finishing it. Now the info is really outdated, but still – wanted to talk about companies that make games really briefly.

First, we have this nice reminder of EA being voted worst company to work for (again)

Then, we have FUNCOM being raided for suspected wrongdoings

Add in a whole bunch of short-term stock thinking, churn and burn/crunchtime production mentality and man, I can’t help but think:

Is it really a surprise we get crappy games?

Then I read this gem from over at Valve – their awesome employee handbook

And this – the Bteam website

Is Corporate (North) America ready for an epic showdown? Is it all coming to a head as hard working humans reject that they need to be taken advantage of to earn a living?

Can we have purpose AND profits?

(side note: go read Tony Hsieh – Delivering Happiness)

Auf Wiedersehen WAR! 4 of 4

The final comic is the Choppa – the Orc mirror to the Hammerer. Violent, ugly, and viscious – WAR players were angry because the Choppa was an iconic WAR class and having them cut from the launch was not something they were “happy” about.

So, how to write a comic about an evil dummy?

choppy22(click the comic to see it in full)

Was fun to tie in a previous comic (love seeing that in the comics I read) and besides that, played on the singing angle again (what would a character do when they were planning to be in a game, after all?)

So that was the series. They are still available in the PRESENTS page, but it’s hard to find and full of spam now – I am going to kill that page soon.

WAR was one of the most hyped disappointments ever in the MMO genre and I am shocked that SWTOR didn’t learn about the hype machine in full failure – some of my favourite personal posts are about WAR and how PVP games could actually scale and last, but hey, I’m pure armchair.

 

 

EA’s Hat Trick

CEO resign? Check.

Voted America’s WORST Company (again!) ? Check.

Part of a class action settlement, that anyone in the USA who bought any (or all) of three titles, on any (or all) of four platforms? And you can make up to 8 claims for a total of $162.96. ?

Check.

http://www.easportslitigation.com/

This is old news, I am certain, in blognation but I am always out of the loop.

(I know the order is wrong too – but hey, that’s the order I heard of the events.)

2008, 184 Posts, 18 months of (mostly) silence, and missing you!

I can’t believe I started this blog in 2008. Yes, it only has 184 (often misguided) posts, and no, I haven’t really checked in in a year and a half. And yes, I do miss you.

‘You’ having two contexts, of course.

One, is writing. I think critically all the time for work, and write all the time for work – rarely for enjoyment. That was what I accomplished here. I had a ton of fun.

Two, is actually you. You who is no longer reading this, but used to. And who would comment, and challenge me, and link posts back.

While I still follow the community for the most part, I stopped participating. Not only, not participating (by not writing), but also, by not commenting. Not supporting the online community I was once part of.  Yes, I am feeling a bit old and tired and once again waxing nostalgia.

When I stumbled upon the news that EA’s CEO was retiring due to revenue issues and remembered that I lead a revolution (ahem) to stop buying EA products. It made me want to post. I thought I remembered making fun of him for being a terrible blogger, but that was some other EA dude. So, like many things that go as you age, I blame it on being a natural loss of general facilities.

So here I am writing, and it feels good. I played a lot of League of Legends on my own, ditched it because of the community. Played GW2 for a while, ditched it for lack of community. And oddly enough, against everything I ever fought for in computer games and posts here, I am a WoW subscriber again (albeit only a handful of hours a week). Why? Community. My friends are still there. Many never left.

Which circles back to blogging – for a few years I was tight with blogging, and regardless why or how I lost my desire to be a part of the community, I assure you it was me (not you). So I am back. I am not changing the title of the blog but the format will cover more about life in general with a gaming slant here and there – I am not on top of the gaming news, trends, or fads anymore. Good thing there is far more to life than gaming (and blogging about it).

Sad to see Wolfshead hasn’t blogged in a while and I think the whole blogging idea  wasn’t about expecting or implementing change in our online universes, but sharing ideas about how those might look someday.

So, going to poke around and say hi to you in your corners of the blog-o-verse, and stop by here once in a while to share stories and thoughts, when the need and if the desire arises. My therapist recommends it.

Nice to see you again.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Police for Jedi

EA and Bioware are wrapping everything into their ‘hail mary pass’ launch of SWTOR (pardon the pun) to do everything imaginable (and then some) to recoup their eleventy billion dollar investment.

For those of you who don’t clicky links on blogs, they are releasing a PVP warzone based on a neutral planet where the good guys and the bad guys pause their intergalactic conflict (oh, that silly thing?) to partake in something loosely resembling football set in a fantasy world. Immersion breaking? Yes. Misguided? Probably. Downright silly? Uh-huh – if you are one of those Star Wars geeks who endear the IP.

But the real question is: will it be fun? Yes, probably. It sure looks that way. I just don’t think it belongs there, and is an aspect that totally negates the whole point of having a story based (brand new pillar, amirite?) MMO in the first place.

Next PVP warzone being released is on hoth and  involves both ice skates and a small round disk made from compressed wampa fat. DLC price of $10.

My hype meter is at an all time low for SWTOR.

 

Feast or Famine

Going to a new blogging style. The exciting ‘when I can/feel like it’. When I blogged regularly I blogged pretty hard, 3+ posts a week, keeping on top of current events and all the “excitement”. I took an extended break once, and in the same breadth kept lurking and reading my favorites without posting. I haven’t posted since December and plan on making it more regular (without any firm commitments!)

Now I’ll just have the odd meal, enjoy the writing part, and keep blogging for no ulterior purpose but to enjoy myself on much needed breaks.

So, what have I been up to gaming wise?

a) I broke my EA holdout 10 months after it started while in a gaming funk, and bought Dragons Age 2 on sale. As reviewed by others I was a bit dissappointed when compared to the first.

b) Long after Cataclysm was released, I did my WoW dance once again, enjoyed it for what it is, then left when all I could do was done. Un-subbed prior to 4.1 with little interest returning. Maybe next expansion for a 3 month ride to remind myself why I unsubbed in the first place =)

c) Played more of Minecraft – although given up on creating something completely awesome, I am strip mining to hollow out under the world but making all resources renewable – anything I take from the ground I have to reuse above ground. Will someday end up with a rediculous cavern underground and floating islands in the sky. It’s definitely Zen grinding down blocks then finding uses for them elsewhere

d) Played Rift until level 15, quit, much for the same uninspiring reasons the current-gen MMO mechanics I often lament

e) Trialed AION for the free 20 levels, enjoyed myself a bit, not buying.

f) Less excited than ever about SWTOR and their marketing giganticnous of the title, and looking forward to not buying it on release while waiting for the reviews to pour in from trusted like minded bloggers. I still expect to play it someday as I am a fan of the DA/ME conversation wheel choices, but everything I have read about it from the CE backward has me in pure holdout mode.

Work wise we are expanding into Asian and South American countries, so that has been interesting and exciting. My family and I (odd to make the distinction, heh) are moving this week to a new home 7 hours away for work.

How have you been? =)

Lambs to The Slaughter

After reading the comments of SWTOR’s latest QA from Friday, I noticed a couple of things:

  • Seems to be a lot of MMO rookies following this closely
  • There will be major disappointment for those rookies

Some random ones, amid the rabid fanboyism:

Can you imagine a small smuggler ship entering in Coruscant atmosphere with two passengers(you and your companion) hidden in secret compartments?

and republic soldiers (another plays) searching for illegal stuffs in that ship?

Sorry, Poster 345. You can’t imagine it. The Quest designer can though, and rest assured with that cool move, you and 4 million other characters will get to experience it!

This game is being build at such a grand scale… something i’ve never seen before. The dev teams deserve a monthly fee. Just look at their work O_o
You can just stand in AWE, gazing upon it’s greatness.

I too hope you can jump from the highest skyscraper and just dive for a couple of minutes.

Sure, if it’s scripted!

I’m pretty sure the heroic flashpoints will be different than we’ve seen in other games. Instead of like in WoW where they’re the regular dungeons that are repeated, but are more difficult. In ToR, I see it being entire brand new flashpoints with end-game in mind. By this I mean that they will still focus on story, but in a different way, so that they are repeatable and don’t feel like you’re playing the same story over and over

Not commenting.

I don’t get why they don’t let any faction visit any planet. I would understand barring the starter planets cause of the PvP servers, but places like corusaunt. They keep saying they want to make it like in the movies and books, well darth zannah went to corusant to the jedi temple itself and she was not the only sith to ever visit the place. Bunch of bounty hunters go to the repulic capital also to find work

So the content is fresh when you decide to try a different side. I mean, why could players go to any planet they want? That’s what rails are for!

I’m a bit disappointed that their are multiple servers… I like the entire “One Server” where your name can be heard and known by all, and your choices effect the game as a whole, not just your server… By the way, I’ve been wondering, to what extend is this “Your choices make a difference in the game” go to? Do your choices only effect immediate characters, like the captain, or do you capture worlds, defeat leaders, etc that die once, and EVERYONE’s story is different…? I don’t doubt it’ll be a great game either way, but it would be cool if one player’s choices could effect another on the other side of the galaxy…

Dare to dream, random poster, dare to dream. World impact is left for single player games.

Now, I used to be guilty of the same hopes and dreams when new games were announced and discussed. Most gamers have an active imagination, which is handy to have when playing in fantasy worlds. Just skimming the contents there are going to be a lot of disappointed people. I do think TOR will be successful, but really – take WoW, skin it as star wars, add in voice overs, and that is the crux of what you are going to get. The core gameplay will still be on rails, repeatable content.

Still may be awesome, but the fantastical quotes made me sign in nostalgia.

How Not to Blog

Sorry, Peter Moore, your “blog” is a pretty big embarrassment.

I was surfing EA sites to find anyplace to complain that they stopped their major sports title development for the PC. Yes, I have complained about it a couple times already. I really want to play some football.

1) Most of the comments on that blog post I redirected you to is spam. I mean, Askimet is free. It blocks hundreds to my site a week. Even if your blogging software doesn’t have a spam checker, hire someone for minimum wage to keep an eye on it.

2) The posts that aren’t spam, are your customers who seem infuriated that you suggested the game you are blogging about is a big hit – their impression is complete trash. While that may not be the case you should probably address their issues.

There is no excuse for that level of an executive to not keep the blog clean. If you don’t want to manage it, turn off commenting. If you want it to be a place where you can connect and engage your customers, do so. If you want to start selling Gucci, Coach, and Ed Hardy knockoffs just leave it as is.

There is so much lazy and so much wrong with it. I am embarrassed for Mr. Moore and the EA brand. And I already don’t support your products anymore. (25 days and counting!)

Bioware’s New Game is Shattered Steel (probably).

A lot of speculation out there, but here’s a visual cue on why it is probably a remake of Shattered Steel.

Capture from the video

That’s not a building, its a cockpit

See those two, round black bulb things above his head (and to the left?) He’s not shooting out of a window, he’s shooting out of a cockpit.

Oh look at this high rez screen from ages ago.

Either a complete coincidence, or nifty stuff.

EA probably heard I have banned myself from their products, and this is their clever way to get me back. I love giant robots.

Straws, Backs, and Camels

Ok. I’m going to see how long I can NOT buy an EA product. I’m disconnecting my cash from the company.

I’ve never had a major issue with the company, either. Their support (for me) has been just awesome. I’ve been buying their titles for as long as I have been gaming.

Sometimes, you just have to take a stand. I know that sounds like I’m making some huge gesture over a major event, but it’s not. It’s actually a bit silly.

I was first disappointed with EA when they struck PC development with their sports titles. I was a perennial purchaser. Madden and Hockey every year. Baseball when they had the rights. We are going back a decade or
more here on those titles alone.

The layoff notices are well documented at brokentoys.org each time they happen. I’m not even ‘taking a stand’ because of this, although their announcements are always framed as a good thing – and that annoys me. It’s the attitude moreso then the job losses. I don’t say that unsympathetically either – but losses happen in every industry, every day. Normally they just aren’t celebrated as a championed initiative to stock holders.

The proverbial straw here is the promotional email received from them this morning for a game I don’t even play.

I did say it was silly.

For a mere $10 you can buy their first multiplayer map pack for Medal of Honor. It also includes all the multiplayer unlocks (which are normally earned in game).

MoH has been out for all of two weeks. So, new smart business design is release your blockbuster with limited maps for full price, then hit your players with a charge 2 weeks later.

You know the maps were done, and could have been released for free with the game.

Heck, if they waited a year, I’d understand a dlc pack.

This blatant f*** you just put me over the edge. A lot of respect is gone for EA, and in the blogosphere I was one of the few that still had it.

(1. I’m posting this on my iPhone stuck in a waiting room, so I haven’t linked anything. Will update that over the weekend

2. I beta tested MoH and it was average at best

3. I say ‘trying’ not to buy as they have a bunch of upcoming titles I am really interested in. I will need help resisting the temptation. I need a support group!

4. Anyone else with me?)

What I Don’t Get About the Gaming Industry

“As you know, seasonal roll-offs that follow game launches are common and vital to maintaining a healthy business” – EA Spokesperson Jeff Brown

Why is it that this statement seems only true for the gaming industry? I’m probably missing a few other industries that do this so nonchalantly in tone. It seems impossible to maintain a stable, motivated workforce in the gaming industry.

“We had a solid first quarter, exceeding expectations both top and bottom line,” said John Riccitiello, CEO (from Q1 2011 earnings report at investor.ea.com, dated August 3)

“EA is well-positioned for the year ahead and reaffirms its FY11 non-GAAP guidance,” said Eric Brown, Chief Financial Officer. “Digital revenue is expected to grow approximately 30% year over year, to $750 million in the fiscal year.”

Good thing EA doesn’t need staff to hit that growth. I suppose we have a better understanding of who straddles that ‘bottom line’. As a guy in business, I value my staff, their families, and their contribution as paramount to my personal and professional success. Talk to the Guru business leaders and you get the same story – it is all about motivating, empowering, and giving ownership to your team.

Not going to wax poetically here I do not know the way the gaming industry ticks – only that it sounds like a time bomb.

Oh, for giggles, the ending quote of Mr. Brown in the same article over at Gamasutra.com

“Because so many of our games ship in the holiday quarter, the team size adjustments tend to follow in the same timeframe. However, EA is growing and several of our studios are looking to hire talented people.”

Maybe you should move those talented, experienced people you just fired over to the new studios? Just a thought.

Steam Sale Stings! (also – my Baseball Game is now a RPG)

I picked up MLB 2k10 from 2k sports over the weekend. I enjoyed 2k9, and the $20 price tag is a nice entry level. Today I check out steam, and that same title is now on sale for $1.99. 90% off! While that is indeed impressive, now my valued purchase makes me feel like I was bent over the virtual counter. I emailed them to see if I can get credit (which I’ll promptly turn around and buy a different title with anyway).

I’ve always been a proponent of the Steam sales strategy and this is the first time it has bitten me in the bottom. I’ll update you if they do the right thing. If not, of course, then I suppose I’ll never buy anything off Steam again that ISN’T on sale. Should be a no brainer that due to the proximity of the sale I should get credit. We’ll see.

MLB 2k10 has ‘My Player’ mode, and it is a nice marriage of sports and rpg. You make a player, customize looks, etc and then go into the MLB draft. You can choose the team you want to play for or randomize it. I was drafted by the Giants.

What happens next is hella fun. You only play your role. I picked a starting pitcher, so I just pitch. That’s it. The games go by quickly (well, except for that nasty game where I earned a 7.45 ERA) and the pitcher/hitter interface is really well done.

The interesting part is how you improve your player. There are mini goals in real time (ie: do not allow baserunner to advance into scoring position, do not walk batter, strike out the side, etc) and successfully achieving them gives you points, which you can then spend to upgrade your abilities. You also get points for baseball worthy things (strikeouts, flyouts, groundouts, inning with no runs, innings with no hits, etc). Pitching, fielding, and batting all have separate point pools you earn for achieving things in game. Bonus idea is that you get 2x the points if it’s a key matchup – either a division/geographical rival (this happened when I got the start against the Oakland A’s) or if it’s a key positional matchup (this happened when I pitched against a star pitcher as a rookie). It’s pretty well thought out.

I’m playing above Pro level and getting a feel for how the game plays – spent the whole first season in the minors, midway year two called up to the bigs. Added a pitch type (Screwball) and working on my stats along the way. Winning and losing, but having fun. Supposedly you can also get traded to other teams if the GM deems it necessary.

Nice to see the RPG elements introduced into the PC sports game genre, although I suppose there aren’t a ton of players who swap their playtime between Fallout : NV and Sports.

(PS – I still hate you EA sports for stopping game development for the PC! I miss you football!!)

Star Wars The Old Republic : Hopes and Dreams

I have writers block. I have 7 drafts written on various topics but am having a hard time piecing them together. Some of them are related, and I think, can I combine them? Do they make sense? I have lost my groove, and working to find it.

My time off blogging was spent playing 3 games. WoW, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. Having just finished Mass Effect 2 this week it gives me cautious optimism for Bioware’s SWTOR, even though I made fun of them on at least one occasion. In typical naive internet fashion, I am basing my personal hopes and dreams not from the devs, or things I have read about the upcoming title, but because of the type of game I want (dammit!).

Review of what lead me to my hopes and dreams, and how I would like to see SWTOR end up, after the break.

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A Survey request from EA/Bioware

I know a lot of people hate EA. I am in the small minority who have really enjoyed their products, and haven’t been dissappointed when purchasing their games. Of course I do a lot of research before buying games, and never buy a game by who it is from – but rather on the merits of the game itself.  I received an online survey request from them through Massive Effect, so figured I would oblige. Survey after the break!

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Skills Baby

Suzina over at KTR posts about a couple recent gaming experiences in LOTRO. It’s a good read for several reasons, but mostly because it captures the essence of what is great about MMO’s – success and failure. I shared a snazzy yet true golf analogy in the comments section about “hooks”. MMO’s live on hooks. 

Psychochild made a comment in the thread about the beauty of Suz’s post (we are tight like that where I can nickname her unashamedly.) and that those are experiences you can’t have in single player games – and my first reaction was that he was right, followed up with a “wait, is he?” The answer is yes and no. Suspense suspended after the cut.

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