Monday, 20 July 2009

Legacy issues

When people refuse to think around corners, hilarious things happen. Let's recap a "conversation" of sorts that goes on for a while now between the players of the Warrior class in WoW and Blizzard.

Players: Warrior-tanking is very weak. We need buffs. Like, for real.

Blizzard: Well, matter of fact, it seems you guys are tanking the majority of the content just fine, so...?

Players: Yes, true, we're able to do it, but the style we're forced into just isn't fun. That's a quality of life issue.

Blizzard: Okay, you have a point there. We'll look into it.
*doesn't directly buff Warriors by much, but applies a few changes that should, taken together, enable Warrior tanks to spec and play differently*

Players: When I do things exactly the same way I used to do them before, the improvement is marginal / non-existent / actually an aggravation.

Blizzard: Wait, wasn't the whole point of the matter that you change the way you do things?

Players: I hate u and ur mom!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Caught while surfing

If you're good at PvP, you get gear quickly.
If you're good at PvE, you get gear quickly.
If you're bad at PvP, you get gear slowly.
If you're bad at PvE, you get high repair bills.

Nothing to add, except: my name is Rem, and I am a carebear.

In an online game, anyone who has accomplished more than you has no life, and anyone who has accomplished less is a noob.

Nothing to add.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Internet Drama And You

Came across this article recently, and .. I must say, that I disagree. Well, why link it then? For one, I don't disagree with it entirely. The part about Passive Aggression is spot on, and has been painfully experienced by most of us, more than once. The Commiseration Spiral is, too, something to be careful about (although it's not actually related to the section it's listed in). For another, though, I strongly believe, that the misuse and bending of the Perspective approach is one other large reason for the emergence of internet drama, since it allows people to give themselves a pass on something they know they shouldn't do, but do anyway, because, hey, no one can get hurt, like, for real, right? So, let's have a look.

1. P1 and P3 are very much the same thing - perspective. They're both saying the same: your problem is not a real problem because of the context. For P1 he plays the "pales in comparison" card, for P3 the context itself is declared inherently irrelevant. That's one and the same thing, and doesn't make for anything but padding the numbers. Yeah, I know, I'm trolling semantics here - it'll get better, promised. It's just not nice to be offered three drama-slayers and then find the third being the same as the first!

2. Perspective is not an irrelevance threshold. In fact, Mr. Wilson writes lots of profound and valuable things on perspective, only then to dismiss them saying he's having something different on his mind, namely the good old "kids in Africa" conception. This is, and always has been, the lamest argument ever, for anything. If you have the flu, you treat it - you don't watch pictures of AIDS victims instead, because theirs is much, much worse. When you get your pay check, you don't throw it away, just because you didn't make as much as Bill Gates.

Perspective means, you keep it in context. It means you treat a problem arising in a certain environment with tools appropriate for that environment. It does not mean, that you ignore the problem entirely, just because in the general scope of problems it's a minor one. It does not mean you feel less strong about an issue that is important to you. Perspective means, that you don't go out and kill an actual person, because he ninja'd your loot. Perspective, however, also means that even the fiercest forum flame won't resolve child starvation.

3. Calling it "pretendy fun time games" accomplishes more than just putting the P to the front. It also obscures what's most important. See, it's not about pretending. It's about fun. And it's about time. It's about spending your time in a way that yields you fun. And that is important. It's not as life critical as finding food for a starving person is, but, again, perspective is not an irrelevance threshold. The following is a very simplified view of life, but, in a way, everyone fulfils their less pleasant duties in order to be able to then commit themselves to more pleasant things.

What part of their life a specific person views as the more or less pleasant, is subjective and may strongly vary. If you choose your favourite hobby to be online gaming, however, you expect it to result in fun. More importantly, fun through joint activity with other people. And that's the kink. Online gaming, like every multi-player constellation, is a contract. An agreement with other people to spend time in a way that maximizes common fun had. Thus, if, say 5 people meet and set out to have fun together, but then one or more of them start acting in a way detrimental to the others' enjoyment, those others are taking real damage. They will have ended up losing real time, without having gained the real benefit they were after - fun. Their lives will have become one day shorter. There won't be a second July 16th, 2009, in my life, no matter if I spend it satisfactory or not.

4. The "pretending" people are, in fact, real people themselves. If the character Rocket Tits tells my character that he's raping dogs, it's RP; if the girl pretending to be Rocket Tits tells me I rape dogs, we have an issue (this is referencing the linked article, so, if you have not read it, you might be surprised by the wording). That's an important difference. The game is played by real world persons, not characters. It's the real world persons who invest something into the game (at the very least, time, see above), and it's the real world persons who intend to derive something from it (fun, see above).

If the way real world person A behaves during their common game sessions causes discomfort for real world person B, then there is an issue. I'm not saying person B is automatically right, mind you, I'm just saying it is an issue. A real world issue, because two real world persons are not getting along, yet are supposed to spend time together for the sake of having fun. And it totally doesn't matter if their vehicles of having fun are fictional characters, when their animosity is a real one. Perspective, the other way round: if the measure at hand is fun had, a fun-killer is a real problem, not a pretended one.

5. Just walking away (not explicitly suggested in the article, but always a related implication) is not a satisfactory solution. At least it's not an easy one. People invested time, effort and heart into this (whatever "this" may be), they did it because it was fun, and because it was supposed to yield even more fun in the future. It's not the part about wearing capes they take seriously, it's their joy and entertainment they take seriously (if that makes any sense). They care.

To sum it up, this is why I'm not a friend of the "perspective" argument. Too often is it used to justify inconsiderate acts with the notion, that, taking perspective into account, no one really gets harmed in any meaningful way.

So, if you want to avoid drama, don't call "perspective!" on everything as soon as you find yourself on thin ice. Rather, when making decisions, take into account some of the perspectives of those other people you share your fictive world, your hobby with. It's not just a game. It's a hobby. It's a time sink. It's a source of fun and satisfaction. It's a collective activity you and your peers love, or you wouldn't be spending so much time with it. Everyone who says "it's just a game", is missing the point.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Curse of Winning

How awesome would that be!?

And it invariably reminds me of something that was on my mind often during the later stages of LotRO already. It seems apparent, that most MMOs are bound to suffer from the Curse of Winning. Allow me to elaborate.

When an MMO sets up the playing field, it will usually use the most simple and effective storytelling tools to get you involved: you'll be made an underdog, and there will be some overwhelming threat to create a sense of urgency. This set-up may be sort-of original (WoW, Warhammer Online) or licensed from different media (AoC, LotRO). In the beginning, it works out quite well - you're a low level character and everything around is new, big and threatening.

Then you level up, get into gear, get a clue, learn your skills, get your talents. And keep beating the crap out of everything in your path (hey, that's the whole idea). And then you reach the famous "endgame" and go raid (depending on your preferred play style, you might, of course, not). There you are met with considerable challenge. Yet, challenge, in compliance with unwritten rules of the genre, has to be surmountable. And so you win. And then you win again. And with every dragon you kill, with every demon you vanquish (and with every time it becomes easier and more of a second nature), it becomes harder and harder to feel that sense of danger the background story is still suggesting for you to have.

What to do? Well, as the linked article is suggesting, it's probably time for the creative heads behind our favourite games to start thinking about how to make us lose from time to time. To make those wins count more again.

Taking it even further than the linked article, I'd like to point out, that a deterministic scripted loss isn't that much different from a regular win anyway. In the suggested scenario, the "loss" is triggered when the boss reaches 1% health. Well, that doesn't change much. Actually, it makes things even easier - you'd usually have to bring it down to 0%, after all! I understand it's mostly meant to just shake up the story, but let's take it to the gameplay as well.

My rough suggestion: let's base it off the Balrog's "last 12k" phase. In other words, a climatic finish to a fight, with significantly increased difficulty factor, that requires everyone, tanks, healers and DPS alike, to make a full-out push to drive it home. As an aside, and stating the obvious, that's why the Balrog fight never got boring, ever - no matter how far in you got, you always knew the biggest challenge will be during the last 10 seconds. However. Let's say, that once you get to and into that phase, the encounter will "finish", no matter what. If you kill the 'Rog and the Elf chick stays alive - great, you get your loot, you get your locks. If the Elf chick dies (or you wipe, which will invariably get the Elf chick killed as well), then she's dead, the Balrog roars in triumph and flies (runs?) away, freed and ready to torture the world - however, you still get your locks and your loot (maybe from a slightly weaker loot table - but not even necessarily). That way you can actually complete an encounter with a loss - still getting your winnings out of it, yet a lack of satisfaction attached. And best of all, the outcome depends on your performance, not a script. When you come back next week, you'll want revenge, and you'll always know, that this guy can actually kick your behind, as opposed to the usual "we play the game until I win" pattern.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Nerdrage - will contain profanity

So, now the media is discussing, whether Michael Jackson's children should or should not have attended his funeral (considering their young age and his always having been highly protective of them), should or should not his daughter have spoken, why they did it, who, what, where and so on. And by "media" I mean mostly people who earn their living as "high society experts", i.e. detractors and gossipers who have never accomplished anything on their own. These people, who never were good at anything but turning other people's dirty underwear, are now in the underwear of Michael Jackson's children. Yes, I am making this sound doubly reprobate on purpose.

Children. Kids. As in, sons and daughter. Sons and daughter of a father. A father who died two weeks ago. Do you even know what that means? Do you retarded media-morons even know how much that hurts? At least when you're still human, rather than a social atrocity making a living and cheap fame off sniffing other people's farts? Children, for crying out loud! A little boy who saw his father die while they were playing and thought he's just acting at first. This is, what, the single most terrifying, terrible, painful, shocking, awful thing that can possibly happen to a human being (again, referring to human beings here) in their entire life? Okay, probably second to having it the other way round and losing a child that way (hey everyone, let's make fun of John Travolta! His son died! Isn't that hilarious? Idiots). But a close second. By a wide margin ahead of the third, which would probably be the loss of a spouse, but that's already debatable.

And now you even dare talking about them? Gossiping about them? Sullying their names with your dirty, worthless mouths? I would appeal to your respect and conscience, but you obviously do not possess either. I would call to dignity and humanity, but you probably don't even know what that means. You - all the countless society reports and reporters, star magazines and gossip channels, as well as what became of most newscasts - have been pushing the borders of the tolerable for years now. I can't tell you exactly when you overstepped it, but right now, you're clearly beyond it, by far and wide. Just shut up. Shut the fuck up and go to hell. And leave the children alone!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Yes, it's back

The "ohmigawd, I want to get home / done with work and log into the game" feeling. Again displacing the "ow, is it 8 already...?" feeling. And that was, basically, the whole point. See you in-game!