April 28, 2011

My current games of interest and comparing and contrasting based on what I know

It's been a week since I last posted on this blog. I got my mind caught up in other things honestly, so I ended up neglecting this. I do need to keep a steady pace on these instead of the typical make a blog and forget it for several month stretches that I normally do with blogs, so in a vain attempt to keep my topics relevant, this topic will be a compare and contrast to two games that I've thought about getting and which one actually has more of my interest and why. Which two games you might ask? The Old Republic and The Secret World or TOR and TSW as they are often abbreviated as.

TOR is obviously the more mainstream game that has the greater attention of the masses. And why shouldn't it? BioWare and EA have been banging their chest about this game for several years now, making a lot of bold claims about it since the project started and honestly, I think they've fallen short of delivering on. On the other hand, TSW is Funcoms little gem that you hardly hear anything about yet they are talking about more innovative features and actually demonstrating them in a genre that has actually been stagnant now for almost a decade. It's unprecedented and has my greater attention, so let me analyze why.

Now, before I proceed, I am not fangirling or hating on one product over another. I am analyzing this from the prospect of which will offer the greater innovation and entertainment value. I am not a Star Wars fan, in fact my personal view is it's a quaint little movie with a brow beaten tone of good must always triumph over evil through Deus Ex Machina that has garnered phenomenal success. I do feel the creator and such has garnered more praise than he actually deserves, especially considering he completely 180'd on his views and beliefs not long ago, but then that's not the heart of the issue.

Originally, when I saw The Old Republic being talked about, the first thing that popped in my head is "It's going to be World of Warcraft with a Star Wars skin" and to this day I am sad I was proven right, especially with the people who adamantly refuse to believe it even though BioWare themselves have basically admitted it was. But that wasn't something that was going to detract me. I have played BioWare games, and though I find them incredibly dull and boring, the story, sometimes, actually intrigue me when I am not being bludgeoned by a 50 page novella from the first contact NPC.

But the thing is BioWare pretty much promised the universe, but so far what I've seen delivered is pretty much an almost bite for bite copy of World of Warcraft with talky bits and a Star Wars skin. Grant it, I will probably try the game out and play it, and it looks beautiful (realist retards not withstanding). I can give BioWare that, but everything I've seen and everything as it stands looks like I will be playing the exact same game (names as well) as what Blizzard has already done, and the real kick to the stomach I think that TOR fans are still smarting about is that one of the BioWare devs pretty much said that you have to basically be WoW to succeed.

Now, the basics out of the way the other problems I have with TOR is that basically it also sounds like they are going the retard route and making it super solo able. Now I know for some of the casual market, that's like a godsend and they feel that they will somehow sully themselves by being forced to intermingle with people. For quick cash, of course, this is a brilliant design choice. But for long term this is damnably embarrassing and damaging to the longevity of your product.

Another thing that already irks me that I discussed in a previous blog post is that the customization choices, no matter how many hair styles and faces I can choose, will be limited based on actual equipment that is worn. This is 2011 now, it should be standard practice for MMOs these days to offer wider range of customization. I mean seriously, an MMO about to celebrate its 14th anniversary can claim greater customization and choice than your MMO, there is a major goddamn problem.

But I think the major crux of my problem is that it seems that they are promising 50 levels of content, of course, but so many planets which to me strikes of we will end up being rushed through them all which means we will probably end up blowing through content like Kleenex. Naturally, this is the way theme parks work, a confusing introduction with a big BS middle that is only there to get you to the even more confusing ending. They promise a lot of stories, but honestly, WoW did to, and the constant requirement of promised voice talent either means a lot of content will have corners cut during development for patches, or the content patches are going to be so far and few in between as it would be better to close your account down until several updates have gone by. Theme parks require constant maintenance because their systems rely on new things to be introduced regularly to keep players interested, and I honestly do not think BioWare is up to task on that.

Now, on the flip side of things, I will say that The Secret World has gained a lot of my interest. I still haven't jumped on the band wagon, yet, but some of the things I've seen from the GDC videos and read and actual demonstrated game play actually intrigues me of the actual prospects of the game. Now admittedly, FunCom hasn't got that great of a reputation due to Age of Conan, and their launches tend to be rockier than a mountain trail. So there is always that specter looming over the launch of TSW. However, that is something I will give a pass to their past as I look more at what the potential could hold, and as long as developers and such learn their mistakes and do not regress like other game companies have in the past, then I can see a lot of potential.

Now, comparatively, TSW is not a big name game, nor does it have a huge pedigree IP behind it and finally it doesn't have a big name backer behind it either to make it sound huge. In fact, one could say that TSW is relatively a huge unknown in the market, but it's trying to do something different, at least from what's been presented. Now, I will not even pretend this game isn't going to be Theme Park, but because everything points that it will be heavily Theme Park, but I am liking some of the ideas and premises that are being discussed in videos, interviews and on their very website on what is going on with TSW.

First and foremost, the big plus; My characters appearance will not be dictated by the gear I will wear. This is a huge, huge bonus to me, especially if the customization and clothing choices will be exceptionally varied and allow me to create an in-game persona that will be unique from everyone else's character. This alone could offer up some very deep and varied crafting systems, but it's a wait and see as not a lot has actually been shown in that department. Of course, I must confess, the current animations I have seen look stiff and that does worry me a bit on the huge promise. Hopefully they will spend time to make them more fluid. The art looks really good, it's just the animations that worry me at this time.

Another thing that has me interested is the fact they are introducing game play elements from more single player games into the meta game as a whole, for instance environmental effects that cause events or additional effects to happen. For instance, using a car alarm to summon zombies or a gas can to ignite them like how it was done in Left 4 Dead. Now, I've played a lot of MMOs, but I've never seen that mechanic before in an MMO. It's possible I didn't play one that has it, but as far as I am aware, none do. That alone opens up the floor to a great host of possibilities for the greater game as a whole, and I hope that FunCom expands greatly on that aspect of the game to be used in all manners of encounters and strategies.

Another thing that I liked and was intrigued about is they seem to bluntly be trying to not bludgeon players with lots of wordy things and such and a few lines of dialog and letting the players themselves get interested in the story to seek it out and discover it for themselves. They want to tell the story through the game play, in short, you won't have a novels worth of text to scroll through or several points of useless dialog. Even though they are making the NPC conversations talkies, they say it won't hurt their feelings to skip because the actual story will be told in the game world itself as you play, through various clues you find and environmental things. This has huge potential to add in some tangential learning into a game about the events and such in the game, which also boasts another intuitive feature I am hoping pans out like they say.

They are calling this feature Investigative Missions. Now, in traditional MMO quest logic, as everyone is aware, you get a quest and you have an objective or bullet points to complete. Reading of the text is rarely required. In fact you are often led along to the next objective quite openly so you don't really even have to strain yourself to figure out where to go. TSW is boasting that Investigation Missions will actually require players to do some research in order to solve them, and the puzzles won't be obvious. That means actually using your internet browser and google to look up things to get an idea of what might be going on. Now if this bit pans out well, then this will be an awesome game play type. This will actually make players want to be a part of the game world as a whole and not just travelling from objective to objective in the end.

Another mission type that the name escapes me now is what they described as a Deus Ex style stealth mission game play system. In short you have to stealth through a mission. But unlike a modern MMO where you get a button that magically fades you out, how I understand it you actually have to be mindful of enemy sight as well as environment around you. Things that make noise could alert critters towards you and so forth. This sounds very innovative, especially for the MMO market that has relied on everyone just basically disappearing in a brightly lit glade since the days of UO.

Anyways, those are my basics on what I am seeing for the two MMOs that have my interest, one not so much, the other gaining more as more is revealed. I will undoubtedly try out both. I am hoping that more is different about TSW than has been shown, and that I will be surprised. I hope for a deep crafting system in a game, as well as a potential housing system, but those are wishes and I won't pretend they will be offered. They've talked about sand box elements and I do hope for more information on a lot of game play features. Of course, morbid curiosity makes me wonder if TSW will go AoC's route with allowing topless females (dirty minded girl). I think about the only thing that could catch my interest more in TSW is if they told me I could make a werewolf character. It's definitely a game to keep an eye on if you are interested in MMOs, and hope for the best. I am sure many will take that to mean I am fangirling all over TSW, which I am not, it's just it is promising things that actually sound different and interesting, and I am hoping it delivers to dig the MMO genre out of this rather deep hole of stagnation.

As far as TOR is concerned, I am not really looking as much towards it as I use to. I knew it would be a WoW clone though I secretly hoped they would do something different. But when my suspicions were confirmed my interest waned fast. I wanted to really like TOR and I really wanted something to knock WoW off its pedestal, but honestly, I don't think TOR will hold my interest more than a few months after its initial launch. And that's really sad to me. I know people will undoubtedly buy it and "like" it because it's Star Wars. That's a given, just like people bought and liked Star Trek Online, because it was Star Trek. But I think BioWare has an enormous hole they need to climb out of.

Anyways, that does it for this blog. Leave commentary here about it and such, or ask questions and I might answer them. Until next time. :)

April 18, 2011

Why I am not Fond of Theme Park MMOGs

It's probably been on the minds of a few people that last few times they see me bring up a rather sharp distinction of me saying I don't like theme park MMOs and would rather have sandbox MMOs back on the market. Now for some, this is probably a very confusing statement because the current market, as it stands, there really isn't a sandbox MMO out there, other than EVE, but that is more of a spreadsheet machine with a visual option stapled on, but that's another story entirely. Since I know many would probably want me talk about something else, I am going to talk about why I don't like theme park MMOs anyways.

In my last blog I talked about how I felt games today were getting way too easy, to a point I feel that subconsciously people feel insulted by the actual challenge and reward at the end. I feel this is why people are becoming disgusted faster and faster with the games they spent anywhere between $50 to $60 dollars on give or take the version and whether you bought it digitally or not and all manner of other trivialities that developers and publishers are slapping on to eke out a little extra cash on people. And yet people say they breeze through these games the moment they buy them and pretty much finish them in a couple of hours, challenges includes. That's very much a serious let down because to me if I get a game and just breeze through it that quickly then the reward at the end just feels hollow. It's an empty victory.

This is how I feel about MMOGs now, games meant to be played as a team game, but developers have been increasingly making them more accessible to the masses as a whole. The result is a game that has no lasting appeal or value because you can breeze through to the end already. This is a terrible design choice when it comes to theme park MMOs which rely heavily on their replayability and such.

Now, artificially, MMOGs (most anyways) already have an inherent lengthener to make the game play last longer. This is inherent in most of them, basically the leveling and progression system. Some MMOGs go so far as to add an extra layer on top of that with actual gear progression as well. However, as MMOGs have been going and the dumbing down of the process continues, parts of these equations have either been made drastically "streamlined" (ie time to reach the next tier is ludicrously simple) and the other part is either given on a platter or made so worthless as to not matter at all. This, again, is devastatingly ridiculous design choices for a theme park based MMOG.

But I am on a tangent and this doesn't really answer the "why" I don't like theme park MMOGs, so I will do my best to try and stay focused.

First and foremost I think my number 1 annoyance with theme park based MMOGs, that I have, they like to toss out a word a lot lately and it gets used so much and a big excuse for why they make such terrible decisions in the design process of the MMOG. This word is story. Now don't confuse it with I think injecting stories into an MMOG is a bad idea. The complete opposite really. However, many MMOGs use story as an excuse to actually hinder the overall game play experience with either bone dead stupid easy game play, ridiculous design decisions, and overall no reason to actually provide a long lasting game other than the intro, a somewhat beefy middle (the grinding part of your typical MMOG) and an ending that lasts for several months while developers either rush to try and offer something new or, better yet, make promises and soothing remarks in an attempt to make their player base feel something is actually going on behind the scenes. And honestly, the really bad ones about it are the ones that make it sound like the monumental world, but when it's delivered it's just an impressive mess and disastrously delivered to be more or less insulting to the bulk of the players intelligence.

Story is treated like a crutch in theme park MMOGs a lot of the time. And the bad part of it is, they either constrain and choke the life out of the story for game mechanic purposes, or use the story as an excuse to not even bother offering something decent and entertaining to the players as a whole. This is just bad design philosophy on the whole. A story should be complimenting the game play experience, it should be riding hand in hand actually, but for whatever reason, no one wants to bother. And it hurts the game. This becomes especially true in games that pretend to start with story then just start adopting nothing but childish jokes and internet memes in place, and it is even more insulting if the game provides endgame content, it totally ignores the story completely.

The next part that annoys me is a big one; Theme Park MMOGs, no matter the false sense of openess or the vast take they have on the world in particular are just rail shooters. Invisible rails, but rail shooters none-the-less. You are pre-programmed in an Theme Park MMOG to follow a set course. There is little choice to deviate from this set path. In fact, this path is pre-programmed for you to reach the ending. The bad part, however, is when a game offers nothing at the end for you to do and becomes a monumental fart in the face. There are walls everywhere that prevent you from going certain places, whether they are overt or covert. Most probably never realize it, but they are. It's called the zone level. Yep, critter level is a covert wall to keep you from entering into an area you shouldn't be in. And some MMOGs have actually been putting physical barriers down now. At first they started with an explanation why, now they just say, because you can't. No reason.

Another thing on that part is the community, as big or great as people think they can be, is hollow. It's even more so these days because the MMOG communities are slowly becoming police states controlled by the company that produces them. And I do mean this the community in a theme park based MMOG is rather hollow inside. They sort of go through the motions, as it were, when it comes to talking about their entertainment value, but you just get that feeling that as much passion as they might type they have or it seems like they have in the vocabulary they are typing, you just can't help and shake that feeling that the sincerity isn't really genuine. The only sense of passion seems to be derived from the actual investment in the product, not necessarily the love for the product. This creates a rather bizarre paradox, as it were, where people are just there because of what they put in, but not actually there because they love or enjoy the game. In fact, you can probably spot people who often make posts that they think the forums of a specific game are more fun or they just log in to update things once in a while or something. That's rather passionless.

This leads into the game just doesn't offer a real world. The game is basically the world that time forgot. Even if it has a simulated day and night, everything is scripted and programmed to happen exactly. That quest you did three years ago will still be there. There's no sense of progression, at all, no sense of evolution. The game begins and hangs there. Just imagine watching your favorite TV series, as it were, and all you see is the first season. And that's all you ever see of it. This world only exists in that state. Oh expansions might add things every now and then, but for the most part, outside of total overhauls (that aren't that much of overhauls) the main world is still in season 1. And it's jarring as hell for the experience when you go from one point in say an expansion talking about events as if three years went by, and then you get back to the main world and everyone's talking about that event as if it was still going on now. There is no sense of growth, no sense of progression, nothing at all. It's just there.

It's a single player game, all in all. It might have a few moments that desire you to team up, but some of the latest ones have made that completely optional even. The challenges, if they can be called that, are barely passable to make you even think past a few idiot one shot kill attacks, and many of the ones presented now don't even offer that so making it easy for teams to just power through the damn things. And this problem is exacerbated because many of the theme park MMOGs now are actually telling players from the get go they are the only one that matters in the game world. This is a stupid thing to tell the players honestly, and it removes any sense that teams and allies are even important.

Theme parks get boring. No matter what's done. They don't change, they don't offer any freedom, and they don't ever provide any tools for a real community. Many also hamstring themselves behind a story excuse, and this is just shoddy. A sandbox MMOG can work with story and instead of keeping everything around constantly, let's it grow, change and even evolve.  Theme parks are afraid to do that, for some silly reason. They are afraid if they don't offer the exact same quests a few years down the line that you did on day one of launch, people will magically disappear.

Many also develop tunnel vision, something they try to inflict on their players to, trying to guide and force players down the road towards their endgame. All in all, it's just a silly notion that should stay in the single player park. MMOGs should be sandbox games that offer freedom to the players as a whole, with stories that actually compliment the game play, not hinder it like it's doing now. MMOGs are about vast communities that can be formed, but what is being formed in today's MMOG communities are just empty, hollow people not even really sure they actually mean what they say, and not even wholly believing what they say themselves.

April 16, 2011

My View on Game Challenge and it's Effect on the Replay Value of Games

One thing I've always had a knack at is getting into closed betas for certain games. I don't know why, but I generally get selected. Random luck or something like that. But more often than not, I keep wondering why I do. Oh I do the whole find as many bugs as possible thing but in the end, considering how games are created these days, I wonder why because I end up ruining my experience by the time the game goes live I find myself in a situation where I just don't really want to play it anymore. Especially since everything I worked for anyways was pretty much deleted.

But this boils down onto a point I was making in an earlier blog; Games today are just so brain dead stupidly easy it just really is no point to them these days. It is a wonder that MMOs are still so popular anymore, because they are nothing like how they started out. Companies are too busy trying to make their game accessible that they forgot they need to provide things that are challenging and elevate the player from their accomplishments in the end and the result is a game that is basically a waste of time and money in the end. Most MMOs these days are so ridiculously easy that they should of just made them single player games and been done with it because there was no point to them being multi-player.

But really, that's all companies and investors see these days. They look at gaming as something to make money on and they look to do it the cheapest way possible, cutting as many corners as they can so when the product ships they can say they made a profit in the end. It's intentional dumbing down of the system like this that has been hurting the gaming industry for the past decade. And to cover up the fact they are making these games so bone headedly easy, they try to wow people with hyper realistic graphics in press releases that people have to buy even bigger hardware to even run that it is just laughable that many people think this is awesome anymore.

I began my gaming life when I was young. And to date myself, my first game console was a ColecoVision. I ended up playing all night on games like Time Pilot and Donkey Kong with that thing. Eventually I got myself a Nintendo Entertainment System, and honestly, my NES and SNES days are the most memorable and fun gaming days for me because they challenged me to actually improve myself and to think my way through the problems of the game.

My favorite game of the Nintendo area would have to be CastleVania 3. it was challenging and it was hard, and even after you beat it the first time, you still had other ways to do it. Nothing ever felt as satisfying as taking an alternate route or beating the game with only Trevor Belmont as it did there. I also loved a racing game called Top Gear on the NES, it was simple, but fun and was also the first game that offered customization of the racer that I can remember.

Of course, the problem there is just that. Today's games are trying to be realistic and forget the fun on the wayside. People use to line up to play games like Top Gear and such and that Daytona Sega game, because they were fun they weren't set on ultra realistic mode, but racers today and games like them just aren't as fun because they try to be so realistic that the developers obviously forgot the reason many people play the game; to escape reality and just get away for a few minutes the non-sense of everything has to work this way. And in that process of trying to be realistic, they also make the AI so bone dead stupid that anyone who picks up the game will basically be able to win without any real challenge.

Honestly, how many people actually play the new games all that long these days after you beat it? Yet I can actually go back and pick up a Top Gear game and not feel bored one minute. People say games like Mass Effect have replay ability because of all the achievements, but I have only played it through once, and every time I try to play it again, I end up uninstalling it, yet I can go back and play Chrono Trigger on my SNES and still want to play it through again and again and again.

That seems to be the odd thing these days, I think people have gotten confused that big super graphics and flash mean the game is good when it's the furthest from the truth. And things that really impress me about games, people use terms like it's trying to tell a story to substitute the piss poor challenge it offers to the player or even the ability to make them think. Mass Effect bored the ever living piss out of me because all I did was following my way to the point objectives like a good little automaton. I didn't even have a desire to collect achievements, and I am a completionist, I like to get it all done. How sad is that? But I think my problem also stems from the fact all the hype around the game and I just felt so confined and unable to do anything and once you get out there you find yourself in featureless areas. It was like they spent all that time to make one specific part of the game pretty and the rest was just meh.

This I think boils down to a fact. People like to be challenged whether they admit it or not, and deep down they know these new games aren't challenging no matter how pretty and how interesting the little details might make it. It's why a lot of people actually will spend more time on retro malls playing the retro games over the newer games. They have longevity and lasting appeal. It's just how it is.

And this affects the MMOG market as well. Telling a story is all and well but unless your game is challenging and has lasting appeal and offers what MMOGs are suppose to offer and not just a single player game that was converted into an MMOG then you are in a position to have a game that people will continuously want to play. You are going to have to get off this ideal that story requires you to forsake all the good stuff about games and such. You need to stop listening to people that say they want realistic because they are really in the minority. You have to truly balance the experience and really plan each step out of the game. Don't try to sell your game on graphics alone. If the game can't sell itself then it's just not going to be fun a few weeks after it's launched.

April 14, 2011

My Views on Role-Playing in Modern Games

It often fascinates me what people designate as role-play and what isn't role-play in their gaming genre. Needless to say, I use to be one of those aforementioned role-player types mostly because I rather enjoyed it and felt if I am going to immerse myself in some make believe world, I might as well go all the way and do it. However, as the MMOG industry evolved (definition in terms since it's been de-evolving from my point of view) that fanciful role-playing term has become less involved in the actual process and more of a second thought, or even third or fourth thought in many cases.

The wild thing about this is, what most people consider to be role-playing elements just really aren't. Somewhere along the line when the actual PnP model was evolving from just basic dice rolling to actually trying to put yourself in the role of your character, that translation was lost, badly, upon the computer interpretation. Unfortunately, when developers actually try to "include" these so called RP elements, they generally are just in the form of multiple choice options that really aren't much different from a very well constrained choose your own adventure book.

This is further compounded that this illusion of choice is often presented to starved people who actually think this is even remotely role-play. It really isn't, but as the gaming has not really evolved and more or less de-evolved in the past decade alone. In the name of making games accessible to everyone, they've pretty much made the games so stupidly simple in the process that anyone that has two functioning limbs and at least a 2nd Grade education should more than be able to complete these yawn fests that focus on graphics instead of actual game play. And that's the sad part, especially in games that claim to be role-playing games, that substitute the actual role-playing element with pretty graphics and trick your brain with false choices to give you a sense of choices that have no bearing our outcome on the story as it stands. The final result is just a strict corridor shooter that gives you little more than a big beefy middle that has no real bearing on your character other than extra padding to get from the visual exploding beginning to the ridiculous ending that makes very little sense in the entire paradigm of the game as it stood.

In MMOGs, role-play is actually treated like a dirty word there, and I can't blame the people that do treat it with a bit of disdain. MMOG role-players tend to be exceptionally cliquish, boring, prejudice, boring, closed to any new ideas, boring, unwilling to accept anything outside of their god-mode paradigm and boring. I'm sorry people, I've been a role-player for a long time, and quite frankly, today's MMOG RP consists of hanging around in single little locations that have no action and coming up with pointless melodrama with as little conflict that either sounds like the emo poetry of some goth punk from a coffee shop near college, or some slash fiction of Twilight failtard writing in history. You are unwilling to go anywhere, unwilling to do anything, and unwilling to actually inject excitement and adventure into your "story" (using the term loosely to define most of them) that you guys tend to repeat like clockwork every few weeks.

And of course, like it or not, most RPers god-mode in today's RP climate as well. Their characters are perfect in every way and can't be defeated or harmed by anyone. And sorry people that think you are RPers that do this, you aren't. A perfect character is boring in every which way you can imagine. And the worse character is the perfect one that emos about life and saying nothing is worth living for. In fact, one of the things I do readily is avoid any location that is basically a bar, pub, or any such area that these people infest because of that attitude, and of course the even darker side, the ERPer that breed well out of the above mentioned people.

That is probably another point on this as well. I don't care about people that ERP. That's there thing and they are welcomed to do whatever they want. But these people do everything to make it obvious and more public to people who don't want to even hear about it. And this isn't limited to any single MMO. It's out there in many though some will claim it doesn't happen as often, they are lying out their asses if they claim that.

But before I get off on a tangent (too late) the overall point is that in the modern MMOG climate, role-play is practically dead. Many will try to say it's not but again, they are being deluded. It's as dead as disco and the people saying RP is strong are just like the average disco person saying disco is alive and strong just because them and a couple of friends listen to it. The reason RP is dead; no tools to actually do any realistic RP in any MMOG and most of today's RPers are too afraid of conflicts that might actually shatter their false belief their character is unbeatable god.

It will take a lot to give tools to the players to actually be able to truly RP again. Realistically, it probably won't happen right now while BioWare is busy trumpeting the Blizzard banner that only games that copy WoW exactly will ever succeed in this market. Basically, RP has little place in theme park games where the games middle serves no purpose other than getting to the games end. This leaves very little room for any actual RP.

Another thing that kills RP, whether the people want to believe this or not, is the fact the games allow people to constantly alt all the time. That's a piss poor idea, and basically making new characters over and over that fight for your attention results in RP being killed that way as well. The more characters created the more of your attention has to be diverted to fill the gaps for these games. This results in less actual RP and more or less being treated around by a schizophrenic with multi-personality disorder who can't settle on the fact they aren't RPing by constantly shifting characters around. Like it or not it kills the mood and just makes any desire to continue irrelevant on constantly shifting characters.

Then finally, one of the biggest hurdles and most obvious nails in the RP coffin are the players themselves. Like it or not, the RP community is the majority of the problem with RP. You guys are insular and treat anyone that might have an interest like a potential enemy instead of someone who might actually be genuinely interested. You ignore anyone who doesn't follow your asininely strict rules of RP and shun anyone who doesn't immediately acknowledge you as the center piece of your little snore-fest Twilight revamp story. It's a sickening problem, and the funny part is, these are the same people that claim they are grown up and mature, but are the first to throw insults at people who don't play their way and such. The hypocrisy is just so many levels of ironic.

Personally, I would want to get back into the RP field, but honestly the average RPer lately makes my desire low. It's just a plain fact, it isn't even really what I would call RP anymore, especially considering that most of the time I am generally getting walked up to by the "tall dark guy in the big black coat with a waggle in his eye" as he tries to order me a drink and be suave expecting me to fall for his epic charms just because he thinks he is suave like James Bond. And the sad part is, just like real life, guys don't exactly take a hint very well since they are thinking with their second head where no means yes and get lost means take me I am yours.

Of course I think the RP that really pisses me off the most is the one that every single action and environmental effect is RP'd out. Extra explanation has never really bothered me, but you are not a novelist and you aren't RPing just because you sit there and describe how the icy glass is covered in perspiration after sitting there for a couple of minutes. It doesn't heighten the mood either guys, so stop trying it. In fact, unless the situation calls for a bit more explanation, explaining every little detail of every moment is just failing at storytelling and bores your audience, but considering most seem to enjoy Twilight novels, then boring dialog with little point seems to be what most want.

The final bit of RP that I hate is people that tell me I need to do things a certain way and god-moding. I am putting these two together because they are basically one in the same. Someone tells you that you have to talk a certain way and play a certain way, and of course people that either are immortal or basically try to tell you how your character should play and act. No consensus, not even asking, just flat out telling you after coming up to you. Sorry people, that's insulting the player, and it's rude. Not everyone plays by your style and no one ever likes having their character taken out of their hands and run around roughshod such as their back story and explanation being completely ruined because you don't like it. And no one really likes playing with people who are perfect and are unbeatable. It's a basic keep away warning light. If your character is capable of doing everything, you failed at RP. If you are trying to tell someone how their characters back story is suppose to work, you failed at RP. If you are trying to tell someone that their style of RP is not RP, you failed at RP.

It's such an ironic thing that long ago role-players use to be the most open and tolerant people on the planet, and now they've just turned into a bunch of crying, sniveling children lately who get upset just because the dial is slightly different on the wall from what they like. But that boils back on self-entitlement I guess and people reading smut like Twilight and such and thinking that is good storytelling to.

April 13, 2011

My Thoughts on the Misuse of the Word Immersion

I am sure the entire lot of you that actually read over here might have noticed the actual new banner at the top. I didn't try to make anything extravagant and I am sure there are going to be a few that say they can do loads better. But I just wanted something simple and basic and reflects me in general. Nope, I didn't do any of the artwork, I haven't drawn anything in ages. I doubt I would be able to make good looking stick figures these days, not to mention I don't have any real tools to import them onto a computer and even attempt to make them live.

That bit out of the way, I've been debating the past few days what my next blog should be about. I generally wait till something juicy comes along, usually out of the fires of my own melodrama, but then when I look at it, I hardly post as much as I use to and I generally just sit back and only glance at front pages these days. I don't even feel inclined to go into the forums directly unless I am feeling really masochistic. This makes me wonder how positively cynical I must have become now if I don't even feel entering a forum is worth my time from the elevated levels of self-entitled stupid that floats around lately.

So that makes me wonder what I could talk about? I talked about what I wanted to see in a game and all that but I guess I could just pick a topic off the wall and start talking about that instead. So the random topic for today I wish t talk about will be immersion.

Now, if you are anyone that actually sifts through the filth that is an internet gaming forum, you will see this word crop up an uncomfortable amount of times throughout any reasonable sense of the actual bitching and moaning that generally goes on from people trying to propose ideas that would only benefit themselves and damn anyone else that has a different idea approach going on.

Now, in general, I have no problems with this word, and I have no issues at all with how it is being presented as something to strive for in a game, but it is so dangerously misused that often times I want to reach through the screen of my computer and just bitch slap the people that even dare use it. Let me explain.

The basic conceptual idea of immersion is something that gets you into the spirit of something. In other words, the idea is that you can sit back and not worry too much about if something is accurate or anything but you feel you have some connection to that world without actually being in it. Of course, some people are taking that word quite literally, and expect to be transported into the game and I don't think people understand how they are trying to use it anymore.

Long ago, I use to be a UO player. I loved classic UO, and I am sure anyone who remembers and played UO will probably say similar things. The game was lovingly called an Isometric view game, or now-a-days what people call 2.5D. For those that don't know, isometric is an angled top down view of the world that isn't from the first person perspective or anything. It's an extreme third person in other words.

Unlike today's modern MMO, the game didn't rely on a plethora of quests to keep people interested or a new big bad dungeon boss to want people to go out and conquer. Instead, it relied on the community to build itself and do things together, themselves. A relative playground. Believe it or not, this was quite immersing for many. Oh there were very tough monsters to overcome and you could own your own house and such and it was a dangerous world. In fact, many ideas WoW stole from UO such as the entire death screen thing and corpse hopping, but that's something for another day.

The game world actually felt alive, and in its early days, was literally alive as there was limited resources and such and required the economy to actually work. Of course, hoarding players came along and ruined that and they had to remove the entire artificial limit, but what grew out of that was probably one of the best and most thriving communities ever created for an MMO.

Me personally, I was primarily a crafter though I also had a mage character and probably one of the better duelists around. I remember when going to work when I wasn't busy I would actually draw up little diagrams to think up ways to optimize my little armor shop. You see, in UO, crafted armor from a master blacksmith was actually useful and could compare to the magical armor that was found out in the world to. This was immersive because my character was useful and I didn't need to practice with sword and sorcery just to go do something I was enjoying to do.

I owned a little shop near Cove in Felucca (the original world before they created care bear land of Trammel) and I was a part of a guild called the Defenders of Cove. Considering I was a blacksmith it shocked many that I actually also had some rudimentary fighting skills as well, so when it came to PKs trying to attack me they generally were in for a fight when I could pull out a weapon and start wailing on them, but this was all back in the day when things were simplistic and such.

But I am getting off on point here. What I was bringing up was about immersion and today people take that point just a little too far. Every time I see someone mention the word I cringe because what they describe isn't immersion at all, but actually being put in the world. They don't want to feel a part of the world they want to be a part of the world, and that's scary honestly. It's one step short of the Matrix scary to me honestly, when I sit here and listen to people say they want to feel immersed.

Personally I don't want people near my gaming if that's what they want or think it should be like. We are borderline almost back on top of the Dungeons and Dragons scare of the late 70s early 80s that happened. Yea I probably dated myself there, but trust me growing up and enjoying Dungeons and Dragons was very scary because media and just about every outlet was making you out to be a criminal. Never mind being a girl playing the game. But because of a couple of nut jobs, the PnP explosion of the late 80s, early 90s almost never happened.

In short, I will use Yahtzee's explanation of immersion. First I will say this, for most of you people, the way you are using to describe immersion, that's not how the word works. Get it through your thick heads, what you are describing isn't so much immersion but pretty much submerging, IE being completely drowned in what is there. Immersion is something where you tend to think about something from the game, or play it for a while and never realize you did, or even a slight extreme where you are walking about and think about some little bar or meter as you conduct your basic journey.

Use to do these little immersion things after playing CastleVania for a while (and not the Nancy boy CastleVania's that have come about either the originals that were tough). Immersion is a word, but it's being made into a scary word because it's being misused and so badly misunderstood as what it's true meaning is. I think people need to take a step back and realize what they want first before flinging words about or Jack Thompson's tirade and stupidity will actually be taken up by people with real clout and a D&D level take on it will occur. Thankfully, the people who have tried starting shit about MMOs and games in general haven't had enough intelligence to fill a teaspoon, but the wrong misstep somewhere can change that quickly.

April 10, 2011


In my basic point blank statements I've been posting on the Champions forums the past day or so, I made a comment about this and it struck a nerve with someone, and I found it ironic. Namely, I basically stated that Star Trek fans have low expectations of their franchise. And it's true, Star Trek fans do have exceptionally low expectations of their franchise. I use to be a Trek fan, and it shows regularly, especially when people are trying to say things like Deep Space 9 was the pinnacle of Star Trek, or that First Contact was the best Trek movie ever. Hint: No they weren't.

This goes into the main topic of tonight's blog. Expectations and reasonable deliveries. To be blunt, Star Trek fans, for the most part, expectations are so low that the only way to actually go lower is to dig a trench. Thought he show has inspired many great thinkers, anyone that believes that the science of Star Trek is even real is going to be in for a rude disappointment when they actually bother to do some studying on that. Needless to say, having been a former Trekkie and use to be all into the Treknobabble (official word many scientist use to explain the bullshit science of Star Trek) I could tell you what a phase coil was or a Heissenburg Compensator or any of that other made up non-sense that couldn't even possibly exist within real science.

Now before the nerd rage, glasses wearing, dork patrol of Trekkers (they hate being called Trekkies as they think being called a Trekker somehow makes them smarter) comes and beats down my door, I do understand there is quite a bit of realistic science in Star Trek. But not as much as many people might believe, and Star Trek never had a team of scientist to make sure the science was correct. That was an old wives tale because as William Shatner himself stated "We made it up." And the age old excuse of "we just haven't developed the technology yet" is a copout bullshit excuse that only those desperate dreams continue to do. But this is a rant for another time, and I guess I should just be talking about expectations.

Anyways on expectations. After that little bit I noticed one thing from several prominent posters across several forums I visit. Many people seem to have set their expectations rather low. And I must admit after looking back on myself, I rather had low expectations for a lot of games I use to play. This has sense been corrected and I have a very basic list of expectations that have to be involved before I give a game a pass into the it's decent territory now, and for a game to be great, well, they pretty much have to stop making a theme park rail shooter line and go back to the age of sandbox games with sandbox game play. But who are we kidding. To get to that level, developers would have to be able to convince investors that the money and cost to develop such a game would be justified, but honestly, most investors will never see that even though it's almost universally accepted that many gamers look fondly back on old sandbox titles like UO and SWG before Sony bent that franchise over and screwed it horribly.

Maybe it's the beer goggle or rose tinted glasses aspect, but considering a theme park game let's you have practically no control over the development of your character, no matter how they disguise it, it just makes all the new games rather mediocre when it boils down to it. Yea some offer these little talent trees disguised with various names, and a few actually give choices between various powers, but when you get down to it, it's still a rail shooter, you are still stuck in tunnel vision when it boils down to the basics, and no matter what you want to do or try, you still have to accept that you will never, officially, be allowed to deviate from the invisible rail that you were set on and you will never be able to deviate from the forced path you have to follow.

So what are my expectations for just a good MMO these days? Well the basics are this right now;

- Character customization actually has be decent and somewhat involving. Now I don't expect say, APB level customization, though I love that. But for me to even begin to start being interested, character customization actually has to include multiple choices I can actually control and not just a smattering of hair dos, skin colors and face choices and call it a day. I think EVE's character creator is an awesome one as well, the new one they've just released, but EVE is too far up the alley for me to care about. The basics on face control and height and weight adjustment are a must. If it's WoW level or DCUO level retarded, its' already got a big negative against it on my chance to interest me list. The closer I can get to actually making my character in my mind, the better it has at succeeding to.

- I must have freedom to wear whatever the hell I want in game. I don't give a shit what world you are creating if I can't distinguish myself from someone else don't bother me. That will turn me off just as fast if I am going to end up, regardless of the creator, of looking like everyone else because of the stupid armor or weapons I have to wield and eventually everyone else will have. This is honestly where TOR is getting a big hit on the negative side from me. I want my Sith and/or Jedi character to look unique, not be Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker clone 3,741. But many modern MMOs suffer from this incompetent bit of brain fart and just are so lazy to do anything about it that it is revolting. And it's just as sad as the older sandbox titles went this route as well.

- I want to have choice on what I am doing. I think many MMOs miss this by a landslide. They develop tunnel vision and force you to follow that one set path and pretend you actually have a choice. Really, I don't care how many times you tell me starting a new class is different from another class, if I am back on the same stupid path as the last class after level 10 then your whole point fell apart. If you are promising multiple paths to get to your destination, then deliver that. And games that claim to have replay value, you don't unless you supply those multiple paths, because quite frankly, you guys are so afraid to think outside of the established box, you're afraid you will catch crotch rot or something.

- Crafting must have value and be of important in your game. This is a big one and absolutely no MMO in the past decade has gotten right. There is one extreme which is EVE and that's too far where there is nothing to actually strive for in the universe as a whole except the stuff to make other stuff. Then there is the opposite which is WoW where crafted junk is just there to give you a fake, but otherwise useless number and has no value or use on the game play, what so ever, unless you are a specific set of skills. And anyone saying otherwise is lying out their ass, hard. Crafting has to matter, it should not be something everyone can do, and the rewards for those who dedicate themselves to crafting have to be nearly equal to what can be gleaned. They also should be tradable. This non-sense of only the crafter can benefit from the items created is stupid, it fails and it shows how little you actually care about those people that love to craft.

- The game has to present a fun and challenging experience. This is a big one because most developers do not understand how these two intermingle. Oh sure you can have fun for a little bit knocking over duckies, but eventually it just becomes old hat. That's where the challenge comes in and it requires a bit of finesse. One shot kill codes are not fun. Get it through your head developers. The "you're a fucking idiot" light or sound effect that results in a one shot kill is not fun or challenging, it's frustrating. Challenging is a boss that is not predictable but can be managed. Challenging is an encounter that requires a bit of strategy to start hurting it and the meanwhile you can be killed in the process. Fights that are fun require a bit of challenge and require people to think, not become automatons in the fight. These scripted, predictable fights are not fun. Stop trying to sell them on people as if they are. But bosses should not be push over's. Unfortunately this results in some monumental levels of health for added challenge so players aren't one shotting the big stuff, but I think a fine line in a boss that actually acts and moves tactically instead of lumbering around like a retard will work out and you won't need bosses that have 5 billion hit points.

- I must have a reason to do your stuff. After you get past the first few hurdles there, here comes the clincher. Do I have an actual reason to do anything you created? Or is it just there to be there like most of the stupid in WoW because that's how they did it? Think about what the most memorable experience for a lot of players in original WoW was and I bet most will say Deadmines because it had purpose and a reason to be there. You also need to come to the realization devs, if you made a theme park MMO, regardless of what your false philosophy is, loot is very important in that type of game. You can't ignore it, you can't get away from it. Plain and simple. But that's only part of the equation. Believe it or not, you will actually get a lot of people enthused if there is an actual reason things are there. Molten Core and crap like that, things that had no reason, it was just another loot run for people and it got boring. There was no real reason to go down there for the fight, except the loot. On the flip side you also have to realize locking people out of things for extended periods is also ridiculous to, and as such if the people choose to save at points then let them but if they choose to reset let them redo it, stop trying to slow their fun and progression down, you should be focusing more on providing that content in spades to your players, not trying to find ways to slow them down from doing it.

- And finally, a very big one that will make me not give one goddamn iota about your game, does it feel open. If I feel like I am walking down one corridor from another, don't bother even trying to sell it to me. If I can't at least go out and do a bit of exploring, don't bother even trying to pitch it to me. This is an instant turn off and will make me want to go elsewhere. And this is the thing that has been lost majorly in the MMO industry in favor of this theme park non-sense. MMOs were about freedom to explore and to live the life you wanted to, not follow a rail and be done with it once you reach the end. This is why so many of you are failing because you think WoW was right, which they weren't. The only thing WoW had was a name and a reputation but now it's so forever tarnished I am still shocked people bend over and take it up the ass for them. People don't want to feel like they are on a rail shooter and the more you do that the less they feel inclined to actually play your "masterpiece".

Again, these are only things that will get you up to being an okay to good game in my book. If you really want to impress me, you need to realize I want a sandbox game. I am sick to death of theme parks, especially fantasy episode 2 billion 86 we are now. Get  over it, fantasy is dead stop making them. Start trying to exercise the ingenuity and making games like western style, modern or even somewhat futuristic games. But stop with the goddamn fantasy. The market is over saturated and 99% of the reason your game fails right out of the gate because everyone's seen dragons and elves before.

And what constitutes a sandbox? Believe it or not, no theme park elements at all. Players are free to build, go and do whatever they want. Oh you can have theme park areas specifically and quests even, I would never dissuade from quests, but players need that freedom .They also want to feel they can own a bit of the world and thus a major step up is player housing and the ability to customize that housing. Something that will dip into the old pocketbook for sure. And one of the major things to consider for the sandbox experience, the world has to be dynamic, IE scripted, repeatable events just can't happen. Oh sure a GM or whatever you call them can create stuff for people to do, but what happens on one shard should be unique from what happens on another.

You can put big bad raids and if done right even include loot to go after but that loot should be on par if only slightly better than what the players can make. The crafting has to really matter and the players need the freedom to form their communities. This is what made UO so popular back in its day before WoW. That freedom. I can almost guarantee you, the first sandbox MMO to get released for the modern MMO market, will probably be a landslide hit. And I will say straight up, it will probably require some booku backing and a team dedicated to delivering an experience that allows for people to choose to be whatever they want. It can't be skimped on, the world will have to be very open and seamless.

That means the first step will be forget naming everyone the chosen one, not everyone can be a hero and not everyone should be. That already puts out the wrong expectations for players that start these games. So if someone wants to be a tailor and never pick up a sword, that's a good thing developers. Let them be a tailor let them buy the materials from other players and such. Or let them take the risk of going out into the world. Do not force people to be something they don't want to be let them be whatever it is they want to be.

This type of game is sorely needed in the MMO space and quite frankly, there isn't one that exists right now. Some will say EVE, but even that game still requires some rudimentary combat skills, and even then it's too much of a real life simulator for many players tastes. But I still guarantee any development company or investors, a good and well developed sandbox title these days will go a long way.

April 9, 2011

My first real blog here

Actually, my first blog here isn't exactly true. It has actually been quite some time since I've actually written a blog post. The last blog I actually wrote was back in January, but then again I don't think I would of actually wrote anything interesting if not sounding like it was just a rant to begin with, and mostly been spending the last few months trying to recollect my thoughts and get away from many things that were, in short, just annoying me so much that I was generally losing faith in the human condition.

Now the real question, has that helped. Not in the slightest really. The last three months have basically seen a constant and rapidly increasing decline in what I would consider people of upstanding character and places I use to consider to be repositories of sanity. And this decline is further accelerated by how the groups controlling these locations just turn them into asylums for the criminally insane, basically shutting up anyone with a bit of clout and ignoring the ones who are actually causing any problems.

Now, one of the first things I will need to do, of course, with this blogspot account, is actually customize the thing to my preferences. So an actual banner and such to this thing will be in order, but that will happen in due time. But I figured one of the things I should do is actually supply an actual blog and try to at least keep a weekly update and try and state my recent incoherent thoughts and ramblings out there for the world to see for those unfortunate enough to stumble upon these locations of the internet I carved out to call my own.

But in reality, those that actually follow me are probably here to listen to my rantings and ravings over, to be blunt, whatever is pissing me off at the moment about the gaming industry in general, or my jumping up and down about how a particular game I am currently playing just fell short by a mile of what they originally promised to deliver. So let's talk about that.

Champions Online
Anyone who's actually been around already knows I use to be a staunch supporter of Champions Online in the way beginning. But ever since the Vibora Bay update, I am sure many have noted I seem to be getting just a bit more cynical in my support and lately, if anyone's really noticed, I have actually been lambasting Atari/Cryptic for their actual lack of support for the game. Needless to say I have a lot of reasons why but I am sure that will bore most. So let's get right down to it.

Now I have mentioned this before but I have been with Champions Online since closed beta. November of 2008 to be exact. Those who were in beta will actually probably remember several of my posts that gave hints and suggestions on how to play since most were still wanting the game to be set up like a traditional turn based MMO. Unfortunately, my suggestions and such fell on deaf ears as the game slowly ended up becoming just that anyways with a slight few changes. Ironically, most of those people that forced for those changes don't even play anymore so it's comical in its own right.

Now what really annoys me and ticks me off is that during that beta, Champions Online and its dev team did extraordinary things and changes in rapid response to many things people were legitimately complaining about, and unfortunately changed things that didn't need changing thanks to people that should have never been there. I will keep those names off here but anyone who was in the beta is well aware who they were. If people ask I will elaborate later what should have never been added or changed because of those people, but suffice it to say I think the game would have been better if Atari/Cryptic never listened to those people.

Now, after launch there were some issues. They increased the game difficulty many fold and this was a bit too far, but when it came time to actually fix the difficulty they went too far in the other direction. Again from feedback of listening to the twats who didn't even bother buying the game or had publicly announced they would never buy it no matter what Cryptic did. Ironically one of them tried to lie her way and say she didn't buy it but her Grandma did.

Anyways, game launches, first major update was announced within weeks of Champions Online going live; The Halloween Event. I wasn't expecting much but honestly what was delivered right off the bat was pretty big at least for a game that just released. I've been playing MMOs for a long time and a first time update especially for an update that was one time and such were rarely this big. Not to mention it added a new power set. And I liked how it was being added. Of course I am pissed off they decided to just keep running the event over and over because that's a stupid idea. Events are memorable if they only happen once or twice not all the damn time. But that's a complaint for later.

Next up came the Christmas Event, not as big as the Halloween one, but people were thinking nothing was going on at Cryptic, mostly because of the development on Star Trek Online. However, people started finding files, and eventually it was let known that Vibora Bay was coming to Champions Online. A lot of speculation was going about on what was going to go into it, and of course, the one thing that should have been there that was promised to the players at launch and several months after, was the level cap increase. Vibora Bay, from my own point of view, should have been a level 37 to 45 zone. Instead it was made a level 37 to 40 zone and a lot of the content was cheapened for it.

We got some nice updates, including the melee pass, Bestial set added and such, but over all between Vibora Bay and now nothing has really been added. What is driving me up the wall, considering what people from launch have seen get added, and what has been added since I've seen it in closed beta, this is just shoddy and atrocious work. There is just no excuse for all of what is going on in Champions. They want revenue but it seems they forgot they have to put the money in to get the money. This is just subpar work they are doing and the really sad part is in the time it has taken them to release 3 Adventure Packs, 1 power set and several bug fixes including restarting a monthly Blood Moon Event, we could have had 3 more Vibora Bay sized packs, maybe 3 more seasonal events, and at least 3 new power sets if Atari/Cryptic continued to put that faith in and showing the rest of the world they were serious.

Quite frankly, Champions Online is being treated poorly by Atari/Cryptic and there is no call for it. They need to stop treating it so poorly and actually devote time to it if they are actually serious about what they claim. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, and I am sure there are many others who think the same thing. I just hope Cryptic is reading the outrage going on and realizes its mistakes and starts actually putting something into Champions Online again.