MMO Regrets Round-Up [#Blaugust 28]

This was gonna be part of a final recap post for blaugust but I realized I already have other topics coming up for the next three days and oh my, then the month is already over – can you believe it?

One of my blogging prompts for this mad ride of blaugust was MMO regrets. I am generally not much into remorse in my private life and I have little tolerance for the type of gamer scorn that follows bad MMO breakups. As commented on one of Braxwolf’s posts recently, the easiest way to have a life without regrets is not to regret anything. That seems like a well-duh thing to say but at a second and third glance, that line becomes more powerful.

When it comes to my time inside MMO worlds however and especially online communities, there’s a thing or two that’s left a bitter after-taste in my mouth. Not an all-encompassing grief or anything but a smear on that picture nonetheless. I think MMO regrets are a pretty fascinating topic because rarely do players invest as much (in many different ways) as they do in this genre. And indeed, there’s a lot of company when  it comes to this topic:

I’ve a feeling there were more but blaugust is hard to keep track of, especially when you don’t get pinged directly. If I missed anyone or if you’re yet to post on this topic, let me know so I can add ya!

Lamenting Cover Art [#Blaugust 27]

Coming across an amazing Castlevania cover the other day on twitter, it hit me how much I miss the old game covers for videogames. I remember how we revered those boxes of nes and snes titles in the early days – how bold and colorful and over-the-top epic many of them were!

wpid-img_20150827_223043.jpg

What happened? Okay, for one we entered the digital age of gaming. I admit I don’t miss the dust settling on rows of physical game copies. Still, I appreciate great concept art for games, posters, teasers, thumbnails in my Steam gallery. There’s no reason why digital gaming should go coverless, is there? Elaborate covers are a chance to tell a story within mere seconds. Like a main theme, they can sell a promise and herald things to come. They are someone’s vision of what the game should be, could be. They are distilled like poetry.

UOcover

Do not even attempt to compare this to WoW cover art.

But who has time for poetry these days?

Fig: A better Way to kickstart Games? [#Blaugust 26]

In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s now a new crowdfunding platform exclusively for games and it’s called Fig (yes really). As reported on Wired, Fig’s advisory board includes indie studio heads and kickstarter heavyweights such as Tim Schafer, Brian Fargo and Feargus Urquhart. Besides focusing on games only and a highly curated, much shorter list of available projects at any given time, there’s namely one other big difference between Fig and KS:

‘But the biggest difference is Fig will combine rewards-based crowdfunding with equity investing. Fans can support Outer Wilds to get rewards, but accredited investors can get a share of revenue once the game is released. Fig CEO Justin Bailey, who was the COO at Double Fine, says campaigns eventually will be opened to non-accredited investors, meaning anyone could become an investor in a game and reap the rewards.

“Look at what happened to Oculus,” he says, referring to the pioneering VR company that started as a Kickstarter project. “It was sold to Facebook for 2 billion dollars, and the people who were involved, the superfans who were getting behind Oculus to make that possible, they didn’t see any of that. It would seem like they should, since they had a pivotal role in that coming about.”’ [source]

As someone who only ever kickstarted something twice in her life, supporting friends on both occasions, I don’t know that I have an opinion on this new crowdfunding option for games. What happened with Occulus Rift was definitely a low if not foreseeable act, so from that point of view Fig is a response that should appeal to enthusiast funders with bigger pockets. I’ve come across negative voices in a few places too, sarcastic comments about gamers requiring their own platforms for everything far away from all other media and culture, isolating themselves like the weird bunch they are.

I wasn’t aware how the variety of products on kickstarter meant such an awful lot to some people but maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, do you think Fig is a good addition to videogame crowdfunding or should games remain on generalist sites like kickstarter, together with comic books, combat kitchen ware and towel shorts?

Another Battle Bards Episode [#Blaugust 25]

Today marks the 57th episode of Battle Bards, the world’s so-far one and only MMO music podcast. It’s not an anniversary of any kind, it’s neither a round number nor an even one (in fact it’s a prime!) – to me however, it’s another episode I have loved recording for our fellow VGM aficionados out there. After 2.5 years, Syp, Steff and myself are still at it, enjoying the verbal pingpong we’ve developed over time in good spirit, as always. That makes me happy and that’s a reason to celebrate.

Today’s episode is dedicated to the music of Blade & Soul, that Korean NC Soft title we’ve yet to see launch officially in the west. The soundtrack is beautiful and diverse, not in the most elaborate sense but something I listen to ever so often. Check it out!

Zomg Double-Subbed?? [#Blaugust 24]

Last night while working on my Wildstar housing showcase for blaugust, I realized something rather extraordinary:

I am officially double-subbed to two MMOs. This happened in 2015, that slow year for MMO releases!

Unplanned occurrences aside (let’s forget that I may or may not have remained subbed to WoW by mistake), I can’t remember the last time I was subbed simultaneously to two different games. I’ve always been subbed to something since 2002, namely FFXI, WoW, Age of Conan, Rift, LOTRO, Wildstar and now FFXIV. I would often combine this playtime with a free-to-play title like Allods or Tera, or then a buy-to-play game such as GW2. I like variety these days but being double-subbed is rare even for me.

Once more with feeling

I don’t know how long this will last but in terms of my current enjoyment with MMO gaming, I find it quite a remarkable and certainly unexpected state of affairs. In the years following my WoW spree, I was struck by a general MMO-malaise that many ex-WoW players undoubtedly shared. New games had much to live up to, sometimes too much, while I did my best not to qualify every different feature in terms of “better or worse than in WoW” – which is ironic given that I left WoW because it clearly wasn’t so great any longer.

I feel like I have finally overcome this mindset. I approach new titles without all the past baggage. It’s definitely nice to be immersed in that one MMO don’t get me wrong, it is also a very positive sign however that I can still find enough fun and enjoyment in MMOs to subscribe for two games in 2015. Even if I’m not necessarily representative, I feel hopeful for this genre. What I look forward to in the coming years is more stability; fewer new releases, more quality content for existing games. Fingers crossed!

With that in mind, I want to highlight this youtube fan guide on all the more recent changes to Wildstar (not the upcoming f2p changes but what’s been done up to now). I agree with the commenter that the pace and difficulty have been improved by Carbine in many events. As he points out too, it is sad the tweaking comes this late and one can only hope more players will give the game one more chance come F2P, together with those who have never tried it. Coming from FFXIV, I hold a torch for second chances: really, what’s there to lose?

New Wildstar Housing Tour! My Cassian Crib incl. Gameroom [#Blaugust 23]

Now that I am resubbed to Wildstar and have access to my housing plot again, I realized I should really get another housing tour done before free-to-play hits. I did a couple of videos last year when I was still playing, but I never actually got around to frapsing my own crib. This has now been amended.

The following is a tour of my fully furnished 3-floor Cassian home in Wildstar, including a custom made veranda with botanical lab, my plushie collection and of course the gamer room with multiplayer! Carbine have added a lot of interesting construction tiles since I made all this, including round shapes and glass panels but am not gonna mess around with these before F2P since I expect to redo everything completely once we have access to the bigger plots and new housing items. There will be so much to do….anyway, enjoy this quick tour of mi casa, status pre-f2p!

FFXIV “High Adventure IV” [#Blaugust 22]

Back in primary school we used a lot of watercolor and Neocolor wax crayons in art class. I remember when our teacher showed us a special (and messy) technique one day, in which you started off covering an entire leaf of strong paper in all the different colors of the rainbow, wildly mixed. This first layer would either be normal crayon or water color.

Once everything was dry and finished, a second layer of thick black Neocolor would go on top and completely cover up the entire page. Such a smeary affair it was that we all looked like chimney sweepers afterwards, with black wax covering our hands and faces and god knows what else. But that’s when the real fun started and we finally got to carve out the actual image with a piece of wire or a spatula-like instrument, by scratching away fine lines out of the wax to reveal a magical world of colors underneath. I absolutely loved this technique for its wondrous effect and that negative contrast.

This fourth pick in my ongoing FFXIV “High Aventure” screenshot series is therefore an homage to those early days of creative experimentation. I think am gonna call it Cloud Watcher.

highadv4

We Are Explorers, Part 2: And also very annoying! [#Blaugust 21]

Last night I discovered that Tevis Thompson recently published another one of his rockstar insightful wall-of-text essays on the shattered soul of videogaming and I don’t even know where to start – I need to write about this but I also need more time! I find myself overwhelmed by resonance every time I read his analyzis and ye gods, there’s so much to address…so for now, I’d rather just leave you with this link over the weekend. Really, just read it – do it now! (maybe come back here after.)

For this fine blaugust 21st, I do hereby declare that of the four essential MMO playstyles, explorers are by far the hardest to satisfy and therefore a real headache for developers. We’re really quite an annoying bunch that way and since I self-identify as explorer (and all the incomplete gamer surveys I’ve ever taken would agree there), I shall explain why I think so. In a way, am letting developers off with this but not really. Also for the record, I do not actually believe any player to be defined by merely one interest or playstyle – I find Bartle and other gamer categorizations as insufficient as the next person. For the sake of simplicity and my fun with this argument however, let’s roll with clear-cut, straightforward gamer attitudes. Okay? Good!

bartlechart

Already part of Bartle’s character theory chart

It’s always struck me how both socializers and killers/pvpers have the strong social component in common. They come across as very opposed preferences but both playstyles are fundamentally driven and enabled by other people, as in PCs rather than NPCs. If we were gonna oversimply definitions to the point of being a little insulting (I’m doing it!), you could say that what socializers really require in MMOs is a colorful, interactive stage they can hang out on with other equally chatty people. As for killers, they require prey – they need a platform that allows them the freedom to organize themselves in groups and then go after everyone that’s worse than they are, challenging each others various skills. Again, these are gross oversimplifications but the takeaway is that the entire MMO world and setting is secondary to the primary, social experience (which is not to say that these playstyles know zero single-player appeal, they do – and there’s other genres than MMOs that may appeal to them).

Then there’s achievers and well, they’ve already won as far as MMOs are concerned, haven’t they? The great majority of MMORPGs since WoW which have followed the linear themepark approach, have been created with achieverdom in mind, stuff packaged into small itsy bits with clearly cut out paths and little popups of “hooray” and content patches and expansions of blarrggghhh…..(oh sorry, I got lost there for a minute). Anyway, achievers may thrive through experiences with or without other people – what I do understand about their basic mindset is that they enjoy work that’s been cut out for them, checking goals off a list, feeling gratified by achieving predetermined wins, a sense of tangible progression and completion. Therefore, achievers require steady content from the developer monster and that’s basically the world we all live in today – THANKS A LOT YO!

angryc…….

Okay okay, explorers! I started off by saying we’re the annoying bunch (*cough*) and we are, in the sense that our itch is very hard to scratch intentionally. Explorers need space and the freedom to roam, interesting things and randomness and umm…..intrinsic drive created through game design that must not be noticed. Simple, right? We want to be wowed at the exact moment of our choosing or well, at least never of the game’s choosing, and without any notion of the invisible puppetmaster present. The game world just needs to “be”, needs to simulate something real and after that we’re mostly interested in ambling off the beaten path and potentially finding stuff nobody else would nor intended for us to find. NEGATIVE SPACES, come on MMOs!

Freedom in games is a finely crafted illusion. Infinite depth and space can only be achieved by carefully orchestrated mystery. And randomness is mostly unthinkable.

And this is why having explorers for an audience is sort of a nightmare for any slightly ambitious world designer. Really, I feel for you – so much love and respect for those who get it right in MMOs, even just for a little while! I guess that’s also why randomly or procedurally generated maps were all the rage for some time, only the problem with that is….it’s not quite that simple. A haphazardly generated world feels redundant fast and oddly meaningless. There’s only so many times you like to take a trip into the blue in Minecraft until everything starts blending and feels the same. So yes, random but not totally random…..what can I say, we’re complicated!

P.S. Happy Friday everybody – explorerdom foreva!

Some Days, Twitter Wins the Internet (also: Fallout Shelter!) [#Blaugust 20]

I’ve been playing Fallout Shelter this week and 30 dwellers in, I find it an increasingly creepy experience in bad pickup lines and breeding babies. The game is well-designed no doubt but I can see it getting old before long (which means it’s perfectly timed for that Fallout 4 launch later this year if you happen to be an android user).

Of course that was before Liore gave me ideas on twitter and well…turns out Fallout Shelter is ten times the fun when you start breeding the MMO blogosphere! Once my evil plans were set in motion, this happened –

twitterlolz

Click to enlarge!

If you’re wondering why I am on twitter, this is it. I don’t know how well the joke transports over in retrospective but I’m still laughing my ass off and I wasn’t the only one. Some days, the madness is boundless. Fallout Shelter just got so much better (and else there’s 10 more messed-up ways to spice things up) – thanks y’all!

We are Explorers [#Blaugust 19]

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” [T.S. Elliot]

One of the very first tags I ever introduced for this here blog was “explorer’s league”. Over the years, the topic of exploration in MMOs and the psychology behind the explorer mindset have been the driving force of many an article. What moves explorers? What lies at the bottom of their heart’s desire? Where do they find ultimate ingame satisfaction? Asking those questions, I came across some of the answers for myself and as a big extra, I’ve come to know kindred souls – bloggers with the same passionate interest in exploration as myself.

What has all of this taught me?

Explorers like you and me, seek out the journey. They seek out the winding path that smells of roses and dust.

Explorers like you and me want neither endings nor completion. Their maps remain unfinished as their wisdom.

Explorers like you and me care for secrets over riches. Their currency is wonder, their virtue is patience.

Explorers like you and me know no achievement beyond their own. They crave mystery.

Explorers like you and me look back and forward. Their worlds rise and fall with diversity.

And whither then?

And what happens after we have come full circle, when we see the old with new eyes? Maybe our world really is limited after all and bound to repeat itself; the experiences we make in life real and virtual follow the same circle. We grow only in perception; it is the lessons and wisdom we take with us that second, third and fourth time that make the difference. And when we pass through the same doors and challenges in games and elsewhere, we may behave differently next time and see different things, new options that were always there but hidden. It took us a journey across the world and back to reach a deeper understanding. How many more MMOs must come and go before we realize there are no new worlds unless we make them?