OTC – Big Deals Edition: The Challenges of Virtual Poop, Undertale and DPS Meters still suck, thank you!

You guys, I actually used “poop” in a topic title! *Achievement unlocked!*

otc

The big deal that is pooping in ARK

I’ve been playing some ARK over the past weekend after finally upgrading my old graphics card to a 970. The game is beautiful but also rather straightforward and boring, to the point of where I am calling over-hype. Coming from the suspense that is 7 Days to Die, ARK still has a long way to go before it catches my survival fancy – “just surviving”, as in making sure you’re not starving, isn’t a good enough reason to sink hours into a game and build fortresses for me. That’s all well though and I will return to ARK once it received more content love and fixing.

Of course one very under-reported, hilarious feature in ARK is your character’s defecation mechanic which has caught many an unsuspecting player by surprise. It also spawns fantastically comical forum threads such as this one which was my main inspiration for looking into the topic. For those who don’t know how it works, just a brief summary: player characters in ARK randomly poop all over the place with a “you defecated” message popping up on your screen and an overly realistic bowel sound effect going along with it (eww). Also, you can pick up player poop and do things with it! There’s apparently a way to initiate pooping yourself (I did not know this), rather than being taken by surprise when your character relieves himself in the middle of your base like he’s part of the livestock.

This is noteworthy because most games never dare venture into the no-go zone that is human poop, no matter how high their authenticity bar is set otherwise. I only remember encountering virtual pooping in the Sims and Conker’s Bad Fur Day myself in the past. Even toilets as part of game settings are kind of a big deal, as was recently deliberated in this RPS article. Cross-reading different ARK forums, there’s plenty of players utterly aghast at this, nevermind all the violence and moral decay portrayed in videogames otherwise but…..poop? No way! I actually got a buddy of mine to play ARK and he is turned off so much by the defecation thing, he’s already stopped playing. I couldn’t stop laughing after it “happened” to his character the first time around!

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So many places to do your business!

Now, I am possibly the last person to ask for poop mechanics in videogames, or any simulation of mundane bodily functions for that matter, since I’m all for the idealized, stylized and aesthetically pleasing fantasy environments! The fuss over something as trivial as poop in a game like ARK cracks me up though; I guess I’m okay with the fact that my human body does that sort of thing and so does yours because y’know, we’re part of nature no matter how fancy we dress and talk. We tend to be fine with “manure” (different word for poop!) from beefalos when playing Don’t Starve, so let’s try be a little less Martha Steward about the whole thing, shall we?

The Tunes of the Undertale

Undertale, a successful Kickstarter project that’s been created for the most part by one guy named Toby Fox, has recently been released on Steam with a bang. Not only is it difficult to find anything but raging reviews from players and journos alike, the fact that many would go as far as calling it the best RPG they ever played or at least among the best, got me curious to check it out myself. Only about 1 hour in and without wanting to spoil anything, I think it’s safe to say that lovers of the (J)RPG genre will find this to be an interesting journey for its toying with player expectations, tongue-in check approach to classic tropes and unorthodox approach to round-based combat. That is, if you can get over the minimalistic graphics. I’m not even sure how much I like Undertale yet myself but there is something about it I need to get to the bottom of.

What’s already won me over is the game’s soundtrack – a whooping 101 tracks of oldschool goodness composed by Toby Fox again (that guy!), and available for only 9.99$ on his bandcamp site. If you’re at all into retro VGM, this is for you and one great deal for the buck!

And MMOs are still better without DPS meters

Most players who have ever spent a decent amount of time in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn will at some point talk or write about its incredibly friendly community that seems at odds with the current WoW-based MMO standard. I have mused on this not too long ago and so have other bloggers, and it requires no great leap of logic to grasp that FFXIV’s lack of (acknowledged) DPS meters, as well as its very forgiving dungeons for the most part, have a lot to do with it. FFXIV relies heavily on social engineering in many different ways and pugging is as essential to the player experience in this MMO as it is in WoW and other games, toxic hells that their LFGs have become. I have lamented the state of pugs in WoW as well as in Guild Wars 2 in the past and Eri did in fact recently write a similar review on returning to Tera.

Now Rohan linked an interesting experiment from reddit in his post yesterday, in which some guy parsed both the harassment and the DPS for pugs in both FFXIV and WoW. Bottom line: the jerks in WoW are often also the “good” players (no doubt using meters as their justification). In FFXIV on the other hand, in case of a bad pug it’s more likely that the loudmouth is also a bad player (that’s simply never detected). So far goes the result of the experiment.

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More dps whyyyy…look I have a pretty angel!

It’s easy enough to believe this data. Like Rohan, I fail to see how any of the two options are superior in theory because well, I generally don’t want any jerks in my pugs. Doing well on meters doesn’t entitle you to be a jerk. Where I disagree slightly is the bottom line that the two approaches to meters are on the same level / cause equal inconveniences; in reality I am a lot less often subjected to harassment in FFXIV than I am in WoW by virtue of how the FFXIV devs handle meters. And this is a big deal.

Would you rather deal with a 5% chance of getting ebola or a 70% of getting SARS?  The 5% suck but are preferable to the 70%! Naturally, these are my uncorroborated percentages to illustrate approximately how often my pugs have been awful in FFXIV vs. WoW. Source whatever you like, it would surprise me greatly if you didn’t end up with a huge disparity between these two titles. I must have done a 100 runs myself in FFXIV by now and I recall precious few group disbands either, outside those 2-3 single raid boss encounters everyone seems to loathe.

Of course the question of whether bad players matter much towards outcome, factors into this and once more FFXIV appears to be more laidback and forgiving where the majority of its puggeable content is concerned. I mean look….the 4-man dungeons aren’t exactly difficult. I am still undecided whether WoW’s dungeons are truly that much harder to warrant meters – I’ve a feeling this is not the case. The amount of harassment in WoW happens because meters are readily available and because people can. So, I’ll take a few loudmouth players in FFXIV who are “also bad” any day, if it means a much friendlier overall community.

11 comments

  1. The lack of (official) dps meters is also something I’ve pointed to in The Secret World when musing about the generally great community there. I don’t think it’s the only thing – good communities take work from the players, devs, GM’s, CM’s, etc. – but I can’t help thinking the lack of an instant “You suck, GTFO” list helps. I hadn’t noticed FFXIV didn’t have one, but now that you mention it, that might be why I didn’t mind pugging!

  2. Syl,

    Agree, agree, agree.

    Well, only really the first two, as I have no experience with Undertale.

    But yes, I vastly prefer 7 Days to ARK. The most basic reason is that I can run 7 Days on my computer with my buddy playing, and running an ARK server obliterates all of my processing and doesn’t actually also allow me to play, so I have to run ARK a second time, basically. Imagine running ARK twice on your computer. It’s madness.

    I also agree that the intensity of 7 Days is vastly greater than that of ARK; with most dinos in ARK it’s just live and let live, and the few for which that’s not true are often guaranteed death unless you’re super-powerful (something I’ve never been). In 7 Days, essentially everything is aggro-dangerous and often brings through making noise a buttload of more trouble with it.

    If you want to play 7 Days sometime, let me know.

    Sincerely,
    Stubborn

    1. Indeed, the terror of having to prep in time and potential zombie gangs (feral zombies omg!) is the main incentive in 7DTD. The different biomes and all the things that have been added lately also make for majorly interesting exploration (army camps etc.).
      Crafting is excellent in 7DTD and it’s better balanced as well – to be fair, it has taken its time, too.

      I’ll give you a holler whenever me and the better half get back to it, which should be after the next big patch for sure. :)

  3. I’d rather have a dungeon run go a bit slower than optimum than have my teeth on edge for the entire run due to one of the group being a jerk… I play games to unwind, after all. I don’t think DPS meters create jerks, but they sure seem to be an enabler for them.

    There’s probably a blog post in why PUGs seem more awful in some games than others, and I don’t think it’s just down to meters. Overall community is part, of course, and I suspect there’s also an element of game design – if players feel any pressure to optimise run speed (either for ‘gold reward’ timers or because dungeons are set up as a repeatable grind) then some will start getting ratty about anything that messes with their rewards, such as underperforming team-mates. General newbie-friendliness of the design is going to count too. On that basis, I would expect WildStar dungeon PUGs to be the worst game experience ever. However, as I never had the courage to try PUGging there I can’t verify (my dungeon runs were all relaxed, guild run affairs where nobody blew a gasket if we only got silver or bronze).

    1. Wildstar pugs are awful :D Last time I checked anyway, and as you said it’s because of timers too (which also affect loot). I only pugged a handful of times in WS and 80% of my groups were disbands. The dungeons are just very hard to pug in general which comes down to balancing and design as well.
      So, I definitely agree it’s not just meters that enable jerks – it’s the entire pacing and goal setting by devs. FFXIV has no pressures like that for the pugging content and it’s also very big on social engineering (for example groups get compensated with ‘newbie bonuses’ for first-time players etc.).

      GW2 is another good example why pugs are made more horrible due to design; as I complained about in that linked article of mine, the whole dungeon skipping is a world of woe.

      1. GW2 dungeons seem to be the poultice that draws the pus of asshole players out of the community as a whole, leaving the rest of the game much more pleasant in comparison :) I’m not quite sure how they came to be dominated by the GO-GO-GO, cheesy dungeon skipping, must have ‘meta’ build philosophy (since I ran all of them in decidedly non-meta guild groups just fine). I am, however, grateful that in GW2 dungeons are just one of many things you can do and in no way mandatory, whether to gear up or otherwise.

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