Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Tis the Season for Screamin'

First, a bit of administrivia: This post is my 125th of the year, matching my total for 2012. Obviously, I anticipate posting more, but I probably won't reach my personal record of 214 from last year. This year, my posting has been really inconsistent from month to month, for various reasons. I started out with an ambitious goal of posting every day, emulating Belghast. However that quickly fell by the wayside, except during the Blaugust community event sponsored by the Aggronaut himself. I came to the realization that posting daily is really not practical for me. My readership has steadily grown, however; such that as of this morning, October is my fourth highest month for page hits since I began blogging almost 5 years ago, and it only surpassed September a couple days ago. This not exactly another Bragtoberfest post, and there are certainly more prolific and more popular bloggers out there. But these sorts of stats excite me, so thank you Dear Reader, for sharing some of your day with me.
Sonnenblume takes aim, while Henry awaits her command.
Scooter and I are about halfway through Stonefield on our new characters, Sonnenblume and Girasol. I am definitely enjoying Rift right now. We're approaching this play-through much more casually, doing things we wouldn't normally spend much time on, like fishing dailies. The game has been retooled since the Storm Legion expansion, I guess. A lot of quests no longer require returning to the quest giver, and all the KTR-style quests have been reinvented as "Carnage" quests that trigger as soon as you kill the first creature of a given type. It certainly helps the flow of the zone, though we still got ahead of ourselves twice already in Stonefield. After a couple years of playing together, Scooter and I have developed a rhythm of combat and communication that I think works well. Not that there aren't glitches.  But I really love that we can share this hobby.
I read it, Trion blurb writer. :)
It's Autumn Harvest time in Rift, complete with a bunch of Halloween style items in the store: mounts, costumes, and dimension items. I am having technical issues with my dimensions right now, being able to access only Faen's Retreat, even though I own Warden's point and (in theory) Dormant Core. But I am very tempted by the Halloween themed Dimensions on offer—not to mention all the decor, like cobwebs and jack-o'-lanterns. I don't have enough experience with the event to know if it extends into the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday—celebrated in late November—but for now, there don't appear to be any items reflecting it in the store.

Despite downloading a pretty big patch yesterday evening, I couldn't find any evidence of the Autumn Harvest in Meridian or Granite Falls. Perhaps that crops up in a day or so? Or maybe I just don't know where to find it.
It's dangerous to go alone.
Meanwhile, Halloween has begun in The Secret World. Arguably the biggest event of the year (barely rivaled by Krampusnacht), Halloween in TSW is something special. Heck, The first major zone, Solomon Island, is locked in an eternal October. Of course, they've added something every year, from the Cat God, to SuperJack, and Urban Legends missions. Any TSW player interested in the shirt modeled above can redeem it for their account using the promo code: HALLOWEEN2014TEE. I assume it is a free gift from Joel and crew, available for only a limited time. Since the patch dropped just this morning, I haven't had a chance to check it out. But I will tonight, as Beyond the Veil airs live from in-game with plenty of tricks and treats. Join us about 7p.m. Eastern Time on Holosuite's Twitch channel.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cyber-Bullies and Open-World PvP

This post has some possible triggers. I'm trying to be sensitive to your needs. Forewarned is forearmed.

EDIT: I should also preface this by saying that, while a discussion of ArcheAge precipitated this post, I am not saying the game sucks or that simply not playing it all would not be a reasonable alternative to opening a PvE server. I have never played EVE Online for the very reasons I go into here. I just think it is unfortunate that a game with such an intriguing set of character progression systems should be walled off due to failure to compromise.

A lot has been made of the fact that games like ArcheAge are known to involve open-world PvP at the higher levels. Usually, a game like this has low-level safe areas where players can learn the mechanics of the game without the danger of constant ganking by high level enemies. As players and characters progress in certain aspects of the game, they can stay in the safe zones. Or (as touted by the creators and many players) after a certain level, a player can venture out into zones where PvP is expected and even encouraged. Greater risk leads to greater reward. The problem with this is that it fundamentally changes the game at an arbitrary level (not unlike MMOs where raiding is perceived as the only really viable endgame activity). And now you have people that would be perfectly fine facing only challenges against the game environment forced to enter into a style of play they do not want in order to progress further in the game.
Seanxxp over at Gaming Conjecture has an excellent write-up of why he enjoys Open World PvP:
The thrill of your first few PvP encounters in Eve is a truly memorable thing. The shaking hands and heightened pulse, the sweaty palms and fumbled mouse clicks. It all feels so palpably ‘real’. . . Most times in a sandbox oriented game like Archeage, people are simply looking to achieve the goals that further enhance their own playstyle. . . Does the possibility of getting ganked every now and again really completely outweigh any possible fun you might have the rest of the time you’re playing?
Belghast the Aggronaut counters that by saying:
My key problem with open player versus player combat is the fact that someone is imposing their enjoyment on my playtime. . . What happens then is a series of things that take me out of the place where I was enjoying the game and force me to deal with the whims of another player. . . I just view it as a waste of my time, and I don’t cherish or enjoy it any more than any other waste of time.
After a brief discussion of the aspects of sandboxes in general—and ArcheAge in particular—that he enjoys, Belghast acknowledges that players like him are the "sheep" of the game.
In order for a ganker to have fun, they have to have someone to gank. . . It is going to be us sheep that get drawn into their power games, and us sheep that are inconvenienced by it. . . The folks that will find me, when I least expect it, when I am getting the most enjoyment out of the game are the folks who just want to ruin my night.
Aywren of Clean Casuals responds to Seanxxp and others by discussing her early adventures in Ultima Online:
That was the game that taught me to fear every visible player character when outside of town and run away from everyone at first sight. . . It essentially turned me into a solo player from the very beginning of my MMO experience. . . I play MMOs for relaxation and enjoyment, not to feel stressed.
When I was a child, I was picked on by bullies who knew just the right ways to push my buttons and get a rise out of me. Having undiagnosed ADHD, I was kinetic, easily fixated on trivialities, and easily frustrated. I was skinny and not very coordinated. I was probably average size for my age, but I can remember being pushed around by kids larger than I was. They were probably a grade or more ahead of me. Looking back, I don't think I was ever physically tormented, but I certainly was emotionally and psychologically. I did get into a lot of fights, but they were quickly broken up by adults: teachers, coaches, etc. One psychologist decided I had self-esteem issues and recommended a summer sports program. I eventually got into a fight there, too. I got older, bigger, and repeatedly refused to submit to the bullying.

As an adult, I don't go around getting into fights anymore. Then again, with me standing over six feet tall and tipping the scales close to 300 pounds, few people attempt to intimidate me anymore. But that poor little kid is still in there. With the same feelings. Reacting to the same stressors.

Take physical stature out of the equation, and there are plenty of people who are willing to throw their virtual weight around. A great many people love the rush of PvP, matching wits and perhaps skill with other living, breathing people across the internet. Despite previous commentary I have made, I have come to realize they are no more bullies than the typical basketball pick-up group. They simply enjoy direct competition. There may be some e-peening involved, but they are playing among equals and they enjoy the challenge. I am not talking about them.

Not everyone who loves PvP is a bully. I, myself, love battlegrounds where players are well matched. The sPvP and WvW of Guild Wars 2 is my favorite type. But that is because every character is on an even playing ground. You don't have Major League Baseball going up against Little League.
The kind of player I am talking about enjoys leveling their character up in a game where significant disparities develop between characters several levels apart. In a game like WoW (and we all know there are several), a difference of only 5 levels can be a huge jump in power for a character. more than ten levels and the lower-level character may as well be bringing a whiffle bat to a tank battle. And it's not just that the higher-level character can hit harder and has more hit points. Often the hit/dodge/block chance is skewed, as well, such that the lowbie can't land a blow even if the high-level doesn't fight at all.

There is a certain type of individual that isn't looking for a challenge. They aren't looking for and even fight between equals or near equals. Instead they go into areas where players with characters that have no hope of fighting back are trying to go about their business, and disrupt their gameplay by ganking them. Here, I am not using the term "gank" as synonymous with "ambush" the way some proponents of the practice would like to. Rather, I am using it to describe the act of killing player characters that have no hope of defending themselves. The way a 6th grader might gank a 3rd grader. In other words, a bully. I am willing to bet there are folks out there ready to say that's not how PvP is. That's not how they play. Hey, if the shoe fits . . .

A typical workday for me is not particularly stressful, I suppose, though there are some days that are plenty stressful. Occasionally, something occurs that will set off my sense of justice, but I try to keep things low-key. On business trips, things might be a little more frustrating, depending on how well prepared the local venue is for our meetings/classes. The commute to and from work isn't a joyride. I live in a town with a variety of drivers from around the country and the world, and we don't all have the same habits and norms. This can lead to some stress, as someone might cut me off or break some minor traffic violation that doesn't directly affect me but is irritating nonetheless. Can this ruin my day? Although obviously I am somewhat in control of my own emotional reactions, it certainly doesn't help.

In the past, I have had my house broken into and items of value stolen from me and my family. That's a major stressor, to say the least, between the hassles of police and insurance to figuring out how I will replace what was stolen with the meager insurance payout. And that's just things that can actually be replaced. Some stuff, some keepsakes, are simply gone forever. Right when I started this blog, my battle.net account was hacked (no, my password was not weak, nor were any other of my accounts hacked), and I temporarily lost not just items but a slew of characters. Suffice it to say I have experienced loss through theft in real life.

Getting ganked by a character I have no hope of defending myself against is not what I consider fun. They have stolen my time, if nothing else. And I have a hard time believing that my overwhelming opponent is enjoying any kind of challenge in killing me. Rather, he (or she) is playing out some power fantasy at my expense. It brings back all those feelings of helplessness and persecution on the playground when I was a child. And yes it will ruin my evening. It makes me angry; it brings me stress, the exact opposite of my purpose in playing the game in the first place.

I also believe—from personal experience—that overpowered ganking raises up each new "generation" of players to do the same. "I got ganked by high-level characters, so I am am going to do the same to this lowbie." Suggestions that you could band together with others for protection reeks of gangland-style rackets. It doesn't preclude a larger or high-level group from overwhelming your tiny trade caravan anyway; or worse, your group preying upon a weaker one.

Suggestions that maybe Trion could open a PvE-only ArcheAge server or two were met with strenuous protests on the forums. "‘PVE server’ goes against everything that AA stands for." Translation: all the sheep will run away, and the wolves won't have anyone to gank. Besides, I didn't know that ArcheAge was a philosophy that stands for anything. As was aptly argued by Syp, given that a PvE server would simply be another option, there is no legitimate reason why it should not be an option for those players that enjoy the game for reasons other than the opportunity to become involved in either side of a curb-stomp skirmish.

All this is a bit moot for me, as far as ArcheAge is concerned, since Scooter and I stopped playing due to technical issues. However, I still wanted to add my voice to the conversation because I had not seen anyone else articulate my point of view on the subject. None of what I have said may apply to you, but look hard into the mirror before you protest too much.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Tide Rolls In

The lovely Scooter as Sonnenblume
Rift's Nightmare Tide expansion launched yesterday. And with our return to Telara only last week, Scooter and I were sort of primed to get right in and check it out. Since I wasn't really tracking the date of the expansion other than "some time this fall," when I discovered there was a patch to load, I initially assumed it was the Halloween event. Until I started reading the patch notes (which, honestly, I rarely do). Rift 3.0 brings lots of changes and new things. Stats have been simplified a bit, like Deflect being rolled into Block. The Warrior soul "Reaver" has received a complete overhaul, warranting its own section in the patch notes. And, of course, there are new zones, new instanced dungeons, raids, etc.

We are concentrating on new characters, and our highest level characters are not even through the Storm Legion content. So Scooter and I were not in a position to check out the Nightmare Tide zones. The plus side to sticking to lowbies was that we didn't encounter huge crowds fighting around us like Belghast did.

We did, however, get a chance to try out the brand new Minion system. I assumed at first that minions would be like some kind of combat companion like SWTOR or EQ2 have. However, it bears more resemblance to STO's Duty Officers mixed with Neverwinter's Professions, where you send your minions out on adventures to collect stuff for you. The interface is kinda cool, more like a card game than anything else. Scooter and I bought all the basic minions, who turn out to be creatures, rather than humanoids (Stofie is a shrimp, for instance). The adventures range from one minute to several hours, with corresponding costs and rewards. And many are amusing, though there seems to be little choice beyond the four on display at any given time. Unlocking adventure slots costs credits (in other words, RL money) and I accidentally bought one because of where the button is on the interface. Overall, Minions seem like a cute diversion, though an offline interface through the Rift mobile app would be really cool.
I totally stole this screen from Belghast, I was going to replace it, but my interface looks basically the same.
We were looking at crafting last night, as well, and I ended up going with Dream Weaver, among other things. DW is a "new" crafting profession (introduced in January, 2014) that is able to create Dimension (a.k.a. Housing) items and effects, including whole dimensions. Seems like it may be quite a resource sink, especially given that the resources it uses are artifacts (a.k.a. Shinies). So I am torn between using Shinies to fill out my own collections or using them as the crafting materials for my Dream Weaving. DW-crafted items seem to go for quite a bit at the Auction House, but I noticed they were all buyout only, so the prices may be wishful thinking on the part of the crafter/sellers.

I ended up raiding the guild bank of House Stalwart of a bunch of Shinies, but I don't want to seem too greedy. On the other hand, prior last night, it had been over a month since anyone had touched the guild bank, and House Stalwart's message of the day can be paraphrased as "Take the Shinies."

Having just plunked down a bunch of dough on patron status and other goodies, I was not prepared to purchase any of the Nightmare Tide special editions with their bonuses and boosts. We'll see next month whether we are still enjoying ourselves and want the goodies. I really like Rift, but I am cautious about making the investment only to leave in a few weeks like we last time we played.

And I kind of hate that, too. That indecision about making a commitment to my hobby.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Golden Child

I can't believe it took me a whole week to get this posted, but there's been a lot going on, I suppose. Last weekend Funcom put on a Golden Weekend, including a new outfit ("Extra Heavy Metal"), and a chance to fight Samsu Nasiru (aka Goldzilla). The big deal—at least for me—was the chance to get double AP for working on the wheel. Over the course of the weekend, I managed to gain several hundred ability points and over 21 abilities on the wheel, finishing out the 21-point abilities and putting a significant dent in the 27-point tier.

Grinding the Goldzilla fight (12 TIMES Saturday and Sunday) got a little boring, so I also ran through the Last Train to Cairo mission series. It's still my favorite of the DLC Issues, I can't get over how awesome the Train instance is. One of these days I am going to have to get the Issue 9, The Black Signal, and run through Tokyo with Scooter.

This weekend has been more about getting settled into Rift, not to mention replacing a ceiling fan that malfunctioned in September. It's already significantly cooler in the living room, which is where I spend most of my time gaming.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Friday, October 17, 2014

End of an Age

I have a longer post about Open World PvP, but it may be moot as far as ArcheAge goes. Even after Scooter did a bunch of research and upgraded her video drivers, etc., her computer still spontaneously reboots at random while running the client. So despite a promising little storyline and a pretty good skill/ability system—not to mention beautiful graphics—we will no longer be playing the game.
Misteli II
ArcheAge isn't the only game we are leaving behind this month. Despite my optimism about WildStar's server mega-merger (with a healthy side helping of "Why wasn't it this way at launch?"), the truth is all my characters have stalled just after reaching eligibility for housing. Messing around with my various WildStar plots—and examining the farm/housing system in ArcheAge—only makes me long for the Dimension system Trion uses for Rift. Scooter canceled her WildStar sub a week or so ago, and I followed suit just the other day. We have until our current month runs out, but I doubt we'll be doing much on Nexus.
Sonnenblume (Scooter) and Girasol
And so Scooter and I made the decision last night to re-up in Rift to see if we can make a home in Telara. I plan to throw some money at Trion to get the Dream Soul pack, enabling me to possibly create a rogue character similar to the Warpriest class in ArcheAge, a combination of healz, sword-and-board, and archery. A bit has changed since the last time we got involved with Rift, and I think quite a lot has changed since we left the game the first time so many moons ago. I am hoping to see more of what has happened to Telaria in the intervening years.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.