Archive for April, 2011

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It

I was cruising merrily along, planning on putting transplants into the ground, spending the weekend hoeing.  Then ArenaNet came along with a hairline wire and clotheslined me.

They’re holding a contest.  Never before have the forces of the universe coalesced for me so clearly.  Never before have so many things in my life aligned to point in one direction.

I’ve had plans for short, Guild Wars 2 fan videos for months now.  I was only waiting on the software to implement them.  Now that I have the opportunity to play with these packages ArenaNet is holding a contest.

A 1 minute video about why someone should play Guild Wars 2, delivered in 2 weeks.

One minute goes by fast when your talking or compiling someone else’s video.  When you’re animating, however, it’s an eternity.  That’s just what I’m going to do, however.  It’s a grueling pace, but it’s also a challenge I accept with relish.

Will I be talented enough to win the coveted trip out to Washington?  In a community like this, not likely.  However, this is one of those opportunities to better myself I spoke of in my previous post, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it slip through my fingers.

So, my fantastic readers….

/salute

See you in two weeks.

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The Fizzle And Pop

I’m probably going go piss a lot of people off when I say this but, I don’t care about game mechanics.

Here’s a caveat though, I don’t care about them as long as they work and are fun.  But even then, if I’m not having fun (see Starcraft 1 & 2) then I’m more likely to just not play it than I am to dissect and discuss the specific mechanics that make me feel that way.

During the wait for Guild Wars 2 I often hear complaints about lore articles.  Cries of “Give us something of substance!  Lore doesn’t matter, I want to know about mechanics.”  Frankly that attitude just leaves me scratching my head.

Guild Wars 2 is not ready yet.  We haven’t even been given a release date.  Under the specter of not seeing a living game until 2012 or even *gasp* the idea that it might be simply vaporware, the hunger for ‘hard facts’ is understandable.

Hard facts bore me, however.  To combat burnout I focus on lore.  At the end of the day, the idea of jumping over a Guardian’s ward by launching myself from the top of a cliff isn’t that interesting when the cliff, ward, Guardian, and the jumping itself are only hypothetical.

I see you in the back there /jump, I’m not talking about you.

Lore though, is a different matter altogether.  What is lore? It’s stories.  I absolutely love stories.  I love books, and plays, and movies, and games, and even gossip and forum drama if it’s a good story.  Worst case scenario, Guild Wars 2 is vaporware and never sees the light of day:  All my blogging and podcasting and artwork and ‘fanfic’ (god how I hate that word) will have been for nothing right?

Nope!  Because I focus on the lore.  I enjoy the good story and derive inspiration from the artists.  Everything I do, I do selfishly.  Everything I do I try to find a way to use it to better myself.  I blog to get my thoughts out and express myself.  I draw and paint because it’s good practice and because I must (any other artist will understand that drive, sorry I can’t explain it).  Every artistic piece I create is an opportunity to try something new.  I write little Guild Wars 2 stories to keep my creativity limber and as a warmup for my real writing projects (I’m currently pursuing publication for a short story, did you know that?).

Perspective, that’s what’s really important.  Writing ‘fanfic’, drawing fanart and discussing the minutia of a game that does not yet exist (for the everyday gamer at least) is not a waste of my time because everything I do feeds into my goals and dreams.  That’s just the way I operate.  And I don’t care about mechanics because I have little interest in game design.  Art though? Stories?  That’s another matter entirely.

Oops, I Arted

Hey, if Rytlock is allowed to make fart jokes then so can I.  Also, crosshatching is fun.

Charr skull says RAWR!

Get Off My Metallic Lawn

If you didn’t already know, (in which case your head must be deeper under a rock than even mine!) it’s CHARR WEEK!So far we’ve learned a little about the charr starting area Ashford Hills and the starting town Smokestead.  We’ve also gotten to hear some charr voicesand learn more about why they do what they do.My favorite quote so far? “Beer is for cubs, I want whiskey!”  Sounds like my kind of folks, for sure.

In celebration of Charr Week I’ve got new concept art direct from ArenaNet, and a little story that I wrote.  I’ve also got new art from me planned for later this week in celebration.  Honestly though, I don’t feel like blogging much.  I’ve been too busy running around screaming and excited!

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“Hey stump-paw! Bring me my steak!”  The Blood Legion warrior called over his shoulder before he hunkered back over the hot metal and continued hammering.

Rask Marrowtooth grumbled and limped forward, finding his way by the light of the fire, the black silhouette, and the sound of ringing hammers.  Gone were the days when Rask would have been the one briefing slobbering buffoons like this.  The veteran of many a covert operation and ambush, Rask was now relegated to serving food and husbanding livestock.  All charr were expected to fight, yet Rask no longer could.  This particular warrior took pains to remind him of that fact, and Rask  had had about enough.

He was nearly blind with cataracts and was missing a paw, but all his years as an Ash Legion spy had served him well.  He could could, and had, run an op blindfolded and deaf.  Besting this pile of scoria would be no problem.

Rask stumbled, and hunched his shoulders when the warrior turned and barked a rebuke.  Under cover of his dropped shoulder, Rask spread a grey powder on the surface of the steak which quickly dissolved into invisibility.  Not even a smirk betrayed him, he was too practiced.

“Steak”  Rask’s voice was reedy.  The warrior snatched the plate from Rask’s blunted claws and by the time he was wolfing it whole, Rask was already on his way out of the foundry.  By the time he reached the door and turned around the warrior was already dead.

A hush fell over the forge.  Rask watched as the blurry black shapes morphed as their owners turned to look from the dead warrior and Rask.  Only now did he allow himself to smile.

When he spoke his growling voice held no hint of the quaver it had sported for the Blood Legion warrior.  “Clean this pile of slag off the foundry floor you cubs, and while you do so remember this: Just because I cannot chase you down should you insult me and run, does not mean that I cannot kill you for your impudence.”

Charr Industrial Building. Artwork from ArenaNet.

The Loneliest Gamer

This week has been a very lonely one for me.  At work I have moved desks and am essentially cut off from the rest of my department.  At home my husband has started raiding again. And online, my usual haunts have been mysteriously absent of people.

There’s a couple people I’m seeing more of through RIFT, but they are either stubbornly clinging to a server on which I’m no longer playing or clapped in irons by a spousal leveling contract.  I’d like to have my own spousal leveling contract, but due to his general aversion to elves, my husband’s distain for RIFT edges ever closer into the ‘hatred equal to the power of a thousand burning suns’ territory every time he takes a peek over my shoulder.  I did manage to beg and whine at him for a contract involving alts in Guild Wars 2, but who the heck knows when that will come out.

All of this running around and being lonely has got me thinking about a couple of things, namely server structure and Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events.

RIFT is a petty good game.  It’s well put together, astonishingly bug-free, pleasant to look at, and enjoyable.  The rifts and invasions are fun, bringing the community together and fostering a sense of camaraderie.  As fun as it is though, I can’t help but feel that something is wrong.

I’m going to use RIFT as a bit of a whipping boy here.  I’m sorry.

Spirit has been chanting a little mantra to herself for the past few days: “Shatterbone, Defiant. Shatterbone, Defiant.”  This is because she’s getting a guest pass into RIFT for the weekend.  She needs to remember which server to roll on, then she needs to remember which faction to choose so that she can play with her friends.

Of all that has come out of the standardization of the MMO industry, these two mechanics are the most ridiculous.  They are unintuitive and anti-community.  For a game whose heart of hearts is playing with your friends, splitting your playerbase by server and then further by faction is idiocy and if it weren’t for the fact that there isn’t (yet) anything better available, it would never have lasted this long.

That and it just pisses me off.

I have always been attracted to the rough and tumble, the tribal, the gritty.  In DnD when the GM asked me to roll an elf (because of course, all girls play elves /eyeroll) I rolled a wild elf, covered her in grime, squatted on his posh couches, and made a point of depositing hunted game on his carpets.  I enjoy playing the uncouth and the wild, the grease-spattered and industrial.

In a game that separates its players by ideology there is no room for me on the side of the ‘good guys’.

Even getting beyond the server hurdle, finding a server to play where all my friends are, the ideological differences are enough to make me froth.  I must either be shoehorned into a society in which I don’t fit (I get enough of that in real life, THANKS!) or abandon some of my friends by the wayside.

These issues can be ignored or put up with, because I know that in Guild Wars 2 it will be different.  I’ll be able to play my rough and tumble charr with grease stains in her fur and join my friend the impeccably groomed asura whose first invention was a servitor golem so he’d never have to sully his hands with manual labor ever again.  We’ll be able to play together even if we initially chose different worlds because we’re not chained down to one.  Gone will be the days of playing the same character to level 20 or so ten times because all of your friends are scattered to the winds.

For now however, with my friends fractured, I have to settle for playing lonely.  That brings me to my second thought, a worry that hasn’t been sufficiently laid to rest yet by the promise of Guild Wars 2.

Dynamic Events

Using RIFT as a foil again (and its spiritual predecessor, Warhammer Online), the promise of dynamic events both excites and worries me.

In a perfect world you will either be in an area with a healthy population or playing with your friends.  We’ve heard repeatedly about how events will scale to accommodate more players.  Hordes of skritt will grow more numerous, broodmothers will become more cunning and use new skills.  What we haven’t heard about (at least as far as I know), is how well scaling works in the other direction.

The dynamic event analogues in RIFT are the rifts, footholds, and invasions.

  •   A rift is an event that randomly spawns on a single point in the map.  Mobs spawn from the rift and players must battle them.  When entering the influence of a rift you see on your right how many of what mob must be killed to advance the rift to the next stage.  Mobs range from multiple low level mobs to more difficult higher level mobs and even occasionally large bosses spawn.  Once the rift is closed each player receives awards based on their participation regardless of party affiliation.
  •  Occasionally a rift will spawn raiding parties.  These parties of ~5 mobs will travel along roads (which are normally safe) towards populated areas (quest hubs).  Invasion parties, if left unchecked, will gain a foothold.  This appears as an item in the road around which the raiding party congregates.  To destroy it you must kill all the mobs and then destroy the foothold item.
  •  Invasions are zone-wide spawning of rifts and raiding parties.  In an invasion the above two scenarios are happening everywhere on the map.  Roads become impassable and quest hubs come under siege.

In a perfect world the events are extremely fun.  Join a public group and defend your world.  The fun breaks down when you find yourself as a lonely gamer.

It’s possible to vanquish a minor rift by yourself if you’re very good and you play smart.  Raiding parties and footholds are a little more problematic, and major rifts should not be attempted by a player off on their lonesome.

During invasions (which only occur if the population can support it) players tend to congregate near quest hubs, fighting off the raiding parties and nearby rifts, as well as looking for the invasion boss who rewards some pretty sweet prizes.

If you are a lonely gamer off on your own in an awkward part of the map and an invasion spawns you are in some serious trouble.  The rift events scale downward very poorly, and that is my concern about the dynamic events of Guild Wars 2.

During and shortly after launch the events will be massive affairs of pitched battles with potentially dozens of players taking part.  What happens months, years down the road when the newest expansion content is the hot thing?  What happens when we’re all battling Palawa Joko in Elona (I’m calling that now) if someone wants to roll a human in Tyria?  Alone in the world, will that character be capable of completing dynamic events on its own?

I’m fully aware that a charr taking down the Shatner single-handedly sounds a bit ridiculous.  I don’t expect massive events like that to be soluble, but I also don’t expect them to be the bread and butter of the dynamic event content.  It’s not unreasonable to expect the pirate invasion outside of Lions Arch to be soluble.  If one person is attempting that mission if they pull carefully I think they should be able to complete it.  Perhaps they are not able to put out the fires and kill pirates, so maybe I could drive off the pirates but the buildings will have burned down and then the villagers must rebuild.

We already know events will be multifaceted.  What I want to know is if I’m going to be punished with impossible odds on top of loneliness should I find myself forced to play alone.

Oh Those Lovely Bones

Part of being an artist is about trying new things.  Attempting to emulate a difficult style or perfect a new technique.  When Hunter asked me to make a logo for him (or did I offer? I can’t recall) I took the opportunity to try a style I’ve never dabbled in before.

I decided on skulls, I’m not quite sure why.  I was thinking of a street gang spray paint art, tagging, and 90’s skateboard culture.  I don’t think I quite got there, but so far I’m pretty happy with the results.  I do have plans to do one for each race.

Colleges represent!

Surf's Up!

Would A Game With Any Other Payment Model Play As Well

Relics of Orr has a new thing going on.  Their latest blog post asks for reader’s and listener’s opinions.  They want to know “would you play Guild Wars 2 if it was a subscription game?”

This is a bit of a thorny question to ask, not to mention polarizing.

Earlier this week I received a tweet asking about the legitimacy of a Guild Wars key generator.  I’ll not be so high-handed to suggest that I’ve never used such ‘products’ myself, but I took umbrage this time.

I pay for Guild Wars.  I payed full price for the collector’s edition of Prophecies and I payed full price for the standard editions of Factions and Nightfall.  I have purchased costumes off of the store, extra character slots, and I bought 3 mercenary hero slots.  I have not bought storage panes or any of the PvP unlock packs because I think one is overpriced and the other is unnecessary for me.

I bought those items (not to mention the game!) because ArenaNet is a company that I believe deserves my support and Guild Wars is a game I enjoy playing.

I paid $15 per month for over a year to play WoW because I thought it was fun and I enjoyed raiding with my friends.  I stopped paying because the game itself moved on and was no longer fun for me.  Huge paradigm shifts within Blizzard left a sour taste in my mouth and I no longer wanted to support the company.

I currently pay $15 per month to play RIFT because a number of my friends are playing and it’s an amusing diversion to pass the time.  I’m not entirely enamored of the art (it’s good, but not distinctive) and I have a rant about ‘split people into servers and then cut the servers in half by faction’ planned for another day.

I paid to play a game produced by a company I disagree with.  I pay to play a game which the highest praise I can give is to call it satisfactorily entertaining.

Would I pay to play Guild Wars 2?  A game made by a company whose ideals I respect, whose artistic vision I have been inspired by, and whose products I adore?

Yes.

Though a decision to make GW2 a subscription game would compromise those ideals, Guild Wars 2 is still a game I want to play.  Of course, I would expect all cash shop items to be offered for free (or maybe purchasable through a monthly stipend of ArenaPoints).

I still can’t help but feel dirty and disloyal for saying that I would pay monthly.  Irrational as it may be, I feel that mere admission of this willingness equals encouragement for the evil businessmen to take advantage of me at every turn.

That said, I don’t want to pay monthly.  I would if I had to, but ArenaNet would have lost my respect.  What’s the respect of one small blogger in the face of a multi-million dollar franchise?  Probably not much, but for now, ArenaNet has it, and I don’t believe my trust has been misplaced.