Posts Tagged ‘ drama ’

Pollen On The Breeze

This is going to be a bit out of character for me, so please be patient.  I’m talking about personal issues, both mine and those of people I have learned to call Friend.  Normally when I talk about such subjects I cloak them in so much allegory and misdirection that only someone who knows me very well would know what I was really talking about.

Many of you probably know that I have been involved in the Relics of Orr Podcast, a podcast about Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and the community as a whole.  I’m also willing to bet that a majority of you found your way to my own small corner of the internet through the Relics of Orr.  Lord knows I haven’t been pimping myself on the Guild Wars 2 Guru as much as I used to.

Today I got some very sad news.  Ryan, our fearless leader, not to mention the fiercely beating power crystal at the heart of the Golem that is Relics, has had enough.  His reasons are his own and I don’t feel like it’s my place to air his laundry.  If you’d like a more complete reasoning I urge you to ask him about it.  I have a lot of respect and love for the man (as I do for every one of my friends and cohorts) and I sincerely wish him success in whatever future projects he turns his hands and voice to.

He has said that he wants the podcast to reach a nice even episode 45.  The forums are staying put, all the podcasts will still remain available and the guild will continue to function as normal.  So rest assured, the community that has built up around Relics isn’t going to be scattered like pollen on the breeze.

That’s what’s happening with the podcast, but what’s going to happen with me?  I’m not sure yet.  I feel like my blog may have suffered because of the podcast.  Perhaps because I got all my yapping done on-air I felt less inclined to yap about stuff in text.  I do know that I very much enjoyed my times on the Relics podcast.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and fallen in love all over again with the Guild Wars community.  This level of involvement has been an entirely new experience for me.  I’ve been scared about negative reactions from people, but I’ve also learned courage and a good deal of patience.  This whole ‘being involved’ thing has gotten into my blood and is something I don’t think I can shake.

I was a blogger before Relics, and I shall remain a blogger even after, come what may.  So, for now, I’m once again just one woman spouting her nonsense to one small corner of the internet.  Tomorrow? Who knows.

Nothing like a LoLCharr to brighten your day, right? RIGHT!?!

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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.

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.

We Should Be Better Than This

When I was growing up, I had a ritual whenever I started a new game. I would unwrap and open the box and take out all the pieces and literature. I would read the manual. If I was unable to get into the box while my parents were driving home I’d read it at home while the game and whatever gaming platform sat there enticingly close to each other, staring at me. When I was done with the literature I would put it carefully back in the box and never touch it again.

Only then would I insert the game. After install (if required) and upon start-up I would sit through everything. Developer and publisher logos, starting cinematic, and idle animations were given prominence of place on my screen during my very first time with a game.

Once I had seen everything there was to be seen I would play the game proper, but this first time was still special. I would carefully engage in every tutorial and read all instructions given to me. This would last until it was time for me to turn the game off and go do something else, usually 1-2 hours. Upon entering the game again all previous reverence would be abandoned. Intros would be skipped, tutorials rushed through, and quest text skimmed.

In the same way that the journey is as much, if not more, important as the destination, the anticipation leading up to finally sinking your fingers into an experience is something to treasure.

We have all been feeling the strain of the long marketing campaign that ArenaNet has chosen to pursue. That does not, however, excuse the sloppy releases and disrespect for ArenaNet I have seen lately among the gaming press. I wanted to express my disgust and sadness with my peers for the debacle and mess they have made of, not only the PAX East demo, but of the new updates to Guild Wars Classic.

Perhaps ArenaNet had it coming to them because of the way the title for the Guardian profession was ‘leaked’. We know that bounds were overstepped and NDAs were broken when video of the demos were published. I’m sure the offending parties are being dealt with. But a press outfit breaking news early because ‘it’s already been leaked anyway’ is not only unprofessional, it’s disrespectful to other gaming sites that were capable of holding their tongues and respecting ArenaNet’s wishes.

Such acts not only undermine trust, they breed a new and insidious dynamic into an otherwise mature and respectful community. Will fan-sites now feel obligated to scramble for news releases in order to turn around and scream “FIRST!” as they vomit their information across the internet? Instead, will ArenaNet be forced to withhold information because we /can’t be trusted/?

It’s an ugly picture no matter which way you dice it, and to the sites who, through accident or malicious intent, betray what trust has been given you and tarnish the reputations of the rest of us I say: You ought to be ashamed.

Perhaps my ideals of mutual trust and responsibility are nothing but a pipe dream. Perhaps this mess actually /was/ orchestrated and isn’t really the garbage heap that it looks like.

I don’t know.

All I do know is I miss the pre-Gamescom release strategy, when new information came first from ArenaNet and only after did the fansites publish their interviews.

Guild Wars 2 isn’t even live yet and I’m already pining for ‘the good ol’ days’.

With Your Head on the Ground and Your Feet in the Air

I just had a revelation (shocking, I know) while listening to the latest Relics of Orr (because I’m just that narcissistic). But I think ArenaNet has just up-ended everything.

No, I know that’s not news, but bear with me.

Dynamic Events are cyclical and repeatable.

Personal Story is personal and the missions within can only be done once.

Dynamic Events are GW2’s replacement for Quests.

Personal Story is GW2’s replacement for storyline and (speculatively) end-game.

Conclusion: The leveling process is repeatable, the end-game is not (unless you make a new character)

I don’t know about you, but I have been trained and conditioned to think of the end-game as something that continues. I was never in a really high-end raiding guild (we weren’t terrible, but we were no ensidia either) so for me there has always been one more goal on the horizon, something to keep me going until the next expansion came out.

That ties into what Tasha was talking about in our last episode. A pay-to-play game has to have that one extra goal that you just can’t quite reach or you won’t continue to pay. Players must be kept busy.

I’m suddenly consumed with curiosity over GW2’s dungeons. We know there will be dungeons, there have been allusions to a dungeon ‘system’, and we know they aren’t ready to talk about it yet. I’m suddenly interested, I want to know!

Well Zhaitan be in a dungeon or will he be in our Personal Story? The answer to this question is very important to me. I want to be able to go beat on Zhaitan again if I want to. I really like the Zaishen quests and the opportunity to go back and do old content with a group of real people all over again.

I just… I just… I don’t know I don’t know!

The reason I’m so anxious about this is because of the newbies. The newcomers to the Guild Wars franchise. A repeatable end-game is what everyone is used to and if it’s not there I think ArenaNet could be setting themselves up for a firing squad. Innovation is great and I love being able to do something different but a robust end-game is just not something you muck with.

We know there won’t be dungeons which require you to grind endlessly for armor and weapons (yay), but will there be something to keep people coming back to the dungeons? I’m thinking my fears are probably unfounded, but this not knowing has me nervous. I want GW2 to succeed. Being the care-bear that I am I also want everyone to like it.

When I was in college I was astonished at how mean the wow-heads were. These were fanboys of WoW (even before release) who were so rabid that any attempt at a serious discussion about the merits of other games or shortfalls of WoW (graphics, even in those days) was met with such a savage outpouring of livid vitriol that I was thrown into flashbacks of 6th grade bullying. And this wasn’t even over the internet, this was face-to-face. Really, it was bad. It took me two years to even look at WoW because of personalities like that. It’s a deep fear of mine that ArenaNet will make some miscalculation and our beloved Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 will be drowned in an avalanche of hate.

I say I want GW2 to be wildly successful because I want to have fun. But maybe I just want it to be my big brother and go beat up the kids who called me names.

———-

I’d like everyone to take a moment of silence, please. I came home today to find my husband in the backyard, in the rain, with a shovel.

We have been nursing a cat that showed up on our back step since last Friday. The local shelters were full and we couldn’t afford vet care, so we did what we could. He (the cat) was weak and thin. We think he might have been injured. He ate and drank freely (though not much) and did his best to use the litter box we provided him. We think he was someone’s pet once (though all our neighbors denied ownership), and we think he might have run afoul of the young kids who tear up and down our street in their cars.

He would have been a beautiful cat. He was a black tuxedo type with white on his muzzle, paws, and chest with long fur, though definitely not a persian type. We never meant to keep him.

My only wish is that we’d had a gun so that his final six hours had not needed to happen. You’re in a better place now furball, I’m sorry you had to hurt so much.

I Think My Brain Exploded

Between (not) healing and death, the ranger, the new map, chapters 2 & 3 of Ghosts of Ascalon, and my own Urgoz party I think I’m a little bit worn out. I’m overloaded! I would not feel neglected if there were no new information this week (shocker I know!).

Some highlights of what’s going through my too-cluttered brain right now:

  • I like the new ranger. I like its diversity but I’m still not sure it’s for me.
  • Ghosts of Ascalon looks readable. It’s no Obsidian Trilogy, but I think I’ll enjoy it.
  • Must pester the local bookseller to have it for me on release.
  • No healing? No dedicated healing? I’ve just been granted sufferage? I’ve just been given equal rights? I can… I can… FREE AT LAST FREE AT LAST!
  • For the most part, I am tired of monking.
  • Celestial shields are preeeeeety.
  • BRB, building an Illusionary Weapon mesmer.
  • How do I use this thing?
  • What is this I don’t even!
  • Nobody, not nobody knows where I got the name ‘Marcinta Leovinus’.
  • And that’s just too bad.
  • I get to yap yap yap some more on Relics of Orr!
  • Neato!
  • I am the most impatient pickle-maker.
  • If there is any new information this week I hope it’s something fun and light-hearted.
  • “Won’t it be great in GW2 when _____” is my new catch-phrase.
  • Like jumping.
  • I’ll get you you evil fence!
  • And your little bush too!
  • /shakefist

It’s been a long time since I’ve logged off of a game in the evening in a better mood than I was when I logged on in the first place. I have to give all credit to my new friends in the game, to the Relics of Orr guild and to Hunter and his crazy friend Vin (who are always willing to let me drag them around somewhere, like taking on hydras in the Crystal Desert to get my mesmer a warrior secondary)

This next week I think I’ll be taking it easy. I’ve got another GW2 drawing I’m working on of a charr and asura. I’m really liking how it’s turning out but I’m not rushing it either. It is only when you stop trying to do something and actually do it that the thing becomes accomplished. To that end, I’m not trying to draw something neat (and possibly beyond my abilities) I’m just sitting down and drawing, not worrying about the outcome.

Us Versus Them

Us: the players of games.

Them: the makers of games.

The problem: the Versus.

This is a problem I’ve seen before, a problem I even see in my own household as my husband and I debate the merits of various games and a company’s possible motivation for doing what they do.

You see it on forums all over the place. The Big Bad Gaming Company is out to keep the player down. They hate my faction, my class, or just the player base in general. Continue ad infinitum.

I’ll admit that I have fallen into this trap in the past as well. It’s easy to feel persecuted when balance time comes, especially if it’s company policy to go for broke and then scale back when things get out of hand.

Let’s take a topic Mr. Tigerfeet hash back and forth about once a week these days, the release schedule for Guild Wars 2.

Tiger: Word on the street is a beta late this year with a release early next year.

Mr Tiger: Didn’t EB already release that information?

Tiger: No, you can’t trust that, it’s just a place-holder date.

Mr Tiger: Well if that’s the case then it’s a stupid plan.

Tiger: What? Why?

Mr Tiger: You have to release with all the other games otherwise people will be comfortable and settled and won’t want to try something new.

Tiger: Not necessarily. GW2 will be free to play, there might even be some kind of trial to entice new people.

Mr Tiger: Well Anet is still screwing their player base. They’re taking way too long.

Tiger: They’re just trying to release a quality product.

Mr Tiger: They’re going to wait too long. I thought the players were more important than that.

Tiger: They ARE. That’s why it’s taking so long.

About this time our arguments are running in circles and we usually degenerate into name calling and throwing cats at each other.

I’m willing to hope for the best while he, the perpetual cynic, is always looking out for ways in which a company is looking to screw its player base. (we then start talking about the unfairness of paying full price for a game, then being saddled with monthly fees on top of a business model that promotes micro-transactions, but that’s another company entirely)

When I step back to think about it all I find this ‘us versus them’ mentality a little ridiculous. Let’s look at basic motivations.

Us: We want to have fun. We want to feel powerful. We also want to be challenged (even if we don’t always admit it).

Them: 1) They want to be a successful company, this means making money, therefore making a game that fulfills what We want. 2) They also want to make something visually beautiful (or poignant) as well as viscerally and emotionally satisfying. (Anyone who leaps out far enough to try to make a living off of ART has a certain level of dedication to their craft) Mostly they just want to make money, if only because it affords them the freedom to continue pursuing their craft.

THEREFORE! It behooves a game company to give a player everything they could ever want so that said player keeps coming back for more, allowing the company to make money and continue working on their craft.

Why then, does this disconnect occur? Why do players occasionally feel slighted and persecuted?

I think it stems from a lack of patience, a misunderstanding of self, and a need for instant gratification (insert rant about ‘kids these days’ here). If a game company showers a player base with gifts from heaven those gifts won’t be valued. The player will have gotten everything they ever wanted, but will not feel satisfied. Likewise if the struggle to attain those gifts is too difficult, while an elite minority will persevere, the majority will leave, discouraged.

It’s a difficult line to tread. But does it need to be trodden at all? Why not have varying levels of difficulty? Why not make some content inacessible to a majority of players because of difficulty? I think it’s important that a game have content on all levels, for if there was not something out of our grasp, what would encourage us to reach so high?

So, when I feel persecuted (especially when I feel personally slighted) I try to step back and assess what this change will do for the whole. My game-life is being made more difficult, but will this actually result in a more fun experience in the long run?

They aren’t, contrary to popular opinion, out to get Us.