Archive for May 2011

Paying for Advantages–Re: Tobold

May 30, 2011

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This is going to be a response to Tobold’s article “MMORPGs are too cheap”.

Tobold claims, as the title suggests, that MMO’s aren’t charging as much as they should be. His defense of this stance is that the ‘average American’ spends around $58 per month on hobbies, and that MMOs only charge about $15, maybe $40 if there was an expansion that month. He then goes on to say that people respond negatively even to the very idea of paying more, such as in a cash shop where the player can purchase items.

If you’ve been following Tobold for a while you’ll see that recently he’s been battling for the acceptance of paying for advantages in game. He says that it’s not that big a deal, and that it’s youthful naivete that prevents us opponents of the idea from accepting what is obviously right. He believes his age has brought with it the wisdom to know that it’s alright to charge more for MMOs, and to sell items that give you an advantage inside.

He also likens MMOs to stamp collecting, and says that no stamp collector would be angry if another guy spent more money, and thus had a better stamp collection, so why should we care if someone spends more and has a better MMO experience. He then says, and I quote: “The whole argument against people spending money on MMORPGs has a whiff of communism. Everybody should be equal, and nobody should be allowed to stand out through money, even if he worked hard to get that money.”

BULLSHIT. First of all, anyone NOT currently living in the cold war would understand that if it worked out perfectly, Communism is an amazing way to run a country. The problem with Communism is that it NEVER works out perfectly, because people are greedy and evil. Knowing that, Communism is a stupid idea because it just can’t happen right. That said, of course people who have worked for more money should be able to spend it and have an advantage, however, all of that should be IN GAME. What you did outside of the game makes no difference, you want money and power inside the game world? Work for it like everyone else. Excel and become ‘the man’ if you can, but you don’t get to cut in front of the line because you have more real life money.

Why not? Because let’s not forget what an MMORPG is. It’s a virtual WORLD. One that humans created and one that has the ability to be far more fair than the real world. Why would we allow, if we can help it, the corruption and evil that infests our normal lives to seep into the one escape we have? That’s not how it works, because YOU are not YOUR CHARACTER. If you enter this world, and shoot past everyone else in skill or luck and become massively wealthy, you should be able to use that to gain status or power in the game, but you shouldn’t be declared Governor of California because you have a level 85 Shaman with more gold than the entirety of the rest of the server. Just the same the Governor of California shouldn’t be able to start playing my game tomorrow, and start bitch slapping me that very same day, even though I’ve put in time and effort. That’s got a very totalitarian feel to it if you ask me.

The only people who say that ‘money can’t make you happy’ or ‘MMORPGs cost too little’ are the people that HAVE the money to spend. I’m a struggling college student with a wife and debt. I’m LUCKY that I can afford to pay for a $15 sub a month for both me and my wife. Most of my computer equipment comes from my time in the Navy too, so it’s not like I’m spending much on my hobby. In fact, according to receipts, I spend about $40 a month on hobbies. That includes two subscription fees, one for me and one for my wife, and $10 for whatever comes up. So no Tobold, MMORPGs don’t cost too little, and if you REALLY want to just ‘waste’ your money as you claim in your blog, then I’ll send you my address and you can start just sending me the extra you’ve got.

Until then, try not to ruin my hobby just because you no longer want to put in the work.

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New Stories Day!

May 29, 2011

In case you aren’t following my other blog, Manifest Tale, there have been several new episodes added since I lasted posted about it. Give it a look here: http://manifesttale.wordpress.com/

Let me know what you think. It’s been a blast writing these, and they’re actually harder than just writing a story. I have to take the screenshots I have and turn it into a coherent story that isn’t “I killed a llama” 100 times in a row.

There are now 4 episodes of ‘Wild’ Erp and 1 episode  for Of Blood and Bone.

Return of the Ultimate

May 28, 2011

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It’s been years since I’ve really gotten into Ultima Online, but this past week has seen me playing UO more than any of my other games. Why? Even after all these years it’s still the most unique, amazing MMO I’ve ever played. So what’s so good about this game that most MMO players have never even tried? Well, I’ll be playing for a while it seems, so I’ll keep you all in the loop.

The first thing you’ll notice, almost instantly, is the amazing community in Ultima Online. From the time I stepped out of the tutorial section, which lasted all of five minutes but covered the basics, I had people passing me and waving, or stopping to ask if I needed anything. A few even just stopped to chat for a bit. This really shook me at first, and I had to retrain myself to not find it strange to talk to strangers again.

After about twenty minutes of exploring the small town that they start you in, a town completely overrun by the undead, I made my way to New Haven, the only real city on the starter island. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in a conversation at the bank about whether I wanted to play the game without any starter help, or whether I’d like a few items and a little bit of money. I took the items to help me not die, and the money to insure my items. Insuring is something that wasn’t always in UO, but you basically pay a certain amount of gold to insure an item, more gold for better items, and when you die all your insured items will stay with you. This would be prohibitively expensive for a noob to do to all his gear, but having a weapon and armor when you’re trying to get back to where your body is really helps.

Speaking of death, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ultima Online’s death system. When you die your ghost starts standing over your body. Unlike WoW, you don’t start at a graveyard and make your way back. As a ghost most people won’t be able to see or talk to you, unless they have a high spirit speak skill, so your goal is to find either a wandering healer NPC, a player that can see and res you, or head back to a city and find the main healer shoppe, where they will res you. Then it’s your job to get back to your body before it decomposes or someone takes your stuff.

Anyway, I was invited to join a pretty active guild on my first day, and they took me to their Guild Hall in order to have a small ceremony where they informed me of the guild policies and what was and was not expected of me. After that I was informed that the guild does a Hunt every night practically, and noobs were welcome to come along. We met up at 6pm pacific at the Guild Hall for a quick rundown of the night’s Hunt and what we were planning on doing.

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We took a portal one of our mages made to the ice caverns where we were to fight the White Wyrm and the Ice Fiends that patrolled near it. The cave was really amazing, the fog rolling through made it feel cold and obstructed our view, making it seem like people and monsters were winking in and out of existence.

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The UI of UO generally stays in the black area. It seems weird at first, but it allows you to see the game world unobstructed. Aside from the health bars up there, which are movable, and have small buttons on them that I can click to heal or purge my party members.

We made our way through the ice caverns and killed the dragon, and I only died twice. After a harrowing search by everyone for my corpse, which turned out to be underneath an ice elemental, I got my gear re-equipped and we decided to take on the rat people that were in a cave connected to the ice caverns. The first thing I noticed was that each of the rat people had a name. Not like “Rat Enforcer” like most MMOs, but a unique name for everyone of them.

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The rat fort was pretty cool. A massive wooden fort with high gates and wooden pole walls in a huge cavern deep underground. Of course they swarmed us like rats, but our mages and dragon tamers easily took care of the whole lot. After that we had to call it a night, and everyone finished looting and took the portal back to the guild hall. There all the money was given to the hunt leader, who took it to the bank and had checks written to split the gold between the four of us noobs who needed the money. They gave me my check, which I took running to the bank, and I now had 50,000 gold. It’s not much in Ultima Online, but it’ll let me keep my equipment insured.

All in all it was the best experience I’ve had in an MMO in nearly ten years. The people were all great, and even days later I mentioned not being sure if I was ready to leave the noob island of New Haven, and a guild member voluntarily came down and hung out with me for over an hour, just chatting and watching me kill things as he got a sense for whether I was ready, both character skill and player skill wise. Then we just chatted for a bit, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that in an MMO.

Ultima is back baby, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.

New Story Based Blog

May 24, 2011

I’ve started up a new mini-blog. It’s basically the a continuation of the “Let’s Play” ideas where I take a character in an MMO, and give him a story. You get to follow along with text and pictures. Anyway, give it a look through if you’re bored.

http://manifesttale.wordpress.com/

I REALLY Want To Like Vanguard

May 23, 2011

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Flying around the Isle of Dawn on a pegasus. Good times.

Due to the recent problems with SOE they gave me a free 45 days of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Before this I had only ever played the demo, and never gave it a serious try. Well, after just over a week of gameplay I think I’m done with the game. Is it because it’s a bad game? Nope. So what’s the problem? Well, first why don’t we cover the reasons why I want to love Vanguard.

-Things I Love About Vanguard-

Three Spheres: Character progression in Vanguard is split into three spheres. Adventuring includes your usual questing/killing mobs. Crafting is just what it sounds like, and Diplomacy is a collectable card game. Each of these spheres levels independently, and theoretically you could get to the level cap in Diplomacy without ever attacking a mob. You’ll get quests for all three spheres, depending on your level, and each sphere can be a lot of fun.

Leveling Speed: The leveling in Vanguard is MUCH slower than something like WoW, and I play MMOs to level. Once I get to end game I get bored quickly and start a new alt, so making the initial leveling take longer is something I can really get behind. When you consider the fact that each character has three spheres to get to level cap, this increases the leveling time exponentially, and really sends you out to explore the world.

Interesting Classes: Oftentimes MMOs have only a handful of classes, and they usually are pretty standard fair. A warrior, paladin, some kind of rogue, a non-magic ranged dps and a mage and priest. Vanguard has some truly unique and interesting classes, like the Psionicist.

Crafting is Amazing: Seriously, I used to think Everquest II had the best crafting in the MMO space, but I’ve changed my mind after delving into it on Vanguard. Not only can you level crafting completely independent of adventuring, including gear that looks cool and has stats effecting crafting, but each time you craft anything you gain skill. Once you’ve gained enough skill new abilities become available to use, if you have the right tools that is.

The Isle of Dawn Story: I can’t speak for the entirety of the outside world, but the story inside the Isle of Dawn was interesting, much more so than any MMO story I’ve run into yet. It had surprise twists that changed how things were playing out, especially if you read the information you get from the Diplomacy quests and Diplomacy itself.

Size of the World: The outside world, once you leave the Isle of Dawn, is vast. I mean, seriously you aren’t going to get across it anytime soon. It’s so big you’re given a mount right away in order to allow you to get from place to place in a good amount of time.

Different Places Are Different: What the heck does that mean? Simply that when you go to a new country in this game it really is a different country. You’ll have to learn entirely different crafting styles appropriate to the region you are in.

Defensive Target: I’ve loved this in every game I’ve ever seen it in. There is something amazing about being able to target an enemy while also keeping a friendly targeted for heals, hots, buffs etc. There’s no excuse not to have it in this day and age, and Vanguard has it.

Multiple ‘Energy’ Bars: Each class I tried had two energy bars, mana and stamina. When I use a melee ability it drains stamina, but if I cast it drains mana. It makes a lot of sense, but I haven’t seen it in many other games. Usually you get one type of energy, often mana, and that’s used for all of your abilities.

-What I Dislike About Vanguard-

Graphics: First off I know some people like this style of graphics, but I find anything with the ‘SOE style’ atrocious and just ugly as sin. The character models are a mix between EQ and EQII, both of which have some terrible character models, and that makes Vanguards characters truly awful to behold. From their massive shoulders to the odd stance they are always in, from the textures to the animations the characters in Vanguard are FUGLY. The landscape isn’t much better. It’s well designed to be sure, but the art department apparently couldn’t afford anything but fired SOE terribad artists. The worst part about the graphics is what I like to call “PS2” lighting. Many SOE games, including EQ, EQII and Vanguard, have what I like to think of as early PS2 lighting. It’s flat and does nothing to warm the world. It leaves everything 2 dimensional and boring, and I hope it doesn’t invade “EQ Next”.

Diplomacy is Frustrating: I’m OK with failing sometimes. I don’t like to, but it makes the winning so much sweeter. My ideal form of diplomacy in Vanguard would be designing a deck out of hundreds of cards and having it used in ALL diplomacy missions, with maybe a backup deck or two for those few types of battles my deck just can’t handle. Instead you are given a handful of cards, and every parley starts the same: Click diplomacy option, start match, get smoked while observing what types of cards they use and what their Bullshit cards take to fuel, then building a deck around that, then failing and refining until you win, then doing the same for the next parley. Imagine having to spend twenty minutes, and several deaths, for every mob you fought in a game. It’s horrible, and it’s designed horribly. A good idea that just wasn’t implemented well.

It’s Dying: I know people throw that around a lot in the world of MMOs, but Vanguard really is. According to the official website, the last update was over a year ago, and that was a hotfix. They simply aren’t developing ANYTHING new for the game, and while that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the content already there, it does make it feel like my achievements are less permanent.

The Combat Feels…Off: I can’t really explain this one too well. The basic idea is that it feels floaty. I’ll kill mobs, only to have them finish whatever animation they were doing, even a long casting animation, before falling to the ground. You press the button for attacks and it doesn’t feel responsive, and sometimes the graphic shows your cooldown as over, but the button won’t press for another few seconds.  The running and jumping feels just as floaty, but it’s the odd lag in the combat that gets me most. It reminds me of the same laggy feeling LOTRO first had with it’s combat, which has since been improved, if not fixed completely. At least in EverQuest II the combat feels gratifying and forceful, especially when you complete a combo and get a big animation for your spell. Vanguard just falls flat in this area.

-What Does This Mean?-

Well the three biggest parts of the game, Adventuring, Crafting and Diplomacy, are great ideas. I just don’t happen to like the implementation of two of them. I really enjoy the crafting, but that’s simply not enough to keep me involved, especially without an Ultima Online style economy. I wanted to enjoy Vanguard and play it till end game, but I couldn’t last more than a week. Sure, it might pick up, but the core of the experience isn’t going to change anytime soon, and I’m not going to keep playing a game I’m just not really enjoying in the hopes that it will magically become enjoyable for me.

I won’t get rid of the game from my hardrive, at least for the rest of the 45 days I got free, and I may give it another go as I try to get farther in the game, but I simply doubt it. I’ve got other games to play, and other MMOs to play if that’s what I feel like. For instance, I’m currently re-downloading EQII for my free 45 days of that game. Let me know what you think/thought of the game in the comments.

See you all around.

WoW Premium Content Dungeon Finder

May 19, 2011

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Mike Morhaime in the Blizzard offices.

This will be a relatively quick post. I just wanted to address the idea that Blizzard put out on their official forums, this premium content dungeon finder. In case you haven’t heard you would get the ability to invite Real ID friends to party with you, even if they are on another server. That way you and your friends can all go dungeon running together.

That’s a great idea, and something the forums have apparently been clamoring for. What’s the problem? Well it’s going to be premium. That means you will need to pay extra for the ability every month. You might think “well, $2 a month isn’t bad for something this great!” and you’d be sort of right. The problem is that Blizzard hasn’t announced the price yet and if they are willing to sell a sparkle pony for more than a monthly subscription fee, well you might be seeing an extra $10 charge a month if you want to play with your friends.

Still don’t think it’s THAT bad? Well, maybe you’re right, everyone needs to make money. I certainly don’t begrudge any company doing what it has to do to stay in business. So why don’t I like it? If Blizzard came out and said “Look guys, I know you think that we make a ton of money with this game, but in truth look at all these bills associated with running the game, and in the end we’re barely holding on, so we need something to make some extra money.” If that happened I’d be the first person to resub to WoW and pay the extra, just to help out a company that has given me countless hours of enjoyment over the last 10 years.

That however is not what is happening. What is happening is Activision-Blizzard making more money than any ten people could count in a month. WoW alone makes them enough money to probably give their entire staff a million dollar bonus every year and still be rolling in it. So what’s going on? Well they know you’ll pay for it, and greed has always run capitalism. They’re making trillions, and they’d like to make trillions plus $10, just to add to that profit margin, and that’s disgusting and greedy.

I know some people will defend it by saying that it’s just how businesses are, and that every business wants to make as much money as possible. To them I have one thing to say: WHY IS THAT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER? I don’t want to live in a world where my life and the lives of my children are meaningless to our faceless corporate masters, and neither should you. Now is Blizzard going to create a dystopia? No. But is it ok to just accept outright greed and the obvious hatred big corporations have for their customers just because “that’s how it is”? No. I for one am glad I have unsubscribed from WoW, and I don’t think I’ll ever be going back.

See you all in whatever game I happen to be playing at the time! (As of this writing I am currently enjoying the MMOs: Vanguard, Rift and Champions Online).