Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In other news, EQ2Traders has a great preview up highlighting the crafting and live event related features coming in the next game update. You can hop on to Test server and check it out now in person, too.
And last but not least, with this month being the 5th anniversary of EverQuest II, and this year marking the 10th anniversary of EverQuest, it's a great time to go check out Jace Hall's humorous EverQuest documentary, EverCracked! This is being released on IGN as a 4 part series, with one part coming out per week, so be sure to keep checking back. I've seen the whole thing and it's well worth watching - there's even a cameo by the stars of The Guild to look forward to in the last episode. =)
EverCracked! episode 1
Sunday, November 08, 2009
One of my minor peeves with RPG style games is when you complete some huge epic questline that the game tells you is super important, and you return to the questgiver having saved the entire world, and the guy says "hey thanks, here's some gold!" and never mentions it again, and nobody else ever mentions it again or even seems to know about it. That pretty much sucks, yes. And happily, Aion tries to avoid this and do it right. Make the player feel important, and they will in turn feel it is important to keep playing.
So, with all that said,what about the gameplay itself? I'm only level 20 (max is 50), so it's a little early to pass final judgement. It's a bit more grindy than, say, EQ2, but not necessarily in a horrible way. Many modern MMOs are highly quest-focused so that questing becomes the most efficient method of levelling up. Aion takes a step back - while there are still plenty of quests and they are good to do, just plain killing stuff is also apparently quite acceptable as a levelling method, and in this it has almost a retro feel that reminds me a bit of EQ1, but without the ridiculous penalties and with lots more polish. There have been plenty of quests so far, although the sudden jump at times between solo and group quests was a little jarring. The quests are certainly nothing innovative, consisting almost entirely of "kill 10 X" or "talk to Y", although they're generally done with a high degree of polish and a very robust storyline, as mentioned.
I don't think this is a game that will suck me in long term the way EQ2 did: it's just not deep enough for that in the areas that are important to me. (Other people's mileage may vary, obviously not every game appeals to every person equally.) I'm guessing that most likely I will keep playing until either the solo gameplay is exhausted, or I'm forced into PvP content. I'm not sure how far this will take me, but a gorgeous world, an interesting storyline, and a compelling narrative for my character's progression are keeping me coming back so far. I was glad to see the Massively article that suggests the game is doing well, though. While it's certainly not a perfect game by any means, I really like the things it's done right and I hope that it'll be successful enough give it time to address its weaker points, and to encourage future games learn from its strengths.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
A Touch of Hero Worship
What I didn't mention (as it wasn't quite finished when I actually wrote the post) was that I decided to dress as Felicia Day's character Codex from "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" for Halloween this year.
And to do that, required a little bit of Real Life tradeskilling.
Fortunately, out of all the costumes from The Guild, Codex's looked to be the simplest to make.
Unfortunately, I'm really not that good at sewing things and can only plod along at the most basic level! I do have a sewing machine now (it was a Christmas present last year) but all I've made with it so far has been a small quilt, some curtains for the house, and some linings for bags I've crocheted. This was a step beyond that!
Still, I picked up some fabric and a corset pattern, and a white bra to use as the foundation of the dress, and learned a lot. Mostly, I learned why people charge $500 for corsets they sell online. They are a pain to make, even with helpful tips from the lady at the fabric store! (Best tip: use the large size plastic cable ties from Home Depot instead of commercial corset boning. Much cheaper and generally stronger too!)
I broke 3 sewing machine needles in the process and ran out of time so the staff and accessories (like kneepads and bracers) are less detailed than I would like, but on the whole I'm pretty happy with it as a first attempt! If I wear it again I may try to improve some of those details I didn't have time for this year.
(The Dr. Horrible lab coat was something I made last year. We couldn't find a side-closing lab coat like Dr. Horrible's, so I converted a front-button one to a side-button one, added some details, and embroidered the little caduceus logo on the pocket - that caduceus along took almost 3 hours!)
The funniest observation came from "Dr. Horrible" as Halloween approached and I was madly trying to finish up the sewing.
"Are you going to dye your hair too?" he asked (since Codex/Felicia Day is in fact a redhead).
"Good grief no, that's way too much effort," was my immediate reflexive response. At which he just looked at me for a moment and then pointed out that relative to the weeks of sewing effort I'd already put into the thing, dyeing hair really wasn't much effort at all. And I had to laugh at myself a bit because it was very true.
Nonetheless I did not dye my hair. Probably because making the costume was interesting and a tradeskill challenge; dyeing hair is a nuisance and smelly and not fun at all. You gotta draw a line somewhere, after all!
Anyway, as I said in the GIRL blog post, Felicia Day is a pretty impressive lady and a great role model for girls in gaming (for anybody, in fact). If you haven't yet watched The Guild, visit their site, find season 1, and get started. Episodes are very short, generally 3-7 minutes, and if you've ever played any MMO I guarantee you'll find it hilarious. You can also buy the DVD now and support a great independently produced show. And incidentally, I was not paid to say any of this ... it's just true. So go do it. =)
Friday, November 06, 2009
It started (at least in the public eye) last week, when TechCrunch columnist Michael Arrington attended the Virtual Goods Summit in San Francisco. Social media focused companies like game developer Zynga (YoVille, Texas Hold'Em, FarmVille, and similar games) and advertiser Offerpal Media (an agent for many of the targeted advertisements you see on Facebook) were in attendance. In the Q&A session of the final panel, he took the opportunity to confront representatives of these companies on what he called "the completely unethical way that they are going about achieving that success." Anu Shukla, the CEO of Offerpal, gave an emphatic rebuttal to his accusations. If you're interested in watching their exchange, you can see the video here:
Essentially, Arrington accused these companies of making their money in extremely unethical ways, with detailed examples to back up his claims, and Shukla refuted his arguments. Once the summit ended, both parties in the debate used their respective blogs to re-state and further detail their side of the story.
- Offerpal posted "Virtual Good Summit 09: What An Ending!" on their corporate blog, essentially just reprinting the defense that Shukla had made in response to Arrington.
- Meanwhile, Arrington gave more detail about Facebook based scams and the unethical behaviour of these companies in his 31 October post "Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem of Hell"
Initially, both sides presented strong arguments and it wasn't entirely easy to tell exactly where the truth lay in a very grey area. However, if you follow the Arrington link above you'll see a series of updates to the story that have occurred just in the past week, which speak pretty loudly for themselves. The highlights included:
- An interesting guest post from Dennis Yu entitled "How to Spam Facebook Like a Pro: An Insider's Confession" gave an insider's view of how to spam and scam on Facebook advertising (and what the implications can be to you, the user).
- MySpace, and then Facebook, hastily took steps to tighten up their anti-scam regulations.
- Marc Pinkus, the Zynga CEO (whom Arrington called out as admitting to deliberately scamming users as a fundamental part of their business model) announced that they were working hard to police and remove bad offers. ("Zynga Takes Steps to Remove Scams from Games")
- And just yesterday it was revealed that Anu Shukla has been replaced as the CEO of Offerpal. In "An Open Letter from Offerpal's New CEO" the new CEO George Garrick states that he "quickly concluded that regrettably, Offerpal has been guilty of distributing offers of questionable integrity from some of our many advertisers" and promises to that the community will very quickly see action and results towards improving that situation.
Further updates will no doubt be forthcoming from Michael Arrington's column on TechCrunch, and it certainly seems likely that this isn't the end of the changes that will happen in this area.
So there you go, if you missed this little bit of industry intrigue, now you're enlightened. I have no particular point to make other than to share some interesting information, but hopefully this all will lead to good things for users of MySpace and Facebook apps, as well as a better environment for game development companies themselves that does not actually put ethical behaviour at a disadvantage!
(I also must confess that watching the back-and-forth unfolding of this argument this week has also been the best can't-look-away-from-the-train-wreck type industry entertainment since watching Brad McQuaid self destruct.)
Tangentially, if you're curious about what kind of information the Facebook applications you click on can learn about you, check out this interesting talk given in September by my friend Paul Fenwick. Heck, listen to it just for the charming Aussie accent.
Now carry on back to your regularly scheduled tradeskilling!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Text: i think it would be pretty neat if sk/pally's squire helped out their masters, even if they just miss all the time or do like 2 damage, they just stand around and watch their masters get beat on.. also same thing would be cool for rangers companions, they just eat grass while im being killed, doesnt seem like they love me very much, so much for being my companion =(
please re-work the conj water pet hydromancer she is in dire need of a upgrade, fasters spell casting ? better healing,, more function, AT LEAST A DRESS LOL
Text: I think it would be a fabulous idea if you guys would make us a closet door! Kinda like the guild hall door we can put in our house...but the closet door wld zone us into a room where we can store all of our appearance gear (since we have such a abundance of it now hehe). That way we can zone in and try on our outfits
Text: IMHO Lore and Legends Quests are NOTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Given!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Priority!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thgey should have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in this new Dumb A/A whatever Stuff .. you all designed ~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PERIOD CASE CLOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish better Designers and Programmers with Brains could be found but I know they cannot/.... this game suffers badly from wrongheaddedness, and marketeers Morons etc... I could go on but it is losing it's Shine
Text: SoL apperance Dagger and the Whips should be usable by Mages. Sad that the only mage usable whips are both events. Void storm and now the Spire event apperance one.
Text: I really wish you'd let us customise the appearance of Hirelings and general Amenity NPCs in the Guild Hall; way too often I find that our banker has suddenly and tragically gone bald, only to re-grow the hair in a few weeks.
Text: Turbo Button for the Kiddy Balloon Rides in the moors
Text: I waould LOVE a slayer status for UNICORNS!!
Text: Make a global politics channel and force all political conversations to be had there sick of the daily arguments in open level chat thats spams my chat windows and too many people to constantly ignore
Text: PLEASE REMOVE THE NUMBERS FORM THE BAGS, WE CAN LABEL THEM AND MAKES THAT KIND OF POINTLESS, IT ALSO TAKES UP ROOM IN THE LABEL,
Text: I want to thank you for the great Halloween event this year! This zone is incredibly well done - probably the best in EQ2. It's full of immersion and flavor - I wish more zones were like this! I laughed so hard at the old man telling me to get off his lawn, and the halfling who says she's a friend, not food. Great job guys! I love it!
Text: Ooh, the trees in New tunaria. They are awesome, and need to be seen elsewhere! So beautiful :)
Text: Please change the "opulent female gold blouse" to not show gloves.
Lovely gown + gauntlets = fashion no-no
Text: Grandma Blumble on Nektulos Beach responds with a male voice. I'm pretty sure that's wrong.
Text: The Nights Of The Dead Baleful Scarecrow Costume is trueley amazing you should really consider making them a race :)
Text: I only recently turned up the foliage enough to see much of it... and I think the way it mashes down when you pass, then springs back up, is fabulous! Bravo to whoever put in that detail, it's seriously cool. :)
Text: You guys should add a "mutiny" button to the raid window. Require like 3/4's of the raid to vote on it, but the end goal is to replace who is raid leader.
(I'd just love to know what circumstances led to that last feedback being submitted... =) All I know was it was from Lucan De Lere server, and the player appeared to be in the Palace of the Ancient One.)
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Looking back at the original EverQuest, which set a lot of the base assumptions that subsequent MMOs have adopted, the races were extremely closely tied to moral choices. If you were a particular race you could not be certain classes and you could not worship certain gods. For example, if you were a dark elf, you could never become a paladin and you could never worship Tunare, the goddess of nature/growth. Your moral "worth" was unalterably tied to your race, an assumption that is actually extremely offensive and bigoted if you were to think about it in real world terms, and (as Evizaer points out) it seems remarkable that we accept this so easily in games.
In EverQuest II, although we didn't want to change the flavour of the world with its races and gods, we moved away from many of the original restrictions, and allowed all races to become any class and worship any god, although some races still start off naturally biased to evil or good. In EverQuest II a dark elf who wishes to reject his evil upbringing must betray his or her starting city and move to a good aligned city, at which point he or she forsakes the option of becoming an "evil" class profession (like necromancer) but can now choose from the "good" class options such as paladins.
This would seem to be a much better way to separate moral choices from racial origins and you'd think it would be very popular. And it was indeed welcomed by many. Nonetheless, "all races, all classes" (sometimes referred to as ARAC) was actually quite a controversial decision back in the day and there are still many players whose gaming origins are far back in the first EverQuest who deeply dislike this aspect of EverQuest II.
Although I agree that the base assumption that moral worth is inseparably tied to race is repulsive in the real world, I don't necessarily think that these players who prefer their games this way are racist or generally horrible people. Rather, I think that many people see games as more symbolic than actual representations of the real world. Like a simple child's fairy tale, games can tell us stories about the world by representing concepts very simply. The real world is very complex and confusing. In fairy tales, and in games, we can retreat from reality for a time and relax in a world where things can be black and white, good and evil, us and them. It's hard to fight evil in the real world with its shades of grey; in a game, you can ride forth in your shining armour and smite evil without any doubts about the moral ambivalence of your actions.
Some players definitely do embrace a more realistic portrayal of good and evil, but there are clearly many who do still prefer a more black and white game world. I really like the list of alternate choice suggestions in Evizaer's post, and I think that some of those could make very interesting games. Nonetheless I suspect that despite the unarguable logic of that post, we are never going to see the end of games with a good/evil divide. It's one of the most fundamental concepts in the human mind and one around which is based a vast amount of our literature, culture, and particularly religion. Certainly games could do a better job of making the division more subtle and less of a Jesus/Hitler divide. But I suspect the basic concept of the world being good/evil is always going to be appealing to people, and therefore games that allow us to explore that dichotomy are going to continue to be widely appealing, regardless of how tired the game designers may get of the concept.