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Not So Leet

I'm an MMO gamer but I have a life. I write from the perspective of someone who's an MMO enthusiast, but fits it into her semi-normal everyday life. I'm not a kid and I don't game like one. That's where I start from. For where I go from there, read on.

Author: Radiogirl

Sucked Back Into The EvE Wormhole

Posted by Radiogirl Friday October 16 2009 at 1:28PM
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I didn't plan it this way, really I didn't. I just thought it would be a great idea for something to write about here if I revisited EvE almost two years to the day after I left the game.  That was the plan. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

Last night, I signed up for the EvE two week free trial. I do have two old toons that have the benefit of a year's skill training which I probably could have reactivated, but I decided that the best way to reassess the game would be to go in as a new player and see where that takes me. Things got very complicated for me in the last part of my first go-around with this game, and what I want to judge here is really the pure fun element: Forget about all the statistical intricacies and such, is the game as much genuine  fun to play for a noob in a frigate as for a veteran in a Titan?

I think I answered my own question.

I did the tutorial, of course. There are just too many things it offers a new toon in terms of help getting started that it's simply foolish not to take it and give up all that free stuff. After the main tutorial was over I started doing missions and got completely lost in the game for hours, in a way that I haven't been consumed by a game in a very long time, at least, um, two years.

This actually presents quite a conundrum for me. I didn't leave EvE the first time because I was unhappy with the game, I left because when the responsibilities at my job increased I found myself with little time for EvE and for MMO's in general. Until I bought Fallen Earth a few weeks ago, I'd hadn't been a paying MMO player since I stopped playing EvE in October of 2007. However, now I don't have that job anymore and I could find plenty of time for EvE, at least at the moment.

Here's the thing: When I decided to do the trial for the sake of writing about it, I thought to myself that there was no way I'd let myself get involved with EvE again, just because it complicates my life too much. No freaking way I'm gonna end up running a corporation again and spending sometimes almost as much time with manufacturing speadsheets as I do in-game. No, uh-uh, no thank you. This is gonna be just a quick visit, just checking out the scenery (I knew the graphics had had a major upgrade since my time as a player and I hadn't checked them out with my new, much more capable PC as yet) , write my piece, and head back home to Fallen Earth.

Yeah, right.

It was like slipping back into a favorite pair of jeans. Sure, the tutorial helped refresh my memory on a few things, but it all came back relatively quickly. I'd kept up on major developments in EvE and I knew about the ability to overheat systems for better performance, so the new little buttons were not a surprise, though I also know that they're essentially useless to me right now, less than 24 hours into this new toon.

What was intended to be a couple of hours of messing around in EvE just to get a feel for it as it is now turned into a marathon session as I was reminded of why I fell in love with the game in the first place. It's the same as it was when I played, only even better.

I really don't know what I'm going to do. I enjoy playing both games equally but there's something about EvE that can draw me into the game more completely than anything else I've ever played. Maybe it's the fact that out of all the MMO's out there it's the one with the goals and consequences most similar to those in real life. Maybe it's just the stunning beauty of the EvE universe. Maybe it's the feeling that even when you're at the very lowest "level" in the game you still have important things to do.

I also find that I'm very much enjoying the fact that I'm a noob toon again and am starting from scratch as far as training and equipment goes. I've done one EvE career path, and I'm thinking maybe now it's time to try another.

The point is that I'm feeling a very strong urge to get back into EvE again, but at the same time, I'm also very involved with Fallen Earth. In fact, I've just become the moderator over at Fallen Earth Bloggers. I love that game too, but I don't know if I'd have the time to play both. And if it comes to a point where I must make a decision, one or the other, I'm still not sure which game I'll pick to stick with.

Right after I finish this post, I'm going to run EvE and do a few missions. Later tonight, after dinner, I'll probably run Fallen Earth and finish a tough mission I've been working on in there. Still later after that, I have some thinking to do. I've still got most of my two week trial to go before I'll need to decide if I'm going to get involved with EvE again, but I already know it's something I'm going to have to seriously consider. Bottom line, I'm just having too much fun in EvE not to consider it. 

Givin' It Away

Posted by Radiogirl Tuesday October 6 2009 at 5:04PM
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Unless you've got a graduate degree from a good school or some really great connections (and sometimes even when you have both), one of the first things you learn as a writer who harbors any sort of hope of making a career of it is that you're probably have to give a lot of it away before anyone's willing to pay you for it. No one ever gets rich as a freelance journalist or a blogger, but becoming popular in those arenas can open doors to more lucrative work.

There's a similar principle seeming to emerge among MMO players these days. Many of us, perhaps even the majority, just aren't willing to shell out for an MMO they haven't tried out for themselves first, regardless of hype level. Open betas have become the norm because developers know that if they don't offer one they'll probably open to the public with a smaller player base then they'd like, never a good way to entice new players to sign up.

With the economy being what it is and money being a lot tighter in general than it used to be for a lot of us, MMO developers are coming to understand that if they want to be able to boast a player base of any significance when they open their doors they have to let people play for free for a while first  to get them interested and engaged enough to pony up for a subscription.

On the other side of the coin, most MMO players are playing an MMO in the first place because they want to play with other people, particularly in games which feature PvP. An MMO with only a relative few players online at any given time isn't going to be very attractive to a lot of PvPers or really to MMO players in general.

Crimecraft's new pricing reorganization is, I believe, evidence of this new reality. They're obviously having trouble selling the software at full retail price, even with a 20% price cut and a boatload of free extras thrown in. To me that's not all that surprising given that for some inexplicable reason Vogster apparently entered into an exclusive distribution contract with Best Buy for their boxed software. While certainly Best Buy has plenty of stores nationwide, you have to wonder why Vogster would limit the access to the (presumably) flagship distribution format of their software to any single retailer. As someone with a lot of experience in the retail industry, that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me from a marketing standpoint.

In addition, Crimecraft is obviously having trouble converting beta players into paid subscribers. As a Crimecraft open beta player myself, as well as one who hasn't bought the full game, I think I may offer a little insight into why. I should point out up front that I have not been in Crimecraft since the end of open beta so if anything's changed or improved since then I haven't seen it.

When I joined the beta there weren't a lot of players. Perhaps twenty or thirty total in the open non-combat areas. I joined a few PvE combat instances without trouble. Those were entertaining enough, but when I tried to join some PvP instances I found it difficult if not impossible. Eventually I gave up and went back to PvE. After a few times playing the same levels, it just got boring. When I tried to log in one day and my credentials didn't work any more, I felt no sense of loss or of wanting more. I just uninstalled the client and moved on. I'm guessing that my story is far from unique and that there were a lot of players in beta like myself who just didn't find Crimecraft interesting or compelling enough to pay for.

So, what Vogster is essentially doing here is turning Crimecraft into a free-to-play game with microtransactions. I hope it works for them. I doubt I'll be shelling out  forty bucks for the full game but I may be willing to play for free and I expect that'll be true for a lot of potential Crimecraft players. Out of all of those extra players who will log in and play for free, at least a portion of them will buy the full game and/or some in-game items through microtransactions. 

In short, by essentially giving away their game to those who are willing to give it a try, Vogster is attempting to generate interest in Crimecraft and build a player base in an economy where the average consumer in general and the gaming customer in particular are much more choosy about how and where they spend their money.

Is this the future of MMO's? Actually, I expect that it is. While the biggies may be able to get away with offering access to paid subscribers only, I think it's doubtful that smaller MMO games will be able to make a decent go of it unless they offer players a taste before asking for money.

What's So Great About Fallen Earth?

Posted by Radiogirl Monday October 5 2009 at 12:49PM
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In my introductory post, I talked about some of my previous MMO gaming and how I ended up playing Fallen Earth. Since getting involved with this game and reading a lot of the commentary about the game from both journalists and players, I find there's a few things I want to address, the kind of stuff that I've read repeatedly about this game, particularly from those who seem to have little or no experience with the actual game itself.

So here we go, in no particular order:

1. "The graphics suck!".

Sez you. No, you won't find shiny towers, high-tech spaceships, nor (for the most part) elaborate graphical special effects in Fallen Earth. That's just not the kind of game it is. This is a game based on a post-apocalyptic future, not some medieval fantasy realm.

While they may not be to the taste of some, the graphics of Fallen Earth are finely detailed, and in fact the buildings in the game just got a noticeable graphical upgrade with one of the most recent patches. If you haven't been in-game since beta, I'd strongly suggest taking another look now before complaining about the graphics.

2. "Oh yeah, what a great concept. You get to be a garbage-picker. Joy."

Not your thing, ok fine, then go get yourself a set of wings in Aion and go fly off into the sunset. Like we give a s**t. Just out of curiosity though, have you actually tried playing the game before trashing it based solely on your perception of its concept?

3. "Combat is too hard."

Yes, combat with no VATS or "sticky" targeting system is definitely a challenge and takes not only the right levels of skills and gear but also a lot of practice to do well. Are you saying that you think it should be easier? Why? Are you not up for the challenge? I'm sure Hello Kitty will have a much less steep learning curve, if that's what you're really looking for.

4. "__________ isn't like it is in (WoW/EvE/ Aion/LotRO/whatever)"

No it isn't. It's a different game with a different concept, different players, different graphics, different equipment, and different ways of advancing. It's different, and because it's different, some things are done differently than they are in other games. If you don't like it, don't play, but don't bash a  new game just because it doesn't imitate your favorite. That's just lame, not to mention shortsighted. Don't assume that just because something has always been done a certain way previously that's it's unquestionably the best way or the only way. There's something to be said for innovation.

5. "Too much lag/server downtime"

It's amazing to me how many times I've seen some form of this complaint considering Fallen Earth has only been officially open to the public for about two weeks. Of course they're going to have server issues in their first few days. Of course some systems will likely become overloaded and go down, necessitating emergency server shutdowns and reboots. It's happened several times already and I'm sure it will happen again. So what? It would be a much bigger and far more legitimate issue if it were six months or a year down the road. Right now, it's nothing more than just normal growing pains. Those of us who enjoy the game are willing to live with it as Icarus deals with these issues because we like and believe in the game. Of course, no MMO player's patience is infinite, but at the moment we're barely out of the gate.

Hey, at least when I want to play Fallen Earth I can do so, and it doesn't require me waiting on interminably long server ques before I can start playing like with Aion. I don't know about you but even if I felt my interest in both games was equal (it isn't...I've got no interest in playing a WoW/EQ/LotRO clone) that's a tradeoff I'd be more than willing to make.

Since I've been playing MMOs I've always been fascinated by how gamers demand new and innovative games to capture our interest and gaming dollars, but when we actually get something that genuinely fits that bill, the first thing we do is trash it because it's not just like everything that came before.

I don't play Fallen Earth because it's new. I don't play because it's innovative. I don't play because it's a perfect, trouble-free experience. I play Fallen Earth because it's a hell of a lot of fun. When you get right down to it, does anything else really matter?

First Post: Who The Heck Am I And What Am I Doing Here?

Posted by Radiogirl Saturday October 3 2009 at 12:39PM
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Well, hi.                                                                            

Thanks for dropping by and reading this first post of mine. I've done this sort of thing before when I played EvE, and in fact I'm doing it now as a Fallen Earth player (as Bekka Jai). In fact, I may crosspost some of my postings for Fallen Earth Bloggers here because very often the issues they address are common to MMOs in general.

I thought I'd start off by telling you a little about me to give you an idea of who I am, where I'm coming from, and what you can expect to read here.

I've been playing video games a long time. So long in fact, that when I was a kid I won one of the original Magnavox Odyssey systems in a sweepstakes. Back than, Pong and the other simplistic games that system offered were a source of endless fascination, only superceded years later when my brother got an Atari 800 and introduced our family to the technologically cutting-edge gaming wonder that was Star Raiders.

So, yeah, I've been around a long time. Most of that time has been taken up with life. I owned a Playstation 1, but never a 2 or 3. I'm proud to say I've never purchased an XBox nor will I. Since the one television in my home is in use for actual television viewing most of the day, console gaming just isn't a truly viable option for me.

A few years ago, I stumbled across Everquest, my first MMO. I'd played and enjoyed the pen-and-paper version of Dungeons and Dragons when I was a kid, and assumed this would be similar only with graphics and sound. Damn, was I ever wrong.

I ended up playing Everquest for about eight months. During that time, I joined a guild, met and played with many terrific people, and perhaps most importantly, discovered a lot about what I like and what I don't like about the MMO gaming experience.

On the positive side, I learned that gaming can be a lot more fun and the rewards can be substantially greater when you do it with other people.

On the negative side, I learned that over time when left unchecked consistent displays of immaturity and misbehavior by fellow players can destroy that positive experience and cause a player (or at least, this player) to lose interest in the game itself.

Really what I learned most from playing Everquest is that I'm an adult gamer and I want to play a game that treats me like one. By that I mean that I don't want to have to deal with smacktalking public chats that sound like recess at the schoolyard. I don't want to deal with griefers who get their jollies from screwing up the quests of other players unless there's a good in-game reason for it (such as the pirates in EvE). I hear plenty of racism, homphobia, misogyny, and other bigoted nonsense in my daily life and I have neither the desire nor the willingness to deal with it in a game I'm playing to relax and have fun or in the official message boards focused on that game.

I enjoyed playing Everquest, but I didn't enjoy the social aspects very much. While it may be different for other players, both have to work for me in order to stay with a game over the long term. After months of considering leaving because of these issues, I finally moved on, just eight months after I'd first downloaded the client.

About a year after leaving Everquest, I discovered EvE and immediately fell in love. I enjoyed my time EvE so much that I wrote a blog chronicling my experiences in the game for most of my time as a player. Yet, a year later I was gone. Again, my leaving wasn't really about the game itself as much as it was about issues around it.

At the beginning of my time in EvE, I was essentially a solo player and could do things on my own schedule as I had time to log in and play. As time went on and I began doing things in concert with other players such as when I joined a player-owned corporation and later when I co-founded a corporation myself, I found myself more and more having to readjust my real-world commitments to facilitate being in-game when needed. I didn't mind at first, but then when the responsibilities (and time commitment) at my job increased significantly I felt I just could no longer devote the kind of time to EvE the game seemed to demand from me.

And that was it for about two years. No more MMOs, I just didn't have the time. My old computer could handle PC games made during or before 2006 for the most part, and I was exclusively a solo PC gamer during all of that time.

Earlier this year, I decided to see if I could find myself some paid writing work. I'd done plenty of unpaid blogging, some freelance, and a year as a biweekly newspaper and magazine columnist, but those jobs were drying up along with the US economy. I felt that I had the tools to be a pretty decent gaming writer and set about to see if I could make it happen.

Of course, the first thing I did was research what was already out there. I found not only MMORPG.com, but also Ten Ton Hammer, IGN, and a boatload of others. During one of these research surfs, I came across FilePlanet and an offer of a beta key for Champions Online with the purchase of a FilePlanet subscription. Thinking that both the beta experience and an FP subscription could prove useful in this quest down the road, I went for it.

To be brutally honest, Champions just didn't impress me much. I loved superhero comics as a kid, but this game just seemed so very...well, ordinary. Charge, zap, zap, blast...charge, zap, zap, blast. Perhaps some will tell me that I just didn't create my toon well enough, but I dunno...the game just didn't draw me in, certainly not enough to consider playing actual money for it. Even more disappointing is that your hero can't fly in this game. Maybe it's because I grew up wanting to be Supergirl, but the truth is that without that most basic and familiar of superpowers available, it's hard for me to see Champions Online as a real superhero game.

During my time in Champions beta, I continued my research and kept coming across interesting and positive articles and comments about a new MMO that was still in closed beta called Fallen Earth. The post-apocalyptic theme intrigued me andI started making it point to keep up on news relevant to the game. When Icarus announced an in-game Dev Hunt and invited all interested players to sign up, I did.

As it was my first time ever in Fallen Earth that day, I had not the slightest clue where to even look for a dev much actually hunt one, but I was fascinated by the game. After a few minutes, I completely forgot about hunting devs and started exploring. The next day, I tried logging in again, not entirely sure if my key would still be active or not. It was, and it remained so throughout the closed and open beta periods. My login credentials kept working, so I kept coming back. By the time an official opening date was announced, I was thoroughly hooked.

I've got a lot more to say about Fallen Earth, which I'll cover in more depth in my next post, and about MMOs in general, and so that's why I've started this blog. Also, I'd be a complete and total liar if I didn't say that I hold out half a hope that some gaming editor from somewhere will read some of my stuff here and think to his or herself that I'm someone who'd be a useful (paid) asset to them. In today's economy only a fool doesn't take advantage of every possible advantage to land the job they want.

So, that's the scoop...for now. I hope you'll comment and participate in the discussions of my spoutings here. I may have some strong opinions, but I'm always up for a good debate.

See ya out there.


 

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