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Spouse Aggro!

I blog at www.spouseaggro.com, write for www.ablegamers.com, run www.mmovoices.ning.com and post all over the net. HOWDY!

Author: beauturkey

MxO's closing and it's possible effects on Vanguard.

Posted by beauturkey Friday May 29 2009 at 10:10AM
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I hate conspiracy theories, but we all have to admit that they are fun.

I hate conspiracy theories concerning video game companies even more, though, being that any evil corporate giant video game developer can simply be resisted by not buying their products. But SOE is my favorite MMO developer, so we'll go ahead and have some fun discussing what the closing of the Matrix Online might mean for my fav Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

Let's just get right into the lists:

a) More resources freed up for Vanguard: Nah. They have their dev team, and while everyone would admit that ANY dev team could use more help, I think the dev team at VG is not only doing a good job (especially considering their resources) but until VG gets more players, there will not be more team members. And, I would point out, that if dev team size equaled incredible gaming, then the hard-core lovers at VG should go play WoW, their favorite whipping boy.

mxo

b) More players for VG: Sure, maybe some of those MxO players will come to VG, but they will also likely go out into a million other games.

c) SOE is trimming the fat: Possible, and I wouldn't blame them in many ways. It's a new time, period. The old sub model will die out soon (within 2 years is my prediction) and will be replaced with cash shops/RMT, and I LOVE that. I have so much fun in a game that I can spend money HOW I want and WHEN I want, without my game-play or the game-play of others suffering. If you play any F2P game for a long time, you will notice that only a handful of players really think that the cash shop effects their game-play. The rest are just playing the damn game, something that is mirrored in SOE's titles that use RMT/cash-shoppery.

I would not blame SOE for getting rid of games whose main group of players are so against RMT. If they don't like it, and they will allow someone else's fun to ruin theirs, then ship 'em off. After all, players playing 10 years ago can make room for players that are used to, and enjoy, cash-shops/RMT. Hell, players before me moaned about (and some still do) the loss of the MUD.

Now, let's be serious. Well, I was kind of already serious, but let's get more serious.

The one thing that would guarantee ANY games future is MORE PLAYERS. Are more players. Uhm..whatever.

If the VG community is worried about their game and world being put to rest, they need to ask themselves a few questions:

1) Do I do something for the community?

2) Do I spend most of my time with the same 10 people, night after night, week after week?

3) Do I tell others, outside of VG, ABOUT VG?

In other words, (as I have been trying to tell people) SOE will not listen to your complaints (players) of "no advertising" or "can we get some SOE love for VG?"

That does nothing.

They are a corporation first, and must make money in this gaming business or they simply stop attempting it. MxO was probably not only not making enough money, but wouldn't be pulling in enough money to cover future costs. Also, it had 5 years, which is not bad at all.

The one thing SOE will listen to is the sound of more players playing their game.

Ask yourself this: what if every player in VG, say 12,000, each brought one player to the game? What if each player not only made a point to tell one other person about the game, but made a point to bring the game up in a blog, podcast, or in a gaming forum? That takes a few minutes.

You ever see news stories about some foreign country and how dastardly their leader is, and you think: " Why don't they do something about it? That's 20 million people, surely they can do something about ONE MAN??" And then you see a story about some country that DOES something about it, and you wonder "Who was the person that started THAT resistance?"

Point is, if you want the situation to change in your game, CHANGE IT.Who else will do it? (we all look at the other person.)

It is not solely the fault of the developer when a game closes. If the community is sitting on it's butt long enough, and the game stagnates (community-wise) long enough, the developer will cut it loose and let it die. That's understandable, and that's business.

VG needs more community members like the ones that have already been trying...players that put on events, tell others about the game, try to involve themselves IN the community. It needs more people telling more people, it needs less players spending the bulk of their time complaining about nerfs and how hard the game is, and spending more time advertising the game. (Yes, I said advertising it...I don't care if it's SOE's job. They have spoken on the matter.)  I think that SOE is responsible to do more for the game. But, I can see how much they have already done: saving the game, keeping it around, allowing the dev team some creative freedom, putting the resources that they have put into it (and they have, trust me) and (yes) letting players KNOW about the game.

SOE has done their part, but the community can always do theirs. I am by no mean placing the blame OR the burden on the players (as though my opinion would matter) but I am just telling a simple truth. ANY game will benefit only from more players, especially a game that is using a subscription model.

SOE has said nothing, or even hinted at, any type of closing for Vanguard. I do not think that MxO's closing and VG are connected in the inner-workings of SOE. But, I think that if if MxO had 200 thousand players, it would be sticking around.

That's simple math.

Beau Turkey

Players need to innovate as well.

Posted by beauturkey Wednesday May 27 2009 at 9:50PM
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One of the buzz words I get sick of seeing is "innovation."

Many players spread across forums and blogs seem to think that MMO's are not so innovative these days, some going so far as to declare innovation dead. Some seem to think that nothing is new, and everything has been done. While I agree that some things HAVE been done over and over, there are hundreds of examples of games and game systems that not only shine as examples of innovation, but are fun to play as well.

Players need to remember that just as with music, innovation sometimes only comes along when the crowds demand it. The longer they buy the same-old-same-old copies of poppy disposable artists, the longer that type of cloned music will be around. Look at the prime example of the music industries answer to innovation: American Idol. There was a time when music was something cherished, artists HAD to write their own music, or at least perform the music with real guts, in order to stand out in a crowd of actual performers.

innov

Now we celebrate a show that not only "creates" an "artist," but deems them "idols" as though the simple ability to be in the right place at the right time is a talent. They quickly brand them with an image ("gothy," "rock n" roll"), give them a back up band of studio musicians, and tell them how to tweek thier performances to blend in. It's actually kind of sad to watch the show, to watch all the money poured into such a crappy, glossy machine of poop.

Poop music, I mean.

And why would MMOs' be any different? If we continue to not only buy MMO's that are the same-old-same-old, but to give some kind of authenticity to terms like "grind" as though we are "forced" to play in certain ways, then why should we expect developers to develop anything but games that require those kinds of play?

I say forget it. I'm done, and have been for actually quite a long time. I will not do anything in a game that feels like a job, and I will not play unless I am having fun. I will try out every game I can, and will give a chance to every game that I can, because I want to find enjoyment. I don't listen to only one artist, or one type of music, so why would I only play one MMO? And if we all did this, if we all played in different ways, pushing the boundaries of what you could do in a game, wouldn't create an environment that didn't just encourage innovation, but demanded it?

Stop and think: do you play in some way that is pretty much like a job? Are you scheduled for gaming sessions, and find yourself wishing you were NOT scheduled for those sessions? Do you find yourself playing games just because there's "nothing else to do" or do you find yourself bored within the game because you think you have exhausted every possibility the game has to offer?

I assure you, you haven't. Even the cruddier MMO titles out there give you some level of freedom to experiment...to role-play, to explore, to create your OWN way of playing. If you did it, and it became something that others would like to do, there's no saying that it wouldn't become the next big thing in gaming since "grinding" or "raiding." Hopefully, though, YOUR activity will actually be fun.

Clicking around on the tube the other day, I stumbled across a discussion between hip hop artists as to where they thought hip-hop was going. Some of them seemed way to comfortable with the same thing, over and over: a gold tooth, a D.J. and boring rhymes about money.

But a few members of the panel seemed to think that the next big thing wouldn't be the same old thing, but would simply be just one guy playing something differently and in such a cool way that everyone else would do it. The cycle would continue.

I hope that MMO's do not become as stale as hip hop has. To help it along the path of innovation, I think players bear plenty of responsibility, and need to be aware of what messages they are sending to developers. After all, if you keep consuming the same-old-same-old, they will keep making it.

Do something different. Host an event, make up a game within the game, form a guild based on a set of creative laws.

And no, do not say that it is solely the responsibility of the developers to create the next big thing. Musicians rely on their audience for inspiration and guidance, and so do developers.

Beau Turkey

Spouse Aggro #77: "Isle of Dawn, Filthy Pigs and YOU"

Posted by beauturkey Tuesday May 26 2009 at 10:35PM
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Spouse Aggro #77


Tue, 26 May 2009 23:11:00 GMT [download/play]


"Isle of Dawn, Filthy Pigs and YOU"

So yeh, I lost the pic of our food. It looked delicious, trust me.

  Me and Leala decided to talk a bit about Vanguards' trial and if we prefer quests in which you do crap or just really challenging stuff that makes you like die 200 times. (Good times?)
 Essentially, I like to "do things" in game. I am kind of always role-playing, in the way that I take little breaks for my character, read everything and still use UI Immersion Project rules. But, quests that are just "doing stuff" don't last as long as quests in which you have to kill 4000 mobs, so how does a developer stop players from burning through thier much cooler, yet shorter, content?
 
 Who knows. I ain't a dev.. Not yet.
 
  The rain and "Dink!....Dink!..." sound comes from Mabinogi. I was standing near the blacksmith, hiding out from the rain. The sounds were nice. If you would like to record your in game sound, go get Audacity, hit "What U Hear" as your source, and send the MP3 to us so we can include it in our show!

 The music this week comes from some weirdo band called "Bats for Lashes." Kinda' gothy, I guess. The song is a Cure cover from my youth. Well, the cover is not from my youth, but the original is. We used to love the Cure!

   
Send emails to spouseaggro at yahoo dot com.

 Website found at spouseaggro dot com.

 Twitter name: spouseaggro
 
 Skype name: beauturkey

 
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 The Turkeys

Vanguards Trial: A helluva' lotta' fun.

Posted by beauturkey Tuesday May 26 2009 at 4:46PM
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I never did go all the way through Vanguards trial, instead starting all my main characters in their homelands. I did start a Rikoo Rakoo after the real one died, mainly to just hold his name in case I ever felt like rezzing him.

Well, I'm so glad I did.

The isle of Dawn is such a blast...it's compact but feels epic. A small download that only takes up 2 gigs, it is a great leaping off point for new players, and feels refreshing to old players like myself. The quests are organized to take you around the island, although pretty much on a railroad track. But I don't mind how linear they are, because they were so fun. Also, you "leave" the island and never see it again, so it feels ok to do a series of quests that end in such a spectacular way.

vannue6

The last few quests put you right into one of VG's famous open dungeons, meaning that players can come and go, help you out...also they can benefit from YOUR killing of mobs, and I did this a few times. I would land on my flying mount (they introduce you to flying mounts early and I'm sure a new player would feel plenty of awe) and stealth my way past a group of adventurers like a rude golfer.

vannue5

OF course, sooner than later I found myself not being able to do it alone, so I just asked a group for an invite. They invited and we started killing things left and right, and grabbing quests. They must have seen the content before being that they would not pause long enough for me to read the quest text, let alone understand it (one of my biggest pet peeves.)

vannue4

But that was OK, I caught up rather quickly, and we stuck it out until the end. I ran out of ammo near the end and had to using my swords, but I enjoy being in the thick of it occasionally.

vannue3

vannue2

Afterwards, new players get some good gear to start out with and I can only imagine being teleported to the "main land" for the first time. I remember seeing Khal for the first time, QA Riverbank, Tawar Galan. Such pretty places, but some of them felt a little empty because I felt literally like a stranger in a strange land.

But the Isle of Dawn sets you up to feel as though they have requested you, and it gives you a good base of understanding to start with. Of course, this doesn't take away the epic feelings when you first arrive on the mainland. Such a big place...what to do first?

vannue1

It was especially strange to do this with Rikoo. It seemed like a decade ago when he hung out in Khal and swam around the river. I even went to the docks and looked down at the water, I remember pulling up the anchor on my gift-boat, the "Raki Fortune" for the first time.

When you play like I do, you sometimes feel left behind. After all, everyone else seems like they are being pulled out of reach, and quickly. I just don't go that fast. I think what happened to Rikoo, and my involvement with the community, was that I got pulled along a little faster than I was comfortable with.

The Isle of Dawn brings back that original feeling, though. That feeling of awe. Whenever a new patch comes out (like the recent one) and everyone is just bitching and whining about every little bug (as though a nice bug report or thread wouldn't bring the bug to the dev's attention) it's hard to believe they are playing the same game.

Here's the deal: one day this game and it's technology will be laughed at, as will all things technological. But for now, it serves it's purpose: to make you have fun, and to show you adventure. The Isle did just that...it felt like I was playing through a good book! One day, while hanging out with an adopted grandchild on a holo-deck somewhere, I will tell him how much fun Telon was. Maybe I'll even program a Isle of Dawn for him to experience!

Beau Turkey

Thanks to Re-Birth(tm) I lost 50 pounds and 10 years off my face!

Posted by beauturkey Monday May 25 2009 at 7:33PM
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One of the many cool abilities in Mabinogi is the ability to become a rotund pack of uselessness. And, after eating too much food and not using enough muscle, my lil character gained plenty of weight. I didn't even notice until my actual shoes started to deform under my bulk. Strangely enough, it was mainly my lower body that gained the weight, and supposedly you can gain weight in different areas of your body.

I went on a strict fruit-only diet, and did plenty of exercise in the form of hitting trees with my bare fists and mining.

skinnymab

And although I think I was losing weight, the prom was coming up soon and I knew I would never fit into that dress in time! (Ok, no prom, but still.)

I asked for tips in game, searched for good diet ideas, and was astounded at the real life similarities between dieting in-game and dieting in real life. Essentially, everyone has a different idea, and most of them were usually followed by "Well, it worked for, at least." My confidence was shaken.

Then my character hit age 22 and I decided to go for my free re-birth.

Essentially,  re-birth is a resetting of your age and level (if you'd like both.) You continue to keep your current skill levels, and have the advantage of gaining Ability Points (to spend on furthering your abilities) at that low-level speed! Normally you would have to buy a re-birth, and still do if you would like the "premuim package" re-birth that allows you to reset your appearance, too.But now at age 20 you can re-birth for free. (20 weeks of playing.)

So I did it. I talked to the goddess Nao and she sent me back to my youth. At first I was shocked at how cute I was..I had forgotten. It had been 22 weeks since I had looked that adorable.

But then I noticed I had lost all that weight! WOO HOO! Not only did I get a free trip back to pre-pubescence, but I got the waistline of a 10 year old as well. I kind of feel bad using a re-birth and being more happy about my weight loss rather than the fact that I had a second chance at life (there are terminally ill avatars out there, right now) but I can't help the fact that I am a shallow bastard.

Beau Turkey

That ole' Vanguard magic is back!

Posted by beauturkey Saturday May 23 2009 at 10:06PM
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When I am not spending time in Mabinogi (making millions from simple mining), I sometimes re-visit games that I had not played in a while. I took about a month and a half break from Vanguard shortly after Rikoo died, played around with my Goblin Monk (she is a BLAST to play) and then ventured off into other game-worlds.

I have become addicted to many, many games, one of my favorites being Mabinogi (best skill based system ever...seriously!) but I kept thinking about my time in Telon. Also, I kept thinking about Rikoo and how fun it was to play him. Also, I never went all the way through the newbie trial, the Isle of the Dawn. I re-subbed quickly, a month and a half was too long!

trial5

Since I had to get rid of a ton of stuff on my old PC (VG being one of the HUGE programs that had to go) I had to get the trial and download the rest of the game again, all 18 gigs. Turns out the trial downloads really, really easily and the entire thing took about 5 hours. Luckily, as soon as I deleted Rikoo before, I had made an alt with his full name JUST IN CASE.

And I am so so glad I have returned Rikoo. Normally, playing through the same lower levels (that you have re-visited a few times) is boring as all get-out, but this was literally like returning a good friend to life! Also, I had only gone through a few levels of the island, so I was excited to see areas I hadn't before!

trial4

The island is worth the trial, period. If you have not tried it, go get it NOW. It takes maybe an hour to download, and soon you will be in game fighting hobgoblins and following a really good story. Compared to the "old" starting areas, the Isle of Dawn feels much busier, being that all races are starting out together in one place. In the older areas, you felt slightly alone, but it felt much more grand, and felt like you were playing at a slower pace.

So, if you want a slightly more immersive experience, one that feels darker, more epic...go for the old starting areas. Be aware that you can only go to the old areas once the full game is installed, so at very least go back later and see the older areas. Don't listen to any players that tell you that the items you get from the Isle make the Isle the only choice. At later levels the items mean hardly a difference, if any. I have talked to at least 20 players that have told me "meh" when concerning the whole matter.

The Isle feels faster, but take your time and read the story and you will truly facing an adventure.

trial1

Some might be able to burn through the Isle's content within a day or two, but slow down..enjoy yourself. Practice and explore. Talk to other players, make friends. The isle seems like it tells you when you are ready to go, but take it at your pace. I have been enjoying it just like I did when I first played VG, which is to say that I am having a very, very good time. I can't wait until the new Rikoo sees Khal for the first time (with his new eyes.) The game truly feels different, smoother, tighter.

trial2

Also, have fun with the appearance slot. As you can see in these screenshots, it looks like I am not wearing any gloves, but I am. I can have the same minimal look for the rest of my time as a player.

trial3

Me and Leala recently discussed which I liked better: the Isle or the old starting areas. I would have to say that they are just two completely different experiences. The Isle does, however, feel more like a "modern" mmo, a little more linear, a little less epic. Still, they are both a blast, and both deserve a look at.

On a side-note, I suddenly realized today that my ranger can now shoot at enemies down to arms length (I rarely read patch notes)! I had talked on the show about how much I loved this old "bug" from before, allowing me to use ranged most of the time without having to switch to melee. Unfortunately, they removed the old ranged reduction, and that actually made my game less fun.

Now, it's back all official-like. I can shoot at a mob and continue to shoot it until it gets as close as melee range..and then I can shoot it some more. I LOVE that. In real life, if I had a bow and arrow, you would be pretty dead if I shot you from 30 feet away or from 3 feet away. A sharp stick ramming into you kills you dead, from whatever range.

Supposedly there are some that are unhappy with the change because it nerfs those that preferred the RANGE in ranger. I'll let them deal with that, and just hope that they don't change it back. If Legolas could stab things in the eyeballs with an arrow from 2 feet away, so can my half fox/half human.

Beau Turkey

My top 10 MMO terms!

Posted by beauturkey Friday May 22 2009 at 3:47PM
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1) Clocking in: "Clocking In" refers to players that play their favorite game as though it is a second job. For many, it is exactly like a second job, without the benefit of actually getting paid. In fact, most clocker-inners go to work and survive the day half-heartily, barely scraping by without getting fired. It's only until they come home and log in that they feel fulfilled. Many of these gamers even hate playing like they hate working a real job. (Real life example: A friend of mine raids with a raiding guild that he says is "racist and sexist". They use hate speech, curse up a storm, the whole nine yards. Yet he still raids with them, for whatever reason.) If you come home and "grind" for 7 hours just so you can possibly do better in a raid, and during the grinding you wish you were not having to "grind" (as though you are being forced) then you are one that "clocks in."

2) Home Game: This is a game that you will always love, even if it breaks your heart. Many, many gamers still moan about "pre-NGE SWG" or "Pre-BC WoW" as though those memories were ruined by time (and their excitement) passing. A home game is one you will always follow, and will probably re-sub to whenever you get a chance. My home games areRyzom and Vanguard. When I log into those, I feel very much "at home."

3) Immersion/Immersive?Immersion Project: I have used these words to the point of being sick of using them , but now I have a much deeper appreciation for them. Many think that an "immersive" game sucks you into the world, and makes you feel as though you are walking around in that world. I knew that until we get true "virtual reality" like a holo-deck, it would be near impossible to feel completely immersed. So I tried to feel connected to my character by doing things like referring to a cloth hand-held map instead of the in-game one, forcing my character to pay attention to weather, and using only realistic forms of travel and speech. That way, my feeling of realism comes from the question "How would I feel in that situation?" instead of "How does my character feel inside that forest?" That way, the feeling of Immersion comes from my characters adventures, and not the design of the landscape. My character could be inside a white box and feel real to me, even though the surroundings were bland. This allows me to feel Immersed in games that have more "cartoony" graphics or wackier game-play.

4) Hard-Core: This term has been thrown around waaayyyy too much these days. For most, it means some kind of special game-play that simply separates the men/women from the boys/girls. I never bought that because there isn't a single MMO out there that could provide any true "challenge," when compared to some of lifes' simplest activities.  It has been proven time and time again that most gamers are content with just pursuing the conquering of those "challenges" so that within (sometimes) days all content has been "beaten." No game will ever be able to stand up to the addicted (see below.) So, for me, the term "hard-core" means "anyone that goes above and beyond the average." (Thanks to whats-his-name on the VG forums for that.) In other words it is not the area of the game that dictates "Hard-Core," but it is how much, how strongly, or how deeply the gamer plays in that area. I have known "hard-core" role-players,crafters, and explorers.

5) Addict: Easy to guess this one, as long as you provide the question. If you take a typically obsessed gamer, one that plays 20-40 hours a WEEK (!!!!) and replace "gaming" with "watching porn," "going to church" or "gambling," you would change your mind about how healthy it is to spend your time doing one activity over and over. Yet, millions of gamers do it every week while making fun of those that (they think) have "real addictions." If I spent 4hours a night, 5 days a week in a strip club, most of family and friends would say that I had a REAL problem, and they would be right. Now take awaystrip club and replace it with "staying motionless in a chair while eating junk-food" and you get an idea how addicted most gamers can be.

6) Stocks and Robbers: This came from a description of EVE online, bascally meaning that people see the game as stocks and robbers. This is also referring to a game in which players celebrate a "stock market," and a system that allows for "criminal behavior." In other words, a game with systems in place that, instead of taking you out of real life, allow you to play with some of the shadier elements of real life. The stock part is a blast, sometimes, and can bring on a "little man game" feeling. (see below.)

 7) Little Man Game: No, this is not an attempt to insult a player by saying that he/she has a "Napoleon Complex." This is used to describe a game that a makes you do a few things:

 A) Sit back in your char, pulling at whiskers on your chin while staring at an army, (or at your character) while thinking about his place in a grand universe (a feeling of epic scale.)

 B) Move your avatar on a large map, using small icons.

 C) Think like a space General, playing very seriously the role of a mighty captain.

 The most ironic thing about games like this (EVE, POX Nora, Atlantica Online) is that while "serious" players are very far removed from role-players, the sheer amount of energy they put into thoughts of epic battle is essentially role-playing. Only in a game like this will you actually hear a real life person say on the mic: "GO! GO! GO!" with out a fake accent. Role-Playing in it's purest form.

 EDIT: I forgot to add that this came from my wife and her berating of me for playing those "little man games." You know, WAR 40k table top, games that make you think you are a general!

 8) Basic-Math-and-a-Collection-of-Easily-Obtained-Information Crafting: Theory-Crafting came from the ole' (as though anything 5-10 years ago is OLD) days of StarCraft, as players tried to come up with formulas and theories on how certain StarCraft scenarios and army make-ups would respond on the battlefield. Think "computer simulation" on paper, done with a calculator. Nowadays, theory-crafters practice this in an attempt to get a similar feeling to the "little man" feeling...using basic stuff like imagination and basic math to make something simple (combat in an MMO) into something complex (spread-sheets.) Also, many "theory-crafters" are "clocker-inners," putting more effort into printing out table after table, calculating hit chances and using basic math to "theorize" about different abilities used in different ways, showing how someone can put much more effort into the pursuit of a hobby they don't get paid for than a job that actually pays their bills. We humans are usually more passionate about our fun than our jobs.

 Theory-crafting is essentially the collecting of information, in the form of cheat-sheets, that let a player know what build is "optimal" and what strategy is "preferred." In other words, theory-crafting sucks all the fun and mystery out of gaming. Well, for me at least.

 9) Adult Gaming: This is one of my favorite terms, in the way that neither word belong together except in one case. The only time this term (that is used by "mature" gamers a lot, to describe games that are meant for a more mature mindset) SHOULD be used is when describing a game that children should not see, as in an R rating for a movie. It should not be used to describe a "mature" activity, because all gaming comes from the same place that PLAY does. Only children play.

 In an example, when we domesticated dogs thousands and thousands of years ago, we essentially created an animal that was stuck going through life as a young wolf would. We created juvenile wolves. Adult wolves can play, but not in the frequency that pups do, and adult wolves are certainly notdependant on adults (us) like pups are. The constant barking and playing and dependency of domesticated dogs are all the traits of young wolves.

 Same goes for playing in humans. Play is a youthful thing. When someone says that a playful adult is acting like "a child," I beg to differ. I think that we act as children our entire lives, but learn restraint and calm that children do not have. To act like an adult is NOT to act UN-like a child, but to act like a child that has learned their manners.

 Playing comes from that childish part in us, and playing MMO's (does not matter if the MMO is "serious" or an "adult MMO") is a childish activity. That's what makes it fun. If you are playingMMO's and not having fun, you are probably taking it way too seriously and need to take a break. After all, stress (just like at your job, on top of the fact that you are sitting there for several hours without exercise,) and  can add up to health issues. I walk twice a day, and as soon as I feel a little stress coming from avideo-game, I rub my eyes and step away for a while.

 10) Gift Basket Game: This refers to a game that feels compact, tight, small...a fun game that can run on anything, downloads in a minute..something you look forward to playing when you are stuck in an airport or bored on a Sunday afternoon. These games comes in many, many different shapes and sizes, but almost all of them should be admired fortheir art design, ability to run on any hardware configuration, and stress-free gaming that can actually becomes quite addicting. These are not to be called "childrens games," because ALL games are childrens games (barring adult content) but these games should be lifted up as doing what they do SO well. Examples of some of these games: DOFUS, Dream of Mirror Online, Free Realms, Pox Nora and Puzzle Pirates. You can jump in and it just works...there is surprising depth to these games, but like a gift basket they can be enjoyed on purely JOY levels. Also, these games cancreate a nice "nostalgia" feeling when you are away from your current game and just want to interact with other players, go on an adventure and are pressed for time.

 

 These are just some of the terms me and the wife have used over the years, during conversation and in blogging. Have any of your own? Let me know.. I want to steal them.

 

 Beau Turkey

 

 

Spouse Aggro #76 "Brisket, MMO's, avatars and YOU"

Posted by beauturkey Wednesday May 20 2009 at 5:07PM
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Spouse Aggro #76


Wed, 20 May 2009 13:45:00 GMT [download/play]
 

"Brisket, MMO's, avatars and YOU"

MMmmmmMMmm, here's what we ordered, and here's the BOOB CRAB!

  So, we decided to go have some BBQ for dinner. Beau is seriously considering becoming a vegetarian. Seriously...but AFTER this meal. Some beef, some beers, and some good MMO chatter. We are discussing avatars and how that might give a clue to who is behind the avatar. We use Shut Up We're Talking (a great VW podcast) as a jumping point.
 
 Then, this crazy young girl comes up and makes us a crab. A boob crab. She was very nice, and I felt bad that I had no cash for a tip. Then I felt bad because I indicated that her crab looked like it had boobs. Then one of his legs popped. I liked it. The part where we go "yayyyy" reminds me of A Christmas Story, the scene in the Chinese restaurant at the end. You know the part...the guy chops off the ducks head and the family goes "YAYYYY!"

 The sound of the crickets and stuff was from Beau playing Vanguard. I love background sounds...ambience. Send in your games' sounds and we'll pop it in a break!

  Who likes music? DUH...me. This weeks song is by one of my current sad song fav's: A Fine Frenzy. The song is called "Near to You."
 
Send emails to spouseaggro at yahoo dot com.

 Website found at spouseaggro dot com.

 Twitter name: spouseaggro
 
 Skype name: beauturkey

 
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 The Turkeys

You cannot tell me what I value, and how much.

Posted by beauturkey Tuesday May 19 2009 at 11:30AM
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The beauty of MMOs is that, nowadays, they leave open so many choices for players to make. How to play, when to play, what activities to participate in. So it's always so surprising to meet players, ADULT individuals that seem to think that one area of activities has more value than another.

A simple, to the point example: Raiding is more valuable than Exploring.

In a recent discussion (meaning me taking on 7 other people) on the Vanguard forums, players debated if receiving a free flying mount (for attending Fan Faire) was good or bad. I argued that it was only good or bad depending on the individual. Some players can think it is bad but that does not mean other players will. In other words, value is set by an individual, not by a group or by section of players.

Many people love to "theorize" about in-game economies, (EVE especially) spending post after post discussing this-effects-that and supply and demand, but it is all to prove a very basic point: the individual sets his or her own value. No one else does. To be clear, we are talking about MMOs and not real life, because in real life some items must be purchased for the very sake of basic living, but we could argue that even then there are choices to be made. But let's stay out of that. Boring!

But the cash shop/ non-cash shop arguments are debating the same thing: what value is this? The "this" can be a virtual item, time, or an activity. It does not matter because in MMOs, players do many different things and place a lot of different levels of value on those things. I like to role-play, love my boat to death (if I can find it) and think that exploring is the purest form of game-play. Many players love to raid, think that the Uber Sword of Uber is the goal, and think that a cash shop is a "cheat".

stock-market-watch-malaysia-1

Neither are correct, except to themselves.

So, the debate was "..does getting a flying mount for free DE-VALUE the current flying mounts in game?" (Take out flying mount and put in cash-shop item, activity, or anything that players DO.) My point was that it might devalue flying mounts for SOME PLAYERS, but not for all. The other side of the argument was that it did indeed ruin the very IDEALS the game was built on, ideals like "Players kills Mob A, Gets loot B, and progresses." But, that is an example of a RULE, not a philosophy. And, like all rules, some gamers can participate, and some can't. That's why that rule only works for the individual that wants it to.

All this is to say that just because a good deal of players (or a small percentage) VALUES something, does not mean that the value of that thing is universal.

I gave this example: A player BUYS a flying mount in an auction, for 1000 dollars. That means that you (non flying mount owner) MUST value that flying mount to the tune of 1,000. Of course, that example would be proven false as soon as a player decided to pay less than that amount, or not at all. The player that paid 1,000 dollars does not dictate what other players MUST pay. It might INFLUENCE the sellers, but that can be fixed by avoiding the sell until the price comes down.

So, just because you think (player that thinks this) that raiding, loot, or "progressing" is somehow more valuable than other activities does not mean that anyone else might value it to that point. I certainly do not. Developers need to remember that they can only influence value, but not dictate it. Players need to remember that, even in a game that is heavy on the raiding (Vanguard) that there are many, many players that have nothing to do with it, players that would look at that glowy uber sword of yours and go "My two-bit hammer is worth more."

And they would be right.

Beau Turkey

I just woke up from this INCREDIBLE dream.

Posted by beauturkey Friday May 15 2009 at 5:52AM
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 You know, the usual story...aliens are coming or something and it is scary and all that. But, as dreams do, it morphed quickly into supposedly friendly aliens coming soon, and bringing with them technology that we could use. The world was thrilled!

 But soon, me and my wife were faced with joining a "revolution" to counter the recent announcement that the aliens wanted to register all humans, kind of like a social secuirity type thing, 'cept with aliens.

 So the dream kicks into high gear with me and my wife grouping with some of our real life friends, going to a weapons shop (gun shop) and picking out a sword for each of us. They only had one between me and my wife, so I let her take it. It was small and very sharp, but it might save her life.

 She learned to fire a gun really well, and when the action started all I felt like (I was dreaming, so it seemed real enough) was looking out for her and making sure me and her survived. Everyone else, average Americans, had to worry about themselves. At one point the aliens were converging on a bunker type building we were in, and I felt so sharp-minded as I went over what we needed, making sure me and the wife were set with weapons, armor..all that. Even my dogs had appeared at this point, and in that magical dream way I knew that I had taught them to get down low, when not to bark, and how to hunt (we ate squirrels.) 

 It was thrilling, absolutely. I felt total fear for my wife, but it was thrilling. Usually, if dreams get to be too much for me (I rarely have scary ones, but can have dreams of realistic accidents or something) I will wake up with a start. The body and mind seem to be in agreement that neither of them should be harmed at all during the process.

 I even went back to sleep and continued the dream, and when we finally found a group of actual soldiers, I felt such relief and told my wife "Let them take over."

 Now, the cheesy part.

 Perhaps the nerves that were tickled during that dream are a smaller version of the ones that fire when real life soldiers are doing their job. Perhaps that's why we play these games and go after exciting moments, some players doing it every night and every week. Maybe that excitement has a cleansing effect, the same as a good massage or a exciting movie? Our imaginations are that powerful, to give us a small glimpse into the real lives of heroes or monsters.

 Either way, I admire those real life soldiers. Because I just had a dream. There had to be some part of my brain on guard duty, making sure that if things got too real or too scary that I would be startled awake. A soldier does not have that choice.

 So, in the meanwhile, I will play my games and find excitement when I can. From the safety of bed or office chair. But wow, what a freakin' DREAM that was.

 

 Beau Turkey

 

Beautiful Darkfall scenery video...that's right, I said beautiful and Darkfall.

Posted by beauturkey Thursday May 14 2009 at 9:56PM
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Thanks to my Brit B.F.F. Jay-Jay the Wonder Biscuit, I have for your viewing pleasure a video showing off some scenery in Darkfall!

He somehow managed to stumble across the Golden Ticket that allowed him to enter the secret code on the top-secret area of the password protected sub-section of the FTP area that allowed him to download an access key that gave him a .pdf file containing the coded letters of the DF alphabet that then allowed him to be graced by the ability to actually purchase the game, and I have not.

Some may say it's "crowd control" to not allow people to buy your game, I say that it's silly. But, whatev.

Thanks Jay Jay, WonderBiscuit!

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO!!

 

 Beau Turkey

Paying for Immersion.

Posted by beauturkey Thursday May 14 2009 at 9:57AM
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You know, we all play lot's of games. No secret there.  I, on the other hand, play EVERYTHING. If I have room to download it, I will try it, buy it and spend money on it. We all have our Home Games (tm), those games that have always had a grip on our imaginations, no matter how far we stray from them.

One of mine is Vanguard.

The epic feel of the world, the huge land-mass...all add up to a very Immersive game. There's that word again: Immersion. To be honest, I am getting sick of saying it, but it's a very good word to describe what I like to feel while I play my games. To define it (for me) a little better, Immersion is when I feel connected to my characters, not as much a feeling of actually being in a fantasy world. That connection comes from playing a character like I would if I were that character, not playing a character as though they are something more than me. I like my characters to be "Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances."

vanglow1

The F2P games have their own type of Immersion. Mabinogi, with it's bustling, youthful community, feels kind of like what the game and game lore are going for: youthful, vibrant, and kids going out on an adventure. With it's INCREDIBLE skill-based system, Mabinogi is all about choices, and that feels like real life to me.

DOMO, even in it's extremely cartoony way, feels very Immersive because of it's great long quests and it's occasional cut-scenes. The lore is strong in this one.

I could name game after game, but it's safe to say that some games need a little bit more help to feel Immersive than others. Vanguard is one of those games that needs almost no help, if you forgive it's occasional strange bugs, stiff NPC's, and small population. If you give it a chance, it feels like you ARE a lone adventurer, in real danger. Granted, in no MMO (no, not even Darkfall or other PvP-centric games) is there any real danger, being that none of our characters really die instead of endlessly re-spawning. But VG's landscapes, music and lighting really help to make you feel threatened. It's the type of stuff that makes you feel as though you are going through what your character is.

Many of the F2P games don't have that same feeling, and instead go for a more chaotic, fast-paced feeling.  In many of them, you cannot ignore teleporting or other forms of "easy travel." You just have to use them, being that the game might not give you a choice. That's fine, being that those type of games trade off much of that more realistic type of Immersion for a different kind. They aren't pretending to be a VG type game (although many are coming close) and VG isn't pretending to be like them.

So, instead of paying 15 dollars for a mount or a pink bow in my hair (don't ask) I am paying 15 dollars for access to a more realistic world. A fair exchange, if you ask me.

That's not saying that I wouldn't LOVE to be able to buy a mount or a pink bow in VG, as well.

Beau Turkey

A return to Vanguard.

Posted by beauturkey Wednesday May 13 2009 at 3:32PM
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I haven't been playing Vanguard for quite a while. It wasn't the game...the game has always been fun. There were two main reasons:

1) I had to distance myself from the community, namely arguments with other players. I just can't sit by and let dumb comments fly by, but I need to learn how to. Trying to convince someone that has gone so far as to come up with conspiracy theories about a video game developer that they are wrong is just a massive waste. Also, just not fun anymore.

2) I had to get away from the sub. 33 bucks a month became less justified when I wasn't playing as much. I like all the Station Access games, but I had 457 games on my plate, most of them freebies.

Also, I missed my main, Rikoo.

 

rikrik

 

I got more joy out of playing him than I did out of most of my gaming alts, save for maybe my Ryzom main. Even though I deleted him because of my (at the time) perma-death rules, I soon after made an alt and named him the same. At the very least I wasn't about to let someone else grab my name! Also, I missed the interactions between Rikoo and the other players. I met a player (I still haven't figured out who he was) that gave Rikoo a boat along with a wonderful back-story, a player that posed as Rikoo's long lost brother (not sure where he went either) and so many other players that played right along with my role-play and my shennanigans.

I didn't miss the 17 year old kids that followed me around on Sartok calling me names and I certainly do not miss how serious most of the community is, without actually doing much towards building more community. Don't get me wrong, I met some of the most passionate players in any game, but many of them would rather complain then to attract more players to the game.

Then, with the recent RMT silliness, I had to definitely call break-time. I support the RMT, and I am happy that some players can buy a character or gold if they want. The game hasn't blown up or imploded due to the RMT (as some had predicted) and the only thing that some of the players accomplished was to fill up the forums with the same 6 complaints.  Being that the podcast is no longer game-specific, I feel more relaxed about playing again...more like when I first played. When i first started, the game immediately felt HUGE, immersive, epic. I didn't need to go after the best loot or the highest level...the game itself was a prize.

But slowly I found out that most players do not want to play that way. Most would rather level quickly, get to the top, and go straight into conquering the same dungeons 5 nights a week. What a bore!

But I look forward to meeting people again, people that take their time and have a good time while they do it. People willing to role-play and to take time to smell the pixels. Granted, the game can be very lonely because it suffers from a smaller population, but on the Isle of Dawn (one of the default newbie starting areas) I have found many players running around and having a good time. Let's hope the game continues on long enough for them to see what I had seen.

And no more perma-death. That experiment taught me a lot about attachments to your character, game mechanics and gave me good ideas for my own MMO design. But no more. Rikoo has his second chance, thanks to Grin, and he is going to take his time once again.

He'll just stay away from Rhinos this time.

Beau Turkey

Musical tastes can reflect gaming tastes.

Posted by beauturkey Tuesday May 12 2009 at 12:21PM
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 Look at your music library, and consider all the songs from your past. Do they say something about your personality? Mine seem to. As someone that has been in bands since his early teens, I have listened to everything in the book. As I grow older, my musical favorites morph and adapt to new music styles, and I love discovering new artists.

I think my choices for this recent top 5 show how varied I am in my listening, and thta's how I am with my gaming. I like variety, I'll give anything a shot as long as it follows a certain rule: the artist (or developer) must be giving it their all. I don't want canned music like Disney clones and I don't want something parroted like Joss Stone. I want original, or at least heart-felt...and usually a little on the "serious" side. I'm not really big on super-poppy stuff, but if the mood strikes, it's great.

Let's get to the music.

First, we have Slayer with their wonderfully hooky and powerful song "Raining Blood." This song literally makes me smile. That intro and the first wave of drums is INCREDIBLE. Simple, but so cool. Then, when it kicks back into the "funky" part, it just SHINES.

 CLICK HERE FOR A SLAYER VIDEO.

 

Next, we have some Lena Horne. I have watched live performances of her and just beamed as she spit, yelled, and just got waayyy into it. She is a singer, but she phrases things in such a cool, cool way. She is in control.

 CLICK HERE FOR A LENA HORNE VIDEO

 

Let's move on to some Ramones. The Ramones were, in my opinion, a perfect band. They fit easily into your head and won't leave. They write some pretty deep stuff without being preachy. They are attitude and cool without that stupid modern day arrogant sneer'attude that you see all over commercials and movies. They are ugly...you play their songs while driving around with your friends. I love this song: "I wanna' be your boyfriend." It's tough but sweet, and reminds me of dating Leala for the first time.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RAMONES VIDEO.

 

Here's some Feist. I wish I had seen her live, because I wonder how much of her voice is small bits of effect and how much of her would come across live. Haunting..I love stuff like this. I actually prefer female singers, and while she isn't technically the best, that doesn't matter because I want to hear singing, not an exhibition of training.

 CLICK HERE FOR SOME FEIST.

 

Oh boy, some Roy Orbison! Man, what a voice. Strange, but beautiful. He wasn't a looker and sang so much about heartbreak, you wondered how much was truth and how much was incredible singing. "Crying" is not only a classic, but one of my themes, not so much for the content of the lyrics but more for the delivery...I seriously get goosebumps on the high notes. His songs always go up and up..until they crash down, like a good movie or a book you can't put down. We'll miss ya, Roy.

 LAST BUT NOT LEAST, CLICK HERE FOR SOME ROY.

 

This has been so fun to write, and to look up. Thank you, YouTube. Thank you, internet.

Now check out your music..does it say anything about how you game? Do you play music while you game? (I do if I can.) They are both entertainment, and really can show a lot about a person.

Beau Turkey

 

 

Try to avoid over-analyzing Free Realms...it's not Stocks and Robbers (tm.)

Posted by beauturkey Monday May 11 2009 at 11:27AM
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In response to so many bloggers, podcasters and friends that are comparing Free Realms to every other MMO out there, I want to post what I think are the core audiences for the game. I could be wrong, so any comments are welcome.

They are listed in order:

1) Young players: I'll let you figure out what "young" means. To me, that means 13 and under. Not only that, but this game might be their very first MMO, thanks to safety guidelines that parents can trust, and the fact that it can be played (yes, it can be played and enjoyed without spending money..all the way to max level in most classes) on older machines. These young players haven't played MMO's for 10 years, do not use the term "meh" to describe magical fantasy worlds, and do not ever, EVER use the term "meaningful pvp." Also, they are male and female in mostly equal measure.

2) Those young players and their parents: I have read of  many parents playing this game with their kids...how fun would that be? (Very!)  I have no children (thank goodness) but if I did, this game would be running in our house all the time. A parent can trust that the game will give solutions to frustrating game-play by offering a huge variety of activities, and the parents will actually find themselves having fun in a "kids game." I volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and I desperately want to play this with my Little.

3) The "normal" players: You know, the adults. Bear in mind that we are talking video games here, not politics or life insurance. Games are fun above all, or there is no point. If you play a game and do not have fun, you are clocking in (tm). Free Realms has surprised "normal" players with it's depth and beauty, and yes, even it's lore.

nicecap

I have been enjoying the heck out of Free Realms, but I am finding plenty of examples of players that seem to lack the ability to turn off their dis-belief for this game, while being able to suspend it for games like WoW or EVE. Be aware that when you take a game like Free Realms and compare it to the "norms" of MMO's like raiding, grouping, questing, grinding or crafting, you are ignoring all the things the game has done better than most and some of the things the game has done that no games have at all.

Concentrating on the "grind" in Free Realms is ignoring the fact that you, as a player that has gamed for years, did plenty of that grindy game-play and had a grand time doing it. Again, if did not enjoy it, you were clocking in (tm) (which doesn't count towards this conversation.)

So, why not allow new players to not only possibly enjoy some of that grindy game-play (I use grind to describe lot's of questing or any other repetitive game-play) but to discover all the things that Free Realms has that earlier MMO's do not?

In other words, remember that as you are playing Free Realms (after playing EVE, WoW, EQ2 or any other "regular" MMO) that you are experiencing something with experienced eyes, and not with the eyes of a 13 year old. Just imagine this game as your FIRST MMO! If you are playing Free Realms and only worrying about the basics of MMO's that it has, then you might consider that you are completely over-looking all the standards that it has broken.

That's called innovation, and that is the new.

Of course, I am not saying that it is the best, or a copy-cat, or even totally original. Free Realms is all those things, for different people. So if you are in game worrying about grindy quests, or instanced combat, or the fact that it has RMT  then you might work on your ability to compartmentalize. I would bet that the inclusion of RMT is one of the main reasons nay-sayers have for not liking the game. RMT is in many, many games now like EVE (you can buy entire characters and ships) Vanguard (characters and gold) and in other major games like EQ2 (fluff items and potions.) Yet, you rarely (if ever) see protest posts or discussions about those systems in those games. Somehow, the fact that they are "normal" MMO's does away with the RMT element (EVE players that I have talked to defend their RMT, saying that EVE is so different that it doesn't work the same way...I beg to differ)  and seems to indicate that "pushing" or "forcing" RMT on children is thought by many to be a virtual crime.

Again, if you have issues like those I have described with Free Realms, you should take a step back and look at it for what it is. Not only is it ushering in (in a more major way than most of the F2P games out there) new technologies, but also helping to change the way players game. Soon, hopefully, most MMO's will be streaming from a browser and soon (hopefully) most MMO's will allow you to level up different jobs besides crafting and combat.

Also, RMT will become the norm. And just like the environments within those cash-shop games, the MMORPG environment will go from speaking of RMT as though it is unfair to treating it as the deliverer of choices that it is.

So remember, if you think Free Realms is un-original, grindy, a "kids game," silly, "candy-land easy mode" or unfair to those that "work hard", then you might ask your 12 year old niece what she thinks. And play some Free Realms with her..you will probably have the time of your life.

Just consider Free Realms a vacation from all those games that you clock in to.

Beau Turkey

Interesting Game of the Week: There

Posted by beauturkey Monday May 11 2009 at 7:51AM
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 I talked about it a bit on a few shows, and even wrote about my 5 year anniversary with the game. But, be sure to go check the game out and you will see some startling similarities between There and Free Realms. Not that that is a bad thing, being that There provided hours and hours of political talk, exploring, and meeting new people just like Free Realms does, but I am just so curious as to how the developers of There view Free Realms.

 Go to http://www.there.com to download the game and try it out.

 

 There feels more sluggish than Free Realms, and There's controls could use some updating to modern MMO standards, but the graphics are still nice and the game still runs smoothly.

 The big, big difference? In There you can make your very own clothes, cars and all sorts of items. You can take the "Skin" of a car, for example, paint it in Photo Shop and submit it to the developers for approval. Within a few days your item is approved (as long as it isn't breaking any rules, something I wish Second Life would enforce even though it would take so much time) and you can drive around in a car with your design on it.

 There has had voice chat for years, as well as streaming music. Video is in There as well, I think, but I haven't played as much within the last 6 months. But I did play the heck out of this game for a few years. We would sit up late at night having conversations, or when my wife went through several months of working out of town that game provided me with hours and hours of exploring, socializing, and fun.

 My There account is now 5 years old, and I think I'm going to try to investigate the communities feelings about Free Realms. I have a feeling that they will just continue playing, as they did when the game was warning that it might be shut down, twice.

 It's a tough little game..it keeps going. And I'm glad.

 

 Beau Turkey

 

Mabinogis' persistent pets/mounts!

Posted by beauturkey Thursday May 7 2009 at 9:50PM
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I still remember him..a brown, plain horsd named Poopy. It was during our first MMO, Ultima Online, that I discovered my love for little digital mounts. Poopy lasted for most of my time in Ultima, and I remember that if I died he would would often fight for me, and I would worry that he might get killed.

And one day he did.

I really felt a loss for the little guy. He was a stronger character to me than most of the NPC's and even some of the people I had met in game. He had personality, and he was realistic. If you dismounted, he was still there. He would fight for you, and even die, permanently! I aquired Poopy II shortly afterward, but I always remembered my first real mount.

In Ryzom, I have always had the same mount.  He is a strange looking beast, a Mektoub with the hands of a semi-human and the long nose of an elephant. I have always called him Yardnose. Funny thing about Ryzom is not only does your mount stay around and breathing in the world while you are away, but they stay at that point forever. As long as they don't move or get killed, they will stand there breathing. I might skip logging into Ryzom for months, and my mount would have stayed in the last spot I left him, passersby looking at him and wondering who he belonged to. Heck, he's there right now...breathing. Those pixles, that little bit of server code or memory on a hard disk somewhere has existed for several years.

And that brings me to my current favorite F2P game, Mabinogi. I was delighted to find that my horse mount (the fastest type in the game) not only will fight for me, but will die, be rezzed, heal and carry items. I got to name him (named Osheba after my old german shephard) and I can even play AS him! He gains skills, grows old, and can even be re-born! He's always there..I can tell him to "stop" at a certain spot, and he will be there until I return.

The only real drawback is that he will de-spawn after roughly an hour and a half (different pets stay out for different lengths of time) and will need to be put away to recharge his time. Luckily, the amount of time is enough to get real use out of the mount/pet! I can ride him all over, use him to help me fight and when I finally need to "stable" him, it doesn't feel like he is disappearing after every dismount.

I love to grow my character over time. I love to build him/her up slowly, adding to his/her layers as time goes on. In fact, most of my dislike of fast leveling stems from the lack of realistic growth. I want my character to build up some scars, to get knocked back a few times...to struggle. And I feel the same about my pets. I want them to grow with me, to become a true companion, a character in the chapters of my MMO.

I own roughly 10 or so pets now, and besides my horse I have a two-seater Ostrich (for picking up needy passengers, a great way to meet new people), a sled dog named Medicina (because he carries medicine just like the Alaskan dog race dogs represent) that actually pulls a sled when in snow, two small dogs that pick up any items that I might drop or forget to grab when mining or in a dungeon, several silly fun pets and my favorite combat Teddy Bear (I am not kidding) named Rooseph.  She's a monster...can take down anything I come across.

You can even program a pretty deep AI for your pets, or use a basic set of rules like "aggressive" or "collaborative attack mode." All in all, the pets in Mabinogi have always reminded me how fun the cash shop is.

But the main reason I like them is that they are always there..I can call one out and they stay with me until they die, just like in Ultima days. They are always at my side, which is important for a soloer. Also, in real life I think of my companion animals as real companions, as constant friends that are willing to go on any adventure with me. One of the reasons I admire the sled dogs of the Iditarod so much is that they not only save their owners life, but are a force of hope for the owner, something to trust and something constant.

It's hard to feel that a pet/mount is constant if you cannot even name it, or if it disappears when you get off it. That's how it happens in most MMOs.

Beau Turkey

F2P MMOs and iTunes: a simple comparison.

Posted by beauturkey Wednesday May 6 2009 at 11:07PM
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Who actually goes into a Best Buy or Wal Mart and buys a CD, a physical CD,  of their favorite artist?

Ok, let's be honest..lot's of people do. Not many that I know, though, because most of the podcasters/friends/bloggers/co-workers I know carry an MP3 player, or even have their music loaded on their phone. The recent success of the iPod shows that, just as iTunes did, consumers don't want to buy an entire CD for a few choice tracks.

I love iTunes because I can find an artist I like, either hearing them from a friend or a website, and can buy the single track for a dollar or so. I will listen to that track possibly hundreds of times over the course of years, and might end up buying the entire album or at least more tracks from the artist. There are certain songs that I will always love, and some that I might listen to a few times a month. But none of them came from an album (with very few exceptions) that was filled with A plus tracks.

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And I feel the same way about MMOs. Why should I pay 15 dollars a month (and 50 dollars for a box possibly) for a game that I might only enjoy a few parts of? Granted, most of the major subscription model games out there have been enjoyed by me at some point, and will be enjoyed by me at some point in the future, but not enough to warrant me paying monthly for them despite how much I play.

Many of the F2P games I really enjoy are re-visited by me because I enjoy certain parts. For example, Free Realms has me hooked with cooking and exploring. Runes of Magic will get me hooked with housing and mounts. Dream of Mirror Online has me for it's long, winding quests. Mabinogi, one of my fullest experiences so far, has hooked me with almost every part of itself, but there are still parts I do not enjoy (pvp, for example.)

I can download a F2P game and enjoy whatever part (track) I want, and never have to visit any other part. I can pay for a wonderful mount (and in many of the games, the pets/mounts are a very deep system) and never bother with crafting. Or, I can conquer dungeons without ever having to go to crafting. The normal sub model games could be played the same way, but soon I felt as though I paid for only a small part of the game: the part I enjoyed. (Note: this is a very specific example that fits ME.)  With a F2P game and cash-shop model, I can spend money on items that might only affect that favorite part that  I enjoy (pets, for example.)

I think my last blog lead to a small amount of confusion, and I have had to question what I really do enjoy about these F2P games. And then it occured to me: these games are like iTunes (or any other equivalent service.) iTunes has been credited with saving a failing music industry...CD's were easily costing 18 dollars or more, and consumers spoke clearly about wanting to create their own playlists, and their own listening experience, filled with very specific tracks arranged in sometimes very particular order.

Also, if you were forced to pay the 18 dollar price tag for a CD, you would find yourself listening to less and less music, and more and more music from the same, fewer artists. To me, I don't understand only listening to a few bands, or playing but one or two MMO's. Even in a game such as World of Warcraft, with it's more-than-huge development team and hours and hours of content, players complain about loss of things to do. Perhaps they wouldn't feel that way if they had actually played a few other games at the same time? Why do they feel the need to push through the same game and content, not once or twice, but 5 or 6 times a week?

And yes, I will agree that I am probably not very normal in this regard. Most players love to be "dedicated" to a single game, much like a sports team. I see nothing wrong with that. But with the advance of technology and faster and faster internet access, I think players will begin to explore a lot more.

Perhaps F2P can "save" the market (IF it does need saving), or can at least strengthen it. Just like the Wal-Marts and Best Buys with their older physical CD market that work with the download-only market to bring music to the masses, maybe F2P's and standard sub games can work together to give players more choices?

Beau Turkey

My life and gaming are measured in hours.

Posted by beauturkey Tuesday May 5 2009 at 10:35PM
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Don't worry, this will not be one of my "life is precious" posts that will serve only to preach to you how short life is and how wonderful gaming with others can be.

Well, OK, it will be a little of that.

Just to keep it simple, I want to demonstrate for you how a typical day might go for me, to show how wonderful F2P's are to me, being that they fit my life-style perfectly. Maybe then some readers will understand how F2P's might fit into their lives as well.

So, here we go:

6:30 AM: Get up, start coffee. Let dogs out for potty. (Yes, we call it potty. We don't have kids.)

7:00 AM: Fix some waffles, some cereal, a bagel and sausage maybe? Sit outside with the dogs and watch the day come.

8:00 AM: Make sure Leala is getting up and getting ready for work. (This is day off scenario..on a workday I go to work.)

9:00 AM: After seeing Leala off to work,  take a shower and walk the dogs for 45 minutes or so.

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10:00 AM-Lunch: Do housework, bills, play with the dogs. Most non-gaming stuff is done now.

1:00 PM: After a wonderful lunch with Roo, start up any one of my favorite games. Even the process of logging in can be broken up into sections like type screen name... go change out laundry.... pick character and hit "log in...." grab a drink and sit down to a character that is waking up in a virtual world. Sometimes, I log in and I'm dead. (I'm clumsy.)

3:00 PM: Take the dogs for their afternoon walk, around another 45 minutes or so. Play with them in the yard for a bit, too.  Dogs need daily interaction/exercise, no matter the breed. No excuses. If you have a fat dog (barring any physical problems) it is YOUR FAULT. (Guilt moment over.)

4:00 PM: Play some more. My character stays logged in. For some reason, most of the F2P games allow you to stay logged in, either to maintain personal shop type scenarios or something else. Who knows? Ideas?

5:00 PM: Find a safe spot or a stopping point for my character so I can start supper. I am essentially the house person. Again, I can check in with my character, maintain IM conversations or do something like crafting in between later day activities.

6:30 PM: Have supper with Leala.

The rest of the evening can be spent sometimes at work, hanging out with Leala, or with both of us typing away on blogs, editing podcasts, or playing games. We can chat while we play or talk about people we like or dis-like. Sometimes we have to yell at each other, being that headphones can blur out background noise.

The great thing about the F2P's is that they allow me to stop and start when I want, without stopping the game or stopping the rest of the players.  Also, just because they are called "free to play" does not mean that you won't spend any money. In fact, I tell people that they are not "free to play" but "free to decide" games. I can decide when/if and how much I want to spend, and can pretty much customize my experience. I will go more into "advantages" of this system in a later blog, but for now the most I will say is that the biggest advantage the game sells is of a time-saving nature.

And it's all about time. I cannot speak about having children, but having real interactions with your dogs can really set your life into a predictable path. Dogs love a schedule, and so do we. It's been proven that we can benefit greatly from having a schedule and the structure it brings. Perhaps that's why raiding or other organized group activities are so popular with gamers to the point that some players do it as a second job. It's reliable, predictable...even the "chaos" of combat is predictable, which is comforting.

I used to tour with a band and would be gone for some weeks at a time. I used to go to school and have always kind of maintained a roughly loose schedule.  Not anymore. I love taking each day and squeezing everything I can out of it. And it's the same with my gaming. I need variety, I need to take a break from one game to discover another, and then have the ability to come back to the original. I have my "home games" but I love nothing more than discovering a new game.  I need the choice to go where I want in my real life and in my virtual one. But I want the ability to explore on a tight schedule, without getting locked into spending 4 hours in a dungeon only to do it again the next night in the same dungeon.

So, for me, and in my very particular life-style, F2P games are winning my attention more than a game that takes a 15 dollar a month sub regardless of how much time I spend in it. If I played only one game at a time that scenario is a great deal, but I have come out of the gaming closet to say, proudly, that I play everything.

Beau Turkey

Interesting Game of the Week: The Endless Forest

Posted by beauturkey Sunday May 3 2009 at 10:25PM
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Another blurb this week, and I encourage everyone to go download this game and to try it.

http://tale-of-tales.com/TheEndlessForest/

Ok, so picture this: you are a deer with the head of a human. You live in a beautiful forest, and within that forest you will find other human-headed deer to frolic with. Occasionally, two Gods appear and do some cool things.

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There is no chat, no combat, or levels.

Your "name" is a symbol above your head.

Really, the game is just a screen saver that you download and install and that runs whenever your PC goes to sleep mode. Or, you can log in at any time to explore and to meet others. The community is active and although development is slow, the project is very, very interesting. At the very least it is a neat way to lean back with some good music to enjoy some cool sights.

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The music, the sights, the art design...all speak of a possible future of gaming that is much more than just logging in to kill monsters. Gaming like this is an artistic movement, like a piece of music. I see projects like this and dream of games that have no usual limitations, or of MMOs that ignore the normal set of rules for design or game-play.

It will happen sooner than later, I think.

Go try the game. Think of all the possibilities gaming offers now and will offer in the future. And be sure to sit in the mushroom circle for a long time, at least long enough for a surprise to happen.

Beau Turkey

Remember FUN? Free Realms does.

Posted by beauturkey Friday May 1 2009 at 10:01PM
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I just had the time of my virtual life.

I finally got some good play time in with Free Realms, and I have to say that I was sucked in pretty bad. I ran around, discovered things, played games and met some other players. The art design is top notch,  and some of the areas are downright beautiful.

First off, I discovered the built in video recording. I immediately bought some new digs (you get 150 Station Cash for free) consisting of a skeleton hoodie and a military style hat. You can view all of the contents of the shop in a "dressing room" style mode which is a good thing considering that you should really see what you might be spending real life money on. Below is the little film I made, and I continued to play while it uploaded to YouTube ( an easy to use, built in feature):

CLICK HERE FOR MY FIRST RECORDED VIDEO.

I went on to discover a great monster town that played Oompa Polka music in the background...picture a kid-friendly OctoberFest. I found a neat looking little stage and decided to try my hands at conducting, a mini-game that makes you follow the beat and notes with your mouse. I took another video of it:

CLICK HERE FOR THE OTHER VIDEO! :)

I realized at this point that I had a smile on my face the entire time. The only time I have a constant goofy grin is when me and Leala are joking around or when I am playing with my pups.

The night before I went exploring, and found myself in a museum type cave, complete with a childrens group on a field trip, and missions to do. I followed the numbered rooms and read the story books that went along with the great paintings, and I discovered that Free Realms actually has a pretty tragic and deep back story. Beautiful stuff!

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The game has some stunning details, and especially if you consider the download size and the fact that it streams most of these details while you play. I kept my Adventurer hat on and kept discovering new, clickable discoveries. I even managed to jump down on top of a tree to get a very rare discovery. I haven't lifted a finger in combat yet, but I've had the most incredible time.

This looks like they pulled it off. Not only can you see where they will be adding future areas and games, but you can see so much potential in this game for so many things. This game is like all the other social games I have played before, like There and Second Life, but on the next level. This is social-fun gaming 2.0.

I really give credit to the art design..like WoW, Free Realms depends not on massive textures but a feeling that the world flows together. Also, keeping the texture resolution down helps the game to run on many different PC's...another reason for WoWs success.

But that's where the similarities end. I actually read a blog that claimed that Free Realms was just a more cartoony WoW, with more grind. I was so amazed that someone could compare the two games. By that stretch of logic, Free Realms could be like any game that puts you in the driver seat of an avatar. Yes, there are quests and yes, there is combat, but Free Realms is attemtping to be as deep or as light as you want it to be. Of course, you would need to suspend a little more disbelief as an adult than if you were a child, but not much!

Speaking of that, could you imagine having a game like this when we were children? Wow, indeed.

snowy

It's hard to call Free Realms a game, much like it is hard to call Second Life or There a game. They have mini-games to play and goals to achieve, but there is no defined way to play. There are no rules and a great deal of customization, not only in your character, but in how you want to game.

Games like this are the future, but tweaked a bit for different audiences. Obviously Free Realms is geared more towards children, but take the delivery of Free Realms and wrap it with a more "mature" or "realistic" skin, and older players would climb all over it. In fact, most of the games I have experienced in the last year have been called "kids games" without even considering that all games stem from the same play drive in all of us, regardless of age.

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While I understand an older gamers need for a more realistic experience, I say give Free Realms a very large chance. Give it an evening to look around. No, leave those goal-oriented play sessions behind. Just log in and look around. Forget achieving anything and just take a walk. I think you'll like what you will see.

Beau Turkey

 

 

DOMO: Epic long quests FTW!

Posted by beauturkey Friday May 1 2009 at 11:44AM
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The more I tailor my gaming to my very particular lifestyle, the more I find games that have either a ton of content that works for me, or very little. Dream of Mirror Online has hooked me with it's many long and winding quests, and it's cute little cut-scenes that frequent your game-play.

I'm still new to the game, but already I have witnessed several cut-scenes, one of my favorites at the very beginning of the game that shows miniature versions of a monster and a character fighting. It reminded me of the "space-chess" scene in Star Wars. These little cut scenes are fun, and make you feel more connected to the story.

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We all know the reputation that most F2P games have: grind, grind and more grind. I think it is safe to say that in ANY MMO, if you want to gain the highest level or the best gear, you must put in some time. In some cases, a great deal of time. Of course, most of that depends on how fast you want to level, and I meet players all of the time that seem to want to get to the highest level as fast as fast as possible. So yes, if you want to level as fast as possible, then you might need to do some grinding. I don't get that mindset, but then again I am pretty laid back about my gaming.

And think about all the non F2P games. Ask how many quests of theirs are kill quests and how many of them are actually the same as every other MMO. F2P games do not differ in many ways from "regular" games. And DOMO proves that with it's combination of kill quests and unsual interactions that happen along the way.

I am now on one of those long quests, one that has sent me on the search for rope to use to get down a well, only to join a group and slaughter a good deal of squishy monsters. Even as I level, Mirror Kings show up (my group couldn't see him!) and give me tips. The play went much, much faster and smoother once we had a good group going.

I love the fact that quests like this come in "chapters," or stopping points that allow to you do a little bit at a time. Not only is this more "realistic" (your character would have to rest some time) but it allows a player to play for smaller bits of time. This is great for someone like me that has a limited schedule sometimes, and unforgiving wrists that will start to ache VERY badly after a while (22 years of drums, a life time of art and 10 years of gaming will mess your wrists up.)

domoadv1

Also, I can absorb a story more if it doesn't all come flying by me within one bout of quest text. And DOMO actually has some interesting lore within, and it's fun to find yourself interacting with some of the characters within that lore. Even a basic cut-scene brings out a moment of "cool!" and I find myself wondering what will happen next. But, because the quest is broken up into parts, I can play it a little at a time and have fun exploring the details. And, being that there is no subscription, I can place a hold on my activities for as long as I want without juggling it's subscription along with the potential of 5 or 6 others.

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The more I play games like DOMO, the more I notice the cliches people use to describe these games. Grindy? As grindy as normal MMO's. Cartoony? As cartoony as many normal MMO's. Frquented by kids? As much as any normal MMO. I wish those cliches would be replaced with ones like "It can run on an older machine.." or "There is a lot of depth to the game, if you give it a chance..."

I am always flabberghasted at players that will defend a game like FFXI and all it's aggravating grind and lack of non-combat activities, but will turn around and bash a F2P game simply because it has a cash shop attached to it. F2P games like DOMO are just about choices, and the choices range from how/when you want to spend your money, and how much time and effort you want to put into something like a really long quest chain. In many MMO's I run into brick walls for quests and cannot go any further until I either out-level the quest or just give up.

Right now I am doing a lower level quest in FFXI and it has instructed me to find a group of 5 or more players to continue on with the quest. Now, if you haven't played FFXI before, you should know that finding a group is near impossible for a player that is either non-established (in a current active guild) or new to the game. Now, tack on trying to find a group for a lower level (like EQ, FFXI suffers from practically ignoring it's lower level players, and as a result the game is populated mostly by high level players that have no time for a lower level or are too busy grinding out levels themselves to help out) and you can see how even a low level quests can seem ridiculous. I have re-subbed to FFXI and already I remember the frustration of quests with hardly a clue as to how to complete them, and the lack of players at my level.

DOMO is great for all levels, and I believe that the fact that it is free helps players from all walks of gaming life to play it. You will find the grinders, the raiding types, the role-players (yes, in DOMO) and the explorers.

And I can play as much or as little as I want, thanks to many long quests that are broken up into 30 minute to 3 hour sections. To me, it should be about choices in everything. The more choices, the more players that play how they want. The more players playing how they want means that I can find players that might fit into my style of play. Brilliant.

Also, I love the feeling of a quest that might take a long time to finish, but that has an attainable goal. One that I think about while my character might be crafting or exploring and one that he looks forward to completing.

Beau Turkey