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Thoughts of a Casual MMOer

My thoughts on gaming as a person who enjoys RP and gaming while balancing a full time job.

Author: haratu

Role-play vs Reward

Posted by haratu Tuesday July 28 2009 at 7:44AM
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While I may prefer casual play in an MMO, I am also a person that enjoys my role-play as often as I can get it, this however comes as a costly price. In many games role-players suffer the time penalty, while they play around and talk, socialize, and construct stories other players work tirelessly to level up, gain currency and gather items. However, as any role-player can attest to, role-play is a lot of work, sometimes more than that a grinder does. Where is the reward for all that work?

Work

Firstly I would like to define the work that goes into a role-play, I am doing so because many people simply do not see this so-called "work" that is done, and seriously I can understand this perfectly, you see all that work is often done outside the game. The work that goes into role-play is a twofold process that is completed by only the best role-players. i will summerise.

1. The role. Most role-players put a lot of effort into constructing their story. This may include a background, biography, an upkeep of events that change the life of the character, as well as some things just for fun. Seriously, in some situations this is almost as much work as a professional author (at least I hope they put half the effort in at least).

2. The play. This is often the part that sets the serious from the amateur. Sure, you may be able to make an interesting story, but can you enact your character in a way that seems believable and enjoyable. This is a balanace of defining your character and also hiding some parts to encourage curiosity. This is oftent eh hardest part as you are literally writing a story that you have no control over, in real time too!!! Ask a professional author to write a story and not edit his/her story as they go and they will scream blue murder, but a role-player has to do this by the seat of their pants.

The Problem

So, a lot of work is done by the role-player? So what? Well, that is exactly right there is no great thing about being a role-player [waits for flaming mass to land on him]. Seriously though the rewards for role-playing is close to nil, and that is merely being generous. Sure i get some good friends, some good social time, a feeling of doing something creative and unique... but, can't I do that outside the game? Why should I do it in the game? Why should I waste my precious time constructing an elaborate story using someone else's lore for rewards I could get by going to the local pub (they can get very creative at pubs, many old songs have been created in a pub). So I do all this work, no reward, and developers and gamers seem to think lore is important? HANG ON!!! This makes no sense.

The solution

Okay, so role-players work, so they produce something great, seriously where is the reward? So i get a post on the forums, some person says it was a good story, and you get a nice reputation. Fantastic... I might as well be some dweeb who never saw the outside of my bedroom. Where is the glory that I deserve? the feeling of seriously completing something that people can recognise, something that will help me in the game, something that I can't just get by actually going out and getting some friends?

Well, the solution is obvious, reward role-players!

How?

Well, this is the hard question isn't it. How can you reward a person for makign the game more interesting and be fair at the same time? Do you hire a bunch of people to constantly patrol the system and give out rewards for specific people? Do you get GMs to hide amongst the population watching out for good role-players? What is a good role-player?

The true answer?

Is there a way to help this problem with role-playing? Seriously, do you have a good idea. I would love to hear it.

Australian Internet Gaming... for the rest of the world

Posted by haratu Thursday July 23 2009 at 1:31AM
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I figured that as an Australian internet gamer I should inform the niave masses in the rest of the world about how different Australian internet was and how it effects our online gaming. There are many hurdles to be an Australian gamer, and unfortuantly many developers, as well as gaming "elite" (i use the world extremelly loosely) do not understand these effects.

Distance

Distance From Australians to a game serrver in Sydney will range from 1km to 4000km along mostly optical fibre. This may sound fantastic until you realise that almost no games set up servers in Australia. The next closest servers are often in Singapore (6300 km away from sydney), for US servers in California you are then looking at 12,000 km from Sydney, and for London you are looking at 17,000 km. As a result times can reach between 200-300ms for a signal to return from destination.

Many people suggest Satelites are a better alternative, this is simply showing a science stupidity. Communication satellites orbit at 36,000 km above the Earth's surface, this means that the signal now travels a much larger distance. And if you argue that your signal is travelling as light for a satelite, then remember that an optical cable works on... yep, light!

Technology

Australia is often thought to be behind in technology, this is not 'completely' true. Australia actually has many areas where technology is well up to date. the problem lies in that as Australia has only 20million people in the size of the USA then the demand is not worth the cost for infastructure in low populated areas (except mining towns), a problem the current government will be solving shortly as it unrolls an upgraded government run infastructure, even then, the problem of distance still over rules many solutions.

Time zone

Many Raid based MMOs often get sick of Australians complaining about raids, or events... it is simple to understand if you are aware that the world is round. Australia is the exact opposite side of the world to the Northern Atlantic Ocean, as a reuslt, when it is peak time in Eastern US, it is offpeak for Western Australia, and vice versa. So you expect an Australian to turn up to your guild party when it is 4am in the morning? The question should be, will you turn up for us at 4am?


Conclusion

Personally I am sick of non-Asian, non-Australians not understanding such limits of world geography and just feel like busting some heads in.

The worst insult to Australians is probably the "Oceanic servers" of some games, which are conveniently located in... California, hmmm, yes that should solve the distance problem.

 Afterward

After getting home and re-reading my post I decided to alter it: here is the extra detail.

So 200ms is not much, so what? Well, the problem lies in that 200ms doesn't seem much until you realise that playing a rogue it can make a difference of the person you want to back stab no longer has their back to you. It means that in a dual the enemy gets an extra quarter to half a second to cast the first spell, and it means that by the time you have loaded into a map then someone already knows you are there.

Luckily for Australians there are some developers that are actually gifted with brain matter. Eve: online for example has a period of time where you can not be attacked after entering a system. However probably those most gifted to help Australians were the devs of Warhammer:online who conveniently altered the cooldowns for skills based upon your latency, this meant that you could click a button faster if your latency was higher (thereby resulting in spells simultaneously cast).

Mixing Workahol with Gamacetamol

Posted by haratu Monday July 20 2009 at 3:11AM
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Introduction

If the title didn't explain it, i am referring to a bad mixture that leads to a topsy world. You see, school term just started here (winter holidays are 2 weeks in Australia) and I have to go teach again, now mixing two toxic substances together to create a fragile concoction that may cause me to crash.

You see, games may help me unwind from work each day for an hour after school, but there is always the temptation to keep going and finish the instance, after all, I can't leave my poor group to fend for themselves can I? Herein lies the big problem with such a mixture, and as with taking any drug it the problem is peer pressure!!!

 

In offline games there is very little excuse to play past your designated time, you can just pause or save your game... the most you will go is to the next checkpoint or level, at most 15 minutes. In online games however you are dedicated to helping people for the next hour otherwise be branded socially as a bad person to group with.

So how do you face your friends and tell them that you have to go mark the tests, or do homework, or most importantly, spend time with your partner/kids (yes I have had to do this many times). I will go over several guidelines I use, and have used in the past.

The Guidelines

Forewarn

When you first group with others, make sure you tell them when you will be leaving. I recommend making sure you warn them even if you expect to finish before the time. If they ask you to say longer, just tell them that you warned them before hand. people often think they will not get into a group if they say this... this is a big falsehood, covered by the next item.

Be Truthful

If you are not straight out about having to leave then how can you be trusted in the future? Remember that you may need to find groups later on as well and spinning a lie now will mean people will not group with you later. I often find that a simple truth that I only have limited time means that while I may not get a group now, I will be remembered for being trustworthy and most likely get groups from those people in the future when I do have time.

Be friendly

If you really have to leave unexpectedly because your rich grandmother just knocked on your door with a suggestion to change her will (yeah right!), or for some other important reason, then make sure to leave in a friendly way. DO NOT just log out with no reason. If you have to leave, at the least make sure they are disappointed you are leaving. Say "sorry", suggest you will help them again, and if you had little time to do such then send a mail to the leader explaining your disappearance (especially if disconnected). People remember this and will want to group with you despite you leaving.

 

Stuff em!

Despite the above three points, some people just don't care, they want your life devoted to them. I say "Stuff it up their bums!!!" If people get grouchy that I have to do something in real life even though i warned them I had something then they just don't understand what is important in life. I never group with such people twice because I see them as caring more about the game and less about people. As such the process of group choice is reversed, remember you also have power in this situation.

 

Conclusion

The reality is that if you don't have long time then you need to prepare beforehand, make sure you are playing with friendly people who understand, make sure you explain beforehand, and be encouraging and friendly.

Sure you may not get to group with people today, but if you follow these simple guidelines then you will at least get a group tomorrow when mixing work and games is not as much of an issue and your hangover is gone.

 

Is it the money or the job?

Posted by haratu Friday July 17 2009 at 9:50PM
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Background

So I was reading the discussion here in The Pub forums and I decided to post my own observations. I have posted the quote for your convenience, but it is worthwhile reading the replies.

After years of playing MMO's I finally quit. I played WoW for about 4 years. Tried out CoX for about a year. And finished up with LotRO and played that since closed beta.

I cancelled all my subscriptions to those MMO's. I quit mainly because of the addiction and the money. Fifteen bucks a month is quite a lot when you also have other things to pay for.

Right now Im looking for a F2P MMO. One that you can log on for just a half an hour and get something accomplished.

If you know of any kicked back and non-addicting (if there is such a thing) F2P's that would be great if you could let me know.

I need a game to pass my time late at night.

~Brando

I understand that many people have other things to pay for, especially if they are living on day to day wages which can be tough. I have been in such a position before and even had to stop playing for a few weeks before getting another game card. I am however not in such a position anymore, and a subscription fee is not a huge loss for myself.

Of course the advantages of a pay-to-play system is that developers can continue to provide top notch entertainment, constant free upgrades and good customer support. (Of course not all pay-to-play systems have all of these). I don't think I need to elaborate as everyone has heard the arguments for and against and there are plenty of places you can read about such issues, they are not the issues I want to talk about.

Introduction

What I do want to talk about is the situations I observed in players while playing pay-to-play games, predominantly the contrast of addiction versus paying for a game. by addiction I am not referring to the psychological condition, but rather the problem of giving up their job and life for the game. This naturally leads to financial difficulties relating to such problems.

I have observed such in not just friends playing the game, but also family, and myself to some extent.

I am not suggesting "Brando" underwent this process, but it does remind me of what I observe.

The process observed

Step 1. From what I observe most people who begin pay-to-play are quite happy to do so as they appreciate the game they are getting. As such they get involved in the game and genuinely enjoy it, not caring about the money spent to keep their hobby going.

Step 2. The next step is usually the problem of long times spent constantly playing, i find this usually happens on games you can not leave for several minutes. Eve:Online for example allows you to read a book while mining, whereas reading a book while playing World of Warcraft is very hard. As such the grind takes place where you tire out your mind rather than relax.

Step 3. Tiredness as well as a preference for the game lead to avoidance of other past times such as going out with friends, church (if religious), and finally, work. I often observed people avoiding going to their place of casual work because they got a raid, or some other such, activity in the game. Sometimes it can just be that they have worn out themselves playing that they can not move themselves to get to work. Naturally every person is slightly different.

Step 4. Get fired (or quit). If you don't turn up for work when you are needed you will loose your job, this seems to be a habit with many kids who have life easy (and I am not referring to just the current generation, there are always some in every generation). Even so, I observed it in adults too, they just could not balance life and the game.

Step 5. As they no longer have a income (or have minimal from welfare) then they start to have trouble paying for the game.

Step 6. They admit to their problem and quit, thereby having time to work, hopefully learn a valuable lesson and perhaps do better next time they play a game.

Conclusion

Pay-to-play may have the draw back of spending money over a long time, however the problem of more concern is not how much you pay for the game, but rather how much the game rules your life. In the end there is a delicate balance to how much you play and how much you keep at your life to maintain your hobby.

Encouragement, the prize of an MMO

Posted by haratu Thursday July 16 2009 at 7:29PM
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I recently bought a new anime box set while I was visiting the city, some may know it as ".hack//sign". For those that don't know it I linked it to wikipedia, or here is a quick intro...

Set in the near future where an MMO is played by downloading your conciousness (your body stays active) MMOs are fully immersive. The story focusses on a fictional MMO where a young player finds themselves unable to log out of the game. The story follows several players ranging from a player-killer to a noob-helper as they meet for the first time and deal with the problem as well as others. In essence it is about characters that were previously solo players but discover they work better with the support of eachother.

...and back to the article. The story was fascinating as it helped me look once again in the area of social support in an MMO. While all the characters play the game to escape from reality (for different reasons, some unknown) they all discover that they truly appreciate how others look after them. This reminded me of my first true experience of group work.

I originally got into MMOs with the fantastic game Eve:Online which I accidentally found while I was randomly browsing the web. Signing onto the beta I was solo for a long time, even when the game went live I was solo. I was even solo when my brother played, only talking to him in order to transfer some ore fro me to process or for him to ship to another place to sell. it was not until Guild Wars that I experienced true encouragement.

My mind view on social gaming changed one day in Guild Wars soon after it was first released. i was in a group to kill some NPC in Kessex Peak (been so long I had to look it up) and we were doing very poorly. By the time we were through a quarter of the instance we had died several times, we decided one more try. We moved forward and... was overpowered. One brave person said they would hold them back while we ran for the exit, so we did. As I was running behind others we were suddenly overcome by several more enemies and seeing we were doomed I turned around again, this time heading away from the exit. Soon everyone lay dead except me, and I was not faring well as I was trailing a dozen angry npcs. I made a decision "I am going to take them to the end! hopefully they will kill the boss." i began running the the end of the instance.

Now what was teamwork was not the fighting, we were hopeless at it, what made it teamwork was the sudden encouragement my team gave me as I sprinted across the grassy fields towards the enemy, shouts of "OMG!" and "Keep going" flashed across my chat window as I trailed over fifty enemies. by the time I was almost there one of my teammates had made it back in and had joined me to heal and also help with trailing the massive army we were dragging behind. We were almost there when the team mate died and I was a centimeter from death... and I died, at the foot of the boss we had to kill... And cheers went up, the group watched as their screens indicated that the army I trailed massacred the boss, completing the quest for them. Celebrations were heard and everyone thanked me for my insanity.

See, it was not the action of healers, tanks, dps and coordination that won the day, it was the social support that won the day, otherwise I may have dropped dead on the spot.

From that day many people used the strategy, however I can guarantee that very few of them experienced the lesson I learned that day. For you can play an MMO for years but when you get the prize of a group that supports and encourages each other you get an excellent feeling, one that I hope many others have experienced before.

 

Thoughts on Thinking in MMOs

Posted by haratu Wednesday July 15 2009 at 7:18PM
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Introduction

I am a school teacher (hence why font is comic sans), and nothing makes me more enthusiastic than a good game that encourages thinking, and I don't mean calculating the best item to pull of a critical 23% of the time while increasing armour to resist fire 98%. I mean serious strategical thinking that alters as you play due to constantly changing through unpredictable situations. Let me explain in more detail.

Many MMOs focus on the concept of pick a class/race then outfit with specific items to get the best out of your character dependent on their role in the game. If I were a tank class, for example, then I would be expected to get items that increase my protective skills or rolls. If I were to be the same tank class and yet get items to increase my damage then I would generally get other players either criticizing or not grouping with me because most likely I have no idea how to play my character. As a result I am defined by the game mechanics and design and am not putting effort into determining new strategies for how to play a class outside of its box.

Class Strategy

Take now an example of a game where you select your class but you can select skills to step away from the normal. Lets say I choose a Tank but this time select skills related to ranged dps. I then become a ranged dps who hits less (due to my class stats) but lasts much longer. My strategies would reflect this by my ability to stand ground for longer, resist attacks from opposing ranged dps (and not hide), and pester, but not kill as fast, other dps. My thinking and adaptability is showing itself.

I am now going to use an example from my past experience in World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade (I stopped playing in 2008). My main character was a warlock and as such I was a definite dps. At the time most warlocks chose heavy destruction (fire) mixed with shadow skills in order to increase their dps. If you did not do such then you often got criticized in large raid for not pulling your weight. I was criticized for a while with my skills because I did not choose such skills... until they realized I actually had a larger damage over the whole dungeon. Why? Because my skills let me live longer... thereby letting me do more damage over time. I was so good at staying alive I often successfully off tanked in emergencies.

This is common in many games where people rely on not thinking about their strategy and their class. 

Map Strategy

Now WoW might have been a bad example as it is rather predictable, so I will move to a game where altering situations is more dominant, specifically Warhammer Online. I am choosing Warhammer as an example, there are better ones, but their situations are often more complex, so I am attempting to stick simple.

Warhammer Online has the common task of fighting the opposing player side in PvP (or RvR for pedantic people). Because different castles are taken by different sized groups, players are often forced to send out scouting parties and attack specific holdings to maintain superiority. there is often a give-take relationship where a war band will be forced to let the enemy take some land in order to take another piece of land. As well as this there is the constant shifting of numbers as people log in and out of the game, where once you my have had the upper hand you no longer do, therefore need to focus on getting a defensible position before you are overpowered. This constantly shifting position is the concept of strategy and thought where knowledge and wisdom take charge as opposed to mathematics and predictability and is more common in PvP games (although not always present).

Conclusion

 

So why choose a game that requires you to think about what you do?

The most important aspect to thought in an MMO is that it provides more of a feeling of having done something. Using the mind encourages you to feel like you have participated and are not just standing there to make sure the others have full hit points (yes, healing can be boring sometimes).

A second aspect is to teach you things, this is the same concept as the game of chess. By participating in a thinking MMO your mind is constantly learning about how people behave, how actions have consequences and thinking ahead (predictable instances rarely let you think further than the current monster).

The final aspect is that a thinking MMO encourages teamwork. By teamwork I do not mean "I tank, you heal", I mean your ability to adapt to the situation based upon how your team-mates work.

Remember: Chess is 3D, why can't an MMO require thought?

 

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