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In My Understanding

An old school gamer discusses the challenges facing the MMORPG community and it's leaders.

Author: jesad

Walking down the hill.... A Neverwinter Playstyle

Posted by jesad Thursday February 27 2014 at 3:29AM
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I get inspired by the silliest things sometimes.

This week it was Neverwinter.

Do you want to talk about a fun game?  Man I am having a BALL in this thing right now. 

Of course, I am at the beginning.  My first two characters, my first quests, my first experiences.  But wow, what a well put together, completely polished, fun game!

So I am playing this thing and I am thinking.  "This would be a cool game to play like real Pen and Paper D&D."  A group of people could decide to only play when the entire group was online, they could choose a leader, a DM so to speak, and they could let that leader guide them through the hundreds of different quests that the game has to offer.

Playing by session, in this fashion, would allow for all kinds of relationships to form, adventures to take place, and experiences to be had on each characters way towards max level. 

Restraining the gameplay also would help make the game more entertaining each time and allow for the chosen "DM" to provide his or her group with their own, tailor made, experience much like in a Pen and Paper session.

I go on tangents like this in my mind all the time.  And then I come to the forums and remember why a lot of this would never work.

Epiphany!!! The relationship between the MMORPG and the average MMORPG player is very similar to the relationship between two people.  Both can be deep and meaningful experiences when handled a certain way, but more often than not, both end up being something that is raced through intensely for about 6 months and then complained about until the breakup occurs.


It's like that joke about the Two Bulls.

One day two bulls were standing on a hillside overlooking a field full of cows.

The young bull said to the older one, "Hey! Let's run down this hill and screw one of those cows!!!"

The older bull said to the younger bull, "I'd rather walk down and screw em ALL."


Now I know that I have bordered on being preachy on this blog about enjoying the ride.  In fact, it has been an overall theme in one way or another since its very inception.  But you can't help but know that what I have been saying is true by now.  That the major thing that messes up our MMORPG experience is the way in which we decide to play our MMORPG's.

Back to Neverwinter though.  So yeah, I was thinking, that would be a great way to play that game.  It would make every drop that much more important.  Every quest that much more important.  And the people that you play with that much more important.

So I figured that I would just throw that out there in case people wanted to experiment.  I've never been one for caring about responses but if anyone does try to play this game in this way I would love to know how it turned out.

I have no understanding of what I have just written about and so I have no catchy "In my understanding" closing line.

I do hope that you have fun though.  And I will see you in the games.



A Single Thought

Posted by jesad Thursday February 20 2014 at 1:27AM
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I'd like to tell you all a story.

It is a story about how I once witnessed a war of the minds on the ethereal plane and how a seemingly apprentice wizard, with none of the training and expertise of all the other wizards, brought an entire guild of highly trained sorcerers to their knees with but a single thought.

Rewind history back to the 90's.  Several sorcerers guilds....we will call them "companies" were busy at work trying to develop what they considered would be the first virtual realities.  Yes they were going to make three dimensional worlds in which people could live and where they could do all kinds of incredible things that they would never be able to do in real life.

Many of these companies were staffed with wizards......we will call them "developers" who were not only self-taught in the mystical ways of creating worlds but classically taught in the very language of the magic that it took to do so.....we will call that magic "programming" and those magicians "programmers".

And so they set forth in creating these worlds.  The theme they would use would be based on that of a several lore masters of old.  The worlds that they would create, a world of wizards and warriors, a world of dungeons and dragons, a world of superheroes and villains, and a world of spaceships and planets, would transport those that visited them......we will call them "players" into places so vivid, so life-like, and so realistic that the hope was that one would simply forget that the real world existed and become completely engrossed......we will call that "immersed" into them.

For a while it even worked too.  Players would visit....we will refer to that as "logging in" to these worlds and they would stay inside of them for hours upon hours, days upon days.  They would develop alter egos with whom they would role-play, and think up all manner of scenario for why they were where they were and were doing what they were doing.  And the sorcerers were happy.

This is because they had also attached a mystical payment scheme to their worlds that magically sucked gold out of players accounts on a monthly basis.  We will call this "a subscription."

Then one day a different kind of player came along.  A wizard in their own right.  Not classically trained, not even self trained, but with a the simply power of being able to see through illusions.....which we will refer to as "critical thinking."

Now I don't know what motivated this young player/wizard.  Maybe it was poverty, maybe it was illness.  No one will ever know.  All I know is that with one simple question this wizard managed to topple all of the worlds, not only one at a time, but all at once.

The question that this wizard asked was quite simple in fact, but it had been a question that none of the sorcerers of the sorcerers guild had ever entertained, not expected anyone to ask.  That question being...."Why fight the harder beasts now when we can get just as much progression out of fighting the easier ones now and come back and fight the harder ones later?"

And BOOM!!!  The sound heard all the way through the realms.  Suddenly the players were no longer immersed.  Suddenly what had seemed like massive, involving, deeply intricate realms suddenly turned into simple pipelines to be navigated towards a sudden stop until more pipeline was added.

But ho! The young wizard didn't just stop there.  Also was invented what we will call "the build" which was a template of what items and gear one should wear in order to navigate even the pipeline faster.

Suddenly, what had been a virtual universe, had been reduced to only a few, simple, pipelines that one could navigate fairly quickly and at half the price.

And the wizard was happy.

But the people lamented.

"MMORPG's are dead!" They said.  "Something is missing!!!"  All the while never stopping to think that perhaps it was that single thought that did them in.

They blamed the developers.  They blamed each other.  They even blamed the president.  Still never thinking, "maybe it's me" while crying out for "the good old days" back when they really thought of their virtual worlds as "virtual Worlds."

It is a very, very, sad story indeed.  And worse yet because it is true.

But I believe that there is a way back to the place, if not the time, where we had so much fun inside the walls of these games.  Back to the immersion of yesteryear. 

For as easy as it is to think a single thought, it is also that easy to UN-think it. 

I say simply do not do that.  Do not powerlevel through the game.  Do not go seeking the "best build" for your character.  In fact I will go out on a limb and say not to do any research on your character at ALL!!  Simply build it and play it and let the world turn you into whatever it is you will ultimately become.

It is our only hope.

The paradigm shift must come where we realize that most things that save us time in MMORPG's, ultimately detract from our enjoyment of MMORPG's.

Simple things like Zone chat and using it to LFG instead of having to stand in an area, like a tavern, and find that person or persons to go out adventure with, are game breaking concepts that we, as a community, have participated in for so long that we don't even realize what we've lost.

The sorcerers of the guild have no idea how to fix this thing.  We have to help them.  But only if we really understand that in doing so we are providing them with a means at our coffers.

We have to be careful then, and not help those that will not appreciate what we are doing.

Play well, live well, be happy, but only within a realm.....we will refer to that as "a product" that you believe deserves your time and money.

If we can think a thought we can just as easily UN-think it.  This is my understanding.

Let's see if we can try to give this story a happy ending.  For both the sorcerers, and you.

See you in the games.



Posted by jesad Tuesday February 11 2014 at 3:20AM
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You gotta love the frenzy involved with a major title going into its first beta event weekend.  I mean really, is there anything, short of a presidential election, like it?

It's like one of those international days of solidarity that different organizations are always trying to get together.  You know, the ones where they try to have people all join hands across America or concentrate on world peace at the same time, only in this situation what you have is a bunch of basement trolls all pushed hard up against their computer desks, Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew flowing like a river, and hot pocket wrappers and sunflower seed husks, among a wide variety of other things cluttering up the place like so many peanut shells in a country and western bar.

And for that ever present consummate professional, coffee is on standby just waiting for that moment when the dust settles, the game is downloaded, and it is now time to log in.

We all signed up months ago and patiently waited for that response that said "Thank you for your interest, you have been officially invited to participate in the (insert the games name here) beta.  Here is your beta key.  Please click the link below, do some other stuff, download the client, and wait for further instructions."

It's like being Mr. Phelps on Mission Impossible, James Bond receiving new orders mid mission.  Everything stops, nothing else matters.  This is now the mission and you will not stop until the mission is complete.

Then it comes.  Beta Weekend.

You may not have gotten in on the first round.  Hell, you may not even have gotten in when they were jacking up peoples levels and allowing them to look at some of the endgame.  You're in now though and neither you, nor your friends (if in fact you have managed to get a few friends to come along with you on this excursion) are going to stop hammering at this thing until you decide that it is either worth continuing to play, and perhaps even test, or it sucks.

The patcher comes up, if the patcher comes up, you log in, if you can log in, and suddenly you are at the character creation screen.  It's game on and although you really, really, want to take the time out to make that character that really exemplifies your presence in this new world of fiction and fantasy, most of us settle for good enough and immediately enter the game because building a character is not what this day is all about.  This day is about killing.  It is about leveling and learning.  This day is about dying.  And it is a GOOD day to die.

And so you proceed.  Alone or in pairs.  In groups or in in factions.  With your guild or with your little brother or sister.  Click here, run there, pick this up, drop this, OMG THESE FREAKING BAGS!!!, THIS FREAKING LAG!! THAT FREAKING BUTTHEAD!!!  THIS FREAKING INTERFACE!!!

If it's a PVP you find yourself wishing that it was PVE, if its PVE you find yourself wishing it was PVP.  OPEN PVP, because these fools are running around like they are crazy.  No respect.  No sanctity of the kill.  You swung at the monster once and it was dead before you could raise your hammer to swing a second time as ten other players, just like you, struggled to get that finishing blow.

But it's good.  It's real good.  You are getting to see, for the first time, what hundreds of thousands of people have been waiting for months to see.  When this session is over it will be YOU that gets to allude, without breaking the NDA of course, to whether you thought it was a good game or not.  It will be YOU that gets to call shenanigans on this reviewer or that reviewer for not noticing the subtle intricacies of the game that YOU noticed while YOU were testing it.

You pound on this thing until the sun comes up, or until your eyes begin to bleed, or until your husband or wife drops separation papers on the desk next to you, and then you go to sleep, go to work (if you haven't taken that couple of days off) and you come right back home and you do it again.

Sparta ain't got shit on what you are doing right now.

You are a Warrior of the ether.  A Wizard of electricity.  A Thief of the video settings and a Healer of crashes incurred by said video settings.  You are a clothed, battle hardened Avatar of your own brain, made alive by circuits and silicon, lights and crystal, plastic and metal, reflexes and intuition.


And then, when the weekend is finally over.  When the servers shut down, and you feel that familiar feeling of withdrawal that can only come from having to return to that which is normal after having spent time in that which was new, and sometimes amazing.  You head for the forums.  And you watch, and you wait.

You wait for that one guy to formulate that one post in just that one way that will allow you to dump everything that you are feeling and have felt for the last three or four days into his festering, seething string of love or hatred, and you BLAST HIM!!!

LET THE PIGEONS LOOSE!!!  The forum wars have now begun!!

"It sucks!!"

"It does NOT suck!!"

"I found the graphics to be yadda, yadda, yadda."

"I found the graphics to be yadda, yadda, yadda, the opposite of how you found them."




The love is almost palpable.

You are no longer just one guy or one group of people sitting in the basement finishing off the last slice of delivery pizza and wondering how you got to this moment of bloodshot eyes and lack of sleep from that moment of anticipation only two or three days ago.

YOU ARE A NATION!  YOU ARE BETA TESTERS!!  Your desk chair smells like somebody DIED in it LITERALLY, but can't nobody tell you a DAMN THING!!!

This is beta weekend, give or take a couple of trips to the convenience store and maybe a shift or two of work (if you couldn't get out of it.)  Jobs have been lost, relationships had final nails banged into them, and wars started over this one, single, solitary event that harkens the coming of a new, life sucking, product to a corporate run video game retailer near you.

It is crazy and we love it.  And I didn't even touch on the things that happen in voice chat.

Welcome to your MMORPG life.  This has been Jesad and this has been beta testing In My Understanding.

See you in the games!


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