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In My Understanding

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

Author: jesad

The spilling of innocent blood

Posted by jesad Thursday October 25 2007 at 11:42PM
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Newton - Hey big guy, why so down?

Hardcore - Huh? Oh...who, me?

Newton - Yeah dude, why the long face?  We just killed one of the biggest mobs in the area?  We took it right from under Guild X's nose to boot!  So why are you looking so bent out of shape about it?

Hardcore - Today I spilled innocent blood.

Newton - Innocent?  Dude they weren't innocent by far!  They were trying to steal our mob!

Hardcore - Our mob that we stole from them you mean?

Newton - They left the area.

Hardcore - So did we.

Newton - They only had two people, we have six!

Hardcore - And was it not so long ago that they had six to our two?

Newton - Right, and on that day THEY took the mob.

Hardcore - Aye, but I spilled innocent blood on that day too... that is why I am not happy.  I am not happy with myself.

Newton - Dude, you are more than not happy, you're crazy.

Hardcore - Let me tell you a story.  It started a long time ago when I was just a boy.  A friend and I had just entered new lands and we were wide eyed and amazed at the sights we did see.  As we walked around from place to place, we happened upon one of the denziens of the land and sought to make his acquaintence.  I was the first to salutate him, thinking that I was the better speaker of my friend and me.  "Greetings!" I said trying to be as friendly as possible.  A minute later both my friend and I lay waylaid in the desert as a stinging swarm potion ate the skin from our very bones.  Of course we survived the attack, that one and several others that would come that day, but by the end of the day we both vowed that never again would we be mistaken as weak.  We set out on a path of destruction that rained fire down from the very gods themselves, who, when we happend upon them, were also slain accordingly.

Newton - Dude that's awesome!

Hardcore - Not so.  You see, as we grew in strength and destructive power, so did we meet others who had grown likewise and were more than ready to meet our challenge.  One by one as we defeated them we learned their ways, their habits, their exploits, until a time came where there was no one else to challenge us.  We reigned supreme.  Keep in mind however, this was but a small land, not nearly as big as the one we now inhabit.  The after effect of our deeds, however, were no less pronounced.

Newton - And what was that?

Hardcore - Escalation...

Newton - Escalation?

Hardcore - Our way of doing things became the standard.  Old and very important magics became lost as those who followed in the wake of our destruction chose only our paths to follow and nothing more.  Entire classes of people began to disappear from the land and while all was focused upon attaining our heights, other heights, the heights of the noble men, who's lives had purpose, became obscured.  Worse yet, we ourselves had lost the true meaning of life in these realms as it became supplanted with competition, survival, and base ego, the kind that can only be nourished through the absolute dominance of anyone and everyone weaker than ourselves.  Not to say that we didn't meet anyone to challenge us along the way.  Only to say that none of them, not one of them, wanted what we were going after more than we did.  Black arts we did use, duping, plugging, tabbing, coding, cheats, hacks, exploits, the list was long.  But by the time we were done the pure essence of adventure had died along with our innocence.  We truly were gods of those tiny realms, and our church was the church of the cheating bastage.

Newton - So you are telling me that you are a king somewhere else?

Hardcore - Heh...Not so.  Were that we could, we would have probably sat on those thrones forever.  Alas, like all good kings go, we were dethroned by the one who wanted what he was going after more than we did.  And once the deed had been done, we were punished again and again until, like dogs from the sound of a farmers "Call Lighting" spell, we were forced to retreat from those realms and start anew somewhere else.

Newton - But...why didn't you stay and fight?!?  I would have stayed and fought!

Hardcore - Because while we fought, and we did, make no mistake.  Our lives became dictated by just that, fighting.  I ask you this young Newton, "Who is it that would fight his hardest in a battle which has no spoils?"

Newton - The spoils would be victory!

Hardcore - Victory, at least in these realms, has a cieling like everything else.  There is only so much that one can do until they find that secret formula that is equal to the best that they will ever be.  Once that secret is found, any fight between men simply becomes the luck of the draw.  The configuration of the situation.  Who stacked their deck the best today and tomorrow becomes the same loss.  In short, it sucked.  Life mutated into the same fight day after day, night after night.  Victory, Domination all became pointless.  All this beauty that you see around you now was reduced to an overblown game of parchment, rock, and shears.  And worse yet, because of the wake that we left behind, less and less people even ventured to those realms for fear of being locked in that same game of chance.

So this is why, today, having to train Guild X in order to preserve our kill I am sullen.  I am sullen not because they deserved it not, they did indeed.  But did not have to do what I did.  I have failed you and I have failed myself.  I am sullen because rest assured, as sure as I did what I did, they are right now, at this very moment, creating or contacting a person just like me to do the same to others and to us if they get the chanve.  I have shown them pandora's box, the true measure of my power when used for evil.  And that, my friend, is the beginning of the end.

Newton - Dude, I think you're over-reacting.

Hardcore - In you're understanding, you would.

 

Dedicated to "Elasher" A guy who wanted it more.

The Delayed Gratification Bug - For Developers

Posted by jesad Monday October 15 2007 at 12:41AM
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I have tested a lot of games.  Both professionally and for entertainment purposes I have played, exploited, studied and analyzed a whole LOT of games.  If you are reading this then there is a pretty good chance that you too have tested a lot of games as well.  So then, with that said, perhaps you (my readers) can verify for me the one major bug that seems to be apparent in most of the MMO's I have played.  This just hit me today.

Let's call it "The Delayed Gratification Bug".

The MMO community has been steadily changing over the years, some of us are getting older, others are just starting out, others still are on their second or third game.  In this mixed jumble of skills, abilities, and experience there is as much to be said in favor of communication and the transferrence of ideas as there is to be said for the lack of it.  Some people spend their entire days teaching others how to enjoy themselves and have a good time playing these games, while others grind out the hours in a sprint for first place in a race that has no finish line, therein, my friends, lies the bug.

Any old school gamer will tell you that the best game is played slowly and with attention to detail.  This is the spirit of all newbie MMO players which must be lost and then regained before one can truly call their self an "Old Schooler".  Why then, I ask you, has the industry been so lax in placing stops on adventuring levels while constantly struggling to keep up with power-levellers and organized guilds by releasing untested and/or longwinded content?

Is it because people are stupid or lazy that any person with a paying account is allowed to progress through these worlds with a steadily decreasing level of difficutly with each new release, or is it because those in charge of the checks and balances fear that challenging it's ever changing community is going to create an uproar of negative posts and press concerning the investment of time needed to play a game that forces you to stop, assess, and improve your skills every once in a while?

Here is how I see it happening.  There are several factions and subsequent fields of thought playing these games.

The Powerleveller - This person gets into a game and begins crafting instantly.  The best will craft until they hit the current cieling while other less dedicated newbies of this form will alternate back and forth between crafting and levelling.  While these crafting levels are taking place these are the people constantly scouring the databases for information on how to level as quickly and as efficiently as possible then, once the max crafting level is complete, these players will enter the field en masse and grind out their levels until their adventuring level also hits the max.  Using the uber gear that they can make for themselves along the way, these players usually skip the majority of content programmed into the game for their enjoyment and head directly towards endgame content.  And we all know how that has been turning out.

The Explorer - This person is not into crafting, is not into powerlevelling, is barely into grouping, but is ALL about running you up into some cave with no idea where they are going or why they are there and hoping that something good is going to come from the experience.  Explorers can come in a lot of different shapes and forms, the adventurer, the roleplayer, there are even powerlevelling explorers (although they could care less whether something good comes from their explorations or not) but they all have the same M.O. when you meet them.  A.D.D., running from here to there with a list of unfished quests and no idea why they are where they are.  They are explorers after all, theirs is not to question why.

The Good Veggie Kid - Usually an adult.  The good veggie kid is a professional at finishing their plate.  These are the guys that you only ever see for a mintue at a time, either coming or going, and they are always fabulously equipped with the most amazing things you have ever seen at all levels of the game.  A good "Good Veggie Kid" will reach the endgame several months after the power leveller (sometimes several months after the powerleveler has already moved on) but will always be better equipped, both mentally and materially, to handle what is to come next.  The Good Veggie Kid is a good kid but boy, can they also turn out to be the worst suck up's sometimes!

The Crap Shooter - Goes by several aliases.  Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Indecisive, FLOTM dude, The guy who is always rerolling, etc...  These folks usually hit the wall at the first sign of struggle and, if they can't attach to someone's leg or idea before it's too late, move from guild to guild, game to game, thing to thing, until they can find that elusive leg/idea to attach to.  Usually dps characters or healers, the crap shooter is only doing what they have to do to survive, get groups, and ride their way to the top (or at least the top of what they are capable of before Heroes comes on or the next thing comes out or their husbands/wives stop playing or they actually FIND someone of the opposite (or same) sex to look at them or the character begins to suck or the game begins to suck or they get a hangnail....etc.

Of course no one can be pigeon holed into any one of these categories really but everyone shares just a little if not all of these characteristics at one time or another during their gaming life.  One can actually flow into and out of each category as they mature in these games and more often than not you will hear who they are in their opinions towards the games they play as they post on the message boards.

Here is the thing.  It is hard to purposefully delay yourself from the gratification of being at the top end of the game if you know that you can make it there.  It is even harder to get to the top end of the game when you know that you can't.  It is no wonder then that the lean is toward power levelling through the content, crafting the best gear to start the endgame with and then taking off a few months (saving you loads of cash in the process) until the rest of the population (and the developers) can catch up.  The problem is that this causes a huge sucking sound to occur in games that are increasingly becoming more vast and more intricate as the floating masses are enticed by still other newer titles and worlds before game developers are able to crank out more content to keep these people where they are.

This is a bug.  The game should not allow people to escape so easily.

Possible solutions are...

1. Solo Class quests set at (more) regular intervals.  The word "more" is included because this idea has been tried and/or incorporated in some games already.

2. Land Locks (again solo) that force players to finish semi-involved quests in order to travel to and from new lands.

3. Quest Ranks which must be met before a player can continue to level.  Of course this does completely away with the repeatable quest but then the repeatable quest is really only a power-levelling and gold-farming tool anyway.

4. Ability tests in which a player must solve several quests geared towards their class through the use of certain abilities they have learned along the way in order to progress.

These and many other ideas have been tried and given up on in the past by money hungry publishers eager to placate the cries of the lazy or uninspired but I think that it is high time that these publishers gave these and even other ideas a second look.  Game development is very expensive and time consuming and it is hardly worth the money that is being spent to create these worlds just to have them populated for less than a year or two before the customer base moves on to the next thing.  The idea that there is even more than one fantasy MMO out there is redundant and ridiculous when you think about the amount of money that it costs just to make ONE of these games so then why not spend the money wisely and make a game that really challenges it's players to play well, be involved with their ONE character and work towards that all encompassing ENDGAME that the developers of such a game would have more than enough time to develop while their customers are busy having a good time getting to it?

Of course in order to truly adapt such a concept to any game one must keep in mind that each pocket of content (the area between your last wall and your next) must be full of excitment and wonder.  So much so in fact, that one might actually not WANT to move on too quickly for fear of leaving a friend behind or missing something very important along the way.  Only in this way will the masses not see this as an intentional delaying tactic placed inside said game only to promote more monthly fee's for regurgitated content and grind.  An idea in this area that comes to mind might be level merchant houses built so that a person of a certian crafting level could set up shop selling gear made for those specific levels.

Delayed Gratification is frustrating yes, but anyone who has ever kept themselves from jumping into something headfirst or moving too fast towards anything that "seemed" like a good idea at the time can tell you, it is entirely worth it once you get to where you were trying to go.  At least, that is my understanding of it.

Good Grouping - The Zen of Standing Still

Posted by jesad Sunday October 7 2007 at 2:16AM
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Do your fingers bother you?  Do you find it hard to keep from pressing the movement keys?  Maybe you just can't help yourself when that stray mob passes by while you are supposed to be waiting for the rest of your group to assemble to enter a dungeon.  If you have ever experienced any of these symptoms you may be suffering from R.F.S.  Restless Finger Syndrome. 

Restless finger syndrome has been documented to cause a variety of problems ranging from frustration to premature group break-up and is the leading cause of character death in the MMO community.

Player Testimonial...

Newton - I don't know what happend.  One moment we were just standing there and the next thing I know we were getting clobbered by these huge big ugly things!  I told the rest of the team that it wasn't me but the truth of the matter was, I just couldn't control myself!

Hardcore - I had been waiting for these guys to get their act together for over 20 minutes but some fool kept running off and pulling stuff and getting himself killed.  Finally, I just dropped the group!

Well sufferers of this horrid affliction need not worry anymore!  Thanks to "Standing Still" R.F.S. sufferers can find fast relief from nasty pickup groups which end before they ever get started, experience debt, and even character alienation.  That's right Standing Still promises not only to relieve the nasty symtoms of R.F.S. but it can even improve your gaming experience, increase your reputation, and allow you to actually get something accomplished in only a short amount of time in any group.

Newton - I can now join a group, get set up and buffed, and hammer through any situation in record time.  And people like me so much now that they don't even want to leave my groups, EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE TO WORK IN THE MORNING!

That's right!  Standing Still can improve your gaming experience too!  Just join a group, Stand Still, and  take a few minutes to wait patiently while the other players of your group get to an agreed upon location.  That's all there is too it!

Standing Still will keep you from making those messy mistakes like training your unprepared friends while they are away from the keys, falling off the edge of huge cliffs that took several minutes to reach, and even being nicknamed Leroy by your fellow group mates.

Standing still may have certain side effects such as momentary boredom, falling asleep at the keys, and wife aggro (once she looks over and see's that you are not actually doing anything).  If you experience these or any other negative symptoms discontinue use immediately and log off of the game and take care of your real life responsibilities.  If you develop a sudden urge to cook dinner, do laundry, or finish your homework contact an in game friend or member of the opposite sex immediately.

Standing Still, a cure for R.F.S. sufferers everywhere.  Ask your common sense if it's right for you.

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