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thoughts, provocations, insights, and introspection on games, gaming, and we the gamers.

Author: aspekx

Dragon's Prophet is more complex than it lets on...

Posted by aspekx Friday May 31 2013 at 8:29PM
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the augmentation system, the crafting system, the dragon system: all these game mechanics have at least 3 or 4 layers to them that i never would have thought of or expected. its quite a pleasant surprise and worth having a peek i think since its F2P (although i personally find it to be P2W as well, more on that in another post).


you can have as many dragons as there are slots. and there are 6 slots of possible storage in a kennel like arrangement and then 6 possible slots you can have personally open and using.


just as in EQ2 you can harvest whatever mats you wish and as far as i can tell  you can take as many of the crafting professions as you wish. now before you complain about that, think for a moment the kind of effort it would take to do those on simply one character. alts are hard enough, but at least they offer some variety in the game experience while you are leveling up your crafting.


now, the crafting is not in a minigame format. it is, sadly, simply insert tab A into slot B and proceed. however, there are plenty of variations you apparently can add to what you are making with other ingredients.


there is also quite a few ways to alter your character's appearance during character creation. nowhere near the extreme level of Aion, but who wants that >.<? height, chest, shoulders, facial features and bone structure are all adjustable along with others. you choose one face and then modify it. the hair of course is limited but you can color it.


the dragon system is interesting as well. first you must capture your dragon, this is a minigame where  you mount the dragon and break it in by tapping your WASD keys trying to keep an icon as close to the inside of an onscreen circle as possible. you can fail. it helps to beat the beast down a bit before trying to tame it. not only does your level affect your ability to tame, but so does one of your character's stats: Charisma. finally, someone found a good use for that one >.>


after taming your dragon can be summoned in one of two ways. first as a mount. and yes some walk, some glide, some fly and you get your first one at level 10. im not certain, but my dragon does seem to tire after flying for a while and begins to glide more and more. perhaps someone else can fill me in on that.


the second type of summoning is as a fighting companion. in this instance each dragon can only be present for 3 minutes before it tires and retreats. you can summon them again in another 1 minute, i believe. however, if you have all your personal slots opened you can summon one dragon after another in rotation. of course, each dragon has different combat abilities and styles of fighting.


now, when your dragon is in the Lair (or Stable for you WoW folks) you can pay to have it train or even provide certain services for you. this system seems to be much like the Leadership skill in Neverwinter. at the completion of tasks you have assigned it you receive certain benefits and/or items. one thing your dragons can do is harvest for you while you are out adventuring with your other dragons.


so as you can see the game, just at my level of ignorance, whether you like its mechanics or not, is rather complex and not as trivial as it might first appear.


the game does look like an Asian grinder and perhaps it is at some point in the game. however, in the meantime there are plenty of other things you can do while you level.

the necessity of variety

Posted by aspekx Wednesday May 29 2013 at 7:18PM
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a point i have really tried to make recently on game forums is that in order for a game to be really successful longterm it must sustain interest. there is only one way to do that with the human brain (especially the brains of gamers) and that is through variety of activity


i'll use Defiance as an example again. i simply loved the core gameplay of Defiance. i enjoyed the missions, arkfalls, the run'n'gun style set in a story based mmo was really well done. but that's all it had.


a friend of mine, and hardcore longtime gamer, once said to me about a particular mmo that it wouldn't survive because there was no economy. i didn't believe him at first, but i realized he was right. he wasn't right that economy was the answer, but he was right in that the economy was fed by other endeavors, ie., a variety of activities. a variety of activities invites players to spend more of their entertainment time invested in that particular game.


now that variety could conceivably be composed of any number of things, but i think over time we have found that economies are one good way to do that when they are fed by player activities in the world. and back to Defiance this was an aspect that the game doesn't have. it should have surprised me, but it didn't.


the reason it didn't is the same reason i still have some hope for Defiance. and this reason is that i had preordered and played beta in Rift. Trion had set up a small grouping of good activities in that world. but after a week in beta i realized that this wasn't going to be enough to sustain interest beyond the first month or two.


What makes graphics old school or new school for you?

Posted by aspekx Monday September 12 2011 at 12:44PM
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this is not going to be my main post for the week, but a question arose for me recently while posting a response to an article on a game i enjoy. there were a few people who were complaining about the graphics being 'old school' or in particular 'outdated'.

at first i wondered about their graphics settings or hard/software. but then it dawned on me, what are they seeing that i do not.

now i am not implying that its a negative or even a positive thing to see something that others do not. i actuallly mean the question quite literally: what are they seeing.

in other words, what lines or curves are giving them a signal psychologically that informs their brain: this is old/outdated? now, its obvious that personal taste is going on here, but beneath that i suppose i am wondering what the cues are for determining that a game has great graphics or outdated ones.

clearly, the difference between 32bit Final Fantasy and FFXIV (or even XI) is tremendous. at this point the gap is so large that the overwhelming portion of the population is going to socially experience the same response.

in part because there is the social memory of the game having been around so long. and in part because social influence helps us all agree upon certain basic standards of beauty. as you can tell i am *not* a Platonist when it comes to such things, ie., i do not believe that there is something in the universe that's called Beauty which exists in and of itself. beauty is a construct based upon context and by context i mean universal context.

so now, have you ever considered what aspects of a game make you think that the graphics are old school or even outdated? what curves or lines tell you that you are looking at something old or something that is not beautiful in the gaming realm? is it instead the hue and tone of the colors?

i would love to hear some response on this as it strikes me as a potentially interesting conversation to be had.

Assault Girls - a film by Ghost In The Shell director Mamoru Oshii set in an mmorpg

Posted by aspekx Friday September 9 2011 at 9:03AM
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Assault Girls

this was a thoughtful production by the director of Ghost in the ShellMamoru Oshii. as a Japanese live action film it is most certainly *not* a Sucker Punch! movie. like many of his works it is full of philosophical quips and quirks. this is more art film than action, though it is still a feature film, not some surrealist, bauhaus production.

be prepared, there are long sequences of characters within the mmorpg world he portrays wandering for long periods of time looking for mobs and a particularly difficult mob boss Madara. (think EQ1 corpse walking.) the game portrayed is a 3d virtual world of complete neural immersion. the game is skill based and characters spend points on items and skills. the particular world in the game on which the characters find themselves is a desert planet of rocks, little wildlife and scrub brush.

the filim is primarily about two things it seems, though i am sure there is more buried in there. Oshii's commentary on the direction of society and the growing feeling of futility and stagnation amongst individuals in the more inudtrialized world. thus they turn to a virtual world where rules ensure that gameplay is balanced and individuals can experience restarts and rebuilding that the real world cannot provide them. it is also about alienation, betrayal, and the human need to group, if only for mutual benefit.

the acting at times can be a bit stilted, but i attribute that mostly to the use of English as the primary language for Japanese actors who are clearly not fluent. (don't worry there are subtitles throughout the entire film.) there is no character development. instead this is a lengthy vignette in which we are dropped off to view a snapshot of 4 gamers versus themselves and versus the mob boss Madara.

what was really well done was how Oshii blends these themes with the world of mmorpgs. i think he does an excellent job here and shows evidence of a deep metagame understanding of the genre and the social interactions players experience on a day to day basis. it would perhaps have been better as a short film, but then again, the sweeping vistas and camera play that Oshii provides really could only have been done in a full length feature film.

all in all, i would highly reccomend this movie for individuals who enjoy thoughtful discussions of their games, gamers, and gaming. for those of you who prefer not to metagame in your gaming or in real life, this film will probably bore you to tears.

now for discussion, i was fascinated with a topic Oshii broaches which i have found myself and my friends discussing time and again. in fact perhaps, this is a cliche by now, but i think it worth bringing up. how much of our enjoyment of gaming relies on the futility we feel in our own lives?

i am not talking about the 40 year old in his mother's basement and the stereotypes associated with such a fictional person. more to the point is, in an advanced industrial or post-industrial world, with an economy lopsided in its average wealth distribution between a small minority at the top and a large one at the bottom, how much of gaming for us is a release? a release, i mean, from the lack of upward mobility, new places to explore (even if only new to us), a sense of disjunction from our own work in real life, and our desires to create, to become, and to be seen?

is this perhaps a viable explanatory theory for hardcore gamers, griefers, sandboxers, and crafters? do you feel your own inability to afford or have time to create things in the world leaves you looking for such opportunities elsewhere, as in gaming?

i know this is true for me. i have several interests, sadly they all require money, space, and time that i do not have. let's be honest, blacksmithing in real life, boat building in real life, and doing so ingame are two very different things, even if you could spend the same amount of time on them. resources cannot simply be mined out of a node in your next door neighbor's front yard, nor would they appreciate you skilling up on their backyard shade trees.

we are a generation limited by resources, time, money, and space (or land if you prefer) constraints like no other generation in our Western countries have ever seen.

there is no more frontier, you can't simply go walking into the local national forest and plop down the house you've crafted at the local crafting station. and speaking of money, especially in this economy, grinding on your neighborhood pets to level up and get vendor trash to sell isn't going to work either. 

but this is not true of virtual worlds. and this will continue to be part of our underlying struggle with them over the next few decades.

so perhaps we turn to alternate forms of creativity to give ourselves room to express and make.

it is in this that i appreciated Oshii's examination of life and game worlds the most. he attacks economic stabilization it seems, for fear we will al crawl into a virtual world. i would argue that it is the economic destabilizaation, the shifting of the majority of income and resources to an ever smaller portion of the population is what breeds stagnation.

can you imagine what you would create if you had just the minimal time, space and resources to do so? nothing big or expensive, but the basics to pursue your interests? see i believe that work, in its various forms, is inherently good for us and that even when we hate its abuses the most, we still know that we need it. and not just to feed ourselves. we all desire, i believe, to make, to create, to give and to receive, in kind, for our efforts.

how is this reflected in your choices of games and game mechanics?

what things *would* you create? what work would you do, given the time, space, and resources?

would this affect your gaming at all do you think? or do you have such working and creative fulfillment in your life that you can't relate to those who do find such satisfaction ingame?

looking forward to hearing your responses.


Posted by aspekx Thursday September 8 2011 at 4:04PM
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well, i've never been very successful with blogs and blogging. but i do tend to spend quite a bit of time thinking about games, gaming, and gamers. in short: metagaming.

this is not theorycrafting. while i highly respect those capable of such pursuits my interests lie primarily in the social, psychological, and at times even purely scientific research that pertains to gaming. sometimes this is in obvious, straightforward ways. yet other times my thoughts become quirky as i stray a bit and wander into anthropology, physics, and paleontology.

if this kind of introspection interests you, if you find yourself wondering whether game races afffect players or players affect game races; or if you wonder what quantum psychology and hilbert vectors might have to do with the future of gaming; than this blog is for you.

i invite all sorts of comments and questions and critiques and challenges. this is movement and that means there is thinking and possibility. as my adoptive kentucky mother used to say: " a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out," ie., if something is not changing its not living.

so let's see what happens.