Friday, September 23, 2011

Where did September go?

The greater part of September seems to have vanished. This has been one of those weeks where I got a lot done and still don't feel like I'm on top of everything. A lot of neat little news tidbits have caught my eye, but I haven't taken time out to comment on them. So now I ramble...

SWG: Star Wars Galaxies just launched atmospheric flight. You can now summon your space-ship and fly it around on planets. If you fly straight up you even zone into space once you get 6 kilometers up. They launched it just in time for me on the heritage quest chain, since I am now frequently being sent to targets in excess of 10km away. Not too bad now that I can fly there in my space-ship. It must have been a real up bitch up until last week.

This is the ship you get for free by doing an optional side quest in the tutorial area. I have no idea how you get a ship "the normal way."

DCUO goes FtP: DC Universe Online is going to go free to play. It seems a bit odd to have three different Super Hero themed MMO options available for FtP. In fact, as far as premium FtP MMOs go, capes and tights is now seemingly the most crowded market apart from fantasy. DCUO is unlikely to compete very strongly with Champions Online or City of Heroes/ Villains, since the bulk of its current audience is on the PS3. If it were PC only, I doubt DCUO really could compete with CO or COH given how much deeper the latter games are.

That said, as a full featured FtP console MMO I can see where DCUO might carve out a niche. Even if you are willing to sub, the other two MMO options on consoles are pretty abysmal by modern standards. Both are grindy and practically require you to group to make progress on most classes. On top of that FFXI, the most sucessful console MMO to date, has systems that are obtuse even by old school MMO standards deeply embedded. Console gamers are still an untapped MMO market.

LoTRO: The Rise of Isenguard launches on Tuesday. That's four days! A great dev diary/ preview of Orthank went up on the web a few days ago. It looks really cool to me. Those are narratives I want to experience. Between Isenguard, dabbling in SWG until it shutters, and hanging out with my DDO guild a couple of nights a week it looks like my spare time is accounted for until around the launch of SW:TOR.

KoTOR II vs SWTOR: Speaking of SW:TOR, playing SWG awakened an urge in me to play a Star Wars RPG with a UI that doesn't fight your every desire tooth and nail... and that has a storyline I'd ever give a crap about. I never quite finished Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and so I spent an afternoon with it last weekend. The graphics are really dated. However, the storyline is really engaging. Soon I found myself not caring about the sparse environments and clunky animation, I just wanted to know what happens next. That's a feature lacking from most MMO narratives, and something I hope that SW:ToR will finally remedy.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Do modern MMO communities suck?

This post over at I Have Touched the Sky (which contains one of my favorite quotes from the original Conan stories, btw) led me to this post over at Scary Booster, where Scary seems to have had some really bad experiences with other MMO gamers lately. In short, he feels that modern MMO communities are filled with asshats. He makes it sound almost as bad as X-box live ["shudder"].

You will encounter some pretty caustic personalities when playing MMOs for sure. Forums devoted to MMOs seem to be especially caustic. See the forum devoted to any new and popular MMO over at or the official Blizzard forums for example. The first time I saw someone use the response "I hope you die in a fire" in a forum thread was at the latter locale. It did not seem facetious from the back and forth in the rest of the thread, and it honestly made sick to my stomach to read it. However, I've since gotten so used to people being insane over-the-top dickheads on the net that I barely even notice such statements nowadays.

All that said, are the people playing MMOs by and large idgits? I'd say no, absolutely not in my experience. Much as in real life, when I take the time to interact with someone they usually turn out to be pretty nice in most MMOs I play. Even in the famously craptastic community of WoW, I met a lot of great people. The density of assholes there is pretty high, I have to admit. Dungeon Finder PUGs are especially bad. But I doubt the bad apples constitute even 10% of the overall playerbase. That's the worst MMO community I've encountered, by a wide margin. It's also one of the communities where I made the most friends. Really big communities have more of people every sort, both awesome and sucky, than smaller ones.

In the great majority of MMOs I've played, the community is actually pretty good. This may be shocking to those that primarily play WoW, but in the majority of MMOs you can actually get decent advice by using zone chat. When I first started DDO, I would often ask a question in the newbie channel and some random person would start a tell conversation with me to help me out. Even at higher levels, when my level 6 [characters max out at 20 in DDO] wizard couldn't figure out where to buy his spells, a random player grouped with me and transported me to the vendor I needed.

I don't consider DDO a fluke. The last time I played DAoC, I got really helpful advice on character builds using zone chat. The last time I played CoH, PuGs were abundant and every one of the dozen or so I played in went really well. The last time I logged into EQ2X, a random player was giving away absolutely gargantuan (and expensive to make) bags to newbies. I've encountered quite a few dicks while playing MMOs, but acts of random kindness from strangers stand out in my mind more.

Finally, as proof that not all MMO communities utterly suck, I want to point to the official Minstrel message board over at Minstrels are getting nerfed, and nerfed hard in the upcoming expansion. The power cost of their heals is reportedly nearly doubling. Their maximum healing output is also getting nerfed. According to beta testers, a minnie will have to get to 75 and get a rareish magic item to be able to put out as much healing as they currently can at 65. In short, it's practically the apocalypse for the most popular healing class in the game.

Check out this thread about it in the minnie forum (you need to get about halfway down the first page before you start seeing reports of how bad things are in the beta). Yeah, there are a lot of players complaining. But most of them seem to be reacting with "Yeah, it sucks. But we will deal with it. We'll just have to play better." I'm a pretty even keeled. However, if I had a high level minnie I suspect I'd be screaming bloody murder over the changes. That any message board could be largely populated by players so calm and contemplative boggles my mind in the modern internet era.

The internet is indeed filled with asshats. However, I'd argue that the places inhabited by MMO gamers are better places to be than most.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Quick Hits, First of September Edition

A lot of tidbits have been on my mind lately.

SWG: I finally made it to my second planet in Star Wars Galaxies, Naboo:

You really really want to buy a swoop soon
as you can afford one.

Once you get over the steeper than usual initial learning curve, there really is a fun game buried in there. I've been tempted to make a short "things I wish I knew when I started" post. There are a lot of simple things you need to be aware of that aren't documented well in the game. I've spent the last month discovering most by accident. However, with the SOE refusing all new subs in a few weeks, I can't imagine who would benefit from "helpful tips for newbies" post. More and more I'm feeling that it's a real shame SOE will have to close SWG down. It has almost nothing in common with TOR save setting, there is no reason these two Star Wars games could not coexist.

Nerdbashing provokes Nerdrage: I'm sure few of you missed the small tempest that erupted across the net over this post at Gizmondo. Most of the reactions were pretty negative, and I have to agree that the author of the post does come across as a fairly self absorbed and judgmental. However, I also think some commentators took the whole thing a little too personally; some of the backlash went too far in my opinion. It's her loss, no big deal. That said . . .

Is being into something nerdy really that big of a deal? To me the entire ruckus raised an interesting question. If you have a nerdy hobby like MtG or MMOs, are you automatically expected to advertise that fact to a potential date? I did once get a phone number from someone at a film festival by telling her about my Kingdom of Loathing character and how studly he was with his chef hat and frilly skirt. However, I consider that a bit of a fluke ;-) If I were going to dabble in online dating, I don't think "MMO gamer" is how I'd want my profile to define me. At the same time, scaring off folks like the author of that column with your profile might actually be a good thing. I have mixed feelings about the issue.

STO going FtP: all I can say is "Yay!" I'm still a little leery of Champions Online and Star Trek Online because my power supply died thrice previously when I was playing them. However, my new power supply is a lot bigger than my old ones and should be able to handle my GFX card being pushed to the max. The launch of FtP STO is likely going to be what pushes me to test that theory.

DDO: I'm still going strong in Dungeons and Dragons Online. The game really is a heck of a lot more fun in parties than solo, and lately someone has been on and looking to run something in my guild almost every time I stick my head in. Even solo, I've discovered the game is much more fun with an NPC than without. I rarely explore without one now. The game is also surprisingly pretty for an old game that runs on almost any system:

The gate to the plane of madness.

That's all I've got for now. Happy Labor Day weekend!