Follow up, September 2012.

September 24, 2012

Just in case you wonder what happened to me, here’s a post.

I no longer play MMOs. I gave them up entirely. I don’t post on Massively, or even browse it. I stopped caring about the genre, and apart from the occasional “Oh, so Game A has shipped!” don’t mind. I’m sorry if anyone has mailed me and I didn’t respond to you-apparently I changed the blog’s email address for responses and it was only the comments that redirected to my home box. So please forgive me.

I rarely even play normal games. I write, and do a lot of reading, but that compulsion, that addiction to factory-line repetitive menial work that we call gaming has faded. I don’t regret this, though at times I do miss the people. I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever return, as the only gaming I do now is in brief hour-long bursts on a portable system and that infrequently.

So I’m doing all right. But  I want to ask anyone who still reads this blog. If you gave up MMOs completely, what would you lose?

How much of gaming in this genre is truly irreplaceable? What exactly are you doing with this time? How much of what you do isn’t for recreation, but done out of compulsion or habit? Think about these things some time. The time you spend on them, on making these fantasy images and forums your only world that matters-you will not get it back. The games will not endure, and won’t even become recognizable if they do. I can never go back to the old FFXI.MMOs have become alternate worlds for many of us, and their gravity can trap us into a half-real world where we think communication is done with disembodied voices and pressing buttons on a pad is fishing. 

I had to break free of this to survive, and I don’t regret it one second. So keep it in mind. I hope all the people who were kind to me online, and those that put up with me are doing well.

The last post of MMO misanthrope.

April 25, 2011

There comes a time when what you used to love has changed too much to continue with. When I first started posting, it was in reaction to discovering the MMO Blogosphere, and I was deeply in love with Final Fantasy XI, a game I played for over five years of my life.

As I posted, and read other people’s thoughts, I came to realize I was done with FFXI, and entered the greater world of MMOs. But I struggled to find a game to play. Mabinogi, then Fallen Earth, then Aion, then EVE, then Champions Online. I briefly played Age of Conan, DDO, World of Warcraft, and a few other F2P games. I entered my first beta, Metaplace.

I couldn’t fit into any of those games.

Maybe it was because of my first games: Phantasy Star Online, Everquest Online Adventures, and FFXI. Maybe it was just change over time. I changed, but the games didn’t. Maybe it was how people changed, where everyone became a bit more closed to each other, and the days of small, fun game communities folded under the weight of needing hundreds of thousands of people.

I don’t know. But I do know this, that there isn’t anything I am looking forwards to for the first time of my gaming life. TOR, GW, and the Secret World don’t interest me in the least. They are too much like Rift. Small, safe changes and building on solid foundations. This may be wise marketing and planning, but it’s death to the soul.

There are three options to this. One is to be a gadfly, constantly complaining and hoping for meaningful change. One is to shut up and accept that life is different. The third is to walk away.

I choose the third.

Part of it is due to time. MMO generations are starting to approach real life generations. Games are lasting 7 years or more. That’s an awful long time to complain, or to settle. With consoles, 7 years has real difference. A RPG like Orphen on the PS2 is much less complex or as good looking as Persona 3. But with MMOs there is precious little change. A game now has little functional difference than a game released ten years ago.

Another aspect is a different side of time. A lot of people think that the best way to solve the problem I face is by going back to the classic, hard core experience. Wolfshead, for example. The problem with this is that I can’t also go back to my 18 year old self who had no problem with spending 6-8 hours grinding mobs or waiting for pops. Time always advances, and it isn’t kind. I can’t even so much as look at a SNK super combo without my wrists complaining.

These two reasons are why I’m hanging it up for good. I’ve canceled all my subs, and only will play Champions Online as a virtual chat room, to see and rp with friends. This blog will be shuttered, and I’ll stop posting on Massively. With good timing, Syp transferred his blog post about finding wonder to Massively, giving me a nice post to go out on.

I’ll be dumping the Twitter account too. It’s been great, even if I have been too lazy in posting and controversial in topic. Thanks to Tesh, Dril, and Drew for the fine comments, and take care all.

Political OT rant-jobs.

April 19, 2011

Snafgz and I are having a brief conversation on Twitter about online casinos. He thinks its dumb the USA tries to regulate them, I disagree. Mostly because I work at a bricks and mortar one. This is bigger than the argument though-online commerce and technology is destroying jobs and not creating enough to replace them.

Lets take Netflix.

Netflix is awesome. Streaming video, mailed DVDs and Blu-Ray. It’s a useful net business that is a vast improvement over traditional video stores. Except for one thing. It doesn’t employ that many people. A brief Googling puts the range of people at 600-2000.

Now think of how many people used to work at video stores.

I had roughly about 8-10 in my local area. Let’s put the employee number at 40, give or take. Is Netflix’s 2000 jobs comparable to 40 jobs per city, not even counting home office or distribution of chains? Blockbuster and Movie Gallery closed all locations.

It isn’t, not by a long shot. So a net subtraction of jobs.

Yes, they were low paying service jobs. (Although managing a store isn’t, and the home office jobs are comparable to anything Netflix does except the server and IT side of the business.) But you know what? We need lower paying service jobs too. Those Blockbuster employees are not going to magically go to college and become biotech workers. They are going to go on unemployment and/or try to find jobs at Target and Walmart.

The argument I have with Snafgz is that online commerce is doing just that, destroying jobs. He thinks progress is inevitable and we have to adapt. I think we will adapt by not having any, or lesser jobs.

I don’t say this lightly. I’ve watched it happen. I mentioned I work in a casino. In my area, the casinos were the only things that prevented the local economy from dying when manufacturing jobs were destroyed en masse. I saw the scary sight of 18+ year tool and die operators and engineers asking me if my retail store was hiring.  A lot of them only found work when the casinos were approved, and while it wasn’t as good as being a skilled trade, it enabled the people who had houses and families in the region to stay, and attracted more people to the area.

These are the jobs of last resort. And now, through the net, they are being taken away. What will rise in their place? Nothing. An online casino is a server farm somewhere in a tax haven, to avoid regulation. Things like that hire a handful of people. will never hire enough to replace losses in Borders, and Apple wont bring back all the record stores they killed with Itunes.

I don’t know. Maybe it will take 15% unemployment for people to wake up from this.

The big list of RP suckage part 2: ERP

April 4, 2011

Part 2 of a series started here. Today we discuss the many ways role-players can make erotic role play suck. Pun is intended, but this is not the good kind of suckage.

Erotic role play is the shadow side of regular RP. It’s two or more people writing collaborative erotica in real-time, just as regular RP writes collaborative fantasy. It’s also more common than you think, and adds a very ironic tinge to posts about women sexualized in games. That’s a topic for another entry, though. So without further ado, and of course, NSFW, the list:

1. Not reading player biographies. This is important in regular RP, but it is VITAL in ERP. First off, you can tell people you aren’t interested in it, cutting down on the chaff. You can also tell people you are, which helps. More importantly, it gives a clue to what players like to do. ERPers who ignore bios pester the wrong people, have no idea when they are rping a concept that wouldn’t make for good ERP even if they allow it, or worse, make some serious mistakes.

Using an example, in Champions Online, many players make female characters that actually are male in-character for a few reasons:

  1. The default male model is muscular, and female characters are better for a thin or anime-ish look
  2. They are transsexual. Often pre-op. You’d be surprised.

Not reading a bio can lead to some incredibly embarrassing situations.

2. You wanna do WHAT to me? This one is going to take some explanation, because it involves Dblade’s law of cybersex:

The more detached sex is from reality, the more extreme it gets.

Because you don’t have to do the actual physical deed, text sex tends to do or involve things you’d be horrified to have done to you in real life, are unrealistic to do, would hurt (or kill) your partner, and involve fetishes that would probably land you in jail. This despite people who should know better and who have plenty of real life sex as it is. It’s not just the Seth Rogen types.

Nothing can kill erotic role-playing faster than hooking up with someone who has a disturbing fetish, and is hellbent on you fulfilling it. A mild example to me was hooking up with a player’s character I’d met on and off, and having her ask me to redesign my character to look nothing like she was before, and fulfill her idea of beauty. It can vary from mild, to extreme.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have fetishes at all. But good ERP puts the other player’s desires as much as your own, and the bad ERPs try and force you to be a text inflatable doll, doing things that gratify them but make you wince, hide, or swear off netsex forever. It’s a good general principle in regular RP: think of your partners first. If you do, your partner might be willing to try what you like. To a point, of course.

3. The strong, silent types and paragraph ponies.

Me: I slowly put on my robe, taking time to lace up each strap, snap each buckle, and firm out each fold and wrinkle. When I am good and ready, I reach for my mighty, magical, 10 inch tall Wizard Hat. Looking down at you, I grin roguishly as I take in the sight of you prostrate before my sorcerous self. (goes on for two more paragraphs) “You like that, eh?” I smirk.

Her: *moans* (crickets chirp)

Important takeaway: match your writing speed and style to your partner. Some people like to write paragraphs, infusing them with detail and emotion. Some people just write lines if not single words but do it fast. I’m in favor of paragraphs personally, because it’s hard to condense ERP without taking the energy out of it. But I also recognize its possible to go on too long.

Still, match the pace set if possible. If not, it’s going to be a frustrating experience.

4. Thinking of England. If you need to go afk for long periods, for the love of God, say it. Little ninja afks are all right, especially if you both are paragraph ponies. But, just a quick (afk) in text and people will understand. Barring RL emergencies of course. Otherwise it feels like our partner is lying back thinking of England while you pound out the purple prose.

5. It’s called Role-Play for a reason. Woo, controversy.

In RP, we act roles foreign to who we are. This means that men often role-play as women, and women as men. You have to make peace with this. Many people don’t, and even those that do have their own quirks.

As humans, we are very conditioned that what we see is reality. If we see a hot girl, we assume she is one. This even works on the net. It’s important in real life because we don’t want to waste time thinking whether or not that’s a real tiger trying to eat us. But on the net, this works against us, as we assign players rl gender based on their character first, and disentangling the two can be surprisingly hard to do.

There’s a lot of debate and thorny ethical issues involved in this, so rather than open the whole can of worms, I just want to warn people that this is role-play. It’s more like writing a novel than calling someone up on the phone, or going out on a date. Men write female characters in their novels, and women men, and we don’t usually give them grief over that. The problem is that even disembodied cybersex is so powerful that we confuse it with real sex and real emotions when it’s anything but.

So if you aren’t okay with the possibility, it’s simply best not to ERP. This leads into…

6. ERP means I love you. This one is something everyone falls into.

You can’t unentangle real life and net life easy. Also, for humans, doing an action causes us to behave in certain ways even if we don’t want to. When you shave each day, and go to work, you feel better. When you are laid off and you don’t, its easy to fall into depression. Sit up straight in class? You pay attention. Our actions shape our minds.

The problem is that in ERP, we are “acting” as lovers. This assumes we aren’t already, but for your average ERPer they aren’t: it’s mostly for the fun of it, or to get off, or to collect one night stands, or simply because they love intense seduction. ERPers might even already be married, or in love, but see ERP as a harmless way to blow off steam.

Is this fair? No. But it’s also not really fair to assume that because you two write good text together, that means you are hopelessly in love outside of your characters, any more than your RP enemies hate you outside of characters as well. Can it happen? Meh, maybe. However it’s dangerous to allow the act of ERPing to spill over into your real life attitudes, and it’s a constant danger. Sex, even virtual, is a powerful force. It’s best to set ground rules fast, and to examine yourself and your own motives before walking into this particular minefield. Always remember your partner matters as much as you, when you make good ERP.

7. Designing on the outside only. Men are vulnerable to this. The fun is in the seduction and play, not in the equipment. Your 5’10” amazoness with perfect DD breasts, and pouty lips doesn’t matter. It’s how she acts and styles herself, and how rich the concept is. This is also true in general RP. Men are often guilty of designing visually and hoping that carries rather than spending time to make an internally attractive character. But if the attraction is internal, it’s like a live bomb.

Don’t make a flawless character, and then be an empty shell.

8. Trying too hard. If your character is interesting, and fun with general roleplay, you don’t need to beat people over the head with the “I want to sleep with you sign.” Many times it develops naturally, and even then if it doesn’t you’ve had fun. You don’t need to go around in your undies, hit on the first thing you see, and try and railroad them to your bed, dropping them hard when they turn you down.


There’s a lot more I could write on this. There are a lot of dangers, to the point where I often worry if it’s good even to do ERP at all. It can force you to face uncomfortable truths about things: that men can really degrade women if left without consequences, and women can really view men as disposable toys. Dblade’s law is a very real problem, too, and ERP can get very dark. But this list is part of a small guide to help responsible people to avoid some not-so-common pitfalls and to throw a light on how complex ERP can be. It’s also to remind people that yes, it does exist, even if players ignore it.

The huge list of Role-playing suckage, part one

April 2, 2011

It’s time for a list. Today, it’s a list of the many ways you can make role-playing suck. This is targeted mainly to experienced role-players, but I’ll throw some newbie things in at well. Wall of text powers: activate!

1. Pedantry about grammar. Chat in MMOs is a real-time medium. People do not always have the time to proofread their posts, and this leads to typos and misunderstandings. A certain amount of give and take is needed when doing roleplay. Yes, if they are talking to you like a text message, go nuts. But resist the temptation otherwise, and don’t be the guy who corrects what people he isn’t roleplaying with says in public chat.

2. Captain Boringman Syndrome, or attack of the Anti-sue. A Mary Sue is shorthand for a perfect character with no flaws. Well, its more complex than that. As you can see from the links, you could write term papers on the variations of it. However most people overcompensate in the opposite direction, and create what I call “Captain Boringman.”

They name their characters things like John Smith in a superhero game, and make him an ordinary fellow. Painfully. He’s just there, sticking out of the milleu. He doesn’t do much because there’s not much he can do. He just sits there being normal. In other media, normal people are used to show up the fantastic situations happening. And when done well, this is excellent, as G.K. Chesterton explains in his book Orthodoxy:

In short, oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.

The problem is that people are so paralyzed with being thought a Mary Sue they don’t do the fantastic adventures. The elf cook doesn’t slay dragons, he just sits in the town hub and cooks. An old man just complains about his arthritis. Normal characters need to do extraordinary things. If you can’t, it’s better not to be one.

3. High school all over again. The lifeblood of any role-play is done IN PUBLIC. If you join a RP guild, it is not so you can hide behind your guild chat and role-play, but to coordinate live role-play with others easily. You might think this is unfair of me to order how you should role-play in a group, but it’s important because if you keep RP in private, it leads to a high school clique mentality, and makes for very poor gaming.

RP is organic, and often improvisational. There’s a place for scripted and planned events, but your character will grow from interaction with others done off the cuff. Limiting your RP to a single guild is going to make your character feel cramped, and you’ll soon get to know the other players’ tic and habits too well. RPing in public constantly has you meet people who react in different ways, forcing you to re-evaluate who you are. Why are you X’s boyfriend despite your characters having no chemistry? Did it arise because of RP, or because your guild leader pairs people up unconsciously?

Also, without public RP, the game feels very cold and barren. The reality of the guild has been to isolate players in their own self-selected channels. For parties it’s bad, but for RP it’s terminal.

4. Take your damn anti-depressants. This is NOT about the player, though seriously: if you think you are depressed look into counseling. MMOs can warehouse people and help them avoid problems like this. What this is about is this: making a player crazy for the sake of being crazy.

This can be ANNOYING AS HELL. I’ve been guilty of this. You create someone who is pure unbridled manic energy, and who RPs like a William Burroughs novel. Even if the concept is good, dealing with someone who realistically should be in some kind of therapy, and who people would avoid if at all possible makes for wearying RP. They don’t role-play with you. Instead, you become Elmer Fudd to their Bugs Bunny.

While this can be inspired if you have a RPer who is good at being a straight man, always be wary of being too nutty. Your character should be more than a collection of oddball quirks.

5. OMG I HATE U MOM as the peanut gallery watches. Often linked to RP guilds. This is the syndrome where a guild stages a public fight between two of its members while the rest of the guild does nothing. This can lead to fights of profound negativity that last for hours. Yet they never come to blows, often solved by one person storming out.

Look, we know conflict is the spice of fiction, but overtly negative public RP gets wearisome, and makes your characters look bad to the rest of us. This is similar to real life: we hate people who cause scenes. Think about it: if what you did in RP would cause you to get thrown out of a RL bar, should you do it? People though do, and what’s worse they prolong it.

This is because in RP, it’s very hard to resolve conflicts meaningfully. There’s no RP jails, and PvP is a problem often due to level disparity. My advice is to be very careful about public fights, and to cut them short when it’s obvious you are prolonging them. Also, keep this in mind: most RPers are method actors. This means they draw on their own experiences and emotions to shape RP. However, this means as they RP a fight, they often can “feel” the fight inside, so be wary of long fights.

6. Hello! I’m drinking over here! This isn’t what you think. Rather than it meaning someone who is negative about any public RP and heckles it, this means people who want to RP but are passive aggressive.

This person comes to a bar, sits down, orders a drink, and drinks it. That’s all he does, describe his drinking hoping that someone walks over and interacts with him. He keeps mulling over his drink until he gets disappointed no one talks to him, and leaves. Just say hi to someone, drinking man. Be active. If your character thinks the elf girl has nice legs and would say it, walk up to her and say it. If he does, but is too shy, have him approach her and waffle a bit.

People don’t because they are afraid of rejection, but people who reject you when you are role-playing are the exact kind of people you would never want to RP with anyways. Rather than be passive, be active. It’s a principle that is good in real life, too.

7. In the old country, we do not have what you call personal space. From the Dilbert comic here. A newbie mistake, most commonly used with Male characters and female.

So you see this really hot elf girl at the tavern. You sidle up next to her to zoom in the camera, to check her out. This is a quirk of MMOs since camera angles are often zoomed out to show the surrounding area, and not to show fine detail. Except for one thing. You are standing right behind her, maybe a foot away. While not saying anything.

For one thing, we know you are doing it. For two, people don’t do this, hover less than a foot away. Part of good RP is remembering how people act in a world, and not falling prey to how MMOs disembody us.

That’s enough for part one. Part two will be even more fun, ERP suckage. Pun fully intended.


Treading Water

April 2, 2011

I know I haven’t posted in a long time, and I’m sorry. I haven’t seen much to post about, though.

Currently I am playing two games very casually. I resubbed to EVE back when they offered two months free on the hope it changed. It’s easier to earn SP now that they boosted your statistics, but the core game is the same. I still stand by the things I said when I wrote this. It’s gotten worse, actually.

ISK in the game has raised dramatically, so now the default player opponents are not random frigs or cruisers, but random battlecruisers and tech 2/pirate/faction ships. So for low SP people, it’s harder to gain PvP wins except as part of a fleet, and the cost of PvPing is rising. While they introduced Incursions, most hi-sec ones are done in hours: I log on at 3 pm EST to find not a single hi-sec one left. The community still sucks, but these days on the forum there just aren’t many carebears left to argue on it.

Currently I just log on for an hour or two when bored and rat in lowsec. Or do a salvage run in amamake to try and get any pricey player wrecks. Usually I try to go back to games at least once when I quit because they can change for the better, but EVE hasn’t too much. When Incarna releases it might, but given CCP tends to release features, and only do basic work on them, I doubt it.

I also play Champions Online. Most time spent there is role-playing with a few friends in the Club. I also do PvP, mostly tier 3, but while it’s fun and engaging to play, there’s a lot of imbalances that can make it frustrating. Targeting is near impossible if there are pet users, because tab targeting prioritizes pets over players. You can have 8 or more pets, and they all take 75% damage from AOE based attacks. This makes them near impossible to clear out of the way.

There’s also problems with holds. It’s possible to stack short term “stun” holds on people, to the point where they can’t react. Most of these are also unblockable, so it can be frustrating.

At this point in time, I feel like I am just treading water. The next big thing in MMOs is a game I refuse to play for being everything the genre shouldn’t be: a derivative, copycat experience that just works. I’m not too keen on TOR, nor on Guild Wars 2. It’s a bad time in MMOs, and that’s why my posting has dropped off  a cliff. For that I apologize.

MMOs are from Mars, Social Games are from Venus

March 7, 2011

I don’t use Facebook much. I don’t deny it has it’s uses, but logging on today I realized something odd.

The majority of my friends list are the women in the family. There are men, but they post relatively infrequently and were brought into it by a woman. In all three cases in my immediate family, it was my sister. In my extended one, it was their spouses. There were little to no single men, and that held true in social game play.

The irony was that for all the gamer stereotypes, the ones littering my friend feed with social game notifications were all married, and introduced to the game by their spouse. It’s a reversal of the WoW girlfriend concept, where the WoW gamer, usually male, brings his girlfriend or spouse along.

I thought deeper. On my twitter feed, the proponents of social games tend to be either women (Cuppytalk, Brenda Braithwaite) or focused on the needs of women. Of course, anecdoatal data, and this is not to be taken as definitive. But it did spark something I am thinking on: that the social game divide may ultimately be a gender divide, and not reparable.

MMO Games:

-focused on achievement and competition

-connection does not exist, or is limited to the guild level.

Social Games:

-focused on relationship and trading

-many connections, often weak, but defining aspect is tying players together through gameplay.

It’s a basic male/female divide.

Yes, there is overlap, but it tends to be from people who switch yin/yang models. In short, men who like social games are more connected to the feminine view, most notably by contact with a woman via dating and marriage. The women who like MMOs tend to buy more into the masculine ideas they have: meritocracy, achievement, competition over the feminine: social ties, co-operation, and expression. Some MMOs can attract both equally, but it’s rare. EVE is the tail end of the masculine MMO, and Farmville is the other.

You could also argue even the focuses reflect this. EVE at heart is all about killing or be killed in a lawless world. Farmville is all about creation and organization, and connecting people to work on communal tasks.

My point I guess is that for all the talk of bringing women to gaming, we have already achieved it. The problem is the types of gaming simply aren’t compatible over the long term, and we may see more and more sorting by gender. Like Facebook, some aspects of it appeal more towards a particular gender or those tied to it, while not attracting to others. Women dislike Xbox live, Men can’t stand Zynga games.

Here’s the killer though: as the population ages, women will be the dominant sex. The information age benefits them disproportionately, and while male outliers still hold control, women graduate from college more often, have higher job prospects due to manufacturing and construction being hit hard, and are poised to define trends and ideas in this century. My misanthropic take is that we will see social games increase and influence even more. My past hope was that it was a fad, but now I see its simply too rooted in the gender divide and who we are to easily fade.


Marvel Vs Capcom Vs MMOs.

February 28, 2011

This is related to the last post about Rift and twilight.

In the local mall, there’s a small local arcade surviving heroically. Like all arcades, it’s more redemption and ticket machines than actual games, with only a few of them left. It’s mostly racing games and light gun games, but with one exception. They have a Marvel versus Capcom 2 machine there.

This is welcome to me as I played the same game in the same mall over fifteen years ago, and it adds some continuity to life. These days so much of what existed when we were young has been thrown away, either due to innovation or simple time. In my town, my high school doesn’t exist any more, the employer I worked at for 7 years doesn’t, the movie theaters where I first watched movies are gone, as are all the video and book stores I lived in as a kid. However, there is a problem.

There’s really zero quantatative difference between MvC2 then, and any Capcom versus game now besides the graphics.

If anything, MvC2 is the better game because it strikes a balance between complexity and simplicity. This is not good at all.

It means the series has been stagnant, and it really has. It’s not just MvC: play Soul Calibur on dreamcast, or Tekken 2, and you see all the later iterations just get more complex and never really change. Playing King in Tekken barely has changed at all over time. We are seeing fifteen years or more of games, a lifetime according to Moore’s law, do  little to advance themselves. Even niche titles: Gulity Gear on playstation one is basically the same game as later models except for arcane tweaks to the ruleset.

This is bad, because it killed the genre. Virtually all fighting games cash in on multi-decade existing licenses. Capcom used to innovate in fighting games with spinoffs: Techromancer, Cyberbots, Rival Schools: United by Fate. While others relied on past technologies, they tried to make a new experience. Primal Rage and Brutal are two examples, as was Eternal Champions and Bushido Blade. But innovation has been thrown off a cliff in favor of updated retreads.

The problem with MMOs specifically is that we are now at the MvC2 point. We had an early time of a lot of innovations, but like all the fighting games of the MK/SF 2 generation, they have moved to incremental advancement. Why would anyone in God’s name go back to playing by classic EQ rules? It would be like going back to play a 8-bit strategy game. It should feel so shallow as not to be worth except as a curiosity.

If we can in 20 years, look back and still find past MMOs anything but shallow, linear experiences heavily colored by nostalgia, and not be able to point to the current genre as adding entirely new experiences and concepts, the genre has failed. Burnout is not the same as pole position. But will Everquest 4 be the same as Everquest one?

Twilight of the next big thing.

February 27, 2011

Note to self: don’t try to do a challenge when both games you play go through some pretty large changes. More on this later. But first, a little rant.

Twilight. Everyone hates it. It’s fashionable to. They have a point to do so: as a YA novel it’s pretty badly written, and it’s view on relationships is awkward if not harmful. Of course, the whole genre hasn’t been so good on it: as anyone who has ever read Christopher Paolini, Paul Zindel or Robert Cormier would find out. But lets skip that for now.

The people who hate it have some valid arguments about how its massive sales to a large part of the market affect the YA genre. They don’t go far enough with them, usually out of some sense of political correctness: having what is essentially a sanitized version of Anita Blake Vampire Hunter right down to the heroine/vampire/werewolf dynamic isn’t conducive to getting male readers to drop their xbox360 and start to read. Nor is it getting those teen women a healthy understanding of relationships or guys. I could go on with the specific critique, but that’s a tangent to the main point.

Now here it is. After Twilight is finished, there’s a huge lull in the YA book market. People grumble, but go back to reading their worn copies of Eragon or the hunger games, but nothing really draws the level of attention it does. Quite a few Twilight haters are actually rereading the Twilight series again, either to pick flaws in it, or because their friends keep reading it, and they don’t want to give them up over a book. Or to make snarky parodies or fan fiction. But still, whenever it’s mentioned in public, its either met with contempt or at best benign indifferrence.

Now, fast forwards. A new author suddenly releases a book, Mourning. Maybe its Tamora Pierce, or maybe it’s some unknown author. It’s blantatly obvious that it’s a tremendous rip-off of Twilight, with some added parts from other books thrown in to it. You still have your desired female main character, you have your main character being a brooding mysterious immortal, and you have a rival also being a supernatural creature. Maybe it puts it into a post-apocalyptic dystopia, ripping the Hunger Games off. Or maybe it puts it in modern day, but with Greek gods instead of vampires. The borrowing is done well, but that doesn’t really hide the fact you’ve seen the same thing in other books.

You can argue that all books do this, and you have a point. But it’s not all that creative. The writing is very good, but the themes have no real spin to them. There’s nothing to it that knocks peoples socks off: while it’s well crafted, it’s almost like a pseudo-sequel or remake. The minor innovations get swallowed up in the sea of familliarity.

And the themes still are bad in the same way Twilight was. They do not make any commentary on them or twist them. They may make it easier to digest, and not challenge your intelligence or sensation of disbelief as badly. Vampire Baseball and Imprinting are gone, but the main character is still a clingy Mary Sue pursued by a stalkerish male, and is just as uncomfortable if you think about it. Maybe the book’s magic system works well, or they had a bit better historical detail, but one could argue that it’s just a sugar pill to reinforce the same, tired message of Twilight down.

Now here’s the thing. You’d expect the haters of Twilight to tear this apart, right?

No, they bloody LOVE it.

It might be because they were so disappointed in the last novel, a popular one by the Japanese author of Kamikaze girls. It released but was so badly translated and printed the publisher had to stop printing it. Or maybe the long wait for the rumored J.K. Rowling YA book is making them antsy. My God, they love that book, one based on the success of the author in other intellectual properties. Or there’s that big Neil Gaiman sequel to Starlight coming out, which everyone has been dying to read despite not so many people actually being keen on it when it first came out, and the buzz really only came because they chose to release it for 5 bucks at walmart on dvd.

In any case, rather than call it a cynical cash grab that relies on people’s familiarity of a popular best seller with some minor alterations taken from other books, they flock to it like birds. It’s praised for its “polish” and “craftsmanship” and while people really aren’t all that excited about it for it, they still flood the bookstores and wait 4 hours in line to scoop up a copy. Stephanie Meyer reacts by releasing a limited edition, free novella about Edward and Bella in the past, but even that doesn’t stop the juggernaut. People harshly against the whole genre lap it up. Yet the problems still remain, and are even worse.

Mourning shows that people are full of shit. People who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a team Edward shirt and have made many serious and well-argued points against Twilight toss them aside. It’s the same tired story: nothing in the book leads us to believe the ending will be different or surprising, and you don’t expect the book to grow. It might be innovative in its borrowings, dressing them up neatly, but in the end people have the suspicion that it will be something they will not plan to read or like long term. Some people openly state it is a placeholder book till the other two big titles come out, and the Twilight haters nod reassuringly. Meanwhile the few people not keen on it look in a state of disbelief as they watch an entire edifice built around critiquing the flaws of the largest current best-selling novel be left rusting in the wind as people chase after its spiritual twin. Even a notororious critic is dropping his fierce opposition to Twilight because they threw in a reference to Tarantino films, which he loves.

Weird times, eh?

You probably get the analogy by now. But the next time you slam Twilight, or criticize the whole YA genre for being stale and uncreative, remember you spent money on Mourning.


Salvage Part 2: Amamake

January 17, 2011

The move went well. I contracted my meager collection of things via public courier before I logged, and had it waiting for me when I logged on this morning. I base in Sarum Prime now, one jump from the Amarr homeworlds.

Amamake is a bit different from Rancer. While it is a pirate haven, the Amarr and Minmatar Militia duke it out in the local systems nearby. On more than one occasion local spiked with 30 plus ships as a large warband moved through. Thankfully, none of them were willing to risk the sec hit and gate gun fire to nail my Salvage Bunny.

It was a bit slower, but eventually I found some tasty salvage on the Auga gate in Amamake. Peter Gold’s Thrasher gave me all of one metal scrap, and while other wrecks were nearby, I chose discretion over valor, making it back to Sarum Prime and finishing one of my goals: to salvage player wrecks from two notorious hotspots.

This was done fairly quick, and shows a small truth to lowsec: it’s really not that populated. There’s an illusion in the game where once you step out of empire, hordes of pirates camp any gate and will kill you instantly.

The reality is different. While people do camp gates, it’s not as often as you think. I ran across gate camps twice in about 4-6 hours of play. Most of the danger is in what’s called the glory belt: the first asteroid belt in any lowsec system. Also dangerous are “sights”-small, static complexes with rats that sometimes dot systems. Once away from gate guns mild deterrent, risk grows.

However it needs to be said that I freely explored two of the more notorious lowsec systems in the game, jumping from location to location, while only losing one ship. Contacts with enemy ships were few and eventless, apart from the one gate camp. It’s easy to get caught up in general rhetoric about PvP or carebearing to forget about the reality on the ground.

Next up-time to ninja mine in 0.0 with my frig.