Every so often I like to browse through the forums at mmorpg.com ... yes, I know it's Trollville, but some subforums are better than others and you quickly see past the sea of trollery to find the core members that are actually intelligent and fun to interact with. Plus, sometimes when I am not in the mood to play it is the only way to really get my MMO fix.
A few days ago, I came across this post: Having an "adventure" again?
Right away I was intrigued, as it hit upon one of the major problems with post-WoW MMORPGs - community. I tend to think that for all my or anyone else's musings on What is Wrong with the design of these games, a lot of it can all come back to the lack of quality community.
Are people who are part of a community that they enjoy and take part in less likely to complain about the little things that irk them in a game? Are they more likely to blow those little things up into huge things?
It seems like I wasn't the only intrigued as the thread quickly became a hot topic and a mere few days later it was featured as a mmorpg.com Community Spotlight. Now there is a Guild Portal site set up for our cause and we are in the process of choosing a game to play.
It seems like a phenomenon I have heard mentioned more than once is that back in the "old days" bugs, exploits and all manner of "game-breaking" issues were rife ... but people put up with them. Most often this accounted for by the assertion that there were far fewer choices of different games, occasionally it is said that we were more "innocent" back then.
Those two assertions may (and at least to some degree are) true. But there could also be another explanation - the general communities were just better.
Sure there were trolls and loud, foul-mouthed children playing back then. But were there as many? Was the signal-to-noise ratio quite the same now that literally millions of new MMORPG players have been introduced to the genre?
It's funny, and maybe I don't get around as much anymore, but it seems like these days you don't hear a fraction of of the complaints about maturity level (quite low) of the Counter Strike community like you might have five years ago. Now you hear the exact same complaints but about it is the World of Warcraft community.
For me personally, I would relate my experience in LOTRO. I subbed on opening day and thought the game was a lot of fun. Except for the fact that the community out of the gate was pretty awful. I was just coming off of playing nothing but WoW for about two years or so (literally, I can't believe how many quality non-WoW games I missed between 2005-2007 that I am still finding out about) and was quite sensitive to anything having to do with player2player interaction. If I could have put the global population on /ignore I would have happily done it.
When I quit LOTRO the straw that broke this camel's back was being chased around Breeland by a player named, and I shitteth thee not, "Iclubbabyseals." I couldn't take it, I unsubbed, uninstalled and didn't look back until almost a year later. And ironically went back to WoW ... there had to be some element of abuse psychology at work there.
If you know me, then you know that I am also a Tolkien nerd and so of course I couldn't stay away. So I resubscribed and made the server Landroval my home (it was/is the unofficial RP server). Lo and behold the experience was amazing. Landroval had (has) one of the best MMORPG communities I have ever experienced in an online game. That is why I am still subscribed even though I rarely play anymore. Even if I am not terribly fond of LOTRO anymore, the exceptional Landroval community keeps me coming back.
So Why do MMORPG Communities Suck?
I really hate being a WoW hater, but as the years are turning the more and more I am convinced that it has had an extremely negative impact not only on the MMORPG genre but on PC gaming in general. I know that is a stretch and it's nothing I am going to stake my life on, but it is worth considering.
To me it seems like the older games were meant to be more like a typical PnP game, where you and your friends hang out for a few hours and have fun battling some orcs, slaying a dragon and saving a princess (or prince) or two. The allure of the MMORPG over the PnP game of course is that the online video game could connect friends living on separate continents and unlike those Saturday afternoon games, MMOs are going 24/7/365.
But if you look at the technological innovations in general, you almost always find that they do not live up to all the promises they make about making life better. So for instance, now the modern worker has more work and obligations and lives a much more harried and less satisfying life than a medieval peasant. Even as productivity of a worker increases, he or she must work even more and continue to be more and more productive. Hey, at least it makes anti-depressant manufacturers big bucks.
Now I'm sure there is a lot of controversy over that example, as there are other factors at play aside from mere technological process (I'm looking at you, you Calvinist bastards), but it illustrates what I think has happened to online video games.
An MMORPG these days seems to be less about casual (not speaking in the current and popular sense of that word) fun and more about working on achieving goals and being productive as a player. And all the focus seems to be on achieving those goals as an individual player - the group only exists to get you as an individual to where you want to be; there are no communal goals. The individual is the only thing that matters; selfishness is a virtue.
Again, I hate the fashionable trend of disparaging WoW simply because it is WoW, but I can't help but feel that World of Warcraft, more than any other individual game, has inculcated this behavior in the greater mass of players.
But these behaviors are not new since WoW, you can see them everyday. Just look around you at the people going into debt for fancy houses and cars, committing every sort of privation on their lives to "make it." To live the corrupted fantasy of a life that currently passes for the American Dream. Greed is good, right? He who dies with the most toys wins.
I think that WoW tapped into these memes and put them into its core design is precisely the reason it is as popular as it is - it addresses the same lusts and character defects in general society inside the game. It has nothing to do with it being "casual" or that it is a game for "non-gamers." The sad thing to me is that it has seemingly has trained a generation of gamer to expect that in all games.
And what is the result? Turn on CNN or Fox News and you see the real-life equivalent of the WoW player. By focusing only on the needs of the individual - to the point of exalting them - the general community has become diseased, like a rotted piece of wood. So you experience phenomena like a large upswing in the troll population - those who resist the unnatural condition of hyper-individualism and try (usually subconsciously) to wreck the system almost always without realizing why (explained as being for the "lulz" or some similar example of infantilized behavior).
You have players who retreat from the community and focus solely on the "solo game." You have the smarter jackals who set up "professional" guilds to make sure they achieve all they can often at the expense of its members and the non-pro guilds whose members will quit at the drop of a hat to be in the pro guild. You have the phenomenon of entitlement - those who think that because someone is not "hard core" they should not have the chance to experience all the game (e.g. endgame raids) has to offer.
Essentially you have all the real-world bullshit we have to put up with, consciously or not, invading one of the last sacred spaces of lackadaisical dreamers of the world. And the community becomes more like the real world in the sense it is fractured, cut-throat and dysfunctional.
So you can see now why I am very interested in this new group of players from mmorpg.com who are banding together to fight both virtual fantasy evil as well as the real evils of misanthropic behavior and alienation. The thing I think we share in common is the same thing that made older MMORPGs so much fun, despite the bugs, lag and other nasty fubars and glitches. We want fulfillment from playing together as a group of people - learning from and enjoying each other. What in today's games seems to have been superseded by achieving goals set by the game developers and the all-important goal (in both PvP as well as PvE) of competing against each other. Maybe The Path Ahead can learn what it is like to have fun again and leave the "work" behind.
OK, I know I don't post very often. But does it matter? There are maybe one or two people tops that read this and I don't even know them (you). But I will continue to slog away regardless.
I have been playing World of Warcraft lately ... and am just about ready to call it quits again after only about a month of it. I am pretty much over that game, which saddens me to some degree, but I am running into all the same walls and most of the annoyances that has caused me to quit in the past.
Multiple servers - I know that logistically there is probably no other way to deal with this, but I hate the fact that WoW has 300-trillion different servers to choose from. I am not really happy at this point with my realm which I picked only to participate in a reroll guild. A reroll guild which has since utterly fallen apart, leaving me stranded on a server I don't want to be on. And do I really want to pay $25 to move a level 37 character to another server I might not like either? Do I really want to grind out 1-37 yet again (I've done it probably hundreds of times since 2005) just to be on a different realm? Answer is NO to both.
Boredom - I am bored to death with WoW. I'm not even sure where to start on this one, as it is so general and all-encompassing. I think a big part of it has to do with Blizzard's focus on developing the end-game rather than the whole-game. Where is the housing and the customizable clothing? Where is the actual enforcement of the (Blizzard mandated) RP rules on the RP servers? Where is the push to nurture and strengthen micro-communities like guilds, trade associations or even mercenary guilds within the game? And even though the 1-60 grind has been given quite the leveling speed boost, it is still a solo grind that I have done more times than I might care to admit. In other words the immersion in WoW is non-existent, and it still feels like I am paying to perform repetitive, mind-numbing and time-consuming tasks over a long period of time, not relax and have fun while being mentally stimulated.
Community - I hate to include this, because I really dislike trading in simplified stereotypes of people and their behavior. But damn. There are many kind, thoughtful people that play WoW, but sadly they get lost in a general glaze of immaturity. To me, however, this isn't even the biggest or most annoying aspect of the overall WoW community. It is rather a lonely feeling that one can expect to experience in the game without a pre-existing guild or by sheer luck of finding one.
This last is probably the biggest reason for my most recent cancellation. I took up the game again on a whim, trying out the WotLK trial to see how everything was going. I ended up becoming involved with a reroll guild that went quite fantastically at first. I actually enjoyed logging in and playing - and I mean actually playing with guild members in instances and in the open world not just "chatting."
Then of course everyone flaked. And now a month later the guild has about three or four individual players including myself. Now I find myself procrastinating when I should be logging in. Or I log into LOTRO (the Spring Festival and it's hedgerow maze has made that choice easy lately). Or I read reddit. Or I stare at the wall or google Doom Metal. Anything that does not involve me logging into a crowded ghost town.
I suppose that is in itself a feedback loop since I make it less likely I will find more people. But I find it hard to stay motivated as I'm not looking for a social chat club. Unfortunately that has been my experience more MMOs than just World of Warcraft, but WoW seems particularly bad with this aspect to me. That could also just be a combination of luck and personality on my part, however.
My account is still active, however, and I do log in when I make myself. Despite my focus on the negative aspects of the WoW experience, there are still a number of positives. The original magic is still there - that is the large, seamless world where you can climb a mountain, swim in the ocean and explore for hours and hours.
I quite enjoy the new achievement system, though achievements overall are becoming rather passe; perhaps I should say including achievements just to include them is passe. A well-done system is a pleasure, and I think Blizzard did at least implement a coherent system.
If I were able to wave a magic wand and give myself absolute power over the general development direction of WoW at this point, I think I would make immediate focus on refining the current guild system and developing new in-game community systems to bring people together more. I would also have the game tweaked to be far more rewarding to group play to give the new systems fertile soil in which to grow.
Personally I have always liked the LFG system for instances that was introduced way back when and don't really understand why hardly anyone uses it. Part of my magic wand initiative would be researching why exactly nobody uses it. I suspect there is a skewed reward/effort ratio in there somewhere.
Sadly there is probably nothing to be done at this point to fix the community fragmentation that occurs as a result of the multi-shard model that Blizzard uses. So I would play to the strengths of this model rather than wallow in its weaknesses. That is, introducing realms with slightly customized rulesets.
I always thought they should implement a fatigue XP negative bonus. In fact, having played Diablo, I was expecting it when I logged in to WoW the first time. What I mean by this is having a three-tiered XP system, rather than two. As it is now you earn a bonus rate of XP gain when logged out. With fatigue you earn a negative bonus XP rate the more you play, similar to how you go from rested to normal. So if you are grinding mobs for hours at a time, you eventually go from blue XP to purple XP to red XP, where you will be taking a small percentage hit to the XP you earn for mob kills.
So why not open a few realms with this mechanic in place and see what players make of it? We could also have one or two FFA PVP with full loot realms (of course with the caveat that the overall game would not be balanced for that play-style). One could think of these servers as being griefer-sinks like mounts are gold-sinks, lol.
OK, I am rambling so I'll cease. I am interested in hearing what you think about my ideas, so please leave a comment!
Well, not really. But my dear compatriots, it is with a sigh and a slight passing of gas I admit that I am once more on the World of Warwagon. After some months I have succumbed to my baser desires and resubbed, though I have yet to actually purchase the WotLK expansion.
Of course playing WoW isn't really a bad thing, per se - I am merely rather given to melodrama. But I do have genuine angst over it, not because I ever entertained any ridiculous addiction fantasies, but it did consume a large amount of my time for a few years. And I can't shake the feeling that was time wasted.
No, my good friends, I am also disabused of the Calvinist tomfoolery and materialist nonsensery my fellow Americans are so inured with, so I am not concerned that I could have been building a "career" or some such dribble.
I am also not in the slightest concerned for my social life, as I believe I have already experienced enough group revelry to tide me over for the rest of my life if need be (yes, I was a "partier" in my youth). I also have a young child to care for, so while I can sneak away to Azeroth every now and then without much of an impact, I can't really stay out all night then host a 2 a.m. after-party.
Mainly what I am getting at is that for the few years I was a hardcore Wowhead, I missed out on many genuinely good titles. I had found the One Game to rule them all, and everything else was cast to the wayside.
(NOTE: I originally wrote this on March 16, but saved it as a draft and forgot to publish it. It is now April 7, but I am publishing it under 03/16/09 anyway in a semi-unfinished state.)
I have a confession to make ... ok two.
First, I have actually been following the development of Darkfall for a just little while now (no, I am not an '04er), even though the sundry cries of "vaporware!" still ring throughout the mmorpg landscape. I don't care, if it comes out I'll try it and if it doesn't, I'll just keep on with LOTRO and maybe take up Vanguard again (whatever other problems VG has, it definitely has my favorite crafting system).
My other confession is not really a confession, but a declaration: I love being a explorer/resource-gatherer.
What I mean is, the biggest treat for me in an mmorpg setting is exploration. The large, seamless world is what hooked me on WoW, without a doubt. I mean, you can run across an entire continent then swim out into the ocean and keep going until you die of exposure - that was, by far, the source of WoW-crackness for me. Resource-gathering is practically a corollary to exploration and has grown as a habit for me over the various MMOs I have played.
But perhaps as a tangent to my love of exploration and gathering, I also quite like crafting in games, especially in online games for the economic aspect of selling your wares or services. And for some reason I am one of those people who find it a more fulfilling activity than pvp or (gasp! retch!) raiding. Though of course I appreciate both of those activities because they provide the economic stimulus for said wares and services.
I am thinking about all of this because of a post made on Forumfall that has me thinking about crafting in Darkfall. Perhaps it was just a troll - or maybe not. But it got me thinking about as someone else mentioned resource gathering in Star Wars Galaxies - putting down thumpers and collecting hides. Good, good times, but alas so brief for me (I got in then left just before the NGE hit).
When looking around, typical to Aventurine's lackluster public relations, there wasn't much on the subject, though all does not appear to be so bleak. I also came across some burgeoning crafting communities like Darkfall Merchants Association.
Interestingly, I never got into mining in EVE. Maybe that would have helped keep my attention longer?
Well, if you haven't heard by now you better get your ass over to Steam and take a look: verily Hell hath frozen over and Valve has announced that several more top-tier Electronic Arts titles will be coming to Steam. Among these games are the MMORPG Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, the much-maligned Spore and the upcoming titles Red Alert 3 and Mirror's Edge (to which I fist-stabbed the air and was like "YES!"). Some EA titles like Mass Effect and Crysis have already been available on Steam for some time now.
The real question which I think is on everyone's mind right now is will the Steam version of Spore have the infamous SecuROM included in it? So far, there is no mention of it on the sales page, however that isn't necessarily indicative of the reality.
Both the Crysis and Crysis Warhead Steam versions have SecuROM. Grand Theft Auto IV has it. There are probably more, but I can't be assed right now to look them up. In the past Bioshock had it, but now doesn't. I'm not sure if the Steam version of Mass Effect ever had it, but it doesn't now at least. And the Steam version of Fallout 3 has never had it.
So I expect that the status of SecuR(ootkit)OM on Steam's Spore will be confirmed in short order. Owing that my newish computer is already infected with the SecuROM virus (Neverwinter Nights 2 - thanks a whole lot Atari, you bastards) I am tempted to try it out and see if I can find it in the download. But probably not, I have a bunch to do and not all of it involves the following:
Vanguard is, right now as I type this, giving away a free month-and-a-half of playtime to former subscribers. That is right - from December 17 until January 31 the accounts of former subscribers have been re-activated. I was never really able to get into Vanguard, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for it owing to the sheer scope and ambition of the world. So a free month should be enough to install the 17-gigabyte behemoth on my hard drive.
Tabula Rasa has the rank stench of death hovering about it, but technically it is still alive and I have still have a couple free codes to give out. Why not join CJ McFee, Voyd and me and get yourself a free code so you too can emerge from Foreas with the aroma of a morgue clinging to you?
Can you believe I still have yet to get WotLK? I know, I thought WoW was all addictive and stuff. But here I am, barely able to fathom myself logging back into that crack-fest. But you know I will eventually. And now that Blizzard has introduced paid gender changes, I no longer have to live as a GIRL.
And finally for today, Steam's weekend special: Stalker: Shadows of Chernobyl for $4.99. Yes, you read that right, it isn't a typo - Stalker SoC for only $4.99. So if you don't already have this classic you better fire up Steam and get it!
I renewed my WoW subscription.
I to had look at some of the shiny new changes they made. I really like the idea of achievements and having a separate container for pets and mounts is a much-welcome change. But it kinda feels like they should have been in place a year ago. I know, I'm a complainer.
I did get in a quick four-man of Zul Gurub - that was tons of fun. We did pretty well also, making it all the way to the Edge of Madness. Our group consisted of a Druid for tank, a Shaman for heals, and a Mage and a Rogue for dps. Sadly to take down High Priest Thekal we needed just a bit more dps - the timing in getting all three mobs down before they resurrect each other was too much for us without the additional damage. That and I had to set up my keys on the fly, was struggling to stay asleep and haven't played in a month. Suffice it to say, my equipment was solid red by the time I ported out.
And the best thing about getting all wrapped up in WoW again for a few hours? I got a totally brilliant idea for the next expansion (before this one is even released ... even before I have sufficiently immasculated myself enough to actually purchase the abomination).
OK, so the idea: repurpose all the level-duplicate zones into new high-level content zones. If leveling from 1-60 is a zip-bang affair, why not do away with redundant zones? For instance, Stranglethorn Vale, Arathi Highlands and Swamp of Sorrows all have pretty similar level ranges. Once you reach your 20s and beyond why should you have so many quests in different zones?
In the beginning, I think, this was a good design decision. It gave the world a big, open feel and players had numerous options on how to level their characters. It helped separate Horde and Alliance a bit. Of course a lot of people power-leveled their characters from the beginning and that is now fully endorsed as a play-style by Blizzard in the form of end-game development and the more recent leveling-speed boosts.
So now we have this big, empty world.
Why not pull a Warhammer on Azeroth and create a seamless two-continent leveling path with the disused zones being redeveloped into level 80 (or 80-90 more likely) zones? You could have players leveling 30-40 in refined Arathi Highlands and make Strangelthorn Vale a level 80 zone.
DDO gets right into the Dragons
I've been playing DDO off and on as well mainly to experience the new introduction areas - this game has come a long way in the past couple years. To be honest with you, I've come to look at DDO as one of the better MMOs available right now in terms of originality.
I also have something of a fetish for it's weird, synthesizer music soundtrack. It reminds me of music that seemed to grace a lot of the weird and cheesy sci fi and fantasy movies in the late 70s. I can't get enough.
But the new storyline is great, and the type of thing I love to see in an MMO type setting. The addition of hirelings is also welcome. The seemless integration of the hireling mechanic into the very beginning of the story was also delightful. For a better breakdown (with screenshots) of the new player experience, Syncaine of Pumping Irony has made several informative posts.
I don't think too much of the new character creation system, but as I've mentioned before I'm the type who always hits "customize" in every game that lets me. I can see how the new system would be even easier than the old system for a total D&D newb.
But sadly, I may wind up allowing both my DDO and WoW subscription lapse, as I have finally gone and bought Fallout 3. That's right, it is downloading over Steam as we speak. I was going to pass it up and focus on other games in the hope it will eventually come down to $30 (I'm not a big fan of buying games that cost more than $40), but what the hell? This is a quality title.
And while I'm certain FO3 will hold my interest in the long term, in the short I may set it on the back-burner and focus on LOTRO or continue to scratch my Colonization and Team Fortress 2 itches. I am, however, confident that Left4Dead will be holding my attention like all it's Source-based counterparts I've played and that release is but a mere few weeks away.
But I'm almost certain at this point I won't be bothering with WotLK until next year, if at all. Decisions, decisions - what is the deal with fall and all the new titles, lol?
You would think Blizzard Entertainment operated a bank looking at all the ways scammers try to gain access to World of Warcraft accounts. Fake log-in pages, flash-embedded key-loggers, IM con jobs, faked IDs ... the methods people have used to steal World of Warcraft accounts and the in-game currency they hold is eclipsed only by the sheer number of attempts made.
The most popular scam method lately seems to be finding new and inventive ways to deploy trojans laden with password-stealing software. Well friends, that practice is about to come to end once and for all.
Blizzard has recently announced they will be adding an extra security feature into accounts in the form of an encrypted passcode generated by a physical dongle. I wouldn't be surprised if this was largely in response to the recent wave of account thefts made possible with an exploit in Flash (Which has since been fixed).
The Blizzard Authenticator is an optional tool that offers World of Warcraft players an additional layer of security to help prevent unauthorized account access. The Authenticator itself is a physical “token” device that fits easily on a keyring.
For only $6.50 at the Blizzard store, you can by an Authenticator which you link to your account. Once your account is linked you will need a security token generated by the device as well as your name and password to access your account. They are even letting people link one device to multiple accounts.
This may not completely stop more traditional con jobs from taking place, but having one of these will definitely shield you completely from the threat of key-loggers because the security number will change every time you log in.
What are five words that are on the lips of literally millions of MMORPG players around the world right now? That's right: Wrath of the Lich King.
I just came across a little wiki tucked away in the vast tubes of the Internets where you can find numerous leaked screen shots and information about where the most anticipated game expansion this year is headed: WotLK Alpha Official Wiki (something tells me this should be called the "UN-official" wiki).
Have you ever wondered how to enable a more traditional fps-style mouse-look mode in WoW? I know I have; the constant click-and-hold nature of WoW has played havoc with my wrist tendons and I also often find it clunky to use in pvp situations - especially when I've taken a week off to play Team Fortress 2 and have to readjust back to the WoW UI.
The term "mouse look" refers to the ability to move your character simply by moving your mouse. This is a feature found in many types if 3d games (an rpg example is Oblivion), and is a predominant feature of the fps genre. WoW's default mouse-look mode is activated when you press and hold down the right mouse button while moving it.
A really easy way to enable mouse-look mode is through the simple macro:
/run if IsMouselooking() then MouselookStop() else MouselookStart() end
Clicking this macro will cause your pointer to disappear and your mouse will behave as if the right mouse button is being held down. To disengage mouse look with this script, simply click your right mouse button and the pointer will return. Because this is a macro, you can also easily bind this to a spare mouse or keyboard key.
Now while this feature works great in general, World of Warcraft was not designed for it. If you attempt to keep this enabled all the time, you will quickly run into a few annoyances - the biggest one being that you are unable to target or click on npcs, mobs or other players.
The lack of targeting is not a problem at all for pve play and a minor inconvenience (depending on your skill level) in pvp. To target and engage mobs or pvp players simply use your TAB button and normal action keys; you can also rebind your auto-target (TAB) to another button if you don't like TAB. As far as your action keys are concerned, if you are a clicker you will probably just want to ween yourself from that habit.
There doesn't seem to be any option for using mouse-look mode in your day-to-day interactions with friendly npcs, vending machines or the mailbox. But we can chock that up to being a necessary limitation of the WoW UI.
You have to admit, a lot of crazy stuff happens in World of Warcraft. Whether it be a raid-size funeral ganking, or your run-of-the-mill extreme sex guild recruitment, WoW has something for nearly everyone. And so I bring you the LEVEL ONE TWINK.