Rant: Aventurine, the Doctor Will See You Now…

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This is a rant but it has nothing to do with the game. It’s about the company and that pre-launch brain infection that’s made them a wonder to the gaming community.

What kind of game company doesn’t have copies for sale on the day of release? And, if it’s only pre-order players that are able to log in, is it really a release? That sounds more like a very short open-beta that a few thousand people get to pay for. Then again, those most of those people sat at their computers clicking refresh for hours on end. Maybe they’re more deserving.

What kind of game company doesn’t prepare to have their forums viewed by more users than normal near, at, and shortly after release?

Most visibly, what kind of game company can’t be bothered to update their front page to announce, you know, the launch of their game?

I want to like Darkfall. I don’t care about having to wait to get it. My issue is that, more and more, Aventurine just keeps giving the impression that they don’t give two hoodwinks about getting subscriptions.

I’ll tell you what I’d think if I were totally new to the game. It’d go something like this…

Me: Hm, that game sounds like it might be fun.
Me: *http://www.darkfallonline.com*
Me: Beta signup? First impressions…. first wave of invites? Huh, that’s wierd. Okay, forums.
Me: *reads* Alright, lots of people in game. Problems with accounts, people can cancel pre-orders, oh. After they clean up I can buy a copy. Mmhm.

Straight from the horses mouth, right out of the gate, I learned: not to trust the main page, the release sucked and they have a lot of account issues to fix, and that people wanting to cancel their preorders are a big enough issue to put on the only forum page that will load.

And to continue my rant, all of this apologetic, “they’re an indy company” BS is just that, total crap. Come on, how hard would it have been to update a graphic on their main page to let people know there are things happening with the game? *pffft* News. That crap is so last month.

As a customer, I expect a company wanting my repeat business to offer me something that doesn’t seem like a side-project to them. I expect them to put their effort into the game and out. I expect them to get their shit in order and stop making excuses.

Things don’t happen overnight. The problems that are there may take time to fix. I get it. That doesn’t excuse them from acting like a company that wants to pull in customers. Unless, they actually don’t. In which case, keep it up. You have your core fanbase, most of which will leave once they realize that it’s not an everlasting honeymoon. From that point onward, your players will trickle, maybe upward, but probably down until you settle into a niche less than what I’d hope you wanted for your game.

I want Darkfall to do well but, indy studio or not, Aventurine threw their hats into the ring. It’s about time they acted like it.

Cut Right Off

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Imagine if you will, that you’re in a world with no boundaries; no limits. A vicious wolf-like warrior just got done destroying his enemy, adding another name to his long list of bodies and mercilessly looting his corpse of every item. Everything he didn’t want or need, he destroyed. He’s powerful. Deadly. All who stand in his shadow cower and beware.

Hah! Look at that noob over there. Dying to a goblin in the starting zone of all places. He should L2P or GTFO.

*THWAP*

That’ll show him. T-bag’s to him.

*10 minutes later*

Oooooh, bio time! I love bios.

/guild afk a min, raidz when i get bacjk.

*minutes pass*

Ahhh… all bett- WTF! Where’s my gear?!? OMFG. That nub stalked me!

/guild WTFFFF!!!!11!!1! that n00b musta been haxed!

I spent hours getting this gear! My weapon skill is highhher! I’m so pissed off, that noob is gonna pay.

/tell nub u jus made a big mistake. Im gonna get u.

Nub has ignored your attempt to communicate.

*several minutes later*

There he is! Aaaayyaaaaaaaaa!

*THWAP*

OMFG! That’s not fair he stole my gear and I have no way to get it ba- …what the hell? He’s… T-BAGGING ME?

*punches the keyboard*

Ugh, that’s it!

….. http://forums.darkfallonline.com……


And that, my friends, is one reason why masses of “hardcore” pvp’ers will flood away from Darkfall. I believe that stare of open mouthed wonder, at death, at loss, at grind, is also known as the Carebare Stare.

That being said, this isn’t a levy against the game of people that find out it is too hardcore, grindy, etc. for them. That’s kind of the idea behind Darkfall. A no-holds barred, no limits, pvp game.

I agree with Lum over at brokentoys, a lot of people are going to find out that they’re not as hardcore as they’d like to believe. Hopefully, those are the people that bring the behaviors like what I satired above.

Release day, prepare for the fallout and the true definition of the game’s community to come.

Darkfall Should Offer a Lifetime Subscription

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I’m skeptical over whether Darkfall will make it very far. I should probably clarify what I mean by that. I’m skeptical over whether Darkfall will survive.

It has a lot of attention right now and a lot of it is a mixed bag of reviews. Some people love it and the whole DF philosophy. Others hate it for being too hardcore and too grindy. One thing is for sure though, it’s not a game for everybody.

To be honest, I don’t think it’s a game for the majority of MMO players out there. WoW opened lots of doors for MMOs. It made them much more accessible and solo friendly. And, not too surprisingly in hindsight, it succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. Now, almost every recent MMO has followed suit and made their games forgiving of errors and inviting to new players.

Darkfall doesn’t follow that suit. It might turn out to be a lot of fun and it’s surely innovative, but all reports indicate it’s not forgiving and by its nature not too open to new players. And for those who do stay, it looks like its going to be an uphill battle, even if there’s tangible reward there.

To me, that spells fall out. Many of the people that flood to DF will leave and return to friendlier waters. Even though I’m excited to try the game, I can’t say I’d really blame people for finding out it wasn’t for them. Adventurine has said that they’re fine with designing a game that doesn’t appeal to everyone. My question would be, for a game that’s been in development for 7+ years, what’s it going to take to keep the game financially feasible?

The limited pre-order thing was a smooth move, in my opinion. They’re creating a bigger demand by doing that, which is exactly what they should do to boost their starting sales. But, from all I’ve heard, most of the income from an MMO comes from the monthly subscriptions. Assuming that most of the MMO crowd will is used to a friendlier type of game, its probably safe to assume there will be an exodus from Darkfall within a couple months of release.

Despite the many criticisms levied against it, I think it’s important for a game like DF to find its own niche. It breaks the mold in a lot of ways, which is good for the genre. If it gets a dedicated audience, it can help push future MMOs in new directions.

Right now, anticipation for the game is at an all-time high and that means it’s the perfect time to offer a limited lifetime subscription. A decent amount of players would jump at the chance, assuming it wasn’t priced prohibitively high. Providing the option would also help Adventurine get more of an investment from players who may decide it’s not the game for them or didn’t continue playing for the equal amount of subscription months.

I’d feel bad for players that bought the lifetime and didn’t utilize it but it does leave them an open door (which is one of the biggest benefits to a lifetime subscription, IMO). They could return at any point they liked knowing that their investment helped make sure that the game would still be there when they came back. It also acts as an incentive to keep an eye on what’s going on with the game. I know it did when I got my LotRO lifetime subscription. I didn’t utilize it for six months but I always felt like I should since I spent the money. So I kept an eye on what was going on and, now look, six months later I’m playing and having a blast.

Anyways, I hope this is something they’re considering. If it was reasonable enough, it might be something I’d even consider doing just so I have more fee-free options to fill my time. Somehow, paying one bigger fee seems less painful than dozens of smaller fees. At least, a down the line when I’ve recovered from that initial splurge 🙂

I should note, for those new to the site, that I maintain a cautiously optimistic view of the game. Once bitten, twice shy, or something like that. The points above aren’t intended to be pessimistic, just realistic. I’d love the game to succeed at the level of a AAA MMO but given it’s hardcore ruleset, how possible is that really?

Can Players Self-Police?

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Pwning only in designated areas!

Pwning only in designated areas!

As the launch of Darkfall Online approaches, I’ve found myself thinking back to my days of MUDing. I played on The Final Challenge which, as one tentative author was told (when pointed in our direction) was where PK’ers were born. The term nowadays would be ganker. But we never saw it that way.

One of the philosophies behind Open PvP is that the community becomes self-policing, keeping griefers from driving new players away. On the MUD, it definitely did. You had guilds (called followings) that focused on killing other players. But, just as people speculate with Darkfall, these players developed a reputation. Opposing followings sprung up to stand up for the weak and drive out the forces of oppression. It was a really interesting, and fun, dynamic.

I don’t know if it’ll work on the scale of a modern day MMO though. The community of a MUD is immensely smaller than those of today’s games. Many hundreds of times so, in fact. People would know each other and thereby individual reputations would get passed on. I don’t know if that’s too likely in a game with up to 10,000 concurrent players online at a time. Or 2,000 for that matter.

The greater anonymity of an MMO allows for more griefing without repercussion. Unless, that is, the offending player is wearing a well known and hated clan tag. Generally, I’ll most often remember names of people I’ve either a) grouped with or b) heard talk a lot in chat. I’m a lot less likely to remember a name I’ve seen on a kill list that, for a game like DF, will probably feature hundreds of people.

Honor amongst players is something I consider to be almost a relic of the past. Some players will possess it and act respectfully, even as they loot your corpse. Others just want to make your life hard. It’s not about the fight or the battle, it’s about their 24 inch pythons and telling you that you suck and should quit.

That’s the problem I foresee with the game. Self-regulation only works if it can work. In the same way people didn’t want to guard keeps all the time in WAR, I doubt anyone will want to police the starting zones all time in DFO. It’s possible though, and if it works it should create a very neat situation in the game. A struggle between good and evil that leaves me really intrigued. What do you think, on a scale this large is self-policing realistic enough to ward off the rampant griefing people worry about?

Creating Your Own Fun

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Too much pipeweed

Too much pipeweed

The next few paragraphs talk about a fun experience I had last night, skip over them if you want the core point =)

Last night, I had more fun in an MMO than I’ve had in a long time. The funny thing was, I was doing something that I usually don’t do: roleplay. I’ve dabbled in it a little n the past but it’s something I’d generally do in passing tiny bits at a time. Nothing in-depth or consistent, at all. So, when I got invited to an RP gathering on LotRO last night, I put it off for about 45 minutes to “finish a couple of quests”.

That was true, I was questing, but part of me was hesitant to put off leveling to take part in something that I’d possibly not enjoy or even find a little awkward. Still, the person asking me to join them (I figured there’d be about five people, give or take. It was a small guild gathering, after all) was very outgoing and I didn’t want to be stand-offish. After all, one of my resolutions with LotRO was to enjoy the journey as much as my destination.

When I got to my friend’s kin house (guild house), I was surprised to see several guilds represented by over twenty people in the room. Tables abounded with food and a keg stood on the far wall. A couple of people were playing a duet on a harp and lute in the middle of the room while several others danced. There was a lot of idle in-character conversation and, like a real party, it wasn’t all about the troubles of the world. It was less “the shadow looms in the East, doom is at our door” and more “It’s been a long time, welcome to the party! Can I offer you some ale or some food?” In the back, a lone person stood smoking by the fire; another browsed through the kin’s bookshelves.

I wound up staying for almost an hour. It was genuinely fun because the players made it so. Game mechanics helped (music, ale that makes you “merry”, various pipeweed) but more than anything, I think it was because the people were into it. Even as a mostly dormant roleplayer, I was drawn in. I found myself wanting to explain my shabby leather armor (I’m a tank but can’t wear heavy armor yet) and still bulging midsection. It was contagious.

The whole thing got me thinking about what it is that keeps so many people into the genre. Even though many claim that games like WoW and LotRO are Massively-Single-Player RPGs, I think that misses the point a bit. Whether or not you’re soloing, you have the opportunity, at almost every turn, to interact with other players. We get to see good people and bad, as they come into and out of our gaming lives. Be it direct or not, they have an impact upon us and our impressions of the game. I know, a game may perhaps be more fairly judged on its own merit but an undeniable part of any MMO is the community. They’re a part of the world, like in real life, whether we all would care to separate them from it or not.

But, I think that’s great. In any large community, you’ll get people that are morons but you’re also going to get a lot of genuinely good people as well. I have a lot of fond memories of PuGing through instances on WoW. I met many people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Together, with faces always changing, we shared laughs and overcame many challenges of the game.

I tend to believe that as players we make our own fun. If you’re with like-minded people, even things that seem boring can be brought to life. How many small events with your guild have you had turn out to be more fun than you expected? Was running across the map naked that much fun or was it because of the people you did it with? On that same token, how many instance runs/raids have been a blast because you clicked with the people you were there with?

That’s one of the reasons a strong community is important. I read Beau’s blog pretty frequently (it’s pretty good, you should check it out) and I heard him mention once that he likes the lesser played games because the community is smaller and more well knit. For all of the reasons a big game might succeed, sometimes the closeness of the players gets lost in translation. That’s one of the reasons why players railed against cross server scenarios in WAR. Community is important.

And on that same token, so is community enhancement. And encouragement. Players should be encouraged to come together and interact without forcing them to do so in order to progress. Since we can create our own fun, I think it’d help the new offering of games to maintain that MMO feel some people think is missing without impeding those who would prefer to solo. WAR could benefit most from this, I think. They have a great universe flush with possibility. But right now, there’s not much incentive to be around other players outside of the pursuit of RvR. Luckily, RvR brings about interaction and fun all its own.

So, to sum up my thoughts, last night showed me again that we can find fun in the creativity and humor of other players. Bringing that interaction to life through game elements, dungeons, and the like, is what MMOs are all about. In the end, I don’t think it’s the gear that drives the player who get the most enjoyment out of gaming. I think it’s doing something fun made funner by doing it with other people. Massively Single Player? Maybe in Counter-Strike but not in any MMO I’ve ever played.

Six months old! A journey into WAR…

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Hey Everybody,

I know I’ve been a little bit scarce for a little bit here but I wanted to pop my head in to make a little announcement. Today, February 18th, marks the six month mark for Fires of War!

It’s been a bit of a journey. Back in August, I had high aspirations for the blog but a realist viewpoint. I’d come as a fresh faced amateur writer from my first blog, MMO Madness. At that time, I wanted to be a one man WoW Insider but had no real conception of the amount of work and dedication such a task would take. Or how challenging it would be to get regular readers.

By the time I was getting done with that blog, I’d been following WAR for a while and was in love. The game was the answer to all of the problems that plagued other games. More than that, it promised new and exciting features and fun content  beyond what we’d experienced before. I ate the hype up. The hook was stuck in my bellow before they’d even begun to reel in. So, Fires of War was born. A new, more focused, writing endeavor, bred from passion and the virual enthusiasm of other bloggers such as Snafzg and Keen.

My introductory post promised news, opinion, daily updates and a podcast (aptly titled the “WARcast”). My aspirations were still high. It was summer break from college and I had all the time in the world to scour the web for beta updates, interviews, rumors, and news. So I did. Commenting was low but readers were actually coming. I became more active in the blog community and started commenting instead of silently stalking my favorite sites.

Then the game launched, well, opened into a public beta. I posted screenshots and first impressions. I was enamored. And so it continued for some time. I began writing for Hammer of War Online, a multi-blogger project that also aspired to WoW Insider heights. It was about this time that I noticed I couldn’t quite keep up with all the little bits of news that were coming out. Mythic was so active in the community, so vocal and open, that my supply couldn’t quite match demand, if you catch my meaning. Still, I caught what I could, editorialized all over the place, and enjoyed my newfound voice.

Somewhere along the line, Paul Barnett (and possibly others), caught wind of the blog and began checking it out. The first time Paul emailed me, I was floored. Truly, the guy who’d become a celebrity among the community actually read my blog? It was a milestone for me.

Around this time, the honeymoon ended. I knew the WAR was an amazing game with a lot to offer and unmatched potential for greatness. But my playtimes and the current population numbers meant that I couldn’t experience oRvR. And that I was waiting for scenarios to pop for extended periods of time. I was alright with this, since I’m a big fan of good PvE, but my favorite part of PvE, PQs, were also undermanned. As a result of my playtime, I decided to play another game in conjunction.

I also decided to expand the scope of the blog. This was perhaps the most challenging time for Fires of War. As I expected, many of the readers fell out. If I wasn’t a WAR only blog, then I’d probably fall apart like so many others had done. Or worse, degrade into WAR hate and WoW fanboyism. Neither happened, not that I expected them too anyways. But still, the blog took a hit. Yet, many readers remained which encouraged me to continue and not give up.

I wrote about WoW a bit. I wrote about Vanguard and LotRO too. But I never left WAR. I was still playing it, after all, albeit off and on for short periods during the periods glossed over in this post. I still kept a watchful eye on all of the WAR blogs and fansites.

Then, a couple big things happened. I landed an interview with Paul Barnett for the Age of  Blogging initiative. And then, ever so kindly, they sent me a blood spattered Valentine full with a cryptic, threatening, message. This openness and involvement with the community epitomized why I’d wanted to play the game in the first place. Truly, it’s the biggest reason why I still believe WAR is the most promising MMO out there. The team behind it is unrivaled.

But I digress. Somewhere along the line, the readers started returning building back readership to more than it ever was before. I mirrored the blog on gameriot, to expand the audience further, but with the understanding that many of the readers there would never come here, so to speak. But it was never about WordPress pageviews. Ever, it was about voice, express, dialogue, and community.

Now, six months down the line, Fires of War is at a different spot than whence it came. We have a different banner, a different look, but the same core we’ve always had. Roots in WAR, tendrils in other waters. And, right now, that’s the way I like it.

Most importantly, we still have a great set of regular readers. Readers that check daily for updates, even though real life promises to make that ever challenging (but far from impossible). Readers that comment, link to, and independently support the blog. Readers that put me on their own blog rolls, which in turn promises them another dedicated reader. Readers that have shown themselves to be courteous, intelligent, and with a great sense of humor.

When I started, I never would have thought that Fires of WAR, would be where it is today. As bloggers, we like to say we write because we love writing and that’s true. But, the truth of the matter is, your readership keeps us going. So, thanks to all of you. Thank you Snafzg, Syp, Arbitrary & Spinks, Keen, Ferrel, Ysharros, Ardua, and everyone else for providing me a place in the community, encouragement, and an example to work by.

I’m sorry if I didn’t mention you by name. There are just too many. But it’s a safe bet that if I’ve ever commented to, linked to, or mentioned one of your posts, you’re on that list!

Here’s to six months more!

Changing Games

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I got into the MMO game (no pun intended) a little over two years ago with World of Warcraft. I was one of those people who scoffed at the idea of paying a monthly fee to play a game. I’d tried Guild Wars but couldn’t really get “hooked”. When a friend finally convinced me to try the 10-day trial of WoW, I was immediately taken.

Since then, it’s been my main game. Along with that, I’ve gone through the typical burn out followed by a sometimes-begrudging return. Call me cliché. WAR pulled me away for the longest and even allowed me to justify playing two MMOs at once. Hell, it gave me voice. Times have changed though; I no longer have the time to fully enjoy a game like WoW. I can progress, sure. But the more I try to invest my limited time into the game, the more I am reminded of how limited my game experience truly is.

So, I dabbled in greener pastures. Vanguard, while very fun, presents the same issues as WoW for me, albeit with a greater sense of adventure and exploration. Now, I’m trying out LotRO again, giving it the fair shot it was previously denied, and am enjoying it. No matter where I go though, there’s always something missing.

What’s missing is that feeling of accomplishment, of time and effort, and of simply being “home”. They say we can never regain that initial sense of awe and wonder we felt when we played our first MMO. It’s the syndrome of the Rose Colored Glasses; our nostalgia will outweigh our experience. So, be it WoW or any other game, many of us find it difficult to pull up roots, start somewhere new, and stick with it.

Is it possible for a game to satisfy us the way many have aspired to? I don’t think so. No game will ever be like the first we truly enjoyed. That’s not to say we won’t have lots of fun in new games. But, our desire to constantly seek out the new and exciting, that which blesses the gaming industry with a ravenous audience ready to consume their new titles, is perhaps our greatest curse. A cyclical feeling of wanting, be it small or large, that drives us to farther shores.

Much of our nostalgia can be attributed to years of our younger youth. The outlook of the teenager is far different from that of the near-30 or even the mid-20. They say people completely change over every seven years. For those who have been in the gaming scene for some time, we are no longer who we were when we discovered our hobby. How does that color our perceptions? For better or worse, time has passed and so to our youthful sense of naiveté.

Though this post may seem somewhat melancholy, it really shouldn’t be. If you think back, many of our experiences seem more wondrous through the lens of time. For our hobby in particular, it provides a stream emotion. Think about it, our sense of wanting, our nostalgia, drives us to look forward and to hope. Each new title represents a new opportunity. This is why we pay so much attention, read the latest gaming news, keep up to date with the blogs, and keep our ears to the street. It’s hope, it’s chance, it’s postivity, it’s passion, and it’s all from hope.

I read a quote about fishing the other day, (on a gaming blog, I forgot which), that summed up its appeal nicely. Fishing is a past time that elicits repeated bursts of hope. Isn’t that similar to what we see in so many forward looking posts,  commenters, and editorial sites? I like that. It’s not that we’re unsatisfied. It’s that we enjoy hoping. That, all by itself, is part of the essence of humanity.

So don’t stop. On that same token, don’t forget to stop. Keep hoping and looking ahead. But remember to have fun in whatever game you choose to play. Look at the good, recognize that which needs improvement.

This realization is brought to you by the newly casual. I just turned up the graphics and admired the roses.

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