A Little Vacation

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Hello all,

I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve been on a little vacation. Since my last post. It’s been a long ride the last four months with wedding planning (24 days left until I take the big walk!) and student teaching, so I decided to take advantage of my newfound freedom to step back from it all for a few days.

While I’m at it, I should probably mention that I’ll be gone for the week after my wedding too. So, from June 20th-28th, I’ll be safely tucked away at Disney World enjoying my honeymoon, 3000 miles away from my nearest gaming rig.

For now though, I won’t be posting anything new until this coming Monday. Until then, take this opportunity to check out some of the awesome blogs on the blogroll. They post enough to keep you more than entertained until I get back.

Take care everyone!


Structure vs. Freedom

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Last time we spoke about kinships, I talked about my uncertainty on whether I should stay with The Council. I liked the guild quite a bit. Their philosophy matched up with mine well; build the player to build the guild (you’ll have to forgive me, I’ll probably use guild and kin interchangeably). It was great, when I joined – before student teaching. Four months later, I had returned to turmoil, uncertainty, and a kin lacking its leader. The idea of “take our their leader and the rest will be lost” was absolutely true.

So, I left the kin mid-last week and joined another called The Council of the Secret Fire. I’d grouped with several of their members before and they’d always been very friendly. Something… was missing, though. It’s hard to put my finger on. Maybe it was the lack of goal. They were a “jack of all trades, master of none” guild. Even though they were friendly, the whole thing felt without purpose. I chalked it up to making the guild-hop too soon. I spent some time kin-free.

Yet, as always, I soon felt like something was missing. After doing some research, I came across another that had been in place across several games for over four years. You may have heard of them if you played WAR close to release, they’re called Shadow Company. Unlike CotSF, they’re highly organized and structured. Militaristically so as, unsurprisingly enough, the guild leader is a former military officer. I was hesitant to apply at first. I mean, was the trade off for organization a virtual boot camp?

Still, I put in an application in good faith. Thankfully, it’s paid off well. The militaristic aspect is for RP purposes but it’s also established enough to keep things well structured. There are activities planned for nearly every day, master crafters of every variety, and active players at every hour of the day. Events and meetings are not mandated but encouraged and there’s an understanding that RL comes before the game 100% of the time.

The whole thing got me thinking though, what’s a better way to go: high structure or player freedom? There’s an appeal to each and both types serve different kinds of players. Yet, each type must borrow characteristics of the other in order to succeed. What is the formula to success and progression?

Personally, I’m a believer in structure. Players work and interact best when there’s a defined hierarchy and rule system. Likewise, I believe players contribute to the community more when such a system is in place. It’s easy to be complacent and silently solo all the time when there’s no incentive to interact. When you give players the potential to advance their guild rank, they try more.

On the other hand, maintaining a lot of structure takes more work, causes more stress, and can result in a more constrained environment. High freedom solves this but can also lead to less getting done due to the more hap-hazard design. Such a guild may find themselves as players sharing a guild tag and little more.

I had a hard time finding a structured guild that was open to non-raiders. I think by the nature of the game, LotRO lends itself towards open kins. They come in every variety, to be sure, but let’s pose the scenario: a guild wants to have a good community, come together on occasion, and be able to provide for members that like to tackle new dungeons. How should they go about it in a casual game?

The End of Sword and Sorcery MMOs?

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While I’m willing to admit that I’ve read a bit about Eve Online, Alternative MMOs have never really appealed to me. I’ve always been a fan of high fantasy, so I’ve chosen my MMOs to taste.

Yet, nearly every upcoming MMO right now is breaking the sword and sorcery mold and exploring other settings. Right now, we have everything from spaceship battle games to those reminiscent of SimCity on the landscape, each hoping to carve another little gouge from our bank account balances.

Two of the biggest games coming out are Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Before these two games hit the horizon, I was of the opinion that any non-fantasy game was going to be niche, just based upon the consumer base. Yet, I’m no longer so sure.

Even though the genre is founded upon high fantasy (elves, dwarves, and wizards, oh my!), IPs with such mass appeal could drastically change the landscape quite a bit. Once (if) investors see that non-fantasy titles could reach mass market success, titles that would have received very little support may wind up higher on the totem pole than we would currently find them.

It struck me today while reading Massively, so many non-fantasy titles are coming out that we may well bear witness to a huge transition in our favorite genre. After all, many of these titles are simple “MMO” and lack many of the fundamental and classic “RPG” elements we currently see as staples.

Will the future of online gaming be the MMO? I think that it’s possible, if taken just for those first three introductory words: Massively Multiplayer Online. MMO may come to mean simply, “persistent world” over our current definition, “persistent world of character advancement and story progression.” How rapidly our ideas on what an MMO is could change, although it is almost certainly guaranteed to be a slow transition. Much like how a frog won’t jump from the pot if the water is heated slowly, perhaps we shall find ourselves looking back through the steam at what our favorite genre used to be, for better or worse.

Other games out now have pushed in this direction already and it only seems to be picking up steam. I personally think it’s wonderful. The appeal of an ever present, populated, online world is great and flush with potential for every genre. People like to connect and the more opportunity there is for that the better.

In the coming years, we may find ourselves having a multitude of options in many different sub-genres of the MMO, some that aren’t even present yet. Having seen GTA and SimCity-esque titles on the horizon, it’s a definite sign of the times.

So, is sword and sorcery on the way out? The theme has been done over and over but I’d be disappointed to see it drop from its #1 spot. It’d be like the end of an era. From tabletop to computer to dormancy, until the next great title of platform breathes life back into it. MMO-wise at least.

Should such a turnover come to pass, the dethroning of both fantasy and RPG from MMOs, I only hope the social aspect is retained. Being solo-friendly is nice but that final transition, from group to independence, should never be brought full circle. Before being forced by game mechanics to group in order to succeed, I never really understood the appeal group play outside of instances. Now though, I’m disappointed more games don’t push you towards it because I honestly think people miss out in a lot of ways by soloing all the time.

Persistent online is fine but grouping should be ever present and necessary at times. Social interaction, in trade, combat, and cooperation, is what makes an MMO and MMO. Without it, you have the multiplayer equivalent of Spore. And really, what’s the point in that?

*note* Links to these games can be provided if there’s interest. I’m at work and am currently unable to provide them.

Richard Bartle Encourages New Writers and Offers New Insights

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For those wondering, this is the login screen of a MUD (aka MUSH)

If you’ve followed any of the Richard Bartle controversy in the past months, I encourage you to read on.

In response to my post the other day and subsequent response to his comment, he stopped by today to share a little bit more of himself. I wanted to share it with everyone so we could all see him in this light. If you think about it, he’s doomed to be criticized for whatever opinion he shares and that’s really an unfortunate thing. His comments today earned him more respect from me and I’d imagine they’ll do the same for you. Check it out.

I wasn’t intending to be condescending, and apologise if I came across that way.

Actually, I kinda was intending to be condescending to art snobs who refuse to see what’s before their very eyes, but I wasn’t intending to be condescending to players. Players are what make MMOs what they are (that dedication in my book, “to the players”, is genuine).

Sadly for me, there’s a preconception among many MMO commentators that I’m somehow aloof to the general player population. I don’t know how that came about, but it’s there. It means that anything I say which gets out into the public domain is viewed first and foremost with this in mind. I’m deliberately massaging my own ego, or seeking legitimacy, or trying to recapture past glories, or lording it over people.

I don’t want to be in this position. I don’t want to be relevant. Other people should be way ahead now, so when I read their articles I think, “wow, why didn’t I think of that?”. Here’s the thing: they probably are there already, only we don’t hear about them. I only have to post on a blog read by fewer than 100 people and I’m torn to shreds. Other people are probably writing great stuff elsewhere, but they’re not noticed because there’s no “young gunslinger taking down old-timer” kudos in it.

I urge you, if you see something you like, that takes MMOs in a new direction, that says something that makes you think (you don’t have to agree with it – so long as it makes you think), then please give it publicity. Then, you’ll have people who genuinely deserve your praise, not someone who is merely where they are through an accident of history. I’d much rather potter away in the garden shed of my blog than have scorn poured on me every time I open my mouth on the subject of MMOs, I can assure you..!



Thanks again for stopping by Richard.

equip bracers
You equip Bracers of Banded Empathy.
<worn on wrist> Bracers of Banded Empathy (Powerful Magic)

exam bracers
Bracers of Banded Empathy

You nod assuredly.
Fare the well!

Faction Pride?

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Blood Elf: I'm better! Draeni: No, I'M better! ... noobcake! Blood Elf: Oh no you di'nt! Mooooooooom! Teddy called me dumb!!!Draeni: *melancholy* My name's not Teddy.

I was reading WoW Insider today and came across an article talking about faction pride. Do WoW players have faction pride? On PvP servers, maybe, but I doubt that most players really care beyond looks. I mean, in a PvE game, what does faction even count for outside of the aesthetic?

In these times of lull for World of Warcraft, sites like that are really digging. Re-hashing age old arguments, making points already made, starting argument-like “discussions.” I don’t blame them per se but honestly, I don’t see why that question is even being posed. The author states,

“What interests me more is how rarely we see this question come up nowadays”

Why should it? What does faction count for on a “normal” realm (which presumably most people play on – non-pvp at least) other than giving players a new story. You see a lot of “For the Horde”’ing going on but I always took that as more of a nod to the common closing statement of many quest givers.

The only time faction “pride” comes into play is for PvP and the occasional competition. Apart from that, what is there to be proud of, everyone completing the same quests? Seriously pwn’ing Hogger?  I’m sure some people get it—but for me, if there’s no competition, there’s nothing to be proud of.

Funny Bartle Quote

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Richard Bartle stopped by to defend his piece on my mirror at Gameriot. He has a lot of good points but he made one statement I thought was kind of funny.

It’s as if people think I’m some kind of MMO boss, and if they down me they’ll get a nice blue.

Like I’ve said before, I have a lot of respect for him, even if we don’t see eye to eye all the time. At this point though, I think people are going to tear him apart for whatever opinion he chooses to share. At least it helps him remain notable on the scene.

True Story…

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Every day for a while now, I’ve gotten exactly one page view based on the search term “hippy sex.”

Oh Google, you trickster you!

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