Allow me to retort…

Ten Ton Hammer’s WoW site has posted The Top 5 Reasons World of Warcraft is the Best MMOG.

JuliusAs the title of my post says, allow me to retort.

They say: You are never alone in Azeroth

But you are alone… so very alone. Sure, every zone on every server has players in it, but most of them won’t talk to you, largely because they don’t need to. With the game being so eminently soloable, why bog yourself down with socializing? WoW has become the epitome of the alone together, or together alone, style of play. If you aren’t in a dungeon or on a raid, all those other people are just background.

They say: Endless content means endless fun in Azeroth

Even more, they say that most games give you a single quest chain that goes from zone to zone. Easy to hold against a new game… but WoW is nearly seven years old. And still… have you played it recently? While there may be many zones to choose from that are appropriate for your level, especially after Cataclysm, there still remains only 1 real quest chain to progress you through the story of the zone. Skip some quests and others won’t unlock, you have to start at the beginning of the zone and play through or else all is lost. And once you get to the top, unless you like starting over and forcing yourself to play classes and races that weren’t your first choice, you’ll start repeating content, endlessly. Welcome to the grind, leave your fun at the door.

They say: The value for your money is insane compared to modern standards

All MMOs, even ones that aren’t WoW, are insane values for your money. Once you’ve bought in to the $15 a month fee, you can play as much as you want. The question really is, what sort of value are you getting for your time? They choose Netflix to hold it up against, and for pure money, if you still subscribe to both disc mailing and streaming, WoW is cheaper. But if you go with just streaming, because honestly if you are a real MMO player then you’ve got a DSL, cable or other high-speed connection, now Netflix is half the price. And what will you do in WoW? Dungeon Finder? Battlegrounds? Like with the previous item, unless you like playing Alts, you’ll be repeating the same content over and over. With Netflix Instant, on the other hand, as long as you don’t crave watching only the newest releases, you can watch movies and TV from all genres. A little horror, some action, a romantic comedy with the significant other, a TV show you missed that all your friends say you should have watched, cartoons for yourself or with the kids, documentaries, and so much more. If you want, you can even repeat content over and over on Netflix. Every December I watch a couple dozen Christmas movies on Netflix, I’ve seen them before, but they’re still good. Value is where you find it.

They say: There is nothing like community

I can almost agree here. WoW’s community is HUGE. Which enables you to find a niche of it you enjoy, surround yourself with them and isolate yourself from the rest of the people who are out to ruin your game. Don’t want to play with spoilers? Too bad, the community is going to ruin that for you unless you play alone with all chat turned off. Want to role play? Better get on an RP server and then find a group or guild that likes to RP the same way you do or else you’ll find yourself at the butt end of jokes or power players. And for Pete’s sake, stay the hell away from the cesspool of the official forums… unless you like that sort of thing, in which case, go, join in, and accept that other people will hate you. Want to raid? Be prepared to play their way and install the add-ons they demand. Oh, and while we are on add-ons, what about PlayerScore… the add-on that lets people judge you before they even get to know you. There is nothing like community, but there is nothing like community. This is one of those strengths that are weaknesses deals.

They say: The game is the most complete experience available

The game is polished for sure. That’s what Blizzard does best. And leveling is easy, whether you want it to be or not (you might enjoy the low-level game, but you’ll need to repeat it with other characters, be overpowered for it, or actually consciously disable your experience gain to play it). And the classes are all well-defined and have their own flavor and niches… all which boil down to tank, healer, dps. The dungeon finder works by putting a tank, a healer and 3 dps characters together. And when you use it, forget about actually seeing the dungeon. Go go go! If you stop and smell the roses, you’ll find yourself booted out of the group. In the end though, I can’t disagree with this final point. WoW is the most complete experience available. It is filled with tons of good and tons of bad. You can enjoy it, and it’ll break your heart. It is fun and boring. It is everything you want, and everything you want to avoid, all at the same time, mostly because Blizzard wants to cater to everyone, despite everyone wanting something different, some in direct opposition to each other.

In the end, you should decide for yourself if World of Warcraft is worth playing, and I say this even to the people who are playing it right now. It is easy to play, almost, one might say, addicting. But ask yourself, “Is this really how I want to spend my time?” If it is, that’s fantastic! Do it, no judgments, as long as you’ve made that decision consciously and with forethought. But if it isn’t, do yourself a favor and step away, cancel (actually cancel, don’t just “not log in” while still paying for it), try some other games or some other activities. Make sure that if you are playing WoW it is because you want to play WoW, and not just because you haven’t taken the time to think of something you’d enjoy doing more.

There. I’m done preaching.

Saturday Cinema: THEM!

Saturday Cinema will be, every Saturday that I’m able, me picking a movie available for streaming on Netflix, watching it, then talking about it in the comments.  Won’t you join me?

This week I’m going all the way back to 1954 for THEM!

The inhabitants of a small Southwestern town feel the fallout when radiation from bomb tests creates giant, mutant ants that descend on their community. Facing human extermination, a team of scientists scrambles to figure out how to stop “them.” Filled with creepy creatures large and small, this 1954 sci-fi spectacular is one of the most influential horror films of all time — and also captures America’s mood at the dawn of the Atomic Age.

Guilds, Servers and Venn Diagrams

One thing I’ve mentioned a time or two on this blog is how I miss the old days when there was more, what I call, casual socialization.  The ironic part is that while it felt casual, it wasn’t.  EverQuest was hard and slow to play solo (not impossible), and so grouping with other people was very desirable.  While lots of people hated this “forced” grouping, the fact is that it lead to people having to talk to each other.  World of Warcraft, on the other hand, is so easy to play solo that barely anyone ever grouped, so much so that they had to invent an instant group making tool AND make it work across servers to get people to go do group instances.  That’s not entirely true, people were doing group instances to a degree, but how it was being done is the point of this post.

Playing EverQuest felt like this:

EQ Venn

While playing World of Warcraft felt like this:

WoW Venn

In EQ, my guild always felt like a subset of the server.  I raided with my guild (and their alliance) and I grouped with my guild, but I also grouped fairly often with other random people from other guilds and even raided with public raids (not to be confused with pickup raids where someone stands around shouting that they are forming a raid, but planned ahead of time, posted on the server message boards and open to signups by anyone).  In WoW, my guild felt like it was my entire world.  I raided with my guild and I grouped with my guild, and that’s it.  Occasionally out in the world working on a quest I’d casually group with someone working the same quest (kill ten raptors goes faster for everyone around if you group up… collect ten raptor hides, however, is a cutthroat business), and at the lowest levels you might find a random group doing an instance, but only back before about 2006 or so because nowadays most people just race solo through the low level content to get to “the real game”.

I want to love my server again, my whole community, not just my tiny corner of it.  But how do we do that?  Unfortunately, the answer is less instancing and less easy solo content.  In general, people will, even when it is detrimental, choose the path of least resistance.  Soloing is easier than grouping in that you don’t have to contend with the personalities of others and you don’t have to share rewards, when you make soloing also better experience and progression, people stop choosing to group except when in their own niche of the community, their guild.  When guilds don’t have to contend, compete and share content, they don’t have a reason to talk to each other.  Instead they’ll just go off into their own instance and get their own loot.

Of course, this all depends on what you want out of an MMO.  If you want a game, if you want pushing buttons to defeat monsters, if you want loot and to “grow” your character, above all else, then you want easy solo and instancing.  But if you are like me and the game, the fighting, the loot and advancement, are all secondary to playing in the world with other people, then you want harder solo and shared content.  Currently, WoW rules the roost.  It makes the most money, and money controls the flow of design, so every game since WoW took over the market has tried to be like WoW, more game, less world.  This is a great thing if you love WoW, except if you love WoW why would you want to leave a game you have investment in for a game that is exactly like WoW only you are level 1 instead of level 80?  Couldn’t you get the same experience on an alternate character in WoW?

In the meantime, I keep trying new games and hoping to find one with less easy solo and less instancing and more community inside the game world.  If you know of any, where you play with people not in your guild frequently because it has a vibrant community in the game, I’m all ears…

Finding Each Other

I am a big fan of the idea of having one world for MMOs, and I don’t mind if they use instances to achieve it.  The biggest concern when it comes to breaking the world up that way is the potential loss of community.  If all 100,000 of your users are on the same world, and they all go to town at once, your game might have 100 instances of that town (as opposed to needing 100 servers to make sure your population levels are such that town doesn’t exceed 1,000 players at a time), the worry is that the 1,000 people you are in the instance with will likely never be the same 1,000 the next time this happens.  Even if only enough people ever go to town that never more than 5 instances are needed, the chance you run into the same people over and over is pretty low.

Fact is, even on a game that limits players to 10,000 per server, no one knows everyone.  But finding your 100 “friends” out of 10,000 is easier than 100,000 or 1,000,000, even easier when only a portion of that 10k plays in your timezone.  An instanced game gets even worse if you leave town and enter an instance designed for 75 people max, the chances you’ll play with the same 75 people is even smaller.  So how do you meet new people and make friends?  How does a community build when everyone shares?

It would be nice if someone could take the one world/instance design and then pair it up with a player matching algorithm, so that if you play with someone in a group or raid for any signifigant length of time they’d earn a rank, and you can flag players as good or bad, coupled with your friends list resulting in the game choosing an instance with the highest matching score.  This way, you would tend to play with people you’d played with before, except of course when the game cannot let you (instances exist for a reason, and sometime you just can’t let more people in), but you can allow for player overrides so even if the game chooses to put you in Wilderness Instance 27, you can swap to join a player you know who is in Wilderness Instance 19, or they you.

Its a thought… just need to figure out how to build it…

When Big is Too Big

Yesterday, I rambled about my dislike of applications on social networking web sites. Today, I’m going to ramble about the other aspect I dislike about Internet community and social networking sites. They are just. so. big.

Back in the dayâ„¢, I played online games with, what I though was, a large group of people. There we literally dozens of us. Maybe hundreds. There were tons and tons of Quake players online, but, the community at large was segmented. Some people played Death Match, others played Capture The Flag, and then there were mods like Team Fortress. No part of it was really enormous, because even within segments, like Death Match for instance, there were further segments, built around servers and server groups, web sites, tournaments, geographical areas, etc. I can see this when I talk to people who knew of TF but didn’t play TF and I talk about us having year long tournament seasons with dozens of clans and alternates and all sorts of stuff. They just didn’t realize how big TF was… and I always thought DM was just scattered random chaos until they start waxing about the days of ranked tiers and what not. The same was true of EverQuest. While I was/am familiar with the players and guilds from my own server, outside a few standouts, the workings of other servers were non-existent. One day at work I found out a co-worker also played, but on another server. When I explained to him how “public” raiding worked, he was shocked, because his server had no public system, in fact it was a very tightly controlled tier system long before SOE ever considered making tiers. Today, I still hang out on a community board from my EQ server, and it consists of a few dozen or more regular posters with more infrequent posters and a bunch of lurkers who might post occasionally.

When I look at newer game communities, like the WoW official forums or places like Guild Cafe, I’m turned off. Being a dude with a regular job and other hobbies, I simply can’t keep up with a community of thousands, tens or even hundreds of thousands (or potentially millions in WoW’s case), posting with no restrictions. I log on one day, read some threads, post, and then leave. When I come back in a week, the conversation I was interested in is over, three days dead after getting four hundred posts and eventually being locked by a moderator, or simply faded away to page 47 (implying that 46 pages of posts have been made, not just since I’ve been there, but since the last time someone replied to the topic I was interested in). I lose pretty much all interest in the site. I can’t spend all day reading posts, and I certainly can’t spend all weekend catching up, so at best I’m tagging one thread in a hundred to participate in, and at a ratio like that I don’t feel like I’m a part of any community that may exist there.

In the end, its all a question of scope… how wide does a community cast its net? If you go too wide, you will end up alienating people who might be valuable members but do not have enough time to be fully involved and encouraging people who might be less valuable yet have ample time to participate everywhere. Go too narrow and your community will die on the vine, or at best be little more than a place where your tiny group of dedicated members can hang out, which in most cases isn’t going to be enough to run a business off of unless that business is small or the price is high.

Currently, I think most, if not all, of the social networking sites are going too wide without enough tools for the users to both segregate themselves and to find the segregated communities in which they belong or wish to belong. In addition, they all seem to be reinventing the wheel in everything they do. The message board functions of most social networking sites are like stepping into the stone age when compared to the robust readily available software solutions on the market. You’d think Facebook or MySpace might consider investing in one of those.

Perhaps in a future post, I might wax poetic about what I would do if I were to invent a social networking site.


Though I loathe the idea of joining an infinite number of community building websites, I am on MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. And now I’ve gone and joined GuildCafe.

In much the same way I participate in, I’m interested in GuildCafe for the possibility of gathering statistics that might mean something. And maybe it’ll make finding my next group of people to play online games with a tad easier. Who knows.


Almost four months ago, Big Huge Games released Catan for the XBox 360 Live Arcade platform. It is a good example of what to do right and what to do wrong with a game.

The game is a faithful redo of the board game Settlers of Catan. It retains all the fun of the original game, translating it wonderfully into a digital format. Because of this the reception of the game was high, everyone talking about how cool and fun it is, lots of people buying it, lots of people playing it.

On the other hand, right now it really plays best as a single player game. Many people have been reporting for a while now that there is something screwy with the network code. Random drops are fairly common so that its rare you finish a game with all the other people you started with. And then there is the problem with achievements… many players come to a point where they stop getting achievements, not anything being done on their part, they are completing the goals of the achievements but the achievements are not being rewarded. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to enough people that the Catan forum consists largely of people asking why they didn’t get an achievement they believe they have earned. The rest of the posts are about disconnections.

Joe Pishgar was the community manager over at Big Huge and he posted a couple of times about a patch being worked on that he said would be available “soon”. That was back on May 15th, about 13 days after the game was released. Three months later and we have no patch. We also have no Joe as he’s moved on to become the community manager over at Sony for Star Wars Galaxies.

I really want to play Catan more, but won’t until the problems are fixed… It was a great design, a good implementation, but with crappy follow through. And, for me, a black mark on Big Huge. If they can’t fix a game as small as this, I have no faith in their abilities as it concerns that new RPG they are working on.

It is a shame that more game review sites don’t go back and re-review games, because I’m fairly certain that Catan would get much lower scores the second time around, especially when you consider most of their good reviews were done within the first week of release. Some problems just don’t reveal themselves in a week.

Pattern Recognition

Every once in a while, a book comes along that really matters. You read it and it gets down into your soul, affects your core beliefs and really, truly changes you. I just finished reading Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, and let me tell you… this is not that book.

Normally, I don’t post spoilers, but I can’t talk about this book without them. So, if you want to read more and don’t mind a little (or a lot) of spoiling, read on.

Read more

Stuff on the Net XIII

All the moving and stuff, and I just haven’t found the time to be creative, so here are a ton of links to stuff…

This story I find hilarious. Think of it at a community/government version of “Hey you kids! Get off of my lawn!”

Over at, schild and ookii posted a couple of interesting videos that exhibit some cool gaming stuff.

The internet is finally explained.

There is a band named OK Go. The songs are catchy, but its the music videos that got me hooked. You should watch “A Million Ways” and “Here It Goes Again“.

The US Army just might be letting someone build a theme park based on them.

World of Warcraft is on MySpace, but I don’t think I’m going to be friends with him.

Dragon*Con is coming in September. I’m going.

My website is kinda pretty.

People who dress up in costume and pretend to be superheroes = funny.

Don’t like real news? Get the same news with a fantasy world slant.

And that’s all for now…

Intrepid Reporter, Calvin Meeks…

I started a little project for myself. For one, to get into City of Heroes a bit more. Two, to get to know the community a bit. And three, to do some writing.

Its called the Front Page.

I created a character named Calvin Meeks, who is not a hero at all, but one of those reporters who always gets mixed up in trouble.

So far so good. I’ve met a few folks, and even had a couple of offers for doing stories (tagging along for exp and such, while taking notes and photos).

I’m really enjoying it.