It’s been a while since I posted a TED video, but then I haven’t seen one lately that really spoke to me. Until this.
And to go with it, here is what I doodled while watching the TED talk on doodling.
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With the new EverQuest Progression server opening this week, the gaming blog-o-sphere is all atwitter about it. Some are praising it, some are just enjoying it, some are coming to terms with their inability to play it anymore, and some downright hate it claiming that it ruined its own lands and it won’t ruin theirs.
The funny thing though is that very little about the game is actually broken in such a fashion that everyone agrees. Except the boats. They’ve been broken in some form or another since the original 1999 launch of the game. Everything else though is subject to opinion and preference.
Take combat for example. Some people are complaining about how slow it is. The fights are long and players don’t actually do a whole lot. Spells have long cast times and abilities take anywhere from six to ten seconds to pop back up. Of course, I’ve been complaining for a long time now about how combat in new games is too fast. They are over very quickly and I’ve always got another button to hit, another ability to use, another spell to cast. I don’t have enough time to be social unless I stop playing. The old slow combat, however, allowed me to talk to my group, my guild, the zone, and hold private conversations with several friends.
There are no maps and no floating quest indicators, which some people say makes the game too hard to play since you don’t know where you are going or what you are doing… unless you explore and read and, you know, remember stuff. I actually don’t plan on playing on the new EQ Progression server because I’m actually enjoying playing WoW for the moment (of course, I’m playing WoW in a manner completely alien to many folks), but also because most of the people I enjoyed playing EQ with aren’t going to be there either, and it’s the people who made EQ worth playing. However, I did drop into game and rolled up a monk in Qeynos, just like the old days, and you know what? I still knew the world like the back of my hand. I knew where the vendors were and where to find quests, and more importantly when I didn’t remember, I remembered how to find out: you target NPCs and hail them to speak to them and find quest text, and then you just do what they want. No indicators, no tracking, you write down on a piece of paper on your computer desk what they are looking for and who they are and when you find the stuff, you bring it back. Even better… you don’t have to actually be on a quest to get quest items. In WoW and other new games, if there is a quest for gnoll teeth, you have to get the quest first and then go kill gnolls. In EverQuest, you can go kill gnolls and get the teeth (which are NO DROP) and then find a quest guy who wants them. How cool is that? Imagine if in WoW you could be hunting raptors and some other player says, “Hey, there is a guy in the Wetlands who wants ten of their hides and he’ll give you some coin for it.” You say, “Cool!” and collect the hides, then go find the guy in the Wetlands. To me, that is much more awesome than killing a bunch of raptors and getting no loot, then finding a guy who wants hides, so you go back and kill raptors in the exact same spot you were before, but now they magically have hides they didn’t have before! What?
Another example that comes up in the “I can’t believe we played like this” side of the discussion is trains. The act of someone dragging mobs on you, either by intent or by accident, that then stop to fight you while the other guy gets away. Yep, trains suck. Nothing in the game is worse than having your day ruined and your group wiped by some idiot’s train to the zone line. But you want to know what is totally awesome? Surviving trains. Your group already had a mob to fight and now you have three, or five… the enchanter start mezzing, the monk snags one to off tank, the ranger pulls one out and roots it, and the cleric is screaming for everyone to stop getting hit because he’s running out of mana… then… one mob dies, and there is this clear moment when you realize that everyone did their jobs without being told, they worked as a team and your group is surrounded by mobs just waiting to die and you are more than happy to oblige. I spent entire Saturdays in zones with a buddy or two breaking trains. Be it out on the lawn in Unrest or after Kunark down in Sebilis, trains were thrilling and exciting, and they just don’t happen in new games anymore.
Trains don’t suck. Not for everyone. Some of us want that game. A game of danger and thrills, of social interaction and interdependence of classes, where quests are things you can do at any time and not just when someone flags you for them, a game where travelling to another part of the game means something more than having to stone home later or riding on a griffin for a couple minutes, but nobody is making it anymore. Are they?
A couple weeks ago, the season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead aired.
Overall, I am very pleased with it. Who am I kidding? This was just awesome! It is the epitome of everything I love about the zombie genre.
First off, it isn’t about the zombies. Frankly, I hate movies or shows where people try to protect the zombies (or love them) or where the undead are just not living but go around talking and stuff. Here, zombies are used the way I feel they are best used, as a setting.
The only real complaint that I have about the show is a similar complaint I seem to have with many movies and TV shows these days: poor communication of time passage. When you sharply cut from one scene to the next, my brain assumes that either these events are happening at the same time, in succession or that one is shortly after the one preceding it. If you have a character say, “I’ll go do this.” and then sharp cut to a scene taking place in the same setting as the previous one and the guy who said he was leaving is still there, my brain assumes he has not left yet. The Walking Dead did this once only it was supposed to be that the guy had gone and come back and a couple of hours had passed.
That issue aside, The Walking Dead on AMC was just fantastic. I look forward to owning this on DVD or Blu-Ray, and to seeing season two next fall. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
Wolfshead made a great post about chat in MMOs. I often find myself agreeing with Wolfshead. We seem to come from the same place in that EverQuest got a lot of things right about building communities and having players be social while they play. Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about because, honestly, if you read his post, that’s how I feel. But along side the chat discussion is a discussion on the Dungeon Finder in WoW.
In the comments, however, Tesh used the word/phrase “self-professed” and it got me thinking, and I commented as well. In most games, we have to trust other people when they tell you what they’ve done or where they’ve been. Well, not so much anymore… with gear score and achievements and bind on pickup items, people don’t have to trust you, they can inspect you or check your Armory profile and verify it. People used to have to be social, now they don’t.
Anway… back to the Dungeon Finder. The truth is, Blizzard named it properly. You select the dungeon or dungeons you want to do, you select your role in the group, and then you queue. You are finding a dungeon. EverQuest had an LFG tool. Looking for Group. It was poorly named. It should have been the Look for Experience Points tool, because that’s how many people used it. They didn’t want to make an effort to find a good group, they just wanted to join one already formed and then soak up exp. However, because of the nature of EQ, while Exp might be what you were after, what you got was a group since getting Exp often meant sitting in the same place with the same five other people for hours. If you didn’t talk and socialize, you had better at least be excellent at playing and making the exp, otherwise you might get kicked from the group. But in WoW, you use the Dungeon Finder to find a dungeon, you then do the dungeon and then you are done. Then you use the Dungeon Finder, ad nauseum…
What I really want is a Looking for People tool. I don’t want an objective and a role, I want a funny guy who plays with style and makes playing the game more fun than grinding the floating bags of exp and loot. The tool should be half a personality test, and matching should be made on more than just people going to the same place. A chatty guy should be placed with a group that wants a chatty guy. And so on… I know it would be a pain to build, and some people probably wouldn’t want all those options, which would be why you’d hide them. The main screen could be as simple as the Dungeon Finder: where I want to go, what I want to do. Then, under an Advanced Options or Social Options or Fine Tuning you put another screen with a whole mess of check boxes and/or drop downs that allow people to self select a narrower group of people. The defaults would, of course, be Any/All and then those who wish could go from there.
The first option I’d add? The ability to say, “Only pick people/groups from my server.” You know, the people on the other servers in the Battlegroup might be great people, but I’d rather play with people who, if they turn out to be great people, I can play with on a regular basis.
Text MUDs really didn’t have much of a perspective because they didn’t have a camera. You entered a room and were given a description of the room. Anyone in the same room was “within reach” and to get out of reach you left the room. Once games went graphical, the camera became a part of the game. On one side you have Ultima Online which followed the Ultima top-down isometric, decidedly 3rd person. On the other side you had EverQuest which owed its perspective to Doom and Quake and other 1st person shooters. Later on, EQ would free up the camera so that people could play in 3rd person, but the game was designed such that you didn’t really gain much from it (unless you were pulling, in which case you could use the 3rd person camera to look around corners and behind other obstacles). As MMOs have moved on, pretty much all of them have opted for the more tactical 3rd person view. Pulled back, staring at the back of your character, giving you an almost omniscient view of the world. It is very popular, in large part I suspect because it makes the game easier. When you can see around yourself in 360 degrees so that nothing can surprise you, life is more… predictable.
While playing the Star Trek Online open beta, I found myself really enjoying the space combat. The ground game was pretty much your typical bland MMO, like WoW or City of Heroes. In fact, it is almost identical to Pirates of the Burning Sea. But the space combat (much like the sea combat of PotBS) felt more much… alive. Even though it was pretty awesome, it still felt like something was missing, and it wasn’t until a friendly discussion and an offhand comment that I put my finger on it. A friend said, “I wish you could fight from the bridge.” And I light went on in my brain.
What is missing from Star Trek Online, and was missing from PotBS, was a more 1st person view of the game. STO’s space combat would be incredible if you played from the bridge, had to set the view screen, keep an eye on tactical items like scanners.
In my discussions with other folks about 1st vs 3rd person view, many of them cited PvP as being a reason for 3rd person. You need to be able to see if someone is stalking up behind your guy. And that discussion caused another light to go on. In EQ, when I played primarily in 1st person, I was my character. I was Ishiro Takagi, monk of Qeynos. When I played WoW, where 3rd person is the default, I was controlling my character. I was Jason, sitting at a computer controlling the actions of Ishiro, Alliance priest. Possibly owing to its roots in RTS games, WoW plays like a giant RTS where you only get one unit. The immersion is gone.
Stepping outside MMOs, in recent years I’ve been playing more console games. Back in the day, before I discovered MMOs, I played a ton of 1st person shooters. Before I started spending hours camping spawns in EverQuest, I was spending hours racing for flags and battling for control points in Team Fortress for Quake. In the last couple of years, games like Gears of War, which everyone else seems to go nuts for, just leave me feeling empty, largely because the viewpoint of the game is watching over the shoulder of a guy, not being the guy. I loved Dead Space, but there was a distance from the character, even though the integration of the UI into the game helped I still wasn’t in the head of the hero. On the other hand, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are just so awesome. No longer am I looking at the back of the hero, controlling him, I am the hero fighting my way through the hordes of the dead.
This is what is missing. This is what makes it so easy to casually cancel my MMO subscriptions and never come back. I never feel like I am in the game, just that I’m playing it. Sure, I could play many of the games out there in 1st person, but they aren’t designed for 1st person, they are designed for 3rd and playing in 1st puts me at a disadvantage to every other player. I hope more games consider locking in and designing for 1st person in the future.
What do you think?
The other night I decided I’d drop in to Wizard 101. It is a great game for just jumping in and banging out some combat or quests, then logging out. It’s casual in the best sense of the word, in that you can play at your own pace and not that it only requires a browser and babysitting.
Anyway, I had forgotten where I had logged out previously and I committed the cardinal sin of Wizard 101: moving before looking. I stepped backwards into the street and immediately joined someone else’s combat. No big deal really. There was only one monster, so I picked a card and attacked. I picked my card first. The other guy then picked his, but when it came to casting, he went first. He threw a damage increase, death +30%, and then I fired off my weakest death spell, which amplified +30% only did about 90 points of damage. A waste of the damage increase. Now, keep in mind, when you pick a spell, everyone in your group can see what you picked and what you have targeted. I picked first. There was a good ten second pause for the other guy to make his move. He could have said “Don’t use that.” or something, but he didn’t.
So the round is done and the damage increaser was wasted and the guy says, “your jack o as”.
One of the great things about Wizard 101 is that it is very very kid friendly. There are two forms of chat. The first is completely restricted and only allows you to speak in canned phrases like “Help!” and “Let’s go fight [insert quest target enemy here].” and other such things. The other form of chat is free form typing, however, every word you type is compared to the Wizard 101 dictionary and if it doesn’t exist in there the word will stay in red on your screen and will appear as “…” to everyone else. What my groupmate was trying to say was “you are a jack ass” but if he had it would have gone out as “you are a jack …” or possibly even just “…”. I honestly forget how harsh the censoring is. So, because of the chat filter, a new slang has emerged in Wizard 101 using approximate swears.
Back to the group… he then tells me “fine ill let them kill you i wont attack at all” which was fine with me, even though a second monster joined in I can easily take two at a time in this area. Of course, he proceeds instead to target everything I target in an attempt to make me not fight. *shrug* We win and then he says, “more on” “flock off bench” “your a noob end of story there”. Translated: Moron. Fuck off bitch. You’re a noob, end of story there.
Flippantly I threw in a “less off” in there in response to his “more on”, and when he was done I said “You’re”. Which he took for arguing, like I was saying he was a noob when in reality I was correcting his language, his misuse of “your”. He then followed with lines that included “sheet o face”, “little bench” and he tried to explain to me that “you’re”, “your” and “you are” all mean the same thing. “master o bait”, “shut the flock up”, “as o hole”. The really funny part is when he claims that because of my spelling and refusal to type insults around the word filter it is because I’m a little kid.
What? So, in most MMOs, people spouting obscenities are often younger, less mature players. But in Wizard 101 I’m being told that proper grammar and not swearing is a sign of immaturity? Huh?
The sad thing is that the filter while preventing real swearing also prevents real communication. The guy asked how old I was, and I couldn’t answer because the game would not allow “35” or “thirty-five” or “thirty” or “five” to be said. In fact, at the end of our conversation he said, “i can tell from your crop of insults your not even third team”. Since the game splits players between “under 13” and “13 and over”, I assume he meant “13” but had to say “third team” to get around the filter.
The entire situation ended in irony. This guy was so pissed at me for the one miscast spell and my further arguments about his grammar that he reported me. If you go to the Wizard 101 FAQ page and click on the question “What happens when I get Reported?” you will find the following text:
When you report someone, or you are reported, a message is sent directly to Mr Lincoln that includes the chat logs of everything that was said before and after that report.
Mr Lincoln then reads the log and assess the situation. He determines how bad the offense was, looks up prior offenses for the reported individual, and based on that assessment he issues sanctions such as muting or banning and sends an email to the offending account explaining the violation and the sanctions.
If the report was falsely made, that is determined as well, and the player who made the false report is investigated as to whether or not they have made previous false reports. False reports are just a egregious as valid ones, and similar sanctions can be levied against repeat offenders of false reporting.
Everything that a player enters into the chat window is logged. These larger chat logs are also routinely checked for those infractions that are not reported.
Under the question “What is considered a Reportable Offense?” you’ll find:
So, shortly after my new friend departed (I did add him to my friend list), a pop up window told me I had been reported. Shortly after that, my new friend vanished, both from the game world and from my friend list. I can only assume my friend managed to get himself banned. On the other hand, my account was muted for 1 day. I asked for clarification and got it. Apparently, when my friend said “you little sheet” and I responded “Sheet of what?” my use of “sheet”, a common sidestep for the word “shit”, was enough to warrant a 1 day mute warning. I have asked if any action was taken against my friend, and I emailed them screen shots of the conversation, since I was unable to report him myself. No word as of yet…
A Perfect Getaway:
I like horror movies, and this one looks to be a pretty suspenseful tale about people hiking through the jungle with some other people who might be killers. I’m sure there will be a twist. As always, I’m not sure I’d spend my hard earned $10 on it, but it might merit a matinee, and at the very least a priority spot on my rental list.
Julie & Julia:
Would it be gay to admit that I kinda want to see this? Could I make up for it by saying that its mostly because I really like Amy Adams? In any event, this looks to be a fairly decent girly flick about someone getting their groove back or something like that. I imagine theaters across the country will be packed with groups of women out to get their girl power on.
G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra:
Meanwhile, next door to Julie & Julia is where you will find all the guys this weekend. I mean, its G.I.Joe. It doesn’t even have to be good to make a truck load of money. Any guy who ever owned some of the action figures will no doubt be willing to part with $10 to see it on the big screen. And what guy doesn’t want to see Scarlett, Cover Girl and The Baroness in the flesh? I got a chance to see a screening of this one, and it didn’t disappoint from that perspective. This film has so much fan service, with characters and vehicles and lines and back story elements, that they almost forgot to have a plot. Its there, but its pretty blatant, with no real twists or turns, this movie telegraphs its punches all the way through. Still, it is an enjoyable ride. Better than Transformers, in my opinion. I just wish they’d chosen to focus on a smaller set of characters and one strong story with one or two subplots instead of trying to cram in everything. But hey, if you are a fan, go see it.
Aliens in the Attic:
Looks like good family fun. Not something I’d pay $10 to see in the theater, but I can imagine plenty of worse ways to spend two hours at the movies.
I want to see this film, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it. It will definitely find a place near the top of my Netflix queue when its available if I don’t. If you haven’t seen the RAAAAAAAANDY clips, do yourself a favor and watch them.
Did you see Saw? Yes? Then you’ve pretty much seen this. Sure, its not exactly the same, but this movie isn’t much more than elaborate MacGyver like traps that hurt and/or kill people all designed by a faceless nameless villain whose motives we never learn and *SPOILER ALERT* who wins. It would be nice to see more horror movies that aren’t just an introduction to a series of low budget ultimately high grossing pieces of crap. But its show business; as long as people keep paying for this junk, they’ll keep making it. I wouldn’t pay for this even if it were the only way out of one of this guy’s traps.
All I really knew about this film before seeing it was that it was about a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome. Its only open in four theaters at this point, but it may show up in more and if you look you might still find screenings of this in some markets, and it is worth seeing. I think it really depicts quite well people with this illness and how they and their loved ones come to cope with it and make it part of their lives, working with the illness instead of railing against it. A warm, funny, touching film that I really enjoyed watching.
Spent this morning playing some first person shooters on the PC… one was a beta, the other was the open beta Quake Live.
I had tried to play QL before, but the insane queue lengths kept me out. I’d wait, then find something else to do long before I got into game. But today I managed to get in and run through the tutorial and a couple of matches. The tutorial started out alright, with me choosing the beginner level and quickly getting an 11 to 0 lead. Then the AI adjusted and I lost 15 to 11. Then I went and join some matches…
Either their skill levels are very broad or I somehow borked it up or everyone else is cheating. First off, I hate deathmatch, and prefer team games where my personal frag count is less important than the team winning. So I joined up with a capture the flag server. Its been a very long time since I played bland CTF, usually sticking to Team Fortress, so I didn’t know any of the “standard” maps that were running, and I also didn’t know that I had to put flag-on-flag to capture it. This coupled with the dumb ass on my team who was yelling at me to “go ahead and cap noob!” even though I was standing in the right place (the enemy had our flag too) confused me for a bit. But that got sorted out, and we eventually won. It was close, the score looks bad with an 8 to 1 victory, but it was much closer than that with a lot of good slugging it out for each hard won point. However, I noticed while playing that even though I was doing alright, other players were fragging much more than me, and they were getting off air kills and other feats of awesome that I’m not so good at. I really am of a beginner level, I know I suck, so how is it that I’m playing with frag gods when skill matching is supposed to prevent that? Anyway, we won… then the second match started, and the other team picked up a few more frag gods while our team picked up a few more people like me. We had to fall back into a pretty strong defence (the entire team, minus one guy) just to keep our flag on our side of the map. In the end, we lost. It wasn’t even close. Sure, the score looks alright with an 8 to 5 loss, but we were winning at one point, all our caps were done pretty much by one guy and the other team got 5 of their points within just a few minutes, chain capping the crap out of us. We got steamrolled.
Anyway, the game runs smooth, although now I need to go beat up on Comcast because I was getting “Connection Interrupted” every couple of minutes, just for a second, but it was enough to get me dead every time. If you want to find me, I’m Jhaer.