Tag Archive for Ishiro Takagi

Identity

My pleading had finally been answered and a 1200 baud modem had been purchased. I sat in front of the computer, the card was installed and the software was waiting. There was a copy of MicroCenter’s weekly ad in my lap, and on the back page the list of BBSs had a few circled. I dialed up a place called Safehaven and created a new account. In the earliest of days, I was Jason Blood (though sometimes I was Etrigan). When I moved away from dialing up BBSs and instead calling up my ISP, I became Logan5.  In 1999, I logged into EverQuest for the first time, and while I played around with a few names, I settled on Ishiro (later Ishiro Takagi). These days on Xbox and in a number of other places, you’ll find me as Jhaer (the “h” is pronounced, so it sounds like “hard” but without the “d” and with a “j” sound crammed on the front of it, one syllable).

In each form, I was always me, though I’ll admit to a bit (or a lot) of role play under various guises. But in 1998 I started putting my thoughts on the Internet, and while I was deep into Logan5 (though sometimes J) at the time, I decided to post as simply “Jason” (though often as “jason” – I used to have a long diatribe on why the lack of capitalization mattered, but for the life of me I can’t remember any of it except something about the importance of the self over the collective… yeah, like most kids in college, I went through one of those “I know everything better than everyone” phases too). As part of this, over the years, my social circles have all known about my interests, and I’ve never kept them from my employers. In fact, there are a couple of jobs over the years that I didn’t take and plenty more that probably didn’t bother to make me offers based entirely on their apparent stance on games as a frivolous hobby. So when it came time to enter a social network, like Friendster or MySpace or Facebook, it never occurred to me to not use my “real” name. I am me. Even when I wear another name.

Back in June of last year, there was a kerfuffle surrounding Blizzard’s new Real ID. It was totally and completely out-of-place there, and to this day I’ve only linked my Real ID with maybe five other people (my wife, my best friend, my best friend’s wife, and two other long time “real life” friends). This year, both Facebook and Google+ have taken a much firmer stance on real names, going so far as to ban accounts that don’t use real names.

Now, personally, for myself, I could not care any less. I use my real name on the Internet, and I deter identity theft by maintaining an identity not worth stealing (though if you wish to steal my identity and then pay off my debts, feel free). However, I do understand that some people want to maintain two identities. Even I did at the beginning. In the BBS days I was extremely protective of who I was, if only because in my real life I was kind of a dorky nerd (this was junior high and high school). It wasn’t until I was in the 11th grade that I broke down that wall and actually started meeting the people I’d only known online face-to-face.

— as a brief aside, let me take a moment to let that sink in and allow you to realize how different the world of 1989 is from today. I was a 15-year-old boy whose parents let him, actually encouraged him, to go meet complete strangers he’d met on the Internet. —

And I don’t mean to denigrate people who maintain multiple identities as something I’ve outgrown. My online journey after the age of 15 simply didn’t have much separation. The bulk of my friends we the people I met online, and we took those online friendships offline whenever possible with outings to movies, parties, etc. It was a conscious decision on my part.

Anyway… Facebook and Google+ have been taking a fairly hard-line on all of this, and while they manage social networks, I don’t feel like this is an area they should be so adamant about. Occasionally, the use of real names on the Internet will temper what people say, but not often. Despite posting with a real name, plenty of people are going to continue to be asshats simply because, real names or not, they just don’t consider the feelings of the people on the other side of the screen. Honestly, they are in the business of providing traffic and demographic data. As free services to us, the users, we aren’t the customer, we are the product. Should they care if I’m on their site socializing with the people from work or socializing with people who play a common game with me? I don’t think they should. They should only care that I’m on the site, and into which column they can put me down for selling my eyeballs for ads.

All this was brought on because I saw that Tobold got banned from Facebook. It’s a shame, because he was one of the few people who played games there and actually participated. With him gone, all my games just got harder and I’m less likely to play them. See… that’s the deal with a social networks: ripples.

Stuck on a Path

Last post on the challenges of the single character problem was about how to let players learn characters without forcing them to invest hours and hours just to discover they don’t like it. But what about people who did test, liked what they saw, but then later something changed (their tastes, their available time, whatever) and now the character they have is one they don’t, won’t or can’t play?

In current MMOs, once you make the character that character is stuck. A warrior is a warrior. In a game like World of Warcraft you can fine tune the warrior with talents and even built very distinct warriors. They even allow you the ability to re-pick your talents any time (for a price), but you’ll still be a warrior. Your warrior cannot become a warlock or a hunter. Alternate characters are the only option. City of Heroes works the same way: a blaster is a blaster. In fact, a fire/devices blaster is a fire/devices blaster. You can’t change power sets, you have to start over.

Now, realistically, this makes sense. I mean, if you spend your whole life learning one set of skills, you can’t just up and decide that you would have rather spent that time doing something else and magically make that happen. But then, these games are not reality. More games should allow you to make changes, even drastic changes, to your character without losing your identity. If I spend two years in a game playing Joeblow the warrior, making friends, joining a guild, earning a reputation as Joeblow, why am I forced to start completely over when I want to experience something different in the game? Some games try to get around this, like City of Heroes implementing their global chat names, but that only hides the problem. Sure, you may know that I’m ProbablyNot in the global channels, but in game I’m Ishiro Takagi or Jhaer Snow or John Hellstrom or Calvin Meeks. My reputation becomes much harder to translate.

Lets take World of Warcraft as an example and expand on it. As I mentioned earlier, they do let you rebuild your talents. But why not let you re-spend your experience points? Now, I’m not suggesting allowing 100% free anytime character rebuilding. They already have the precedent of paying for talent resets, just make a new NPC who asks for money based on level for picking a new class. Would it really break the game to allow a level 70 Paladin pay 1,000 or even 2,000 gold to become a level 70 Warrior? Of course, if you were a gnome, you’d be restricted to gnome classes since the game restricts like that already. Allowing a gnome shaman might be game, if not just lore, breaking. But then, why not allow the player to pay 5,000 gold to switch races (restricted to those which allow his class)? Not only would this allow for players to play the character they want without starting over, it would also introduce new money sinks into the game, and games, especially those that keep expanding, can always use new desirable yet optional money sinks.

You could even, if there was a demand for it, allow people to strip themselves back to level 1. Even pay them for it. The warlocks need to power their machines with life-force, they’ll strip 69 levels from a level 70 player and pay him X gold. With that money a player could take their level 1, pay to change his class and/or race and level back up again, tread-milling the same character, the same name, over and over again, with reward, as opposed to alternate characters or deleting and restarting.

Following a similar model, most games could introduce this kind of mechanic. As long as the change had a price of some sort and was limited by location (must visit particular NPCs), the only real downside I can see would be players less likely to stick with classes or builds they feel are broken, which could increase developer knowledge of a problem’s existence, but might decrease the pool of incoming data to be able to properly examine it.

So, what say you?

Goals

Sometimes one of the best things to do in online games in to set goals for yourself. And I don’t mean strictly the ones the designers lay out for you. Levels, items, zones, quests… they’re all decent goals, but often times they wind up being diminished by the fact that so many other people have done them.

So, with that in mind, in every game I play I always find little things to task myself with. The most recent one is in City of Heroes. I’m not playing CoH as much as I used to… heck, I’m not playing any game as much as I used to, but my time is currently divided between World of Warcraft and City of Heroes… WoW when Jodi is around, and CoH when its just me. Anyway, in CoH I’m playing Ishiro Takagi, a scrapper, martial arts and regeneration. Given enemies his own level, he’s fairly unbeatable. It takes guys 2 or 3 levels higher or groups of 6 or more to put him in the dirt. Ishiro is level 26, and currently prowling the streets and rooftops of Striga Isle, Talos Island, Dark Astoria and Independance Port… I go into Terra Volta every now and then, and when I’m sent to the hospital I remember why I don’t go in there alone, heh.

In Independance Port there is a bridge. Its long and covered in bad guys. I start at the north end and begin wading through. I haven’t made it yet… either I run into a boss who cleans my clock, or an afore mentioned group of 6 or more who I just can’t thin out before they get the upper hands. As I level it will get easier, and that’s sorta the point. My goal isn’t levelling, its something else, which if I keep doing it will lead to levelling, but in and of itself is far more satisfying than watching the experience bar fill up… instead I watch my progress across the bridge.

I’m halfway there.

Soon.