Monday, August 31

Still as funny as ever

And still topping the Funniest PC Game Ever chart after over a decade is Monkey Island:

And in case you've been living under a rock, the game got a facelift so new generations may be indoctrinated into SCUMM which is available at Steam as well as the new episodic Monkey Island game, Tales of Monkey Island.

Sunday, August 30

You're Unique, just like everyone else

From Killed in a smiling accident:
Though all MMOGs suffer this to some extent (the 2006 Azerothian census broke down employment in the region as:
  • 0.4% - Farming (livestock & dairy)
  • 0.5% - Farming (arable)
  • 0.8% - Innkeepers
  • 1.4% - Retail
  • 97.9% - The Chosen One Who Will Rid This World Of Evil
While you could take this as an argument for more diverse gameplay, the Chosen one being a rather combat oriented profession most of the time, which would be a good argument and hopefully something we'll see returning to MMO's soon that's not my point.

Too many MMO's put you in the protagonist's position as if you were some kind of messianic figure. Remember the profecies and the Destiny Quests of Age of Conan? If 80% of the players didn't jump ship before they got to that point there'd be a sleauth of divinely resurrected avengers running around the place. Star Wars with its messianic demi-gods the Jedi is another good example. Then there's the Superhero MMO's which suffer the same problem, though at least CoX has the redeeming quality of having one of the best NPC populations ever to compensate.
One thing I kinda like about more PvP oriented MMO's like Warhammer and Aion is that you're more 'one amongst many' rather than the heroic figure posing on a mound or throne of skulls. Vanguard also didn't have that "You da MAN! (just like everyone else)" approach either.

Of course the fact that most PvP tactics devolve into zerg-fests might have something to do with the 'one amongst many' feeling :-)

Saturday, August 29

Pr0n.... I mean: Achievement Points.

A response in Tobold's post Skipping Pillars about the complete voiced over dialogue in SW:TOR.
I won't skip the scenes if I'm rewarded for watching them. Watch the whole cutscene give me "x" amount of xp. If not I just want to move on to the next marker.

Combat is a pillar to a combat game as story telling was to Myst.
I can't find it now but I shared a comic a while back. it was a simple two panel thing.
The first panel said:
Total Immersion Virtual Reality Porn will not destroy the World.
The second panel said:
Total Immersion Virtual Reality Porn Achievement Points will.
I don't really have to mention that Achievement Points can easily be replaced with Experience Points in that statement. We're slowly becoming incapable of enjoying gameplay, or stories, without instant gratification in the form of a meaningless empty insta-reward system...

FYI: I do acknowledge that complete voice over isn't all that. Especially if you need to redo a conversation. I do hope Bioware finally conceives of the 'summary' version of conversations. Something both Jade Empire and Mass Effect could have used.

Friday, August 28

Dunning–Kruger effect

From wikipedia:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is an example of cognitive bias in which “…people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it”. They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. Stephen Colbert, a talk show character played by actor Stephen Colbert, exhibits a confident and unaware ignorance typical of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
If you've never run across this you're a very lucky person.
Or you may be suffering from the effect yourself...

Thursday, August 27

Aion Open Beta dates

Just in case Phe wanted to have a look prior to release :) I'll be trying a few different classes out.

"Players are now one step closer to the release of the year's biggest massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, Aion.

Within the next four weeks, NCsoft will treat North American and European gamers to two opportunities to jump into the world of Aion and explore Atreia as Asmodian or Elyos characters ahead of its release in North America on September 22 and Europe September 25. Aion's Open Beta Test featuring version 1.5 will take place September 6 - 13 and will include numerous Western enhancements, including improvements to Aion's innovative character customization with a host of Western styles, as well as new zones, instances, skills, quests and continued game balancing and improvements. Open Beta will retain a level cap for both Elyos and Asmodians characters at 30 allowing players to focus on getting to the same level so they can explore the lands of Atreia together, as well as the Abyss.

Players who have preordered Aion will be treated to a Pre-Select and a two-day Headstart period giving them the opportunity to explore, organize and progress through the game prior to the official launch. Pre-Select will take place on September 18, while Aion's Headstart will begin September 20. Players can still participate in the Aion's Pre-Select and Headstart programs by preordering the game through several participating online and brick-and-mortar retailers, including, Amazon, Best Buy, EB Games Canada, Fry's Electronics, GameStop, Steam and Target.

Unlike any MMO before it, Aion is a uniquely crafted online experience where flight offers much more than just a way to explore the landscape - it is a strategic and integral part of combat, quests, and exploration. Players will dive into battle and plunge through thousands of unique, story-driven quests, all while trying to save a world literally shattered in half from centuries of brutal conflict. Using one of the most flexible and in-depth character customization systems ever featured in an MMO, players will be able to create genuinely distinct characters and explore a visually stunning world of ethereal beauty brimming with otherworldly inhabitants, mysterious enemies, and ancient secrets."

Tuesday, August 25

Drooling & Disappointment

I tried to like Champions Online, I really did.
But the cell-shading made me feel like I am 22 years to old for this game.
CC felt like it was designed by the same guy who did the original CC of CoH with the following mission statements:
1) Make it subtly different from what you did before
2) Don't use any of the embellishments (needed improvements) that the CoX live team applied to your earlier work
3) Don't worry about things like item name consistency and having full sets of accessories. No-one will notice if one bit of a five bits set is missing from any given costume. Plenty of time till post-launch to put those in.

I didn't complete the tutorial mission I'm afraind. While the CoH tutorial isn't exactly stellar, the COV version is really solid. Either one of them makes you want to explore. CO's had me wanting to grab one of the kids running up and down our flat's gallery and put him behind it. I guess there's a second kind of uncanny valley. One in which the art choice didn't go for foto-realism but maybe shouldn't have strayed quite so far. That the latest patch makes the entire screen shutter black/image/black/image whenever something reflective appears doesn't help. That's a 6 year old crappy coding issue that should not be making it to Open Beta.

A game that seems to have found a sweet spot between the two valleys is SWTOR:

Looking at the combat mostly, I notice that while it's very twitchy you don't actually have to aim. WHich is good. I don't wnat an FPS with MMO tagged on. I could move to the US and play Huxley Beta if I wanted that, maybe actually buy the game in a decade or so when it releases. Considering Phè's style of control I think she should aim for heavily armored ranged combattants though.

Crotch-kick! Woohoo! I'm not going to psycho-analyze why, but if there's a class in a game that has a crotch-kick I must play it. Since there's no way I'm not going to play a Twi-lek if they make it in, you can expect to see a Twi-lek smuggler kicking crotches near you some time soon (I hope) I love the cover system too. Looking at the Sith warrior I think melee might be more twitchy than ranged comabat. Note that while Bioware is not the first MMO to announce NPC's seeking and taking cover, they are the first to actually show it while announcing it. They might even be the first to have it working by launch too thanks to the Hero Engine :-)

We've seen this bit before. The multi-player dialogue is very interesting. I think this game is going to be very popular with static group players. It might be rough on some players who have gotten used to things like Horde or Alliance allegiance not really mattering as I doubt that light and dark side players will have many opportunities to work together. Then again, the emphasize on story might actually allow that in a meaningfull manner.

Me want... to..... play.....

Only regret:
The same as from the start. SMugglers and Bountyhunters should be a grey faction. The fringe. Out for number one, not alligned (to start with) with either dark or light sides of the force.

Monday, August 24

Glum Buster

No new insides into the wonderful world of MMOs from me today. But I do want to share you an extremely cute game I found. I stumbled upon it while reading Edge Magazine. It is one of the best gaming magazines out there. And as we have a company subscription to it, I use it as my perfect lunch break entertainment. Glum Buster made it to Edge's internet game of the month. One of its charms is that it is charity ware. Which means you can download and play it completely for free. And if you like it you can pay for it, or not. It is all up to you. The more money he gets for his game, the bigger percentage of it goes to a charitable organization. But you better check out for a better explanation. The game is dreamy 2D platform game. Perfect entertainment for lost half hours.

Saturday, August 22

Still alive

Apart from a sparse comment I have basically been absent. Which is a sad thing, since I have actually been visiting the site still multiple times a day. But somehow putting my own tardiness into word is to hard. So postponing it till tomorrow worked better. But today I can get away with saying very little.

Wednesday I received my Champions Online Beta key, and by Thursday evening I had the game up and running. I had managed to create a new Phe, and then the game crashed as I was about to make my first step. By Friday my urge for alts made me postpone her first steps, and in stead I created another heroine, who did manage to make a few steps and some random heroic acts.

Today Phedre really got into action, and I played around for an hour or two. I haven't made up my mind yet if I like the game or not. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to put it into words. But for today I'll just post two screenshots. I haven't figured out yet where (and if or how) the game puts the screenshots, so I paste it into paintshop. Unfortunately it doesn't show the HUD, which it is not one of the games strong points. But the fast action and random small side missions made me have quite some fun.

Here I am talking to some police chief in distress. Although he was holding a gun and wearing body armor he thought it would be a good idea to send a lady in corset and long skirt without any weapons to rescue some citizens.

This was just a random billboard.

Thursday, August 20

Guild Wars 2 - Video screengrab thursday :)

It's been a long time coming but today saw the Guild Wars 2 site get some real content in the shape of a teaser video, while the artwork is nice I'm not too fond of the animation style, it was only when I started to see the game footage I got a little excited, here's a few grabs of ingame scenery from the video

Wednesday, August 12

To Aion or not to Aion?

I've been seriously reconsidering whether I should cancel my pre-order of Aion.

Why? It's an ok MMO game. It's polished, it's got nice graphics and mechanics that are familiar to anyone who played Lineage II and or WoW in the past. A bit more L2 than WoW actually. I've yet to hear complaints that it doesn't have an end-game and NCSoft is not pulling weird stunts like the "Pay us $200,- for a life-time subscriptio to our game, sight unseen" one that Cryptic's trying to pull over our eyes.
It'd also be a chance to play with Phè again, something that I've been missing of late, as well as maybe Geek and Trib and other Mutants, provided they haven't burned out on Aion yet from the multitude of Beta's. But I can't seem to get excited about the game at all.

Darren, the Common Sense gamer puts it quite well:
... some believe this will be something to bite into. A polished game, granted, but from a region of the world who couldn’t think outside of the box for game design if their lives depended on it. Aion…yeah…you know we’re in trouble when the only good thing we can come with is that…well…it’s a “polished” game.
You know it's going to be same old, same old. Phè is still having fun with Vanguard I believe and also still subbed to CoX. So why should she even contemplate a third MMO? To play with me? Well, that might be an argument in someone's warped and twisted brain, but then I'd feel really bad about not going beyond the first month, which for some reason I don't see myself doing. Then again, Bioware's Dragon Age is being postponed to November. This game was ready to launch on PC in Spring and now both PC and XBox360 versions are on their second delay.

Maybe I should have been as wise as Phè and shouldn't have participated in that Chinese Aion Beta. It took the 'NEW' shine off of it. I'm actually looking forward more to the Champions Online Beta than Aion's launch, and I thoroughly expcect Jack Emmert to fall flat on his face harder than Brad MacQuaid did with Vanguard, and without the morphine addiction to soften the blow.
At least part of the fun is in discovering how the new game works. That'll keep me entertained for a few days with any game. But I expect Champions to lose its luster rapidly afterwards.

When I look beyond Aion, there's not much to excite me either. Fallen Earth looks and feels like a Half Life 1 mod with crappy controls. Maybe fun for FPS gamers but not me. The same for Huxley. To add to that, the "FilePlanet Beta" for Huxley was for US only despite access to such Beta's being a selling point of the premium accounts to EU customers. That put me firmly in the slightly miffed with you now camp concerning that game. But Publishers who go for weird assed player-alienating Beta deals with FilePlanet are a dime a dozen these days.

Even in the long run I don't see much interesting except SW:TOR and the Copernicus project, both of which have to be really careful of not getting overhyped expectations even if they weren't attempting to do just that. Or as Darren puts it, the savior complex might be a downfall for them regardless of how good/bad they really are. Guild Wars II might be a spot on some people's radar but with Jeff Strain and David Reid reportedly being ousted from NCSoft management, I fear what news might be coming from that corner, if any at all.

NCSoft might be heading into rough water again even as the waves of the NCSoft West debacles have just barely settled. That lawsuit hasn't gone away and despite the game doing well in the East, I suspect Aion will be taking the route of Age of Conan or if they're lucky WAR, rather than that of WoW. However Blizzard isn't taking the more-polished-than-WoW-at-launch MMO lightly though, they're "leaking" rumors and information regarding their next expansion right in the middle of the ramp up to Aion's launch next month and I'm very certain big announcements at Blizzcon in two weeks time are done at least in part with an eye to the Aion launch.

So Phèdre, are you:
- Planning to play Aion because you think it might be fun?
- Planning to play Aion because it's a chance to play with me, Lani.
- Not planning to play Aion and thinking on how to break the news to me that I have an overblown ego to even consider you'd be playing it so we could play together again.
- Not planning to play Aion and not thinking about it at all.

Sunday, August 9

Defining addiction, gaming or otherwise

Tobold's back from his self-imposed blogging impasse.
He has a post out that gives an insight into recent politics in Germany with relation to gaming. While the German policy is one of the most repressive, from a gamer's point of view, in the world they are far from the only country where politicians are furthering their career by playing on the fears of the uninformed and the legitimately concerned.

One of the best, most valid arguments that computer games aren't the root of all evil, turning well behaved obedient kids into homicidal maniacs, is of course that these games have been around for 30-odd years now. A whole generation has grown up and long since reached voting age and is showing a rather disturbing lack of homicidal maniacs. Games have long since upstaged and even replaced reading and many other alone-time activities, they're that prevalent.
Picking up a random teenager of the street and putting him in an anti-terrorism holding and interrogation cell under some 9/11 panic infused Act have better than 50% odds of you molesting and abusing the rights of a kid who occasionally to oftentimes plays games, probably an FPS. And yet, picking up a random teenager brings lower odds than one in hundred of catching a homicidal maniac.

But lets leave alone the homicidal maniacs from the anti-terrorist squads for now and focus on other statistics. When is something addictive? When a larger than normal percentage of people partaking of it become addicted to it. Larger than normal. Normally there's a percentage of people with a tendency towards becoming addicted. Having an addictive nature can be a pain and must be continuously monitored once one realizes this. Taking care not to overindulge in any activity, specifically ones that can be harmful in the middle or long run. Modern society is doing anything but keeping ourselves from overindulging in anything. Quite the contrary.

There's a line somewhere, if a product (be it a consumable or an activity (heck there's sex addicts out there)) has a higher percentage of people addicted to it than this line, and if the population polled/partaking of the product is representative of the whole of the community, then it's possible to say something is addictive. If it's less than that, it's "just" the addictive personalities who preferably should be helped if possible, not litigated.
Where that line lies I don't know exactly. I never finished my Psychology studies, mainly because of the Statistics classes. I suspect most governments have some kind of definition for it.

The crux of the matter is of course the second part of that definition. The bit about populace representative to the community. I.e. There's a generation, which if I may point out has yet to start any World Wars but saw the end of a Cold War, who grew up with games. Nearly everyone aged under 40 will have some experience with gaming. For P&P RPG gamers, the age is a decade or two higher but that 'addiction' never had the same level of penetration. Nevertheless that also failed to produce a generation of raping, pillaging, suicidal maiancs. However, age 0-40 this isn't representative of the entire human ccmmunity and condition. Since it's usually people over age 40 who order mass massacres, sign declarations of War, start a "War on Ephemeral Threat X" e.t.c. this is rather relevant.
We'll not be able to truly say what detrimental effect games have on humanity for at least another 40 years and so much will have changed by then that it'll be really hard to find the influence of gaming in all of that.

There's your problem right there.
Just look at the percentages of overweight people. And no mr Obama, the solution is not to simply leave the Xbox controller alone and get out more. It's a wider issue as I'm sure you know. But since this isn't a blog to address all the problems in todays society I'll leave it with my point. Why has no-one been able to come up with statistical evidence showing games are "addictive" to the point where a larger than normal percentage, even of the target age of under 40's, becomes addicted to them? Is it possible that the statistical evidence falls short of the career politicians' needs?

Wednesday, August 5

SecureID tokens and other IT annoyances

Ok, the first SevureID token was kinda cool, which is what gave me the insane idea to attach it to my key chain. By the time I got the fourth the shine was pretty much off though.
And when I got the black shield-like thing which doesn't have any attachment means all I could do was sigh.

The security officer who came to drop it off in person was somewhat miffed about me puting the PIN codes on the back of the tokens. Apparently that's a security breach. So I opted not to mention the Excel file containing my 43 passwords which my chief has on an USB stick for when I am sick. In my defense, I don't do an "int+1 " to my passwords, unlike people of whom I know they're on Welkom05! now and Welkom06! in a few weeks.
He's an ok guy really. He took the news rather well when we informed him upon moving our department that all business critical passwords, security procedures e.t.c. are safely tucked away in the 500 Kilo built into the room security-closet (think safe) along with both keys to said closet.
Ah well, as long as they're secure you know.

We also had to reset admin passwords and such on over a hundred servers because one of our customers managed to get their office network (not managed by us) Confickered last weekend. You know, the virus that held the entire IT world in thrall like two, three months back?
I sometimes feel IT security is not emphasizing security he right way.

Sunday, August 2

Good read

Wolfhead Online has a rather good read up regarding the state of Role-playing in MMO's.
Geek's survey showed that most people will engage in what's euphemistically called "Light Roleplay", which can mean anything from doing the occasional emote to being In Character.
I'm not knocking Light RP, it's the level of RP I engage in in MMO's as well. I went a bit further with Kettle and Coilla in Vanguard maybe but I've never been hardocre about it.

The article's called Who Killed Role-Playing in MMO's and while I don't agree with the ultimate conclusion drawn, there's a lot of good points in it.
I have some thoughts on the subject myself, mostly regarding the Role-Playing I'm encountering, by the bucketload, in Second Life. But for once I'm not going to throw down a Wall of Text here, I'd like to think what you think?

I'm not seeking new insights on the effect the lack of RP in MMO's is having on the genre, though if you ahve any (new ones that is) I would be interested. No, today I'm more interested in causes. Whodunnit? Was it the butler with the candlestick in the library? Or was it lazy developpers as the article's author claims, rather than intelligent market researches realizing that tapping the 95% of the populace who never sat around a table with tea & cookies and a bunch of Character Sheets with pencils, D6 and D20 dice would be Good for Business?