Friday, February 15, 2019

But It's Important to ME!

"You want me to reset your password? Now? It's the middle of the night on a Saturday, and there's no emergency going on."

"Yes, I need it now!"

"There's no change going on right now for your server! This is not important! It can wait until Monday!"

"But it's important to ME!"

--A (paraphrased) exchange an ex-coworker of mine had with someone who paged him awake at 3 AM to change the person's password. Because he decided that working overnight on a Saturday was more important than my co-worker's sleep. (Yes, the guy got reprimanded for abusing the system.)

I have a t-shirt that is older than the mini-Reds.

It's not a rock concert t-shirt*, it's not from a museum or Con or something, and it isn't anything of particular importance. This shirt just happened to last for a long time, and I use it when I'm working around the house and don't mind getting a stain on it. Like, say, if I'm making tomato sauce.** It has also managed to avoid getting paint on it after all this time, and I'm not exactly sure how that minor miracle occurred. However, if you hold the shirt up to the light you can see that in spots it is so thin that I can see through it.

Why do I keep the shirt? Just because it works. It fits me, I don't have to worry about being neat when I'm wearing it, and it's a connection to a time before kids (and before our first house). 

Likewise, I'm occasionally given to hanging onto something in a video game "just because".

When I play one of the Civ-esque games, instead of upgrading/replacing all of my units I'll hang onto one or two of my initial units as a sort of "museum" of where my Civ has come from, in much the same way that the US Navy still has the USS Constitution as an active naval vessel. Those units serve absolutely no purpose in the game, and if I were to press them into service it's likely the endgame for my civilization.

But.... Those units were important to me, because of what they represented.

I also have a habit of preserving the original gear that a new toon in an MMO or RPG, purely for sentimental purposes. I'm not a pack rat***, but some gear or items I never want to sell off. The class weapons you receive in WoW are a great example of this, but also is your first lightsaber in SWTOR. Or the cloak that you received after completing the Shadows of Angmar campaign in LOTRO.

I'm also the guy who will use the original mount received in game as long as possible, until circumstances dictate I use faster transportation (such as keeping people waiting at a world boss location). Perhaps a bit of vainglory is involved there, as I prefer to not wave and shout "look at me!" when I'm out and about in a game world.

Which was kind of the point of the Celestial Steed, the so-called Sparkle Pony when it was a WoW cash shop item back in Wrath days.

I never bought one, so I had to go
rely upon sharing one of the numerous
screencaps from WoWHead. (This one was
by Toknahtar.)
Yeah, I'm not keen those sort of shenanigans.


But enough about me, what about you? What do you hang onto --or not-- because it's important to you personally? Because of some sentimental attachment?

*The last one of that ilk was from The Who's 1989 tour, and that bit the dust a long time ago.

**I may enjoy food, but come on. I'm not buying a chef's jacket or bothering with an apron.

***Others might argue, but in my defense I'm never quite sure what might come in handy in a game until at least one playthrough (or at least I get far enough away in level from the gear) that I can then sell off some items in my bank or backpack. All it takes is for you to realize you were supposed to hold onto ONE item that will turn you into a semi-hoarder.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Same as It Ever Was

Eventually I'm going to get a post or two out that hasn't been superseded by surprising news.

But there's this:

Activision Blizzard Lays Off Hundreds Of Employees

Jason Schreier broke this again.
From the story on Kotaku.

I see that Activision is now behaving just like any other company that looks at "how can I keep investors happy this quarter?" and decides slicing headcount is the best method of "orienting for growth".

But here's the kicker: while Activision hit record revenues in 2018, because they missed their company established targets Activision lowered expectations for 2019 and cut costs instead.

I can almost guarantee that Activision's products will attempt to double down on lootboxes and microtransactions to attempt to milk the player base in a cheap-to-implement solution that --in corporate speak-- results in a win-win. I also believe that cutting non-development costs means that support will see a hit, and it's likely that BlizzCon will be scaled back (because putting on a con costs money).

Thursday, February 7, 2019

On The Positive Power of Gaming

I was finishing something else for the blog when I came across this new post on BBC News* about what gaming --particularly WoW-- meant to the disabled son of Oslo's vice-mayor of finance.

Mats Steen died in 2014, but his funeral was attended by members of his WoW guild, people whom Mats' parents had never met before. The article shares the story about how Mats fell ill, how he discovered gaming, and what the connections meant to everyone involved.

Mats' father, Robert, next to a pic of Mats'
toon, Ibelin. URL from the BBC article.

The article was originally written in Norwegian, and if you want to read that, the link is here.

I'll freely admit that I got all the feels from the article. I laughed when a guildmate of Mats', Lisette, met Mats for the first time. In Goldshire. And then there was the time Mats was in the hospital, and his guildmates grew concerned.

For the most part, however, I understood Mats in a way that prior to 2009 would have been foreign to me.

My access to the internet, and before that to online services such as GEnie, led me to online communities** that I grew to know and respect, but I never exchanged cards with anyone from those groups. I never connected with them offline, shared in their adventures with their families, exchanged pics of family members (including the four legged ones), and kept up with their personal lives.***

But I did to my fellow MMO gamers and bloggers.

That sense of community, of family, is what Mats experienced. He also experienced freedom that he was unable to achieve in real life, running and jumping, and also the freedom from judgment that comes from living with a disability.

Go and read the article, and grab some tissues while you're at it. And celebrate some of the best parts of gaming.

*Yes, I do read news outside of the US. That's an aftereffect of being a shortwave listener and being a member of my university's Model UN Club. Model UN, for those who aren't familiar with it, is a club where we simulate a committee or the General Assembly of the UN on a particular topic. We follow the UN rules for public discussion, and each person selects (or has selected for them) a country to represent on that particular topic. You can't just fudge things (much), you actually have to research the country's position on said topic. Our club also hosted a conference for high school/secondary school students to send a "delegation" to, representing a specific country across many different committees (from the General Assembly to the World Health Organization to the Security Council). The year I was to lead one of those committees, I ran the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, and while I wasn't expecting a very vigorous discussion, a few months before our conference was to take place Iraq invaded Kuwait. While the topics we covered were already set, the OIC managed to finish official business early enough that we were able to devote an hour or two to "the elephant in the room".

**Shout out to soc.history.medieval, one of the old USENET newsgroups that I used to hang out in.

***I did meet with a fellow member of the Cincinnati Bengals newsgroup for lunch back in the Fall of 2005, the year the Bengals made the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Unfortunately, the fellow Bengals fan passed away from cancer before that playoff game, so while he was able to see the Bengals make the playoffs he wasn't able to actually witness the game itself. He was a very gregarious person, with a shock of white hair and wearing an old style Bengals jacket, but the impression he made on me ran deeper than that. He asked me if I wrote for a living, and when I told him I worked in IT, he said that I really need to start writing. "I love your posts," he said.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Not a Bang but a Whimper

I got on Rift the other day, in the early evening. Alas, I felt I was the only one there.

I went around the Defiant's capital city, and much to my chagrin I found only one other person hanging around. Surely, I thought, this is a mistake, so I went out into some of the low level zones and barely encountered another soul.

Well, if Gamigo thought they were going to get an active MMO, they've gotten quite a wake up call.

Even Wildstar and Marvel Heroes were more active than this before their shutdown announcements. (As is ArcheAge, which is often linked to being not long for the world.)

But this.... This just makes me sad.

You can say that the Trion's P2W strategy killed Rift, but what truly seems to have driven a stake in the game was selling the game to Gamigo. While I'll freely admit I could have logged in at just the exact wrong time, but it was truly disheartening to see what was a vibrant game turned into an empty shell.

It feels like only yesterday that Rift was in it's Beta, and disaffected WoW fans were leaving Cataclysm and giving the game a very serious look. I remember getting a Beta key and poking around the starter zones, thinking that although there were Beta issues the game seemed incredibly polished with a really good story to build upon.

And now... Well, I don't see much future for Rift. The dragons have won.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Okay, who thought this all the way through?

"Bother," said Pooh.

There's a lot that's interesting about the Elsweyr expac for Elder Scrolls Online, but one big part of the expac is, to be quite frank, a head scratcher: the new class, Necromancer.

It was as if the devs had never heard of the Main Questline, or Molag Bal for that matter.

I mean, the devs do know that you're fighting the undead (among other Daedric nasties), right? Why on earth would you want to create a class that is exactly what you are currently trying to remove from Tamriel?

And what would the (so-called) "Good" Daedric Princes (among them Meridia and Azura) think about your devotion to re-animating corpses?

At least if you cast Necromantic spells in cities you're going to run afoul of the law, but that's a minor consolation to throwing a monkey wrench to the entire game's storyline.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

You Know What this Game Needs....

...A Battle Royale mode!!

No, not WoW or SWTOR or any other game I've played regularly, but rather Black Desert Online.

Of all the complaints that I've heard about BDO --mostly centered around the Pay2Win nature of its cash shop*-- I haven't heard the need for a Battle Royale mode. About the closest there is to a Battle Royale mode in any MMO is Outlaw's Den in SWTOR, and you can tell when someone is trolling for people to show up in Outlaw's Den just to gank them by the wheedling they do in zone chat.

But this, in BDO? Really?

If there's a game whose setting almost directly implies Battle Royale, it's Age of Conan's Hyborea. "Every man for himself" is pretty much a credo that you find in a lot of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, and by extension a Battle Royale mode would work well there. You'd also need to add a few extras, such as Mad Wizards or Atlantean Artifacts, to make it more truly in Conan's vein, but at least the game world/players would be receptive of the idea.

This announcement, however, just implies "cash grab" and I can't see it lasting very long.

*Which seems to be much more of a theme on Asian MMOs (and Rift) than on Western MMOs, which focus primarily on accessories or clothing.

EtA: corrected a grammatical error.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

News and Notes for the New Year

I haven't intentionally gone silent after the New Year's Day, but work and family conspired against any updates until now. It's not like I've stopped playing games --I've played quite a bit, thankyouverymuch-- but my traditional blogging time has been taken up by other items. However, I did want to mention a couple of items that were MMO related.


Bethesda had a major announcement on January 15th, announcing the next ESO expac to be the home of the Khajiit, Elsweyr. I kind of expected the expac to be a homeland territory, given that Summerset and Morrowind covered the Altmer and Dunmer, and I also knew that Black Marsh was already covered as a purchasable DLC. The addition of dragons, however, did catch me by surprise.

And, to be honest, I was really amused.

Although the name Elsweyr is pronounced "Elsewhere", it's a space away from the name of a settlement of Dragonriders of Pern*, whose places are known as weyrs. Between the obvious naming similarities and the references to dragons, I can only imagine that we might see a surreptitious homage to Anne in the expac.


After the brouhaha at BlizzCon with the Diablo mobile game announcement, I noticed that a ton of "Blizzard is dying" "WoW is dying" "Activision is killing Blizzard" videos popped up in my YouTube feed.

I'm not one to say that the sky is falling, but I'm sure that to some hardcore fans, Activision is the new EA.** Between the disaster of the Fallout 76 release and Blizzard's internal and external problems, it seems that no AAA developer is immune these days. I've said for a while now that a lot of these problems are brought on by the incessant need to post upward trending quarterly results for investors, forcing development houses to push out games that aren't ready.

Another way at looking at the drive for more profit is to view Bungie's split from Activision in that light. Bungie feuded with Activision over the "annualized schedule" of releasing major expacs/updates annually --the annual CoD release concept brought to the Destiny platform-- and by maintaining complete control over the game Bungie can release new content when they feel an expac is ready. Why the annualized schedule in the first place? Well, Activision wanted to keep profits up, and annual release schedules guarantee (more or less) steady sales. Activision blamed their latest slow quarter on Bungie, which Bungie didn't take too kindly toward. And now that the split with Bungie has been announced, investors have launched an investigation into whether Activision engaged in securities fraud.

From a developer's standpoint, Bungie's split with Activision made perfect sense. From an investor's standpoint, however, a company they invested in --and expected to generate regular profits-- is losing a major franchise after having shuttered another major franchise (Skylanders), along with (supposed) poor performance of one of the jewels of the company (WoW). So it's not a big surprise that investors are now upset.

If this were any normal publicly traded company, I'd start to expect layoffs to "stabilize the bottom line". But this is still Activision Blizzard, so I have no idea whether the Blizzard side will finally start standing up for itself against Bobby Kotick. I'd not necessarily count on it, but I'm surprised that Activision let Bungie go, so you never know.

As 2019 rolls on, stay tuned. I'm sure this isn't the last we've heard from these events.

*By Anne McCaffrey. Some of the behavior behind the first two books, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, don't hold up in today's world vs. the early 70s when the first two books were written. Dragonflight was, in fact, three novellas published separately and then put into a single book.

**And we'll have someone pop in with a comment about how much worse EA is in three... two... one...

EtA: Corrected the name of Elsweyr. That's what I get for typing while tired.