Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Churn Goes On...

Blogs come and go. More often than not, they tend to simply fade away as real life or other factors step in and demand more of the blogger's time.

This time it's different.

Gevlon has decided to retire his Greedy Goblin blog after deciding that the MMO arena has no more space for people who want to get better:

"Players no longer need to be any good to progress. They just have to log in and open their wallets. The morons and slackers who couldn’t clear Karhazan back in the day, now clear all the content, because it’s tailored for their pathetic performance. They don’t have to learn anything to succeed, so learning became “tryhard”. They became the dominant culture in gaming. Being any good became “elitism”. “Gamers are dead” is the new slogan among developers. And don’t even get me started about mobile crap.
As a result, any kind of good information is rejected and actively hated. When I found how to get to the toplist of PUBG, all I got were downvotes and hate from the “community”, for ruining their “fun” of mindlessly killing each other. When I disproved the bizarre conspiracy theory that baddies made up in World of Warships to explain their defeats, I got banned from the game’s subreddit. And let’s not even mention CCP Falcon and his antics.

There is no more point in trying to play well, so there is no point writing about it. So people stopped doing so. There were no one left for inspiration. The remaining gaming blogs are personal adventures and maybe game reviews, but not teaching anything about games. Blogging in general went nosedive, giving way to “streamers”, acting in clown (or slut) costumes for money.

I tried longer than most. I hoped that the tide will turn. But it’s time for me to accept that my hobby went the way of television: once an intelligent entertainment, now targeted to the lowest common denominator.

There is no point continuing this blog, so I stop. I will keep playing games, for my own entertainment, using self-imposed (scrub) limits to challenge myself, but there is no value writing about it."

Sure, there's plenty of Gevlon's signature style of disparaging the 'morons and slackers' in this snippet from his post, but I don't think that Gevlon's basic premise is completely correct. There's plenty of people out there trying to win at MMOs, and they share some of Gevlon's drive, but what I think has changed is what it means to "win". 

Gevlon's goals were straightforward: amass tons of gold; win enough matches to get onto leaderboards, be on progression raiding guilds that kill off raid bosses with ease, etc. Those are easily defined and have metrics you can track. But when "winning" becomes less associated with those goals and more with "are you having fun?", then the singleminded purpose of "winning" changes. 

Or, in Gevlon's case, he has been around long enough to see his blog made functionally obsolete by the video game industry.


I'll be honest in that while I respected Gevlon's work, I never really thought much of him as a person. He had no time for the aforementioned 'morons and slackers', and while I understand where he's coming from, I don't believe in ripping people a new asshole just because I don't agree with them. Yes, I'm aware it used to be a shtick that Gevlon adopted with the Goblin persona, but I believe that ship sailed long ago and we're now seeing the person behind the Gevlon persona.

I'd imagine that Gevlon really doesn't care what I --or anyone else, for that matter-- think. Still, words do matter, and if you talk and act like an insufferable ass, then don't be surprised if people react to your posts (on your blog, your comments, or Reddit for that matter) as if you're an ass.

All that aside, another voice from the MMO gamer space has gone the way of the Dodo. Nobody will truly replace Gevlon because he was so unique, and love him or hate him, Gevlon did demand your attention.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hammer of the Dunmer

I have a favorite playlist that I've rather loosely defined as Epic Music. Yes, it contains MMO music, but it also contains soundtracks from other video games (such as Dragon Age or Baldur's Gate) as well as pieces from movie/television soundtracks (such as Yeager's Triumph from The Right Stuff).

It's one of the playlists that I take on my mp3 player*, and I periodically add to it as I stumble across new music.

Two of the more recent additions are the two official expansions for the Elder Scrolls Online, Morrowind and Summerset. Given how the vanilla version of Elder Scrolls Online is okay but nothing special, I wasn't expecting to add music from the two expacs to my playlist.

But here they are.

The login screen for ESO, which included my introduction to the game, is Even Paradise has Shadows, from the Summerset expac:

As this was my introduction to ESO, it has become my resident ESO earworm to the same extent that the intro screen for WoW's Wrath of the Lich King was. I specifically bought the CD for Wrath just to hear that intro screen again a year after Cataclysm dropped, and I remain fond of it to this day. Even then, I was starting to get a bit sick of Wrath's intro music by the time Cataclysm dropped. Even Paradise has Shadows hasn't reached that level yet, but I'm starting to look forward to the Elsweyr expac for a musical change.

But by far my favorite piece of the two ESO expacs is A Land of War and Poetry, from the Morrowind expac:

The intro to the piece has a chorus, dramatic horns, and a clash of percussion and cymbals reminiscent of the intro to The Fellowship of the Ring. the music then softens to a hush, as a violin solo evokes an almost Celtic feel. The music slowly builds from there until Jeremy Soule's classic Morrowind theme makes an appearance for a dramatic conclusion.

If you'd have told me the title and let the music play without knowing the game behind the piece, until the Morrowind theme appeared you could argue that this was a piece of music meant to evoke Scotland. It may not have highland pipes in it, but the title A Land of War and Poetry pretty much describes the Scots --particularly the Scots from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment-- spot on.**

The irony was that I went into ESO blind, so had no idea of what the backstabbing and infighting among the Great Houses of the Dunmer were like, and I had no idea what sort of person (God?) that Vivec was, either. So while the title of the piece correctly evokes the Dunmer and Morrowind, for me it evokes something quite different.

And that's perfectly fine with me, because I can create my own mental imagery when listening to the music, rather than relying upon the video game to provide it for me.

EtA: I should mention where the title for this post came from. It is a reference to Hammer of the Scots, which is one of the nicknames of Edward I of England, who was King of England during the First Scottish War of Independence. It is also the name of a boardgame from Columbia Games that covers the conflict.

*Yes, I still have one of those. The decoder chip on my sturdy old Sansa Fuze is superior to the decoders found on phones and even the iPod Classic. Hey, I'd prefer lossless as much as the next person, but I bought the player when streaming wasn't much of a high quality sound option. Yes, it's that old.

**You could also make an argument for Ireland, but I went with Scotland and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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.