Wednesday, March 20, 2019

An Epic Game Needs an Epic Soundtrack

As surrounded by music and musicians as I am in this household, it's not exactly a surprise that I find interesting articles on the intersection of music and gaming.

(And if you're interested in MMOs and music, check out Battle Bards in the sidebar.)

Anyhoo, I came across this article about Sarah Schachner, the composer of the music for Anthem, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and other games/movies:

Music For Saving The World: Sarah Schachner And The Soundtrack Of Video Games

What I found the most interesting about the article was when she discussed how she was contacted by NASA to compose music for the spacecraft Cassini, as it was nearing the end of its 20 year life. The article is bridged by her involvement in Cassini, and in between it covers the wide range of topics, from "where do you get your ideas" to "female composers in video games" to her own personal trajectory.

It's really worth the read.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Oh Hai, Sneak Button. How've You Been?

I've been working through ESO's Craglorn the past week or so on an off-and-on basis, and if I thought that the "vanilla" part of ESO emphasized the solo play versus group play (it does), Craglorn is very much a group play oriented zone.

The original implementation of Craglorn, prior to the One Tamriel patch, was just about entirely group oriented. Even the puzzles had to be performed in a group context, otherwise you couldn't progress in the main questline. The post One Tamriel version of Craglorn still retains much group content (including a lot of group Delves, designed for a group of four people), but a significant part of the main questline is not solo play.

What do I think of the revamped zone so far? Interesting.

In its own way, the lore surrounding Craglorn and the Celestials has me a bit more confused than before. I'd kind of figured out the Daedra vs. Aedra and the Mer vs. Men aspects of Nirn, but the Celestials are pretty much outside of all of that. In the realm of neat and ordered*, Celestials are the monkey wrench thrown into the machine.

The non-spoiler version of the zone is that there's a Celestial for each month of the year. Think "Zodiac" instead of "Celestial", and you've got the idea. If you were given to understand that those Celestials you find throughout differing ruins (mostly Ayleid), and are utilized in a lot of puzzles, were just metaphors for the different months of the year, then I was right there with you. But apparently the Celestials are more than months of the year and constellations in the sky. And three of them are missing.

::cue dramatic music::

Your job is to find out what happened and to fix it.

But hey, if you played through the main vanilla questline, you know that this sounds like not a big deal after you dealt with [redacted], right? At least I thought so, too, but given all the group content in the zone I get the feeling that my toon is a wee bit more underpowered than I thought.

It's still taking me some time to adjust to Craglorn, as I'd become used to the ebb and flow of the zones in Vanilla ESO, but I'm fine with that so far. Reintroducing myself to constantly sneaking around isn't a bad thing at all, particularly if it means that you don't get one shot by a gigantic mob of trash screaming for your blood.

*And given the differing "pantheons" of the species in Tamriel, that's likely stretching things a bit.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Looking Over Your Shoulder

There are days when I feel like I'm the last person to know anything at all in our corner of MMO space.

Oh sure, I pick up on big items fairly quickly*, but some of the lesser exposed items tend to pass me by. Perhaps it's due to my ignore factor set high enough to not go bananas every time a game company acts like, well, like the part of Corporate America it is**, but I refuse to respond to that sort of clickbait.

But this rolling of the eyes and moving on with my life has led me to miss some important activity happening in gamer space.

Such as this article from Kotaku about stalkers in streamer space.

On the face of it, the concept of stalkers being out there on the internet isn't exactly a new one. I grew up prior to the Internet Age, and I remember quite well the almost laughable advice given to teens and tweens in the late 80s and early 90s about protecting yourself from stalkers. To say that it was on the level of "Just Say No"*** is doing an injustice to the old anti-drug campaign itself. Still, like a stopped clock being right twice a day, there were some good pieces of advice sprinkled in, such as never assuming you know who is on the other end of a chat.

However, the age of streamers and Influencer culture has warped the old advice a bit: people know who the stalker is, but feel they have little power against them.

The nature of social media has sharpened and enhanced the ability of stalkers --particularly those who have a built in audience-- to wield a lot of power. And if someone threatens their power, the social media feeding frenzy they can unleash can be terrifying.

So people the stalkers seek out keep silent.

I don't have any real answers to this conundrum, because often the only way to combat this sort of power is with power, and stalkers deliberately minimize this sort of reaction because they prey on the powerless. About the best advice I have to anyone is to be a friend to people. Listen to them. Don't assume, and keep an open mind.

And most importantly, believe them when they come to you with a problem --any problem, really-- but especially stalkerish issues.

*Activision-Blizzard job cuts, for instance.

**Basically every "[insert game company here] MUST PAY!!" article or posting or video. I've worked in Corporate America for decades now, so cry me a river when a company behaves like any other company in that world. You want that to change? Good luck with that, because the concept of shareholder primacy has been around since the late 1970s/early 1980s. People much more powerful than I have been trying to break the stranglehold shareholder primacy has on the market without much effect. I suspect it'll take an economic shock for that to happen, and if the Great Recession can't do it, then I doubt some YouTubers will.

***Yes, I'm old enough that I had to sit in class and watch Nancy Reagan's videos for a full week about saying no to drugs. That was a week of my life I'm never getting back.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

And That was That

Between work and home life, it's been a busy couple of weeks. However, I have finally finished up the last of the three faction storylines for ESO, which means I've completed "Vanilla" Elder Scrolls Online.*

I have plenty of thoughts to unpack, but I figured I'd get something off my chest now: for a 3 faction MMO, I'd have expected the "enemy" of each faction to be equally represented in the faction storylines.

But it isn't.

This isn't exactly a spoiler, given that we're talking the 500 mile view, but the the factions and their "main" enemies are as follows:

  • Ebonheart Pact: A lot of Daggerfall Covenant early on, a bit of Aldmeri Dominion, topped off with the Worm Cult.
  • Daggerfall Covenant: A bit of Aldmeri Dominion early on, a lot of Daedric Cults and Ravenloft**, and the Imperials.
  • Aldmeri Dominion: A lot of civil war, some Covenant interference, more Daedric Cults, and finally the Imperials.
Do you see what's missing?

The Ebonheart Pact is not noticed very much in the storylines for the other two factions. Oh, there's the occasional quest hub that has "Pact pirates" or something similar, but 90+% of those turned out to be House Telvanni, which isn't a signer of the Ebonheart Pact at all. There's really only one quest hub that stands out to me that the Pact itself are the bad guys, and that's about it.

That's not to say that the Daggerfall and Aldmeri questlines are inferior to the Ebonheart Pact's, because they're not. Each has their own theme about keeping an alliance together throughout difficult times, and with all three factions there are zone quests that definitely fall under the title of "tragedy". Still, with the Pact reduced to basically background noise on the other factions' storylines, I do wonder how this plays into PvP.

I've seen enough PvP over the years to know that if you don't get some good natural antagonism going between the factions it's going to be pretty hard for people to buy into the concept of PvP. With the Pact, you've got ample evidence of how bad the other two factions are, so there's little hold you back yelling "For the Pact!" heading into a PvP match. But with, say, Daggerfall, if you're up against Pact enemies, my reaction would be "Oh look, some pirates!" rather than "There's my hated enemy!"

There, I got that off my chest, and now I can investigate Craglorn prior to jumping into Morrowind.

*Somewhere in the middle of all this, I picked up the lead-in questlines for Morrowind, Summerset, and Murkmire. I finished Morrowind and Murkmire, but I've decided to complete Morrowind's story first before finishing Summerset's lead-in questline.

**If you get the reference, that is. Seriously, look it up; it's a great setting for D&D.