Daily Blogroll 5/6 — Tempests and Teapots edition

My new computer is due to be delivered today! I’ll be at work, of course, but maybe I can finally find their delivery center and pick it up afterward. My hope and fervent dream is that this will be the computer powerful enough to run Lord of the Rings Online….

Anyway. A couple of weeks ago, Paragon Studios introduced the Make Your Own Farm Mission (aka Architect) system, where players could find a badge they wanted to gain, and find the perfect mission among the thousands created for this purpose to gain that badge, or that level, or whatever they liked. Experience with similar level creators in such obscure games as Diablo, Diablo II and LittleBig Planet wasn’t clue enough that many players would use their new powers to create and play custom missions to benefit their characters.

In response, Paragon Studios is going on the offense. In its statement, Paragon Studios chides the players for using the Architect System for selfish purposes, and lays out a system of locking, rollbacks and banning to deal with the situation. 333 pages later (nice round number — 333 is the number of the Beast’s half brother. Get it? HALF-bro… nah n/m). 333 pages later, the players are still engaging the developers in polite conversation.

Bloggers haven’t sat on their keyboards, silently waiting for the storm to blow over, with nearly every blogger having their say. Spinks wonders why Paragon Studios could suddenly change the rules and insist players are doing it wrong. She also mentioned Monopoly… which will come back to haunt her around noon.

Does anyone think that given the tools, the players of a game would decide among themselves not to use them to their own advantage? Raph Koster’s Laws of Online Game Design says right there in black and white, “The client is in the hands of the enemy“. Players will ALWAYS work to their own advantage in any game where that is both possible and makes sense. Heck, people even cheat at Solitaire.

So we were all pretty shaky after all that went down yesterday, when we got slammed to the wall by Eurogamer’s 2/10 review of Darkfall and Aventurine’s response that tone reviewer had spent only three minutes in the game, and the other had mostly spent his time making new characters and running around the starting city. Darren of Common Sense Gamer gives the broad overview of the debate. Syncaine has the news of the review and the reviewer’s response. MBP of Mind Bending Puzzles chimes in as well.

As a former games journalist and one who still knows quite a few still in the MMO reviewing game, I have to kinda sympathize with the reviewers. MMOs are, by their nature, tedious grinds if you don’t enjoy the game on its own merits, and how can you even review an MMO thoroughly without playing it through long enough to understand the games ins and outs? People gripe at me ALL THE TIME about what an obvious fail EverQuest was, but that’s not the game I fell in love with, the death penalties and corpse runs and camps were just the rules of the game. You don’t slam Chess because you think its unfair the knight moves like that.

I was asked to do a re-review of Vanguard while at Massively, but it ran like crap on my machine, as it always did no matter the settings, I couldn’t get into it, and in the end I told my lead that I couldn’t do the re-review because I didn’t think I could give it a fair shake. So I really feel for people trying to review MMOs.

It looks like they are going to review Darkfall again… best of luck to them.

p0tsh0t figures what World of Warcraft really needs is to be more like EVE Online. Now if WoW can nail that trademark EVE combat, where fighters circle each other slowly, throwing rocks at each other for half an hour.

Evil Theurgists has the complete patch notes for today’s update to Wizard 101, which adds player islands, more voiceovers, quest guide, marked locations for easy teleporting, and many other things. I’ve been pretty impressed with the Theurgist’s commentary on his favorite MMO and look forward to reading much more from him!

Rick Burlew posted his latest Order of the Stick comic, but Roy does NOT get resurrected in this strip, so you might want to skip it. I’m just going to see how many strips it takes him to STOP STALLING.

You think we gamers are nerdy? Check out these vows from a mathematician’s wedding:

May the logs of your joys be exponentially steep;
May you derive greatest pleasure from integrating your lives,
And well past your primes, retain composite rhymes.

The full poem, plus links to the participant’s websites, their wedding site, and the site of their pastor, may be found at Tanya’s Math Blog.

Syp of Bio Break writes that according to EA’s quarterly reports, Warhammer Online has only about 300,000 players — Lord of the Rings Online territory. These are not bad numbers, although wildly lower than they anticipated, perhaps leading to their $111-120 million loss. Maybe they should take a cue from Activision/Blizzard and exploit, exploit, exploit.

Richard Garriott is suing NCsoft, publishers and developers of his ill-fated MMO Tabula Rasa, for $24,000,000, citing fraud. Hmm. That should just about pay for his trip into space…. (via Common Sense Gamer again)

And that’s it for another exciting edition of the Daily Blogroll! I leave you with a picture of my Free Realms level 12 Ninja, and her kitty Mr. Scruffy.

Tipa: 11 Ninja

Web Log 4/24 — Friday is Free Day edition

Penny Arcade starts off Freeday Friday with a little bit of snark about the Chronicles of Spellborn payment plan. While it’s true that you can now use a credit card like for every other game… I think trying to figure out their Coins-based plan is a fun game all on its own, don’t you?

Reported everywhere is Lord of the Rings Online’s second anniversary promotion. Free to try again, 25% experience bonus on kills that stacks with all other bonuses, tokens you can trade in for cool stuff, etc etc. The xp boost is very nice, anyway. I haven’t seen what the tokens trade in for, but I have my suspicions I have a lot of Blueberry Tart recipes in my future.

Tobold talks about the new Free Realms trading card game and why Free Realms can never come close to challenging WoW. Is there anyone who really thinks ANY game will challenge WoW? I mean, when you have WoW itself becoming a minigame portal with Peggle now joining Bejeweled as super casual games you now need not leave WoW to play… WoW, like Facebook, isn’t a game so much as it is a platform.

The Original Runic Games Fansite has a pretty good summary of Taylor Balbi’s GDC impressions of Torchlight, Runic Studios’ first Diablo II/Mythos-esque single player Action RPG and seed for their future MMO. Torchlight is said to be released this year, which will keep it out of the path of the Diablo 3 juggernaut expected within the next two years. I want to play them both!

Syncaine of Hardcore Casual has a little bit of fun with the braggarts and whiners of the Darkfall Forums. A little more respect for the fellow fans of hardcore impact PvP? These are the elite killers, you know.

Since Planetside and Tabula Rasa blazed the Shooter MMO trail and showed just how profitable the unholy fusion of first person shooters and a level grind could be, MTV Multiplayer went out and asked massive shooter devs from The Agency, APB, Earthrise, Combat Arms and CrimeCraft how they planned to put this relatively new sub-genre back on its feet.

Syp from Bio Break takes time out from not sleeping to marvel at how Mythic is taking more and more ideas from its previous MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, to patch perceived flaws in its current MMO, Warhammer Online. Three sides? Yes, please. FOUR sides? OMG awesome! Bringing the RvR dungeon of Darkness Falls forward is a good first step. I had loads of fun there in DAoC.

Beau Turkey of Spouse Aggro writes about how MMOs begin to understand that there is more to gaming than a desire to wade through gore.

OMG, is that an Elric Melnibone/Michael Moorcock/Blue Oyster Cult reference? Yes. Yes, it was. Watch the video as E(l)ric Bloom talks about the plot of Moorcock’s Elric series, then BOC swings into Black Blade…

I just wanna be a lover, not a red-eyed screaming ghoul? Hey, Beau, this song is ABOUT YOUR POST!

Lars from MMOment of Zen thinks that writable books in EQ2 are a good start, but they could do so much more. Commenter Tholal points out that Ultima Online has had these features for years, going on centuries now. Hey, where are the friggin ULTIMA ONLINE BLOGS? How are we supposed to KNOW these things?

And lastly, it’s Bio Break’s Syp again with six ways to leave a bad pickup group. I’ve tried them all, but #6 is by far my favorite.

See you Monday!

The end of the age of the auteur game designer?

NCSoft’s first quarter report came out, and they don’t want to talk about their space marine-fps-mmo, Tabula Rasa, except to say they are fairly disappointed bu its performance.

I should refer to it by its full name, Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa.

Richard Garriott, if you don’t know of him, is “the legendary video game programmer and designer, noted as one of the PC Gamer’s “Game Gods”. I found this little tidbit on a vanity web site called “Richard in Space“, where you can meet Richard Garriott as he prepares for his space tourist flight to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Last year, Game God Brad McQuaid was likewise absent for the disappointment that was Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. I’m sure he was as well paid as Richard Garriott, AKA the sixth Earth human to go to the space station as a tourist. We could be next, gushes the “Richard in Space” site. Maybe if we can get someone to shovel money at us because our Game God status demands it.

I feel sad for the people who did their best to finish these games while the Gods got all the press and the limelight. All the real developers got were schedules, pressure, disappointment and exciting trips to the unemployment office.

Now Brad is in hiding, and Richard Garriott is going up to space (still unknown: did he leave a clone behind in case he wanted to respec? Or in case the Soyuz castle lands just a little *too* hard this time?).

Past success is no indicator of future success in this world. Maybe it makes a difference if you put as much as yourself into the next game as you did in the one that made you a Game God. I think you really have to step back and reassess your life if you find yourself being promoted as a Game God. Hey, you could say, don’t call me that. I’m no better than anyone else. I had a hit game but all I have to show for it is that I have to work twice as hard on the next one.

John Romero, American McGee, Brad McQuaid, Richard Garriott and many, many more; Game Gods all.

TR: We loved our hot tubs, big cars and widescreen TVs…

… and then the Bane came and those of us who escaped could only take what we could carry. And most of that was left in piles outside the alien wormholes that brought us to the front lines in a war we could never understand, never win. Each day we fight is another day we live, and we go on, somehow.

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Lishian has been raving about Tabula Rasa at work for a couple of weeks now, and hey, he’s a big guy, so when he raves, you want to listen. (Note: working with gamers is *fun*. Lish always has some new spin on PvP to talk about, and the guy who sits right across from me was the one who got me to try Portal…)

Anyway, I got the link and downloaded the 3-day trial. It took forever to install. Just saying. FOR-EVER.

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The tutorial sped me right along. Here’s your gun. Here’s another gun. Click here to blow monsters up. Target this and click this to blow stuff up. Here’s some people who will take headshots for you. Now MOVE OUT.

Um. OKAY! So how do I…

Did you not hear me say MOVE OUT? This is a WAR, not a KINDERGARTEN! The BANE took away our KINDERGARTENS and now there are no more CRAYONS and COLORING BOOKS, all we have is GUNS and AMMO and BANE and YOUR JOB is to take the AMMO from the GUNS and put it into the BANE at HIGH SPEED. Now MOVE. OUT!

Yessirthankyoursirmovingout SIR!

So what the hell, I moved. Oh, look, Bane unwisely attacking us. I had my pistol (short range), shotgun (medium range), and rifle (long range), and discovered that if I hid behind stuff, it didn’t hurt so much afterward. Hey! I rescued the good guys! I’m a hero! This cake is both delicious AND moist!

But no, the cake was a lie after all, and I was tossed into the Wilderness. I had my own name for it: The BE-Wilderness. Kill 200 Bane. Hokay. Rapid ammo removal service on its way! Find ten points of interest. Huh? Do some other crap. Hey, what’s this about points of interest? Look for interesting architecture? And get Logos from them?

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I’d got my first Logos, a little Sylar-like lightning blast (bwahaha fear me), back in the tutorial, so I figured I would have to gather more wonderful exotic super-powers at similar places. I found *this* place, but couldn’t seem to figure out what to do with it. I guess it wasn’t that interesting after all.

I happened across a Bane patrol, and picked a few of them off at long range with my rifle. I figured eventually the Bane commander would wonder why there were so many fewer Bane recruits shouting “left” when he shouted “right”, so I dodged behind some rubble to reload when BAM, this Bane leaps over the rubble while a couple of his greasy Bane friends circle around and proceed to hand-deliver some ammo from their guns to my body.

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Oh, hi, hospital! You found me WHERE? And the Bane were doing WHAT to me? LEMME AT THEM CREEPS!

I definitely need more time to get used to the game. It’s not totally unusual… replace the Bane with Orcs and your guns with bows and swords and it’s the same damn game. But then I’m what, level 3? Way too early to know if I like it or not.

Looks gorgeous, though. And the Bane seem a little smarter than your common Orc.