Nov 21, 2014

[10 Years of World of Warcraft]

In honor of World of Warcraft's tenth anniversary, Raph Koster has written an essay on the inspirations behind and the affects of this massively influential MMORPG:
"These days, so many more people have passed through the gates of Azeroth than ever played its antecedents that many don’t even know the deep wellspring sources from which it came. Most of the defining characteristics of WoW are from a long tradition that started around 1990. WoW represents the (perhaps final) evolution of theDikuMUD model."
WoW was my first MMO, and my first real foray into PC gaming from my gaming origins with single-player games on consoles. I played it for 7 years, with the same guild of friends, some of whom I am still in contact with today. If it wasn't for WoW, I wouldn't have experienced the full range of good and bad online experiences that eventually shaped my views on feminism and gaming inclusivity. For most longtime MMO players, love it or hate it, it's impossible to deny what an impact it's had on millions of people and the genre as a whole, beyond simply as a market and genre force but also in terms of human relationships. My various experiences in WoW inspired me to start blogging about MMOs to begin with, so it seemed fitting that it also be the topic of my final post on this blog.

Aug 28, 2014

[Growing Pains]

"Today, videogames are for everyone. I mean this in an almost destructive way. Videogames, to read the other side of the same statement, are not for you. You do not get to own videogames. No one gets to own videogames when they are for everyone."
About damn time, too. These recent fiascoes simply being the last gasps of a sick culture is the best we can hope for.

When I started this blog 8 years ago, this crap still happened on the regular but there was barely ever a ripple of kickback when it did (or else outright denial that it was even happening). The fact that in the past few years it seems there is more controversy erupting amid the gaming world whenever a high profile example of misogyny crops up and more guys willing to stand up against the loud pockets of anxious dudebros still running amok, has to be some sign of progress.

Related Reading:
The Extinction Burst of Gaming Culture
Why Are Gamers So Angry?
GamerGate's Original Sin
We Cannot Allow This to Become Gamer Culture
GamerGate is Running Out of Heroes

Aug 22, 2014

[Because Not Everyone Stays With One Game for 10 Years]

"My simple heresy that I would like to propose for online game development is this: we should be comfortable with customers leaving. For the right reasons, not because we messed up a patch and destroyed all their characters, but because they’ve played the game, they’ve had fun, and they’re done, and ready for our next game. If you believe in what you do, and why you do, it’s not only destructive to your game’s bottom line, but simply wrong to keep them longer than they want to – than they should be there."

  I notice this philosophy seems built into many F2P MMOs. These games were not built for people to live a decade+ in (though I'm sure there are people who do). They are, perhaps, the MMORPG version of 'casual games', and their devs seem to be at peace with that pattern of player gain/loss. Some people may call that shallow, but maybe it's a healthier pattern for many players to move on once that novelty is gone for them, rather that stay in one game past burnout and boredom out of some variation of sunk-cost fallacy, being enabled by devs who also seem to think that's what the life cycles of all MMOs should aspire for (though this would also call for people not being fixated on AAA budgets for everything, as well).

Jul 30, 2014

[Why I'm Not Talking About What I'm Playing]

  In recent months I've had trouble drumming up the effort to bother posting my views on the games I've been playing. Since its release last year, I've been really enjoying Final Fantasy XIV, but it seems most MMO bloggers never gave it much of a glance, or simply dipped a toe in and moved on to Wildstar or hopped on the ArcheAge hype train. Perhaps the majority of players of FFXIV, as producer Yoshi-P has claimed, are new to the genre after all.

  For many MMO oldtimers (who seem to be the majority of bloggers), it just didn't have the hooks that they've been looking for. Personally, a MMO's lore/world building and dungeon/raid encounters are the dealbreakers for my own investment in it and FFXIV has excelled in those aspects. Even the small 8-man endgame raid size has just fit so well into my playstyle that I'm just not interested in looking around for a game to jump to later. My style of MMO monogamy is the sort that sticks with what I'm happy with instead of constantly shopping for something 'better' in the future. I feel that having that sort of attitude sabotages long term commitment to any game, yet also seems to be endemic among many MMO players.

  It took about one year before I started to get disillusioned with GW2's Living Story format, but my interest in FFXIV has been relatively stable since its release. Perhaps because I made the effort to plug into various Linkshell and Free Company communities in FFXIV that meshed with my playstyle, I've maintained a core community of folks that I enjoy playing and talking with, which as many MMO vets will tell you is the backbone of having roots in any game long term. It's also something that takes a lot more effort to achieve, since modern MMOs do not really force people to form significant social bonds (another thing MMO vets often complain about).

  It just seems pointless for me to wax on about the eloquence of the game's localization, or complement the art direction and character design and music, the fun boss mechanics, the classic Final Fantasy homages, or any of the other systems that I'm sure are pretty irrelevant to people with no interest in the game, or who love the game but don't read MMO blogs.

 Maybe I'm just getting old, but I care more about investing in and playing the games I'm enjoying rather than writing about them for others anymore. Perhaps it's just a sign my blogging is finally at an end, after all these years.

May 29, 2014

[In Defense of Escapism]

I recently came across an essay by Katherine Addison, defending the value of fantasy as a genre and escapism in general, and I think it's relevant to MMORPGs (and RPGs in general) as well:
"The denigration of 'escapism' comes from an implicit belief that it is brave and necessary and heroic to face 'reality,' where 'reality' is grim and dark and nihilistic ('solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,' as that tremendous pessimist Thomas Hobbes puts it), and that if you turn away from that 'reality,' you are a deserter and therefore a coward. 
There are a number of fallacies here. One is the claim to the exclusive right to define 'reality.' Second, if this is an accurate definition of 'reality,' it is a fallacy to believe that it is even possible to desert from the front lines by anything short of suicide. Even if your consumption of fiction takes you away from 'reality' for an hour or two, you’re always going to have to come back. Clearly, if we accept this definition of 'reality,' 'escapism' can only be the most tremendous blessing fiction has to offer."
Read the rest here.

May 3, 2014

[Pantheon Has Fallen, But McQuaid Can Still Go Lower]

Color me completely unsurprised:
"It's widely agreed upon by all parties that this project took in roughly 145 thousand dollars. A large chunk of that money, 35k, came from a single individual who promised another couple hundred thousand once he cleared it with his trust. Brad was having personal problems at the time and needed to take a cash advance from the project. He took roughly three months pay in advance which equaled roughly 38% of the funds that were left. Brad thought the rest of the money would come in, but the trust supervisor declined without even looking into the project. Reason being, he didn't want to be sued if the start up failed. Brad admits that it was a mistake and wishes things worked out differently but the money is spent and there isn't anything he can do. He then went on to express that he was sorry for how it happened and is planning on liquidating personal assets to put the funds back into the project."
 Why on earth are so many fanboys still willing to give this nostalgia-exploiting hack their money? He did NOT single-handedly build EverQuest and Vanguard, despite what so many fanboys seem to believe. Teams of hundreds of other talented people put their real work into those games (as opposed to just loftily spouting 'Visionary' ideas around, which are worth exactly squat without actual effort behind them), and in the second example McQuaid was the one who ran that real work into the ground and lied to and exploited everyone around him the entire time.

This cult-attitude many oldtime MMO fans have of deifying this man as some kind of visionary who single-handedly makes 'dream MMOs' baffles me, particularly in the light of everything we know about how he mismanaged and destroyed Vanguard. Despite so many fans' attempt to rewrite the history of that debacle as being everyone else's fault but Brad's, the real facts of the matter are still public online for anyone who cares to see them. Which I hope people will do before tossing any more cash in this guy's direction.

But then on top of this all, he skims almost 40% of Pantheon's Kickstarter money to cover his own personal bills. Nobody should give this joker a dime for any future MMO project ever again, no matter how many nostalgia-tinged PR shills or game concept mockups (or tiered monthly subscription plans for the ability to post on the game's forum) that he rolls out.

Related Reading:
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen's Financials Under Scrutiny
Brad 'The Vision' McQuaid, Round Two

Jan 20, 2014

[Brad 'The Vision' McQuaid Round Two: Rise of the Fallen]

   So it seems Brad McQuaid is done with that vanity-position he's had in EverQuest after that little Vanguard embarrassment of his and has moved on to a new Vision! I assume he figures it's been long enough now that most folks will have forgotten the messy details of his last epic failure as a boss and developer and will be willing to fund this new Kickstarter project out of idealistic nostalgia and the belief that putting their faith in one guy whose last successful game was made 15 years ago (which was hardly a one-man project anyway) will finally pay off this time around.

I'll be busting out the popcorn for this one.

Related Reading:
Brad McQuaid: Cult of Personality or Friends in High Places?
Brad McQuaid Abandoned Sigil