Archive for June, 2008

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Syp: The Interviewed

June 30, 2008

Because you don’t have 130 or so posts to sort through when it comes to getting to know the short and twitchy person that I am, Warhammer Alliance interviewed me as part of their ongoing series of WAR blogger interviews. Second to getting the nod from Larry King, I think this is the biggest brush with fame, fortune and free cookies that I’ll ever have.

So. Yeah. You can read it here.

(Thanks WHA!)

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Make Mine Mythic

June 30, 2008

I just finished reading an Elder Game article called “Taming the Forum Tiger” by Asheron’s Call dev and/or mod Eric, and I’m just blown away how completely he pulls apart the MMO forum landscape and lays it all bare. He calls it “the forum game”, where fans of a MMO can’t let go of the game when they’re not playing, so they’re always reading and posting and getting caught up in all manner of snobby little drama. The goal of the game is to elicit a dev response or influence game-making decisions or (in many cases) just trolling.

And this is key — very rarely are official MMO forums used for well-reasoned, informative posts. Those of us who have survived other MMO forums like World of Warcraft’s know how there’s about a 1:1000 ratio of great posts to “Why doesn’t God just wipe the Earth clean with another flood already?” posts of monumental idiocy. Forums take up gobs of time and resources and often sanity from the parent company, who most likely has more important things to be doing — like, I don’t know, making and running the game.

Please give this article a read, and then ask yourself if Mythic wasn’t brilliant for skipping the whole “official forums” minefield altogether.

P.S. – To those unofficial Warhammer Online forum mods out there, who do often annoying work for little thanks and appreciation from the community, THANK YOU. You guys are our heroes.

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We Are Winner! Ha Ha Ha!

June 30, 2008

Chrono Chaos really is the best guild ever, as evidenced by how easily they went all ninja-commenting on The Greenskin over the past 24 hours. And lo! And behold! Our assignment is complete:

SNAFZG HAS POSTED A NEW COMIC!!1!

Who would have thought that a meek, unassuming guild full of internet psychopaths and time traveling loonies could forge the future by shaping the past? Who, indeed! You guys rock!

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For Bloggers

June 30, 2008

Hey! Blog-buddies! Want to know how to create a successful, widely-read blog? Well, yeah, me too. Let me know if you find the secret!

But I think I’ve found a way. It’s dirty and a little underhanded, but I think it’ll work. Simply cast any logical, well-reasoned, balanced articles to the wayside. Instead, pepper your blog with highly inflammatory, short posts designed to rile up people to the point where they’ll link to you, if only to say “look at THIS nutcase!” A link is a link is a link, right?

After all, we’ve proven that people are naturally drawn to news stories on the “extreme” ends of the spectrum — hence, why news channels have gone completely bonkers (“this just in: soup will kill you if you slurp!”). Sane folk have no business reporting in a medium that gets its biggest audience when apocalyptic comments are spewed from the lips of a raving madman, who then brings in big sponsor dollars.

So why are blogs any different? Why should we pour hours of time writing out thoughtful essays on the minutia of MMO development and gameplay when a semi-literate whacko could triple our readership just by writing a poorly-worded 300 essay on the moral deficiencies of Rob Pardo and his risqué relationship with manatees? Or to pronounce vague speculation about Duke Nukem Online as straight-up fact?

After all, two of my most widely-read posts were stories I snapped off the cuff and ended up being circulated like nobody’s business, instead of just taken as they were designed to be — mild musings of a brain parasite-ridden Italian. What incentive do I have for doing anything else but these? And my brain parasite asks, could you ship him a pizza?

So, in that spirit, here are the topics for the next 10 posts at WAAAGH!:

  1. Paul Barnett is Beelzebub: The Second Cousin of Lies!
  2. Sixteen Japanese Schoolchildren Reenact Waaagh In Park, 100 Dead.
  3. Blizzard is Purchasing Mythic From EA, Plans To Cancel WAR And Feast On The Tears Of The Fans.
  4. Forget Chuck Norris, Josh Drescher’s Facial Hair Cures Cancer.
  5. WAR’s In Game Currency Will Be Shrunken Heads Of Your Opponent’s Kids.
  6. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Sues Age of Conan For Egregious Use Of The Phrase “Age Of”.
  7. EA Sends A Cease And Desist Letters To All WAR Bloggers Unless They End Every Post With A Plug For Madden Online.
  8. What’s The Deal With High Gas Prices Anyway? And Iraq? And Same-Sex Marriage? And Celebrity Babies? And ANWAR Drilling? And Obama? And WALL*E?
  9. Internet forum users have no life — proven!
  10. WAR will be, like, y’know, the best game EVAH!

Now, to sit right back and reap all the benefits of stupidity. Ahhhh.

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Chrono Chaos: Your First Assignment

June 29, 2008

As we seek to perfect the fuel mix to our flux capacitor, it’s not the time for Chrono Chaos — the most awesomeist pretend time traveling WAR guild — to rest on their laurels (laurels means “buttocks”). Nay! We must move out as a horde, striking forth in a bold attempt to alleviate our boredom.

So, Chrono Chaos, as your guild leader, I have a mission for you, which will be worth 20 Elf Ears* for any who succeed in it. It’s been long, far, far too long, since Snafzg has posted a new comic strip up over at The Greenskin. Since our Time Car is currently out of juice, we lack the ability to go back to when he was a tyke and put the proper fear of God into him so that he’d draw these on a regular basis. So we’re going to do the next best thing: pester him until he gives in.

20 Elf Ears for each and every post that you make on his most current blog thread, begging him (or threatening, we’re not picky) to get a new comic strip done. We will not relent, Chrono Chaos, until our will is made known!

Sally forth, and do the bidding of the time lords!

(* Elf Ears are Chrono Chaos currency, redeemable in the future for special prizes. Which I will make up in the past. And then send back to the future.)

Chrono Chaos Guild Roster [Est. 2008 A.D. – “Anywhere, Anywhen”]:

[Retconned:]

  • Brotik: Founding Father (20 elf ears)

[Original:]

  • Syp: Fearful Leader
  • Darkgobbo: Orc Translator
  • BMR: Lazy Cousin of BMX
  • Matt: Time Machine Hog
  • CunningB: Lunch Herder (20 elf ears)
  • DexterDouglas: Party On, Dudes!
  • Moxie: Yes, Ma’am (20 elf ears)
  • The Hammered: Making Awkward Comments Since 2008
  • Vagrant: Touched In The Head (20 elf ears)
  • Werit: Time Dwarf
  • Khaos: Momma-In-Law’s Boy
  • Lske: Guild Plumber
  • roXet: eXtreme eXcitement
  • Mekoia: Pimple Patrol
  • Qatol: Impossible To Spell In Scrabble
  • Din A3: AAA Quality
  • Regis: And Kelly Ripa
  • Johnny Walker Black: Uwe Boll’s Batboy (40 elf ears)
  • Medrin: Captain Fun-un-un (20 elf ears)
  • Scarybooster: Selfesteembooster
  • Kattz: Dr. Kattz
  • Paul: Oriel Oreos
  • Ramathorne: Day Dreamer (30 elf ears – 10 extra for the comic!)
  • Vort: He’s Got The Black Lung, Pop (20 elf ears)
  • James Taylor: First Names For Last Names
  • Dr. Worm: Not A Doctor, But A Worm
  • Crimetank: Treads Lightly (20 elf ears)
  • Smashydoom: Preemptive Strike
  • Across: Down
  • Slymie: Cutest Gross Name Ever
  • Arbitrary: Book ‘Em, Danno
  • Artean: Tonight We’re Sending You Back To The Future (20 elf ears)
  • Alex: Duct Tape Master (20 elf ears)
  • Sorain: Afraid of Only Kittens
  • Curien: He’s Got Our Back
  • Ran: He Also Walks (20 elf ears)
  • Tigaj: Jagit Backwards
  • DMNYO: Dynamo!
  • Betadan: Still In Closed Betadan
  • Stigus: Double Agent
  • Wingo: Bus Driver
  • JayDizzle: Fo Sho (20 elf ears)
  • Clash: Fashion Police
  • Trooper: He’s Super
  • Rombur: Death-Dealing Robot From 1815
  • Alanti – The Lost City of Alanti

To apply to the pretend time traveling guild known as Chrono Chaos, just post a comment to this article saying something like “I’m in!” or “Word up, g-dawg!”. We’ll know what you mean.

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Your MMO, My Content

June 29, 2008

Go back a few years, and you’d see that the major MMORPG debate at the time between developers was whether it was better to provide a “sandbox” or “theme park” experience for players. Let me explain: “sandbox” MMOs (Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online) would create a world and give players tools to experience the world as they wanted — free-form gameplay, you see, without a lot of underlying structure. “Theme park” MMOs, like World of Warcraft, theorized that players wanted to be guided through the game like rides — going from zone to zone on a set course, experiencing the world the way the devs intended.

In theory, it looks as if the sandbox concept offered far more potential for vast, shifting, unlimited content. In practice, players felt like they were dumped into a world with little or no guidance, and had to stumble around feeling foolish trying to find things to do. Eve Online made the sandbox approach work, to be sure, but even after more hand-holding was programmed in, it remains a very hardcore, obscure game to this day — with massive amounts of user-created content that makes the game universe a dynamic place to explore.

WoW was the effective trump card for the theme park system. It proved that players didn’t mind having their hands held, to be guided as long as they had plenty of choices as to what “ride” they’d want to go on that day. Most MMOs post-2004 came around to this way of thinking — even SWG with its notorious NGE switch. The biggest downside of a theme park MMO is that once you’ve gone on all the rides dozens of times, there’s very little left. You can make the rides longer or harder to get on, of course. You can try to pump in some more dev-created rides, but those take a long time and are consumed incredibly fast by players. Hence, sooner or later, people arrive at the end of their theme park experience, burned out and lacking a reason to do anything else.

So both schools of thought have pretty big pros and cons associated with them. The question is, how do we move forward in this industry? The semi-obvious answer is: let’s marry the best of the sandbox system with the best of the theme park system. Players love to be included in the creative process, love unlimited content, and love being led through an experience without feeling lost.

I’ve been holding off mentioning this for fear that you’d think I’m a little crazy (but at this point, post-manatee, you already know that) — every night when I go to sleep, a little trick I use to help me fall asleep quick is to “design” something in my head. Usually it’s a game, and the fun is trying to think up game mechanics I haven’t seen before but would love to play, or to take old mechanics and use them in a fun twist. An idea I’ve always been fond of is for a MMO to provide a structured environment where players would receive tools to create their own content within the boundaries of the MMO. For instance, giving players their own dungeon, which the player can deck out with “loot” (monsters, treasures, traps) they find in the game world as they play. Then other players can come in and try to beat their dungeon.

I know it’s not an original idea, but the more I think about it, the more I take a shine to the topic. After reading a piece on Word of Shadow about user-created content, it prompted me to get my thoughts out on the subject. I sincerely believe that MMO devs who adhere to the theme park model — and yes, this includes WAR to a huge degree — have to be moving in a direction where they hand tools to the player to let them create their own content within the boundaries of that world.

WAR’s primary answer to that is to provide the broadest and most structured PvP system in the MMO landscape. PvP is user-created content — it’s always shifting, never the same, and lets the players “write the stories” instead of the devs. WAR is banking on the RvR/PvP system being the primary motivator for players to stick around long after they’ve exhausted the PvE content. It remains to be seen how compelling this content will be — and a lot of the onus is on the players for how much they participate in it.

Taking a different tack, the mostly-PvE City of Heroes/Villains has announced that they’re working on user-created missions (dungeons), a la their user-created base system, for other players to explore and conquer. As a current CoX player, this is probably one of the best pieces of news that game world ever received, and it frees the limited dev team up from making new PvE missions to working on other content.

Even World of Warcraft is slooooooowly cranking around to the idea of incorporating sandbox elements in its rigidly-structured game, with the new PvP outdoor zone. And there are probably tons of other, smaller theme park MMOs I’m not mentioning that provide a lot of user-created content as well.

I think it’s a very exciting time to be a MMO player — the games just keep on getting better!

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Breathing Room?

June 28, 2008

Just something that caught my eye… Tobold interviewed J. Allen Brack, lead producer on WoW, who was quoted to say in regards to expansion rollout:

“It’s been more than a year than The Burning Crusade came out, and we are not exactly yet happy with where [WotlK] is. The most important thing for Blizzard is that you have the best experience possible when you install it. And whenever Wrath of the Lich King gets to that point, that we feel you will have a great experience, we will release it.”

I’m not going to go all super-analytic on this quote, but I thought I’d toss it out there for those whose greatest worry is Lich King going head-to-head with WAR — this might be a sign that WAR has a bit more breathing room than we once thought.