The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Tag: Community

Healing the Anitsocial and My Role in it

I’ve been making some observations lately in WoW regarding healing and the Dungeon Finder.  I’ve been thinking about writing about it for a few days, but Spinks and Syp have both beat me to it.

Spinks article is about “You can’t heal stupid,” which is absolutely correct.  Syp writes about the unwritten rules that healers have in “The Secret Life of Healers.”

Both of them allude to or outright point out that most healers in the game (I play a Resto Shaman as one of my dual mains) have a set of rules for healing people, particularly people in Random Heroic Groups.  We probably all had rules that we had in our minds from doing PUGs, but not many people did as many dungeons doing PUGs as we do now with the Dungeon Finder.  This has amplified our issues as healers and brought them to the forefront of our thinking.  Before this I never really thought that much about them but over the course of the last few weeks I have had time to consider this quite a lot.

For the benefit of all the ADHD tanks, fire-and-forget ranged DPS, and don’t-quite-know-they-aren’t-the-tank melee DPS folks out there, here are some things to consider should you be lucky enough to be in a Heroic I am healing.  I am willing to bet that there are even some other healers who will agree with these, so think of them as rules to live by.

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Bloggers: Be Objective. At least.

First a little housekeeping… I’m still occasionally posting here, but mostly I’m posting at I’m Talkin’ Games.  OK, that’s done.. Now to business.

I don’t usually call out other bloggers because usually they have their opinions, which everyone knows is like a part of the body, and they are entitled to that opinion.  My standard for reading a blog is that there is a shred of objectivity to the posting there.  Sure we all have our favorites and I tend to write mostly about what I am playing at the moment.  Right now that is WOW, but it’s been variously EQ2, EVE, AoC, Vanguard, and even TF2.  There have been others but you get the point.  Other than on the fan site that I started (which was sanctioned by the studio and clearly labeled as such), I’ve never really advocated a game and tried to stick to posting about what I like or dislike about it or my sometimes inexplicable behavior around it.

I’ve noted that a lot of others stick to that same ethos.  There is currently one blogger that stands out, and that is Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual.  Hardcore Casual has been on my blogroll for a long time.  I remember enjoying reading it back in the day, and even looked up to it as a successful blog.  Recently though a trend has emerged over there.  In short, it appears that Syncaine should change the name of the blog to Hardcore Apologist.

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Is the Shiny wearing off Aion already?

It always starts like this.  Hot New Game that everyone wants to play.  Lots of people buy the box.  First month is getting to know the game.  It sure is pretty/authentic/fun.  All your friends are playing it.  You might have broken down and bought it yourself.  It’s a lot like EQ/WOW/Lineage and you wonder if it’s different enough to make you want to play.  You unsubscribe from your All Time Favorite game.  You say some hurtful things about it as you leave.

Now it’s a month or two later and you are starting to notice your Hot New Game has a few warts.  It’s still the Shiny though, and you try to ignore them.

Then it starts.

First, it’s a couple of blog posts or a tweet.  Um, it’s not as cool as we though.  A couple of people defect and go back to their All Time Favorite.  ATF takes them back because it always does, and in a month or three their account goes inactive and they try not to think about it any more.

Then there is a small swelling of people saying that the emperor has no clothes. They are pointing out legitimate concerns with the game.  Some of these people are the ones who should love the game, it’s purported target audience.  Yet they begin to second-guess the game and where it’s going.  This is where Aion is right now.  Some of the people whose opinion I respect that should be the target audience are starting to slough off the game’s subscription roles.

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Champions: See you down the line…

This week I decided to go ahead and cancel my Champions Online account.  I think there is a general malaise at my house when it comes to MMOs. So I guess I have to tell Champions; “It’s not you, it’s me.”  I need to see other MMO’s.

Champions is a fun game and I think that there will be a time in the future that I resub. For now though, there are a few things about the game that make me want to put it down.  First, there is the lack of polish and finish to the game.  Depending on the encounter, a mob near your level might be an appropriate challenge or it may not.  This is especially true in boss encounters.  Some of them are major undercons.  This betrays a lack of balance that permeates the game.  Second, there is the quest driven nature of the game.  Now before you think I’m going to bash quest-driven games, know that I like that style of game just fine.  You (game designers) just can’t let me run out.  As my main character reached his mid-twenties he started falling farther and farther behind the quest curve.  For example, when he was 21 he only had quests that were 2 levels higher than him available.  He was still able to do them, if not able to use the rewards immediately.  As he leveled through his twenties this problem became worse.  I could probably grind though it but mob experience is weak, and I’m not inclined to do so.

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GameBreakR Goes Live at AGDC

game-breaker-logoI’ve been a fan of Gary and Ryan from MMOG nation for a while.  I used to listen to their podcast back when theirs was just about the only podcast out there about MMO’s.  Gary Gannon, the Gary from the aforementioned team has been semi-retired from podcasting and community in general for about a year or so.

He’s returned in a big new way with his new site GameBreakr.  The new site is a combination of news, ultra-brief reviews, and something a little more experimental, Gary’s live video podcasts.  At AGDC, he’s launching the site with the help from the folks over at Vivox.   He’s also peppering in a lot of social networking components with his presence on Facebook and Twitter as well.  It’s a little more of a 360 degree approach to an online presence than is being done elsewhere.

The tag line on the blog is “Video Game Talk You Can Trust – with Gary Gannon”  The scope of the podcasts will be everything gaming from Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, and PC gaming.   I’d encourage you guys to go over to the site and check it out and click the “Game Breakr Live” tab at the top to see the live podcasts during AGDC with people from the industry, and check back each day to see what he’s got going.  I’ll be following this new experiment and see how it develops.  It’s cool to see someone take a little more complete approach to the community.

Amazing Accomplishments of the Daft

Among the great things that are accomplished by people every day, I have always pointed out that doing so is easy when you are smart.

Accomplishing things when you are an idiot requires some effort and determination.  Many of the things I have accomplished in my life are heroic in nature because at the very core of my being, I’m an idiot.  I pointed this out to some of my fellow bloggers and guild members in our Champions Ventrilo channel the other night.  To my dismay, they tacitly agreed.  As a matter of fact, they tactfully tacitly agreed.

Here’s the latest example of my bumblehood;

Now, in reality, I’m a relatively smart guy.  I get it, more often than not.  But lately when it comes to gaming, I’ve noticed a trend.  For example, I’ve been playing Champions online since late beta.  Admittedly, not a terribly long time.  During this time, I have experimented with many of the pre-made power sets if not nearly all of them.  During that time, I managed to completely avoid slotting a single defensive ability.  I think it’s fair to say that I died.  A lot.  I knew something was wrong, but I was having fun and the death penalty is so small in CO.  So I kept dieing.  And dieing.  Sometimes it was so often that I felt a need to apologize to my teammates.  I’ve often used the saying that “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”  Or the southern version; “If all you do is all you’ve done, then all you’ll get is what you got.”

Clearly, I’d lost my effing mind.

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Painting With a Broad Brush

Antisocial Much?

Antisocial Much?

I’ve been reading Tobold’s series of posts since his un-retirement (from blogging) that all share the “Why we play” theme.  I think his posts are thoughtful and incisive, although I don’t always agree with him.

One thing I’m noticing is that there seems to be a distinct “what’s wrong with WoW” tint to the series.  For example, in the current post, Why do we play? – Social interactions. Tobold points out why the social temperature in WoW is poor, while it is better in “free2Play” games. Specifically, he points out that raiding guilds are like professional sports teams;

But a professional sports team isn’t a group of friends who decided to play together, but rather an assembly of people each talented for whatever position he is playing. And WoW raiding guilds are designed around the same principles: Guilds don’t recruit nice players, they recruit a “healer with epic gear”. There are guilds where you can get kicked out for crimes like taking a three-week holiday. And good luck explaining to your guild that you are retiring your raiding priest, because you’d rather reroll a hunter.

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The Guild Makes the Game

Something has really driven this seemingly-obvious point home for me over the last few months.  There’s a little back story, so please bear with me.

As most of my readers probably know I got into the Casualties guild and was GM for the Destruction guild over there for a while.  We had a great group over there, and if the game had held my imagination even a little bit I would have kept playing.  Unfortunately it didn’t.  Then the same thing started happening with a lot of the core gamers in the guild and the game in general and a couple of server merges later I was stepping down and looking for something else to play.

I had started dabbling in WoW again and decided to see if anyone in Casualties wanted to start a WoW guild.  Several did and we were off and running.  I had some real life complications which kept me from playing for a month or so, and stuff happened, and well, the guild had a big exodus.  When that was over there were several characters left in the guild but mostly people that had odd play times or sporadic ability to log in and play.

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Ouch! My Community Hurts

I’ll start with a disclaimer. The author of this article is not young. As a matter of fact, I’m old. I’m one of the 5 or 6 oldest gamers I’ve met. If you have ever been in the gaming store, and there is a soccer mom there with her little rugrat buying a game, and she asks you; “You getting these for your kids?” Then you feel me. No, I’m getting these for me. Thanks for playing, now move along. Sorry it’s been since childhood that YOU have done anything fun or intellectually stimulating. Now, don’t you have some oranges to cut into little slices?

That aside…

I’m noticing that more and more of the posts one community boards are just garbage. No one is talking about what game is great or how to get to this encounter. No one seems to care which guild is full of assholes or where the best place to get more information.

Instead, here are some of the subjects that have been broached; Bush is an idiot (Bush went to an Ivy League School. He may not be inspired or a great communicator but he’s no idiot.), homosexuality, drugs, hate for the middle class, hate for the upper class, hate for the lower class, suicide, race, and a few others I’d rather not revisit. These aren’t high-level intellectual discussions, but flame-fests and baiting of people with sensibilities.

It’s one thing when it happens on the forums. Everyone who has been around the internet any period of time understands that a certain portion of the of the population exists only to make themselves feel superior by “cleverly” berating or cutting down everything that they can’t understand or that they irrationally hate. This element has always existed on the FPS boards, and trolling the MMO boards on the fringes. With the second generation of MMOs started to ship, some of this element started to migrate to them.

Jump forward, and it’s 2003. Sigil is announcing their new MMO. Hundreds of eager fans are waiting for what’s next from the old EQ creative team. The Official Vanguard Forums (OVF) are filled with people discussing what they like and didn’t like about different games, playing “wouldn’t it be cool if…”, and suggesting features or ideas for the upcoming MMO. It seemed so far off, and yet so tangible. The creative team regularly engages the public. This went on for quite a while. Like anything else, over time the forums have changed. Talk to most of the fansite operators or long-time posters and they will tell you that they don’t spend much time on the OVF any more.

I guess what I’m asking is why does it have to be this way? Why do the boards start off with the fans and end up with the bans? Why do they start off constructive or excited, and end up like the SWG forums did after launch or the World of Warcraft forums? Why does a community seem to degenerate the larger it gets? Why is it that any person who represents the company eventually gets crucified as a schill for the company (they were doing their job) or lionized as a champion of the people (they weren’t.)

As a developer, I’d stop chasing the community about 6 months before launch. When I say chasing, I don’t mean trying to attract, but trying to satisfy and answer every question. Just from a cost standpoint, it’s ridiculous to put an ever-increasing number of moderators after the task of keeping the noise down so you can recognize the needles in the haystacks.

One of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of the people are there just for the sport of it. I won’t name names, because I won’t give them that one thing they seem to crave; recognition. Some are malcontents who can’t be satisfied. More and more of them are people who come to the boards with a sense of entitlement. They deserve to be catered to because they spent X dollars a month, dammit, and they are gonna bitch and bellyache and wail until they get it.

But I miss the old community. I miss the fun, constructive, interesting conversations with the whole community involved. Sure, I still get that on, but that is a much smaller group. It’s obviously by design that Sigil has decided to basically shut down the OVF for comments after the launch of the game. They don’t want to have to deal with the nonsense, and the diminishing returns for trying to filter the good from the noise.

I’m thankful for the time we had as a new community. I’m hopeful for the community of Vanguard post-launch. For now, I’m disappointed that there can’t be a decent level of discourse overall.

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