Importance of Polish

With playing Final Fantasy 14 at the moment  I’ve got to wondering whether innovation is something we truly want, or even need in mmo’s. By all accounts it’s a wow clone, and while a polished one with a lot of mechanics from elsewhere it really offers nothing of its own to the equation. By all accounts it shouldn’t be succeeding where many others have fallen; Wildstar and ESO just before it that both added nothing as well and paid the price for that yet Final Fantasy has continued to grow, grow to 4 million accounts lately which means box purchases… that’s reasonably impressive in this age.

Yet in spite of that, and with playing another mmo that is but an iteration on the same formulae I’ve become rather enamoured with it. Usually I get bored with these types of experiences quite quickly but I’ve been grinding out the levels and quests for my kitty zerker for a few days now. Playing for many hours at a time. Completing all the dungeons as I go multiple times and having a good time with it. I’m even excited about what’s to come even before I’ve gotten to the cap. I’ve been actively researching and looking at class and tanking guides too: ways to gear up, raid and dungeon videos.. all that boring stuff I haven’t bothered with since rift.

It’s silly but rather exciting to be wrapped up in that mmo goodness again. And it’s not that thirsty in the desert kind of feeling either, well, it was at first but now that I’ve settled in I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would and I think the main reason for this is just polish.

Yes it’s polished in the usual kind of ways now. Graphical purrty as all heck. Ability lag is a thing of the past and rivals that of blizzard making gameplay and combat feel smooth. And just the content and game run smoothly throughout play. It is a game that has gotten the attention it needs to fill itself out and run well… sadly a lot of games can’t say the same lately.

Anyway, it is more than that as well and by polish I also mean they have actually taken the time to figure out what it is they want to do. It is a game that actually seems to have planned itself out in regards to the pace of combat, the styles available, the types and methods of acquiring shinies. Just the way the whole game, each of its components fits together.

Mostly I get the feeling the engaged in a little introspection regarding mmo’s in general. They didn’t just blindly copy what the current zeitgeist is, the populist mechanics and they also didn’t fall prey to throwing out the perfectly functioning components just to appear “edgy”, and “innovative”. They seem to have actually sat down and thought about the usual mechanics of mmos: what works, what doesn’t and figure out why then mold these towards their own vision. There is a level of understanding there in how they’ve designed the components so that it becomes greater than the whole. Greater than the usual.

MMO’s don’t really need to strive to be different, it’s mostly just a marketing buzzword anyway and rarely keeps people around after they’ve grown tired of the same bull shit reskinned with the same mistakes. Innovation can be good too, dynamic events are something I think enriches the genre and were a huge departure from the standard but so many games use this now without really dissecting it mechanically and then integrating it within their game to be cohesive.

I just feel that mmo’s need more thought put into them first and that it seems doing so is far more important than aiming for some kind of new shiny appeal.

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The Media Machine

It’s the start of the convention season for 2015. We’ve had the GDC as well as Pax East  a week ago and so far I’ve been rather surprised with them and the utter lack of interesting news coming out. Usually these events become a smorgasbord of reveals and games showing off their latest and greatest. There were a few new indie games showing off, and the Morpheus Virtual Reality system looked like it was coming ahead but other that it seemed to just be games showing their newest update during development.

It makes me wonder just how much the industry has changed in regards to the place of the media and how it’s being used now. It seems with the greater connectivity we have, the less meaningful these media sites have become. They are still obviously being used and those who have grown their audience for their particular niche will do well but they have all no longer become the only, or even main source of gaming news.

Companies are increasingly using a lot more tools for spreading information on their games. I see a lot more blogs happening now for many companies, and not just indie groups anymore. Many of these companies are using YouTube more effectively to spread the latest and greatest news, trailers and gameplay. Twitch for showcasing games in a more personal light as well as giving them the time to do a more in-depth discussion on it. And then there is just the explosion amongst social media and forums like reddit which are increasing the ways they connect to gamers, and the ways information is spread.

Developers, publishers and game makers no longer need the media to spread this information, especially the larger ones as it seems we are already getting our news from the source, or at least far less separated from that source. Even when it’s not direct it still far more connected to the base message as most sites give links. They can tailor the specific message as well without the media sites rewording it, removing parts or voicing opinions throughout. They now have an incredible amount of control, and it’s scary. It makes me wonder just how badly the balance have power has swung and the impact it will have from here on.

I’ve always though the balance of power within the industry rested well on the developers and publishers. They are the ones setting the rules, relaying the information and giving out review games when, at the drop of a pin they could easily change that situation. It is a tenuous balance a lot of these media sites have had to tread for a long while now yet, with how things are progressing this balance seems to be getting further upset.

They most definitely still have a place. Indie games always need greater attention, I have always loved reading critical opinions on games as well and they’ve always served as a decent aggregate but they just don’t have the impact anymore that they once did. Expose’s like that done by Rock paper shotgun and Peter Molyneux are a rarity, if not almost extinct and I see that as a shame. Sometimes you want these groups to have to answer to someone, anyone about their actions but the consequences from doing this are often quite harsh.

It has gone so far now that some developers believe that these sites are nothing more than their personal messenger. A place where they should be allowed, entitled to post whatever the want. To post their opinions. To post their exact press statement. Then attacking them for imagined slights and with the current fear campaign and witch hunt against certain groups and media sites they can easily drum up an eager lynch mob.

twitter

tweets from a week or so

 

(using this tweet because I found it funny that someone fighting for freedom of conversation has me blocked from their twitter. oh, and that letmarkspeak hashtag was rather hilarious).

The press as it is now is in a very hard place. The overlords have increased control over their little minions below and are getting restless with their puppets lack of obedience. Pinocchio wants to grow up but then where does that leave it when it’s only use for the general population seems to be how well they regurgitate whatever its told.

I personally don’t believe the gaming media valued its place as much as they should. Many other journalistic fields are earning far more, have better job security and are treated with far more respect. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry and yet the media around it is so woefully underpaid and valued. It doesn’t make sense to me. It is definitely a hard industry to work within as you rely on many of these game companies and tech groups for advertisement to survive but I think it was this deep sense of devaluing their own work that put them in the position they are now. They value it so little that they’ve never bothered to fight for better industry standards, to push these companies that are already paying hundreds of millions in advertising to maybe pay some better rates. To be more accountable.

It is interesting then, when taking that into account just how many news sites and groups of writers have been able to break out on their own and be funded quite easily by their readers and supporters. It is amazing how much people do actually value there work when they don’t. Honestly, I think this is where the eventual balance will be coming from in the industry. Slowly more and more groups and sites are becoming their own master, funded by their readers and thus are no longer accountable to the game makers which no doubt allows greater freedom in their opinions and critiques.

I really have no idea where this will all go in the future though or where this little ramble is going. The industry is, and has been in flux for a long time now and where the balance will end is any bodies guess.

Progress report: Adventures of the Unemployed

Hellooooooooo everyone and welcome back to the now so weekly Progress report. I can’t of dumped doing this a bit back as I really didn’t have the time, or it was cutting too much into gaming time and I didn’t have that much I wanted to say. There were a few games I might have skipped over because of that as well as the stuff I’ve been watching and doing but.. oh well.

And now it’s back, hopefully as with all the down time lately with being unemployed I seem to have a lot more time for gaming. It’s funny though because it’s more now that I have the time for all my random web searching, funny things, reading blogs, watching tv and anime and just general house stuff and so I have that time solely for gaming in the afternoon most of the time. It’s nice… someone please find me a wealthy donor so I don’t have to work though haha.

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Going Back to GW2

So I’ve been exploring Guild wars 2 again and yep, it was news of the expansion that brought me back which makes me wonder even more about why they didn’t do it sooner. The living story just wasn’t for me and it was never something that was viewed in the same way as an expansion from the media either. No hype. No interest. Just an overwhelming feeling of MEHHH.

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Free to Play Fuckery: Trion’s love for Lockboxes

I’ve been debating whether to do this one since the source material is gone but FUCK IT, lets roll with it anyway

In a recentish stream by Trion for rift on the 23rd of January they were answering a few questions the players had and one about lockboxes popped up. Daglar answered with something along the lines of, selling items directly in the store isn’t as profitable as Lockboxes. The data shows it’s just more profitable.

Hmmm.. I think what I mostly have to say to that is

stop-it

I don’t think anyone has ever argued with them that it isn’t more profitable, or the better earner than putting items directly in the cash shop. The question has mainly just been is it actually better to use such methods.

I’ve talked about the human cost before and the ethical issues involved with using such methods as what they come down to is being a form of gambling. Something that preys on one of the weaker elements of human psychology.

And then, regardless of the short term gain that can come from lockboxes I mostly worry about the long term potential and effects. Spending so much on this, and often for nothing, fills people with regret and in the face of this often becomes a far more sceptical outlook. Increasingly because of this people become further removed from the practice, opting out more and more. The interest in ftp design was rather positive just a few years ago but now I increasingly see people filled with distrust, bordering on anger. Is that really the type of market you want to create?

Bad ftp makes owl sad

Bad ftp makes owl sad

I partly Blame the mobile scene for this and the design around artificial time gates and restraints, it is something that has impacted on the whole industry but seemingly far more so on MMO development, much to it’s downfall. Design around cosmetics can and does work, and doesn’t impact on people’s understanding and interest of a game but instead many have fallen into the trap of profits without thinking of its other effects.

I also wonder what exactly it does to the reputation of these games and companies due to such abhorrent practices. Trion, a once great companies image has been increasingly tarnished due to their practices. It wasn’t just Archeage here, I remember the outrage with how they created a specific world event to push a new lockbox type and have increasingly used such disingenuous methods to peddle these, more and more.

And come on, it’s the principle of it. Do we really need to treat customers as cattle, something to milk as much as possible. That’s the kind of thinking that ruins an opinion of a game and company. Maybe even the industry as well.

milking the cow

MMO’s are supposed to be long term endeavors. Something where you should be striving to gain and keep long term interest. Thinking about this long term interest, the reputation of your game and company, and just having some fucking respect for your players is how you maximise these profits. So please, let’s stop marketing these cheap, ridiculous gambling tricks.

 

Purpose Within Permadeath

I have no idea why Permadeath holds such a fascination with me but it is always something that keeps me playing and engaged with a game. Recently I’ve been playing quite a few games with permadeath features or permadeath as their core mechanic and it is because of this that I’ve played them so much.

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New Year, New Adventures

It’s seems like this is going to be a weird year for mmo’s. So far there doesn’t seem to be any, truly huge releases to look forward to for the first time in many years. I see many around the blogs that seem rather disjointed and saddened by this but, this actually makes me even more excited.

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Abandoning ArcheAge

So it’s now been, I think 3 weeks since I’ve been in ArcheAge and I haven’t really missed it. I was playing rather intensely and then took a break when the family was up and staying at our house and then, only logged in once more and haven’t been back.

There are a lot of mechanics to draw me back but they just didn’t work any more. I had a few farms and farmhouse over down in Hellswamp which often served as the staging point for my trade runs as well as just random sheep tending and killing to make money. I was slowly earning and upgrading my character through this which was nice.
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Changing a Culture of Rape Remarks

A couple Weeks back over at Murf vs there was an article looking at the all to casual nature of “rape” within gamer culture. Started by a someones rather crude drawing of a couple pokemon characters, Items that seem to be all to common and often brushed off by most as the harmless fantasizing at best and, a small group of perverts at worse.

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Storytelling and a Narcissistic Narrative

Over at game Industry biz there was a recent interview with the Head of Narrative design at Arenanet, Leah Hoyer and while I was ready to read and create another rant aimed at the inadequacy of GW2 and its “living” story it made me think of the genre’s approach overall.

Now I do believe story is important for games, pretty obvious really. Even mmo’s benefit from having a base of lore as well as context to player actions, it creates better engagement in activities and immersion within the game world.

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