Sunday, 30 May 2010

Everybody's wearing a disguise

One of the perennial topics of debate about role-playing games is the relationship between our character's behaviour and our own real-life personality. This is most commonly framed in terms of the bad acts our characters carry out, such as mass slaughter of enemies in battlegrounds. By any real world standards, these acts are evil, yet most roleplayers wouldn't decide that the player behind the character is also evil. We see it as acting, not a reflection of our true selves, so we can easily refrain from doing those things in real life.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Real life epixx beat in game ones

I have a shiny new iPad. It is pretty. If only the blogger compose feature worked properly with it!

If anyone knows of any good blogging apps for it, I'd love to know. So far, all I've seen is Blogpress, which is ok, but far from perfect, as I really don't fancy editing raw HTML just to make a post.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Anatomy of failure

Brad McQuaid has recently made one of his intermittent blog posts, which brought me back to thinking about Vanguard.

On paper, this "WOW killer" had everything going for it:

  • Backing from Microsoft (you aren't going to find many pockets deeper than theirs).
  • A lead designer who was one of the leading lights of EQ, with many years experience behind him and a team of former EQ developers with a good understanding of the pitfalls of MMO design.
  • A clear vision of what kind of game it was trying to be, with the emphasis on rich, complex gameplay and social interaction.
  • Innovative game mechanics such as Diplomacy.
  • An art style guided by the well-know fantasy artist Keith Parkinson.
  • An innovative chunking mechanism intended to remove the barriers between different regions. There were to be no instances in Vanguard, just one giant world.
  • Wonderful class design (I dream of WOW having classes as interesting as the Disciple, Psionicist or Blood Mage).
  • Detailed in-game player and guild housing.
  • Based on an established game engine (Unreal Engine), thus de-risking the issues associated with graphics and game mechanics.
Reading through this list, it seems like Sigil had addressed most of the concerns of discontented WOW players. What could possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything as it turned out.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Return of the king

It's not often I post twice in a day, but this is worth it. BRK is back and blogging.

Welcome back, Dan.  We've missed you.


Now that my SAN shaman has reached 80, I'm starting the process of gearing up for higher level content via heroics. This means a typical wait time of about 15-25 minutes, depending on whether I queue as a healer or DPS. I'm no Sharicasami, so the instant groups that come with tanking aren't an option, even if the dungeon finder allowed me to queue as one.

So that leaves me with an unpredictable amount of dead time while waiting for a group, which raises the question: what to do with that time?

There are only so many dailies that you can endure without wanting to gouge your own eyes out with a spoon, but there are plenty of small tasks I should be getting round to at home. The trouble is this: my computer is tucked away in the spare room, so if my group pops up while I'm loading the dishwasher, I'm not going to know. Yesterday I had what I thought was a bright idea: wouldn't it be great if I had some kind of pager that let me know when the queue is up so that I could go back to the game?

On second thoughts, though, I'm not sure that's such a great plan. There's a danger of ending up in this blurred reality, where we're half in a virtual world and half in the real one. The various remote access options (such as the Armory app for the iPhone) already do this to an extent and the proposed enhancements to allow remote auction house access go still further. Add to that the possibility of remote access via services such as Gaikai and we're starting to enter a world where we're neither fully playing the game nor taking a break from it. We've already seen this sort of thing happen in the world of work, where mobile phones and remote email access mean that many people are never fully disconnected from their employment.

My concern is that WOW (or other games for that matter) may cease to be a form of entertainment that you immerse yourself in, but just be part of this blurred world, which is neither fully real nor fully virtual. I'm really not sure about this new blurality. It's easy to see the benefits in terms of convenience, but I worry that we'll start to enter a world where we're never fully paying attention to where we are. Maybe the transition to cyberspace isn't going to be an abrupt Matrix-like jump, it'll just happen 1% at a time.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Uncommon people

Gevlon and his Undergeared team have now downed Marrowgar in only blue gear. This is an incredible achievement considering how few people have done it even with T9 epics raining from the skies. I suggest you all keep a copy of the link to reply to the next request for gearscore / achievement links when you wish to raid.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sic semper tyrannis

Sic semper tyrannis is a latin phrase, that roughly translates to "thus always to tyrants". It was attributed to Brutus upon the killing of Julius Caesar, although that's probably an early example of a retcon, as none of the contemporary sources mention it. The right to kill (perceived) tyrants that it implies has been a huge influence in the history of the USA, from the founding of the country, through the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the Oklahoma bombing.

The rise of Garrosh in Cataclysm puts us in a very similar situation, and hence opens up some interesting roleplaying opportunities. His style is likely to be very different to that of Thrall, which means that there are bound to be some disaffected people in the Horde who don't like the new regime and see it as tyrannical. However, this puts us in a difficult position as roleplayers. Our character may indeed oppose Garrosh and wish to be rid of him, but the game mechanics simply don't permit us to assassinate our own leaders. This means that we have to think of reasons why our characters can't achieve their goal and how they would cope with that.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The resistance starts here

Massive spoiler alert

If what I'm about to discuss is true, this is a massive spoiler for Cataclysm, so I'm going to hide it away behind the "read more" link below. Please don't continue if you want Cataclysm to be a surprise.

Friday, 7 May 2010

No lifers

A common topic of debate on gaming blogs is the extent to which raiders are "no life" basement dwellers who only get where they are because they play the game more than others. The common response to this is that it isn't time spent gathering epixx that matters, but skill. Gevlon's Undergeared project is an attempt to prove just that.

However, this leads open an important question: where does skill come from? It's widely believed that talent is somehow an innate thing, that the l33t players have and the hoi poloi don't. There's been quite a bit of research done on this topic, which is well summarised in Geoff Colvin's book "Talent is overrated". To quote the Amazon summary of the book:
"Greatness doesn't come from DNA, but from practice and perseverance honed over decades. And not just plain old hard work, but a very specific kind of work. The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness."
In other words, top performers do do a lot of work, but it's not the gear you need to grind, it's the skills. Yes, a skilled player with an undergeared character may do better than an unskilled one with good gear, but that's only because they have spent years developing those skills through practice.

What this suggests is that the whole debate on skill vs time is misplaced. They are the same thing.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Special offer

In light of the ongoing argument between Tobold and some EVE players, I thought I'd offer a handy cut-out and keep guide to arguing with Big T. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the troll-o-matic 2010!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Too easy or too hard?

It can be bit tricky to gather hard information on how many players have completed the various kinds of raid content in WOW. There are some sites like GuildProgress that list the success different guilds have had, but that's not quite the same thing as measuring the number of players. High end raiding guilds will have more than the requisite number of players, so that they have substitutes if one of the first team can't make it. Casual guilds may have less than the required number of raiders and make up the rest from a network of friends or PUG-raiders. On top of that, many players have multiple raiding alts.

However, that doesn't mean we can't say anything useful about raiding numbers, merely that we have to accept that any figures are approximate and interpret them accordingly. To generate the numbers in the figure below, I've made a few simplifying assumptions:
  • There are approximately 6M players in the EU & USA (the only regions GuildProgress has data for).
  • Each listed guild has 25 raiders. That's probably an small underestimate for 25-man raiding guilds, but a large overestimate for 10-man guilds. However, there are a number of floating raiders who don't raid with the guild they are a member of, so the overall totals should be about right.
  • I've defined the "hardest" raid as 25-man for Naxx/Ulduar & 25-man heroic for the Coliseum & Icecrown Citadel. The easiest in each case is defined as being 10-man regular. I have heard arguments that 10-man content can be less forgiving of individual errors than 25-man, but in my view the difficulty involved in organisation makes the 25-man runs harder overall.
  • The number of players who have completed the content was found by multiplying the number of guilds that GuildProgress has listed as completing it by 25. The figures were gathered on 3rd May 2010, after the second ICC nerf.