Banning an entire country?

August 31, 2010

On the one hand, having a thread asking Riot to ban everyone from Brazil (edit: thread deleted now) might seem a bit extreme. On the other, when that thread gets 260+ ‘thumbs up’ votes and many of the comments more or less mirror my general experience with such players, maybe there is something behind it?

And how is it that an entire country can, on average, have such bad manners and overall generate such a massively negative opinion for themselves?

Previous fail breakdown was the real fail

August 31, 2010

My post from yesterday was not as clear as I had hoped (that’s what happens when you rush posts at the end of the day I guess), so here we go for round two.

What I wanted to express yesterday was not that any one feature can mark a game for failure (because it can to a degree), but that just because one game fails due to X, does not mean including X = failed MMO.

Ganking is a prime example here. In most games, veterans ganking new players is a bad thing, but in both EVE and Darkfall the ability to do so actually adds something to those games. For EVE, Empire space not being 100% safe is critical to that game, and in Darkfall the ability for a new players to jump right in (which includes getting ganked) is also a key attraction. If WoW had an achievement or reputation bar for ganking noobies in a starting zone, it would add nothing but frustration, so the details matter here, which is why you can’t just say “ganking in an MMO is bad”.

The other bit of confusion from yesterday was the mixing of unfortunate items (bugs, server downtime, hacking) with basic game design differences (PvP or not, FFA vs pre-set, rep vs loot, classes vs skills, etc).

The first category, in an ideal world, would always be excluded from any new MMO. It’s never a plus to have bugs or massive server lag no matter how you designed your game. But it’s also somewhat rare that a game will outright fail due to these issues alone (I mean, if Anarchy Online can survive, anyone can). If underneath the servers crashing and multi-hour long queues is an overall fun MMO, the game is going to be fine in the long run. Forum trolls will bitch, bloggers will make funny posts with screen shots of the queue, but the game will be fine.

An unfortunate mix of game design decisions is something entirely different. On the surface, it’s tough to say whether pre-set PvP is better or worse than FFA PvP, or whether it’s beneficial to have 2, 3, or 8 sides if you do go pre-set. For WoW, having just two sides works for the game, and it would be tough to imagine the game improving if a 3rd or 4th side was added. In direct contrast, it’s not hard to see how much better WAR would have been with a 3rd side, or just how interesting things might have been had each race (6 total) been it’s own pre-set side. Finally, I’m fairly sure both EVE and Darkfall would be lesser games with pre-set factions, regardless of the number.

So when we discuss a game like APB failing, it’s very valid to bring up ganking as a source of failure. If what I’ve read is accurate (again, never played the game myself), the game actually rewarding veterans for killing new players is indeed just bad design. But ganking in Darkfall? We call that player freedom, and it works in correct moderation. The 24 hour ‘halo’ protection system was added because yes, even in Darkfall, it’s not helpful to have EVERY new player thrown right into the fire. They all still have that option, but for those who wish to get their feet under them first, that option now exists as well.

Ultimately it is helpful to look at a failed (or successful for that matter) MMO and break down what worked and what did not. The better we understand how certain things come together, the better we can predict the results of future combinations. Perhaps the lesson learned from APB and its ganking problem is not that ganking is all bad, but that what’s critical is how the surrounding systems are placed to either control or make sense of that particular player action. To simply remove it might just do more harm than good to your game.

Chuck-o-the-day: Most people fear the Reaper. Chuck Norris considers him “a promising rookie”.

Breaking down failure is fail

August 30, 2010

It’s funny how we (myself firmly included in this) react when an MMO fails. We always ask why, and break down what went wrong based on that specific title, focusing on key bullet points (haha, good one self). APB is the latest MMO in trouble, and Tobold believes it failed because of ganking, specifically the ability for veteran players with more powerful character to fight new, weaker players, effectively driving them away from the game. Other bloggers have other theories as well, uncontrolled cheating being a common theme.

Now I’m not interested in discussing exactly why APB did fail, I never played it and honestly never looked twice at it. What I do want to talk about is how we, MMO bloggers, deal with the aftermath of a failed game.

Is APB the only MMO to have a ganking or cheating problem? Nope. Ultima Online was ganker paradise, and UOextreme did some really… interesting stuff when you ran it. What about bugs or server issues, topics generally associated with a failed MMO? Well I seem to recall WoW launched with a rather crippling item database ‘bug’ that made it near impossible to complete quests for weeks, and certain servers experienced horrid lag and downtime for months. If WoW had failed, we would have seen countless blog posts about how stupid Blizzard was to launch a game with a centralized item database (it was a dumb move), and what a joke of a company they are for not being able to keep a server up months after launch. We called out WAR for having poor RvR in a game based around set-piece conflict, but does anyone remember the great PvP system Blizzard had at launch for Warcraft, a franchise entirely based on conflict between two sides? (Hint: they had nothing, for months/years)

Point being, it’s easy to look at a failed game and try to attribute it’s failures on common themes (PvP, lack of content, lack of character customization, bugs, server issues, etc), and then make the leap that if only games avoided those themes, they would be more successful. It’s the leap part that I disagree with, because if MMO history has shown us anything, it’s that no theme or issue is a make or break concern for an MMO. The smoothest launch can still lead to a disaster 6 months in, while a horrible launch can turn into a game still growing years later.

Like MMOs themselves, a game failing or succeeding is a complex combination of factors, and no one single point is the ‘ah ha’ part of the failure. So while it is interesting to break a game down and examine its pieces, the ultimate conclusion should still always be that any game can fail or succeed based on a large number of factors, rather than a select few. Because another lesson MMO history teaches us is that strange ‘niche’ markets are not always niche (EVE Online), while ‘obvious’ mass market titles don’t always hit their mark (Sims Online).

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris’s face has only two expressions, one of which has never been seen.

FFXIV XP Cap: Rehab for MMO players?

August 27, 2010

I’m starting to get a little worried here. First Tobold starts playing (and enjoying) a hardcore niche MMO, then he agrees that used game buyers are thieving parasites (not his words), and now we find ourselves again on the same side of the latest ‘issue’ in MMO land; the FFXIV xp cap. The hell ice-skating rink is open for business.

The reason I initially favor the cap (I’ve not actually played FFXIV, so expect an EG review sometime next week) is simple: MMO players turn into soulless drones when given the option to chase a shiny. If something will advance a player in-game, the majority will do that and only that until they fall over dead, even if it’s the absolute least-fun activity. Be it chain-queuing WAR scenarios, blood walls in Darkfall, or playing WSG for 16 hours a day for 5 weeks straight in WoW (old High Warlord), if there is a shiny, MMO players will walk over glass and through fire to get it, complaining that the game is broken all the way there.

The other thing we know is when you DON’T offer a direct path to a shiny (or it’s not yet know what’s the most effective/painful way to get it), MMO players actually, wait for it, play for fun. And, even more shocking, actually HAVE fun. The hour before UO servers went down (they did not record that hour), the first week of a new MMO (before the ‘optimal’ path is discovered, wiki’ed, and youtubed), the final days before a server wipe or a game shutting down, etc; all of this leads to the drones waking up and doing what they find fun. Amazing how that works eh?

So the way I see it, FFXIV players will do whatever soul-sucking activity gets them the shiny fastest for the first 15 hours of a week, and then either log off (if you are a true masochist, i.e. the hardcore), or stop and do whatever activity is simply the most fun in-game, which if the game is designed in an even half-decent manner, will be something social that truly plays up the best parts of playing an MMO; the Massive and Multiplayer stuff.

In an odd way FFXIV might just become a very casual and ‘friendly’ MMO with the xp cap. Of course this heavily depends on how important levels ultimately become. If all the good stuff is at the end, then yea, the xp cap is a horrible idea, but if levels are not a major factor (CoX-ish), or despite differences in character power players can still play together (DF, EVE) it could work out for the better.

Chuck-o-the-day: Every time Chuck Norris leaves a room, the song “There Goes My Hero” starts playing out of nowhere.

Fantasy Football last call

August 26, 2010

Sending out the league invites tomorrow, so if you have not yet commented that you are in, do so now or miss out.

Stirring the den of thieves

August 26, 2010

Seems quite a few feathers got ruffled yesterday. Funny how quick people jump to defend something when called out, and how far they will go to rationalize their behavior. I’ll restate my main point from yesterday right up front, so you can read the rest of the entry with it firmly in your mind:

If your method of acquiring a game does not include paying the developers, you are a parasite rather than a fan of gaming.

Now you can bring up how times are tough, how you have thirteen kids to feed, what economic theory you believe in, how many times you visit the library, what car you drive, whatever. I don’t care. If what you do to acquire a game does not meet the condition above, you are not helping to create better games, you are not rewarding the effort of the people who entertain you, and you are, in my mind, a problem for gaming.

Thankfully it’s a problem that will soon no longer exist (or at least be minimized), as developers now have more and more tools at their disposable to eliminate this behavior. Steam is one of the better examples, as it’s a quick and easy method of cutting out places like GameStop or eBay, and we are seeing more and more games (especially the ‘little guys’) go exclusively in this direction, be it Steam itself or something similar. The other major benefit of something like Steam is that the developers have more control over their product, so they make the decision on when its time to have a sale, when its time to drop the price, or when to create a bundle deal. But unlike the used-games market, a Steam sale or bundle still rewards the developers, and still sends a ‘more of this please’ message to all of gaming.

One topic somewhat related to this is the notion that a pirated or stolen copy of a game is or is not a lost sale. Obviously to drum up drama and exaggerate the cause the games industry is going to say that every stolen copy is a lost sale, while the pirates and thieves will counter with the fact that if they can’t steal a game, they would not have played/bought it. Often the thieves will include “but if I liked the (stolen) original, I might buy the sequel/expansion” justification. What a joke. Why, if you are willing to steal the original, would you then opt-in to pay for part two? Is anyone really buying that the scum who stole the first part are now going to get in line with everyone else and pay up if the option to steal again exists?

What is often overlooked however is this: if the option to steal did not exist AT ALL, would the parasites still stay away? My guess here is no. Let’s say you have 20 hours a week to game, if you can’t fill that time with stolen games, I doubt you will step away from gaming all together and, say, hit up that library to read a book instead. You might be ‘forced’ to buy older/cheaper titles or wait for Steam sales if indeed you to have those thirteen kids to feed, rather than playing a new title the first week, but you WOULD be paying the developers who entertain you. It’s this angle that is the biggest loss in terms of piracy or theft, and more so because when forced to pay up, most consumers, and especially those truly on a tight budget, would put more thought and effort into their buying decision, and one would hope that would allow quality titles to float to the top. With rampant piracy, a title might sell better not because it’s a better game, but because it has more intrusive copy protection and so more people are ‘forced’ to buy it. That’s the exact opposite message most of us want to be sending.

Chuck-o-the-day: When running out of ammo, Chuck Norris stood in the line of fire, took three shots to the chest, and used them to reload.

The thieving family man and his needs

August 25, 2010

Great post over at Penny Arcade today about used games = stealing (via Tobold) that has really struck a cord with me. As readers here know, one of the things I hate most about this industry is that so many customers reward mediocrity (or worse), reward rehashing (or worse), and then turn right around and cry about sequels and everything being the same, or that so many games are released in poor shape. It’s not unique to the gaming genre, but it’s sickening how so many gaming ‘fans’ shit on their own lawn with some of their practices.

Point blank: if you enjoy a game, you should let the devs and the industry know, and the only way you do that is with money. If you don’t send money to the devs, REGARDLESS of the reason, your vote becomes a nay. If you pass on a game because it looks terrible, you vote nay. If you get a pirated copy, you vote nay. And yes, if you buy a used copy, you vote nay. And guess what? If you buy a terrible, awful game, no matter how much you hate it, you voted ‘yes’ for that game and let the company behind it know you’d like more. Good job, you not only double fucked yourself, you also took a shit on anyone who looks forward to better games made by quality developers. Thanks asshole.

On top of that, one of the absolute most ridiculous excuses you hear all the time is “money is tight, and I can’t afford to pay full price but still want to enjoy a game”. I’d love to be able to drive a Ferrari daily, and “money is tight” for 200k cars in the SynCaine household, time to go steal one I guess. If “money is tight”, rub two brain cells together and figure out a way to scavenge up that lofty sum of $60 if you want something. Can’t do it? Then you probably shouldn’t be playing games to begin with. Honestly though, we are not talking once a year/life purchases here, we are talking $5-$60 for a game. If you can afford a PC to run a game, or a console, I’m fairly sure you can save up for a game.

I mean look at this example:

Personally I would love to be able to support every developer who makes the games I enjoy. I understand that they are doing this for a living and I want to help them keep doing what they love…. BUT… As an adult with a family, my budget for buying games is limited. I have other responsibilities and they NEED to come first. If my only chance to enjoy a game is by buying it used… then that’s the way it HAS to be. I am however fully onboard with buying games via digital stores, so long as the price tag can fit my budget. It really comes down to being able to play the maximum amount of games on limited funds.

Are you kidding me? If you budget is limited, guess what? You limit what games you buy asshat. Fairly sure stealing a game is not how it HAS to be. That’s why people buy a Kia instead of a Lexus. Not because the Kia is the car they want, but because “on a tight budget” they can’t get the car they want. I think you and your family will be ok without yet another videogame. And if not, guess what? Get a second/third/tenth job to feed your NEED for a videogame. What kind of sick justification for stealing is this?

Limited budget? Guess what, now you have to make better choices in what you buy, and only buy the titles you MOST want, skipping those ‘quick grab’ purchases of shovelware or meh titles. Win/win buddy.



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