Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Worlds Upon Worlds


In one of those confluences that happens surprisingly often, this morning I read three unrelated posts that all seemed to point roughly to the same thing. UltrViolet at Endgame Viable asked what happened to all "Those New MMOs", Redbeard at Parallel Context framed "A State of the Game Request", wondering how many people play our games and what they do while they're there. Finally, Bree at MassivelyOP questioned the supposedly popular belief that the mmorpg genre is in the middle of a damaging creative drought, asking "Is the MMO Genre Thriving in Scarcity?". 

I dropped a comment on that last one which, to save myself some typing, I'll repost in part here:

"I agree that the whole idea of mmo scarcity is flawed to begin with. There are more good, new mmos released than anyone is ever likely to have time to play. Most of them barely get reported beyond the initial launch publicity but they also don’t go away and plenty of people play them. In 2021 I’ve played two of the better new mmos I’ve played in years in Chimeraland and Noah’s Heart and just this week MOP has reported favorably on a third, Tower of Fantasy. Looking back a few years, how often does anyone talk about the excellent Blade and Soul, now looking at a sequel, or the highly entertaining AdventureQuest 3D?"

In saying as much, I was following up my comment to UltrViolet, an experienced mmo player and blogger whose posts I always enjoy but with whom I frequently find myself in considerable disagreement. I'd repost that comment too but although I could see it displayed in the thread after I posted it, when I look now there's no sign I said anything at all. (Just in case you're reading this, UV, which you may well be since you linked Inventory Full in the article, the link to the private server where comments are hosted returns a "404 page not found" error.)

Luckily, I can remember the gist of what I said, which is that we in this part of the blogosphere have a pronounced tendency to behave as though the only mmorpgs that matter are a couple of dozen titles (At most!), mainly Western, almost all over a decade old. Everything else is either invisible, ignored or dismissed for a variety of reasons, most of which could probably be summed up as "Not our kind of thing".

And that's more than fair enough. These are personal blogs not commercial gaming websites. There's no reason for anyone to waste a moment posting about any game that doesn't interest them. As Redbeard very rightly points out, we don't even have any objective way of finding out how popular any of these titles are, let alone which elements of their vastly varied gameplay people enjoy.

The best we can do is try to piece together a patchwork of detail by way of quarterly reports, Google Trends, Steam charts and if we're really desparate, sites like this. It's all very ramashackle and not very convincing.

I've ragged on the likes of MMOPopulation.com before but at least they have a list. A list of one hundred and thirty mmos, all of which I've heard of and most of which I've played. Okay, some of them have closed down and some are still in development so I'm not suggesting it's a good list, but it does give an indication of the depth of the field. There are a hundred or so MMOs on there that wouldn't be a waste of anyone's time to try.

I'm beginning to wonder if the whole idea of "scarcity", coupled with the belief that "they don't make 'em like they used to", might not be some kind of unconscious response, designed to make us feel more comfortable with the disturbing fact that there are actually more mmos than most of us will ever play and that many of those are really (Whisper it...) quite good.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that two of the new titles I've tried this year, Chimeraland and Noah's Heart, are among the better examples of the genre as I know it. I think it's pretty much self-evident that, in any era of genuine scarcity, either of them would have been seized upon as imaginative, entertaining games, stuffed with enough content to last most players months if not years. 

The same could be said, even more forcibly, about New World, currently being written off by almost everyone as a commercial and artistic disaster. Only in a genre with such redundancy could titles as deep and complex as these be consigned to the Five Minute Wonder file.

It's always been the same, though. I wax nostalgic occasionally about the days when every new mmorpg release was a major occasion and fans of the form made sure not to miss anything new but honestly? It was never like that. Even twenty years ago there were more mmorpgs than I was able to play and believe me, I tried. 

Even leaving out genre giants like Lineage, Fantasy Westward Journey or Dungeon Fighter Online, hugely popuar but not often played in the West, there are too many significant titles, like Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa or Club Penguin I never even got to try before they were gone. More tellingly, there are some very well-known titles still active that I haven't played, either: Age of Conan, for example, or Albion Online.

Naturally, all of us, who knock out these posts for our own amusement and the entertainment of our peers, tend to focus either on the games that interest us or those we think might interest our readers, if we're lucky enough to have any. (Trigger warning: Self-deprecation. Also Irony.) We also tend to re-frame the arguments in ways that seem obvious to us, even though our assumptions are frequently based on little more than direct experience and anecdote, rather than any kind of objective, analytical research. 

When I say "we", of course, I really mean "I". Making sweeping statements about how things are and what people do, when what I really mean is how they are for me and what I do, is a tendency I've tried to curb over the years but old habits always seem to have a rez on hand. I was going to hammer out a quick reply to Redbeard about how most people in mmorpgs don't raid and never have and how what most people really do is bumble around amusing themselves with a bit of this, a bit of that, but although I do still believe that's generally likely to be the case in most games, I can't stand the argument up with anything other than a few, increasingly dated anecdotes, so in the end I decided it was better not to say anything.

What I can say, though, is that far from feeling there aren't enough good mmorpgs to go round, I feel exactly the opposite. There are so many there's no chance I'll ever get to see more than a sample. And that's fine. I don't expect to read every good novel or see every good movie, either. I'll take what I can get and make the most of it.

All of which is a very roundabout way to say welcome to Blaugust's Creative Appreciation Week. I might come back around later to big up someone specific or I might not but I just wanted to put in a generic "Well Done and Keep Up The Good Work!" to everyone working in the genre: in both quality and quantity you all go well beyond expectations.

Thanks!

Monday, August 15, 2022

I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue

I have so much to say about Noah's Heart I could easily post about nothing else until the end of Blaugust, always assuming my goal was to have no readers left by the start of September. Even if I did, there's almost no chance I'd be able to explain how the game works or what the point of it is because right now, despite having played every fricken' day since I downloaded it in July, I'm still none the wiser.

Most multi-platform mmorpgs are like this in my experience. I have to assume it's the mobile heritage because PC-only games don't seem to be quite so dementedly insistent on layering systems over systems over systems until you can't see the screen any more. All multiplayer games seem to be converging on that hyperactive gameplay principle, though, so the division is a lot less obvious than it used to be.

Take events. Once a month would be a lot for a PC title. More like once a quarter. Noah's Heart only launched a month ago on mobile, half that on PC, but we're already into our second major event... I think. I'm not sure, honestly. It might be more. 

I can say with a relative degree of certainty that there's an event going on right now. It's called... oh, god, I don't even know that! I took a screenshot but it doesn't really help. 

Cheery start...
I take so many screenshots with the intention of using them in posts but if I used even half of them we'd be here 'til Christmas, never mind the end of Blaugust. I think "Scarlet Mark Mystery" might be the name of the event? Don't quote me on that. Whispers in Darkness is the name of the case I'm currently investigating, I do know that much.

The event is very, very odd. It's effectively a visual novel embedded in an mmorpg. There are mysteries to solve using something like one of those big connect-the-clues boards so beloved of game designers who watched too much TV in the 2000s. 

The investigations proceed by way of a combination of open-world gameplay and cut scenes that remind me of the way Guild Wars 2 used to do them back in the first iteration of the Personal Story, a kind of 2D puppet show, only better than that sounds. You have to collect clues to open more dialog options and sometimes there are fights. There's also an overarching questlike structure that keeps track of progress in your journal.

It's entirely possible to flatline the investigation by asking the wrong questions or making the wrong decisions, something I've done more than once. In a kind of roguelike timeloop you can then restart from an earlier nodal point where the mistake was made and make better choices using the new data you've acquired by screwing up.

Let me guess. She wears a tweed cape and a deerstalker, right?

At some point, quite a long way in, you run into something akin to an energy mechanic, where you can't proceed until you've done a bunch of regular daily tasks to get more clue-power. (It's not called that but that's what it is.)

People get all worked up over energy mechanics in mobile and F2P games but mostly they go right over my head. I can barely think of any game I've played where I even came close to running out of energy to do anything I wanted to do, even when I was playing several hours a day. 

I think it's because the way I normally play mmorpgs doesn't involve a lot of the things the designers choose to monetise. In Noah's Heart, for example, I could spend all day mining, chopping trees and foraging for mats, then all the next day using what I'd got to work on my house and as far as I can tell nothing would stop me. Ditto exploring.

Called it! The hold-ups were a surprise, though.

Even for the things that do seem to require energy, like running instances and such, chances are I'd run out of interest long before I ran out. For once, though, I think if there was an onerous energy mechanic, I'd know about it. I'm doing more instances than I generally do in games like this. They're short, easy, fun and you can access them almost instantly on demand. Whatever the energy tax is for doing it, it hasn't affected me in the least.

The roadblock for clues is different, anyway. It's like an energy mechanic but it's not one. It's more like a reminder to do all the vast number of activities the designers probably assume you'd want to be doing anyway. 

There's a huge checklist of Dailies and Weeklies that again reminds me of GW2 in that they're mostly just things the average player would be doing anyway - running various kinds of instances, finding chests in the open world, that sort of thing. Doing them gets you Life Points. I think that's what they're called. I'd have to log in to be sure and I'm trying to avoid doing that because if I do I'll only take more screenshots and I have more than enough for this post already.

Not so much as a trigger warning.

Each time you hit various Life Point markers - 30, 60, 90... like that... you get another Clue Point (Not the actual name.) You need nine to open the next phase of the investigation. I was up to 5/9 when I stopped for lunch and when I finish this I'll go back and get the other four. I want to carry on with the case. Solve it, if I can.

More than that, I want to know what the hell it's about. The translation, never great in Noah's Heart, is so offhand there are passages I can't be sure I've fully understood. There's also a lot of lore in there. I'm learning plenty about the political situation in Noah (Noah is the name of the planet, I only recently realised.) and also it's regnal history and the way the aristocracy functions. 

I actually have two different cases running side-by-side, both stalled, waiting for clues. I might have something still on the go from the previous event as well, although if so, I've already forgotten the details or even the general description for that matter. Frankly, there's so much going on I have no hope of remembering most of it.

I don't really need to. My typical session consists of little more than logging in and clicking on every icon on screen with a red dot. It takes me so long I rarely have time to do anything after. Each icon opens a window that might have anything up to half a dozen more icons to other windows and half of those probably have red dots too. And so on down the fractal.

Multi-purpose screenshot: red dots [Check] Cute Boy title [Check] Yet another mysterious shop [Check]

Red dots mean some kind of reward. Something to collect. A present. A gift. XP. It could be the familiar login reward for bothering to turn up at all or it could be for something I've done or that the game tells me I've done, even though I can't remember doing it. 

I used to click on all the red dots but some of them lead to systems I don't understand and others to screens where I have points to spend on things I don't understand either. Mostly I leave those alone. Others turn out to be invitations to group activities like Arenas or Trials. I leave those alone as well.

Even with the ones I don't do I still can barely collect my winnings before more builds up behind them. Not that I'm complaining. I did nearly two levels without leaving the spot where I logged in the other day. 

And there are so many currencies. I'll try and do a post on that one day because I don't think I've ever seen so many in so new a game. I mean, EQII has a ridiculous number of currencies but it took nearly two decades to acquire them. Noah's Heart seems to have managed it in two weeks.

That's such a great idea it deserves a post of its own.
We probably need a lot of currencies because we sure have a lot of shops. Not in the open world, where as far as I can tell there are no traditional NPC vendors at all, but in the UI, where there are at least half a dozen tabs, each with multiple tabs of its own: Market, Mall, Commerce, Consign, Auction, Top-Up...

You'd think that would indicate some kind of intentionally obfuscatory, predatory monetization but no, I'm pretty sure it's not that. Like everything in Noah's Heart, if there's a problem in the way something's been designed you can probably put it down to over-enthusiasm.

Ok, first, I'm a girl.
Second, the title is actually "Cute Boy".
Third it's not even Agi, it's Str.

To give one example of why I don't think the game is out to grab your last cent, this morning, when I finally found the Mall, I was able to buy two bag expansions, fifteen slots each, for a thousand diamonds. Diamonds are an in-game currency that you get for doing just about everything. I had more than twelve thousand. 

Selling bag space is a core moneymaker for most F2P developers and I've know games that sell you the slots one a time or, worse, rent them. Bag space in Noah's Heart is decent enough to begin with but to be selling this much, this cheap, for in-game currency, is uncommonly generous. I could have bought another two sets before I hit my permitted limit. I just didn't think I needed them yet.

I'm well aware this post is rambling and random but so's the game, or it is the way I'm playing it. Other topics I was thinking about mentioning today include 

  • Titles (I got one called Cute Man and it morphed into Cute Boy when I collected it.)
  • Wormeries (Aquaria for animals. I made one for a Tiger Butterfly.)
  • How my Warehouse got full (Even though I don't even know what or where it is.)
  • Guilds (They're a bit old school.)
  • The robot who wants me to bring it an apple (Which I can't find.)
  • Jet packs (We were promised them and we got them!)
  • Cars. (In and out of cut scenes.)

Any one of those would make a post. And most likely will.

It's a shame Belghast opted to play the much-hyped Tower of Fantasy rather than Noah's Heart. He'd be getting to the meat of things by now, offering helpful tips and knocking out How To guides. Unfortunately there's just me, blundering along, oohing and aahing and having a great time without even knowing why.

If I ever do work out what I'm supposed to be doing here, I'll be sure to tell you. For now, though, I really could use someone to explain it to me.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Version Originale

OMG! KJ! Me too!

If you were dressing a set so it screamed "Film student c. 1999", what movie posters would you pick?


La Femme Nikita, okay, maybe. I'll give you a pass on that. But Merci La Vie? Seriously?

Merci La Vie came out in 1991. It was directed by Bertrand Blier, best known for Trop Belle Pour Toi, which won the Jury's Special Grand Prix at Cannes in 1989, or rather tied for the title with the better-remembered Cinema Paradiso.

Merci La Vie, the next film Blier directed, is barely remembered at all. The plot ("A sinister doctor (Gérard Depardieu) purposely infects a promiscuous woman (Anouk Grinberg) with a sexually transmitted disease.") accurately suggests it would have enjoyed nothing more outside France than a short run on the art house circuit, which was indeed where I saw it back in 1992.

Although I can remember absolutely nothing about the story or indeed the film itself, it must have made a deep impression on me at the time because I never forgot it. A few years ago, on the understanding that the World Wide Web had made all human endeavor instantly available on demand, I put some effort into getting hold of a copy. It turned out to be a more than averagely difficult ask.

At the time, I couldn't find a DVD copy anywhere but I did manage to track down a VHS tape on EBay. Unfortunately, it was in French with no subtitles. I can read French well enough to pick my way through a story in Le Monde but the spoken word is annoyingly just out of my reach. I understand enough to be completely confused and no more. I bought it anyway.

I didn't give up. I kept looking and eventually a DVD appeared on Amazon. I added it to my wishlist and someone was kind enough to buy it for me for Christmas. I was so excited!

It's a shame I hadn't read the following review, which very accurately sums up my reaction to what I saw and heard when the opening credits faded:

"Terrific film. However, the copy I obtained is , horror, DUBBED in italian. With the original french soundtrack, the Italian subtitles cannot be deleted, which adds they're extra surreal dimension (as if the story needed another) of having the impression that this is an Italian film dubbed into french. "


I note as I write that the current version on Amazon specifically states "Subtitles: ‏English". I may have to buy it for a third time to see if that's true.

As for why this particular film poster appears on the wall in a scene in the new Amazon Original time-travel show Paper Girls I can only hazard the vaguest of guesses. Given the relative contemporary obscurity and subsequent lack of interest in the film it seems an odd choice. Maybe someone on the production team is a fan of either Blier or one of the two stars, Charlotte Gainsbourg or Anouk Grinberg. If they were a fan of Depardieu they'd have chosen something else, surely. He made enough movies in the 90s, after all.

It could be that the film, partly revolving as it does around the relationship between two young women, is intended to say something about two of the young women in the show itself, the older KJ and her girlfriend, Lauren but if so I don't remember enough about the movie to know what it might be. If I ever get a copy with subtitles I can understand, maybe I'll figure it out.

Paper Girls is a very good show, by the way. I might do a post on it some time. If you haven't watched it, I'd suggest you do. Merci La Vie, too, if you can find it.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Don't I Know You From Somewhere?

 

One of the many charming things about Noah's Heart is the way slightly warped versions of famous people keep popping up, sometimes with their names or genders changed, sometimes not.

However they present, they always retain an interest in the thing that made them famous. George Stephenson likes trains.

Johann Bach is a musician. Just in case you didn't know.

Some are a little harder to spot. I never really imagined Charles Babbage looking quite like this.

Others I really can't place at all. Surely not the extremely obscure Canadian singer or South African author

And some don't even get named at all. But we know who they are.

Don't we?

Friday, August 12, 2022

Hey, Ray! Won't You Please Stay?


Just as I didn't plan on doing two consecutive music posts last week, I wasn't intending to post twice in a row about new content in EverQuest II but that was before I checked my email right after publishing yesterday's post on the Myth and Monoliths update and found I'd been invited to this year's Oceansfull Festival

It started yesterday and runs for another couple of weeks, finishing on August 24, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. PDT. As I type this my Bruiser is sitting on the edge of one of the platforms in the new dungeon, recovering from having been killed by the second boss. 

Yes, the second. He has indeed managed to kill the first, which puts him well ahead of his dismal performance in Fabled Kurns. It took him a long time, although nothing like as long as it took him to spawn and find the second boss, something that requires an insane amount of swimming up and down pipes, lighting braziers and using waterspouts and whirlpools to teleport around the zone.


 

There's a ferociously detailed walkthrough up on the wiki already. It gives some idea of the nit-picking complexity of the whole affair but you can't get the full, vertiginous effect just by reading two-dimensional text. For that you need to be corkscrewing up a column of water, trying to fend off guards and sharks while watching for the almost invisible exits.

I would say "Thank Prexus someone took the trouble to write such a comprehensive walkthrough" but it's actually not as much help as you might think. For a start, the map references don't really play all that well with the three-dimensional space and as it turns out there's no need to do most of it in the specific order listed. I didn't and all the portals still opened and the named spawned anyway.

In the end I just used tracking to find the guardians, once I'd killed the first and knew what they were called, then swam about almost randomly until I found the portals. Not efficient but it was quicker than trying to follow the bloody locs.

The first boss was annoying. The second boss is very annoying. She's actually the final boss by the walkthrough's reckoning, which might explain the extra level of difficulty. I guess I won't know for sure until I've found the two that come inbetween. 


 

At least they are doable. I know it's my inexperience with the mechanics that's the problem, not a straightforward gear lockout. I'd rather the walkthrough went into detail about how to kill the bosses instead of noting every last twist and turn of the path leading up to the fight. Trying to mouseover the tiny buff icons on the boss in the middle of a fight to see what immunities she has, while scrolling back the through the chat box to see what warnings she emoted isn't my idea of entertainment. I'd rather read the Cliff Notes version from someone who's done it already.

The drops from the first boss were good enough to make it worth the effort, though. 315 Resolve we're up to now on this solo, holiday stuff. That's an upgrade to most of what any of my characters are wearing. 

Aesthetically, the entire zone is gorgeous, although we have seen it before. It's from an earlier expansion, abeit slightly tweaked. The best thing about the whole instance has to be the manta ray at the beginning, the one you have to stand on and ride to the platform. If Daybreak don't make that into a mount and add it to the cash shop they must not like money.



There's also an interesting crafting opportunity you have to find for yourself. It is mentioned in the preamble to the walkthrough but not, as far as I can see, inside the game itself. I thought it was odd that there were fishing nodes inside a dungeon, even one in the Plane of Water, so I got out my rod and after a few casts I somehow managed to fish up a fishing rod, or rather the recipe to make one.

The Oceansfull Fishing Rod lets you breathe underwater, which is something my Bruiser currently needs to buy Totems of the Otter to do, so it's going to be well worth having. Three of the items he needs to make it can only be found in the instance itself. So far he hasn't seen any of them. I hope they don't drop off the bosses...

There's some other new stuff in this year's festival, including nine new items in the clam shells that spawn all around the coast of every major landmass at this time of year. I always enjoy prying those open. There's also a collection from previous years the Bruiser hasn't finished, as I discovered when he was doing the short, fun access quest to the new dungeon.

Given the way yesterday's session debrief got completely out of hand, I'm going to leave it at that. If you play EQII you'll certainly want to go check Oceansfull out for yourself and if you don't you've probably already heard more than you ever wanted to know about it.

I'm off to open some clams. Finger crossed I get something good, not just twenty different kinds of coral.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Onward And Upward. Or At Least Onward...

EverQuest II's big mid-year update, Myths and Monoliths, went live earlier this week. I'm late reporting on it because I haven't been playing or paying attention to EQII lately. Truth be told, since Noah's Heart launched at the end of last month, I haven't played anything else at all. I might have logged into Chimeraland once...

It's not quite as bad as it sounds. It's summer and we're enjoying, if that's the right word, a protracted spell of very dry, very sunny, very hot weather. Early morning and late evening are the only times it gets cool enough to take Beryl the dog for a stroll and the rest of the day it's too hot for me to be comfortable sitiing in my upstairs, sun-facing study. 

I do anyway, of course, because it's Blaugust and these posts don't write themselves, unlike Tipa's. I really must get on with signing up for an Open AI API so I can get GPT-3 to write my posts for me when I don't have the time.

As several people have pointed out, Blaugust is, ironically, quite a poor time to be putting in a lot of effort. There are so many posts, no-one has time to read them all, far less comment. Especially on the long ones. 

It'd be better to stick to something short and pithy. Not really in my skill set, sadly. Only wish it was. 

One thing I do have going for me in trying to keep my coverage of the Myths and Magic update taut is I haven't been able to make much progress there, meaning nothing of note to report. I could do my usual trick of going through the press release line-by-line and offering commentary on everything last smidgeon of detail I can wring some sort of spurious interest out of, but does anyone have time for that? I don't.

The update does come with a very short, unimpressive video, if you'd like to see it. Of late the PR team have been doing a great job of selling a very old, graphically unimpressive game to a modern audience but there's only so much you can do with the material you're given and Kurn's Tower is basically a big, empty shaft with very poor lighting. Anyway, here it is, for what it's worth.


I did give it a look this morning, even though I knew perfectly well I wouldn't be able to down even the first boss. After I finished the Visions of Vetrovia storyline in July, I finally got around to trying the Merchant's Den instance that was added with the big Spring update. I couldn't kill the first boss in that one so the chances of me doing any better in the tougher follow-up have to be non-existent.

Over in EVE Online, all the talk right now seems to be about progression and how the lack of a clear upgrade path abrades motivation and engagement. I very much agree we need aspirational goals in mmorpgs to keep us coming back but progression in EQII these days seems to be on fast-forward. Even when I was playing regularly, I could barely keep up but take a few weeks off and everything seems to race ahead without me.

If you look at the pace, it's staggering. I'm only considering things from a soloist's perspective but I'm pretty sure the same curve is matched by the other progression paths - Heroic I and II and Raid. My best-equipped and upgraded character can now waltz through most of the solo content from the last expansion as though he's in a starter zone. The bosses in the instances struggle even to run their scripts before he has them down.

That expansion only came out eight months ago but it's already effectively outdated. As a solo player, my current upgrade path would be through the new summer holiday content and the two post-expansion content drops but given the imminent arrival of the next expansion in just four months, why would I even want to bother?

As for Overseer, one of the catch-up mechanics that's served me well in the past, that, too, has reached the limits of its usefulness for me. I might still do some missions for the rares and for gear to transmute for adorning mats but none of the gear is an upgrade any more and I have all the recipe books I want.

Even if I didn't, the M&M update added just about all the VoV advanced craft books to the Overseer vendor so I can just go buy them. I bought the handful I was missing this morning. It cost me about 200 platinum, which is the EQII equivalent of the invisible dust particles that cling to the lint that falls to the floor when you search your pockets for loose change.

There are some new collections, which is an excellent addition to the game, but I haven't done the old collections yet. That's one reason my characters aren't as powerful as they should be. Collections stopped being fluff years ago; now they're a significant upgrade path you really can't afford to ignore, along with mounts, mercs and familiars.

It's a lot of work just running to stay still but that is what veterans want. It's a tricky balance, trying to onboard returnees and new players without pissing off the regulars, many of whom howl at the thought of allocating valuable development time to anything that doesn't make them kill stuff faster.

The first hurdle to finding out just how weak I'd become was working out where the entrance was. Someone on the forums was bemoaning the way these new versions of old dungeons don't require the same access quests we had to do both ways in the snow back in the old days but luckily the devs just want everyone in there as fast as possible so there's no truck with all that nonsense. 

The entrance is a flashing, blue portal at Camp Naradasa in Svarni Expanse, the opening zone for VoV. It's the same camp where all the repeatable questgivers hang out so people are going to find it even if they're not looking. I made my way there, zoned in, looked around, saw what seemed to be the obvious way to go, took it and zoned straight out again.

Bleh! I'd forgotten it's a tower. Just like in the old days, when the mechanic was fairly new and still considered original, you have to climb up a huge, blank wall to get the first real room. The clue is all those scratch marks where others have scrambled up before you.

I was playing my Berserker, the character who used to be my "main" until my Bruiser somehow took over earlier in the year. He's still fairly up to speed for a soloist so I thought I'd let him have a try, mostly just to see what the gap was between him and his successor.

The first trash pull felt like a boss fight. The second was touch-and-go, too. We went slowly around the room, clearing each group of skeletons carefully, just like old times. I was pleasantly surprised how well he did.  

The Berserker was in DPS mode so he didn't have his full complement of death saves to rely on. The one he is allowed in that mode fired more than once so we were up to the wire and past it. When he accidentally pulled two encounters at once it was time for the merc to fumble through his book for a rez. 

Somehow, to my surprise, we made it all the way round the room. All the skeletons were dead(er) except the Named, who'd been wandering around the whole time, paying us no attention. Since we'd come all that way, I thought we might as well give it the old Freeport Militia try - shoot him in the back then run away if he looked like he might know what he was doing.

Again, it went better than I expected. Oh, there was not the remotest chance of us winning. God, no! At one point the boss dropped to 97% health but that was the best we could manage. He had a leech he kept casting which, for once, was clearly explained in game. My Berserker did manage to joust out of it each time so the boss couldn't steal his health but unfortunately his merc wasn't so smart. That's the problem with NPCs. They can be astoundingly dim-witted.

It was plain nothing was going change. We could have been there for hours, days even. The Berserker didn't die (Much.) or even look in a great deal of danger. No doubt some new one-shot mechanic would have kicked in at 75% or 50%, if we'd been able to get there, but in the nineties it was stalemate.

So we ran away. All the way round the room until we found the hole then down in a scramble and out the same way we came in. Turns out that false entry was a dry run after all. No experience is ever wasted.

I could have left it at that but after the stand-in's sturdy performance I wanted to find out how the main act would do. Badly, is how. 

I got the Bruiser over, took him in, pulled the first trash encounter and he promptly died. The merc rezzed him and he died again. I got the encounter down on the third attempt, pulled a second and died once more. 

Seems my best-geared character is weaker on this particular content than my second-best. It's a fair comparison, too; they're both tanks in DPS stance. Odd.

I withdrew to think it over. As things stand, with my interest focused on another game and a new expansion due in four months, I can't see doing the necessary research or making the appropriate effort to get either of them into a fit state to climb that tower. I do want to see it but I'll be happy to do it later, when the tides of general progression have lifted me comfortably over the breakwater.

If I'm honest, the only reason I logged in at all was to get some background for this post, which I felt I ought to write because I always do posts on EQII updates. I'd rather have been playing - and writing about - Noah's Heart.

As I said in response to Syp's post about the secret benefit of having a gaming blog, sometimes it's not so much a benefit as a curse. I'm not really complaining, of course. I needed to get back to EQII and having a post to write was the spur I needed. I've never wanted to be all about the One Game - it's just so easy to get obsessed with something new, especially if it's really shiny.

Speaking of which, there's this, too. Where does it all end?

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Unrealistic Expectations

I don't generally do Quote of the Day posts but this is just too good to ignore:

“We used to want our artists to be cigarette-smoking bohemian outsiders who were gonna take risks that the rest of us wouldn’t. Now there’s this desire, especially online, for them to be liberal academics.”

Matty Healy - The 1975

I have never paid much attention to The 1975 but I might have to start. Matty Healy's take seemed so on the money for a sixties burnout, I wondered for a moment if he might be from a different generation than I thought but I checked and he's a solid thirty-three years old, which makes him a card-carrying Millennial.

I won't have much truck with inter-generational name-calling but it would be self-defeating to pretend life and the culture don't both move in clades. Particular outlooks become attached to specific groups and the whole "Offended by being offended" thing has been assigned an age range by the media, precisely because, that way, it can feed off the artificial controversy it generates.

Socio-culturally, I believe the origins lie in American academia, where these kinds of rituals once formed some part of the arcane struggle for precedence and tenure, maybe still do, so the call-back has more than just figurative value. I remember first reading about the phenomenon as a potential breakout point maybe as much as fifteen years ago but it has some ancestry even as far back as when I was in college, when the arguments were framed around the posturings of various, mostly French, linguists and philosophers.


I have to say I loved it, then. I still do, provided it stays safely siloed in the hallowed halls of academe. When it turns up in my music feeds, not so much.

At this point I probably should make it clear that, by and large, I'm on Team Shut The Fuck Up. If you're planning on saying or doing something for the precise purpose of getting someone else's back up or ruining their day than just back off. Go and do something useful instead or if you can't manage that, something useless. Just so long as you do it where no-one can hear you.

If you have a point to make then, sure, make it forcefully but understand that being right doesn't give you a pass on being an asshole. I'm one hundred per cent behind not sitting back and letting people get away with shit but know the difference between calling someone on their privelige or whatever and just acting like a jerk.

Equally, if people do bad things they need to be brought to book, whether by the relevant authorities, their peer groups and contemporaries or, in the case of actors, musicians and entertainers of all stripes, by their audiences and fans. Getting away with that kind of stuff may have been an option when all you had to do was make it to the Transit next morning and on to the next nowhere town but not any more.

All that Global Village garbage the hippies were peddling back in the seventies turned out to be true, only not the way they told it. Now it's more like an actual village - all Neighborhood Watch, cctv and notes through your door if you put your bins out five minutes before the appointed hour.

So, yeah, do the right thing and all that but maybe don't expect the world to change overnight just because it needs to. We're in a transitional period. There will be overlap. Don't freak.

All that stuff with Marilyn Manson, for a start. The guy turns out to be just what he said he was and people are surprised? What's that all about? Now he claims it was all pretend but so did Alice Cooper. Okay, bad example. Iggy, then. Sorry, another.

My favorite, by which I mean the one I was most gobsmacked by, has to be the sorry tale of Burger Records. Who'd have imagined "an indie label that made its reputation selling $6 limited-run cassette tapes of bands such as Diarrhea Planet and the Vomettes" would have turned out to have such low standards?

As anyone who's delved into the history of any strand of popular music - or popular culture for that matter - will know all too well, these things happen. That's not an endorsement. It's a description. There was another great quote I read the other day regarding the rock memoir industry, currently booming like never before. Wait a sec... I think I can find it...

... No I can't. Bummer. I'll paraphrase. It was Peter Hook, talking about how much he'd had to cut out of each of his three memoirs because lawyers. Anything you hear, he was suggesting, no matter how bad it sounds, the reality was way, way worse.

Does that mean we need to get back to Lana's freedom land? Nah. Time rolls forward despite that undertow. We're going in the right direction, even if it's three steps forward, two steps back. And always remember you can only break taboos the one time. Once they're broken it's done. Anything after that is a lifestyle choice.

The days when we needed young men in leather jackets to tell us what to rebel against are long, long gone. We're all our own Brandos now, or should be. Being a rockstar doesn't mean what it did. There's no going back to the fifties or the sixties or, as I read people suggesting, with not the slightest hint of irony, the 2000s.

Matty Healy isn't suggesting we look back to a golden age of bad behavior and no regrets. He's saying we shouldn't be lurching away from one smoking train-wreck of a cliche right into another. Yes, I'm of an age to read "cigarette-smoking bohemian outsiders" as code for "aspirational role models" but honestly, I got over myself about the rock 'n' roll myth a couple of decades ago. It's a fun game but don't try it for real.

Expecting creative artists to behave like post-doctoral research fellows hoping to win tenure in some small-town college, though? That's never going to fly. Is it?

I guess where I do show my age is in hoping not. And even then I'm not entirely sure. I mean, I never subscribed to the whole Romantic laudanum dream of having to be miserable to prove your genius, so maybe I don't have such a problem with expecting even those wacky art types to live up to current conventional mores.

Be a bit boring if they did, though, wouldn't it? Either way, I don't think there's much chance of it happening.

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