Monday, October 8, 2018

Every Hair Of The Bear Reproduced: Antilia

Following on from a post about a game I can play but can't talk about, here's a short post on a game I can talk about but can't play: Antilia.

There was a brief moment when I could have played it but back then I didn't even know it existed. Still, if only for the blink of an eye, Antilia was an MMORPG, once. It had some kind of off-the-radar run as an alpha or a beta or an Early Access multiplayer project before the development team took it down to re-envision it as a single-player RPG.

I have no idea how or where I came to hear about it (maybe I saw the failed Kickstarter, which goes all the way back to 2013) but however it was, I've had it bookmarked for a few years now. I even wrote about it a couple of times.

I know a rabbit when I see one.
Not that there was all that much to say. The developer, Right Brain Games, does post periodic updates on the website and occasionally there's a video on YouTube, but progress has been slow and there's not been anything particularly blogworthy. Until now.

Last week I happened to check the website to find this. It's a downloadable, offline version of the character creation suite that Jeff Leigh, the guy who seems to be Right Brain Games as far as I can tell, was talking about on camera in his April update.

I love character creators. Like many people, I can play around with them for hours even when I have no intention of playing the game itself. In this case I'd love to play the game but the character creator is all there is and it makes for a very tasty appetizer.

Single-player RPGs do tend to have much more detailed character creation processes than MMOs. I'm not entirely sure why that is.

It could be that a character in a multiplayer online game is seen more as a Player Avatar than a Character. It might be felt that, given the the long lifespan of an MMORPG, it's best to start with a blank page and let time fill in the details. It may just be that developers know MMO players lack patience so it's best to get them into the game as quickly as possible before they squirrel off somewhere else.

Offline RPGs, on the contrary, seem to expect their players to have all the time in the world and to want to spend it on minutiae in a way that might just possibly be seen by an objective observer as a tad obsessive. Not to say weird...

Antilia indulges that expectation in some style. The demo only includes one of the game's three intelligent races, theTaipii, about whom you can read in some detail, both on the website and in the character creator itself. The other two races, the Sakii and the Reisuii are works in progress about whom little has been revealed so far, other than that one is clearly a kind of dragon while the other is some type of rodent.

As I soon discovered, while playing with the character creator, The Taipii are a handy catch-all, covering a variety of the most popular anthropomorphic tropes. They come in five "bloodlines", known as Felo, Kisan, Koro, Lupan and Vulan, which turn out to be Cat, Rabbit, Deer, Wolf and Fox.

Actually, they turn out to be the same character model with different shaped ears or tails and, in the case of the Koro, antlers. They are all very cute and beautifully rendered but I'd be hard-put to tell one bloodline from another at a hundred paces.

There are a plethora of graphical sliders to play with - everything from Snout Length to Tail Floof. Yes, floof. My favorite was Fur Length, which makes your character more or less fuzzy. Who'd ever want to be less fuzzy?

There's the expected color palette to select from for several layers of fur as well as eyes, ears, tail and whiskers. I'm not clear who's going to be able to see the color of your whiskers but there you go.

After that we move on to weightier matters such as where you were born and what your parents did for a living. There's a wealth of options here, with over a dozen locations and thirty professions to choose from but that's not the end of your decision-making.

Next comes your education, offering a separate set of choices for Childhood and Adulthood. Then there's your Personality, with sliders for where you are on the Intorvert-Extrovert scale, what your Work Ethic is, how strongly you respect the Law and several more crucial moral and philosophical positions to take a stance on.

Finally, in a section labelled Difficulty, you get to choose from a number of handicaps and bonuses. I left these alone and I think I would avoid them in a first run-through should the game finally emerge into playable form. They look to have enormous impact on gameplay - one Disadvantage is Cannot Engage In Combat which means exactly what it says, while another is Permadeath.

I read through most of these with pleasure. It took quite a while. They're well-written and well-considered. You could fashion some very interesting characters from these building blocks while still leaving plenty of space for your own interpretation.

These options aren't purely for cosmetic or roleplaying purposes, though. Each choice comes with a basket of bonuses to your character's many, many stats. Antilia appears to be shaping up to be one of those RPGs that covers both ends of the RP spectrum, focusing both on personality and progression.

Without an actual game to play as yet, none of the stats mean much, although they are mostly very straightforward to understand. The whole thing looks very polished and professional and I'd love to be able to take the character I made and walk her around the world she already seems to know so much about.

Of course, I'd be a lot happier if the game was going to be what it was originally intended to be,  an MMORPG, but I'll settle for anything in a playable state. That could be a while yet, I fear.

For now, we have the character creator and it's a fun toy.

Friday, October 5, 2018

World Shut Your Mouth

It's been a very long time indeed since I was last invited to join an alpha or beta that had a strict NDA. I'm not sure it's happened during the life of this blog. Just as well, given that the main reason I sign up for the things nowadays is in the hope of getting few posts out of the experience.

It would get even more awkward if the NDA went so far as to forbid any mention of the fact that an invite had been extended and accepted. Although, I guess, just accepted, really.

After all, if you chose to turn the invite down, there'd be nothing to stop you talking about it, would there? By definition you wouldn't have agreed to the terms so you could hardly be bound by them, either legally or morally. Ironic to think you'd have more freedom to talk about something you had no personal engagement with than something you did, but there you go.

Then, if it's been a long time since I was under strict NDA, it's even longer since I was subject to a non-disclosure agreement that I actually believed would be enforced. Usually it feels as though no-one's really taking it seriously. Once in a while, though, there's tangible evidence someone very much is.

I'm trying to remember when was the last time I saw a personalized watermark on a screenshot. I think it must have been in the closed beta for the original version of Final Fantasy XIV. I think I still have some of those, somewhere. Probably not allowed to show them to anyone, even now.

If you go back far enough, there was a time when no-one questioned the idea that the terms and conditions of an NDA were there to be enforced. Even so, I've always wondered just how "strict" the punishment would turn out to be if all you blurted out was something along the lines of "well, this is a lot better than I thought it would be" or "I'm enjoying myself - it's surprisingly fun".

I'm not sure how much damage you could do to the prospects of a game by telling people something like that, even at a very early stage of development. Is it really worth kicking someone out of the program for letting on that  the game looks good, plays well and is easy to understand? Or that it feels like it has potential? You'd think most companies would be happy to get that kind of endorsement.

Anyway, if I was in such a test, I couldn't say any of that. Indeed, if I was in a test with a very strict NDA I couldn't even say I was in the test at all. So, I guess there wouldn't be much point going on about it. It would certainly make for a very short, very vague blog post.

With no pictures.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Remind Me Why I don't Live Here Again? : EQ2

Even though it happened today, I can't quite bring to mind the exact sequence of events that led to my creating a level 100 Fury on the Test Server. I think it started with the latest announcement about Everquest 2's upcoming expansion, Chaos Descending, which popped up in my Feedly this morning.

I've managed to fix it so I get the official PR puffs as they're released, rather than having to rely on spotting them on EQ2Traders or waiting until Wilhelm posts something. I've also worked out why I was getting my EQ2 news in French and put a stop to that. As it happens I can read French pretty well but that doesn't mean I want to.

There wasn't a lot in the latest post. Just the time and date for the now-inevitable Livestream, when a handful of self-conscious game developers will take an hour or so to deliver forty-five seconds of detail about the expansion. If you want to sit through it all you'll need to be on Facebook Live at 10am Pacific on Tuesday, October 9th.

Around about then I plan to be sitting on the balcony of a hotel somewhere in the Sierra de Grazalema, drinking a cold beer. I guess I could watch it on my tablet but I'm not going to.

It did make me think about what I might miss while I'm away, though. Mrs Bhagpuss and I generally go away for a week or ten days in October and sometimes we miss out on the start of Halloween in this game or that. We missed the very first Halloween in GW2 as I recall, which was a shame.

I think that's what made me go to the EQ2 Forums to see when the Nights of the Dead event begins in Norrath. I was also wondering whether there'd be anything new this year. I was guessing not. With its limited resources these days, Daybreak seems to be rowing back on the creation of a new quest for every holiday, every year - and honestly, there already more quests for the big holidays than most people are going to get through anyway.

It occured to me that NotD might already be up on Test and indeed it is! There's also a feedback thread right at the top of the first page of the In Testing section of the forum. And at the top of that there's the full running order for the event itself.

I was right about there being no new quest but there will be new stuff:

New Features for '18!
  • TLE Server
    • Fallen Gate - All of the event is active, except a lost necklace cannot be looted from A Gleaming Chest in The Hedge Hollow!
  • New Collection!
    • Grave Memories (added to Wake the Dead content)
  • New costume illusions available from holiday merchants!
    • Hobgoblin
    • Aviak Stormrider
  • The Nights of the Dead merchants have new things to sell!
    • Celebrations of the Dead XI
    • New mount!
    • New house items!
    • New equipment!
    • New Petamorph Wands!
I read the whole thread, which mentions a couple of other new bits and pieces and exemplifies the long-running, collaborative relationship between EQ2's developers and players - well, some of them. It's a wonderful antidote the negativity so prevalent in the Live threads.

As I was there, I happened to notice another thread, by Wilhelmina, Europe's answer to America's Niami Denmother and yet another player who was creating content before the term content creator was... um... created. The thread was entitled Free Level 100 Heroic On Test. That got my attention alright.

Wilhelmina has a clear and concise explanation of how to get your near-max level character for nothing, so rather than go over the same ground I'll quote her word for word:

  • choose level 100 heroic on the launcher
  • Once in game, proceed to Qeynos Harbor (on the docks, between the two gates leading to chronomages and loyalty) or East Freeport (on the docks, next to the door to South FP) and speak to Finch
  • Buy the level 100 adventure bauble and use it
  • Your char is now an unlocked heroic character, congrats!

As I've mentioned often, Mrs Bhagpuss and I played on Test for the best part of five years. We had some right old adventures there. Dramas, too. I have a whole load of characters on Test for whom I feel a great affection.

Before we moved to Freeport when it launched - and never came back (not planned, just happened) - several of our Test characters were max level, which was 90 at the time. They still are. I wondered whether I could use the free boost to level them up some.

Well, obviously I couldn't. Had I read Wilhelmina's notes properly I would have known that. She clearly and correctly states that you have to make a new character using the appropriate "Instant Level 100" button on the launcher. Reading comprehension for, as they say, the win.

I logged my 90 Ratonga Bruiser out and made a Ratonga Fury instead. I wasn't going to go ratonga at first. I spotted that on Test you can make a free Freeblood, EQ2's vampire race, something that has always required a cash shop purchase on Live.

I tried. I flipped through a dozen or so random variations in character creation. They were all unmitigatedly hideous. More Nosferatu than Count Dracula. Knowing I was getting something for nothing wasn't enough to persuade me to make one, even just to run around for a few minutes to get screenshots for this post.

In the end I decided on (yet) another Ratonga, why not? Can't have too many ratongas. At least the class was something new. I don't have a Fury on Test and I've never successfully played one for long on Live. Always thought it was a class I'd enjoy but somehow it never quite seems to happen.

I followed Wilhelmina's instructions and in a few minutes I had a permanent Level 100 Fury. It was very straightforward but there are just a few things to be aware of, should anyone decide to try it for themselves:

  • There's the usual astonishingly loud DING! when you log into the world for the first time, followed by a flurry of opening windows and flashing achievements. Don't be scared! It's quite safe!

  • For some arcane reason (actually because it was the main Level 100 content at the time this boost was added) you appear on the dock in Phantom Sea. Don't be scared! It's quite safe! So long as you don't move.

  • Luckily you spawn within arm's reach of a World Bell. Use that to go to either Qeynos (if you're a goodie) or Freeport (if you're bad).

  • After you speak to Finch and get your Level 100 Adventurer Bauble and use it, as well as losing your temp flag and becoming Level 100 for the duration, you'll also get a mount and a box of gear. DO NOT USE EITHER OF THEM!

  • Okay, you can use them. As in you can equip the mount in the appearance slot if you want. I wouldn't. I did and I regretted it. It looks great but it moves like a boat in a force 9 gale. You will feel seasick riding it. 

  • Also you probably do want to open the pack, if only to to get the extremely large stacks of potions - they go to 900 where the ones you got as a try-out character only go to 10. The gear itself, though, is without exception much worse than what you already have on.   

  • Not that it matters much because if you carry on then the first thing on your agenda is to do Yun Zi's 2017 questline, which will render even the better of your two free sets completely obsolete. Someone really ought to do a logic pass on this stuff once in a while...

  • If you decide to carry on playing, don't try to level up. You can't. Not unless you buy the Planes of Prophecy expansion. Maybe that will get added to Test as a freebie when Chaos Descending, er, descends...

  • And finally, don't forget your free Level 100 Tradeskill boost. It would cost you 3,500 DBC on Live - that's like $30! And this one does work on existing characters!

    I just bumped my Level 90 Sage to Level 100 and I'm going to get myself a full set of all the trade skills at Level 100. There are nine of them and I have ten characters. Why not?

    When we used to duo on Test, Mrs Bhagpuss and I covered all the crafts between us. You need to be self-sufficient because you can't rely on buying what you need (Test has no economy to speak of) and while everyone is astoundingly helpful, sometimes there's just no-one around when you need a spell or a potion made.

    Test is actually a fantastic place to play EQ2 if you're a self-reliant individualist. It has a permanent 100% bonus to xp, you can buy things from NPC vendors that aren't sold on Live (like all the Advanced spell books) and now you even get to start at Level 100 if you want.

    Maybe I should play there...

    Monday, October 1, 2018

    WvW Is Not Fight Club: GW2

    Over the years, ArenaNet has made a series of very poor decisions concerning World vs World, the mass-combat siege warfare mode originally intended to provide the PvPvE endgame for Guild Wars 2. Probably the most infamous disaster was the imposition of the Desert Borderland, a "feature" of the Heart of Thorns expansion that halved the active WvW population overnight.

    Much less talked about, but arguably just as damaging to the long-term fortunes of the game, was the banning of so-called "match-up threads" on the official forums. For the first year or two, every week would see the creation of a new thread for each of the tri-partite matches. Forum warriors would then slog it out with insults and zingers while armchaire commanders offered predictions and analyses of the results.

    Even with ANet's hyper-aggressive moderation (there's an automated feature that turns every conceivable pejorative into the catch-all euphemism "kitten", for example) these threads often turned nasty. Rather than try to keep everything civil, which would have required even more moderators taking an even more pro-active stance, ANet decided they could do very nicely without the hassle, thanks.

    Ever since then any post that even mentions the names of two different Worlds is as likely as not to receive the stern response "Match-up threads are not allowed", whereupon the entire thread will be locked. This heavy-handed behavior has led to the closure of any number of perfectly innocuous discussions but the decision itself is emblematic of a much deeper problem: ArenaNet simply don't understand the needs of their own players.

    Inc to defend Hills (by air)

    When GW2 was new it attracted a very significant number of players who were looking for the next Dark Age of Camelot or Warhammer Online. There haven't been all that many MMORPGs that set out their stall based on "Realm vs Realm" but there's an established audience always on the lookout for the next one that tries.

    The buzz and hype didn't last long. The lack of permanency was a factor. The game-mode had originally been predicated on matches lasting two weeks. That never happened. Eventually ANet settled on week-long matches but before then there was a lengthy sorting and data-gathering period using shorter periods, which made for a fractured and disconnected start.

    Weekly resets didn't help but the main reason ex-DAOC and WAR players were unimpressed with what they found was probably the perceived pointlessness of the whole affair. Where DAoC had access to the Darkness Falls dungeon to fight over and WAR had structured progression both in land ownership and gear acquisition, WvW relied on a basket of buffs doled out to the entire server according to how well the world was doing in its current match.

    Most people never even noticed those buffs, except when a normally dominant world slipped and PvE players logged in to find they'd lost a chunk of hit points. That was popular...

    All of which left one overriding motivation to drive participation in the Mists: pride. For a while, server pride was undoubtedly real. In the same way true sports fans will support their team - and only their team - regardless of how badly the players play or what jackasses the coaches are, so GW2's hardcore WvW aficionados battled for nothing more than the pride of the name.

    Inc to defend Hills (on foot)

    The coming of Multiserver technology poked a hole in that balloon. Where it used to be common practice for a beleaguered world to send someone to Lion's Arch to rally the militia over map chat, multiservers meant such pleas reached the ears of every server in the region. It quickly became both embarassing and unproductive and no-one did it any more. (The repeated destruction of Lion's Arch and the concomittant loss of a generally-accepted hub zone didn't help much either).

    Over the years, ANet have tried any number of gimmicks to encourage players into The Mists. There were the Tournaments, which I loved but which had the unfortunate effect of initiating severe burnout in commanders. There have been numerous "special event weeks" - there's one on right now - and various carrots in the form of Ascended and Legendary armor have been dangled.

    Nothing has made much of an impact on the steady decline in numbers of people logging in to fight over structures that don't matter on maps that never change. In a last-ditch attempt to keep the game mode alive we now have the doomsday proposal on Alliances that will rip everything up and start over.

    Maybe that will work. Maybe it won't. What it has done, amazingly, is revitalize WvW for those who expect the worst.

    In preparation for the new system (even though we have no idea when it will come or much of a clue what it will look like) a bunch of self-selecting heavyweight guilds decided they'd give the Alliance thing a go right now. That resulted in worlds thought dead coming back from the grave.

    Guarding Hills (the spare one)

    Something I didn't know when I wrote about the phenomenon a few weeks ago was that the bulk of the carpetbaggers who resurrected Anvil Rock were guilds from Yaks Bend, my own server. Because I haven't bothered to sign up for the new YB Discord I missed all the drama but apparently Things Were Said that cannot be unsaid and Claims Were Made that must not be allowed to stand.

    The upshot is that Yaks Bend is at war with Anvil Rock. And by great good fortune, since the split, we have found ourselves in the same match a couple of times. Suddenly we have something to fight for once again: pride.

    As Wilhelm has frequently demonstrated in his tales of EVE Online, there's nothing like a grudge to get people to put in the extra hours. The Imperium took a thrashing and Circle of Two did a few things that won't be forgotten and all that fed months of economic grinding and a whole new War in the North.

    EVE players, rightly, may regard most other MMORPGs with systems of territorial acquisition as something less than child's play by comparison, but children hold grudges too. The first week we played Anvil Rock was widely believed to be one of the most exciting Yaks Bend has had in six years. This week, the rematch, is pretty good too.

    When the half-dozen or more sizeable and active guilds (aka "The Traitors") were with us I rarely saw full zergs on YB outside of weekends. With those people gone, we have them often.

    We have commanders working in series to maintain "raids" for 10, 12, 24 or even 40 hours. I was in a squad last night where the commander tag hot-swapped twice without my even noticing, a practice which successfully keeps people following the tag for longer. I see names playing now that I haven't seen for years. The atmosphere is vibrant and exciting and the result is that I have played more WvW in two days than I normally play in a week.

    That's a lot of work for 10 AP!

    What's more, we are winning both the territory-holding game and many of the big, set-pece battles. And I'm killing a lot of pesky AR. I'm still working on getting my Ultimate Dominator title by completing the Realm Avenger achievement, for which I need to record fifty thousand player kills. After six years I'm up to 36,200 and I got almost 900 of those on Saturday and Sunday evening. Nine hundred kills in two sessions!

    As I type this, Yaks Bend holds every structure on Anvil Rock's borderland. We have waypointed all of their keeps, which was the plan when I logged out last night. While most servers like to waypoint one enemy keep for convenience, waypointing all of them - particularly their Garrison - is considered bad form by many. It's something you do to make a point.

    The point in this case is that, contrary to the exit line taken by the Traitor guilds, Yaks Bend has not "fallen apart without them". Rather the other way around, if anything. And this is what competetive games are all about: pride and rivalry.

    Pride and rivalry will motivate more people for longer than any amount of rewards. People will stay up late and go into work without having had enough sleep if it means they can hold their heads up and wave their colors high. It's not pretty and its not nice but it works.

    Which is why ANet should never have banned match-up threads.

    Thursday, September 27, 2018

    Purple Haze : GW2

    From the September 18 Patch Notes:

    In order to reduce visual noise, many effects displayed when players hit will no longer scale up on large targets.

     The Scene: Jahai Flats, just south of Almorra's Stand.

    A purple, glowing dragon the size of an aircraft hangar swoops down out of the sky, where anything up to eighty or so players are waiting. The dragon summons a vast army of purple, glowing creatures. Hundreds of them. The two sides commence to fight.

    Among the dragon's allies is a herd of centaurs. They pound around and around in circles in a tightly-packed group, stunning and knocking down anyone who can't get out of the way fast enough. Among the players allies are several dozen NPCs, half a dozen fifty-foot tall Wurms and a team of giant robots.

    As the mayhem continues, another, even bigger (but, thankfully, unseen) dragon perpetually calls down lightning strikes on anyone and everyone. The lightning is purple and glowy.

    Throughout the event, which lasts around a quarter of an hour, more purple, glowy mobs spawn, inexorably and endlessly. Occasionally much bigger mobs, called Rifstalkers, spawn. They are purple. And glowy.

    The dragon, the rifstalkers, the lightning and many of the creatures cover the ground with red and orange circles, arcs, crescents. Certain players find themselves experiencing flashbacks to the early 1990s.

    Meanwhile, every player and every player's pet and/or minion fires off any and every spell, attack and ability they can think of and/or heals themselves and/or everyone around them and/or dodges and rolls about all over the place as if on fire. Which most of them are.

    Just to add to the gaiety of nations, some people flap around on griffons, swooping into the frenzy in the hope of unleashing the special attack given to flying mounts for this specific event.

    The overall effect is, I like to imagine, somewhat akin to being inside The Feldman Fireworks factory the day Frank Drebin happened to drive by. On mushrooms. You or Drebin. Probably both.

    Seriously, I love this fight. It's insane! Doing it as an Elementalist in glass cannon berserker build is a crazed non-stop fun riot and that's just me trying to stay alive!

    If this is what happens when ANet decide to tone down the "visual noise" I can't wait for the next graphical downgrade.

    Monday, September 24, 2018

    Brass In Pocket: EQ2

    I love in-game holidays and special events. Really, I can't get enough of them. Even so, they do come with a few... issues, shall we say.

    It doesn't really scream "Iksar"
    Issues like, for example, who should get to wear the new outfit? The Water Wielder and Earth Wielder sets you can get with the currency from EQ2's pre-expansion warm-up both look fantastic but the former is really suited to a finger-waggler of some sort while the latter would probably best fit a Druid.

    I don't have a Druid so that sorts that, but I do have cloth casters of several stripes: a Wizard, a Warlock and a Necromancer. The Warlock and the Wizard looked at themselves in the wardrobe mirror, wearing the new appearance gear, and promptly decided they preferred what they already had.

    The Necromancer, who is still in the boosted Level 100 gear from a year or two ago, was very happy to get a makeover but was disappointed to find that, as an Iksar, the new robe automagically turned itself into yet another bell-bottomed pants suit.

    As a result, no-one's wearing it. All the pieces appear to be fully tradeable, not even Heirloom, so I may pass it on to another account. I have a very badly-dressed Magician who might be glad of it.

    16 of 41 currencies... so far
    Another perennial problem is forgetting to spend the currency at all. These days, I'm very pleased to say, the coins and tokens almost always end up in a magic wallet so you no longer have to find somewhere to store them, which is just as well since I try to do all the one-off events and most of the repeatable ones and they all have their own currencies.

    They are mostly flagged "Heirloom", which you would think would mean they would appear in all your character's wallets but as far as I can tell they don't. They stay with whoever picked them up and if there's a way to move them I can't find it.

    In most cases it doesn't matter all that much because the items you buy with them are also likely to be Heirlooms. My Berserker had the new Elemental Storm Shreds so he bought a set of Water Wielder armor and put it in the shared bank for the casters to try on. Not that they thanked him.

    For himself he bought the Rust Colored Kitten he wanted. As a ratonga, he has a bit of a thing about cats. He went straight to his Maj'Dul mansion, where another issue arose. He has a lot of stuff. Too much for one house, even a large one like his main home. It takes about twenty seconds to load his front hall - on a good day.

    He has other residences, naturally. No-one in Norrath has just the one house. The problem there is remembering where they are. Also decorating them all. And, dash it, the Maj'Dul house is home. He has a cosy inn room and he already spends far too much time at his Mara Estate, where he put the shared materials storage and the plant that gives the daily rare. He doesn't need to start decorating yet another place.

    Stand well back - furniture loading in...

    He may yet have to, all the same. His main home is now so full I have to think twice then think again before putting anything new down. It's already teeming with wandering creatures, like a badly-maintained country zoo, so I don't think one smallish kitten will make much difference.

    As well as the kitten he also had the Raging Elemental plushie from the collect, which he finally finished. The last shiny was rare enough that another fifty or so Shreds had popped into his wallet before it dropped. That particular collect is going for over 4000 Platinum on the broker right now.

    He has a "trick". It's washing himself. He's only little...
    Plushies don't roam like house pets so he was able to place the thing in the "weird" room, where all the slightly disturbing stuff goes. Well, some of it. There's a lot out on the terrace and down in the courtyard, too. EQ2 has plenty of weird.

    All of that took me an hour or so and got rid of two-thirds of my Shreds. I didn't buy any of the other house items I wanted because I thought I probably ought to have some idea where I was going to put them first.

    If we get close to the end of the event and I still haven't decided, though, I guess it would be better to grab them and stash them in a moving crate for the time being. Better that than ending up with yet another unspent currency in my wallet with no NPC left in the game to take it.

    As I said: issues. Still, rather have them than not, eh?

    Sunday, September 23, 2018

    Some Thoughts After Revisiting Dragon's Stand In Late 2018: GW2

    Last week I read an interesting post at MMOBro entitled "When Is an MMO Really Dead?". Tyler (of Superior Realities) split the concept of MMO death into four stages: Decline, Maintenance Mode, Closure and Extinction, making the point that MMOs are a lot harder to kill than people seem to think.

    The whole idea of games being "dead" is an odd one to begin with. I don't recall anyone ever sticking their head round the door of a pub and asking "Is darts dead?" before deciding whether to come in and chuck some arrows.

    Even in video-gaming, the concept of mortality seems to rest solely with online games. Various companies have been making a good living for years now out of reselling not just old games but also the retrofitted hardware to play them on. Syp has a series at Bio Break where he plays ancient games from before the discovery of fire and no-one seems to think that's weird.

    Apparently MMOs are different. Quite a lot of people seem to want a written guarantee that they won't be wasting their time on a daed gaem before they're even willing to "risk" creating a free account. What risk it is that they think they'd be taking, I'm not sure. The loss of an hour or two that could have been better spent translating "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" into Sanskrit, perhaps?

    People even ask the question of MMOs that are self-evidently vital and vibrant. What anyone means when they claim World of Warcraft is dead is beyond rational interpretation. If WoW, with its hundreds of servers, millions of players and ability to spawn a major Hollywood movie a decade after launch, is dead then presumably almost all other Western MMOs are cremated and scattered to the four winds, their very names no longer even a memory.

    In the week that I read Tyler's post there was a thread on the first page of the Guild Wars 2 forum titled something like "Is GW2 dead?". I'd link it but it's gone now, or at least I couldn't see it on the first seven pages, which was as far as I could be bothered to look.

    I imagine it was removed. ANet don't have much of a sense of humor when it comes to people claiming their bread and butter has fallen face down on the shag pile and who can blame them?

    It's hard (although not impossible) to imagine it was a genuine query, anyway. You have to have bought a copy of GW2 even to post on the forum so it's a bit disengenuous to go there and ask if the game is dead - you could just log in and look for yourself.

    Which people do. Not that it makes them any less likely to be trolls. After all, if someone makes an account for an MMO, creates a character, then logs in just to guffaw "People still play this thing?" you have to assume an ulterior motive.

    Trolling aside, there are good reasons to be cautious when choosing a new-to-you MMO or even returning to an old favorite. It's there in the title: Massively Multiple. Kind of suggests the games require a critical mass of people to make them viable. But do they?

    Back in the day there might not have been all that much you could do without either a bare minimum of half a dozen staunch friends or a pool of  pugs to slot and fit into a group session. And that's not even touching raids.

    You'll notice I'm using the subjunctive even for that scenario. I'm not personally convinced it was ever true that you had to have lots of people online at once to enjoy an MMORPG. As the century turned, I learned to play EverQuest  on the Test server, where I sometimes never even saw another player in an entire session, far less grouped with one.

    Still, for the sake of argument let's say it was true then. It's surely not now. One of the loudest grumbles from complainers' corner these last few years has been over the supposed way MMOs have all turned into single player games. We're all online, playing alongside each other, hopelessly alone, apparently.

    The mechanics of many MMOs have even been tweaked to the point that other players actually make progress harder. Someone was complaining about that very thing in the latest Living Story for GW2, where trying to do the main narrative instances in a group is apparently awkward and offputting.

    If you don't need other players to play the game then how can it be dead without them? The NPCs and mobs are still there and these days it's likely they'll scale in difficulty to match your level and your numbers. If they don't, chances are there'll be a Solo setting on the dungeon door to fit your circumstances or a computer-controlled mercenary or three just waiting for you to drop them a few gold so you can group with some imaginary friends instead of trying to badger your real ones into playing.

    MMORPGs in 2018 can pretty much play themselves. Players are all but optional. The games could all run on indefinitely, perfectly prepared for the occasional visitor, providing an hour or two of innocent entertainment in much the same manner as a What The Butler Saw machine might have done in a seaside arcade between the wars. Okay, not exactly like that...

    A lack of players in itself doesn't make for a dead MMORPG. Left alone, MMOs don't die. They carry on regardless, neither knowing nor caring that they've been forgotten. No, if you want shot of an MMO, it has to be killed.

    Sometimes it's a simple business decision. Sometimes there's a political or personal factor. If the servers are shutting down , though, you can bet that someone, somewhere, sometime, made it happen.

    Of course, knowing it was someone's choice to flip the switch doesn't make it any easier when the last world goes dark, sending your characters on a one-way trip to oblivion. And that's why everyone is so nervous all the time. Nervous enough to ask "is this game dead?"when it so obviously is not. It isn't now but it might be one day and that would hurt.

    You know what? There are no guarantees. Nothing lasts forever, not the games, not the characters, not the players. If there's one server up the game's not dead. If you want to play, give it a go. What have you got to lose? After all, as they say in PvP , it's not like you're going to die in real life, right?

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