Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

Joining a Raiding Guild

So on Saturday, someone I had previously grouped with messaged me and asked me if I wanted to join this new raiding guild that was starting up. Now normally I would generally say screw off, and move along. But of late, I have been fairly unhappy with both the game and with our recent raiding alliance.

Now notice that I do not say that I have been unhappy with my guild because I haven’t been. In fact, the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting along with people in my guild a lot better than I had in a long time and I’ve been having fun. Especially since one of our old friends had returned for the expansion. However, though I’ve had a good time when they have been on, with our smaller groups, it is still however fairly infrequent. Which is actually quite surprising because right before the expansion it was looking really good, we were getting more than 10 players on every evening on a regular basis. Then two people left, one we didn’t care about because we suspected he was just a bot anyway and the other wanted better raiding. Then a few others just stopped logging in, then the expansion hit and a number of people I think are frustrated by it and just don’t play as often and all of a sudden, it isn’t working. On top of that our raiding alliance isn’t that great.

Now I will give you a history of the character recruited. I created him for a previous alliance whom really needed a defiler (and additional healers) for their raid force. After a small falling out our guild stopped going with them and we joined another alliance. This new alliance has no guard, or even zerk for that matter, and has a wealth of shamans… so many in fact that I have been #3 shaman when I am going and thusly very bored. Even so I tended to outparse (hps) the other healers in the raid and this angered me even more as I was not better equipped than them. All this tended to frustrate me even more so (and I get that yes Defilers can ward out of group which is one of the reasons why it is so great, but our group heals/wards do not and if I can outparse another defiler who is using those, I think something is up). I also tended to get frustrated that because they didn’t have real raid tanks, that the target would change a lot, and not a little. Often by the time the ward would go off, the target would change. Often cycling through no less than 4 targets, sometimes even warlocks and wizards (which isn’t surprising.

So in the end I felt very unneeded with this character and unused which was so annoying to me because this character’s entire purpose was to help out raids and he was not. On top of this the frustration of the expansion has left me wanting to cancel my account and here comes this guy… offering a better experience. To say this was a tough choice was hard to say the least because I absolutely adore my guild, I don’t want to be stuck into a more hardcore schedule, and I don’t like rules. But still I want a better experience and that is what I might be getting. As an aspiring game designer I also feel the need to experience these types of guilds to understand where they are coming from. And in addition I’m not particularly ready to quit EQ2 because I think this is overall the best game out there.

So here I am joining a guild I never would have thought I would join. I never have liked raiding guilds. I generally think they are bad for the game and bad for the community, I think that what they do should be done naturally without all the hubbub. But then people tend to be too greedy or uncaring to get it done. So we have to do it with strict rules & schedules. I figure at the very least I can try it for a few weeks and if the commitment of it really isn’t working then I can just bow out, they have a decent backup Defiler already, they are just looking for a main… and I am looking to be a main… so maybe it will work.

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EQ2-Daily Props

About a year ago or maybe more, I had started a site whose purpose was to provide the EQ2 community with current news on the status of the game. Part of this was because most of the news out there was fairly bad and ill-reported. I wanted to provide more than just random crap put together in a badly designed website that was eq2-daily.com. My site was cleanly put together, I didn’t just post everything that I found, I tried to keep it new, relavant and interesting. Despite the fact that I had a stable amount of visitors and I was doing fine, I decided to close the site because I just didn’t have the time to do it alone and could not find others to help.

So a few months ago, EQ2-Daily went through a redesign and after some visitation I must admit that their site is now perhaps the best MMO news site design online that I have seen anywhere. It is extremely intuitive, very clean looking, no longer the eyesore that it once was, and very well laid out. Props to whoever did the design.

Their news is still basic at best and more an aggrigator for blogs and other news sites than actual EQ2 news, but the site design is now great which was one of my original complaints about it. I would still like to see them gear away from the wiki (as eq2i is way better and theirs is taking away possible submissions), and start adding more stories from developers themselves.. for instance, while it is easy to actually go yourself to the official forums and see developer posts, it’d be nice if someone would post the good ones so you don’t have to wade through devs posting such gems as “lol” to get to the real posts where they are talking about new features coming out and why they did them. Those stories are still absent and it is shameful, the only time you can hear from a developer about the game is by digging or on the occasion that they do an interview with a different site.

EQuinox reviewed

I got my copy of EQuinox a few weeks ago and have read through most of it… I haven’t read 2 of the fan fictions within the magazine but now that school has started I don’t think I’m really going to have time to get to it for awhile, so I’m just going to review it without those two pieces.

First, I’d like to say right off the bat that I think this magazine is geared right towards roleplayers. Nearly everything in the magazine is explained in a way that is geared so that roleplayers might be ok with it. They also give tips on how to roleplay better in a number ways, from directly, to showing some successful roleplay, to events and places that people have created to roleplay. Even the two guides they put in on classes were done in a roleplay fashion. In all, it probably worked to differentiate the magazine from the internet… after all if they just put in what was commonly accessible online, then why would people pay for it? Still, if you don’t like roleplay you may have a harder time with this, in fact the articles I liked the best tended to be ones that didn’t rely on it so much.

The articles I did like were Cyanbane’s and Aggrome’s. These two articles were fairly good, but really only took up a page, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both put their articles online if it hadn’t been for the magazine, hell they might have done so as it was. I also really enjoyed the article on the tavern on AB, and can even imagine that from that article a lot of people give it a try on various other servers. It was interesting at the very least.

There were articles on Rise of Kunark and Legends of Norrath, however they didn’t really say anything new, and I felt this was a real opportunity missed by SOE. Here SOE is with inside information and they could have used the magazine to reveal something about both that hadn’t previously been said, but instead they recapped months old news for the most part. I think the most interesting thing from either article was that originally the RoK griffons were going to have a new tint but they cut that out from time constraints (would have been cool had they done it).

Similarly, they missed another opportunity with their news/notes sections which have small updates from their various factions of SOE (like Europe & Korea)… the idea of events that they have coming up and that they’ve done was good, however I don’t really care that much about those servers, and it would have been nice if they had some upcoming events posted from the various American servers. As it was they didn’t even do a similar recap for the American servers, which kind of sucked.

The one fan fiction that I got a chance to read was actually much better than I expected and I look forward to reading future installments in the series. Though, again I think it would have been nice had SOE paid for someone on staff to right some cannon fiction for the game that would have gone into lore, history, or current events in the game that could be considered standard lore. I think this would have been a nice touch and maybe they do it if they feel the magazine is a sucess in the future.

The profiles on the Dirge and the Alchemist were fairly good actually, I really liked the tables on the various spells & items, and the articles themselves were far more enjoyable than I originally thought they would be.

However, the zone run through wasn’t very good at all, and I could have done without it entirely. I think they need to be more in depth on this in the future as I went through most of the article trying to remind myself which zone it was supposed to be in the first place because the narrative of it made me feel like it was more a piece of fan fiction rather than a run through of any particular zone.

In the future, I would personally like to see more from SOE instead of just a collection of fan submitted stuff. I think fan stuff is nice to have in there, but I almost think they overdid it. I think for fan submittal they could maybe continue the class profiles, the two small articles such as Cyan & aggrome did, the one bigger article like the player run tavern, one fan fiction, and then some fan questions and art. Then they need to supplement that with behind the scenes, staff fiction, server/game news, and new never before seen previews. They need to use what they have as a company, as it stands, they seem a lot more like a fan zine and less like an official magazine. Overall, I like the concept, think the quality is decent, but not worth the high price tag of the magazine. Though I also imagine this to be a likely quarterly magazine instead of monthly or bi-monthly.

Lost

I have been very retrospective of my MMO career the past week. I’ve been thinking of past friends, past games, past joy, past sorrow. I look at where I am now and where I’ve been, and I wonder what happened to me. There are many things I wouldn’t change about myself at all. My knowledge about the genre in general, and how to act for two. But then I wonder why I’m not as nice as I once was, why my goals in the game has changed so drastically much, why my play style, while still playing a lot has changed to the point of unrecognizing the importance of what you do.

When I was younger, I didn’t play for the loot quite as much, I didn’t play for the levels. I played because I wanted to hang out with my friends that I met online. Even more important I wanted to meet new people. I loved meeting all the various people online, in fact I can just think of my younger self telling me how foolish I am now for not wanting to do that still. Now, I am extremely anti-social, as much so online as I am off, something that never used to be true. I once thought the greatest part of these games was your ability to meet people whom you would have no chance of meeting in real life, no longer. Now it is all about the stats, the gear, the loot.

I once liked all those things, but it was never important. Yeah we would go out and camp the giants in YS to get some quick xp in order to level up a few times in a night, but it was more about hanging out with my friends. Now, even when I am out with friends, there is little fun to be had, it is more about finishing quickly so that we can earn more xp or get more loot than before. A good example of this is our raid alliance which is considering going DKP, and we instantly start thinking about setting up our own raids, and i start thinking about “do we have the pieces to do it?” Instantly I start thinking of all the classes that we have in our guild, and all the classes that another guild has that would come with so that we can have successful raids. But now, I sit here and wonder, why do we even care about raids? There are plenty of difficult places that we could go to hang out as a group. Raids are just a means to an end and we can find that end elsewhere. Yes the loot is nice, but it is secondary and somewhere I’ve lost track of that.

I’ve lost track of what these games are really about. And while I know that it is about hanging with friends, and not about loot, stats, or how fast we can go through a zone, I don’t really know how I can get back. I can on the base stop caring about loot and all that… but will it make me the more pleasant, fun, carefree, and outgoing player that I once was? I don’t know. I wish I knew how to be that guy again, but I don’t, and it makes me really sad. Because truth be told, I had a lot more fun back in those days when I was that player.

Gold Pharmers

Back in the days of Asheron’s Call and Ultima Online, a lot of people sold stuff on eBay and made some money. I personally sold stuff in order to make up the cost of the game to help myself afford it, since at the time I did not have a job, this was a luxury that needed to pay for itself, and it did. I probably paid for about a year and a half this way and was happy to have the ability to do it. At this time, there were people who farmed for money, but not many, and most of them were players like me who were in reality just trying to make some money if they could. At best you would make about $20k a year which is by no one’s means a good salary.

Then the various companies started to put pressure on ebay to shut the auction business down, and slowly but surely the amount of chinese pharmers went up. You see the pharmers work for websites that make a business out of selling gold, the players used ebay who didn’t care either way. That is not to say that I don’t think pharmers wouldn’t be around now if ebay were still legal, but they probably wouldn’t be as relevant as there would be far more competition out there. There wouldn’t be as much profit, and as such, not as many i don’t think.

Why I bring this up is that no matter what game developers do, pharmers are here to stay whether we like it or not. The devs pretty much opened up the door for them to become big, and now they can’t close that door back down. Raph Koster thinks the best idea is to get rid of items and gold entirely to stop them, but I doubt this would even work.

First of all Raph is somehow missing the point on why many people play these games: the loot. People love to hate it, truth is that it is huge in the grand scope of things. The one game that tried to do away with loot was City of Heroes which failed after its initial 3 months largely due to its lack of end game (which loot is part of). If you took out loot and money completely, these games would be short term, 2-3 month games which may be good for some people. Raph may like that because then he doesn’t get stuck on the same project for years upon years.

If you go the other way, and start making everything no-trade, no drop, or soul bound as various other games have tried. You still end up with the gold farmers coming in on a different aspect and actually getting particular items for you. Many farmers already do this. In fact, I once heard a story about a team pharmers who were trying to set up a raid pharm that would allow other players to come into the raid to get an item from the raid as raids are one of the few places pharmers don’t really touch right now which is strange.

So how do you minimize the impact of pharming? Now as I kind of insinuated at the beginning of this article, I actually don’t mind people buying and selling in game items for real world money. As long as you can still get the same in game items & money without using real money, I’m cool with it. My real problem tends to be how pharming really kills in-game economies and in addition takes away some prime real estate from players, as well as increasing general lag and bandwidth costs of companies.

As much as people whine about MMOs being a fair playing space where everyone has the same chance, I don’t think this is even true anymore. Most people in the real world sink time in order to get rich, and this happens in the games too. If you don’t have the time to get rich in game because you are rich out of game, why not use the out of game resources in game? Likewise, if you get rich in game because you have the time to sink in it, then why not get resources out of game for that time sunk?

With all that in mind, I’ve started to wonder about the concept of having the company itself sell in game currency to players. By doing this, you basically negate the need for the gold pharms. Gold is the easiest things for these people to make money off from and thus you would be taking away that source. People could still sell money, but it would be insecure and would also have to be cheaper than the company line which could really cut into the profitability of these pharms. Hell, maybe as part of the deal, the player can sell money back into the game (at a lower cost) in order to even out the amount of cash that is in the economy in the game. After all something would need to be done to counterbalance the in game economy problem that this might create.

I don’t know if this would work, but it seems like an interesting option. It would essentially be printing money, which is in essence doing the same thing that is already being done without the prime spots being camped and lagged down, and lessening in game advertising.

Guild Troubles

This last weekend we had some guild drama. So our guild has never been big, and many in our guild do not want it to be big (leaders included). It is a rule free, fairly rank free guild, that by design is meant to limit the drama and strangers (some might call this family oriented).

A couple of months ago, someone left EQ2 for Lords of the Rings Online. This actually hurt the guild quite a bit. When a guild only has about a dozen regulars, losing one is big. But this guy was different than just a regular, he was home and disabled and thus always on, and even more importantly, always willing to help.  This meant that he was a big part in the day to day life of most of the other guildmates as he was even on when the rest of the server wasn’t. When he left, shortly after another person left, whom I think had only stuck around for the other player in the first place, and that guy took with him 1 regular and several who rarely played. So in the span of about a month, our guild lost 3 regulars and some random others.

Like I said, for a guild with a dozen regulars, this is huge (25% of our regulars, can you imagine?). However, this wasn’t the end of it, simultaneously to this, many of the main core (which numbers another 3 or 4) decided to spend more time out with each other (they are family) and their kids and enjoy the summer.

We could have likely dealt with one of these two scenarios happening, but we had both. We went from a small guild to a tiny guild. What makes this yet worse is that the few who were on came on at dramatically different times; day side, night side and kiwi time. So we opened up recruiting. We’ve always been on the lookout for new peeps, but we never actively recruited. We brought in a bunch of people to replace some of the older ones. Some worked, some didn’t.

On Friday morning I was talking to a few of these new recruits and trying to get them to come on a raid that evening. The impression I got was that 1 of the 3 would come, the other two were unsure if they could because the woman called her family back in the states at that time (a couple who lived in New Zealand). I said that was fine, maybe another time would work. That evening, the husband logged in, asked if they were coming, he mentioned that his wife was on the phone but he was coming. I assumed that meant she was not coming, but in truth he apparently mentioned that she was and I totally missed it. I saved a spot for the two i knew were coming, and then when the third one came and asked to join I said we were full. Which we were. She told me that he had in fact said she was coming and I realized that this likely happened though I missed it. She got really pissed off… I offered her a plat to start with for my screwup, she didn’t want it. Then I offered her my spot and she didn’t want it. At this point I pretty much gave up because I had no idea what else to do and she left the guild. She said she wasn’t really leaving because of me, but more because there was never anyone on during their time zone and they were fed up with the lack of people in the guild (apparently they also misinterpreted our guild leader when she told them that we didn’t want a bigger guild as saying we were happy with the 3 or 4 players we had).

So later that evening, they approached another regular member who actually recruited them and asked him to start his own guild that they could all join. He did. This started a panic on my part because without him, there really was only one regular left besides myself. I realized that with just 2 people in the guild being regular, we had no chance to rebuild the guild. Hell even with 4 (assuming 2 of the leaders returned) we didn’t have a huge chance of doing it. I immediately began talking to some friends who are leaders of another guild about a merger.

Well as all mergers go, that didn’t work out… they didn’t wanna merge into us, we didn’t wanna merge into them. It is difficult to pry leaders away from their position. I don’t think it was helpin that the other guild wasn’t even willing to bring us in as anything more than recruits, to us that isn’t a merger, that is a mass recruiting… to merge, you really gotta offer at least one person of the opposing guild a leadership position, or at the very least officer so that the other guild can make sure that their former members will still be attended to.

Eventually we talked to the guy who left as the new guild leader, and cooler heads prevailed and he came back. I think we also made it known that the other two were not really welcome back. I think the consensus was that while she had valid complaints, the way she went about dealing with them was not appropriate for a good guild. So the issue has resolved for now. The leaders have decided to try to increase their playtime a little more, to be in conjunction with the guy who left to start the guild. In order to help him stay entertained until we pick up numbers. The guy has resumed his recruiting of various people, he is working on an illusionist now who seems to have some more daytime like hours which would help a lot. I’ve personally started inquiring about people who I didn’t want to really approach previously because they were already in guilds. Though they haven’t turned out well, I applaud my effort to try. I also have begun work on creating a real website for the guild to help showcase who we are to allow people to join easier.

I have a feeling we will be dealing with this again soon, but the hope is that we can make it to the expansion because it is likely that many people will be playing more, as well as a new influx of newbs may bring more people into the guild again. We’ll see.

Neriak returns to EQ

With the recent announcement that Neriak will be returning to the Everquest universe, I’m pretty excited. Yeah it is cool that something with a given history like EQ1 lore in it is making its way into EQ2, but I never played EQ1 much so that part I don’t care about. What is exciting about the announcement is that it is coming (I think along with another low level zone) free of charge later this month. Yeah you heard me!

So apparantly Sony must have initially come up with plans for 2 player races with the newest expansion but realized that it was just too much work so they cut one side out of it and just released Kelethin and the Fae. So the early rumors of a dark fae turned out to be true in reality, I figured it was something that got cut out of the expansion, but something I wasn’t expecting to see again. They apparantly decided that instead of getting rid of it entirely that they could unload the work over to the SOTA team (they are the team that runs the asian versions and have done Fallen Dynasty and the SOTA graphics previously). This move was brilliant because then, yes it’d take about 6-9 months longer to do, but they can continue working on other stuff and have more content coming with a unique and different feel to it that really rounds out the world, and helps give areas that feel better to the asian market.

Now EQ2’s free content this year seems huge, absolutely huge. They released Unrest earlier in the year, redid the quests in butcherblock, redid Darkfist Citadel, added the warg mount, finished the last 4 or 5 Hoolah hats, and now they are adding 2 newbie zones and a new player race, just amazing.

I wonder where Neriak is going to be? I don’t know the original location, I know it is underground which makes it fairly easy to put a hole anywhere for the new entrance. I think it was originally located through Fallen Gate off the Commonlands, but given this is part of the faydwer stuff I would almost expect it to be more off butcherblock or something. (Since BB picks up at about level 20 and the new zones are going to be 1-20 this would make sense). This could also explain why they went back through BB a couple months ago and fleshed its quests out more, to help the next influx of new characters….

So right now my plan for my new alt is to make a Defiler since that is a fairly needed class both in the game in general and also by our guild. And I think I’m also going to be upgrading my account to the access pass so that I get the two extra character slots. Maybe we can start having guild days in other MMOs SOE does too cause I think most of us have the access pass and at least the base copies of a few of the games (like EQ1 and SWG).