Are you an entitled player?

entitlement3If nothing else, my ArcheAge post from last week showed that there are definitely passionate feelings on both sides of the pro-PvE server/anti-PvE server discussion.  Not being as intimately familiar with the game as some folks, I learned a bit about the makeup of the game and how, indeed, a PvE server might not be feasible even if Trion wanted it to be.  But my wish remains: that I’d love to experience this particular sandbox MMO — as it looks pretty nifty in so many areas — but not in a PvP setting.

Anyway, one of the comments on that post used (and then retracted) the word “entitlement,” which is a label that seems to be applied often and liberally these days in (but certainly not exclusive to) the MMO scene.  The misapplication of entitlement bugs me a bit because it feels like a cheap shot to shut someone down who disagrees with you on a way that an MMO should be run/structured/added on to.  Kind of like how we over-plaster “hipster” on folks and trends that we don’t like, whether or not they’re actually connected to the hipster movement.

The word “entitlement” has so many negative connotations associated with it that getting slapped with it is going to stink up your reputation something fierce.  And I have no doubt that some gamers act as if they’re entitled to everything, at the center of their own narcissistic universe… but that doesn’t mean that everyone’s like this, even if they want something about an MMO to change.

Entitlement means that you have a right to something by virtue of who you are or what you have done.  I paid the cashier at McDonald’s a dollar, I am entitled to a sodium-laden cheeseburger.  Another definition — and this is the one that’s probably used in MMO arguments — is “the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).”  The word “arrogant” should probably be attached to “entitlement” here in many instances.  In larger society, entitlement is seen as people demanding things now just because they want them so very badly, but not as a result of any time, effort, money, or resources spent to earn or deserve them.

So the following is how I see what entitlement is and is not when it comes to being part of the MMO community — and please let me know if this jives with how you see it or if I’m off-base here.  I’m geniunely curious.

  • Entitlement is when you feel a game should change for you personally.  Entitlement is not when you have a desire to see a game change in some way, but stop short of demanding (or throwing a tantrum) over it.
  • You are entitled when you see game development as something that services you first and foremost.  You are not entitled when you understand that you are part of a community and can fathom why devs will be making features that are (in their eyes) for the best of the game and the larger community even if they’re not up your alley.
  • If I pay for a game service, I am entitled to what the studio has promised for that payment (access to the game, delivery of an item purchased, etc.).  If I’m playing but not paying, then my claim on even those factors is skimpy at best.
  • I’m entitled to get whatever’s coming to me within the established rules of the game for the actions that I take.  I have no grounds for entitlement when I want advancement/virtual goods in exchange for no effort on my part, just because I see others — who have earned them — possessing them and I want a slice of cake too.
  • Since I’m agreeing to a studio’s EULA when I play its game, my “rights” are pretty much subject to whatever the studio has laid out in that electronic contract.  I may feel that I am entitled to be treated a certain way in the game, but what’s really motivating the studio to do anything is to avoid bad publicity and keep as many consumers using its product as possible.  It doesn’t HAVE to do anything it doesn’t want to unless there is an actual law that touches on some aspect of the service (a studio cannot use my account information for fraud, for example).

My general feeling of where the line lays with entitlement is whether or not you believe that a studio has to do something because you want it to.  I’ve yet to meet a person who is completely OK with everything an MMO has and does, and does not want to see anything changed, added, or taken away — but that is not necessarily entitlement.  We all have opinions, desires, and wish lists, and part of the fun of being an MMO player is sharing those and discussing them.

It’s when people become self-deluded, perhaps through a feedback loop of reading other forum posts confirming their desire, is when there’s a danger of moving over into arrogant entitlement.  It’s no longer a wish or something one lobbies for (on, say, a blog); it becomes a bold declaration that this HAS to happen, and how DARE the devs not make it so right away.  The “or else” is implied and is about as empty a threat as can be.  Or else what, you’ll just whinge some more?  Stop playing?  Create a (snort) internet petition?

However, the problem with carelessly slinging around “entitlement” is that it eventually makes a hypocrite of us all.  Sooner or later your expressed desire for change or a feature could get you labeled as entitled by someone who disagrees with you.

I’m not short on opinions, but there’s a difference between expressing those and demanding them.  I may not agree with the actions of a studio, I may not play a game or may leave because of those actions, and I may express disapproval with what happened, but I’m hopefully grown up enough to accept it, be happy for those who are getting what they desire, and eventually move on.

The Walking Dead: In Harm’s Way thoughts

in-harms-way_01If your path is predestined by the game gods (devs), does that mean that your choices don’t matter?  Or does that mean that they matter more than ever, because how you get there is more important than where you end up?

I’m kind of feeling that Telltale Games’ philosophy is all about the latter, especially having played through the third episode of The Walking Dead Season 2.  Like pretty much every episode in the series so far, it’s unrelentingly grim, this time throwing Clementine’s group into a horrible situation in the midst of another horrible situation.

The sociopath leader Carver has finally caught up and captured the group, partially because he couldn’t abide their escape from his fortress and mostly because Rebecca is pregnant with (probably) his child.  Carver is undoubtably one of the most chilling villains that this series has produced to date, as he’s got that mix of genial charm that lulls you into false security before he shows how much of a remorseless killer, torturer, and all-around jerk.

Carver takes the group back to his HQ at Howe’s Hardware, a place that would actually be a great hideout from the zombie epidemic if it wasn’t for the horrible concentration camp atmosphere.  There’s little doubt or debate among the group that they must escape once more, the only question is how to do it and how to survive until that moment arrives.

Clementine continues to be a very different type of protagonist.  Her youth makes it hard for the grown-ups to always take her at face value, but she’s got sneaking around skills that are invaluable as well as some decent combat moves.  I just feel bad that she can’t ever seem to get a break, being thrust among people that aren’t too stable or trustworthy (Kenny, you got anger issues, dude) and coming up against even worse folks.  One would think that a worldwide disaster like this would get people to band together for survival and be more in a helpful than destructive mood, but oh well.

It wasn’t hard to slip into Clem’s head for this episode.  I played her as quietly simmering with anger.  She’s had it with the way everyone’s treating each other and her.  In most dialogue exchanges, particularly with Carver, Reggie, and Bonnie, she didn’t say anything at all, just looked evil dead in the eye and waited for her chance.

The big choices here aren’t terribly big nor were they agonizing to choose between.  There was one tacked on at the end that indicated that Clem could be going down the same path that Carver did, but even though the game wants me to think so, I’m not buying it.  Clem wants justice.  She wants safety and freedom and family.  And she’s bone-weary about all of these things being taken away from her time and again.

One of the best new characters in this episode was Jane, a woman of few words and great abilities.  You could tell from the get-go that she had an unbowed spirit and street smarts, and her shining moment at the end showed me that she’s got great potential as an ally.  Reminds me a lot of Molly, to be honest.

I’m more than a little concerned where the game is going from here.  I wish everyone could just settle down and live, but that wouldn’t be much of a game, would it?  So they’re on the move once again, with one major threat vanquished but who knows how many to come.

Am I looking forward to upcoming games at all right now? No.

As a gamer, I have to admit that I feel pretty sated.  Even if no new MMOs came out again, I think I’d have enough variety and choices to keep me occupied until I was long into a nursing home.  Having to say “no” to games that I wish I could play but have no time for is a bittersweet part of my life.  The upside is that I’m rolling in gaming goodness, pretty much playing WildStar nonstop with some Guild Wars 2 and Secret World here and there.  I suppose that I will be getting back into LOTRO for Update 14 as well.

If I could clone myself?  Syp 2 would be all about Fallen Earth, and Syp 3 would probably do the D&D route with Neverwinter and DDO.  Syp 4 would have no problem getting back into RIFT and preparing for the Nightmare Tides expansion.  Syp 5 would do my chores, because he’s the butt monkey of the clone pod.

But with all that occupies my attention right now, there’s little left in my life to pine for something new.  Usually that happens when the regular gets too familiar and there’s a growing itch to explore fresh territory, but I don’t see that happening soon.  I hope not, at least.

Sure, there are a few titles that I wouldn’t resist playing if they were plunked down in front of me, such as ArcheAge and a fully fleshed-out Landmark, but I don’t have to worry about that right now.  Further out on the MMO front… I guess EverQuest Next has me the most excited for a major game release.  Maybe H1Z1 if there’s a PvE server.   Maaaaaybe one of the crowdfunded MMOs if the end product lives up to a quarter of the hype that the teams/community are generating.

And yeah, there are a few single-player titles that I’ll probably pick up.  Wasteland 2, definitely, that’s a high priority one.  Sims 4 and Dragon Age Inquisition are up there as well.  And really anything new from Telltale Games.

At least right now, I’m just not looking ahead to the future, but concentrating firmly on the present.  It’ll probably be another few months before I hit level 50 in WildStar anyway, and I’m already behind in Guild Wars 2’s new season.  I don’t need to be a game glutton, I guess.

Eating frogs

frogDo you like to procrastinate?  Yeah, me too.  I am always very busy, sometimes too busy in my life, and I’ve developed a bad habit of continually shoving distasteful tasks to the backburner while engaging in the “fun” ones.  But I noticed about a year ago that I was getting a little too disorganized and letting too many things slip, so I’ve made some conscious decisions to get on track and be more productive.

So where does that frog come into it?  It’s from this book calledEat That Frog! and I totally latched onto this idea ever since first hearing it.  In a nutshell, you look at your day’s tasks and single out which one is the biggest, toughest chore that you’re dreading the most — and then you do that first thing in the morning.  Like, you do it the second you get to work, with no stopping for email checking or web browsing or whatever.  That way you not only tackle the big, ugly project with the most energy you’ll have during the day, but once it’s out of the way, you’re actually more free to be productive (and barring that, at least you’ve done ONE important job that day).

Therefore, I’ve been eating my frogs almost every morning.  It’s also helped to have a standing desk at work, something I don’t think much about at all these days, as I’ve become very accustomed to using it.  It’s harder to be standing there doing idle web surfing than it is to slump in your chair and do the same, and it’s easier to get into the “on the go” mentality.  I also like being able to step away from my desk more often, since I’m not getting up and down, but just turning and heading out for a short break or to do something elsewhere in the building.

Since making these changes (plus relying more on a planner) I’ve found that between the hours of 8:00 and 10:30 I get a bulk of my day’s work done.  I still need to be organizing my many projects better, dividing them into small, regular chunks so that I can whittle away at them — I have a tendency to want to jump into just one task to the exclusion of all others, which doesn’t always end up well.  Still, sometimes I will block off an entire day to do just one thing that deserves my full attention.

Misery: Patch day and no power

powerIn the wee hours of Tuesday morning, a mighty storm rolled through Michigan and knocked out power to over 150,000 homes.  Our street’s power lines are obviously held up by masking tape and children’s hopes, because any time there’s a storm we get plunged back into the dark ages — and it was no different then.  Boom, power out, oh well.

While usually the company’s good at getting it back on soon, this week there have been Issues with doing so.  We’re going on well over a day with no power and DTE is estimating that it’ll be late tonight before we see lights and blessed air conditioning again.

On one hand, you just gotta roll with stuff like this.  I still have power at work, it wasn’t so brutally hot that we were miserable all night (just half of the night), and thanks to cell phones and battery backups, we even had a modicrum of internet access.  But on the other hand, it makes working at home impossible and makes for a grumpy Syp when all of this happens on one of the largest patch days of the summer.  Also, bagging up and carting all of my food over to the church’s working fridges is a hoot.  I highly recommend taking your food on an excursion once a day.

So no, I haven’t been able to check out the new WildStar or Guild Wars 2 patch yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  I still have a report on our weekly TSW excursion that can’t go out until my computer gets juice.  But I have high hopes that I’ll be back on by tonight and will rejoin the 21st century with all its tweeting nonsense!

This summer’s starting to heat up!

yeahWhew… I’m back!  And it looks like, for once, the MMO world didn’t implode/explode/morph without me.  Good to know.  As much as I like going on mission trip, it’s nice to have it behind me so that I can stop stressing about it and start enjoying the remainder of the summer.

And what a summer it’s shaping up to be, yes?  While there are no major launches on the horizon, studios are definitely not slacking in giving me options of what to play:

  • WildStar: Even as I rolled a new Spellslinger last night and resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never see a hoverboard at level 25, nevermind hit the level cap, Carbine’s getting ready to push the Strain out in early July with tons of endgame content.  That’s fine with me — I have more than enough to do right now, and knowing that there’s fun stuff ahead waiting for me is comforting.  For the record, I really like the goofy plague theme.
  • LOTRO: My sabbatical from this title continues, although the upcoming Update 14 might drag me back in for a night or two a week.  We’re starting a new epic book and heading into Gondor (finally), and the Paths of the Dead are begging to be explored.
  • The Secret World: Our group continues to explore Issue 9 on a weekly basis, although we don’t think that we have much left to do before repeating missions.  I don’t have any idea when Issue 10 will release, although I thought I remembered Funcom mentioning mid-summer, which would be terrific.
  • Guild Wars 2: Season 2 begins tomorrow, and I’m actually a little giddy about it.  I very much applaud the Journal feature for the story, as it’s attempting to solve two big problems that the game had with season 1 (a lack of a cohesive, followable story and temporary content).  I’ll probably just keep playing my Engineer for the forseeable future.  Would be nice to finally finish mapping the WvW zones by the game’s second anniversary, but I never seem to have much luck in that department.

Outside of those games that are immediately of interest to me, RIFT just announced its second expansion and Landmark continues to develop nicely.  Both are of fringe appeal to me right now, but one never knows.  I’m also following ArcheAge’s alpha/beta closely, looking to see what Trion may be doing to cut down on the toxic community already developing.

Tack on a ton of new books coming out in July and way more TV/movies than I have time to do, and at least I won’t be bored during what entertainment time that I have.  No complaints here!

Your guide to surviving a week without Bio Break

calvinIf you’re reading this, I am no longer with you.  Now that you’ve gotten in your daily allotment of gasping, let me say that I’ll be back — I’m merely on my yearly mission trip with a gaggle of teenagers.  But this week there will be no further posts on Bio Break, a fact which may cause consternation and withdrawal symptoms among my loyal readers.

So if you’re really jonesing so hard for something to fill in the gap, here are a few recommendations:

1. Read my stuff on Massively I did pre-write a few columns that will come out this week over on Massively, stuff that is so majestically worded that it will make you weep uncontrollably.  If a loved one comes in, blame it on allergies.

2. Discover a few new bloggers.  Over on the right there is my blogroll, which isn’t just there because I’m playing some sort of intense game of Tetris that uses words, but has a collection of surprisingly good writers for you to check out.  Do it!

3. Catch up on Battle Bards It’s not only the world’s best MMO music podcast, it’s the world’s only MMO music podcast!  We have 29 excellent episodes for you to listen to, including World of Warcraft, Dead MMOs, and WildStar.  Have you listened to them all?  Have you listened to them all twice?

4. Go through one of my retro gaming series Whether it’s Planescape Torment, Space Quest, or Gabriel Knight 2, the Nostalgia Lanes page has links to several series playing through these classic games.

5. Form a support group in the comments section of this post.  I’m appointing Rowan as your designated group therapist.  I’m sure this will be a surprise to him as it is to you.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 4 thoughts

twau1One thing’s becoming clearer as we turn the corner for the final stretch of Telltale’s take on the Fables universe: This isn’t just about a murder investigation.  It’s about an investigation into what makes an entire underground society tick and what is deeply broken about it.

Looking back, you can see how The Wolf Among Us cleverly sowed the seeds of this right from the get-go, although it’s only become more prominent in episodes 3 and 4.  The deaths of two prostitutes in Fabletown (a hidden city within NYC) is just what gets Sheriff Bigby to go on a journey out of his comfort zone and into the lives of the residents.  What he finds repeatedly are fairy tale characters who are unhappy, destitute, and without hope.

Episode 4 begins in the wake of Bloody Mary’s attack on Bigby and the traumatic injuries that she inflicted.  Bigby’s onto the scent of her boss, the Crooked Man, but he’s definitely in over his head with everyone running circles around him.  Plus, what he finds is that this isn’t a case of black vs. white — the Crooked Man has ardent supporters who have nothing but good things to say about someone they see as bringing stability and wealth to the town, and the business office, which Bigby represents, is portrayed as not being able to fully protect and care for its citizenry.  When the good guys are indifferent and somewhat powerless to help and the bad guys are generous and effective, it makes for a scary situation.

While there continues to be little in the way of puzzle-solving or serious deduction, The Wolf Among Us has really excelled at putting me in the shoes of Bigby.  I don’t ever worry about which dialogue selection or action I choose — I just do what he would do in that situation.  It’s as close to actual roleplay as I’ve gotten in an adventure game and it’s scary how effective it is.  I want Bigby to be kind and helpful, but there have been so many people who have walked over him due to this and worked against him that it’s sometimes just way more satisfying to threaten and be physically brutal in response.

In chapter 4 he’s hurt and angry and still lacking the information he needs, and I can’t fully blame him for losing his temper with the populace.  However, there was a moment when the butcher was giving him the run-around that I left Bigby slam him around and squeeze his face hard enough to leave marks… after which I discovered that the butcher was really an innocent victim who was also walked upon by crooks who took advantage of his hospitality.  It made me feel like a heel, to be honest, and I couldn’t stop looking at his bruises for the rest of the scene.

I’m dying to know how the story plays out because the twists and turns that bring Bigby to the Crooked Man’s doorstep have kept me glued to the proceedings.  It’s a heckuva fine story that’s all the more effective for having some say in how it progresses, tonally if nothing else.  I hope that it will end in justice for those killed and for those oppressed.  Maybe it’s too much to hope that Bigby will get a little respect from those he’s been trying to shield during the whole quest, but let’s toss that in too.

R.I.P. River (A High Latency Life)

doggieWe’re getting news that one of our blogging brethren, River of A High Latency Life, has passed away following emergency surgery.  Riv was right up there in the thick of us Warhammer Online bloggers back in the day and was a regular writer since then.  He was just 41 and had a rather unique and vivacious personality that will be missed.  I’m sending up a prayer for his family and friends going through an understandably hard time right now.

I’m also posting a scantily clad lady in tribute to how he used to do that on his blog all of the time.

Question: Who plays for the first time on launch day anymore?

This has been ping-ponging through my head this week.  There’s usually early access/head start, which is granted (typically) by merely pre-ordering the product, and that becomes the de facto launch.  But then there’s the “official” launch day, which always seems like pointless semantics to me.  Who, exactly, is playing for the very first time on launch day?  Is it someone who picked up the game between the end of the pre-order/start of the early access and the launch day?  All those people in a three-day window?  Do we really see just a massive influx of new folks on launch day anymore?  I don’t think we do.

Head starters aren’t really getting ahead of the pack the way that some players might think.  They’re in the thick of the pack.  They’re just not getting left behind.  And head start IS launch.  Launch day is a cheap marketing ploy to get two press releases out within the same week saying (twice) that the game has released.  Maybe studios should add a “tardy access” period too and cram in a third launch a week later.