Location Naming Conventions

In most all MMORPGs, to create a zone name you need to merely combine a word from List A with a word from List B (or two from A and one from B, or one from A and two from B):

LIST A

  • Bad
  • Ghost
  • Dark
  • Swamp
  • Red
  • Lost
  • Twilight
  • Shadow
  • Lava
  • Steam
  • Storm
  • Plague
  • Crystal
  • Blighted
  • Shiver
  • Thunder
  • Enchanted
  • Frost

LIST B

  • Lands
  • Forest
  • Isle
  • Mountains
  • Vale
  • Wood
  • Wind
  • Moon
  • Pass
  • River
  • Wastes
  • Sands
  • Plains
  • Torment
  • Jungle
  • Peaks
  • Deep

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, such as LOTRO pulling its names from Tolkein’s convoluted Dictionary of Made-Up Words, but there ya go!

What Have You Enjoyed On Bio Break?

I’m in the process of scrapping the “My History” page on Bio Break (rolling that into the “About” page) and doing a “Bio Break’s Best” page instead, featuring some of the better articles and posts I’ve written over the past year or so.

I’d love to hear from any of you which posts have really stuck out in your mind (in a good way, not in a “you’re so full of it” way, which I will assume to be the norm), that you’d recommend for the BBB page.

Also, just an open call — if you link to Bio Break on your blog and I haven’t returned the favor yet, it’s totally cool with me to let me know in the comments section so that I make sure that gets fixed.

Thanks all!  You rock!

LOTRO: Never Toss A Dwarf

A few of you have asked how my return to LOTRO is going, and I’m happy to report that it’s better than I’d anticipated.  I didn’t burn out on the game last year, which makes returning to it a blessing instead of a chore — and it’s definitely one of those cases where absence made the heart grow fonder.

My captain is practically rocketing up in levels — I’ve gone from 32 to 38 in less than a week, and that’s not even including the weekend.  Getting out of North Downs and into Evendim (aka “Ever Swim”) was a good move, and I highly recommend it once you wrap up the more important stuff in ND such as the Book questline and any deeds.  Evendim is fairly easy on the eyes, nothing exciting but the quests are interesting (such as a lengthy “treasure hunt” that takes you around the zone) and it’s giving me a solid boost to leveling.  I am, however, very much looking forward to hitting the Trollshaws soon and resuming the epic storyline.

It’s daunting just how much content is ahead of me, but exciting as well.  I’ve gotten my LOTRO legs back and am just appreciating the things that I haven’t found elsewhere — the absolutely gorgeous scenery, the pleasant music, the quirky character customization options, the lore and world.

Skirmishes have proven to be a really enjoyable alternative to questing as well.  From a WoW player’s perspective, they’re a bit like the Dungeon Finder in that you can queue up from anywhere and get dumped into a mixed group (or just solo it), do a speedy instanced run (~20-30 minutes) and garner nice rewards for your trouble.  They even have daily quests for skirmishes, which grant you additional skirmish marks (the main currency for the system), which are the ones I’m mostly doing.

And as much as some folks have told me not to bother with Deed grinding for Virtues, I find myself oddly compelled to do them all.  It not only helps buff out my character, but I get quite a bit of XP and loot from it all, so I don’t find it a waste of time.  Oddly enough, a huge boon to the process is that it’s prompted me to always be on the lookout for other folks in the zone who also want to get a deed out of the way, and group up with them.  LOTRO’s notoriously friendly community makes for some pleasant grouping experiences, and I spent a couple hours last night with a hobbit warden just farming mobs and chatting away.

Guild Wars: Pre-Searing and Death Leveling

I’ve always been fascinated by the Pre-Searing Ascalon community of Guild Wars.  For those not in the know, the first Guild Wars release (Prophecies) starts you out in a unique little prologue area that consists of five exploration zones and a few hubs of interest.  Once you’ve progressed through it and advanced the story enough, you trigger the “Searing”, a huge event that changes the landscape and sends your character forward a couple years to the rest of the game.

I don’t think ArenaNet ever predicted that the Pre-Searing areas would be embraced by a small but dedicated community with a singular purpose: to only play and exist in Pre-Searing Ascalon (PSA from now on for the sake of my fingers) as a matter of choice.  They’ve essentially “adopted” this prologue world as their own, and revel in exploring just how much gameplay they can squeeze out of it.

It’s oddly endearing to see how this community has formed, because I really haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere.  To me, it reinforces the notion that some players view game worlds as a place to inhabit, not just to level through.  We have affinities for certain zones and a positive emotional reaction when we’re there.  By making their home in PSA, these players are effectively refusing to allow their favorite world to be destroyed (and they are effectively crazy-in-a-good-way as well).

This would be like people in WoW refusing to leave the starter areas, or the folks in LOTRO choosing to remain in the instanced newbie zone indefinitely, farming gear and seeing how much they can push themselves within a small limit.

Happily, ArenaNet hasn’t looked down on the PSA folks, and instead offered them a few rewards to work toward if they so wished.  The biggest of them all is a rare title, “Defender of Ascalon”, which is achieved only if you hit level 20 (the level cap of Guild Wars) while in PSA.  This is tougher than you might think, because you can easily out-level the creatures by 16 or so, which presents a conundrum — no way to get XP from mobs, and only a finite amount of quests.

Interestingly enough, there’s a little loophole built into the game that allows mobs to level up if they (the mobs) kill a player.  So if you throw yourself at a mob and allow it to kill you, it gets to a higher level and thus rewards you with XP once you resurrect and kill it in turn.  This technique is called “death leveling”, and there’s a pretty detailed guide on the Guild Wars Wiki on how to do it.

Ubisoft and Über-DRM

It’s almost gotten drowned out by the whole AllodsGate thing in the MMO world, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t fix a stinky eye at Ubisoft and their incredibly controversial decision to combat piracy by requiring your computer to be connected to their server at all times.  The game on your computer — mind you, single-player games like Assassin’s Creed and Settlers — simply will not work without an internet connection and the whims of their server access.

To say the least, this decision hasn’t been popular:

“We barely need to say anything here (but we will), as where we’re going we don’t need words. We only need righteous fury. PC Gamer have experienced the controversial new Ubisoft DRM first-hand, in the PC build of Assassin’s Creed 2. We already thought the paranoid new copy protection was pretty bad, requiring as it did an online check everytime you played and giving you a hard time if you tried to launch it offline.

What we didn’t think – what we didn’t believe they’d be mad enough to do – was that it’d kick you out of the game if your net connection dropped for any reason… While we’ve not always gone full-pelt protest against excessive DRM, this is open contempt for paying customers, and, quite frankly, it’s the most valid reason yet for PC gamers to call a massed boycott. We’ll certainly be ignoring it with all the passion we can muster.”

~ Rock Paper Shotgun

“I will not be buying another Ubisoft game, including Silent Hunter 5, until they find some other solution. What they’ve done in this interview is admit that this will be hacked eventually…but hey, they ‘believe in it’. Seems like they need to just accept the reality of piracy instead of believing in short term solutions that just piss off customers.”

~ Common Sense Gamer

“What Ubisoft is doing here is Draconian – I don’t mean those lizard dudes, I’m talking about laws which are characterized by their severity. Before they eventually dismantle it, and it will be dismantled, it will have achieved exactly the opposite of their intention.”

~ Penny Arcade

“Ubisoft apparently believes that its customer base is located entirely within The Butterfly and Bunny Kingdom where Internet connections are impervious, woven as they are from pure sunshine, cuddles, and cloud fluff. In the real world, on the other hand, Internet connections temporarily fail for a dizzying number of reasons. Routers crash, power cords get unplugged, and cables fall (or are yanked) out. Every so often, for no apparent reason, your connection will drop or slow to a crawl and refuse to function properly until you reboot. If you’re using wireless, you dodge some of the potential cord issues, but are subsequently subject to the whims of your wireless router, which might decide at any point that it hates you. God help you if there’s a microwave between you and the base unit and someone wants popcorn.

Ubisoft’s executives haven’t just forgotten anything they ever knew about gaming, they’ve violated one of the primary rules of customer service: Do not treat your legitimate customer base like the enemy.”

~ Hot Hardware

“According to Ubisoft, everything is alright because the game only boots you if the Internet connection is down for a prolonged period of time and it won’t kick you if the connection slows. Of course, this still means that you can’t play Ubisoft games on a laptop outside of the house and that if your network is down for any reason, you’re not allowed to use the software you paid upwards of $40.

In short: F*ck you, Ubisoft. This DRM is pathetic.”

~ Destructoid

PC Gamer, God bless ’em, took Ubisoft to task in a phone interview, during which Ubisoft’s representative hilariously tries — and fails — to justify this move.  Read the last question and answer, and see how comfortable you are with this whole thing.

Now as MMORPG players, our games pretty much have built-in DRM, so it’s not like we’re not used to this sort of thing.  But this move on Ubisoft’s part is just scary as all get out.  I’m not against companies protecting their goods and services, but if I as a customer have to suffer because of what someone else might do, then something’s just askew in the land of Oz.

I wasn’t going to be purchasing Ubisoft games anyway, but now I’m doubly resolved to stay as far away from them as possible.  If their DRM tactic offends you, then spread the word and let people know what they’re getting into before they get the game.  I don’t see this ending well for them, at all.

Where Would You Live… Online?

So say that you had to enter the Witness Protection Program because you saw what Tipa and Werit are building in their secret lair, and technology being what it is today, the feds inform you that they’re able to relocate you and your family to a home in one of them fancy-pantsy MMORPGs.  Assuming that dangerous roaming mobs and threat levels weren’t an issue, what zone would you pick?

I have a few that would make great virtual homes:

  • LOTRO – The Shire: Okay, okay, everyone would say the Shire, but really — how could I not?  Short fat people, pie, lots of parties, more pie, pastoral landscapes and pie to die for?  I’m in.  Besides, those little Hobbit homes look really cozy.
  • WoW – Mulgore: Mulgore might not be a terrific zone for questing, but it’s always reminded me of one of my favorite places: Colorado.  Lots of space, mountains in the distance, plateaus, tents… yeah, I could camp there for a while.
  • WAR – Inevitable City: Since this whole world is pretty much one giant battlefield, I might as well go for the gusto and set up shop in the craziest bizarro place in it.  There’s always something to see and do in the IC!
  • Fallen Earth – Depot 66: Three words: Dinosaur Amusement Park.
  • City of Heroes – Talos Island: Talos kind of has it all — stores, beaches, the ocean, rapid transit, huge statues everywhere.

Allods: A Question

When your forum is home to a 1,266-post topic discussing all the ways your players are upset with the implementation of your cash shop, should you:

  1. Use that thread and other created threads to generate enough of a picture of what went wrong and how you need to fix things, or
  2. Start a completely new “official” thread that you’re planning to leave up there for weeks to gather information that’s somehow lacking at this point?

I mean, yeah, I don’t know how to run a MMO and I’ll grant that it’s a pretty complicated and tricky process, but how hard is it to hear thousands of voices screaming “YOUR PRICES ARE TOO HIGH!” and tweak them back down, perhaps to an equal level of what you’re charging people in your own country for the same services?  You just make a big number into a smaller number.

Allods is reaping some of the absolute worst PR I’ve seen thrown at a company at launch, and they cannot afford to just sit on their hands gathering more intel before doing something at this point.

Nostalgia Lane: Kroz

When I was growing up in the 80’s, our family had two platforms for video gaming: our circa-1982 Atari 2600, and our circa-1983 IBM PC.  We really didn’t get anything newer than that until I finally purchased my own computer in 1991, along with a SNES.  So for the better part of a decade, I eeked gaming out of both of those systems until they could eek no more (and don’t get me started on when I bought Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600 thinking that it was like Super Mario Bros. for the NES — that was a sad, sad Christmas vacation).

I loved that IBM PC incredibly, and taught myself how to program BASIC during the decade.  We had an ever-growing library of shareware titles, which was necessary as most of the more modern computer games couldn’t be run on it as we neared the 90’s.  One of my hands-down favorite shareware games was probably a title you’ve never heard of: Kingdom of Kroz.

Kroz — the name is a loving homage to “Zork” — was a purely ASCII effort that had you as an Indiana Jones-type adventurer progressing through various stages trying to find treasure and the doorway to the next level, all without dying (of course).  You had two primary resources to collect: gems (one gem would be taken away if a monster touched you and would kill the monster in question) and whips (which you could use to clear a circle around you).  Depending on the level, it could be more puzzle-like or more chaotic-run-scream-dash-pray-like.  For the most part, the levels were presented “top down”, but the creator of the game threw in a few “sideways” levels that had gravity, etc.  I remember always feeling the urge to progress, to get to that next level, to see what crazy new thing they came up with.

An interesting sidenote is that Kroz was Apogee Software’s first game — Apogee becoming 3D Realms, the company that created Duke Nuke ‘Em and published Wolfenstein 3D.

There were several entries in the Kroz series, culminating in hundreds of dungeon levels.  Today, you can even play some of them online as flash games — so check it out!