The Sony Principle

“Try not to judge until you’ve read it all. It’s definitely going to make a few of you think about wearing a troll costume, but if so, please keep in mind that this is just an idea. It’s a discussion. That’s all. I am serious that I’m asking for feedback.”

~ Dave Goergeson

I don’t think there’s anything quite as disquieting in the online world as when a developer of one of your favorite MMOs starts publicly speculating about making massive changes in the game.  Dismissing for a moment what the topic is about, it’s not a lead developer’s job to solicit direct feedback from the playerbase in the form of a “Hey guys, what if we just turned the game upside down?” hypothetical question.

Is there any wonder why a lot of the discussion around this proposed instant-max level EQ2 character freaking people out?  When you read Dave Georgeson’s post, it almost comes off like he’s directly needling his own community: “I know this is going to rankle a lot of people — but hear me out!  What if!”

It’s even better when this comes from a company with a rich history that boasts one of the worst mid-stream MMO course corrections ever made.  Because now SOE players know that these whimsical musings could indeed be made reality, so it’s no longer a discussion so much as people being freaked out for no good reason.

Players like stability; players freak at instability.  This is not Georgeson projecting stability.

Was there anything beneficial that Georgeson thought might come out of this discussion?  Did he think people would be all sorts of cool with suggesting such a radical change in a game’s design?  It doesn’t even matter as much to me about the specifics of this issues so much as how inappropriate it comes off for Georgeson to post this — and the tone of his post as well.  That’s why you have marketing, polls, people in lesser positions feeling things out.  People tend to take what the big cheese says as iron-clad law, and if Georgeson doesn’t know this, then he’s got no business in MMOs.

I’m all for level-headed discussion, but a lead developer saying outright in the post that it’s going to upset people just to mention this, but if you’re really a cool kid, you’ll get over it?  Huh.  Well, no, sometimes it’s appropriate to be unsettled, even if you’re told you’re “putting on your troll outfit” for having a strong adverse reaction.

Recapturing Wonder

A long while back, I posted an article called “Seeing Through the System,” in which I talked about how after a while, anything cool and new has the tendency to become old, stale and routine — even MMOs:

“They’ve seen through the system to the base elements of the game, the mix/maxing of stats, the nitty gritty theorycrafting, the best path to power level, the enormous wealth of information they’ve absorbed and memorized until there’s nothing new under that game’s sun. For them to go from that game and into another one, expecting a repeat performance, is almost laughable. They’ve gone too far, and they’ll have a lot less time to enjoy the new, wide-open, magical feeling of a game before they fall back into the stat-crunching tactics of the previous one.”

Today, Wolfshead wrote a post about “Chasing the Virtual Dragon and the Search for Wonder” in which he expresses frustration that that sense of wonder has left — and he would love to recapture it:

“Reading O’Brien’s take on Tolkien makes me feel that perhaps it’s not so bad after all to want to experience a sense of awe and wonder. Could this inherent human longing be a divine gift? Has God instilled in us this supernatural yearning for heaven? Why aren’t virtual worlds doing more to tap into this innate human need to experience wonder? Could it be that fantasy virtual worlds have failed to realize their fullest, deepest and even cosmic potential?”

For him, the failure is on the part of the game designers.  For me, it’s on the part of the gamer.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as usual, but the problem for people afflicted with this depressing viewpoint remains: You want to reclaim the wonder, fun, adventure and sense of newness that you used to have in MMOs, but can’t figure out how to do it.

Do we wait for developers to finally figure out some magical formula or create such a revolutionary game that it kick-starts our imaginations again?  Or should we be more pro-active about it and take steps in our gaming habits and mentality to work our way back to where we used to be?

One of these I cannot do; the other I can.  I like to think that I still feel a sense of wonder and adventure when I play MMOs, because I certainly don’t feel jaded or cynical about them.  I’ve seen players engage in so-called “immersion projects” to help them pull away from the numbers game and re-engage with the world of the game.

What do you think about this?  Can we ever go back again?  Are we asking far too much on behalf of the developers to bear the burden of installing wonder when we’re not willing to do our part?

Blogroll’d

Over the past couple days I’ve done an enormous overhaul of my blogroll (to the right, there), because it was sadly starting to get out of date.  To me, the blogroll is my way of saying “These are great bloggers that I read and recommend,” although they’re certainly not ALL of the blogs in my reader.

So I culled a few titles that haven’t been updated lately and added a bunch of new ones.  Today I found that Greg Moran, the awesome guy who did a WAR-themed webcomic and designed the banner for my older blog WAAAGH!, is back on the scene with The Jedi Gambit.  So he’s just one of the new blogs you can find on the list over there.

Check ’em all out!

The Great Moria Race

With the double XP bonus enabled for monster kills, it’s like a starter pistol’s gone off and I am tearing through Moria as fast as I can with my Lore-master.  I have few illusions that I can get all of this done in a single weekend, but I’ve already gone from 53 to 55 in the space of two days, and am chewing through the epic storyline as quickly as possible.

The second time around, Moria seems much more manageable.  I attribute this to three things:

  1. Having done it before and drawing upon that experience (a no-brainer, but still)
  2. Having the Ale Association goat with a whopping 250 morale, which allows me to travel quickly without getting knocked off
  3. Narrowing my focus to virtues, the two legendary traits I need, and the epic storyline

Moria’s been a boon for my scholar profession as well, and I’ve already topped off my tier 6 skill points due to all of the nodes found here (the place is, after all, one giant set of ruins).  Being able to make a crapton of health pots really helps my fragile Lore-master out.

My wildest dream is to hit 58 by Sunday night, although I don’t know how realistic that is.  We shall see!

After that?  My LM will bring cleansing fire to ALL of the elves in Lothlorien.  Puncture me with arrows from your hidden forts, will you?

Quote of the Day

“But the real “go f*** yourself” message to every gamer watching is when they start talking about her holding ‘the high score in virtually every massively multiplayer online role-playing game.’

The high score. You know, because these newfangled ‘online role-playing games’ the kids are talking about are basically Pac-Man, right? And it wasn’t enough to say she had the high score in one MMORPG, oh no. She holds the high score in virtually all of them. In a world where becoming even an average player in one game takes the same amount of time as a full-time job.”

~ Cracked.com re: NCIS

Quote of the Day

“It makes me wonder if the Foundry is one of the best things to happen to STO, because it allows fans of a greatly beloved IP to stretch their create muscles and bring to life their own ideas… And seriously, some of these missions are just soooo good. Should Cryptic be nervous? Because I thought a couple of the ones I did rivaled some of the best developer-created content!”

~ MMO Gamer Chick

On your mark, get set, LOTRO!

LOTRO’s 4th anniversary is here, and Turbine at least made an effort to include a small festival of sorts to celebrate it.  I say “effort” because it really does feel half-hearted: a beer brawl and the return of horse races.  The beer brawl sounds awesome, but it’s not really that great in execution, and the sheer grind for tokens to get the few anniversary rewards isn’t worth it.  Plus, and I don’t mean to pile it on at this point, but the anniversary horse is incredibly silly looking.

Watch out Sauron! For we ride against thee on doily-decorated horsies!

However, all is not in vain.  Mobs are dropping tokens that can be exchanged for gift boxes, which are always nice, and from Thursday through Sunday all monster kill XP is going to be doubled.

DOUBLED.  I am PSYCHED.

You see, my Lore-master is at 53 and trying his hardest to get his To Do list done for Moria as quickly as possible.  However, a lot of it (quests in higher-level zones, the epic quest, etc.) requires him to be 57+, and I can’t really do Lothlorien until 58.

So this weekend represents an opportunity to kick the afterburners and gain a few quick levels, and I’m not going to waste it.  As much as possible, I’ll be dedicating all of my gaming time — sorry, RIFT! — to LOTRO and we’ll see how far I can get.

Quotes of the Day

Yesterday I had fun with an interesting (or so I thought) question for Massively’s Daily Grind: If you could ask a dev a single question and get a straight answer, what would it be?

Scott Jennings, bless his soul, scooped up a lion’s share of the questions and gave it a go.  His answers are not only informative — showing just how out of whack players, developers and, yes, journalists are in relation to each other — but stinking hilarious.  I was laughing pretty hard by the end of it.

So this earns the Quotes of the Day Award.  I can’t just pick one thing to quote here.