Information Dissemination

Kaozz brings up a great point about how studios don’t remain consistent with getting out important news to players.  About Guild Wars 2, she said:

“The fact that the forums are not up still, bothers me a bit. I’ve read that the team is using Reddit and twitter for news. My question is this- What is wrong with your own official website for news? If I wasn’t a blogger I’d have no clue to check those places. I don’t check twitter often enough to keep up with what is going on and Reddit… I really wish these companies would utilize their own forums and websites instead of doing what is ‘trendy’ at the moment.”

As they say, this, this, a thousand times this.

I’m not looking to gangpile on GW2 right now — I think the team is trying to keep its head above the water of its own success, and first weeks (and months) can be very rough indeed.  I do not think it was wise for ArenaNet to launch without forums at all, and I think it’s beyond silly that it has a main site with a blog and yet they still are relying on Reddit to disseminate information.

This highlights a problem that many studios have, which is scattering important information over a wide variety of platforms instead of being consistent and having a central dumping ground.

Because I write for Massively, I’m used to going all over the place for news tidbits from studios, kind of like a weird scavenger hunt.  Sometimes they just send out press releases.  Sometimes there’s a Twitter message.  Sometimes Facebook.  Sometimes Reddit.  Sometimes it’s a developer post buried in the forums somewhere.  Sometimes it’s on the front page.  Sometimes it’s on YouTube or Twitch or what have you.  The only consistent thing I see is how inconsistent they all are.

My opinion is simple: All important information needs — NEEDS — to be given on the front page of your website and in your game’s launcher.  Period.  If you want to do Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc. past that to make sure the word gets out and have a second avenue of communication, that’s just fine.  But focus on a central avenue of information.  If your main site has to lead you offsite just to get vital news for the game, you’re doing it wrong.

On a smaller note, I honestly don’t like Reddit.  I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but it feels sloppy and disorganized to me.

On an even smaller note, if you have people whose job it is to communicate with the fans, let them do it.  Bigwigs don’t need to be constantly hijacking Twitter to try to micromanage PR.

City of Lost Heroes

As you’ve probably heard, NCsoft is shuttering both Paragon Studios (and all of the staff there) as well as City of Heroes.  The last chance you’ll get to be in the first superhero MMO will be this November, and then another chapter of great gameplay will pass into history.

First things first: As always when it comes to closings, downsizings, and the like, my sympathies go out to the employees whose very real livelihood depended on these jobs.  However we feel, it’s just a game for us — it’s money and security for them.

That said, I’m sitting in a huge funk right now.  We’ve seen the closure of many MMOs in our time, but this is the very first that I actually cared about to any significant degree.  While Anarchy Online was my first MMO and WoW my first love, City of Heroes was sandwiched in the middle there and taught me the ropes.  It gave me a great ride.  I was there at launch and made my first character, a storm controller named Weather Girl.  I bought City of Villains and was there on day one as well.  While post-WoW I never played City of Heroes for great lengths of time, it was always, always the game I’d return to for sheer fun and character creation bliss.  This was the game that had a game before the game, after all — I don’t know anyone who played it who wasn’t constantly making alts and coming up with creative new superhero concepts.

City of Heroes was more than a character creator, however.  It took familiar tropes into an unfamiliar universe, and sold us on the idea that superhero MMOs didn’t need Marvel or DC to be accessible and fun.  It was one of the best games to group in, and even back when it had that harsh death penalty, I still didn’t really mind dying if it was from an epic confrontation.

Am I surprised at this announcement?  Totally.  From where I’m sitting, I’ve seen no huge warning signs that CoH was on the verge of unprofitability.  Then again, what do I know.  NCsoft doesn’t invite me over on the weekends to look through its books.  I guess I just assume that if a title goes F2P and makes it past a year or so — and has an expansion and several regular updates — then it’s doing okay.

Then again, this is NCsoft, the Fox Network of the MMO industry, forever killing titles whose names don’t start with “Lineage” at the first sign of any weakness.  I haven’t trusted them since seeing how little faith and promotion they put into Auto Assault and Tabula Rassa, and I’m less likely to now.

Well, what’s done is done, I suppose.  I hope all of Paragon’s staff find better homes, and for those players who suddenly find themselves on the verge of losing their superhero home, I hope that they can make the transition to one of the other MMOs in the genre without losing faith.

See you, City of Heroes.  We made great memories, you and I.

Nostalgia Lane: Jet fighter simulators

Everyone goes through different phases in their gaming careers, and for a period in the early 90s, I was fairly heavily into jet fighter simulators.  To be honest, they were incredibly hard to ignore — like adventure games, they were Hot Stuff and big sellers in the PC market.  Computers were finally getting powerful enough to thrust us into 3D (and simulated 3D) gaming, and there was nothing quite like flight to show that off.

The earliest plane simulator I recall trying was Microsoft Flight Simulator.  This had to be one of the very earliest versions, because it was just black-and-white with few (if any) graphics to speak of.  We only had a copy of it and no manual, so I could never quite figure out how to operate it.  Oh, I could take off and crash spectacularly, and sometimes make little dots come out of my plane which I think were bullets, but that’s about it.

But when we started getting our hands on 386 machines, gaming got a lot better.  By far, my absolute favorite flight simulator was Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat.  It wasn’t a strict simulator, per se (in this field, you had the spectrum from arcade to by-the-book technical flight, and this was more the former), but it was hecka fun. What really made this game pop is that you had four eras to fight in, from World War II to Vietnam, and could set up all sorts of crazy fights.  I loved taking on scads of bombers with a fighter jet to see how many I could down before getting pulverized.

A lot of the appeal of these games was the combination of fluid motion and wanton destruction.  Plus, I could totally zone out and just relax as my then-tight reflexes took over.

Next up on my favorites list was F-15 Strike Eagle II, which took me into the (then) modern era.  Once again, this skewed more heavily toward the arcade side, but I wasn’t complaining — give me missiles galore and targets to hit, and I was in heaven.

Similar to that was A-10 Warthog, which let us fly those unusual bunker-buster planes.  I loved it because the gun on that thing could rip through tanks.  I spent most of my time in the game trying to figure out what I could destroy using that alone.

Probably the last of this genre that I gave serious time to was Falcon 4.0.  Now this was far, far more on the realism side of the spectrum, and there was a hefty manual that you had to study before attempting take-off.  Unfortunately, the specs were a little too demanding on my computer, and while it looked great, it played like a slideshow.

I’m not even sure if these types of games are around today, although I assume that there’s always a few niche developers.

21 Asura Street

21 Asura Street.  That’s where I live, baby.  It’s a place full of danger, but it’s always hopping.  And you just know that Asura are going to crack every case, because we’ve got the tools and the attitude.

So I made myself a little deal several days ago.  I gave myself the present of a week (sorta) off work this week, as well as permission to just go hog-wild in Guild Wars 2 without worrying about other MMOs and game rotations.  Just… splurge.

And thus I did.  It’s been glorious fun.  Games only launch once, you know.  Might as well ride the wave and milk the rush for all its worth.  That said, I think that after today, I’m going to be getting back to my regular rotation.  While Guild Wars 2 is a terrific game, I was afraid that it would be so all-consuming that I wouldn’t want to go back to the others.  Fortunately, that’s not the case.  I’m still really excited about RIFT’s expansion, and to a lesser extent, LOTRO’s.  I’m also in my initial journey through The Secret World, and there’s so much content there I’ve yet to experience.

Happily, Guild Wars 2 offers a very laid-back approach to gaming coupled with the release of pressure from a subscription fee.  I’m really not in a rush to the level cap there, because it’s just as much fun where you are as where you’re going — and I want to see it all.  So I’ve determined that my first character would see the whole world and do everything — 100% map completion.  All the hearts, all the skill challenges, all the points of interest, and all the vistas.  It’s not just OCD that’s talking here — I’ve found that these points provide a wonderful framework for exploring the world and encouraging me to do so.  This is a game that gets richer the more you poke around, and these points provide good motivation to slow down and really check out each zone.

So far I’ve done the Asura and Sylvari starter areas, Rata Sum, the Grove, Lion’s Arch, and the Black Citadel.  My plan is to complete all five starter areas and racial cities before moving on to higher-level content.  Because of downranking, it’s remaining a challenge, and I keep getting XP even so.  I was level 17 when I left the Asura starting area, and now I’m 24.

Doing map completion is a great way to get to know these zones, particularly the cities.  It’s giving me a good footing for future visits to these places, and I know that if I wasn’t doing map completion, I wouldn’t have stopped to smell the roses anywhere.  I spent time just watching the fountain in Lion’s Arch, swimming in the tunnels underneath it, dancing on the Charr’s war council table, and investigating the prisoners of the Asura jail cells (there’s a chicken there, for some reason).

I really do feel unshackled from the normal way of progressing in games when I’m in GW2.  I really dig the dynamic events and am willing to drop everything to do one if it’s nearby.  Last night I was keeping some Charr cubs from being freaked out by ghosts while they puttered around Ascalon ruins, and their dialogue kept cracking me up.  I think power gamers might hate GW2, but I can see it appealing to a whole new generation of players as well.

Guild Wars 2: Craftaholics anonymous

Crafting is funny to me.  Not the concept, but how attractive it might seem in one MMO for me and be completely irrelevant in another.  Out of all of the things I anticipated doing in Guild Wars 2, crafting was certainly not one of them — but here we are, and there I am harvesting and crafting like mad.

I didn’t really look into the game’s crafting until last week, when I read a humongous guide and realized that this could be quite fun to try.  For me, crafting is best when you get in on the ground floor of the launch or from day one in a game.  So I did a little research, and decided that I’d give it a go with artificing and cooking.

So here are a few things that are delighting me about crafting in Guild Wars 2:

1. You can gather everything

Gathering (like crafting) is a little money sink, since you have to pay for tools that are eventually used up.  But that’s okay, since it’s an option and the game keeps it fairly manageable.  There are three types of nodes to gather — wood, ore, and plants — which feels perfect.  Way better than scads of different types.  Each node grants a few basic crafting mats with a chance of a rare mat as well.  You can also buy mats from vendors (including karma vendors) or find/salvage them during your journeys.

I really like not being limited in my gathering; it reminds me of Fallen Earth, and how addicted I got to gathering nodes there as well.

2. There’s no competition for nodes

God bless ArenaNet for making crafting nodes non-exclusive.  I hated that feeling of rushing toward a node while seeing someone else doing the same, worried that they’d get it first and feeling resentment toward them either way.  In GW2, any nodes you see can be harvested by you, period.  And harvested by others, period.  A node might burn out for you, but it’s still good for others, so there’s no worry there.

3. You can deposit mats into storage from the world

GW2 has gone a long way to making inventory management user friendly, including using the trading post and mail from anywhere.  But I think I like the ability to just toss my crafting mats into storage with one click (especially that “deposit all collectables” option), which keeps my inventory free and clear.

4. Crafting stations let you access both your collections and your bank

Crafting stations really are one-stop convenience marts for us, giving us access to what we have in storage as well as the ability to make stuff.  I hear that the bank access is relatively new, but it’s a good move, as crafters can put half-finished items in there.

5. Discovery rocks

As a crafter, you need recipes.  You get several to start with in your profession and can find/buy more (especially from karma vendors), but the coolest way to get more is through the discovery system.  Basically, you mix and match items in the UI until it tells you that you can craft this for a new recipe.  If you do so, you get a buttload of XP and crafting XP, as well as that recipe to use from now on.  It’s very thrilling when you can unlock this.

6. You can swap between professions  (for a fee)

While the game only lets you have two crafting professions active at a time, you can deactivate one without losing your progress and activate a different one for a fee.  In this way, it’s possible to level all crafting disciplines to the max level.  I like it because I know that the mats I find that I’m not using now might be useful later.

And the one thing about crafting I don’t like?

1. It makes you go broke

Crafting is, at least right now, a big money sink.  It takes money to gather mats, money for additional mats, and takes potential sources of income away from you.  How so?  Well, aside from items that are designated trophies (aka vendor trash), you can and probably will salvage most of the drops you find for their mats.  This means that you don’t sell those items and get the coin for them, either.

So unless you’re putting out goods on the trading post, crafting will suck money out of you.  I found this out to my shame when I hit level 10 and couldn’t buy my trait tome because I was dirt broke.