Remember… Spock

spockIt shouldn’t be a shock that Leonard Nimoy passed away today, yet it is. The original Star Trek cast has been pushing the upper limits of senior citizenhood over the past decade, with a few quietly slipping into the great beyond. And so it is that Nimoy joins DeForest Kelly and James Doohan in death while we remember.

I think that Nimoy was a hard-working actor and a gracious person who gave up fighting his Star Trek typecasting and instead played along with it to the delight of millions of fans. He was in more movies than any of the rest of them (including both reboots), directed a couple of them, had a cool bit in ST:TNG, contributed to Star Trek Online, and poked fun at himself on Futurama.

For me, Nimoy was Spock, and Spock meant a lot to my childhood. Well, Star Trek meant a lot, especially the old series, and I idolized Mr. Spock’s capabilities and mental prowess. I think I wished I was as in control of myself and my life as he was, and I remember getting through a shot at the doctors thinking, “Spock would take this without flinching.”

I loved how Nimoy gave Spock this dry, deadpan sense of humor that played off Bones so well. I liked how he was the logical half of Kirk’s friendship triad, thinking through issues and solving them methodically while Kirk would tackle them out of instinct. His sacrifice to save the Enterprise in Star Trek II never fails to make me tear up a bit, because he didn’t even pause when he saw what needed doing.

We’re sad because there goes a part of our past and our pop culture, but as with many of the great actors who have come and gone, we are left re-appreciating what Nimoy had accomplished in his life.

Are our TSW characters actually mute?

TSW players are well-acquainted with the fact that our characters never talk, and usually that’s mentioned as a way to both save money and to allow us to insert our own inner voices into that character (instead of having a VO artist do it for us).

But what if there’s another, possibly more interesting explanation?

I read this today and it kind of really makes sense: “The Bees took our voices, and that’s why we’re all silent protagonists in cutscenes. The blessing of the Bees comes with a price, possibly as far as losing almost all communication skills.”

Maybe that’s why our characters only communicate via facial gestures and hand movements, and why NPCs don’t seem too surprised (and are usually bemused) that we do not talk.

Just a thought.

RPS shows you how not to interview

peterI’m very late to this, but I’ve been stewing over the now-infamous RPS interview of Peter Molyneux and have to say a quick thing or two about it. There seem to be two reactions among both players and other media outlets:

1. Unabashed glee that an unpopular game dev was taken to task for his failings, lies, and pattern of hype. Lots of “He deserved it!” sentiments.

2. Abashed shame that Rock, Paper, Shotgun conducted an interview in such a manner, sympathies or dislike for Molyneux notwithstanding.

I am firmly in the second camp. Listen, we need hard, unflinching questions in interviews. We need journalists committed to rooting out the truth and not lobbing complete softball discussions. But this wasn’t just a keen-eyed reporter going for the next Pulitzer; it was a ticked-off fan getting to flame a dev on the phone and then post it, knowing that it would get a lot of hurrahs because Molyneux is in the doghouse.

It’s so unprofessional that I’m shocked that other outlets have been praising it. The interviewer is completely emotional and antagonistic, a fanboy trying to pick a fight instead of a reporter looking for facts and explanations. It didn’t matter what Molyneux had to say; it was clear from the very first question that this was a witch hunt that could only have one result.

Actually, it could have had two results: Molyneux could have hung up, and he really should have. He was far too polite to do so and too polite not to get into a fight with the interviewer.

This interview could have asked most all of the same hard, fact-seeking questions but done so without an angry, petulant, bullying tone and been so much better for it. RPS should take that interview down, stat.

Monday morning tidbits

sclNo one major topic for this Monday morning, so how about a bunch of smaller ones?

As heartbroken as I was to see BioWare can the promising Shadow Realms, I can now take solace in another title that was announced this past week: Sword Coast Legends. This is a straight-foward D&D title that not only has a single and co-op campaign, but another mode in which a player can assume the role of the dungeon master for his or her friends. This feature is what I was most excited for in Shadow Realms, so I’m eager to see how SCL might run with this concept. A more modern Neverwinter Nights, perhaps?

I finished up Seeds of Truth in Guild Wars 2 over the weekend, which brings my progress in the game up to… oh, December 2, 2014? So just a little over two months behind of the crowd, oh well. While I liked the time travel/play Caithe mechanics of it, the story was so much fluff that didn’t answer anything. Why did Caithe steal the egg? I don’t know, let’s go through three long missions to figure that out and still not have any sort of resolution. And one of those was a stealth mission! Listen, MMO devs, if you’re going to make me do a stealth mission, then there’d better be the best reward in the universe after it to justify the pain that it takes to get through these.

More faffing about on Alderaan in SWTOR; still stuck on that planet. Kind of wish I had had more time to take advantage of the 2X experience boost over the weekend, but I didn’t and oh well. I will say this: I am ready to switch to a companion that doesn’t speak to me only in Ewokeese. Unfortunately, right now my other options are a taller hairball that speaks Wookieese, a prissy non-combat robot, and Corso. I am going to have to hold out a little bit longer.

My computer’s hard drive is getting so dang full that I’m having difficulties keeping all of the games on it that I want. I could get another drive, but at this point I may be holding out for a new rig altogether. So I did take off WildStar, H1Z1, the a few other smaller titles.

As for LOTRO, I probably gamed the most there this weekend but I’m going to save thoughts on that until tomorrow.

Daybreak heartbreak

brasseIf we wanted to know what the fallout would be from SOE being bought out to become the independant Daybreak Games Company, now we know.  And I think many of us wish that we didn’t.

It’s a layoff apocalypse at Smedley’s MMO factory, with Linda Carlson and Dave Georgeson just two (admittedly high-profile) of the many let go with the company’s restructuring.

It stinks on so, so many levels, starting with the fact that Carlson and Georgeson are — or were, at least — the face of SOE for many gamers.  Smedley’s big too, sure, but he’s a little off-putting for many gamers who would rather flock to the infectious enthusiasm that the former Landmark lead and CM projected.  They loved the games and the community so much, and the community loved them right back.

I’ve been following Brasse since her days as a LOTRO fan mapping the Old Forest and loved that she adopted a dwarf persona for her time at SOE.  I always thought Georgeson was a little weird, but in a good way, and talking to him at PAX last year was a highlight of my interviews.  They both deserved so much better than this, as did everyone else let go, such as Steve Danuser.

The SOE community is so tight-knit that this isn’t just another bad day at the office — it’s absolute heartbreak and rage erupting everywhere.  I’ve been watching it wash through Twitter and our Massively OP office chat, hearing the same stunned, incredulous expressions followed by the same outpouring of anger and grief.

There’s also some genuine, perhaps justified fear that SOE as we knew it is really, truly over — and that EverQuest Next and Landmark’s future is in serious jeopardy.  The people who made this company special are now gone, and all we’re left with is talk of bringing games to Xbox One.  Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the future for Daybreak is mostly H1Z1, PS2, and DCUO on consoles.

And that is a horrible, terrible shame.  I’ve never been the most die-hard SOE player, but I’ve admired the passion that studio and its team put into its games, and the level of commitment for trying new things and melding sandbox and theme park elements together.  EQN was perhaps the only AAA MMO on the horizon for me, and now I can’t get much hopes up about that.

But today it’s about the people who have found themselves laid off, and as someone who just went through that with Massively, I can sympathize.  Here’s hoping they land at studios that do appreciate their talents and passion.

P.S. — Syl may have called it

Bloggers and media

pressThere’s been an interesting discussion kicking around about whether bloggers are just as good and useful as games media, whether they can provide the same services, or whether the press is better in some regard (see: Herding Cats, Clean Casuals, The Cynic Dialogues, and Party Business).  This is particularly timely as the Massively crew is working to get Massively Overpowered up and running through crowdfunding and a lot of personal labor.  I mean, if bloggers can fill the void that Massively left and/or do it better, why should we bother?

As someone who’s existed on both sides of this fence for a half-decade now with Bio Break and Massively, I feel that I’m in a good position to comment on this.  So let me put this up front and center: Bloggers and games media both have very useful roles that overlap in some areas but can never supplant each other.  In fact, we need each other for the good of the industry, the discussion, and the community.

I started out as an indie game blogger and even after getting hired at Massively continued to cultivate Bio Break because I have such a heart for blogging.  Bloggers are *awesome*.  They can shoot from the hip, write about any ol’ thing they please, interact with each other on the spur of the moment, and collectively come up with terrific ideas and conversations.  And what’s more, the player community needs bloggers to be doing these things.

Bloggers help players discover other MMOs than ones they’ve played, get tips and tricks for their games, and feel connected to others who might be celebrating or struggling over the same issues.  By not being beholden to any master other than themselves, bloggers have unilateral freedom and (at least initial) credibility to comment on sensitive topics with unique voices.  Each blogger builds a reputation for him or herself, and the best hopefully get recognized.  This blend of independant journaling, fearless commentary, and agile reactions makes for a vibrant group.

And no matter how you felt about Massively, we on staff really appreciated bloggers (particularly since half of us had our own blogs as well).  We would source them when they brought news stories to our attention, and I championed the creation of the popular Global Chat column to highlight six exceptional blog posts every other week.  Our EIC, in our very last article, made a point to thank and link to the bloggers individually because we not only appreciated their sympathy, but respected them as well.

If we’re being honest, there are downsides to bloggers too.  Grammar, spelling, logical arguments, and sometimes common sense is optional, not mandatory (after all, who’s going to put their foot down?).  Some bloggers flame for pure attention.  And, perhaps most germane to this discussion, with no editorial oversight there’s often little consistency.  If I was to turn only to bloggers for news, I would be missing out on a lot of stories and games, as we only write about what’s in our field of vision at the moment.

Then you have the press — games journalism, enthusiast journalism, however you like to call it.  Press has two jobs: to deliver factual, objective stories (news) and to deliver subjective commentary on news and issues (opinion).  Opinion writing is often where the Venn diagram with bloggers overlap, although a press editor will ensure that there’s hopefully a higher level of quality and consistency.

What we did and will continue to do with the news on Massively was far more than (as if often cited) regurgitate press releases.  Actually, I had a vendetta against PR statements for how they’d assume sites would post them verbatim out of laziness, and I worked hard to strip out the important facts that readers needed to know from the flowery, distracting, and sometimes misleading PR language (whether or not you see this as a service is your call, but I hope it helped).  Gaming news comes from a wide swath of sources — forums, tipsters, bloggers, official websites, other news sites, Twitter, reddit — and requires reporters to constantly be sifting through piles of stories seeking the ones that belong on the site, have credible sources (or ARE a credible source), and are of interest to readers.  Every publication has a different readership and tailors content for those readers (after all, Time doesn’t report on MMO news and Massively didn’t do a lot of geopolitical commentary).

press2So I see press as being more focused on delivering news and opinion content and being as inclusive as possible with the genre, while also having a higher standard of quality and editorial oversight.  However, there is one even greater reason why press is important, which is that it aids in giving the MMO industry/games industry legitimacy.

I’ll pause while you snort derisively and/or insert your “ethics in journalism” jokes.

If we don’t want to be part of a hobby that is constantly derided and demeaned, then we need quality media outlets to cover them and present these games as something other than a joke or a kid’s toy.  Fair or not, the crowd listens to press in a way that it mostly doesn’t with individual blogs.  If MMOs are to grow in popularity and make inroads with the mainstream, then there needs to be a press that delivers clear, insightful, and useful coverage.

Press isn’t the only thing that bestows legitimacy, of course, but it is crucial to that effort.  The conversations and investigations and coverage that press provides — because it has made its mission to do that — informs the ignorant, challenges the studios, and provides a useful intermediary between developers and community.  Bloggers, as great as they are, cannot fill this role on a regular and widespread basis.  If nothing else, the “big name” of a media outlet opens doors in and attaches respect to the industry the way that very few individuals can.

And since I listed a few downsides of bloggers, I’ll be fair in admitting that the press ain’t perfect (us or “the other guys”).  There ARE ethical lines crossed with relationships and coverage and transparency that need to be guarded constantly.  The hive mind of a press outlet lets less personality shine than an individual blogger.  Personal bias sometimes does leak into objective reporting.  One reviled story could turn a reader off to everything else the publication has or will continue to do.

Listen, I get it.  I know that it’s cool to buck against the media when you’re a blogger, and I understand that people do appreciate the unguarded voices that come across in blogs.  But I have always seen blogs and press as two aspects of MMO coverage that simply take different approaches but appreciate the same things.  Competition is good, and both parties should be urging each other to do a better job.

What we all do, collectively, is to raise the profile of MMOs and benefit the industry entire with our work.  It doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario or an us-vs.-them setup.  Just like with MMOs, you can like more than one and appreciate what each brings to the table.