It’s a portfolio week for me, so I’m going to have my hands full grading. As often happens, this grading is coinciding with a lot of meetings this week, as well. When it rains, it pours.
Orcs Must Die has turned out to be a lot of fun, but man has it gotten challenging quickly. I strongly suspect that my absolute insistence at keeping my rifts at full capacity may be why I feel like I’m struggling; if I let them take some damage and just moved on, I may have no such complaints. Regardless, that behavior may shortly go by the wayside; I’ve had to really, really struggle with the last few boards, often taking an hour or two to completely perfect the pulls. I have to say there is something sickly amusing about using flinging and pushing traps to fling and push (respectively) orcs into lava or acid. It’s more satisfying than just shooting them or watching them die to a hail of arrows. Maybe I need counselling.
Regardless, as frustrating as it has been at times, it’s still been a ton of fun, and mostly luck-free, so it makes a nice balance from Card Hunter. I’m still enjoying that quite a lot, though again there are situations where I just roll my eyes and curse as I draw 3 rounds in a row of no attack cards on any of my characters, despite the fact that at least half their decks are attack cards (well, 2 of their decks; the other may only be 33%).
I haven’t reached any new content in the game yet, but I’m fast approaching it. There have been some new cards that were fun to discover, and revisiting the boards I had previously been successful on has been fun as I replay them in new-ish ways, but I remember losing interest because I started to hit boards that seemed to require gear that, despite the fact I’d gone back to replayed every board a time or two, I still didn’t have. Either that or they required the perfect draw of cards on my part, which I’m not interested in grinding for. Perhaps this has been addressed since the beta, which I’ll be happy later to report either way.
I also got to pretend I was a real man a little this weekend when my disposal broke. Rather than tear at my hair, gnash my teeth, and weep for a plumber, I checked the Internet and found some basic repair information. After pressing a button and turning a wrench (that’s truly all it took), it began to work again.
I proclaimed, “I’M A REAL MAN NOW; BOW BEFORE ME!”
My wife laughed.
Then I went back to finish cooking dinner for my wife, cuddle my cats, and play non-sport, non-realistic violence games for the rest of the night.
Stubborn (Real Man)
Despite the title, this is a mostly good-news post. My WoW playing has been going swimmingly well, unlike anything I’ve experienced in a long, long time. For that, I’m very grateful. The ingrate is WoW itself.
This week’s flex run, after my posting that I wasn’t making any progress on my legendary cape, was redesigned to incorporate all four wings of SoO. To be fair, the leader of this flex did say last week that we might try to do more wings, but I don’t think he intended to go right back to all 4 after having just done 2. I feel a bit spoiled as a result, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Also, only good outcomes came from the extended run.
For comparison, let’s review the last three weeks of flex runs.
Two weeks ago, we did all four wings (I believe that was the first week all were available). We started around 9 and ended between 12:30 and 1 a.m. It was mostly smooth except for a few wipes on the final wing’s bosses: out of control shredder wipes on Siegecrafter and some Garrosh wipes from various things.
Last week, we only did the final 2 wings, and there were again only wipes on Siegecrafter (1 wipe, I think, but maybe a few) and Garrosh. The Garrosh wipes, though, were far more than the previous week, and I could see both my buddy’s patience (which he has a seemingly unending reserve of) and some of this guildmates’ patiences getting short. After a very close wipe (I don’t remember the exact number, but it may have been less than a percent) due to people ignoring the mind control function, it was made clear that the next pull may be the last, as we’d be losing our best healer who was enabling us to use a new gimmicky strategy. Luckily, the final pull was executed perfectly, and we downed the boss to much relief. Overall just the two wings ran from about 9:15 to 11:30.
This week, we returned to all four wings, largely, I know, for my benefit. I was worried that the longer run might cause people, particularly the better people, to take a pass and only run the last two with someone else. Instead, we got one of the best (or perhaps the best) group so far. We destroyed the place, having only one wipe in the entirety (another out of control shredder mixed with me positioning myself with my back to said shredder and not noticing when it went up for its instant-kill dive bomb while I was wailing on mines). We did all 4 wings and finished just before midnight, meaning the addition of the two wings only lengthened the run by 30 – 45 minutes.
Here’s where the ingratitude comes in; the damn raid only dropped the one runestone that’s guaranteed. In other words, while I’m sure some of the flexers got some loot, so I’m glad we did the extra wings, RNG did not cooperate and reward my buddy’s generosity by rewarding me with runestones. THE IMPERTINENCE!
I did get a tier piece, which, coupled with a weaker 528 LFR piece, gives me my 2 piece set bonus. I’m not sure whether it’s all that good, but it seems like it might be, since 4% extra damage for 14 seconds each time I fulminate seems pretty good. Having specced into Elemental Blast, I’m not sure if I do 7 lightning bolts every 14 seconds (with my haste I’d guess I was near that before the respec and reforge), so I don’t know what kind of uptime to expect on it. Obviously, if it’s even near 100% uptime, it’ll be a welcome addition. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I picked up the original NWN at my buddy’s request to give it another run. Since I’ll be playing solo, I thought perhaps a druid with an animal companion would be a good idea. Hunters are EZ mode, after all, though it’s weird after all these years to get back into the D&D classes as opposed to the WoW classes. Since I’m starting up a new D&D pen and paper campaign shortly as well, I hope it’ll help get my mind back in that space instead of the MMO space.
Additionally, I picked up Orcs Must Die 1 and 2 with all the DLC for 9 bucks. I always feel weird buying a game and its sequel at once, because I know that the second is probably the superior product, but I also know if I play the second one first, I won’t want to go back to the first one. So far, I’m liking it; it does a good job letting you play Dungeon Defenders solo and as a first person shooter, which was tough in DD because there were too many entrances for one person to cover. It’s been nicely challenging already; I’ve been able to complete every level on my first attempt (only to level 5, so no great shakes), but several levels I’ve had to do a second time to get the best reward. I know it’ll only get harder (as DD did), but hopefully I’m not too old to manage.
Stubborn (and old)
We talked recently about the line between good leadership and bad attitudes. In thinking about lines while doing my pet battles and playing Card Hunter, I noticed that there’s another very fine line related to those: a line of tolerance.
I already sort of knew about this line from playing Magic: The Gathering with my buddy. We’d both occasionally go on win streaks that were simply improbable, and often the improbability was helped along by “Mark Wahlberg” hands (a perfect storm of cards coming together, or because the hand needs to “PUT ON A F’ING SHIRT!”). In either of those cases, there was always long silence and sullen acceptance of the improbability, but not far underneath, a deeper seething rage lingered.
You see, dear reader, my buddy and I aren’t going to be mad at each other when our decks perform improbably well or improbably poorly. Those moments, particularly the latter, are precisely why we don’t play magic seriously. We’ve had many, many occasions where we mulliganed several times and never drew more than one mana, or when we started with three mana, but never drew another (this is using decks of between 20 an 24 mana, depending on deck comp).
This sort of nonsensical thing happens. We get it. But when playing alone, I get far more irritated when I improbably screwed by games. In both pet battles and Card Hunter, it seems at times that the improbable is probable, and in those cases, I have no reason not to vent my rage at the screen.
Here’s a few examples. Several pets have the ability to hit between 1 and 3 times. I’ve twice in the last week had a streak of seven of those attacks all hitting once. Now I admit I don’t know that each outcome is evenly likely, but there’s nothing to suggest it’s not. Given a 33% chance of hitting one time seven times in a row, we end up with… well, it’s small. It’s pretty improbable.
If it happened once and not again, I wouldn’t sweat it. But often these are coupled within repeated missed by attacks with an 80%+ chance to hit. When four of those miss during a battle, it can be a little frustrating.
Card Hunter suffers from the same problem. I don’t know what it is, but in the last 48 hours or so, I’ve had my decks turn up nothing but move cards probably ten times. Bear in mind in a 5 card hand, you’re guaranteed one move card, but the premise is that you’ve got other things to do. My decks in total only have maybe 5 or 6 “extra” move cards in them, so to turn them all up at once is, again, pretty improbable.
In both of these cases, there’s not much of a penalty for failure, so while no one likes to fail, I don’t think that’s what drives me so crazy about it. Instead, I suspect the reality-jarring improbability of some of these outcomes really just offends my brain in a way that triggers a lot of powerful irritation, like a flashbang with numbers.
Of course, in the end, there is a simple solution; stop playing the game for a while to let the dust of unlikely outcomes settle. I don’t grind pet battles for this reason; I might once or twice a week do the whole circuit, but that’s it. Card Hunter, too, is played in moderation, so when I wait until the enemy mob has used 3 moves on his turn and THEN lay down a ground effect that will kill him – and then he moves again! – I won’t be too upset.
So there, then, is another line; the line of tolerance of improbability. It’s a fine one, too, but at least it’s a lot easier to see.
I had a unique experience in League of Legends this weekend. That’s right, the game I swore off months ago has again come into my play cycle, and while I’d like to say I’ve found a good balance for it (only one game a day, which helps me prevent getting too frustrated), history has shown that often my perception of “a good balance” and the reality of it are not the same.
My wife and I virtually always play a cooperative game vs. intermediate AI, and we virtually always win. I’m not sure whether the int. AI bots have been made easier or whether my wife and I have simply become better players (or both), but I used to only have a 50/50 or so win rate against int. AI bots, but now have won every game we’ve played – except one.
It’s this one loss that prompted this correspondence, that generated a truly unique situation for me. For it was this one that I was notified, after the fact, that I had been behaved “negatively.” It seems these “Behavior Alerts” were added in a recent patch and are prompted by “uncharacteristic spikes in negative behavior.”
Now, I’ve praised LoL for its community management ideas in the past, and I think this idea has some merit, but from what reading I’ve done on it, it seems to target good players who are having an “off day.” The fact that LoL itself identifies this program as targeting “uncharacteristic” bad behavior seems to support what I’ve read.
The game I was playing was making me irritated. During this game, it occurred to me that the only difference in my being a “good leader” (for which I have the banner) and having a “negative attitude” was whether or not the other players listened to me. In this game, we had some very bad players. Let me again point out that this is the only intermediate AI game I’ve lost in months. I knew there was going to be a problem when one of the players at the start of a game ran into a turret and committed suicide, then lol’d about it.
It was a bot game, so I didn’t really care, and they didn’t repeat the behavior, but it set a precedent for childishness and immaturity. I was jungling, so I wasn’t even having to deal with a lane partner, but the repeated incompetence of all the laners (my wife was supporting as best she could) was pretty staggering.
I suspect these were just people who needed to be in beginner Ai games, not “bad people” or even really “bad players,” but just inexperienced doofuses. We were all there once, so rather than follow the typical LoL behavior and berate them, I did my best to ping and strategize, to warn players when bots were leaving lanes, give them a heads up when I was heading in for a gank, and the like.
But they didn’t follow any of my suggestions or heed any of my warnings. At first, this meant that we were slowly but consistently losing turrets – an event in and of itself pretty unlikely in my recent bot games. Eventually the game moved to team fights, and I was in the thick of things, playing Rammus. With my wife’s support, I had no problem going 2 on 3 and winning, but I couldn’t handle 4 or 5 of them without some dps help, and that’s just it. They weren’t. They were never there. I’d ping for help, or go to their lanes to help them, or swoop out of jungle for a gank, and they’d just leave.
Luckily, with my wife’s support, I usually survived those situations, so I dusted myself off, explained my ping, asked that particular player to hang around when I was coming to help their lane, and moved on.
But after the 10th or 20th time it happened, I admit I started to lose my cool. The bots were pushing into our base, and I’d just been destroyed in a 5 v 5 teamfight that turned into a 2 v 5 when the 3 dps just ran away after I engaged, having pinged the kill target to let the other players know who to go after when I powerballed in. I pointed out it’d be a lot more efficient if we’d all stick together, and asked them to defend at base until my wife and I rezzed.
Instead, one at a time, the three of them went to fight the entire enemy team, and were, one at a time, killed.
So I triggered a surrender vote, watching the bots push into our inhibitor turret, and lost the vote 3 to 2. The idiots wanted to keep playing. I swear that staying in an obviously lost AI game is a form of harassment; there’s no victory “being robbed” from the other team, it’s just a waste of time.
Well, sorry, but I left. I had dinner to cook, Card Hunter to play, or any of a thousand better things to do than continue to waste my time with people who completely refuse to work together. I know based on the Summoner’s Code that it was wrong, and I’m admitting it because I want to be honest and open whether I’m right or wrong, but I was done. Done. I wasn’t dealing with those imbeciles any more.
When I came back to the game after dinner, I had the negative behavior alert. Yes, I’d earned it fair and square, but all it really showed was how I, a person with literally hundreds of helpfuls, friendlies, and teamwork honor points was the same person as the person now receiving a bad behavior warning. The only difference was whether people worked with me or against me. I apparently have no tolerance for the latter (though that’s not news by any stretch of the imagination). There is a fine, fine line between leader and villain, and League of Legends is just the type of environment to bring that out.
So that’s my unique experience. They want me to maintain my good behavior, but of course there’s no record of how hard I worked during that match to make things work out, just the record of me finally giving up. LoL has designed a system to chastise their good players when they’re at their most fed up, which I suspect is a stupid idea. It didn’t make me reflective at all; it made me shrug and say, “If they take away my banner, to hell with them. I’ll just play something else.”
Why not focus on a new, more aggressive system to deal with bad players instead of kicking your good players when they’re down? All that seems likely to do is reduce the good player population.
I guess we’ll see when the data comes in, but from my personal point of view, a short message to “be better” isn’t going to change my behavior at all; I’m an intelligent, reflective adult. I do what I do because I’ve thought about it and it’s what I want. A trite message won’t change me one bit, and that puts them straddling another fine, fine line between trying to promote good behavior and just being a jerk.
Stubborn (and deservedly named)
Before we start, let me remind all of you that this is part of the excellent New Bloggers Initiative Talk Back Challenge. To see others’ responses, check here.
Let me be frank. I know nothing about the practical aspects of game design. I have no doubt that there are subtle meanings to every tiny decision that is made, similar to a poet’s word choice. So I want to go into this as honest and direct as possible: these are things I like, but their implementation may or may not be realistic at all.
First, there needs to be no barriers to immediate grouping. If you want to play alone, sure, flip a switch and prevent it for your character, but everyone else should be able to simply move near another player and work to achieve the same goal and immediately be grouped. Of course, Guild Wars 2 has already done this, and it does create a more silent community, but for the specific aspect of open-world play, I think ease of grouping trumps the need to communicate with strangers.
To help increase that communication and group spirit, though, I think games need to have a more hostile environment. The Secret World didn’t succeed nearly as much as it should have, and I largely believe this was one of the major causes. It was hard. It strongly favored grouping up over soloing. The old MMOs certainly had this; I’ve heard many stories about the peril of the EQ world, and I remember vanilla WoW being challenging at times to solo. There’s no good design reason to move away from this, only a business and financial one.
To help along both of these issues, we need greater ease of communication. I don’t know why we don’t see VOIP built into games. DayZ did this, and it worked like a charm. Design the game for “local” VOIP, so that only people grouped up or within a certain range can communicate. That would go a long way to helping cooperation.
Another good aspect of Guild Wars 2 were the more approachable and available “epic” events. Not only do they have the evolving story line that allows lower level folks to be “leveled up” to the appropriate level of the content, but they also had the open-world boss events. Rift did this before GW2, of course, but while it was fun at first, there wasn’t enough diversity to really keep it going. That will be a limitation in any game, of course, but, again, I’m not talking about practical things; I’m talking about ideal ones.
Additionally, the design needs to make sure it doesn’t inadvertently pit players against their supposed teammates. This is best accomplished by adding in more personal responsibility rather than pure “roles.” Here, I don’t really like GW2′s model; I felt it was too chaotic and zerg-like. Granted, I only did one dungeon, but it was so un-enjoyable, I never wanted to do another. Something in between GW2′s “cover only your own butt for the most part” model and the holy role trinity I think would set a good pace between teamwork and team conflict because, yet again, that DPSer stood in the fire.
Along those same lines, I’d like to start seeing a move away from pure “classes.” The Secret World’s ability wheel I thought was ingenious. You could choose your specializations, change them if you want, experiment with others, dip into a passive from over here, and really just play and experiment with what you wanted. I really enjoyed that, and when I still occasionally return, part of the reason is that I enjoy playing a little differently without having to roll 11 different alts.
Those are all the mechanical design ideas I really like, but there’s one idea, one experience that trumps all of these. The problem, of course, is that it’s not necessarily a mechanical consideration; it’s a holistic design decision.
There are games that we’ve enjoyed, that we played straight through, wrote about a bit, and put down, never to be thought about or talked about again. There are co-op games that we play with our buddies, grind our way through, and finish, joking about this or that, but ready to move on to something new. Then there are the games that stick, that create a spot in our collective gamer memory and remain there. This often occurs because of the stories we, the players, create – on purpose or by accident – within the game world.
My buddy and I only played DayZ a few months, but we still talk about some of the experiences we had in that game, for good or (mostly) bad. WoW and other MMOs, too, have created a generation of gamers who can talk about the funny situations, close kills, and, of course, guild drama (again, for good or (mostly) bad).
The ability to create a space open enough for players to create shared experiences I think is crucial for the longevity of a game. I don’t mean the actual long-term play, but the longevity of its legacy. Those shared experiences are what create a communal culture, and that can’t be accomplished by the same-old-same-old games that keep getting cranked out as part of the franchise schedule.
So that, above all else, is my arm-chair game design: Create worlds where people can share experiences so that the engagement moves beyond the game’s borders and into the communal conversations about the game.
That’s what makes greatness.
Stubborn (and nostalgic)
One of the many fun activities the New Blogger Initiative lined up for October was the NBI Poetry Slam! I was invited by Syl, my long-time blogging friend, to participate, so I knew I couldn’t say no (not that I would have, of course). Here’s my product of the endeavor.
Not, I’ll not, Karazhan, Prince, not wipe on thee
Not rage quit – tempting it may be – this last pull
of the guild run or, most weary, cry, “I’m calling it.” I can,
can something. Watch vids, check logs, not choose not to raid.
But ah, but O thou boss, why wouldst though red-hood a healer
that can’t kite a boss for his life? drop an infernal on my head? wipe
with arcane explosive deaths my bruiséd raid? and fly,
over my head, and one-shot a healer, when I’m frantic to tank you and live?
Why? That my raid might wipe? Our bodies lie, in piles of bones?
No, in all those repair bills, those empty spots to fill, since (seems) I grabbed a shield,
the raid leader role, rather, my toon lo! specced avoidance, learned the strats, would praise, cheer.
Cheer whom though? The boss whose knockbacks flung me? Crushing blowed
me? Or the toons who fought him? Which set of toons? Each set, perhaps? Those raids,
That zone of now completed content I raid leader laid struggling with (my guild!) my guild.
(My apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins)
Stubborn (and all poetical)
I always feel privileged to be a part of initiatives like the NBI, not only because they promote growth of our community, but also because they provide such tasty fodder for conversations as this one.
There have already been a slew of these responses; rather than link each one individually, I’ll direct you to the page that links all the of the shared topics. I’ll be covering the other, armchair game design, on Friday (with a surprise poetical diversion in between, though I guess it won’t be much of a surprise, now).
Surprisingly, despite all my trouble, I like the idea of guilds, but objectively I can say that I believe they’ve outlived their relevance. I’d suggest that the initial concept of guilds came from the need for easy contacts to help you survive. Early MMOs were far more brutal than our more recent offerings, and as a result, having a group was almost a necessity. This undoubtedly came from the design of earlier CRPGs, most of which were party-oriented, which were based on earlier pen and paper RPGs, which were also party-oriented, mostly because those were based on even earlier table-top war games, which of course were party (squad/division/army) oriented.
This long chain of evolution lead us to an design decision that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the end has become more and more irrelevant. You see, dear reader, in the early MMOs, the availability of easy grouping and communication were vastly less than they are now. Guilds provided both a platform with which to speak to “like minded” (in theory) players as well as a pool of them with which to advance in an vastly more hostile world.
Now, though, new design decisions have replaced these old ones, historically based on completely different types of games. The RealID system has made it possible to communicate, even “converse,” with multiple friends. Cross-realm grouping has made it far easier to group up with people that you’ve enjoyed playing with before. Obviously, LFD and LFR have made strides here, too, though at perhaps too great a cost. VOIP systems have made the communication even easier, with a small buy-in of downloading some software, to allow you to chat with who you want when you want.
What, then, is the current relevancy of guilds? If you’ve got a platform to speak with your “like-minded” friends, can group with them regardless of realm, why then are guilds relevant, and why, regardless of their relevance, do I feel like they are?
Perhaps it’s just habit, both for me and for the genre as a whole. Again, historically, when you played PnP RPGs, you were part of something larger; your works combined with others’ to create a (hopefully) enjoyable story in which you all partook. Maybe guilds, then, are filling the “social” element of play, which may be why there are far more social guilds than any other type.
The problem then occurs when the “social” aspect of guilding runs counter to the “goal-oriented” task of raiding. As many commentators revealed during my recent guild drama, they’ve found that there’s far more problems in “family-style” guilds than in hardcore guilds. I suspect this is because of the cross purposes; why raid with people you only want to socialize with?
This trend may also come from the way we work as adults. Due to time constraints and fatigue combined with spending a lot of time with your coworkers, many of our friends come from where we work. Since raiding is a “work-like” event (though it can be fun and rewarding, but so can work if you end up in a job you like), it makes sense that we’d assume that we’d do so with our “friends.” What we often forget in deciding that, though, is that we also often have nemeses at work, people who are rude or lazy, who increase our workload or try to make us look bad in front of others, and often as a result end up with the same in our guilds.
As guilds have become less relevant, Blizzard has struggled to enforce guilding with their reward system. There is now an “economic” incentive to be in guilds; you get more of most every type of currency for being in one. This may be one of the big draws for me; I want to get all the bonuses I can, of course, but I don’t think that’s my sole reason for still wanting to be guilded.
I’ve written before that I suspect that I’ve become a much more “social” player than I used to be as I’ve slid down the ladder to more “casual” than “hardcore” (and the ladder metaphor isn’t meant to be insulting; it’s safer to be on the ground than up on a ladder – I hate heights). I suspect, too, that this more social nature I’ve developed is what has kept me guilded, even sometimes against my better instinct.
With this most recent round of guildlessness, though, I’ve still been very social. I’m keeping in touch with the few people I really liked in my previous guilds, keeping in touch with blog friends, and still raiding, so I think I may be moving towards an epiphany that I don’t really need to be in a guild. That said, I probably will server hop again and join my other buddy’s guild, nonetheless.
Some may argue that guilds are necessary to raid successfully, but Openraid.us has completely proven that wrong. I’m not saying you can do heroic raids with those groups (I’m not saying you can’t, either, since I haven’t tried), but both my couple friends who had moved to Germany and my buddy and I have been utilizing Openraid to down bosses since 5.4. I think any argument about guilds being necessary for current-tier non-hardcore raiding has been permanently disproven.
So what, then, is the relevance of guilds? Outside of hardcore raiding – and to be frank I’m not even 100% sure about that – which requires a bit more trust and thus a bit more familiarity with the people with whom you raid, I don’t think guilds are relevant any more.
But that doesn’t mean I want to feel that way. It feels a bit like an end of an era to admit that, despite my many problems with them.
Stubborn (and guildless, for the moment)