Salazar has been missing for a very long time now, missing but not gone as his occasional messages testify. He’s spent the last few months trying to communicate with us and today saw a major development when we received an image for the first time! True it’s badly corrupted but it could be cleaned up and it’s obvious that Sal has got his Gini and running so who knows what he’ll be able to send next! Exciting times ahead, and maybe we will get Sal back soon…
I’m by no means rich in RL. I have a job but also a mortgage and kids so I have to make choices every days about what I spend my money on and, if I’m honest, that sucks, yet it’s also life and there is no point in worrying about it. But that’s not to say I want that experience in my games and if there’s one thing I’ve discovered I hate hate hate about MMOs such as LOTRO and GW2 it’s that I’m always poor in there too!
In LOTRO I spent ages trying to get enough gold to buy enough equipment to make me more or less effective and it got me nothing. In GW2 I’m always on the edge of poverty and having to sell everything I can just to fund the purchase of armour and weapons for one character. I’ve had 100 gold pieces recently but that didn’t last long and I’m usually hovering between 20 to 50 as I buy new exotic sets for my Engineer builds. I don’t craft and I’m not saving up for a legendary, I salvage and gather and therefore you think I’d be rolling in moolah but I’m not and that ticks me off. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get gold in GW2 outside of mindlessly running dungeons.
Frankly I don’t want to be poor in two worlds. Sigh.
In my last world building post I talked about, amongst other things, better weather & seasonal effects to make the world seem more alive and changeable. Well in this post I want to move from the macro back down the scale and look at towns, cities and other settlements because it’s not just the world that needs to come alive for me but the place I call home too.
My first ever experience of an online, populated city was Nova Albion in Second Life. I rezzed nearish and wandered on down where I was grabbed by the lure of free Linden Dollars in a camping spot (this was before I realised how damaging camping spots are to online worlds, sucking up computing resources for no benefit to the environment). Once I broke free of the camping chair I began to explore the city and was amazed that such a place could exist – it was a city built by and populated by the players, a deal of who I could see around me! Now it was sometime before I realised that vast majority of players were in one or two locations within the city and the rest of it was a well-tended wasteland so at the time this was a hugely exciting to me.
My next experience was of Bree in LOTRO and I still remember riding through the gates and down the cobbled road from Combe for the first time. It was night and I was following a more experience player in my first few hours of playing and I can still feel the excitement swelling inside me, something akin to the first time after passing my driving test my Dad had me follow him onto the motorway – pure nervous adrenaline as I moved from one world to another, it was amazing.
My most recent experience has been in GW2 where I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Divinity’s Reach (such a bloody beautiful name, too). The levels! the architecture! The housing! The scale! Oh my gods I was blown away! It is still the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in a game but do you know how many times I go there and explore it? Never. I teleport to the bank and teleport back out to the game. I teleport to the Maiden’s Whisper for RP and teleport out again. If I crafted I’d teleport to the crafting station and then out to the game again. The is no reason for me to wander around the city and therefore it could be three or four small rooms and I’d still get the same benefits and that is a crying shame.
Do you know what Nova Albion, Bree & Divinity’s Reach have in common? They are deserts. Wastelands. Ghost towns. People hurry from location to location in an entirely perfunctory manner to get between locations such as bank to auction house or auction house to crafting station in order to complete a necessary task related to the furthering of a step within the game. Taking a helicopter’s eye view of the city over 24 hours you’d see players whizzing back and forth between a small number of locations using the same routes whilst the rest of the city simply lies dormant.
So what to do about this sorry state of affairs, I hear (or at I imagine I hear) you ask?
That’s a good question I have no easy answers to but here’s what I’d like to see in online cities, things I feel would brathe some life into them and make them worth not just visiting again but actually playing in:
- Player housing throughout. True this was the case in SL and cities there were still deserted but none of these ideas are meant to happen in isolation. I think player housing is important because not only does it give players a reason to be in the city but it also makes them invested in the city. All of the amazing buildings in Divinity’s Reach are unusable with only the occasional one open, but even these are museum displays that can’t be played or interacted with. True there is the home instance of Selma but it’s just that, an instance; a private bubble of the city created for and inhabited by only you – and where is the fun in that? Let players live in the city and make it their own.
- Events throughout the city all the time. Give the players a reason to be in the city other than crafting, banking or redecorating their house. Player guilds like LOTRO’s Lonley Mountain Band prove that if you put an event on people will come so put events on! Allow players to put events on! For the love of all that is holy, breathe some life into the place and get people dancing! Random small celebrations should happen, Weekly markets with special items, Parades that wind their through the city streets. All night parties right outside your window. Holy days of celebration to the various six Gods. And why not have dungeons in the city? Why not have quests and dynamic events happen there?
- Let crafters own shops. Let players own a shop that you can visit and where you can buy their goods, whether those have been made or found. True these items could also be sold on the trading post but why not between people? Slap a 15% sales tax on and the gold sink remains. And if the player is out playing then let them hire an NPC to man the shop for them (an even bigger gold sink).
- Whilst on the subject of NPCs, make them real. Don’t have them standing around waiting to be clicked on but have them wandering the neighbourhood. Have them going in and out of buildings and doing stuff other than waiting. Like exploring a city, listening to NPCs talking is fun the first time but then never again. Hell there is a conversation between two ministers about the Centaur problem going on right now that was going on word for word when I started over a year ago. Why? That conversation hasn’t moved on so it gives the impression neither has the world. NPCs should seem like they really live and work in the city otherwise the city seems like a theme park exhibit.
- Let the city change at night. Traders should close shop and go home, NPCs should wander off to their families or the pub, parties should start, Seraph patrols increase, curfews enforced, drunken fights break out, arrests made. In short the city should act like a real city and be different at night as it is in the day.
Of course, a lot of this goes for *all* the settlements in the world. All of them need real day & night cycles with NPCs that do more than stand around like idiots awaiting an instruction to sit. Players should be free to live in the countryside if city life is not for them. Merchant caravans should allows player-traders to join them. The whole bloody world should feel more interactive and real and alive and a lot less like a game where you can’t play with all of the pieces.
I was hoping to have written up a follow up to my ‘Humble Beginnings’ post by now but alas, I need to sleep in between work and playing GW2 😀
When I last left off I’d met some of the Crimson Ashes Guild in the Maiden’s Whisper and had been invited to an IC meeting with the rest of the Guild at the same place the next day. I only just made it after tearing down the motorway from work, but make it I did and I walked Jurak up into the pub – right past all the Guildies who were watching my with what I can only imagine was bemused pity as I strode on by. Luckily the same player who had met me both the previous night and in the Lomar’s pass camp was on hand to save the day (and my blushes).
Victoria introduced me to the group, including who I think is the boss, Craywin (although they may have no overall leader, it’s hard to tell) and we all chatted in character for a while. In the end they agreed to give Jurak (and me, lest I forget) a trial period. Jurak was invited him on a beast hunt deep into Svanir held territory whilst I was told that whilst attendance was casual they do expect active participation a couple of times a week, which seems both fair and manageable to me. They came across like a nice, friendly bunch. I’ve not been in many guilds in my gaming life (this is number three) but I’ve always been lucky to pick friendly ones. My only complaint in the past has been the last of a cohesive narrative for the group to exist, something to hang the whole suspension of disbelief on. Yes it’s nice to chat in the guild channel about the game and the wider real world and that is invaluable, but it can’t (for me at least) be all there is. I think that in Crimson Ashes I’ve found something really special – a group with which to grow and share stories.
It was, I have to say, a weird night in Tyria last night. I started in Divinity’s Reach at the bank where I had logged off the day before in order to sort, recycle, bank & sell the bag load of bumpf I had picked up from a couple of tours of Lion’s Arch. After that I toyed with the idea of TPing back to LA to start all over again but in the end opted for donning my town clothes (the second time I have ever done so since the game started), toggling the run speed to ‘walk’ and heading off to my home instance to see what was happening. Had I thought about it, I could have answered my own question with a big, fat “Nothing!” because the home instance only ever has one real person in it, you. Luckily I mis-remembered the name of the home instance and didn’t read the map carefully enough and headed over to Rurikton which, in hindsight, was a lovely piece of serendipity.
I walked through the old Ascalonian settlers’ quarter half suspecting this wasn’t my home instance and half determined to keep up my frustratingly slow walk through the town and into the next area (which, given the fact I was heading north, would have been Salma, my home instance). As I passed a large building I heard (and saw thanks to faint chat bubbles visible in the air and through walls) NPCs chatting away. They were coming from the large building, which turned out to be the Maiden’s Whisper pub, so I headed in and straight away found it was full of not just NPCs but also players. Standing around. In town clothes. I glanced down at my chat box and saw they were chatting in character and realised I’d blundered into an RP event! Again!
I didn’t recognise anyone from my previous encounter with RPers but what were the chances of that, eh? I tentatively began to RP with the Charr landlord (the pub seems to be open to all so I guess enterprising RPers just RP they own – I do wonder what would happen if two characters were there at the same time and both their RP stories claimed they owned it independently – what would an RP fight like that look like?). It was fun, I bought beer which didn’t exist with money I didn’t really give and talked to the Charr about how he kept a good brew. It was fun. Odd but fun. In a tabletop game it’s a given the beer & money wouldn’t exist but in a richly detailed 3D world I sort of expected they would. In Second Life the bar could give you scripted drink. In LOTRO I’d have to buy a drink and then use it. I *think* that’s the same in GW2 but I’m not sure. So I just stood there and typed /e takes a deep drink of the ale “That’s a good brew there, barkeep!” and the like*.
After a while I grew a little restless and wandered off. I headed to the Salma district and regretted 1.284 seconds after entering as I was remembered that I would be the only person there! What a waste! I have more to say on home areas and instances but that’s for another “World Building…” posts in the future. I turned around and left, heading back to Rurikton abut before I could get there real life interrupted and took me away from the game for an hour or so,
I logged back in after the kids were in bed and took up where I had left off. I walked back to where I thought the pub was but got hopelessly lost. I saw a couple of other non-armoured, non-running players and took them to be RPers but rather than stop them I pressed on. I became aware that the chat window was cycling over with player chats nearby but it was only after a few minutes I began to recognise names. Names I had last seen in the RP session outside Lion’s Arch by the Durmond Priory. Almost at the same time I realised this I received an in game mail which turned out to be from the RPer I’d spoken to during that event and who had promised to get back with details of an in-game, in-character interview – not only that but it was one of the players in the pub I was stood near to at that exact moment! Someone somewhere was leading me down a path and so who am I to refuse them?
I met up with the RPers in the pub, they were a different bunch from the ones earlier in the evening and I think they were all part of the same guild, Crimson Ashes. I was made very welcome and some faltering RP (faltering on my part I hasten to add) took place in which I was gently interviewed to see what kind of player I was. In the end I was invited to a second interview (tonight – must remember! 8pm! Set a reminder with Google Now!) and if I pass that I’ll end up in a RP guild on a probation period. I’m still really unsure what the players do – hopefully it’s more than RPing in pubs as I don’t think that will suit me. Ideally I’d like to run game story content & dungeons with them but in character as well as plan some interesting storylines we can act out in world, but as it stands right now it’s all a bit of a mystery. Still, so was RP in Second Life but I worked that out in the end 😀 I’ll keep you posted.
*The /e means that what appears in the chat window starts with your character’s name so that line would appear as Jurak Gearwright takes a deep drink of the ale “That’s a good brew there, barkeep!” to everyone nearby. I’ve yet to figure out all the conventions of RP but this is a mainstay as far as I can tell. This appears to be a great resource site I have yet to mine for more guidance: http://guildwars2roleplay.wikispaces.com/Roleplay+Guide
I had planned this post to be part of a much larger post directed at my dissatisfaction with GW2 and other MMOs but as I drafted and redrafted it in my head it kept changing, its focus shifting and realigning, until I just decided to open a New Post box and see what happened.
World Building part 1. I had no idea that was going to pop out of my fingertips when I started but now I think it’s perfect because the lack of immersion that leads to my feeling of disconnection & dissatisfaction with GW2 is not unique to that game and, in some respects, not the fault of that or any game. So here is my first post in a new series about what I want, desperately in many cases, to see in a game world. They are in no real order – my thinking isn’t always that joined up – but I’m sure common themes will pop up here and there. So, where to start. Well, seeing as I’m British, why not with the weather…
Give me more weather: I want a world where the only choices are not sun or rain (with snow at Xmas), I want weather that goes beyond the binary and into the realms of patterns and even seasons and I want them all to have an impact on the world. Let the rain pool up and cause flooding. Give me hail that damages buildings, lightning storms that start forest fires, heat waves that result in a terrible droughts and mass-herd deaths Give me meteor impacts and plagues of killer locusts! I want ship-sinking typhoons and village-erasing twisters! And what is so wrong with a good old fashioned earthquake? GIVE ME MORE THAN SUN AND RAIN! *pant pant pant*… Actually, earthquakes aren’t weather are they? But they do lead me on to my next point quite nicely.
Why is the land always the same? OK, here in the UK I’m lucky enough to live in a stable & prosperous place and the land hardly every changes. Except it does. all the time. Fields that have been there since my dad was a kid are being turned into housing estates, new railways are wiping villages off the map and cities are eating up towns all the time. The land changes, except in MMOs where, like the seasons and the weather, it’s always the same. A path through the hills and out to the coast that is never blocked by a flood or a landslide is just the same as a corridor in a FPS. I want people (both players and non-players) and the weather (see above) and seasons (below) to change the landscape. Don’t tell me it’s a living world when most of it is pickled in aspic!
And whilst I’m on the topic of seasons, can we please add some? I know that to see a Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter cycle roll past means you are a year older and it is clear that your character is not, but if I can suspend my disbelief that the Simpsons have been the same age for 25 years I can do the same in a game, trust me. The fact you include a day/night cycle indicates there is a passage of time and my head has yet to explode from the fact day after day cycles round and yet nothing seems to change. Put seasons in, make them run in the same way as your day & night time frame (roughly 4 to 6 times faster than normal) and the world will see to be fresh and living instead of some weird West World theme park stuck on one setting forever. And ever. And ever.
I’ll take a break there but in my next post I want to move on to the people in these worlds and the lives they often don’t but really should live. And some stuff about night time as well. Oh god, the night time in games sucks.
One last point before I hit publish and end my lunch break, please don’t imagine I’m having a pop at GW2 or LOTRO or Second Life. I’m simply putting forward my wishlist and no one game is more guilt than another of failing to live up to my vastly inflated sense of expectations. There are probably some very good technical reasons why some of the things I want can’t be done, but that doesn’t stop me wanting them. I have a similar problem with Miranda Kerr and Karlie Kloss.
With a title like that you just know this post is going to be a doozy, right? Well buckle in because I have a loooot of humble pie to eat. Oh, and spoilers ahead so you’ve been warned.
After having a right old pop at the final Scarlet Briar fight in Guild Wars 2, I was listening to the rather excellent Guild Wars Reporter podcast (part of the always excellent MMO Reporter podcast family) and heard the two presenters talking about a ‘secret backdoor’ to the final fight. My ears pricked up. It seems that there is a special teleporter that you can enter only if you are wearing the backpack you have to make with pieces found during the LA invasion event. Once you enter it you are taken to the very final instance bypassing the messy zerg-fest fight with the holograms. The instance is single player only and the same for everyone regardless of their route to it so it means that even if, like me, you were struggling to even get to the hologram fight let alone past it there is a route to the end that is totally do-able and gives you the same ending as everyone else. I bloody love this idea! Nice one Arenanet!
I built the basic backpack (cosmetically the best version in my opinion, the more advanced versions have the ugly leg/wing things that I hate) in the mystic forge using the help and guidance of the guild. We fought and I killed her in a pretty easy fashion, which I liked as the battles with the Champions and Knights in LA had been testing enough, and I was rewarded with a very cool cut scene of the next dragon waking up.
And then I was back in LA with a new tag and a warm sense of closure. As an after thought I decided to tackle another Knight nearby for one last zergy fun fight and see if it dropped any sweet loot. Only thing is that when we killed the bugger all three attunement circles opened and before I knew what I was doing I was in the hologram fight again only this time we won and I was back in the very same easy finishing fight with Scarlet! After complaining I couldn’t do it I managed to do it twice on the run! And I done it twice again today! The hologram fight is actually quite easy, well, not easy but not as complicated as I first thought and a whole heap more fun.
So the lesson here is don’t blog in a bad mood. Somehow I don’t think this is a lesson I’m going to learn in a hurry ;D
Oh, no update on the RP guild yet. I’ll have to contact them. Expect an update. Maybe in character 😀
As I’ve mentioned I’ve restarted my Guild Wars 2 game playing and although I’m enjoying it I’m still left with that weird, empty feeling afterwards. There are several reasons for this, not all of which I can adequately express despite several hours in the last few days of quite serious introspection. What it boils down to seems to be a feeling of disconnection from the game brought about by an unsatisfactory social play model and the inability of the game to tailor an experience for me to lose myself in. I feel it is only fair to say this is not unique to GW2 for me but so far all MMOs such as LOTRO, Star Trek and even Second Life have shared this exact same issue. I plan to write more on this but I’m still trying to organise my thoughts and feelings into a coherent body that I can lay out for inspection but before I do I just wanted to share with you an experience from last night that made my soul sing with the sweet possibility of a solution.
I logged into GW2 and rezzed where I had left off, in Lion’s Arch in the second phase of the invasion storyline. It’s fun but unless you are with a zerg you are screwed. The previous night I reached near the end and fought the Prime Hologram that is somewhere just before the final fight with Scarlet Briar but we (the zerg) fluffed it and poof! I was back on Terra Firma with no more clue of how I got there than I did of how I got into the hologram fight or what the bloody hell I was doing for 99% of it. I was, it’s fair to say, despondent. My time is limited and to find myself so close to the end, whether by accident or design, and then plopped right back at the start felt like a total waste of my evening. Worse, it made me want to give up on the content because I could see no hope of ever getting to the end of it again. I left Lion’s Arch and headed for the old refugee camps to see if I could trade in the guff I had uncovered from the city (in itself another sticky point as I was unable to get an achievement in time due to being a solo player and now I’m stuck with a permanent 80% record despite my best efforts – argh!) only to find the bloody vendors have now gone!
I was, as you can imagine, more than a little hacked off. What is the point in playing if I can’t take part in any but the most trivial of content? Why carry on at all if all I can ever hope to be is a dull foot soldier lobbing in grenades from the side-lines and never getting to the end of the battle? What, I wondered, was the point of playing the game at all?
It was at this point I noticed some players walking. In MMOs this is unheard of except for role-players. I stopped dead, realising I’d just run directly into one of them and our bodies were now clipped together. If this was an RPer then this is just the sort of thoughtless action that would piss them off and I quickly disengaged and backed off. Sure enough the group, which all sported the same guild tag, began to talk to each other. Out loud. Without using LOLZ. Jesus! they *were* RPers! I set my guy to walking speed, found a seat by the camp fire and sat right down to watch.
The story began to unfold in front of me, each player using a mixture of IC & OOC chat to drive the tale on. After a while I began to join in and rather than getting a private message to butt out they actually let me join in. It was all very tentative, me wondering if I was going to fut my size nines in it and they no doubt wondering if I was about to take the piss or do something to ruin their carefully nurtured sense of immersion. Neither party was, I think I’m justified in saying, disappointed in the behaviour of the other – I tried my best to fit in and not be a cock whilst they certainly didn’t come over as elitist jerks and they were very welcoming. In fact so much so that I ended up asking if I could join their guild. I have no idea what came over me but I just decided that nothing ventured nothing gained – the logical outcome of me not asking would be the removal of the game from my machine in a few weeks so I asked. And they said yes! Well, a qualified yes. I will have to have an interview with them to see if I fit in, but that’s fair enough. If we both like each other then maybe this is the start of a new renaissance* on my gaming. Maybe, after all I have tried this before in SL but never found an RP community I really liked. Maybe in Tyria I will. I’m willing to try if they are 🙂
I’ve been working away in London again. I had Wi-Fi so could have posted but, if I’m honest, I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t play MCPE or SC once, not once. What this shows me is that I’m still bored with MCPE and the horsey update for SC just hasn’t grabbed me. I didn’t think it would.
Kaalus is already working on the next update and despite the first news being the ability to paint more blocks, about which I couldn’t care less, he has teased there is a new survival mechanic on the way. Hallelujah. Hopefully the next update will re-spark my interest in playing because if it doesn’t, the upcoming MCPE Realms just might and I’m not one for playing more than one thing at once.
Oh, as I was in London rather than the backwater I live in near Manchester, I decided to give Ingress another go, but more of that in my next post… 🙂
Back when I was still playing LOTRO & I failed a quest my immediate thought was more often than not “Damn! Now I have to do this snaserfrassing thing again!” Now contrast that with my time in Guild Wars 2 where the failure of a dynamic event led me to think “Uh oh… things are about to get very interesting!” and that, I’m sure you’ll agree is a big difference.
Now you readers who don’t play MMOs or aren’t following the development of Guild Wars 2 may be wondering what the buggeration a “Dynamic Event” is. Well, let me fill you in on the basics and then point you to some people on YouTube who are far better placed than I to actually show you how these rather wonderful things work.
To start with you need to understand a little about how other (older) MMOs handle their quests. They offer you a simple mechanic whereby you interact with an NPC or in-game object to receive your orders which you then carry out before returning to the ‘giver’ to receive your reward. If you failed you’d have to start again & if you succeeded you moved on to the next quest or to the next quest giver. All well & good but oh so very functional & flat. The storytelling is linear, boring & unsatisfactory.
So Arenanet has decided to do away with this system and instead employs a dynamic mechanism whereby events just happen in the world & it is up to the player to get involved. This time failure doesn’t mean starting again but rather seeing the quest event dynamically evolve into another narratively linked event. Bandits suddenly attack the city’s water supply and if you stop them then the event changes on the fly from having you protect the pipes to having you hunt down the bandits all the way back to their hideout. But if you fail and the bandits destroy the pipes before you can drive them back then the event morphs into a desperate struggle to protect the repair crews sent out from the city to restore the supply. And this is just two steps of several along two branches of many in one dynamic event of hundreds in the world where the developers can add new ones quickly & easily. It’s an amazingly flexible, powerful & immersive system that’s also a huge heap of fun to experience in action, I’m sure you’ll agree 😀
But the beauty of dynamic events, like that of HDTV or Jen from Milkshake, has to be seen to be believed so I have lined up a few choice clips from fellow beta players.Take a look & let me know what you think of the system. I hope they help some of you who might be wavering about pre-purchasing the game to make up your mind and come adventuring with me in Tyria 😀
CaraEmm explains the branching, escalating nature of dynamic events in Guild Wars 2:
CaraEmm explores the consequences of failure in dynamic events:
MMOHut explains how dynamic events unravel:
Way back in the press-only betas TotalBiscuit explored how one dynamic event snowballed as he played: