SL Problems

The mill of God grinds slow but grinds exceedingly small…

This time last year I was deeply in love with a type of game that was new to me – the MMORPG. Sure I’d played in Second Life for over four years by that point so I had experienced the MMO part, and I had grown up playing paper & pencil role playing games such as MERP & Traveller so I had some knowledge of the RPG part, but to find myself playing a computer game that combined both was a revelation!

LOTRO, for that was the game, quickly proved to be a wonderful time-sink as I had a new world to explore that was free of the irritations that had built up for me in Linden Lab’s creation (lag, crazy management decisions, fugly landscapes, dumb but powerful players) and which offered me a play experience tailored to reaching an impressive goal. Unfortunately, within a few short months I began to realise that the green grass on the other side of hill might just be concealing a lot of thorny brambles.

Now, not having grown up playing MMOs I came to LOTRO as complete & unspoilt virgin. Yes I understood about existing in a 3D virtual persistent world, but I knew nothing about MMO combat or questing or levelling & skill progression. Like a man possessed with the desire to acquire new, exciting knowledge I threw myself into learning everything I could about just how MMOs work and this proved to be such a mammoth task that in my study of the details I simply overlooked the obvious, hulking elephant sat squarely in the room.

MMOs steal your time.

I don’t mean you become addicted and want to play every waking moment. No, every game or hobby does that at some point and it’s a normal reaction when doing something you enjoy to want to do lots more of it. At one time I would have given in and played as much as possible but now I’m married with kids that simply isn’t an option and I have to ration my on-line time and live vicariously through other people’s blogs, videos and podcasts. But this isn’t what I’m getting at when I say MMOs steal your time.

No, what I mean is that in the main the MMO business model makes money either through charging players regular subscriptions or leading them to make repeated purchases from an online micro-transaction store. The games themselves have evolved to feed the business model and a toxic relationship has grown up between them and you, the player. The games either deliberately space out content so you stay in game longer needlessly wasting hours of your time just so you pay another subscription fee, or they cynically build in mechanisms whereby you have to pay hard cash to overcome some inconvenience in the game.

Now I only have LOTRO to fall back on when I want to give examples but from what I hear many other games pull similar stunts to both greater & lesser degrees. To help me explain, let me give you some examples from 10 month playing Turbine’s LOTRO.

When Ranhold hit the right level, I wanted to start the process of getting his three legendary skills from his class trainer. All classes have the same route, you hit 35 (I think) and you can buy three books from your trainer that are ancient texts on your class. Unfortunately, because of their great age, several pages from each are missing and you are tasked with finding them. Once you do you can unlock one of three skills (one per book and presumably learnt from reading the great wisdom contained in each mouldy tome). Now, putting aside many logic issues (such as why rare books are for sale from trainers all over Middle Earth to all the practitioners of your class, and just how come these pages have fallen into the hands of any old bi-pedal creature in certain areas and of a certain level) the thing that really ripped my knitting about this task was how obvious it became that this was a just a mechanic to slow me down. It took me weeks of playing every evening and slaughtering hundreds upon hundreds of bad guys to find these pages and this was simply to keep me in the game long enough to charge me more subscriptions fees. Each book *could* have been gathered in a series of instanced quests that would have felt more logical and been far more fun than mindlessly hanging about waiting for the same orcs you had just killed for the twentieth time to respawn in exactly the same spots so you could kill them all again for the twenty first time and hope against hope the Gods of Random Number Generation would smile on you this time! But you see, the trouble with a quest line is it can be done in an evening and that isn’t good for poor old Turbine who want the poor sods playing their games to spew up more & more moolah. They can’t reach through the screen and pick your pocket so instead they manipulate their game so they can steal your time and charge you for it.

This wasn’t the only example, oh no. Reputation grinds always acted as a break on the story by stopping me in my tracks just so I could collect a bazillion twigs for no good or logical reason. Or what about kicking the crap out of several hundred (bad) dwarves in one mine just so I could get a goat from some (this time good) dwarves in another mine that would allow me to get around yet another mine full of dwarves (of which orientation I was past caring). And let’s not forget the three tasks assigned to you at around level 50? The ones that see you travelling all over the sodding place just to collect rare-ish drops from slugs and orcs and turtles and wargs and Uncle Bloody Tom Cobley for all I know? Why? For what reason?

To waste your time. To make you pay more.

And then there are the cash shop sinks. Every expansion Turbine seem to add a new grindy mechanic that includes an item you can get in game if you spend hundreds of hours killing hundreds of orcs just so you can then upgrade your Legendary Item in a system so designed to strip the fun out of feeling heroic you can only imagine it was designed by people who use Microsoft Excel to read War & Peace. Brian over at CMP said in one of his recent podcasts that he had resigned himself to the fact that every time Turbine put out a new expansion or update there is a very strong chance they will also add a new mechanic that will drive people to the store. This, to me at least, is simply not acceptable and not something I can accept.

But, I hear some of you say, I’m a Jonny Come Lately to these games so who am I to say that grinding is pointless or that adding cash item mechanics are bad form? True enough. I don’t speak for all MMO gamers, just me and I’ve spoken to lots of folks who love, or at least don’t mind, gathering reputation items and measure their success in gathering rancid pages from rotting orc corpses as quickly as possible. It’s just that it is not for me. I don’t like a company rationing my enjoyment of a game I’ve paid for. No, what I want is to buy a game and then play it how the hell I want to. I don’t want to have to spend hours and hours repeating menial, boring tasks. I may still choose to do that, but *I* want that choice and that is something I don’t think Turbine every truly offered me.

I also don’t like to feel as though I’m a wallet with legs to be opened and emptied when they feel like it. I want to feel like a valued customer and again I don’t think that Turbine have ever really demonstrated that I’m anything but a sucker to them.

Now please don’t feel I’m hitting just on Turbine here. Obviously I am but only because they are the only ones I have any experience with and I’m sure many game companies and their games are the same. I don’t play LOTRO any more and I’m damn sure I won’t play any game if I read even one review that mentions how grindy it is. Like refusing to continue reading bad book, life is too short to piss away playing games that just aren’t fun.

SL: It’s not you, it’s me…

Somewhere, god alone knows where or when, I once described my feelings towards SL as a relationship in its final stages where, instead of a clean break, there was a repeating pattern of arguments, splits & reconciliations in which both parties knew the relationship was doomed but didn’t know what to do about it but both damn sure that when the next big argument came along they’d be off. Well that time has come.. except the final argument never happened, rather there was an entirely surprising turn of events that led to the relationship falling apart.

Like a good soap opera storyline, the end for me and SL didn’t come in one of my regular explosions of bad temper and swearing (often caused by lag or crashes or chat channels not working, or photos not going to flickr). No, the end snuck up on me suddenly. It was the equivalent of meeting someone new at work and going home and blurting out to your missus that you were leaving right there and then.

The new woman was LOTRO but she was not the reason I left SL. To be honest, if not her it would have been someone else. I’m sure SL felt the same way about me.

The sad truth is I had not been happy in SL since the end of TSMGO. I looked everywhere for a creative community and found only cliques and barriers. The few chinks of light I did find were too elusive to follow for long and when you throw in someone who really didn’t want you in his house, well lets just say I’m not surprised my eye went a-wandering. After all, how long do you keep head-butting a brick wall before your much admired perseverance becomes your much mocked stupidity?

So I spent a night with my new woman and fell in love. Sure she’s not as flexible as the old one and she doesn’t know my ways yet (or I hers) but in truth there are many similarities… it’s just that this new one is better in bed. Much.

Sorry SL. I didn’t mean this to happen. It’s not you… it’s me.

Good Lord! Someone’s stolen my house!

Well now! I know I’ve been out-of-world for as while, but this is just rude!

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It’s you, stupid…

Have a look in the mirror. Go on, have a really good look at your face. That face that stares back at you. Those eyes. Those eyes belong to the reason Second Life is shit. You are the reason the Lab employees go home crying at night, you bastard!

I’m not going to link to Uncle Hammy’s Glorious Revelation of The Ultimate Truth (can you guess why?) so you’ll have to google for it, but trust me when I say he proves conclusively that Second Life’s woes (I’m not sure what they are, but if Hammy says we have woes then we bloody well have woes!) are down to you – yes you!

It’s not lag. It’s not the viewer. It’s not high prices. It’s not the fact the Lab is competing with land owners and renters. The shitty customer service. The fucked chat. No. It’s you and me not just shutting the fuck up and sitting quietly like the open wallets we are spunking wonga up the Lab’s leg like a sex-addled ATM. That and the fact you just won’t let him have facebook-humping-SL dream and cruelly insist on keeping your name secret so you can hide behind a made up persona, you cowardly shit!

So listen to Uncle Hammy, keep your miserable whining to yourself and keep paying the bills so the Lab can have more parties Hammy can crash and twat on about.

Fuck me…

I’m free! Free I tell you!

Thanks to all of you who called with helpful suggestions and observations – after some help from a wee friend with big connections I’m now free!

EDIT (24th Nov 10): One great thing about being ghosted is I met a new friend – the very lovely Shigeko Tachikawa happened across me and kindly took this picture to go with my other from when I was ghosted in Phobos (that one taken by Salazar Jack).
HBA Ghosted in Noyo

Stuck in limbo… again!

If you are wondering why I’m in-world a lot at the moment, then wonder no more… I’ve been ghosted for the last three days. I’ve put a ticket in, but only being a mere Premium I’ve heard fuck all :-/

Emerald Shemerald!

Will everyone (except Adric and Osprey) please stop talking about Emerald as it’s fucking dull. Cheers.

SL on hold again.

Right. We’ve all been here before so I’m not going to bore you with details, suffice to say SL is once again proving to be a total twat and I’m just not enjoying the misery of trying to log in only to see grey boxes everywhere. I’m not logging back in for a bit and I’m not blogging about it either – the whole bubblefuck can can fall off a very steep fucking cliff for all I care. I’ll stick to Left 4 Dead 2 for now because at least that fucking well works and is fun.

Any RP I’m involved in, well consider me on hold. Email me if you want to otherwise I’ll try again in August.

All the diodes down my left side…

I have a snazzy computer. OK, it’s not a shit-hot gaming machine, but it didn’t cost me £2,000 so I never expected it to be. But still, way back in December 09 when I had the Great Graphics Card Balls Up (had to buy a new card, it didn’t fit in my PC or on my motherboard and I ended up buying a whole new PC in kit form and building it myself) I expected great things from it.

Well I’ve only had great-ish things from it.

It plays games wonderfully but it still finds SL a grind at times and a couple of weekends ago things came to a dramatic head when it simply refused to play ball during the Bay City 2nd Anniversary and I missed the Parade.

I think I’ve fixed it – I’ve certainly had no problems since Osprey’s advice, but in case anyone is looking for help with a similar issue, here’s what I did:

1) Cleared the cache. 4 times. Result: On relog things back to normal but not for long.

2) Defrag HD. Twice. Result: None.

3) Added 2Gb memory to take total to 4Gb. Result: None I can see so far but not tested much yet.

4) Switched on multi-threading in the SL client prefs (this was Os’ advice and it helps SL cope with multiple programs running on the computer). Result: This seems to have cracked it and I’ve had no problems since.

All in all it’s been hard to tell what worked as I was doing everything at the same time (bar adding the memory – that came a few days after and the system was running OK by then) but if you’re having problems, try the multi-threading thing out. Note, this is different from multi-threading on nVidia graphics cards which is about linking cards together.

The Bay City Blues…

I missed Bay City’s 2nd Anniversary Parade. After all that planning I sodding well missed it. I didn’t mean to but the Gods that rule either/or/and (delete as appropriate) SL’s lag & my PC conspired to give me a whole weekend of crashe. Things would start out OK, but then everything would start t o g e t v e r y s l o w

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before crashi

ARGH! In the end I couldn’t get back in so I buggered off to watch telly & brood. I did manage to take some shots before I exited the field stage left – here are a selection but there are lots more in the Bay City Flickr Group. Also check out there folks for their far better (and longer) experiences: Marianne, Osprey & Adric. And a big old TY to Mari & her Bay City/Nova Albion friends for arranging such a fun event!

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p.s. That Duck! is me!

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