Is it a change in conviction or is it finding it again?

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think that you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
Its almost certain that you won’t.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But sooner or later, the man who wins,
Is the one who thinks he can.
-Walter D. Wintle

I posted this as a comment in another’s blog today. I haven’t posted here in a while for various reasons. The biggest reason is that as of late most of the games I have been playing were not feeling like games. It didn’t matter if it was a MMO or a single player. I felt my enjoyment was a bit empty. My enjoyment felt materialistic based in a material world. I was inspired to start a blog due to an upcoming game. When that inspiration was no longer there I felt at odds posting here.

In the last two months I have been attending the practices of my local group in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I felt compelled to return after a long hiatus. I stopped for all the wrong reasons. I mentioned about getting active again to my wife. It was at her prodding I started to come back even though I can not fight due to shoulder issues.

I am getting much more back than I would have thought. It has been fun working limitedly with new fighters on basics. I have been diving into projects just because I can. It is amazingly fun. I feel much more enjoyment and fulfillment in what I do now than I ever get with gaming be it raiding or role play in nature. There I may now get a trinket that is a bunch of 0s and 1s. MMORPG have moved away from Koster’s view, reward is getting better at a game, to simple loot based reward. I think that developers think that the only way to retain/increase players (read revenue) is to turn the games into Skinner boxes. It is my thought that is what ails the MMORPG industry in that people are tending to flit from game to game. Each game they think they’ll get enjoyment final. But come to find out it is a Skinner box and move on to the next great thing. Which sadly for them will be another Skinner box. There was an interesting story on technology and Skinner on NPR today [Online Marketers Take Note Of Brains Wired For Rewards
](http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/07/24/204621796/ONLINE-REWARDS)

What I get in reward, from my SCA activity as of late, is oddly and amazingly both concrete and ephemeral at the same time. More on the saying at the top will be coming later.

Vanguard Saga of Heroes Character Select Music…

I need to thank Massively for a foray down in music in gaming.  I have to agree that EQII is one of my favorite character creation music..

but I TOTALLY forgot about VSOH character creation music… This clip almost wants me to reinstall the game!  This song is amazing!

But a nod to to the game I am waiting for w/ bated breath.. WildStar.

Jeff Kurtenacker also did the theme for PotBS which holds a special place in my MMO experiences heart.

That something something..

Well I had the pleasure of playing in Neverwinter Online and recently on a whim took a gander at Defiance. I have read online many a naysayer about Defiance. But, after last week watching the pilot episode I figure it just may be interesting to look into the game.

Both Neverwinter and Defiance are really missing that something something at times when it comes to gameplay. Neverwinter I just cannot place what bothers me so much about the gameplay. Defiance, it is glaring obvious. I have played FPS games before and since this a 3rd person shooter it feels odd at times. When you think you have a bead on a MOB around a corner you don’t due to the physics of the third person and parallax. Plus, the inventory system is less than desired. This seems to be the common issue w/ console ports on PCs. However, in terms of being fun to play I would say Neverwinter and Defiance are about even.

So the burning questions is which would prefer to play now? Oddly, I would say Defiance. The reason? The story is much better. That is pretty sad when it comes to game that uses the IP of Dungeon and Dragons does not have as strong a story. So my weekend working on the home was broken up w/ some time in Defiance.

defiance-mmo-logo

Music in Gaming

I am sorry for writing this later than I had promised. First I would like to give a hat tip to Syl due to listening to her on her podcast Battle Bards.

If you have read some of my other posts you will have come to an understanding that I have a love of music. I would argue that it is a love all forms of art be it prose, music, or graphic. I used to be a fairly good at drawing in charcoal and pastels when I was younger. The only reason was due to repetition and practice. It was most definitely not due to talent. However, I have never had a musical bone in my body. I have tried several instruments much to the chagrin to my mother when I was younger. However, I took after my father who was an audiophile of sorts. So I just learned to have a love for music.

Music in gaming in my opinion is very much like music in movies. Music in movies can is either diagetic and non-diagetic. Now I am going to bust out what I learned in my film appreciation class. More often than not it is non-diagetic; it is over the standard dialog and audio. A good example of diegetic would be like Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.

Dorothy Kirsten & Bing Crosby in Mr. Music - t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Music can add to an audience’s emotions. How many car chases have you seen that did not have some kind of non-diagetic music going? I have yet to see a movie that has. I feel that it even has the ability to not only add to the audience’s emotions it can evoke an emotion as well. Billy Boyd singing The Edge of Night in Return of the King is a perfect example for me. It is tempered by the diagetic sound of Denethor crushing the chicken bones. The diagetic sound of the crushing bones is a nice foreshadow of the outcome. Plus, it is a symbol of Denethor’s action which will cause needless deaths. You can just feel the futility of the charge almost an modern day homage to the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Music in gaming can have similar impact on players’ experiences. Early gaming music had more difficulty evoking or adding to players emotions. This was due to the nature of the music being limited to midi style music. But I bet that many people my age would immediately recognize the following themes:

That may not have evoked a response back when it came out. But I bet many my age would immediately recognize it if they hear it today and thus evoking an emotional response. Mine would be of gamer rage. I sucked terribly at Super Mario Brothers.

The first MMO that I absolutely loved for the music in was Everquest II. Nektropos Castle’s music added so much to the experience of the dungeon crawl. I always called it the Scooby Doo castle. That and Stormhold my Scooby Doo dungeon. I loved and hated Nektropos; loved the ambiance, hated the bugs.

The embedded preview for Stormhold seems busted so here is a link.

Most notably the the Echoes of Faydwer expansion. That expansion’s music was epic in terms of getting the player in the mindset of the continent of Faydwer. I loved the Kelethin/Greater Faydark music.

To me a music for a MMO should give the underlying tone of the zone that the player is in. It can evoke a Sense of Wonderment, Sense of Exploration, and a Sense of Urgency. (Sorry had to use link outs instead of embedding. The embedding in Youtube for most of those was not working).

Revisiting SWTOR and solo and group play thoughts.

I have jumped back into SWTOR because it is free to play now.  I am now feeling more comfortable playing in it since I have been away from GW2 for at least 3 months now.  The dodge mechanism in GW2 made it next to impossible to play SWTOR when it first went F2P for me.  I kept on trying to dodge much to my chagrin my smuggler just laughed at me.

Image

There are several things about the game that I still much love.  The stylized graphics I actually like them.  Champions Online was the first game that I felt had stylized graphics that I liked.  SWTOR was the second.  I like several of the lightsaber animations and several of the force animations as well.  The story aspect of the game is a love or hate thing for most players.  The people who hated it felt that the game was a theme park game on rails.  You would be hard pressed to argue against that thought.  However, the ones (like me) that actually liked the story looked past the theme park ride and just enjoyed the story that Bioware was telling.  Lastly, I really liked the idea of having a companion for soloing.  That was one of my biggest issues with Star Wars Galaxies is that it was more Creature Wars Galaxies when I first played.  The idea of having a companion you could summon to solo or flesh out a group that was short a person a great idea.

However, the companions caused a problem in the game.  They made the game much more soloable.  But, they also made groups much more ephemeral.  That is one of my only issues with way MMOs have been going lately. Don’t get me wrong I really don’t want to go back to the EQ days where my shaman was the red headed step child in getting a group.  Any group missions on planets were literally a onetime deal with players.  Hardly ever did I join a group for a mission to have it last beyond that one mission.  Yes, there are flashpoints for grouping but the leveling up portions of a player on the planets were limited.  Plus, the flashpoints were a grind fest to me.  EQII was more group based early on then they moved to the spectrum of WoW for soloing.  There are still dungeons that are contested that players can go into.  I like that. Places like that build community.  Dungeons build community.  I made several friends in EQ in Karnor’s Castle and in Highpass.  One of my favorite dungeons in EQII was Stormhold.  I loved to teach new players how to tank there.

Solo verse grouping it is a hard balance.  Most games these days seem to balance it by separating them.  Solo equaling outdoors while grouping equaling dungeons.  I miss grouping in the outdoors like I did EQ and earlier EQII.  However, I also would love to crawl a dungeon on my lonesome.  I would like to see games tackle this in a more innovative way.  A simple way off the top of my head would be scaling of MOBs.  The more people in a group the more “heroic”.  Each additional person in the group increases the XP the MOB gives out. Plus, the additional people also puts the MOB on another loot table for loot and coin.  This way groups and solo players could co exist in the same zone.  The only downside I could see with this is that people would most likely tend to solo still.  I don’t know if the additional XP and loot would be motivation enough to group.

Beta thoughts again.

Well as I get ready for a sleep study for my sleep apnea. However, I am trying to do this on my iPhone with the Poster app from the iTunes app store. I have used it in past to modify posts. I figure I would give it a whirl for a full up post. So please excuse any glaring grammar errors. I use MSword as grammar crutch. I have some time to return to Beta thoughts. David “Scooter” Bass from Carbine studios tweeted earlier today the following “@CRB_Scooter: ARGH EXCEL WHY WON’T YOU WORK?! I just want to invite people to beta! (Just kidding.) (Or am I?)”. Could this mean another wave of invites? Inquiring minds want to know!

Seriously though. . . Is being invited to a Beta to play of a game you are waiting for with bated breath a boon or a curse? On one hand you have the potential to work
with the development crew to mold, improve, and polish a game you have similar passion for. The other hand you are playing the game you are so expectant for. This could very well lessen then”new car smell” of the first few weeks after game release. What I have done in the past is try different classes that I would not normally play. I also try to play a different race as well. But who am I kidding I usually end playing the class and race I like.

Lastly, Poster is pretty neat. I can add photos and links as well. Well photos from the phone just have to figure out how it seems.

Well I guess I did that is my brother on Easter Day. Us Irish celebrate it a bit different I guess.

Betas Open and Closed

What brought on talking about betas?  Well recently the Folks at Carbine Studios responded to a leak of their patch notes.  Their response was epic.  Jeremy Gaffney even did a Q & A on WildStar Central.  Gaffney responded to crap load of questions.  The thread is a veritable fount of information about the game.  I even weighed in and just put some thoughts and wishes that were not even a part of the patch notes.  Gaffney even responded to that.  How cool is that?  The guys and gals at Carbine are an amazing bunch in my opinion.  Their passion for gaming and gamers goes a long way in my book.  Gaffney cemented even further my faith in Carbine to make an amazing game that I cannot wait for release.

shut-up-and-take-my-money

I have been in some closed betas and I always try to get into open betas if possible.  Many game studios these days seem to use beta periods more for hype building instead of fixing the game.  The guys at Carbine Studios seem to be going the opposite direction which is a Good Thing ™.   Beta periods should be about refining the game and finding the quirks.  Game breaking bugs like crashing and such are usually found with in-house QA.  UI testing and the such can be done with automated testing programs.  WinRunner was one I used to use back in the day when I was in QA at a software company that made time and attendance applications.  Supposedly Vanguard Saga of Heroes went the other way I do not know if the following is an “urban game myth” or truth.  I would hazard a guess it is both.  However, the scuttle butt I heard was that devs there changed the game there like Elizabeth Taylor changes husbands.  If there is truth to this then it seems that there was a lack of focus in the vision.  It was this lack of focus that made the game so bad at release.  Vision can only go so far without focus.  The guys at Carbine seem to have both the vision and focus right now.