Tuesday, 22 April 2014

[GW2] Rediscovering the LFG System

As a replacement for the good old yell in general chat, the in-game LFG system has, in the past, had a rather uninspiring run. I've always been part of a reasonably active guild, so it usually isn't too much of a problem to gather 2/3 people together and then try to pick up (and ultimately probably carry) a PUG through a dungeon path or fractal run.

However, with the latest update requiring all accounts to run through the Story mode of each dungeon in order to unlock the attributed PvP reward path, I've been dusting off my little level 45 thief and turning my eye on a few of the story modes.
Even with this update encouraging at least one run through, there still isn't a huge influx of players looking to do story modes. Old players only need to run through it once more after all, and no-one is looking to the story mode as a means of repeatable content they can return to for a regular income. So, as is customary for me, when I came to do the content a few days after the initial rush, I had to turn to the LFG system to scrape together a rag-tag bunch of PUGs to get the job done.

And I have to say, I've been pleasantly surprised.
The system worked fine: I posted my advertisement, within about 15 seconds I had a team together and we entered the dungeon. That's it. That's absolutely all I needed. No bells and whistles, just "this is what I want to do" "That is also what I want to do, lets do it together".

Honestly, I don't know why I was so surprised - but I was! For a long time I've been floundering in this game, I completed my second legendary and turned towards yet another long-term crafting goal (Infinite Light) but that was just because I really didn't know what else to do. Any and all time spent afking in LA (or Gendarren) was time wasted, I've got a thesis to write after all. If I wasn't afk then I was hopping from meta-even to meta-event, doing the same 7/8 events over and over was becoming soul-crushingly tiresome  - if I'm going to waste it then I want to waste it doing something fun!
I think I started to think that there was nothing left to do in the game which lead to boredom and frustration, but with the LFG system I've been able to rediscover some of the early-game enjoyment I had in the very first few weeks of the game by re-exploring the story mode and explorable paths of the earlier dungeons. I'm hoping to progress this exploration of the world of PUGs into the more difficult areas of the game and whilst I recognise that this is riskier, I've never had a horror PUG experience (excepting PvP) and I really hope this good-PUG-luck can continue.

Having said all that, they could do with making the system a little more visible.

Monday, 24 March 2014

[FIFA] How KSI Monopolised the Kick-Off and Nep Crashed the Market

FIFA has a strange community. I often think that it might be so strange because the players aren't primarily gamers, they're primarily football fans. Nothing wrong with that, of course, I count myself as a fine helping of both.
Compare the community to something like Guild Wars 2 - obviously the game community with which I've been most involved. GW2 has a whole myriad of media circling it - official and unofficial blogs, numerous active forums and reddits, Twitter feeds (concerning news, lore, fansites etc etc) and podcasts. FIFA, conversely, has only a few fansites (sparsely updated), a few twitter feeds, little interaction with the developers (they are EA after all) but perhaps the most active and vibrant element of the FIFA community are the YouTubers.

For Guild Wars 2 we've obviously got some big YouTubers (Woodenpotatoes, MattVisual etc) but they mostly act as news/opinion sites. The FIFA YouTubers, for a lot of people, are venerated as deities. KSI, perhaps the biggest of the lot, has recently been on an international University tour and has attracted massive crowds just to come and have the chance of playing a game with him.

As an example of how influential these YouTubers are on the community, here's two cases where a single video has effected the way the entire game is played:

1)  On 11th October 2013, KSI posted the following video:

It details a cheap method to score a goal straight from kick off by passing straight back to a midfielder once you've kicked off and then simply whacking the ball up the field to a big striker. It abuses the incredibly poorly programmed AI of the defenders in FIFA 14. It's a method of scoring which was around around 3 years ago, but we generally thought that advances in AI had squashed it, apparently we were wrong - it's become known as the "KSI kick off" and is incredibly frustrating to go up against.

The outcome KSI posting this simple two minute video is that EVERY SINGLE PLAYER is now doing this exact method straight from kick off. 90% of the time it doesn't actually work, but whether or not it is successful is entirely based upon the luck of the draw, will your defender stand around like a numpty or will he be in the right place to head it away? Who knows, lets hope the luck is in your favour. KSI is just one guy, but he's managed to influence the play-style of 75% of the players of one of the most popular games in the world.

2) Another popular YouTuber Nepenthez, made short video "Easiest Trading Method EVER!" The general idea being "buy cheap Irish players a month in advance in preparation for the St Patrick's Day Cup, when their prices will drastically rise".

A simple idea, but it was so influential that everyone bought Irish players, and I mean EVERYONE - the price of Rep of Ireland players rose steadily for the month between the release of the video and the much-anticipated St Patrick's Cup. Then when the tournament was announced everyone dropped the THOUSANDS of players they'd been hoarding back into the market.
Now, it doesn't take a degree in economics to work out what happens if you flood a market with players which everyone has already bought a month ago. What actually happened is that almost everyone invested thousands of coins into Irish players, and almost all of them lost all that money because no-one  was buying them. No-one needed to buy them! They were trying to sell their stockpiled players, not buy more! The whole thing was a debacle.

These are just two examples of the strange position of power held by FIFA YouTubers. I'm not really placing any blame on them, they're just doing their job, but a single video can crash the market or influence the play-style of the entire community, and I don't believe that is necessarily a good thing.

Friday, 7 February 2014

[GW2] E is a Chekov's Gun

The question of who "E" is might prove to be one of the most important ones we can ask over the coming weeks. 
I'm viewing it as somewhat of a Chekov's Gun* at the moment - the only interaction with "E" that we've had is that one mail around Dragon Bash which asked us to contact Marjory Delaqua (and tell her "E" sent you - she later confirmed she has no idea who it is). 
Whilst this brief interaction might not suggest a large role at the moment, plot devices such as a "mysterious stranger" are rarely inconsequential when applied in good storytelling. So, as our various questions get answered and we begin ticking off the remaining mysteries, the ones left unanswered will become more and more important (and suggest a centrality in the narrative). 

Contacting Marjory has proven to be a pretty good move - she has been instrumental in taking down the Tower of Nightmares and puzzling out Scarlet's clues in the Dead End. This would seem to be a pretty big tick on the "Good" side of the debate regarding E's intentions. 

On the other hand, who knows how deep the plan might go? Perhaps E's Machiavellian scheme includes bringing Marjory into the equation. Without Jory and Kasmeer's anti-toxin, Scarlet wouldn't have been able to perfect her poison, after all. 

It's difficult to say at this stage. I've got a feeling one of the continuing threads after we finally take Scarlet down will be either the identity of the big-bad who is controlling her or the identity of E (or both!); and it will be this question which will take us into the next story arc.

*"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." - Anton Chekov, 1911

ps. Could it be Ellen Kiel? ANet wouldn't call them "E" without "E" being in their name. Plus, the story would work just as well if we'd voted Evon Gnashblade into office (?) I dunno. Just wankin' in the dark here.


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