Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tomorrow is the Day After my Birthday

Tis my Birthday. EDIT: No it's not, at least it isn't now. It was when this was first posted - new content coming soon!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

What Beef do the Sylvari have with the Dragons?

Each of the races in Guild Wars 2 is driven into a situation where they must face off against an Elder Dragon. The humans, spread out across the several continents, face attack on several fronts - Zhaitan off the coast of Lion's Arch, Kralkatorrik in Ascalon and the deep sea dragon cutting them off from Cantha. The charr have found their newly conquered lands torn apart by the crystalline monstrosities produced from the dragonbrand. The norn were forced from their homes in the north by the advance of Jormag and his icebrood. The asura, although much better off than the dwarves, have been forced to the surface by the hordes of destroyers directed by the Elder Dragon Primordus. The sylvari, on the other hand, seem to be considerably less threatened.

Their home by the Pale Tree is far from Kralkatorrik and Ascalon. Zhaitan's forces pose no serious threat to their home whilst they are preoccupied by Lion's Arch. Jormag is barely a blip on their radar; it's hard to worry about an ice dragon when you live in the jungle. There has been no mention of Primordus offering any threat to the Maguuma Jungle and don't even get me started on the deep sea dude.

So, you have to ask yourself - is this even their fight? Every other race fights for their land, for their freedom and for their lives. Are the sylvari just tagging along for the ride?

I suppose their is the argument that if they hold off now and don't step in, then eventually the dragons will reach the Pale Tree and then they'll have to deal with them alone. With the theme of GW2 being "bringing the races together" then it makes sense to say that no race could handle a single Elder Dragon alone, let alone all five of them at once. If the sylvari chip in their help now they know that they will have a better chance of protecting their home in the future.

Alternatively, they could be driven by something more mystical. It's well noted that the sylvari interact regularly with the Pale Tree; perhaps they feel that not only are the dragons a threat to their home - but also to the world as whole. If the sylvari (in typical elf/planty people fashion) could feel the pain of the planet, then perhaps they would be compelled to jump in and get involved.

I guess we'll find out a bit more once sylvari week hits.

What do you reckon? Are the sylvari in it to protect the Pale Tree or to help fight the good fight? Are they altruistic or egoistic?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My Extended Experience - If you know what I mean

The Web 2.0 revolution has come a little late to the gaming scene, they seemed to grasp multiplayer online gaming with both hands - but then it stopped. Social networks, on the other hand, stormed ahead - Facebook, Google+, Skype, YouTube and Twitter are all fantastic behemoths of frontline technology. It seems that now video game developers have realised the potential which the Internet really poses, and are beginning to introduce further "extended experience" elements into their games to allow the video game experience to flow out of the screen and into the rest of the world.

1. Web/Mobile Apps

Web applications allow players to interact with their game without actually having to log in to their console/PC. Typically they take a small section of the game (such as the chat or trade feature) and allow players to interact with this feature from their computer or mobile phone. It's a clever idea; not only does it allow the player to interact more freely and regularly with the game, but also it keeps the game fresh in the gamer's mind at all times.
eg, For FIFA 11 EA introduced their Ultimate Team online web app which allowed players to trade, set their squad and buy player packs without having to turn on their console. Similarly, ANet have reported that Guild Wars 2 will have an "extended experience" app which will have features such as trade and chat (although we don't know a whole lot about that yet).

2. Cross Game Achievements

One of things about making a good game is that you're expected to make a sequel. The problem with this is that you build up a playerbase on your first game, and suddenly everything they've worked for is lost because you want to line your pockets with just a little bit more gold. One way to get around this is to create some way for their achievements to pass over to the next game.
ANet have done this with the Hall of Monuments and it has really rekindled a lot of players' interest in the game. Even with a game as old as Guild Wars, if players feel like they will get advantages in the next game; they will work hard in the current one. Come to think of it, it's almost Biblical.

3. Gamer profiles
People like to know that they are getting one up on other people. If they can compare their scores against another dude then they will feel a kind of visceral, primal wave of euphoria. A nice way to allow players to do this is to add a "player profile". The profile could show stats such as kills, money and achievements earned etc.
It kinda links into my first 2 points: this profile can persist across games (from what I understand this is what EA are doing with the FIFA12 "football club" feature) and be accessible from outside the game (in a web or mobile app).

4. Conventions

As I've mentioned before; the stereotype of the gamer is alone, sitting in the dark with the curtains drawn. But it doesn't have to be that way! Conventions bring large numbers of like-minded people together, they promote the game and encourage social interaction. The biggest of these (more specific - ie, not general gaming like PAX or GamesCon) game conventions is probably BlizzCon, but from what I understand the very first CoD Convention will be coming up in the next couple of months.

5. Alternative Reality Gaming (ARG)

ARGs are a bit of a passion of mine. I haven't talked about them for a while, but that's because my interest in them seems to come in waves. Essentially, the idea is that you create a game in the real world, which can be played out through a number of different mediums. A single person or group of people act as the "Puppetmasters" controlling the game, playing the characters and setting the challenges for the players who must work together to solve puzzles and eventually reach the end.
One of the games to embrace the ARG method is Assassin's Creed. If you've played the game you might remember the cryptic nature of the plot, with numerous codes and puzzles which aren't solved in game. Ubisoft created real world websites and media to help to solve and reveal the answers to these puzzles. Assassin's Creed itself is a virtual reality game but it employed alternative reality gaming techniques as an advertising method. Another example would be the "obey/dismantle"campaign which ANet set up to release the War in Kryta content.
Much like most of the other points I've mentioned, ARGs allow for gamers to come together to solve puzzles where they might ordinarily be playing alone. It allows developers to build upon already existing lore and to further progress the game story.

The whole "extended experience" idea is a really exciting one for me. As an avid ARG follower you really get to appreciate how involving a well played out game can be. If the part of the game where you have to sit in front of a computer for hours was just a small part of a whole web of activities, interactions and challenges which made up the whole "game" then that would be no bad thing.

Monday, 25 July 2011

From Dust - Anticipation Rising!

With new info creeping in from ANet about the timeline of GW2 (ie, final profession release near the end of the year etc) it's looking more and more likely that the game will hit later than I had first hoped. So, what will I do to fill my time until then? Well, there's FIFA12, that looks pretty exciting; and Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, they should be fun.
There's also this little game I discussed a while back called From Dust. So far it looks like a cross between Black and White (insofar as the top-down God-game view and little sprite worshipers) and, well, I dunno - a gardening sim? Ok, that analogy didn't really do it justice - watch this video:

See? Cool, eh? Now watch this one:

Does the aesthetic remind you of anyone? Seems a very similar tact to the whole "painterly" ANet approach. It's nothing new, obviously; games have always tried to tie "art" into their production (and it's a subject which I've touched on in the past). I really like the look of this game (both in terms of how it plays, and how it literally looks. The gameplay looks fluid and emergent - eg, you'll be blocking a river (hoping to save your faithful little worshipers, no doubt) and the water will inadvertently be diverted down a dead end where it might build up and eventually overflow creating an unstoppable torrent of water-based death - just like the Dynamic Events in GW2, that's the kind of emergent problems I love to encounter in games. Ones where no guide can help you, and wikis can only offer advice. To survive you must employ your own brainpower.

My only concern lies in the fact that it appears to be have been mainly geared towards the console market (being distributed on Xbox Live in the first instance, and PSN/PC a bit later). Anyone who has played RTS or point and click games on consoles (Broken Sword 1 and 2 spring to mind) will know that the controllers aren't particularly geared towards that style of play - I worry that the experience might be hindered by clunky controls, particularly if there are some fiddly sand-shifting exercises to be done.

Nonetheless, From Dust will certainly be making it's way onto my PS3 once it hits later this year. The only other worry I have comes from the memories of playing Black and White, and knowing how I get when I'm given a God Game. Did you know you can superheat boulders and hold them over villagers houses to set them alight?

Neither did the villagers.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sylvari Week, Gamescon Fun and Metrosexual Rangers

Thangis the Red has informed me that ANet dropped the S-Bomb on the Guild Wars community not that long ago. It appears that Sylvari week will fall between now and Gamescon, and the race will be available to play in Cologne at the end of August. 

I personally believe that ANet have set out to humiliate me. Back in April I said on my my wildly successful (and still often hit) Sylvari redesign post that:
"I think it's because they've got this whole schedule set out for when they want to reveal information. They know that the two things people are most eager to see are the final adventurer class and the Sylvari. So they will do the adventurer class reveal last, and Sylvari week will come after Asura and Charr week."
Stupid ANet, making me look like an IDIOT.

Nonetheless, I'm excited about seeing where they've actually taken the race. The week will be punctuated by my typical coverage; like I did for Charr Week, Norn Week and Human Week. So - keep a look out for when that hits!

In Guild Wars 1 news: I've finally hit survivor! Woooo! Now I can die all I want - isn't that what everyone wants, really?
So, now it is just the simple matter of making money to buy booze and party points. And what better way to mark this milestone than some new threads:

It's me, btw, I'm fabulous.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Guest Post: Magnus the Bloody Handed

Technically it's probably not a "guest" post as I'm a contributing writer, but you get my drift!

I've scribed a little doo-hickey over at Talk Tyria. If you fancy a looksee click the image below to be taken to my article:

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Billionaire, The Suicidal and the Youtube Community

I thought I'd write this post to tell you about a fairly important event which really shook up a community in which I'm involved. It's also the kind of event which you wouldn't have heard anything about unless you were actively involved in the community itself, but I think it's worth mentioning because it is both interesting (if you're interested in the make-up of online communities) and telling as to the nature of greed, the misguidance of youth and the blinding nature of large wads of cash.

Some time ago, Alki David (a social entrepreneur - listed as the 45th richest man in the UK) approached a number of prominent Call of Duty Youtube commentators with the offer to compete in a live webstreamed Black Ops tournament for a prize fund of $10 000. The event would be staged at his mansion in LA and live-streamed on the website Filmon (owned by Alki David) under the section Battlecam TV. In the end a number of well-respected and highly public YouTube commentators agreed to take part: Whiteboy7thSt (569 355 subscribers), xJawz (552 812 subscribers), WingsofRedemption (276 069 subscribers), FreddieW (1 805 827 subscribers!), OnlyUseMeBlade (382 592 subscribers) and WoodysGamertag (396 151 subscribers).

The event went ahead as planned; each competitor playing in a 3 person Free For All battle to see who would come out top and, apart from being rather poorly organised (the 3 screens were right next to each other, which allowed for the players to look at their opponent's screens), the event seemed to be fairly popular, with xJawz coming away with the grand prize. 

On the back of this event Alki David announced that he would be holding a similar tournament, but this time with a team element. Some of the commentators involved in the first tournament would be team captains and would participate in a "draft" style livestream in order to choose their other team members (each captain would have a theoretical "$1m" and would bid for certain members of the youtube community - I believe you had to have at least 25k subscribers or something). It was during this particular draft event (also livestreamed) that the controversy really started. The stream consisted of Alki David sitting at a computer and speaking to each team captain on Skype as they attempt to bid on their wanted players. 
About halfway through the event Alki stopped the draft and said he had an announcement to make; he stated that in two weeks time he would be hosting a live suicide streamed on his Battlecam site (link to video at the right time here). It would be of an 80yr old man whose family had been paid to allow Filmon and Battlecam to film his assisted suicide live for the Internet to see. The people involved in the stream (the team captains etc) were so shocked that no-one even thought to question it at the time, most laughed - one person even made a joke.  "Could I get a time for that?!", "Hey, I've got an idea, we could get FPS Russia (read: another prominent YouTuber) to fly out there and use some of his stuff!". One participant said: "wow... that's sad." Alki replied: "Well, that's marketing".

The community backlash was phenomenal. Almost immediately, response videos were uploaded from smaller channels to massive channels in reaction to this, quite frankly, disturbing news. The whole CoD video community erupted into fury, disbelief and an overwhelming appeal for the respected members of the community to pull out of the event in protest. Participants dropped out like flies in order to save their face in response to the almost entirely negative opinion coming from their subscribers. Eventually, there we so few players left that Alki was forced to cut the event back down to a single player tournament, much like before; and he invited a number of the commentators back in order to play "for charity". He claimed that the whole assisted suicide thing was a PR stunt and was never going to take place. It stunk of the fastest backtracking in YouTube history - Alki wanted to suck the words right back into his mouth. 

The tournament did take place, and I have to say, I'm not 100% on the details as of yet. But from what I have heard, it was a complete debacle. Most of the original commentators showed up with the sole purpose of hijacking and sabotaging he whole livestream (including Whiteboy7thSt calling up and calling Alki (bearing in mind Alki is a multi millionaire media mogul) a fruitcake gypsy bitch - which is an insult I might employ in the future). 

Frankly the whole episode has only been damaging for the community. A number of well-respected commentators have come out looking rather foolish and have only really saved themselves through their apologies, their response to their fans' disgust and agreeing to participate in competing charity events in the near future. 
I believe that they got swept up in the moment, blinded by the cash which was on offer and intoxicated by the world which Alki David had allowed them to see. He used his money to manipulate and humiliate people who are only just beginning to have a realistic idea of what their position in the community really means (specifically xJawz and Whiteboy). Most of these players have upwards of 500k people who regularly watch their videos. When you are a representative for that number of people you have to be very careful how you handle yourself and I believe that this event will be a real wake up call for a number of the more popular, more vocal and often younger members of the YouTube community.

Monday, 11 July 2011


32nd Law informed me of the preorder platinum pack - complete with portable people cannon! oh. baby.

Dynamic Events - All Hail the King of Squeeksville!

In my recent interview with Tasha for Split Infinity Radio, I mentioned that one of the elements of GW2 which I am looking forward to the most is the Dynamic Events system. Here’s a quick lo-down for those not in the know:

In Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet have done away with the traditional quest; there are no quest markers, no people standing around with ! over their heads waiting for you to come and activate them. If Farmer Jones wants you to clear out the rats from his basement, you won’t have to go and speak to him before the rats will appear. They will already be there; munching all up in his grain n shit. So, you run past and see him waving his arms around, you shoot past into his basement to attempt to mess dem rats up a treat. If you do manage to kill the rats, then another event might open up where the Rat King declares war upon Farmer Jones and you have to travel into the Rat-Kingdom (or “Squeeksville”) to broker a peace. These kinds of events happen all the time, all around you – whether you take part or not. Failure in an event does not just lead to the event resetting; a whole different branch of storyline will be created (perhaps the rats get so fat on grain that they begin to burst, and you are left to clean up the mess). They are not quests – they are Dynamic Events.

I have a few wonderings which are bouncing around my head; not concerns as such, but certainly little thoughts which keep popping up the more I hear about DEs.

1. Is it always a “win or lose” situation? Are there different ways to complete certain dynamic events which would lead to a different branching storyline? For example, perhaps instead of slaughtering the rats, you decide to reason with them (as much as a person could reason with a pack of hungry rats). Then, instead of the Rat King declaring war, perhaps you have to arrange and defend a caravan carrying grain from the farmer’s store to the Rat Kingdom. If these kind of branching storylines did exist, it would certainly prolong the inevitable time when we all reach the “seen it; got the t-shirt” moment – as Hunter says, MMO players tend to run past quests which they’ve done before.

2. What happens to events later on in the game (particularly when we have just started) do they run and run without player input - and each one failing over and over – the storyline getting worse and worse as there is no one around to intervene? Or are they activated upon a player entering an area? So, I rock up into the Maguuma Jungle and am faced with 5 different events; and all of them my responsibility (Spiders eating babies on my left, Wind Riders raping puppies to my right – what to do!?). Are these dynamic events going to end up like worrisome chores; where if we aren’t constantly nursing them then the whole world will go to pot?

3. Also, I can see a problem with the whole “participation meter” idea. In that, in order to prevent players from showing up at the end of an event and reaping massive rewards, player participation will be measured in Gold, Silver and Bronze and each level will bestow a certain amount of reward. The problem I see with this is where does the distinction lie between obtaining Bronze and obtaining nothing? The same goes for any of the boundaries. It’s an inherent problem with all tiered reward systems; I’ll go back to Farmer Jones’ basement to demonstrate:

Imagine you rock up and there are already 3 players down there hacking away at the rats – they’ve been there for half an hour (these are some fricken’ badass rats). You barge into the fray and begin healing and slicing away. After 5 minutes you are down to the final, scared looking rat. At this point a rogue Thief shadowsteps in; slits the rat’s throat and then teabags his corpse. It would be reasonable to expect the Thief to be rewarded for participating, but he certainly hasn’t participated as much as you. However, neither of you have put in as much work as the 3 who were already there. They’ve obtained Gold, and you and the thief have been left with Bronze. Is this fair? You haven’t worked enough for Silver, and you certainly aren’t deserving of Gold – but by being lumped with Bronze, you’ve received the same reward for 5 mins of work that the Thief has received for 5 seconds. I can see this being alleviated by a sliding scale system of rewards where you receive gold/karma equal to your exact amount of participation (assuming ANet are measuring some arbitrary counter of participation; currently based upon reaching certain thresholds to attain the different reward medals).

4. As far as I understand, ANet are using a similar system to regulate the difficulty of the events. I.e. As more people show up, enemies will get harder or spawn more quickly.

However, and I think this has been brought up before, if the scaling is tiered then you can see that as player participation reaches the threshold the event will get easier and easier until it hits that next level when it will become drastically more difficult very quickly.

Right, back to the basement: You are down there hacking away at the rats and the going is tough, another player shows up to help – hey, that’s nice. Thanks mate. After a bit another player rocks up, and another, by this point it’s pretty easy. However, as one more player happily bounces into the fray this kicks in some invisible scale to tip over into the next level of difficulty. At this level, 2x the normal number of rats spawn, along with cute little rat healers (complete with little pope hats), your whole team almost immediately wipes – unprepared for such a drastic change in difficulty so rapidly.

The only way to counter this would be to make the easiest level only just easy enough for the smallest number of players to defeat – then as new players join it will get easier, but if it was too easy to begin with, there would be little point. Otherwise, if the easiest level was too hard for the smallest numbers to defeat then unsuspecting parties who just reach the threshold to start spawning Ratbeasts from the Underdark (complete with cute little rat codpieces) are going to find themselves getting trashed very easily and either someone will have to leave to push the difficulty level back down (so they are at the top of the tier below) or they’re going to have to sit it out until they find a couple more people to help (which isn’t what ANet want either).
Solving this problem is a little more difficult than the rewards one as “difficulty” is more problematic when you try to place it on a continuous scale (unlike currency or karma) than more malleable substances.
Just like any new idea, the dynamic event’s true test will come when the hundreds of thousands of players test it 24/7 upon release. The players will push the system to its absolute limit and no doubt they will break it. It’s inevitable for MMO players to push and push until they find a way to break and exploit the system – it’s just their way. ANet know this. Unfortunately, any alpha or beta testing before then is just licking the pudding bowl of the left over batter in comparison to the feast which will occur upon release.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Interview for Split Inifinity Radio

I had the singular pleasure of being interviewed by Tasha for Split Infinity Radio last night. Made me feel like a real celeb - thanks "Tasha"... if that is your real name.

The full interview can be found here - LINKAGE!

Tasha is playing riiiiight now! (Unless you're coming on my blog any time after 11pm GMT on Sunday 10th July) So head over there to listen, I insist!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Anywhere the Wind Blows

Winds of Change has hit Guild Wars. It's the Canthan chapter of the Guild Wars: Beyond quest series which hopes to begin to introduce players to the events which unfold shortly after the end of Nightfall/Eye of the North and before the events in GW2.

Winds of Change appears to be telling the story of the Ministry of Purity: an organisation which seeks to wipe out all threats to the nation of Cantha. They begin with the afflicted, a worthy cause... but you lore-buds out there will know that once they wipe the afflicted off the map they get on a bit of a roll eventually leading to the expulsion of all non-human and non-Canthan intelligent life from the continent. Bad times. I want to get started... NOW!

However, having consulted with my twitter peeps about whether it would be safe for my main to venture into this treacherous world - they responded with a nay. So, I have reached an impasse: either I sit out the long slog of survivor and start Winds of Change in a couple of weeks. Or, I go freaking batshit bonkers and get survivor over the next couple of days.

Bring on the dwarves!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Guest Post: 10 Thing ANet has Learned from GW1 - On TalkTyria!

I've got a new post up on Talk Tyria

10 Things ANet has Learned from GW1

click the image below to be taken there:


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