Jul 30, 2014

[Why I'm Not Talking About What I'm Playing]

  In recent months I've had trouble drumming up the effort to bother posting my views on the games I've been playing. Since its release last year, I've been really enjoying Final Fantasy XIV, but it seems most MMO bloggers never gave it much of a glance, or simply dipped a toe in and moved on to Wildstar or hopped on the ArcheAge hype train. Perhaps the majority of players of FFXIV, as producer Yoshi-P has claimed, are new to the genre after all.

  For many MMO oldtimers (who seem to be the majority of bloggers), it just didn't have the hooks that they've been looking for. Personally, a MMO's lore/world building and dungeon/raid encounters are the dealbreakers for my own investment in it and FFXIV has excelled in those aspects. Even the small 8-man endgame raid size has just fit so well into my playstyle that I'm just not interested in looking around for a game to jump to later. My style of MMO monogamy is the sort that sticks with what I'm happy with instead of constantly shopping for something 'better' in the future. I feel that having that sort of attitude sabotages long term commitment to any game, yet also seems to be endemic among many MMO players.

  It took about one year before I started to get disillusioned with GW2's Living Story format, but my interest in FFXIV has been relatively stable since its release. Perhaps because I made the effort to plug into various Linkshell and Free Company communities in FFXIV that meshed with my playstyle, I've maintained a core community of folks that I enjoy playing and talking with, which as many MMO vets will tell you is the backbone of having roots in any game long term. It's also something that takes a lot more effort to achieve, since modern MMOs do not really force people to form significant social bonds (another thing MMO vets often complain about).

  It just seems pointless for me to wax on about the eloquence of the game's localization, or complement the art direction and character design and music, the fun boss mechanics, the classic Final Fantasy homages, or any of the other systems that I'm sure are pretty irrelevant to people with no interest in the game, or who love the game but don't read MMO blogs.

 Maybe I'm just getting old, but I care more about investing in and playing the games I'm enjoying rather than writing about them for others anymore. Perhaps it's just a sign my blogging is finally at an end, after all these years.

May 29, 2014

[In Defense of Escapism]

I recently came across an essay by Katherine Addison, defending the value of fantasy as a genre and escapism in general, and I think it's relevant to MMORPGs (and RPGs in general) as well:
"The denigration of 'escapism' comes from an implicit belief that it is brave and necessary and heroic to face 'reality,' where 'reality' is grim and dark and nihilistic ('solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,' as that tremendous pessimist Thomas Hobbes puts it), and that if you turn away from that 'reality,' you are a deserter and therefore a coward. 
There are a number of fallacies here. One is the claim to the exclusive right to define 'reality.' Second, if this is an accurate definition of 'reality,' it is a fallacy to believe that it is even possible to desert from the front lines by anything short of suicide. Even if your consumption of fiction takes you away from 'reality' for an hour or two, you’re always going to have to come back. Clearly, if we accept this definition of 'reality,' 'escapism' can only be the most tremendous blessing fiction has to offer."
Read the rest here.

May 3, 2014

[Pantheon Has Fallen, But McQuaid Can Still Go Lower]

Color me completely unsurprised:
"It's widely agreed upon by all parties that this project took in roughly 145 thousand dollars. A large chunk of that money, 35k, came from a single individual who promised another couple hundred thousand once he cleared it with his trust. Brad was having personal problems at the time and needed to take a cash advance from the project. He took roughly three months pay in advance which equaled roughly 38% of the funds that were left. Brad thought the rest of the money would come in, but the trust supervisor declined without even looking into the project. Reason being, he didn't want to be sued if the start up failed. Brad admits that it was a mistake and wishes things worked out differently but the money is spent and there isn't anything he can do. He then went on to express that he was sorry for how it happened and is planning on liquidating personal assets to put the funds back into the project."
 Why on earth are so many fanboys still willing to give this nostalgia-exploiting hack their money? He did NOT single-handedly build EverQuest and Vanguard, despite what so many fanboys seem to believe. Teams of hundreds of other talented people put their real work into those games (as opposed to just loftily spouting 'Visionary' ideas around, which are worth exactly squat without actual effort behind them), and in the second example McQuaid was the one who ran that real work into the ground and lied to and exploited everyone around him the entire time.

This cult-attitude many oldtime MMO fans have of deifying this man as some kind of visionary who single-handedly makes 'dream MMOs' baffles me, particularly in the light of everything we know about how he mismanaged and destroyed Vanguard. Despite so many fans' attempt to rewrite the history of that debacle as being everyone else's fault but Brad's, the real facts of the matter are still public online for anyone who cares to see them. Which I hope people will do before tossing any more cash in this guy's direction.

But then on top of this all, he skims almost 40% of Pantheon's Kickstarter money to cover his own personal bills. Nobody should give this joker a dime for any future MMO project ever again, no matter how many nostalgia-tinged PR shills or game concept mockups (or tiered monthly subscription plans for the ability to post on the game's forum) that he rolls out.

Related Reading:
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen's Financials Under Scrutiny
Brad 'The Vision' McQuaid, Round Two

Jan 20, 2014

[Brad 'The Vision' McQuaid Round Two: Rise of the Fallen]

   So it seems Brad McQuaid is done with that vanity-position he's had in EverQuest after that little Vanguard embarrassment of his and has moved on to a new Vision! I assume he figures it's been long enough now that most folks will have forgotten the messy details of his last epic failure as a boss and developer and will be willing to fund this new Kickstarter project out of idealistic nostalgia and the belief that putting their faith in one guy whose last successful game was made 15 years ago (which was hardly a one-man project anyway) will finally pay off this time around.

I'll be busting out the popcorn for this one.

Related Reading: Brad McQuaid: Cult of Personality or Friends in High Places?
                         Brad McQuaid Abandoned Sigil

Sep 5, 2013

[Consumption vs Naturalism in Animal Crossing]

via Gamasutra
"Animal Crossing deploys a procedural rhetoric about the repetition of mundane work as a consequence of contemporary material property ideals. When my (then) five-year-old began playing the game seriously, he quickly recognized the dilemma he faced. On the one hand, he wanted to spend the money he had earned from collecting fruit and bugs on new furniture, carpets, and shirts. On the other hand, he wanted to pay off his house so he could get a bigger one like mine. Then, once he did amass enough savings to pay off his mortgage, the local shopkeeper and real estate tycoon Tom Nook offered to expand his house. While it is possible to refrain from upgrading, Nook, an unassuming raccoon, continues to offer renovations as frequently as the player visits his store. My son began to realize the trap he was in: the more material possessions he took on, the more space he needed, and the more debt he had to take on to provide that space. And the additional space just fueled more material acquisitions, continuing the cycle."
  One thing that I have never seen anyone else notice or remark on about Animal Crossing, is the fact that all the housing items in the game are represented by a leaf icon whenever dropped  on the ground outside a building. The significance of that may be lost on most Westerners who aren't familiar with the Japanese mythology that surrounds the animal that Tom Nook is -- which is to say he's actually a tanuki, and not a raccoon.

  Tanuki are known for casting enchantments on things like leaves to make them look like treasure, and tricking stupid humans with it. When the tanuki magic wears off, the objects are revealed to actually be worthless. In other words, signs may be pointing to Tom Nook's entire business being more of a scam than Crazy Redd's black market. =P

  The fact that this tanuki trickery seems to be alluded to in Animal Crossing is very interesting, and even more so in the context of the above article, in my opinion.

Aug 12, 2013

[Some RPGMaker Game Recommendations]

  Here's an interesting post at Border House about the culture of preemptive judgment surrounding RPGMaker games (and other 'accessible' dev toolsets), with a list of examples of the quality results that are possible from it.

  I personally think being able to affordably build smaller games is a great way for developers to perfect new ideas and try innovative concepts on a smaller scale, particularly when compared to the stifling risk-aversion you'll see from AAA side of things. I think with the rise of the indie scene in recent years, there may be less stigma surrounding these kinds of games than there was in the past.

 The only RPGMaker game I've played is Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle, which I thought was rather good, so any recommendations as to other gems out there is appreciated, as well. :)