April 24, 2010
I was coming home from GDC a few weeks ago, crammed in the plane on a 5 hour flight, and ended up watching “The Fellowship of the Ring” on my IPod. I got to the part when the Fellowship was deep in the mines of Moria, and good old Pippin just dumped the skeleton down the well. Cue the drama club – here come the goblins! And there’s that amazing shot of them running through the great hall of Moria with thousands of goblins chasing behind them. For the Fellowship, the goal in Moria wasn’t to kill and defeat, it was to survive and get away safely, especially when the Balrog showed up. I was thinking, “how cool would it be to have an MMO ask you, the player, to do that? We’re always asked to kill mobs in order to progress, but what if the goal was to escape?”
Above: Corrupted Guardian of the Seal, X2 boss of the zone.
Little did I know, EQ2 had exactly that, in their group instance “The Outer Vault.” I’ve run this instance a few times now, and I love it because the scripts have charm. From the tantrum throwing golem to the X2 Underfoot Guardian at the end, which you have to fight with NPC friends you come across along the way (EQ2′s version of Dragon Age Origins), this zone is a lot of fun to run.
Above: Slam Crushingfoot, teen-emo golem in the Outer Vault.
But my favorite fight of the zone is definitely “The Underfoot Mole.” As you make your way down one of the rock tunnels in the zone, you come across a wall. That’s where the fun begins, because once you start the event, the race is on. Your group is being pursued by a giant mole rat, and if you can’t chip your way through the handful of walls in your path, he’ll catch up with you and make you his snack. So the goal isn’t to kill him, it’s to break the walls and run for safety. What a refreshing spin on the good old fashioned dps check!
Above: Holy Sh*t he’s coming, Run!
The first couple of times I ran it, we lost. Eventually we did make it through, but only by the skin of our teeth (and the edge of our seats). While you’re fighting, there’s no time to turn around and watch for the mole, but in true Hitchcock fashion, what you don’t see can still scare you. I actually wondered if there even *was* an actual mole rat mob, or whether it was just a script that would fire off a group-wiping AE after a certain time. Well, I got my answer recently:
Above: Giant Underfoot Mole. Not exactly the Balrog, but still scared the heck out of me.
Yep, that’s him, and that’s us just after we broke through the last wall. You can actually see a little trace of panic on our avatars’ faces as we haul butt and move out of his way. Thankfully, mole rats don’t seem to have a good turning circle, and this guy plunged over the side of the cave.
…I wonder if Gandalf is down there…
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April 22, 2010
Here’s a quick roundup of podcasting I’ve done recently. As usual, they’re definitely worth listening to, but not because I’m in them!
First off, Adam and I recorded another little episode of A View From the Top a few weeks ago. In it, he and I start off by sharing what we’re up to in gaming, and then giving our thoughts on the last Game Update for EQ2. Our main discussion topic, though, is one that I’d really hope will get some good feedback. We looked at the question, “What’s missing in guilds?” We talk about what we feel could be potential missed opportunities for game developers to give guilds more of a purpose and utility in MMOs. Please share your thoughts if you have ideas on what you’d like to see from guilds that hasn’t been realized yet.
Our “You Make the Call” segment looks at the issue of what to do when you’re the guild leader and you have to be offline for an extended amount of time.
Check out the full show notes at A View From the Top Episode 9.5.
Next up is Shut Up We’re Talking Episode 61. This show was particularly special, because not only did I get to chat with Michael Zenke, who’s always amazing to listen to, but I got to do a show with Brian, of the blog, Jose the Monk. Brian is an officer in my guild and not only has the crucial task of calling out the “cure nox” AE on raids, but also has great insight into gaming in general. And of course, Darren held court and kept us focused on our topics, which were Garriot/social gaming/storytelling in games, and our thoughts on MMO genres that have either been overdone, or not done enough. I stand by my prediction that an up and coming genre for MMOs is agriculture.
Full show notes are at Shut Up We’re Talking.
Last but certainly not least is Equal Perspectives, Episode 20. Troy and I touched on our “spirited” discussion from Episode 19, and revisited a few areas of EQ2 where we had different impressions. We settled the squabble between Troy and Celestian as well (I think!). Troy also shares his impressions of Runes of Magic, which he has currently switched over to playing. Lastly, we mention Brenlo’s departure from SOE, and give our thoughts on both the impact he made on EQ2 as well as where the game might go from here.
Show notes can be found either at Virginworlds or at Troy’s Blog, the Emerald Tablet.
Before I post this, I need to add two quick links to a couple of great blogs from a couple of great guildies. One is Echo Underground, an MMO blog by Garen/Maesyn. He’s recently started doing web comics based on our guild, Revelry and Honor, and they’re hilarious! Definitely check them out, I’m already looking forward to the next one.
The other is Hardly Casual, by Shay. She’s a guildie that decided to undertake the grand project of leveling up one of every class in EQ2. This is not a min/max, powerlevel sprint to the end sort of mission. Her focus is the journey, the process, and she’s taking time along the way to look not only at the nuances in each class, but also the nuances of MMO gaming overall. Well worth reading, check it out please!
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April 21, 2010
For some weird reason, Roger Ebert has a bug up his rear about video games not being art, and insists on getting in gamers’ faces and repeating it over and over. I hope he actually plays video games, because A) it’s kind of lame to start a war with gamers if you haven’t even experienced the medium and B) we all know what happened the last time someone tried to judge a video game without really playing it.
Above: Not Art.
Here’s what I don’t get about his point. What is the point? Video games have artwork. They have a literary quality (quest text). They have music. The more tech savvy ones have performances (voice overs and cut scenes). Heck, raiding is like dancing, as I remind my guild so many times. So if we were to individually strip each aspect of a video game away, each would be art, but when they’re all working together it’s not?
On top of this, of course, is the fact that you have fans making their own art from the games they play. Although I suppose Ebert would argue that Machinima is not art. Show this video to any EQ player and then try to tell them it’s not art. Go check out the work of my friend Brian over at VG Walkthroughs. I won’t even get into things like “All your base,” or “Leeroy Jenkins,” because then we have to talk about whether parody is an art form. Here’s the tricky part – these artists (and yes, they are artists) are imitating not real life, but virtual life, which is imitating real life… somewhat.
But it’s just a game! These are games, and games are not art. They have a beginning, a middle and an end, and you can win or lose them! Well, that doesn’t apply to MMORPGs of course, but I suppose that’s a minor detail. Saying that a video game is art is like saying that Michael Jordan dunking is a form of art, or Ted Williams’ swing is an art form. (Check out the captions in these links) Oh, wait…
Above: not art.
Whether video games are art or not is really not the point though. The real point is that by ceding that they’re art, one is validating the medium, and maybe that’s why Ebert gets cranky and combative. I’d rework the topic of discussion, then, to ask, “will the video game genre be accepted as a legitimate medium in our lifetime?” And to that I answer yes, although I think that right now we’re going through our version of the Protestant Reformation.
Video games, and multiplayer games in particular, are at a crossroads right now, and this year has definitely delineated the issue. On one side is Farmville, the metric mindset, sparkle pony, and microtransactions. The idea behind all these is that video games should be made to A) make money, B) take it to the face with fun and C) make money. On the other side is, …well how do you even categorize it other than serious gaming – the Vision ™, a sense of purity in games, and a definite desire to separate out anything “real” from anything “virtual.” The idea behind this side is that games should be creative, innovative, and bring about strong emotions, and while these players can’t exactly pinpoint what defines a good game, they damn well can tell you what doesn’t. Hmm. Sounds oddly like art doesn’t it?
Above: Not art.
Trying to pick a winner in that scrum is nearly impossible right now, although I still feel that both can co-exist in the long run. What’s interesting is that Everquest 2 is shaping up to be one of the fronts in that battle. For whatever reason, Alan “Brenlo” Crosby is no longer Senior Producer for Everquest 2. He had many fans, and also many critics, but there’s no doubt that Brenlo was an icon for SOE games, for a long time. The new producer is Dave Georgeson, and while he did some work with SOE games going back to Planetside, he’s very much a “casual game,” “microtransaction” kind of guy. He’s already done a couple of interviews, and already you can see that this is going to be a clash between old school/hardcore and a metric mindset. I guess I should start running “duck and cover” raids with my guildmates.
Above: Not art, just pure insanity.
So that’s my take on the Great Ebert Debate. I still think the jury’s out until we get concrete evidence that Roger Ebert’s actually played video games. Until then, I would like to give myself a little pat on the back for being able to seamlessly tie in all the major MMO news stories of the week into one blog post, with the exception of the breaking news regarding Warner Bros. Home Entertainment buying Turbine. That’s not related to this article. at. all.
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