Friday Links: Proving Grounds, Faction Walls and More

Sorry for the silence this week – personal matters have meant that I’ve been unexpectedly AFK.

But I have managed to get back here in time to do a Friday roundup! So, here’s the stuff that caught my eye over the last 24 hours:

  • The Grumpy Elf wrote a great piece about WoW’s upcoming Proving Grounds – as someone who has been calling for a benchmark for players for a while, he’s definitely one of the people Blizzard has to convince with this new feature. Did they?

    Read “Will Proving Grounds Help or Hurt?” »

  • Bhelgast writes a really interesting piece about the walls between in-game factions, and whether they’re actually necessary. Looking at games from Everquest to The Elder Scrolls, this one’s an informative and eye-opening read.

    Read “Abolish Faction Walls” »

  • Defying the latest news about WoW’s subscriber count, The Godmother looks back in the history of what Blizzard have said about future expansions to predict WoW’s next adventure.

    Read “Who Wants To Live Forever?” »

See you next week, when hopefully things will be well and truly back to normal – and I suspect we’ll be hearing about WoW’s subscriber loss and Blizz/Activision going independent…

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Lore, Grouping, And Made For The Role

And to round off the week, here are some of the other links that caught my eye!

It’s a quiet time in blogging right now – although I don’t see the “MMO Blogging Is Dying” malaise that other people are talking about – but there’s still a fair bit of interesting writing out there!

  • Rowan Blaze looks at the lore of The Secret World – this week looking into the real-world legends, folklore and esoterica behind golem-users the Guardians of Gaia.

    Read Lookin’ For Lore: Guardians of Gaia

  • The Grumpy Elf returns to a topic he’s considered before, asking if everyone has a role that they just fit perfectly in MMORPGS.

    Read Made For The Role »

  • And Keen and Graev offer some design suggestions, today looking at grouping in MMOs – how some games have made it more interesting in the past, and what developers of the future can do.

    Read How To Make Grouping More Fun »

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Why Would People Leave WoW?

With WoW moving toward a cash shop, the major drop in the last release, and almost everyone in the WoW community knowing people who’ve stopped playing, “Why Do People Stop Playing WoW?” is a pretty big question right now.

Today two bloggers are looking at that question from very different perspectives – and it’s fascinating to see the contrast.

  • Ardwulf takes a look at the changes in WoW from an extremely old-school player’s perspective, in a short but interesting piece.

    Read What Was Lost »

  • And The Godmother looks at the community of WoW, and whether that’s actually what drives a lot of people to get the hell out of (virtual) Dodge.

    Read If Leaving Me Is Easy »

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Focus On Cough Unofficial Servers

Private Servers.

Unofficial implementations of an MMO have been around for a long while, existing in a space somewhere between “informally ignored” and “actively sued” by the games companies who developed the games they’re now emulating.

But are do they actually provide a valuable service for the MMO community? Here are two bloggers who think that they do indeed.

  • Syp looks at the MMO abandonware world, showcasing five projects that aim – very successfully, in some cases – to keep MMOs that have been killed by their parent companies alive. From Star Wars Galaxies to Shadowbane, it’s a fascinating list.

    Read “Five Emulators That Are Keeping Dead MMOs Alive” »

  • And Ardwulf looks at the role of private servers as “retro” servers for still-existing MMOs, allowing WoW players (for example) who miss the good old days a chance to go back and relive them. Note that you won’t get any links to these dubiously-legal services here – just discussion of the theory.

    Read “Retro Servers And A Light At The End Of The Tunnel” »

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Do You Know What Barping Is?

I know I didn’t.

Turns out that “Barping” is the new hip term in the MMO roleplaying community to refer to “Bar RP” – trawling the seedy bars and cantinas of an MMO looking for some hot narrativistic action.

Yes, exactly like the Lion’s Pride Inn in Goldshire.

MJ at SWTOR Life offers us a detailed guide to this exciting new(ish) pursuit in MMOs, and the colourful characters you’ll find therin:

Troll Strollers —These folks will make you dizzy. How many times can the same person walk around the same four cantina bars without stopping for a drink? Oh, sure, they’ll vary it a little by riding the elevators up to the VIP level and back down again, even roam around the outer ring. They never say anything, never do anything, but they are on the hunt for RP. Some time ago I talked about the “walkers” (That was before I heard someone in General Chat use the term “Troll Stroller” and I about spit blue milk through my nose at the clever turn of phrase), and the fact that “walking,” like personal emoting, is a sign that someone is acting with their character in a more realistic way—and therefore are likely to respond if approached in a realistic way. It’s easy enough to engage a Troll Stroller in RP. Typically, all you have to do is highlight their character and type /nod, /look, or /smile and you’re sure to get the same back, if not the start of a full-fledged conversation. The hard-to-get Troll Strollers aren’t worth your time if you’re serious about sitting down to some deep RolePlay. If you throw them a “/look” and they shoot back with a “/nod,” and move on without another word, they’re either just spinning their wheels or waiting for the PvP queue to pop—or, they want you to do all the work.

Fishers —These characters are a lot like the Troll Strollers except they stand still. They usually find a spot at the bar where no one is around, or stand at an empty bar. Sometimes they sit (in that strange not-really-sitting-way) in chairs overlooking the bars. Sometimes they stand at the railings on the outer ring of the cantina area. Most of the time, Fishers are quiet. They’re just waiting for that “in,” the moment when they overhear a snippet of RP that holds an interest for their character, or they’re scouting out other Fishers or Troll Strollers for potential chat.”

Read the rest of MJ’s Ultimate Guide To Barping »

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Late To The Party Roundup: The New Cash Store

Goddamn it, I’m taken away from the Melting Pot for just a few days and Blizzard decide to change the virtual world around us…

Yes, the biggest shakeup in WoW for a while has happened – a new Cash Store has been unveiled, with everything from XP boosts to shiny new (cosmetic) helmets on sale.

And whilst I missed the biggest explosion of comment last week, I’ve still been able to catch some of the aftershocks:

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Friday Links: Female Appearance, Stupidity, God Mode And Community

There have been some great pieces in the blogosphere in the last week or so!

In fact, the entire ‘sphere seems to be waking up a bit at the moment – there’s a lot of quality writing and ideas out there. Very much enjoying it.

Here’s your dose of thinking to round out the week:

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Hope For The Time-Poor

What if you didn’t have to be online at the same time as everyone else to raid?

That’s the question Stubborn asks – well, one of them – in this fascinating look into the future and the past of gaming.

He’s asking what might seem like a silly question at first – when we moved from turn-based gaming into the realm of real-time, was it worth it? And might we be going back the other way soon?

“At first glance it may seem ludicrous to try to play a 500 turn Civ game one dragging turn at a time, but that was completely standard for a long time. Chess games were played that way, online “pen and paper” RPGs were played by email or by forum post. There were many complaints then about how long it took, and about how if one person was slower than others, it dragged everyone else down, and those were legitimate concerns, but what we found in the opposite wasn’t much better.

Ferrel writes in his excellent book The Raider’s Companion of some of his early raiding experiences in EQ, where raid bosses were all world spawns and server dominance went to the guild who was ready at the drop of a hat – at any time of night or day – to hop on and kill it when it spawned. He writes about having people call at 3 or 4 a.m. when he had work next day as part of a phone tree to get everyone up and logged in to kill the bosses.

I sincerely applaud him and all his guildies for such dedication, but to me, that’s madness. That to me epitomizes what engendered the asocial MMO behaviors like enforced parallel play or solo dungeons. Sometimes the social stresses of having to be in a certain place at a certain time are just too great for a leisure activity, and you end up with situations like what PA described in their The Guildfather comic. In the post that accompanied the comic, the oft-quoted description of MMOs as “a vortex of social obligations” first came to my notice. I’ve used it a lot since, and I think the above trends are all backlashes to that idea of the “always available online” world.”

Read the rest of “The Return Of Asynchronous Gameplay” »

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But Where Did The Real Garrosh Go?

Garrosh Hellscream: villain of Mists of Pandaria. Altogether all-round bad egg. Corrupted, sinister, and irredeemable.

How did that happen, exactly?

Rades is steamingly furious at the progression Garrosh has gone through from complex, flawed character to mustache-twirling archvillain, and he explains exactly why, how it all fails to make sense, and where it seems to have gone wrong in this fascinating post:

“But then it was announced that he was going to be the end villain in Mists, and I guess Blizzard wanted to make EXTRA SURE that we knew he was bad? They’ve made it pretty clear that, oh hey, just in case you haven’t noticed, HE’S EVIL NOW. First there’s Malkorok playing the role of enforcer Gestapo, who literally came from nowhere and STILL feels bizarrely forced and jarring. And of course, the bombing of Theramore, which only goes against every aspect of Garrosh’s honor-driven personality we saw so carefully constructed during Cataclysm and the excellent Shattering novel.

I’m still not really sure how “I would never use a bomb to kill innocents, Krom’gar!” turns into “I’m totes gonna use this bomb to destroy innocents, Malkorok!” I guess that’s character growth, or something?

So that’s been bad enough, and that was even before Mists launched! And it’s only gotten worse. Garrosh in pursuit of evil artifacts. Garrosh sending assassins after his own allies, or abusing them so bad they start thinking of switching sides to the Alliance. Garrosh trying to control the Sha, even as Pandaria is torn apart by their re-emergence and even as his strongest warriors are twisted and slain by the negative energies he’s trying to wield.

Because oh, it’s not like HELLSCREAMS have any important history of being corrupted by evil forces that would make Garrosh think twice about such an act. Nope, not at all.”

Read the rest of “Thoughts on Garrosh and Baine’s “betrayal” comment” »

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F2P Discussions Continue

The discussion over F2P as a viable, fair, fun business model continue, with a couple of really interesting posts this week.

Whether you’re looking at the game decisions or the larger ramifications of how we “vote with our wallets”, there’s something here for you:

  • Azuriel explains why he finds that most F2P games are the worst of all worlds, removing interesting choices and optimisation, despite being pretty much their ideal player.

    Read “The Worst Of All Worlds” »

  • And Tobold looks at how both Kickstarter and F2P are changing the ways that we signal support and approval for the games that we like.

    Read “Voting With Your Wallet” »

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