Weekend Roundup: EVE, TSW, and other games

And finally, in other MMO news, the EVE world is still reeling from the death of Sean Smith, and its consequences – plus more discussion of The Secret World’s woes, adventures in EVE, and Farmville failings…

  • Tobold discusses the potential failing in Zynga’s business model – the fact that their games rely on messaging your friends, which falls down if you simply separate your Zynga social life from your real one“Their business plan behind that is that this way they’ll quickly gain millions of players for each of their games, and access to a network of people who trust each other, and are thus a juicy target for advertising. Only that while real money is hard to fake, social capital is extremely easy to falsify.”
  • Bravetank has entered the world of EVE, and today she writes a fascinating tale of how she ended up being led into learning some of the game’s infamously complex mechanics“My dps was 16. I’m embarrassed typing it. I was basically dong nothing more than giving the supply ship a nice bit of therapeutic shiatsu massage – a tad painful but boy does it work the joints.”
  • Game Delver thinks about the aftermath of Sean Smith’s death, and the increased public light it has shone on gaming“What I find most interesting about this particular case is just how public and important Mr. Smith’s status as a serious Eve Online player has been. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton even mentioned his background as a gamer. “
  • Lewis at Stnylan’s Musings considers the way that Smith’s death has united the EVE universe“To be an EVE-player however is not to be divided by servers or realms, but to share in the same dangerous sandbox. It makes it easier to achieve name-recognition (Chribba and Dr Caymus, The Mittani and Verone), and even to interact with them on occasion. “
  • Nosy Gamer spreads word of a fundraiser to help Sean Smith’s family
  • And finally, Syp considers the woes of The Secret World, and looks at four sticking points which are hindering the game’s growth and success“There’s a cash shop in place, and the game is segmented nicely into different world zones. So just make the first (Solomon Island) free and charge for Egypt, Transylvania, and so on. “

Found today’s posts interesting? Please let your fellow players know about them!

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“It’s Just A Game”, Sandbox Constriction, and more

It’s been a busy couple of days for the blogosphere! As a result, we’re going to break with our normal sequence of events today, and start with a few great posts from the last day or so that you might have missed!

  • Adam at The Noisy Rogue points to a great comment from the Pathfinder developers, explaining that just because you’re playing a sandbox game, there’s no reason you’ll be able to play whatever you want“You can’t play your character “any way you want”. You have to play a character that is constrained by the internal logic of the game world.”
  • Lewis at Stynlan’s Musings comes up with a particularly powerful comparison point against the old “it’s just a game” argument“I am also fairly willing to bet that many EVE players who are part of the Alliance Tournament teams – not all to be sure, but many – probably spend a not dis-similar number of hours practicing their craft as any professional sportsman or woman.”
  • Spinks at Spinksville writes a fascinating discussion of the ways in which we learn whilst playing MMORPGs“Learning in groups. You join a group, watch what they do and copy it. This is also known as social learning. Now, human beings will tend to learn all sorts of things in groups as well as boss strategies, such as how to behave towards other players.”
  • And Klepsacovic of Troll Racials Are Overpowered leaps into the “realism” argument, pointing out that most of the time, arguments about “realism” are actually discussing plausibility instead“Given the fantasy setting, fire may simply have different rules, so that it can be easily dissipated or the armor itself may have a very high specific heat, meaning that it takes a great deal of energy to raise the temperature of it. There are many possible reasons.”

Got a second? If you could tell us what you think of the Melting Pot we’d be much obliged!

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Can you get something positive from being told “YOU SUCK, NOOB!”?

“Lol, noob! Learn to play, moron! You suck!”

We’ve all met people who shout things like that – and unless we’re very lucky, sometimes at us. Most of the time, when we talk about that experience or write about it, we’re talking about how angry it made us, or how best to avoid it. But can you do more?

Cynwise wrote a post today that I know I personally found pretty challenging, but really worth reading. In it, he recounts the tale of a rogue who whispered him to persistantly shout abuse about his playing style as he did a Battleground – and how he eventually realised that rogue had something useful to say

“I remember the first time I got actively ridiculed in Warcraft. It was on my 59 DK, and some guy came up to me while I was at the training dummies. He laughed at me and said my spec was terrible. “Okay, I’ve been playing him for about a week, any suggestions how to improve?” “lol noob l2p” was all I got back.

I was pretty chuffed at that. But I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing on my DK yet, I knew I didn’t, so once I got over the gall of someone criticising a stranger, I went and asked for Twitter help on my build. I rebuilt my Frost spec and, indeed, did better. I stopped sucking.

It was easier for me to accept that criticism on my DK because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, and the criticism was open. On my Druid, I actually felt like I knew what the haps are, and in WSG I feel like I know what the fuck I’m supposed to do.

So this impertinent rogue had a lot of gall telling me to learn to play. I know WSG, buddy!

But the rogue was right. I wasn’t playing well. I certainly wasn’t playing as well as I know how to play.”

I found this article very interesting from a personal perspective – obviously, we get a lot of comments on the Quick-Start Guides on the Pot, and not all of them are that polite! But I think we’ve all been in something close to the situation Cynwise describes – and the article’s actually quite challenging as a result.

Do you learn from people who are hostile to you?

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Are you comfortable with your class?

Ever have one of those players in your raid who seemed to be able to do the impossible? The rogue who seems to be about four people’s worth of CC, two people’s worth of DPS and a bear druid’s worth of survival, for example? Chances are you’ve met someone who’s really, really comfortable with their class.

Kurn’s coining that term today – and I think it’s going to stick – as she talks about getting to the Zanshin point with her own class, and just how much she gains from being at the point where abilities are just instinctive

“I think it was only after the whole raid was over for the night that I realized that there was no way in hell I would have been able to manage all that crap (seriously, FOURTEEN broodlings hit me!) AND keep Maj and Hitoku alive if I weren’t extremely comfortable with how my class works.

It’s almost instinctual after a certain point. Granted, my instincts aren’t always spot-on or great or whatever, as you can tell since I do let Judgements of the Pure drop off and don’t use my Guardian and the like on the kill (which I’ll blame on the fact that my computer was about to throw up on me) but they really served me well over the whole raid night. At various points during the entire night, I popped cooldowns appropriately, even using Lay on Hands on Hitoku at one point. I figured out where my Beacon of Light was best put to use (sadly, on Majik) and basically, that was all the real thinking I had to do about how to heal my group.”

This is an interesting, engaging post with a really good point to it that I recognise myself both from WoW and from other learned skills.

There’s a four-stage model of learning that is very close to what Kurn’s talking about here: we progress from “Unconcious Incompetence”, where we don’t even know what we don’t know, through “Concious Incompetence” (“Wow, I suck, better learn fast!”), and then to Concious Competence. A lot of people then get stuck there – you know what you’re doing, but you still have to think about it. It’s easy to assume that’s all the learning that we need, but there’s a further stage, and it’s the most powerful of all: “Unconcious Competence”. Get there, and you’re performing at a high level without even considering what you’re doing – which allows you to broaden out your awareness and perform at a level that you otherwise couldn’t reach, because you’d be too busy worrying about your core skills.

Kurn’s calling everyone to become more comfortable with your class – all of it, not just the core rotation or core spells – and if you’re really wanting to master a skill, game-related or not, that’s a darn good point, delivered with an engaging story, to take on board.

Would you say you’ve gotten to the point where you’re “comfortable” with your current main MMO class?

Quote taken directly from Kurn’s post .

Find Kurn’s Corner at http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/ .

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A Decade of Professional Research: 0. Theorycrafters: 1

This week’s Really Cool Story comes courtesy of a crowdsourced, teamwork-based game called Foldit. See, Foldit is a game developed by biologists to attempt to assist them with solving problems in protein folding . Originally based on the SETI@Home screensaver, it became interactive, and players started to work in teams to find the best way of, well, folding proteins.

At which point the researchers involved decided to sic the players on a near-unsolvable problem, which had evaded solution for a decade.

No prizes for guessing what happened next.

The Andriod’s Closet has more details, a link to the original article, and some interesting commentary

“The fact that gamers played an integral role here shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone who has spent a lot of time around Elitist Jerks, CivFanatics or SimCity Devotion. Heck, remember Magnasanti, brought to us by the guy who “beat” SimCity? Even little kids memorize hundreds of Pokemon and all the moves and combat details inherent to gameplay. Humans hate math and theories in school, but they sure do love it when they can apply it to a game. Perhaps because there’s a tangible feeling of mastery, or perhaps because it’s a competition. Maybe it’s just because it’s fun. Who knows? The point is that it works.”

This is just plain fascinating. The fact is that gamers are, more and more, demonstrating that they can organise and, through fun, learn to perform real-world tasks at a very high level. I’m not just thinking of the scary math that some people deploy in service of bigger WoW numbers (I’d have no idea what a Markov Chain was if I didn’t read Maintankadin), but also the terrifying level of espionage expertise that the Goon Swarm has achieved in EVE Online, and arguably even the Lulzsec hackers, who are taking down computer security that was meant to be hardened against professional criminals for, well, lulz.

What will we see next, I wonder? And will it be in the service of good, or ill?

What’s your prediction for the next barrier that games will break down? Or the next great achievement caused by gaming?

Quote taken directly from The Android’s Closet’s article .

Find The Android’s Closet at http://www.theandroidscloset.com/ .

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Wrath Babies, Living Morons, Performance Orientation (ooer) and The Size Of The World… Of Warcraft.

A cornucopia of links for you today, which I think means I’m giving you a bunch of links in the broken-off horn of a goat. You’re welcome.

The blogosphere has exploded with cool stuff recently:

Enjoy!

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Why MMO Bloggers Talk About Alton Towers And Building Sand Castles All The Time

I’m still a newbie. I’ve played WoW for three or four years now and I’ve charged headlong into other MMOs whenever I’ve found a few minutes to give them a try. EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, A Tale In The Desert … most of them I’ve only peeked round the edge of the newbie zone to get a glimpse of the  big bad content waiting for me, but haven’t had time to stick it out.

Having tried that many and been writing about MMOs for a while now, my gamer pride says I should know things at the whoosh of a dragon’s wings. By osmosis, maybe. But there was something this week that I read about, realised I’d not grasped before, and went “There are different types of MMO. That explains the constant references to Alton Towers-alikes. Doh.”

It’s no surprise, really. I’m still learning about MMOs, and that’s how it should always be. There’s no point of knowing everything or stopping picking up new knowledge about a topic. Then I figured… I bet there are other newbies like me out there. And I bet there’s nothing that explains these topics to them.

So, for MMO newbies, veterans and otherwise hadn’t-understood-this-yets out there: let’s have a seat by the fire, crack open the secret cookie stash between us and chat about themepark MMOs and sandbox MMOs. Cos well, did you know there were different types of MMO? I didn’t.

Theme park MMOs

What happens when you go to a theme park? You go with a group of friends or maybe your family and gradually work through all the rides you want to do. Some of them terrify you, some of them get your imagination churning, some of them take a while to get through but are worth it in the end for the rewarding rush of an epic twist, long drop or stunning visual scene.Perhaps there’s a theme or overriding story you participate in as you go round the themepark.

Maybe while you’re at the theme park you’ll take some ‘you’ time to explore bits of it by yourself, or some downtime to watch the world go by as you chat to the folks you’re with. You might even be sent on a quest to find the ice cream truck.

Right, WoW. These are exactly the kind of experience theme park MMOs provide. You see the sights, you get the stunning visual scenes, you get rewards, be  that the achievement of completing a particular ride raid, getting the loot you wanted or having the rush of downing a boss. You can wander off and explore, pushing the boundaries by yourself if you want to. And they’re usually a social activity.

WoW, as mentioned, is #1 culprit for being a theme park MMO (as though there’s anything wrong with that). LoTRO, DDO, Rift – they’re all theme park MMOs too, and there are lots out there.

Sandbox MMOs

All right, let’s be honest – for most of us it’s probably a good while since we were in a sandbox in real life. And let’s not talk about the terrible surprises you’d find in there, like your favourite teddy stuck up to his neck. But wait, you put him there so you could come up with imaginative, ingenious ways to get him out. It’d keep you entertained for hours.

Then there was all the building with whatever materials you could find. Sand castles with stick drawbridges, grass guards and a carefully engineered moat that was actually wet (in sand?) and you have no idea how you achieved?

All of that is what a sandbox MMO is. You’re free to do what you want: not many rules, not many pre-defined goals. It’s not that they have no goals or ways to progress, it’s just that how you want to play is a lot more up to you. Quite often you’ll be able to build yourself things you want, and you’ll need to engineer them just as carefully as you did that moat but you’ll be proud of it once you’ve achieved it. And quite often you’ll come across hiccups in the operation, like your stuck teddy, but you’ll set your mind to it and come up with creative solutions to get yourself back on track. These ones are where your imagination runs free and you do what you want to do.

Examples of sandbox MMOs are A Tale In The Desert, EVE Online and Minecraft. Unlike most themepark MMOs which are, at their core, quite similar, sandbox MMOs can be quite different. You tend to have more no limit of choice in what you do in a sandbox MMO. It can be quite confusing if you’re used to theme park MMOs (which is why most of them have wikis you can explore, but how you’d automatically know that if you’re a newbie I don’t know). I guess that’s the thing about no limits: they’re not on rails. In one sandbox you can easily get lost in catacombs while trying to find the way back to the tower you built, in another you can be part of an economical powerhouse among the stars.

What about you – is there anything MMO-related you learnt recently that surprised you, or had you too not figured sandbox vs. theme park yet?

The basics covered, here’s some further reading of folks talking about themeparks and sandboxes:

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Dreambound: How Do We Learn?

Kae at Dreambound is examining the various ways that people learn – including while playing games. She acknowledges the fact that all of us learn in different ways and what works for one person might not work for the next.

This is an excellent primer for anyone playing a teamwork game but especially so for WoW players given we’ve just been handed new content to bash our collective heads against.

Why is this important for gaming? Encounter strategies, learning your class, learning how to play: how information is presented to you will impact how well you understand the material, which in turn impacts performance. If you know you won’t learn as well with one method, seek out material that is presented in a way that is easier for you to understand.

As a side benefit, understanding these learning methods impacts other areas of your life, including schooling and career. I’m a firm believer in “never stop learning,”

Kae takes a solid look at the three main ways of learning: visual, audio and tactile. In each case she gives examples of what works for learning in that method, such as different fonts and diagrams for folks who learn visually. And she rounds off each section with a summary of how types of learning aid can help or hinder each method.

Kae’s post is food for thought for anyone doing team-related content to see how they fit into the learning scale. It’s even more important for those leading that content.

If you’re preparing your friends or guildies for the new heroics or raids, take a look at Kae’s post and have a think how you might be able to adapt your fight explanations to help your team learn faster.

How about you – what sort of learning works for you?

_Quote taken directly from Kae’s post

You can find Dreambound’s homepage here_

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Nils And Raven: Levelling Needs Balance, And Soon

Blizzard’s given levelling a strong emphasis in Cataclysm. They want us to go back and see the new content, and to attract new players with a fresh game. Then why, says Nils, are they not putting more effort in to balancing the levelling experience for Cataclysm?

She opens with a quote from Ghostcrawler talking about how the developers want the levelling game to feel. Nils is extremely worried that, even though they’re going to look at the levelling balance, they’re not putting enough focus on it.

There are a lot of eloquent complains about the ‘numbers’ on the forums. That is about the average dps, hps and health of all mobs and players while leveling. Apparently, Blizzard considers the ‘balance’ while leveling just important enough to not want it to be ‘odd’. Now, if Mystic or Funcom had officially stated that they just want low-level content to not feel odd, I would have left those games even faster than I did.

She’s started a new character for patch 4.0.1 and found she needs one ability and three seconds to kill a monster. That, Nils says, is no fun, nor does it interact with new players – they’ll get the wrong idea about what the levelling experience is about.

Raven over at Currents Turn Awry takes this point further. He remembers learning as he was levelling in Wrath. He says that post 4.0.1 his levelling hunter finds himself in a similar position to Nils, and it’s not engaging. He’s not impressed with the lack of learning opportunities and worried about how this will play out when we get a fresh wave of 85s levelled through faceroll content.

Both Raven and Nils have ideas on how to improve levelling, based around tweaking the maths behind the numbers we see on screen. Both of them suggest some combination of rebalancing health, abilities, and survivability, and reckon it would work wonders for making levelling more engaging again.

What do you think? Is this a concern we’ll be falling over in a year’s time, or are you hoping that Cataclysm is going to rebalance the new zones anyway?

_Quote taken directly from Nils’ post

You can find Nils’ MMO Blog homepage here

You can find Currents Turn Awry’s homepage here _

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