January 2006

Win A Dream Date With An Uberguild!

World of Warcraft’s recent patch introduced a server-wide quest for opening the new uber-dungeon, called, varyingly, “a dynamic cooperative quest“, “holy crap, that’s a lots of hunting and gathering“, “worst. quest. ever.“, “sweet, new NPCs we can gank to grief everyone“, “yeah, all you other guys get right on that!“, and the rational response, “omg, the auction house market in magic items has fallen through the floor” (since the turnins on the gathered items reward you with random magic loot).

However, all this pales: now you (yes, you in the back, you) can win a shot at someone in Fires of Heaven yelling at you to start freaking cross-group healing already. That’s right, since they’re too busy to farm linen – they want YOU to do it! And in return – that’s right, valuable prizes! And the top prize?

\tab Each of our 3 grand prize winners will receive their very \tab own MOLTEN CORE RUN!! That’s right, we’ll take you and four of your friends \tab on a run through the fabulous Molten Core where you can loot whatever you please. \tab Remember watching tv as a kid and seeing TV shows give away Toys ‘R Us Shopping Sprees? \tab This is YOUR CHANCE!

(Not on Hyjal? That’s OK, chances are good some uberguild on YOUR server is going to read this and start doing the same thing.)

Well, it’s player-driven content!

“The first thing we do, let’s gank all the lawyers.”


Ren Reynolds at Terra Nova looks at Linden Labs buying back the “devauled property” of some Second Life residents.

Julian Dibbell, in pole position for the “What the Hell Is Wrong With You” 2006 award, lets the IRS know MMOs exist.

David Edery analyzes possible legal pitfalls awaiting MMOs.

My view is that we’re all breathing just a *bit* too heavily. In my I-am-so-not-a-lawyer opinion, virtual worlds are roughly analogous to my living room. To wit, using Edery’s list:

* You have no constitutionally protected rights of free expression in my living room. If I tell you to get the hell out, you have to. If you don’t, I’m within my rights to call the police. Or alternately, if I live in Texas, just shoot you. (This tends to be a sore spot with me. I am more than a little tired of people demanding “civil rights” to be asshats in MMOs.)

* If someone else sexually harasses you in my living room at a party, it’s not really my fault, honest. I’m sorry I invited the schlub, but it is pretty much his or her fault here. Just because I own the living room doesn’t mean I’m legally responsible for every crime that happens (although I am for some – you can’t do drugs, and if you get drunk, and go driving, I could get sued. The legal parallels here are somewhat unclear.)

* It’s as legal for you to gamble in my living room as it is anywhere else.

* If you’re crashing in my living room, you don’t own it. No matter how long you stay there. Really.

* If a 10 year old is operating a brothel in my living room, there’s all sorts of laws that apply here.

See, this metaphor really works!

Yes, I played a lot of the above for laughs, but honestly, here’s what I think. Our (American) legal system is broken in a great many ways. Punitive lawsuits, legal effectiveness based on who can afford the best lawyers, etc. Our tax code is broken in similar ways. Pardon me if I’d prefer to postpone the day where we have to deal with both as long as possible. And once we do, I suspect you won’t like the results – because crushing legal and tax burdens will stifle any possible innovation deader than it already is.

Top 10 new games of 2005

(at least in my humble opinion). Everyone else is doing this list, so I will too! (No MMOs included.)

10: F.E.A.R.: Best shooter of last year. Well done atmospherics and the AI was really well done (or at least it reponded well to my cheesy hide-behind-a-wall-and-ambush-people with the classic throw-lots-of-grenades response!)

9: Dawn of War: Winter Assault: Yeah, it’s an expansion pack, bite me. With AOE3 still needing lots of work, this one is still the best online RTS out there. If people weren’t so cheesy with the Imperial Guard in online games this would be higher on the list. Yes, commissar, I’m looking at you.

8: Indigo Prophecy: Flawed near the end, but the game makes up for it in atmosphere. Very cinematic, yet still feels as though it gives you choices that matter (even though they don’t!) Plus adventure games are supposed to be dead so it’s nice to see one that isn’t.

7: Final Fantasy IV Advance: It’s FF4. On a GBA. And you don’t have to run some wacky emulator program! Now when they get FF6 on a GBA I’ll probably never use my PC for a year or something.

6: God of War: Unlike others I don’t think this is QUITE god’s gift to gaming, because I *hate* jumping puzzles, but the fact that a game full of jumping puzzles made this list should say something. Great art, great story, and great jumping around mutilating things with swords.

5: Guitar Hero: Just plain fun. Plus they have all kinds of 70’s songs that this old man actually remembers and stuff.

4: Mercenaries: It’s Grand Theft Auto: North Korea and that’s all you need to know.

3: Knights of the Old Republic 2 (pretty sure this was a 2005 release – at least the PC version was): This is where RPGs need to go. Meaningful branching choices, NPCs you actually sort of care about, and an ending that wasn’t finished. OK, so that last part? We can skip. But this game would have been dead-on perfect if not for the painfully obvious crap-we-gotta-ship-this-thing-NOW ending. Did the fans ever fan-patch this one yet?

2: Hearts of Iron 2: This IS the penultimate World War 2 strategy game. If you disagree, you are wrong. End of story. I played this more than any game has a right to be played. When CORE comes out? I’ll play it more. When the expansion comes out? I’ll play it even more! Woo hoo!

1: Civilization 4. DUH. Out of the box it’s unbelievably addictive. The multiplayer is painless to set up and far, far more fun than it has any right to be. It’s Civ. It even has Leonard Nimoy intoning “I got pig iron. I got pig iron. I got ALL pig iron.” What more could you want out of life?