HOORAH! SOME CRAP ABOUT SHADOWBANE! [Author: Hedron]

J. at Warcry has provided us with a lovely bait-the-staffer-and-watch-him-post article. His spotlight brought the post to my attention, and I think it’s a good summation of some of the interesting dynamics of Shadowbane. The heart of the matter is conquerable player-defined territory, and its effect on the psyche of the players as they choose whether to apply force, diplomacy, espionage or any other technique to try and increase their influence on the world.

The key aspect that Vosx brings out is the way in which the new paradigm frees the “good” personality type from the restrictions that were imposed by the good/evil models of other games. Just the very fact that “evil” tactics were punished by the game code meant that “good” players had lost the ability to employ ruthless means toward a higher purpose or in ambiguous situations or against anonymous targets. “Evils” could attack and profit from anyone, goods could only attack evils. In an environment with no geographic accountability this was an equation that looked something like this:

Good = Suck

That is until the devs cranked up the evil penalties so high that it made playing “evil” a truly annoying choice. In which case the equation became:

Game = Suck

Anyway, check out J’s article and the post – they’re cool n stuff.

Hedron

The False Prophet

Gratuitous RP Signature

NO TRIVIAL LOOT FOR LUCLIN [Author: Tick]

Well, in contrast to the statements reflected in the story below, it appears as though the Verant folks may be taking the odd cue from the customer base after all. On the EQ official site’s Developer’s Corner, Brad McQuaid has announced that the overwhelming majority of players really, really hate the Trivial Loot Code:

In fact, after polling over 200,000 players, most want the looting system left alone, almost as many want us to explore a different solution for bottom feeding and rampant farming, and a minority were in favor of the Trivial Loot Code as it exists today in the Warrens and Stonebrunt Mountains (the remainder either didn’t have an opinion or were unfamiliar with TLC).

Well, so be it. 🙂

We will head back to our drawing boards and keep brainstorming on this issue, but at this current time we do NOT intend on implementing TLC for the zones in our upcoming expansion, the Shadows of Luclin.

Well, color me confused on whether they want input or not, but props to Verant for listening on this one.

LISTEN TO CUSTOMERS? NAH [Author: Tick]

The article, the first few paragraphs of which can be found here, is a pretty standard look at a company growing by leaps and bounds in the online entertainment industry. Then we get to this (only available in the print version of the article):

When asked if he takes into account consumer input Flock is dismissive, relying instead on the expertise of his staff. “No, we never talk to consumers \’e2\’80\ldblquote they just fuck us up. Someone asked for a copy of our market research which made us take the decision to do EverQuest. I said we hadn’t done any market research. Had we done, the game would never have been made. We never focus on them. Gamers don’t know what they want. We just want to know if they have a valid credit card.”

Well, hell. This explains a lot, doesn’t it? No wonder customer service has sucked harder than a Vegas prostitute with an Electrolux attachment; the CEO of the bloody place thinks that we the customers will only fuck them up.

Er… Smed? Smed? You wanna try and explain this to us in a way that us silly shits can understand?

SHOW YOU PREVIEW THEY WILL [Author: Eldin]

Verant has released the first clip previewing the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxies, due in Fall 2002. The sequence is very short, but graphically stunning, with images and mon movements that have yet to be seen in any MMOG to date.

The footage was taken from previews shown at E3 earlier this year.

Shug Ninx posted on the Station, giving a detailed account of what you\’e2\’80\’99re seeing in the movie.

A BRIEF WORD ABOUT DONATIONS [Author: Eldin]

After talking amongst ourselves and reading the boards, donations to the site will be handled in the following way:

— The money currently held by the site will continue to be held by the site. That money will be put towards relocating, incorporating the site as a non-profit group (So my next tax filing doesn’t kill me), and other costs strictly related to the maintaining and transferring of the site.

— $500 of the surplus money will be donated to a fund for the children of the New York City Firefighters and Policemen who were lost in the tragedy a week ago. If we start running up an obscene surplus, then more will be donated.

Donations are still being accepted at the link to the right.

HEDRON’S TEENY TINY RANT 1 [Author: Hedron]

Warning: this is a teeny tiny rant. Very little attempt will be made to justify the following statements, but remember, it’s not the size of the rant, it’s how you use it.

Since we’re closing anyway, I’ve lost all motivation to make long, well thought out articles that delve deep into the psyche of gamers. (Yah, shut up – I don’t care if you think I never have done that type of article. Don’t make me ban you! Oh wait, I don’t do that. Don’t make me give you a wedgie.) Well, not really, but it’s a good excuse to take inane little pot-shots at pet peeve issues. THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING! I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT!

Ok. Here it is. The teeny tiny rant. Ready? WTF is up with those people who feel compelled to role play some other word for “level” than “level”? Blah Blah in his 21st Season. Yadda Yadda of the 32nd Circle. Don’t these people realize that there is no inherent difference among these terms? That “level” is as usable an RP word as anything else? That “seasons” do not directly indicate proficiency in your profession even in a purely RP context? That it’s actually more fiction-breaking to have 2000 retards running around inventing their own little word for levels, making everyone think “Uh… what?” every time they hear some lame new derivative?

And now that I think about it, who’s that idiot that keeps pushing that “PIG” term on us when everyone uses “MMOG” now? So what if he brought it up as a needed alternative to “MMORPG” (as stupid an acronym as you can imagine). The point is, there’s a new standard and “PIG” ain’t it. What a jerkoff. Somebody tell him to get with the program.

This teeny tiny rant was brought to you by the letters bite me.

Hedron

The False Prophet

Gratuitous RP Signature

Who loves ya, baby? ;p

MAJESTIC RETURNS [Author: Eldin]

Received the following in the mail:

To Our Valued Majestic Customers:

As you know, in the wake of last week’s events, EA temporarily suspended
Majestic. The game is now back online and players can resume playing.

If you are a Majestic EA Platinum Service subscriber, we will adjust your
account in recognition of this service issue. This will be done by extending
the billing date for your current month by one week.

If you have any questions concerning your account, please go to the following
location on our website for further contact information.

http://eamembers.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/eamembers.cfg/php/enduser/home.php

Please accept our apologies if this interruption has caused you any inconvenience.

Kind Regards and Best Wishes to You,

Electronic Arts and Your Majestic Team

PRETTY PLEASE? [Author: Eldin]

Now, you too can sit in front of a long download in order to test Anarchy Online. In a recent press release, Funcom has offered players a seven day trial run and free download of the game.

I’m reminded of those letters I’ve been getting from Ameritech/SBC over the past few weeks after I told them where to shove it by switching my local phone service to AT&T. “We miss you. Please come back. We’ve changed.”

Uh huh.

WW2O GOES FOR PAY [Author: BruceR]

Version 1.25 was released last week, the second big patch since launch day three-plus months ago. So many niggling little details in this Battle of France simulator were fixed, I couldn’t possibly list them all, but most importantly, the guns finally shoot straight. Engagement ranges have taken another leap, making it even harder for the infantry, whose own observational abilities have not improved commensurately, leaving them on the glassy terrain rather like seals on a Newfoundland ice floe, both in their ability to understand what’s going on and long-term survival chances.

The Germans got a new tank. And defying the doubters (like me), the navy did show up, finally\’e2\’80\’a6 well, one boat type, anyway: a cute little bizarrely modelled subchaser, with a 2-pdr AT gun instead of a 2-pdr pompom and a bridge crew of three whose job seems largely to die unnoticed. Still, it’s fun. Or it would have been if the brain trust at Cornered Rat Studios hadn’t given exact copies of the same British patrol boat to the German Kriegsmarine, despite player outcry.

The decision makes a mockery of the designer’s claims of striving for REALISM ABOVE ALL, of course. Certainly a game where the Royal Navy dominated the Channel, skirmishing with shore forces in the Scheldt estuary, would have been truer, and more fun. As it is, we’ve already had a couple German conquests of England in the last week. (It also would have been more real to forego the “inland ports” on the River Meuse. The fact all the rivers, like the rest of the map, are to half scale, and hence prone to congestion, means any naval action on the inland rivers looks more like a painting of Lepanto than any 20th-century action.) It’s also left the dedicated Allied players (already outnumbered around 60-40), feeling somewhat resentful: they still haven’t got any tactical air support planes, but you didn’t see the designers giving them captured Stukas in the meantime.

The whole fiasco, actually, smacks of something you’d expect to see in an OPEN BETA\’e2\’80\’a6 essentially one the early adopters paid to get into back in June. The designers want to screw around with the boat code they’ve evidently just written: to do that requires them to test with two navies, not one \’e2\’80\ldblquote never mind how it makes players feel. What the devs don’t seem to get is that the point where they could still do that passed months ago: now they should be focussing on community building and support, but they just can’t stop the urge to tinker.

Everyone, INCLUDING MYSELF, has said Cornered Rat Studios/Playnet seem oblivious to the commercial success or lack thereof of their game. Once that seemed reassuring, but it’s really a two-edged Panzer: what decisions like this clearly illustrate is that these guys still see the world they created, three months after launch, as just that, “THEIR GAME,” a big sandbox for them to screw around in\’e2\’80\’a6 when by rights it now belongs to the players who paid for it.

On the upside, Server One is relatively persistent now, so there’s finally a fight worth fighting \’e2\’80\ldblquote or THERE WOULD BE if infantry were made more fun and useful, and some kind of supply system was in place to encourage more sophisticated play. There’s also a rank system now, but it is, like everything else, problematic: basically if you kill enough stuff and despawn before you’re killed yourself, you eventually get promoted. The awards are bragging rights and the ability to post your own missions, and perhaps someday be the only one allowed some l33t piece of uber-equipment.

The whole thing has the makings of another fiasco, of course. There’s no evidence of any understanding by the rank system’s designers of the basic psychology of gamers. Look at it this way: basically, in the 100 per cent PvP environment of WW2O, you have only the two ‘Bartle-types’ (we’re all at least part “Killer”): Killer-Achievers (who go on their l33t sniping raids, unencumbered by much in the way of narrative) and the Killer-Socializers (who want to help their squad to victory, fight desperate holding actions, turn the tide of victory, etc.)

In the last three months, it’s been the Killer-Socializers who’ve stepped up and provided the skeleton on which this volunteer community rests: the websites, the Roger Wilco servers, the maps, the haikus, etc. But the new rank system only awards the Killer-Achievers, who will soon be promoted to the in-game generals and be given all the tools to organize the others\’e2\’80\’a6. Tools they almost certainly won’t, by and large, use. Meanwhile, the Killer-Socializers for the most part won’t be able to power-level up fast enough to get the benefits they could actually use: they’re too busy doing the WW2O equivalents of RP’ing, Smurfing, helping newbies, etc. Instead of giving the Achievers something like an overall PvP tally board (which would really solve their bragging rights needs better, anyway), CRS is counting on the CounterStrike crossovers to stop mastering their powers of twitch and build a community for them \’e2\’80\ldblquote a solution that seems doomed to fail already.

But never mind that: with v1.25 now in place, the game is finally going pay-for-play. As is their wont, CRS was hamfisted here, too, abruptly starting the clock ticking for all who’d bought the game so far on Sept. 14. All the other still-awaited “on-the-box” features, like the supply system, and all those rules that are supposed to limit the still completely silly numbers of tanks, will be implemented in subsequent patches before the 30-day period is up.

No doubt there’s other pressures at work. But with so many major changes still to come, the whole idea flies in the face of the whole point of that 30-day free trial; to, you know, TRY OUT THE FINISHED GAME. Even if all the remaining features CAN be implemented, the result may be so different from what it has been so far that the early adopters, who’ve suffered patiently thus far, end up getting screwed again. Oh, well, the drop dead date is Oct. 12. Given how the plans shape up here, you might have to check this link on Saturday and again on Oct. 13 yourself to see how many people did, despite all the abuse, cough up in the end, out of those still playing today (a number which has seen some resurgence since the latest patch).

The final verdict? The players that are left are some of the most patient, intelligent, and fun potential community members you’ll ever meet. The designers, I have to believe, are still well-intentioned. But the fact they’re going to pay-to-play now is a clear indication that formerly distant point is now approaching when everyone involved may have to scale back their initial ambitions, drastically possibly. I fear the game that results, fun or not, will be rather unrecognizable to the other June diehards. Something may have to give: and the patrol boat decision shows that the big commitment to realism may be the most frayed around the edges.

But no matter. It’s been stupid, but it’s been fun, and it filled a void for many until DaoC came along. And if you fancy yourself a wargamer, and you’ve never tried this at all, you did miss out on a bold, forlorn hope of an experiment in the dynamics of massive group play. Years from now, the WW2O veterans will have their own St. Crispin’s Day memories, no doubt\’e2\’80\’a6. Certainly the happy few I play with could serve as my brothers in any other game, if they wished. If nothing else, the arguments have been great.

No, I’ve played WW2O and I’ve played EQ. And even though the Lum gig’s apparently over and I can choose my own poison again, I know which I’ll be playing tonight, and every other fine night, so long as the dream behind it is still visible. No question. Like World War Two itself, you had to be there, folks. So, from the LTM Brussels bureau, it’s goodbye, farewell, and amen: hope to see you in Flanders, all. I’ll be the third tank on the left.

HURRIED, MANGLED THOUGHTS [Author: Eldin]

Lumthemad.net as we have known it for the past two years is leaving us. It is a benchmark occasion I never thought I would see, though I knew the ride had to come to a complete stop one day. Perhaps I simply do not want to believe it.

Mys is leaving us, and no one will miss her more than I. Over the past seven months, I have spoken to her almost every day. I knew how difficult running this site could be, and I could only shake my head in wonder when she took more shit from the community than I could ever hope to.

Lumthemad.net has always been about one thing and one thing only: the community. The writers, editors, and posters of the site have always come here for the community. Feeling a particular affection for all the people whom I have met and communicated with over the past two years, I\’e2\’80\’99m loathe to allow our little town center go.

So, I won\’e2\’80\’99t.

At this time, I\’e2\’80\’99m taking over the administration of the site until I can get in contact with the other editors and writers of the site. Here are the issues facing the site at present, and I hope to have them addressed and resolved before 9/30/2001.

— The site will obtain a new domain name. We will attempt to transfer as much content as humanly possible to the new site. Any writers, editors, and board administrators will be invited to stay with us and continue in their current capacity.

— The message boards will continue in either their current form or a new one of our choosing.

— Donations will continue.

I want to say a word about donations. The donations currently held by the site were given to LtM.net for LtM.net. Thus, it would be unethical of us to use those donations for the new site without the input of the community, we\’e2\’80\’99d like to hear what the community would like to see done with the money currently held by the site. The money will either be given to charity or used to set up a new site. However, the editors will not make that decision. You will.

— Hosting and bandwidth will have to be resolved.

As I just found out about this at about the same time the rest of you have, you\’e2\’80\’99ll have to forgive my hurried, sloppy thoughts. A half hour isn\’e2\’80\’99t much time to create a balance, viable plan for the future of the site.

However, I wanted to let everyone know that I have no intention of letting the community I care about go anywhere in the near future.

Eldin