In Mourning

So It Happened

statesman_dead A couple of days ago I talked about the present rumor that AOL would be shutting down all of its enthusiast press websites… as far as we are concerned that was Joystiq, Massively and WoW Insider.  Yesterday I first saw that it was officially in reading Brianna Royce’s touching announcement on Massively.  I have to saw that as well written as it was… it was breaking my heart to be reading it.  At this point I am not really sure how much of meaning I have to say about it.  It just flat sucks, and seems to follow the model that everything AOL lays its hands on goes to shit.  The most frustrating part is that it seems so senseless considering that from what I could tell all of the publications were doing swimmingly, in spite of draconic and ham-handed budget cuts.  I feel bad because I really did not follow Joystiq at all, but I did however read Massively and WoW Insider on a near daily basis.

While I didn’t always agree with every article, I felt like the site needed to exist.  There is a blogger that I am not even going to dignify by naming, that seems to be dancing on their grave with their “I Hope Massively Shuts Down” post.  I am done with that site and anything associated with it, and I think it was the last straw for a lot of people who had long only half heartedly followed it.  In fact I am officially done with rant blogs in any fashion.  But all of this is side tracking me from the purpose of today’s post.  I feel strongly that all of these writers will find homes either in community work or on another gaming website.  Today I compiled the list of twitter accounts for the writers that had them, for Massively and WoW Insider.  I figure this is the best way to follow people and see what they end up doing over the coming months.  February third will be the final day of all of the Joystiq connected sites.

Massively Cast

WoW Insider Cast

Pax South Panel Rundown

I had happy things to talk about in Final Fantasy XIV… but quite honestly after writing the first part of today’s post I am really not amped up and prepared to write them.  Instead I am going to close out today’s post with something I have been working on over the last few weeks.  One of the cool things about the age we live in is that sooner or later most things end up on Youtube.  For those that did not have the benefit of travelling to San Antonio for the inaugural Pax South show… or if you are like me and missed a bunch of the panels because you were doing other things…  I thought I would compile a list of everything that I could find online.  I did not record any of these and as such I do not take any responsibility for the quality… but this is the best of what I could find.

Game Panels

Conversation Panels

I am still missing a LOT of panels, but as I find them I will try and update the list to include them.  One of the big problems that I saw was that Gearbox and Bioware were pretty much doing their own things… and NONE of their panels were listed on the official Pax South registry, making it really hard to catch them.  I am really hoping I can find recordings of some of the ones by Bioware, but for those I don’t even know the name of said presentations to go off of.  If you know of any obvious ones that I am missing, I would appreciate a comment below to let me know.  In any case, I hope you have an awesome weekend and that you go out and do awesome things…  to help us forget that our gaming ecosystem is suffering a loss.

Fairwell to Highmaul

Isometric Sorta Minecraft

Albion-Online 2015-01-29 23-14-44-84 About a week ago a friend of mine hooked me up with access to the Albion Online alpha.  I was immediately a fan of the art style, but concerned that it would end up feeling like a throwback to something like Ultima Online.  I do not have the fond nostalgia towards that game that so many players did, largely because I did not give it a shot until after I had already played a ton of Everquest.  So the other night when I got in, I noticed I was naked and the movement was click based… but other than that I popped right back out expecting to explore it at a later date.  Last night after the raid I wanted to play something, but did not want to get too deeply involved.  Seeing the icon on my desktop I decided to fire it up and give it a shot.  When I was quite literally falling asleep at the keyboard at 11:30 I realized the mistake I had made… because this is absolutely one of those “just one more thing” games.

First off this is a game without classes in any fashion.  You gain mastery over whatever you happen to be doing.  As such I have focused on leveling my crafting and working on leveling my sword and board skills.  So you start out rather simply by gathering rocks and chopping down trees so that you can build a skinning knife.  There are “suggestions” of what you should do when that appear in the lower center of the screen but these can honestly be largely ignored if you like.  I would however suggest you follow the first few until you grasp how exactly the game works.  At the end of the night I had upgraded all of my crafting gear and adventure gear to tier 2, and was preparing to venture out to try and find the tier 3 areas.  The real interesting thing for me is going to be that it appears to be available on PC, Mac and Linux… but also iOS and Android making it extremely cross platform.  If this thing runs on my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone… I am in real trouble.

Fairwell to Highmaul

Wow-64 2015-01-29 19-59-39-67 Last night we ventured forth into Highmaul Heroic and after clearing the roadblock that was Butcher on Tuesday attempted to down some new bosses.  First up was Brackenspore and while we struggled a bit towards the end with the fungal creep and lost one of our flamethrower masters… we managed to push him across the line and kill him all in one shot.  We had made attempts on Brackenspore heroic previously, but had not really put any serious time into it.  From there we moved on to Tectus and while things did get a little dicey at times… we managed to oneshot him as well without any previous attempts on the heroic version.  This set our sights on Ko’ragh, and we fought valiantly, however were ultimately bested.  I believe our best attempt got him down to something like 22% but each time there would be a transition at a bad time and folks would die as the healers struggled to keep both tanks up.  I figure given some more time to work on him we could easily get him down.  As my friend Kadomi just reminded me… this content is still the current tier meaning we might want to kill Imperator to get the achievement.

However for the time being our princess is in another castle, as Blackrock Foundry releases next Tuesday and we plan on setting our sights there for the time being.  Highmaul has been a really fun raid for us, and I am proud to have gotten 7/7 normal and 5/7 heroic before the launch of the next raid.  This is kinda huge for me, and as I said in and earlier post…  I had not been up to date with relevant content since Icecrown.  I especially appreciate the way that folks have pulled things together in the last few weeks.  I joked that folks got good while I was away at Pax South, but it really did feel like that.  When I left we were still struggling a bit here or there, but when I came back… everyone seemed to have laser focus and precision.  I really am looking forward to Tuesday and sitting my feet down in a brand new instance… one that drops actual tier set gear!

Marketing Is Strange

When I first heard about Dying Light it was through watching a gameplay video from some conference… I spent a bit of time this morning trying to locate said video but was unable to do so quickly.  Essentially the video touted the multiplayer co-op survival horror sandbox nature of this game, and in doing so sold it to me completely wrong.  While it looked gorgeous, and while I have yet to tire of worlds full of post apocalyptic zombies.  I have however completely tired of the hardcore survival sandbox genre.  In a sea of hundreds of those games… it feels like a horrible way to market a game right now, but I am guessing the folks thought it might be wise to try and ride the coat tails of Day Z or something of the sort.  The early description that I saw of the game, and was reinforced by almost every trailer pointing out the sandbox nature…  excited me about as much as you saying “brand new moba”…  which is to say, not at all.

What I am hearing after the launch of the game however is that it is essentially Dead Island, but better in every possible way.  I loved Dead Island for its strange campy free roaming RPG feel.  While I never played the second game that came out of that series, I logged quite a bit of time playing the first and would gladly step back into that world.  The problem being that the storyline behind Dying Light was mostly obfuscated until I stopped caring about it.  Had I seen the above trailer first… I would have been interested.  I feel like this is one of those games that is going to be judged wrong by folks like me writing it off… when it sounds like it is absolutely a game for those who enjoy open ended RPGs.  While I have missed the initial purchase rush, I will probably pick it up when it gets the first price break on steam.  Had they done a better job marketing the game to more than one demographic…  I would have likely been a day one purchaser.

Save Ferris

Is It Actually War?

This morning Alternative Chat has a post that is extremely relevant to my interests.  In it she questions why Ashran is failing, and has devolved into both Horde and Alliance avoiding each other in an effort to get objectives completely more efficiently.  She goes on to question if we are fatigued of the red versus blue faction pride that blizzard keeps trying to make happen.  I think in a large part many players are, in part because to quote the Fallout franchise “War Never Changes”.  We have been in this constant state of war against the horde for the last ten years, with no victories… just more meaningless battles.  In this scenario the choice of horde or alliance feels just about as meaningful as choosing RED or BLU in Team Fortress 2.  Sure in World of Warcraft we have natural alignment to certain races… I happen to be pretty partial to Dwarves, Worgen and Humans for example.  However I would be willing to bed that every player has at least one race in their faction that they cannot stand…  I am looking at you Night Elves.

During the recent 10 years 10 questions podcast, Alt featured my response to wrap up the show about why we chose the faction we ultimately ended up aligning to.  My response was rather nuanced but essentially it sums up that I wish I didn’t have to choose.  The funny thing is that for years I thought I just had a natural aversion to PVP, and that it was driving my distaste for factional combat.  However that cannot be the case because during Pax South the game I ended up ultimately raving about was Gigantic… a game where the only thing to do IS PVP combat.  I think the problem lies with this false sense of faction pride.  I don’t care about what happens to my faction so long as it doesn’t actually inconvenience me.  When it does inconvenience me I go do something else, because I am not playing an MMO for the PVP.  I neither love nor hate the Horde, because they are essentially an island that exists far beyond the realm that I have access to.  If I had access to playing with horde characters, in horde zones without walling myself off from my existing alliance friends…  then maybe just maybe I would start to care.

Save Ferris

saveferris One of the problems with blogging the way that I do, each morning… super early in said morning…  is that I am often a day behind in my content.  As such yesterday seemed to be the day to post about this next topic…  so I am of course posting a day late.  There has been a rumor circulating that AOL has decided to shut down the Joystiq operation and its related sites.  While I am not sure if I have ever actually been to Joystiq proper…  I do absolutely read both WoW Insider and Massively on a daily basis.  In fact I would not likely have the type of audience that I do today were it not for WoW Insider picking up and featuring my Groupcraft post years ago.  That after all has been one of the great things about the site, they have always been willing to take content created by the community and show it off to the world.  It always felt like a proud parent pinning your paper to the refrigerator door every single time they did it.  They always felt like they cared about what the community of players were up to, and over the years they featured a few special moments from my guild.

The problem with many other gaming news sites is they often times ONLY report the news.  What I liked about the Joystiq sites is that they focused quite often on how the news effected the players.  So if it is fate that these sites will fade from memory, my hope is that other sites will help to pick up that torch of a more personal slant on the stories.  Anyone can take a press release, reword it and hit publish but it takes thoughtful contemplation to report about how said press release effects the community.  As always I am concerned about the human toll of events, and over the years I have gotten to know quite a number of the writers at both WoW Insider and Massively.  I hope that there will be an eleventh hour salvation for the sites, but if there isn’t I salute the work those stalwart individuals have done to date.  Not that anything I say has any weight when it comes to corporate politics, but I sincerely hope AOL rethinks their decision, or at the very least has the common sense to sell the network to someone else.

Other Stuff about Things

This morning is a bit of a strange morning, in part because there are things I would normally say that I can’t necessarily talk about.  What I can talk about however is that as of yesterday I am officially a member of the MMO Games writing staff, as they have published my first article from my experiences at Pax.  I plan on writing several more pieces that will also hopefully be published relating my experiences there.  I will admit I would not be writing for the site were it not for the constant wearing down by friends that also write for said site.  This is a strange decision for me, in part because I know I can never actually do this as a full time gig, and secondly because I already do the daily blogging thing, two podcasts and a plethora of other side projects.  That said my hope is to focus more on long form human interest style writing, namely the same sorts of things that I was always a fan at for Massively and WoW Insider.  I still have no clue what kind of frequency I will actually post at.  I know I have another article waiting somewhere in the editorial queue, so hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

Wow-64 2014-12-16 22-00-15-15 In other news it feels really damned good to be through a raid tier in World of Warcraft while it is still relevant content.  This is not a feat I have actually done since Icecrown Citadel in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  Granted for now it is just normal mode but as of last Thursday while I was travelling to Pax my raid group hit 7 of 7 in Normal, and this week we repeated that and picked up an extra heroic kill taking us to 3 of 7.  Now that we are past Butcher I have a feeling that the other heroic fights are going to come a bit easier.  Butcher was a giant mental obstacle that we felt we couldn’t pass…  so we never really tried it.  Granted Damai was watching the logs to check our relative damage output to see when we were “ready” but it still felt like we didn’t believe in ourselves enough to take it down.  This week however we crossed that hurdle with far less difficulty than I expected.  As such tonight when we go back in I am hoping we can take down a Tectus and a Brakenspore.  I had an interesting exchange with my friend Eliyon last night, and he commented just how closely my raids progression has been to his groups.  Makes us think that the raid as a whole was tuned just about right.

Raid Got Good

Media Personality

I got into a conversation with some of my friends the other day, and during the course of it they referred to me as a “media personality”.  Then to justify this they asked the guild…  who agreed with them that I was most definitely one.  I am not sure exactly why but this made me more frustrated than it probably should have considering that they probably did mean it as some sort of a compliment.  I guess for me…  when you say those words together it doesn’t exactly evoke a positive image.  So many self proclaimed personalities are these vapid and self serving entities that only think of promoting whatever it is that they are doing…  and ultimately makes them money.  I realize self promotion is a key part of this whole process, but it is one that I have always done half heartedly.  I am this guy that does a thing, and if that thing doesn’t interest you… then I don’t exactly feel compelled to try and beat down your door.

I guess the huge benefit I have is that I don’t have to make a living from what I am doing.  This is and likely always will be a hobby for me.  My writing and podcasting is something that I do largely for my own personal enjoyment.  If I were trying to support myself and my family from what I happen to be doing, then more than likely I would feel differently.  I realized long ago that there was no real way I could support myself through writing.  I look to my friends that attempt to do it, and they generally are writing for multiple venues and churning out articles left and right to keep their heads above water.  That is not exactly the life I would want to have for myself.  This way I get to “play” at being a serious writer, without having to deal with any of the consequences.  All of this said… I still do not in any fashion feel like a “media personality”.

Raid Got Good

Wow-64 2015-01-28 06-12-09-05 Last night was my first raid back after Pax South, and I was to some extent dreading it a bit.  Getting back into the “swing of things” has been a bit of a struggle.  Since coming back I have felt generally disconnected from my game worlds, and feared my performance would be frustratingly bad.  All things considered I seemed to do just fine, and once the raid started rolling I felt right at home.  Apparently I need to go to Pax more often because in my absence the raid got really damned good.  When I left we were struggling with Imperator Mar’gok but making some progress.  That Thursday night I left, the raid downed him without me…  but with some very specific circumstances that revolved around a much smaller raid size.  Last night…  it felt like we were old pros because through the course of the evening we one-shotted 7 of 7 bosses in Normal all before we took our first break.

After the break we started working on Hard Mode and repeated a Kargath kill before moving on and attempting Butcher.  That fight had been our roadblock and in the past when we had attempted it we lacked the oomph to get over the hurdle.  Last night we one shot killed him for the first time, beating the enrage in what felt like a largely repeatable fashion.  One of the things I have noticed is that when our raid downs a boss, it gives us a significant confidence boost and suddenly repeat performances feel much smoother.  So I feel like after clearing the Butcher hurdle we will likely be able to take down a few more heroic encounters Thursday.  For a full sweep of all of the content we have downed before, we moved on to the Twin Ogrons Heroic and got them down in a single attempt as well.  Like I said… clearly I need to go away more often, because when I do it seems like the raid gets phenomenally good.


Wow-64 2015-01-28 06-40-57-89 One of the controversies that has been brewing since they first announced the 6.1 patch, is the integration with twitter.  For some reason there are many players that view this as a bad thing.  I for one absolutely loved the fact that I could integrate twitter with Rift, and used it constantly.  The only bad thing about that integration was the fact that it liked to tweet for you if you didn’t first turn that off.  It also provided an awesome feature that allowed you to take a screenshot with the UI hidden by default.  This has been something I have wanted in every game I have ever played, because when you are trying to capture the action… it just feels odd to try and fumble to flip the UI off,  then take a picture… and then flip it back on before you actually die.  Anything that makes doing something I am already going to do easier… is a net positive for me.  At the end of the day it is an optional feature, and as such no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to hook up your account to twitter.

This week more gasoline was added to the fire when a certain follower mission was found on the PTR.  The Field Photography mission rewards the player with a S.E.L.F.I.E. Camera allowing you to take as you might expect…  those ubiquitous selfie style pictures.  Then a later mission called Lens Some Hands allows you to upgrade your camera, adding Instagram style filters to it.  For some reason this has erupted a controversy of people up in arms that selfies are being added to the game.  To which I want to add..  chill the fuck out.  I personally think its a cute feature to be added, and fits with all of the other random toys we have access to that do goofy things.  As a programmer, I recognize that more than likely this was some programmers pet project.  We all have a stack of “wouldn’t it be cool” things that we fiddle with when we have downtime.  Ultimately this one turned out to be good enough that they ended up integrating it into the game.  Once again… if you don’t want to use it… then don’t.  No one is forcing you to take duck face pictures of your character, but for those who do want to…  let them.  I feel like sometimes we lose sight of the fact that this is a supposed to be something we are doing for fun… and if taking selfies makes you happy then screw anyone who tries to harsh that happy.

Mandervilles and Midgardsormr

The Morning Back

This morning is my first morning back to work, and I am surprisingly cheery about it.  At the very least I had a pretty easy time waking up.  I’m trying to type my morning post with a very attention craving cat sitting on my arm.  The cats are still not entirely used to us being back.  I can tell they missed us because they are pretty much smothering us 24/7.  Now I know our house sitter played with them… because we got text messages talking about how sweet and adorable they were.  I guess there is no substitute for mom and dad being home.  Kenzie the kitten still acts confused any time she realizes we are not in sight.  Off and on during the day yesterday she would come tearing through the house meowing trying to find me…  then upon doing so snuggle up tight.  I guess it feels good to be needed.

Gw2 2015-01-26 16-11-37-88I seem to have skipped the convention plague, or at least I don’t really feel much different than I normally do.  The biggest thing I am experiencing is a sort of jet lag feeling.  Like my brain is still on convention time and I am not quite used to being back and communicating with other human beings “normally” just yet.  As such I spent most of my yesterday chilling out on the sofa, and piddling around in Guild Wars 2.  Yup that is right, I downloaded it, patched it up, and spent my day mucking about in it.  I enjoyed myself I guess… but I am still in the same phase I always seemed to be with that game… trying to sort out what everyone finds so damned appealing about it.  I admit the video and the crowd were enough oomph to get me to give it another try.

Gw2 2015-01-26 14-46-17-74 During Pax they kept touting their community as the “friendliest” and I feel like that is a bit of a misnomer.  Sure when you die people seem to rush out of the woodwork to resurrect you…  but in doing so they NEVER SAY A WORD.  I feel like GW2 is the friendliest… because it is also the most silent.  I wandered about yesterday interacting with several other human beings and not a single one said anything to me, even when I thanked them for helping me out.  So I guess they are the friendliest because no one is being an outward asshole?  I still say for my money Final Fantasy XIV is a far more enjoyable community, even the gold spammers are polite.  All of that said I did begrudgingly enjoy myself, so I might be poking my head in now and again and slowly working my way towards the level cap.  Right now I am 53 so there is still a long ways to go until 80.

Mandervilles and Midgardsormr

ffxiv 2015-01-26 21-20-53-64 Last night our normal raid night in Final Fantasy XIV but with several people out that did not quite happen.  I spent most of the night hanging out in free company chat talking to various people and working my way through the latest of the Hildebrand quest lines.  It was once again completely insane, but as I ran through it I noticed… this quest seemed to make call backs to every single Hildebrand quest line we had experienced to date.  It was almost as though the Hildebrand storyline were a television series and the final episode reintroduces all of the themes from behind, wrapping them up in a neat bow.  My working theory is that this is the last we will see of Hildebrand before the expansion.  For that matter even the main story line feels like it is acting as the precursor to the upcoming expansion, easing us into the world that will be once Heavensward  launches.  I am absolutely fine with this notion, and eating every moment of it while it lasts.

ffxiv 2015-01-26 21-30-03-90

After a period of time we realized that we had a full group of people on teamspeak to do some of the new dungeons.  As with any patch this one introduced three new dungeons, two of which are hard mode versions of existing dungeons… and the third something completely new that fits the current storyline.  Since the new dungeon Keeper of the Lake will prevent moving forward in the main story, we opted to do that one.  For starters…  this dungeon has some of the more difficult boss encounters we have seen to date.  In fact I would say this is the first dungeon that we did not really feel overpowered for.  The gear that it drops is ilevel 100, but I would hazard a guess that maybe it was designed for players to mostly be in ilevel 120.  We however are all in the 110 range so it was a real challenge.  One of the cool asides about the dungeon were that a lot of the mobs we encountered were named after ships from the classic Shmup Einhander.  A few were references to other shooters like the mobs called the “Silver Hawks”.

ffxiv 2015-01-26 21-30-13-81 We had to do what we have done on so many first runnings of new dungeons…  limit break our way through every encounter.  The first encounter took two attempts and the final encounter took a lot of luck and two attempts to figure out what we needed to do.  It is easily the most difficult of the dungeons to date.  Ashgar had run Amdapor Keep Hard and said that this new series had a running theme.  Relatively easy trash encounters, that were not likely to kill the party… and really difficult bosses.   I honestly prefer dungeons to be this way.  Hard trash makes the dungeons frustrating, but when you arrive at a boss everyone naturally focuses on the encounter at hand.  Similarly to the Manderville quest line… this dungeon seems to be ramping us up for the end of the expansion, and I believe that these are the last set of dungeons we will see before the spring 2015 launch of Heavensward.  I hope to be able to run the other two soon, so that I can start doing hard mode roulette once more.  They were worth quite a few poetics, so it should finally be reasonable to gear up in full 120 gear.

Highlights of Pax South

The Day After

sleepybelondrivehome This mornings post is coming out super late because…  I slept in.  After feeling like I had worked the last few days, I was super thankful to have taken Monday off.  The positive is that since I had gotten up every morning at 5:30 it should not be too hard to shift back into work mode tomorrow.  To the left is a photo I took yesterday when we were gassing up at the altar of excess… the New Braunfels Buc-ee’s.  We decided since it was a short distance from San Antonio that we would stop there for breakfast and gas up for the trip.  So here you have a very sleepy Bel who had not slept terribly well the night before.  When I came back to my hotel room I was kind of riding an adrenaline high from day two.  This meant that nothing that I did seemed to be able to calm my mind down enough to sleep.  Normally this is the point when I get up and play some game, but our hotel internet connection was fairly slow, and I did not really want to go through the process of having to verify to WoW or FFXIV that I was connecting from a foreign IP…  also I had already packed up all of my gear in preparation for getting up early the next morning.

Because all the pre-packing we managed to get on the road about 6:30 am and drove through to Waco before taking our first stop (other than Buc-ee’s) which bought us quite a bit of time.  One of the things I want to ask my Texan friends…  what the fuck is with the lean beef sausage?  I thought maybe the BBQ joint in Austin was an aberration, but upon stopping at Buc-ee’s I got two Kolaches and both were this super lean, super dense beef sausage.  Firstly sausage should be pork, but even that aside it should be a FATTY meat… because otherwise it is just like eating this dry meat log.  That said compared to my beloved QuikTrip I was not terribly impressed with either my or my wife’s breakfast choices.  They got a massive strike from my wife in that they did not have any donuts…  they had EVERYTHING you could imagine, but no donuts.  Anyways lackluster breakfast and fairly insane prices aside…  we had a pretty chill trip back.  I think in part it was the desire to get home that kept me going.  So we stopped in Waco, Allen, Durant to hit a Gas Station, Atoka to hit an old school non-supercenter style Wal-mart and then pushed straight through to home.   So we were on the road from 6:30 am until somewhere between 4:30 and 5 pm.  Considerably better time than the trip out.

Highlights of Pax South

ashgarandpip I have to say hands down the best thing to come out of Pax South was getting to meet my long time friend, guildie, and podcasting compatriot Ashgar in person.  There are always those awkward moments when you see someone in the flesh that you already know their vocal mannerisms as your mind adjusts to seeing a body attached to them… but that faded extremely  quickly.  I snapped a photo of him dominating a cool indie game, and I believe it was snapped without him really knowing I took it… but considering he didn’t seem to mind the picture from yesterday going ahead and posting it anyways.  For the last several years this man has been one of my closest friends, and I cannot wrap up the magic that was meeting him in person and realizing that yup he is in fact exactly like how I expected him to be in the flesh.  I am of course sad that we only got to hang out that one day… but it was a pretty awesome day.

oldgregWhile I didn’t stop and take pictures of many of them… I have to say seeing all the people dressed up as things they loved was another huge plus of the experience.  The entire convention has this entire vibe of “everything is awesome”.  The past year has been a rough spot for gamers as a whole, and I was pleasantly surprised that I did not witness any creepy or reprehensible behavior.  I did witness a socially awkward kid addressing a woman dressed as Teemo as “hot teemo” but a random guy from the crowd stepped up to say “man you are being a little creepy” and the socially awkward kid apologized and walked away.  The thing that made me the happiest were the pairs of fathers and daughters roaming around the convention… when you could tell the daughter was the one who was really excited to be there.  Pax South gave me a lot of hope for the future, and I am sure there were bad things that came out of the con, like there are anywhere…  but it did not at least seem to be super prevalent.  The photo to the side was so spectacular that I stopped and asked the guy if he minded me taking it.  For those who are not familiar… this is a spot on “Old Gregg” from The Mighty Boosh.  To make things even better… he pretty much nailed the Old Gregg voice and mannerisms as well.  Was kinda bummed that he did not offer me warm baileys from a shoe.

Another moment that was absolute magic was sitting in the crowd waiting for the Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns announcement.  I am not even a fan of Guild Wars 2 really… and I even felt pumped to see what was going on.  They had left these inflatable “thunder sticks” with the Guild Wars 2 logo on them.. and folks were using them to great benefit.  The noise was deafening so I attempted to take a video to give folks an example.  Moments before Jennifer Hale took the stage the crowd had started a slower rhythmic thump which was awesome.  I’ve seen a number of expansion announcements before but it is difficult to grasp the hype of the moment while watching a twitch stream from the comfort of your home.  I was roughly six to eight rows back in the dead center of the auditorium and the excitement was just infectious.  I have no clue if I will play Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns at launch, but having Jennifer Hale come out to work up the crowd was an awesome choice.  She as always is a badass.  Even if I don’t play the game, I am happy I got to participate in its announcement.

Belle of the Ball

I have to break this photo out again, because it makes me so happy to have a picture of Rae, Ash and Me playing Gigantic.  This game was really my own personal “best in show”, in part because it was not something I expected to like at all.  They really did an outstanding job both in the staging of the product, their booth, and building buzz around the convention.  They also had what looked to be a pretty awesome party Saturday night.  I swung by for a bit to say hi, but knowing I had a long drive ahead of me I simply did not stay for long.  That party honestly was the only time during the entire weekend that crowds got to me… but that was in part due to the fact that it was quite literally standing room only.  Finding enough free space to move around between the various areas of the room was a bit of a challenge and folks had spilled out onto the nearby balcony as well. giganticbooth Everyone I dealt with from Motiga the company behind Gigantic was simply awesome and welcoming.  It was so many things that made them my pick of the show, for starters it is a game I had no real interest in but only sat down to play it due to my personal connection to Lonrem who was helping them out that weekend.  The booth downstairs was impressive, and really dominated the floor which is saying something considering both Twitch and Intel had some pretty intense booths as well.  On top of that… the lines to play this game were insane.  At one point Saturday the line almost wrapped around twice.  I’ve never been one to watch other people play games… I don’t watch a lot of twitch unless the caster is a friend of mine.  While my circle of friends are big into watching the LCS play in League… I get bored within a few minutes of a match starting.  However at various points during the weekend I found myself hanging out upstairs in the scrimmage room just watching the various teams playing.  I found myself drawn to this game in ways I can’t quite grasp.

gigantic_scrimroom2 Largely I think this is in part because the game is visually exciting to watch.  There is constant action and the characters are animated beautifully.  Every attack you perform feels important, because there is weight to the animations that make them feel epic.  Another huge thing for me was just how “at home” I felt with the controls.  During the first match I picked up the controls of The Margrave within a few seconds and landed the first kill of the game.  It felt and controlled exactly like I thought that character should.  In my second game I wanted to try a champion, only to find it was already taken… so picked Roland on a whim.  I don’t normally like ranged characters, but I felt Roland’s mid to short range game play compelling with the hookshot escape mechanism to get away when things went bad.  So there I was playing a ranged character and loving it, in spite of it going against everything I traditionally like in games.  I have a feeling I could probably pick up ANY character and find something I liked about it.  The skill sets just seem to have a lot of depth to them, and the various specializations give players way to tweak them and make them their own.  I am really looking forward to seeing more of this game as it moves forward towards the planned late 2015 release.

AggroChat 41 and Pax Day Two

A Tale of Two Days

PaxPlaysPokemonIt was not until today that I realized that yesterday at Pax was a bit of a downer.  I had a lot of fun playing around with various games that I had media appointments with, and I am so happy I caught moments like “Pax South Plays Pokemon” where a guy in a costume was accepting and mimicking commands just like Twitch Plays Pokemon.  The problem is I mostly focused on the four appointments I had, and treated the day like I was working the convention.  In theory I guess I was but the biggest thing that lead to this feeling was the fact that more or less I was completely alone.  Sure there were people at the convention that knew but since I was so focused on making sure I was on time for the four meetings I didn’t really focus on mingling much other than with the random strangers I stood in line with.  That was one of the things I found most interesting is just how comfortable I felt around strangers.  I think part of it is that I knew if conversation did happen… it would at least be about something I was probably knowledgeable.  It was like the entire weekend was this safe little bubble of geeks and dorks… and we all inherently sense we were among our own kind, and somehow safe.

gigantic_aggrochat_trio Today however was a completely different experience.  Upon arriving there I got into the line for the Guild Wars 2 expansion reveal, and immediately after that I met up with Ashgar who was also watching the panel but had arrived late.  Shortly after that we met up with Rae and her brother and from that point on at least two of us were together at all times.  This completely changed the entire dynamic of the show for me.  Instead of being about milling around looking for something interesting… it became about having this grand adventure with friends.  I of course had to sho them everything I thought was cool from day one, which involved trying to get them a play session of Gigantic.  Sure enough the folks were amiable to the idea of having two more members of the podcast playing.  While I wasn’t really expecting to play along as well we all ended up on a team opposite Angry Joe of the Angry Joe Show.  It seems like the Gigantic Live twitter feed caught us playing, and while it was an extremely hard fought match our team pulled ahead in the end and seized the day.  For those playing at home… faces right to left at the machines are Myself, Ashgar, and Rae…  with the every awesome Lonrem beside Rae offering words of advice.

Heart of Thorns

This morning of course was the big announcement of the Guild Wars 2 expansion pack.  The fact that it was happening was of no real surprise because apparently the ending of this most recently living story episode concluded with some heavy hints about the expansion.  What was a surprise to me at least is that Arena Net seems to be shoving aside the MMO tradition of releasing an expansion and raising the level cap.  Instead they are introducing an alternate progression path called Masteries.  This system will apparently be account based so once something is unlocked it is available to all of your characters.  Some of the unlocks will be quality of life things like a new hang gliding skill, and others will be as game changing as brand new specializations.  The only one that they gave examples of is that the Ranger will apparently be able to specialize into a Druid giving them access to staff weapon type and brand new druid abilities.

gw2boomstickhype The other big announcement for me at least is that they are adding a third heavy armor class to the game.  It seems their flagship character Rytlock has gone through a transformation turning him a warrior to the brand new revenant class.  It seems the revenant focuses on channeling the mist and gives access to retelling certain legends that give it special abilities.  In the video above it shows him summoning a giant dragon spirit, or dashing around the battlefield striking all targets.  I have to say both the trailer and the expansion content sounded cool, but at the same time I know my history with Guild Wars 2 in general.  I am not sure if the revenant is enough to make me care about the game, but it is at least a step in the right direction since I love me some “shadowknight” style classes.  They plan on trickling out information between now and the expansion about what will await players in Maguuma.  I had to share the above photo because people were pumped for the show… they gave us these boom stick things and folks were putting them to good use.

AggroChat 41 – AggroChat Game Club

Since we will be on the road super early in the morning I am writing this post after coming home from my last day at Pax South.  I had a phenomenal time and spent the day hanging out with some of my favorite people on the planet.  However since myself, Ashgar and Rae were all at Pax this weekend… we were unable to do our normal aggrochat recording thing.  We actually got our shit together and planned ahead for this eventuality and recorded double episodes last saturday night releasing the first as AggroChat 40, and then I have just published the second episode tonight through the magic of “publish on date” functionality.  With the second part we are announcing a new idea we had.  The idea is relatively simple… we have a book club but with games.  We will pick a game, play it through a given month and then record a show where we spoil everything allowing us to tear into the game completely.  We did this some time ago for Transistor, where we recorded a very non-spoiler show first… and later recorded a deep dive show about the plotline.

Leading up to this show we each compiled a list of games we wanted to nominate for the inaugural game club game.  During the course of this show I made the folks who posted each game defend their title, explaining why they thought it would be a good pick.  At the end of the show we arrive at title, but I am not going to spoil what our pick is just quite yet.  You can of course skip to the tail end of the show and find out for yourself really quickly, but where would the fun be in that?  In any case whatever game we chose… on Saturday February 28th we will record a game descending into the title and picking it clean.  From this point on we will figure out a more equitable scheme for picking games, to make sure we also get some “non-consensus” titles but I figured for the first pick it was probably good to grab a game we were all wanting to play.  As we play the game I encourage our listeners to play along and then share your comments about the game, but I will give more details on that later.  In any case… I am going to close down this evenings post and start packing up.  It was a great weekend at pax, but I am amped for life to return to normal, so see you all soon in the regularly scheduled social channels!

Day One

The First Day

paxline It was pretty early on in the day when I had my first realization that I had no clue what I was getting myself in for.  I got up yesterday morning at 5:30, showered, blogged, ate the free complimentary hot breakfast (sausage and eggs) and started roaming towards the convention center around 8 am.  When I got there I noticed there was absolutely nothing for parking, and the garage across the street from the convention center had a massive line of cars backed up in both directions.  After not find any real alternatives I got in that line and waited, hoping the “Open” side on the side of the garage would not change.  I was quite literally in that line for an hour before I finally got in and parked on the roof of the parking lot.

I have to say I have never been quite so happy to be parking on a rain drenched roof in my life.  I made my way into the convention hall where I entered a line of people…  quite honestly not really knowing why I was lining up.  It turns out I was doing mostly okay since this was the line for the opening of the expo hall at 10 am, the area that I had planned on spending most of my day.  I mingled with folks standing in line waiting on things to happen.   They had us line up five across and the entire length of the hall.  When I got there I was towards the front of line three, so people had been there in theory since at least 7 am.  By the time the halls actually opened up there were I believe eight of these lines all waiting to stream into the convention hall like an invading army.  Most were in search of the illusive swag…  me I was mostly trying to get my bearings and figure out where my media appointments would be.

Go Gigantic

gigantic_scrimroom Gigantic is one of those titles that I have known about for some time.  The art style and character designs appealed to me, but when I had a friend describe it as a “MOBA” my brain closed down shop.  Right now I am engaged in both League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm for various reasons…  and I just did not feel like I had enough room for “yet another moba” in my life.  Gigantic however is only a moba in character and skill designs, but the rest of the game play borrow elements from many genres the biggest is that of the first person shooter.  A match feels like a fast paced objective based deathmatch.  The gameplay starts with two teams of champions defending their teams “Guardian” which are these insanely huge monsters at either end of the arena.  The goal of the game is to score three wounds on the opposing teams Guardian.  You can either do this by dealing damage directly, or sending summoned creatures in to fight for you.  The challenge is that when you are summoning a creature you can be interrupted by taking damage from the other team.

Where the game play gets interesting is when “The Clash” happens, which is an end game condition that keeps matches from going too long.  When this happens the game arena shrinks in size as your guardian moves up to actually start fighting directly with the enemy guardian.  At this same time it funnels the players into much tighter quarters.  There are a lot of nuance to the mechanics, and since I have only gotten to play a single match it is hard for me to guess at much of it.  My background is that of an MMO tank… and having played mostly that…  I have to say picking up The Margrave the “tanky”champion felt right at home.  He has a kit with a big ground slam, frontal cleave attack, channeled defensive, and a charge that  can be used to hit other players or simply cover ground.  I actually landed the first kill of the match because the controls felt so natural.  The biggest highlight of my trip through Gigantic land is that I got to meet and hang out with Lonrem, better known for his community role with Anook.  Apparently he has been in the Gigantic community for some time, and when they made a call for experienced players to help act as “coaches” for the convention he jumped.

Decay and Moonrise

Undead-Labs_1Color_KO_onDark After hanging out with the Gigantic folks it was time for me to go to the floor and talk to Undead Labs the first of my press appointments for the show.  I have to give huge credit to Sanya Weathers for being so awesome in setting this up.  I’ve long been a fan of the stuff Undead Labs is doing and I was a day one buyer of State of Decay on XBLA and then later re-bought the game when it came out on steam.  Since then each time it has gone on sale I have picked up copies for various people to keep spreading the game.  I describe it to my friends as “Fallout with zombies and base building”, and I was pleased to find out that the folks at Undead Labs are completely happy with that description.  What is coming out in April is what they were showing off at the show, the Year One Survival edition.  Since it is targeting the PC and XBox One they have gone back and re-mastered the entire game so that it looks glorious at 1080p.  Additionally as Breakdown and Lifeline were released a number of improvements were made to the gameplay in each expansion.  All of those quality of life changes have been applied to the entire game as a whole and you can also play all of the characters from Breakdown and Lifeline in the original game as well.  For folks who own the previous release of the game there is going to be a special veteran only character with a sword and a suppressed rifle.  I asked the million dollar question of what the future plans were for the franchise and if it would include multiplayer.  As expected they could not commit to anything concrete, but did say that multiplayer was their original goal and still something they very much want to happen.  They said that when they did it, they wanted to build a game from the ground up with multiplayer, not try and tack it on as an afterthought… and that much I definitely agree with.

combat_10 Also while in Undead Labs land I got to get my hands on Moonrise their new mobile targeted pet battle rpg.  The idea behind the game is that every so often a condition happens that cause the animals of the planet to get infected with a sickness and become “Lunari”.  You play the role as a Warden, a public servant of sorts that does battle with the enraged Lunari, curing them and turning them back into the peaceful Solari.  If you have ever played the game Jade Coccoon, it feels very similiar… and in talking to Richard Foge it seems like the team had not actually played that game until after folks like me started comparing Moonrise to it.  The game is highly influenced by Pokemon, but the game plays out in a much more realtime fashion.  Not only do you have to have the right combos at the ready..  you have to be able to play them in rapid succession without your opponent somehow throwing a monkey wrench in your plans.  When we got around to playing PVP I happened to have one of those monkey wrenches and I kept throwing it often.  The game plans on being free to play with its monetization focusing on speeding up actions.  However they did not want to build a game where the player spent all of their time waiting on something to free up to be able to continue.  The goal was to create a game where there was always something to do, and from the sounds of it keep the player from going into maintenance mode.  I definitely look forward to seeing the game launch which is started at “sometime 2015” on consoles, iOS, Android and supporting both phone and tablet form factors.

Uncanny Valley

elitedangerous The last media appointment of the day was with the folks at Frontier to show off Elite Dangerous.  I cannot explain how phenomenally bad I am at star ship flight simulator type games.  I can do relatively well when I am constrained by gravity…  but when you throw in that element of being able to fly upside down in the mix I get completely lost.  To make matters even more difficult, they opted to show me the game using the Occulus Rift, hardware I had as of yet not been able to play with.  To say it was disorienting is a bit of an understatement.  That said after sitting in this virtual cockpit for a bit I noticed myself doing things instinctively like looking up through the top of the canopy to follow smoke trails or looking down at the dashboard indicators.  The only thing that I found really disturbing was the render hands that took actions similar to mine but not quite mine.  When you fire your weapons, the hand in game would fire your weapons… when you raised the shield the hand in game would raise the shield.  The problem is the rest of the time the hand largely sat there lifeless.  It was a really cool experience and I quizzed them about their future plans.  They said they would not be happy until you could do everything you would want to do in the setting including planetary exploration.  That however will take a long time, and they are prepping the 1.1 patch to becoming soon and adding new content.

The first day was a whole for me was almost as disorienting as playing Elite Dangerous with the Occulus Rift.  I am not entirely certain what I was expecting, but the reality turned out to be all the more strange.  I wish I could catch and bottle some of the enthusiasm of some of the other participants.  The whole place has this “summer camp for dorks” feel to it that is magical, and please don’t misunderstand…  I am absolutely a dork, just a deeply jaded one at this point.  Maybe it is because I have friends on the other side of the looking glass, that makes me able to see that there really isn’t magic at work… just a lot of clever programming and determination.  I also am not in a rabid search for free stuff mode, that it seems most of the conventioneers are so there is that.  I think if I were going to do this again I would try and schedule my entire day with nothing but press appointments.  That is what I found interesting, talking face to face with the folks behind the games.  I guess after writing about games for so long my interests have become far more nuanced.  At this point its time to hit publish and get ready to go do day two where I am hopefully met by Ashgar and Rae.

Twas Morning of Pax South

Grey Misty Way

hbp_books It is 6 am on the morning of Pax and here I sit in my hotel room dressed and ready for the con and trying to knock out my routine early morning blog post.  Right now my plan is to try and be at the convention center around 9 am because I assume at least on the first day there will be lines to get in.  This also gives me time to iron out where I will park and such, and to find some serious caffeine on the way there.  The hotel I am staying in offers a free hot breakfast each morning, so I am most definitely going to partake of that.  Yesterday was a pretty trippy day as far as travel days go.  We left the house around 7 am and ended up pulling into our hotel shortly after 8 pm.  So while the actual drive time was only around 8 hours of that… we meandered our way, had dinner with friends and wound up here about thirteen hours after we began our journey.

hbp_boardgames As far as travel days go yesterday was a dreary one.  From the moment we left the Tulsa Metro area we were hounded by light precipitation and walls of grey clouds.  When we entered into Texas this shifted over into a wall of mesmerizing rain and a constant struggle to keep the windows defogged.  At this point I am simply older than I used to be, and can only really drive for about two hours at a time before needing to stretch my legs.  Our first stop was on the far side of the Tulsa metro area in Okmulgee, the second at a tiny casino gas station near Atoka, and the third was in McKinney Texas at their Half Priced Books.  My wife and I have a love affair with that store and it is like a siren calling to us whenever we see one.  We opted to take a break, eat some lunch and maybe just maybe we would miss the noon traffic in the Dallas metro area.  It was shortly after lunch that I had the surreal experience of being retweeted by the Texas Tourism bureau along with Half Priced Books based on a comment I had made.  Note the photos are actually from the Austin store… not the McKinney store.  It had probably the best selection of games I have seen in a HBP be they video, board or pen and paper.

The Power of Google Navigation

For the most part our plan worked and we did not encounter significant traffic until a stretch of road between Waco and Temple Texas.  After making another pit stop in Waco to stretch our legs, we noticed google maps was trying to route us down a different path on the outskirts of temple.  Sure enough the traffic had ground to an absolute halt, and the navigation showed our current route in a deep red color indicating slowdown.  It directed us off to a shoulder… and other than the fact that Texas construction is completely confusing we would have cut around the entire accident.  For the longest time I have complained that Oklahoma is in a constant state of construction…  but at least ours looks like active construction.  When there are five foot tall weeds growing among the concrete elements and the sandbags holding up your temporary signs are covered in grass…  something tells me it has been like that for far too long.

styles_switch This was the story of Central Texas…  constant construction with little rhyme or reason as to why.  I would hate to live in that area because it seemed like every other bridge was “out” with two vehicles stacked on top of it.  Now I swear by Google Navigation however because in each case of a wreck or slowdown it provided us an alternate route that pretty much cut us directly around what was going on.  We got into Austin around 6pm which was just about perfect considering we were meeting friends for dinner.  The place they suggested was Stiles Switch a BBQ joint on North Lamar.  The one standout from traditional BBQ fare was the fact that they served their chopped brisket in an almost meaty gravy, ladling it out into bowls instead of onto the plate directly.  They also had something that they called a Frito Texas Pie, where they essentially made the standard Frito Chilli Pie but with this chopped brisket instead.  The food was amazing and the corn caserole and mac and cheese that I had as sides were to die for.  The only slight disappointment was the “spicy sausage” mostly because I didn’t consider it all that spicy… and it was a beef sausage which I have never been a huge fan of.  I would most definitely stop there again if we were going through Austin for some reason.

Monument to Excess

bucees During our trip we kept seeing these billboards with a cute animal character on them saying “Buc-ee’s” was only X number of miles away with a slogan of some sort attached to each.  After about the fifth of these we hit the phone and Wikipedia and looked the place up.  According to wikipedia… “The New Braunfels travel center is the largest convenience store in the world at 68,000 square feet. The store features 120 fuel pumps (60 at construction, 60 more added in late 2013), 83 toilets, 31 cash registers, 4 Icee machines, 80 fountain dispensers”.  After reading the description we checked our route to see if we would in fact be going through New Braunfels… and it turned out that it was roughly the halfway point between Austin and San Antonio…  so last night as we passed it we stopped.  The description cannot do justice to the insanity of this place, and I attempted to take photos to show off the scale…  but it is just unimaginable in person.

The convenience store is larger than most grocery stores, and has this “Bass Pro Shops of Convenience Stores” feel too it.  Inside they have everything you could imagine from what looked to be over twenty flavors of beef jerky, to an entire wall of every candy you could imagine, to many freshly prepared foods like brisket sandwiches sliced in front of you.  All the while I am roaming around this place I am thinking to myself..    how much money are they losing on this building.  There is no way they can ever have even half of the bays full of cars gasing up, not to mention the size of the storage tanks… or the cost to fill them.  This is easily the least practical store I have ever seen in my life, and while it is awesome that something this insane exists…  it also seems like the sort of place that could bankrupt your entire company.  There what felt like a couple dozen employees working there, most of which sitting idle waiting on customers.   I am guessing the novelty has worn off.

Awesome Accommodations

hotelroom_full I was extremely slow getting our hotel reservations for Pax South.  Early on when I looked I noticed that everything around the riverwalk area was pure madness.  There was no way I was going to pay $150-200 a night especially if I had access to a vehicle.  So in early January I spent an afternoon looking at various hotels and their ratings and finally settled on a Country Inn and Suites out by the airport.  For normal folks the airport noise might bother them… but since we live in the approach path for Tulsa International…  we are used to it… in fact I find it a slight bit comforting.  Everything I had seen online made it seem like the place was going to be awesome… free wifi, breakfast, seperate sitting room, shuttle bus that my wife could abuse during the day…  but man it has turned out to be so much nicer than I expected.  The photos just do not do it justice, because essentially we have two rooms one with a couch, desk, television, chair, and bar with a fridge and microwave.  Then we have a second room that is our bed, dresser and closet, giving a kind of neat division of space and allowed me to get up and shower this morning without waking up my wife.

hotelroom_doorwayshot So while I am about six miles from the convention center… I feel like it is well worth it.  When we got checked in last night we dropped off our stuff and went roaming around looking for a grocery store or something like a Wal-mart.  At the front desk… they had cookies…  warm gooey doubletree style cookies.  Granted we have only stayed one night but I think we knocked it out of the park on the accommodations.  I am just about to wrap up this post and check out the hot breakfast, and hopefully it will live up to being just as good as the other aspects have been.  Last night we managed to find an HEB which is a chain we do not have in Oklahoma.  If the customers were any indication I am guessing we are near a fairly high rent area… which is strange to me… considering in Tulsa our airport is essentially nestled in the slums.  Being from Oklahoma I still cannot get used to seeing Wine in a grocery store… but for the rest of the country that is likely a pretty standard sight.  I will admit right now I am delaying wrapping things up because I am more than a bit nervous.  Hoping this convention goes extremely well and I meet a lot of cool people.  Stay tuned for some convention news tonight!

Reaping What We Sow

Pax Packing

Tonight is my last night at home before heading towards PAX.  As such our world pretty much revolves around packing up the things that need packing and cleaning the house some more to make it nice for the house sitter.  I think at this point I have everything that I am going to need to both enjoy and “work” pax.  This is going to be an odd experience for me, because in theory I am the eyes and ears of during the course of this trip.  In addition to that I am going to try my best not to let my streak of daily postings slip either.  As such I am writing this and planning on posting it in the morning… which while cheating is something I have accepted in the past.  In truth most of my posts during this trip will be along these lines as I intend to write up what I saw during that day from my hotel room.

The oddest experience for me is that I am going to have some actual media appointments, as in sit on the couch and talk to devs about their games.  I have a ton of questions, but at the same time I am feeling extremely self conscious.  Its like I am expecting them to immediately realize that I am not really a professional writer, and get kicked off the couch or something.  Sure I blog each and every day, and that has been one hell of a marathon, but for whatever reason this suddenly seems that much more real.  I would love to be doing stuff like this for a living, but I learned long ago that writing simply does not pay enough to even come close to offsetting the salary of a programmer.  So instead I will just pretend to be a “legitimate writer”, and simply be thankful that someone is letting me indulge that fantasy.

Buy To Play

eso 2014-05-09 18-41-57-458 For the several quarters it has seemed to me that Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar were like two kids sitting waiting on the bottom of a pool.  Each of them trying to hold their breath as long as humanly possible before admitting defeat and swimming to the surface.  Today Elder Scrolls Online swam to the surface and admitted defeat, announcing that they would be abandoning the subscription model in favor of a new “buy to play” strategy with an optional premium subscription.  That said I absolutely expect Wildstar to swim to the surface themselves rather quickly confident that they won this game of chicken… but no less battered for the challenge.  This was the year that the subscription model gave its last hurrah, and ultimately proved that the buying public simply was not willing to pay on a month my month basis.

I say this but it is not entirely true, given that World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Final Fantasy XIV are each doing better than they have in years.  The subscription model is still very much alive and kicking, but unfortunately the folks willing to pay a monthly fee… seem to already be committed leaving only the game hoppers and nomads shifting from  title to title.  Awhile back I wrote an article calling Elder Scrolls Online my disappointment of the year… and in many ways it still very much is.  That said I hate to see them having to shift payment models like this.  I still like the idea of a subscription, but a game has to earn the right to see my monthly payment.  Final Fantasy XIV does this by providing a constant stream of new content.  World of Warcraft earns my dollar by simply being the first breakout hit to claim the market share and thus addict swarms of my friends who refuse to leave it.  Elder Scrolls Online just lacked the glue to keep me playing, and after my initial six months worth of subscription time I let my account go dormant expecting to play again when it hit the consoles.

Reaping What We Sow

Today I made a tweet, and as luck would have it my fingers got faster than my brain…  and it of course has a typo.  That said I pretty much stand by the statement… once corrected for spelling of course.  Game Companies are after all companies.  Developers, Designers, Artists and Writers all have to get paid for their work, and at the end of the day no one can afford to work for free.  Hell I couldn’t do half of the stuff I did with my blog, podcasts and the sort without a really nice paying job to back me up and fund my hobbies.  At the end of the day these companies have to make money, so they can turn around and invest in those resources that support their games., and that’s not even taking into account the serious costs associated with keeping up a server farm.  Sure single servers are relatively simple and cheap to operate… but when you are talking an online game you are literally talking about thousands of servers working together to maintain the structure that we demand be not only up 24/7 but also be relatively lag free.

So if we complain about blatant money grabs like the air drop scandal in H1Z1, or the constant limited edition loot box bonanzas in Star Wars the Old Republic and Rift.  We have to realize that all of it is entirely our faults.  The subscription model was nice and honestly and for the most part was a contract between the players and a company.  We pay them to keep rolling out new content, and keep the lights on… and we would get to play their games.  However at some point during the line that contract was broken, and we the players started wanting more for free.  I have gotten so tired of seeing comments like “I like the game, but I will play it when it goes free to play”.  If you like the game, and want to play it… you should be willing to support it.  I’ve subscribed to games for months after I stopped playing them, just because I believed in the mission of the company or the game.  If we don’t help the companies… they are going to keep  taking progressively more desperate measures to try and stay afloat and keep making salary.

Players Are Now Investors

I will be the first to admit that steam early access or paid alpha and beta programs are frustrating riddled with problems.  Ultimately I feel like that extra transparency bogs down the process and ultimately produces a confused product designed by committee.  The problem is…  we are quickly becoming the investors in the games we are playing.  Why are we now investors you might ask yourself?  Essentially the repeat failure of AAA MMOs means that a lot of the institutional funding is simply not available.  Would you want to fund an MMO after the state of Rhode Island was stuck holding a multi-million dollar bill for the failure of Copernicus?  Kickstarter has been an interesting catalyst for games development.  It has placed a power in our hands that we have never had before…  and it is not entirely a good thing.  As investors… we feel entitled to have our say in the way the process works.

I honestly miss the days when I could look at the games industry like it was some magical engine of creation.  When I could view it as being something that simply turned out the games I wanted to play without any real consequences attached to it.  The problem is… I know the consequences in the faces of friends that have been effected by the closure of studios, and the “cutbacks” in staffing as subscriptions faltered.  How do you build a family when you aren’t sure where you will be living in six months?  Maybe I shouldn’t care about the human costs behind these things, but unfortunately that isn’t really a luxury I have.  I write my blog and I make my quips, but at the end of the day I have nothing but the utmost respect for the folks that make the games I care about.  I can be petulant just as much as the next person, but sometimes I lose sight on the truth behind it all.  They make the games that we are supposed to have fun playing… and in doing so it is up to us the players to uphold our end of that bargain.  I am not addressing the people that didn’t enjoy a game, because that is the way it works…. I am talking about the folks that loved a game… but were unwilling to subscribe.