Category personal

Pick a MMO for 2009, or should I just sit down, shut up & get out?

No hugs in Fallen Earth!

We don't hug in Fallen Earth!

I can be so weak when it comes to MMOs. I bounce back and forth and I still have a hard time finding a place to call home – the only place that even resembles one right now is Atys. I’m slowly settling in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Fallen Earth‘s Grand Canyon, having teamed up with the Casualties. As I’m writing this, I’m AFK-mining in EVE using an Iteron V, hoping to at least make a few ISK without raising so much as a finger – even though my pride has taken a bit of a hit after I decided to go from PvP pilot to miner/industrial. I love all three games, but something in me feels restless already.

With the fall of 2009 here, the major MMO push is over for this year. As far as I can tell, unless I’ve been struck by a complete black out, there’s no other interesting MMO being released this year. I’ve already given up on Aion (as Wiqd said, “why play a WoW clone when you can play the real thing?“) and Champions Online never managed to grab my attention. Actually, it bored me to death, so I never saw a reason to keep playing it.

That kind of leaves me with the games mentioned above, with a few others circling around me, poking at my interest. I do miss Middle-Earth sometimes, I never did get to Moria after all, and I can’t help thinking that I don’t want to miss out on World of Warcraft’s patch 3.3. Star Wars: Galaxies still feels interesting, especially after the server mergers. And Vanguard will always be Vanguard, especially after Stargrace has started to blog about it again.

So, I’m trying to figure out what games to stick with for the rest of the year. At the same time I can’t help drawing parallels between my bouncing between MMOs and the way my head is wired in general. Right now I’m writing this, AFK-mining in EVE, poking around an EVE mining guide, trying to make the last few fixes to a review in OpenOffice, playing Brütal Legend, chatting on Skype and MSN, eating a banana (yum!), reading the Fallen Earth forums and considering doing a dive into various Star Wars: Galaxies-resources.

Brain...hurts...

That’s not very good at all. I am sure my friend Breki would chastise me for it. I need to learn how to focus on one thing at a time, instead of doing everything at once. I know my brain can handle it, but I’m not sure my mind can, especially since I’ve long since started to identify stress symptoms. Not being able to settle for one MMO is probably another sign that I have problems focusing on one thing, desperately seeking stimulation from multiple sources at one time.

So, perhaps I should just stick with one. Or three. Or maybe a fourth one…hmmmm. Ok, I might need help.

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Why are the children doing what they are doing?

Just look at us, with our crappy basement apartments and our old sneakers. Look at our cheap haircuts and threadbare T-shirts and our cut-rate cat food for our cats. Worse still, I feel for the unfortunate men or women who fall in love with us.

Game journalism in action.

Game journalism in action.

While Scott Jones does a great job at detailing how the life of a game journalist can look these days (it’s a must-read if you are either a game journalist or consider becoming one), this part jumped out at me. As I currently only work as a freelancer, managing the small amount of money I have is almost a daily chore – every month is a new adventure in trying to make ends meet. Last month I did OK, this month looks like living hell. In short, I feel for the girl who decided that I was a catch.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m writing this wearing a Fallout 3 t-shirt that I got from Bethesda and drinking coffee from a Dragon Age: Origins-cup from the EA Business Lounge at Gamescom.

Need a freelancer, by the way? I’ve written about games for five years (reviews, articles, convention coverage, press events, etc), done a lot of web-TV so I’m used to standing in front of a camera, and I’m also able to write about film or music. I’m available both in Swedish and English. I accept money transfers or Paypal (if it’s international work). If you want me, contact me.

Professor Beej recently asked on Twitter “[why] do you do what you do?” My only answer to that is that I’m not sure if I’ve got much of a choice. Trust me, just like Scott, I’ve asked myself many times why I put myself through this. The question is, can I see myself not doing it?

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Don’t mind the mess

Yes, DFTM looks a bit dodgy right now. I’m re-building the theme, trying to tweak it as much as I can to fit my preferences. Not sure how it will look in the end, or if I’ll keep it, but it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. The blog is still here and fairly readable.

Feel like helping me out and giving me a header image? 285 x 67 big? I’d love you forever. Anyway, time to get to work.

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Where do we go from here?

First up – I am still alive. I had some personal turmoil before I went to LA and it hit me in full force when I got back, so blogging has sadly not been very high on my priority list. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just haven’t had the peace of mind to sit down and write lately. Things are calming down, my head isn’t spinning as fast as it used to, and I’m slowly edging my way back to my regular Internet presence. I haven’t tweeted as much either, as some people have pointed out to me, but I’m getting back to that part of the social web as well.

I guess that before I pick this up again I need a bit of a fresh start, something to inspire me. Because of that I want to re-do DFTM a bit, find a new theme and retag all the entries. I believe I used the tags in the wrong way, so I feel that needs fixing. I’m happy about the response I got from my Final Fantasy XI-posts, which taught me a few valuable lessons about how to go forward. Just like my MMO-playing, DFTM feels unfocused. It hasn’t really become what I wanted it to.

More focus. More blogging on the social parts, including the social web vs. MMOs. More on what actually happens in the MMOs I play, without becoming an incredibly boring diary. Again – more focus. More…gonzo.

Yeah, I think I’ll be alright.

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Wrapping things up for the coming week

I had some high hopes for getting some gaming time in Final Fantasy XI this weekend, but real life decided otherwise, which I am thankful for. As much as I love gaming, a brief look at my gamerDNA-page proves that, one can use a break from time to time, even if it’s just for a day. Early tomorrow morning I’m flying out to California for a press trip, finally getting to visit Blizzard’s HQ in Irvine, being back in Sweden on Wednesday evening.

I both love and hate those kinds of quick trips, but I haven’t been to the US in two years so I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy that I’ll be transferring in Zurich instead of Chicago this time, it’s somehow easier to navigate an European airport than an American one when jetlagged. I’m also happy that I’m not as scared of flying as I was back then, I’ve managed to come to terms with it over the last couple of years. I used to be a panicking mess, even for shorter flights.

I have stuff to take care of today, including finishing up an article, getting stuff packed and all kinds of notes transferred from my comp to paper (hotel address, flight numbers, itiniaries, phone numbers, interview questions etc) since my printer isn’t doing too well (being ink-less and packed in its box in my basement). I’m in a really funny mood, trying to wrap my head around the most basic of concepts, and a short break to have a coffee with a friend down at the local square didn’t set my head straight in the way I hoped the fresh air would. The weekend has been weird, it has introduced all kinds of strange thoughts and hopes (“and hates and passions just like mine“), while also remaining a generally positive experience. That’s real life for you, I guess.

When I get back home I will revisit this blog, go over tags and the theme, see what can be improved to make it a bit smoother than it is now. I also hope to hit level 20 in Final Fantasy XI by the weekend, to see how the game picks up from there and then blog about it. Then I shall go from there and see what real life can bring if you try to make something new out of it.

Right, packing. See you later this week.

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Gender, feminism and their future in virtual worlds

Disclaimer: This post is all about my experiences in MMOs. It’s about what I’ve seen and should not be seen as a statement on how things look in virtual worlds in general. It’s not 100% truth, it’s all subjective and not very academic. It’s written in a rambling style because I’ve had too much coffee. Remember, please, that this is a blog, not a classroom or an academic institution. With that said, feel free to criticize me and my ideas. I always, always reserve the right to change my mind if I believe I’ve been proven wrong. Thank you.

Gender-play in MMOs is hardly a new subject. We’ve known about it for a long time – people like to play characters of the opposite sex. Sometimes they even roleplay members of the opposite sex. That last part has been the main interest of academics, especially the ones with a gender-slant, for a long time. For an obvious reason, it’s  interesting and fascinating. But it’s becoming old and for most MMO-theorists it’s old news.

That does not, in any way, make Sera Brennan’s recent post on Massively any less interesting. More often than not, the theories about why people gender-play in MMOs are written by heterosexual males or females from a distanced viewpoint. Sera, on the other hand, identifies himself/herself as a transgendered, as a female stuck in a male body (while still being heterosexual, mind you – far from all transgendered are gay). Not only does it take a lot of guts to write a post like that, it also brings a fresh perspective, written in the first person for once, about the subject of gender-play.

It got me thinking about my own experiences with gender in MMOs over the last couple of years. I believe I’m heterosexual, as far as I know I’m not attracted to men enough to call myself bi-sexual but I’ll keep an open mind, but I almost always play a female character in games when given the option to do so. It’s not about the old axiom that men like to play female characters because they would “rather stare at a female behind than a male for hundreds of hours” (that’s really getting tiresome, guys). It’s generally about female characters often being better designed than male (with a few exceptions, including EverQuest II and Lord of the Rings Online), probably because the designers are often male and have more fun designing females, or that it is much more interesting to identify with a virtual female than a male. After all, I’m male in the real world, something that I won’t be able to change until Kurzweil’s reality-bending nanomachines become a reality, so why play one in a virtual world when given an option to try something else?

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at feminism. That word is usually an invitation for trolls to come crawling out of the woodwork, stating that males and females alike are all burdened by gender stereotypes (usually wrapped in more or less veiled insults). That’s indeed very true, but feminism (for me – remember that this post is all subjective) puts the focus on the submission and oppression of women and how that relationship between male and female creates a reality in which everyone suffers. Men are supposed to be dominant, and many suffers from that, while women are supposed to be submissive, from which they suffer. By eliminating that dominance-submission relationship, feminism is able to deconstruct the gender-roles inherit in that particular relationship for the benefit of all. It’s all about where you look and (for me, again) feminism strikes from below, while other views on gender-problems looks at the problem from another direction. Read more

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And then there was E3

I have this love/hate-relationship with E3. First of all, I’ve never been to the expo myself – as a European game journalist you’re at the mercy of whatever budget the publication you work for has. This year we decided to send three people, which included a camera man, and since I was number four on the list I got to stay home and try to cover it from here. Only because you’re not on location you don’t get to slack, so we’ve been working a lot to give our Swedish readers the best E3-coverage we could. And, I must say, we certainly delivered (link in Swedish, of course).

ffxiv

The really big MMO-announcements were lacking from E3 this year, but that’s probably because the major movers have their own events later this year. Who knows if SOE got something big to show at Fan Faire (hopefully Tipa’s “Free Realms-based” EQ3 or something completely different) and Blizzard probably saves the next expansion for World of Warcraft until Blizzcon. Instead, we did get Heroes of Telara, which looks pretty neat. And, of course, Final Fantasy XIV. OK, so that was a pretty major announcement. Shut it, E3 always makes my brain melt a bit. The whole concept of a new FF-MMO, playing on the PS3, sounds freaking awesome to me, so I guess I will have to get back to that in a later post.

Bioware did give us a incredible cinematic trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and even though a cinematic trailer for any game is just that – cinematic – it’s still the best Star Wars-related film produced since, well, 1983. I am almost looking forward to the next trailer as much as the actual game. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I’m looking forward to the game that much, at least not as a MMO. Currently it seems like they could just have done KOTOR3 instead of what they are doing now. If you want to tell a story that bad, go single player instead.

I also know that my RSS-reader is filled with MMO-related posts right now that I haven’t had time to read over the last couple of days (394 posts and counting). I guess I got myself to blame, since I have a tendency to add any MMO-blog I come across to it. So I’m going to get cracking on reading those between Aion beta game sessions. I’ll get back to Aion as well, the beta event they got going right now will only last through the weekend. But first impressions? I love, love the art. The world and the design is what currently make it compelling, since up until now it’s a pretty standard MMO. We’ll see how it develops, hopefully we’ll get to try some nice PvP in the near future.

One thing is for sure – it was really hard to jump from Aion to Vanguard. I’m still enjoying Vanguard, finished the Isle of Dawn-questline with a nice group yesterday, but when it comes to graphics and character design it is certainly lacking. It’s a problem most of SOE’s games suffer from, perhaps with the exception of Star Wars Galaxies where I think the characters do a pretty nice job. Vanguard still got that whole “enormous epic world”-thing going for it and I’ve decided to trek to Tanvu instead of just taking the riftway from Lotus Hold. If the world is there, and you want to experience it, teleporting just doesn’t cut it. I’ll see if I have time for it this week when the Aion server closes.

And I want to level my high elf in Sacred 2 on the 360, finish inFamous, try out Valkyria Chronicles, finish Assassin’s Creed (since AC2 looks great)…and get all the writing I have to do done. It’s official, my life completely revolves around games. This weekend I found a Sega Master System in my wardrobe I forgot I even had. I would sigh at myself if it wasn’t for the fact that I love it. With the personal problems I mentioned a few posts ago slowly getting better, let’s see what we can do with this gaming life of mine. Toodles for now, though!

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Which virtual world to visit this summer?

Summer is coming. Summer means gaming. So does the rest of the year, but still. Which means I need a summer MMO to keep myself busy.

I really did try to give EverQuest II another chance, but after a brief session yesterday I decided to call it quits again. I do enjoy the game on certain levels, the gameplay is fairly solid and the graphics aren’t all that bad (except the character design, which I’m not a big fan of), but I am amazed at how the zoning always gets to me. It really shouldn’t be that big a deal, but I can’t help having to stretch my imagination too far every time I zone – in my head, The Baubleshire and the Forest Ruins aren’t connected in any way, despite the fact that they are right next to each other. The zoning between them completely breaks my immersion, which annoys me to the degree that I have a hard time enjoying the rest of the EQII-experience.

For a weak moment I was considering resubbing to Age of Conan, despite what some people seem to think about Funcom’s latest event screw up, but then I remembered that if there’s one game that has a lot of zoning, it’s AoC. I also did some reading on the official AoC forums and seeing references to the amount of instances of a given zone up at one time, I really decided to skip it. If there is one thing that gets me more than zoning it’s instancing of an open zone (dungeons are exceptions). I even prefer more servers with less people on them than multiple instances of a zone on one server. Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. It’s a horrible, bad and cheap design solution.

So where does that leave me? Rappelz still won’t co-operate, which really bugs me. A clean install is coming up and some manual patching on top of that should solve my issues, even though it’s really damn annoying that I have to do that just to get the thing running. Champions Online has been delayed until September, but to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed with the press beta. Jumpgate Evolution has been delayed as well, but considering what a train wreck of a MMO NetDevil’s old Auto Assault was, why do I even care to begin with? I’m not very impressed with the ship design and I know I will always expect space MMOs that only has a ship as your avatar to be as cut-throat as EVE Online. Dog fights are cool and all, but I still love the rush of EVE’s PvP fights.

Darkfall? The €42 price tag says “no”. I would love to give it a try, but I can’t for the life of me see myself paying that much money for it. It also seems like the European, and only, server is already populated and entrenched by now. I might consider it if they open up the NA-1 server in June and allow people to transfer off from EU-1, but I would prefer to see a brand new server opening up in Europe instead. Even though the empires are already established in EVE Online, you still have Empire space to keep you safe and cuddly until you dare to leave for low- or null-sec. I’m not 100% sure, since I’ve not tried DF myself, but it seems like it would be harder to start up a brand new, small sized guild compared to getting a corp up and running in EVE.

So, my eyes have once again fallen on Vanguard. There might not be any large-scale politics to get involved in, but it has a massive and epic world filled with places to see and explore. I really liked it when I played it, but since raiding in World of Warcraft got the better of me I cancelled my sub ages ago. I haven’t seen the Isle of Dawn (except the very first parts), I never got past level 20 and since diplomacy has seen a bit of a revamp since I left I’m really aching to see what they’ve done with those quest chains (I really liked diplomacy). I’ve been a bit worried (and still am, in a way) that SOE would leave the game to rot, but the Halls of the Pantheon update was just applied to the live servers which means the devs are keeping themselves busy.

As it stands right now, it’s Vanguard vs a deeper commitment to EVE Online. I love EVE, I always have, always will. But it plays completely different than other MMOs, at least for me. It’s about 10 days until I finished Small Railgun Spec V, then we’ll see if EVE will be my summer MMO. Until then, I think I’ll resub to Vanguard and give Isle of Dawn a spin. After all, Beau seems to be quite impressed with it.

And then there’s that damn Ryzom I just can’t get out of my head…arrrrrgh. I think I’ll go play inFamous for a bit.

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London, Nordic Game and a wedding

I’ve had two fairly busy weeks, including the aforementioned trip with THQ to London and the annual Nordic Game convention here in Malmö. The trip to London was very nice, especially since most of it went so smoothly – the press event was held at the same hotel as we stayed at, so we more or less just had to leave it to head over to a restaurant in the evening. I’ve been to London so many times that I can’t really be bothered with actually walking around in it (except to visit Forbidden Planet and Atlantis Bookshop, my two favorite stores that are only three blocks away from each other), and since the hotel was only 5 minutes away from Victoria we didn’t even have to care about buses or the Tube. Too bad for Eirik, our camera guy, who had never been to London before.

We did get a bunch of interviews done there, including one with Joe Madureira – as an old Marvel and Image-fan, that was a bit of a nerdgasm right there. The interviews are currently being edited and should be online next week or so. Also got some hands-on with Darksiders, Joe’s upcoming game, which looks promising. We’ve seen the formulae before in games like Devil May Cry and God of War, but I think the visual design of Darksiders is so much better than in those two games. Will Porter from Eurogamer was there as well and he has penned  down some first impressions of the game if you want to read more about it.

Then I had to spend the weekend more or less locked up in my apartment, reviewing The Sims 3…that review will go online June 1 (in Swedish) and should be in print around the same time (in Swedish, of course). It was a tight deadline, had the review code waiting for me when I got back from London, but I managed to get a lot of playtime in before the review was due.

Nordic Game this year was nice as well, even though I only had time to go to one of the lectures. We did get some interviews done there as well, and some pre-E3-stuff at the same time, and the big nerdgasm this year was getting to meet Suda51. I didn’t do that interview, in fact I only did one with Nathan Richardson from CCP, but I got to stand around and look like some form of GRTV-supervisor. I should had kept my sunglasses on inside and had a much sterner look…when the interview was done I did manage to get to use my Japanese to ask to take a photo of him before we had to get going – at least I still remember how to ask that. Expect the interviews to go online over the coming weeks.

I’ve also started to deal with some personal issues and things might actually look a bit brighter. Hopefully things will be more stable in general soon and give me an opportunity to some real restructuring of my life. It’s sorely needed and hopefully DFTM will be updated more frequently as a result. We’ll see.

With all this going on, and a wedding this weekend to plan for (I’m the Best Man, which means I need to finish writing that damn speech), I’ve hardly had any time for some good old MMO-gaming. I’ve promised Brendon to take a look at Rappelz, but the damn thing refuses to patch properly. I might strangle it soon. When this weekend is over I do hope I will have some time to just sit down and fix the darn game, as I really do want to give it a go. EverQuest II is also beckoning me back, I kinda miss my Gnomish berserker already.

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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