Tag community

Why the Aion community is scaring me away

Or “Why quest helper, not World of Warcraft, ruined MMOs”

Let’s get the positive stuff out of the way first – I am really starting to enjoy Aion. Yes, it’s so far nothing more than a typical quest grind for XP, the quests are terribly unoriginal and getting into a fight with more than one mob (God forbid three) is a pain. But I’m having fun, I love the alien design, the flavor texts and the storyline. I’ve started to craft a bit, which I also like despite the system for doing it is traditional (do I dare call it “archaic”?) and I like to fly (even though I think the flight timer system is silly in a game so built on flight). PvP, at the arena, is intense and gives me a taste for more – I still wish there was a way to level through PvP alone. If you develop a game so focused on PvP as Aion is at higher levels, you really ought to offer that as an alternative to the typical PvE grind.

With that said, I do have problems with the game. And one of the major ones is how the community feels right now. It’s still early in the game, a lot of people probably won’t play after their first 30 days are up, but at this point it’s almost scary. The general chat is filled with utter nonsense most of the time, the names taken from World of Warcraft are in abundance and the name calling and insulting is constant. Today I was called a “rtard” (people actually use words like that?) by a player called Ladysylvanas (I called that name “unoriginal”, another player called it “gay” – you choose…) and it’s almost becoming a sport between me and Terr to spot names like “Kiljaeden”, “Jaina” or “Azeroth” while we play and point them out over Twitter. Got to love that real time updated social web, no?

I managed to find myself a pretty nice Legion to at least chat with, they seem like a good bunch, but the community is a constant noise in the back of my head. Sure, I can block them, and I keep my Legion chat tab up most of the time to not see General (I don’t want to leave it just yet, since the game is so new there might be a few hidden gems in it), but just knowing that they are out there makes my skin crawl. I guess it’s a problem with most MMOs, but I can’t remember it being this bad in Warhammer Online or Age of Conan when they launched. There were idiots, absolutely, but the community in Aion reminds me more of the one on my server in Runes of Magic than in any other game I’ve played so far.

The impact on actual gameplay is of course none, Aion is still fun. But it better pick up as I level, since I don’t really want to waste away hours on end on a game filled with people that get on my nerves. I want to enjoy Aion without the constant reminder that the good people are few and far between. If you don’t believe me, do take a look at the official forums and tell me that I’m overreacting.

Also, and this is one of the things that gets me the most, everyone seem to be terribly lazy. Despite Aion having clickable links in the quest journal that often can show you exactly where to go, a lot of players don’t seem to even bother to do that, instead asking in General chat about the most fundamental things (“where is X, where do I get Y, I can’t find N, etc”). I can’t help blaming this a bit on Quest Helper, which truly turned World of Warcraft into a game for drones. I’m guilty as well, I installed Quest Helper just like everyone else, but that does not mean I feel handicapped the second I end up in a game that doesn’t have similar tools. Read the freaking quest journal, for crying out loud. It’s all right there! Some even ask for directions to things that’s been shown in cut scenes, which always makes me wanna shove my head through my screen.

There are two things that might get me when it comes to Aion – the grind or the community. As soon as I’ve played enough to deliver my review (which will never, truly be enough of course), I’m going to make a decision. Either I press on, or I ditch Aion for the time being. The community in games like Ryzom is so nice that I don’t see why I should have to live through this crap to enjoy myself. I am also considering picking up Fallen Earth to see how it is and feels, with an extra careful eye towards its budding community. No more, I say. No more.

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Hey, look – I’m actually playing Aion

Yes, it’s true – I decided to shift server, the queues are down, the server cap has been increased. That means I can actually log into Aion and, you know, play…

It’s certainly an improvement. So far, I’m enjoying myself, even though it is still a PvE quest grind fest in the lower levels – at this point it really doesn’t add anything to the genre. I know things will get different when you get into the Abyss and the PvP game begins, which I’m really looking forward to, but even Runes of Magic did “more” for the MMO genre in its first levels than Aion does. To be honest, the saving grace of Aions’ early game is the graphics. They look amazing, I find myself drawn to the world and I’m really happy that the drawing distance has been improved since the first closed beta. Thank you, NCsoft.

I do understand what Sera meant when she said that she didn’t think Aion had a soul, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is lacking. Hopefully I will be able to find that missing touch as I progress, since I have great hopes for Aion as a good PvP game. Also, my character (pictured above) looks awesome. She is ready to kick some Elyos scum back to whatever sun-infested place they came from. As soon as she’s done grinding for XP, that is…

Major gripe with Aion for the day – the battle music. It’s horrific. That and the fact that people lack imagination – the amount of Warcraft-related names is staggering. How about some strict enforcing of naming policies, NCsoft? Be quick about it, please, you can’t really accept a Legion calling themselves “Frostmourne”, can you? Feel free to just perma-ban all the people who can’t help chatting about World of Warcraft in General chat while you’re at it, it’s such a sad sight.

If you happen to be in a nice Legion on Castor-EU, with mature players and a good sense of humor, feel free to contact me. A large part of the community scares me (I was just told that “asassins [sic] are pro rangers are ghey” in Assassin chat) and I think I will need to hide from it as much as possible, while still hoping to find a Legion with great people that enjoy the PvP Aion has to offer. Why do I play MMOs again? Hmmm, I guess I should save that for another post.

Just to end at a high note – combat in Aion is, at least so far, a lot of fun. It’s fast, the attacks look great and I really like the chain system. But it most certainly isn’t a sandbox game, so I’m not sure if it has the appeal to keep me playing for a long, long time. Then again, I played World of Warcraft for ages, so perhaps I should keep my mouth shut…

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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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This little rogue had to stay at home

Colin over at Massively has written a new Anti-Aliased post about dual-specs in World of Warcraft. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the system, at least not the way Blizzard plan to implement it, but I haven’t really figured out why I don’t like it yet. I’ll get back to that subject at a later point. But there’s one thing he writes, something that I’ve seen written across forums and blogs before, that I’ve always wondered about…

Groups will find that they can do dungeon easier with less people, as players will be able to switch across multiple roles. This means pure classes, such as the mage, priest, and hunter will also have a tougher time finding groups. Why take the hunter when you have a paladin who can do protection and retribution and has the gear to outclass the hunter in both cases? Certainly it’s bad now, but it can get even worse because now the paladin can fulfill both roles while in the dungeon, when the hunter cannot.

Seriously, what kind of people do you guys play with? I’ve played a “pure” class, a rogue, in World of Warcraft for the last three years or so. I do DPS, period. Even when the rogue QQing on the official forums was at its peak, when rogues everywhere were lamenting the fact that there were so many classes that would be chosen before them in raids, have I had to stand on the sidelines because of another player with another class taking my spot.

Really? Rogues might not be the insane DPSers they once were, but if you are playing with people that won’t have you in raids because of your class and the minuscule amount of damage difference between you and someone else, quit your goddamn guild and find a new, more understanding one. And if you don’t get into a PuG because of your class, do you really want to be in that particular PuG to begin with?

People keep whining about other classes making their own obsolete, but does it ever actually happen? Or is it just a typical example of misplaced QQ? The grass is always greener and all that.

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Runes of Magic – what to do?

I’m confused. I’m not sure what to do. I’m giving Runes of Magic a proper go for a review, but I’m currently stuck in Logar trying to figure out my next move. It’s not that I don’t know where to go – I’ve already been to Varanas to pick up a second class (went for the rogue/scout combo) and I got a whole bunch of quests for the Barrows to take care of (them kobolds need to die). But the confusion comes from the fact that I’m not sure I’m on the right server or not.

Runes of Magic is most certainly growing on me. It’s a pretty sweet MMO, not very high-budget but it has enough stuff to grab my attention. I’d love to get into a guild and start working on a guild hall/castle and contributing guild runes, decorate my house, sign up for the Windrunner Race and spend some money on diamonds so I can get myself a sweet warhorse to ride around on. The rogue class is fun, although pretty basic, but I’m really starting to enjoy my character. But when I look around at the players that I share Taborea with, I’m not sure that I actually want to stick around.

I have a notebook next to my computer which I use to write down stuff I feel to be important while playing (thoughts on graphics, the system, the writing etc). Today I decided to start a list over the quite incredible names some people have chosen for their characters. After just 10 minutes or so, I had covered a whole page – and that’s only in Logar, Runes of Magic’s first major settlement. I’ve seen my fair share of silly names in games like World of Warcraft and EVE Online, but I’ve never seen this many during such a short amount of time.

A few examples include

  • Gothicgirl
  • Lovelamp
  • Bozotheclown
  • Mhrmmmm
  • Fvfvfvfv
  • Spankalot
  • Barbiegirl
  • Darkrainbow
  • Darkprincess (lots of “dark” going on here, maybe I should introduce them to Gothicgirl)
  • Nummerouno
  • Doyathing
  • Kaffeböna (means “coffee bean” in Swedish)

I do realise that there are a lot of young players in Runes of Magic, players that might not be allowed to have a World of Warcraft-account because of the subscription fee. Since RoM is free to play, this game is pure gold. For us older players that might actually be looking for some form of immersion (there’s that word again)…not so much. I really want to get into Runes of Magic on a deeper level than just appreciating it as a fun game, but with that kind of community, I’m not sure that I will ever be able to.

Maybe I’m just sensitive, I don’t know. I did try to turn off other players’ name tags, but that doesn’t really do it for me either – even though I want to be immersed in the MMOs I play, I also like to see that I’m actually surrounded by other players. So it’s either take the pain, or just stop playing as soon as I’m done with the review – which doesn’t seem fair and isn’t really what I actually want to do.

Thus the confusion. Stay on my current server (Macantacht, PvE) and try to find a guild that can shelter me from all the “Gaykillers” in Taborea (yes, I saw a warrior called “Gaykiller” yesterday) or try to find a guild on another server? If I decide to jump over to a new one, I don’t want to waste any diamonds on a character I’m going to leave behind anyway. But will another server really be any different from this one?

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PvP, the community and nerd rage

The whole issue of PvP-based MMOs has been a hot topic on MMO-blogs since Darkfall’s release and people have been trying to nitpick and analyze the game’s coming success or downfall on how its community or technology will develop. Over on his blog, Brian Green wrote an interesting article about why PvP-games’ core problem is their community, calling it a deeper problem than “technical instability and insane design decisions”, relating the whole thing to his own experiences with working on Meridian 59. Most importantly, he brings up the paradox that a lot of players of these games will face sooner or later…

The players say want the opportunity to win big, which means they also have to have the chance to lose it all if they are fighting against other players. This ties back into the issue people often mention that players fantasize that they’ll always be on top, winning all the battles and getting all the great rewards. They never want to think about the times when they’re the underdog, coming back naked after being completely looted and having nothing left in the vaults to fall back on. So, it’s not just a matter of making the mistakes less costly.

The article reminded me of what one of my old CEOs in EVE Online once told me – “giving a person in my corp more power is not about giving him or her more responsibility to the group, it is giving him more power the ruin the game for others”. Corp theft is one of the reasons why corps in EVE are generally paranoid, a well-placed spy or a corp member going rogue and emptying the corp hangars or wallets can destroy the most well-structured corporation in a matter of seconds. It’s an integral part of the game, CCP even recognizes corp theft as a valid career in EVE, but people much more prefer to read about the more dramatic instances of hangars being emptied (like the Guiding Hand Social Club-incident) than actually seeing it happen to themselves. They want the game to be free enough to let it happen, yet they never want to see it happen in their own backyards. Players have cancelled their subs in a nerd rage for much less.

But EVE Online and Darkfall are two niche titles, despite both getting a lot of attention in the media and in blogs. Darkfall will probably settle down with a fairly small player base, that will either tear itself apart of start to organize itself in a way similar to how the corporations in EVE have done. EVE Online, even though it is successful and slowly growing, only has around 200k players (and can only accepts so many subs before the galaxy will start to feel too crowded for comfort). But 2008 saw two triple A-MMOs released, two games with a strong PvP-focus and whose communities helped to ruin their potential instant success – Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

Now, Conan and Warhammer did have their technical problems to begin with and the PvP was hardly completely to blame. Conan did sell very well at launch, boasting somewhere around 700k subs at the end of the first month (which is a huge number), with around 400k sticking around to August 2008. The number of players held by the game right now is up to debate, but figures around 50 – 100k have been mentioned in various places. Warhammer Online on the other hand seems to have around 300k subs according to an economical report from EA. That’s still a lot of people. But the fact remains that the two games, even though they have constantly been improving since day one, don’t have the best of reputation. Age of Conan never managed to get over the initial, and sometimes completely over the top, hatred that a lot of players spewed on it (and Funcom) – a lot of people complaining not only about the lack of end-game content, but also the lack of a proper PvP-system. Warhammer Online has also seen a lot of attacks from players, a lot of it directed towards open world PvP and public quests.

Let’s start out, for the sake of the argument, to leave the PvE behind. The public quests in WAR looked better on paper than they did when the first players had left the starting areas and the lack of end-game content in AoC in more or less irrelevant to a discussion about PvP. Looking at only the PvP in those two games, they suffer/suffered from the lack of open world PvP in WAR and the lack of a proper PvP-system in AoC (as mentioned above). And when it all comes down to it, these two problems have one thing in common – the community and its craving for rewards…

Read more

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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