PAX East has traditionally been a great time for social networking folks to meet up at an over-priced bar to shoot the shit, to dump inhibitions, and to meet other Internet folks in person. I'm pretty proud that we've been able to host it every year thus far, because I feel that even though we're really friendly online, nothing beats the pressing of the flesh in person. We've had local folks, and distant folks (like, from Ireland!) attend, and it's really and honestly the highlight of the convention for me.
But because people are jerks, it was really difficult for the average gamer to acquire a badge this year. A lot of them were snatched up by opportunistic assholes who are looking to sell the passes at a profit on eBay, which it more than a gamer should have to endure. A lot folks can't make it, and that's sad. PAX is an event that's transcended the operators, and for me, has become a comfortable cocoon of friendship and like-minded individuals. I really divide the event into two parts: the floor, and the Tweetup, with the Tweetup being the highlight.
It is really my ultimate dream for everyone to make it to PAX East one year -- or at least as many people as possible -- so we can meet. As much as I love my social networking friends, there's something primal about meeting them in person, to talk with them without the delay or filter of the Internet, and to spend time with them in a more personal setting. We often times berate the anonymity of the Internet, so meeting the people behind the persona is about as intimate as we can get, and shows how much we can trust one another with our real selves.
Unfortunately, we won't be holding the Tweetup this year for a few reasons. Mainly, I'm not sure that anyone within the sound of this call to arms is going. Secondly, I couldn't get on-site accommodations this year, so I'm at the mercy of the shuttle.
I am really saddened by this year's proceedings. Hopefully, PAX East 2015 will be managed better, and more folks will be able to attend.
For some of us who frequently walk away from an MMO for a spell, and return to it later, there is no greater pain than finding that the developers made some change that forces you to reset your character.
I got back into Marvel Heroes because of social networking peer pressure, and found that there had been a change which requires me to reset all of my character's ability points allocations. I have no idea what trees I had been working on for the handful of characters I have. Ideally, I can work on the characters fresh, but it's still a royal pain in the ass.
The only blog I read with regularity1 belongs to Belghast, partly because he's making the herculean effort to write every day, and because he covers a lot of bases, and because he's a swell guy. In reading Bel's post this morning, he asked "what's the point in playing" if playing isn't giving you enjoyment. Not to put words in his mouth, but I think it could have been better said as "why are there people here in the gaming community if all they have to say are bad things about games and gaming?"
Never generalize, which is easier said than done, but it does seem that you can't swing a warhammer without hitting more negative conversations than you do positive ones. Blog posts are billboards for people's opinions, with comments often devolving into arena battles. Don't even look at "reviews" of games on YouTube unless you're stocked up on Zantac. I could blindfold you, spin you around, and push you in a direction and the first blog or comment section or video you came across would undoubtedly be negative. They happen by degrees, thankfully, with some simply sighing heavily, while others are full-on eyeball assaults that employ every Internet cliche in the book: "slap in the face", "I'm sorry, but" when you're nowhere near sorry, "I don't understand why" when you really mean everyone else is an idiot for thinking what they think, and so on.
But that's life, in our face. Back when I was a kid (before I had a lawn to tell you to get off of) we didn't know anyone outside of our neighborhood except for the people we went to school with. That was the extend of our "social network", and the extent of our circle of influence. We made friends based mostly on proximity, and if you liked Transformers and someone else liked He-Man, we didn't lob insults over our choices: we had totally fucking epic battles where He-Man rode into battle on Optimus Prime, and Skeletor was mowing down enemies with Metagtron's gun form. Good times. Goooooood times.
The internet gives us the opportunity to search around until we find people who support our own views, and to steer clear of those who don't. These little cyclotrons of opinion mean that what might start out as a "meh" can turn into a frothy-mouthed YouTube video that's disproportional to the fucking point of playing video games in the first place, which is to have fun.
Gaming, for the consumer, is a hobby that each individual took up at one point in his or her life because it looked interesting, or because friends were doing it. Not all hobbies that people try end up sticking, and it really doesn't make logical or financial sense to maintain a hobby that a person doesn't enjoy, so it seems safe to assume that if someone's playing games, then he enjoys it. Well why do we see so many people focusing on the bugs and problems and why are so many people stepping outside of whatever it is that they do like to put electrons to paper to talk about things they hate?
Some folks would say they're trying to "keep the games industry honest", and some will say it's because they love gaming "too much" to let it hurt itself like this. Some people are just assholes. There's a wide range of reasons, but I personally believe that for those of us for whom gaming is our primary hobby, gaming and all it entails is an integral part of our identity. We take exception to dings to our identity, be it from within (the gaming industry) or without (non-gamers, or other gamers). In short, bitching about games has nothing to do with games, or the industry, but everything to do with our defense of who we want others to know us as.
When outside influences pick on gaming, we usually see a concerted swell of community attacking the source (rarely in a constructive manner, though). When gamers talk about a game, though, it seems that almost anything has the potential to turn into a "them against us" scenario. Some people really don't like it when others challenge the assumptions that make up their identities because identities rely on things being a very specific way, and no other way ever. If we allow ourselves to acknowledge that it's possible for our assumptions to be wrong, or that they were arrived at with incomplete information, it would mean that these badges of opinion we rely on as our secret handshakes for acceptance into the Video Game Fanclub are also wrong, and being seen as having been wrong is a cardinal sin in the gaming community; it's blood in the water that attracts those who use your own opinion to validate their own identity. Thanks to the myriad of avenues on the Internet, no one is ever more than one RT away from finding something that one can rebut, or bitch about, to prove to their echo chamber comrades that they are in the right in what they think.
As human beings, we want be be liked -- even the non-diagnosed, self professed sociopaths -- and sharing our opinions with like minded people is one way we know we can accomplish that. For some reason, we seem to be OK with the notion that there's a critical mass of people we can be liked by, and any more than that are superfluous and are OK to dismiss. I have no idea why people feel this way, when it's so easy to approach one another with respect and to widen our cohorts as much as possible. One person's opinion doesn't need to threaten our own if we're secure in our identities. Gamer culture -- and the wider geek culture -- started out as a sub-culture that was forcibly ejected from the social mainstream, and you'd think that because of it's origins that gamers and geeks would feel more solidarity at a higher level than they do. Instead, we seem to be horribly uncomfortable in our own community and are in need of constant validation that our decisions on who we are "correct" by measuring our likes and dislikes against others in the community. In truth, the only "right path" should be that it's OK to like things, and it's also OK to not like things, but it's most important that we're all part of the same group of people who generally like the one big thing that is gaming. That should be our overriding identity -- gamer -- and not "FPS gamer" or "IP purist". That only splinters the community and makes us weaker as whole.
1. I am a horrible blogger in that I don't really read a lot of blogs. Yes, that makes me a hypocrite on several levels, especially because it removes opportunities for me to experience other opinions. Trust, me: I'm not sticking my head in the sand by any measure. I do read other blogs, but not all of them are updated with regularity. For everything else, there's social media.
As kind of an extension of earlier conversations...Let me summarize, if I can.
There was talk this morning on G+ that kind of came around to a few comments on the ad hoc group mechanic. This seems to be growing in popularity in MMOs, since it solves a few issues. The first is "how to get people to group up for content that's tougher than one player can handle", and ideally "how can we get more people to be social". The ad hoc group method is when you and the people around you are working towards the same goals, and will earn a share of the reward, but without having to invite one another to a group. The benefits are obvious: you don't have to really work at getting a group, and you don't have to feel bad when you leave it. The detriments are also pretty obvious: you don't have the level of integration you get with a formal group, and you can happen upon a public group just as they're completing their objective, leaving you with nothing.
Brian Green made a post about how to bring the social back to pick-up groups (PUGs) and for those using the "Looking For X" (LF*) tools, which were added to games in response to people's seemingly unwillingness to stand around at the mouth of an instance or to spam a specific channel with requests for warm bodies. Simply pick where you want to go, and let the system match you with other people who round out the group, and away you go! Sadly, in this culture of by-the-numbers game play, no one has to actually interact with one another if everyone already knows what to do. People are there to get things done, not to make friends. Brian's post is a pretty damn fine way to turn that on it's ear, though, and to put people on the path of getting to know one another in a way that's most comfortable to them.
One issue with public groups is that they're so transient. In RIFT and Firefall, these missions show up on the map, and ideally there's enough of them that you can quickly reach one near you, but sometimes you just can't reach it in time. This usually results in people moving from point to point, hoping to get in long enough to net some profit, but in the end the result is just a ephemeral as a single !Quest.
I wonder if making these public group missions way more involved would be a good idea. For example, in Firefall, an ARES mission might have you recovering a data pad from a cavern that's being guarded by Chosen. You basically blast your way in, collect the pad, and bring it outside to the ARCporter drop point. These areas can vary in size and geography, so they can be really quick and soloable, or they can be somewhat involved and require a small group. With a decent amount of people, though, these missions can be overwhelmed so quickly that several people can show up, never fire a shot, and still get credit (I think you actually need to do some damage to qualify, but you get the point).
Consider if these kinds of missions were actually much longer and far more involved. Like dungeon-length involved or, gawd help us, raid length involved. Essentially we're talking about an open-door LFG instance, but which has few restrictions on who can participate, if any. A group can go in to start, but other people can filter in and help out, but the instance can be multi-level, multi-objective, and take longer than a single instance does in these public group scenarios.
For example: a dungeon is occupied by goblins who have been kidnapping villagers to work their mines. The players need to make their way through these mines, rescuing villagers, and ultimately taking down the goblin leader. Along the way, there can be opportunities to keep things interesting: diverging paths that can be completed in series (takes longer) or in parallel (quicker). Subsequent players can clear the way behind initial players, or can take on the rear-guard which may contain enemies that the initial groups didn't have to contend with. If there are no subsequent players, the intial group will have to contend with these obstacles back-filling the dungeon on the way out. The point is that no matter when you happen into the dungeon, you'll have something to do that will help out with the objective. I guess maybe one way to accomplish this is to have several different types of public group style activities firing off within the zone when the event is active; a kind of uber public event made up of smaller public events which follow a theme. That could also provide a way to minimize overlap of the same event happening in the same place every time and keeping it relatively fresh.
Aside from the involvement, then, what's the benefit? I think part of the anti-social nature of LFG and ad hoc groups is that there's just not enough time for people to feel that they need to interact. With Firefall's ARES missions, you never need to say anything to anyone because the objective is just to kill stuff. If you watch where everyone else is concentrating their firepower, just aim there and shoot. In the case of melding tornadoes, the system actually tells you which melding shard to shoot. When there's little thought to the process, or worse, when the thought process doesn't even need to start, there's no need to really consult with one another. Another potential opportunity is that the longer the players are involved together, the more apt they may be to interact. And finally, keeping the obstacles rotating by not having the same objectives spawning in the same locations can cut down (not eliminate) on guides and other on-rails game play, forcing players to consult and reach a consensus. The technology isn't there where developers can rely on procedurally generated puzzles and objectives, so any way the system can handle changing things up would be beneficial to the purpose.
I'm probably giving more credit than is due. People will always find the path of least resistance, and talking to people around you only slows down the run, but taking the overhead of the mechanically matched party out of the equation, opening the area to all takers, and using any means necessary to keep players guessing might be a welcome update to static-route dungeons and raids, and the impersonal nature of LG* tools.
If I ever learned anything from "The Brady Bunch", it was caveat emptor. The commonly known translation is "let the buyer beware", but Our Friend Wikipedia tells us that:
The phrase caveat emptor arises from the fact that buyers often have less information about the good or service they are purchasing, while the seller has more information. Defects in the good or service may be hidden from the buyer, and only known to the seller. Thus, the buyer should beware. This is called information asymmetry.
Jeeze, does this ever sound like the video game industry. Now, the definition makes the transaction between buyer and seller sound like the seller is always out to bilk the buyer. I don't think that's universally true. Instead, I believe that it's the buyer's responsibility to either perform a reasonable due diligence before purchasing, or to go into every transaction expecting what they're told about the product was told specifically to get the consumer to buy the product...you know, marketing...and that the reality is going to be less than the sales pitch promises.
In most transactions (at least in the Western hemisphere), consumers can obtain a refund for their product. This varies by degree, with some sellers offering a no-strings-attached, no-questions-asked refund, and some requiring a whole lot of hoops to be jumped before a refund is given (let's not even get into the "restocking fee"). If we determine that there's an unacceptable flaw in the product, or if we've given it a shot and found that the product just doesn't "do it" for us, we can return it and get out money back.
Not so with video games. Being nothing but data, the quote-prevailing wisdom-unquote is that any video game can be hacked, all protection removed, and the data can be maintained even without the source media. Returning a game disk to the store would be an inconvenience to a properly motivated pirate, but what retailer, publisher, or developer wants to take that chance? Instead, once the money has changed hands, the transaction is irreversible.
This causes a lot of problems for gamers, and I believe is a leading cause of community toxicity. See, when I buy something that's defective, or that I find that I don't like anywhere as much as I thought I would, I can return it. If I buy a game that doesn't work, or that I don't like, I'm stuck with it. I have no recourse, no refund. They got my money, and I got shit. So gamers do what they can do: they get on their soapbox and bitch up one side of the Internet and down the other about the product, the company behind it, the men and women who made it, their ancestors, and their ancestor's ancestors, ad infinitum. We've all seen this manifest in comments about how individuals are boycotting products from a company, or who feel that they've been burned by a company.
I think that the video game industry can and should offer refunds. I don't think it would be particularly difficult, either, in most cases -- not all, but most. Take Steam, for example. You can only install what's in your library, and all Steam users know that their games call home when they're launched. Valve could totally offer refunds for items by simply removing the item from the user's library and deactivating the user's access to that product. Simple!*
Precedent has been set, though. Few in the video game space have ever offered refunds. The money only flows one way, and the industry has come to rely on that fact and gamers have learned to live with it through redirecting their ire via forums and social media. The people who can make the change (the industry) aren't interested in doing so because they would stand to lose a lot: notice how companies are always talking about how many units of their product were sold. What if they had to take into account how many were returned?Software in general is like this because of the potential that a user may be able to circumvent copy protection while still getting their refund, but let's face it: it happens now. You can get any digital content on the Internet without having to pay for it, so once again, the legitimate customer suffers because the industry is overly paranoid in protecting their bottom line from people who are already screwing them anyway.
I move that if the video game industry allowed for refunds to be given, then we'd see a decrease in the amount of badmouthing and bitching gamers do. I'm not going to field a percentage there, but if gamers feel that they're being treated fairly in the consumer market, that they have recourse for their grievances that allow them to sever association with the product or service when there's a dispute, then what would they have to complain about? That the customer service rep who handled their refund was too courteous? It certainly wouldn't shut down all complaints, but I do believe that many folks would prefer to be able to back away from a bad decision amicably than to have to burn any future bridges.
* I realize it's probably not so simple as that.
I played the TitanFall beta last weekend, at least a little bit. The game is pretty fantastic from a totally objective perspective. It's got great visuals, unique mechanics in the titans, and I absolutely love (for some manic reason) the sound of a titan making it's way from orbit. Of course, I suck at the game. I was consistently in last place in all matches, and not just last place -- there was a serious gap between me and the second to the last guy on the team. I blame my lack of previous experience with these high kinetic FPS titles, and a general abhorrence with playing them in multiplayer mode (which leads back to the lack of experience), but I read a decent primer at Polygon the other day that showed me how even someone who normally sucks at FPS can make a dent in TitanFall, so I'm eager to try it again. Just not $60 eager.
I had supported Mech Warrior Online back before it was live (or whatever state it's in now) because BattleTech. MWO is a very acquired taste, and just this morning I compared it to a more street brawler's version of EVE Online. To be good, you need to know all the stats of all the weapons, how to combine them for maximum efficiency, and you need to be able to identify what the opposition is using against you. That's some 400 level coursework right there, and while I like learning, I felt that it was a smidge more than I'm willing to commit to for a single game, even if that game IS BattleTech. But I DO love MWO, especially when I got to play with people who knew what they were doing, which allowed me to hang back and get a feel for my mech and the necessary tactics.
In between is Hawken. This one initially blew everyone away with it's ultra-realistic visuals, which was amazing because it was being produced by an indie team. It's more gritty than either TF or MWO, with mechs that look like they were cobbled together with anything the mechanic could find in the junkyard. But whereas TitanFall feeds the frenetic Call of Duty crowd, and MWO is more like a very violent, high-impact game of chess, Hawken is more akin to a gladiator-style arcade brawler. It's got your required mech-style mechanics like mix and match weaponry, paint schemes, and accessories, but the idea is simply to go toe-to-toe with your opponents and pummel the crap out of them before they do the same to you.
Right now, I'm kind of on the fence about all of this. There's a lot of mech-fighting goodness out there (or on the horizon), and each offering has it's own strengths and weaknesses, but which one (if any) should I commit to?
More Pew Pew and Less Thee And Thou
In related news, I've been spending more time blowing shit up and less time with my traditional bread and butter of role playing games. I've gone back to FireFall now that they've canned their long-time leader and have been making significant, noticeable progress. I've done the initial campaign mission, have recycled the 9 uberbillion items I had for research credits, and have been circling the map taking on Ares missions and several of the new kind of "point activities" that have been popping up. Sadly, it seems that the volume of things going on has lessened since the last time I was hardcore into the game. I've only seen one melding tornado, and the Chosen incursions have been fewer in general.
I've taken a break from EverQuest Next Landmark for a few reasons. I got burnt out, as I usually do when I play nothing but for hours and days on end. Considering that the game currently consists of harvesting and building, there's not a lot of variety to keep me entertained at that pace. The idea of tracking down the high level materials I need to craft advanced items like the paint and line tools, as well as props and gear doesn't really appeal to me right now. I had started building a modest plaster home on my new plot on Liberation/Inlet, but after seeing the things other people are making with the exact same tools, I'm dumbstruck and disheartened, to be honest. I don't have the time or the resources (or resolve) to put that much effort into making something that ends up looking like a 5 year old's trip to a plaster painting store when compared to other people's David. But I also don't want to totally end up hating the game either, so I'm taking some time off.
The only bright spot on the horizon is that The Elder Scrolls Online is coming up in a little under two months. I haven't written anything about it because I have only gotten to spend a single weekend in the game, but I do want to say that I am glad they dropped the NDA, and that I liked what I saw. My previous ire about Zenimax and the NDA was born out of the frustration that those who weren't under NDA (the "paid blogger" sites) seemed to be meh to hating it, while I knew for a fact there were a lot of people who really liked it and who really had good things to say about it, but couldn't because they were under a gag order. Now that the NDA has been lessened, I think we're getting more of a balanced opinion overall.
My short opinion: It's got that TES feeling in spades, but it will never be the Skyrim 2.0 that a lot of people seem to be hot for. It should be looked at for what it is, not what it isn't. I think it's good. Is it $15 a month good? That question puts us into murky waters. I've gotten used to having a buffet of great games that have a box price or are free to download, none of which cost me a dime afterwards. While I like what I saw with TESO, I think that for me (and others that I know) will find that it's a hard sell to stick around beyond the free 30 days unless there's something about the game we don't know about yet that's coiled and ready to blow us away.
NDAs are an unfortunate part of signing up for pre-release activities. The idea of an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is to keep everyone who participates from just vomiting their impressions all over the Internet when those impressions are of a game that isn't polished or feature complete. It's also to allow the publisher/developer to control the flow of carefully crafted information, and to keep any surprises out of the hands of the competition until it's too late, I suppose.
But the NDA in modern times is just plain stupid. First of all, "beta" has become synonymous with "marketing period". Companies have stopped using it exclusively to solicit bug reports and feedback, and have started employing it as both a hype-generator (Refresh for invite email! Refresh for invite email!) and as a way to let gamers spread the news for free once the game is more or less street-ready. A few weeks of free press before actual release isn't going to change much between then and release, feature wise, nor will it provide enough time for the developers to fix any major issues that a "traditional" beta test would be focused on anyway.
Second of all, NDAs pretty much imply that you can't trust your future customers to do right by your product. It's almost as if a company that maintains a lengthy NDA doesn't feel that their product is good enough to earn praise from the people it has been and will be marketing to. Granted, it seems way too many gamers don't grasp the concept of remaining judgement-free and objective during the "it's not done yet and things will change" periods, so I can understand why a company may impose a gag order. But that's the space these companies have chosen to work in, and although it's not ideal, you have to work with what you're given, right?
To see two sides of the coin, look at EverQuest Next Landmark and The Elder Scrolls Online. SOE has been in the MMO space longer than Zenimax, so SOE knows how these things roll. They've opted to not have an NDA (or rather, to raise it and then drop it all within 24 hours), while TESO is set to release in a little over two months and not only are they picking and choosing who is under NDA and who isn't, but they have just announced that they are going to forego an open beta period, which can only lead me to assume that the NDA will be in place up until launch, as I can't see an opportune time on the horizon now that would be a sensible time to drop the NDA. SOE is reaping the benefits of being able to have frank and open conversation with both participants and onlookers, and have exhibited unparalleled transparency that's earning them kudos. Meanwhile Zenimax insists on shrouding their product, theoretically up to the last moment.
Zenimax is playing from a very old and quizzically tailored playbook. It's unfortunate for them (and Carbine's Wildstar, if we want to be an equal-opportunity complainer) that they're insisting on some rather antiquated notions on how to run an online game (NDA, subscription, etc) right as SOE opted to throw these same tropes out the window and is receiving high-fives for doing so. SOE! The same people who were pilloried for the NGE and recently for shuttering four of their MMOs.
I'm starting to regret my digital pre-order of TESO, because I think Zenimax has their head up their ass. They may not be able to right their ship in terms of technical features of their game at this point, should there be any, but policies -- as SOE has demonstrated -- can be changed. It's just a matter of having the testicular fortitude and confidence in the product to do so.
[Edit]: It was mentioned via Twitter that SOE is having their alpha testers pay for the privilege, which is true. I believe that it's disingenuous to insist that SOE is doing this to avoid having to pay internal testers themselves. I'll leave this footnote here, but for an excellent explanation of why this "pay to test" is OK, check out Bel's post on Democratizing Access.
Oh and I forgot to mention that SOE has a 100% money back guarantee, so if you paid for alpha access and don't like it, they'll refund your money. I doubt I'll get that offer from Zenimax.
I have no idea where my sudden card game kick came from. I had some Amazon GC's left over from Christmairthday, so I picked up Android Netrunner and Pathfinder ACG, because I love cyberpunk, and Pathfinder has a solo mode. Due to the complexity of these games, I seriously doubt I can get any of my friends to play, but what the heck, right? GC is free money!
Pathfinder has turned out to be easy to learn, very difficult to master. I played my first solo scenario (the chuckle-inducing BRIGADOOM!) using Valeros the human fighter. It ended badly, as I found my character deck wiped out due to a few barriers that I could not defeat, and which did 2d4 damage that I simply couldn't mitigate.
Unlike Netrunner, Pathfinder is a co-op game. It looks complex in screenshots, but once you "get it", the game play is relatively simple.
There's three levels of play: Adventure path, adventure, and scenario. Adventure paths are made up of adventures, which are made up of scenarios. Each scenario consists of several locations. Each location has a deck of cards that make up the "events" in that location. They may include things like barriers, monsters, items, blessings, henchmen, or villains.
Each player picks a location to work, and multiple players can work the same location for support of one another. When a player's turn comes up, he will flip the top card from the stack at that location, and can try to acquire the "boon" or defeat the enemy. When the player encounters a henchman and defeats it, he can try and "close" the location. If the players encounter the villain and defeat it, and if all the other locations are closed at that point, the players win.
However, if the players exceed 30 turns (controlled by a stack of cards from the "blessings" deck which serve only as turn control) without taking out the villain, or if an individual player has no more cards in both his hand or his 15 card draw pile, he is "dead".
The game is designed to persist between sessions (unless you have the time to blow through an adventure in one sitting), and your characters can level up at the end of each scenario, allowing them to have better rolls (you use dice to make skill checks, just like a PnP RPG) or to have additional abilities or benefits. There are several expansions available that make up the "Rise of the Runelords" adventure path, so a single "campaign" is pretty massive, and the design lends itself to the potential for a limitless amount of expansion adventure paths in the future.
What I found is that, aside from a lot of reading, there's a lot of decision making. Some of it is agonizing. As a fighter, Valeros wasn't very good at doing much aside from killing things, but the aformentioned barrier needed a DEXTERITY or similar skill check, which Valeros couldn't pull off. I had a card that allowed me to evade the barrier once, but when I encountered it again (and again), there was little I could do. In retrospect, I should have moved to another location rather than burn my deck against that barrier, so I ended up wasting my draw pile with only one of the three locations closed to show for it.
So it's been a few days since I beat you about the head and neck with rainbow-colored unicorns regarding EverQuest Next Landmark, and so far nothing has changed. I actually find this unusual, because as those of you in the Alpha know (and as those of you who have had to bear the weight of the rest of us using rainbow-colored unicorns as truncheons), there's not a hell of a lot to do in the game.
The average session for me is this:
- Log in
- Set a crafting goal (or two)
- Take inventory of what I have in stock
- Figure out what tier I'm able to harvest with the tools I have
- Smack the ground for about 6 hours until I have enough material to make the item I set out to make.
- Curse burled wood
I'm actually averaging about two crafted items per session on a weekend day, usually because they tend to group up and use similar resources, with just a few differentiated materials per item that send me to other tiers. I'm up to the tungsten pick, and have four of the must-have crafting stations, and my sights are set on finding emerald, which I hear is a real bitch to track down.
The monotony of this game is overwhelming -- or so I keep telling myself. Yet I find that I'm willfully jumping in, getting my ducks in a row, and then heading out to the wilderness to spend countless hours chasing down veins of ore, carving the ground, rinsing, and repeating. By my own accounts, I should have quit this days ago. But I can't. I seriously can't. This has got to be the same addictive feeling that mobile and Facebook games have tried to artificially engineer for more insidious purposes. SOE managed to pull it off simply because they wanted to make something cool. DAMN YOU, SOE! DAMN YOU TO...wait...is that an emerald deposit....
I did take some time to put my massive reserves of stone and dirt into play. I have the add, subtract, heal, select, and smooth building tools. Paint would be nice, but my ultimate goal is for the line tool (a kind of Bezier-like tool). If there's anything that is cheesing me off about EQNL it's that we have to spend time crafting these building tools. I think the game could easily shift the mechanic of harvesting-crafting entirely towards stations, harvesting tools, accessories, and props, and no one would be unhappy. Some people would just prefer to build, and forcing those folks to run all over creation for materials specifically used to build something specifically used to collect more materials specifically to make the tools that allow them to build does seem like a false gate applied to a segment that SOE might fear would "miss out" on the glory that is structured goal chasing. I think players WOULD harvest to craft on their own, so forcing builders to build several tiers of harvesting and crafting tools just to make their dream house...I'd prefer not.
I had originally started building a cottage, but I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with it, so I made a template of it and recollected the resources. Instead, I moved on to working on a stone sphinx. In order to do this, I figured I'd need the smooth tool, and I was correct, but the smooth tool is kind of wonky; it doesn't always sit where you want it to sit, and I found myself making the brush much bigger than I wanted in order to get the brush to encompass the area I wanted to smooth, leading to some unwanted effects.
This is only the first pass, as I suspect as I figure out "best practices" I'll come to terms with a better way to handle the various aspects, and once I get the paint tool, I'll be able to replace the bare stone with parts more fitting to a majestic sphinx of the desert.