Archive for October 2012

Music For Gamers   Leave a comment

I have loads of friends who like music and include it in their gaming lives.  Some even include the title of one of the two most well-known Pink Floyd albums in the headers for a book about Star Wars: The Old Republic (I see what you did there).  I have a number of friends who are musicians (and gamers) and thus, I’d like to flex my superpower of networking and give you a series of links of songs about gaming both from people I know or songs I was linked to that I think my gaming blog readers might appreciate.  You can assume that I also highly recommend a number of video game soundtracks, ranging from the Legend of Zelda ones, the Warcraft ones (MoP is exquisite), LotRO’s stuff (Chance Thomas FTW!), the various Myst soundtracks, etc. etc. etc.

* Thoryana and the Band of Exiles – My favorite is Wipe, Res, Rebuff.

* The Dead Alewives and their quintessential D&D sketch.

* The ever-delightful Emerald Rose and their D&D tune Never Split the Party.

* The Gothsicles – Lots of gaming songs, particularly Konami Code.

* The great Luke Ski – His track My Parents Bought Me Intellivision got linked once by the folks at Mattel.

* Hot Waffles – Their song Roll and a Prayer is pretty cool, IMHO.

* You should all just go and buy every single song Insane Ian has ever done. His epic video game medleys are awesome. I honestly can’t pick a favorite for you all, tho you should see this video for Welcome to the Last Arcade.

* Minibosses – My particular favorite is their take on the Wizards and Warriors tunes.

* Oxhorn – Of course, his biggest hit is An Oxhorn Brand Medley.

* Paul and Storm – My favorite is Frogger! the Frogger Musical.

* Positude has a lovely tune called 2600.

* Possible Oscar has several gaming songs. Particular favorites are Never Gonna Beat This Boss, Dead Nintendo, and their cover of a classic Tom Smith track, Dead Again.

* Rob Balder has a song about a gaming stereotype called Gamer Funk.

* The epically talented S. J. Tucker has a lovely song called Playing D&D.

* Stephen Lynch has a great song about D&D.

* Devo Spice and Worm Quartet explain ShoEboX’s obsession about Pac-Man.

* TV’s Kyle has an epic song called King of Kong.

* And for any of you who hated that damned dog in Duck Hunt, Devo Spice and the Gothsicles answer the question ‘Why Can’t I Shoot the Dog?‘.

So there you go, lots of earworms. Check out the musicians’ other stuff if you like what you hear. A lot of these folks do this as their day jobs, so support the artists whenever you can!  ❤

Posted October 30, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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I’m Reminded of a Song…   Leave a comment

My friend Beth Kinderman and her band The Player Characters have a song out called Drinking Song, from her album More Songs About Robots and Death. The gist of the song is ‘why do you watch this show if you hate it so much?’  Recent commentary on TOR’s F2P transition have brought out the folks who hate how the F2P is being handled, with one blogger being very vocal in her opinion that EA is actively punishing free players, rather than encouraging them to subscribe.  I understand the opinions of folks who are cautious about returning, who intend to come back once F2P is live, who think EA is being too restrictive in the F2P/Preferred Status terms.

What I don’t understand are the folks who state that there’s nothing that could get them to re-up to the game… but still spend a good deal of time discussing the game anyway.  It’s very baffling to me to see multiple people still gnawing the bone of the various reasons why they don’t like the game or why F2P won’t bring them back.  Some of these conversations have the fervor of political ‘discussions’, where an advocate of one side is saying ‘this is good, this is bad, blah blah blah’ and the other person has their hands over their ears going ‘LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU, YOUR GUY IS BAD’.

I don’t get it.

If someone is that done with the game, why waste the time or brain cells talking about it?  Move on, yeah?

Posted October 29, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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So You Want a Job in the Game Industry…   Leave a comment

Earlier today, the news broke that an unspecified number of employees at Turbine were laid off. This after Zynga cut a number of jobs in multiple offices. This after Bioware doing massive layoffs starting in May. There are other studios that shut down entirely, such as Big Heap.  I swiftly pinged my two favorite Turbine employees to make sure they were safe (they are, whew), but my heart goes out to those suddenly in need of work. How much warning people are given is always a thing, especially in the middle of having to pay bills, etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes, when we players complain about the games we play, we sometimes forget that these game employees are real people like you or I. They have lives, they’ve got bills to pay, families to support.  Sure, their work gives us something fun to spend our time doing, but working in gaming seems to me (as someone who has had a job with the same company for nearly 10 years now, 8 of them in the same department) almost like being a military family. A number of the people affected by all of these layoffs have had to move to accept jobs in other cities (or countries!), and some still haven’t found new employment after months of searching.

These aren’t people who’re slacking off and thus unhireable. These are damned talented folks who would be an asset to any company.  It’s all down to money, and I get that, but anyone who thinks that folks in the gaming industry have it cushy haven’t had to deal with not being able to buy a house and settle down properly because they have to be able to relocate (at their own expense) in order to take a job in another city.  They don’t have to deal with the concern about layoffs due to the nature of the industry – they get to deal with that plus people somehow thinking that they don’t have it so bad because it’s games!

Sorry, they don’t sit around playing games all day.  Not even the ones whose jobs it might be to test the games before the public gets to break them. It’s srs bsns.

Like with many industries today, there are far more qualified candidates than there are jobs for them. One thing I found admirable is that as soon as a new round of layoffs gets announced, those already in the industry start doing posts saying ‘hey, we’re hiring over here!’ to try and get the newly-free potential employees something new. We don’t do that in my industry. There’s a definite community amongst gamers to some extent, particularly the community manager sorts. Witness the holy smackdown people put upon the internetz when trolls started mocking the recent Zynga layoffs. The only omission I have seen, and I’ll admit I haven’t looked too much into it, is that no one really makes any posts or announcements anytime Blizzard lays people off. I know it happens, because it happens to nearly every studio during the life cycle of their IPs after launch and whatnot, but Blizz is kinda treated like they’re not ‘one of us’.  Again, perhaps I’m simply missing the posts and wagon-circling. I’ll admit my bias is to the two studios that I have friends working at, but it seemed a curious omission.

At any rate. Not an unlimited number of jobs in the gaming industry, lots and lots of qualified people to fill those jobs.  I hope everyone lands on their feet.

Posted October 25, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Well Played, Bioware   Leave a comment

Less than a half-hour after I post my previous rant about people whining about TOR ‘taking away their stuff’, Joveth Gonzalez posts a link to a beautiful announcement about Preferred Status Players, where Bioware cites this new class of player that retains /some/ benefits of paid status, but isn’t as ‘severe’ as many people perceive the full-on F2P status is.

So, now we have:

* Subscriber – Gets everything, gets a few extras we don’t have now (6 quickslot bars!)

* Preferred Status – Gets to keep lots of the things that subs get, but not everything, to keep sub status worthwhile (full details available here: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?p=5324230#post5324230)

* Free-to-Play Status – All the restrictions that have been the cause of much teeth grinding and hairpulling.

Here’s one of the things that shouts clearly to the players: THEY ARE LISTENING TO US.

Sure, there are still many things that aren’t given to the new PSPs that subs will have, and that’s fine by me, there should be incentives to go (or stay) full-on subscriber. I don’t recall getting anything nearly this cool when my EQ2 sub lapsed to F2P. The way Bioware is working this is very appealing. Unless I’m misreading Damion Schubert’s post that Joveth linked in, it looks as if current and returning subscribers who revert to F2P get this PSP status.  That’ll be a ton of people. Also, one thing that’s incredible to me is the thing where a straight-up F2P account that never was a past sub gets upgraded to PSP if they make one purchase in the Store.  ONE PURCHASE.  Seriously? That’s amazing.

So, well played, Bioware.

Posted October 25, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Would You Like Cheese With That?   Leave a comment

Or, OMG, THEY’RE TAKING MY STUFF AWAY!

So, I work in a customer service industry. Customers pay us a monthly bill, they get services based on how much they pay.  When they choose to downgrade their bill due to cost, they get fewer services, or it’s not packaged up, so they pay for certain items a la carte.

Now, I talk to a large percentage of people who think their bills are too high and/or folks who are on limited budgets for whatever reason.

In over 15 years in this industry with two major companies, I have never once spoken to a customer who downgraded their service by their own choice for whatever reason (didn’t use, money was tight, whatever) who then complained that the companies I worked for were taking their stuff away.

Translate that into the MMO scene. Currently, people playing TOR are paying $15/mo for a fully-featured premium service, access to everything.  Soon, people will have the option of going F2P.  They, like the customer I’d speak to at work, can downgrade their service to better meet their needs, and then they will lose access to the features they’re no longer paying for.

I’m gonna all-caps this.  Not so your eyes more easily see this, but because I really do want to shout this at the top of my lungs.

IN THE REAL WORLD, THIS IS HOW THIS SHIT WORKS.  IF YOU DON’T PAY FOR SOMETHING, YOU DON’T GET IT.

If you want the full ride, you pay for it. Simple as that. If you choose to downgrade, then you need accept the limitations of that choice.

STOP WHINING ABOUT THIS.

Seriously, I’m about to buy stock in a dairy farm so I can start making cheese to go with all this whine.

You want to complain about the price? Fine. That’s fair. Other MMOs have a $10/mo full-boat option.  You want to complain about how expensive things are a la carte, again, that’s fair, esp if you compare to other F2P games.   My real life customers can and do expect us to price our services to be able to beat our competition, but for the most part, they do recognize that they don’t get the full ride for free or even at a severe discount.

DON’T EXPECT TO GET THE FULL PREMIUM SERVICE IF YOU’RE NOT PAYING FOR IT.

NO ONE is taking your stuff away. It’s not your stuff if you’re not paying for it.

Look what you CAN get FOR FREE.  LOOK.  Seriously.  TOR is going to give every single player regardless of subscription full access to the entire rich story that was written and crafted by some amazing people.  That glorious story is what has always made TOR different from other MMOs. They’re giving their best feature away… FOR FREE.  In comparison, LotRO makes freeps pay for content beyond certain zones, even if they buy the expansions.  You can’t play two of the cooler classes without buying them.  People are going bananas about the cost of some of their Store prices (Warsteed dye packs, anyone? Poor Sapience had someone bombarding his live chat yesterday asking that question over and over again until the Massively mod finally asked the question to shut the person up).

So, in this case, I do have to say STFU if you’re complaining about losing stuff if you choose to downgrade from a paying subscription.

That’s how this thing works.  Get over it.

Posted October 25, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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So why are there no fat chicks in TOR?   1 comment

It’s a general video game paradigm that the female characters, particularly PCs, are commonly ‘conventionally attractive’.  For this piece, I’m focusing on the general worldview on these things. There’s no need to have a ton of defensive responses saying ‘but /I/ like big butts, and I cannot lie’.  I’m looking at what I see when I play TOR.  I can’t really focus on my other two MMOs, since neither of them let you pick a ‘body shape’ for your character.  Your character gets one body size/shape based on race in those, and you’re stuck with it, too bad.  That’s a game decision on the part of both LotRO and WoW.

Now, this is something that bugs me about TOR to some extent, the perception of female characters in the game.  You run across all kinds of male characters of varying races that are, quite frankly, /too/ fat.  Seriously.  We’re not talking ‘this guy is obviously channeling the Hulk’, but more like ‘how the hell can this guy even walk with a frame like that?’.

Granted, I haven’t explored every last nook of content, haven’t seen all the NPCs, but I’m noticing a distinct lack of female characters that really show a wide breadth of body styles.  I’ll happily be pointed to examples that I have sadly forgotten or more likely haven’t run across, but let’s look at some examples I do remember.

Even in chargen, the difference in perception is there right off the bat.  If you want to play a chick, you have three choices:  waif, slender, and linebacker.  Compare to the guys’ choices: regular skinny dude, buffed up dude, linebacker, fat guy.  Each of the female choices are curvy women, with the ‘slender’ body type displaying breasts that don’t often tend to wind up on bodies with waists that thin… well, not without enhancement. I pass no judgment on those who choose to enhance themselves that way, but it makes me a touch uncomfortable to see it as the default view, even in a video game.  It doesn’t feel natural to me.  The ‘plus-size’ female body type is still the closest we ever get to ‘fat chick’ in the game.  Still, even she’s pretty much just a larger-sized hourglass shape, like using the ‘stretch’ feature on your widescreen TV to make a show shot in 4:3 fit a 16:9 aspect ratio.  I hate to break it to folks, but where I live, there are very /few/ plus-sized women who resemble that. And there is no ‘fat chick’ counterpart to the male body selection in chargen and I cannot honestly recall any such NPCs out in the world.

I wonder why that is.

I mean, we all know the common joke in gaming that the only reason many games have a female avatar at all is so some male gamer can stare at a female character’s butt for hours on end as she runs around killing things.  I know several male gamers who freely and cheerfully admit this is why they prefer to play female toons.  I try to avoid the generalization that /most/ male gamers like that.  However, we know that a goodly percentage do.

That still doesn’t make 100% sense to me as to why as a general rule, TOR has chosen /not/ to show women of size who aren’t shaped like an hourglass, even as NPCs out in the wild.  I hate to break it to anyone who creates in-game models… we exist.  The reason there are character customization options in games is to allow players to have a bit of freedom with our avatars. In many cases, we want to make our avatars look like us, or what we consider to be ideal within the constraints, so we can better pretend that we are the ones having the adventure, not some random character.  TOR can’t even say ‘but a fat chick can’t ICly do all these athletic things, so that’s why’, cos they have the ‘fat guy’ avatar.  Many of us fat chicks are used to the fact that in most games, the closest we’ll ever get to something that’s ‘like us’ is hair color and eye color.

I do not exist in TOR.  Nothing even remotely like me exists in TOR.  Not as an avatar I can play.  Not as an NPC in the background.  TOR has no fat chicks in it.  We’re invisible.  We don’t exist in this particular iteration of the Star Wars universe, and that kinda makes it feel as if it means we don’t matter to the devs who decide these sorts of things.

Is it because society slags on fat chicks and goes to great lengths to shame us for being fat?  Is it because the devs thought somehow we’d be offended that there’s a fat chick in-game?  Is it because none of the male gamers who like looking at female asses in-game would like to see that much cellulite jiggling around?  (They don’t seem to mind it when it’s boobies, after all – Seriously, have you seen Fieler Dan’s boobs on Coruscant? They’re bigger than her face!)

And it’s not as if they can’t model reasonably-proportioned women.  Satele Shan’s model is reasonably proportioned, why not have used that for the ‘slender’ middle option for female avatars?  What’s with the top-heavy design?  Why isn’t there a counterpart to the 4th male body style available in chargen?  Why aren’t there NPCs out in the wild that have some meat on their bones?

Do I honestly think that TOR will make any changes on these matters?  Nope.  As responsive as many game companies are, I can’t honestly recall any of them that realized that they’re overlooking some segment of their playerbase in this fashion and making changes to level that particular playing field.  If anyone knows of one, I’d be happy to hear about it.

Posted October 25, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Everyone Spaz Over Cartel Coins!   Leave a comment

Seriously, I’m excited about the Cartel Shop in TOR. Finding some of the changes they’re going to implement make me REALLY REALLY eager to see them in Live.

Okay, so I’ve been in LotRO since day 1, so the notion of a ‘spend X currency to get Y thingies’ isn’t new to me. I have a VERY bad habit of spending my Turbine Points on mounts for my main, for example.  I bought the high elf race in EQ2 with Station Cash cos I was all /sadface when I couldn’t play my high elf pally after I let my EQ2 acct go to freep status.

So, the basic methodology here is the same. Nothing very innovative for /how/ the process works.  What’s making twitter spaz over things are the sorts of items that are available in the Cartel store and the prices of the items.  Bearing in mind that right now it’s only on the PTS, and the contents of what’s available to purchase might change, it would be something of a dick move on Bioware’s part and increase player frustration if they don’t keep the items available in live that they’re letting people get on the PTS. I’m not saying that every single item on the PTS should carry over to live, cos if they realize that something is whoa OP, of course for game balance blah blah blah. But in general, the same kinds of items should carry over, so players don’t feel like they got jerked around.

One of the most exciting things for me is the HUGE change that /all/ legacy perks will be available for purchase through the store. Here was my initial reaction:  HOLY CRAP BLUE JEDI HERE I COME!  Or a suitable muppetflail.gif.  Once they first announced the notion of leveling a toon to 50, you suddenly get that species available for any class, I’ve been in love with the notion of having a Chiss Jedi and a Sith Consular.  For someone like me who’s a slow leveler who doesn’t even have /one/ 50 (and my stranded main 44 JK is a human), this is a big deal.  

I’m going to have to go to the PTS and look at things more in-depth when I get a few minutes to spare, but that right there is worth the price of admission.  

Posted October 24, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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