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.

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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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Why Are Most of My Favorite Toons Dual-Wielders?   Leave a comment

I dunno, I just like it.

Consider, if you will.  My main LotRO character is a Champion. With a change last year in classes, Champions were no longer allowed to equip shields. This makes sense, since Champion was always meant to be a DPS class. I occasionally switched from sword/shield to dual wield just to see if I lasted longer one way or the other. Found Champions were /not/ all that awesome at being kinda-tanks, so went back to being pure DPS and maxed out the traits so the one heal was more powerful and I burned the baddies more quickly.

My main in WoW breaks this mold, as she’s a tankadin, but I love her crowd control abilities. Hammer of the Righteous FTMFW.  CLANG!  My TOR main is a JK Sentinel, which is,  yep, dual wield.  My preferred smuggler spec is Gunslinger, again a dual wield character.  

I know intellectually that dual wielding means more DPS, even with any offhand penalties, else why bother with any dual wielding classes at all?  But honestly?  I mostly play them cos I’ve always been in love with old-school Florentine-style swordplay in the swashbuckler and musketeer movies.  A rapier and poignard were always just so awesome to me.  I loved dual-wielding lightsabers well before Anakin did so (badly) in Attack of the Clones.  My favorite movie dual-wielder has to be Jadis, the White Witch in the first Narnia movie.  HOLY CRAP, SHE WAS BADASS.

So, yeah.  If a game has a dual-wielding class, especially if it’s a plate class, it’ll be my favorite.  I mean, I do like the squishy classes too, mages and priests and wizards (Sith Sorcerer/purple lightning, yo), but I think my least favorites tend to be rogue classes, even if they’re dual-wield.  I’m still pondering the WoW druid classes. I know I don’t like playing them as tanks, but the balance spec appeals to my mad-on for celestial stuff.  I also like other ranged-melee classes (hunters, etc.), but yeah, dual-wielders are my faaaaavorite.

Posted October 24, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

Why I Play MMOs as Single-Player Games   Leave a comment

I’ll start off with a confession:  I rarely ever group in an MMO, and I can count on both hands the number of times in the past 5 years that I’ve been in an actual raid in an MMO.  I also don’t PVP unless I utterly have to, but that’s a matter for another post.

While I might have a rather large circle of acquaintances and friends who are gamers, for the most part, I don’t game with them. The ones in the industry, I can’t game with due to their companies’ rules about staff gaming with non-staff, and I respect that. The rest, I simply… don’t.  The only game I’m in a guild on that is more than me and/or a small circle of my own friends is WoW, cos I’m in a guild that doesn’t mind if I’m not around a lot, even tho I was made an officer a few years back.  The current GM is a nice lady who doesn’t fire idle guildies or officers.

To some extent, the overall poor behavior of many gamers is one of the main reasons I don’t group in MMOs and instead play them as single-player. Part of this poor behavior is simply folks being jerks, saying crap just to say crap and not really caring how rude they get cos they can get away with it.  Your stereotypical abusive teenager fits in here, but more and more, it’s not the unsupervised 12-year-olds acting like dicks here, the skew in age of many gamers tends to be older these days.

Mostly, the reason I don’t group with others is that I play games to have fun, to relax.  I don’t play them to be the best of the best, or to blaze through content to level cap. In many endgame situations, you have to be so focused on ensuring you’re there for raids, that you keep your toon(s) geared up and to keep up with the Joneses, to whip out an old-school reference there.  Touching briefly on the elitist discourse from earlier, there is a definite slice of gamers that do look down on gamers like me.  There are those who would see my Level 90 Draenei Paladin in WoW and turn their nose up at her, because she’s not wearing all purples and doesn’t have the highest gearscore/iLvl. To me, it’s one thing to see someone at a higher level that you’re striving to emulate or equal, to use it as a goal, but considering the sheer amount of /work/ it takes to get to that point…? I can’t do that.

My favorite bits of all three primary MMOs I like to play are the lore.  The actual /story/ behind where you get from Point A to Point B is far more important to me than ensuring my tankadin has enough gear to survive while I’m trying to hold aggro for anything longer than the Headless Horseman fight at Hallow’s End.

Maybe some of it has to do with not liking to be beholden to anyone (heals or DPS) to ensure the boss gets nuked before I die. Maybe some of it is because I don’t really think I’m all that good at these things.  Anything that’s a simple rotation of button-mashing, I’m down with that… I don’t use macros, I don’t take the time to plan out strategy other than the occasional surfing to Wowhead to look something up if I’m having trouble with a quest.  Part of it is that I like to learn how things work, and in many group situations, unless it’s promoted ahead of time as a teaching circumstance, everyone else expects you to know your character’s abilities to a T and know your rotation and know any particular bossfights in advance.

Dude, when I was a kid mumblemumble years ago, we had that in school, it was called homework.  Nobody but the nerdiest mcnerds actually /liked/ homework.  Maybe it’s cos I’m lazy, maybe I’m just too damned mellow. Maybe it’s that I have a day job and other non-gaming interests and whatever.  I /do/ know there’s a bit of personal low self-esteem and uncertainty as to whether my skills are somehow ‘good enough’ for whatever group I’m in.  Even with the easy and swiftly-completed Headless Horseman instance, I still worry whether I can tank it properly, or whether I’m noticing that the healer is OOM and all of a sudden, we wiped cos I couldn’t keep aggro cos I wasn’t hitting the taunts at the right time when the ‘lock’s pet kept pulling aggro… and then when I apologized to the group after the wipe, they started piling on me, being verbally abusive and ‘worst tank ever’, etc. etc.

So we’re back to behavior.  Dogpile on the player who didn’t do things the ‘right’ way or who messed up, rather than saying ‘okay, let’s try this again, let’s check and make sure you didn’t miss something…’  At least in the WoW setting, unless you’re in the right guild, most players expect everyone around them to be as good as they are, to know every facet of the game as well as they do, to know their roles, to hit their rotations, to not pull a Leeroy Jenkins.  For those of us gamers who already have esteem or social-anxiety issues, this just makes it far, far worse.

In short, I don’t often feel /comfortable/ in a PUG situation, because everyone’s so much more hardcore than I am at it.  They know their stuff so much better, and I don’t want to be the player causing the wipe (again) or being the one who needed on a piece of loot that my toon can’t really use, but everyone else needed anyway (and some of them couldn’t use it either).  I don’t like feeling I let people down when things go south.

So, for the most part, I dodge all of that drama and headache and intense work and keep my fun games fun by simply playing whatever solo content I can find.  All three of my main MMOs are fairly well soloable. I can read up on group-content lore on various sites, so I don’t miss the ‘story mode’ versions of things.  I’m also an altaholic, so I like to play ALL THE THINGS!, and I also like crafting.  Either of those two will take away time anyone else would use to grind out content to get ready for raiding, or the actual raids themselves.

On one hand, it means I’ll never be considered a better-than-average player on any of the MMOs I play (Jane of all trades, mistress of none), and I’ll miss out on the social aspect of things (only one of my plethora of TOR toons even /has/ Social I, much less anything more).  On the other hand, I guess I still have fun playing the game and reading the lore while I’m playing.

Posted October 22, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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I’ve Got Something in Both Eyes.   2 comments

I’ve been following and cheering on the efforts of my friends who work for Turbine as they took part in Extra Life’s charity gaming marathon, and I blogged about it the other day. Well, the fundraising drive and the marathon are over, and I’m still beside myself with how the gaming community stepped up, how the fundraisers themselves were willing to go to some pretty wild and wacky fun extremes to get those donations to roll in.  I did what I could to contribute, wish I could have done more.

My friend Rick Heaton, aka Sapience from Lord of the Rings Online, has engineered the most amazing thing.  I am humbled and dumbfounded by the generosity of gamers, and it /still/ brings tears to my eyes to see that my dear friend, whom I tease mercilessly on Twitter, has accomplished such a feat.

His initial goal was $500, as I’ve said before.  His final tally was $18,035, and he was the #1 fundraiser IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, with Team Turbine being the #3 fundraising team in the country. Only Reddit and KBMOD.COM raised more.

Again.  He raised over EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS all by himself.

And the first thing he’d likely tell you is that it was in no way about him, it was all about the kids this fundraising drive will help. In fact, the greenie Reaver he rolled to let Free Peoples players kick his butt in PVMP on Brandywine was called ‘Fordakidz’.

This is a guy who painted a target on himself in-game and on the net, willing to do whatever it took to increase the donations, because every additional dollar given to this cause was going to help someone who truly needed it. He could have stopped at $500 and gone ‘hurray, we did it!’ and rode out the rest of the time until the gaming marathon. He didn’t have to give out every possible prize except Turbine’s kitchen sink. He didn’t have to offer to shave his 17-year-old beard.  There’s so much he did that other people would not have done, for whatever valid reason they would have had.  I mean, if I were raising funds, I couldn’t imagine doing something extreme such as shave my head, or dressing up in a goofy costume (well, okay, I do that at cons anyway), or something similar that makes me potentially a laughingstock or cause personal embarrassment.  I don’t have that kind of bravery or chutzpah, but Rick Heaton does, and he selflessly put his personal dignity on the line for the sake of children that needed someone to help them… and boy howdy did they get a champion indeed.

I am honored to know this guy, and I think I’m going to close this with a simple statement, before I embarrass him any further.

You did good, Rick.

Now get some sleep. 🙂

Posted October 21, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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