Regret: The Video Game

So am I the only one who has trouble getting through The Walking Dead?

Yes, it’s a nice narrative. Yes, I like the idea of having choices and consequences and branching result on paper.

But then I run into a choice in Episode 2 that sets the tenor and tone of things to come, and I really can’t decide on what kind of person I want Lee to be.

I could take the pragmatic gore-splattered option which I personally feel would be more realistic in a zombie apocalypse survival scenario. But the idea of holding carefully to morals in a world where few hang on to theirs is also attractive in a thematic story sense.

And so I sit, stalemated by not knowing which story I’d prefer to experience first and refuse to let the rest of the scene play out.

Next moment, I’ve quit the game and am scanning through walkthroughs, knowing very well that either choice is a perfectly valid option that actually changes -nothing- in a gameplay sense, and -everything- on a literary level.

At this rate, I’m never going to even make it to 400 days, let alone Season 2.

The Study of Choice in the Face of Scarcity – Disk Space Edition

Elephants in the room...

Rowan Blaze has been musing about economics in relation to MMOs in his last post:

Though much of economic theory revolves around money, I had one college professor eloquently refer to it as the Study of Choice in the face of Scarcity. This is what fascinates me about it, why do we make the choices we do? It doesn’t have to be choice involving money. For instance, do I spend all morning researching and writing a blog post, or exploring the town and country I am sojourning in, or play a video game?

And that has gotten my mind down a similar track. Opportunity cost is just as fascinating to me.

I have just spent most of this Saturday forgoing the opportunity to rabidly play Guild Wars 2 (and thereby make further choices over what I actually do in-game:

  • spend an hour on invasions earning gold
  • use that same hour to run a dungeon instead which might produce cores/lodestones
  • meander around the world harvesting resources to sell and hoard

most of which slooowly works towards my first legendary…)

…and instead spent it with a file folder/disk space management utility open in one screen and web browsing on the other monitor, struggling to tidy up my hard disks and pondering deep economic and emotional decisions about games to keep and games to get rid of.

This dire disk space emergency was prompted by me trying to start up Guild Wars 1 in the morning and having it stall at the Connecting to ArenaNet server window.

After some Googling, it turns out my .dat file may have been corrupted, the solution for which was to delete and re-download.

Got past the stall point, got to character screen, logged in or tried to- as the computer began downloading the whole of Marhan’s Grotto again (you pretty much download each zone bit by bit in GW1, something that usually makes the wait time less annoying) and the whole system kind. of. slowed. down. and. was. like. wading. in. molasses…

Then I realized that there were only 746MB free space left on the C:\ drive and the download was barely 25% done.

Ruh roh.

Plans to peek back in GW1 rapidly went out the window and I started looking for stuff to delete instead.

This just as quickly escalated down an entire afternoon and evening of Adventures in Freeing Disk Space and musing about my gaming habits, economy and psychology all rolled into one.

discspace2

For instance, the biggest hog of my disk space is The Secret World.

I usually try to leave MMOs that I -might- have an urge to go back to installed, since it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever casually pop in again if I have to sit through a whole day’s download to do so.

You may note that the other two space-hogging culprits are also MMOs, also not being currently played, and all now using a free-to-log-in-and-play-casually model.

Subscription MMOs? Gone.

I simply have TOO MANY other games I could be spending my time and disk space on, to say nothing of having to specially log in to a website, re-enable my account and resubscribe for a month, just to check on what has changed.

Economically, if I had to pick just one of those three MMOs, I’d probably keep LOTRO since I’m still in love in the lore and landscapes, and do check back once a year for Weatherstock. Even if I don’t think I could ever bear to level again, be it a new character or try to push out of Moria.

I was tempted to kill off The Secret World, if only to reclaim the most space back and rationally knowing my toaster struggles to handle it graphically and memory-wise. But the way it presents its quests, and the flexible AP/SP skill system promises an intriguing basic solo leveling experience if I ever felt the urge for modern conspiracy again.

RIFT would be the loser if I really needed one to go. Despite the flexible roles each class can take, I was left uncomfortable with how cookie cutter it ended up as there were distinctly mathematically optimal ways of speccing talent trees for different purposes, and I felt I had no future in an MMO with raids as a primary focus. Still, I can’t shake off the clingy feeling that maaybe one day I might want to log in just to look around.

Which is neither probable nor sensible, to be brutally honest.

Dawn of War 1 and expansions takes up the next 11 gb. Terribly old game now. Have I ever gone back to it after finishing a campaign or two or three with some races? No. But nothing matches it (not even its sequel) in terms of being able to put out so many visually awesome Warhammer 40k models in all their racial variety, and I just can’t get rid of it.

KOTOR2 and the GoG directories (containing Arcanum, Stonekeep and Beneath a Steel Sky among others) naggily remind me that there were some old games I wanted to get around to playing. *sigh*

Doom 3? I’m positive I was almost 3/4 of the way through or nearly to the end, but those levels just kept going and going and I got tired. But the sunk cost fallacy induced me to keep it around. I really should just dedicate an hour or two and FINISH it, just to put closure on it after… (checks the folder date) 6 years. Dayum.

City of Heroes got a massive trimming some time back since I saw no reason to keep the client to a defunct game around. I wasn’t going to reverse engineer anything anytime soon. Most of the folder went into an external hard disk backup. That one gigabyte left is mostly screenshots. Thanks to this blog, I love having a whole bundle of screenshots available on demand.

It’s kinda sad that my Adobe and Microsoft Office folders barely compare.

I ended up nabbing the disk space from other folders, temporary downloads, music/videos that I won’t bother you with.

Though it did come as a bit of a shock to realize that iTunes was hogging 15 gb of space just from backing up my iPad. (Yes, that ancient 16gb device is just as crammed.)

On a bit of a curiosity roll now, I checked out my other drive:

discspace1

Uhhh. Yeah.

There’s ~2.7 gb worth of screenshots in the GW2 folder (and I’ve been moving them periodically out to backup) if you’re wondering why my GW2 directory is bigger than yours.

(That PSA about moving out your GW2 screenshots before they hit 1000 on Reddit a couple days ago? Knew about it MONTHS ago.)

The next 9.3 gb are reminding me that I should continue the 10/10 project for at least one more day and so get rid of Runes of Magic that way. I really need to stop being one MMO obsessed for a while.

Black Isle and BaldursGateTutu? Because Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II and Planescape: Torment are classics. I did intend to play them again some day, but even if I never do, they can be enshrined forever for all I care.

Yes, I have two copies of A Tale in the Desert. I dual-accounted it. Some games you dual account for a better experience. I am given to understand Eve Online swings that way too. (Though in both games, this can be offset through being massively good at socializing and joining player organizations. Extroverts network. Introverts multi-box.)

Restaurant Empire 2 is part of the cheesy cooking games collection. Just because.

The elephant in the room that we are trying not to talk about is naturally, the Steam folder…

steamspace

There’s more but I wouldn’t want to scare you all. Or have my account stolen.

Suffice to say, of the 44 games shown here, 6 have not been tried yet (Nuclear Dawn, The Walking Dead, Psychonauts, Forge, Sacred Gold, Sol Exodus demo) and the remaining 38 have been at least been sampled.

Of the sampled games:

  • 3 had a very surface sampling before I put the game down, unable to go on for one reason or another – steep learning curve or didn’t like the setting or never found the time to go on.

(X3, SWKOTOR, Divinity 2 respectively)

  • 25 were played 1/4 – 1/2 of the way through or played lightly but not a game you can complete

(Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, The Last Remnant, Civ 5, Borderlands 2, Dungeon Defenders, DOTA 2, Morrowind, LEGO Lord of the Rings, Killing Floor, Men of War Assault Squad, Overlord, Culpa Innata, Worms Reloaded, Tropico 3, Titan Quest, Silent Hunter 3, Mark of the Ninja, Amnesia, Mafia, Sins of a Solar Empire, Frozen Synapse, From Dust, Civ 4, Sanctum.)

  • 6 were played 3/4 of the way through or played heavily but not a game you can complete

(Left 4 Dead, Dawn of War 2, Skyrim, Blood Bowl, Orcs Must Die, Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines,)

  • 4 were played “and completed” at least to one’s satisfaction, but usually with holes in DLC/expansion content

(Portal 2, Indigo Prophecy, Alien Swarm, Defense Grid)

I dunno. I’ve been staring at it all trying to see if there were any patterns as to why I chose to play some games but not others, and for longer periods.

There’s no real relation as to whether they’re GOOD games or not (as considered by either me or the community at large.)

I’ll tell you right now that I enjoyed most of the lightly played games just as much. Left 4 Dead 2, TF2, Civ 4 and 5, Borderlands 2, DOTA 2, Morrowind, Mark of the Ninja, and Frozen Synapse are all excellent games in my book, and very highly polished. The poorer games are From Dust and Culpa Innata, and I consider the rest decently good in their own way.

The only thing I can vaguely think of is that the more completed ones were short enough that one can get to the end in a very reasonable amount of time, or had a compelling narrative that I wanted to see the end of, or had interesting game mechanics at an easy enough to progress but steadily ramping up difficulty level or some combination thereof.

I do want to get to the end of Mark of the Ninja, Frozen Synapse and The Last Remnant – I may get around to the first as it’s a very recently bought game but I’m not terribly good at stealth, the second is -very- compelling tactically but time-consuming, and the third is a Japanese RPG, you know how long those things take?!)

For many of the others, I seem to have played them long enough to get the hang of the mechanics but got bored with the repetition or grew disinterested in the story and then got distracted by a new shiny.

Well, it was worth a reminder of all the other things I could be doing instead of playing just one game out of habit.

(And yes, I am aware Psychonauts and The Walking Dead come highly recommended. They’re now on the to-do list.)

P.S. If you’re interested in doing something similar with your own system, the program I was using to scan directory sizes is TreeSize Free.

GW2: Shaping History With Your Vote

Politics is so boring, they say...

So, all the latest excitement both in-game in Lion’s Arch and in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit is the discussion about whether one is in #TeamGnashblade or #TeamKiel for the upcoming update of Cutthroat Politics.

Before we get partisan here, I’d just want to point out that this is an exciting development in player involvement with the Living Story. It harkens back to when one was given the choice to vote for Dwayna or Grenth in Guild Wars 1 in order to get a shiny hat, but a lot deeper.

Players get to both control the story and the direction of the game with their vote.

Players are making lasting history.

Whatever way we choose, we are giving up something in order to get something else. Choices and consequences. Meaningful decisions in gameplay.

Now for the analysis:

The hardcore in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit and the GW1 old guard appear to be all over Evon Gnashblade. The Fall of Abaddon as a fractal is a very tempting lure because it’s a link to both old GW1 lore (one of the major strengths of GW2 is being able to tie back into a long established history) and all bets are likely that it’s going to be gorgeous to have a look at Old Orr and the City of Arah before the Fall. There’s Gods and shit. How epic would that be?

As for Black Lion Keys, well, they’re a side benefit, but no one really gives a toss.

The fear of #TeamGnashblade is that Ellen Kiel may promise the ‘casuals’ and the not-interested-in-lore (the unspoken feeling is that it may in fact be a majority over those who prowl Reddit) decreased waypoint costs for a month.

How freaking tempting is that? Gold is always hard to come by and waypoint costs are a sneaky goldsink that affects everyone playing the game.

Finding out more about the Thaumanova Reactor explosion seems less appealing a fractals choice than the former as familiarity breeds contempt and a lot of people see the fire elemental in the reactor remains every day. Though again, some of the fear is that the new GW2 crowd who doesn’t appreciate the past may vote for it out of familiarity with the name. Others argue that we know a lot less about the reactor explosion, and that it may be an important crux point of recent GW2 lore, what with all the dealing with the fallout and chaotic portals and magic going awry that has been established in various zones in the game.

I just want to point out something that may be overlooked in all this fractals-focused excitement.

Let us not forget that this is part of the active and ongoing Living Story storyline.

We’re familiar with Ellen Kiel. She’s been established as a key ‘good guy’ type of character – a Lionguard who has worked with us since Southsun. She seems to have fairly good relations with Magnus and she now owns a frigging’ Aetherblade airship.

On the other hand, she is just a grunt out of nowhere and may not have the political acumen to last a day on the Captain’s Council. Then again, she managed to balance the pressing demands of the Consortium and still cater to refugee needs and be a good person on Southsun. She appears to be keen to work for fairness and balance, a reasonable deal between Lion’s Arch and the Zephyr Sanctum.

Evon Gnashblade seemingly comes out of nowhere, cast in the light of the greedy profiteering merchant owner of the Black Lion Trading Company and looks a little typecast as the ‘bad guy.’ Then again, most Charr look like bad guys, and you can’t really hold genetics against them, eh?

He’s an established citizen of Lion’s Arch and claims to be looking after the interests of Lion’s Arch first and foremost. He may end up doing a cutthroat deal with the Zephyr Sanctum to put LA (and/or himself and BLTC) first. He has no doubt plenty of backstabbing political experience to survive well on the Captain’s Council. And if he’s in charge of the Black Lion Trading Company and the Consortium are its competitors, that’s probably okay, right?

What are the things being left unsaid?

The most pressing question is why the hell Evon Gnashblade? Why him, just popping out of nowhere? Is he just a new unheralded NPC?

Except…

In the Molten Alliance denouement, the only thing known of the figure behind the alliance of dredge and Flame Legion charr, is that he or she came from a city and was a persuasive talker.  The dredge prisoner curses out a ““Lying, silver-tongued, snake-nosed trickster.”

At the end of the Aetherblade Retreat dungeon, Mai Trin says that someone else was also behind this, and that “Scarlet is going to have my noggin for screwing up.”

LOOK AT THE COLOR OF THE CLOTHING EVON WEARS.

You don't fool me. (Then again, maybe I'm Scarlet and trying to throw you all off the scent!)

You don’t fool me.

Thank you, I rest my case.

I’ll be voting for Ellen Kiel.

And if the worst happens, well, there’s a cool fractal as a consolation prize.