Isn’t That What You Do in Every MMO? Have Fun?

Happy Holidays... from not-so-spikey charr...

Back when I was a serious [insert game here] player, [...] I played to be the best.  I can look back and say from experience that the mindset exists and people fall into it without even realizing what they’re doing.  One day you wake up and have this epiphany that what you’re doing isn’t fun.

- Keen [editing in brackets, mine]

Some days you just want to laugh. And chuckle. And grin a lot.

Keen might be someone who gets immensely hyped for the next big thing and then just as promptly deflates in three months because it wasn’t the dream sandbox MMO he was looking for, who then proceeds to do it all over again without learning from the last time – but I guess even the young grow old some day.

He’s closing in on 30, he says. Me, I’m kinda past that mark quite a while ago.

The story and the epiphany is the same. It’s not the MMO per se. It’s the mindset.

Yes, some MMOs have a design that skews you towards this “win” “be the best” “be prestigious” mindset a lot more swiftly than others. True, in some games, it’s the one main road, the linear flow that channels everyone towards to it and it’s much harder to step back or away from such things.

Yes, your very first MMO (or online game), the one you walk into wide-eyed with a blank slate, ready to absorb the majority way of thinking about what’s the “right” (efficiency optimal) thing to do is the one where you’re most prone to tumbling down that pit of gradually-becoming-not-fun-but-endure-to-be-the-best.

The irony of it is that Keen holds up Everquest as the game where he had the most casual, sandbox fun. From his previous posts, it seemed he even indulged in a bit of roleplaying as halflings there.

Me, I avoided Everquest like the plague because it was looking to be a carbon copy clone of a MUD I had already burned out on, just in graphics form. A world at the beginning, which gradually narrowed again at the top to be all about gear and raids and being the prestigious first to drop a big mob and drop RNG loot.

I’m dead certain you can find players out there who did play EQ as their serious raid game and then subsequently burned out of raiding and gave WoW a miss.

It’s not -solely- the fault of the game.

It’s also about where we as players were at that point in our gaming lives.

I, too, used to think it was down to me to save everybody else’s souls. Lemme tell you, being the minority burned-out cynical voice in a sea of awestruck WoW newbies often meant being drowned out in the face of fanboy fanaticism.

Eventually, I learned the value of patience and letting folks arrive at their own wisdom in their own time.

For some, raiding was something they would never burn out of. It suited their personalities and their preferences to a T. Little wonder they would be perfectly fine with a game that holds up that minigame as the ideal to always strive toward.

For others, their epiphanies would hit them years down the road. But it was a road they had to travel to learn it. Just as we did.

I’m not much of a list maker, so I won’t be posting long numerical lists this holiday season.

But on this Christmas eve, I’d like to ask all of you to spare a thought for your inner child.

When you play a game, what exactly is it that you find fun?

Playing with others? Playing against others? Playing with your friends or family? Playing by yourself?

Learning something new by discovering it yourself? Learning something new by reading up about it? Learning something new by being taught by someone else? Or preferring the comfort of the old and familiar rather than the new and unknown?

Being the best? In what way? Richest, most powerful, most pretty, most well-known, most well-liked or hated, most eccentric, most OCD? Or “mosts” and “bests” don’t interest you at all?

There are games out there that match better to your preferences than others. Go find them, and have fun – your special brand of fun – rather than be stuck in a game where you’re unhappy because it’s the only one you know.

Let’s Play: Sleuth (Who Murdered Gypsy Syl?)

So you wanna be a detective...

(Continued from Part 1.)

Upstairs, the first door on the left leads into a sparsely decorated guest room.

A pair of legs poke out from underneath the bed. Another murder?

Then I see them shift. Nope, a live one.


I cough discretely and introduce myself once more to the owner of the legs. “I don’t want to interrupt your search of whatever is under there, but I’m just verifying the whereabouts of everyone last evening.”


Wow. Touchy.

“I’m afraid it is, if we want the murderer caught. So I have to ask you again.”


“Thank you,” I say. “You’ve been very helpful.”

He’s wrong. I’m afraid someone -did- see him.

I try not to let any of my growing suspicion show on my face as I continue the investigation. I still need to find the murder weapon and the location of the crime. Extra corroboration couldn’t hurt either.


It’s all I can do to not screech to an immediate halt and reverse out of the room. I try to act nonchalant and check out the bottle of vitamins with my magnifying glass as if nothing is wrong. Then step out again just as quickly and wordlessly.

Is he following me?


The bedroom is deserted. A massive canopied bed is the centerpiece of the room. The bedsheets are rumpled and an emptied bottle of champagne protrudes from under the bed. Was someone having a party in here last night?

Then the speckled cream label of the bottle catches my eye.

I whip out my trusty magnifying glass.


I leave it where it is.

I have visions of stepping out the bedroom holding the bloodied weapon and looking right into the eyes of the person coming out of the bathroom.

They don’t end well for me.


In the study I find another guest. “Just the person I wanted to see,” I say, smiling broadly. “I need your help to confirm someone else’s story. They say they spent last evening with you, so both of you are innocent and could be each other’s alibis.”

At the same time, I check out the area of floor that has caught her attention. Not blood, alas. I was hoping to get this solved quickly.

Another coffee stain. Perhaps from the empty mug atop the desk.


Yep, -he’s- the one.

And he may just have seen me walk into the room and talk to the lady too.


I try to swallow, my mouth uncomfortably dry. I can’t shake off the unnerving sensation of eyes boring into the back of my neck. The shadows are watching me.

I need to find the murder scene, fast!

I scramble downstairs in a hurry, hoping a sharp-eyed guest may have spotted something untoward.

I can’t exactly comb every square inch of flooring with one dinky magnifying glass. Not without getting bashed on the head from behind.


Fortunately, not the murderer.

Unfortunately, just inclined to marveling at the beauty of small details.

No blood on this floor.


Third time’s the charm.


“You’ve been -very- helpful, indeed,” I say. “Stay here a sec, won’t you?”

I race back upstairs to fetch the murder weapon.


I want to scream.

I really do.

I don’t think he’s seen me yet.

I stealthily duck to a crouch, using the canopied bed as cover, and slide out the bottle of champagne ever so silently…. moving slow enough to not make a sound, and swiftly as I dared so as to get out of here unseen.

Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around.


I book it downstairs.

Fully expecting an unfriendly face waiting for me at the crime scene to make it a double murder.


I’m saved.

“THANK you for staying,” I say fervently, fighting the urge to keep looking over my shoulder. “It’s time to gather everyone.”


I lay out my case.

Here, the scene of the murder. Here, the murder weapon. And here, the stories of those I questioned, who all point to…


Some things still remain unanswered, though, and I’d appreciate the help of any other sleuths in the audience.

  • The motive of the killing is still unknown. And what exactly happened last evening in the living room?
  • How did the murder weapon end up where it was, unseen by other guests?
  • For that matter, what exactly was going on in the bedroom?!

I never did see that one last elusive guest… did I?

A big thank you goes out to everyone who unwittingly took part in this murder mystery. :)

Turn-about is fair play. And I’d love for all of you to give the game a shot. There’s another mansion layout too.

It’s simple, but the fun comes in trying to fill in the blanks with your own narrative.

Can you beat my score? It’s possible to solve it in less moves and be a Holmesian Sleuth.

Or you could progress from just being suspected by the murderer, to being stalked… then killed.

Instructions for Running Sleuth:

1) Download Sleuth from the Norland Software site. Unzip it to an easy to find folder, like c:\dosgames\sleuth.

2) Download DOSBox, install and run it.

3) Type the following into DOSBox (change c:\dosgames to whatever your directory structure is)


4) Once in the directory, type sleuth to run. (Hooray, old DOS commands)

Option A will start you with the game’s pre-provided name list. Option B is personalized sleuth for you to type in your own names.

If you should get tired of all that typing per game, it is quite simple to edit the files DESCR.V1 and DESCR.V2 to use your own names for option A.


Like so. Scroll down to the end of the file.

The first line is first name. Next line, last name. Final line in capitals is however you want to refer to them when typing in commands in sleuth.

There’s room for seven guests.

Hope y’all enjoy.

Let’s Play: Sleuth (Sometimes The Simplest Games Create the Best Narrative)

So you wanna be a detective...

I’m back!

The Windows 7 system seems more or less stable, and I’ve managed to get most of my habitually used programs reinstalled without too much hair loss. I’m sure I’ll stumble into an unpleasant surprise later down the road when I’m missing a less-used program, but well, I’m a cynic and need my crusty pessimist coating to cover up my soft and squishy eternal optimist insides.

Naturally, we will celebrate this system upgrade by playing a DOS game!

Sleuth is an interactive murder mystery by Eric Miller of Norland Software.  It’s one of my favorite games for its ability to generate a narrative that your imagination quickly builds upon, made especially interesting when you play a personalized game and type in all your friends’ names as potential suspects and victims. Or you could input all your favorite characters’ names and end up crafting a story based around them eyeing each other askance. (Been there, done that.)

I think you know where I am going with this…

On the guest list today are a bunch of bloggers: Jeromai, Joseph Skyrim, Gypsy Syl, Zubon, Ravious, Eri (J3w3l) and Bhagpuss!

I generously threw myself in, hoping to be the victim. Except the game had other ideas…

Three times I restarted, and this person INSISTED on being dead.


So be it. The investigation begins…


Past the police barrier, the mansion is quiet. Too quiet.

Six guests have been on lockdown, prevented from leaving until the investigator arrives on the scene to interrogate them and examine the evidence. Let us hope that I arrived swiftly enough and can solve this post-haste, before the murderer has time to clean up their tracks and make their escape. The wandering presence of the five other guests may have been an impediment thus far, but the threat of being caught may make the killer desperate or violent.


Only a piano in the conservatory greets me. The silence is more than a little unnerving. I debate on the wisdom of calling out for the guests, but I don’t want them assembling up just yet. Better to catch them by themselves and get their stories individually.

A brownish stain on the piano catches my eye, and I squint shortsightedly at it. Where did my magnifying glass go again? I grope around for it in my pockets, and then realize it’s fallen out onto the floor. I scoop it up and check out the items in the room more carefully. Nope, not blood, just a coffee stain. Nothing out of the ordinary.


The living room is deserted. The chairs and divan appear to have been sat on rather regularly. The candy dish is empty, wrappers strewn around the table. So there were people in this house once, but where IS everyone?!

The rhythmic thud of a knife hitting a chopping board interrupts my reverie, and I make my way over to the source of the sound.


In the kitchen, I find the first suspect, assembling slices of bread and cheese together. “G’day,” I say, and introduce myself as the police inspector in charge of this crime. “I’m afraid you’re a suspect in this murder, as is everyone else in the house, so I have to ask you about your whereabouts this evening.”


Right. If I could find anyone in this gigantic mansion.

I thank the man and take my leave.



Though quite a number of suspect items have caught my eye (so many possible ways to kill someone – a bottle opener and a pepper mill make decent impromptu clubs, not to mention the heavy can of unpronounceable soup) and warranted thorough examination with a magnifying glass, nothing so far shows any signs of being used as a murder weapon.

Something seems off about the wallpaper in this dining room. The repeating pattern doesn’t line up quite as nicely in one spot.

I’d like to say that sharp insightful eyes immediately knew the location, but it took a lot of trial-and-error probing before a panel clicked and slid smoothly out of the way.


Momentarily intrigued by the strange black obelisk on the floor (no bloodstains, though,) I get the fright of my life when I turn around and see a face staring out at me in a corner of the secret passage.

Good lord, man, what in the world are you doing in here, I want to ask. But think the better of it.

After all, I’m here too, aren’t I?

I take a deep breath, introduce myself and ask my questions.



Perhaps they’re just the ramblings of a madman.

Stressful situations do things to people, I hear.

I scramble out of the secret passageway in a hurry, aiming to get to the upstairs rooms. Downstairs was a bit of a wash.


I nearly collide with someone else in a great hurry to get downstairs.

“Hold it!” I say, and introduce myself a third time. “Where were you this evening?”


I let the man go on his way then, the sudden pounding in my chest so loud I fear others might be able to hear it too.

I have to sit down on the steps for a second, to calm the thumping down. The stories contradict. One of them is lying to me. One of them may be the murderer.

I need to find the one person who can exonerate one and damn the other.

I steel myself.

The upstairs awaits.