Blaugust Day 1: And I’m Cutting Corners Already

Back from business trip, got home at 6pm, completely bushed.

Had a bath, then collapsed into bed, not really sure if it was going to be a nap or if I was going to sleep like the dead until the next morning.

Woke at 9pm.

Just in time to catch the very last sequence of TTS guild missions for the week, albeit with some preliminary cursing and swearing as my internet has been dropping out intermittently lately.

(I need to figure out the cause eventually, possibly something to do with the Killer NIC software/drivers or ethernet adapters not playing nicely together, or router issues, or is it my ISP, but thankfully, I installed a motherboard with -two- ethernet connections, one Intel, one Killer NIC, and I’ve experienced this problem before.

Then, what solved it was yanking out the Ethernet cable from the Intel adapter and sticking it into the Killer NIC one, which suddenly and completely stabilized the connection for months.

Now that it’s doing the same damn thing again, it’s time to do the opposite, yank it out of the Killer NIC one and stick it back into the Intel one, which *touches wood* seems to have resolved the issue. Weird.)

Finished guild missions. Open Reddit and blogs to find out there’s a massive explosion of GW2 news to catch up on, and a massive explosion of blog posts to read since Blaugust is here.

Went down the GW2 news rabbit trail a while: Sweet, the first beta weekend is actually set during my country’s super-long national day holiday celebration for turning 50 years of age (SG50). First time ever that real life and game stuff has coincided so nicely, since you get used to waking up at 3-5am for special game events when you’re living on the other side of the planet as the game developers’ work day.

There’s a massively long post about fractals that I haven’t had time to fully digest yet, and a whole bunch of Reddit reactions to it.

GW2 seems to be revving up to do some kind of big announcement at Gamescom 2015 too… possibly the anticipated “challenging group content.”

(Every time I say or type the phrase, it comes with this little bit of impending dread trickling down the back of my spine.)

As for Blaugust, well, I kinda want to join it so that my faithful readers have a whole lot of nice things to read for the month of August, to make up for my dead silence of July. I kinda want to get back into the blog posting habit. I kinda want to enjoy the whole social atmosphere of bloggers getting together and cheering each other on.

I haven’t had dinner yet.

I go out to the kitchen, reheat some leftovers, scan through the whole flood of Blaugust-related posts, and kinda groan about the whole “gotta sign up for Anook” thing, the “please update your posts here and there to make everyone’s lives easier,” the “hey, do use Twitter to announce your stuff” (I HATE TWITTER) and all the attendant administrative stuff that completely rips out the joy of writing and posting a nice simple blog post about what’s on your mind and what you’ve been doing and what you want to share.

Whatever happened to the good old days of “Yo, just put me on an RSS reader and check out what I’ve been up to, when you have the time?” All these ‘push’ technologies. *twitch*

I finish dinner.

It’s 11.30pm.

I kinda want to have an official Blaugust Day 1 post up by the 1st of August (local time). WordPress is a harsh mistress. She -knows- what time you post.

So you know what? Here, I’ll steal my Reddit post about raids and the anticipation of probable raids in GW2, clean it up a tide, and post it as food for thought:

I’m against raids that are similar to how other MMOs do raids, with design choices that promote exclusion, elitism and guild drama.

That means things like:

  • a repeating gear treadmill/hamster wheel for more and more stats on your gear to improve your performance so that you can kill bigger and badder bosses;
  • an RNG loot system where either people get jealous of other people getting stuff they also want or feel they’re never progressing or worse, are backsliding because everyone else is getting more powerful;
  • where people feel encouraged to jump guilds because they got lucky with drops and the rest are ‘too slow’ for them;
  • where others feel they can or should or have no choice but to kick their own fellow guildies out from participating in raids because their performance is not up to snuff, rather than helping them learn and getting better, and so on.

I probably wouldn’t mind guild-based instances in GW2 if: 

  • you get challenging PvE content (including getting to fight really big monsters) as a guild group;
  • where you can earn individual tokens or progress on an individual reward track per raid you attend so that you’re not at the whims of RNG;
  • where the guild as a whole has a different progression track to unlock bigger and badder monsters (preferably with some nifty guild hall rewards like trophies to show how far the group has gotten);
  • where raids can flexibly scale to the number of guildies you bring, rather than force a leader to bench someone because oops, only 15 people or whatever;
  • and most importantly where the stats playing field is, more or less, level between someone who had to tend to real life for a couple of months and someone who raids fanatically daily (or however frequently the raids occur) so that the former people do not get left behind, left out and otherwise excluded from learning the raid at any time. (See existing guild missions and triple trouble as good examples, anyone can be new even now, and still join in, learn how to do it and contribute equally.)

I may elaborate on it further later on. Feel free to jump on the topic or comment as you like.

As for the Anook thing, and other administrative details, you know what… I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

(Which is in about 2 minutes’ time.)

P.S. No, I still draw the line at Twitter.

Says It All, Really

In case anyone is wondering why I dislike on principle games that heavily stress vertical progressing stats-on-gear-make-performance-better gameplay: A Rant Over At The Grumpy Elf’s – You’d Be A Good Player, If You Had Some Gear.

Of course, it is conceivable that part of the dislike stems from the excessive and almost hostile competitive-focus of that particular game too.

A game that promotes the mentality of “if this player has more stats, it helps everyone and has no detrimental effect on your personal rewards gained” can nullify the instinctive dislike a little, though it’ll still grate when one realizes another player is only doing better because they have more numbers on their gear.

Postcards from Procedurally Generated Worlds

Syp from Bio Break is asking this about procedural generation:

“If it’s a bunch of cobbled together randomness, then why do I want to explore it? None of it is connected to a special narrative, so it exists without purpose, without meaning.”

I would like to counter with a few things.

Firstly, I wonder if we’ve lost the true meaning of exploration after being taught by Wildstar and GW2 that it’s about getting to points on a map and then having an achievement ding.

Or even after being taught by WoW and Skyrim (and Wildstar and GW2) that it’s about going to someplace and having a handcrafted scripted scene or story play out for you.

That seems to me like going for a tour or a guided experience, rather than exploration per se.

(That’s not to say that it’s bad.

The linearity of The Wolf Among Us and the elegant way its aesthetics told a story with a beginning, middle and end made for a wonderfully -immersive- experience…

…but it’s a bit of a stretch to say that one was -exploring- the game, unless one really sat down to map out every last possible branch of story, or even dabbled with exploration by rewinding a chapter or two to see how the story or characters might change.)

Here’s Google’s definition of exploration:

exploration

The highlights are mine, because I think they rather succintly answer Syp’s question.

You can want to explore something because it’s unfamiliar, because it’s new, because it’s novel. Because you’re checking it out to see if you can find any purpose or meaning in a locale previously unknown to you.

(Many games, when they are new and all their systems and geography unknown, draw explorers like magnets. And once everything is laid out in guides and on third party websites, when all the novelty is lost and everything predictable, that’s where explorers start to get really bored.)

The search for resources or information or knowledge that other people don’t know about is a big deal to explorers. It’s one of the things Bartle checks you out for, before labeling you an explorer.

Many sandbox games dangle resources as the bait for the WHY someone would go out and explore what could be merely a bunch of rocks and sand. Eve Online, A Tale in the Desert, Minecraft, Terraria, Don’t Starve, a ton of other games in the survival crafting genres, need I really go on?

And sometimes you just explore because it’s -there-, because you want to be thorough and make sure you’ve seen its every nook and cranny, because the mountain was there to be climbed, and because the maze or puzzle was there to be figured out and solved.

Not every game has to be played for story and narrative.

Not every player expects a game designer to serve each person the same scripted experience.

Part of the fun in a procedurally generated game is that you yourself may not encounter the exact same thing twice. That your next playthrough can be different. That it can be unpredictable, forcing you to react in a different way.

Others have chimed in with additional points, such as:

  • Purpose and meaning being in the eye of the beholder and that it can be up to each player to create that purpose, meaning and narrative for themselves in a procedurally generated game,
  • that player interactions often form the meat and potatoes of story and narrative in such a game and the very fact that they are unique one-off events that will never quite happen again in the same way can be super-appealing for some people,
  • and that designers can actually use procedural generation in a sensible way and layer set pieces or handcrafted content over other layers that were procedurally generated so that the results look a lot better than what Daggerfall produced in 1996.

But rather than quote the entire Wikipedia article on procedural generation which highlights games like Dwarf Fortress and Left 4 Dead and plenty of other games that use it in interesting ways, I’ll just leave these here:

Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Bio Break

Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Bio Break

Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Procedural Generation

Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Procedural Generation

Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Bio Break

Minecraft – Running Red 2 modpack – seed: Bio Break

6-2

Minecraft – Test Pack Please Ignore modpack – seed: Bio Break

Your Loss, Syp

Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Your Loss, Syp

Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Bio Break

Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Why I Explore

I barely moved from the spawn location to snap these shots.

I rolled these up simply for the purposes of this post.

And I don’t know about you, but there’s at least one seed I’ll be revisiting again that just -cries- out for a story of a survivor shipwrecked onto a mostly desert island with some jungle in the distance.

What does the rest of the continent hold, pray tell?