LFG: I Want to Talk / Silence is OK

Random thought inspired by a discussion about an LFG tool in an MMO I don’t even play:

What if our LFG finders had two radio buttons with the options

  • Prefer talking
  • Prefer silence

Would both see equal use? Or at least sufficient people opting for either option that both would be functional?

Would the social be able to find similarly oriented people and have great conversations as they do the group content, or would it just be full of too many chatterers and not enough listeners?

Would the group content of the talkers slow down because they’re spending additional time conversing, or would it conversely speed up because they’re actually communicating strategies and getting everyone on the same page faster?

Would the silent group gather a disproportionate number of ‘lazy’ players who can’t be arsed talking and would they gel naturally without words into a model of speedrun efficiency or devolve into an uncoordinated uncommunicative mess?

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Some Games Are Not For Playing / The Long Dark Winter of Gaming

One of the things I’ve decided is up my alley is that I tend to play games of accumulation. Collection is a motivation.

It is why I gravitate to games like GW2 that let me accumulate and -keep- accumulating until the clutter gets overwhelming; games like Warframe with no functional inventory limit and all the collection possibility in the world; games like Path of Exile where I stuff things into 40 stash tabs and call it a day; games like Terraria and Minecraft and Don’t Starve where I can build a base and fill every last square inch with chests.

Even in A Tale in the Desert, when I’d finally ended up distracted from the game and left my house behind (in the two or three Tales I semi-played), it was bound to contain a ton of stuff stashed away for future player scavengers to celebrate their haul.

It is probably why I tried The Long Dark recently and felt uncomfortable with its core gameplay. It is a survival scavenging game of forever and harshly dwindling meters.

ld1

By design, it seems built for players of a more nomadic scavenger bent who are happy to raid an area until it lacks any usable supplies and then move on to the next locale.

Conversely, what I really want to do is collect all the wood into a gigantic pile and set up a warm and cozy base camp in a cave or a building from which to venture out and roam and collect resources to deposit back at ‘home.’

ld3

This seems to be a type of gameplay unrewarded and made near impossible by Long Dark – your fires get blown out by wind, you can’t build fires indoors, you will likely run out of matches to light fires eventually, your fires devour fuel and there is never enough wood, and the further you venture away the more likely you are to freeze to death before you can find/produce/get back to a source of warmth.

ld2

The game subtly presents my subconscious escapism with one of its utter nightmares: “You can never collect enough stuff. It will run out. You will lose it all.”

I gamely tried it for 5 hours.

The story mode seemed like a fairly straightforward tutorial, but I took a break when faced with a tedious fetch quest and googled to find out that the rest of the episodes are not yet in place, diminishing my will to play it until it’s all complete.

The survival mode, well, was not for me.

ld4

First, I randomized my start location for the hell of it and picked the normal Voyager difficulty mode – whereupon my fortune deposited me in Forlorn Muskeg, one of the harder maps apparently. I lasted under a day, having accidentally fallen into a lake through thin ice and hastening my demise, which was already looming via starvation.

Having determined that this average difficulty level was too hard for my liking, I decided to give myself the best shot and picked the beginning options – easiest Pilgrim difficulty and Mystery Lake, a map intended for new players.

I lasted under two days, having spawned in some wintry forest or another, finding a wind-exposed wooden lookout shelter with not much resources, and later making the ill-judged mistake of going to sleep in a bedroll without a fire (I couldn’t find enough wood to make one that would last long enough for sleeping) and promptly never waking up again, having opted to snugly freeze to death by clicking yes to a couple of buttons.

ld5

I tried it again, spawning in a different location that led me to a logging camp with a stove in an open exposed building and around four enclosed buildings that had beds but did not allow for fires within.

After soundly boggling at the logic of being unable to sleep in the beds – for fear of freezing to death – nor being able to drag the bed mattress out to the skeleton of the building with the stove that supported a fire, I spent a night huddled by the stove reading and snoozing in the bedroll.

I calculated that there was probably enough wood in the vicinity to last one or two more nights, if I wanted to scavenge every last chair and branch to fuel the fire before the place would run out.

Since this prospect felt tedious in the extreme, I decided to hasten the “moving on” portion and continued roaming.

I stumbled across a bridge, some cars, something that looked like a guard shelter and a dam in the background. Huddling under the bridge protected from wind chill and seemed like a potential spot for a fire.

I calculated that scavenging around in the cars and shelter /might/ produce enough resources to last one night under the bridge, if I was very lucky, and/or proceeding to the dam to scavenge for more resources to rapaciously consume might occupy another day.

But the thought of rapacious consumption was so depressing it destroyed my will to continue and I quit out under the bridge instead.

ld6

Nope, Long Dark appears not to be for me.

A little skimming of various forums suggested that the ‘game’ part of Long Dark constituted of getting very familiar with the maps and potential resource placements and efficient routing from point A to point B.

This is ridiculously metagame-y for a game ostensibly about surviving in the Canadian wilderness and valuing a harsh simulation experience where gathering wood and fire construction and warmth maintenance takes up the greater part of the day.

Certain design choices seem in contrast with each other. Fire building as a simulation is “realistic” but I cannot even drag a branch with me into more sheltered conditions before I work on it to break it into pieces?

Certain design choices just don’t gel with my playstyle. I guess I’m more of a turtler than a rusher. Roaming and consuming is not really my thing, I build and farm and make little sustainable loops till infinite resources (or system lag). [Yes, Factorio is still on the wishlist. I know. #patientgamer]

No harm done. I’d found Long Dark in my massive Steam games collection (others call it a backlog, I call it a museum of idle choice), having presumably accumulated it in one Humble Bundle or another that was bought for other games. Tried it. Put it down. Till next time or never. As my mood takes me.

The experience does, however, crystallize the realization of why I always ask myself this criteria before I consider buying or seriously long term playing a game (as opposed to testing out for free in the short term):

Can I lose progress?

That is, can other players impact my progress negatively? Is the game designed so that I will lose stuff? (where stuff usually equates to progress in some fashion) Will I ever experience a period of backward progress where I will have wasted my time and have to do it all over again?

Others are fine with this. It is exciting, apparently. High risk, high reward. The tension is gratifying, rather than stressful and upsetting, or they -need- low lows in order to experience sufficient highs in a sort of yin and yang seesaw. Stuff is a temporary means to an end, or just a way of keeping score as it trades hands. They have ample time for do-overs. Or they’ll put up with it because they want to have the chance to inflict it on others.

(The only permadeath games that I’m fine with are in the roguelike genre. The keys to how I can make an exception seem to be because the account and my learning always experiences positive progression and any backward progress is solely due to my own actions, which retains the autonomy I seem to crave.)

Being acted on by others is the exact opposite of autonomy – a loss of control to rub salt into the already smarting wound of “stuff” loss to a collector.

So I’ve voluntarily taken myself out of the player audience for any games who choose to allow for this in their design. I know losing things won’t make an accumulator happy. Hoarders gotta hoard.

In so doing, I’ve also realized that the current crop of multiplayer MMO-likes coming down the line are probably not for me, gameplay-wise.

They’re not for playing anymore.

But they just might be for watching.

Take the currently contentious Fallout 76.

At this point, the controversy surrounding Fallout 76 is more entertaining than the game itself.

I’ve been catching the early hours of Cohhcarnage’s stream since those are usually the same times I play. I have my accumulatory game going in the primary monitor and keep Cohh’s stream up on the secondary monitor.

I miss half of the stuff going on, but since those are usually instances of scrolling messily through console UI scavenging and crafting items or wandering through the wilderness shooting some variant of a mutant zombie with guns in identical fashion, it seems like no big loss.

Instead, I watch the bits of content that interest me. The occasionally lovely wilderness landscapes as opposed to the ruined junkyard scenes, and the environmental storytelling that Cohh will call attention to when he stumbles across it.

Watching yet another streamer patiently solo a super mutant base or a wendigo cave lets me appreciate the strategic gameplay aspect (such that it is – ie. Scouting with binoculars or a sniper rifle zoom and picking off enemies, circle strafing with shotguns, beating the face in on some other mobs with a super sledge to save ammo – basic, but at least it’s there) secondhand, without actually have to do the combat myself at its slow and stately pace.

It’s outsourced gameplay!

Which makes a tremendous amount of sense the first time one of these streamers run into a game-breaking bug or otherwise unwelcome experience and you watch them bite their lip and either control themselves with herculean effort or go off into a frustrated rant (or both.)

Well, at least they’re getting paid to entertain. Twitch audiences thrive on schadenfreude. Which presumably makes the $60 game additionally feel like an investment in content for their stream and community and makes it much easier to rationalize the purchase, over someone who was hoping to get their pay-off solely from the game itself.

It sometimes makes me wonder if this isn’t the new model that some companies are deciding to experiment with, post-microtransactions era.

Selling individual copies of the game itself is so passé. I mean, you’d have to extend your reach to a really broad audience if you want to make sufficient money off box sales alone – which may greatly limit the type of game one has to make and design, trying to be all things to all people.

Ditto subscriptions, you’re still limited to the one customer one payment model, albeit monthly.

Except in both the above cases, your customers suffer attrition real fast, from boredom and distraction and the passage of time and you keep having to create new content at possibly unsustainable rates to slow this attrition down.

So enter microtransactions and lockboxes and content DLC. Now your one customer has the potential of making -multiple- payments, of possibly very high value, with more freedom of payment from the tyranny of a calendar month. The trick is to frame your model so that the bulk of your customers accept it or even welcome it, as opposed to reacting like a vampire presented with some garlic or a cross.

And as they played around with variations on this, they realized that there were ‘whales’ who would pay the bulk of the cash, amidst a sea of tiny minnows paying small or nil amounts… and games started shifting their design around to cater to the happiness of said whales.

But how else can you earn money for your company? Where is the big moolah?

eSports is one, of course. If you can turn your game into a sports franchise, complete with celebrities and competitions, wow, will that money will flow in.

And then there’s this strange phenomenon that is attracting eyes… game spectating on Twitch. People are paying money to watch other people play games, or rather, supporting as patrons the lifestyles of live entertainers who make game playing a watchable entertaining experience.

Hrm… What if we design games that are meant for Twitch?

  • They’d have to be games that a large number of people would rather watch someone else play.

(That is, it might require a lot of skill or learning or time to progress so that most people can only aspire to such heights, or challenge a player with risky endeavors and potential loss and setbacks that many loss-adverse people are unwilling to experience firsthand.)

  • They’d have to provide a wealth of interesting, unpredictable, emotional experiences to provoke streamer reaction.
  • It’ll have to look attractive enough to watch, be clear and simple enough to visually parse and understand (ie. not GW2).
  • It could have high priced microtransactions.

(Streamers -are- whales, after all, or have a high likelihood of becoming one. They’re receiving monetary donations from a collective of viewers and thus probably more willing to invest some of it back into a game that is enabling them to profit from it.

The presence of viewers creates social peer pressure to spend – who wants to be seen as a skinflint? Especially when 8000 eyes are on you? No, you want to provoke awe and admiration and even a little jealousy. Pop goes that credit card.)

  • Possibly even disposable after some time, because popular interest will move on to the next new thing, so why step into the trap of trying to keep an MMO alive forever?

New World is another interesting case.

I have not bothered signing up for the alpha. Or beta. Or whatever stage it is in now.

As much as I am attracted by the prospect of a massive world and the freedom to explore and do whatever you want to do, I am equally turned off by the current website statements that the world is dangerous and you’ll need to socialize and the whole obsession around PvP and territorial control.

At the moment, my craving for autonomy wins out and ranks far higher in priority than the prospect of having to adjust my gameplay with and around other people. I’m content to explore an infinite modded Minecraft world for a similar more peaceful experience.

Oh yes, and there’s that whole thing about item loss. When someone kills you, you drop your gear and they can loot you.

Sure, it’s presumably disposable gear, if the game is designed properly. Don’t wear what you can’t lose. The gear is a tool to engender the experiences one desires.

I understood this from a theoretical basis a long time ago, when conversing with MUD players who flagged themselves “PK” (Player Killers) and evolved their whole unique culture of chasing each other around the MUD striving for a victory. A successful kill where the person put up a sporting fight meant they’d count coup off the person and just take one item; cowards and braggarts and people they disliked that didn’t fit into their little clique they would loot blind.

(As I found no joy in the actual fight or chase itself, and would probably flee like a pansy at the slightest provocation, you may rest assured I never flagged myself PK to risk complete item loss.)

Eve Online seems to have similar principles around the ships that a player flies. I get this. It’s a disposable asset that allows players who love the fray to get in there and mix it up with the right tools.

The brain understands and the heart of a hoarder screams NOOOOO… It is MINE. I WANTS IT. *GOLLUM*

Yeah. Item loss games. Not for me. See above criteria about losing progress.

For accumulators, every last speck of completely excessive bloodstone dust, dragonite ore, or empyreal dust is progress.

dragoniteore

As for the dip in the graph, I did a bit of tidying after the legendary got built. Don’t worry, the dragonite ore is still there. Just in brick form, as a compressed dragonite ingot.

I can’t even throw useless stuff away on my own. Why would I opt to play a game that lets others take stuff from me?

As for Crucible, well: “Crucible is a third-person, last one standing game of trust and betrayal. Each match pits human and alien competitors with unique weapons and abilities against one another on a lush, alien world. Players make and break alliances on the fly. In Crucible it takes a mix of combat skill, strategic planning, and social finesse to survive.”

Alliance making. Trust and betrayal. Sounds like a Werewolf or Town of Salem game. Or Survivor or Hunger Games. “Social finesse” – Ha! I have none!

And I probably already have misanthropic trust issues without needing a game designed for backstabbing to rub it in that hell is other people. Nope, definitely not for me to be playing one of those either.

I also can’t shake the feeling that Amazon is developing games designed for and around Twitch. I mean, they own it, after all.

Games that are going to be far more interesting to spectate than play.

I’d cheerily -watch- both New World and Crucible.

I could flip channels and experience a dozen different New World lives in the time it would take to play one and either build the social connections necessary for progress – in the unlikely event that all timezones meshed – or live like a lone wandering hermit running away from “murderous player bandits” until one gets eaten by a bear.

I could watch -other- people undergo match after match of schmoozing and begging and screaming and wheeling and dealing in Crucible, shrieking “No, him, not me!”

Secondhand, it sounds distant enough to be highly amusing. Firsthand and up close, much less so.

War, war never changes.

But games, maybe they do.

Back and Forth, With Memory Like a Sieve

13 Oct, Sat

You’d think the weekend was for focus and progress, but you’d be wrong.

  • Warframe – Downloaded patch and stopped.

Apparently, a new update – Chimera – hit. The new stuff Arbitration missions requires a completed star chart and is seemingly pitched at high level players taking on high risk missions with chances of failure.

I don’t have a completed star chart, so that’s moot. I’m not at all high level, nor with sufficient mods yet to consider venturing into level 50-60 sorties, let alone top of the line stuff. I’m honestly fairly allergic to high chance of failure in my games so level of interest in Arbitration missions is nonexistent at this stage of my Warframe gameplay.

It’s fine.  There’s so much other stuff I could be doing. Level all the warframes, level all the weapons, finish all the side quests, actually complete the star chart, work on syndicate standing with all existing factions, collect all the mods and every time I stare at the launcher, I’m reminded I really want Chroma Prime but this time I want to try the farming route instead of the straight up buy route I went for Rhino Prime.

The patch download took forever though. By itself, it was pretty big. Then it offered to clean up my missions (to the tune of 800MB or so) with a warning that it would take a while, and I thought, “It’s the weekend and the day’s just starting, why not?”

Apparently, the “why not” was because it took about half an hour and threatened to cut straight into Megadestroyer time.

  • GW2 – Killed the Megadestroyer, one more itty bitty checkbox ticked on the Astralaria III collection.

May as well get it over with.

  • GW2 – Finished the Historical Gloves part of the Requiem armor collection.

Short of 7 mistonium for the next milestone in the requiem armor collection (historical gloves), so I did Chantry and Yatendi hearts in Jahai Bluffs to buy 10 mistonium with karma.

Rode around Sun’s Refuge completely lost trying to remember where the NPC was, finally gave up and checked a guide to discover / re-remember that she was in the Durmand Priory of Lornar’s Pass instead. *sigh* The problems with continuing a quest chain interrupted by days having gone by in between.

Later, I brought an alt scourge to try and earn more mistonium for the next step. Killed the Death-Branded Shatterer since it was up, did the Chantry heart, and wore out before completing the Yatendi heart. Quit out instead to go find something more fun to do.

I don’t quite understand how some people can go through 10 alts doing the same thing in a day, just to grind up the mistonium super quick.

Still, since they’re probably the ones willing to buy my sigils of nullification at the new established market rate, I’m not complaining.

  • Opus Magnum – Finished the tutorial and 75% of Chapter 1

I’ve been eyeing this puzzle game from Zachtronics for a while now, but never really willing to bite because it’s never dropped to 75% off and I know just how long I last with hard puzzle games.

Aka I did the first few puzzles of Spacechem and then never continued; and I looked at the first bits of TIS-100 and found it interesting but brain exploding; and I may have lasted through about 20% of Human Resource Machine before getting blocked/stumped at a branching path where both puzzles seemed more trouble than it was worth to figure out.

Sorry, but if I’m going to play only 25% of a puzzle game, I’m willing to only pay 25% of the price for one.

Being in a Humble Bundle, however, changes things.

The slight problem with this one was that I already owned about 3-4 of the games in the bundle, so I had to hem and haw a bit and rationalize that the 3 games I didn’t own + Opus Magnum made the $15 USD price tag worth it.

The last work week was hard going though, so after having delayed the purchase for a week or so already, I decided to treat myself with a weekend gift.

Opus Magnum was unwrapped swiftly.

The aesthetic layer around this game is a lot more clean cut and polished, as befits some kind of story about an Alchemist creating elegant Victorian steampunk alchemical engines.

Opus Magnum - Hangover Cure (100G, 67, 13, 2018-10-14-02-16-27)

Gameplay-wise, it’s a standard Zachtronics style puzzle game. You get a bunch of parts/components, some rules and boundaries to restrict the puzzle space, an end goal and it’s your job to place / shape / program the pieces so that the end goal is achieved.

Your solution is scored, based on several factors, and a little leaderboard graph pops up, showing you if you were completely normal and figured out the most popular average solution, or if you were ahead or fell behind the curve in some way.

It even lets you create a little GIF of your engines, to show them off to others in this social media connected age.

Competitive min-maxers, I think, go crazy for this. Some get obsessed with tuning and retuning the puzzle solutions to reach ever more efficient, ever more elegant solutions…or conversely trade off astronomical sums in the other factors just to bring their one desired factor down to the absolute minimum.

This Rock, Paper, Shotgun writer demonstrates it more effectively than I can.

I’m more of a satisficer. If the goddamn thing works, and lets me click on the “continue” button, I’m done. Good enough.

I’m pleased if I fall within the average, and if I don’t, so be it, it still fucking works, in its own unique way.

Ain’t got no time for anything more than that.

  • Warframe again – Did a bunch of missions, I don’t know, it all blurred together. Titania more or less done, the 3 Forma’ed Hek seems fairly good now; Leveled up Hydroid and Oberon a bit; Tried to open some relics for Chroma Prime parts (no go); Did 2 not-yet-completed star chart missions to test out the Hek 

I got back into Warframe late at night. The reddit had clued me in that there were apparently some spoilers/lore that needed to be embargo’ed in the Chimera patch, and I was amazed that I had attempted to play it in the morning and didn’t quite get around to it until the night.

You can imagine my amazement when I finished a few hours later, none the wiser, having not at all found nor completed the spoiler laden thing.

I tried to look in the Quests section of the Codex, and saw Mask of the Revenant included (but that was something that had dropped in the last update, and anyway, my Ostron standing was below that so the quest wasn’t even unlocked, moot point.)

Then staring at my warframe in front of me reminded me that I just wanted to go ahead and level some of them. Having been slightly addicted to a daily 7 hour affinity boost that dropped a day or two ago, I waffled for the space of three minutes before rationalizing that I’m mainly playing this heavily on weekends, so a 3 days affinity booster was affordable and made sense.

40 x 4 weekends = 160 platinum, the 30 day booster was 200 platinum, and it was highly unlikely I’d get more than 12 days of benefit out of it while playing Warframe in spurts as a secondary game, and also somewhat unlikely that I’d buy a boost -every- weekend in a month.

Just… for now, since I had a couple of new warframes and weapons to level up fast.

I’m getting good at this Pay-to-speed-things-up bit.

So I took said to-be-leveled-up things into my new favorite leveling spots – a multiplayer Dark Sector survival mission where there are oodles of Infested that all run at you blindly and can be shotgunned to death with my new slightly-more-deadly kitted out Hek, and where multiplayer means increased spawn rate and the possibility of some overpowered player coming in and farming everything for you while you stand there and shoot empty air to add sound effects.

An Intensify also dropped, somewhen amidst the chaos. Since this was my first Intensify, and also the last of the Streamline, Flow, Continuity, Reach quinfecta of basic-mods-you-should-really-have-to-kit-out-warframes-so-that-they-don’t-suck,-but-are-also-annoying-to-get, this was a welcome bonus.

At some point, I got tired of the multiplayer – the draw for me is the increased mob spawn rate and how fast things die, the turn-off is the fact that it is quite boring to stand around and not really do anything if some overpowered (but immensely helpful) player is cleaning out the map for you. Enlightened self-interest and greed says that this is bloody good for really quick leveling of stuff that will take forever otherwise; while the “yo, I want to actually shoot things myself and kill things, even if it takes 4 times as long” part of me kicks up a hissy fit in the background.

So you compromise between the two and go back and forth.

I did some easy solo Alerts, a solo Lith interception to try and farm more relics (not too well), then got bored at the mob spawn rate – I just can’t get enough void reactant to open the relic by myself before the interception completes and resets the relic – and switched to my first multiplayer Lith missions.

That took care of the spawn rate all right. The choosing of the relic part from 4 players was a lot more bamboozling, given that I have very little knowledge of what’s valuable and what’s not. I ended up weighing between what the other players picked, what I already owned, and trying to frantically recall the unique color coding of warframe where (I think) yellow means the rarest to pop, white is uncommon and brown/orange is the more common.

I got bored again after a few rounds of a Limbo Prime and Saryn Prime combination that essentially wiped out the entire map for us.  Effective, certainly, but when some kind of host migration/network error booted me out after the third round, I didn’t try to rejoin.

Throughout this, I’d been rocking my newly 3 forma’ed Hek shotgun. I’d managed to fit all the decent mods I owned on it by 3 forma, so I saw no need to continue forma’ing until and unless I got better mods. Things were dying with one shotgun blast, and I’d managed to cut the original slow-as-molasses reload speed to an acceptable 1.3 seconds or so.

The real question was, did I now have a gun that was capable of taking me past the mob level (35-45) I was previously struggling at?

Prior to this, I only owned one gun, the Vectis Prime, given free during a carnival of Twitch drops with which I’d left things running overnight just to farm things, that was capable of doing enough damage. The Vectis is a sniper rifle though, so while that niche was covered, I didn’t exactly have a close range, semi-AoE option.

Hence, the working really hard on upgrading the shotgun that was commonly recommended as a decent starter weapon capable of taking a player through the star chart.

Switched back to my Rhino Prime favorite, gave him the shotty, and tried a few Pluto missions. The results were pretty satisfactory. Most died in one hit, one or two mobs took two. It didn’t quite feel like I was struggling now, though I did struggle to recall how it was really like several weeks ago without the shotgun.

So I guess I can now put “complete the star chart” back on the long term goal agenda, among all the other things…

Tomorrow, for realz, I’ll try to do that story/lore thing. I ended up opening Reddit spoilers until I actually figured out where the eff it starts. I think I know where to go now.