Bragtoberfest: Killing Time

Yep, that seems to describe what I’ve mostly been up to in the last few days.

One is still waiting for Halloween and the pace of regular updates to rev back up again in GW2, so until then I’ve nothing much to do but spread out my attention in a million places at once.

I’ve contented myself with dailies pretty much every day but Oceanic Friday, where I join TTS for a whole sequence of “raids” that go from easy to ‘needs organization’ to ‘needs organization and patience, but ain’t really hard.’

That’s karka queen – just show up and hit stuff, Tequatl – just show up early enough to get a spot on the map, kill as many dragons as the leaders feel like spawning and face the only tough decision of which alt to bring next, Triple Trouble Wurm – just show up to wait so that you get a spot on the very coveted map, wait for the leaders to explain everything to the new people, and perform the roles/functions you’re used to do, and finally guild missions – just show up to marvel at how 50+ people are herded from place to place without losing -too- many people, and try not to watch the clock too impatiently.

(I guess you could call that a whole bunch of scheduled “killing times,” if not raids per se.)

That sequence without weekly guild missions could be a nightly affair if I wanted to attend, but since I’m sorta on an attention break from GW2, I may as well not push the repetition too hard.

Dabbling with Orcs Must Die is, of course, a lot of orc killing time.

Playing with Mountain involves a lot of -actual- killing of time. (I mostly surf the internet alongside, or risk overloading my computer by running a Feed the Beast launcher server setup for single player and a Minecraft client while Steam and Mountain are going. Poor Core 2 Duo 2.3 Ghz processor.)

1mountain_1

There’s a certain wisdom to my mountain.

It’s officially called MOUNTAIN, by the way, because it needs a certain gravitas, but Doone nagged and nagged until I gave in and gave it an alias.

So now it’s MOUNTAIN aka Puppy.

It picked up a trash can that almost looked like a grey candle and a gramophone.

On the other side, it apparently wants to go on an around-the-world sailing trip or something.

1_mountain_2

Oh, and there’s a companion crate.

I also figured out how to pick up objects and more or less, rearrange them. It involves a lot of holding down of the left mouse button over the object in question,  and stopping and moving the mouse cursor just outside the window as the object flies into the air.

Done just right, it pauses long enough to mess around with the mouse cursor in and out of the window, shoving the oftentimes invisible object around until the angle is -just- right, and then clicking the left mouse button one more time to send it thudding back to land.

So I’ve taken the opportunity to shove under the rug (or under the mountain, so to speak) the objects I find unsightly or that don’t quite fit. Goodbye pathetically modeled clock and very boring gramophone with apparently only one song.

MOUNTAIN continues on.

Then there’s self-killing time.

I seem to be between goals and feeling rather aimless in my Agrarian Skies map for Minecraft currently, so I took a break to try out the Crash Landing mod.

Wow. Let’s just say I now know why the designer of that mod made it so that the “create a new world” button will automatically set you up in the appropriate Crash Landing map.

Thirst and maintenance of a cool temperature are just as important as not-starving in this mod. So the initial start is a rather tough trial-and-error process (at least, if you’re not cheating and getting tips/ideas from others who’ve done it before) where one wastes a lot of crucial start time just exploring and poking around and figuring out what the heck is going on, which leads to eventual death from thirst, or heatstroke, or maybe starvation, because one basically ran out of resources before a self-sustaining loop could be set up.

Then there’s night. The zombies are cranked up viciously in this mod – there’s infernal mob prefixes and suffixes going on, I think, as well as a great variety of buffed variants – I saw one zombie flying on a mini-ghast once. I’ve died multiple times to impatience because I got bored waiting out the night in a confined area and tried to kill a few zombies…. it never quite works out to -just- a few. They just keep sidling their way in, if I’m dumb enough to open the door.

(I’ve now given in and am going to follow a suggested start strategy which goes for a bed established before night 1, for future attempts. Because it’s really boring otherwise.)

Still, I keep dying to -something- or other before I can even get a dirt/tree or simple water loop going. And there goes that game and that world.

So, there’s plenty of room for further tries and improvement there.

Finally, attending today’s Bragtoberfest FPS event added up to plenty of mob wave killing time.

Izlain made an executive decision to go for the Mann vs Machine mode in TF2, since that was a way to get everybody in the same party and  on the same server.

This turned out to be a rather nice state of affairs, as it’s much harder (for me anyway) to find a sizeable group of people playing co-op together.

Prior attempts at this mode didn’t turn so well in normal pickup server mode – a couple of wave failures means individuals quit in droves. A regular group like we had gamely gives it a go a few times, and then changes tactics, or adjusts difficulty or changes maps as a last resort or something if it doesn’t work out. Bottom line, it’s done together, whatever it is.

This mode is really fun if played this way. A whole group of players cooperate to defend against waves of bots, instead of other players. Said bots are naturally a bit more buffed up than usual to make it challenging. And there’s plenty of shiny loot drops for doing well too – I seem to have gotten a lot more TF2 stuff than I’m used to.

As suspected, ping times were a mite challenging. The first few games chanced to be on EU servers, probably somewhere in Great Britain. This gave lovely ping to our UK folks, but I was pretty much watching a delayed slideshow for the first game. Then I dc’ed. Or the server gave up on me. Or my own computer running PotatoOS decided it couldn’t render the frames anymore. Who knows.

Ping times were jumping from 388ms up to 600ms and back again.I made a hasty readjustment of resolution down from a normal 1920×1080 down to about 1024 x 768.

This at least took out stress on my ancient computer from the equation, and left me playing on the second server at a more steady 400ms.

(I kinda want to laugh at that phrase.)

One was kind of playing ‘predictively’ with that sort of ping. See something in the distance? Empty a clip into it, wait a couple seconds, and hope a kill is registered.

Woe betide me if a mob actually comes up close to me, because I’ll probably be dead before I can fire off a shot. Just wait a second for the death screen to come up and then respawn, that kinda thing.

The good news is that I went for my old fallback of being an engineer, and no one else in the group was really grappling with me over wanting to be one of the two engineers we were allowed to have.

As I shared in-game, the lovely thing about the Team Fortress genre (Classic and 2) is that there’s a niche and a class for people with crap aim and even crap ping.

The sentry gun auto-aims, and the sentry gun doesn’t lag.

Where the human mainly comes in, is in the tactical placement and maintenance of the sentry gun.

Other people can get their kicks from being a fast actiony super reflexes scout or a super-pinpoint accurate sniper, me, I get my kicks from seeing my sentry gun rack up a disgusting number of kills – because -I- put it there.

The cleverer and more defensive the position, the better, though that sort of thing mostly takes experimentation and watching what others do and time playing the game to see what works or doesn’t.

tf2score

I mean, really now, what other shooter can you walk around with 400+ms ping, and get respectable amounts of overall damage in (even on the tank), get kills/assists AND heal/support other people, regardless of how many times you died from not even seeing what shot you in the face or back.

(Sniper, spy, demoman bomb or soldier rocket, usually. Maybe a few Sentry Busters because I miss seeing it walk up and by the time it squats and triggers itself, it’s too late to run with my ping.)

And as much as I dislike the medic class in TF2, as compared with the old TFC one which was all about offensive medic’ing and concussion grenade jumps (my favorite opponents and opposite number nemesis, as a flag-defending engineer), I have to admit it fulfills the *groan* now commonly accepted “healer” niche trained by the ye-olde standard traditional MMO.

You know, the niche that the stereotypical girlfriend is expected to like to do.

Sometimes, I don’t know what makes me cringe more, someone expecting that all girls will naturally gravitate towards this role or bringing it up as an example ‘my first game’ ‘easy to cope with’ playstyle, or to hear an actual girl admit that she actually likes the niche. (It’s like, great, more stereotype confirmation, but I mean, what can you do if some people really like to play healer? Let them, I guess. And personally try to play more games without a pure holy trinity.)

Not that we had that problem here. We rarely had a medic running during the Bragtoberfest event, and we still succeeded, so there. Nyah. And all that.

Without a medic or uber-charge god mode, there’s still health packs to pick up on one’s own, or humping an engineer’s dispenser and so on.

And if you really really like to heal people, then, sure, be a medic and no one will mind you shadowing them and pumping them full of health and uber-charge either. There’s a place for you too *sighs*

Jjust as there’s a place for the ‘boom headshot’ people in the sniper class, or the ‘lots of explosions hee hee hee’ folks in the demoman and soldier classes (depending on if you like ’em timed traps or linear BFG style) or the ‘my aim’s not great, but I’m happy to hold down the left mouse button and vaguely point in a direction” HWguy (I play that a lot too) or the “I love being sneaky and ganking people from behind and driving them apeshit” spy.

Eventually that server up and shut down on us, which was even a better silver cloud in the lining, because we moved to an NA server after that.Our UK folks got around 175 ping, but I got to a presentable and playable 250ms ping, which is decent enough to actually attempt shooting and getting some semi-on-time feedback on the screen.

I didn’t have the faintest clue what guns I was carrying – apparently playing TF2 at some ancient time ago, I equipped myself with a Frontier Justice shotgun and a Lugermorph pistol.

The Frontier Justice shotgun was a little useless to me at only 3 shots a clip, facing a horde of robot mobs, with shaky aim and unreliable ping. I -think- it might have had a purpose in a lower ping flag defending type of game where I set up a little killbox with my sentry gun and need something to quickly off an opposing player from behind as he or she is taking out my sentry gun.

I didn’t use it much in the Mann vs Machine games, but I did get a very surprising amount of mileage out of the Lugermorph.

On just checking the wiki now, it’s apparently functionally identical to the standard Pistol engineers get (go figure, at least this F2P game isn’t P2W in this respect) but I was quite pleased to see it had a very large clip size, and there were store upgrades (as in the Mann vs Machine mode has an in-game store as part of its game mode, to buy upgrades, like Counterstrike and so on) to increase firing speed and clip capacity.

As we killed each wave of mobs, we earned some cash that could be spent to buy that-game-only upgrades, and I found that increasing both those things pretty much gave me a machine gun in the shape of a pistol. Just hold down and all the bullets would come out.

It’s also hitscan, so I didn’t have to compensate for lag and lead targets (a skill I’m quite poor at.) As long as I hit it between the crosshairs on my screen, my client would eventually tell the server and everybody else that I did hit what I hit. Eventually. 400 or 200ms later.

While the damage fell off quite a bit at long range, assisting with kills was something to do while waiting for the mobs to get within sentry gun range. Plus, there was running up to a slow moving tank and emptying entire clips of it at point-blank range if it had moved out of range of my sentry gun (and the gun was still needed where it was to fend off other mobs.)

Good fun all around.

Then it was on to Killing Floor, a game I only got to play once upon a time, during some kind of Steam sale event which was dangling special Steam achievements in oddball games.

I found it a rather respectably amusing shooter, with hidden depth I was probably not appreciating from not having a regular co-op play group and only trying it out in random multiplayer and solo.

Being that it was being showcased on Steam’s free-to-play weekend, I thought this would be a good opportunity to persuade a bunch of other people to try it out with me too. Izlain was game, and kindly organized the group over to cooperatively shoot zombies in a ‘survival horror’ FPS.

It’s an old game, and it no doubt shows its age.

But I dunno, it has a certain charm that fascinates me despite clunky bits like visiting the store repetitively between phases (though I think ideally, we were supposed to head towards it together – but everyone just sorta naturally freaked out, stayed with our backs to each other and tried not to get swamped by zombies which closed in on all sides.)

I think primarily, it’s the variance in mission maps that holds its biggest appeal for me.

We started out in a really claustrophobic biohazard sewer-like tunnels / secret mad scientist’s lab level. Then we went on to a considerably more open, but very dark, farm fields with a barn and a farmhouse that one can shut oneself in. And after that, if I’m remembering correctly, we turned up in a post-apocalyptic sort of London, where the streets were open, but the underground was dark.

During my previous go at Killing Floor, I seem to remember a carnival of clowns map too.

There’s a hyperreal sort of immersion from these maps – they’re not 100% realistic, but they’re sort of characteristically ‘representative’ of the tropes one might expect in these settings, and you can imagine yourself using strategies like barricading yourself into a building and so on.

There’s a big variety of weapons to choose from in the store in between waves, depending on how well you did shooting zombies.

There’s a lot of different types of zombie mobs – from crawlers that almost look dead but can leap at you with surprising speed, to stalkers that are almost invisible, and near-miniboss-types that shoot flaming rockets at you or shriek or do other kinds of odd things.

Some deserved criticism was leveled at it for having some really repetitive voice-overs (everyone was pretty sick of the “Reloading” notifications coming from a party of SIX people after a while) but other than that, I keep thinking there’s a lot of potential depth and fun to be had if one played more regularly.

The challenge level is pretty high, right from the start. We were on Normal most of the time, and our inexperienced party usually got destroyed around Wave 3. We were taking quite a bit of damage from zombie encounters, barely anyone had figured out crucial things like what weapons were available or how to heal up (mid-second game I finally figured out that one was supposed to heal others with a injector syringe thing that everyone appears to get) and dying in this game punishes the player and team quite severely – you can’t respawn till the wave completes, you lose all your weapons and get no money to buy more stuff from the shop for that round.

(It might, however, be possible to pick up and drop weapons for others. I know somewhere in the second game I somehow managed to pick up a second pistol from someone who’d died. It might maybe make sense that one might be able to drop spare weapons for others.)

Ammo conservation is an issue. You need to spend money to get more ammo. So six people shooting one normal zombie might not be the best strategy ever. (We ended up sort of three / three facing two different directions quite naturally.)

There’s no crosshairs. There’s only right mouse button to bring up iron sights for better aim, which then makes you more stationery. It all contributes to that sense of “realism” – though it’s really not the right word to use. It’s more a simulation of complexity, which gives rise to verisimilitude?

Some guns have more recoil than others. Reloading takes time. Some zombie hits will stun you. That sort of thing. Little details. Mostly making things harder, but also more immersive, in a horror sense, and forcing a need for teamwork and cooperation. No rambos here. Or chances are, they’ll be short-lived anyway.

We eventually bumped the difficulty down to Beginner for last game, which definitely made it more palatable for newbies. Less damage from zombies, more money from each wave meant we could afford more and better weapons, which in turn makes it easier to hose down zombies and gave us more room to maneuver and try out the different weapons.

I was entertaining myself with a Medic Gun at the end, which was some kind of combination MP5 submachine gun to shoot zombies with, and had healing darts fired with the middle mouse button. Now one didn’t have to run up to a player and hope he or she stopped for long enough to get healed. I could just dart him in the butt instead. Healing arrows! Whee!

For actual zombie killing work, I was quite enjoying the Bullpup. Which kindly has a nice holographic weapon sight that painted a red dot over whatever I was aiming at. Much easier for me to land a hit that way.

Lots of fun. Had a great time.

So how can you tell me you're lonely, And say for you that the sun don't shine? Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London I'll show you something to make you change your mind

So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

Advertisements

This World Ain’t Big Enough for the ____ of Us!

Over at Healing The Masses, J3w3l (or Eri, as I’m going to use from now on because it’s a lot easier to type!) has been singing the praises of multiplayer Terraria and what this may imply for sandbox MMO worlds, such as EQNext Landmark.

I’m here to give you the other perspective and the potential pitfalls, in a semi-serious, semi-tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Insufficient Lebensraum / Resources

Of all the things that could plague a sandbox MMO, I worry about this one the most.

The first pioneers get the best locations.

In A Tale in the Desert, areas near the chariot stops for convenient travel later get taken up very quickly. In fact, the crowd is so great that veterans tend to stay a little further away because they know they won’t have space to expand later when all the beginners are off squeezing in their little buildings near each other to form a sort of ghetto.

In my brief time with Wurm Online, anything near the spawn point was over-worked to the point of ludicrousness from the horde of new players zoning in, and I walked for miles and miles finding settlements all over (many seemingly abandoned) and I wouldn’t even dream about peak waterfront property along the coast. This was, of course, on the free server so overpopulation woes would be expected.

Over in Terraria, as the first players, Eri and her friend Grish have taken up the spot that most people in single-player games will build on. On the surface right near the spawn location. (The game’s design encourages this as the guide needs to be housed in a building, and between hostile mobs and his pathfinding AI… let’s just say we want a roof over his head pretty quick.)

They built themselves a massively grand castle.

bigasscastle

(And it just underwent a recent renovation to make it even grander. It’s lovely to behold.)

Now, being that I’m a guest and don’t want to be rude, it makes little sense to try and settle in the same space they’re using. So I looked around, found some real estate near them but off to the west a little and decided to go mostly underground.

If you’re a new settler coming by to the server at this time, your only other option nearby at this point is probably a base in the sky overhead. (The east side is over-taken by corruption.)

Or you’ll have to move a little further off to the west – though you’ll have to contend with a small lake and our sky bridge highway in the vicinity.

I did find two fairly creative buildings – a treehouse and a small obsidian underground lair – in my explorations, but I’m not sure if they were made by the starting pair or natural spawns or by well-equipped visitors popping by.

As for resources, well, suffice to say that you’ll be picking up after our leavings.

I had to do a much deeper and expansive exploration to find copper and lead (iron equivalent) as I’d started a new character. Fortunately, I like exploring and the other two seem more in favor of long highways and tunnels, so I managed to sneak into a niche of going around all the naturally formed caves, breaking vases and grabbing the abandoned ore that the two were no longer interested in after a while via progression.

For anyone coming in now, my suggestion would be to travel along the well-lit areas and venture further out. Just like the other two, I’ve now stopped digging out every last copper and lead ore I see, I only stop for gold and higher.

Chests with equipment in them? Haha. I didn’t see any for a while, until I started venturing into the unexplored caverns.

Luckily, like a number of players, underwater does not seem to be a hit with the two.

I wandered over to the East Ocean, struggled with trying to learn the new changes to the biome, made a makeshift survival elevator down into the water to get easier access to the bottom without drowning by being too gung-ho, and discovered it doubled up rather nicely as a shark trap. Rampant OCD farming for a while yielded a Diving Helmet and Jellyfish Necklace. (Fortunately, mob spawned resources are forever.)

Eventually, I made it over to the West Ocean to find that there were still two water chests left there – one with a Breathing Reed and one with Flippers inside! So now I have Diving Gear. New niche: Underwater Warrior Extraordinaire.

If you’re looking for those items, you’re now outta luck when it comes to the oceans. Maybe you’ll find a water chest randomly while digging underground.

As for the dungeon, I’m sure a good part of it has been picked over, as I dared (screamingly underleveled) into the place with them for a time until I got insta-gibbed.

World Progresses At Speed of Fastest Player

Which brings me right to my next point. Both of them had 400hp and were decked out in many shiny objects. I was waffling at around 140hp and had lead items then.

Out of pure screaming survival, I rapidly revised my goals (which were originally to explore and progress up the tiers and slowly read the wiki to catch up on changes) and did not protest when they found Muramasa in a chest and chucked it at me, because OMG, a sword that can kill things in here! (A nice sword at that.)

After which, it was an easy slippery slope to accepting the extra life crystals that were thrown at me, then picking over what seemed to be the ‘donation room’ chests to grab a better pickaxe, the first hit of demonite ore, and spare shadow armor, which immediately catapulted me several tiers ahead and expanded my exploration range much more rapidly.

donationroom

If you’re coming in now, help yourself to the stuff in the chests here. We three have been overloading it with things. I now keep finding life crystals, which I no longer need!

Last night, I got another free upgrade courtesy of Grish, who threw Palladium stuff at me. (Palladium, what the hell is palladium? Some wiki-ing later revealed it to be hardmode stuff, apparently.)

That promptly extended my range downward and I ventured into Hell to find it pretty darned survivable, as long as one didn’t try to take a bath in lava. So now I’m amusing myself collecting hellstone… for fun, I guess.

hellforgesgensandmore

It’s not like we have a shortage of hellforges here.

(Also in the background, two obsidian generators that off the scale for anything I would ever make, and a large sign pointing out the west highway.)

This is something a lot of sandbox MMO players are going to have to come to terms with. There is very little point reinventing the wheel.

In A Tale in the Desert, the first pioneers suffer through some exceedingly tedious grind with primitive technology, and proceed to unlock much better technology for all players to come.

The bottlenecks that are designed in place can be quickly overcome by making use of communal public resources, or becoming friends with a veteran player, who will usually not mind chucking resources like leather, papyrus seeds, better flax seeds to get a new player coming in late to the Telling started with a much easier time.

If you try to solo it all, you’ll probably drop out after a month or two, tops.

Obnoxious people will now proceed to throw the ‘this is a -multiplayer- game, after all’ line in your face.

As a solo-preferring player, I’d just say that one needs to be open to social interaction and opportunities that arise and adjust your niche accordingly, and use the presence of other players and communal resources as desired to get over humps that are designed into the experience.

You’re never going to come in cold and be just as good as the vet player who’s played since Day 1. Be patient with yourself, adjust your expectations, work your way through the wiki in sections, learning one aspect of the game at a time.

I started one Telling as a complete noob, and ended up sharing the resources of a nice guild that befriended a newbie. With that experience, I began another Telling solo and worked my way through that, learning additional aspects of the game. Which made the Telling after that a very easy powergamer start – I was now an intermediate-level player and probably could claim some vet-hood (but not as much as the players who had been around for all the time.)

Player Creativity May Affect Experience

Back in Terraria, I have to confess that I would never build the structures I’m seeing the pair create. They’re of a scale that is quite beyond me.

I tend to just build ugly functional rectangles.

undergroundfarmexperiment

(Underground farm experiment in perpetual state of under construction)

In a single-player game of Terraria once, the most creative thing I probably did was to balance my wood tower on top of a single door. Because the idea struck me on a whim and looked highly amusing.

In Minecraft, if I manage to make a two or three floor rectangular cottage with corresponding mine shafts and a rail line highway, that’s already a big accomplishment for me. I tend to just tunnel into a stone wall and set up operations there. Decorative architecture? Large bases? Expansive castles? Not at all likely to happen.

In a multiplayer world, -I- benefit from seeing the structures other players create. They’re a lot more beautiful than I would be able to make, I get to wander and explore and get creative inspirational ideas that I would never have come up with on my own.

Other players, however, would have to contend with my corresponding lower aesthetic sense impacting on their designs.

Differing Player Goals

Which brings us to how player goals may end up clashing in a sandbox MMO and lead to either compromises or drama.

Eri’s friend, Grish, is a veteran Terraria player. He runs around being very familiar with everything, and his goal appears to be to finally beat the hardmode bosses with the benefit of extra hands in multiplayer. Progress is dizzyingly rapid as a result. Goals clash: I compromise by inwardly shrugging and saying thank you whenever the next set of equipment I don’t even recognize is thrown at me. I can always learn at my own pace in a single-player world another time.

Eri seems to be a big decorator. The castle is her baby. A very lovely looking place it is too. Her appreciation of aesthetics is evident. Also, expansive highways tunnels for convenience. She’s taming the wilderness one straight line at a time. Goals clash: I’m just guessing, but she probably winces every time she walks past the eyesore that is my permanently-under-construction no-time-for-decorating-yet base, or the many torches I dot around the place because I’m blind as a bat and prefer all the places I go to be clearly lit up. 🙂

needmoarlight

The problem with turtles is that they can’t see worth beans.

In this case, I’m a guest. I just try not to be too annoying and go with the flow of whatever the plan seems to be.

In a sandbox MMO, what this has a tendency to promote is each person (or group of players) spreading out far enough away from another to develop their own homestead the way they like it and do their best to live and let live. Until some idiot builds too close to them – whereupon the drama starts.

Take home message: Remember plenty of lebensraum. If you’re a designer, try to make the world large enough for many players to settle in with sufficient resources not to end up fighting over them (unless that’s what you want players to do.)

Property and land ownership and access rights are going to be very important to get right, including what players are able to do with aesthetic eyesores (especially those that are abandoned.) In A Tale in the Desert, the player-arrived solution is to allow other players to remove them after a certain number of days have passed if the owner has quit the game. In Wurm Online, they appear to be left to rot slowly, I’m not sure. In Terraria, anyone can modify anything apparently, which involves a fair amount of trust and compromise.

If you’re a player, try to settle sufficiently far from other players if at all possible. One potential problem, of course, is that one’s idea of ‘sufficiently far’ is never really accurate when one is new to a game. The room needed for expansion can always end up surprisingly large.

And finally, let us not forget the griefers.

I am sure there are worlds in Terraria where friendships have been broken because some guy’s idea of fun is to go around being destructive and troll-y. Even while not trying to, we run into opportunities for potential problems.

In the earlier days of starting out, I had a bad habit of finding uneven holes to fall into, or wooden platforms that weren’t level and thus inadvertently cause a precipitous encounter with gravity and the ground. It’s not hard to extrapolate to intentional pitfall traps from there.

endoftheline

There’s always the risk that each others’ aesthetic designs overwrite or annoy one’s fellow players, and from there, it’s an easy step to intentionally trying to be offensive via trying to destroy another player’s creations or create an ugly eyesore.

In Terraria (and presumably Minecraft), the host can always boot with extreme prejudice someone being a pain.

In an MMO, rules are going to have to be built into the design as to how players can end up affecting each other, and what recourse players have if they feel someone is griefing or harassing them. Be it griefing them back or killing them (a la Eve Online and other FFA PvP MMOs of that ilk), or clear and strong land claim and property ownership rights, or being able to vote out a non-cooperating player, or having a few people with the power of enforcement and authority to turn to, etc. And when the final stage of taking it to the GMs is appropriate.

Emergent Properties and the Right Attitude

After all that, you may ask, why would anyone bother playing a sandbox in multiplayer?

I’d suggest that one should play it for what you can’t get in a singleplayer game. The opportunity for emergence that arises between player interactions and the opportunity to be social..

You can get emergence from NPCs in a single player sandbox, and you can talk to them if you want to, but they’re unlikely to return meaningful conversation 🙂

When two self-interested parties interact, one has the opportunity to choose cooperative, selfish, altruistic or indifferent behaviors.

Depending on one’s viewpoint and goals, this can lead to welcome or unwelcome results. (Someone acting in altruistic fashion may not always be welcome by someone wanting to be left alone. Someone being indifferent can be taken as a massive affront by someone with the expectation of more friendly behavior. It’s not always easy to cooperate at a skill level that matches the other and having a shared goal is often a prerequisite. Selfish behavior can benefit oneself at the expense of others, which may be the primary goal of the individual in question.)

I think it’s important to have the right attitude and expectations that all this can and will happen at different times, between different players when one plays a multiplayer sandbox, so that one isn’t surprised or disappointed when it does. It’s never paradise or utopia. It’s humans, and they bring with them heaven, hell and ordinary earth wherever they go.

notquiteheaven

If this is heaven, there are many holes in it now.

(Aka the effect of player depredation on a limited resource. Most of the building was gone by the time I arrived. I took apart a few more bricks to find out what they were. And added the tunnel to hide from harpies and collect both cloud and rain blocks. I also mined out the gold. Still silver left!)

The actions of one may also randomly impact on the landscape and others around them, which leads to unpredictable occurrences.

One can look upon them as problems / crises or opportunities to take advantage of or tell stories or laugh about.

The recent castle renovations in Terraria have necessitated a moving of the combat arena over to the west. Right on top of my house, in fact, which has now been dubbed ‘the hobbit hole.’

arena

Did I mention that I would never build something so expansive on my own? They took the opportunity to enlarge and prettify it, which is very awesome because I get to use it without expending any effort at all.

It is also really conveniently nearby. I am a very lazy person and hate walking, so all amenities close by is great. I’m big on functionality.

In the process, a water tank/reservoir was set up on top of it to create a waterfall effect. Except… there was a leak.

I was fairly deep underground digging out my glowing mushroom farm at the time, when I saw water cascade into the tunnel just a few blocks away from the farm. (Thankfully, it wasn’t connected.)

Mildly amused and relieved at the close call, I call out: Hey, there’s a leak.

Oops, comes the reply. Will fix it.

Turns out one side was a block shorter than the other.

Chuckling to myself that this exchange was something that wouldn’t happen if not in multiplayer, I finish the farm and in truly lazy fashion, use my magic mirror to port back home, barely one screen away…

Whereupon I discover that I am effectively ‘snowed in.’

frontdoor2

It’s around this point where I just crack up and die laughing because the juxtaposition of the turtle looking at his front door with that expression is priceless.

The back door was also ankle-deep in water, so opening either door would not have been the wisest maneuver. (I did, of course, eventually open the back and have to bail out some water. They came in handy for watering waterleafs later, Silver lining, laziness to walk and all that.)

This would so not totally happen when playing alone.

TSW: The Sun Rises in the East and Other Tales

Hooray, crazy deadline week is over, and we hope to return to our regularly scheduled wall-of-text bombardment every 2-3 days. *crosses fingers*

I also cleaned out the comments spam queue and rescued a comment or two.

For the record, this blog is set to first approval then you can comment freely, so that everyone isn’t plagued by bots selling Viagra and other more interesting links. If you don’t run a blog, it’s amazing how many bots try and use flattery (“your post is fantastic reading!” “awesome, I learned a lot!”) to get their comment approved. It’s amusingly healthy for the ego to just take them at face value and still not approve any of their spam links.

For real people commenting, please try and help me differentiate your comment by forming real sentences, include a solid opinion (dissent is fine), and preferably something paragraphy or wall-of-texty, else I seriously cannot tell apart the bots and I keep erring on the side of safety. If your comment has been eaten, I apologize, please try again.

As for gaming, I’ve been stealing game time with some casual games that we’ll get around to talking about and debatably casual Civilization 5 (the game seems to be polished and simplified to make it more beginner-friendly, and I’m playing very casually for now on the wimpy default Chieftain difficulty which just lets me spread my empire across the globe – I’m an easy fun kind of person most of the time.)

I also got around to doing more in The Secret World. Double hooray!

Unfortunately, I also discovered that when you hit 999 screenshots, TSW doesn’t let you take any more, so I lost a couple of good well-framed scenic shots. Ah well. I’ve shoved them all into another renamed folder so we can hopefully begin from zero again.

I found the Brood-Witches creating Incubators! From zombies, so I guess the Draug life cycle is slightly more complicated. The question now is, what made the zombies? The fog? The filth?

Who knows.

I’m messing around in the first zone of Egypt now, having gotten tired of trying to help fairly ungrateful trailer park Indians (or to be PC, Native Americans) with an unceasing Wendigo problem. I’m sure I’ve left some quests undone, but having completed the main storyline mission, it felt right to move on and take a break from endless fog.

Trying to avoid spoilers, but the storyline mission and subsequent events were fun. It made me want to start playing another alt in order to explore the path not taken and the choice I didn’t make. Resisting the urge so far.

The reward of looking up once in a while. A hole through which the moon is visible. Love the level design of TSW. Screenshot potential is through the roof.

(Spoiler warning about the choice I made: I went for the potentially ominous ‘moar power’ from possibly Cthulhu-like Elder gods from another dimension. Just felt right for that character. I’ll play a goody goody loyalist some other time.

And about an NPC in the main storyline whose name starts with B: I’m also convinced Beaumont is Loki from all the name and phrase-dropping he did. Hope we’ll see more of him in the future.)

By some strange quirk of timing and xp accumulation, the faction special assignment mission Rogue Agent also hit me at this time (that’s a lot of Illuminati phone calls and cross-messages from Geary and the Labyrinth and other people) and I went ahead to attempt it, even though it was labeled as Devastating. Just couldn’t bear the thought of all that xp in Egypt not contributing to faction rank.

Wow. Rogue Agent Tier 5 … That was the most seriously difficult fight I ever did, if we discount the probable outlier of that one Jilted Bride incarnation. I’m not 100% sure what to make of it. On the one hand, it’s not terribly obvious at first read what gimmicks are in play. I died a couple times attempting various tactics that ignored the mechanics (rush them or kite them, basically) and decided to Google for hints.

On the other hand, there are cues for the observant if I’d bothered. The two NPC rivals that aggro along with the main uber target are obviously positioned between the two lion / dragon statues for a reason. It’s perhaps not so obvious how close you need to be to them, but when you do, a visual aura emanates from the statue and a very obvious indicator turns up over your head. If you actually read the cooldown timer that pop up like buff icons on your status bar (though it’s very hard to when you’re getting sliced up and shot at), the names hint at the function of each statue.

Shield Disruptor Shrine: Green aura, dispels his “immunity to all damage” shield buff.

Interrupt Shrine: Red aura, run near it to interrupt his “Unbridled Fury” spell attack.

Once I understood what the statues were supposed to do, then it was just a matter of practice and execution in the running back and forth. Basically, immune shield disrupt him whenever his immunity buff pops up, and when he starts casting “Unbridled Fury,” then run like hell to the interrupt shrine to break his concentration or else eat some horrible damage.

One or two attempts later (tried to kite when most of my damage is in blade skills), Mr Devastating Difficulty Boss went down fairly easily – after I just gave up sophisticated LOS-ing and dodging and unleashed blade chopity-chop in the middle of both statues, making it easier to trigger each as needed.

So long, rouge agent. Pun intended, and used to great effect by the mission voice-overs. Also, I just noticed when titling this picture – “so long traitor” and “soloing traitor” look rather alike. Random wordplay fun.

I am greatly enjoying these sorts of fights solo. The pace at which I master the challenge does not ruin anybody else’s fun or need to live up to anyone else’s expectations.

As for Egypt, I’m liking it a lot so far. The density of the quests and NPCs and storytelling has not yet abated. I went in expecting lots of sun, and of course, I arrived at night. Beautiful cool-looking (in all senses of the word) night.

Awesome vistas. Roof-climbing gave me Age of Conan flashbacks. The view is just as rewarding.

You know how much attention to detail and verisimilitude there is in this game?

I watched a moon set because it looked fantastic and colored the world in glorious dawn shades.

(I’m sure it’s prettier if I had a DirectX 10 or 11 capable computer – the last Steam hardware survey let me know my ailing system is now in a minority 15% representation, way past time to upgrade, I know, but I’m broke *sobs* – but it’s still nice.)

Then on a whim, I decided to turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction and see if the sun was rising.

It was.

Checking the map and compass in the UI, the sun rises DEAD ON in the east. And thus the moon sets in the west.

Words fail to express how impressed I am.

(You gotta understand, I come from a City of Heroes first MMO background where the sun and moon does nothing of that sort, they rise and fall but not at all where you’d expect.)