Bloggy XMAS Day 14: Community and Me

I’m going to be splitting up my Bloggy XMAS post into two parts.

In this post, I wanted to cover my personal history with gaming communities, mostly to give some context for the following post, on how we can join and form communities.

In college, I was deep into that predecessor of an MMO: the MUD.

  • Schooling overseas, so in a well-populated American time zone.
  • Plenty of free time, with the liberty to cut classes with no compulsory marking of attendance (A boring and uninteresting professor reading from a textbook or talking to the blackboard was easily replaced by actually reading the textbook on one’s own, at a faster speed than narrated aloud.)
  • Alone in a strange country looking for like-minded souls.
  • Strongly introverted.

The perfect ingredients for seeking out and finding belonging in online communities, really.

I’d easily spend a good 12-18 hours a day, just logged into the MUD. (Wandering off AFK to do other things now and then, of course.)

Heck, sometimes I’d even leave the computer on and stay logged in overnight. One’s character would be unresponsive, but one could always scroll back to check what had happened while one was asleep, and one year, I hit upon the idea of making my own primitive chatbot with the basic scripts of the MUD client. A trigger keyword spoken by someone else would produce a string of random responses. It was quite amusing to see others play with and discover the keywords that would produce unique quips, even after they realized there was no one at home.

It should be fairly unsurprising to all that I pretty much ran the full gamut of online community experience during that time.

I joined a guild. (That MUD automatically helped to form sub-communities with pre-existing guilds divided by one’s character class.)

I became a very active and enthusiastic member, participating in every event organized, voraciously eating up advice and knowledge from veterans.

There weren’t quite ‘officer’ ranks in those days beyond Guild Leader, Number One and Number Two, but informally, there were more active people in semi-leadership positions bringing newer folks on ‘raids’ – ‘runs’ in those days, comprising of 3-8+ people. As one gained more experience, I started becoming one of those people.

Being constantly online and presenting as a female character on that particular alt, it is also fairly unsurprising that I started to become a nucleus, a central core around which community or social networks form. (I’m sure you know at least one or two of those folks who seemed to be linked to everyone and know everybody.)

Especially when you mix in an extreme amount of game competency and a willingness to teach (or at least, lead and drag along – I was less mellow in those days) others. People respect game expertise and also want to follow because they either get to learn and benefit or profit without much effort, y’know?

You might expect that eventually, the official ranks followed as well.

And you’d be right.

I don’t think I sought it out beyond the initial application, but just kept being the stellar example of leadership that I imagined that I’d like myself, and just climbed up through the ranks through attrition, as each Guild Leader lost interest in the game or burned out or decided it was time to step down.

Damn, but leading is a helluva lot of work.

I think I lasted a decent amount of time, a year or two, perhaps. I was pretty authoritarian, channeling my best benevolent dictator impression – perhaps inspired by my home country’s ex-leadership. I like to think that I did good during that time.

Inactives that never contributed anything (or indeed logged on) were ruthlessly and regularly purged. I clamped down on stealing from the guild donation vault – stuff that was donated by other members and meant for newbies were being used by some more selfishly oriented members to lazily equip their alts (which were never used for anything that benefited the guild either) and wielded the kick from guild option (called “outcast” in those days) like a banhammer, enforcing rules that had never been taken seriously until then.

The goal, of course, was to form a tighter community of active participants that knew each other’s names and knew they could rely on each other. Social loafing and parasiting was discouraged.

(Yeah, I was fairly elitist in those days too. You were either ‘in-group’ or ‘out-group’ to me. I didn’t care about the out-group, they could go off and do their own things, far away from me. I wanted to cultivate the promising in-group intensely.)

It wasn’t all serious scary business. When I wasn’t being a fearsome GM-like individual (maybe 10-20% of the time, falling to 5% as the guild got cleaned up and filled up with a better quality of people), I was busy being an example of the kind of person and culture I wanted in the guild. Friendly, fun, cheerful, ready to help and respond to anything, with a very hefty helping of the strangely quirky. Kumquats were the official fruit mascot of the guild, fer instance.

At the same time, I guess I already participated in multi-guilding before the concept of MMOs was even formed.

The MUD allowed alts. The alts could belong to different organizations. My guild was primarily a social guild that allowed for aspirations to middle-of-the-road raiding. I wanted more and I knew the culture of the guild couldn’t quite support the high-level stuff (at least not until more people leveled alts of the right class – balance in those days and in that game was non-existent. You just couldn’t defeat certain mobs with all representatives of one class, especially a class with a lower damage skill and was meant to stay at home producing healing potions for other higher-damage classes.)

Naturally, I applied for and got in to one of the premiere ‘raid’ organizations in that time, in that place. Social networking really helped, just like real world job applications, I guess. One of my previous guild leaders was in-game ‘married’ to one of the top players of the MUD. I got to know both of them, and they were my ‘in’ into that organization.

It was a great place. It was a really special organization, formed from a group of people who had broken away from a pre-existing organization and had enough social clout to actually get the imms and coders to create an organization with a new name. (All that stuff was hard-coded, so it wasn’t as easy as it is now to birth new guilds.)

They were fun-loving, but really serious about raids and the cream of the crop – these were players with the oodles of time to run and learn every hard mob, and kill them repeatedly for the good gear that made all their alts big and bad and powerful; these were players who, in their time, had served as leaders of guilds; these were players who read and studied the code of the MUD or wrote item databases for the rest of the MUD to use or knew how to solve mysterious riddles, map changing mazes and ridiculous amounts of trivia about the MUD.

We were, of course, brought together by a certain amount of personal greed. We wanted to kill the biggest and baddest mobs. We wanted no one else to have that level of wealth and to monopolize it all and get richer.

It was the best of times. And the worst of times.

8-11 people cannot sit together in a room (even a virtual one) waiting for a mob to spawn without getting to know each other’s names and socialize and chat.

The culture in those days was to do our best to kill the mob for as many times as there were players, so that everyone would walk away with an equal share of the loot. Mobs would respawn every 15-20 minutes later, or some other set amount of time per area.

(It’s easier for mobs that just need 3-5 people, and a lot more challenging the moment we start talking 8+ people. Someone eventually devised a point system – adopted by others on the MUD later as our members spread it to other orgs – that I think eventually found its way into Everquest in the form of DKP.)

It was also a ton of time spent, and prevented people who didn’t have that sort of time from ever joining the top echelons.

And when there are people and greed and limited loot, there is also eventually drama and fallout.

Oh, I don’t think any of us ever stole from each other. The number of people we’re talking about was just too small for ninja-looting to be successful. When there’s only 300-500 players on a MUD, period, your name will be forever blackened and your reputation dust if one ever tried that. But there was plenty of hostility and rivalry and elitism versus other groups, other organizations.

A divided culture like this only lasts as long as there are enough people to sustain all the little small sub-communities.

When Everquest came out, the MUD lost players to the newfangled graphical interface thingie.

When WoW came out, well… even fewer people stuck around.

I’d burned myself out on guild leading some time earlier. An introvert and a hermit like me just cannot fake it for that long without running out of energy eventually.

I’d burned myself out on leveling more characters in the MUD by seriously overdoing it – the crowning ambition was max’ing out 5 characters simultaneously – I did it, I was really darned happy about it, I used nearly every power-leveling trick there was in the book, and shortly after, nearly every power-leveling trick was nerfed into the ground by an immortal/coder that wanted to close all the bugs (I don’t think that was me though. That coder was intently following someone else to learn what they were doing – the one I’d learned the tricks from, really, and I never abused the worst ones as much as they did,) and I could never get used to the non-cheaty rate of experience gain again.

I’d burned myself out on the slow pace of change. You think waiting for MMO expansions and updates these days is bad? Try a MUD coded by unpaid volunteers. Takes months to change, like, a typo. Take a democratic debate and umpteen meetings to maybe propose that something ought to change, and if the bureaucracy of players who are afraid of change don’t shout the idea down or tear it to shreds, the lack of any actual manpower to code the agreed-on change means that nothing happens anyway.

The names that I was familiar with were no longer logging in regularly. They’d gotten sucked into Everquest. Sucked into WoW.

The community wasn’t broken overnight, but it was never the same as it was in its heyday.

I clung on a lot longer than I really should have, afraid of loss. Loss of reputation, loss of my name, loss of self-image, loss of characters and gear and treasures (stuff auto-deleted in those days if you didn’t log in regularly, it’s not like commercial MMOs these days that keep your records forever.) I spent a long time pining for something that could never come again and complaining to anyone who would listen about the present horrible state of affairs, while not actually enjoying the game I was logging into out of habit’s sake.

But I was running out of people who would listen, as well.

This isn’t meant to be a negative or depressing post, so I’d cut the long story short and say that the revelation finally hit me that I needed to go cold turkey with it all.

It helped that I finally found an alternative game that didn’t follow in the same vein as the fantasy-style vertical progression raid game that I’d already burned out on.

City of Heroes was a great introduction to the world of 3D, with the transient social nature of PUGs that lasted only as long as the game session, and a community that pretty much existed only in whole on a web forum, divided into smaller server sub-communities.

Having burned out from the old game, I went the ol’ antisocial solo loner route on this one, with only a real life friend or two joining me from time to time, minus a couple abortive attempts at joining a supergroup. There just wasn’t any real need to form tight exclusive communities, though I did participate in the occasional fun event brewed up by someone on the forums. Those were mostly one-offs.

Since then, I’ve had plenty of other community experiences.

Many attempts at belonging sputtered out. I tried to join The Older Gamers, mostly for RIFT, and found it a little too megaguild for me, with too many crossover games and too many players a little too casual for my tastes.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but a general lack of focus, and my interest in belonging to the community diminished as my interest in the MMO did.

I joined some random guild in Age of Conan and tried my hand at ‘real’ MMO raiding – which wasn’t perhaps the best place to do it in, given the schizophrenic item stats and lack of researched information on what was effective or no, and my lack of a common raid language given that I didn’t play WoW or EQ but only ‘raided’ in City of Heroes.

(It took us a disgusting amount of tries and total raid wipes, until someone finally realized the off-tank taking one dog add was being a bit too insanely gungho in assuming that they had to stay put in one spot in order to get healed by the bear shaman, and running out of defensive cooldowns too quickly. *ahem, that was yours truly*

All it took was one quick demonstration by the other tank/healer pair that kiting around the pillars was ok and perfectly acceptable, and the problem was solved. The rest of the raid could now take as long as they liked to work on the main boss.

Frankly, I was privately amazed that it took that long for them to figure out what the problem was – or whether they knew and were just trying to figure out a way to tell me. One quick direct whisper would have sufficed.

Anyhow, Age of Conan, and thus that guild, died too quick a death for us to progress any further beyond that. And I was already having timezone clash issues.)

I joined some other random guild for Warhammer and Aion, and mostly found out that I didn’t quite fit into groups of young teenagers or barely twenty somethings that liked to run around in a big group killing other people, mostly by outnumbering them, and getting killed in turn, when outnumbered, with little to no effort at improving this equation as a team or analyzing what went wrong.

But there have also been decent enough successes.

I’ve been neighborly in A Tale in the Desert, where communities are formed in a geographic sense, by the people who settle down next to you. There’s a certain tension still in trying to maintain one’s own separateness and independence from communal efforts, which may eat you up and spit you out with nothing much to show for it besides burnout if one is not careful, but also room for being generous and helpful and becoming real friends with people whose chat or company you enjoy (as opposed to just being polite and civil acquaintances.)

There’s the MMO/games blogging community, which is interesting for being asynchronous. Posts are put up in one’s own time. Posts are read, commented on or linked to by others in their own time. But still the network of recognizable names (or faces/voices) form over time via our shared interest in games and talking about them.

I also think I’ve hit a very good balance in my present MMO, as compared to my two old extremes between being too special on the MUD and being no one special in City of Heroes.

In GW2, I’ve lucked into a small, stable, social not-too-casual not-too-serious guild that I can run with for smallscale WvW. (Dungeons and guild missions used to be possible, but timezone clashes are now an issue, more’s the pity.)

The game’s design allows for a WvW community that isn’t too closed off and elitist, so I can still log into the server’s voice chat and easily find the current big group running at the time to join in to get my zerg on.

Ditto that for raids, with a big enough megaguild that also espouses openness rather than exclusion, which gives rise to a large enough cycling OCE/SEA population and sufficient leadership to actually get stuff done.

Nothing lasts forever, of course, but I’m certainly appreciating it while it does.

My main take-home message from this meandering of my MMO history is that there’s plenty of different styles of community out there. It may take a bit of doing, but it’s possible to find one that can suit you and your needs.

Also, don’t get surprised if it doesn’t last forever. Hell, even many marriages don’t last forever, these days. But appreciate the good moments while they happen.

Then try, try again.

MMOs Are Dead, Long Live The Multiple MOGs

I know the true meaning of this picture is all the other MMOs attacking WoW until the giant in the center crumbles...

The Age of the MMORPG is over.

Amidst the much foreseen migration of players out of Wildstar to either nowhere or to the next new big thing Archeage, Tobold wonders where it’s all gone wrong. Why is it that these games aren’t attracting and retaining the numbers we’re expecting out of them?

He proposes two reasons for it:

The lack of new blood -real newbies flowing in to the MMO genre. which WoW captured in a big way, riding on the Blizzard brand name and subsequently a critical mass which turned it into a pop culture phenomenon

Way too many games now on the market – all competing for a limited number of players who have finite time to commit, some offering way more attractive prices than others

In a way, I think he’s right.

MASSIVELY multiplayer online roleplaying games are dead.

If we find ourselves only able to play MMOs who report a population of 10 million players, there is no MMO out there today that can suit you anymore. No, not even WoW. The king has toppled off its throne and continues to crumble.

It’s time to play MOBAs – League of Legends has apparently 27 million players online daily in Jan 2014 (how many of them are bots collecting free stuff, I don’t know, does it work like DOTA 2 where there is some kind of incentive to make multiple free accounts and keep them logged in for whatever reason?) – or maybe Candy Crush Saga.  46 million monthly, says the Forbes link.

If we chop off the unstated RPG from the word MMO, maybe you can tell yourself you’re playing an MMO when you play the above games?

If we dial down our expectations to a more modest ‘a million players or so,’ you can probably play WoW or GW2.

Nosy Gamer suggests that those are the top two MMOs played by Xfire users, and given that both have launched in China, I think it’s reasonable to assume that both have comfortably exceeded a million players globally and won’t suffer attrition down below the magic 1,000,000 for a while yet.

If we drop to *shock, horror, gasp* only several hundreds of thousands of players, then I guess you can play all the ‘dead and failed’ MMO carcasses out there that are still clinging on to life for some unknown reason only known to the developers and their bean-counters.

That’s the rest of those on Nosy Gamer’s Xfire list – SWTOR, Eve Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Tera, Aion, Wildstar, Runescape, LOTRO, Neverwinter, TESO – and charitably, perhaps TSW, DDO, RIFT, Star Trek Online, Everquest and the rest of the SOE lineup make the cut?

Or maybe they’re only in the 10k-100k players range, along with any other MMOs I forgot to mention.

Who knows? MMOs tend to stop reporting their numbers below a million, but curiously refuse to close down.

As Bhagpuss mentions in Tobold’s comments: “How are we defining failure here?… All of these and more certainly failed to satisfy and hold the attention of a particular segment of the MMO commentariat but that’s hardly going to bother the companies still raking n the money or the players still happily playing, is it?”

He’s right too.

And I think I’m right too when I say, you all had better just get used to this state of affairs.

WoW was a one-time phenomenon. It brought in players who don’t usually play MMOs. Hell, it brought in players who don’t usually play GAMES.

Many of those continue to subscribe to WoW comfortably, like a magazine subscription they’ve almost forgotten about or take for granted, and browse through the pages from time to time. Others, when they got tired of WoW, simply stopped.

If we’re lucky, some of them moved on to other games, having learned that they are not the work of the devil.

If we’re really really really lucky, some of them stuck with the MMO genre.

We have also seen demonstrated over time and across a whole sequence of games now, since WoW and Warhammer and whose latest consumption was Wildstar, a migratory flock of gamer locusts that pick up and play each new game for 1-3 months and then move on to the next new and shiny.

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

This is the usual state of affairs for games, especially single-player games or just ordinary PC games that can be played both single and multiplayer, whose major money making strategy is the sale of the price of a box to players willing to pay a premium for it as it launches. They play it for a while, and then happily move on with their comrades to the next new game, plunking down $60-100 for the privilege of playing it during that vaunted hip and cool time where all their friends are talking about and playing it too.

If you find yourself attracted to this group, you’d best just get used to spending the money and moving on, cupcake.

That’s the price you pay for the excitement of launch (queues, bugs and all) and the ephemeral feelings of hope, promise, potential and dreams. Archeage is your next best bet now, it’s that way, hop to it.

Sadly for you, game companies are catching on and offering you oh-so-prestigious Founder price packages now.

In the distant future, we can look forward to Landmark, EQ Next (maybe), Star Citizen (maybe?) and Eternal Crusade (of which I’m personally on the Founder bandwagon, I expect to be disappointed, you can point and laugh later, it’s ok, Warhammer 40k fans are used to paying ridiculous prices for a piece of cheap plastic, if all I get is a CoH-like character creator that lets me play dress-up doll with WH40k colors, I guess I can pay $40 for that and the hope of pewpewing some guns with them.)

I’m also right when I say that you can rewrite your damn expectations of what MASSIVELY (not the website, the descriptor) needs to be, and settle down in one of many of the current crop of MMOs out there.

That’s what several thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of people are doing, after all.

Seriously, think back to the most fun and/or most populated (those two do not necessarily correlate) MMOs you’ve ever played, and start counting.

All the people you can name, first of all, that you remember for their personalities and for being a meaningful part of your life.

Then count the rest on your friends list, your guild rosters (preferably those that were online at the same time as you) and maybe a rough estimate of the number of people you need running around you to feel an ebb and flow of life around you.

Please actually spend time taking a screenshot and counting name tags at some point for best accuracy.

Prior experience playing WvW in Guild Wars 2 suggests very strongly that most people are unable to estimate numbers with any sense of accuracy. (“OMG a zerg!” Then 5-10 people show up… Or “Oh, maybe 10-20ish people at this camp.” Folks get there and find 60. Ouchies.)

There are 33 people on the outskirts alone, not counting the disgusting clump in the center, which probably has anywhere from 40-55 players.
There are 33 people on the outskirts alone, not counting the disgusting clump in the center, which probably has anywhere from 40-60 players. Most people, in my estimation, define this as too fucking crowded. That’s only 100 people. 150 at best, as that’s the limit on GW2 maps.
26 players, not including myself. I consider this somewhat zergy, others will happily classify this as zerg.
26 players, not including myself. I consider this somewhat zergy, others will happily classify this as zerg or still too damn crowded. Personally, I expect this amount of players around me in a town center or capital, and maybe 10-20 more at best to feel that the place is bustling and has folks around trading posts / auction houses and crafting stations.
13 players visible here, not including myself. I find this comfortable, others might still find this zergy.
13 players visible here, not including myself. I find this comfortable enough to play with, and more or less, roughly keep track of in terms of positioning. Less so in terms of what skills each individual is actually using or firing, mostly due to my crap computer culling them, but clear enough to tell when someone has fired a knockback or has used a blinding field or some other combo-able field, and for me to act on it. With a better computer displaying animations, I think the number here would be trackable. Played CoH on a regular basis in a team of 8, after all. But 24 in trials was a bit too much. Others might still find this zergy, or maybe this is all the people they need to see around them on their travels or even in towns.

If you even manage to exceed 10,000, I’m going to be very surprised.

Far more likely, that number is going to be somewhere in the 100-300 range, or what I tend to think of as Dunbar’s Number when it comes to MMOs.

No one really needs a million players around them. It’s just an easy shorthand to assume that the game they like won’t close down just because there’s lots of people paying the game company and keeping them afloat.

Guess what. You don’t actually have any say in when the game closes down or not.

Chances are likely the game will close -someday- because all these things are finite and computer technology progresses inexorably onward, making things look and feel better and better and older games more and more unplayable to many.

But if you play -and- pay for a game that you like, there’s a bigger probability that you may be able to delay that day for a while yet.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll be having fun, in the game you like enough to pay for.

If you can’t seem to find any game fun enough, especially when we’re talking about dropping dollars on it, then I guess your lot is to accept that you enjoy migrating with the herd and the social experience more than any individual game.

Go find your community and stick with them. (Just remember that every herd needs new births from time to time to thrive.) Move from watering hole to watering hole with them, and maybe one day you’ll get enough of wanderlust and settle down in a village in a game that you do like.

And if you get tired of settling down, pull up roots and travel again. It’s not a one-way trip.

2.5 Things City of Heroes Did Wrong

Ok, besides PvP. That's too easy a target. Here's the most amount of players in a CoH PvP zone ever. Attracted only by killing a dev in giant spider form.

As linked by J3w3l, Reports From the Field wrote a post on 7 Things They Felt City of Heroes Did Wrong.

Since I’m an idiot who can’t seem to figure out how their comments system works, and have a ton of CoH screenshots that are looking for an excuse to be shown off, I decided to do a blog post in reply instead.

I’m a little less picky.

I think they only got two or three things wrong.

Sadly, I think the biggest problem was a fundamental baked-in issue that the existing devs didn’t quite know how to solve.

Repetition

I’ll narrow this down further to non-varying spawn sizes in instanced tilesets that were reused over and over.

Because frankly, a lot of what we do in games is repetition, over and over, and we can still find repetition fun.

City of Heroes had no problems with replayability in terms of alts – the insane number of character slots, classes, powersets and customisation was unparalleled.

The main problem was that each alt had to level up by entering an endless set of corridors masquerading as missions, which were optimally filled by a spawn meant for an 8-person team, and every combat encounter pretty much looked like this:

2007-06-16 22:05:10

2 Bosses, a couple of Lts. and a whole bunch of minions.

Repeat encounter 14-40x depending on how many spawn points were set in that mission, and how big that map was.

Very soon, players figured out that the most efficient way to mow these things down was via AoE attacks.

To let AoE attacks hit as many as possible, get someone to group them up for you.

(Enter the ubiquitous AoE target limit – but still, hitting 10-16 is better than hitting one at a time. And cone attacks hit 5 but need them all neatly stacked up anyway.)

There were only two main ways to do this:

Option A) Herd to a Corner

A sturdy character, usually a tanker or a brute, or in a pinch a scrapper, would initiate, aggroing the spawn and dragging them all to a handy dandy nearby corner.

Once in position, everybody else opens up with whatever they’ve got.

Riffs on this include the more skilled defender or controller with debuffing options who could set up some debuff anchors, turning a nasty spawn’s alpha strike (ie. retarded AI’s initial response of firing a salvo of attacks at the first person to aggro them) into some wimps trying to beat you with feather pillows, which by default, makes anyone a sturdy person. Pull to corner as desired.

Option B) Corners, Schmorners, The Spawn is ALREADY Grouped Up

Well, it’s true, ain’t it? They spawn in a clump to begin with.

Tank runs into the center of the group, taunts by skill or combination of aggro generation powers. The group turns inward on the tank, voila, please be to kindly open up with pewpew now.

Riffs on this include those with control options – usually controllers, dominators or the odd defender who would just alpha strike the alpha strike with an “everybody freeze” power, nullifying the usual retaliation, and then the beating things up began.

There was rarely any tactical variety required, beyond the odd variation of dangerous target to be prioritized or controlled due to faction. Yes, Malta sappers suck. Literally. Draining all endurance from players tends to make powers crash and ineffectual. So hold ’em or kill ’em fast.

Others just tended to be annoying nuisances that took forever to kill. Carnival Master Illusionists summoned a bunch of annoying decoys, and phased out for 50% of the fight, making them a time-drain to even hit. Rikti Drones projected so much force field defence that you needed pretty high accuracy or to-hit to pierce through their shielding – but if you did have enough, they were pushovers.

But by and large, it was see clump of enemies, group clump of enemies, fireball (or insert choice flavor of attack here) clump of enemies. Debuff or control if you had the options to, and yes, everybody loves buffs, buff all the time plz thx bai!

AoE attacks, the best way to fry things.
AoE attacks, the best way to fry things.

Soloing, it tended to be even worse.

You were guaranteed three minions or one minion and one lieutenant. This was somehow scientifically determined by a lead game designer as the appropriate amount of challenge for any player or powerset.

Before long, you had your skill rotation down pat.

Repeat over and over as you carved your way through numerous spawns to the end of the mission.

Skip the mobs in favor of mission complete?

Well, you could… but the mobs were a big source of xp anyway. Would you prefer to go through 3 maps of unending spawns of enemies repeating the same skills in the same patterns, or would you prefer to race through 10+ maps ignoring all the enemies except that required for completing the mission to get the same amount of xp?

“……..”

Over time, I ended up street sweeping in order not to have to choose between either mindless option, forgoing the tasty mission complete xp in favor of actually feeling immersed into a world that had NPCs interacting with each other, spawns that varied in size and had to be approached differently, more space to move around and fly and tactically pick off enemies, and feeling like my actions actually had some impact on NPCs that needed rescuing or terrorizing depending on if I was playing a hero or a villain.

Not everyone was as motivated by immersion as I.

The achievement and rewards-driven folk eventually took things to their natural optimal efficiency point.

As Task Forces became more streamlined and rewarded better loot over regular missions, they became the go-to set of missions to run. As fast as possible. Gogogogo.

Imperious Task Force. Even the best TF can only be run so many times before getting old. Note endless spawns of Longbow in background.
Imperious Task Force. Even the best TF can only be run so many times before getting old. Note endless unvarying spawns of Longbow in background. (And yes, this is why one barely blinks an eye at particle effects in GW2. It’s a miracle we knew what all these things meant, with the powers customisation that allowed you to change the color of your powers.)

When Mission Architect released, of course the most popular missions would be the powerleveling xp farms with as many xp packages clumped together as possible, with the gimpiest powersets for doing the least damage to players possible.

farmmaps

And what did you do once you hit max level as fast as possible?

Either do it all over again with another alt, or go through the same set of missions at the end for… I dunno, kicks or something, or bitch and complain that there was nothing else to do and that the game was too repetitive and quit the game because you were done.

Each alt you went through, the chances were more likely that you’d eventually hit the more jaded last option at some point when you finally hit your repetition limit.

If only they could have varied the spawn sizes and positioning in each map more dynamically, I think it would have gone a LONG way towards ending the feeling of repetition.

But I suspect the mob distribution was sadly so baked-in that they couldn’t do anything about it without totally wrecking the game’s code.

The Incarnate System

Oh gods.

Words fail to convey my loathing for this system.

The solution the live team of CoH designers hit upon to prevent this burnout from repetition scenario from occuring was the ye olde raids system.

Vertical Progression. Ever Increasing Power at Max Level. Raids Involving Massed Numbers of Players. Forget Your Alts, You’ll Only Have Time to Build Up Phenomenal Levels of Cosmic Power on One or a Few Characters.

You know, City of Heroes launched at around the same time as World of Warcraft.

WHATEVER MADE THE DESIGNERS THINK THAT PLAYERS WHO CHOSE TO PLAY COH OVER WOW -=WANTED=- RAIDS?

Thanks, devs. I really wanted my game to look like WoW, raid frames, more UI than anything.
Thanks, devs. I really wanted my game to look like WoW, raid frames and more UI on my screen than anything else.

Wanted to be FORCED kicking and screaming into adopting and adapting to the system by virtue of exclusive loot/power that could ONLY be gotten by participating in this brand spanking new system that the designers were so proud of spending their time on?

Personally, I was attracted to the game initially because it didn’t have all of the above.

Because it had a nice friendly community that were inclusive and open to anyone teaming up with anyone, who even gave away scads of in-game money to newbies just to help them out and feel like a hero, a holy trinity flexible enough that no one had to wait around LF tank or LF healer unless they were really really picky, because I could make all the alts in my head that I wanted look and feel like how I wanted, because I had options to solo or group as I preferred.

When the game no longer felt like it was supporting this style of play and when all the brand new shiny content went a way I disliked (which has some lessons that GW2 might be well-advised to heed, given the histrionics I’ve been seeing in my comments from certain players who are perceiving the direction of the game changing in a way they dislike – though I still maintain one piece of content offering nonexclusive rewards is -different- from ALL the content in an update offering exclusive rewards that can be only obtained by playing a certain way…)

…I quit.

I canceled the sub I had been faithfully maintaining for six years, through a few minor burnout episodes that I knew would recover from taking a month or three’s break time, and quit supporting the game with cash.

I sat around watching the game lead their remaining players on from 2010 to 2012 from one piece of group content to another, grinding the same set of missions repetitively for incremental currency to build the next piece of ‘gear’ that would make their characters more powerful, and played another game instead.

Because my preferred playstyle had no viable options for obtaining the same reward.

Because the designers were so insecure in the fun level of their content that they felt they had to sneakily ‘encourage’ participation in their massed group content by making it the only non-absurd way to earn that level of power.

I only came back to check things out when the Dark Astoria zone released, making it -finally- viable for solo and small group players to start earning Incarnate levels of power.

And yeah, I chose to jump into a few raids then, because it was a -choice- on my part to see whether I found it fun (not really, beyond seeing what the fuss was about) and not because I had no other alternative.

Still, there’s a fundamental problem about vertical progression systems that only drag out the death knell.

You separate the playerbase.

You really do.

Those attracted by phenomenal levels of cosmic power and don’t mind clumping together into a group become one subset. Playing at a much higher level of power.

Why yes, I am an Incarnate. And I will take all of you Rikti on.
Why yes, I am an Inventions-kitted Incarnate. And I will take all of you Rikti on.

Those who ignore the content because they don’t like it and continue doing their own thing end up on an uneven playing field of merely ‘blue and green’ level of power compared to ‘purple and orange.’

How do you balance future content for these two different groups of players?

You don’t.

It becomes skewed to one group only.

Applying more and more pressure to the other group to conform and learn the stuff they’ve been ignoring, or they quit.

You better gamble that the group of players you’ve designed that content for is big enough to support your game via cold hard cash.

(Which is another interesting parallel to GW2 – though its fundamentals are different – exotics baseline, Ascended better, no more power increase or they’ll regret it – and the payment models are different. Who’s paying the most in either game? Casuals or hardcore, y’think?

Also, Wildstar is gambling that their hardcore base is big enough, and that their casuals will be content to be strung along with housing and some solo options.

WoW, you’d think, has managed to get by with producing endless series of tiered raids, though I do note that every expansion they keep changing things up, making things easier and easier to access and ‘catch up’, with different levels of difficulty to appeal to different groups, and generally playing a very good balancing act of continually laying treadmill track in front of their carrot-seeking audience.)

Loot / Inventions

The last factor is one I feel mixed about.

It could very well be that City of Heroes could have collapsed sooner without it.

Without loot, without Inventions, without something shiny to chase and look forward to building up and improving and giving room for theorycrafting of various intricate builds, we probably would have lost a great number of Achievement-oriented players who needed the shininess of a gear upgrade to wrap their minds around.

But catering for this group of players had some fundamental repercussions on how the community ‘feel’ changed over time.

In my opinion, a great deal of the friendly community aspect of City of Heroes was lost in the later years due to this focus on loot.

It used to be about fun. About kicking ass, taking names and looking good.
It used to be about fun. About kicking ass, taking names and looking good. Together.

Originally, City of Heroes was about getting together with a bunch of friends.

And everyone was a friend  and welcome on teams because everything scales up with more people, giving more xp rewards to everybody.

No one needed influence (in-game money) beyond those necessary for Single Origins, bought from vendors at a very cheap price compared to how much influence was being given out from missions. So level 50s had so much influence they didn’t know what to do with it, and ended up going back to Atlas Park and sugar-daddying newbies with it, running costume contests and lotteries and fun social stuff.

Once loot came in and an auction house, well, influence had value.

Better hoard it now. Some heroes we were, accumulating large wallet amounts that would then be spent on more upgrades for more power. We turned commercially-minded and mercantile.

Rikti Boss farm - earn large amount of tickets, buy loot.
Plus Mission Architect absurdity: Rikti Boss farm – earn large amount of tickets, buy loot. Yes, handy dandy NPC buffers standing by.

Let’s see, help a newbie or buy a Luck of the Gambler for more defence? We’ll take being godlike, thanks, the newbie can fend for itself. (Of course, not everyone did this, but by design, loot encourages selfishness and self-interest over selflessness.)

Suddenly it didn’t matter so much if the team was just having a good ol’ social time hobnobbing it up while fighting bad guys, but more about xp and loot earned/hour. Fast runs plz. We r wastin time. More missions complete, more chance for shiny loot drops.

And what was the loot for?

For making yourself powerful enough that you didn’t need a team to take on a spawn size set for 8 players.

Who needs a team when I have bots?
Who needs a team when I have obedient bots with better names?

Your ubercharged Inventions-kitted out player would feel free to run off and separate from the team and take on spawns by themselves. Why not? They weren’t punished by faceplanting. In fact, they were helping you clear the mission twice as fast!

They were soloing while ostensibly on a team.

(Which, eventually made teaming pointless to me, and drove me into soloing because I couldn’t stand associating with those players any longer.)

Eventually, an update sealed the deal by allowing any player to control the spawn sizes they wanted to fight by themselves.

Yes, this made farming easier.
Yes, this made farming easier.

And now, there was no more need for teams. Or for much of a community. Or getting to know your fellow player or bother to be nice to them.

Just set your spawn size to 8, and run your endless series of unvarying missions as quickly as possible to keep earning more influence and more loot drops and getting more powerful.

godlike

Farm it, in other words. Farm it to death and world’s end.

Or burnout from repetition.

Whichever came first.

GW2: Megaserver Misadventures

Yeah, you may be a little weird, but you're my warband and I like you just the way you are.

You know, I don’t think I ever gave enough credit for how successfully GW2 built a sense of community, enough to attract even an asocial player like myself…

…Until it was taken away.

One of the reasons I played A Tale in the Desert for as long as I did was how it managed to recreate the “small-town feel” that I never felt anywhere in any MMO, save for the first MUD I played.

(You know what they say about your first MMO… it sticks with you long after you leave. You get used to that community of 300 odd players online, many of whose names you recognize and see every day. Some of whom you dislike and tend to ignore, sort of like that mad relative everyone keeps their distance from, but the rest of whom become part of an extended family.)

In ATITD, this was recreated by geographic proximity. Your neighbors were literally your neighbors. You learned to live with them, or you moved away.

With that sort of implicit social pressure and threat of ostracism from game progress (there are points where life is much easier if you have a group of friends), many people defaulted to civility.

Guild Wars 2 is a huge MMO, filled with a LOT more players than would play A Tale in the Desert or any random MUD.

Yet it made tremendous strides in improving the social experience by ensuring that folks welcomed the sight of any other players – gathering nodes could be shared, events would scale up to provide more mobs and loot, of which you get your own personal rolls and don’t have to compete for either.

WvWvW was a format that took this one step further by creating the notion of a server community. WvW maps are limited in population size and naturally self-select by only including people with an interest in WvW. WvW guilds were formed. Players who loaded into these maps started seeing the same regular names around, from players to guild tags.

This expanded back into the PvE open world as many players don’t just play one format primarily and the same tags could be seen, hanging around in cities, or occasionally out and about on guild missions.

Add on to that other guilds compromising of different interest groups – such as PvE, roleplaying, even furries, and your server starts developing a certain flavor from that mix of familiar guild tags.

You may have no interest in actually joining that guild, but they are there, as part of the background scenery that builds familiarity.

Did all servers develop something as unique? Maybe not. I sympathize with those who didn’t want to be on a lower-population server but somehow had no recourse to move elsewhere, but I suspect a great many medium-to-large sized servers did.

Not all guilds are mercenary and content to cycle through servers like changing clothes. Some form the core of a server. Gaiscioch is inextricably linked with Sanctum of Rall in my eyes. AARM is TC’s mega guild. Even in WvW, we have guilds that associate themselves with a server and are highly reluctant to displace themselves. NNK and TFV don’t seem to be inclined to move anywhere from Dragonbrand, for instance.

My experience with other servers is more limited, but I’m sure residents of any server would be able to tell you the familiar guilds they -used- to come across. Or just the familiar collections of people. Mrs Ravious is mourning the loss of her Sanctum of Rall karka compatriots, fer instance.

Personally, I feel displaced.

Like I no longer belong.

And this is coming from a person with three, maybe four, communities to fall back on.

In NA time, I’m clinging onto my NA guild like a rock. Ditto SEA time with my SEA guild.

In WvW, I log onto Mumble and revel in the fact that everyone on that map is from my server and that I can see familiar guild names again.

I even have the option of logging into TTS teamspeak and just hang around with the core, doing whatever the hell they’re doing.

Problem is, I don’t really FEEL like doing anything.

If I try to run Teq or Wurm, the experience becomes an exercise in fighting the Megaserver. TTS is split across three different maps or more, and half of each teamspeak channel is filled with guests.

And these are the POLITE guests who actually care enough to come onto the Teamspeak, and with whom we don’t mind teaching (though the chance of failure goes up with the proportion of inexperienced players to experienced ones.)

Knowing the bitter voice-no-voice debate, how many more are on the map and patently not listening to directions or willing to be organized – in a fight designed for coordination and organization in order to succeed?

A couple leechers is okay. A few people being carried is fine. I like that random people can have a chance of encountering something bigger than themselves, that they haven’t seen in their prior experience before, and being inspired to join up or participate.

But the proportions are wrong. When less than half of the players on a map are trying to get something organized, and having difficulty trying to include others within the same guild on the same map, are being asked to share the same space with folks lazily jumping in without prep time, who don’t care enough to have exercised any prior effort finding an organized community or even listen, but are merely hoping to get lucky… well, that’s a recipe for fast running out of patience.

Impatient folks react in different ways. Some lash out with anger, frustration and abuse, allowing ugly elitism to show. Others demonstrate avoidance and simply can’t be bothered to show up. (I’m in the latter cohort, I can’t bring myself to make any scheduled times since megaserver.)

My load times for each zone have gone up.

Way up.

I’m already on lowest settings, there’s nothing more I can do to fix this.

If I have to wait 2-5 minutes for each zone to load, it makes me seriously reconsider wanting to load any zones in the first place.

I log in, do my dailies, log out.

Minimizing contact allows me to minimize contact with the people who have suddenly felt more freedom to be dicks on mapchat.

Internet fuckwad theory suggests that anonymity provides tacit permission for people to indulge in being a jerk, as there are much less repercussions or consequences.

Who cares about strangers whom you’re never going to see again? They are -other.- They are not -us.-

Humans can be terribly bestial apes to -others-.

Personally, I think it’s working. I feel more trolly.

I jump into hotjoins and stack the hell out of a team, relishing in tearing up those too inexperienced to work as a team or quit a losing battle. I’m getting rewarded for being a bully.

I’m spending more time out of game trawling Reddit and the official forums, being grumpy.

I’d be bitchier and more combatative if I dared to be, except I still fear outside social consequences – such as my internet reputation, or losing forum posting rights or the entire account – since Anet was clever enough to impose suspensions and bans for inappropriate behavior.

THAT is what we are lacking with the Megaserver.

Oh, and as for reset night, that part of the week I look forward to the most – the part where all our server’s WvW guilds come together and put their game face on for another week?

My guild was spread across three different Gendarran Fields maps. My party wasn’t even in the same map as each other.

In my map, I had people patently from Blackgate WvW guilds (Icoa, AoI) along with TC WvW guilds.

At one glance, I could look and announce to all and sundry which guilds would be going to which map, simply by observing who was standing by which portal, should I have felt the urge to.

My map failed to activate the WvW portals in a timely fashion. No one could click F and get in, even when others on other maps were echoing the fact that they were in over voicechat.

I spent two hours in queue, milling around in the Edge of the Mists in a faceless zerg as one of a sea of names I don’t even recall.

Thank you, Megaserver!

The game certainly is very busy now!

It’s just that I’ve never been the sort of person to want 500+ Facebook friends, when five close ones who shared similar interests would do…

P.S. Risk of Rain went on Steam sale yesterday. I bought it.

I see Sleeping Dogs is on sale today.

Landmark: First Thoughts

For the game formerly known as Everquest Next: Landmark, and now merely known as Landmark… I have a new name suggestion.

Landmark: Pothole Simulator
Landmark: Pothole Simulator

Okay, okay, I’m being unfair.

I know it’s Beta, and I know caves are coming.

Soon, there won’t be these nicely convenient ore veins just glimmering on the surface, ready to be attacked… and we’ll all want to slit our wrists hunting for ore, just as in Vanilla Minecraft.

Minecraft: Mineshaft Simulator
Minecraft: Mineshaft Simulator

But in the meantime, since it’s there, and gravitating to the path of least resistance like the stereotypical gamer , one hammers away at the soil, creating ugly little scars of devastation that presumably heal at some future point when one is not looking.

tropical

When it’s working, Landmark really is quite pretty.

Even on my toaster, though its Core 2 Duo processor comes in under the minimum specs for CPU, and my ATI 4870 GPU apparently just didn’t make the cut either.

My screenshots are nowhere near as pretty as those of you with more modern machines, but they’re not bad, and to be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised that the game’s working at all.

The performance of the Landmark Beta client has apparently taken a sharp drop downward from Alpha, which I suspect is due to the increased number of entities since they introduced flora and the sickles to harvest them, plus the player load of all us freeloaders jumping in via the 4x Founder guest invites, and thousands of other keys being given away by various websites.

This has led to the initial uncomfortable experience of loading into a crowded Player Spire and freezing at 0-1 FPS, risking a crash or viewing most of the world as a slide show. My mistake was jumping into the Medium loaded Serenity server, whose 7+ player names in view completely hung up my system.

Well, that’s one way to encourage players to spread out.

I chucked my GW2-bred zerging tendencies out the window, put on my hermit hat, and tried to guess the least popular server name ever.

I settled on Confidence, mainly to shore up my lack of it.

The 1-2 player names on the island I randomly ended up on slowed me down, but I waded through molasses sufficiently far to get to a more quiet locale where I could actually experience the game a little closer to what is intended.

Moving also seemed to worsen the effect, causing framerate drops to 0 for a couple seconds before it bounced back up to whatever was presumably normal. My CPU and GPU took turns being the bottleneck, as indicated on the helpful display on the top left of one’s screen.

This led me to suspect that both were being slowed down when rendering new areas beyond the visible map, similar to how my Minecraft occasionally lags when procedurally creating a new chunk.

When I had the time later, I quit out of the game and edited the UserOptions.ini in the Landmark folder, and altered the RenderDistance from a very optimistic 999999.000000 to 1000.000000 – which sounded a lot more like what my toaster could handle.

(Basically, I followed a number of the settings tips from this website, also tweaking down Lighting Quality and Texture Quality to even more minimal than recommended, and turning off Shadows altogether.)

It didn’t completely get rid of the issue, but it did mitigate it significantly enough to be felt.

I now hovered around 35-40 FPS when stationary, instead of 20-30, and the framerate would only plunge to 0 for a split second when moving, or worse case scenario, pause for a few seconds when rendering the next part of the map.

Going near other players or their creations was still a little luck of the draw though, along with going near the Portal Spires to swap islands and entering the loading screen.

(Caveat: Altering Render Distance to such a short distance will make the map brought up by the ‘M’ key look fairly ugly, as it doesn’t render the landscape in its entirety. But you know, when you’re a desperate player with a low-end machine, you get used to such tradeoffs.)

There was also very regular falling out of the map for a couple seconds, before the game bounced me back up to solid ground.

falling

I’m curious to know if those of you located in the US also experience this, meaning it’s the Beta client’s unoptimized nature at work, or if it’s due to my 220-240ms latency from being on the other side of the planet disagreeing with the server on just where my avatar is. (Fair warning for those of us in Europe, Asia, Australia or the other continents anyway.)

I’m probably an atypical Landmark player.

Maybe it comes of having prior construction sandbox experiences in A Tale in the Desert.

Maybe it’s just that the GW2 WvW league is starting in a day or two, and thus I’m keenly aware that I only have a limited amount of time to play in the Landmark sandbox before my gaming priorities call me elsewhere.

Setting down a claim flag and hogging some land for myself was not the first thing on my mind.

Exploring was.

desert

The biomes, by the way, are pretty nifty in how different they all look.

I’m exceedingly partial to the desert one, which is great because barely anyone else seems interested in claiming land on that biome (the crowd seems to have gravitated to the forests.)

Admittedly, the Old Forest biome looks pretty darned good too.
Admittedly, the Old Forest biome looks pretty darned good too, if you catch the lighting at the right angle. It’s downright gloomy at other times though.

In close-up, there’s quite a bit of variance to the objects that make up the biome – though after wading through the same terrain for ten long minutes, thanks to the stuttering framerate, it begins to wear on you.

I suspect this is merely an early Beta thing. It doesn’t make sense to have islands of one concentrated terrain or another, so it’s likely that these biomes will get spread out in more natural fashion across the continent at a later date. (That’s probably going to make it a lot harder to collect resources though.)

There were a number of pragmatic reasons for why I decided to be a nomad and explore first.

For one thing, I was coming in completely cold, having not followed any forums or watched any videos. I had no idea what to expect, what kinds of resources there were, or what would be considered a “good” location to claim or no.

To me, this sort of thing is the privilege of veterans. It’s similar to A Tale in the Desert, where my first Telling ended me up in a somewhat out-of-the-way locale, making it slightly awkward to get anywhere and being a little short on nearby resources (luckily I got adopted fairly quick by a friendly and welcoming guild and moved in with them to use their stuff.)

That learning experience helped me out in subsequent Tellings to land grab locations with desirable resources, and still have sufficient space to expand. One has to see the crowd tendencies at least once to know where the newbies go and where the vets hang out.

For instance, it was very likely that the central hub from which you could portal anywhere would form into a crowded little village / ghetto of a few oldbies seeking convenience, not minding the crowd or wanting to be very social, plus newbies crowding in next to each other without sufficient room to expand.

Landmark does seem to safeguard against this somewhat by reserving some space around the claim for you, so the danger of random players building unsightly stuff too near you is probably a little less.

I personally don’t like those kinds of crowds, and I’m okay with walking a bit to get to the Central portal, so felt very little urgency to plonk a claim down. Worse case scenario, I’d wander out to a map edge or something.

(After you’ve played ATITD, which can take upwards of 2-3 hours or more to walk from one side of the bloody map to another – plus a near-mandatory cross-region run for seed from various Universities if you start the game before chariot stops are up  – I was pretty sure that walking a ways in Landmark wouldn’t take as long. Though I didn’t quite account for the framerate lag.)

For another thing, once you’ve played some of these crafting sandbox games, you learn about community technology bottlenecks and certain resources being gating mechanisms, where players coming in late get the privilege of skipping past some of the early grind through the altruism of community-minded veteran players.

craftingstations

It never fails to amaze me how these public works are bound to spring up.

Have a crafting station or piece of equipment that isn’t destroyed when other players use it, that takes a lot of resources to construct? Only going to use it irregularly yourself?

Well, why should every player waste resources reinventing the wheel, then?

Enter the communal-shared resource. Public goods, public works, call it what you will in different games, the concept is the same.

I got lucky.

The random island I started on when I selected my server had one such industrious individual benevolently building away right next to the Portal Spire.

Seeing him WAY further along the tech tree than I was, I immediately dumped all plans of trying to follow the miserable little crafting chain from the basic work station at the Spire, and tried out all of his crafting stations instead, staring at the recipes to make plans for what I wanted to collect and trying not to drool onto his floor.

In return, he got my verbal thanks, and a Feedback thumbs-up. Not much, but I guess those warm fuzzy feelings make up for it?

Oh, and publicity here, I suppose.

DKonen's claim - Confidence Server - Channel (Tier 1)
Public Use Crafting Stations – Dkonen’s claim – Confidence Server – Channel (Tier 1)

Try not to crowd there so much that it freezes my CPU from too many adjacent players when I visit. That would make me sad.

But visit Dkonen anyway, because there’s a lot of cool crafting stations generously made available for the public to use, and he ought to be one of the first to get a flaming thumbs-up indicator of awesome coolness for his claim.

Since I now had a public works to fall back on for crafting stations, I decided that the nomadic plan would be viable for a while yet, and that I ought to work on the danged vertical progression for personal tools instead.

That’s still a heck of a lot of work, I might add.

It turned out to be a fairly considerable amount of mining and tree-chopping involved, along with having to cross-island hop from biome to biome, slowly raising Tiers as my tools got better and needed the next Tier’s resource to build the next better tool.

(Still not a fan of vertical progression, but I suppose the game needs stuff like this to give players some goals and the temptation to shortcut it via the cash shop later on.)

These, by the way, are the trees you need for the Thistle Seeds for Sundrop Heartwood.
These, by the way, are the trees you need for the Thistle Seeds for Sundrop Heartwood. Ran around for ages looking for them, suspecting I was following in the footsteps of someone(s) who had already chopped them all down. Finally got far out enough to find plenty.

I started to wonder what the point of claims was, since there was no way you were going to be able to find a good geographic locale with all the necessary resources nearby, when all the necessary resources were separated so widely.

It was beginning to seem as if all a claim needed to be, was a patch of empty land on which you get some space to build whatever pretty object you wanted, having already spent the time (or $$$) to obtain the necessary resources elsewhere.

It took many hours, but I did get to the Cobalt Pick and Gold Axe before getting bored of the grind and deciding the last tier or so could wait and be spaced out a little less urgently.

Good tools -really- make a difference.

The Cobalt Pick is significantly more enjoyable to mine with than the earlier picks, in my opinion. It can even almost completely mine an ore vein in a few artfully chosen single-clicks, rather than having to toggle on clicking and waiting for an endless amount of time, adjusting the cursor every now and then.

Speaking of which, Landmark REALLY needs a auto-attack toggle for their picks and axes.

I got through one vein and one tree holding down the mouse button before my finger started cramping, and I started hunting for other options… including keyboard/mouse hardware macros or writing something in AutoHotkey and braving whatever reception third-party software users got.

I eventually settled for the forums-suggested solution of turning on Windows 7’s Click-Lock, via Control Panel => Mouse. Holding down the mouse button for an adjustable amount of time then locks it on, allowing one to auto-mine or auto-chop without risking RSI or carpal tunnel. Click again to stop.

Along the not-obvious line of things one might be interested to know, shift+mouse wheel zooms in and out, alt-F10 removes the interface, and ctrl+F12 takes screenshots. Who thought these up?

If anyone figures out how to strafe, please tell me. Keyboard turning is weird as hell for many MMO gamers.

Anyway, I’ll be grinding out the rest of the resource-locked tools before seriously experimenting with building. I plunked an experimental claim down and tried some of the basics, but made a pretty lousy job out of it. Maybe I’m just not cut out artistically for voxels.

Walking around to see something like this totally doesn't help the ego either.
Walking around to see something like this totally doesn’t help the ego either.

Still, I could see myself in a nice gathering and exploring niche in the future, selling stuff to the dedicated builders – assuming the rest of the game develops well enough to do that in an entertaining and non-boring fashion.