GW2/IF: Back on the Narrative Hunt – Emily Short and Fractured Fairy Tales

One of the things I started missing while enjoying Guild Wars 2 was narrative. Huh? Doesn’t GW2 have narrative?

Well, yes, and while I don’t mind the later personal story as much as some, and I appreciate the branching choices involved in creating that personal story, one of the things I did feel about it was that it was very… fractured. You’re not meant to go on it non-stop, you’re encouraged to take time out for hearts and DEs and what-have-you.

As a result, I feel a little less story continuity than say, in GW1, where you get to go on a nonstop story mission ride until you get bored, then you go off looking for trouble with side quests and back alley zone exploration and vanquishing. It’s nice enough, for what it is, and I appreciate seeing some of my chosen allies along for the ride in the higher level stuff (though I really miss my first NPC companion Maverick, whom we never see again past level 30.)

Ditto the dungeon stories. I did them completely out of level order and it’s a bit… hard to put them back together in any semblance of plot order. It’s not really a spoiler to say that Destiny’s Edge fights and squabbles a lot in the earlier dungeons, then they kiss (ok, not really) and make up and learn their lessons in the later dungeons, in time for the final big fight.

The world stories are okay, when you talk with the NPCs, it’s pretty entertaining, but there’s not much of a “me” story when wandering the world. Or rather, nothing terribly interesting to relate.

Who wants to hear the story of me following a trail of mithril ores until I got to a cypress tree, slaughtering drakes and wolves and polar bears along the way, until I found an orichalcum ore, yay, then I saw a rich mithril vein and had to figure out how to get to it, and it was guarded by a veteran something or order, and hey, there’s a cave there I never saw, so I went down it and saw stuff, and oooh, a chest, and oh darn, wasn’t I meant to be completing this zone, except by now the vista I was wandering to is somewhere southeast of here instead of northwest so I guess it’s time to head back in that direc…eep, a DE just exploded on me, ok, fightfightfight, and now this escort DE wants me to go that way (looks longingly at the vista)… oh screw it, the vista is always going to be there, trots off after the mass of people following the NPCs…

I guess it’s a narrative, and it’s a player-engendered one, which is sorta kinda sandboxy but not quite, but it’s also the same as what most people are doing, just not in that precise order. It’s a bit more meta-gamey than roleplay-ey, I guess.

There’s perhaps more unique diversity of experience in more sandbox games like Eve, where folks can be isolated in one tiny corner of the universe and have their own special adventures brought on by their self-chosen goals, but for myself, I’ve never really liked the idea of being just a small insignificant cog in some vast machinery understanding only a little part of the overall big puzzle. Fun for a little while, maybe, but I don’t have the patience long term for it.

No, the kind of narrative that will offset the lack of it in GW2 nicely would be short, bite-sized stories where I can take on a role and immerse in a world given to me by the author, and make meaningful choices to drive the story forward, and possibly have it branch out into significantly different endings and consequences based on what I chose to do.

That kind of narrative is best found in interactive fiction (IF) games.

And since GW2 does so wonderfully visually, the perfect yet different complement is literary elegance.

Every year, around this time, I start getting an itch for IF, because of the anticipation of Ifcomp, a yearly competition of interaction fiction (or text-adventure games) where you get to play a bunch of them for two hours and vote on your favorites. I’m about two weeks early, as the voting starts October 1st and authors are just submitting their games in September.

So I decided to check out a bunch of games I haven’t played, and my go-to author for IF is Emily Short, a true master of this medium.

If you haven’t played text-adventure games in a long time, or at all, do give them a try. It’s moved on quite a bit since the stilted unfriendly two word parsers which make trying to solve the game an exercise in authorial mind-reading and walkthrough following. The best of the lot are very well-written, technically clever and conjure up fantastic worlds and characters and dialogue in text.

I first fell in love with Emily Short’s work playing Metamorphoses, which I don’t really recommend to start with for IF newbies, but heartily do for those used to the genre. It’s mysterious, literary, figurative, symbolic, and very very well-coded. The puzzles involve transforming objects into different materials (hence the name of the game) and there are alternative solutions for each puzzle and stuff reacts in a way very consistent with the materials they are made of. It’s very impressive for what it sets out to achieve, and demonstrate what IF can do successfully.

Instead, for newbies, I’d suggest something I just tried a couple days ago and found quite doable. Bronze, part of her Fractured Fairy Tales series, is a story of Beauty and the Beast. It’s notable for having a novice mode, which explicitly helps out those new to the entire genre. It’s anything but a simple story, though, as you explore through the Beast’s castle, you will learn more of the history of its inhabitants and form your own opinions and emotions up to the point of the ending(s) where one can choose to have vengeance on or save certain characters (for whatever reasons or morals or ethics guide your hand.)

For the ultimate in super-short entertainment, A Day for Fresh Sushi is what is known in IF as a “one-room” puzzle, apparently solvable in three moves. As far as I understand it, this was a speed IF, coded in two hours, so it’s not as comprehensively parser foolproof as most of Emily Short’s other works but it’s amusing five minute entertainment to read the snark of the titular evil talking fish character while you’re trying to feed him. Low investment entertainment, worth trying, just don’t expect anything resembling perfection, but pretty funny.

Eg.

>x fish

Even if you had had no prior experience with him, you would be able to see at a glance that this is an evil fish. From his sharkish nose to his razor fins, every inch of his compact body exudes hatred and danger.

The fish notices your gaze; makes a pathetic mime of trying to find little flakes of remaining food amongst the gravel.

Best of Three is a very interesting simulation of a conversation, as a girl meeting someone you once had a crush on in high school, realistic to the point of awkwardness. It’s amazing how differently you can choose to react. I spent one game just gabbering on about anything under the sun, barely shutting up once. And another where I was silent through most of it, leaving the old flame doing most of the awkward filling in of the gaps until he eventually gives up and takes his leave. And I don’t think I’ve seen all the possible endings yet.

Bee is also realistically interesting. It’s different from the others in that it’s not in Inform format, but in a web form called Varytales. You play a girl who sets out to win the National Spelling Bee, but will lose, someday, somehow. But the reasons and motivations for the above are what is really important here. (It’s got a lot of resonance with my previous post on thinking about why we game. And what we consider winning and success.) There are some major major themes running through this story, about home-schooling, about parents, about work and play – friends, homework, school and siblings. How you define success, and how you define learning. Oh, science and religion. Big themes. Very worth a read. Or two.

(And it’s in web format, so you just click, rather than typing, if you’re scared of the IF parser.)

For those not impressed by overly flowery words, I’d recommend something not-Emily Short, but hilariously funny. Lost Pig, in which you play an orc, who has lost a pig and must find it. If you get through this one without laughing or liking it, you are beyond saving.

Eg.

Pig lost! Boss say that it Grunk fault. Say Grunk forget about closing gate. Maybe boss right. Grunk not remember forgetting, but maybe Grunk just forget. Boss say Grunk go find pig, bring it back. Him say, if Grunk not bring back pig, not bring back Grunk either. Grunk like working at pig farm, so now Grunk need find pig.

The whole thing is written from Grunk’s POV. It’s crazy fun.

There are a lot more good ones that Emily Short (and others, not mentioned here) have written, Galatea, Flashpoint, Savor-Faire, City of Secrets, etc. that I’ve played ages past before, but I mainly wanted to cover the four less-known ones I just played, Bronze, Sushi, Bee and Bestof3, in this post. The other two are classics that have etched themselves into my brain and must recommend.

And how do you play IF, you may ask?

Well, in all the games I just linked, in the top right hand corner, there is a little button that reads, “Play Online” which you can just click and the game will start and you don’t have to do any more worrying than that.

If you’re more of a hardcore fanatic and develop a taste for this sort of thing, there are interpreters and clients that you can download (click on “Show Me How”), and the game files from that archive, and then you can play the things offline. Z-Code and Inform games run off something called Frotz, there’s a bunch of variants.

And there’s an app in the iStore called Frotz which works for iPad and iPhone, more or less. This is my preference these days, as it’s more portable than sitting in front of a desktop (which dangles Steam and other MMOs oh so temptingly.) It has a bit of a tendency to crash or stall in mysterious fashion with bigger, more sophisticated games on my ancient iPad 1, at which point, I just switch to online play versions, but works all right for 75% of the games I’ve tried.

The basic conventions for IF are as follows:

EXAMINE everything. Just type ‘x’ followed by a noun. Eg. ‘x cat’ ‘x cupboard’ ‘x drawer’ etc.

Moving is usually via compass directions. North, south, etc, and shortened to N, E, S, W, NE, SW, NW, SE, etc. and there ‘s occasionally up and down, in and out.

To see what you’re carrying, INVENTORY or ‘i’

From there, just try anything and everything. Push, pull, touch, feel, hit, kill, whatever verbs shake your boat. And you can always try HELP or HINTS if the game provides for it.

GW2: A Light in the Darkness

Wow. Just… wow.

I did the level 55 Personal Story quest: A Light in the Darkness a day ago or so, and it is one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had so far in not just this game, but my MMO history. Crazy good level design. Huge kudos to all the folks involved in creating this.

If I weren’t already a die-hard alt-holic, this would make me take quite a few characters up high enough just so that they could go through it too. I’d classify it along the lines of the sort of rousing heroic storytelling sort of on-par with the Nightfall ending and the Eye of the North finale, so you can have an idea of whether you’d like it or not, if you’ve played the original.

It’s the sort of thing that makes me feel “oh no, I’m getting near the end of this great story, and I really hope GW2 comes out with another chapter, another sequel, another expansion soon, cos I want MORE, dammit.” (Yeah, barely one week into the game’s launch, realistic, much?)

Some spoilers follow, so be duly warned:

When you see such a grand painting on the loadscreen for the mission, you know you’re in for something really special.

Essentially, A Light in the Darkness sets up foreshadowing for (I presume) the eventual moment that you hit level 80 and get to go to Orr and Arah and (maybe) confront Zhaitan.

Just as the Ringbearer seeks out Galadriel for a vision of the future, you seek out the Pale Tree for a vision of the future by entering the Dream (which is ever so slightly more hazardous than looking into a bowl of sacred water.)

There’s some wonderful storytelling and voice work. The NPC companion whom you would have met in an earlier part of the story narrates the history of Orr as you progress through the map, mentioning key characters like Vizier Khilbron’s reading of the Lost Scrolls to stop the Charr invasion (which caused a Cataclysm that sunk Orr) and it immediately made me want to run back to Guild Wars 1 to see the Vizier again in the missions where we meet him, and check out all the references in the first game.

God, I love GW lore. Those of you coming into GW2 completely new to the world don’t know what you’re missing. (Take some time to work through GW1 later, if you can.) The lore bible is thick and goes back way more than 250 years in history and there are all kinds of references all over the place, ArenaNet pays so so much attention to immersion.

Speaking of which, this was the first time my Charr, who has been primarily staying in human and Charr zones working to help the peace treaty to stay more or less RP background and lore-appropriate, got to the Sylvari areas. And got to see Ventari’s tablet. (Screenshotting it was not easy, the stupid camera still needs some work done on it.)

It looks like the real deal, all right, and if you bothered with a New Krytan translation, you’d see that someone took the trouble to inscribe the tenets onto it.

I only bothered to check the first two lines, “Live life well, and fully, and waste nothing” and “Do not fear difficulty. Hard ground makes strong roots” so the rest of it could be an ad for dish soap as far as I know, but I doubt it, GW loves their lore. (The rest of the tenets can be read by referring to the Ventari Tablet wiki page.)

When you’re in the Dream, Arah looks glorious. Golden foggy and far away, but glorious. I can’t wait until I can get there for real, and see what has happened in the wake of the Elder Dragon, which I guess, is the point of setting up the foreshadowing.

There are a couple more optional conversations with Dream reflections of Destiny’s Edge, which allude to the storyline in the book, and explains a little more on why they’re all so screwed up now.

In a way, it’s very clever. One needs signature characters in an MMO in order to have some lore, but the signature characters, if too heroic, are always in danger of overshadowing the player character, making the player feel like Gandalf’s errand boy or playing a second-string story alongside the real protagonists’ stories.

GW1 lucked into avoiding this when players developed a fondness for Gwen, a happy child who hero-worshipped the PC in the tutorial (so we still feel important) and a general tragedy befell everyone, making folks wonder about her fate. Then the clever writers decided to revisit her and screw her up a little by the time we meet her again all grown up. A good story is all about characters who change, in significant ways.

In GW2, we have a merry band of adventurers, who, opposite from stereotype, are no longer all together and one big happy family. Quite the opposite, they’re all at each other’s throats, and while it would be a pretty grand culmination to see them working together to defeat the dragon -based on you, the exceptional hero actually managing to resolve their differences – some days, it feels like you’re never really going to get to that point. We’ll see. (I attempted Twilight Arbor storymode a while ago and -somebody- ran away again. My Charr bias is showing.)

There’s a rousing general’s speech and a grand melee involving the three combined Orders of the land and a couple of undead giants (remember giant of Nageling? Corrupt it, then x2, but scale it down somewhat for being on your lonesome.)

This is not the whole vista of what happens, just a small portion I cropped, so as not to completely spoil the effect. Just x2 to get a little closer to what happens.

I never fail to be awed by the number of NPCs, friendlies and enemies, this game can put out at any one time. And really, why not? I’ve always thought more MMOs should give a player more NPC allies. If you’ve a support or healing focused build, this may give you more a fighting chance, and the downed/defeated/revival mechanic means that even if smashed into the dirt, you can still get the NPC up again and it’s not the end of the world, game over, repeat escort mission and curse the NPC AI.

Some of the Orrian mobs also reminded me of Enchanted Weapons of GW1 fame. That’s all you see of them, their weapons. Egads, so you sort of end up guessing their class/skills, moving out of their attacks and prioritizing through guesswork based only on that. On the bright side, they drop heavy bones. I haven’t seen much of bone chips and bone shards and their ilk, it’s probably the zones I’ve been staying in, but I really want them to craft armor with stats I want.

And at the very end of the entire vision, you see this,

as the most spectacular Jeremy Soule music begins a triumphant heralding as you finish one last conversation with the Pale Tree’s Avatar, who tells you, it is time to face The Gate Guardian.

Ascending more steps into the golden glow, and it really is like Ascension in a sense, where you’re symbolically confronting some manner of guardian being (though not a doppelganger in this case,) you see It as a silhouette in the distance as the music swells to a crescendo, leaving you charged with maximum awesome.

It was one of the most spectacular fights ever, thanks to all the buildup. Also, thankfully, not too difficult, as it would really have ruined the whole experience if I had to keep restarting from a checkpoint. Just watch for the queued up big attack, avoid it, and one should be fine.

And just when you think it cannot get any better than this and the Dream ends and you’re back to “reality” in the Pale Tree’s Grove, they give you the absolute kicker of a choice.

Big big spoiler warning in the following pic, watch out:

Oh god. Your metagaming self knows -exactly- what is going to happen. Your worst fear is the one that is going to come to pass. That’s what choice picking in this game does, after all, it sets up the branches of your storyline.

It’s beautiful storytelling. How can you be a hero, a proper changed hero with a character arc and all, if you do not confront your fears?

There is no best choice. They’re all bad, in a good way. Potentially devastating to the character, but awesome roleplay story potential and sets up crazy anticipation waiting for the shoe to drop.

Immediately I want to make more alts so that I can see all the branches of the storyline again, dammit. I hope their maximum number of character slots is a really high number.

For the record, I’m playing a paladin-like goodhearted compassionate Guardian on this playthrough (he even helped the Skritt cos they’re so cute, even though most Charr must think of them as little thieving pests), so I went with the first choice. It’s going to set me up for tragedy later, I’m sure.

I’m dreading the arrival of that fate already. (But in a really good way.)

GW2: What Would You Keep Doing Without a Reward?

I was meaning to get around to this post sooner, rather than later, but the sudden news bulletin of City of Heroes closing down pushed back the schedule even further. It also means I’ve completely lost track of the posts in the blogosphere that circled around this topic, and can’t find them again, so no links for you. ūüė¶

The basic question was:

What would you keep doing in an MMO, even if you were not being rewarded for it?

Most of the time, the conclusion implied was that one would pretty much do nothing that wasn’t rewarded, players being such min-max optimizers, after all.

What I want to point out is a fundamental assumption in the term, “reward.”

There are extrinsic rewards, such as xp, levels, a piece of gear that improves your character’s stats or appearance, gold, an Achievement, a title, a score increment, a chest you open that provides some or all of the above.

And there are intrinsic rewards, that mostly fall under the umbrella of “fun,” with the caveat that what constitutes this differs from player to player. It could be the pride in being first at something, the egoistic thrill of being able to show off something others don’t have, the pleasure of self-improvement, the satisfaction of progress on a goal or a checkmark of completion on a to-do list, the joy of receiving a gift (unexpected or otherwise), the excitement of confronting a challenge, the triumph of beating said extremely difficult challenge, the delight of learning something one didn’t know before, and perhaps even of mastery, the happiness of being in moment-to-moment flow, the wonder and awe of seeing a beautiful landscape, unsoweiter.

The truth is, one would be a very foolish, masochistic player to keep at any game if one were deriving more frustration and unhappiness out of it than enjoyment. So in that sense, nothing we do in an MMO is ultimately delinked to any form of reward.

The real questions are, in which order should the rewards be coming, at what frequency, and how does that shape player goals and behavior in turn?

The typical MMO generally makes you put up with mild to severe unhappiness as you “work” towards an end-goal that promises, or at least, affords you the hope that you will (eventually) get an extrinsic reward shiny, that will then feed intrinsic feelings of fun. If you’re lucky, you still enjoy the process so that mild to severe unhappiness isn’t present and things are still okay. But at the rate of repetition that is usually required, familiarity leads to contempt or boredom more often than not, and before you know it, there is the obligatory “grind” to get to the “good stuff.”

Thing is, chasing an extrinsic thing first for the intrinsic feeling later is dangerous. Taken to extremes, it’s like a drug. You end up chasing something for the buzz at the end, and somehow, that buzz ends up so momentary that shortly after, you’re in desperate pursuit again.

Given the propensity of humans to fool themselves into thinking situational normal, even when they’re not, one may end up chasing a reward that never comes, yet feeling more and more miserable in the meantime.

Now Guild Wars 2 isn’t completely revolutionary. It doesn’t remove the above. It’s probably unwise to, since players are used to the formula and many do need external reasons to keep playing and maintaining critical mass of playerbase is always important to a game.

But Guild Wars 2 is also quite sneaky. They’ve added on to the model by including the other order rewards can come, and mixing it up with a helping of variety and choices.

You’re moving along on your path towards a heart, a crafting node, a personal story waypoint – something explicit and linked to an extrinsic reward. Then you stumble across something unexpected. A hole in the side of a cliff that you’ve never seen before. Curiosity and novelty pop up, do you go in? Maybe you do, to feed that intrinsic urge, and before you know it, you’re on a mini-adventure complete with traps and enemies and argh-inducing jumping puzzles, and at the end, you’re pleasantly surprised to see a ‘boss’ mob with a chest containing an extrinsic reward.

You didn’t know it was there when you first started, but it is now an additional happy bonus. And it reinforces (aka rewards) that style of play, because you are now assured that there very well may be something tasty to find at the end of the rainbow that caught your eye.

Or you stumble across a dynamic event. Decision point time. Do you follow it, or continue on your initial path? Though both will ultimately yield extrinsic rewards at the end, that choice might be different from person to person. If the DE is still new and novel, or if one wants karma as a reward, or if one wants to see people, you’d take off in that direction, but if the other stuff is more pressing, then you’d continue on your way.

The jury is still out on whether the bulk of players will eventually grow bored with the same DEs they’ve seen, or avoid them due to difficulty level not being commensurate with rewards (Nageling giant, anybody?)¬† or whether a sufficient critical mass of players will show up just because it’s there and waypointed on the map so may as well try one’s luck to get some karma, but if you think ArenaNet isn’t aware of this, you may be kidding yourself. Their proposed solution is to change up the dynamic events, so that the new novelty factor may indeed skew more players’ decisions towards heading there.

The other question running in everyone’s minds is whether there will be enough players in the zone to even see the new DE. Well, time will tell on that front, but there are a few things that may help this. If a player chooses to remain on a single level 80 main, he still may have to level up his crafting, gather things to sell, maybe visit all the hidden chests scattered around the zones that will be eventually marked out on a wiki daily for loot or even just grow bored with the highest level zone and go wandering.

Alternatively, he’ll be in WvWvW or doing explorable dungeons, and possibly out of the equation altogether, which doesn’t bode well for the lowbie zones… except, for the presence of altholics. There are what, 8 professions and 5 races (and not enough character slots on purpose.) If you think a sizeable number of people won’t be rerolling alts to try out different playstyles, well, you’re a far more focused, faithful one-character player than I.

And guilds are account-based. Alts will be part of the same guild. What’s to stop a player from opening his mouth and going,” OMG, there’s a new something-or-other that popped up in (insert lowbie zone) here. We need help!” Now how many high levels will bother to respond, I don’t know, but between boredom, curiosity, guild relationships and helpfulness, plus the assurance that downleveling will still give valuable rewards, perhaps enough.

The one thing I’m not terribly fond of at this point is that though a player can join multiple guilds, he can only see the guild chat of one at a time. I have to say, it quite defeats the purpose of multiple guilds, which is to give one more connection points to more people and stuff going on in the world. I would have much preferred ArenaNet to limit guild joining to one-world specific (to avoid the complaints of spies in WvW) and allow for players to listen in on all guild chats at once.

A Tale in the Desert’s multiple guild feature worked that way. City of Heroes’ global chat channels worked that way. The basic point is to have multiple chat tabs linked to various groups of people for some specific purpose or other. If I can’t hear what those other folks are doing in-game, then I may as well just join multiple guilds’ ventrilo servers or something, except that would be way too much effort to bother for a loner like me. I do hope they take some time to iterate on this once the launch frenzy slows down a bit, because it’s a flawed feature otherwise and could stand a lot more polishing.

Back to rewards, since I’ve sidetrekked. What would you keep doing in an MMO, even if you were not being rewarded for it?

Here’s my personal answer.

Bear in mind, that of course I’m being rewarded, by intrinsic rewards, rather than motivated by a search for tangible extrinsic ones (which is usually what is meant by the term.)

Without the lure of crafting material drops, I would most likely not be genociding vast swathes of wildlife as I’m doing currently (I need 15 vials of thin blood for a rare, dammit, *kicks the trading post*)

But I would be going up and down and into stuff that catches my eye and spending hours trying to figure out how to jump from one pillar to another, simply because the mountain and the broken ruins are THERE.

View from atop some really high ruined stairs staring towards the Breached Wall

Drawn on by the lure of cliff bats that something may very well be up there, I lost a couple of hours to figuring this out, which eventually turned out to be the Crimson Plateau jumping puzzle.

I would, surprisingly enough, continue to rez players, often in the thick of combat, even if I don’t get xp for it and even if I don’t get any thanks for it. It’s a little odd when you consider that I’ve observed 80-95% of players continuing to shoot at a big mob because either they don’t see the downed player because they’re fixated on the mob, or maybe they’re scrambling to deal as much dps as possible so that they’ll get a gold contribution reward instead of bronze or silver.

But I see the downed player struggling, or the defeated player lying there, and I know they are praying for a Good Samaritan to help them out of the mess they got themselves into. What does it say about your server community if everyone walks on by or ignores someone in need of help? How is that player feeling right now? If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to be helped?

It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling deep inside when I respond promptly, and it’s even thrilling to act as a combat medic and roll towards someone right underneath constant projectile fire above your head and begin reviving. And because I play a Guardian with my fat cat butt covered in heavy armor and a hp tank bulked up by Vitality, I can even take a few hits through the revival process without going down myself.

I would, as long as the dungeon strategies do not turn rote or pigeonhole classes too much in one permanent playstyle, continue to join dungeons as time and whim permitted. I’ve actually joined two AC story mode dungeons way over-leveled and having done it once for the helm already, because I wanted to see how different teams reacted to it.¬† Because I like the learning process and the randomness of a PUG and figuring out to best work together and facing a challenge that allows me to demonstrate what I’ve learned and continue to seek mastery at it. The moment it becomes, bring the class built this specific way, and not the player, is the day I stop.

And most of all, I would be still in WvWvW as long as they keep the scoreboards on, because it’s a nonstop, unending, always-different-situation thrill. Novelty, achievement, teamwork and server pride all rolled into one.

GW2: My Charr Guardian and Me

Part of my problem getting my thoughts in order about this game is that there’s SO much to do, and each thing to do could very well warrant its own post, so where the heck should I begin?

I guess, to get folks situated, let’s start with what I’m playing. I only did two beta weekends before I had my heart set on what I was going to play first and didn’t want to play any more when it wasn’t going to be “for real” and I’d have to do it all over again when beta characters got wiped.

Despite terrible alt-holism in most MMOs, I knew I’d be able to keep it at bay in GW2 for the very first main at least, because this absolutely sang to me and wouldn’t let its hooks go.

Name and Server Musings and WvWvW Stories

I’m playing Finder Blazebane on the Isle of Janthir server. Feel free to friend me if you like. Goldspam whispers will be summarily reported, and ArenaNet is pretty good with their banstick. ūüôā

I tried to make it as Charr lore appropriate as possible, with a reference to my propensity for exploration and finding secrets and otherwise getting into stuff, and a side reference to being a Flame Legion foe. Imagine my amusement when in the very first area during beta weekend, I find a dynamic event to do with the Bane warband. I found it rather fun to run back and forth with them, pretending to be a fourth NPC a while. I guess I’m easily entertained.

In position as rearguard, Sir!

Why the *gasp* reddit server? Well, I joined them on Darkhaven during beta because I like a crowded server, and when they decided to move to Isle of Janthir, I looked carefully at the guilds list to see if I wanted to follow them or stay on Darkhaven.

Also on the consideration list was Sea of Sorrows as the unofficial Oceanic server, and Tarnished Coast for being the unofficial RP server (where most mature, tolerant, PvE-focused folks like to go.)

Being based in Singapore, server choice is fairly hard because at GMT+8, no timezone is ideal. Oceanic servers you’d think would be the best shot, but honestly, most run on Australian timing at GMT+10 or GMT+11 and when they set events at 7pm, one is still at work at 5pm –¬† it’s impossible to rush home in time and still have a life, as well as a proper dinner.

To be also brutally honest, the Asian gaming community ain’t all what it’s cut out to be. Conventionally, in traditional Asian thought, games are pastimes for children, so one ends up with a majority of teenage boys in their 10s-20s playing (yes, many still schooling), along with a ever-so-slightly more mature group of men and maybe a few women, that maybe aren’t girlfriends dragged in by their boyfriends, but don’t count on it. And the slang, well, I can talk and understand Singlish, but coming from a more Americanized gaming background in my college years of MUDing, it’s as painful as leetspeak is to the eyes.

A bit is fine, it’s still my culture after all, but I don’t want every last conversation I have in game to go like this: “haha lol wah u very xiong hor” (Goodness, you’re very fierce/scary) or “don’t sabo lah, u chao chee bye, this dungeon damn hard already, cannot make it one.” (Don’t screw it up for everyone, you -vulgarity-, this dungeon is already hard enough, we’re likely to fail as it is.)

Obviously, not everyone in Singapore types that way (it’s always the annoying kiddies, ain’t it?) And there are still jerks and assholes in North America (including obnoxiously racist trolls who would tell you to go back to China, u gold farmer – pst, little hint, Singapore’s not in China, and you’ll be surprised how international an MMO is.) Nor can I try to match a 12 hours transposed timezone all the time. Moderation is key. I need a mix.

I decided against Darkhaven as I suspect the crowd would follow the reddit server. Sea of Sorrows also went into the trash can because I’ve followed the Oceanic community since Age of Conan and Warhammer Online and Aion, the same guilds and same faces in PvP are getting a little tiring. Tarnished Coast was much harder to give up, but I feared for the state of WvWvW there because I’m hooked and I need a -fierce- server with ferocious fighting, not one that might just roll over and expose its belly. I may be wrong, maybe it’s a generalization that roleplayers are generally not interested in hardcore PvP pursuits, but… well, time will tell.

To my surprise and contributing to my eventual decision, Isle of Janthir sports a good mix of both North American and Oceanic guilds, including some of the more respectable aussie guilds I’ve met during prior games. It’ll be nice to have them on my side, for once, rather than beating my face in as an organized group versus a PUG. Add on the reddit crowd, and the Isle of Janthir should be able to field a good sized zerg or two and have organized guilds tearing it up at most hours of the day – a more balanced state of affairs in theory than say a primarily Oceanic or NA or Euro server.

In theory, anyway. In practice, we might get wiped out at all times by a foe that can field a bigger zerg at certain times of the day larger than we can, but we’ll see. We got beat on by the Crystal Desert for a couple days since headstart, and Sanctum of Rall was also quite a nuisance, then on the fourth day or so, Isle of Janthir rallied and took the lead.

I had a truly thrilling moment that day because it was my first day in WvWvW and I decided to spend 30 silver, one third of my total fortune, to upgrade our garrison’s cannons. Some time later, Crystal Desert swept in, shattered the outer gate, and as a couple of us trying valiantly to hold off the zerg (our own zerg was elsewhere) fled to the inner gate, I dashed to one of the cannons (if I was going to lose those 30 silver, by god, I was going to put them to use at least once) and presumably a few other players dashed to the oil and the other cannon, and possibly 4-5 of us WIPED out the 30 strong zerg between our AoE cannon fire, that I doubt they were expecting (the gate shattered, they’re fleeing, let’s chase!) Those cannons were hitting for 6000hp a shot, beautifully gruesome.

Even better because it was so unexpected, I was sure we were doomed. But perhaps they ran out of supply to build a ram (not too many people seemed to have grasped the entire concept yet) and they stood in the courtyard in the open long enough for us to catch them in the crossfire, entirely surprising both sides, I guess.

Best 30 pieces of silver spent, ever.

Holding that garrison allowed our offensive zerg to crack open Etheron castle and snatch back the Orb of Power, and began the long sweep of Janthir recovery back across their own Borderlands and get a foothold into Eternal Battlegrounds. Later, Stonemist Castle was taken in a truly stupendous three-corner fight, which saw it changing hands from blue to green while us reds were still locked IN the castle, and wiped out, and rallied back with a second zerg attacking while the first zerg was still on the way back from being wiped out and overwhelming green, which hadn’t had time to get any defences up. Stonemist was proudly red when I logged off.

But goodness knows how things have gone today. I haven’t logged in yet. Things could and do change again in an instant.

Race

Charr. Gotta be. Maybe I’m a closet furry, I’ve always liked playing monster-looking races. I love the big gorilla hulk physique, and even better if it’s got fur, hunches forward and digitigrade legs. Then there’s the history and the lore. Since the days of Guild Wars, when everyone has to be a boring human, I’ve always wanted to play the more interesting monster enemies, Charr, Tengu, etc. To see how they’ve progressed from nearly naked fire-magic barbarism to an almost Saruman-level industrial tech in GW2’s Renaissance day is¬†irresistible. They’re war-like, they’re soldiers, but they also have a “band of brothers” style honor and loyalty that makes them function entirely differently from humans, yet plausibly as an entirely different culture.

Origin and Background

I’ve seen all three Legions’ intro cinematic and they’re all fascinating. It’s been an agony to choose one to follow first, but I’m going with what I did on a whim in the beta weekend. A Blood Legion Guardian first, and an Iron Legion Warrior later, simply to avoid the common cliche of Blood Legion = Warrior. I’ll worry about Ash Legion later.

This makes the Guardian more Ferocious as he’s all about being up in the thick of things, fighting and bleeding, and the warrior can be either charming or dignified as I decide later, as a valuable cog in the great machine of war.

On the same whim, I gave him the background of having a sorcerous sire to explain his Guardian aspect of using magic and flames, and an interesting ‘weakness’ to the character, he’s always had to outgrow the stigma of having a traitorous sire that defected to the Flame Legion as a sorceror.

Appearance

Charracter avatar (pun intended)

I wanted him to stand out a little and look slightly different than most Charr so I went for an interesting white-gray fur color. Pure snow white was a bit too bright and weird for me, perhaps suitable for an albino style necromancer, but a very pale grey-white gave the look I wanted.

I love the heavy armor look in every MMO, lots of metal plates and I don’t mind extra large pauldrons or spikes either, so it was ideal that the class I chose got to wear heavy armor.

Working hard to get to 30/50 in the Hall of Monuments has really paid off, because it opens out some glorious vanity costume options to overlay on top of the merely “okay and presentable” lowbie armor styles. Most of the lowbie armor is a lot of chain and scale mail options, that frankly, only look good in browns and greys and metallic colors, with perhaps a touch of accent color here and there. In my opinion anyway. It’s decent, but it makes you a little drab and blends in with everybody else also wearing the same stuff.

Guild Wars heritage armor? Awesome. The GW1 warrior always got the¬† best-looking armor, in my way of thinking. It gives a more respectable plate and chainmail armor style in GW2, and I’ve successfully dyed it a dark ebony steel color, as well as the current bronzed look, which I think comes from a random midnight olive drop. I went for a red accent color to represent the Blood Legion, and autumn did fine until I got an almost intangibly slightly brighter red called um, sunset or sunrise, I think, which I used mostly because it wasn’t the default red.

Then there’s my slight fascination with fire and pyromania in MMOs. Since my City of Heroes days, when I chanced upon my dream fire/fire dominator class that got to shoot fire, melee it up with fire, and generally throw fire everywhere, I’ve gravitated to any excuse for fire every since. It just looks SO good.

So imagine my delirious joy to see that the 30/50 HoM point gives these BEAUTIFUL fire god vambraces that give one wristguards that are ON fire.

Sword and focus combination

Words also fail to describe how much I’ve wanted Prince Rurik’s flaming dragon sword since the days of Guild Wars 1, but never played a suitable class that could wield it for long. Ranger and paragon were my mains, and though I dabbled with a warrior in Factions and did give him a flaming dragon sword for a while, it was steadily more obvious that a triple chop axe build with cyclone axe and the works was a lot more effective in bunched up PvE gameplay, so, goodbye, sword on fire. *sobs*

My Guardian now is making up for that lack and it makes me SO HAPPY. (It also conveniently doubles up as a torch in dark caves. I am highly amused that I bring light wherever I go. Someday I should try the dark room in the WvWvW ultimate jumping puzzle dungeon and see if that sword makes a difference. It does also make it quite obvious and readable whenever I switch to ranged scepter – which also looks fantastic with the Wayward Wand skin and glows with a soft blue light as opposed to bright yellow light.)

Scepter and shield

I’m pleased to report that I’ve met a player of an Asura in game who ran past me with my flaming sword, did a double take and went “RYTLOCK, IZZAT YOU?”

And another player in WvWvW who asked what my real level was because my gear looked so impressive. I didn’t have the heart to tell him they were all HoM costume pieces, for fear of disappointing him. (On the bright side, I saw a level 50 player, much much higher than I, who looked like one of those Black Citadel guards in face-covering rhino helmet and all, so there’s still cool stuff ahead, don’t fret.)

Thank you for the compliments, they appeal to my vanity. I try to look cool, what’s an MMO for if not to doll up one’s character?

So nice of ArenaNet to make it possible to look cool from the very beginning as a lowbie. It’s a good reward, isn’t it? Stat-wise, nothing is different. I choose to stop every 5-10 levels to head to the HoM, claim the rewards that just transmute the appearance of the skin to whatever equipment I’ve got. It’s an interruption to leveling, so arguably, those who don’t care how they look don’t need to bother.¬† I do it for vanity’s sake.

I bet the exclusive dungeon reward skins should also have pretty good appeal if enough players think like me. If everyone runs around with a flaming sword, maybe you’d prefer to show off your, oh I dunno, Orrian dragon purple sparkling lightning sword or something? (Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of reward skins, I just pulled that out of my imagination.)

Class

Guardian, if you haven’t gathered by now. Why? “Because Guardians are OP.”

Nah, not really, though a lot of people seem to think that way, mostly because, I suspect, they tried to go 1 vs 1 PvP with a straight up uber damage build against builds that are by nature of the class damage+support, often in the form of buffs or some slight healing or condition removal. With their innate virtues, they also have a tide more regeneration as long as they don’t fire it off to heal others, and who would do that when you’re 1 vs 1?

Simple attrition warfare will tell you that a class with higher hp and more ways to self heal than thou has a distinct advantage in a straight up duel, assuming no one makes a mistake or is caught unawares, which aren’t the cases all the time in either WvWvW or structured PvP formats with an objective to fight over, rather than elimination of the opposing side. (There’s also having an extra ally turn up on your side that happens all the time in WvWvW.)

Anyway, Guardians are the dream class I’ve always wanted.

There are two general types of people in MMOs, those that prefer melee and those that prefer ranged (along with a hefty helping in the middle of the spectrum of hybrid  folks who like both and like to switch in and out between them.)

I’m distinctly on the melee-preferring side of things, though I enjoy the flexibility of a ranged option when I need to keep my distance or do pulling, etc. The Guardian gives me that opportunity as I can flip back and forth between scepter and sword, dodging in and out of melee range as I deem suitable.

I’ve also always liked tanking, but mostly for the support and control aspects of the role, rather than the awful responsibility of having to know a dungeon by heart and lead a group by their noses through every single damn pull and then sitting around and calling the mob names to keep the mob stuck to either tearing off your face as you stand there still as a stone either nigh impervious to harm (City of Heroes) or desperately trying not to die while praying your healers are on the ball (every other holy trinity MMO)¬† or biting your backside as you kite it around.

No, what I really enjoy about tanking is the ability to position mobs where you want them, to control their aggro (if only by biting your face off, rather than standing around dazed), to position my sturdy armor-encased self between harm and a softer squishier friend who would much rather I take the hit than him, thanks. It’s helping people, in a sense, it’s support by being situationally aware and controlling the situation.

And while I’ve never liked whack-a-mole healing in holy trinities, I rather enjoyed playing a dark defender in City of Heroes because it wasn’t all about topping off the green health bar (or red, in CoH’s case.) Yes, I had a heal, a strong self-based AoE heal that relied on me being able to position myself near a person in need and hit a mob with it in order to heal anyone near me. It was only one tool in the toolbox of all things support.

Other defenders had really strong buffs to make the team sneakily stronger, I had really strong debuffs to make the enemies sneakily weaker. Amusingly, it took a while for the playerbase to figure this out, it was never really obvious what the non-healing defender was doing on the team, but my goodness, when the defender went AFK or left, the team wiped or got into deep deep trouble doing the same thing they were doing previously. A bit of forums propaganda also helped to change the initial mindset around, along with no doubt, plenty of hard won experience faceplanting when the defender disappeared. Eventually, veteran players learned how to identify buffs and debuff anchors and appreciate them for what they were doing.

A dark defender was also a lot about control as well as support. It had a fear that you could throw on an entire spawn to negate alpha strikes (the in concert ranged retaliation from a whole group of mobs when first aggro’ed), you could LOS position an entire spawn of mobs through pulling with your debuff anchor and hiding around a corner so that they bunched up beautifully debuffed and harmless by the time they came to get you.

One of the things that was always missing in City of Heroes was a class that mixed melee damage and buffs-support. I couldn’t get my scrapper ninja desire going to sword someone in the face at the same time as I was performing support and control functions to protect the team.

I believe Guardians in GW2 are that perfect mix.

No, they aren’t as strong as City of Heroes support/control classes, where often, one control or support class played well – a tank, a defender, a dominator, a controller, a corruptor, a mastermind, whatever – can control the entire spawn of mobs for a team, allowing most of the others to slack off and not doing anything but hit damage buttons if they wanted. (More people playing well and support/controlling means faster, safer killing, of course.)

I think, in Guild Wars 2, the support/control of each class is tuned to only give 1/5 or 1/4 or at most, 1/3 of all the support/control actually needed by a team. I suspect at least 3 players have to be playing with support/control in mind in order to make things doable, and better still if everyone is on the same page. More on this later, I’ve only gone through the first dungeon four times now in PUGs, once successful in beta, one successful on Live (with umpteen wipes) and two failures on the Lovers, and the only thing that’s really obvious is everybody is not used to playing in a Guild Wars 2 way as yet and are still learning what they can do.

But Guardians, well, they sing to me. I went Greatsword guardian in beta, only switching to it when it was safe to leap in and do massive damage to the mob in melee, and then switching back to Scepter and Shield to plink away at range and control/buff. One thing became very obvious though, Greatsword guardians, while perhaps giving a scare and some unexpected burst damage in PvP to players who thought they had my number from seeing my teensy damage on a scepter, are rather squishy in PvE, they seem to pull a lot of aggro and hate the moment they leap into a thick clump of mobs and let fly, often ending the frenzy with a sliver of hp left – if you’re lucky. Perhaps it was also my gear build at the time, I went all out Power for lack of any more understanding.

On Live, I’ve taken a slightly different tack, helped along by the fact that I can’t live without my flaming dragon sword. The Fellblade just doesn’t look as cool. To my surprise, a sword doing fire damage is nearly as effectively offensive as a greatsword, though in more cone attack fashion rather than having a mutilate AoE clump option. I could have gone sword and board, but a shield’s two skills strike me as a primarily defensive option – including one dome pushback I still don’t entirely understand yet, especially how to ‘detonate’ it for healing.

A torch is the Guardian offensive offhand option. While it’s ludicrously fun for AoE damage, you haven’t lived until you’ve spat blue and orange flames like a flamethrower, it doesn’t help with survivability much besides the “kill them all before they get you” strategy.

So I went with the focus as my offhand, which seems a balanced mix of both defensiveness and offensiveness. Both skills can be used for either function. One shoots a straight ray that bounces, giving allies a heal over time (including myself) and damaging mobs. I haven’t mastered the art of healing any party member with it yet, alas, but I have a very good use for it. By being in a mob’s face and swording it, and firing it off, it bounces against the mob, doing damage, and right back into myself, healing me. A decent trickle heal that I’ve noticed allows me to stay in melee “tanking” the mob that bit longer – though honestly, with the way aggro flies from person to person, you can be in the mob’s face and he’ll still turn to shoot another player down, so I have no idea how to manage that except to fire a utility team regeneration buff if it isn’t still recharging, and hope the other players are themselves competent in some fashion and can mitigate their own damage.

The other skill is a shield that can take 3 hits from a mob, and if it doesn’t break, it explodes like an AoE damage bomb. It’s good for absorbing some hits, doing damage, and also combos with the other utility skill I like, Purging Flames (AoE damage field, plus condition removal to allies) to give a stack of three might buffs, which in turns adds to doing more damage on the mob with normal sword autoattacks.

I’ve also altered the stats on my gear a little since beta, mixing a healthy helping of Vitality into the mix along with Power. (I figure, if the WvWvW armor has Power and Vitality stats, there has to be a reason…) This has two positive uses, it increases my overall hp reservoir, giving myself a very decent buffer, and it also increases my healing power – which, since I didn’t want to be a gimpy healing Guardian standing at the back like a pathetic WoW paladin, I initially thought was rather useless and counter-productive, but I’ve since been convinced has the primary effect of helping ME survive by making my heals stronger, including stuff I can aim on myself, and the side bonus of helping others by providing an ever-so-slightly stronger trickle heal a secondary benefit.

I also threw in a bit of Toughness for the hell of it on my gear, to make myself more survivable but I’m really not sure if it’s the right thing to do. Toughness seems to match better with mace and two-handed hammer skills, which are more support defensive oriented, but I have no practice using them and my one attempt to do something with a hammer against the Lovers was really quite hard being unfamiliar with the skills.

I’ve been going Precision and conditional damage on my traits as it matches the offensive sword aspect more, and the Toughness traits are more useless to me. So the result is a neither here or there mix. Still primarily Power, with nearly equal high Vitality, a side helping of Toughness with Precision catching up, but both obviously secondary stats. It’s obvious if I specialized either I’d go more defensive or offensive respectively, but I really can’t decide as yet. Who knows, maybe being a flexible generalist is better for my solo playstyle.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find a good enough group to do the hardmode explorable dungeons anyway, but if I do chance across them, then we can spec as needed then. It’s Guild Wars, after all, where builds can be flexibly swapped to match the situation as needed, mixed with a side helping of WoW, where everything is easily reset by swapping gear and paying a small fee to the trainers.

Mind you, while offensive sword and focus is my preferred fighting style, I keep a scepter and shield on quick weapon switch. This lets me run in and whack mobs until my hp reservoir looks dangerously low (it’s better if I could read the combat animations a little better, some of them have dodgeable front attacks but I’m only 50/50 on successfully avoiding those as opposed to the clearer red aoe rings) then dodge right out, switching to a scepter and whacking an immobilize on it and plinking away, throwing defensive buffs on whoever else is near the mob now that I’m gone, regenerating and healing up until hp is back to full and I can go in and thwap the mob with my sword on FIRE once again.

I doubt the build is perfect. Or even if there is such a thing as a perfect build. All the other Guardian weapons and skills all look good too, to be honest. But I like it, and for now, it’s what I’m using because no one has figured out how to team synergize anything in PUGs yet. I doubt many of us even know what the other classes are capable of.

Eventually, I’m sure stuff will be figured out. All in good time though. It’s a new game, a new set of challenges, a place where no one -knows- anything for certain yet, the metagame is yet to be worked out, the world is big and broad and deep and ripe for exploration. There are so many things one could do. Life is good.

Glitch: The Dangers of Self-Righteous Groupthink

Today, I witnessed a mob in Glitch.

No, not an NPC mob(ile), but a lynch mob.

Figuratively speaking anyway, before someone comes down on me for being disrespectful of true lynchings where people lost their lives. But as in bullying or mobbing as defined by Wikipedia, verbally, over the public Global channel.

And shamefully, directed at a self-professed kid.

It all started when some Glitch player came onto Global, asking if anyone could give them some items. (Aha! Begging behavior, any MMO player probably has Kid Alert bells ringing by now.)

Somehow as multiple conversations were going on at the same time, that same Glitch player, in the course of joining in the conversation and attempting to brag a little (BEEP! Kid alert, arrogant bragging!) revealed themselves to be just under the legal age for Glitch. (Glitch’s Terms of Service¬†unequivocally deny anyone under 14 years of age from playing the browser MMO.)

The multiple conversations were immediately derailed as a couple of established Glitchen jumped on the fact of that player’s age, lol’ed and jeered a little, told him about the TOS violation, and over the course of 10 minutes or so, declared they were reporting him, brandished it around like a threat, yelled at him to log off, spoke about him as if he wasn’t there, “watched” him stay online (the term “stalking” comes to mind, but that might be a little extreme), told him that they were watching him stay online, and demanded he log off right this instance.

In fact, one or two went as far as to switch over to the Live Help channel to see if any Staff were present so they could tattle about him to them.

Faced with that sort of harassment, the poor kid eventually gave in and did as he was told.

I can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Perhaps I should have said something at the time, but it’s always been my habit to stay silent and off any group chat channels, I prefer to watch from afar like a cultural anthropologist. Putting in my input there and then would disrupt the social phenomenon *wry grin*.

I was heartily tempted to send the guy a private tell to ask him not to take the harsh words and “outcasting” to heart, but I admit it, I was afraid for my own toon.

Because hell, I’d know what I would have done at that age of 13, just shy two months of 14 (or so he claimed.) Log off that character and make a new one and come right back and this time, shut the fuck up so that any self-righteous bastards wouldn’t have a clue. Very very tempted to tell him this, but you know, this stuff could be logged and monitored like probably all chat channels are in an MMO, and theoretically, he was indeed in the wrong for breaking the TOS, and I didn’t want my toon (with lots of time invested in it) associated with any of the uproar.

(Out of ignorance, no doubt, who reads those TOSes anyway, right?)

And because I’m also afraid of needy kids. You know the kind, show them a bit of kindness and leeway and they’ve stuck on you like a leech, begging you to “help” them with… everything.

Despite all that though, I don’t think it excuses the behavior of those players who essentially lynched the poor chap off the game.

I wonder what kind of impression he would have left with, regarding the players of said game.

Part of my empathy, I guess, is because I faced similar abuse from an A Tale in the Desert player once when I had just started messing about with the beta on a trial account. No, I wasn’t underage, but a trial account has connotations of ‘noobness’ and a veteran player got very mad at an ignorant faux pas of mine (I built a compound too near to theirs, but it looked pretty far to me at the time) and pretty much chased me off their land with a verbal shotgun and made me feel very very unwelcome. Gee, if this was the kind of insular reception new players got, I told myself, they could take their silly old game and stuff it. (It wasn’t, and I eventually tried again elsewhere, with a different name and account, but I was /this/ close to walking off for good.)

And part of me can’t help but think about the other MMOs I’ve played and how more accepting other players are of kids in their game. On my old MUD, one of my best friends and guildmates was a mom who’d let her 8-year old son play from time to time. She’d let us know, oh, he’s on my char now, and we’d take care not to say overly adult stuff on our chat channels, watch him zip erratically from place to place with good humor, and as he got older, 11-12-ish, even praise him to the high heavens when he’d sit and take over for his mom on the equivalent of a raid. He basically just needed to watch his hp and hit a ‘heal’ macro to keep his character alive and hit another skill to do damage – he did pretty good, actually. I’ve never played World of Warcraft to such a hardcore extent, but I’m willing to wager that similar things happen there.

In City of Heroes, you could sometimes tell that you were playing with an underage kid (beyond just suspecting it based on their behavior and typing/speech patterns.) Once or twice, I’ve seen weirdly hopping characters just bounding around shooting grey con mobs and moving in erratic fashion, and on their bios would be a notification, like “This is an X years of age kid playing, all his tells are turned off, he will not respond, etc” and you just grin and leave ’em alone – or you watch for a while because it’s obvious they’re having such unadulterated glee and fun and it’s so refreshing to see. Or you get the parent who tells you outright that they’re letting the kid steer for a while in missions, no one I’ve teamed with has minded, a couple good players can easily cover for one or two less-than-optimal performers, etc.

Then there’s the “Is this really an issue?” issue. I don’t remember precisely, but when I was 13, I’m almost sure I was off dialing into free BBSes unsupervised and playing door games.¬† Like urm, Legend of the Red Dragon, which, hem, included the opportunity to flirt, marry and have sex with certain NPCs. Of course, I was smart (and paranoid) enough to know not to reveal any personal information, be it age or home address, to anyone.

Which, given the ubiquity of social media sharing these days and the revealed ‘stupidity’ of the self-professed kids in freely sharing their personal details and information, may be asking a bit much of all of them. Sadly. Which is why I guess things like COPPA turn up to protect them from themselves.

It’s interesting to see how different MMOs handle the ‘child’ issue. I actually Googled up WoW’s and LOTRO’s Terms of Service to see how they deal with it. World of Warcraft asks account holders in their TOS to agree that they are legally an adult in their country of residence., which covers the varying age of majority for different countries (normally 18-21), and they can then, at their discretion, authorize a minor for whom they are a parent/guardian to play, with the license granted to them.

Lord of the Ring’s TOS doesn’t specifically mention anything, but a quick forums search reveals that one has to be apparently 13+ to create the account, and it is permissable for a parent to use their own personal information to sign up for an account for a minor under that age and thus authorize them to play.

I couldn’t find anything in Puzzle Pirates’ TOS, but apparently, age limit for most of their servers is 13+ and they have a Family Ocean with no age limit where they’ve removed poker games and so on.

It’s kinda curious that Glitch has a zero tolerance 14+ years of age limit, when most other places have it at 13+, and make no allowance for play with parental supervision. Very odd. Perhaps they just don’t want any legal trouble and are playing it very very safe.

Still, the whole incident leaves me with a bit of an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

I keep thinking of the Edmund Burke attribution. Paraphrasing, “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail (or triumph, depending on which quote website you ask) is for good men to do nothing.”

Should I have spoken up and said something? Was I guilty of passive evil, of allowing something that I thought wrong (the rampant bullying), to continue unchallenged?

Then again, the players who perpetuated the wrong were perhaps thinking the very same thing. There was a TOS violation, and they could not help themselves but to call it out and call it loudly, to the point that they perhaps indulged in groupthink and the self-righteousness of their cause, and decided to enact vigilante justice.

Perhaps, the Glitch Staff on the Live Help channel said it best. “If you find someone violating the TOS, please report him and let the GMs/staff deal with the issue and move on.”

No need to drag it out and have a pitched battle on public chat channels.