Death to Chain Letters, Web Awards and Other Grumpy Hermit Musings

One random wall-of-text fact about Jeromai:

I murder chain letters. I take great delight in breaking chains that run on fear and superstition, trusting in science, RNG and the general unfairness of the universe to leave me blissfully unscathed from whatever heinous doom was supposed to fall on that most dastardly of souls, the one-who-*gasp*-broke-the-chain.

That said, a blogger friend whom I respect and enjoy reading has nominated me for a not-to-be-named-here thingummy, leaving me in the decidedly awkward position of not actually minding answering a few questions from one friend to another, while not actually wanting to perpetuate something that sends someone else’s (whom I don’t know, and know not their motives) SEO skyrocketing.

I’m also okay with the spirit of the thing, which seems to be to highlight less trafficked bloggers or friends whose words you enjoy reading and would like to hear more from, or know more about.

I just really really detest that it’s wrapped up in a) a web award format (I don’t understand the appeal of decorating one’s website with a random graphic saying that you won an award, hell, I don’t understand why people go to meaningless (as in stuff everyone can win or fake ‘excellent service’ awards a bunch of people make up to soothe their employees’ need for external validation) award ceremonies in real life either) and b) a chain letter format.

So eff that.

Format stomped on. It’s dead.

Now I’m just here to answer some questions, share a few less-known bloggers whom I enjoy reading, and then ask a few of my own, throwing open the floor to -anyone- to respond and share if they want to, whether I name you specifically or no, or whether you’re even a blogger (maybe you’re just one of my favorite commenter persons instead.)

I do not drink soda. (Especially not after ballooning in my youth from a daily Coca Cola habit, sorta like a Super Size Me documentary in real life.)

I don’t watch enough TV these days to have a current favorite show or a celebrity crush. I could point y’all to ancient history and recommend Babylon 5 as my favorite show of all time instead.

As for celebrity crushes, had a bunch, and they’re still mostly ancient history, given my lack of current TV or movie keeping up with, but you know, I think Holly Marie Combs playing Piper Halliwell in Charmed is pretty damn hot.

Asking me for a favorite video game character is like asking me narrow down a single favorite video game. I just can’t do it. Even on my best focused days, I’m playing GW2 and Minecraft simultaneously because each give me different experiences, both of which I enjoy and need.

As long as the video game character fits the story the game is telling, then they’re a favorite because they’re who they need to be.

Asking me for a favorite genre of music also falls in the above category. I listen to pretty much anything and everything, and I just keep what I like. Pop rock, musicals, filk, country, symphonic metal, mashups, yeah.

Sting is a perennial favorite, his repertoire is extensive and his lyricism is clever. Been listening to both the Wicked and The Last Ship soundtracks lately. (Jock the Singing Welder is a hoot.) Leslie Fish’s lyrics are either hilarious or awfully sharp or both. I guess I haven’t been listening to much country lately, but I used to enjoy Faith Hill once upon a time. Heather Dale was a really nice Celtic/folklore artist I discovered via Pandora, before they region-blocked me and much of the rest of the world (DEATH TO REGION LOCKS, eesh.) Nightwish and Poets of the Fall are awesome (is POTF considered rock, rather than metal? Who knows.)  And Norwegian Recycling is my favorite mashup artist.

Yes, I drink alcohol. Not in heavy amounts, so as not to kill my liver and kidneys and whatever. I enjoy tasting a variety and a range of good quality stuff, so I dabble with certain cocktails and go on little tasting sprees to sate my curiosity. Beyond craft beers, I ventured into absinthe for a while (really good with coffee), tasted a little sake and decided nah, dessert and ice wines I like, other wines are either too dry or too pricey for me to consider further, and I’m currently eyeing various rums and other liqueurs, but haven’t acted on the desire yet.

It’s a lot cheaper a habit to eat gourmet single-origin 70%+ chocolate (Amedei is awesome) and keep the remainder of the cash for a vast variety of games, than buy 4-5 bottles of good alcohol for a tasting party.

No beard. Scratchy both ways, I should think.

I’d pick enough money to sustain me for life, over life-long love. Not that I don’t think the latter is unimportant, but as we’re right now in the beginnings of what seems like an aging population crisis and seeing how much my family is currently spending on my seriously aged grandparents, a certain pragmatism is telling me that one would have a better time of it if one can afford to pay younger people to look after you in your old age -and- pay for medical care.

If I really loved my life-long love, I wouldn’t want them to end up trying to deal with all the problems without sufficient money.

Several years ago, if my current boss fired me, I’d probably be relieved and happy, cos I was in serious throes of burnout in a more-dysfunctional-than-normal organization.

Now, I’d probably be sad, because I’ve found a niche in a slightly less-dysfunctional-than-normal organization and am being careful about my propensity for obsession and burnout. Getting fired would mean I’d have to run the job lottery all over again and try to find/locate/create a not-so-dysfunctional space for myself /somewhere/.

I’d rather not have to do that until it becomes necessary. (Cynicism tells me it’s merely a matter of time, cos change is a constant and all it takes is a few screwed up individuals to make life difficult for everyone else in the organization.)

Did I start a blog to showcase my writing or just to vent? Both.

Why do I think you nominated me for this award?

Because you want to hear a grumpy hermit rant about death, doom and destruction to chain letters?

Because Jeromai is a weird, eccentric cipher of a person and trying to find out more about the mystery is always intriguing?

And just when I thought I was done, another blogger friend whom I respect and enjoy reading has come up with even more questions. Dammit.

What language would I learn overnight if I could?

Um, it’s a toss up between Quenya (to speak in elvish tongues would be cool), Old English (reading and understanding Beowulf and other texts in the original language would be awesome) and contemporary Mandarin Chinese (because despite a dozen years being educated in it, I still have little to no grasp of it and it would actually be a useful ‘normal’ skill.)

Knowing how easily I get motion sick, I’m not 100% sure a full on VR experience would be great for me. But it’ll have to be whatever incarnation of Guild Wars we’re up to then, because Tyria is awesome and ArenaNet still has the best fantasy artists of our time creating that painterly otherworldly look. (also some pretty solid engineers and network people and programmers and planners for the minimal downtime, minimal lag experience.)

I honestly have no clue what I’d want to say to a dead person, let alone invite them over for tea and biscuits. If I liked what they wrote in a book or so on, their work and wisdom and knowledge exists beyond their individual lives. And they would probably be a lot less impressive in person.

(I’d also be tongue-tied and am generally not very sociable by nature, so… yeah.)

Biscuit recommendations though, the Aussies have it with Arnott’s Tim Tams.

I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Can I just have all the Houses go down in flames, along with House Atreides and House Baenre?

Justice means…

…that I just spent an hour googling up and reading philosophy to figure how to even begin scratching the surface of this question.

When I hear the word “justice,” my first impulse is to think of it in a more legal sense, which I guess, brings to mind more procedural and retributive justice systems. I’m personally a little more in favor of restorative justice than retributive, but one recognizes that all types exist in the world (including the lack of -any- justice or a perversion thereof.)

In the context of the question, it seems to be referring to distributive justice, how goods and resources should be allocated to a populace.

Which then makes me want to ask, “in a game or in real life?”

Games are a smaller, more controlled system with boundaries and rules that can be set by the designers. I’d say they should feel free to experiment with all types, and see how the populace of different games react, a sort of inadvertent social research in a way.

In real life, my belief is that justice is a human created concept. Fairness and altruism has some roots in biology, but a full on justice system seems to be the province of humanity.

Much of the world is already operating on a capitalistic, economically-driven meritocracy, which rewards people (very generally speaking) for the amount of work they do. (Definitions of ‘work’ being somewhat questionable, as some ‘work’ may simply be politicking or maneuvering oneself into a better social position for more benefits.)

Totally equal distribution of goods regardless of what people do wouldn’t work, then no one would do anything.

So I would actually put a vote in favor of a distributive justice system that attempts to counteract and balance out the meritocratic economically-based system steadily widening the rich-poor divide by distributing stuff according to needs – the rich get less (but still get something) and the poor get a little more (supported by societal contribution.)

In no way should it completely -replace- option 1 or option 2 (extremes and black-and-whites are unlikely to happen anyway). but I feel that governments and society and the community (ie. humanity as an organised group seeking the overall best for the group) should tilt a little more to option 3 so as not to leave subsets of their populace behind (where they will end up diminishing the health/wealth of the society anyway).

Yeah, uhh, sorry if you were expecting a simple answer. This is wall-of-text city. My brain just can’t pick an option without explanation or thinking deeply.

Would I accept $100 if the other person got $900? If it’s a one-off ‘free’ payment (as in, not given in terms of return salary for work done and stuff like that), then yes.

The alternative is “punishing” everyone and both not getting a cent. I’ll not cut off a hand to spite my face. Both people benefit, and I could use $100. Especially if you take the same problem and increase it in orders of magnitude, I’ll take $1,000, $10,000 and so on, even if the other guy gets the larger share.

Maybe if it were $10 or $1, then I’ll say, nah, because going without that sum isn’t too big of a deal. Chances are likely, though, most people will offer a fairly even split.

What’s probably more important is that for cases of future interaction, one notes the selfish profiteering scrooges as opposed to the equitable ones. I’d want to avoid getting into future exchanges/deals with those that reserve too large a share of the pot for themselves.

But for a one-off, seriously, I’ll take any no-strings-attached hundred bucks you wanna throw my way. 🙂

I wish I could have favorite midnight snacks. I had a really bad bout of acid reflux a couple years ago and now I obey the oft-repeated advice to stay upright for at least two hours before going to bed, cos reflux really sucks. *sighs* The perils of getting old. I’ll pretend I can, and say a couple spoonfuls of Ben and Jerries’ Chocolate Therapy ice cream. (That’s not that far off a stretch. That’s a favorite teatime or anytime snack.)

A wished-for sequel for a favorite game? Planescape: Torment. (Oh wait.) The Secret of Monkey Island (Hang on.) Guild Wars (Fuck.)

Batman: Arkham Asylum (This is not working, is it?) Defence Grid (*pulls hair out*)

Oh, ok, Grim Fandango, Heavy Rain, and The Wolf Among Us.

I has no MMO home location. I r a nomad.

Beyond a little text room on a MUD that used to be the hangout of my first hardcore guild, when I think of “home” in a game, I think of this place:

My own blogger list, consisting of folks outside what I would term my immediate blog echo chamber (i.e. frequent posting folks who come up with ideas to bounce off, and thus get a lot of link love), but whom I’d love to read more from:

In no particular order (some came on board during NBI and some are old stalwarts whose posting rate has dropped,)

No obligations. Feel free to totally pretend never to have seen this post. I’ll happily take any and all answers from my commenter literati too.

Random questions being made into a list for the hell of it:

  • How much time do you spend gaming each day or each week?
  • How many people do you roughly interact with while gaming, and what’s the extent of your interactions?
  • What emotions do you enjoy experiencing while playing a game?
  • What are some of your favorite genres/settings/worlds to read about in a book?
  • Are they any different from the genres/settings/worlds you might like in a game? (Be it a computer game or a tabletop RPG.)
  • What Warhammer 40k army would you choose (assuming unlimited budget)?
  • ASCII art, yea or nay?
  • Your favorite vegetable, and your most loathed one
  • Unlimited budget, pick one country in the world, that you haven’t been to, that you’d like to visit.
  • You cannot choose a human for your next MMO character. Would you pick a tall race or a short race first? (Width or muscularity, bestial features or lack thereof is up to you.)
  • Wings or no wings?

Go nuts.

Or not.

Up to you.

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Mob Wars LCN: Of Fake Friends and Progress Bars

It was around five years ago that I watched one of my work colleagues mess around with Mob Wars.

Being somewhat of a privacy and pseudonym advocate, I already eyed Facebook with great suspicion and wasn’t at all inclined to give “Facebook games” a fair shake at all.

“Is that it?” I asked. “You just click buttons and watch progress bars go up?”

That didn’t seem much better than Progress Quest.

Hell, Progress Quest streamlined all the unnecessary clicking for you (moar efficiency! mouse button spared!) and you just had to sit back and enjoy the concept of gaining xp and getting your next level up and becoming numerically stronger over time.

Then there was the friends spamming problem, aka How to Ensure You Have No More Friends in a Hurry.

Wanna be stronger? Click this button to invite all your friends to join you and play the game!

Ah, social networking, aka inviting spam from friends into your life.

One naturally thought ahead a few steps. a) I’m an introvert, I don’t make as many casual friends and acquaintances as an extrovert. b) It seems extremely rude and crass to spam all your real life friends with an invitation to a “game” made for low-impulse control individuals to part with their cash. c) Therefore, I’m never going to have as many allies as someone more connected will. d) Therefore, they are going to outnumber me and gank me whenever they want.

And of course, there was the disreputable pay-to-win aroma wafting off a cash shop selling virtual items for insane amounts of money with no more effort that inputting a few numbers on a spreadsheet. At least for cosmetic options in MMOs, some artist had to slave away at a 3D model and spend time making it look good.

This very quickly led down the Wargames scenario of the only way to win is not to play at all.

And boggling at people who still were ignorant enough to play anyway.

Cycle ahead five years, and strangely enough, I find myself dabbling away at one of its variants.

Concept-wise, it’s quite alluring thematically. You’re a pretend gangster building up a mob of your own, conducting a variety of virtual crimes across the globe with a click of the button, rabble-rousing and doing the equivalent of a drive-by shooting with your homies on some other unfortunate mobster.

jobsgifts

(Nevermind that that mobster has friends of their own and may just come after you in a nuclear escalation scenario where there is no winner. We won’t think ahead that far.)

What made it suddenly more acceptable to experiment with?

Choice of venue, for one thing. No Facebook.

Mob Wars: La Cosa Nostra has made it onto Kongregate. Yep, the social gaming site of 1001+ flash games.

Now your real life and your game accounts don’t have to mix.

Furthermore, having the backbone of connected Kongregate gamers with chat rooms makes it easier to get around the “friending” hurdle.

Yes, some time ago, I learned from Tobold that it is indeed possible to make a fake Facebook account for the sole purpose of playing Facebook games, find websites and forums where you can find a load of like-minded people sharing codes and add all these ‘fake friends’ to mutually help each other out.

Except that seemed like a ridiculous amount of effort to go through to play a not-very-good game to begin with, and Facebook could fry your account any time they felt like it, erasing any and all progress and time invested.

The advantage of fake friends, of course, is shared interest in only one thing. The game which you are currently playing. It’s pretty much like a casual pickup group where you don’t know at all who these people are, except that everyone is interested in getting to the end and getting loot. And that’s good enough for everybody’s purposes.

Maybe you’ll encounter some of them a few more times over time, and get to enjoy their company and become real friends, but for now, strangers with a shared purpose is okay.

Kongregate shortcuts that process by allowing you access to a network of people currently playing that very game. The chatroom fills up every so often with random alphanumeric letters that an observer on the side might think are bots speaking in tongues or unwanted spam, but the players tolerate non-repeated chatcodes because each is a potential ally for someone (perhaps even yourself. After all, the maximum limit of fake friends starts at 500 and goes up to 1000 as you gain levels.)

What this does for me is provide a certain amount of equity. Every player has access to these codes. Depending on how lazy or obsessive they are, they can cut and paste every code they encounter to accumulate their game allies or not.

The other thing they seem to have improved with the La Cosa Nostra variant is the pacing. According to the Wikipedia article, the rate of xp gain is sped up. It’s quite normal to gain at least one level a day, and most likely, more. This gives Achievement seekers the kick they are looking for when they play with incrementing progress bars.

As mentioned, I don’t have much Killer or Socializer interest in me, so how long I stay engaged with the thing is debatable – the “whole prey on people weaker than you, get arse kicked by people stronger than you, group up for safety and to gang up on others” concept doesn’t hold long term appeal for me.

But the Explorer in me is actually surprised to find a certain amount of depth where I initially assumed was none to minimal.

Where there are numbers, there are efficiency calculations.

And boy, are there a lot of numbers.

Is it better to pick this job for the energy spent and the return, or that other job over there?

You buy property for an initial cost, that gives you a return over time. Which one do you buy? How many?

Your total combat strength is made up of both your avatar carrying a loadout of weapons, armor and a vehicle and your fake mobsters using a stockpile of weapons, armor and vehicles that you have accumulated. And all that stuff is collected via a variety of different means, from crafting to loot drops to buying it off the store (via fake money or real money.) Certain items obtained quite easily have an upkeep cost that eats away at your in-game wealth over time, making it tricky to afford good combat stats.

Each individual players’ failure to master various aspects of these numerical calculations lead to holes one can take advantage of when attacking them.

Oh no, does this mean the game is doomed from an eventual attrition of sheep getting tired of being mauled by wolves?

I don’t know. Perhaps. But there are some pretty elegant mechanics in play. Tired of getting attacked constantly by someone stronger than you?

For a cost, you can set up ambushes to dissuade the other party. When they attack you, you get a 100% defence boost, which tends to really help you out. Except that cost is calculated based on how much property your opponent has bought, so some people can be much more expensive to ambush than others.

To add on to those fun nuclear escalation scenarios, there is also the hitlist. The other guy not getting the point? Well, place a bounty on his head. There’s bound to be -someone- else out there that’s stronger than him. Hitlists appear and vanish in seconds as they’re snatched up by people looking to increment achievements. Nothing like getting ganked to stop a wannabe ganker in their tracks.

What? Is the other guy hitlisting you now? Rig his ignition to stop his hitlisting of you, in what appears to be an equivalent of Ambush to counter the basic Attack.

What seems to end up happening most of the time is a mutual avoidance of this nuclear escalation, which is an interesting study in micro-politics.

When you run out of health, you drop into the hospital and are hidden from all attacks besides a very weak punch. Few people tend to bother you there unless they really have a hard-on for killing you dead. Most people tend to back down away from fights in this manner.

Everyone understands that a bunch of attacks will happen because people are trying to level up and fights give points for what are essentially guild dailies – fill a certain progress bar each day to contribute to your guild aka syndicate. You deal with it and/or work to be less of an easy target.

You get the most xp when fighting people that are very close to you in combat strength, which subtly steers most people away from ganking very weak targets unless there’s nothing else left to hit.

I understand that some people even form leveling buddy pacts where they mutually agree to keep hitting each other and healing up so that each can gain xp. One such wordless exchange got me an inroad into a guild I was trying to join. Happened one of the officers was in a position to keep bashing on me. I -could- have ambushed him to get him to stop, but what the hell, that’s not going to make him like me very much, is it?

So I healed up, let him keep whacking on me for xp, and whacked back a few times to get -my- xp in because he didn’t have sufficient defence to counter my attack either. All in all, over a day or two, he got some 150 attacks on me, and I got 50-75 attacks on him. This in a period where most people hit 5-9 times and stop because the other guy has vanished into the hospital. After that, I got an invitation to join him as an ally, and an invitation to his guild because he was impressed that I didn’t back down.

Uh, okay, whatever works. I was kinda letting you hit me for xp while I got some xp off you, but I got the guild invite that I wanted, so that’s cool.

The other thing that tickles me immensely are the limited phrases you can choose when sending a message to someone that is not your ally. If they are in your mob, you can type whatever you like to them. If they aren’t, you get to select three phrases from an interesting range:

nonmobmessages
A small selection thereof

There does seem to be leeway to construct quite a variety of messages to get a basic point across, but minimizes spam and abusive trashtalking while still allowing for -some- trashtalk if you are so inclined to pick a fight. And you can also ask them to join you as a Mob member so that you can better communicate with them and so on.

New players get 30 days of protection where only people within a certain level range can attack you and vice versa. I’ve yet to see what the atmosphere will be like with this protection off. Should be interesting.

At least for a while more.

Amazing what even something so basic and not really ‘game’ can offer for interesting ideas. Some of the solutions and interactions they’ve hit upon may have some relevancy to how people might interact in PvP sandboxes that aren’t just FFA all the time.

Anyway, it’s something to do while waiting for Tequatl for 45 minutes.

GW2: Don’t Be A Stranger – The Voice Debate in WvW

The faceless masses of low graphic settings... all these people I don't know...

Tobold asks the question of whether we have grown bored talking with strangers in our MMO and posits that it’s the reason behind the difficulty in getting back that “oldschool” community feeling more present in older games, where a certain forced reliance on others was more the norm.

At the same time, cakeboxfox launches into a lengthy diatribe against her server’s hardcore WvW community, which appears to have grown increasingly closeminded and elitist (or just super paranoid of spies) as competition pressures from the WvW league are coupled with the stress of dealing with PvE achievement hunters coming in completely new to WvW and possibly not interested in learning more about the game type.

One thing that catches the brunt of her anger at how insular and “srs bsns” the WvW guys on her server have become is the forceful pushing of Teamspeak (or other voice program) onto everyone in the map and the silence and non-communication over mapchat that follows.

One thing that does raise my eyebrow though, are the following interesting lines:

My parents taught me never to talk to strangers.

I don’t need to talk to anyone else on the online game as I’m talking to flatmate. I don’t play online in any other games, because I’ve realised, just like at Xmas, many people can only see their own goals, and you’re just a blur of pixels as they fly past looking for the next set of achievement points.

Team spirit seems to have died a little, despite having things like Teamspeak.

Now let me make something very clear.

I’m not a fan of voice chat.

Never have been.

In those tests of visual, audio, kinesthetic intelligence, I am a primarily visual person, followed by doing stuff to learn it, and if you tell me shit using your voice, I have apparently been trained over the decades by incessantly boring lecturers and a mother who never stops talking the moment I get into her vicinity to automatically fall asleep.

Failing which, I tune out. I’m physically, but not mentally there after fifteen minutes or so.

I’ve heard that the average attention span for lectures is only around 45 minutes anyway. (For me, it takes fairly herculean effort to get to that point if the speaker isn’t phenomenally talented.)

I don’t use a microphone.

I live in a household and a country whose culture tends to look cross-wise at people wearing headsets speaking to machines, eyes glued to a tv screen, “playing games” when one should be concerning themselves with “serious” and “mature” things becoming to one’s age like work, food, small talk, complaining about everything under the sun, playing the “I have a bigger car or house than you” Jones game and discussing the latest tv show or soap opera because that’s what everybody else does and one wants to blend in and fit with the crowd, no?

Suffice to say, no mic. It’s just not worth the long family debates it’ll raise over and over, and how little opportunity I’ll get to use a headset, when I could spend the same amount of money on a gaming mouse and get the full benefit from one.

The Tarnished Coast community gets into the Mumble or no Mumble debate every couple of months on the forum boards.

As is usual with our diverse and quirky and occasionally dysfunctional but generally civil and tolerant community, folks from all sides weigh in with their opinions. There’s always a couple extremists on either end who would love nothing better to force everyone to their way of thinking. There’s moderates who recognize the value of both options, text and voice, and try to mediate the potentially tense exchanges. There’s lurkers who simply roll their eyes and go “this again?” at the dead horse being beaten to the point that one can make a shepherd’s pie out of the mince that remains.

Someone will try to point that there’s very little point bringing all of it up again because everyone’s going to play their own way and that the best consensus that has only sorta kinda been reached is to reach out both ways. Folks listening in on Mumble to transcribe what the commander says in text, to help those who can’t get onto voice. Folks sitting on the fence about voice programs to be encouraged into Mumble by advertisements, that may anger those staunchly against the program, but that can’t be helped.

And then someone else will jump onto it and argue that no, it’s worth rehashing all this again because sweeping issues under the rug and pretending they don’t exist is not the way to resolve problems.

Yeah, well. That’s our erudite TC community for you. 🙂

The thread dies a natural or unnatural death (euthanasia by moderators may take place) after a while, and life in WvW goes on.

But here’s what I don’t get.

Maybe some of you can help me understand.

How do you complain about the quality of a community, in the same breath as saying that all these evil, selfish people are strangers to you and that you don’t want to talk to them, ever?

You’ve not even tried to participate in the community. You’ve just tarred and feathered them all with the same brush of imagined prejudice.

(Now if you have, and you’ve decided that the people in it have a culture that doesn’t match your preferences and that you want out, that’s different.)

We are all strangers to each other until someone extends a hand and says, “Hi.”

Maybe I’m just really lucky on the Tarnished Coast. Our community, by and large, is an amazing place.

Yes, there have been certain weeks and months that a guild has decided to be morons about Mumble.

There was a point in the past where my own guild was being fairly retarded about it – advertising like a drug pusher, failing to read map chat (AND GUILD CHAT, much to my disgust as I got run over by an opposing zerg while trying to scream for help and solo defend a tower when five other guildies were conducting a nonessential conversation about WvW builds in my ear and the zerg was off milling over there when we could have really used the help here) and then being tactically unsound and running us all into a meat grinder, pretty much destroying trust and morale in their commander tag and our guild rep to boot.

But you know, those are individual people.

Their attention span for text is plainly the same kind of attention span I have for audiobooks. Those situations are one-off and thankfully, not too habitually common. (Worse case scenario: I take off and go solo thieving by myself in a silent vote of no-confidence.)

I’ve met plenty of other people who are awesome at marrying voice and text. I listen, they talk. I type, they read. We manage a conversation fairly well, both making allowances for each other.

I run dungeons with the same guild that way, and did fine with TTS on their Teamspeak too.

There are commanders on the Tarnished Coast who do utterly stellar with keeping track of text reports from a variety of sources, while responding and commanding on Mumble. And some really crazy good-at-multitasking individuals manage to echo themselves with text at the same time.

Here’s my point.

How would I meet them if I didn’t just extend a hand across the gap as well, and download and install a quick program to give it a shot?

They’ve extended a hand. “You don’t need a mic,” they say.

Which suits me just fine. I can’t ever join those super-picky hardcore guilds where everyone must have a mic, 100% everything required…

Hell, I probably don’t even have the time to spare for those. They play the game their way, keeping away the hoi polloi, and I leave ’em to it, closed communities eventually die off or move on to the next game rather quickly.

If you want -some- kind of community though, why not take just a little bit of effort and try to join it?

Especially when following zerg commanders.

Here’s my line of thinking. You’ve chosen to follow them. You’ve given them a certain amount of trust and responsibility to lead you right. In the interests of playing well, and helping your team play well and not die horribly, why not plug in some earphones and get on whatever voice program they are using so as to hear where the zerg is moving next and survive better?

Maybe it’s hard for me to understand because I’m a bit of a compulsive problem-solver and optimizer.

The first time I joined zergs in WvW, I did it with a PvE built guardian in a shabby mix of PVT and other gear with no coherent build worth speaking of. I observed that I would regularly go splat the instant I was asked to charge forward and through an opposing zerg.

No matter what I did. Double dodge? Yeah, tried that. Go around the side? Worked silghtly better, but not great. Conditions would coat me, and then I would die. Over and over.

When this happens, I take it as a sign that SOMETHING IS WRONG. Especially when I see other people managed to make it through just fine.

My next step is always to ask myself, HOW CAN -I- FIX THIS.

Note the locus of control. I find blaming others rarely helps anything.

I try to improve myself and my understanding of what’s going on, up to the point where I personally can’t take what’s happening in the situation around me, and scarper off somewhere else where I do have a better locus of control (ie, soloing dolyaks. Choice of where to go, and when to engage and when to run screaming like the hounds of hell are after my hiney is all down to me.)

Whatever gives me an advantage, I take.

I fix my build. I go research what other people have done with WvW builds, try them out wholesale to see if they fit me, and tinker a bit for understanding and customisation.

I read WvW guides on what I’m supposed to be doing. In a zerg, target the commander and key in on the red target sight like it’s your lifeline, always keeping it in the center of your screen.

I practice. I try again, searching for what worked better this time around, and what still didn’t work as well.

I get on Mumble. I hear the comm’s commands, run in a tight ball with the core, and live where others die.

For entirely self-interested reasons, it makes sense to me to at least give the voice program a shot.

I join the TTS Teamspeak when I do Tequatl runs. Strictly speaking, it’s still very possible to run Teq without it at all. But for the purposes of the actual fight, where one can get a bigger picture and a bigger sense of which portions are in trouble and may need people to come by and help out, I find it useful to be listening in on voice.

And yes, there are certain people who can never seem to shut up while waiting for Tequatl. It’s not their fault. They’re built that way. It’s also not my fault that I find this exceedingly annoying and irritating. I’m built that way.

So what? Do I swear off using voice chat because there are some people I can’t stand also using the program?

Well, there are always volume controls and the ye olde stand by of yanking out the earphones. (If one wanted to be very rude, one could also visibly mute certain people or deafen oneself in the voice program when necessary.)

While waiting, I tend to just not be listening to the Teamspeak at all.  I’ve already heard the briefing several times over. Only Merforga’s airline briefing is still amusing now and then. I let the chatters chat amongst themselves. I play my own music if I want to.

When it’s time for the actual fight, I listen in.

The same goes for WvW, I should think.

If I’m running with a zerg commander that uses voice, I should be getting on voice.

If I don’t like it, then fer heaven’s sake, why am I running with that commander?

Give him a vote of no-confidence for his commanding style and scarper off and go do your own thing.

Some commanders curse a lot. I happen to have a fairly thick skin and don’t mind vulgarity, but I perfectly understand if others do not like that commanding style and don’t want to follow them. Some commanders are tactical amateurs, and as much as I might like to support them to the point where they can learn and improve, some days I just don’t feel like dying repeatedly to bad calls and will simply not follow those doritos.

I’ve met one commander who was intensely abrasive and a little bit racist with not much redeeming features (as opposed to another who just cursed a lot but was hilarious and funny and knew how to spin a situation around to keep his followers engaged with high morale)  and after fifteen minutes, simply decided to break away from that little group. Not my thing. They were still contributing in their own way, so I went off to contribute in my own way somewhere else.

When I want to be alone and not listening to anybody and playing my own music, I log on an alt for WvW roaming and I run around on my own, only keeping track of and supplying reports via text chat.

But when I choose to play with a group, to me, it makes sense to help that group be the best it can be.

Even if it means downloading an evil voice program and having to meet and talk to strangers.

Who knows, maybe after some time of getting to know them, they won’t be strangers any longer.

GW2: Name Recognition, Being Social and Shout-Outs

One thing I haven’t seen in an MMO since ye olde A Tale in the Desert is oldschool name recognition.

That is, the ability to become famous or familiar to each other and be known for various things.

If I played Eve Online or Star Wars Galaxy, that might be different, I’m given to understand that such things can occur there. But in most typical MMOs, everyone runs around in a nameless anonymous crowd, barely knowing or recognizing each other.

At most, one joins a guild and gets to know the group of people inside that in-group. Other guilds or what other people are doing, unimportant in the greater scheme of things, let’s just focus on our PvE, our raid instance, our PvP battleground, or what-have-you.

There’s even a current debate in the blogosphere, prompted by Syp’s post on Playing Together Alone Together, about how much GW2’s pro-social measures help this or fail to.

Speaking just for myself, I am definitely encouraged to be more social by the design. Which is quite amazing, given just how antisocial a loner I tend to be in most other games.

A lot of this perception is in the eye of the beholder, I feel. I don’t mind the wordless ‘being alongside’ each other in normal play. Most will stop to help fight a mob, or revive each other and so on, and the rudest thing that happens is someone who just dashes past the veteran mob you’re fighting to sneak a node and dash right off. I just shrug, probably a WoW-trained person.

I’ve had spontaneous friendly encounters on difficult vistas, jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons. Some of them are acquaintances of the moment, that you may never see again. Some others may simply be names that get more and more familiar the more time you spend on the server. I’ll give a named example, since some people are pouting that we bloggers talk along in generalities, but never in specifics.

(If anyone named is uncomfortable with this, and want privacy or some such, feel free to contact me and I’ll edit you right off.)

So. Isle of Janthir. When I was leveling in the Charr lands, I always saw another Charr running about in the same leveling zones. Vanilla Parfait. I was always extremely amused by his name. He and I have never met directly, just perhaps encountered each other in zone from time to time. Eventually, while forums surfing, I realize that he is one of the contact points for the guild Aegis of Janthir (AoJ), a group I see quite a lot in WvW.

Then there’s Malkier, who seems to have paused in his gameplay, but I have him on my friendlist (which is usually empty in most other games save a real life friend or two.) We met in the Font of Rhand mini-dungeon, he was leading an entire flock of followers to the champion boss, but I noticed that no one made a turn for the sword which was the key to a gate later on. Having learned the secrets of the place with another group exploring in beta, I side trekked to go get it and caught up with the group in time for that inevitable question which arises, “Who’s got the sword?” *confused silence* “What, no one’s got the sword?!”

“I have the sword,” I replied calmly, lugging it as I entered the room. And from there, the two of us guided the rest of the new ones into how to take down the crazy Flame Legion Charr boss, whom I personally suspect was driven mad by having to stay in an underwater room all day.

When he finally died, and chests popped in joyous abundance all around us, there was great rejoicing and much exchange of friend-ing each other.

It turns out that despite that burst of goodwill in a mini-dungeon, most of our timezones and gameplay speeds do not match up, which ultimately, is one of the great deciders of how close friends you can become with someone in game, but still, why not? We can have different degrees of friendship and familiarity, can we not? Not everyone has to be a bosom buddy or a drinking pal. Even if it was a one-off experience in the history of my leveling this Charr, it was a positive social experience and unique to his ‘personal’ story in a sense. When I level another alt, I will not have met the same people.

Perhaps this is the curse of the post-launch frenzy. Slower levelers are by definition more casual in their gameplay style and less inclined to be online long enough to constantly bump into the same people. As folks move through the zones and end up in the higher leveled ones, or start new alts and are now stopping to smell the roses in the really low leveling zones of a race they haven’t seen yet, there’s more of a gap in the middle where perhaps, some are feeling things to be… more quiet where they are.

I hate to say it, but the bots are out in force also. That can no doubt make it feel lonelier when your only pals are a bunch of weirdly named guys known as ‘fdhasd’ ‘fadsh’ ‘fdddhst’ running around in a programmed circuit and you end up stopping and staring at them, trying to decide if there’s someone behind them or an AI, and becoming more and more certain by the time they repeat the seventh loop around the same area. The silver lining is it is quite a fun minigame to click on each one of them, right click their names and report. (Because I’m a big stickler for such things and they’re giving multi-boxing such a bad name, to the point where GW2 makes it against the rules *sighs* Oh well, I have other games that are okay with it, and it’s probably a dumb idea to try with such a movement/dodging focused game anyway.)

Then I need to point out one other thing. Proponents of the ‘forced’ group makes you ‘friends’ philosophy are evidently missing, or not playing parts of the Guild Wars 2 game where you do need groups. Or are strongly encouraged to have them.

Try soloing a dungeon, hey?

If you opt to do dungeons on a regular basis, I should think that one would eventually have repeated encounters with similar people with similar interests or the same goals (must have glow-in-the-dark greatsword…) and perhaps even become friendly with them. Or at least, end up finding a guild which feeds that need, and again, ending up with similarly dungeon-oriented people.

I see nothing wrong with leaving the leveling game as the most casual choice, enjoyable and peaceful even for soloers, with the option to play alongside, and even, if you’re feeling brave and want to use /say to say hi, playing -with- someone who responds back in kind.

Then let’s talk about WvW, where I suspect the slower leveling casual folk have lost most of the level 80s to, on the higher ranked servers, at least.

It’s been one of the best places for me to repeatedly see the same faces and get more familiar with them.

Heck, I even get to recognize ‘celebrities’ in a sense, or at least, people that are active in some way on forums, blogs, guild leaders and so on.

I have had the honor of standing beside Isarien (AoJ), guild leader of the above-mentioned Aegis of Janthir, who also posts quite a bit on the forums I read. This was a successful guardian defence on a door chokepoint – line of warding, ring of warding and so on – with no doubt, a ballista or two or more behind us cleaning up the grouped invaders.
Shortly after, the bulk of AoJ burst out for an orb run. Stonewallis, another AoJ contact point, can be seen, as well as other AoJ members. (And a Love and War (LAW) contact, Sara Blackbird.)

I even caught Eriena [TKG] from The Kelly Gang in a screenshot, aka Ausj3w3l of Healing The Masses. How utterly unlikely is it for bloggers to see each other in the wide expanse of an MMO?
I’m also getting shot by an arrow cart. Stupid arrow cart. I have 18k hp, I can take it! Not for long though. I dodged out, I did.
Kingler, my thiefy guildmate of the incredible 2 vs 5 I talked about in a prior post, is also visible.

Ropang [ND], guild leader from Never Die and his guild mates, building up to an orb rush. (I screen cap a lot of orb rushes, it’s one of the only times I can stand still long enough to hit printscreen.)
Guild tags were bugged out in this screenie. Tbox [ET], guild leader of Extreme Team, it was an extreme honor as I got my eyes opened to some incredible small team WvW tactics just listening to how he commanded over his Vent. Buzz Kapow [ET] is also another name I recognize from the forums. Interslayer [SP] and some of his guys from the Sock Puppets were also representing. On a completely conquered borderlands, they refused to give in or give up, and outsmarted Eredon Terrace and took a northern tower, Cragtop, holding out for a stunning 45 minutes against a much greater number. It actually distracted enough spawn campers that the IoJ pug zerg managed to break out and take the two nearby supply camps for a time.
I’ve seen many more people, Kylia Deprigen from Avatar Dynasty, Darkshaunz from Twelve, Flake, Thalantyr, Grishnakk and Yan Weng from The Kelly Gang, and lots more besides. Just no screenshots yet.

It’s got to the point where I, one of the most antisocial people I know, feel at least…positively inclined towards those names, rather than thinking that they are all strangers and unknown and scary. It’s barely been a month.

Trust and friendship may take a longer time or never (I would be that silent and clumsy Charr lunk in the corner – Finder Blazebane [uA] because I can’t type and fight at the same time, falling off cliffs and walls and doing stupid shit until I figure stuff out) but we are at least, for better or for worse, server mates (until someone transfers off.)

If you yourself don’t pay any attention to the names that you are seeing run all about and around you on your own server, well, whose fault is it?

ArenaNet’s? Must they implement a voice-over that reads out the names of those guys you encounter in your play for you to notice them?

Must they be in some kind of party UI in order for you to see them? And which game have you been playing that you’ve been focusing more on the UI than on the world?

If you don’t read forum boards or take the trouble to read the guild list of your own server or notice the preponderence of such and such guild tags around you, then how can you hope to be friends if you didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to begin with?

I don’t believe in artificial friends. I don’t need people fake smiling at me making nice because they reallly need me to tank or heal (“plz plz u’r so gooood.”)

Read between the lines. It says: “I want my loot. I need you to get me my loot.”

That’s not friendship.

That’s just making use of people.

I’ll take playing alongside each other, together, without words, with the people I see around me any day.