There Goes the Neighborhood – Massively Shutdown

First reaction on hearing the rumor / news? Damn, some passionate folks are out of a job.

If there’s one thing Massively did right, it’s making their news and article writers very recognizable people with their own opinions and personalities, especially since a number of them also have their own personal blogs in our part of MMO blogosphere town.

Second reaction? Well, crud.

If there’s another thing Massively did right, it’s be a really comprehensive summary list of MMO news and things of interest happening in the MMO world.

Lately, I’ve almost never clicked through to read an article – mostly because specific MMO news these days ain’t that exciting to me, and for one other reason I’ll get to below –  but it’s always been good for skimming through headlines on an RSS feed and getting a feel of what different MMOs out there (including many one will have never heard of otherwise) are doing.

But I can also empathize with a currently very unpopular opinion and post whom some others are reading as being a jerk dancing on someone’s grave, in that there’s one thing I’ll be glad about seeing Massively go.

The quality of the culture and the comments around the articles started going down the toilet a year or two ago, and has pretty much hit rock bottom these days.

-That- actively repels me from a click through because I don’t want to scroll down and end up seeing another flame war, replete with Massively trolls going at each other and anyone not yet savvy enough to recognize them.

A long time ago, when Massively first started, things were very different.

Comments were Rock, Paper, Shotgun-quality or higher, a bunch of bloggers were all hanging out there, and I had a really good time and run as a commenter there, which imo, got my name out there and recognized before I decided it was time to carve out my own lil place on the internet.

I’m really not sure what happened down the road, maybe it was just a side effect of too much popularity, maybe AOL was remunerating based on click-throughs, hits and comments and it was more profitable to let a combative , troll culture rage unchecked and get more people responding that way, maybe the comment system AOL made them use just sucked with moderating tools (I vividly remember a total inability to edit comments for a long time, fer instance) but something happened…

And it just made the bottom of the articles a really unpleasant place to be for me, especially when they somehow managed to attract a Positivity Troll whose name I recognized from the City of Heroes forums.

Every now and then, I would try to get back into the community swing of things with an odd comment or two, usually during the Daily Grind articles which I was quite fond of for coming up with thought-provoking questions and seeking reader opinion and input, and generally end up repeled by something or other.

The absolute straw on the camel’s back for me was when I tried to add a little humor with one comment, in my usual sardonic style, and guess what, my comment got deleted, presumably being read by the editor as a troll, while a whole lot of other trolls were running rampant.

LOL.

Well, I guess I don’t fit as part of the Massively community any more then. Cheers, see you, I’ll be hermiting over here on my corner of the internet, where people who don’t like me or my opinions can decide to stop reading me – no offense taken – and where people who do can stick around.

And that was basically how I took myself out of the Massively commenting community and stopped contributing to clicks and pageviews for the most part.

An inhospitable, controversy-fond social environment / culture had formed and no one was actively community managing or cleaning it up to any visible degree of success.

Do I really want to see Massively go?

Nah.

As I said, I’m sorry for the writerly guys and gals who are now out of a job. I hope they can move on to other better things and get a good income stream going again quickly.

I’m sorry for the loss of a news-aggregating site who covered MMOs primarily and did a good job at providing a specific kind of news service.

But, in this ever-changing world, the only constant is change and even institutions and businesses fade, restructure, shut down, grow or be born again. It’s just the natural cycle of things.

And sometimes, if the work environment has suddenly become toxic or intolerable in some way, it can be better in the long term to clear the decks and move on to other things, or give the place a graceful end.

There will still be plenty of folks content with the old way of how it’s always been, and not seeing a problem, of course. “It was doing fine!” They argue. *stares at SWG, stares at City of Heroes*

Somewhere, behind the scene, a bunch of suits were looking at the numbers. Sorry, but business is almost always about the numbers.

Sure, if you care about it, go ahead and appeal, petition, cling onto hope. If there’s enough of you (those numbers again), you can even change minds sometimes. So that’s good.

But if that doesn’t work out, then we may as well gracefully accept that things change, and then move on to better things – even if we have to MAKE them or the opportunities ourselves.

I hope to see another MMO news aggregator eventually step up into Massively’s place, grabbing hold of its strengths and the niche it was serving, but hopefully rehashing none of its mistakes – eg. having AOL as its boss, allowing a cesspool of a comment community to form and linger, etc.

RIP Massively.

I guess it’s really a new decade for MMOs now.

Whines and Cheese

aka a post on negative opinions and cheesy casual games

This post has been brewing (or should I say, fermenting, to massacre the metaphor) for a while now. Finally found the time in between RL stuff to write it.

Some time ago, Shintar from Going Commando and Psynister from Psynister’s Notebook mentioned that their enjoyment of a game they liked (SW: TOR in this case) were affected by the current Zeitgeist of negative opinion surrounding it.

Besides feeling like they need to make apologies or justifications for why they actually like something that is seemingly so unpopular, they perhaps get a little worried that this will affect the basic longevity of the MMO, such as the rate of new subscribers to it, the retention rate of existing subscribers, and the amount of developers that can be supported (cue news of Bioware layoffs.)

(I perfectly understand if what I’m going to say next makes you delete the automated linkback in your comments, so no hard feelings, guys.)

You know what? Screw all that.

There are 7 billion people in the world, many of whom don’t even have internet access, but of those who are on the World Wide Web, there is already plenty of diversity. Nobody will ever agree on anything.

Stop worrying about pageviews, stop worrying about perceived popularity or population in the game of your choice. It is okay to be unpopular. It is okay to like and play a game other people don’t like. Hell, SWTOR has a million subs. Most non-WoW MMOs are celebrating if they hit 400k, and most hover around 100-200k.

(Unless maximizing views is your goal, then by all means, find the most popular things to write about. Making gold, easy leveling, cheat codes, the meaning of life, and so on come to mind. And yeah, go for the games with the most mainstream appeal. Write about WoW, Starcraft, Diablo, LOL, DOTA, TF2, Minecraft – I guarantee you’ll get a ton of hits.)

Heck, I play a game with a population of 800 characters and declining, a good half of them probably alts. (No prizes for guessing which MMO that is.) Part of the reason why I write about it is to preserve its uniqueness for posterity.

In the final analysis, nothing lasts, but your memories and your love of game.

If you like something, you like something. You’re a blogger, tell us why.

To me, this feels like WoW newbie to other MMOs syndrome, or can I use WoW tourist to describe this? WoW players have had the luck and fortune to start playing their game at a time when EVERYONE and their mother (except for me!) was singing the praises and playing the living daylights out of their game.

Me, I saw the raid grind and bait-and-switch coming a mile off and chose not to participate. Did anyone listen then? Haha, no. So yeah, I shrugged, having made my distinctly unpopular opinion known, and figured, folks have to undergo the burnout cycle to know it, I’ll give you guys four years and check back in then, and waited…

More people think like me now, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people still deriving fun and enjoyment out of WoW and are happy to blog and share their experiences. That’s the whole point. It is okay to hold an unpopular opinion. It is also possible for something to be paradoxically good and bad at the same time, depending on your perspective and frame of reference.

And that’s what we want when we read your blog, your perspective and your frame of reference. Because only Tobold is Tobold, Zubon is Zubon, and so on. Syncaine, Bhagpuss, Melmoth, Gevlon, Spinks, Tesh, Sente, etc, etc. As I say these names, surely you’ll recognize at least some, and can link basic personalities and styles to their respective blogs.

So go ahead. Say it. My name is _____. I play ______. I like this game. And here’s why: ….

No apologies necessary.

My name is Jeromai. I think SWTOR is a steaming pile of generic WoW clone. I never hit max level in WoW, especially since they keep moving the goalposts. I refuse to put aside days of my life to raid for what is ultimately bytes and pixels. I want to form good memories and take beautiful screenshots with me when I move on from a game, and I believe that need/greed loot grinds and raid progression and the general community of the game would not contribute positive things towards those goals.

I also hate the Star Wars universe ever since I saw the trilogy, and the revamps and new episodes did not help that opinion at all, what with George Lucas’ ego and excessive CGI in every frame. The only guy I liked in the first movie, they killed at the end of it, leaving an oafish bumpkin as the main protagonist. Great.

I also liked the Ewoks, something most people who love the Star Wars universe detest. They made Return of the Jedi watchable, because all the other characters sucked. At least the walking teddy bears were funny and cute. Thankfully, I do not like the Gungans, so you can stop screaming now.

As much as I want to, this dislike of the setting makes it nigh impossible for me to play KOTOR, which is widely regarded as an excellent classic, let alone SWTOR, which is not. I tried and have barely got out of the intro sequence.

I also think light side, dark side choices are a lame prop and mechanic for so-called moral choices and roleplaying decisions. Are you truly doing anything meaningful by having decided beforehand, ok, this character is going to be the angelic Paragon and choosing all the good options by default (because that’s where the best loot and rewards come from, being one extreme or the other) vs the second run through of Ok, now it’s time to play the Evil Asshole and grabbing all the ‘evil’ options?

But you know what? These are all opinions. Mine, not yours. You are free to agree or disagree as you like. You can leave kudos or dissent in the comments, write about it in your blog or not read me at all because we are so diametrically dissimilar.

So go ahead. Tell us why you like or dislike something. Especially if you like something, tell us why.

Who knows, you may convince a few fence-sitters to try out your game, even if you may never sway the extremists.

And now for the cheese.

My name is Jeromai, and I have a very bad habit. When I’m procrastinating on RL deadlines, I stay away from MMOs because I cannot justify the amount of time spent just to log in, let alone play. But I have a not-so-secret-now love of cheesy casual games, that I buy for a buck fifty or so on Steam, which I am happy to fritter away small chunks of time with, in between attempting work.

During this recent Steam summer sale, I finally got around to buying the Popcap bundle after having dicked around with their demos and the full Plants vs Zombies on the iPad.

Yes, I deride SWTOR for being vapid mainstream crap, and I play even more vapid mainstream crap that only kids and housewives and people with no taste are supposed to enjoy.

There is no contradiction here.

Here’s why I like fooling around with cheesy casual games:

  • They (usually) take short amounts of time to play, meaning you can get a lot of gaming in for your time buck.
  • They focus on doing only one or a few things very well, leaving them a certain simplicity and elegance to their mechanics, which are also easily grasped.
  • Some of them are amazingly polished.
  • It’s extremely fun to find a diamond in the rough and go, hey, wow, these devs are on to something here.
  • All can be learned from, the bits I like, the parts I don’t, without much of the innate timesink grind of MMOs… though you have to watch out these days for timesinks put in to be skipped by paying (thanks, F2P model).
  • They don’t even make the excuse of having an endgame. When you’re done, you’re done. If you like it, buy the inevitable sequel, expansion or chapter 2.

My name is Jeromai. I play Bookworm Adventures Deluxe and I really love this game. Head on to the next post to find out why.