Category Archives: Podcasts

Time Capsule – VirginWorlds SWTOR

As I sit and play solo I often spin up a podcast to listen to.  When I am on a binge I can burn through all my current listens and end up searching for old ones to listen to again.  This week I dipped into MMO nostalgia, turning on VirginWorlds Podcast #133 from November 3, 2008.

Brent’s voice is almost a point of nostalgia for me now, and hearing him talk about the massively multiplayer online gaming news back in the day when it was something a single podcast could handle.

But episode #133 was a special podcast, dedicated to a single game; Star Wars: The Old Republic.

In mid-October the news that was a surprise to almost nobody broke as BioWare at last confirmed that their MMO project was going to be based on the Star Wars IP.  Brent took it upon himself to sum up all we knew about SWTOR after a couple of weeks.  There was even a call out to Star Wars Galaxies, as John Smedley said the two games would be running side by side.

Yeah, we know how that really worked out.

Anyway, if you want to go back a decade and hear how the game was being presented, there is a 52 minute podcast that has you covered.

Coming Soon – Empires of EVE History Lectures

As I mentioned in my look at the audiobook version of Empires of EVE, the author Andrew Groen was looking for a way to continue telling the tales of New Eden.  Yesterday there was an announcement as to how that might go forward as a podcast.

Coming Soon…

The idea is to tell the stories of EVE Online in a more dynamic way.  As I noted about the audiobook of his work, Andrew Groen reading his book is not as engaging as Andrew Groen talking about the game in front of an audience.  The hope, I gather, is to try to capture some of what is special about seeing him speak in a podcast.

The details were shared as an update to the Kickstarter page for the book.

There is already an Empires of EVE area over on SoundCloud, which I have dutifully followed.  I am sure it will be available via other sources as well.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this plays out.  The stories of EVE Online, the player made lore of the game, is one of the most interesting aspects of the game, so I am always keen to see somebody learning it to save and re-tell.

The Asher Hour Episode 20 – Titan Kills and Other Fun Times

Asher Elias, the reputed 23rd best FC in The Imperium, is back with the 20th episode of his podcast.  Still no guest FCs on the show, but enough things have happened since Pandemic Legion moved out of Saranen to fill out a solo show.  The big topic of the show is the fight at Okagaiken, which saw four titan kills, but he covers some other events as well.

Also, as a note, you can find the Reddit comment by NCDot pilot X_D about them possibly getting too cocky here.

Friday Bullet Points are Lucky Even Today

Here it is, Friday the 13th, a date synonymous bad luck and a series of horror movies that, oddly enough, capped out at an even dozen.  How could they not make a 13th one?

Fortunately my wife’s family embraces the number 13 as their lucky number, so that cancels things out… right?  I’m still working from home today all the same.

Meanwhile, here are some items I feel like mentioning but which didn’t quite make the cut for a full post.  If there aren’t 13 of them, well… that’s just bad luck.

They Are So Cute When They Are Young

Nintendo is starting the slow drip of information on the official site about the upcoming Pokemon Sun & Moon games, and so this week Nintendo gave us the date for the launch, November 18, 2016.

Sun and Moon coming in November

Sun and Moon coming in November

We also got a look at the starter Pokemon for the game.

Which one will you choose?

Which one will you choose?

They are Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio, filling the traditional grass, fire, and water starter roles.  Starter Pokemon can be an emotional topic and people get quite invested in their choices.  Currently Popplio seemed to be losing the popularity race on Twitter.

The poll results

The poll results

I traditionally go with the water Pokemon, so Popplio is likely going to be my choice regardless of what people say about him.  Also he’s a seal, how is that not cute?  Meanwhile, is Rowlet wearing a bra or what?  Just asking!

Of course, Nintendo has a track record of turning cute into ugly with evolutions while punishing you by withholding key moves if you opt not to let your starter evolve.  Can’t they stay young and cute forever?  It is a complex issue.

Civilization Goes Cartoony

Firaxis announced the coming of Civilization VI, the next installment in the grand Civilization franchise…. and all anything people seemed to want to talk about was the new art style.  We are so shallow.

A first glimpse of Civ VI

A first glimpse of Civ VI

Alright, alright, I hear you saying that other details were somewhat sparse, so what else were we going to talk about.  I myself welcome a lighter look for the aging game series.  Anything to cut down on the resource demands of a Civ game is probably good.

The game itself is set to ship on October 12, 2016 and will be the industry standard $59.99 for the basic version, and $79.99 for the deluxe edition which will include the obviously planned in advance DLC.  It will probably be four more civilizations that they will end up throwing in with the first expansion in any case.

The question isn’t if I will buy Civ VI, but when.  Given the screw jobs that have happened with Steam sales showing up just weeks after Civ releases or expansions go live, the fact that Civ games are inevitably resource hogging, bug filled, crashing messes at launch… they put in auto-save after every turn for a reason…, and the fact that their last release, Civilization: Beyond Earth was as dull as dishwater and an insult as a successor to Alpha Centauri, and I am thinking I might pass on a day one purchase.  I’ll see what things look like at the Steam Holiday Sale… or maybe the next Steam Summer Sale.

WoW Legion to Beta

I don’t suppose the timing really matters all that much now.  We already have a launch date, so the usual metrics around things like beta-to-launch calculations will be purely academic.  So the important bit is that the WoW Legion beta is now live, having gone up last night.

Beta for those who care...

Beta for those who care…

Blizzard has the initial release notes along with a detailed intro into the features of the expansion.

I do not do beta any more, going so far as trying to avoid information about the release, as I find it spoils my enjoyment when a release goes live.  I feel like I’ve already played it and my enthusiasm quickly wains.

Still, I look forward to hearing some general reactions to Blizzard’s plan for the expansion.  And, of course, the big question is when will the 7.0 pre-expansion update drop?  My bet is on August 9, 2016.

EverQuest II Prestige Servers

The Norrath dev team at Daybreak… we can call the EQ/EQII team that now, since there are no other Norrathian projects now… is looking into what other special sorts of servers players would like.  And so there is a poll waiting in your mailbox in EverQuest II about prestige servers.

Just three options...

Just three options…

As with things in Azeroth, special servers at Daybreak have their proponents and detractors.  Foes of the idea are annoyed that there is no “none of the above” option so they can directly express their displeasure at dev resources being used on projects they don’t care about.  (As the poll notes, they can do so indirectly by not voting, since I am sure that Daybreak will notice if only a few people respond.)

I’m not sure I would play on either server option myself, though that is because I am still pottering around on the Stormhold nostalgia server.  The thing is, the long poll for expansions is content creation, and these sorts of servers just use content that has already been created, so the hand wringing about delaying new stuff isn’t all that valid.

Not That Wild, No Longer a Star

The NCsoft Q1 2016 financials are out and, while things look good for the company as a whole, and most of its properties, WildStar is the noticeable exception.

Q1 2016 results

Q1 2016 results

After an initial boost in revenue with the free-to-play transition, sales have already slumped to below where they were when the game was subscription only.  Of course, this shouldn’t have been a huge surprise given the moves NCsoft was making with Carbine back in March.  This is more the confirmation of what many suspected.

Oculus Rift Retail Rage

So for a brief stretch of time last Friday you could go to a store or Amazon and buy an Oculus Rift unit.  They sold out quickly and you can probably find more than a few re-listed for a well beyond their $599 list price on eBay.  I see one on Amazon for $1,099.  But if you were at the right place at the right time, you could have spent your weekend playing EVE Valkyrie.

But if you pre-ordered a unit back in January, you’re probably still waiting for it to show up.

And so there is a bit of righteous anger out there about the company snubbing the people willing to buy in early in favor of those who waited.  I didn’t buy in either way, but I would have been pissed were I still waiting around for my pre-order to ship.

As Jerry Seinfeld might have put it, taking pre-orders isn’t the important part.  Anybody can take pre-orders.  It is the delivery that matters.  Also, the comments on that linked video are hilarious AND on topic for this post.

CSM XI By the Numbers

I am sure others will dive into the details on this, but CCP just posted the Dev Blog with the details of the CSM XI election.  Charts and explanations and raw data are all available there.

CSM11_logo

It is interesting to see how the two winning blocks stuck fairly well to their suggested ballots.  You can see the top three Imperium candidates, Aryth, Innominate, and Xenuria, getting elected in rounds one, two, and three.  Other tidbits include the fact that players from the US and UK cast half the votes, that most votes came in during the first two days of the election, and that the more recent your account, the more likely it seems you are to vote.  Accounts created back in 2006, when I started, made up only 4% of the voting pool, while those from 2015, 2014, and 2013 represented 14%, 15%, and 16% of the vote respectively.

Episode 18 of the Asher Hour

Asher Elias, head of the Reavers and the 23rd 15th best fleet commander in The Imperium has a new podcast out after a long stretch of silence.  This time around it is just Asher talking about the war, fleets, and what it is like on The Imperium side of the fight.  Not party-line propaganda, but Asher is still enthusiastic and positive about what we can do in the war and where we may end up.

So that is what I had kicking around.  Of course, now that I have all those items cleared out I am starting to wonder what I will write about next week.

Oh, wait, I have 57 unfinished items in my drafts folder.  Maybe that isn’t such a big deal.

Couch Podtatoes Podcast Episode 80 – A Daybreak Retrospective

In one those “a joke that ends up with a life of its own” moments, a “demand” that I appear on a podcast ended up with me actually appearing on one.

Izlain at Me vs. Myself and I apparently drew the short straw amongst the podcast community and so I ended up on the Couch Podatoes Podcast episode 80.

CouchpodtatoeGraphicThe topic discussed was Daybreak Game Company, formerly Sony Online Entertainment, and how they and their games have fared over the year since that transition.  We track the timeline, gush about the state of EverQuest and EverQuest II, ponder DC Universe Online and PlanetSide 2, cast a critical eye on the H1Z1 split, and wonder whatever became of EverQuest Next.

For those interested, you can find the podcast here.

It has actually been a while since I was on a podcast.  I think the last one I was on was the VirginWorlds five year anniversary podcast, and the ten year anniversary is next month.  Doing the podcast was fun.  I enjoy talking about video games.  Actually listening to myself on the podcast is another matter.  My voice never sounds like I think it sounds and I can hear every malady that afflicts me in it.  I am clearly not completely over that bout of pneumonia I had in December.

Anyway, there it is!  Enjoy!  And a big thanks to Izlain for having me on!

(Also if you’re not into the “what are you playing” segment, which I must admit, as a listener, can be tiresome, you can jump to the 10:50 mark where the meat of the discussion begins.)

Towers Still Give Kill Mails

In the age of Fozzie Sov, with jump fatigue, Entosis Link “warfare,” unrest in large sections of null sec, and updates every six week…  just listed them all out and on about half of them my brain was, “Oh yeah, that one, I remember it now”… there is a certain comfort in the fact that you can still go shoot a player owned starbase, or POS, in the same old way to which we’ve grown accustomed.

Not that I have any particular love for POS shoots.  But they have remained a staple of null sec… and low sec… operations throughout my time out there.  My first big fleet op in null, nearly four years back, was a POS shoot and included my first kill mail (it is interesting to see who of the 561 pilots on that kill mail I recognize as active today; The Mittani is in there), and I have been on many more since then.

Attack on the last tower

Shooting a White Noise POS in December 2011

And they do give kill mails, which can be a surprising draw.

Shooting a POS September 2015

Shooting a POS in September 2015

You can debate kill mails and what they mean and how we should count them or score them or flaunt them or ignore them, but people like them all the same.  A ping for a fleet that just says “POS shoot” will earn groans… and command is aware of that, so they never say “POS shoot” in a ping unless it will be a kill.  If they add that, then people will pile in.

A kill mail is surprisingly important to people.  I do not know anybody who talks about the quantity, or even the quality, or their kill mails.  Aside from the occasional amusing one… I hope they didn’t spend all of Gevlon’s money on that… that gets shared around, they don’t get talked about a lot where I fly.  Yet getting one is still a big deal.  I think it is more a matter of recording a moment of time where you were in space and in a fight and making a difference.  Even in a fight you lose, it is cheering to be able to have drawn a little bit of blood from a foe.  I try to get on at least one kill mail every month as something of a heart beat to prove I am still alive in the game.  This can be tough because I usually fly logi, but I keep a combat drone handy just in case.  Again, kill mails are important to me for a somewhat oblique reason.

And the absence of kill mails is something which people have pointed at as a flaw of Fozzie Sov.  While sitting around and shooting ihubs, TCUs, and SBUs, is a thing of the past, so are the kill mails for those items.  Instead, somebody in an interceptor waves their magic Fozzie laser over a thing while the rest of the fleet stands guard.  It saves on ammo, but we still have to hang around, and it isn’t any more exciting if the other side fails to show… and the other side usually fails to show.

But we still have towers.  The graphics have been updated and some of the details have changed, but a POS shot today isn’t much different that a POS shot back in 2011.  Everybody gets on grid, the defenses, if there are any, get shot offline, then everybody shoots the stick… the control tower, the central structure for a POS… and hopes that the defenders didn’t bother to fuel it up with Strontium Clathrates.  If the defender has, the tower will go into a reinforced mode and we’ll all have to come back when the timer runs down if we want a kill mail.

A tower timer is supposed to allow both sides to be able to prepare for a fight.

But if the defender has neglected to “stront” their tower… and the attacker doesn’t know the status on that until the tower shields get down below the 25% mark… it is possible you’re going to get a kill mail tonight.

And that is what the Reavers have been up to of late, shooting towers, setting timers, hoping that the owner forgot to fuel up, and getting the occasional fight, all in the chaos of Fountain.

We’ve been there for a while now, which if you follow kill mails of known jacket pals… kill mails are intel amongst other things… and care about what we’re up to you could have figured out, so I suppose this is safe to write about now.  I try to balance operational security with my desire to record what I have been doing.

Yes, back to Fountain, which is probably just behind Delve and Querious when it comes to null sec regions where I have never lived yet have spent a lot of time flying in and through.  And, as was pointed out on a fleet the other night, Fountain also seems to be the breaker of alliances.  People who live in and own space in Fountain seem to head to low sec or crumble.  TEST, Brave, Fatal Ascension, and most recently Black Legion have all lived there and ended up being changed by the experience.  I think only LAWN came out of the region unscathed, and that was likely because the LAWN gnomes felt at home in a region with constellations named after things like unicorns and griffons.  Mythical creature solidarity.

Is it the region or the people it attracts that does this?

Anyway, the region is, as noted, now in a state of some chaos with Black Legion’s sovereignty being picked up by a range of successor groups, including an alliance named, perhaps a moment of hubris, The-Culture.  Love the reference, but can they live up to that name?

The Balkanization of Fountain

The Balkanization of Fountain

So the region, which also remains convenient to home, has become a place to blow up some towers and, as noted, look for the occasional fight. (Map clipping from the usual source.)

A tower goes down

A tower goes down

One of the oddities of alliances coming to the edge of collapse in the region is that it is fairly valuable space.  The ratting is good and we invaded the place back 2013 for the stated reason of taking the moon income. (There is my timeline of the Fountain War for those interested in reliving the “good old days.”)  So it is a place worth holding.  We will see who ends up with it in a few months I suppose.

In the mean time, there is no point in not exploiting a few of the better moons.

Putting up a tower in Fountain

Putting up a tower in Fountain

That will generate some income… or at least attract hostiles for fights.  Plus it “feels” like EVE Online as we know/knew it, shooting something out in space with the possibility of danger lurking.  And it gives us something to do besides watching the comedy of Northern Coalition, who wants fights, and who has teamed up with Mordus Angels, who clearly does not want fights, trying to coordinate together to do something in Imperium space.  They make a timer and call it ~content~.  And so it goes in the New Eden of Fozzie Sov.

Finally, on a side note, Reavers chief Asher Elias has started a podcast to talk about null sec and ships and doctrines and getting fights and has posted the first episode over at SoundCloud, with the first guest being Ron Mexxico of Pandemic Legion.

How Magic Beat the Bubble

I just mentioned the Planet Money podcast in Friday’s post, having supported a Kickstarter for one of their stories.

PlanetMoneyAnd, as I was catching up on some episodes this weekend I hit on one that was actually related to gaming – Episode 609: The Curse of the Black Lotus.  The game in question is Magic: The Gathering and the title refers to one of the early rare cards, the Black Lotus, that became very valuable in the secondary collector’s market.

Purportedly worth $25K in mint condition

Purportedly worth $25K in mint condition

The show description:

In a classic bubble — housing for example, or tech stocks or Beanie Babies — the fun ends in a crash. Things go belly up, and people can lose a lot of money.

The creators of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering faced such a bubble. The cooler they made their cards, the more the resale value increased — and threatened to send Magic cards the way of the Beanie Baby.

Today on the show: how the folks who made Magic cards came up with a plan. A plan to once and for all conquer the science of bubbles, and make a collectible toy that could live forever.

And the whole thing is 17 minutes long, an easy and interesting listen.

Reviewing My Kickstarter History

With some Kickstarter campaigns of interest running of late, like the Massively Overpowered funding campaign and the much-talked-about Crowfall campaign, I decided to look back at the projects I had funded to see how the whole Kickstarter thing has treated me.

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

Fortunately Kickstarter has a nice little page that lists out the campaigns you have supported.  It was then just a matter of figuring out where everything stood.

Successful Campaigns

1 – Campaign: The Jason Scott Documentary Three Pack

  • Date Funded: November 11, 2011
  • Date Promised: December 2015
  • Project Status: Not late yet

My first ever Kickstarter.  Jason Scott, who did the documentaries BBS: The Documentary and Get Lamp had a plan to do three more.  He wanted to cover tape as a recording medium, the 6502 processor, and video game arcades.  What is not to love about those three topics?

I was a little annoyed when he went out and did another documentary after getting funded, but the man is like a force of nature and cannot be controlled.  And I have no doubt I will get all three documentaries.  We’ll see if it happens by December.

2 – Campaign: Defense Grid 2

  • Date Funded: August 14, 2012
  • Date Promised: December 2012
  • Project Status: Delivered January 2013

Hidden Path Entertainment wanted funding to do a sequel to their game Defense Grid: The Awakening.  They only made their initial goal, which was enough to fund an expansion to the original game as opposed to a whole new game.  That got delivered just a month behind schedule, which is pretty good for a Kickstarter so far as I have seen.

Then they went on to get other funding for Defense Grid 2 and eventually everybody who backed the Kickstarter beyond a certain level got a copy of that, including me.

3 – Campaign: Planetary Annihilation – A Next Generation RTS

  • Date Funded: September 14, 2012
  • Date Promised: July 2013
  • Project Status: Delivered September 2014

Here was the promise of a successor to Total Annihilation, one of the three great RTS games of 20th Century, along with StarCraft and Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

Of course, the project ran long, Uber Entertainment thought it was a good idea to sell pre-orders on Steam for less than the cheapest Kickstarter backer price, and when the game finally showed up I found it kind of blah.  Still, not the worst $20 I ever spent.

4 – Campaign: Project Eternity

  • Date Funded: October 16, 2012
  • Date Promised: April 2014
  • Date Delivered: March 26, 2015

Obsidian Entertainment said that they were going to make a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and a few other great single player RPGs.  What is not to love about that.  And, again, $20, what the hell, right?  And while it is nearly a year late, it got there and I should get my Steam code next week for Pillars of Eternity, as the game has been christened.  We’ll soon see how it turned out.

5 – Campaign: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

  • Date Funded: February 5, 2013
  • Date Promised: August 2013
  • Project Status: Soon

Tunnels & Trolls was the first RPG rules set that I spent a lot of time with.  We started with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but getting all three books was expensive back then and there was Tunnels & Trolls all in one book at less than half the price of of the TSR tomes.  Also, you could plunder that copy of Risk in the back of the hall closet and have all the dice you needed.  Anyway, I’ll write more about the rule set when I get the new edition.

Getting the new edition though…  The promised date was August 2013, and that was viewed as conservative because they were sure it would be done by July of 2013.  Well, here we are in March of 2015 and they keep sending out updates, but it is still somewhere over the horizon.

6 – Campaign: Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

  • Date Funded: April 7, 2013
  • Date Promised: October 2014
  • Project Status: Alpha releases available to backers

The Lord British successor to whatever aspect of the Ultima series he is speaking about at the moment.   Clearly optimistic on dates, it is still in an unoptimized alpha state that does not run very well on my CPU.  But it is there and you can poke at it if you want, and it has been in that state for more than a year, improving slowly while trying to raise more money.  I am still waiting for it to get more solid before I devote any real time to it.

7 – Campaign: Camelot Unchained

  • Date Funded: May 2, 2013
  • Date Promised: December 2015
  • Project Status: First alpha just available

At some point Kickstarter became “spiritual successor” central.  Anyway, like the previous entry, I have written a few posts about Camelot Unchained, Mark Jacob’s run at capturing all the good of Dark Age of Camelot in an updated package.  Promised for December of this year, it just had its first alpha last week if I read the update correctly.

8 – Campaign: Planet Money T-shirt

  • Date Funded: May 14, 2013
  • Date Promised: July 2013
  • Project Status: I got a shirt in December 2013

Planet Money is one of the few podcasts I listen to regularly, in part because it covers a wide range of interesting financial topics, and in part because shows tend to run 20 minutes or less so I can listen to a whole episode during my rather short daily commute.  Their Giant Pool of Money episodes on the financial crisis were great stuff.

Anyway, Planet Money decided to do a practical project on how T-shirts are made, starting with the basic materials, raw cotton for example, and ending with people actually getting a shirt.  So there is a series of shows in their backlog about this.  The shirt showed up late, but it is nice.

Men's and women's versions of the shirt

Men’s and women’s versions of the shirt

I wear it around the house on weekends because, while it is soft and I like the graphic, it is a bit snug on me.  I am not sure anybody at the office needs to know that much detail about my body contours.

9 – Campaign: A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online

  • Date Funded: May 25, 2014
  • Date Promised: May 2015
  • Project Status: Still has two months to run.

Andrew Groen’s epic attempt to write the story of the null sec conflicts in EVE Online.  The campaign, which only asked for $12,500, funded in seven hours and hit nearly $100K.  I am not sure we’ll get the books on time, but his monthly updates have covered his progress in some detail.  He is even now up in Iceland, having given a presentation about his work.  But when we do get it, you can be sure I’ll review it here.

Failed Campaigns

And then there were the campaigns I backed but which did not fund.

1 – Storybricks, the storytelling online RPG – May 2012

I am still unclear as to what I was actually getting in exchange for backing this project.  They were working on a development tool, which doesn’t translate well for end users.  Believe me, I know that pain.  I have been working on development tools for the last 17 years.  But Brian Green was part of the project, so I kicked in before the campaign ended.  Eventually Storybricks got in bed with SOE for the whole EverQuest Next project, then the buyout happened, Daybreak ended their contract, and they folded up shop… dropping a final bit of crazy on us on the way out the door.  I am not at all sure what the trajectory would have been had this campaign succeeded.

2 – Project: Gorgon – An Indie MMORPG by Industry Veterans – October 2012

The first Project: Gorgon campaign.  Eric Heimburg wanted $55K, but barely got past the $14K mark.  Too obscure to get the backing it needed, the project soldiered on without it.

3 – Tinker Dice from Project Khopesh – June 2013

Tesh makes some dice.  While this first campaign did not fund, he later went on to have success in subsequent campaigns.

4 – Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen – January 2014

Brad McQuaid decided he was going to get into the whole spiritual successor funding thing with a throw back to EverQuest.  He asked for too much money… at least more than his name and reputation could draw… and spread his focus too wide in my opinion.  The project is theoretically still going, but post-campaign funding has been problematic at best.

5 – Project: Gorgon – A new approach to MMOs – August 2014

The second coming of the Project: Gorgon kickstarter campaign.  By this point there was a solid, playable game to be supported.  Asked for $100K, got just over $23K in pledges.  Eric Heimburg just isn’t a name with much draw, and as has been discussed before, the project name itself isn’t doing him any favors.  The project doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia.  Still, Project: Gorgon lives and you can go play it right now.

Summary

Overall, Kickstarter has worked out pretty well for me.  I have managed so far to back only projects that have come to fruition. (I don’t count the failed campaigns.)  I like to think that I have chosen wisely, picking only campaigns run by teams with a track record of success.  But it is probably more likely that, in backing just a few projects, I managed to get lucky.

There was clearly a stretch of time where I was more enthusiastic on the whole Kickstarter thing.  That has faded somewhat, and you will no doubt notice some omissions from the list, popular projects I opted to pass on.  There is no Crowfall on my list, as an example.

The only project I have mild regrets about not backing is the Ogre Designer’s Edition campaign from Steve Jackson Games.  I played Ogre and G.E.V. back when they came in a zip-loc bag, so there was a strong nostalgia factor present when the campaign launched.  That said, I am not sure what I would do with the 29 pound box that resulted when the campaign raised nearly a million dollars when they only asked for $20K.  I don’t have anybody to play table top games with and I have more than enough stuff around the house I do not use, so another huge box in a closet probably wasn’t necessary.

So that is my Kickstarter tale.  I am still waiting on some projects to finish, and every single project I have backed has been late to one degree or another, but things have still turned out okay so far.  How have you done with Kickstarter?

Read, Listen, Watch

The title of this post is a hierarchy, and should thus probably be represented as:

  1. Read
  2. Listen
  3. Watch

That is my order of preference for getting information about gaming in general and MMOs in particular.

Read

It is easy for me to tell you why reading is in first place, and it isn’t merely because it is something I have become pretty used to over the last 45 years or so.

When you are reading, you are in control.

Yes, the author put it all together and laid it out for you, but you get to pick and choose what you’ll read and when you’ll read it.  You can read something in total, you can skim, you can jump to the end, you can walk away and come back to pick up where you left off.  Reading seems to me to be the optimal way for me to pick up the information I want about gaming.

And this is reflected in my RSS feed, where I follow more than 200 sources, including blogs, news sites, and forums.  Somebody will say that is a lot.  It really isn’t.  If I skim headlines and mark stories to read later and pick sites with care to avoid too much duplication, my RSS feed is a 10-15 minute daily assignment in the morning before work, with some follow up during the day.  And FlipBoard on the iPad makes it so I can also pick up Twitter and Facebook updates (Flipboard actually makes Facebook a manageable and useful source of information! Imagine that!) and do this all while I am still in bed.

There are, of course, issues with with written word.  It can be difficult to get across the correct tone when writing.  Then there are people who will read a post and call you a hater because you said something negative about the game they love, disregarding anything positive you might have said. And of course, anything that smacks of  satire or sarcasm is going to get misunderstood by somebody.  But I am sure A Modest Proposal spurred some people to protest vehemently against the idea of eating children in its day.

And, of course, when I am reading… as opposed to skimming headlines… I cannot really do anything else.  It requires focus.  But I can pick my iPad and move somewhere quiet if focus becomes an issue.

Listen

In some ways, listening to somebody else talk about MMOs seems like an ideal middle ground.  I can listen to a podcast while I drive or play certain games on my computer, so it gets points for multi-tasking.

I have to pause whatever I am listening to in order to read anything detailed.  A paragraph of quest text seems to require the same mental resources as listening to somebody speak, so if I do not pause I will often find that anything said while I was reading was lost.  But that only applies to longer blocks of text and any attempt to play a text based game like a MUD.  Short messages, quest updates, and random idiots on chat do not take over the language processing portions of my brain long enough to interfere with what I am listening to.

And audio solves much of the tone problem people have with the written word.  You can hear is somebody is calm or angry or laughing hysterically as they present something.  I also find interviews can be much more effective with audio.  Again, the dry written word is hard pressed to express emotion effectively.  I recall back to the Jeff Green interview with Jeff Butler about Vanguard on the 11/10/2006 GFW podcast.  It was outstanding.  A pity you cannot download it any more.

The problems with audio as a format however negate much of the multi-tasking benefit.

First, you are pretty much at the mercy of the show creator when it comes to the flow of content.  Unless they spent the time to setup chapters… and almost nobody does that… skipping ahead really is not an option.  Sorry, but I am not always interested in your musical interludes or rambling general chit-chat, or any “what are we playing” segment that goes on for more than a minute per person speaking.

Second, as a method of transmitting detailed information, audio just sucks.  There is an old saying about people being able to keep five things in their brain, plus or minus three.  I am definitely on the minus side of things these days.  So if you read out something like the comparison of the Riders of Rohan pre-order options I put in my post yesterday, I would have completely forgotten the basic option by the time you got to the legendary description.  Presented as the printed word, I can flip back and forth and refresh my memory.  Such an option is not available with audio, unless I read along, in which case I would rather just read.

Finally, there are just a bunch of little annoyances that have turned me off of podcasts over the last couple of years.  I am surprisingly unforgiving of poor sound quality.  There is the voice of the host, which if I do not like, I am not coming back.  (And I say that while freely admit I cannot stand the sound of my own voice either, so welcome to the club.) It is also tough to search podcasts for content and when the owner disables the feed, the podcast is gone forever unless you have saved it locally.  Adios all of Massively Online Gamer.

And then there seems to be this need to hit time goals, like it really isn’t a podcast if it doesn’t run at least an hour.  Please, please, please, get over that.  You are not trying to fill a network time slot.

I will hold up, as an example of my ideal podcast, Planet Money.  This is an NPR production that is done just as a podcast.  So unlike, say, This American Life in podcast form, which does have to run in a one hour radio time slot, Planet Money only runs as long as it needs to.  It opens with a standard segment, does just one story, and runs anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, rarely exceeding 20.

This is great.  I am always ready for the next episode.  There is no fat and no padding things out to a specific time.  This is a good example of “less is more.”  Somebody emulate this with an MMO podcast.

Watch

Watching, which usually comes in the form of a video on YouTube, ranks in third place with me for a few reasons.  As with audio, you are at the mercy of the presenter when it comes to pace and order of content, though at least with visual cues it is a bit easier to skip ahead.

Of course being a combination of visual and audio, you cannot really pay attention to the presentation and do anything else.  You must stop, look, and listen.  So it has that going against it along with the fact that I am stuck hooked to the internet while I watch.  Books and podcasts can travel, video stays tethered in some way.

But all of that might be acceptable if the average gaming video cast wasn’t a complete mis-use of the medium.

Here is the deal.  We are well on our way into the 21st century here.  If you have modeled your show on the nightly news from the 1970s, you are doing it wrong.  Having a news anchor at a desk was new and cool to my grandparents.  If your value ad is a desk, a suit, and a few captions, please consider dialing it back to a podcast.  And if you have a hipster in a t-shirt standing instead of a suit and a desk, congratulations, you’ve made it to the 1980s by emulating MTV news.

Yes, I know you want to get on screen and be a star, but unless you are angling to actually move your show to… I don’t know… the Syfy network maybe… let it go as a format.

Not that there isn’t a time and a place for the desk and microphone setup.  If you are on the GDC show floor and are going to do an interview with Raph Koster sitting at a desk, great.  I’ll get that it isn’t a studio production and frankly the nature of the event will make for some interesting give and take.  There is something to the Larry King format I suppose.

When I started on this section, my conclusion was going to be that I do not watch any gaming news coverage done via video.  And then I realized that I do watch one regularly.

I watch Zero Punctuation every week.

It is an editorial in the form of a review, so it is news-ish.  But here is the thing, it represents an effective use of the online video format.  There is enough on screen to make it worthwhile viewing as well as an effective and fast-paced audio track to go along with it.  It all works and is viewable in the smallest viewing resolution and never once do we see Ben Croshaw and his hat live and in person.

Okay, we did see him once, in that episode when he was in Washington DC.  I think that made a pretty strong case for him not appearing on camera again, a counter-point to his otherwise very effective use of the medium.

Some Sort of Conclusion

So those are my opinions.  I have tried not to call anybody out as a negative example… though, I guess by not calling out a single good gaming podcast and exactly one good example for a gaming videocast, you might assume I hate them all.  I do not.  I am, however, somewhat jaded by what is available.

So aside from reinforcing my love of the power and portability of the written word, I am going to cover up my lack of any sort of a definitive conclusion with another poll.

So what is it for you?

Shut Up We’re Talking #64

Shut Up We’re Talking, one of the podcasts in the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective, has released episode 64.

Regular hosts Darren from The Common Sense Gamer and Karen from Journey’s with Jaye were joined by Rob from Lost an Eight, and myself.

Topics:

  • Introductions
  • What We’re Playing
  • Listener Mail – Comments from Rocknerd and Shawn
  • No Point, but 50 Novels Deep – We talk about some comments coming out of BioWare, the first being that MMOs really don’t seem to have a point (and they’re going to fix that) and the second that Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to have 50 novels worth of “story” in the game.  We all seem to agree that something claiming to be a virtual world ought to have many diversions beyond a main story and wonder how SWTOR is really going to feel.  After all, the best stories in these games are often the personal ones, the things that happen to us.
  • Free to Play in Middle-earth – The big news about Turbine moving Lord of the Rings Online to a free to play business model bumped the previously planned topic.  We talk about what it means to the current community, what appeals to us, and what might be coming to the  Middle-earth cash shop.
  • Show Close
  • Out Takes

Blogs of the Show:

The show is available via iTunes or can be downloaded directly at VirginWorlds or The Common Sense Gamer.