Tag Archives: I could make a little list

To All The Ships I’ve Flown Before…

BattleClinic.com, which you may know from their involvement with the EVE Mon utility, has been undergoing a serious revamp of their site.  It has been under way for a while now.  I got a note from them months back asking if they could use screen shots from EVE Online Pictures, to which I answered in the affirmative.

But the big site changes have finally been revealed… which I didn’t notice until Rixx Javix did a post about a new feature, ships used.

I actually think that the “ships used” information was in the old version of the site.  Something in the back of my brain believes that it was there.  But it wasn’t as accessible and I do not think it showed as much detail.  Or maybe I am totally wrong.  Memory.

And technically it is not ships you’ve flow, just ships you were flying that were involved in combat where they appeared on a kill mail, either having contributed to a kill or having been the victim.  I’d like to see a stat on which ships I have spent the most time flying in space, especially since I fly in the “space priest” logistics role a lot of the time.  But a list is a list and any long time reader knows I love me a list.

So what ships have I been flying while whoring on kill mails by pressing F1 in CFC blob fleets since December 2011?  Here are the top 10, plus one.

1. Drake – 395 kills / 12 losses

Oh my trusty old Drake.  I have half a dozen of them sitting around still in various null sec stations just waiting for my old favorite ship to return to its place in the sun.

Me and my lag causing friends at 319-3D

Unleash the Drake-en!

It was a fortuitous set of circumstances that made Drake Fleet a prime CFC doctrine shortly after I arrived in null sec.  I couldn’t shoot guns or lasers for shit, but I have max shield and missiles skills and Battlecruiser V when it came time for Drake Fleet.

Those were happy times.  Null sec combat was all new to me and scooting about the battlefield in a swarm of MWD Drakes like a school of fish, Scimitars weaving around us while we spewed missiles and dodged foes was a real highlight in my career.  The first big fleet engagement where I kind of knew what was going on was in a Drake at EWN-2U back in 2012.  Time dilation was a new thing back then.

2. Megathron – 166 Kills / 2 Losses

Mainstay of the war in Fountain, the primay weapon of Baltec Fleet, one of the two doctrines that got rolled up once we found that the doctrines we started the war with were not working out.  This was the ship I flew into some of the more memorable fights of the war, including Z9PP-H, 3WE-KY, and 6VDT-H.

The "How To" of Baltec Fleet

The “How To” of Baltec Fleet

The Megathron hasn’t seen as much action since Fountain.  First it was replaced by the Dominix to exploit drone assist, then the Apocalypse came along and the Megathron was phased out.  Still, the ship was immortalized in the Boat’s Oddity video, and I bet Baltec1 is still flying one in every fleet no matter what the actual doctrine.  Never not Mega.

3. Harpy – 143 Kills / 2 Losses

Harpy fleet has been an ongoing frigate doctrine in the CFC for a while.  I tend to resist flying frigates.  It used to be a matter of not wanting to lose a 40 million ISK clone in a 20 million ISK ship, but now CCP has fixed that.  But I found Harpy roams to be enjoyable.

EVE Online Curse Deployment

A Harpy down in Curse

The doctrine started when we were deployed on and off to Curse.  I probably have more Harpies sitting around in hangars than any other ship besides the Drake.  I need to go on more Harpy fleets.

4. Apocalypse – 93 Kills / 1 Loss

After drone assist was scaled back from “game breaking” to merely “overwhelming” we moved back to the Baltec Fleet doctrine.  However, while you could still fly Megathrons, we were all encouraged to pick up an Apocalypse.  I did not need more than a small push in that direction.  I had been training up lasers in the hope that one day they would be useful, so once I wrapped that up I immediately moved into the Apoc.  I wanted to shoot colored beams of light dammit!

Long range beams

Apocs with lasers hot

I used to carry every damn crystal type I could find and I pretty quickly became “that guy” in Baltec fleet firing a different color laser from everybody else (I am pretty sure the red beams in that picture above is me) or multiple colors because what the hell.  Red and green on Christmas, mustard and ketchup because I was eating a hamburger.  I had a good time with that.  The doctrine has since fallen into disuse, but I still have a couple Apocs, and a large supply of crystals, sitting around.

5. Ishtar – 64 Kills / 0 Losses

Drones are still pretty strong, so Ishtars and Dominixes are back in fashion, to the point that the game is mockingly called Ishtars Online some nights of the week.  This is also a Reaver doctrine fit, which is where I have flown it.  Most of my kills are towers, though there was that carrier we got at the end of our first deployment.  Due to a general shortage of logi pilots, I only flew the Ishtar on that one deployment, swapping out for a Basilisk since then.

6. Caracal – 39 Kills / 6 Losses

There have been a number of tries to get a good Caracal doctrine going from time to time.  I always join in because they aren’t too expensive and I have all the skills.  Caracals were a doctrine at the start of the war in Fountain and we lost them in droves until we stopped using them.  I think I have lost every single one I ever owned in null.

7. Dominix – 27 Kills / 1 Loss

The post Fountain doctrine with drone assist.  I was in something of a slack period when Domis were the main thing.  I went on a few ops with a Domi, but it isn’t really a special ship to me.  Or it wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the fact that I am on six titan kill mails with a Domi from the fight at B-R5RB.  I still have that particular neut fit Domi, still parked in the station in that system with a jump clone should I ever wish to retrieve it.  A pity that N3 owns the system again.  I have a Basilisk stranded out there as well.

8. Hurricane – 25 Kills / 1 Loss

One of the ships I bought early on when I was trying to be a good soldier and follow orders to have one ship for every doctrine on hand at all times or some such.  It was a “Digi-cane,” which belonged to a doctrine that was already out by the time I bought it.  I used to use in for Homeland Defense ops and I flew it to BWF-ZZ in a Boat fleet that bagged a dozen Raiden capital ships.  I think I have an “insta-cane” in a hangar somewhere, which I bought seconds before they got nerfed.

9. Maelstrom – 21 Kills / 0 Losses

This was the prime doctrine when I joined the CFC, just before Drake Fleet showed up.  Big, slow to move, slow to align, and slow to shoot, the key to the doctrine was to have everybody fire at once to cause an overwhelming spike in damage that would blow the hostile ship off the field with a single volley.

10. Scimitar – 18 Kills / 2 Losses

Given how many times I have flow logi, I am actually surprised to see that I have only lost two Scimitars.  I guess a debt is owed to our logi anchors who appear to have kept us out of the line of fire and aligned to get the hell out of Dodge when things go wrong.  Plus it is a swift ship.  And, as you can see, even a space priest isn’t above loading a couple of combat drones in order to whore on kills.

Special Mention – Basilisk – 13 Kills / 3 Losses

The ship in 11th place and the one I have been flying for the most part for the last six months.  Ugly and awkward in that way that only Caldari ships can manage, it is once again proof that logi isn’t above carrying a combat drone or two in order to get a few hits in.  I don’t mind playing logi.  It is what I mostly do these days.  But I like to get something on the kill board at least once a month just some my corp knows I’m still alive.  Lord knows I barely talk to them and I almost never fly with them, so I try to keep up my end by paying my monthly dues, getting a few kills, and clicking on participation links.

Cap chaining in Immensea... Caroline's Star visible

It is all about the Basi… and cap chaining

So that is the list, my top 10+1.  Of course, the kills and losses are in no way an indicator of any capability on my own part.  Even a scrub like me can keep a “green” kill board because of the way kills and losses are counted.

And, of course, this is just the BattleClinic accounting of my ships and kills.  My totals at ZKillboard and EVE-Kill are different, though I do wonder why my BattleClinic totals are as far off as they are from the other two.  ZKillboard and EVE-Kill differ by a mere dozen kills while BattleClinic is a good 20% shy of those total.

Quote of the Day – Is H1Z1 an MMO or Not?

I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO at all. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with MMOs. It’s a session based persistent online game.

John Smedley, Twitter

So H1Z1 has been a thing… at least an early access thing… for almost a week now and, as I have noted, it has gotten a variety of reactions.  Whether you believe early access is a good thing or not, H1Z1 is out there, the latest MMO from SOE.

The night is dark, I think I'll go to bed

And, of course, will IT survive?

Only there is that Smed quote from Twitter.  This was in reaction to a story posted over at Massively, More Boredom than Terror, that describes Syp’s venture into H1Z1 on a PvE server.

Putting together the full series of tweets from Smed, they read out:

Watching [Massively’s] story about how H1Z1 is boring and seeing other commentary along the same lines from people playing PVE.  Makes me realize just how stratified the online gaming industry is. Not a bad thing at all. just interesting. Basically the review is from the perspective of an MMO vet coming into it. The comments are identical to stuff we heard from our own company.

My perspective is different – new kinds of experiences with comparisons to current MMO experiences mean people are looking at it through a different lens then we made it. All still valid points of view though and can’t disagree with them.

I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO at all. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with MMOs. It’s a session based persistent online game.  session based because lots of people play until they die. It’s an easy stopping point.  anyways… just a bit of rambling about it, but I find the experience an MMO vet has coming in to H1Z1 (or Day Z for that matter)

I will say that at least Smed didn’t go for the cheap “It’s a PvP game” shot like so many comments over at Massively did.  SOE provides PvE servers and the team has, in Smed’s words, “…really have gone out of our way to make sure PVE players will be happy” so the idea of “not playing it right” can be discounted.

But how about the idea of not looking at it right?

That does bring us back to the age old question of “what’s an MMO anyway?”  I know what I mean when I use the term… when I write it, it is almost always short hand for persistent world, progression based, multiplayer, online, servers and shards, role playing game.  I also usually mean “fantasy” as well, but there is EVE Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic out there, so maybe I should stop thinking that automatically.

But what I mean when I say it clearly carries little weight, as the term gets used for games like War Thunder and World of Tanks and League of Legends, and probably quite a few more games that would not, in any way, meet my own personal definition.

On the flip side, H1Z1 does seem to press most of my MMO buttons.  You have a character, a persistent world, the whole shards concept with many parallel realms, a form of progression… it is equipment based progression, but that is hardly a new thing… and there is the whole multiplayer aspect.  Common mechanics we find in MMOs, quests and raids and auction houses, are missing, but so what?  Common isn’t the same as required, while the hardcore nature… gotta eat and drink or you’re gonna die… doesn’t disqualify it.

In the “quacks like a duck” view of the world, H1Z1 seems like an MMO to me.  Also, SOE calls it an MMO right there on the SOE main page, thus planting the seed rather firmly.

H1Z1 is a zombie survival MMO set in a post-apocalyptic world where thousands of players must strategically align with friends and against enemies in order to survive the worldwide infection.

And then there is the description on the H1Z1 site itself:

Tell me about H1Z1 please...

Tell me about H1Z1 please…

And “sandbox” is a common subset of MMOs, at least for purposes of argument most days.

Of course, you might say that marketing needed to call it something, and they call everything else at SOE an MMO… except of course, they do not.

They manage to avoid the term, at least on the SOE main page, with Landmark and with H1Z1’s antecedent, PlanetSide 2…. and also with EverQuest and EverQuest II, which are clearly examples of the MMO genre.  Maybe marketing was just lazy.  After all, they also say that EverQuest is the “online game that started it all!”  Though, to be fair, they don’t really define “all.”  However, you get the possible implication swimming in that vagueness, don’t you Ultima Online and Meridian 59 vets?

But I digress.

The usage of the shorthand term MMO could also just be the lens through which we… me, Syp, SOE marketing… are seeing things as well.  The human brain loves to categorize things.  It was a key survival instinct out on the African savannah and remains so in many modern situations, like crossing a busy street in a big city. (Hint: Cabs are predators.)  But it doesn’t always help in situations that are more nuanced… or even when recognizing which situations might be more nuanced.

I know the idea of an MMO is more nuanced than the industry treats it.  A lot of things seem to get that label more because of marketing than any deep thinking on genres and classifications.

But even with that, H1Z1 still feels more like an MMO than any other option.

Is H1Z1 an MMO?  Is it something else?

Are we too fixated on MMOs to be able to tell?  Is Smed to close to be able to see beyond the details?

Not Quite Calculating Gaming Return on Investment

There is a site and a chart going around that shows some games quantified in terms of return on investment.  The original source is the Video Game ROI site, hosted by Ebay of all things.

Of course, this is a list, and we love lists!  So I went to see the top ten value rated games, which are:

The Top Ten

The Top Ten

To me that was an interesting list, if a bit odd.  How did they come up with this?

Well, they are pretty up front with how they did.  How they calculated the value rating is there on the front page.

ROICalculation

Not bad so far.  Hours per dollars spent multiplied by the rating percentage.

So the original Animal Crossing currently costs $6… this is Ebay, I guess they know the used price, so we’ll give them that… and the hours to beat is rated at 69.5 hours, while the average rating for the game is 88%.

So 69.5 divided by $6 gives us 11.58, which multiplied by .88 ends up with a rating of 10.19, which is the best rating of the lot.

Now, you might ask if a game from 2001 qualitatively delivers an experience you would want to spend nearly 70 hours on here in 2014.  Fair point, and something not addressed as far as I can tell.  And the cost of the game certainly seems to favor used games, but this is Ebay and they want to sell you some used games, so go figure.

I was a little more interested in how they came up with the hours to beat a game.

As it turns out, there is a site called How Long To Beat that is just brimming with this sort of data.  I was curious as to how accurate it might be, but didn’t know how I could assess that.  I would have to actually beat a game to get that number, right?

Oh, wait, I did just beat a game!  I finished Pokemon Y, and all I really did was the main storyline as noted in my post.  So I went and looked that up on the site and, naturally, found Pokemon X and Y listed with lots of data.  But the essential bit, hours to beat for the main story was there.

 

PokemonXH2B

So they peg the main story at 33 hours of play time.  And I finished the main story in…

Pokemon Y Hall of Fame

Pokemon Y finish time

… 31.5 hours.  Pretty close.   Close enough that I am probably willing to accept the H2B numbers.  Meanwhile, the average rating is as close at MetaCritic, so I am good with that.

So it seems like we have some pretty solid numbers, even if they seem very biased towards older games, which are less expensive.  There is Civilization in second place, from 1991.  I am not sure, even if you could buy a copy for the $1 they show, that it would run on a modern operating system.  The ROI on unplayable games should be pretty low.

Of course, I am interested in MMOs, so I went digging to see what they had listed on that front.  Way down at 109th place I found World of Warcraft.  Current price, $20, hours to beat, 11.2, and overall review rating of 93%, giving it a value rating of 0.52.

WoWROI

Now, I expected the value rating to be low because I figured that they would account for the subscription model in some way.  But no, they figure you’ll be done with that free 30 days yet, since it only takes 11.2 hours to beat.

That seems sort of fast, 11.2 hours.  I mean, I am running through the 1-60 on the whole Loremaster achievement thing, so it seems like that number should be higher for somebody new who doesn’t have heirloom gear or what not.

So I started going further down the list and ran into Minecraft at 127th place.  The cost is $27 and the rating is 89%, but the hours to beat was 11.2, the same as World of Warcraft.

MinecraftROI

Now, if 11.2 hours seems very low for WoW, which sort of has a 1 to 60 main game, for Minecraft it seems very much off.

Reading through the site more carefully, I found that if a game is open ended or doesn’t have a well defined main game… which is to say the How Long To Beat site doesn’t show one… they went with the number 11.2 because that was the average of all the games measured.

Color me unimpressed.

Still, I suppose it is an interesting data point for discussing older games.  And, of course, it markets older games for Ebay.  But you’re not going to convince me that Pokemon Red and Blue, which ran on the GameBoy in 1996, provides a better return on investment than Pokemon X and Y for any qualitative measures.

 

Picking My 15 Most Influential Games

Jackie at Kitty Kitty Boom Boom, prompted by lvling life, put up a list of her top 15 video games.

There was a methodology by which you were supposed to generate that list.  It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.  You were not supposed to spend a lot of time with it.  And, of course, I tossed that aside.  Rather than a quick list of 15 special games, I ended up with my list of the 15 most influential video games in my gaming career so far.

And what do I mean by “influential?”

I mean that they opened up new idea, new genres, or new points of view for me when it came to video games.

Influential does not mean that they were my favorites, the games I played the most in a given genre, or even all that good in a few cases.  So, for example, I have played a LOT more World of Warcraft than EverQuest at this point in my life, and I am not really all that keen to go back to EverQuest.  But EverQuest is the more influential of the two.  Without it, there would be no WoW, and without me playing it in 1999, I might not have made it to WoW.

Anyway, on to the list.

1. Star Trek (1971) – many platforms

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

I have covered this as the first computer video game I ever played.  While incredibly simple, this game showed me the way, let me know that computers were going to be an entertainment device

2. Tank (1974) – Arcade

Tank!

Tank! In Black and white!

This was the game AFTER Pong.  Not that Pong was bad.  Pong was new and fresh when it came out, but I must admit that it did become a little dull after the first pass or two.  And then Tank showed us that man need not entertain himself with virtual paddles alone.  I wouldn’t touch Pong after a while, but Tank was always good.  You just needed somebody to play with.

3. Adventure (1979)  – Atari 2600

This Castle is Timeless!

This Castle is Timeless!

Yes, I got that Atari 2600 for Christmas way back when, but then there was a matter of what to play.  It came with the Combat cartridge, which included Tank.  And I also had Air-Sea Battle and a few others. But the problem was that these games were all unfulfilling unless played with two people.  And then came Adventure.  Not only wasn’t it the usual 27 minor variations on three two-player themes, it was specifically, unashamedly single player only.  Here, loner, good luck storming the castle!  And it had odd behaviors and minor flaws.  I tried putting that magic bridge everywhere and ended up in some strange places.  It also had a random mode, that might just set you up with an unwinnable scenario.  And there was an Easter egg in it.

It was both different and a harbinger of things to come.

4. Castle Wolfenstein (1981) – Apple II

Graphics - 1981

Graphics – 1981

This was the first game that I saw that indicated that I really, really needed to get a computer.  An Apple II specifically, because that was what Gary had.  And he also had Castle Wolfenstein.

It was not an easy game.  You lost.  A lot.  The control system left something to be desired.  You really needed a joystick to play.  And there were so many quirks and strange behaviors that somebody created a utility program a couple years after it came out that basically “fixed” a lot of the worst annoyances.  I bought it gladly.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

But this game was the prototype for many that followed.  You’re in a cell and you need to escape.  You need make your way through the castle, picking up guns, keys, ammunition, German uniforms, and grenades.   Oh, grenades were so much fun.  There were other, later games I considered for this list, but when I broke them down, I often found that Castle Wolfenstein had done it already, in its own primitive way.

5. Wizardry (1981) – Apple II

Apple ][+ The Upgrades Begin

Apple ][+ and Wizardry

Basically, the party based dungeon crawl in computer form.  Monsters, mazes, traps, treasure, combat, and death.  Oh, so much death.  NetHack was a potential for this list, but I realized that randomness and ASCII graphics aside, Wizardry had pretty much everything it did.

And I spent hours playing.  I mapped out the whole game on graph paper, including that one level with all the squares that would turn you around.  The one with the pits of insta-death.  It also taught me the word “apostate.”

6. Stellar Emperor (1985) – Apple II

The GEnie version of MegaWars III at its inception, it was my first foray into multiplayer online games.  I have written about the game, even about winning.

Emperor of the Galaxy

Emperor of the Galaxy

But it was the online, playing with other people, usually the same people, making friends and enemies and having ongoing relationships that sold the game.  Again, it was primitive, even in its day, with ASCII based terminal graphics.  But there was magic in the mixture.

7. Civilization (1991) – Mac/Windows

The flat world of original Civ

The flat world of original Civ

Sid Meier was already something of a star by the time Civilization came out, but this cemented things as far as I was concerned.  I was considering putting Civilization II on the list rather than this.  Once I got Civ II, I never went back and played the original.

But that wasn’t because the original was crap.  That was because the sequel built on what was great in the original.  It was purely an evolutionary move.  But it was the original that hooked me, so that has to get the nod for influential.

8. Marathon (1994) – Mac

Spooky

Spooky

For me, this was the defining first person shooter.  There was a single player campaign.  There was a multiplayer deathmatch mode.  There were a variety of weapons.  There was a map editor and some mods and an online community that built up around it.  Everything after Marathon was just an incremental improvement for me.

Marathon on my iPad

Marathon on my iPad

There have been better graphics, better rendering engines, different weapons, plenty of variety on arena options, all sorts of updates on match making and connectivity, but in the end those are just updates to what Marathon already did.  To this day, I still sometimes say “I’ll gather” when creating a game or match for other people to join.  That was the terminology from 1994.  I wonder what Bungie has done since this?

9. TacOps  (1994) – Mac/Windows

Before video games I played a lot of Avalon Hill war games.  Those sorts of games made the natural transition to the computer, which was ideal for handling much of the housekeeping chores.  However, in the transition, some old conventions got dragged along as well, like hexes.  And I hate hexes.  Yes, on a board game you need to use that hexgrid for movement.  I could accept that for Tobruk set up on the kitchen table.  But a computer was fully capable of handling movement without such an arbitrary overlay.  A couple of games tried it, but they tended to fall into the more arcade-ish vein, which wasn’t what I wanted.

And then I picked up a copy of TacOps.

Giving orders on an open map

Giving orders on an open map

I bought it on a complete whim, picking up the very rare initial boxed version off the shelf at ComputerWare before it went completely to online sales.  And it was a revelation.  Hey, terrain governs movement.  And cover.  And visibility.  That plus simultaneous movement phases rather than turn based combat meant wonderful chaos on the field.  The game was good enough that the military of several countries contracted for special versions of the game to use as a training tool.

I originally had Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin on my list.  That is where Battlefront.com really came into their own with the Combat Mission series.  But aside from 3D graphics, TacOps had done it all already.

10. TorilMUD (1993) – various platforms

Have I not written enough about the last 20 years of TorilMUDPrecursor to the MMORPG genre for me.  Without it I might not have understood that camping mobs for hours at a stretch was “fun.”

11. Diablo (1996) – Windows

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

I have written quite a bit about my fondness for Diablo II, while I haven’t gone back to play the original Diablo since the sequel came out.  But I wouldn’t be still talking about Diablo II or comparing the merits of Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile had the original not been something very, very special.

12. Total Annihilation (1997) – Windows

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation was not the first RTS game I played.  I am pretty sure I played Dune II and Warcraft before it.  It is not the RTS game I have played the most.  I am sure I have more hours in both StarCraft and Age of Kings.  But it was the first RTS game that showed me that the genre could be about something more than a very specific winning build order.  All the units, on ground, in the air, on the water, were amazing.  The player maps were amazing, and player created AIs were even better.  The 3D terrain and line of sight and all that was wonderful.  And new units kept getting released.  And you could nuke things.  I still find the game amazing.

13. EverQuest (1999) – Windows

Fifteen years later and nothing has made my mouth hang open like it did on the first day I logged into Norrath.  I can grouse about SOE and the decisions they have made and the state of the genre, but that day back in 1999 sunk the hook into me good and hard and it hasn’t worked itself loose since.  Pretty much what this whole blog is about.

Froon!

Froon!

14. Pokemon Diamond (2006) – Nintendo DS

Before we got my daughter a DS lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond, Pokemon was pretty much just a cartoon on TV and a card game somebody’s kid at work played.  Sure, I knew who Pikachu was, but I had no real clue about the video game.

And then in watching my daughter play, I had to have my own DS and copy of the game.  Make no mistake, despite its reputation as a kids game, Pokemon can be deep and satisfying.  It tickles any number of gamer needs.  My peak was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, where I finally caught them all.

Back when 493 was all

Back when 493 was all

While I have stopped playing, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about buying a 3DS XL and a copy of Pokemon X or Y and diving back into the game.  It is that good.

15. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (2006) – many platforms

Filling this last slot… tough to do.  There are lots of potential games out there.  For example, I like tower defense games, but which one sold me on the idea?  But for a game that launched me into a lot of play time over a series of titles, I have to go with LEGO Star Wars II.

LEGO Star Wars II

LEGO Star Wars II

That is where Travelers Tales really hit their stride.  The original LEGO Star Wars tried to hard to be a serious and difficult game.  With this second entry, they realized the power of simply being fun and irreverent.  That was the magic.

And I only have to look at the shelf of console games we have to see that LEGO games dominate as a result of this one title. They have evolved, and in some ways I think they have lost a bit of their charm by trying to do too much.  We got the LEGO Movie Game for the PS3 and it didn’t have the joy of LEGO Star Wars II.  Still, 8 years down the road, the influence of LEGO Star Wars II got us to try it.

Fools Errand?

Of course, putting limits like an arbitrary number on a list like this means it must ring false in some way.  And what does influential really mean?  I know what I said, but I can look back at that list and nitpick that, say, Castle Wolfenstein might not belong.  And what about genres I missed, like tower defense?  I could make the case that Defense Grid: The Awakening belongs on the list.  What about games like EVE Online?  Actually, I explained that one away to myself, seeing EVE as sort of the bastard child of Stellar Emperor and EverQuest or some such.  And while TorilMUD is so powerful in my consciousness, would I have played it had it not been for Gemstone? Where does NBA Jams fit?  And what other Apple II games did I miss?  Should Ultima III be on there?  Lode Runner Karateka?

And somehow this all ties into my post about platforms and connectivity options I have had over the years.

Anyway, there is my list, and I stand firm behind it today.  Tomorrow I might change my mind.  You are welcome to consider this a meme and take up the challenge of figuring out your 15 most influential games.

Others who have attempted to pick their 15, each with their own history:

PC Gamer Says EVE Online is #12

When my wife saw the cover of the September issue of PC Gamer magazine, which I am still getting thanks to the failure of The Official World of Warcraft Magazine (read about that trail of tears), she said she could see a blog post in the making.

She actually reads the blog and knows me better than I imagine.

You see, the cover was taken up with a giant graphic announcing that this issue included PC Gamer’s staff picks for the Top 100 PC Gamed of ALL TIME.

Really, Of All Time

Really, Of All Time

And as any long time reader knows, I love me a good list.  Or a bad list.  Or any sort of arbitrary ranking.

I love when a group decides to pull out some select number of items and declares them the best, most influential, or otherwise notable.  It says so much about the people who make the list, and about myself when I disagree with the choices.

And I always disagree with at least a few of the choices.  Whether it is games that defined the Apple II games or Ten Ton Hammer listing out the Top Ten PvP MMOs, I always find something to complain about.  Such lists are an argument waiting to happen, but in a fun way.  Viewed correctly, such a list at least makes you think and look for the reasoning.

Of course, the first pass through the list was to search for my chosen genre, MMORPGs.  The first thing my wife asked was, “Is World of Warcraft on the list?” followed quickly by, “And what about ‘Jacked up and good to go?'” a reference to the original StarCraft and probably how much I played it back in the day, given that she remembers it more than a decade down the road.

The first MMO on the list was EVE Online in 12th position, which is where the title of this post comes from.

The second was World of Warcraft, close behind in the 15th slot.  Not a bad showing for MMOs in the top 25% of the list I guess.  One fantasy based MMO and one science fiction, which also happen to be, perhaps not accidentally, the two big hold-outs in the subscription versus F2P struggle.

And after that… nothing.  That was it for MMOs.  No EverQuest, no Ultima Online.  The early champions of the genre were left out and nobody else was worthy.

Well, I suppose if you are going to make a list from PC games of ALL TIME and limit it to 100, prime candidates are bound to get left on the cutting room floor.

So I started browsing through the list, checking titles and dates to get something like the flavor of the list, to see if I could spot any sort of trend.

My initial gut reaction was that most of the games on the list were pretty recent in terms of PC games of ALL TIME.  There were some entries from the latter half of the 90s, with a special spot set aside for Doom and Secret of Monkey Island.  But those were the two oldest games on the list, and they stood out because their age.

I compare this to Time Magazine’s attempt at a Top 100 Video Games of All Time list, which wasn’t even limited to the PC, but included consoles and arcade games.  And in that they managed to find room for titles from the 70s and 80s.  But then they left Minecraft off the list.

My first reaction was that the staff was probably much younger than I…  a surprising number of people are these days… and that the prime formative period of their gaming psyche came about in the mid-to-late 90s.  They might never have played Seven Cities of Gold or the original Wasteland.

My second reaction was that perhaps we were working with different definitions.  For me “PC” means personal computer, and it a generalized thing that includes everything in my personal timeline from the Timex Sinclair 1000 to my current 64-bit Win7 box, and quite a few side paths along the way, including a series of Mac OS machines.

But to a lot of people, “PC” probably means Windows box, something that has been reinforced by both Apple and Microsoft in recent history.  So if I read “Top 100 PC Games” as “Top 100 Windows Games,” the list makes a little more sense.  In the timeline of Windows, the less said about things before 1990, the better.

In that context, I suppose the list makes more sense, as Windows games only start coming into their own with Windows 95, which brings us to the late 90s and blah blah blah.

Then again, I could be overthinking this… a common issue for me… and it might be that the team that did the list just thinks newer games are better.  That seemed to be the point of view with Complex Gaming and their Top 50 list, a list which put EVE Online in the #1 spot.  It certainly fits the “complex” side of the equation.

Ah well.

I would like to link to the list so that you could read it yourself, but it appears to be a print edition only feature.  It made for a dramatic cover that no doubt got a few people to pick up a copy.  And I am sure that they would not appreciate it if typed out the list myself.  But I will leave you with their top five games.

  1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  2. Mass Effect 2
  3. Half-Life 2
  4. Team Fortress 2
  5. Deus Ex

I suppose the first choice isn’t a huge surprise.  They justified it well and frankly liked it for all the right reasons; scope, freedom, mods, replayability.  The next three are probably not very controversial.  I haven’t touched any of the Mass Effect games, but you can hardly be any kind of a gamer and have not heard people going on about them.  I have played through Half-Life 2 and spent a bit of time with Team Fortress 2, but they are not really my thing. (And HL2 plus Garry’s Mod made for one of the best video game based comics ever.)

And then there is Deus Ex, which I really have no recollection of at all.  It was apparently quite a thing and I missed it completely.  But it came out when I was still absorbed with EverQuest the first time around, as well as Diablo II, StarCraft, and a few other games I would consider classics.  We can’t get them all.  There are only so many hours in the day.  Heck, just the other day a co-worker admitted to me that he had never seen The Wizard of Oz.  I am not sure our culture makes sense without having seen that.

Anyway, another list examined.  I await the next one.

Charting the Relative Natures of MMO Economies

I think that by this point in time, some fifteen years down the road from the launch of Ultima Online, having a player economy is one of the hallmarks of games I consider to be MMOs, at least when I use the term.

If there is no player to player economy, then the game is something else to my mind.  World of Tanks, not an MMO in my book.  EverQuest certainly is.

And desire for a player driven economy stems from the deep in the roots of the genre.

In 1993 I was playing TorilMUD, arguably the precursor of EverQuest, which was very much a gear driven game.  Despite there being no mechanism at all to handle or encourage a player economy, one spontaneously appeared.  The desire to exchange gear for trade or coin, the need to create an economy, was so strong that an unofficial one was started and developed its own rules and customs.  And it became popular enough that there were standard prices for certain items.  We would sit around in Waterdeep and people would do shout auctions for items, which you would bid on with a direct tell to the seller.  And it you were looking for something, you would shout out a “want to buy” or WTB.

The economy become very popular very quickly, to the point that the people running TorilMUD were not quite sure what to do with it.  First they tried to contain the amount of spam it caused in town, putting a limit on the number of yells you could do over a given period of time and then by trying to get us to do this in a single room rather than shouting across a whole zone.  Eventually, an auction house was implemented, though the devs put the auctioneer in out of the way places, as I think they were still suspicious of the player driven economy.

This suspicion came, in part, from the fact that the player driven economy pointed out flaws in the game.  With little to spend the in-game currency on besides items from other players, some people began to amass huge quantities of cash.  This, of course, drove up the price of everything in the player economy because the long term players could afford to drop a lot of coins on things they wanted for themselves or alts.

But the whole sinks and faucets and inflation aspect of the currency is another discussion.

Likewise, when EverQuest launched, there were no tools to drive a player economy.  It formed around the Commonlands tunnel where people would go to buy and sell, very much in the model of TorilMUD.  This popped up again for a bit on the progression servers, at least until the bazaar showed up.

The Plane of Knowledge kills all this...

Nostalgia at the tunnel

I was thinking about all of this and trying to fit MMO player economies into a two dimensional system for comparison.

What I came up with was how much of a requirement the player economy was to play the game and how much friction there was to engaging in the player economy.

The first seems pretty reasonable to gauge.  Can you play the game, or can you get very far in the game, without engaging in the player economy.  For example, in EVE Online, you have to use the player economy to play the game.  You could, I suppose, try to avoid it.  In fact, it might be an interesting experiment to see what you could do without it.  But I imagine that it would be a long, slow grind to completely avoid the market and it would limit what you could accomplish.

Most other MMOs make the player economy somewhat optional, and have moved more in that direction over time.  The combination of quest rewards and game difficulty have moved in the direction of keeping players independent of the player economy.

Friction, on the other hand, encompasses a whole range of things, such as:

  • How easy is it to access the market?
  • How easy is it to buy and take delivery?
  • How good is the UI?
  • How high are the fees/taxes on transactions?
  • How stable is pricing?
  • Do enough people use the economy to make it viable?

And it is with this that you start to get all over the map.  For example, Guild Wars 2 and EVE Online are oddly similar in how easy it is to view the market.  You can bring it up in the UI wherever you are.  On the other hand, while GW2 shows you everything on the market in the game, EVE limits you to your current region.

Anyway, in order to compare these, I made a little graph and put down where I thought certain games might sit on those two continuum.  This is what I ended up with.

Click to make readable

Click to make readable

The X axis is friction, and the mixed bag of items that represents.  The Y axis is how much of a requirement it is to engage in the player driven economy.  For a few games I made entries for past states of the game and how they seem currently.

EVE Online is, of course, the game furthest down the required end of the spectrum.  I also put it midway along the high end of the friction scale.  On the one hand the market is chopped up by regions, there is no delivery so you have to go get the item from the station in which it was listed, this leads to interesting price differentials based on convenience, there is a double tax/fee system, and then there is the whole contracts economy to confuse the issue.  And pity the poor capsuleer in the middle of nowhere in need of something.

Mitigating that friction is that if you go to the right system, usually Jita, you can find what you want to buy, and there are so many buyers and sellers competing that there is price stability.

At the other end of things is Guild Wars 2, where you can list to sell anywhere and just have to find the right NPC to pick up items you have purchased and proceeds from sales.  The friction is so low that low that lots of people engage in the economy, so commodities for crafting and the like are readily available at reasonable prices.  How much a player is really required to participate is a wild guess on my part.  Gear provided by your personal quest line seemed good if you kept up, but I have no idea if that carries on through the game.

In the middle, well, a few other games.  I ranked LOTRO‘s friction higher than most because of the low participation and the annoying locations and mediocre UI of the auctioneers.  On the other hand, you don’t really need it, and doubly so since Turbine started selling very good armor in the cash shop.

EverQuest II was high friction at launch in some ways… you had to be online to sell, sales were restricted to the storage space of your home (which you had to have to sell), and fees pushed players to go visit players directly in their homes.  And, if you were crafting at the time, there was the interdependence of the crafting skills that required you to use the market or use up your four character slots to make crafting alts.  On the other hand, when you buy something on the broker in EQII, it appears right in your inventory.  A lot of that got smoothed out over time, but dependence on the broker went with a lot of that.

EverQuest started at high friction, you had to be online and see the right person on the auction channel selling something you wanted.  Later the Bazaar came and you could get a listing, but sellers had to be online, in the Bazaar, and you had to go find them.  Finally, things got to offline selling in the more recent expansions, though I think you still have to show up at the Bazaar.

I ranked TorilMUD even higher on friction, if only because the player base was so much smaller.  When your player population is a few hundred, and only 256 can be on at a time, your buying and selling options are pretty limited.

And in the middle there is World of Warcraft, which used to have a segmented market, but which has since been unified.  The UI for it has gotten better over time, and the addons for playing the auction house have grown more sophisticated, but the need for the auction house has diminished over time as quest rewards in the form of gear have become more regular and standardized through the leveling process.

So there is my chart.  It is pretty much a gut-level, unsubstantiated work at this point.  Where do you think I am right and where am I clearly wrong?  And where would other games fit on the chart?

And, of course, where do you think MMOs should sit on that chart?  What would be ideal, if anything?

New Blogger Initiative a Year Later – Who Survived?

It was just a year ago that Syp kicked off his Newbie Blogger Initiative plan.

nbimediumedit

The idea was to inflict blogging on as many newcomers as possible by getting a bunch of old cranks to give semi-useful and often contradictory advice about blogging.  And link whoring.

As is clear from that, I went for a humorous/cynical/sarcastic spin on the whole thing.  That was because, in the past, I have read so much horrible, inappropriate, or just bad from all rational perspectives advice on blogging that it practically puts me at the laugh/cry fork in the road.  And I always choose to laugh, which doesn’t make me very popular at funerals I must admit.  I end up thinking “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants” and it is all down hill from there.

Yes, there are a lot of nuts and bolts things you can speak to about themes, fonts, statistics, comment moderation, spam, and the like.  But when it comes to the actual motivation and philosophy of blogging, the only universal I could come up with is:

Be the blog you want to read.

Which isn’t very helpful.

And I have nothing for any subsequent existential crisis which might result from realizing that you don’t actually want to read your own blog.  But it seemed better than telling somebody they need to put a picture of a cat in every post or whatever the SEO experts are saying of late.

Anyway, there was much enthusiasm.  Lots of people trotted out advice of all sorts (a list of some of the posts here), some of which was actually more useful than I expected.  Nobody actually told people to post pictures of cats.  The usual wet blankets had to chime in that it was all a wasted effort, because that is what wet blankets do.  Why deny them their place.

In the end, by my count, 110 new blogs were created and were being blogged on by new bloggers here in Blogsylvannia.  I have them all listed and linked in another post.

But now that a dozen months have flown by, I thought I would take a look at the mortality rate for NBI blogs.  Of 110 who started, how many are still active?

The answer is 30, or 27% of those that started.

Active is, of course, subject to interpretation.  My bar for being considered an active blog was still being at your URL (or having noted a forwarding address) and having posted something on or after April 1, 2013.

That leaves the following blogs, which you should go visit and congratulate.

  1. Adventures of Danania, Supergirl of Lorien
  2. Ald Shot First
  3. Altaclysmic
  4. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
  5. Bloodthorne
  6. Casual Aggro
  7. Casually Vicious
  8. Conveniently Placed Exhaust Port
  9. Dreadblade
  10. Elfkina vežička
  11. Funsponge
  12. Game Delver
  13. Goetia’s Letters
  14. Mighty Viking Hamster
  15. MMO Juggler
  16. MMO One Night a Week
  17. Neurotic Girl
  18. Ravalation
  19. Red Neckromonger
  20. Sephora’s Closet
  21. stnylan’s musings
  22. That Was An Accident!
  23. Unwavering Sentinel
  24. Vagabond Goes for a Walk
  25. Warlockery
  26. Warp to Zero
  27. White Charr
  28. Why I Game
  29. Wynniekin’s Adventures
  30. World’s End Tavern

Is that a lot or a little, good or bad?

I suppose it depends on your point of view.  The only other data I have on the subject is from when I did The Great Survey of Linking Blogs back in September 2011.  During that I went back and checked on all 281 of the outgoing links for blogs that at some time put me in their blog roll.  I found that of 263 unique blogs, 74 were still active, which totals up to about 28%.

So 27% from that sample size seems to be about par for the course, as far as I can tell.

New World Tavern and Casual Aggro did similar round up posts, though their criteria was a bit different (as were their counts), so they came up with 40% and 25%  respectively.  As they say, your mileage may vary.  Avatars of Steel also has a post about the NBI, while there is a class of 2012 badge up for participants over at Ravalation.

And what of the other 80 blogs?  A bit on that after the cut.

Continue reading