An Eve-related video that’s full of win

I was catching up on my blog reading and stumbled across this gem on Ander’s Eve Pirate blog. I’m sure those who still regularly check out Eve blogs have already seen it, but I know there are a few former Eve players reading who might have missed this. And it’s too good to miss.

Short summary: One of the Goons sings “Let It Be”, with Eve-related lyrics and epic stop-motion action.

When you find yourself inside a bubble, hold your cloak and wait for me
always follow orders little bee
And in your hours of darkness, you will hear instructions come from me
always follow orders, little bees

Normally I’d link directly to the YouTube clip, but I would have missed this if it wasn’t for Ander, so he gets the link. Thanks! I’m going to be singing this all night long, and laughing. There’s really nothing like the Goons of Eve in any other mmorpg.

Link out to a thread about it on the Eve-O forums here.

Still mad about that “Close World of Warcraft” bit?

During an interview last summer, Richard Bartle was asked “If you could take over control of one major MMORPG – which would you choose and what would you do with it?” His answer, ” I’d take over World of Warcraft and I’d close it”, stirred up the blogs and discussion boards. I loved his answer, but a lot of people thought it was ridiculous.

If you’re still annoyed with him, maybe this article, on the eve of the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, will soften your stance.

“Half the UK population has grown up playing computer games. They aren’t addicted, they aren’t psychopathic killers, and they resent those boneheads – that’s you – who imply that they are addicted and are psychopathic killers.”

Thanks, Dr. Bartle. Can you make the rounds on stupid U.S. talk shows next?

Lots of searches for Christians and GTA

Since I posted about the GTA IV banner ad over on Gamepraise, I’ve had a bunch of new search hits.  WordPress lists the top 10 search terms that people used to get to your blog in your blog stats. In the last two days, I’ve had eight different searches land on my page.

– christian gta
– christian gamers playing grand theft aut
– grand theft auto iv christian
– gta iv christian review, christian review gta iv, and christian gta iv review
– christians + gta iv (equals…I’m not sure, but I’m imagining dogs and cats and streets).
– bible + gta iv

Who’s searching this out? I can’t imagine GTA IV gamers, even Christian gamers, combining those two search terms. Maybe there are Christians concerned with GTA IV and they want to see if there are any reviews based on their faith, that makes sense. I can’t figure out “bible +gta IV”, though. What the heck were they trying to find? I could almost understand “bible as weapon +gta IV”. I could imagine Rockstar letting you club someone with a Gideon’s Bible from a motel bedside table.

Maybe people are just curious if there’s outrage over GTA IV? Is it just Christians? I’m going to include the worlds “Jewish and GTA IV” and “Muslim and GTA IV” here, just to see if I can find anyone searching for the other two big religions and the biggest game of the year.

Weird.

Keen’s Age of Conan bullet points

Keen has been actively discussing design choices for Age of Conan, and he made a post listing where he stands on various issues. I agree with a lot of what he says, maybe because we played on the same server in Dark Age of Camelot, and we know a) how good PvP can be when it’s implemented well, and b) how quickly you can screw it up when you drop PvE elements into the PvP balance.

I’ll preface this by saying that I think Keen and I were lucky to play on a fantastic DAoC server. It wasn’t just the game that played well, it was three realms of a pretty damn good gaming community. Maybe our experiences were different from other people on other DAoC servers (although I think Keen did play on at least one other server), but we do have a ton of experience playing on (for me) the best PvP mmorpg to date.

Anyway, on to Keen’s list, and my reactions.

1. PvE Raiding Gear that influences the outcome of PvP

Friggin’ dumb, that’s my opinion. Didn’t anyone at Funcom play DAoC and get subjected to The Trials of Atlantis? Didn’t they see the outcry for a DAoC Classic server, with no ToA foo? If you want a PvP-centric game, don’t waste time designing treadmills that keep your players out of PvP.

I’m all for PvE raiding as a way to cater to players who aren’t thrilled about PvP (although I think the Holy Grail of PvP is a system that gets PvE players interested in PvP, like DAoC managed to do). But if I don’t want to raid (or honestly, don’t have time to raid), then I’m going to fall out of PvP because I feel like I won’t be able to compete on a fairly level playing field.

2. Raiding Treadmills: The art of raiding for gear to raid for more gear and so on…

If I wanted to play Diablo, I’d go play Diablo. Or WoW. Which I quit. Because I don’t enjoy endless raiding to replace endless gear. Sure, some people might enjoy it, (and maybe they should play a Raid-focused game like WoW, not a PvP-centric game like AoC), but who are you going to fight against in PvP if enough people don’t progress through raiding treadmills to get good gear, so they feel like they’re competitive? Has anyone at Funcom looked at the number of end-game raiders in WoW compared to the overall population? Who’s going to be out there in PvP enjoying themselves if they feel their gear isn’t competitive?

3. Should only the Hardcore players get the gear? PvE and PvP.

I liked the DAoC realm ranks, where hardcore players earned extra skills. I don’t think it should extend to gear, though. The skills should also be set up so most players can easily earn the first couple ranks, and then it ramps up pretty steeply to prevent a huge disparity between players. You want a Bell curve of abilities in PvP, not a long flat line indicating most players don’t have additional PvP skills, with a sharp rise at the end of the graph showing that perhaps 5% of your players have tons of additional PvP skills.

And please, don’t make me raid Pve for better gear for PvP. I probably won’t do it, and then I probably won’t PvP, and then those who do PvE raid won’t have me (the collective me represented by, say, the majority of the WoW population that don’t raid) to compete against in PvP. If you want to improve gear, do it in a way that’s accessible to everyone in the population (DAoC’s spellcrafting comes to mind).

4. AoC Specific: Battle Keeps and who gets them. The role of the Mini-games.

I’ll have to play this to see how I feel. In general, I dislike any sort of instanced PvP, but I know there’s another type of player who disliked having to roam the DAoC frontier looking for someone to fight. Instanced PvP was set up for people who used to enjoy running pre-made 8-person groups, and they only wanted to fight other pre-made 8-person groups. To me, removing those people from world PvP greatly reduces the organic quality of DAoC encounters. Part of the magic of DAoC was how the RvR ebbed and flowed based on the wide variety of people competing in the same game space (8-man groups, keep raids, stealthers, gangs of stealthers, zergs, and even people trying to do PvE frontier quests or leveling). If you start pulling some of those elements out into instanced areas, I think it lessens world PvP.

Clearly, this is just my opinion, and like I said, I was lucky enough to play on an outstanding DAoC server where lots of people were looking for a fight each night. I know there were people who were frustrated by the open and unpredictable nature of combat and wanted an 8-man fight, right now! 🙂 I think part of the reason Blizzard went with instances is because they didn’t want anyone to have to wait for a fight, or to wonder where a fight might occur. That bores me, but other people seem to enjoy it. I like the unpredictability of world PvP. I like complaining that I got zerged, and then turning around and zerging right back. I like the surprise of encountering an enemy stealther skulking around a milewall at 4 am when the frontier is dead quiet, instead of knowing there are always other people in the same small instanced area ready to fight. Other people don’t like that, I’m cool with that, but I don’t think too much instancing bodes well for an open world PvP environment. We’ll see how Funcom handles it.

5. Zergs… For the Swarm!

Keen seems to dislike zergs. I think zergs have their place and actually provide a service to the greater PvP community. Not everyone playing on a PvP server is both highly skilled and highly resilient when they first enter World PvP. If they get their asses handed to them night after night in “even” fights, if there’s really experience loss in AoC and you lose over and over, and if they feel there’s no point in going out to help take or defend a keep, the overall PvP population will suffer. Zerging helps keep people involved without feeling too awfully vulnerable. You’re still going to get your ass handed to you in PvP if you suck, even if you’re in a zerg, but at least you’re dying with friends and developing a sense of community.

I was in Hibernia on the Percival server in DAoC, and for the first year of the game (maybe more), we got our butts handed to us on a nightly basis, mostly by the Mids (*shakes a fist at Keen and the rest of the ebil bastages*), but also by the Albs. The only thing that kept me coming back for more was the comradery of the zerg, and the sense of community that grew out of trying to defend ourselves against superior opponents. I wouldn’t have kept returning to the frontiers if I had to lose in 8-man groups over and over every night.

Part of what made DAoC great was the variety of PvP elements I mentioned before, and the zerg was certainly part of that. One thing Hibernia could do at the outset was move in a huge group and take back keeps or mile walls through force of numbers. It’s not fun for people who like “fair fights” and want to run in 8-man groups to run into the zerg, but hey, I didn’t enjoy getting smoked by Wolves of the North in straight-up 8-mans 🙂 There are pros and cons to both types of gameplay, and ultimately, they allow a large portion of your server population to participate somewhere in PvP.

6. Hardcore vs. Casual

I’ll agree it’s too big an issue to take on in just this post, but any PvP system that doesn’t encourage a variety of gameplay choices in PvP is going to exclude either the hardcore or the casual, and you want everyone involved for a healthy PvP environment.

7. World of Warcraft

Any “go back to XYZ game” is just a wasted comment. Don’t harass the poor ‘keen 🙂 He’s working hard to express his opinions and concerns.

8. Fun, involved, and innovative gameplay

I haven’t played the beta yet. (Yet! Open beta key in my hot, sweaty, hands!) I’m looking forward the PvE, and I hope that the PvP heads more toward including everyone without extensive PvE, and I hope world PvP is emphasized more than instanced PvP. Most of all, I hope Funcom is paying attention and responsive to what the gaming community enjoys. It took a lot of patches, changes, head-scratching and forum wrangling to make Dark Age of Camelot a good game. If Funcom doesn’t have PvP nailed out of the gate, I’ll at least take solace knowing that things can change.

Last but not least, I was searching for Keen and Graev in my Google search bar, and it tried to complete my search with “Keen and Grey“. Dude, don’t go country on us, k?

But Dad, I’ve seen decapitation before!

I’ve debated playing Age of Conan previously in this blog, citing concerns about violence and nudity, plus the conflict with the Warhammer release date. Since WAR is pushed to fall, I’ve had to confront the issues of violence and nudity and how they relate to the relationship my daughter I have concerning video games.

I started playing Everquest in March 1999, and my daughter was born 10 months later. From the time she was old enough to sit up on my lap, she’s watched me play mmorpgs, and she wanted to join in long before she had a clue what keys she was supposed to press.

Could someone CC that add?

She was almost four when World of Warcraft was released. She spent a lot of time watching me play, and eventually created her own characters. She has her own unique way of experiencing virtual game worlds, which pretty much involves making money to go shopping and traveling, and WoW was perfect for that. She played with me for a couple of years, and I rarely worried about the content. When there was something violent going on, it was a great opportunity to talk about human history, how people had to hunt for food, why people fight in wars, etc. It was the 4 or 5 or 6 year-old version of those conversations, of course, but it was a good opportunity to get her thinking about the world around her.

She and I both grew out of WoW, and she’s moved to mostly playing DS games and educational PC titles. I knew that if I started playing Conan, though, she’d want to make her own characters and run around the world just like she did in WoW. I don’t think that’s going to be allowed (that’s one of the first things I’ll be checking out in AoC), and I knew I had to talk to her about it before I bought the game and installed it and she got her hopes up.

We were hanging out and talking about games the other night (she was excited to hear the Eve music I added to my Gax Online profile, since we listened to that each night for a year as I was mining and she was drifting off to sleep), and it was a great opportunity to bring up Conan. I explained to her that I might be playing a new game, but it might not be a game she could play with me. She asked why, and when I explained about the over-the-top violence, she was remarkably understanding. She’s pretty good about accepting boundaries, especially if there’s a good reason behind the boundary.

She wanted to know more about what made the violence in AoC different than WoW, though, which I thought was a pretty perceptive question for an 8 year-old. So, I told her about the amount of blood that flew out of characters each time they hit each other. She wanted to know how much, and I told her about watching the videos that Keen posted from the PvP beta weekend, and how it looked like a wave crashing on the beach each time you got hit. She started giggling, and I started giggling, because it’s just so implausibly over the top. I mean, who has that much blood inside their body, and why would it all explode out of the one place that’s getting hit? And if you get hit like that 20 times, where’s all that blood coming from? It’s ridiculous, and we were both laughing about how unrealistic it is. She said to me “Well Dad, I know it’s all fake anyway”.

That still doesn’t mean I’m going to let her see it or play it, of course, but I was glad she reacted reasonably. Then she wanted to know if there were any more differences in the violence, so I told her that people could get…parts…chopped off, and I didn’t want her seeing that or playing with that happening anywhere around her. She said “What, like arms and legs?”, and I said “Yep, and even heads!”. She burst out laughing and said “Like Marie Antoinette! With head-popping action!”

That’s a bit of an inside joke. We were in an ice cream parlor in New York City one weekend, after visiting the Museum of Natural History, and we noticed the strangest action figures displayed on the store shelves. One of them was indeed Marie Antoinette, with real head-popping action. We had to explain to her who Marie Antoinette was, and how incredible it was that someone thought that was a good idea for an action figure.

So, yeah, like old Marie Antoinette, kinda, except more graphic and bloodier, and no, I’m not going to let her play AoC 🙂

She said “Well Dad, I’ve seen decapitation before!” I answered incredulously “Where have you seen decapitation?”, because I know it’s absolutely not in a game I’ve played with her, and it’s definitely not her mother’s influence. I watch TV with her, so I couldn’t imagine what cartoon was showing or even simulating decapitations.

She said “Duh, Lord of the Rings, Dad.”

Shoot. Busted. She’s watched the trilogy with me, and she’s right. Aragorn does decapitate an Uruk-hai. Nothing like getting pwned by an eight year-old.

I’m sure this is all coming up in therapy when she’s 16.

Your bible and the relationship with Grand Theft Auto IV

I was googling around earlier trying to remember the name of “Left Behind”, the game where people left on Earth following the Rapture have to band together to defeat the anti-Christ. Van Hemlock noted an unusual search string in his blog stats (“huge archway which only let people of good nature, game”), and I was guessing the searcher might be looking for “Left Behind”, or something like that.

A site named Gamepraise appeared in my search results. When I clicked on the site, I was amused to find this quote;

“Gamepraise is a video games portal that has reviews, news, screenshots, videos and tips of new, upcoming and classic Christian video games.”

located directly under a banner ad I didn’t expect on a Christian video game website.

Is it just me? Play your Bible, with Niko Bellic posed directly below? The Wikipedia page I linked to does indicate that Niko regrets his violent past, but I’m not sure Rockstar is ready to go all Kirk Cameron on us.

I don’t have a problem with a Christian video game site advertising GTA IV. The site never claims that non-Christian games are bad. They do want to review and support Christian-themed games, but I don’t think that means that gamers who appreciate a Christian message in their video games wouldn’t enjoy GTA IV. The juxtaposition was jarring, certainly, but when I thought about it, it’d be a little Jack Thompson of me to think that a self-identified Christian couldn’t separate gaming from reality, and enjoy some Liberty City madness.

If I expect other people to understand that violent video games don’t make me violent, I can’t claim that GTA IV makes a Christian less Christian. There are so many shades of grey in the world. I guess my initial reaction was amused by the juxtaposition, but it’s somehow reassuring to know that someone going to a Christian gaming website isn’t locked out of enjoying GTA IV too.

The best $20 you could ever spend

Steam weekend deal, Civilization IV, $19.95! If you don’t have Civilization IV, or (god forbid) you’ve never played any of the Civilization games, it’s so absolutely worth the money.

Civilization is definitely my desert island game (if I couldn’t play a mmorpg, might be Eve Online if I could). Civ I was the game that convinced me to save my pennies and buy a PC back in the early 90’s, and I’ve played every version since. Civ IV is glorious. I’ve actually been playing it the last few nights (free on Gametap if you’re a Gold member too, by the way), and it’s the classic “one more turn” game that’ll have you suddenly noticing the sun is rising.

My only caveat recommending the game is this; if you’re currently engrossed in an mmorpg, and you can’t wait to log back in every day, it’ll be tough to give Civ enough time to really enjoy it. Like any single-player game, it leaves you feeling a little lonely if you’re used to people running around your virtual worlds with you, but other than that, Civilization IV is the pinnacle of PC gaming. Brilliant stuff, highly recommended.