Archive for 2009

Defining “Casual” And “Hardcore”

It’s funny. People – bloggers, gamers, forum posters – throw around terms like “casual” and “hardcore” as if they were pre-designed, approved MMORPG terms. Thing is though, we really have no metrics for defining exactly what those terms are or when they come into affect. I’ve often called myself a casual player but it’s only been recently that I’ve wondered what that means.

Even when I played MMORPGs for 6 hours a day, I always considered myself a casual player. Now I probably play only about 5 – 10 hours a week and I still call myself casual. So was I actually a hardcore player before? I’ve always assumed that the terms were related to the amount of time one played and that casual players only played for a few hours and hardcore players were the guys who gave up their lives so they could raid 5 nights a week. Now I’m not so sure.

It seems to be that casual players always blame the hardcore ones for making the games too time consuming, too grindy, too difficult whilst the hardcore players blame the casuals for being too sociable and forcing the developers to dumb the game down, making it too easy and accessible. At the end of the day, its human nature to want to belong to a camp or group (it’s the dormant tribesman in us all) and that’s exactly what these terms let us do.

I think the concepts of casual and hardcore are more of a mental state than anything else. It doesn’t really matter how long you spend in front of your computer because if you don’t consider yourself hardcore, then you never will be. I bummed around in Everquest, playing for hours every day, and yet barely raided and never, ever considered myself hardcore. That was for the unemployed 40 year olds who lived at home in their parent’s basement but certainly not me, no sir.

I was totally wrong, of course. And probably a little jealous of those guys that did raid and strutted around with the coolest gear, flexing their virtual guns. Regardless of how much I played, I always thought of myself as casual because that was my state of mind. I didn’t raid. I wasn’t hardcore.

So what I’m trying to say is that you just can’t define “casual” or “hardcore” so be careful who you label with the terms. The’re just abstract terms we use to help turn our arguments into cases of “us” versus “them”. At the end of the day, the most flexible MMORPGs are the ones that let us play in the biggest variety of ways and appeal to the broadest spectrum of players but we won’t always be able to get what we want. Fortunately, though, we live in an era of competition and, if one game doesn’t appeal us to, another is certain to come along.

Minor Makeover: Website Edition

I’ve just rolled out a minor makeover to the blog. It’s really nothing extreme or significant, basically just tidying up the header to make it more compact, neat and attractive. You might not even notice it but hopefully it all helps separate and distinguish where the header and navigation end and where the content begins. I’ve also added a swish stone-affect-type-background thing (technical term) which is very slick… although being slightly colour blind I can’t see it very well. My designer buddy assures me it’s awesome though.

I’ve still got a bit of work to do on the tagging, related posts and comment boxes to try and make them a bit more obvious and useful. Then, after it, it’s looking at the right hand sidebar and footer to try and funkify them a bit. Finally, I’ve got an alternative colour selection for the banner – red on green as oppossed to green on blue – which I might test out at some point. I like the green banner though. See earlier comment about being colour blind.

Of course, if you find any bugs or weirdness, give me a shout. The design should be compatible with all browsers although I haven’t tested it in Google Chrome. It may also look a little… cutdown… in IE6. But that’s just the Gods punishing you for using that browser anyway.

If you have any comments about the design or suggestions for improvement, please let me know.

P.S. I will get a favicon soon. I promise!

How Do I Find A Good Guild?

I think one of the reasons that I’ve not felt the same level of satisfaction playing World of Warcraft now as I did in all my years of playing Everquest 2 is that I just can’t find a good guild. And by “good guild”, I just mean a guild that has a solid core of players who actually like to communicate with each other (I’m a sucker for a bit of banter). I’m not looking for boosting, help leveling up or anything like that, I’m just looking for some people to befriend on my journey to level 80 and perhaps some fun dungeon groups on the way. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve been in several guilds in WoW and I just can’t find one that I click with. Most of the ones I join seem to be quite vacuous and either tend to be empty or full of players who don’t either chat, group or care. I get the feeling that most “serious” guilds only accept level 80 characters and revolve around raiding and that all other guilds just there for the alts of raiders on their days off.

Ironically (and I can only blame myself for this) is that one of my work colleagues who started playing the game finally created, by all accounts, an excellent guild called Revenge of Le Chuck (awesome name or what?) but that by stage I was absolutely sick of playing Alliance and defected over to start my current Horde Undead Warrior. Bloody shame, I know.

So I need some advice. How do go about finding a decent guild to join? I was in several in EQ2 and they were all very good and yet I’ve joined dozens in WoW and can’t find any. I sometimes wonder if maybe it’s just how it is in WoW and that guilds are never as good compared to other MMORPGs due to the fundamental nature of the game and the type of player it attracts.

Anyone got any tips on finding a good guild? Oh, I’m playing on Khadgar if that helps.

Mega Patches And Slow Downloads

Making a game that requires an Internet connection will always mean that both it, and the players, are dependent on the speed and robustness of their connection. Usually, after the initial installation, not a lot of bandwidth is required as the file transfer during play tends to be pretty small and manageable. That is, until, that dreaded patch appears…

I’ve never had much of an issue with patching my MMORPGs before… until I started playing World of Warcraft. Even though the game isn’t as technically, hmm, pretty? as some newer MMOs, WoW’s patches are still plenty large and 3.3 is no exception. In fact, it’s a downright whopper, weighing in at 1.1GB in total.

The ironic thing is that Blizzard have got more money than God to spend on server architectures and yet their patch downloads are consistently some of the slowest I’ve ever experienced and their patches some of the largest (or maybe it’s just that I never noticed with other games before). I appreciate the fact that they release the content early to be downloaded in the background as you play but downloading 1.1GB of data at 5kbps is like trying to make a dent in a steel wall with a toothpick. A bent toothpick.

I can understand the theory behind utilising the whole peer-to-peer transfer mechanic in order to try and reduce the load on their servers but unfortunately most ISPs throttle P2P traffic now (and mine’s one of them). I’d much rather just download the patch file itself but that won’t be available on either the patcher or mirror sites until the official release. And, even then, I find the final download speeds to be pretty darn slow.

Suffice to say, I’m not really looking forward to patch day (apparently targeted for December 8th). The only saving grace is that I can usually copy the patch files from my main PC to my laptop and thus don’t have to download it twice… all kinda funny when you end up with a portable data drive just filled with patch files so you never have to download them again.

Blizzard aren’t alone in their download-slowness though and I had much a similar problem with Aion and it’s “trickle” download. Yep, we live in the 21st century, high-speed Internet connections, and 5GB downloads at 7kbps. Awesome.

Of course, some MMORPG companies seem to have everything calmly under control. CCP spring to mind here and, although I’ve yet to download Dominion, I’ve always had excellent download speeds with them, so much so that I didn’t even bother to transfer the installation files over to my laptop, I just re-downloaded the entire game.

So let’s name and shame. Who are the worst offenders for slow downloads and giant patches? And who are the best? My votes are for Blizzard and CCP respectively.

The Man Who Would Be King Of EVE Online

Last weekend I watched The Man Who Would Be King over at a friend’s house. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a film set in the time when Britain still ruled India about two ex-soldier scoundrels who decide to venture into Kafiristan, seeking gold and glory and the opportunity to make themselves kings. It’s a damn fine film, highly recommended – and I’m not just saying that because it stars The King of Scotland, Sir Sean Connery.

The Man Who Would Be King

The Man Who Would Be King

During the film, we starting discussing how great the British Colonial era was (y’know, so long as you were rich and white) and how there seemed to be more opportunity for adventure than there is now. Although The Man Who Would Be King is fictional, the book it’s based on was inspired by real life events and people. I can’t quite imagine anything like that happening today and there’s something about the freedom of the past that appeals to the (latent) adventurer in me. If only we were able to still able to undertake such amazing adventures and hi-jinks today…

And thus, an idea was born.

My friend and I will plan to save up enough money to be able to quite our jobs and live comfortably for at least three months. Once said funds are accrued, we will resign from our work and hand notice in on our apartments, finding a completely new, small apartment with a high-speed Internet connection that we can both live in together. We will shun all contact with the outside world and abstain from both drink and women. We will then purchase and create two completely new accounts in EVE Online and create the characters ‘Daniel Dravet’ (me) and ‘Peachey Carnehan’ (him).

Our objective? To become Kings of EVE Online.

We would start small, befriend some naive players, join a corporation each and slowly work our ways up the ranks, eventually gaining the attention of our leaders. Then, once we are loyal lieutenants,we would offer to lead the armies into wars against their enemies, slowly destroying our opponents and building the trust and respect of our comrades. Eventually we would strike, like cobras from the mist, and subvert our leaders to gain control of our corporations and join them together into one gigantic sovereignty, spanning the entire galaxy. We will be the rulers of all that we survey.

Obviously the plan’s not 100% perfect but I think it’s pretty foolproof. Now, I just need to tell my wife…

The Urge To Return To EVE Online

I’m feeling that urge again. Not the type of urge that a man gets when he’s near a beautiful woman but more of the type of urge a man gets to smoke a beautiful cigar. The urge is back. And EVE is my cigar.

Dominion comes out tomorrow, EVE Online’s 12th free expansion and the trailer looks pretty darn sweet. I admit that the expansion doesn’t mean much to me (I’m by no means a hardcore EVE player) but there’s something about EVE – and the way it’s marketed – that constantly attracts me like a moth to the flame. I guess the only thing stopping me from jumping right in and re-subbing is my knowledge that it would require a serious commitment in order to achieve anything meaningful. Sometimes a guy just doesn’t want to be tied down.

On Friday, whilst out having a great booze up with my work colleagues, someone asked me what computer game I would take with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island. Apart from the obvious flaws to the question and the issues with playing an Internet based game on a desert island, my answer was EVE Online. I was also tempted to say Everquest but oddly enough never to say World of Warcraft. I knew that if I was stranded somewhere, I mean really stuck in some imaginary room with a reasonable PC, an Internet connect, unlimited supply of food and a ton of time to kill, I’d want something vast and immersive to fully engross myself in. WoW doesn’t fit that bill but EVE does.

I think deep down we all want to be to somebody. Maye an adventurer, leader, scoundrel or pirate (etc etc) and that’s why we like escapism and entertainment in all of it’s different forms of media. It’s also why MMORPGs appeal so much. Not only do we get the opportunity to play one of these roles (hence, role-playing) but we get to do it surrounded by thousands of other people who can marvel at our achievements and join us in our aspirations. EVE Online appeals very well to this itch inside of me and sells itself very well, constantly tickling my mind with the thought that maybe, with enough time and hard work, I could be someone special in it’s world.

So, what do y’all think? Should I return to EVE Online? I hear the planets are getting a makeover.

Blood Elf Warrior

Although I’m enjoying my Undead Warrior (cannibalizing your opponent’s corpse after battle is both delicious and satisfying), one thing I’m looking forward to with the release of Cataclym is changing race and swapping over to a Blood Elf. Oddly enough though, if you ever hang around the WoW forums, you’ll known that most current Warriors detest the idea of Blood Elves entering their ranks.

I agree that Blood Elves aren’t your quintessential Warrior. Unlike Orcs, Trolls or Gnomes, the sight of a mincing elf skipping towards you doesn’t exactly imbue oneself with pant-filling fear. To quote the Governator, they are the “girlie men” race of Warcraft. So what’s the appeal?

Well, I suppose I like playing characters are a little odd and unique. Regular readers of my blog will know that I have a thing for bald, fat old men with beards but unfortunately the limited customization options in World of Warcraft make that kinda hard to achieve. So hence my fascination with this oddball race/class combination. I’m looking forward to playing something a little bit… different.

Another appealing thing about the Blood Elves (along with the Draenei, my favourite WoW race) is that their models and animations are far superior to the original races. I imagine that before The Burning Crusade Azeroth was infected with a widespread disease that damaged spines and left everyone with terrible posture. I like creative liberties as much as the next guy but playing a hunchback doesn’t appeal.

On another note, with Blood Elves being able to become Warriors, the class will be the only one, other than Deathknights, that is available to all races. In some ways that makes me a little sad as it almost makes Warriors the common-as-muck class of WoW and somehow a little less exotic than the rest. Oh well.

Anyway, time to start thinking up some fierce and aggressive Blood Elf Warrior names. Maybe I’ll call mine… Terrence.