Archive for the Blogging Category

Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You

Posted in Blogging with tags , , , , , , , on 01/19/2011 by Jeremy (Jmo)

Fan made mods for games have always been a big part of the PC gaming market. The vast majority of these are made by players just like us, who spend days, weeks, and even months programming a mod that either enhances, or adds on to the current storyline. We see these mostly in Single Player RPGs like Oblivion or Fallout, but also in First Person Shooters like Counterstrike and Real-Time Strategy games like Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2.  In fact, there are a plethora of forums and websites devoted to the modding community. Oftentimes, these mods can end up being almost as popular as the game that they are attached to.

One of the most popular mods of all time is Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft 3 mod that laid the groundwork for a little game known as League of Legends. If DotA hadn’t been made, LoL wouldn’t exist, nor would the upcoming DotA2. What strikes me odd about DotA, is that the team behind it has Blizzard’s full support and access on Battle.net to continually run a game modded with the DotA map and ruleset. Now, I shouldn’t find it weird at all, but I have to because of something that happened today.

Earlier this afternoon there was a video that went viral on the internet about an in-development mod to Starcraft 2 called “World of Starcraft.” This video — which I don’t want to post here since I’d likely be slapped with some sort of legal injunction — portrays an alpha version of a mod for Starcraft 2 that makes the game look and play like World of Warcraft, but with Starcraft races and classes. The video is nothing short of stunning, and gives a glimmer of hope to what a World or Universe of Starcraft game may actually play like. The best part of it all? Ryan Winzen, the creator, used ONLY the modding and map making tools that Blizzard included WITH (aka in the box) Starcraft 2. Nothing more, and nothing less. There was no reverse engineering or any sort of crooked dealings going on.

Blizzard didn’t seem to care. Within a couple of hours their Lawyers were delivering Cease and Desist letters to Ryan, telling him to stop all development on the mod, and to remove his videos and website. Why? They wouldn’t say. Just a “Stop now or else!” with no explaination whatsoever, and the threat of legal ramifications if the project continues.

Really Blizzard? Really?! YOU handed out the tools to get this done, and a fan of yours, who bought your game at full market value, used tools that YOU provided to make a mod for YOUR game that will help sell more copies, and make YOU more money. Ryan has not made a dime in all of his years of modding YOUR products and helping to bring YOU more customers and INCOME. Stories like these make me angry and less willing to ever spend money on a Blizzard (or Activision for that matter) product again. This wasn’t some hack job, or a third party cheating program. It was a mod made within the confines of the tools obtained legally with a copy of Starcraft 2. Ryan didn’t put them there, YOU DID, and gave the go ahead to the community to start modding. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Blizzard, or the hand is likely to pull away and never come back. What a way to stick a knife into the backs of your biggest fans.

I needed to get that off my chest.

The problem is almost no is willing to stand up to Blizzard’s menagerie of lawyers, as those that have in the past have lost big time. It shouldn’t be that way in cases like this. A mod maker who is doing what the company tells them is OK, should not have to worry about legal prosecution. It’s bad form, and even worse business.

As much as I could go on and on about this, I will leave this post with the letter that Ryan Winzen himself wrote to Blizzard and posted on his forums. Even the comments left show a level of class in the player base that is much higher than that of the 800+ pound gorilla. Shame on Blizzard.

Ryan’s Thread entitled Blizzard Please Read“:

Dear Blizzard,

Thankyou for coming all this way in your nice suit to my crummy forum. I’m guessing you’re a little upset with me right now, or maybe you’re happy. I don’t know.

You created a tool that allowed us to do anything with your assets. You encouraged us to use your assets and were eager to see what we might come up with. You had to have seen this coming?

I know it’s hard to trust someone you’ve never met to piggyback on your own legacy. The brilliance of Starcraft combined with the multiplayer focus of World of Warcraft. You might be a little worried about your lore being butchered… or even more-so worried about a guy with no supervision tainting the name of your company with poor product.

Let me assure you that I am in no way shape or form going to deliver anything less than complete perfection. I’ve been following your work since Warcraft. I’ve worked with every editor you’ve put out since I was 13 years old.

I’m 25 now and I’ve never made a single penny from any of my artwork. I exist only to entertain people and make this world we live in a more colorful and exciting place. I’m not even a programmer. I hate programming. I’m a charcoal artist.

But ever since I was very young it has always been my dream in life to create an epic game for people to enjoy. I’m just trying to finally get my name out there and show people what I can do.

This market is so oversaturated right now and you guys get thousands of applicants every month. Most guys who do get a job working in video games right now are driven like slaves working with little creative control. But you know what… I’m a virgin in the industry. Because my talent has never tasted a penny, I remember the core of gaming. I remember the heart of gaming, and I know what people love.

AND I’M HERE TO DELIVER

If you have a problem with what I am doing… or would like to talk about it. I’m all ears. But please don’t send me some messenger with a cease and desist letter. I’m aware of the similiarities between this situation and FreeCraft.

This game holds possibilities for both of us. The custom maps sector is dying out, and less and less people are logging into SC2 NA. I truly believe this is a step in the right direction.

Furthermore, if you like this idea and would be willing to grant me a seal of approval to continue… that would be wonderful. I won’t let you down.

~Cordially, Ryan Winzen

Stay classy Ryan, and good luck!

Nothing is as Good as Your First

Posted in Blogging, Everquest, MMO, MMORPG with tags , , , , , , , on 01/16/2011 by Jeremy (Jmo)

No, that’s not some reference to sex. I’m talking about that first true MMO love. Everyone in the MMO world came into it because of one game. Most of us end up playing that game for years, finally getting tired of it and try to move on to the next big thing. The problem is, that next MMO never really feels the same as the first. In fact, it just can’t quench that thirst like the first game could. So we move on and try another…and another…and another, eventually becoming MMO nomads.

I know I can’t be the only one that feels this way. Ever since I gave up Everquest about two years ago, I’ve been game hopping. Free to play, pay to play, or somewhere in the middle, it just doesn’t matter. I’ve never truly felt as satisfied as I did in EQ. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of games have come close, but it seems the more games I try, the less I’m able to actually stick with them on a consistent basis. All of my pondering on this subject came to a head today when some weird synapse in my brain shot off, and told me it would be a good idea to resubscribe to EQ.

That’s right. I took the plunge. I went crawling back to my ex with my tail between my legs. Or at least it felt that way. As I was downloading the latest patches, I was sort of regretting the decision. I couldn’t believe I’d done something that I had sworn off such a long time ago. That feeling was thrown quickly by the wayside, though, when that oh-so-familiar loading screen music started playing. Anyone who’s played EQ knows what I’m talking about. That tune is like a seductive mistress whispering poison into her victims’ ear. What a sweet melody it is.

I found myself in the throes of passi…err…battle for hours. What a triumphant return it was. Friends came out of the woodwork and welcomed me with open arms. We spent a great amount of time catching up and sharing stories…something that has NEVER happened to me in any other game I’ve played. I would be lucky to have even one person that I’ve met in WoW treat me with this kind of reception. This all goes back to my post from earlier this week about the dieing aspect of community and camaraderie in games. I’ve never had such meaningful friendships form in any other MMO. In EQ we relied on each other for day to day survival; there was no soloing to the level cap. I have to admit, the reception felt good…really good.  I literally had people sending me tells until I logged off for the evening.

After the glistening light started fading, and began snapping back to reality. I spent quite a few hours in game today and one thing was definitely apparant: the reasons that I had left in the first place were still relevant. The question I have to ask myself over the coming month as my sub winds down is “does the good outweigh the bad.” I can’t lie to myself and say I didn’t have a good time. That would be doing me a disservice. But with Rift coming out in March, and TOR later this year, am I really ready and willing to devote the time and effort it will take to get myself caught up to max level in EQ, and start raiding again in order to make my character truly relevant again gear-wise. These are things I have to think about, but I’m definitely heading to bed with a smile on my face tonight…it was like the almost like the first time all over again…umm…in Everquest that is…

The Growing Problem of Immaturity

Posted in Blogging, Gaming News, LoL, MMO, MMORPG with tags , , , , , , , on 01/14/2011 by Jeremy (Jmo)

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said how much I LOATHE Official Forums of games. Obi Wan Kenobi put it best when he said “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” He may have been talking about Mos Eisley, but I contend that it carries over to most forum communities. This problem used to be very easy to avoid. Don’t go to the forums and you don’t have to deal with it. Unfortunately we’re now seeing a crossover of this attitude and mentality into our games. Spend 10 minutes reading General Chat on most WoW servers and you’ll see a little of what I mean, but play a competitive PvP game and you’ll experience the worst of the worst.

For those that listen to the MMOVoices Podcast, you know how much I love League of Legends. It’s quickly become one of my favorite games. I love the competitive aspect of the game, the quick matches which feed to the needs of the casual player, and even their cash shop set-up which never forces you to spend a dime. In many ways, Riot has the F2P sub-genre perfected. I usually can’t stop talking up all of the things that Riot gets right! Lately LoL has me frustrated, though.

It’s not the gameplay or any changes that have been made by Riot. It’s the plethora of server issues that hit a couple months ago. No, nothing on Riots end at all. It’s the players. I’m not generalizing all of the players by far. In fact, it’s a small minority. The problem is that it’s that minority that has been ruining the game for me lately. As the game grows — by as much as 3-5x their current player base per month — we’re seeing more of these “un-silent minority” of asshats popping up.

It’s expected that their be tauning and jeering in a PvP game. That is all in good fun. In fact, there usually is some friendly competition and words thrown back and forth, but no one takes it personal. The biggest problem with the game now is those that have a super-elitist attitude and completely belittle and disrespect the other players on the map. It goes beyond normal teasing, to attacks on ones skill, self worth (I’ve seen players telling others to go kill themselves because they aren’t a good player. I cannot imagine the effect this could have on someone that is already contemplating and are trying to use the game as an escape), lifestyle, and sexual orientation, to even threats on peoples lives and well being if they ever see them in a match again.

Riot used to ban accounts for this type of behavior, but as the game grows they can no longer keep up with the shear amount of tickets that are submitted. Because of this, most get put by the wayside and the blatant offenders are not punished for their actions, make the situation even worse. If there’s no consequences, why act respectful? I mean, come on! Why treat other players like they’re human beings? What would be the point in that? I DO WHAT I WANT!!!!!!

Well, not anymore. Yesterday, Riot announced a new system they are putting in place in LoL that will help quell the flood of in-game Trolls and downright immature asshats. The system in question will put together a council of players who have proven themselves to be fair and honest, and who treat other players the way that they should be treated. This council will now look over the tickets and decide if action needs to be taken against the reported offender(s).

I think this is an awesome idea. It’s a system that let’s fellow players decide on if the actions of other players are appropriate and warranted or not. Players will now have to think twice before they speak, or risk losing all of the time and effort they put into a level 30 accounts, because they don’t know how to be respectful to others around them. It’s about time a game company came up with a great system to deal to squelch the flames.

This is one of those innovations that passes the “Genius Test.” Immature behavior and idiocy against other players has been a growing problem for a while now. It causes veteran players to hang up their uniforms, and deters new players from trying or sticking with a game, and is nothing but poison to any games community. I hope that other studios take a page out of Riot’s book and implement systems of their own to alleviate the pain caused by these vile and vicious offenders.

The Lost Art of Community

Posted in Blogging, Everquest, WoW with tags , , , , , , , , , on 01/12/2011 by Jeremy (Jmo)

If there’s one thing I can say was EverQuest strongest asset, it was community building. I went into EQ knowing only one other person that played the game, and came out 10 years later with more friends than I can count. It was an odd side effect to playing a game. Before EverQuest I’d only really played Single Player games or played with friend on the same TV screen. Even the people who played things like Unreal Tournament or Half Life/Counter Strike didn’t exactly get to know each other. Yes, I know there are exceptions to that rule, but for the most part that was the case.

EverQuest changed that paradigm of gaming for me and a plethora of others. See, the reason I feel that this was the case with EQ (and UO and DAoC), was that you really needed to have help to advance in the game. There were no handouts, and if you tried to go alone you wouldn’t get very far. The only way to truly level up and strengthen your character was with a group. Because of this you had to get to know your fellow Norrathians. For the longest time, and for the majority of my level, I can name 10-15 people whom I grouped with more than anyone else. These people quickly became my friends, and we ended up joining a guild together. To this day, I still keep in touch with most of them.

This whole feeling of unity and camaraderie is lost on the current generation of gamers. With the onset of World of Warcraft and other modern MMOs, online gaming has become more of a solo experience than it has a group experience. Even the higher end dungeons in games are more of a “Queue up, don’t talk, get your loot, and get out!” The whole “Brothers in Arms” feeling is gone. I really think this type of gameplay is killing the true experience of what a MMOG is supposed to be.

I’m not saying we need to bring back corpse runs, massive XP losses, or mob grinding for leveling. But something really has to be done to bring back the social aspect of these games. The closest things I’ve seen at all lately is one of the main reasons I’m looking forward to Rift. That would be the title aspect of the games, the Rifts. Trion has taken the initiative to create content that encourages teamwork early on in their game. Even so, I don’t know if it’s enough to really bring back that feeling of needing to group. While I hope it does, I think MMO developers need to come up with some sort of system in their games that encourages and rewards players to work together throughout the game, and not just in the raiding portion. Guilds and groups need to matter and feel a sense of accomplishment.

MMO gamers are starting to act more and more antisocial towards each other. It used to be said that games like EQ could help shy teens and young adults really break out of their shell and learn to integrate better into society. I wish I could find a link to the study, but there was one done at one point talking about this exact fact. As time has gone on, and games have become more and more solo friendly (or solo forced?), we are seeing a growth in players who fit into [NSFW] John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory.

Gamers already seem to get a bad wrap in the media. The stereotypes are attrocious and the growing asshat-ish attitude isn’t helping. I truly believe this all goes back to the shrinking art of community. Guilds don’t even mean as much today as they used to. It wasn’t abnormal to see guilds of 100+ players in Everquest and even early WoW. In fact, that was an average size guild. Everyone got to know each other as well. In the past few guilds I’ve been in in WoW, players rarely –if ever– communicated in chat. In fact, even most raids didn’t see much chatter. It was more “you better know the strats before you get to the fight or you’re going to be kicked,” and a lot less of “hey guys, let’s strategize and learn this fight!”

It really saddens me to sit back and look at what’s happened to the social aspect of MMOs. I really hope that some day we will at least move back in the right direction, and back to the true meaning of what MMO means. Until that happens, I feel we will continue to see a growing trend of anti-social and anti-teamwork behavior.

Writing on Gaming

Posted in Blogging, MMO, MMORPG with tags , , , , , on 01/10/2011 by Jeremy (Jmo)

Sometimes there’s just so much to write about I don’t know where to begin, or what topic to choose. This is my biggest problem when it comes to blogging. When I first started “Jmo’s Gaming Blog,” writing every day or two was something I didn’t have a lot of trouble doing. As time went on, though, I feel I started reading way too far into the “topics of the day” and really started writing less frequently. This started becoming a real hindrance for me. I love writing and I feel like I let myself down each day when I didn’t post something. As time went on though, I became more numb to the feeling. It took me by surprise after yesterdays post that it had actually been almost a whole year since I had updated my personal blog.

Now, I have been writing at MMOVoices and Vagary.tv, but I really feel like I failed by letting my own blog disappear into the nether. For that, I apologize to those that used to read this site regularly, and to myself for becoming so complacent. I feel that I really did a disservice to myself as a writer by not keeping up on a regular blogging schedule of sorts. I really have to thank Cindy and Gavin for helping set me back in the right direction with this week long “Blogging Bender.” It has really given me the desire to force myself to write on a schedule again, which is something I hope to keep up from this point forward.

It’s odd that I ever really did fall out of practice with how much I enjoy discussing the whole “gaming” world in general. When you think about it, it’s a very interesting and exciting place to be. There’s always something to talk about, and always some new bit of drama hitting the blog-o-sphere. In fact, even on weeks that we as bloggers and podcaster may complain that it’s been “slow on news”, we can always seem to find something to chat about. That’s because our hobby is an ever-changing, ever-evolving one. And no matter where anyone’s views may fall on a certain subject, and even how we may stick away from certain bloggers because of conflicting views, it’s rare that you’ll hear bloggers in our little niche of the internet speak truly ill of each other. It’s one of the few communities that I feel has a mutual respect for each other, even if we don’t always agree.

That’s one of the reasons that I feel MMOVoices actually took off the way it did. When Beau and Leala first started talking about it on Twitter, I was quick to jump aboard. The original plan was for it just to be an experiment in the wake of GAX folding, with maybe 20-30 members max. Now, just under a year and a half old, MMOV is working its way towards 400 members. It sounded like a great idea in the beginning, and it is really refreshing to see how it has grown. This goes back to my original point, and the one thing we all have in common: Gaming.

No matter how we may feel about Free to play, certain studios customer service, or features we’d like to see in the next big MMO, it all comes down to us enjoying a good game. That’s what makes our community stand out above the rest. You don’t find that kind of all around camaraderie in topics like politics or religion. In fact, it’s almost a sad fact that people agree more, or can at least agree to disagree more over such a topic like games, but will kill each other over religion. But this is a blog about gaming, so I won’t even go into my thoughts on that topic. Still, that speaks highly of our hobby.

That’s one of the biggest pulls to keep me writing. The feeling of being important, one of the group, and surrounded by friends at all times is something you can’t find anywhere else. Regardless of what someone may think about how a development studio does business, at the end of the day we’re all gamers. We come from all walks of life, different political and socio-economic backgrounds, but we can all agree on one thing: gaming rocks! Whether we write about gaming on blogs, talk about it on podcasts, or just play the games to have fun or even to escape some of the crappy situations we end up in in our day to day lives, we all embrace the same thing in the end. That is what sets our awesome community apart from all of the crap out there, and is what is my motivation to not only keep writing, but be involved constantly. I hope others feel the same way.