Archive for August, 2008

 

Sating the WAR Appetite

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As some of us are (hopefully) taking the long weekend here in the US for Labor Day to have a nice little barbeque and spend some time with family and friends, I thought this was an appropriate time to talk a little more about that wonderful thing that happens when it comes to highly-anticipated MMOs – the lull.

The lull happens when you are between two major milestones in a game’s release timeline. Those that haven’t been scared away by the disturbingly obsesstive fandom or been so disgusted with previews that they wanted to slice their wrists open with a dull spoon are left wanting for more during this time period. They hunger for a taste and lumber along in forums and blogs like a zombie shambles after human brains, and pine away counting the days until their next delectable bite.

Warhammer Online is no different in this regard. Right now, with the NDA drop and Preview Weekend behind us, and Open Beta and the chaos of release ahead of us, things are in a calm period, and people drool over even a hint or a tidbit of new content. They bang virtual cutlery on the table, looking to be served their WAR dinner on a platter, and when it isn’t forthcoming, they try to amuse themselves with doing some oh-so-productive things like start threads on forums that are half in all caps and repeat a topic worse than a parrot mimicks its owner.

Now I have to say, it isn’t all that bad that you folks are not playing right now. Sure, it might seem like we moderators and admins want to shoot ourselves in the head because you want to spend so much time on the forums hitting F5 like a crazed monkey, but we still care, so  I’ve got a pick me up just for you.

Not playing the game right now means you’re going to prevent yourself from burning out on it, for example. Because you can’t log in for 20 hours a day literally to beat the snot out of someone else on an opposing team, you are at least a 20-hours a day work week away from being a cynical, bitter, inflammatory bundle of joy. Already there? Well, you’ll basically have one less game to complain about, right?

It’s also good that you’re not playing because it allows you to give the rest of the Internet their due. I’m sure that when you might have been playing WAR over the Preview Weekend or for the double secret Collector’s Edition beta, that you were arguing all the wonderful Internet meme spawning grounds, from 4chan, to Youtube, to Bit Torrent, and other such tools of the tech trade. Not playing gives you more time to waste on other superficial things, giving you a way to post later about how he game will be an epic fail and create videos set to random metal music.

And let’s not forget the online social element. WIth no MMO like WAR at your fingertips to start playing at any time, you’ll have to actually try to hold an online conversation with someone, now that you can’t mark yourself away because you’re in the game already. Besides, it’s good practice, because when the site gets past release, you will have all the time to try to make sure every 3rd person doesn’t spew some random nonsense. To get a good idea, just play a wonderful game of Halo 3 over X-Box Live. If you survive for at least 15 minutes without wanting to reach through the screen and choke someone, then you’ll be nice and ready for open beta and release.

So don’t worry about not being able to play WAR right now, fans. There’s so much that you can do otherwise, that it’ll re-charge your batteries and get you ready for the next round of inevitable tests and concepts that make you play a grand total of 13 minutes at a time. I know I look forward to it.

 

Put on Your Bandwidth Caps

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So to have many of the technology and internet addicts quaking in their torrent-laden boots, Comcast, one of the biggest cable and internet service providers out there, has decided to announce and implement publically their 250GB/month cap for data transfer for all its customers, starting October 1st. The people exceeding this limit will be told, at first, politely through a courtesy call, but a second offense will result in being banned for a year from Internet service through Comcast.

Now, for a lot of consumers, this probably doesn’t matter, but for us geek folk, who happen to live on the internet much like cavemen used to live on hunting and gathering, this just might pose a problem. You’ve got people ranging from the extremely worried to the foaming-at-the-mouth angry.

So while this sucks for anyone who’s decided that they’d like to stream HD movies to their computer to be ont he “cutting edge” of technology, this can’t all be bad, right? For one thing, it’s encouraging something that lots of techheads have a little bit of a challenge developing – social skills. Yes, now that you actually have to go out and see a movie again as opposed to torrenting it from someone’s hidden handycam footage, you might actually have to develop some way of communicating with people! You might have to stop playing that online game for a little while and stop staring at digital boobs so you can get kicked out of a place for staring at real ones (protip: Night Elves don’t exist, but apparently Night Elf cleavage is rampant, so keep your eyes level, kids).

What about service? Well, perhaps what we’ll see is a “Comcastic” improvement at the level of customer service, as thousands of angry geeks call the service line demanding from the outsourced support half a world away why they suddenly can’t stream Thelma and Louise in HD to their machines. And we might just see an offering of the wonderful infinite bandwidth we have come to know and love – in the form of tiered pricing at a premium level of fee-based service, of course. Now that might be altogether not so great, but hey, it’ll force you to do a search for some really juicy alternatives for all your alt.marajuana.secretgrowing downloading needs. Verizon FiOS, anyone? Oh,how the competition will thrive from this no doubt intelligent move by the Comcast execs.

And finally, if you honestly can’t stand this and you’re still madder than a fat cat that hasn’t been fed in 5 hours, at least you know just who the asshole is. That’s sometimes hard with companies, but once in a while, one of them makes a great move that makes everyone point at them and go “yep, they suck”. Don’t worry though – you’re not the only one who knows why your porn downloading fix is going to be emasculated worse than a post-op transsexual. There’s hulu, and Youtube, and Google Video, and Netflix, and Veoh, and all those companies who kind of, you know, make money off the fact that people can stream and download movies and files to themselves. If you think losing your 70 hour a week gaming habit is bad, try losing the way you pay for it. It could be worse.

So don those Bandwidth Caps, Comcast customers – it’s going to be a wild few months.

 

Jay Mariotti – Some Villain Assembly Required

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Today, we’re going to go a little bit off the beaten path of awesome positive geek topics – but don’t worry – I’ll try to bring it all back in, in the end. I promise.

Chicago professional media – you know, the folks who actually do this writing thing for a living (can you imagine me writing all this sunshine for money? Now that would be interesting) lost someone from the newspaper ranks this week, sports columnist Jay Mariotti. Now, if this site is all about flowers and unicorns and sunshine for us cynical geek folk, because I’m just a bundle of joy all day long, then Mariotti’s style would be quite the opposite. A constant stream of negativity (even in praise) came from the back page of the Sun-Times during Mariotti’s tenure, whether it was about the Chicago Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, their broadcasters, their GM’s, their assistants, their assistants’ assistants, and their little dogs, too. Just a couple days ago, Mariotti resigned, citing that the coverage during the Olympics showed him that “sports journalism is entirely a Web site business”, that his future “wasn’t in newspapers”, and, of course, taking a dig at the Sun-Times website in the process.

Mariotti’s style of writing, which oozed with sensationalist controversy and the best of what we geeks would call a “flame” (you think we were the first to flame people? I think not, newspapers were slinging mud long before we were born), seemed to bleed over into his professional relationship with his peers as well. I’d have to say – given the reaction from his peers, which range from lukewarm and cordial to what I would have probably found on an Internet forum when a troll gets flamed (even Roger Ebert is capable of it), I have a feeling if they would have allowed it, Mariotti’s former co-workers would have burned an effigy of him in front of their offices near the Chicago River. I’m sure they wanted to avoid the traffic jam it would have caused. Thanks guys – my commute didn’t suffer.

See, now I’d love to just write here about the bright side of Jay Mariotti leaving, but gee, the petals on that rose have already been plucked, apparently, since a lot of folks appear to be real happy about it. Instead, I’m going to just tell you guys the good part of people like Mariotti being around.

It boils down to the fact that we need villains to have heroes.

Mariotti is a classic villain, you see. He’s hated. He’s egotistical. He’s doesn’t “play well with others”. He’s missing the desire to take over the world, but I suppose when you make the “world” equate journalism, it takes. Apparently he’s got the stock villain cowardice too, because he supposedly has never set foot in a clubhouse or directly been in contact with many of the targets of his criticism. If you put a twirly handlebar mustache on Mariotti, hunched him over a few inches, and gave him some rope, he’d probably be tying people to the train tracks (or getting his underlings to do it for him since he’d fear for his personal safety) while laughing manically.

People need to have a Mariotti to kick around. I mean, where else are you going to put the measuring stick for megalomaniac or arrogance? Where else are you going to get the picture for the entry for the dictionary next to words like “nefarious”, “sneaky”, and “weasel”? One of the “good” people? No, you need an asshole to define an asshole, which is why that Denis Leary song is so well-loved. Someone has to fill the role, you know, give the heroes a little bit of a challenge, lest they become complacent in their peacefulness and proceed to eat each other alive out of sheer boredom.

While I will happily show trolls and flamers the door on the forums I moderate with a wonderfully pleasant note about how they might better spend their internet posting (i.e. not from their parents’ basement after a McDonald’s job shift), I will say that if I had no standard by which to judge them I’d be banning the wrong people. Why I’d be wondering what to do with myself if I didn’t have five or six hundred good, hard flames a day to put out. I’d almost make my own just to add a little spice. The world would turn upside down. So I’m glad to have a few people who write like Mariotti to keep me mentally stable, and I’m sure my regulars are thankful for it.

Besides – trolls, flamers, Mariotti, villains, and other supposed malcontents – they’re like cockroaches – they stand out and demand attention, they might or might not have a couple of features that disgust you, and most of all, they aren’t going away any time soon, even if nuclear bombs were dropped on them.

And frankly, considering the reaction to Mariotti leaving, I can’t help but think people can’t ever get enough of smashing little beady-eyed insects, right?

For the uninitiated, here’s some recent Mariotti material:

 

WARtopian Society

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Now I know that there are some real inspiring posts on here because I’m all about showing people the “bright side”, but believe or not, there are actually people who have an even sunnier outlook than I do on things. It seems hard to believe, considering I’m all roses and teddy bears all day long, right? But no, as with many things, you can find just about anything if you look at an MMO community long enough, and people more optimistic than me is one of them.

There’s a lot of these people, but let’s focus on on a particularly half-glass full portion of the community that has surfaced ever since Preview Weekend for Warhammer Online ended. I call them the WARtopians.

Now, I know I dial it up about ten notches on the brightness scale here, but boy, these people put me to shame. They declare that WAR will be the best thing since sliced bread. They talk about how the WAR community in general outdoes every other community in the basics – maturity, communication skills, the ability to perform CPR, and any other thing that they can think of. They talk about how the release of the game is going to create a brand new shining standard in the MMO community – one that can discuss which class is overpowered and needs to be nerfed without a ton of rickroll videos and one-liner comedy acts. They talk about how WAR will inspire a revolution of MMO subscribership because of its community, and that people will somehow be touched to post positively by a miracle on the scale of a baby being born or winning a gold medal in the Olympics.

I’m not about to burst the bubble here. There’s plenty of time here for people’s assumptions about the WAR community. I’m sure that people aren’t already posting about how the game should fail, how they’re sick of something other posters are doing, or driving the moderators to the point of insanity with the pure volume of crap. There’s plenty of room to interpret someone saying “kin I haf ur stuff” as a way of generously offering to recycle equipment and not as an insult. There’s a whole few weeks for posters who would rather flame a troll off a board than report it, and for people to put up  huge ASCII pics instead of a well-rounded post. I’m sure none of that is happening or is going to happen.

A lot of these people want to put WAR’s community in a trophy case and retire it to the MMO Hall of Fame as one of the greatest ever, even before release and you know what? I’m not about to dissuade them from the fact that they think that community won’t flood a forum on the first few days with the grammar of a 3 year old, the selective inability to use the search button and at least one flame war. I hear that fantasizing about something really incredible and almost like a myth – like a unicorn, or a reindeer – is really healthy for the psyche. You know what they say – feeling good gets you halfway to being good, right?

So yes, I’m not about to bring the cold winter of reality to the summer of idealism these people are experiencing, because heck, that would just not be in line with the site, now would it?

 

Anything You Can Flame, I Can Flame Better

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In the vast world of Internet forums, there are many different ways to run them. They can be as nice as a flower blooming in the morning dew or as mean as Simon Cowell on 1 hour of sleep. But no matter how they are run, there are consistents, and one of them is the Internet flame.

It’s hard to tell when all of this got started. When was the first time that someone decided to call someone else a stupid moron that deserved to be beaten up naked in an alley for posting their opinion? No one really knows how it started, just that it has become a time-worn tradition.

See, but I’m not here to bash it at all. No, as always, I see the buttered side of the bread.

Flamefests are an eternal source of 1upsmanship. I mean, where else are you going to get a place where, given the fact that a moderator doesn’t lock or remove the thread in question, two people can go at one another until they’re literally red in the face and wanting to choke their opponent through the monitor? The game never ends, but it’s great to see people try. It’s like they are desperately trying to see if the other person is going to say that their point of view is the only correct one, because you know that happens. Hey, there is such a thing as a cold day in Hawaii, right? Maybe they’re trying to play on that one chance that their debate opponent will actually die of frustration at their keyboard. People win the lottery all the time, too, so why not that?

What about the entertainment value? You know, there’s a reason why our society is completely and utterly de-sensitized to some level of violence, and that’s because it’s on tv all the time and right in our faces. We get a thrill out of seeing it, kind of like some modern version of Gladiator – except that the only thing the two combatants are going to lift is a cheeseburger or another bag of Cheetos. I swear, if Jello Wrestling was somehow translated into an online sport, it would be two people sitting at computers throwing insults at one another in a chatroom. Sure, moderators might feel like stepping in and dropping the lock-bomb on a flame war, but where else are you going to get your kicks? Reading some boring blog like this one?

And let’s not forget the content generation. If you want walls of text that have little to no meaning and make you want to rip your eyeballs out, don’t allow flames. But if you can some good reading for a rainy day, let a flamefest happen and watch the pages flow. I’ve seen flamewars that lasted 50 pages or more. Yeah, after a while people just fail at coming up with new ways to say they wished their mother had slapped them and dropped them on their head after birth, but seeing the endless circle go round and round just never gets old.

So for all those uptight moderators out there who somehow think that good content actually needs to have some thought and respect behind their posts, let a good flamewar happen once in a while. I think you’ll see that it’ll be an “epic” tale told. No one talks about the time in history when nothing happened and people lived happily in their little cities and villages. They talk about the time the villages and cities were razed to the ground, their buildings on fire while charred bodies lined the streets and half-burning residents ran around screaming.

Good times.

 

The Last Hero – Live on TV

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If there’s anything that geeks have had to suffer through on a consistent basis, it probably is ridicule. Whether it’s about being too un-athletic to play sports, or being buried in their little gadgets to the point of being stuffed inside a locker, the geeks have sometimes never had it easy in the formative years. Heck, even when they reach the age that they get out of school, it’s not that much better.

Thankfully, we geeks have the wonderful world of TV and imagination to retreat into. Here at OP, we are all about giving people a boost – even if it’s one that only lives in the realm of fantasy and could never, ever come true no matter how many fanfics you write.

NBC’s “Heroes” gives us the last best hope for all geeks in the form of Masi Oka’s Hiro Nakamura. Obsessed with sci-fi, comics, and superheroes, the aptly phonetic “Hiro” shows us that even someone who is better at putting his head in the clouds instead of in reality has a chance. Sure, the fact that he’s able to stop, bend, and otherwise treat time like a toy just might be a big factor in Hiro’s success. And yes, maybe having the father he had (Star Trek actor George Takei) might have just been a little bit more than a simple coincidence. But that hasn’t stopped Hiro from becoming the darling of all the pencil-pushing, otherwise dull geek community.

The character of Hiro, more socially lame and far from a legend, is a paradigm where the traditional action hero, overmuscled and inexplicably possessing some kind of martial arts training which both kills and looks good at the same time, is thrown aside. Never mind that the fact that Hiro’s journey seems a little contrived even for TV and that he somehow gets to be in the right place at the right time even without his powers. And let’s just conveniently forget the fact that Hiro’s time traveling seems just a tad btit “overpowered” even for a show about superpowers.

Nope, everyone will be glued to the TV this September as Heroes’ new season starts, hoping to get some kind of sliver of meaning to their socially awkward lives as they watch a geek do something that no geek will probably ever do (at least in our lifetimes, or until the next evolution, whichever comes first). I know I’ll be watching while simultaneously scrunching my face into a raisin to try to turn back time a minute or so.

 

The Penultimate Preview Weekend WAR Review

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So after Warhammer Online’s Preview Weekend no doubt there are many reviews and impressions regarding what people think of the MMO genre’s upcoming entry. I’ve seen so many awesome and incredible thoughts about the game, based on these last few days that I just had to summarize and aggregate them into one page for easy reading. With so many judgments and conclusions based on such a long and extended period of time I know it was a daunting task, but I think I got it just right.

In general, WAR is just like any other MMO out there that was released in November of 2004 and had orcs, humans, elves, and dwarfs. In fact it’s so like those MMOs that it pretty much has the same UI, the same hotkeys, and the same mechanics, like battlegrou-er, I mean, scenarios, rai-um, I mean Public Quests, and the same crashing issues when it launched. The combat is also the same, and it feels great, because it’s just like when the server has extreme lag under the thousands of players playing in the same zone, just like the launch of those other MMOs that put up original content based on other original content. Honestly, I really hope WAR kills these other MMOs with orcs, because I definitely don’t feel like you can really judge a game on its own without comparing it to something else.

You know I really do wish it played like those other titles more, though, because even though I really like the fact that after only 5 levels I clearly know everything I need to know to make a call on a class being overpowered, it needs a little bit more. The UI needs to have the same amount of stuff I can do with my other UIs with 50 addons attached to them so I can click to do my class’s top three skills automatically, make insane graphical changes to my default chatbox, and create the same kinds of innovations I see after 4 years of programming. I need to see the landscape go by for 10 minutes when I fly somewhere so I can get up, make a sandwich, take a dump, and look up porn while I wait – because since when is loading to a location after a 30 second wait convenient? And what about the Public Quests? I need that epic encounter per week that takes 4 hours a night to do and 16 hours a week to prepare for. There’s no way that I should participate in a 5 minute quest to get the same frustration over not getting loot – I should have to work for that feeling, because if MMOs have taught us anything, it’s that he who lives the game, beats the game…until the next expansion.

I have to say there are some bugs, even though I like the game. I do hope that they put in the little things that fix them, because if they don’t, I might not want to play. Clicking the mouse to move is very important to me, after all. There’s so many bugs maybe the game isn’t ready to be released – I mean, we’re competing with other MMOs that have had 4 years to be polished, so we don’t have to acknowledge the fact that other MMOs might have had launch times with server downtime, extreme lag, and awful class balance. So let’s hope Mythic fixes these problems, because if I get mad within the first 5 minutes of the game, I’m definitely going to take the next 5 minutes to write a 5-minute impression on the forums that will have a definitive conclusion and I can get to work on my goodbye thread. Is the statement “WAR will be an epic fail due to gamebreaking issues” dramatic and attention-inducing enough?

There. Now you don’t have to read any of the really great preview weekend stuff.

Overly Positive – presenting the best service for reading pleasure for a whole month or so.

 

Geek’s Night Out

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So I know that I make a lot of comments about all us geeks being shut-ins who like to hug their keyboard more than they would another human being. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I mean, if you want to have a lovely anti-social lifetime behind a computer screen where you can get your social kicks telling someone they need to “learn2play”, then hey, more power to you. I’m not about trying to tell someone how to live their own sheltered, solitary, gaming achievement whore lives.

No, this post is about those of us who actually choose to go wandering around outside, in the big bad world of people, places, and things, where the resolution is turned up way high and you don’t get another life to start if you screw up your decisions. For those of you who are thinking of getting out and about for whatever reason (even if it’s because your computer needs to be repaired and your consoles are smoking from 14 hours of play a day), have I got some tips for you. I like going out – in fact, today I have a little date with a bunch of people to celebrate someone’s impending death of their single status. I’ve been there out in those scary places called “Restaurants”, “Bars”, and Tourist Traps, where people talk without the benefit of graphical smileys, notification sounds, and of course, blocking and ignoring.

Here’s some things to remember for all you socially challenged yet bar-curious geekfolks:

  • Internet shorthand is a no-no: Look, I know it’s been a while since you didn’t type it, but it would most certianly be helpful for your ability to blend in if you didn’t actually say “lol” when someone says something funny. Besides, your non-geek friends will have no idea what you are doing when you say “OMFG”, or “LMAO”, and they will definitely look at you weird if you are trying to tilt your head sideways while smiling.
  • Technology is only shiny: There’s no way that the non-geeks you talk to will have any idea what you are carrying with you unless it begins with a lowercase i, so to a lot of people, the really neat pda, USB stick, or pocket-size external hard drive with all your gaming “pwnage” vids on it means nothing. Don’t burden these folks – they won’t get it, so save sharing how you spend 20 hours a day for your online friends.
  • Adapt only when necessary: There are certain times when you geeky folks are going to need to be quicker on your feet than during that totally awesome flag cap you got in TF2 the other night. However, you need to pick and choose your battles, my friends. There are times when it is good to look like you can hang (talking about sports – just remember, the Cubs lost, the Yankees and Red Sox won, and the Patriots totally blew it), and then there are times when it is bad (any form of dancing).
  • Online lines do not work: Want to hook up with someone besides over MSN with your keyboards? Hey, go for it, just don’t make your first line “hi, a/s/l?”

Armed with these, you will most certainly survive any night out and will be back to blog about all the strangely dressed people doing body shots off of a bartender with no problems at all. Stay safe, and remember – there’s no logging out.

Warhammer Online Players Locations

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The Post-NDA Pingback Extravaganza

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And so, because cheap link posts are always not beyond this particular blog, here’s some blog posts from the first couple days of Warhammer Online’s post-NDA madness. Enjoy!

Archmagery:
http://archmagery.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/archmagery-vs-the-nda-round-1/
http://archmagery.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/answers-to-wizards-and-wenches-questions/
http://archmagery.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/zomg-exclusive-video/

Book of Grudges:
http://bookofgrudges.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/what-we-did-in-closed-beta-and-chickens/

http://bookofgrudges.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/hints-and-tips-for-new-beta-testers/

http://bookofgrudges.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/review-of-warhammer-online-beta/

Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog:
http://www.keenandgraev.com/?p=1334

The Order of Destruction:
http://theorderofdestruction.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/my-first-impressions/

Multi-blog:
http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/chaoscast-5-nda-drop-your-sword/

Overly Positive:
http://overlypositive.com/2008/08/19/an-op-review-of-a-half-baked-war/

The Greenskin:
http://thegreenskin.com/2008/08/19/my-post-nda-writeup-of-warhammer-online/
http://thegreenskin.com/2008/08/19/greenskins-in-beta-my-impressions/
http://thegreenskin.com/2008/08/19/beta-impressions-part-2-specific-positives-and-negatives/
http://thegreenskin.com/2008/08/19/character-customization-and-tier-4-armour-set-videos/

Waaagh:
http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/nda-news-dialogue-action/
http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/the-whys-of-nda/
http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/a-canticle-for-spinks/
http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/first-impressions-engineer/
http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/post-nda-day-two-the-empire-strikes-back/

Warhammer Gamers:
http://www.warhammergamers.com/shaman-beta-impressions/

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