February 2011


I was a bit upset when Righteous Orbs shut up shop a while back. I mean, who would I be able to make fun of now? But then I remembered Tobold was still around, so I felt better. But apparently Tamarind, one of the righteous bloggers, has set up shop at The Pink Pigtail Inn with Larisa, so the fun never stops! Particularly with the wall of text that was posted last week by Tam and that elicited his legion of delirious followers to dance around clapping their hands with joy and begging him to come back and start writing wall of texts again, which is funny as he is already doing that. His post consists of thousands of words of random thoughts and ideas that seem to follow the theme that bullying is bad but bigger bloggers are no different to smaller bloggers because they have no control over the actions of their dedicated frothing at the mouth readership, which then finishes with a nice summing up announcing that if you can’t take the heat then don’t step into the ring.

Rigggggghhht.

He also slipped a bit in there calling out people who need to learn to write, not necessarily learn to read, which is supremely disingenuous when you consider his and Chastity’s own epic failure of learning to read on this very blog a little while ago.

I’ve always found it very strange, this soul searching hand wringing with regards to bullying when taken with some of the measures that Tam and Chastity take to get their own point across. Can you have a lofty moral ground and still think that the ends justify the means? They seem to think so. Particularly as the two of them always had a smug little conceit to hide behind, in that they are supposedly two separate writers who sometimes have wildly different viewpoints and approaches that happen to write on the same blog. Which means that they can play good cop/bad cop and then innocently claim that the others viewpoint is not their own when called out on it. A common line when reading these two goes something like this:


“… Also I think the post you’re referencing with reference to Frostheim was written by Chas, not by me.”

Which I copied and pasted from the comments on their latest post. It really is a convenient way to keep everybody wrong-footed. I mean, who really is going to go back and check if this is true or not? And notice that he wrote, ‘I think’, just in case he gets caught out. Oh gee, I got confused myself, I actually did write that post! And all of it done with a fake humbleness and self depreciating manner:

“… I, err, have no claims to being a loss to the blogosphere. I’m just someone who wrote some stuff once.”

Awwwwww .. sniffles.

Which is just complete crap, as is Tam’s claim that you must stand by what you write. Oh really? Well, in that post he makes a quite nasty dig at Matticus, who he accuses of throwing his subscriber numbers around with a huge e-peen attached to it. Lo and behold, Matticus shows up in the thread and calls Tam out on this. Tam’s response?

“… @Matticus

It was a frivolous aside – I just thought it was a funny comment.”

Now that’s what I call standing behind what you write.

If you read the comments to that post you will find a few people calling Tam out, Suicidal Zebra and Oestrus wade in with some hard hitting criticism. Tam tries to defend himself in his passive “I just want everyone to like me” way. But when that doesn’t work out too well, who could it be riding to Tam’s rescue and entering in a blaze of glory spewing rhetoric? Why it’s Chastity, what a surprise! Well not really, because where there is one you know the other is going to arrive sooner or later.

Which brings me to something that struck me as really weird. When reading Tam’s post I came to this part:

“… I’m reminded, in fact, of an old post of Chas’s in which he is a total and irredeemable twat to a group of strangers but it’s hard to condemn him for it because he’s gone to such trouble to make sure we could all relate to the awfulness of the pugees.”

The part that is weird is the subject pronoun he uses for Chastity. Because I was under the distinct impression that Tam had publicly stated that Chastity was a girl. There are only three possible explanations that can work here:

1. Tam is deliberately mixing up the pronouns so we are never sure what we are dealing with. It’s a tactic designed to keep people off balance and afraid of making a mistake.

2. Chastity is in fact a boy and I am mistaken.

3. Tam forgot that Chastity is supposed to be a girl because Chastity is in fact an imaginary person that Tam has made up so he can revert to being a frothing at the mouth maniac in public whenever it suits him.

I wonder which one it is.

Even though I’m not playing WoW at the moment, I have been attempting to keep pace with what is going on. And there have been a few interesting developments this week. The first is the general player moaning with the constant state of balancing in the game. It seems that Blizzard is on a constant mission to retweak core abilities from one week to the next, leaving players scratching their heads when trying to work out their rotation.

The other development is the news that the two old Zul raids are to be repackaged as heroic 5 mans. Most bloggers seem to be looking at this as scoring a full 10 on the lame-arse scale, something which I myself would not disagree with. It smacks of desperation on Blizzard’s part. Could it be that Blizzard are purposely fiddling with balancing abilities to keep us distracted from the fact that there is very little end game content? In Burning Crusade we simply concentrated on the raids and trying to make our way through them. In Cataclysm we seem to have to concentrate on what our abilities are doing this week as opposed to making our way through the end-game. One of these is fun, the other is not.

To be honest, as far as the three new rogue abilities go for this expansion I couldn’t name all three of them for you off the top of my head. The only one that I can positively identify is ‘smoke bomb,’ and I use that about as often as I see my dog brushing his teeth. There comes a point where you simply have too many abilities to choose from. Fluid gameplay goes out the window as you struggle to remember not only when to use these abilities but that you actually have them at all. Why does Blizzard have to keep introducing new abilities anyway? I mean, if they go on like this, in another couple of expansions you’ll probably have to buy a specialist keyboard just to bind them all.

Smoke and mirrors, my friends, smoke and mirrors. Keep them blinded and dazzled with the smoke and mirrors to disguise the fact that there isn’t really very much at all. The whole thing smacks to me of a once great gaming organization having been taken over by the bean-counters. I’ve got nothing against bean-counters per se. Only that when I become supreme dictator they will be the first ones up against the wall.

I’ve been having some email correspondence with other bloggers lately regarding either their lack of desire to write anything or their growing despair that many good bloggers are choosing to shut up shop. I personally think that we are at somewhat of a low-point for MMORPG’s, perhaps even the lowest point since their inception. A great many players who inhabit the blogging world are disillusioned. But I believe that in uninspiring times it is our responsibility to rise to the occasion and inspire others. It is all too easy to write when things are going well and we are enjoying the gaming experience. But when things are not going so well it requires more effort to try and identify what the problems are and to write about them without seeming like we are constantly belittling something which we are supposedly passionate about.

So to that end I want to point you to some wonderful posts which I have dug up this morning. Some of these are a long read, but I feel that they are well worth it.

MMORPG’s and old school RPG’s by the Big Bear Butt Blogger.

MMO’s were orginally designed to be shared social experiences by Wolfshead.

Where to find friends in WoW of today by Larissa at the Pink Pigtail Inn.

I have been following the latest goings-on in the gaming blogosphere with interest. It is somewhat of a detached curiosity seeing as I am unable to play, download, log in, or do anything else at this time. I suppose that I could wax lyrical about the latest patch offering and the 15% buff or nerf as it is depending on your point of view. The polemic raging as to whether or not there are morons in the game and if so who they may be is understandable but merely a distraction. I will say without a doubt that this latest change to the dungeon finder is the latest in a long line of community dividing changes. The first change was ill thought out, and the subsequent alterations have merely added to the original problem.

We now have a WoW community that is made up of ‘us and them’. That is players who receive special treatment and those that do not. This creates a state of perpetual animosity, and no amount of rationalising will undo it. Players who receive this special treatment often feel resentful and inadequate, while those that are not the beneficiaries feel equal resentment as well as a superiority complex. Overriding all of this is the fact that we are meant to be playing in a virtual world. While many aspects of life in a virtual world can be suspended without any problem whatsoever, (when was the last time that you had to take a dump before killing a boss?), the one aspect that unifies the world into a coherent whole is the sense of a level playing field. Remove that and you cross the barrier into a maze of discordant social problems and inequalities. What was a game played as a means of escape and enjoyment becomes merely a reflection of the life that we live on a daily basis, and a poor reflection at that. This is the exact reason why I was so against the thought of outside special interest groups influencing the game design itself. When you open that box you are doomed. Blizzard side stepped that trap but merely fell into one even larger. What was a merit based society is fast becoming a socialist nightmare.

The standard defense of kowtowing to make the game easily accessible for the entire player base has always been that more subscribers mean more money to generate great content. While this has always struck me as deeply insulting, more-soever to players who have been paying their subscription for a very long time, my comeback to this is one word:

Karazhan.

Perhaps you have forgotten this seemingly insignificant 10 man raid content, or maybe you have never ventured there before. If so, here is an experiment for you to try: take a walk through Karazhan, look at the detail and the love and attention that went into every facet of its building and design. It is a breathtaking example of what this game can be. Now take a step into any one of the latest raids with the new expansion on offer. There is no comparison at all. They’re not even close. So this is what all that extra money from subscribers gets you. We play video games to have fun. But we play MMO’s for immersion. And the experience of each and every other player in that game effects our own.

The city arcade had not changed in the ten years that marked my absence. I walked down, the ground sloping to the end, the roof open to the sky. The arcade was built around 80 years ago in a faux Edwardian England style. At the bottom of the arcade there is a type of portcullis. Entering this I turned to the left and descended a steep stairway that turned sharply on itself and plummeted two floors. On the second flight I became aware of the sickly sweet funk of teenage male sweat. I grabbed hold of the banister and steeled myself as to what lay before me. As the room came into view I glimpsed male bodies garbed in the unmistakeable clothing of teenage nerd-dom. I almost failed at this last hurdle, as I stopped and briefly pondered whether I should be attempting such a dangerous journey. But was I not a blogger of note? Was I not someone who had trod these very corridors not twenty years previously when these unwashed cretins were but spemizoildal ideas on the butt-cloth of their mothers womb?

I rolled my saving throw and passed into the first antechamber. A dozen smelly teenage males sat around folding tables throwing cards at each other and uttering sentences such as, “My wizard-mage slays your dragon-bane!” My entrance did not garner even a glance of disdain. Where is a glance of disdain when you need it? I placed one foot in front of the other as I tried to remember if my objective lay at the open door on the right or the passage leading to another door straight ahead. Gathering my wits I chose the right side and entered the inner sanctum.

Here it was; the gaming shop from where I myself had purchased so many role playing games two whole generations before. Nothing had changed. The counter was still to my immediate right, behind which lurked an individual in his late forties, bereft of female company for eternity and devoid of any type of fashion sense. From this did I spring corrupted? The large room opened itself up to me revealing row upon row of games and miniatures. Old memories came flooding back as I carefully lifted one box after the other, briefly turning them to scan the well known text that adorned the box’s rear. The cries of the tortured teenagers filtered through to my consciousness. I walked in the aisles in a daze, letting the experience sweep over me.

Now games let you choose the makeup on your avatar, though I think that Spink’s use of the term ‘slap’ to be much more descriptive. Yet the closest that any of the life-forms to be found in this inner city dungeon will get to makeup is when they steal it from their little sister and rub it over their own face. Gaming is the present ‘in-thing’. WoW had the extreme good fortune to arrive at just that point in time. But today’s in-thing is tomorrows roller blades. And when they sweep off into the sunset we will return to our origins of grey jeans and no personal hygiene. I gotta stop complaining.

My wife is enjoying being in Australia. While video-games are my way of getting away from it all, her own outlet is sport. Running being her big thing. I’m not much into running, unless being pursued by a large dog, but it’s her release. We were chatting yesterday in the back garden about this, whilst sipping our gin and tonics. She didn’t enjoy running in Italy due to the fact that Italians aren’t into sport in a very big way. Not only could she never find anyone to run with, but she received a great deal of unwelcome attention while running. To me running seems like a solitary sport. But my wife prefers to run with people or even race. She loves the interaction, the feeling of competing against others, or of simply sharing the joy of running together. As she said last night, no matter how much we may not like it, we are social creatures.

Yesterday I also discovered a wonderful blog called, The CRPG Addict. The blogger is playing through every role playing game for the PC ever released. Already he has played through some titles which I myself lost a great deal of time on back when I should have been doing things like studying for school, or chasing girls. I loved those games, but they are all single player. And I realised while talking to my wife that I too need that interaction from my own outlet, which is gaming. The ability to share the process of gaming with other people who love it as much as you do.

Social has become a dirty word in the gaming world recently. But social has different meanings. It’s negative connotation has come about from social as someone who blindly follows the herd, having to survive in a pack to feel any sort of self worth. But social also means the act of social interaction. And if we are playing an MMO then that is exactly why we are playing it. That is the only thing that an MMO offers us that single player games do not. The ability to log on at any time of the day or night and immediately encounter other people playing the same game that you are. You can see them, you can talk to them. I remember the first time that I logged onto an MMO virtual world and another player walked past me, and I realised that I had just seen another person playing the same game that I was. It was mind blowing.

In the brief time that I spent in EvE I didn’t have a single interaction with another player. I saw other players in the distance in their little ships, but that was it. I could have spoken to them I suppose, but there was no reason to. In my first couple of years in WoW I spoke to other players all the time. I had to if I wanted to progress. The game forced me to be socially interactive. That isn’t the case anymore, and thus my interest in the game has waned. I am still waiting for my gaming rig to turn up so I cannot play any games requiring a decent system to play them at the moment. Perhaps I’ll go back and have a look at some of those old games that The CRPG Addict is going through. But one thing will be sure, I will miss that interaction.

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