January 2015

My foray into the banal and obtuse world of Twitter is at an end. It is what I suspected it would be, a dumbing-down of complex issues to their inevitable 140 character lowest common denominator. And on top of that it adds a level of narcissism that I should have expected but nonetheless was taken by surprise. There is an old saying that goes something like this:

“Don’t argue with idiots because they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

Twitter goes something like this. A individual says something that you fundamentally disagree with. You point out the argument’s logical fallacies. Your opponent responds with ad hom attacks and strawmen arguments. Each side gathers in their respective allies to pound in on the “conversation”. Neither side really wins but retires convinced of victory and/or moral superiority. Further allies flock to each side’s cause by ‘following’ and ‘favoriting’ various people. The troops regather and battle lines are drawn once again.

On top of that is a high degree of hero-worshipping, bullying, and general playground nepotism within each camp. The playground simile is apt as the general behavior was barely above the childlike. It is as bad as I thought it would be and then some.

I dove in to try and support the GamerGate phenomenon. I still believe in its message, but the medium is tainted. But it matters not, as I will continue to support the good fight in my own little corner of the internet. To those that followed me I offer you no consolation. The longer you stay on Twitter the dumber you will become.

On the ArcheAge server in which I play, the East faction is significantly outnumbered by those in the West. I play in the East, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy being the underdog. There is no greater challenge than to play at a great disadvantage and still win. Our guild punches far above its weight, particularly as we recently changed things up. Ten days ago we put into action a plan that had been brewing for a while. Our guild had over 80 members, but the vast majority logged on and played the game without any interaction with their fellow guildies. This was unacceptable for two reasons – AA is a sandboxy game, and the more we cooperate as a guild, the better we do. And any player in the guild is a potential security threat. Who are these people logging on every day and positively ignoring the rest of the guild while they monitor our chat channels? Espionage is not unknown in this game.

So we pulled out the active player core and formed a new guild – Letter of Marque. The name represents how we intend to impact the game world. We are a privateering guild with a focus on trade. We aim to own the ocean in the evening Australian time. That means any red faction trade runs or fishing expeditions will have some problems. They’re already having problems now. Our raiding results are quite good, but when you take into account that we’re doing it with about a dozen players then you can stick an ‘indeed’ on the end of it. New players to our guild have to follow some basic and unyielding rules. You have to be on teamspeak when you’re playing as voice chat is where we organise our events. It doesn’t mean you have to blab away, but you do have to be in the loop. You have to be loyal and you cannot attack our own faction. We are not pirates, we are privateers. However, we do attack known elements of our faction who we know collaborate with the reds. This is unacceptable as is killing your own faction for personal benefit or griefing. There are a few green guilds firmly in our sights, (as in they’re kill on sight if we encounter them). There’s nothing worse than a traitor and our faction is full of them. Why?

Because we’re outnumbered and they’re weaklings who would rather roll over and suck up to the enemy instead of fighting it out. But like I said, I enjoy being the underdog as it makes victory all the more sweeter. And it’s why when the perennial argument concerning pay-to-win raises its head I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about. So some players want to spend wads of real life cash in order to get items that they’re too lazy or inept to get any other way. So what? They might have the ultra delph bow of crushing but inevitably they’ll suck at playing their toon. (I particularly like disarming players who rely on an uber-weapon for their greatness and watch them flail around for 10 seconds as they frantically face-mash the keyboard in an attempt to understand why they can’t use their big tough sword). And they’ll have to keep paying the monies to get the next weapon up as inflation starts to eat at the game.

No, make me the underdog any day. It’s where the real fun is. The type of fun that lasts for a long time.

I was traveling down a dusty road in ArcheAge when I happened across two trade packs lying in my path. A strange occurrence. Presumably someone had de-spawned their cart leading to the loss of their packs. They had been created in Silent Forest and I was in Falcorth, a tidy distance. I could have shouldered one of the packs and walked for a few minutes to hand it in for some tidy gold, but then I pondered the possibilities of transporting it across the ocean for many gilder starry stars, and I shouldered one of the packs and hauled it across to some land I own near the City of Towers.

In short, I got greedy. The pack lay there for days until finally I got around to it. I trucked it down to the coast, launched my clipper ship, and sailed across to the enemy continent. My destination was Cinderstone Moor, a hotbed of PvP bedlam. Just the other day I had been witness to two green tradeships belting into its harbor, pursued by a gigantic pirate ship and what seemed like 50 red players, (just to clarify, a green is an ally, and a red is an enemy). I got caught up in a massive PvP battle as every man and his battle-kitty fought over the trade-packs on offer.

Back to my adventure. I made it unscathed across the seas. Then I ran my clipper up the beach just south of the harbor. My plan was to stealth and sneak in the back-door, so to speak. Creep up the beach and around the back of some buildings and then I could pop the gilda merchant without fear of being discovered. I had already done this many times before. But this time, over-confident in my success rate, I got lazy. Creeping past the airship platform I noticed that my stealth had only 8 seconds remaining. The prudent thing would have been to wait in a corner, reboot the stealth, and then make the creep across the open area to the safety of the buildings. But like I said, I got lazy. My stealth dropped halfway across, I restealthed, and just at that moment a red rode by on his mount. He couldn’t see me, but he had seen me restealth and he had seen I had a trade-pack on my back. I made for the airship platform, my heart pounding in my headphones as he jumped around looking for me.

And then he caught me. It’s pretty hard to effectively fight as a kiting class when weighed down with a load that drops your movement rate by 70%. I died, and then I watched him shoulder that pack and hand it in himself for the reward. It was the first trade-pack I had lost in the game thus far, but I know it won’t be the last.

The trade-pack game mechanism is a stroke of genius on the developer’s part because it allows for and encourages meaningful open-world PvP. Players muster their resources to craft the materials to make the packs. Then they have a choice; play it safe and get an average reward, or roll the dice and try for a run through territory flagged in conflict? If you really want to get lucky you could load 20 packs onto a trade-ship and hope that you make it across without being attacked, boarded, plundered, and generally wiped on the ocean floor.

There is always something to do in ArcheAge, but more importantly, there is the constant opportunity to generate meaningful game content that results in genuine events. I’ll remember that little trade-pack adventure for some time, as will the lucky bastard who ultimately profited from me finding a pack that fell off the back of a cart.