March 2016

Cross-posted from my main blog but also relevant here.


Some of you may or may not be aware of a movement in the science fiction/fantasy writing world called, The Sad Puppies. Now in its 4th year, the puppies is an attempt to shine a light on the politicization of the Hugo Awards process. It has been very successful, particularly in stirring up a good old fashioned hornets nest of controversy. For the record, I stand firmly with the puppies, sad, rabid, or otherwise.

One of the contentions of the puppies is that fiction writing over the past 20 years or so has turned away from an emphasis on story-telling and character development to one of technique and correct political messaging. Style over substance if you will. It is no surprise that when you stop telling great stories in preference to lecturing your readership with the politically correct tropes of the day, that the readers tend to move on to other things.

I discovered a post titled Empathy and Responsibility in writing by one Alexander Freed. It is a startling article. I had to read it several times to really understand its meaning, (an indictment both of the message and the writer’s lack of ability). The article places the context of writing in that of the video game milieu, but in the worldview of the politically correct I am sure that this is applicable across all mediums.

The core message of the piece is this in my own words:

You may only write about a certain demographic if you are sure they will not be offended by your words or you are already part of that demographic.

An example quoted from the piece:

If you’re a man, are you prepared to justify to a woman the casting and portrayal of women in your story?

Try reading that a few times. What I take from this is the new-found awareness that I can only write a female character if I am sure that it won’t give offense to women anywhere. The giving or taking of offense is based on emotional reactions, better known as feelings. I have no control over the feelings of other people. Writing as a man it would be impossible to justify any portrayal of a woman based on this criteria. It seems that I am now forbidden to portray females in the written form without permission of the authorities.

If you’re not Hispanic, are you prepared to justify to a Hispanic person how you cast (or didn’t) Hispanic characters?

If you write about Hispanics you lose. If you don’t write about Hispanics you lose as well. Heads I win, tails you lose?

If you’ve never been in a gang, are you prepared to justify your crime story to a gang member?

Well, I tend not to hang around criminal elements and I doubt they spend much time reading.

If you’ve never been disabled, are you prepared to justify your handling of a paraplegic character?

I stubbed my toe once, does that count?

Based on these parameters I doubt whether Tolkien would have ever been allowed to write The Hobbit. I have no doubt that Freed is perfectly serious with his intentions. No matter how ridiculous the demands, the world of political correctness is a race to the bottom as its followers attempt to show their true virtue to the cause by constantly trying to outdo one another.

Freed has of course completely misrepresented why art is created in the first place. If you work from the basis of telling a story then what he has written seems mad. But if your basis is instead to use the medium to deliver the message of political correctness and social justice then what he writes makes perfect sense. In his world, the writer’s responsibility is to write correctly. The trap of course is that in a race to the bottom what was correct under their ever-changing guidelines will be bad-think mere months after its publication. Nobody is safe in a totalitarian world.

This is why the GamerGate movement began, as gamers were not prepared to put up with this level of insanity. It is telling that many other mediums did not stand up for their art in the face of this totalitarian movement.

Thus the Sad Puppies campaign is not just an attempt to make the Hugo awards more representative. It is an attempt to wrest control back from frauds and charlatans like Alexander Freed. And the more that the Sad Puppies make headway, the more that the gatekeepers will scream to high heaven.

Apparently Azuriel might play BDO in the future so he can fiddle with the auction house.


“… But even though I feel a strong twinge to jump into Black Desert to fiddle with the AH – Bhagpuss mentioned a particular weakness in the player-made furniture market that got my AH senses tingling – the seeming lack of “endgame” focus somehow dampens my enthusiasm …”

I don’t know how much fiddling he’s going to be doing though. Someone needs to tell him that every item listed has a set min and max price. All you can do is set it at or somewhere between the two ranges. Which somewhat constrains fiddling of any type.

From Rohan at Blessings of Kings:

The new hotness seems to be Black Desert Online. Normally I’d at least give it a try, but I’m not feeling inclined to. It reads a lot like Archeage, up to the whole PvP’ish endgame. I really would like to see someone do a comparison and say why BDO is better or worse than Archeage.

Ask and you shall receive. I played AA extensively and I’ve been in BDO since early release. First of all I don’t think it’s helpful to compare the two games as I don’t consider them to be alike at all. The only thing they have in common is that they both originated in Korea. BDO needs to be considered on its own merits and what it brings to the table as a fantasy MMO.

The World. The BDO world and landscape are aesthetically gorgeous. The look is of 14th century Italy and it feels very immersive. It is also in-depth. The map features graphs and stats on average groundwater, temperature, and humidity, as well as nodes and resources, and territorial boundaries. All of the nodes and feature areas are up for grabs to be controlled by guilds. This feature has not been unlocked yet as the developers want to give guilds time to get to an appropriate level. If a guild controls an area then they get more resources from it as compared to anyone else. Towns and cities in BDO have pleasing and interesting layouts that make sense. Also, because areas give resources through the node system there are no abandoned areas that players have moved on from due to leveling past them. The instanced housing system is not just for a player’s residence; you can use housing for storage, accommodation for your workers, as workshops and crafting stations, stables, shipyards, and more. As a result the world feels lived in and there is no set path for you to follow.

The Gameplay. There is no tab targeting in BDO. I play a ranger and I can tell you that if you go in wildly shooting you are going to pull a lot of mobs. Skills and abilities are complex but without being confusing. It takes some time to learn the key commands but once you have it down it feels intuitive. At this point I cannot comment on the balance between classes as I haven’t got to level cap and pvp yet. When you encounter a specific mob for the first time you won’t see its health bar decreasing as you kill it. You must unlock mob information by killing them at which point you will see their health bar as well as their special attacks. Once a mob is unlocked it will also give you better loot. It may take a number of mobs to unlock and when you do you will get a random letter starting from C, B, A, A+, and S. These go from least knowledge to top level. I only have got S a couple of times and I’ve been rewarded with some good loot whenever I killed those particular mobs. You gain 80% of your leveling experience from killing mobs.

Crafting. It’s extensive. There are also no restrictions on how many professions you can do. On top of that there is a server ranking system where you can see how advanced you are compared to other players. The developers want the vast majority of items in the world to be crafted by players. I’ve always liked crafting but I’m getting so drawn into this system that my leveling is beginning to suffer. You can hire workers that will gather resources for you from nodes you have discovered. They are animated and in game, and sometimes I will run past a worker struggling down the road with a load of potatoes with the name, ‘Noisy’s Worker’ over his head. Yeah man, you keep working! I have five workers at this point spread around two towns and all I need to feed them is beer which I craft with my cooking.

Guilds. Oh boy, this is in-depth. Guilds can be leveled and are done so by the guild members performing group tasks, up to 5 times a day. It might be collecting a number of resources, (which the players keep), or defending a town from attackers. Leveling the guild unlocks attribute advantages to guild members such as better defense points or accuracy. Guild members are contracted and paid a certain amount of silver per day based on their value to the guild. Guilds can declare war on one another but when guild control of nodes is released there will be strategically relevant reasons to do this. The second stage will be sieges.

NPCs. I’m really impressed with the depth and complexity of the npcs in game. There is an npc mini-game where you can unlock things like special quests, special items for sale if it’s a vendor, or knowledge. You do this by meeting and talking to other npcs that would be of interest to the one you’re talking with. You also have a personal black spirit guide who you can drag out at any time. This helps you with your character development in both fighting skills and crafting. There are other mini-games as well. The trade npc has a bartering mini-game and it also requires you to connect nodes to where you’re handing items in in order to get the best price possible.

Quests. You do quests to advance crafting, your energy points, (used for crafting), to get skill points, (level combat skills), and for contribution points, (unlock nodes and housing). There are story quests that unlock the history of the area that you’re in. Things like the common gathering quests are combined with whatever crafting skill they’re relevant to so they have some meaning. I like how escort quest npcs actually run fast behind you unlike the classic dawdlers of previous MMOs.

Summation. We’ve all played so many games that there can be a temptation to want to walk right in and get to a complete understanding right off the bat. Things that you don’t know aren’t seen as a source of discovery and learning but as a frustration that you don’t know what you’re doing. The majority of our guild aren’t at level cap yet for the simple reason that they are taking their time and enjoying learning about the game. I’ve been going for 2 weeks now and I’ve learned a lot but there’s still a lot to go. I was frustrated at the start; in fact a lot of us were. But this game rewards some effort and time taken to really get in and see what’s out there. I’m enjoying it immensely. I think that it is a real progression on MMO game development. It’s nothing like ArcheAge and for that I can be truly thankful.

Jewel at Healing the masses has a post up lamenting the cash shop in Black Desert. She really hates the cash shop with every fiber of her being. This was a surprise to me, as since playing the game from the very first day I’ve never even opened the cash shop. In fact, one of our guildies has done an extensive research into the cash shop to make sure there were no pay-to-win elements, (the debacle of Archeage hangs over us all). And he gave it a clean bill of health. Nothing to see here, no pay-to-win e-peen warriors strolling about waving their massive dicks-slash-swords in the air.

So like I said, I was a little surprised at her reaction. I mean, she wrote this:

I have to admit that I still think Black Desert Online is a terribly greedy game in terms of its cash shop offerings. Yes, the pay to win might be minimal but there are so many other systems that have been needlessly tied to the cash shop purchases in order to remove restrictions.

So she hates the cash shop but she also admits that it isn’t pay-to-win. Seems strange. But on reading further it all became clear. You see, Jewel is mad at the cash shop and the game designer because of her own poor choices and lack of self control.

I am a rather weak willed person though and even after the $50 pre purchase pack I’ve already dumped in $60 into the game and cash shop. Yes I am a horrible person and I hate myself too but in doing so it made me realise even more how utterly ridiculous this is. So much about it just seems designed to annoy enough to make money and while that might be a profitable approach because of idiots like me it doesn’t make me, and I assume others feel that happy about the game. It makes me angry again. Angry at the developers and publishers, and angry at the industry for bringing the genre into this state.

Let me repeat again – there is nothing in the cash shop that will get you an advantage in-game. She wasn’t forced to go to the cash shop and spend that money. But now she has buyer’s remorse and apparently it’s the game designer’s fault. How about that then?

What I ended up purchasing was incredibly minimal too. Enough that I’m wondering what help it even did considering I’m still noticing a lot of needless systems and restrictions that are more a marketing than a game play choice. I still don’t even feel like I’ve got half of a game, and with $60 extra spent its more like I’ve only unlocked a bare fraction of useability, of the quality of life functionality that should just be standard.

So while she’s happy that it’s not pay-to-win she’s unhappy that she personally didn’t unlock more useability. In other words, she wants it to be pay-to-win for her.

The first thing I bought was 2 extra pets. The one form the preorders wasn’t cutting it with picking up all the stuff and it really does take way to long to loot everything yourself. The pop-up box and confirmation I think are designed to be intentionally slow to annoy even more. And for fucks sake… WHY 3 pets are needed is absolutely beyond me. One pet should be easily enough to function as an area loot but no, greedy fuckers.

For those of you who don’t play the game, pets are actually a useful feature of the game as they run around and pick up your loot. Pretty nifty I thought. I have a falcon that flies around. I kill a lot of mobs but she keeps up just fine. And if you spend the time you can level up your pet as well. But Jewel needs three pets! Although why she does is beyond her. But it’s the game designers who are the greedy fuckers, not her who wants all these mad loots. Speaking of mad loots …

The other thing I bought early on was an inventory increase. Now I wasn’t the kind of person to skip every quest on my grind to 50 and completed quite a few of the ones giving a single inventory space but even then the amount you get to start is woefully inadequate. Once the pets started looting my bag filled up very quickly as each mob type has a number of junk loot things they drop that you might want to keep in order to return to certain npc’s for money.

So now she has three pets picking up her loots and her inventory space fills up! I mean, who wouldda thought it?? So now she has to purchase inventory space too! Even though every town and city in Black Desert has a free warehouse, which you can expand with storage housing, plus your cart, horse, and donkey can all store stuff. All it requires is a little bit of management but oh no, poor old Jewel doesn’t have time for that nonsense. She’s going to rush to the cash shop, purchase more inventory space and then complain about it!

Later on I put in for more inventory space and also an increase to the carry weight. I didn’t realise just how much the silver can weigh you down. I like that it is a mechanic but the way they have designed it to obviously need cash shop upgrades quickly into the game is unnecessary. Just pick a system and bloody stick with it. You want inventory spaces fine, you want weight… WHY not but don’t needlessly add them both just to double dip in the cash shop. And then there is that each city warehouse spaxe is incredibly minimal to start yet you need to upgrade each of them individual.

You get the feeling she’s just losing her nah-nah at this point. By the way, you can also store your silver in the city warehouses!

The only thing I actually felt good about buying was the wardrobe for my personal house. I don’t know why but it just looked like it made the room more compete so I picked it up with the spare pearls in my kitty.

They saw you coming a mile away, sweetheart.

The costume selection right now is rather pathetic as well. The tamer has like one main outfit to pick from and God damn that’s some ugly, impractical, and shitty design. It annoys me as well that there are so few cosmetic options in game to pick from and that you are forced into these expensive garments to look a little more different – not to mention just how stupid the dye system is right now as well. Cosmetics are a huge part of mmo game play, a big part of progression, personal goals, and just that sense only ownership and connection to ones characters and for that to mostly be stuck to that expensive cash shop shit is really… Really pathetic.

And they wonder why we didn’t want girls in games. Cosmetics are a huge part of MMO game play? What the fuck are you blabbering about? And this from the game that has the most outrageously adaptable character creation of any MMO out there.

I’ve gotten to the stage where I’m just thinking fuck em. 100 dollars is enough now and it should be enough to get a full game experience, to get an enjoyable, and cash shop annoyance free experience but no it just makes you feel worse inside. The more you spend the bigger an idiot you feel.

You’re not just feeling like an idiot, you’re looking like one too.

I really do hate this cash shop with every fibre of my being but honestly, am just so desperate for a decent mmo right now.

At this point my regular readers, (all 3.7 million of you), will be wondering why I’m taking her to task so much. Surely it would have been enough to just quote a couple of passages to get across the point that she’s dumb as two planks nailed together. But the thing is that this false whining of a non-existent cash shop issue really gets up my goat. Because there is no subscription model with Black Desert – you buy the game and that’s it. But they’ve managed to keep the cash shop non-pay-to-win which is an extraordinary outcome when you consider the countless MMO disasters based around the same model. These guys still need to make money. They still need to be able to run the servers and keep the game going.

Thankfully they have utter dimwits such as Jewel to keep it running for the rest of us. Now if only she’d have the good grace to just shut up about it.

For those wanting to hit Black Desert and join me I’m playing on the North American realm, Orwen server.

You’ll notice a bunch of channels there as well. We normally hang on Balenos2 but you can switch between channels on the same server.

Name in game is ‘Noisy’. Feel free to hit me up.

I’ve been in the game since Sunday as I purchased the early-early ‘I am very special’ access package. This was in fact my very first time playing an MMO on launch day. I couldn’t get in for the first 20 minutes, so I gave up, went and got a glass of wine, drank that, drank another one, came back and I was in! Bugs have been very few and far between – a small problem with the map, settings not being remembered when reloading, but overall it’s been very smooth sailing.

So down to the game. There is some good stuff here, some very good stuff. For starters, your character is not the hero. You are not a special one to save the world. You wake up with no memory and a little black spirit to help you get it back. There is no story in the game. You can progress in any direction you want. You don’t even have to level much. Yesterday I got involved in cooking and did that for pretty much the whole day. It didn’t level me much at all. So if there’s no story does that mean …?

Yep, it’s a sandbox. A real sandbox. With sand and everything. I’m going to do a post on tips to get started but one thing I will mention now is the fact that completing quests does not give you experience in the traditional sense. You have energy and contribution points. Energy allows you to practice crafting. As you craft it goes down until it needs to be replenished by resting. You can also invest energy in towns, farms, and mines to give you more resources when you gather. Contribution allows you to purchase housing as well as invest in nodes. The nodes connect towns to the resource areas. It is important to remember that you can retrieve contribution points after you have invested them – they are not a permanent investment decision. So feel free to spread them around and see how you go.

Questing raises your energy and contribution points. Questing also gives you skill points which you can spend to unlock combat skills. Experience is mostly gained from killing mobs. So in effect you are leveling three different things, albeit in different ways.

The game is very sophisticated. It has a great deal of depth but the learning curve is not too bad. What can overwhelm you is the sheer number of options that you have. Players can become deer caught in the headlights. The thing to remember is that you are not restricted. You can progress in everything in the game so feel free to proceed in any direction you like. I’m doing gathering, cooking, and exploring the node and trade features. But there is much more than that.

Black Desert has progressed the genre, which is a great thing and about time too. To give an example, let’s have a look at how NPCs work in the game. In traditional MMOs they tend to be rather one dimensional. We are all familiar with an npc standing there with an exclamation mark above its head. NPCs in BDO have many different roles. You have marketplace, trade manager, stable-master, node manager, and many more. All of them can give you quests. They might have special local knowledge which you can obtain by spending energy. You can attempt to steal from NPCs. There is also a conversation mini-game where you can raise or lower their opinion of you. While obviously still being static elements, the important thing is that they don’t feel like static elements in the game. This is just one example of the very many advances that BDO has made.

The game is gorgeous. Unlike other Korean games which tend to look like anime on drugs, the setting is akin to 14th century Italy. Yesterday I went into a swamp area, and it really felt like a swamp. I’m guessing it has a decent toll on computer systems, however. I have a high-end rig and on the top visual settings yesterday I crashed twice. Today I’m going to tone it down one notch and see how it goes.

In summation, I’m so impressed right now. These guys even managed to eliminate gold sellers as there is no direct player trading. So far for me this game is diamonds. I really recommend it. The general launch begins today.