Full Stop

I re-installed TrackMania this past holiday weekend. I needed something a little fresher and more action oriented than what my current MMO, Rift, was providing, and to be honest, I am more than a little excited about TrackMania 2: Canyon. My buddy found a decent United server (all game modes instead of just the freeware Nations with only Stadium races). It was great fun, especially one butterfly-shaped ultra-high speed Island race. About the time my mind was shutting down the map changed, and my fun went full stop.

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Issue 20.5

City of Heroes has added an update between updates. They are really building up that endgame, adding more trials and toys to the Incarnate system. If you are an Achiever, there is an increasing amount there for you, including Incarnate-only cosmetic armor with huge, glowing shoulderpads to provoke WoW-player envy.

But I would instead like to highlight one of the best quality of life improvements ever: AE buffing. CoX has four support sets with two castable shields (Cold Domination, Force Fields, Sonic Resonance, and Thermal Radiation) and then the pair of Kinetics buffs. You could spend a LOT of your time buffing and re-buffing, and I did in my day. Now you can hit two buttons and buff the team (plus any innocent bystanders). Note that this gives Kinetics an AE CC-breaker with Increase Density, moving that power from “marginal in many builds” to “omg!”

: Zubon

Borrowed Memories of Raiding

I have found the solution. If you have been following our series on what is wrong with your primate brain, you already know that the brain does not record and re-play memories so much as keep a sketch and then reconstruct them each time. Human brains are known to insert untrue things. And, here is where we get the solution, our brains will incorporate vivid imagery and not realize that the relevant “memories” never happened to us.

Here is the other half of the solution: some game developers make really awesome trailers, and some players make really awesome gameplay videos. MMO gameplay has a really lousy rate of fun per hour spent, except when you are in the mood for grinding and repetition, so why don’t we get a few really good videos of people playing, perhaps with some voiceover work about how fun it is, and then watch those a few times instead of playing? Fast forward a few weeks, and you will have opinions about how much you enjoyed that game you never played. It is like the sci fi stories about recording sensory experience and playing it back on some sort of experience machine, except that your brain will merrily mock up the whole process for you!

Granted, the economics do not quite work out, as we all get enough enjoyment from the trailer without actually buying the game, but we will work on that problem next. Also, my great respect to the many who figured this out ahead of me, hallucinating quite devout opinions about games while they are still in development. I think we can all appreciate the amount of love and hatred already inspired by Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Dawn.

: Zubon

Previously from Jonah Lehrer

Gold In Perpetration

The Guardian, a fairly reputable United Kingdom newspaper, came out with a story about Chinese prisoners forced in to gold farming for MMOs. There are questions about the truth of the matter since it appears that this is coming from one ex-prisoner whose incarceration was from “illegal petitioning” of the government, but even if true, I am not sure anything new was really learned.

(1) The Chinese government uses prison labor, or laogai (“reform through labor”) as a lucrative means. It’s pretty rough in comparison to U.S. and E.U. prisons that have prison labor systems. Check.

(2) Chinese factory labor, regardless of whether it is used to create virtual gold or real-world jeans, is usually pretty rough in comparison to U.S. and E.U labor standards. Check.

(3) Buying virtual currency on a gray-to-black market fosters negative secondary effects such as viruses, account stealing, and, in this case, use of any “inhumane” labor. Check.

Wrapping up all three things together in one story really doesn’t change much does it? I guess the one thing this story could be used against is the argument that the consumer is altruistically supporting the life of a poorer human by buying virtual gold. I haven’t seen this one used yet, but I guess I now have this response in my pocket.


EDIT: Here’s a video version for those interested. It pulls from many journalistic sources, rather than just The Guardian.

[Rift] Character Transfers and Old Marketing Plays

I don’t know whether Trion Worlds has been holding this ace-up-the-sleeve for the perfect time or whether the serendipitous moment just fell in to their lap, but the result has been very effective. Basically, Rift will give players free server transfers to characters to try and hook up with friends, get away from a busier server, or change to a different rule set. Fans are happy. Cynics are cynical. And, business goes on, much as usual.

Two heavyweight MMO bloggers, looked at it from differing perspectives regarding the marketing approach. Tobold noted that the inclusion of some weasel words could turn this amazing feature into what every other struggling MMO has done at the three-month mark: merge underpopulated servers. Wilhelm at TAGN takes the same premise, but broadens the focus a little to remark on server architectures and Blizzard’s premium service allowing subscribers to do the same thing for a price.

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Steampunk Superheroics

Don’t we all support the City of Heroes microtransactions model? They sell “booster packs” of themed costume pieces. The only item of dispute is that they usually include a power that ranges from trivial to pretty cool, and people sometimes object to needing to pay for a pretty cool power.

The latest pack is Steampunk, and the trailer is great fun. At least, I am amused by steampunk antics. When goths discover brown!

: Zubon

[GW2] New World Profession – Engineer

Like I thought, Guild Wars 2 will bring with it a profession iconic of all the change that 250 years brings from the original Guild Wars. Meet the engineer, no not that one. More like this one. This profession might be one of the most complex yet taking the elementalist’s attunement mechanic to a whole new level. What is the engineer? Adaptability, preparation, and control.

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