Kill Ten Retrospective

This is my last post on Kill Ten Rats. I am not sure how to say good bye.

I have closed up shop on a lot of games. A great many of them ended on coasting status, limping along and skimming the cream off the top in case I decided to go back. I can think of few cases where I went back and fewer where I went back for very long. The last play sessions were generally clean up, again with the prospect of someday returning. Clean up inventory. Finish off some quests. Complete the event achievement.

I have lost touch with a great many people. I still have a few from Guild Wars 2, a few from City of Heroes. I miss a few from Asheron’s Call and wonder what happened to them. On the other hand, I still get together with people I met in Asheron’s Call. The New Year’s LAN party has been a tradition for more than a decade, even if some years there is not much LAN-liness.

I joined up with Kill Ten Rats as Ethic was expanding to a group blog around the time that I was considering starting or joining an MMO blog. I had been involved in a variety of forums over the years, and I wanted something more permanent, more “home.” I suppose now people would just use social media or an existing aggregated site.

Kill Ten Rats became a group blog. We played different games and talked about them. I started as the blogger for a game that no longer exists. We compared what we were seeing in different games. As time flowed, we swapped between games or maybe played together. There was not a guiding force behind that, just what we happened to be playing. Lord of the Rings Online is where we were most likely to overlap. We had great hopes for Warhammer Online and then greater for Guild Wars 2. Neither was a bad time, but neither was The One.

Kill Ten Rats was probably best known when Ravious made us essentially a Guild Wars 2 fan site, following the game throughout development. Our biggest exposure came from a brief time with World of Warcraft, because a small nod from the big dog is a lot more attention than several other games combined.

Most of our co-bloggers fell away quickly. People had a few ideas to post but not something consistently over time. Some made a half-dozen posts. Some blogged steadily for a few months then trailed off. For most of our time here, it was me, Ravious, and Ethic.

I knew Ravious from A Tale in the Desert. We were in Southren Star Guild, a early typo made permanent name. He stumbled over the chance to join KTR more or less the same way I did. His enthusiasm was always a better draw than my bloodless analysis, plus talking about the New Hotness has a better audience than my habit of discussing a random game from 10 years ago and how its mechanics relate to whatever. Zach was a good friend and a good writer to have around. We knew each other online and played together for about 15 years, only meeting once. He died of cancer in 2017.

I remember some fun stories from games. One about my wife was pretty popular. There was the occasional reach at social relevance and frequent inclusion of social science. There were fun reviews and fables. There were posts that no one liked where I tried to use songs as extended metaphors for gaming. We had a kerfuffle after one of our writers talked about having bought in-game gold, and others talked about having accounts hacked and looted by gold-sellers.

Kill Ten Rats has been my public face for gaming for most of my time online. If you’re reading this, there is a fair chance you are or were a gaming blogger and we met via gaming blogs. I don’t know how much people still read blogs. I don’t know how people still read blogs; I use Feedly, many people don’t seem to know what RSS is.

I could point back to Biting the Hand. The specifics have changed, but has the gaming landscape changed much? Battle Royale games are the flavor of the moment. MMOs remain a niche market dominated by World of Warcraft, which has held the crown for longer than any of us thought possible. The most interesting thing to me at this point is what is happening with the game shop platforms like Steam and its recent competitors, and whether Steam can survive under the weight of its expansion. We are seeing the same sort of refragmentation after accumulation that we are seeing in other markets like streaming video, and I should not let this trail off into another gaming economics post.

Ahem: I could point back to Biting the Hand. Jessica Mulligan closed up shop there with the note that she was repeating herself, watching others repeat themselves. I have had some repeating of myself, although I am more likely just to link back to myself yet again. The archives are still there, but I am not led to believe that people read back through archives much. I do, but I am weird. It is nothing new that “news” is what is new, and there is always more “new” coming in. I have perhaps a few more things I could say, but I have probably said most of it in some form.

Before MMO blogs became popular, similar content appeared on “rant sites.” Some folks have been around long enough to remember those. Tweety and Lum are in the industry now, and I occasionally see something from one of them, whether work-related or still ranting. I think a lot of early MMO blogging was inspired by that, where we had the idea we could help move the industry by shouting about it. I don’t know that we influenced much.

MMOs carry on, probably more than I know. We all still dream of The One, the game that will fulfill our dreams or at least its promises, or recapture that First MMO Feeling. I have lost track of them, which games are out or coming. I occasionally hear about them closing down. I want to make a Dawn joke here, but it seems neither important nor recognizable. But if you’re still reading, again there’s a good chance you were around for Dawn drama.

At some point, KTR and other MMO blogs mostly drifted from being MMO blogs. Some have remained pure, I am sure, but we became online gaming blogs, gaming blogs, online culture blogs, general blogs. And we gradually trailed off.

Kill Ten Rats has long since trailed off. Occasionally something will spur a stream of posts. By our numbers, I know that several thousand of you are still out there. I have seen too many blogs where the last post is “not dead yet,” six months after the previous post. So I am hanging up my digital pen. Ethic opened the gates on the rat hunt, and he gets to close them.

I have seen myself change over time. I was more conflict-prone in my youth. Back in college, I explicitly belonged to a gladiatorial combat theory of dialectic: pit two ideas against each other and see which was left standing. You have probably noticed that my style has less conflict, more analysis and detail. I recently saw a college-age friend write that their preferred style of working out ideas was to confidently assert a position and hold it against similarly adversarial arguments from others. I saw myself and smiled wistfully like old people do.

I have noticed my mistakes and typos over time and wondered whether I am slipping or just more aware and conscientious now. I have a couple million words here, and I occasionally look at an old post and fix old typos. We acquire new frailties over time and realize we may have always had others, just balanced by youthful energy and resilience.

I have reached the point of looking back at a lot of decisions in life. Some of them have worked better than others. There are some that I would have done differently had I known then. There are some I can correct now, others where the time has passed. The return on investment proposition has changed on some. I still dream of making it to Disney as a next career path, and hey, I’m open to any interesting opportunities in project management and technical development. Call me.

We have had a lot of good discussions. We have had fun. We have sometimes met and played together. I am still Zubon on Steam, if you want to find me for a game sometime.

If you are still reading, you have been reading Zubon at Kill Ten Rats for the past 14 years. Thanks for reading. See you around.

: Zubon

Theme Parks

We went to Walt Disney World last week. Disney has in many ways achieved what Guild Wars 2 was (is?) trying to with zoos.

By that, I mean that you have a mix of fixed, sporadic, and mobile attractions. The theme park elements are always there and always running. The Haunted Mansion has doombuggies moving continuously on a treadmill, and Mickey Mouse will always be posing for pictures. Around that, there are scheduled shows that happen periodically, along with parades (by metaphor: world raid bosses on a rare spawn). There are both large shows with highly visible scheduling and smaller shows that look more like something is just happening, a 5-10 minute affair staged outside. An example of the former is the Hall of Presidents; an example of the latter is the newer “The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History.” which happens outside less frequently and with more variation. Animal Kingdom and Epcot always have some sort of performer somewhere in the “streets.” And then there are wandering characters and performers. For example, my wife was thrilled to get her picture with a suffragette on Main Street USA, and we caught Mary Poppins posing for pictures between events. Live interaction with guests, not just fixed shows!

Some of these even have the same Guild Wars 2 effect whereby one event moves to another. Before the “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” show, the characters parade from Star Wars Launch Bay; the end of the “March of the First Order” show is the march of the First Order through Hollywood Studios.

This is something I really liked about Guild Wars 2 and a reason I have trouble going back to any MMOs. It may be a thin veneer of “world” in your game world, but there is a sense of place, that there is a living world around (even if it is all on a schedule). Things are going on, there are variations instead of the exact same thing every time, and there is a sense that you might see something new this time. Over time, you will likely see all the variations, or maybe they will introduce new ones faster than you can exhaust them (unlikely in an MMO, likely in a real theme park unless you have an annual pass).

Asides:

  • Contrary to the linked post at the top, I find Animal Kingdom to be more zoo-like than the local zoo. There is not the same experience for every guest, and the animals are not (all? mostly?) in small enclosures. This is best seen on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which covers an area larger than the Magic Kingdom. Within a day, you probably get a similar experience between tours, as the drivers know where the animals are out that day. But we have been to the park before, and the experience differed this time.
  • If you have the chance, the limited attendance evening events at the Magic Kingdom are a better buy than the normal ticket. We went to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and even if you have no interest in the Halloween content at all, the chance to ride the most popular rides with a 5-20 minute wait (instead of up to an hour) is great. “Disney After Hours” looks like a similar experience, with more rides open and no special content. I expect that the “zoo” aspect I just talked about is not live during that, but it is extra big for Halloween.
  • Hollywood Studios has the weakest reputation, especially while building its new areas, but I found it one of the better parks for having a lot of zoo, along with live content (but very weak on normal theme park content). The Frozen singalong was surprisingly great. Limited, but everything was better than I remembered from a few years ago.
  • I am still interested in working at Disney Parks and Resorts, if we have any readers with whom I could network. I do project management, strategic planning, and technical development. It’s hard to get your foot in the door.

: Zubon

Recursion

Pathfinder Adventures is the electronic version of the card game version of Paizo’s version of D&D.

I feel like I should be able to work a couple more “version of”s in there, but it could be a stretch.

: Zubon

Humble E3 Digital Ticket

If you occasionally get a Humble Bundle, now is probably the time to get one. Just looking at the “pay what you want” level, it includes:

  • Psychonauts, which is good.
  • 40 treasure chests for Pathfinder Adventures
  • 500 coins for the Amazon appstore
  • content for 4 MMOs

And then more. And then more MMO and MOBA content in the paid levels, and more games, and some subscriptions and betas. And then there are some more of those games and betas at the “pay what you want” level. And some other stuff.

: Zubon

Casual Bites

Long-time readers know that I am an immoderate person. I binge, I commit fully. I mentioned that I was reading Worm; I went through 1,680,000 words in 17 days. So I don’t drink and I am careful about getting invested in things. I am coming down from that Worm binge and am once again (still?) wanting games I could play casually even if I likely won’t. The metaphor still holds: sometimes you won’t commit to watching a 90 minute movie but you will watch 5 TV episodes in a row.

One thing I liked about the MMO genre was the ability to make small units of progress. Hop in, get a few easy objectives in 15-30 minutes, go on to whatever else you’re doing. Beyond coasting, it combines the casual game spirit of low investment play with the long term perspective that these little units add up. There are plenty of single-player games that are similar, which are mostly what I am seeking in my Steam library as I have given up on MMOs.

There are lots of games that I want to play but do not feel up to committing the time necessary to give them a fair shot. I have some 4Xs but it is not quite satisfying to pop into one of those for a few turns. I have Banished installed but my only visit to its tutorial reminded me of The Witcher 2, not in difficulty but in that its interface turned me off so much that by the time I can get over that feeling I also forget what I was supposed to have learned. Before I completed the first tutorial it seemed that building a basic settlement involved going 2 or 3 levels deep in each of several menus for each of several steps, requiring roughly a paragraph of explanation each. Banished has a rather good (if harsh) reputation, but I don’t know if I’m up to that kind of commitment just to learn the interface.

My current need is gaming in bite-sized increments with intuitive gameplay. Being me, I am likely to leap into and consume something in mass volume, but I need that intuitive gameplay to get me past the commitment conundrum of needing to invest in learning a game before I am able to enjoy it. I want the game to meet me at least half way in terms of interface, when many of our gamer games seem to pride themselves on requiring large time investments to learn their mechanics.

: Zubon