onsdag 24. juni 2009

Moving on to greener pastures

Turns out that for all my fuzz about emo bloggers, I quite like it. So, I decided to upgrade!

Follow the rest of my ramblings at: Ask in game


onsdag 10. juni 2009

The end of WoW?

No game company will tell that they are on the decline, no company will say if players are leaving. So how can we know when a game looses its potency?

Wolfshead has used the tool Alexa to determine the use of the official World of Warcraft webpage, and looking over the last 22 months there has been a decline in the use of the webpage. So, does this mean that the peak has been reached? Is the largest MMORPG on the market ready for retirement?

The use of this tool is quite fascinating, and good effort on Wolfsheads part on trying to think outside the box. But what has he really found?

The use of the american World of Warcraft webpage has declined.

As Tobold commented, thats only one segment of the WoW player base. The European playerbase might be different, and who really knows whats going on in China.

All MMORPGs have fluctuations, simply cause very few people limited themselves to one playstyle during their "playing career". Due to change in game design, a change of RL situation or perhaps a wish to explore the game in a different way (or all three) a player will change. It is very possible to spend years beeing a casual gamer, then decide to go hardcore. Just like someone who has never tried RP before decides to give it a shot, and someone who spent all their time playing cuts down to a bare minimum. If it is one thing that is predictable about MMORPGs and their users is that it is not static...

The use of a webpage doesn't tell about the use of a game. Since WoW was launched, a massive quantity of other online foras have emerged. If you want news, sites such as MMO-Champion or WoWInsider will be just as updated. If you have questions about your character, go to the Elitist Jerks forums rather the the official forum. Then there is ofcourse the many bloggers, tweeters etc etc. It is very possible that what Alexis.com is charting, is a change in where players find their information about the game.

mandag 18. mai 2009

What to study? How your love for games will confuse you

Games are captivating, facinating and thrilling - both to play and study. I should know, it's what I do. However, I also know that it can be confusing to study something that engages on so many levels. There is a million things I wish to look into, and another million or two that I have already seen and want to write about.

In the last week I have been speaking to two students who are both in the process of formulating a topic for their master thesis, and both of them got directed to me cause they have an interest for games. When talking to them and desperately trying to part with some wisdom, I got confronted with many of the choices I made and the things I wish I knew when I started out.

For what they are worth, here it is some of the things I wish someone told me when I started out:

1) If you think something is cool and interesting as a gamer, it will be interesting for an academic audience. All you need to do is make that idea/concept/thing into a research project. That's what your counselor is there for, so bring it to him/her and see what you can make out of it. The Game Studies field is populated with people with a passion for games, so don't be afraid to draw on your gamer experiences.

2) Think about what you would like to write about the most, not what you think makes a "good" master thesis. When writing you will find that your theme will end up relating to the current body of academic work in some way or another, so go for a story you want to tell rather then the one you think the audience (aka your sensor) want to hear. Lots of people, inside and outside academia, want to know more about computer games. Your thesis will have an audience regardless, so focus on having a story you wish to tell them.

3) Write lots of notes. If you want to study a game you are playing, write down things happening in game that you find fascinating. Its not about generating empirical data, but giving yourself a chance to get some distance and have a look at what actually grabs you when you play. Regardless of what data you choose, such notes will help you understand the game better - and can be useful in supporting other data.

4) When you find clippings, newpaper articles, blogs etc. that tells stories about games that you think are bad, that tells a story about games you don't think is write, that is ignorant etc etc, but is not related to your topic - don't use your thesis to prove them wrong. If you write about gender in games, and you find an article about kids beeing addicted - don't try to argue against it in your paper. Its off topic, and even though it would be nice to prove such false claims wrong, the thesis is not the place. It cant be about everything related to games, or correct every wrongful myth. Just get a blog and QQ like the rest of us.

5) Dont be afraid to be an expert. Your topic will interest many people, and you will often find yourself discussing your thesis at parties, family gatherings, lunchbreaks etc. You WILL have unique knowledge about games, even though someone else have played more/longer/at a higher level - and your knowledge is academic even though lots of people can talk about it.

6) Whatever game(s) you choose - play lots. Get involved with the community, try things that you normally wouldn't. Never tried strategygames? Give it a go! Never contacted support? Call them! Never made machinima? Try it! Remember that studying games isnt just about telling your story. Finding out what other gamers experience isnt just useful for your work, its also fun.

fredag 1. mai 2009

The adventures of Martin Fury

Scene 1: Player1 looses character to a keylogger who hacks the account. Player1 is very sad, and petitiones Blizzard to have it back. Nothing seem to happen.
Scene 2: Player1 is in contant with Blizzard about a looting error, and brings up this issue once more. The lost characters are restored with random low level items, including a Martin Fury.
ITEM: Martin Fury. A GM only item that will kill all monsters in the area when used.
Scene 3: Player1 joines his guild on a few raids, and decides to use it for comedy value and to see if it actually does what's expected.
Scene 4: At Blizzard headquarters someone falls off their chair when they see a tiny unknown guild achieve several world firsts within a very short space of time. Time to investigate!
Scene 5: Player 1 as well as Player 2- 20 from the same guild, gets banned for beeing part of an activity breaking the EULA. Sad music, and broken hearts. Is this justice?
Scene 6: The internet gets on it and starts sharing the news, flaming, supporting and digging out the details.
Scene 7: Blizzard gets worried and starts deleting all threads on their official forum regarding this story. Masked people in dark corridors.
Scene 8: Silly game researcher decide to also get on the bandwagon...

End Scene:
So, what is the most engaging here? That a person got a GM item and used it? Clearly realizing that it probably wasnt right? Or that Blizzard decided not ban, not only him but everyone around him as well?
Personally I think the best part is how Blizzard is now trying to hush it up, deleting all threads with any mention of it. And that others couldnt care less and getting their scoops

torsdag 30. april 2009

Achievements and how they made me care.

Sicne the introduction of the achievementsystem in WoW, I have been rampantly against it. I find no enjoyment in fulfilling random tasks to be awarded points, which in turn can only be used on vanity things such as titles or mounts.

Its just not my cup of tea.

If we have an instance on farm, I much rather just farm it quickly - so I can return to doing something else. Like making money, lvling alts or grooming my giraffe. Making encounters unnecessary difficult (by f.ex. not killing the adds) just dont sit right with me.

Now it turns out I kinda have to care.

When ranking guilds achievements are counted. Sites such as http://wow.guildprogress.com/ will rate guilds with more achievements higher then those without. Regardless of who first got the kill.

So, to achieve our goal of beeing a top guild on the server - we need to complete achievements.
Just like that - a ranking system that I do care about, forces me to care about achievements - a system I dont care about...

tirsdag 28. april 2009

And then you get the boot...

Continuing on the whole process of joining and leaving guilds, I wish to bring up a few examples of different ways I have seen people leave guilds I have been in. I think they exemplify how differently how people seem to think about what a guild is, what commitment is and what the community is expected to do. In many cases it reminds me of bad break-up scenes on TV.

"Nice fooling around, but I got other stuff going on"
This is the most drama free of all gquits. This is players who realize for some reason or another that they are going to quit the guild, and often quit the game as well. Chance of this happening is greatly increased when a new girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other is put into the equation.

"I think we should see other guilds"
A classic. Trialists who dont say anything during their trial period, weeks pass, shows up steadily to raids, never posts on the forum or say anything wrong. Everything seems fine until one day a brief post states that this is not the guild for him/her. Thanking for the time together, in a few lines he/she explains that we just didnt get along, and he/she will leave the guild to find his/her real soulmates.

"Cpt Emo"
This is a common one. Often comes from players who are not really that good at the game, and who dont have much experience with either the game or with online communities in general. After beeing told that they don't really belong here, and that perhaps they should find another guild (they dont meet the standards, dont raid enough, dont get the jokes or is simply too weird) they respond with what seems like grief. Often resulting in a forum post stating how they feel injustified, that this has been a huge personal hit and that they feel betrayed. "Why me?" is a likely response, not understanding that none of the readers will sympathise.

"Fuck you BITCH!"
This is a personal favourite. The people who just get really angry when you tell them that they will have to leave now, very often cause they are behaving inappropriate. Like a drunk guy shouting outside your window, he will blame you for beeing inside listening (thus making you a BITCH) rather then realizing that the drunken, shithead behaviour is the real problem at hand. Extensive use of caps, and will take any opportunity to slag you later on to anyone who is willing to listen.
In the desperate attempt to disprove the person removing him/her from the guild, he/she also fails to realize that any possible supporters he/she might have had is now gone. Noone wants a guildie who spams "FU I dotn neeD tis SHIT!!!U dont hav a LAIF"

"I am quitting now. Honest."
In most cases, they end up leaving eventually - but will then fall into one of the above categories when it actually happens. Before that it is simply several long emo posts saying how they dont enjoy the game anymore, and how they might not be around any longer. That they feel unappreciated and that things arent like they used to be. Keeps talking about how things were better in the old days, and dont get that the more they talk about it - the less people will care.

Application: Strongsquig [declined]

One central point of raidingguilds is the churn of members. Ofcourse there is a steady core that keeps on going, that keeps the guild together, does the work etc. But there is always some kind of flux when it comes to members.
I have always had a facination for this particular aspect of running a guild. Not cause what happens is unique, but because it is a microcosmos of people trying to make the best out of it.

Joining guilds
When I first joined my current guild, I simply chatted for a few minutes with the guildmaster. He didnt seem to think myself and my friends were absolute retards, so we got in no problem and only minutes later we were in on our first raid in Naxxramas. A few months later, the guild has grown steadily and we have weeded out members who are not up to the standard we want. Ulduar has gone well, and we seem to be a wellfunctioning raidingguild. Atleast for the moment.
Ofcourse this has massivly effected our recruitmentstrategies and policies. Where before we would take pretty much anyone who could spell their name almost right, and were not walking around naked and drooling (not in game atleast, we still suspect several current members to do that IRL) in on trial - we now only bring on board the ones we really like. Why? Because we have that luxury. Atleast 4-5 people apply to the guild on a weekly basis, and since we are not in dire need of any classes right now we can simply pick and choose from the ones we really like. Even as a casual guild we dont want to bring aboard more fail then we need to.

Its quite basic isnt it.
A guild does well, and everyone wants to join. You can choose the ones you want, and awesome breeds more awesome. A guild runs badly, and you will get crappy applicants you are forced to take to fill up raids.
Like anything else in this game: it works exponentially.

As most other raidingguilds we get people who want to join to write applications on our forums. And this is quite a study of human nature. Our appliation template is quite standard, its about a dusin questions asking about experience, raidingtimes, references, UI etc. The stuff you would ask anyone you would employ, any stranger that you were going to put some amount of trust in.

What people do with these few questions varies greatly. And even though a few get accepted, we declined even more.
So, here is a short list of things that is a good idea when applying to a raidingguild. Based on the last few weeks applications, some guidance is needed:

- Answer all the questions. If you dont know the answer to things like "What is your experience in game?" you should probably not apply in the first place.
- If your UI looks like shit, then we will assume you dont know the basics such as how to install addons. Basic UI with threatmeters slapped in the righthand corner wont impress anyone.
- If you used to be a member of the guild you are applying to, its probably a smart thing to mention. You are likely to still get declined, but its common curtesy.
- Answering requests in your application thread with snotty rembarks will not make you look any more charming.
- Give good reasons for why you left your previous guild. Things like "They sayded i didn raid enuf" wont convince us. Neither will "they were shit".

Good luck.