Blogging In A World That Hates Blogs

I usually prefer to post nothing instead of a post about blogging*, but since Roger brought it up, and I just said two posts ago that there’s nothing to blog about, let’s talk about blogging!

Rather than write something that stands on its own, I’m just going to respond to the parts of Roger’s post that jumped out at me, as if it were a Usenet post.

The Nature of the Beast

“I’ve written several pieces that I’m proud of. However, they never got the traffic I hoped for. That’s the nature of the beast, I guess”

I’ve always been of the mindset that there is blogging, and then there is blogging for success, and the two are totally different disciplines. There is a fairly well-established body of resources and theory on how to attract attention to your site. It falls under a category loosely known as “copywriting.” One of the blogs I follow off-and-on is called Copyblogger. If you go to that site, you’ll know instantly that it’s a blog about blogging for revenue (aka. views), because it has that “generic corporate” look and feel.

If one wants to get traffic, one needs to follow certain rules that involve SEO, keywords, readability, images, links, and many other things like that. None of those rules have anything to do with creative writing, which is what I’m more interested in. I have a WordPress plugin called “Yoast SEO” that regularly yells at me because my posts invariably fail to live up to their potential.

Oh, everyone says that the best way to get attention is to write good content, and to a certain extent that’s true. But if that’s all you do, then you have to rely on lucky breaks. Like when I posted about the Dark Tower movie at the exact time that everyone on the Interwebs was searching to find out how the Good vs. Evil Edition differed from the theatrical release. If one wanted to chase traffic, you need only watch what people search for every day and write daily blog posts that answer their questions. (See: Every for-profit web site in the world.)

My Dark Tower blogging bump
Guess when I published that Dark Tower post.

See what I did up there? According to Yoast SEO, self-referential or “internal” links are good for business. I also changed the “focus keyword” for this post to “blogging” and I suddenly got a lot of green dots, which I assume is a good thing.

Early SEO analysis of this post, the "work" of blogging

The point I’m trying to make here is this: You won’t know which posts will “hit” or “miss” but there are things you can proactively do to stack the odds in your favor. This is also known as “SEO” or, as I like to call it, “work.” I’m generally unwilling to do a lot of work on something that doesn’t pay out anything in return, and I’m generally happy with where my blog is at the moment, so I don’t do much SEO work except for testing or curiosity. The biggest return I get for writing this blog is an occasional mention in MassivelyOP’s Global Chat column, which is pretty cool and I’m grateful for it, but unfortunately it doesn’t contribute anything toward paying the mortgage.

That’s why new writers should never start blogging because they want fame and fortune. You won’t get it. (Unless you happen to know someone who is already famous.)

So why blog at all? Great question, which is hard to answer. I would say the two most compelling reasons for me to keep blogging are, firstly, that I like to write and it’s a great way to practice writing, and secondly, it’s the main avenue for me to express my weird thoughts and opinions to the world. Nobody I know in real life would ever listen to me talk about what I write in this blog for more than about five seconds. :)

Audience Participation

Therefore, an audience, comments and feedback are important. Our writing is an invitation to friendly interaction and an exchange of ideas…

Number and frequency of comments is one of the most universally-accepted measures of a blog’s success. Unfortunately for me, I’m the dictionary definition of a “reclusive writer” and it takes a lot of mental energy for me to monitor and respond to comments. In my personal opinion, it’s one of my biggest barriers to greater success here and generally in life overall. If I had an intern here at Endgame Viable Headquarters, they would very likely be tasked with responding to comments and “building the community.”

For myself, every time I see a new comment has arrived (anywhere on any platform), I have to go through a whole process of, “What wrong thing did I write this time?” “What did I leave out that utterly destroys the entire argument I was trying to make?” “WHAT IF I MISSPELLED SOMETHING?” “What if they don’t like my writing and by extension me as a person??” “How can I bear the shame of even showing my face on the Internet after I read this comment???”

It’s gotten a lot better over time, but that’s the standard thought process of me interacting with audience feedback for any creative endeavor. I have to mentally construct a brick wall around my “artist self” aka. “helpless small child” before I start looking at comments.

Consequently, I rarely write a blog post to begin a conversation. I typically write posts that try to explain my thoughts on a subject, with hopefully a clear beginning, middle, and end. I write them as if I’m writing an article for a magazine someone would read in a waiting room. (Success varies wildly from post to post.) I usually don’t feel any need to continue a conversation beyond what I’ve already written.

That’s not to say I don’t like conversation-starting blogs. I’m just not very good at it myself. Others are quite good. Incidentally, you can always tell the bloggers that want to start conversations because they typically end their posts with a question, to gently lead people into posting a comment. “What do you think about all this, dear reader?” In copywriting parlance it’s a “call to action.” In a way, it’s what Roger did with his post on blogging. :)

Blogging as Therapy

although such concepts are becoming increasingly alien in the current binary climate. This last point paradoxically offers another reason to write. I use my blog as a means to marshal my thoughts and to try and understand what is happening in the world.

I agree with this completely. I write therapeutically about “the current binary climate” on a different blog, though. There is very little audience in the world right now for critical views of both “them” and “us,” certainly not in gaming. (Honestly, there never has been an audience for that in politics.)

Words versus Videos

Being a fan of the written word, I always prefer to read someone’s thoughts than watch a live stream or a video.

I have also observed that the Venn diagram of blog audience and video audience does not overlap very much. My efforts here and on Twitter to gesture nonchalantly at my YouTube channel go completely unrewarded. :)

I will offer this as for why people might go to streaming or videos from blogging, though: It’s generally more time-consuming for me to write a blog post than to record a video. While I don’t know this for a fact, I have a feeling that the pool of video viewers is larger than the pool of blog readers. So going back to the principle of not doing work without remuneration, it makes much more logical sense to concentrate on making low-effort videos than writing high-effort blog posts.

Fortunately, I still like writing. In fact, sometimes I record videos of a new game I’m trying out, and transcribe what I said to make a blog post. (Most of my Snap Judgment posts follow this formula.)

I also have another completely selfish reason for making videos: I’ve never been good at speaking out loud so every video I make is a little bit more practice. I very rarely get opportunities in real life to speak uninterrupted for any length of time.

So what do you think about all this, dear reader? Uh, write a blog post about it! :)

* There’s an old, unspoken adage that if you blog about blogging, you are not really creating content. I’ve heard the same for podcasting about podcasting and I would assume, now, streaming about streaming.

P. S. Regarding time investment, it took me over three hours to write and edit this post. Yoast is yelling at me now because it’s too long.

P. P. S. If only I could count this text for NaNoWriMo!

Catching Up – CCP, Gazillion, etc.

Literally my only screenshot from Marvel Heroes.

I mentioned that there was nothing to blog about. Then I started catching up on all the things I’ve missed in the MMO landscape over the last month or so.

CCP VR Layoffs. Apparently CCP decided they didn’t want to be a pioneer in VR after all. Presumably this means they’ll need to figure out how to increase revenue from EVE, a fourteen-year-old game that new players run screaming from. (Incidentally, I keep meaning to try out the free version.)

Voice Actor Strike Ends. I’m glad this is over. I don’t know all the details but I assume everybody is happy with the results. I love good voice acting, and voice actors deserve not to be treated like cattle by game companies.

Lord of the Rings coming to Amazon. Not quite game-related, but Christopher Tolkien retiring from his watch over the Tolkien estate might one day affect Lord of the Rings Online in ways we can’t predict. (Incidentally, I have no plans to watch Lord of the Rings on Amazon without a lot of convincing. You can’t just wave the words “Lord of the Rings” in front of my nose like candy before a toddler to get my attention.)

Marvel Heroes Shutdown. This was a huge surprise to me. After a month of silence, Disney and Marvel cut ties with developer Gazillion, and Marvel Heroes is shutting down on every platform. I’m pretty much over Diablo-style ARPGs, but I played this game a little bit in 2015 and I enjoyed it, and I thought it had been doing well all this time.

MXM Shutdown. And this just in.. NCSoft MOBA MXM is shutting down, too. After, like, a month? Or something? I don’t know anything about this game except that every time I heard about it, I thought, “Huh? Why?” Still, you hate to see anything tank in the games industry. It hurts everyone.

GW2 – Living World Season 4 Announced

I’m in another “there is nothing to blog about”* mood so this is a brief update to tell you that I finished the GW2 Living World Season 2 again. It was more entertaining the second time. Except for every combat encounter, of course. But it felt considerably easier the second time through, and I only remember wanting to punch my monitor on two of the bosses. That’s an overall smaller monitor-punches-per-episode rate than Living World Season 3 was. (I used my Revenent character.)

In more interesting news, ArenaNet announced Living World Season 4 will begin on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. I’m actually looking forward to it. Being completely caught up on an MMORPG’s story really helps ramp up my interest in newer releases at launch time. Also, you know, it’s free!

The trailer is awful, by the way.  Roughly 98% of it shows scenes from Living World Seasons 1-3, and I’m pretty sure the remainder came from the final cut scene of Path of Fire. In other words, there’s nothing in there that shows what to expect in Living World Season 4.

Whatever it is, I’m anticipating it will be crushingly difficult to make up for Path of Fire’s relative walk in the park storyline.

* Note: Nothing that I’m aware of, at least. Admittedly I am not very well-informed right now as I only just learned tonight that Marvel Heroes has “gone dark” for a month.

GW2 – Story Over Time

Remember Checkhov’s gun here? I didn’t either. Still waiting for someone to use it.

Guild Wars 2 posts do fairly well for some weird reason (but not as well as Dark Tower posts, go figure), so here’s another one. If you aren’t caught up with GW2 there might be some accidental spoilers below.

I mentioned before that I’ve been re-playing the Living World Season 2. Eventually I’ll be uploading them to my YouTube channel, because hey, why not. “Pivot to video” and all that. I actually got six whole views on one of my Path of Fire videos!

Anyway, playing these episodes now, with the benefit of knowing what I know about the future story, is an eye-opening experience. Suddenly a lot of things make sense. Not everything–but some things.

For example, in Echoes of the Past, when I went into Glint’s lair. (Before all the anger over the last boss.) I actually know who Glint is now! And the exposition between Marjory and Kasmeer talking about Destiny’s Edge, Glint, and Kralkatorrik actually made sense! Kind of. In a high-level way. At least I know who and what a “Kralkatorrik” is, which I’m quite sure I didn’t when I first played that episode. And when I ran into Ogden Stonefacewhatever in the library, I knew him from the prologue in Path of Fire! (At which time I was quite sure it was the first whole dwarf I had ever seen in GW2.) The exposition between Kas and Jory went over the highlights of what dwarves are and why they’re stone and why they’re all dead, which put the mysterious Elder Scrolls-style dwarves in better context.

I think the mistake I keep making is assuming that each new game release of GW2 will have a self-contained story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But that’s not the case at all. Every new release contains another “middle.” It’s as if the story of Guild Wars 2 is unfolding at an incredibly slow-motion pace, over the course of five years. You would think after five years of the game being out, there would be a lot of stories told. But when I look back at Season 2, compare it with Heart of Thorns, Season 3, and Path of Fire, which you’d think would all be separate and distinct stories, it’s as if they are all small chapters of one large story that somebody wrote a long time ago. (Perhaps that book that Bhagpuss keeps recommending, which I don’t want to get because it’s more fun to keep reminding ArenaNet where backstory is entirely missing from their game. :)

As one example: In Living World Season 3, Braham basically told us (the Commander) to go take a flying leap off a short pier somewhere around the middle of the season. There was never any resolution for that, and from what I remember, we never heard from Braham again after he got that scroll in those caves. We went through the entire Path of Fire story with barely a word about Braham. So that’s still hanging out there somewhere, waiting for a resolution. Is he going to re-join the fold in Living World Season 4, one, two, or three years from now? Is he going to be the new Big Bad, a bitter and broken Norn because he didn’t get to die fighting Jormag? Will there be an epic guild fight between Destiny’s Edge 2.0 and Dragon’s Watch 1.0? Who knows? But it sure seems like the kind of thing that should have some sort of resolution during the course of the past, let’s see, roughly two years of game updates.

ArenaNet seems to be counting on us to hold a whole lot of story in our memories over a very long period of time. Maybe people who play every release 20 times on 20 different characters can do that, but l’il ol’ me who only plays them once (if that hehe) is left out in the cold.

P. S. I am back up to 30 gold from dailies! I’m rich again!

WoW – Battle For Azeroth

From the media assets on the Battle for Azeroth web site.

In general, I don’t think about WoW very much, but when Blizzcon comes around every year, Twitter explodes with chatter about this game. Even more than the moderate level of chatter that persists year-round. It continues to amaze me how many people seem to live completely inside a Blizzard bubble.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with focusing completely on WoW, but, to me, WoW is just one game out of a hundred, a game that remains dormant roughly 22 months out of every 24 months.

But Friday, we learned there’s a new WoW Expansion Coming Soon, so it’s time to lavish attention upon it! (Incidentally, this expansion announcement comes about two years and three months after the Legion announcement.)

I enjoyed the last expansion, Legion, but I only played for a month. Actually less than a month, because half of my subscription fell during the pre-expansion Invasions, which were arguably more fun than the expansion (to me). I took a lot of screenshots in Legion, leveled exactly one character to 110 (another to around 105), and then stopped. I haven’t thought about WoW since.

So what’s in this new expansion? I actually wouldn’t know very much about that from Twitter chatter, so I consulted this post on MassivelyOP.

  • Level cap increase to 120! Yay, stuff for me to do! Leveling one or two characters from 110 to 120 will probably be the only thing I do in the expansion.
  • New races! What, I’m supposed to start a new character? From level 1? Are you kidding me? No thanks.
  • Jaina is back! … who? (Actually I think I vaguely remember this was the woman who inexplicably stormed out of some meeting near the beginning of Legion. I only remember that because a lot of people at the time wondered why she did that and speculated about whether it was SOMETHING. REALLY. IMPORTANT.)
  • Island Expeditions! Um, okay. Probably won’t be doing that.
  • Warfronts! Nope.
  • The Heart of Azeroth! What the what? If it’s anything like the Artifact thing I hope I won’t have to deal with it much from 110 to 120.
  • 10 New Dungeons! Okay. Unless they are similar to Legion, where there’s one at the end of each zone, I probably won’t be seeing these.
  • Level-Scaling! Yuck. Though it sounds like it won’t be full-blown yucky forced level scaling, but more of a compromise between yucky and good. “You won’t ever out-level the zone you’re in.” I don’t remember where I read that, but I like the idea of that statement. However, wouldn’t it be easier to just give out less experience for quest rewards? I guess they want people to experience the rest of the zone if they *want* to, but still give hardcores the option to zoom to the next zone after only completing 10% of it.
  • PvP! Nope.
  • Legacy Servers! I’m sure I will take a look at it out of curiosity, perhaps even record some videos, but it’s extremely unlikely that I’m going to pay a subscription to re-experience the days of taking 40 levels to get a slow mount.

I guess the all-important question is: Will I buy it?

Probably. Although at this particular moment, shelling out $50 (a guess) plus the $15 for a month of subscription seems like a fairly big ask just to write a few blog posts and record a few videos. When I think about how much I played the last expansion (less than a month), I’m not entirely sure it was worth it.

Snap Judgment – Necropolis (Brutal Edition)

Not surprisingly, there was a Steam sale for Halloween, and one of the games that’s been on my wish list for a long time was really cheap: Necropolis. They apparently made some changes from the original launch version and now call it the “Brutal Edition.”

I didn’t want to buy it, because even though it was only $4.49, I didn’t want to send the signal that it was “okay” to release an incomplete buggy game at launch and then fix it later. Still, it was supposed to be a “Souls-like” game, and it looked visually interesting, and I’ve heard some good things about it. (And some bad things.) And frankly, I was bored with other games. So for $4.49, surely I could get a little bit of enjoyment out of it.

It turns out that yes, I could in fact get exactly “a little bit” of enjoyment out of it. But only a little bit. Pretty much the bare minimum of enjoyment. Was it worth $4.49 and the hour of time spent playing it? Honestly, no, not really.

I’ll start with something positive. One thing I loved about Necropolis: The mobs could hurt each other. Sometimes they would accidentally hit each other while trying to hit me. They would walk across traps and get killed. Once I saw them ignoring me to fight each other. That was very cool, and I wish more games would do things like that.

The rest isn’t very positive.

The art style turned out to be a lot less appealing inside the game than in the screenshots and videos I’d seen. It looks like a game where they just forgot to put textures on the walls. A lot like a demo game engine project, to be honest. I might be okay with that, because you would think a game with a very basic polygonal style would render really, really fast and be super responsive. But no, not really. Not in this case. Necropolis chugged sometimes and dropped way below 60 fps on my Nvidia 1070. That’s not good for a game that has a bare minimum of graphical detail.

There is no immersive story element in this game at all, as far as I can tell. You don’t know who you are or why you’re running around chopping up monsters, and the game doesn’t tell you at the beginning. There’s nothing particularly interesting about your character that makes you want to learn more, either. You’re just a bunch of polygons. You don’t even get a short paragraph of “character details.”

There’s a disembodied voice that talks to you sometimes with jokey-jokey humor, but it actually doesn’t talk because the sound you hear is an alien language that sort of sounds like words, and you have to read the translation on the screen. There was no explanation for alien-voice-guy in the first hour of the game, and no compelling hook to interest me in figuring it out.

The controls are very similar to Dark Souls (except no backstabbing?), but they didn’t feel as tight. (I played with an Xbox 360 controller, like I play Souls games.) Swings and rolling felt like they were in slow-motion. Jumping felt like there was little or no gravity in the dungeon. Each time I blocked an attack, it wouldn’t let me respond immediately with a swing like I usually do in Dark Souls. I tapped the attack button after letting go of the block, and nothing happened. I don’t know if it’s a deliberate mechanic where you’re “stunned” for a moment after a shield block, or the game is bad at responding to button presses, or maybe I didn’t quite have my finger off the block button yet. In any case it was a bit annoying.

The crafting system is a good idea, but in practice it’s tedious. It didn’t take long for me to wish I didn’t have to craft food to restore my health.

It was a bit difficult to see and compare the items on the floor with the equipment in your inventory. You’d have to stand there and wait for a moment to see what was on the ground before you could make a decision about whether to pick it up or not. Often there would be multiple things on the floor in the same spot and it was difficult to select the one you wanted to look at.

Little UI problems like that make what could be a fun game a bit of a chore to deal with.

Even worse, the combat didn’t feel particularly good, either, which is just about the most important component of a Souls-like game, to me. It was a little slow. I didn’t feel very invested in it. I didn’t feel like I was in any danger. It was mindless button-pushing. It felt a bit like fighting the nameless, faceless enemies in ARPG games which are not so much enemies as they are blocks of pixels that explode into loot, like a Mario game. There was a distinct lack of immersion to the experience. (This is in sharp contrast to Dark Souls games, where every encounter feels meaningful and engaging to me.)

Bottom line: I wasn’t into it. If you have to buy it, wait for it to go on sale for $5.

Games Played – October 2017

As a bit of a data junkie, I’m nauseated to report that I forgot to re-install ManicTime after I had to reinstall Windows this month. Did I even mention that on the blog? Well, if I didn’t, my SSD failed earlier this month, so I had to reinstall.

That means I am missing game-playing statistics from the period of roughly October 11th through October 28th, rendering my report for the month of October completely useless, and indeed any report I planned to do for the entire year of 2017. Ugh. If the data isn’t perfect it’s not even worth bothering!

But from the best of my recollections, I would say that I played, in an indeterminate order:

  • Guild Wars 2
  • Final Fantasy XIV

In fact, since October 11th, those two and a few Steam titles are the only games installed on my PC.

The Dark Tower (Good vs. Evil Edition)

[UPDATE: If you’re here to find out what the “Good vs. Evil Edition” actually is, as compared to the movie, I don’t know. I did not see the theatrical release. My best guess at this point is that the “Good vs. Evil Edition” includes a behind-the-scenes featurette after the movie, which I did not watch.]

Mere moments ago, I finished watching The Dark Tower on FIOS-on-demand. This post will probably contain some spoilers for the movie and possibly even the books, but it’s not that bad, really.

My expectations were low. Based on one or two reviews I saw when the movie came out, I did not expect a faithful recreation of the books. At all. But I kept a completely open mind and gave the filmmakers a chance to sell me on this new idea.

The bottom line: I didn’t hate it. It even had some good scenes. I actually paid attention for the vast majority of the running time, and didn’t revert to playing a game after five minutes like I usually do when watching movies.

It was far from perfect or even great. But I would rate it a solid “not bad” which is somewhere between “meh” and “good” on my rating scale. I didn’t regret spending $5.99 on it. (Which is more than I can say for spending $4.49 for the game Necropolis, but that’s another story.)

Did we need a new vision of The Dark Tower story? No, not at all. But did they need to make significant changes to make a stand-alone movie based on The Dark Tower series? Unquestionably. Even if they tried to make a movie out of just the very first book, I don’t think it would have worked.

This vision of the story, by the way, was based almost entirely around the core thread of Roland’s and Jake’s relationship, and the effect they had on one another. Jake helped Roland return to his former glory, while Roland helped Jake … I don’t know, not feel crazy? And also not get killed. Anyway, in my opinion, they could have done a lot worse than that for a movie.

The threads surrounding that core relationship, involving The Man In Black and the plot against The Dark Tower, actually seemed like a distraction to me. I kind of wish there had been less of The Man In Black, but, you know, big paid actor, so, not much choice there.

I was delighted to see this guy make a brief cameo in the background of one shot.

I’m torn on whether viewers who have not read the books will be at an advantage or a disadvantage in terms of enjoying the movie. (Based on reading Roger’s review tonight, I guess a disadvantage.)

If you go into the movie expecting the books, you absolutely, positively will be disappointed. There is a lot more backstory in the books, and the rich culture and history of Mid-World is explored in far greater detail within the books. But to be honest, most of that would have been wasted on the movie. In fact I would imagine the more fantastical elements that were in the movie were the most inexplicable to viewers. They didn’t make much of effort to establish why The Dark Tower or Mid-World mattered, whereas me, as an avid reader of the books, immediately understood why it was important to save The Dark Tower. (Because there were a bunch of books about it! Duh!)

I had heard beforehand, and it was not-so-subtly hinted in the movie, that the events of the books took place prior to the events of the movie as a sort of prequel, which makes sense. It allowed me to use the rich setting of the books to fill in additional layers of meaning, without distracting from the movie’s extremely obvious deviations from the books.

This movie was essentially an origin story for The Gunslinger. The story of the return of The Gunslinger from the brink of despair, with help from Jake.

I thought the gunfight sequences were pretty well done. They weren’t like the (amazing, but too long) gun-fu sequences from John Wick. Instead, they were subtly “enhanced” by the almost magical qualities that we associate with The Gunslinger.

It drove me crazy whenever he dropped his guns, though. Come on! You’d think the mythical order of Gunslingers would have come up with some way to protect their hands better in battle.

I heard a lot of complaints about how short the movie was, but I didn’t even notice. Anything that runs more than 30 minutes is “long” to me. Maybe this “Good vs. Evil Edition” had some additional scenes, I don’t know.

On the more negative side, I have zero memory of any machines that used kids’ souls to attack the The Dark Tower. What was that all about?? I actually have very little memory of The Man In Black as a character from the books at all. Granted it’s been a good decade since I last read them. To me it was always a series about Roland and his ka-tet.

Anyway, if they make a series out of it, I’d watch it. It’s got nowhere to go but up. But given the poor showing from the movie, I’m not holding my breath. Maybe they will try to make another version in a few years. Ka is a wheel, yada yada.