Social Jumping

Shadow added in post to enhance the illusion of height :)

I’m not going to write about how thoroughly exhausted and beaten down I was last night after completing the epic ~45 minute death march of a fight in the first chapter of the first episode of GW2’s Living World Season 4.

Instead I’m going to keep it light and talk about jumping. I saw a remark somewhere in passing about jumping in MMORPGs (apologies but I can’t remember where) which inspired me to write this.

A lot of people jump around a lot in games. I don’t know about anyone else, but I immediately assume the person behind the so-called bunny-hopping behavior has very poor impulse control, is a child under 16, is drunk, is impatient, has no historical appreciation for the real purpose of bunny-hopping in games, or any combination thereof. I only jump in very specific circumstances and very specific ways.

Mainly, of course, I jump if I need to get over an obstacle.

The more emotional or let’s say “social” reasons I might jump are the following:

If another player has done something nice for me while I’m out and about in the world (like helping me kill a mob, or waited patiently for me, or something like that), I will often jump exactly one time as a way of saying, “Thanks.”

If I’m mad about something the game has done to me, I will often run around in circles and jump up and down to simulate a temper tantrum. The avatar looks mad to me during this process. It sort of looks like he or she is stomping their feet.

(Incidentally, Dark Souls allows me to accomplish the opposite maneuver, which is to display happiness: Performing forward rolls in circles, accomplished by moving in a circular pattern and using the dodge-roll button. This is most often displayed after beating a boss. I don’t think there are any MMORPGs where you can do anything like this.)

If I’m in a group and I want to demonstrate the proper place to stand, or draw attention to my location, I will jump up and down a few times.

If I’m in a group, and someone asks if everyone is ready, I will jump once to indicate I’m ready. It’s a visual indicator to the group that I’m at the keyboard.

Sometimes I will jump once as a visual way of saying, “Yay!” For example, after beating a boss or winning a loot roll.

Sometimes I will jump over a shape or line or a rock or a log on the ground just for the fun of it. This is usually done while running from one place to another in a dungeon that I’m very familiar with because there is nothing else to do. In these cases I only jump once at the precise moment required to get over the imaginary obstacle, because I’m an adult.

Sometimes I will jump once at the top of a set of stairs or a slope going down to heroically launch myself higher into the air, or at least so it looks to me. In games that have gliding, this of course gives you a little bit of a longer gliding path.

That’s about all I can think of. I’ve always tried to optimize my finger movements when playing games. :)

I wish game developers would add emotes that are much more subtle than the ones that are usually in games. Every game has “thank you” emotes that I could use instead of jumping, but they are really extravagant bows or salutes–things that I would never do in real life in a million years. I want something like the quick wave of acknowledge you would use when signalling another driver on the road, that is sometimes no more than raising up your fingers a little bit.

Writing versus Story

Bhagpuss said something interesting in his last comment:

In general I think the idea that GW1 had good writing is fanciful. Much though I like Prophecies, the writing is pretty shoddy. I think when people praise the writing they are mainly talking about the plotting, which is fairly coherent. The dialog is mostly stilted and unconvincing, often risible.

First, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “risible” in my entire life. It means laughable, as in, “It’s risible that I’ve never seen the word risible.”

Secondly, he brings up a really good point: Does a good game need good writing?

For myself, when I mentioned that I had heard Guild Wars 1 had a good story, I wasn’t talking about the writing at all. I was talking more about the “immersive experience” or something along those lines. The world, the people in that world, the things those people are doing, and the way that my character interacts with them.

I honestly can’t think of a single RPG I’ve played in over 20 years where I looked at the quest text in a dialog box and thought, “Wow, that’s really good writing.” At best it’s totally transparent to me (which I consider good), or at worst the font is too small to read, it’s full of grammar errors, or it’s an assault of bad puns. Yes, I mean World of Warcraft when I’m talking about the puns.

I mean, I’m sure I must have occasionally thought to myself, “Nice turn of phrase, there.” But it’s so rare that I don’t even remember it.

Actually I can think of one game that I would praise the writing: The Secret World, because those cut scenes are often riveting, but they are more of a combination of good writing and good voice actor performance.

And now that I think about it even more, Lord of the Rings Online consistently has pretty good writing in their quest dialogs, at least in the areas that I’ve played, which is generally up through the Mines of Moria.

I think the issue of writing quality might be a moot point for the upcoming waves of MMORPGs, though. I’m reasonably confident that the days of reading quest text are coming to an end, if they haven’t already ended.

WoW – What I Thought In 2006

In light of the announcement of World of Warcraft Classic, everybody’s abuzz with WoW nostalgia, so I thought it would be fun to re-post my very first thoughts about WoW Vanilla from 2006.

From blizzard.com – I can’t find any screenshots prior to 2014.

World of Warcraft

October 10, 2006

Inspired by the recent episode of South Park, and being bored with FlatOut2, I finally installed my trial version of World of Warcraft yesterday, which I’d gotten with a video card about a year ago I think. I’ve been trying to stay away from MMORPGs because, as South Park indicated, you really can’t play them competitively unless you’re willing to join some kind of guild and give up your life, and really, what’s the point in playing a game if not to win? :) But I’ve heard repeatedly that WoW was particularly good for so-called “casual gamers” and people who liked solo adventuring, so I gave it a shot.

First of all, installation is not for the faint of heart. It took about two hours to complete the installation and updates. It was roughly like installing Windows. I should have expected that, but it was still annoying. Especially the part where you have to forward some ports to help the silly peer-to-peer update downloader.

Once I was in the game, I was immediately struck by the physical similarities to Asheron’s Call (the first one – I didn’t play the second one). The running mechanics are the same, the falling mechanics are the same (the way you sort of blink back and forth between the falling stance and the running stance when you go down a steep slope). If they’re not the same engine (and there is no mention of it that I can find), Blizzard clearly modeled their engine to work like Turbine’s engine. This is not necessarily a bad thing, btw, I was just expecting something, well, different.

Gameplay is about the same as Asheron’s Call, too. And this is a criticism. Because at first, your focus is basically on getting the hell away from the starting town as fast as humanly possible, before the n00b stupidity plague infects your brain too much.

All the standard n00bs are represented: The people standing around begging for weapons and armor, the people standing around begging to know where quest items and places are, the people standing around trying to sell their useless wares they crafted, and the ever-popular people begging to team up for adventure. I frown on such people because all you have to do is get off your lazy butt and explore the world a little bit to find the information you need.

All the standard n00b exploiters are there too, like the people selling items at ridiculous prices and the people talking about how stupid n00bs are (those people invariably end every chat line with “lol”: “u noobs r so stoopid lol”).

Which brings me to all the people who act like asses when you put them in a virtual 3D environment: The people who run around with no clothes on, the people who talk about how drunk they are all the time, the people with dirty names, etc. We didn’t have dancing in AC, but you’ll see plenty of it in WoW: There’s usually a group of people in town just standing around dancing. (As a bonus, at the local inn, you can almost always find one or more people standing on tables dancing with no clothes on.) It’s funny for a few seconds, then it’s just stupid. For those people, the game is essentially a glorified $15/month chat client.

Moving on. So far, I can say that the claims of satisfying solo adventuring are rather exaggerated, at least through level 8. I don’t know where the whole “instancing” thing is supposed to be. I guess that’s only for the high level people. In my adventuring, I had to deal with plenty of the standard lot of n00bs and dorks hanging around with me in the Farigold Mine (or whatever it was called). Those most hated dorks of all were there too: The people trying to steal your kills. I hate those people. Hate them, hate them, hate them. At least in WoW you are assured that you get the loot from your kill if you do the most damage. But it is so annoying to share the experience points with some twink running around with a super-weapon and no clothes. And there was only one Goldtooth Kobold dude that everyone was trying to kill for a quest item, so there was the obligatory “circular firing squad” crowd hanging around his area waiting for him to spawn. In a nutshell, it’s the usual crowd of fellow questers in every quest area fighting for the same quest items, just like in Asheron’s Call. Lame.

On the plus side, it was worth a lot of experience to do the quests, so at least you don’t have to stand around repetitively killing monsters all day to gain experience. (Though you’ll get much better loot that way.) Unfortunately, it takes forever to complete the quests because you have to run all over the countryside (and contend with the other dorky questers), so I’m not sure it’s really worth it. You just have to figure on X amount of hours of gaming to acheive level Y, no matter what you do.

Overall, I can’t figure out why it’s so popular. Through level 8, it’s almost exactly the same as Asheron’s Call from, like, six or seven years ago. It’s fun if you’re bored I guess, but you’ll still be spending a lot of time wading through hordes of idiot gamers, and staring mindlessly at the screen while running from place to place.

I give it a 3… out of 5.

World of Warcraft Addendum

October 11, 2006

Addendum: So I go to login to WoW last night to see how many levels I can acheive with a 14-day trial account, and it says the server is full and I have to wait in a queue for some 30 minutes to get in! You have got to be kidding me. That seals the deal. There is no way I’m going to pay $15/month for the privilege of not being able to get on the freakin’ server! That is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. I’d much rather play in severe lag than not be able to get in at all.

You can pick another server to play on, but, of course, you have to start a brand new character. Remembering that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is the same as the one for “opportunity,” I took the opportunity to try out a gnome rogue who looks a little bit like Mario. It was actually kind of fun waddling around killing wolves, and not very crowded up in the snowy mountains. It was more fun than starting out as the human warrior, actually. There aren’t as many gnomes running around without clothes, at least. :) And I only saw one person with “spooge” in his name. Maybe it’s just because it was a new server.

One thing that’s different from Asheron’s Call… it’s way easier to start from scratch in WoW. There’s not much danger of dying from any of the early monsters; they don’t even attack unless you attack them first.

World of Warcraft Redux

October 23, 2006

Perhaps this was inevitable, but in the absence of anything better to play, I’m reversing my stance on World of Warcraft. It’s grown on me like an infectious fungus, so I paid the $20 activation fee so I could keep playing past the free trial period.

I got my original human warrior up to level 14, but I was having a lot of difficulty soloing in Westfall against the stupid Defias mages that shoot freakin 75 point fireballs at you, and against those stupid Murloc frog creatures at the coastline that gang up on you with their pet crabs. Soloing more than one monster near your own level is almost impossible in WoW, unless maybe you have a huge stash of healing potions, which being a new player I obviously don’t. Anyway, those obstacles brought my ability to complete quests to a screeching halt, so I started thinking about a new character template.

I did a little web research and found that hunters and warlocks are the most recommended classes for solo play, because of their ability to use combat pets. So I started a new floppy-eared night elf hunter.

In a nutshell, a hunter with a pet just plain rocks for solo adventuring. It’s a huge improvement over the warrior, and I can’t imagine life without a pet now. I send my pet owl to attack a monster, then stand back and fire arrows from a distance while the monster battles my owl, and I don’t get a scratch. It’s awesome. This is no wimpy owl, either — it can dish out some damage. Between the two of us, the poor monster is usually dead in seconds. Most of the time, the owl can handle itself just fine even without my help. If I end up fighting multiple monsters, I’ll direct the owl to fight (and distract) one monster while I fight the other, and the owl usually kills his monster before I finish mine.

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!

Passing on PC Destiny 2

The-guy-that-Nathan-Fillion-voices from the open beta.

Soon you will probably see a lot of talk about the launch of Destiny 2 on the PC.

I’m trying to be more discerning with my game purchases these days, so I have no plans to pay full price for an over-hyped, mediocre shooter whose main attraction seems to be a large cult following. Maybe if it goes on sale I’ll take a look at it, but who are we kidding, this is Activision/Blizzard and it’s never going to go on sale, so I’m probably never going to buy it.

In more practical concerns, I also don’t particularly want to jump into a game with a whole slew of people moving over from the PS4 who already know all the tricks. There won’t be any fun phase of discovery for the PC launch crowd. No feeling out of what works and what doesn’t work. It will be all business from the very first moment.

So I’m just not going to feed the Gaming Industrial Complex this time.

And this just in: I just read Belghast’s first post on PC Destiny 2. He describes making it to level 14 (of 20) on the first night. He is hoping to be done maxing out his first character’s level and finishing the storyline in the first three days. Granted he is a veteran so I’m sure it is old hat for him, but still, it’s more evidence to support my decision. There are plenty of other games around to keep me busy for three days.

But if you are playing it, have fun! :)

P.S. I’d be interested in watching a blind Let’s Play of Destiny 2 though. Must be blind, and the player must not have played Destiny 1 before. Let me know if anyone sees anything like that. I’m finding bupkis from a cursory search of YouTube.

GW2 – Fun While It Lasted?

I hate to say this, but once I finished the GW2 Path of Fire story, I found that my drive to keep playing rapidly dwindled. I think I understand now why they didn’t put very much of the story on the final two maps. They are less fun to play on.

Bhagpuss alluded to this early on in his first first impressions post. There is a very noticeable ramp up in difficulty from Elon Riverlands to The Desolation. I have to admit I chuckled at his nailing the exact difficulties that I routinely experience in Heart of Thorns in his description of Path of Fire:

There are mobs everywhere.  Traveling the Path of Fire is like running an endless gauntlet, assaulted at every turn. … I’ve found it nigh on impossible to do anything at all without two or three unnecessary and unwanted fights. … Every encounter seems to have at least one veteran – often several.

Yeah, that was the story of Heart of Thorns for me in a nutshell, every part of every map. At least in Path of Fire it’s only on the last two maps.

I think the essential difference between Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire is that the story of Heart of Thorns ran straight through all that difficulty (see Chapter 9!), while in Path of Fire, it doesn’t. I only started encountering increased difficulty after I finished the story. Getting 100% map completion on the first three maps, where most of the story resides, was a casual picnic, but getting the same on The Desolation is more of a grudge match, an exercise in sheer determination and willpower. There are even invisible walls blocking the jumping bunny rabbit in some places!

One thing that may have killed my enthusiasm for finishing up the maps was the Jackal mount. I was very excited to find it way down there in the corner of The Desolation where I wasn’t expecting anything. But frankly it’s not worth the effort to get it. It’s certainly not worth the outrageous 20 gold you have to spend for it. For you GW2 veterans who can’t even imagine wealth so low, 20 gold is basically my GW2 life savings.

As soon as I finished the heart and opened up the vendor (no small feat, as I fell off once trying to get those floaty energy things), I rage quit in frustration as soon as I saw the cost. I was expecting another 5 gold mount, or maybe 10 gold. When I came back later with a fresh attitude, thankfully I didn’t have to do the heart again.

I had to sell all those stacks of unidentified gear laying around my inventory. Then I had buyer’s remorse afterward, as it’s not a terribly useful or fun mount out in the world (compared with the bunny rabbit). Especially on The Desolation where you have to use the Skimmer to get over half of the terrain. I guess it could be fun to finally use those Jackal portals, but who’s going to stick around to get that many Mastery levels?

Because, like Bhagpuss, I too have noticed that the player population on the Path of Fire maps seems pretty low. In Heart of Thorns, it’s not unusual to find myself alone for a long time, but then I’ll stumble onto a big mass of people doing an event, and I’ll tag along until I get bored or need to go a different direction for whatever reason. But I don’t see anything like that on the later maps of Path of Fire. I hardly ever encounter other players doing activities on The Desolation. Nobody worked on the big meta event to get into Bad Guy Central. I had to carefully fight my way in there by myself to get to the vista and points of interest.

I hate to criticize Path of Fire, because I did enjoy the expansion while I was playing it, and it was a good price point. ArenaNet probably got a lot of good press out of the whole thing, which is great. It just seems like MMORPGs should strive for more than a week of casual fun with their expansions.

The Mist (2017)

When I heard that there was a new version of Stephen King’s The Mist available to watch, I ran to my nearest cable box and found the ten episodes of season one buried in Spike TV’s video on demand on FIOS.

The Mist has always been one of my favorite Stephen King stories. It was a novella at the beginning of the collection Skeleton Crew. (Survivor Type is the other memorable story from that book.)

Anyway, The Mist was made into a mediocre movie in 2007. I don’t have any specific memory of hating it, so I’m assuming it was “okay”—not terrible, but not fantastic. I recall that the movie took liberties with the book, but it followed roughly the same plot: A group of people become stuck in a supermarket or something when a supernatural mist surrounds them. It’s the classic stuck-in-an-elevator story, with a Stephen King survival horror spin.

Fast forward to 2017, and now we have The Mist in a television series. The first season contains 10 one-hour episodes.

The first episode is terrible. Just mind-bogglingly awful. The script is terrible and the acting is terrible. It’s an absolute train wreck of exposition as they try to setup the backstory for the characters before they get trapped in the mist. Everything is forced and stilted and incredibly unbelievable. It’s very clear that they made no attempt to adhere to anything from the novella.

It was so bad that I couldn’t stop watching it.

The metallic shrieking catastrophe continued through the second, third, and fourth episode.

Then something happened. In the fifth episode, suddenly the actors started to act. Dramatic tension developed. The tone of the show shifted from a Lifetime special back to where it belonged: Horror. Instead of listening to the show in the background while I went about my Internet browsing, I suddenly found myself watching scenes all the way through from start to finish.

The characters finally morphed from robots delivering terrible dialog into people that I could care about. In the initial episodes, we were supposed to care about them because of the artificial backstory they tried to jam down our throats, and it was hilariously ineffective. But as the series went on, we started to care about them because of the terrible situation they were in, and that is the entire point of The Mist in the first place.

They should have started the show at episode 5, and filled in the Lifetime drama backstory in flashbacks.

Toward the end of the series, the tone shifts from a tense psychological horror into more of a straight-up survival horror, which is what we were expecting all along. By the time it gets to this point, around episode eight, the show is not that bad, all things considered. The actors are better at portraying characters on the edge of sanity than they are at portraying regular people on a normal day.

But it’s asking a lot to make people sit through four terrible episodes and another three or four mediocre episodes, before you get to a good part. I can’t imagine very many people sticking around to see it through that far.

Still, it’s nothing like the novella. They tried to give the mist a personality or an evil spirit quality and to me that falls completely flat. There isn’t supposed to be any kind of intelligence to the mist. It’s just supposed to be a plot device to force strangers together into a survival situation, so we can watch them fall apart or rise to the occasion.

In conclusion, read the book. :)

The Return of The Ringed City DLC

Yesterday morning I finally returned to my Ringed City DLC blind playthrough videos after a two month break. The first thing I encountered was a dragon boss, Darkeater Midir. I died. I decided to go a different direction. :) I ran into Judicator Argo and his entourage of Dark Spirits. It took a couple of tries but I got through that ordeal to a woman whom I assumed to be Princess Filianore.

I had been planning to get back to DS3 for a long time, but Monday was an appropriate day to return to The Ringed City because it was also the day of the total solar eclipse passing across the continental United States. If you’ve gotten to a certain point in Dark Souls III you’ll know that a total eclipse dominates the sky above Lothric Castle, as seen in the featured image above. Synergy!

I was not in the path of totality but I experienced about 90% totality which was certainly enough to notice a huge change in the environment for an hour. From the pictures I took it is almost impossible to see anything different, but it was unusually dark for 2:30 PM on a sunny day. Not the dark you would associate with a cloudy day, or dawn, or dusk. Shadows were still well-defined as if it was full daylight. It’s just that the light was dim. The only metaphor I could think of at the time is that it looked like the batteries on the sun had worn down.

And now, low-tech eclipse pictures! These two images were taken with my phone stuck in a pinhole eclipse viewer box.

2:10 PM
2:55 PM

By far the most interesting and unexpected thing I saw was this pattern of eclipse-shaped light slivers (presumably) cast through the leaves in the trees onto the ground. It was surreal and a little bit disorienting to look at because my brain had no point of reference for it.

Like a bunch of giant fingernail clippings left on the ground!

And my tweet thread about the eclipse for posterity.

Ha! You thought this was going to be a post about games!