Category Archives: Entertainment

4. EVE Online

If EVE Online did not exist, somebody would have to create it just to give the MMO blogsphere a focus.  It is the horn of plenty for MMO bloggers, whether you like the game or not.

First, there is the legendary learning curve.  EVE Online is hard and dispenses information like a miser parts with loose change.

The oft mentioned EVE learning curve

There is a tutorial, which teaches you the basics of the game the way pre-school teaches you everything you need to know about international patent law.  It seems like you learn a lot, then it kicks you out into the “real” game and you find that you know very little indeed.  This frustrates many people.

Then there is the fact that it is what is known as a “sand box” game.  There is no story to follow, no final objective laid out for you.  You have to figure out what you want to do.  This also frustrates many people.

Third, the game is avowedly biased towards player versus player interaction… which essentially means that everybody is potentially your enemy.  And you’ve been thrown into the game untrained and have no idea what the point it.  So the first person who offers to help you will undoubtedly really be trying to scam you.  This frustrates a lot of people.

And then there are the pirates.  And the suicide gankers.  And the can flippers.  And Hulkageddon, where bored players get together and try to kill other players who are just minding their own business.  And it happens in space that has security that is supposed to dissuade this sort of thing, yet they get away with it almost every time.  This is, of course, hugely frustrating.

Which brings us to the scams and scandals.  When we look past other players killing you for any reason, or no reason at all, we find that the game also thrives on new and interesting ways for players to cheat each other out of vast amounts of currency.  Phony banks, traitorous corporate officers, Ponzi schemes, it is all there… like Wall Street without the SEC.  This seems totally unfair and frustrating, as there is usually nothing you can do once you’ve been taken.

And the company that runs the game will sell you a token, called PLEX, that you can sell for in-game currency,which is seen by some as biasing the game towards the rich, causing much frustration.  Plus, this also provides a real world exchange rate calculation that allows people to assign a monetary value to the aforementioned scams, which just helps build rage and frustration in some.

And then there are The Goons.  They are the dominant alliance in the game, and they do all of the bad things above and more, but they tend to bring it to a new level.  They want to have fun… and what they find most fun is making other people miserable.  When they make somebody quit the game, they see it as a win.

Goons will be Goons

And you cannot even join them unless you are a member of the Something Awful forums.  But they will try to recruit you in the game.  You will give them some money and your stuff and they will say, “Buh-bye!”  Because, of course, it was yet another scam.

And then there is the company that brought this whole mess into being, the in-aptly named Crowd Control Productions, or CCP, a band of rapping vikings from Rekjavik for whom “Politically Correct” is just a show hosted by Bill Mahr. (If you’ve been to any of their parties, you know what I mean.)

CCP seems to alternate between embracing their user base in a giant love-fest of hugs and doing their damnedest to alienate or just generally piss off their most loyal followers.  It is like the Christian ethos got through the first couple of layers of their hides, but down deep there is still that inner Viking that wants to burn, rape, and pillage.  That cross on their flag… it might be a sword.

All of which could add up to one of the mightiest train wrecks in gaming history. Even those who hate the game cannot look away when fireworks are going off in EVE

And yet the whole thing seems to work.  It staggers from crisis to crisis, the scandals make the BBC news, people scorn it and predict its demise.  Yet the game is a success.  It continues to grow and thrive.

And more importantly, it gives MMO bloggers something to write about, something to praise for being unique or something to complain about for being the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in the MMO space.

We love it, even when we hate it.

[And since I posted this, a really dark look at EVE Online players was posted over at Ten Ton Hammer, fittingly written by the chief Goon.]


3. The Blogroll

The blogroll is the list of links on the side bar that will send you to other blogs.

Most every blog has one, even if they sometimes hide them.

A blog roll can say many things, such as:

  • Here are other blogs I enjoy reading
  • These people are my gaming friends
  • Look how smart I am, I have all these MMO dev blogs on my blogroll, you have to take me seriously!

Some people try to keep their blogroll to a manageable list.  Others try to be all-inclusive in their blogroll.

Few people, however, seem to weed out blogs that are no longer around.

One way to tell how long a blog has been around is to see what percentage of their blogroll is either no longer posting or no longer even there.  Or you could just go back to their first post.  That works too.

Of course, being listed on somebody’s blogroll is always nice, especially when you have just started a blog.  It is like being accepted into the community.

But people new to blogging will often aggressively seek to get on your blogroll, often using the tired “let’s exchange links” formula that many hoped we had left behind us with the last century.

Generally speaking, being a pest about somebody’s blogroll is a bad idea.  It can lead to hard feelings, plus the reality of the situation is that blogrolls generate relatively little outbound traffic from a site compared to the total visitors over any given time period.

Trust me.  You would rather have that blogger link you in a post than put you on their blogroll if you had a choice.

The only exception to that rule is if you somehow get the top spot on another blogroll.  That particular position gets about as much traffic as the rest of the blogroll combined.

With this in mind, I would suggest a blog name that is alphabetically advantaged if you plan to create a new blog.

  • AAA MMO Musings – Right!
  • Xander’s Dungeon Party – Wrong

As for my own blogroll… I am sure your absence from it is an oversight.  I will get right on it.

2. Their Game

There are few things an MMO blogger loves more than their chosen game, though that devotion comes in a few flavors.

For some bloggers, that chosen game is static.  There is but one game for them.  In fact, some begin blogging because of their chosen game and fade from blogging when their interest in the game fades as well.  So have gone many a World of Warcraft blog.

Some of such blogs cheer lead for their favored game, while others are openly critical of the game they follow and the direction it is heading, plus half of the changes in the latest patch.  But it is their game, right or wrong, and you can expect them, when pressed, to defend their game from outsiders and those who try to apply the “sucks” label to it.

Then there are the game pluralists, those who love more than one game.  You might get the sense that they might have a favored game, like a Utah polygamist might have a favored wife, but they still love their flock as a family.

You might even get the sense that they love all MMOs… at least until they post about a game obviously not in their circle of love.  With some bloggers it is a simple lack of passion in their prose that clues you in, while other writers will openly declare a bias against a game.  But with several favored games to cover, they generally do not stray outside of that flock except to make a point or to point and laugh at the silly outsider.

And then we have the flavor of the month crowd.  There are those who just love to flit from one MMO title to another, sampling all there is to find.  All games are their games.

But there is a definite subset who seem to be seeking something missing from their life.  Often they seem to be on a search for an MMO to call their game, grabbing onto then discarding various MMOs.  They will hail the virtues of a new game one month, only to cast it down a little while later.  Some run to the promise and hype of every new game, while others seem stuck in a rut, running in a circle made up of the same set of games, none of which can satisfy enough of their gaming needs for them to settle down and commit.

And if all of this sounds vaguely how people deal with their real life relationships…

Well, that is part of the point.

1. Subscription Numbers

We love subscription numbers.

Nothing validates the legitimacy of any MMO more than big subscription numbers.

Unless we hate that MMO, in which case it is a sign of sheep following the herd.  Suddenly, McDonald’s will be the analogy to describe that game.

Unfortunately, World of Warcraft has ruined the subscription number market for us MMO bloggers. (All those damn sheep following the herd!)

There was a time when most MMO companies would announce subscription numbers in one form or another, which lead to some general feeling about where game populations stood in relation to one another.

Sites like MMOG Chart by Bruce Woodcock (Sir Bruce) would track these numbers through various means, then compile and graph them for our consumption.

One of Sir Bruce's Fine Charts

But when Blizzard was putting out press releases announcing millions of players in Azeroth, coming out with 300K subscribers (a figure once considered a huge win) started to seem more like an admission of failure.

And so subscription numbers became very low-key.  You might find them in a public company’s yearly statements if you looked closely.

But marketing has to talk about something.  Milestones must be celebrated.

Some MMO companies began trotting out more impressive sounding alternate metrics.  We might hear about total accounts created for one game, while another would put out a press release with the total number of characters rolled up in their world, and a third would point at how many boxes they had sold.

We ended up comparing apples and oranges while going bananas.

Meanwhile, some MMO bloggers would try to tease real subscription numbers out of these and other dubious sources.

One fine example was the Xfire calculation.  If the subscriber base of WoW (x) racked up a given number of hours clocked by Xfire (n), that gave a ratio of players to hours played.  You could then take the player hours for another MMO, get the number of hours played for the same period of time, and derive a population estimate.

And thus it was “proven” that games like Warhammer Online or Lord of the Rings Online or Star Wars Galaxies had somewhere between 10K and a million subscribers each.

But what it in fact proved was that some of us really want subscription numbers for these games.  Only through such numbers can we quantify the success or failure of any given game.

Unless of course, it is a game we like, in which case the numbers couldn’t possibly tell the whole story.