Category Archives: opinion
My friend @FoxSynergy posted that tweet I just linked, which essentially starts a comparison between GoLion and Voltron, two robots that are essentially the same, just edited for different audiences’ sensibilities.
This made me imagine the following scenario, in which new commenters bring up with what they think are better robots than the offering previous. After I thought about it, it seemed like an interesting parallel to MMO discussions.
Voltron < GoLion (the anime Voltron lions was based on) < Leopardon (Japanese live-action Spiderman) < Tauburn (Star Driver) < Yuusha-Oh GaoGaiGar < Every Mobile Suit Gundam known to man, save for the G-Gundam series because that was the black sheep of Gundam < G-Gundam, because G-Gundam was the BEST HOTBLOODED anime in its time period. < Doraemon + his noncanonical dramatic ending due to the death of the mangaka who made Doraemon (technically a Robot) < Aquarion < Aquarion Evol < Evangelion mecha < Every Super Sentai Robot known to man < Every Power Rangers Zord and Megazord known to man (which is essentially the Super Sentai Robots, but fewer due to less seasons and with different names ) < The Daleks < The Cylons < Peebo from Bioman (justified since people are starting to mention smaller bots) < CL4P-TP < nanobots < The Mighty Orbots < Someone rereads the discussion from the end to the beginning and realizes people have diverged severely, and posits SDF-1 Macross as a response < argument ensues over the definition of “robot” versus “transforming ship” < random passerby mentions Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh < CHOU TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK WE ARE? < I come in and talk about how my mom beats all of them because she hugs me and supports me and tells me she loves me. < Everyone sheds a tear and leaves to hug their mom.
Syncaine made an observation recently that had me reflecting on my gaming history and what I wanted out of it. In his post, he talks about how the MMORPG has changed fundamentally in terms of its method of providing people with enjoyment.
Some MMOs seem exist in a sort of experiential vacuum, wherein a solo player can do a lot by himself, and fun can be had without the need for a group to run through content. The opposite type of MMO has a more collectivist bent, where the enjoyment of the game’s actors is derived from group experiences, whether it be against monsters or against other people.
Both attempts at providing entertainment for people are valid, but the nature of the player each game brings in is decidedly different.
What Syncaine’s post left me with was a sense of disappointment, partly in myself but also in my circumstances, because I cannot seem to commit to an MMO anymore.
In my case, my second MMO ever was World of Warcraft, and I played that for seven months straight when I first got it and was relatively unemployed after college. I didn’t worry about timezones, and I joined a cool-sounding server name and found a guild that I liked, called In Strict Confidence.
My strongest memories of playing MMOs were as a result of being in raids or in groups, because I learned from the people I was interacting with. Being with people, even virtually, helped me to grow as a person and part of my personality now, from my demeanor online to my diplomatic, thoughtful nature, is a direct result of learning to be with people online.
I now get the same rush of friendship and camaraderie from my friends on Twitter and from my friends in real life. The games I play don’t necessarily need to provide that high of friendship and camaraderie for me anymore, but it helps to hook me in.
Going back to Syncaine’s post, I wrote in a comment to him about how he made me think, and how in my reflection I realized I sort of feel left out because I do not have a long-term commitment to a game. It seems (to my mind, at least) I still miss the rush of growing as a person by interacting with people in a virtual world doing something epic.
Syncaine replied to me with the following:
I suspect that part of the issue is that you are judging the games just on the content as you experience it solo, which is going to yield less-than-steller (sic) results (MMOs are not great for that, even solo-focused ones like SW:TOR, compared to a real sRPG).
When you play with a set group, much of the ‘content’ is experiencing the stuff together, so even bugs or grind can become a source of amusement because you have 10 people in vent bitching about it and laughing rather than just you smashing your head into it solo.
Look at something like a fleet Op in EVE. Would anyone find that even remotely fun as content in an sRPG? Waiting around for hours, shooting structures, and going home? Of course not. But get 250 people into Mumble, and it can be a riot, regardless if a fight happens or not. And when a fight does happen, it’s better than anything a single player game could ever hope to create in terms of epic, memorable moments.
That’s why people (should) be playing MMOs; for those rare but awesome moments. Sadly a lot of today’s MMOs are incapable of providing such a moment due to poor design and an overemphasis on the solo at the expense of the group.
I agree with him, really. At the same time, it also made me fearful.
What he’s written also means that I cannot provide the same commitment or be in the same social circles that would allow for the fun of an MMO in a group setting. I not only live in a different time zone from most people who would play something like Darkfall: Unholy Wars, but I’m also going to start a job that requires a worthwhile time investment to be good at.
I value the opportunity I’m getting at this new job, but it also makes me sad that I can’t be an important part of that bright world where people are fighting a good fight of epic proportions against dragons and liches and Cthulhu-like monstrosities.
Then I have to remind myself to calm down.
Because I have to remember that as much as the online worlds beckon to me, I’ve already connected with hundreds of people and made tons of friends who’ve helped to shape my personality and make me better than I was six years ago.
And I will keep making friends online and in the physical world, and my interactions with them will improve the person that I am, and ultimately, allow me to also impact their lives meaningfully and (I hope) for the better.
One of the things I enjoy about Sword Art Online is that so much is left to the imagination. The setting of Aincrad and the 100-floor realm with literal permadeath basically begs to be expanded upon in various ways, mostly in terms of world-building, character depth, and psychological analysis.
One of the major disappointments of Sword Art Online as a piece of media, both as a light novel series and as an anime adaptation based on the light novels, is that there’s not enough story to go around.
Not to spoil the series, but Sword Art Online is comprised on nine or ten light novels. Aincrad, which we are introduced to as the Sword Art Online VRMMORPG, is completed by the end of the first novel, which is less than 200 pages in length (light novels tend to not go over 120 pages). Additional background and sidestories were added in the second SAO light novel, but that means that the potential of the Sword Art Online arc feels like it’s watered down because the first novel is essentially a time-skip of two years (By a third of the novel, this is already the case), with gaps in story filled in by novel number two.
Does this diminish the enjoyment of Sword Art Online? Somewhat. But at the same time, because much is left to the imagination, much is also given in recompense to the reader with the overactive imagination.
The funny thing about SAO is that because I’m a MMO game hopper, the the idea that the SAO light novel series is about multiple VRMMORPGs doesn’t seem so far-fetched, and may actually be a good thing, depending on how the author crafts the story. I shall read the novels and watch the anime closely and enjoy each step as it happens.
I made mention of Sword Art Online on Twitter a few days ago, but it’s taken me a while to really formulate my thoughts regarding this topic. While my write-up will probably be incomplete, it’s good to at least start the process of discussing this rather intriguing light novel and anime series.
To discuss Sword Art Online as an anime or written work to a group of MMORPG players is difficult, mostly because I get the feeling that some people aren’t particularly interested in the intersection of what is virtual and real and because direct comparisons to other media that discuss MMORPGs will enter the fray. To discuss Sword Art Online to a group of literary critics is also difficult, because the Japanese light novel structure, publishing format, and demographic is vastly different from that of reading other works (I defer to the Wikipedia page on Light Novels for a description of the differences between novels and light novels).
That said, I think the only way I can really discuss Sword Art Online (henceforth termed SAO in this piece) is if I discuss its premise and how reading and watching SAO makes me feel.
The story of SAO begins at 1:00 p.m. of November 6, 2022, when the world’s first completely immersive virtual reality MMORPG goes live in Japan. Only 10,000 copies are available for this game, and in the morning of the game’s release, all 10,000 copies are purchased.
To create the immersive experience of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of SAO, also developed a device known as NerveGear. The Nervegear is a VR helmet that works by rerouting signals from your brain into the game, such that you can perform actions in the world by thinking them, and your body would remain immobile because the NerveGear bypasses your ability to move.
At the story’s beginning, we are introduced to Kirito, who served as one of the 1000 beta testers in the game, and Cline, another player who befriends Kirito. Kirito teaches Cline the basics of SAO’s world, Aincrad. In SAO, aside from magical crystals that heal and teleport, there is no magic that can be cast in the game. Instead, players rely on weapon skills that are trained and leveled up in order to acquire new skills, in addition to allocating statistics that increase dexterity or strength. Aside from fighting skills, crafting and gathering skills also apparently exist in the game, such as smithing, item appraisal, and fishing.
Four hours and twenty five minutes after the launch of SAO, Cline attempts to log out to pick up a pizza, only to discover that the log out button has been greyed out and cannot be used.
At 5:30 p.m, all the players of the game are teleported back to the starting city. By 5:40 p.m. of November 6, 2012, all hell will have broken loose.
Between 5:30 and 5:40 p.m. the sunset-lit sky is tinged blood red, and blood drips from the sky. A faceless man, clad in dark robes, coalesces from the blood: an monolithic figure who simply says, “Attention players, welcome to my world.”
The faceless man is none other than Akihiko Kayaba, and he continues his speech by saying that the inability to log out of the game is not a bug, but a feature of SAO.
He continues, “You cannot log out of SAO yourselves, and no one on the outside can shut down or remove your NerveGear. Should this be attempted, the transmitter inside the NerveGear will act like a powerful microwave, destroying your brain, ending your life.”
To stress the futility of the attempt, he adds that several players’ friends and families have already attempted to remove the NerveGear from the heads of 213 players, resulting in their removal from the game as well as their deaths. The news media has already picked up on the story, and save for officials transferring players to hospitals by temporarily disconnecting the NerveGear from a power source and letting it run on its internal battery, it is expected that no further attempts to remove NerveGears will be made.
Furthermore, permadeath is instituted in SAO. If your HP drops to zero, the NerveGear will activate the microwave, killing players who fail to survive in the game.
To log out of the game, players must ascend the 100 levels of the floating realm Aincrad, defeating a floor boss on each level to gain entry into the next and ultimately defeat the final boss on the 100th floor. As a means of comparison, Kirito mentions earlier that beta testers spent two months attempting to reach the eighth floor.
As an added dagger to the back of every surviving player, Akihiko Kayaba presents each player with an in-game item, <<Mirror>>. Examination of the item forces every player remaining in the game to be represented by a scan of his real-life attributes, including height, weight, muscularity and facial features.
By 5:40 p.m., Kayaba’s speech ends, his robes and body revert to blood, fly back into the blood red sky, and disappear, revealing sunset once more.
These are the first 10 or so pages of the first book of Sword Art Online, and we’ll have more to talk about later on when I continue this post series. Till then, don’t die.
As with any game, there are wonderful and not-so-wonderful things to think about when you’re playing it. The following are some of my issues with Final Fantasy XIV in its current state, as well as the plan the Square Enix Development Team has with that particular aspect of the game moving forward.
1. The same tilesets for the world you’re traversing, all jigsawed up.
Simply put, I dislike how the world was created using a handful of tilesets to represent an entire living, breathing continent of a world.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD. BWAHAHAHAHA. Then rebuild using more tilesets, presumably.
2. Levequests are your bread and butter means of gaining experience.
Levequests are essentially repeatable quests people can do to gain experience for their various fighting, gathering, or crafting classes.You gain back 4 levequest allowances every 12 hours, and can stack these allowances to 99 to power through levels as needed.
The game has quests, but those are few and level dependent, and while you can sometimes get a hefty stack of gil from them, as well as some gear, the levequests are the bread and butter means of gaining experience.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: From what I’ve heard, the plan moving forward is to give people more quests and make levequesting a more optional experience for everyone. Options are good, and being able to do quests more for great stories appeals to me immensely.
3. The usable, but annoying-to-use User Interface
To leave your party in the game, you need to open up your menu, click on “Party,” go to “Party Details,” then click on “Leave.” It works if you’re using a controller, but as a keyboard + mouse guy, it’s a bit annoying to have to go through the same hoops.
Now, that same bit of logic runs through some other actions, like changing your gear. It is usable, but it’s not fun.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD, then make a newer UI that works with modern sensibilities but doesn’t sacrifice accessibility for console/PC controller gamers.
I have played a ton of games in my life, but rarely do I finish games, and even rarer still does a game grip me so completely that I play it more than once.
Here are my top 5 non-mmo video games.
5. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (PS2)
Introduced a most intriguing concept to me (representing a world within a world in a game), and was my formal introduction to the Shin Megami Tensei staple of games.
4. Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
First introduced me to the concept of death of a main character in a storyline. My very first RPG. Also, the first game that made me think critically about games and made me realize that some games are more valuable than others in teaching values and life lessons to people.
3. Front Mission 3 (PS1)
Oh god, this game. I spent nearly 250 hours playing both storylines of this game.
THIS GAME HAS FILIPINOS. FUCK YEAH! Bring about the DAGAT AHAS (Sea Snake)!
2. Azure Dreams (PS1)
Were it not for an unfortunate mishap on the 40th floor of a dungeon, I would have eventually finished this game with my +37 Gold sword and my pet kicking ass and taking names.
Also, first dating sim type game.
1. Parasite EVE II (PS1)
I spent three Christmas seasons repeating this game, sort of like a holiday ritual. I loved this game so much because it was always constantly challenging, and I loved the story… and I had a crush on Aya Brea.
BONUS: Fallout 1
Before I ever finished Baldur’s Gate, my copy of the game came with a free copy of Fallout 1. I repeated that game probably 7 times, all with a similar sort of loadout… trying to explore story paths that seemed likely.
For reference, please sing these lyrics to Susan Boyle’s version.
I dreamed a dream of subs gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
That Old Republic wouldn’t die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving…
I once was young and unafraid
And subs were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
For content done. Now whines are wasted…
But the Earnings Call’s in sight
Investor voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
And they turn your dreams to shame!
And I’d still I’d dream of subs, you see
That TOR would live the years in splendor…
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather.
I had a dream TOR’s life would be
So different from this hell it’s living
So different from what it seemed
Bad choices killed a dream I dreamed….
So… Pet Battles Online.
In other news, I’ve got a new article up on MMORPG.com discussing themes in Lovecraftian horror and how it relates to and influences The Secret World. Have a look via this link. Just note that I can’t currently read pages on MMORPG.com due to an ISP system issue, so if any readers here have questions over there they’d like answered, I can answer them here or you can put a note there and message me through MMORPG.com’s system and wait a bit.
A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
–From “Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981-1983.”
The above is one of my favorite quotes about writing. As someone who thinks himself a writer, I’ve come to realize that every experience we have shapes us and changes us little by little, and by writing about these things, I’ve come to effect change both in myself and perhaps in the minds and hearts of people who read my writings.
Now Jorge Luis Borges probably never expected me to take it to the interpretation of shared experiences in the virtual spaces of MMORPGs, but I’d think he’d be okay with them, as they are still interactions with a world, and the things that do happen to us in games mold us if we are receptive enough to learn from them.
Now, World of Warcraft is my second MMO (Ragnarok Online Philippines came before it), and despite it being the second MMORPG I’ve ever played for longer than three weeks (six month stint in vanilla WoW, and then returns here and there), there’s a strong enough connection between WoW and myself that I feel compelled to write about how World of Warcraft effected change in my life.
Perhaps the most poignant tale I can think of related to World of Warcraft and my life was that prior to playing WoW, I felt deeply compelled to earn gear and become stronger and feel epic. I wanted to be cool in a game space because I didn’t feel cool in real life. In Ragnarok Online, I farmed and purchased enough wood to acquire a Sakkat, a korean straw hat basically, because I thought a warrior in-game looked awesome in it. I would run around killing treants repeatedly in one zone for their loot. This mindset traveled with me from playing Ragnarok Online back in college to a point after graduation, when I was jobless and depressed and wanted to feel better about myself through playing WoW.
There was this one time, when my guild and I were in Blackrock Spire, that I was so frustrated with not getting any loot, that I essentially rolled on a purple ring that didn’t have stats useful for me, winning it, and leaving the run because I felt so angry.
My guild leader and I had a talk through email, and I got a reprimand, and I basically felt like crap afterwards because they were congratulating me on the winning roll even if the ring wasn’t right for me.
It was then that I realized that while gear is in important in the game to winning battles, the acquisition of gear should not be the driving force for playing something. I changed myself. I apologized to my guildies, and I basically spent the remainder of my time in Vanilla WoW (up till now even) espousing the virtues of not focusing on the loot. I talked to new guildies about how getting loot to members who needed the stats on an item would ultimately help the guild as a whole progress through content.
Basically, I became really gung-ho about being a good person above being a good raider or player or whatnot.
Of course, there are other things I could talk about regarding how WoW changed me, such as souring me towards overly streamlined mechanics, and raiding and whatnot, but I’d rather look at WoW as a positive force in my life. Without the experience of a guild in WoW, I may not have been as receptive to being nicer to people and thinking about the good of others.
A few weeks back, I put up a tweet about how I wanted the first expansion for Guild Wars 2 to be set in the Cabin in the Woods universe. Of course, that’s bloody impossible, but with my mind so firmly entrenched in wanting more Whedonesque horror, I found myself liking The Secret World because it’s the closest thing to a horror MMO with comedic bits.
I have my first impressions up on CSICON, if anyone wants to take a look, but basically, I’m really hoping Funcom pulls a rabbit out of its hat and does some MMO magic with The Secret World as I’d really like for it to succeed.