Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When a Gamble Doesn't Pay Off

"You're good, kid, but as long as I'm around, you're only second best."
--Lancey Howard, The Cincinnati Kid


If it isn't obvious, I have a low opinion of gold farmers.

Gold farming, particularly the large operations, are a source of account hacking and MMO economy manipulation. They are by no means the sole source of either, but they are far from an innocent bunch. By using real money to purchase in in-game source of currency, the gold farmers encourage the "pay to win" mentality in what is at times a very obnoxious form of hard sell. There was a time in late-Wrath through all of Cataclysm where you couldn't walk through an Alliance or Horde city and not run into a bunch of bots in formation spelling out the name of a gold farmer website.* And even today, at least a few times a week I get spam mail in SWTOR from gold/credit farmers, which I find quite hilarious given that it is so easy to spend a day and accumulate enough credits to buy most items in the auction house.

I've occasionally wondered why gold farmers do what they do. Sure, the short answer is "money", but there's plenty of other ways to make a living than dealing in the MMO version of Bitcoin. Well, Cracked magazine's website has a post up about a gold farmer leaving the gold farming business behind.**

(I should also note that Massively OP also picked up on the article and posted a referring article on their website.)

The article itself is worth reading, if for no other reason than that it confirms my opinion that Blizzard's attempts to combat gold farmers using the WoW tokens was a shot across the bow of the WoW gold farming industry. It also deals with the nature of MMO/WoW/video game addiction, and that addiction is very much a real thing.

Oh, and the real gold mine (pardon the pun) is pairing this article with one from a year ago, about how a small time gold farming operation looks from the inside.

My single biggest takeaway is that small time/independent gold farming operations remind me of small time professional gamblers. I don't mean the people who are on television at Texas Hold 'em poker tournaments, but the people who gamble at casinos, racetracks, and online for a living. Sure, someone may strike it rich at any time, but those times are very rare. You may even have a better shot at making it as a pro athlete than as a small time gambler or gold farmer, but that dream of making it big is a siren song.





*No, I'm not going to provide a pic of it. Why give the site(s) free advertising?

**I remember when Cracked was Mad Magazine's wackier cousin. When did Cracked actually start putting up some serious stuff in addition to the humor? I know that they were already serious when Robin Williams passed away and they had a couple of really good articles about the intersection of comedy and depression.

Monday, June 19, 2017

An Oldie but Goodie

Courtesy of the LOTRO forums comes this little graphic from Yosoff:

If novels followed MMO logic. Just sayin'...

Yes, I am amused.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Raising a Pint in Salute

While longevity in a blog is one thing, longevity in a podcast is quite another.

The time it takes to publish a blog post is pretty minimal compared to the effort it takes to pull together a podcast. From a technical aspect alone, there's the design, the equipment/software, and the editing to create a polished finished product. While you can run both on a minimal budget, the hours spent working on a blog pale to those spent on a podcast.*

Therefore, I wanted to take some time to salute two podcasts that reached significant milestones: The Twisted Nether Blogcast and the Battle Bards podcast.

***

You may be cool, but not Blog Azeroth cool.
Twisted Nether is a live blogcast that has just reached its 9th anniversary. Fimlys, Hydra, and Zabine run the WoW focused show --which is the face of Blog Azeroth-- and are frequently joined by bloggers across the WoW-verse. (Full disclosure: I was a guest on Episode 166, recorded live on April 28, 2012. Back then it was just Fimlys and Hydra running the show, and I'm very glad I got to know them through TN.) TN encourages listeners to join the live blogcast and comment in the live comment section, and while the recording time is frequently at odd hours for Eastern North America, I heartily recommend listening in on a live blogcast.

Through TN I've met several fellow bloggers who have since become friends, including Ancient from Tome of the Ancient. If you're curious about WoW comings and goings, I heartily recommend Twisted Nether for an entertaining look at WoW from people who love it so much that they run a live show in the late hours Sunday nights (EST).

However, I did learn one thing about a live blogcast: don't make a quip that can be construed as being awkward. In my case, it was the final question round, and I made a quip about not having heard these questions before. If you've heard Twisted Nether, you've heard the questions, so it wasn't so much as amusing as awkward, and I should have known better than to try to say that. Still, Fim and Hydra were fantastic hosts, and even though I no longer play WoW, if I'd the chance to go back on just to talk with them, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

***
Something about that lute reminds me of
the LOTRO Minstrel class. Just sayin'.

Battle Bards is an MMO podcast created by three people who truly love MMO music, and will be dropping their 100th episode shortly (if it hasn't dropped already. EtA: Here it is!!!).

While the music might be a minor aspect to MMOs in general, the thrill of that first loading screen with the stirring soundtrack blaring through the speakers is a fond memory to even the most hardened MMO gamer. To that end, the team of Syp, Stef, and Syl --the Battle Bards-- scour the MMO world for the interesting and unusual as well as comparing themes among various MMOs.

I've been a long time listener to Battle Bards, in no small part because a) I'm a music lover and b) my long time blogger friend Syl is a host. While I agree or disagree with the Bards' selections, I do find something interesting each episode. However, looking back at the podcasts, I believe that Battle Bards really hit their stride on their fourth episode, the interview with LOTRO composer Chance Thomas. Chance was an engaging guest, and the Bards performed a great job in exploring the music of LOTRO and the process Chance works through when composing a piece. At that point, the podcast became more than just a discussion about favorite pieces and began hitting on the nuts and bolts of the music itself.

The Battle Bards demonstrate in spades that all you need is a love of the music to explore the amazing world of MMO soundtracks.





*By comparison, the livestreaming of a game takes less effort. Once the software and equipment are configured, all you have to do is bring your creative self and play away. Once a livestream graduates into a vlog, however, editing begins to assert itself.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Way Late News Announcements...

...film at 11.

Seriously, I've been a wee bit busy and haven't had the chance to mention this, but Chance Thomas is returning to score the LOTRO soundtrack for Mordor.

Considering I really liked his previous work for LOTRO, I'm happy to see this.

Here's the link to the livestream interview and announcement:


Friday, May 26, 2017

Speaking of Anniversaries...

...Age of Conan is 9 this year.

Yes, the MMO that garnered more discussion about it's M rating --and the accompanying violence and nudity-- than anything about Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age setting is about to hit double digits in age next year.

I, like a lot of players, got the 9th Anniversary e-mail which included the goodies of an instant L80 for all accounts that were in good standing prior to the event's start, and I figured "why not?" My Barbarian was still mired in the mid-50s, and the grind that I'd need to do in order to get simply to L60 seemed daunting enough that the lure of having a max level toon was simply too much to pass up.

This time, I decided I'd try something a bit closer to a more traditional MMO class, the Conqueror melee DPS class. I also decided to balance the masculinity of my traditional Cimmerian Barbarian with a female Cimmerian Conqueror.

It was during the character creation that I became reacquainted with one of Age of Conan's more eyebrow raising aspects: bust adjustment.

The fact that AoC has that isn't necessarily the issue here, since Aion has it as well, but that AoC felt the need to go in the direction of what I'd call the voluptuous model of female toon design. While AoC's female design allows you to adjust the body to go from practically emaciated to heavily muscled, the bustline pretty much starts at a "C" cup and goes all the way to "you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me".

Because apparently that's how Cimmerians roll.

Cimmerians are not easily amused.*


The oldest mini-Red stopped by right after character creation --and, thankfully, after I'd put the gear on the newly minted toon after zoning in-- to check out the scenery.

"At least the gear covers her up," she said with a critical eye. "I was thinking that there'd be almost nothing there."

I snorted. "That's because I'm wearing heavy armor. There'd be a lot less there if I was playing a Necromancer or a Barbarian."

"Still, it could be worse."

Then another new L80 toon ran by, gearless.

"Oh."

"Yeah," I said. "Like that. You can make all of the gear disappear in vanity armor." I demonstrated by removing leg armor and a few other pieces in the vanity armor tab. "You can always tell the oversexed teenage boys by the lack of armor the female toons wear."

"Absolutely. Why do you play it, then?"

"Because I really liked the Conan short stories and I enjoy the world that Robert E. Howard created, warts and all. And in spite of the obvious oversexed nature of the women, the MMO does allow female toons and NPCs to be powerful people. Plus, the scenery is amazing."

I headed out to Connall's Valley for a view from the waterfall atop the village.

Like what I remembered, the new graphics card handled the scenery at max levels with aplomb. I still shake my head as to why LOTRO has issues when SWTOR and AoC don't, but that's something I can't control.

Far below is a Cimmerian village.

AoC was as beautiful as I remembered when I played it more regularly.

"Wow," the oldest mini-Red whispered.

"Yeah. The scenery is pretty amazing."

"Why'd you stop playing it so much?"

"It was getting too grindy. You know how it is grinding deeds in LOTRO? That's a walk in the park compared to AoC's grinding for levels. And on top of it, the respawn rate is so quick that you have to spend so much time fighting through an area just to need to fight back when you're done."

"That sounds like you have to group up to get even basic things done."

"That's about right. And when you play late at night, your grouping options aren't necessarily the greatest." I scratched my beard, considering. "Still, I might have to give it more of a go now with this toon, since she's already at max level."

My oldest patted me on the shoulder. "Good luck, Dad."




*What, you expected me to post Larethe as she was when she first zoned in? Sorry, but no. While I'm quite aware that over in Europe toplessness isn't considered as big a deal as over in the States, I'm still not planning on crossing that line.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The End of one Road, but another Road is Just Beginning

This past weekend brought several big events, only one of which was MMO related.

First, mini-Red #3 graduated from middle school and will be joining her brother at high school this fall. To put this in perspective, she had just entered 1st Grade at elementary school when Souldat and I started PC back in the Fall of 2009, so the majority of her life I've been blogging about MMOs.*

She still has that same tank-like attitude of "come at me, bro!" that she's displayed in gaming, and her drive is for perfection in whatever she tackles, whether it is gaming or playing percussion. I've occasionally thought about letting the rest of her companions in the Drumline know what they're getting with her, but then I smile and shrug and say to myself "Nah, let them find out for themselves."

Second, mini-Red #1 has graduated from high school and will be attending university in the fall. As you may have surmised by reading the blog, she is going to major in Music Performance. I know she's got at least four years of college ahead of her and then potentially graduate school, so only the first part of her educational journey is complete. But still, she's persevered in the face of adversity and I'm really proud of her (and her sister). She's had plenty of mentors along the way, and they've helped her at critical junctures in her education, and I'll always be grateful for their work. I can freely acknowledge that I don't have any real experience with dealing with someone so obsessed with music and making a difference in people's lives, so their assistance was invaluable.**

Finally, mini-Red #1 finally finished the LOTRO Shadows of Angmar Epic Questline, several years after she began playing LOTRO. She was stuck for the longest time on an instance in Angmar, where it's an escort quest that the NPC she was escorting kept dying because (as a Hunter) she couldn't pull either DPS down the enemies or at least pull aggro quickly enough. Pairing up with her brother, she was finally able to get over that hump and keep going on the Epic Questline. She already knew what to expect, because a (now banned) player on our server started blabbing to people randomly about spoilers in the story, but even then the instances after that point still brought out the feels. She also wasn't thrilled that the final boss fights took well over 15 minutes each to win, but win she did and that was that.

In a way, mini-Red #1's success in overcoming obstacles in real life mirrored her eventual in-game success, and I don't think it strictly an accident that both finished at roughly the same time.

I just certainly hope that her university experience is better than what people experience in Moria...





*She's even breached the topic of "when can I start dating?" with us, which freaks me out even more than the mere fact that she's going to be attending high school this fall.

**But in taking after my own heart, she (as well as the other mini-Reds) have developed a love of studying history. I can now talk about historical topics with them and they can hold their own in the discussions. I guess were's multi-talented geeks....

EtA: Added a word to correct a funky sounding sentence.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Late Thursday Humor

It's still before midnight, so it counts.

Anyway, Dorkly occasionally strikes comedy gold with RPG/gamer memes.

And without further ado, 20 Out-of-Context D&D Quotes That Accurately Represent The Game

Like this: