Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Level 0 adventure

I am currently preparing my first Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition adventure, after having taken a break of over 15 years from dungeon mastering. I'd love to share, but as my players can read the internet, I don't want to spoil anything. So instead of talking about spoilers and details, I'll talk about the concept of the adventure.

The specific circumstances of my group are that we are currently playing with a different rule-system, specifically Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the Enemy Within campaign. Thus if I really get to DM, it will not just be with a new campaign, but also with a new rule-system. Playing with a new rule-system in pen & paper has its challenges, as players need to know at least the basics of the rules to not spend more time looking up stuff than playing.

Thus I remembered an old idea that has been around as house-rules in several D&D editions: Level 0 characters. The idea is that the players do *not* have to make all the choices that usually go into rolling a level 1 character. Instead they will only need to make some very basic choices: Their race, and what 4E D&D now calls their "power source". The Player's Handbook has Arcane, Divine, and Martial as options, other rule supplements offer more, but I'll stick with the basics. Basically the player just needs to say whether he is some sort of magic user, or some sort of religious character, or somebody who knows how to fight.

The players then start playing with these level 0 characters, with generic low stats of 10 in everything (modified by race), and just one at-will power, based on their power source choice. The adventure not only is designed for that low level of power, but also will teach them the basics of the rules. There will be combat with miniatures on battle maps, skill challenges, hazards to overcome, role-playing, and whatever else I can think of to build an adventure with a representative sample of the game rules.

Besides teaching the rules, the players will also learn more about their chosen power sources. I've created at-will powers with a basic function, plus two optional extra functions which costs 1 action point to activate (and thus basically are encounter powers). By choosing which of these alternative options to use, the players can tend towards what 4E calls a "role". For example the magic using character can use his extra power to either deal more damage, or for some basic crowd control. By seeing what he enjoys more during play, he can then later decide to become a warlock or a wizard.

At the end of the adventure the characters will reach level 1, get bonus stats that get their characters to the stats of a normal level 1 character, and choose a class. At this point they basically create their level 1 character for real, with all feats, skills, and powers. But, and that is the beauty of the system, with a much better idea in their head what they want their character to be, because they already played him a bit. As an added bonus, the characters also gain a background story, how they got from being regular guys to becoming heroes and adventurers. And in my personal case the players also get to see how they like that rule-system and me as a Dungeon Master.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I have always been interested in writing. So as a teenager in the early 80's I owned a piece of state of the art word processing technology: An electric typewriter. And I even went to a typing course, where I learned to type 50 words per minute, error-free, using all 10 fingers without even watching them. At the time that was unusual for boys, it was usually girls who became typists. In a typical company every middle manager or creative type who had to write a document instead dictated it onto a tape recorder, and then a typist would type that on paper.

Well, computers came and changed all that. Now everybody in a company needs to write his own stuff, many people spend a lot of time in front of a keyboard both at work and at home. For me that meant that the typing course was one of the most useful courses I ever took, as I'm typing twice as fast as the average computer user because of it.

But as I spent this weekend using my typing skills to write a self-made D&D adventure, it struck me how very different the process is from playing a MMORPG. Pen & paper role-playing games are very creative, I write adventures, I play roles, I interact with my players in a back and forth where we all have to invent stuff all the time. In comparison MMORPGs feel a lot more like typing, especially when it comes to the dungeon and raiding part: You want to hit a lot of keys fast and in the correct order. And if you do it wrong, your tear up the page and start over, hitting the same keys faster and with less errors the next time. In a MMORPG I am downgraded to the role of a typist, and my success is based not on the creativity of my ideas or the entertainment value of my expression, but on how fast I can hit those keys without errors.

So right now occupying myself with Dungeons & Dragons feels like a huge liberation of my creative energies, a big step upwards from being a typist in WoW or SWTOR. Needless to say I ended up playing very little of SWTOR this weekend. I'm starting to wonder if I'm actually going to make it to level 50 or will give up before that.

Developments in maps

A quarter of a century ago I still produced campaign maps for Dungeons & Dragons by hand, using hex paper and colored crayons. Now that I am preparing a new campaign, I realized that I had better options these days. I now own a color laser printer, and drawing software has come a long way. So I invested in Campaign Cartographer 3, with added Dungeon Designer 3 and Fantasy Floorplans. Not really cheap, and like all CAD programs a bit difficult to learn, but the result is well worth it. Not only was I able to make a map of the island my first adventure will play on, but more importantly I created my first battle map.

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons in some ways has gone back to its roots of miniature wargames, and those are best played on some sort of a battlemap with a square grid on it. There are quite a lot of options on how to do those. You can take a big piece of paper with squares from a flip chart and draw on it, which is fast and cheap, but not very pretty. You can take use Dungeon Tiles, Flip-Mats, Map Packs, or similar commercial products; but then you are limited to the designs on the product you bought. So if you want both pretty and complete control, using software to draw the battle maps yourself is the way to go. For example I printed mine on 2 by 2 sheets of A4 paper, so now I got a battle map with 16 x 23 1-inch squares, which works best for the usual size of miniatures. And it looks very nice, with a green grass texture, boulders, trees, and even a camp-fire. I can make similar maps with caves, dungeons, and whatever else I want, and they serve both as play surface and visual aid for my players.

The downside of these self-made battle maps is that by the time you designed them, printed them, and glued them together with sticky tape, you spent more time on making the map than the players will spend fighting a battle on it. Thus I'll also work with commercial printed maps, and just design the adventures around them to make them fit the story. And if all else fails, my group is using a laminated blank battle map and white-board markers to draw on it. Nevertheless I love maps and I'm quite happy with the progress that software made in this area.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A call for donations

One of the major themes of this blog is how people react to incentives. Unfortunately the disadvantage of observing how this works in games is that you realize how much of that is going on in real life, and that tends to turn you into a cynic. Unless you already started out as one. Thus I am rather critical of most charity drives: If I see how Blizzard promises that half of the money for buying a virtual pet goes to charity, I can't help but notice that the other half goes to them, although their cost of selling them is minimal. But if 100% of the collected money actually goes to charity, and the charity drive is about games, I am willing to support it.

Iron Man Mode is collecting money for Child's Play. Iron Man Mode is a blog about playing video games until your character dies, then quitting. The authors wisely stick to harder games, many of them older, because these days there are a bunch of games out there where you would have trouble finding a way to die even if you wanted to. But the stories they tell also teach a lot about death in game design. A worthy cause and a worthy read, what could you want more?

Will Blizzard keep you from getting rich in Diablo 3?

Diablo 3 is going to have an auction house in which players can sell virtual items to other players for real money. Which prompted some people to start dreaming of getting rich by playing video games. I've been chronicling the negative consequences of that for some time, from the difficulty of getting rich in face of strong competition, to the expected negative social consequences. But it seems I have neglected one aspect: Blizzard might actively stop you from getting rich. My favorite virtual snake-oil vendor Markco posted that Blizzard kicked him out of the Diablo 3 beta for earning too much gold and beta bucks in too short time.

While of course I don't have all the details of the story, it appears to me that Diablo 3 has some sort of hidden code which is designed to ban gold farmers and bots, but which could end up banning players that are too good at making gold as well. Now some people will call that "unfair", but what it is not is "illegal". Blizzard has the absolute right of kicking out players they believe are harmful to the game at large. And if Blizzard doesn't want "professional" players in the game, they can kick them out. In the end it doesn't matter whether you are a Chinese guy working in a sweat shop, or an American college student who would rather get rich by playing video games than studying. If Blizzard thinks that you are just out for the money, and not just playing, they can ban you.

While I think that this is a good idea, I am certain that this will still cause a lot of controversy in the future. Players will want the "Chinese gold farmer" to be banned, but will insist on their right to farm gold and make money, without seeing that this is exactly the same thing, and mostly indistinguishable by Blizzard (unless you add an illegal racist bias to the criteria).

Reviewing the D&D 4E reviews

I've spent like 10 minutes yesterday playing Star Wars: The Old Republic before I got bored, and watched video reviews of 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons on YouTube instead. And read some written reviews of that game. I couldn't help but smile when noticing how much the discussion resembled us discussing the latest MMORPGs: There are the dinosaurs who hate every change, the hypers who find everything that is different great, the fanbois, the haters, the trolls, and many of the same arguments. So having come 3 years late to that discussion, and armed with hindsight, a fresh look at 4th edition, and all my MMORPG experience, let's have a look at the main discussion points on Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition:

4th Edition is different: This is certainly true. Depending where you read it, the opinions go from "this is so different, it isn't D&D any more", to "this is very different and I like it". I mentioned before that I detected influenced of MMORPGs in the 4E rules, but ultimately it goes much further; 4th Edition D&D rules are recognizably "modern" in a way that spans many different game genres. This includes them being more balanced, more accessible, less prone to one-shot player deaths, and more streamlined. And just like in MMORPGs, each of these modern features has its fans and detractors: Balanced is good because finally a D&D fighter is as interesting as a D&D wizard, but balance is bad because two different damage dealers feel more same-ish. And so on. Personally I generally like "modern" rules in many different genres. And not having played D&D in recent years, I'm not bitter about this or that change to my favorite race or character class.

4th Edition rules are a mess: True again, although not necessarily a change from previous editions. Basically Dungeons & Dragons suffers from being printed on paper. Imagine you had a printed set of rules on how a priest worked in World of Warcraft v1.0, plus a list of how that priest changed in every patch from then up to 4.3. That would be a *lot* of paper and rather unwieldy. Dungeons & Dragons is a bit like that, although there are a bit less changes to the rules over the years than in WoW. You start out with the rules in the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and the monsters of the Monster Manual. Then there are numerous updates and errata on the website. Then there are tons of optional game supplement books (because WotC needs to sell stuff). Then WotC decided to reprint the rules in a different format, including the updates, and released D&D Essentials. And in addition to that there are lots of house rules not only from your own campaign, but also that of others published on the internet and seen by your players. Dungeon Masters with some experience have long ago learned to limit what kind of rules and supplements can be used, and they are the final arbiter anyway. Personally my situation as future DM is somewhat different, because I am going to play a campaign in French. Much less material has been released in French, and I actually had to scramble to get rules books, because it appears that some of them are out of print.

4th Edition is combat heavy: Actually it would be fairer to say that *rules* of 4E D&D are combat heavy. Which then in turn prompted some authors to publish combat heavy adventures. It is today possible to play 4E Dungeons & Dragons in a way which resembles a miniature wargame a lot more than a role-playing game. The idea is that you don't *need* rules for role-playing, thus if you want to run a city adventure with a murder mystery and no combat at all, you can. The books don't talk a lot about that, but that is because the philosophy is that rules books don't have a lot to say in that sort of situation. I'm currently as a player in such a city adventure full of intrigue and mystery, and frankly we wouldn't even notice if the DM switched to a different rules system, because our interaction with the NPCs in this case isn't governed by rules, but by our creativity. Having said that, I welcome the opportunity as a DM to run some interesting combat sessions in the future. As players get older and don't meet for play sessions all that often any more, running a city intrigue adventure gets increasingly difficult; people simply don't remember all the details from their last session 2 weeks ago, and if the adventure spans months, you spend a lot of time reminding people of what happened previously. The 4E rules are quite good for creating more bite-sized adventures and encounters. Just remember that doesn't mean you can't have epic adventures in that system, it just means the books won't tell you how. Epic adventures always needed the DM to use his head, in any rules system.

So I do think that for my specific purposes, the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition rules are quite suitable. And if there are rules me and my players don't like, we always have the option to change them. This is the great advantage of pen & paper games over MMORPGs: You can adjust everything! The whole "WoW is too easy! No, it is too difficult!" discussion simply doesn't exist for pen & paper games, and with a decent DM the game will always be perfectly balanced and adjusted to the needs of the players.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What is Dungeons & Dragons?

While googling for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, I discovered there is a "Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition for Dummies" book out there. I found that extremely weird. I know that there are "for Dummies" books about everything, including Farmville. But as D&D comes in the form of books, this is basically a book on how to read a book. But I also got comments like "I've never played a "pen & paper" RPG so I don't understand yet what you'll be doing" on my blog. So it dawned to me that so much time has passed that there are now a significant amount of people who play MMORPGs, but who have never seen a pen & paper roleplaying game. This post is for them.

Wizards of the Coast, the current owners of the Dungeons & Dragons brand claim that 5 million players play the game at least once a month. I consider that possible, but as playing with your friends around the kitchen table doesn't give any feedback to WotC, I would say this can only be a rough estimate. Nevertheless that leaves us with a game which has about half as many players as World of Warcraft, and more than any other MMORPG. So let's look at Dungeons & Dragons from the view of a WoW player:

When you play World of Warcraft (or another similar MMORPG), what exactly is the computer doing for you? The computer displays the virtual world with all its inhabitants and items, and it gives you a feedback on any input, telling you how this virtual world reacts to your actions. In pen & paper Dungeons & Dragons there is no computer, and that function of representing the virtual world is performed by one of the players around the table. He is called the Dungeon Master (DM) (other systems use the term Game Master), while everybody else are the players.

The obvious disadvantage of having a Dungeon Master representing the virtual world is that the graphics are lousy. :) Most of the time the players just get a verbal description of the world around them, sometimes with some visual aid in the form of sketched maps, or handouts, or miniature figurines. So if the DM tells you "you stand in front of a tree", you will need to imagine the tree for yourself, and if in doubts ask the DM for details like what size of tree.

But while the graphic representation might be less good than in WoW, a pen & paper roleplaying game comes with a huge advantage: There is no limit to what you can do with the virtual world that is described to you, except for human imagination. Thus the above-mentioned tree can be climbed, burned, hacked down, hugged, carved into an idol and worshipped, or whatever else you can think of. Try doing any of that with a tree in WoW!

The game of Dungeons & Dragons thus ends up as an interactive story, a dialogue between the Dungeon Master and the players. The DM describes the situation, the players describe what they do, and the DM gives them feedback on what the result of their actions are. As the reactions of the players are very often unpredictable, the DM must be able to come up with a response on the fly. Thus if the DM tells you that there is a 20-feet high tree in front of you, and you as player tell him that you want to lift that tree, the DM has to come up with a response like: "You wrap your arms around the tree and try to lift it. The tree doesn't budge. The villagers around you pause in what they are doing, and start watching you, while you get increasingly red in the face from the effort. What do you do?"

But what if the tree was only 10 foot high, was described to you as having been partially disrooted by a storm, and you play a burly fighter? Maybe you should be able to lift that tree? Ultimately that is the decision of the DM, but the general idea is that if an outcome of an action isn't very obvious, you use a combination of rules and dice rolls to determine the outcome. Thus the DM could reply to your action of trying to lift that tree with: "Lifting the tree has a difficulty class (DC) of 15, please make a strength check!". A "strength check" means you roll a 20-sided dice (a d20) to generate a random number between 1 and 20. You then add modifiers to that roll, in this case half your level plus a modifier based on your strength stat. And if the result is equal or higher to the announced difficulty class, you succeed. Thus if you roll high enough, you uproot and lift the tree, leading to a further development of the story. Maybe somebody had asked you to help him with that tree, or you just did it to impress the villagers with your strength. You tell the DM what you want to do next, and the DM tells you what happens next. Through this interaction between the DM and the players, the story evolves, and hopefully everybody ends up having fun.

The situation which is covered by the most rules and needs lots of dice rolls is combat. You and your friends come round a corner in a dungeon and see a group of hostile orcs. While (unlike WoW) there is at least a possibility of other solutions, like negotiations, often you will want to fight those orcs and gain experience points and treasure, just like in WoW, as well as advance the story because the orcs block the way to the princess you're trying to save. So who reacts first? What spells can your wizard cast? How hard is it for your fighter to hit an orc, and how much damage will he deal? All that is covered in the rules and often determined by dice rolls. Playing through a combat is obviously more complex in a pen & paper game than in a MMORPG, because there is no computer to handle all the random number and rules. But the rules are simple enough and are quickly learned, so apart from unusual situations you won't need to look up anything in a rule book. The mage knows how his spell works, the fighter knows what modifiers to add to his to hit roll, and the DM will just need to tell him the difficulty of hitting that orc.

Compared to World of Warcraft, combat in pen & paper Dungeon & Dragons is a lot more tactical. It matters where you stand in relation to the monster, which is where square tiles and figurines come in. There is no "taunting" or aggro management, but which monster attacks which player is decided by the DM based on position and common sense. And of course combat is turn-based, thus the speed with which you can roll your dice or shout out your actions doesn't count for anything. While combat is important, ultimately it is just part of the story in Dungeons & Dragons. The concept of wiping at a boss fight, rezzing, and starting over doesn't exist in D&D. If your whole group gets killed, either the DM has to come up with a Deus Ex Machina story twist, or everybody has to roll new characters. But because the DM is more flexible than a computer, he can also adjust the difficulty on the fly to avoid wipes. The general idea is to drive the story forwards together, and a wipe would be a defeat both for the players and the DM.

While historically pen & paper roleplaying games came first, computer roleplaying games came later, and MMORPGs are the latest development, the rules for pen & paper games evolve and take inventions from MMORPGs into account. In previous versions of Dungeons & Dragons, fighters mostly used standard attacks, while wizards had lots of spells and were a lot more interesting to play. In 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons every class has exactly the same number of abilities at the same level, just like in World of Warcraft. For example a level 3 D&D character has 2 at-will powers he can use as often as he wants, 2 encounter powers he can use once per combat, and 1 daily power he can use only once per game day. He also gets 1 utility power. For a wizard these "powers" will be spells, while for a fighter they are other sorts of combat moves.

So how many character classes are there in Dungeons & Dragons? That is actually a trick question, with the correct answer being "as many as the DM allows". Dungeons & Dragons is a game whose physical representation comes mostly in the form of books. But there are a LOT of those books, from the essential to the optional, and if that isn't enough you can add house rules. Dungeon & Dragons can be played in many different fantasy worlds, from classic high fantasy or low fantasy to exotic worlds like the harsh desert world of Dark Sun or the nearly steam-punk world of Eberron. Each of these settings can add new character classes, new powers, new monsters and lots of other stuff to the game. It is the responsibility of the Dungeon Master to filter the rules and tell his players what rules are valid in his campaign. For starters you can play with everybody having just a Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player's Handbook, and the DM having a Dungeon Master's Guide and a Monster Manual. The DM might also want to use pre-made adventures, so he doesn't have to come up with all stories and handouts on his own, although he will probably alter them to fit his campaign.

Once you have an agreed set of rules, and the DM has prepared a campaign world and a first adventure, you can start playing. Players will create characters, usually of level 1, the DM describes the initial situation, and the players tell him what they do in that situation. It is not a competitive game, you can't really "win". Either everybody "wins" by having fun, or nobody wins because you couldn't play together. Just like in WoW there are experience points, levels, and treasures to be found. But the main purpose is for the DM and players to all together create a story and have fun. And that fun can last many years. Groups of players often stay together for a long time, meeting regularly to play, starting and ending adventures and campaigns, even changing from one rule system to another. Besides the actual game, of course this is also a great opportunity to regularly hang out with your friends, talk, joke, eat junk food, and have a good time. It is not so much a "game", which you start playing and the stop, but often rather more of a "hobby", which you keep playing for a long time. And what a great hobby it is! Not only is it fun, but it is also essentially an activity about communication, about social interaction, and thus can teach you a lot of things that are useful in real life. It is harder to get going than starting your computer and playing WoW, but in the end it is also a lot more rewarding. The possibilities for fun are endless!

Bad customer service of Bioware

When EA Bioware refused all my credit cards and Paypal as payments, I naturally opened a customer support ticket with them. I've used the cards elsewhere since, so I'm sure it is a problem with them, not any of my banks, which would have been extremely unlikely to happen to 3 financial institutions at the same time anyway. I would consider payment issues to be rather fundamental, and worthy of a swift response. But I had to wait a full week before I heard back from EA Bioware. And what did they say? They said that since I had used a game time card since, they considered the ticket closed. They wouldn't even look at the issues with the credit cards!

Well, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that I will want to subscribe beyond the 60 days of that game time card. And their bad customer service isn't helping their cause here.

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Rating: 5

Minimalist vs. Maximalist in pen & paper roleplaying rules

It didn't take long after me mentioning Dungeons & Dragons until the first commenter popped up saying that this wasn't the best system to roleplay with. Specifically Inquisitor said: "4e doesn't *stop* you running an actual story, but it really doesn't help you, either". Which brings us back to a debate which is over 30 years old: What is the role of a rule system in a pen & paper roleplaying game?

Basically there are two extreme positions, and lots of shades of grey in between. The two extremes can be called minimalist and maximalist. The minimalist point of view is that the rules only get into the way when roleplaying, thus ideally you'd have as little rules as possible. Rules are there to solve situations that can't be solved by talking, e.g. the old problem of children playing cops and robbers: "Peng, peng, you're dead!" - "No, I'm not, you missed!". While Dungeons & Dragons produced hundreds of rule books, the basic rules of the game have always been on the minimalist side. Thus Inquisitor's comment that these rules "don't help you roleplay". He is right, they aren't designed to. They are rules for a tactical squad based combat game, initially made by a company that shortened it's names from "Tactical Studies Rules" to TSR. The story content between combat is a lot less regulated in D&D, and has far more degrees of liberty. Including the option to not do very much at all, and basically run just a miniature wargame in a fantasy setting.

The other extreme of rule sets, the maximalist one, thinks that the rules should aid and encourage roleplay. To achieve that, they are often a lot more elaborate. Their proponents often praise them at being "more realistic", as far as that makes sense when you are roleplaying a wizard. For example maximalist rule sets don't simply reduce your health by X points when you are damaged, but use tables with hit locations telling you how those X points that landed on your right upper leg is affecting your movement speed. Maximalist rule systems also tend to have more rules on the non-combat interaction between players and non-player characters. If a character wants to haggle over the price of a sword with the NPC merchant, a minimalist Dungeon Master has to invent the reaction of the NPC on the spot; a maximalist Dungeon Master gets "help to roleplay" in form of a table in the rule book where based on a dice roll, some stat, and some skill the exact rebate from the merchant can be calculated.

Personally I much prefer the minimalist approach. Of course it requires a more creative Dungeon Master, but then it gives that creativity a wider range of freedom. The last thing you want your pen & paper campaign to become is an exercise in rules lawyering and endless looking up of tables. Roleplay is better than rollplay, we used to say. But the debate is certainly still alive, and not everybody has the same preferences.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And now for something completely different

I am strangely excited about a new game opportunity, more than I have been for years. If I had to sum up my gaming history in one phrase, I'd say that I played Dungeons & Dragons in the eighties, Magic the Gathering in the nineties, and MMORPGs in the noughties (or whatever you want to call that decade). But I never completely stopped playing pen & paper role-playing games, I just play a lot less now, and as a player instead of a Dungeon Master. So now I am excited about a possibility to become the Dungeon Master again, starting a fresh campaign, probably with Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition rules. Our current Dungeon Master needs a creative break, and at the end of the current adventure I'll first do a test run, and if that works out run a campaign.

When discussing how MMORPGs should be designed, you sooner or later come across somebody asking the snarky question of why I'm not designing my own MMORPG if I know better than the developers. Obviously there are about a hundred million good reasons for not launching a MMORPG, or whatever making a MMORPG costs these days. But being a Dungeon Master in a pen & paper roleplaying campaign is about as close as you can get to designing your own game system. While the rules appear to be written down, in fact the Dungeon Master has a large degree of freedom inside the framework described by those rule books. There are usually lots of house rules, and just by selecting the difficulty of encounters and the rewards a DM already can change the nature of the game more than lets say the change of the nature of WoW between WotLK and Cataclysm.

Thus I do believe that there I things I learned from MMORPGs about motivating players and how to make a game enjoyable to its players that I can use in running a pen & paper campaign. But it isn't just me who evolved in the last 20 years, the Dungeon & Dragons system evolved as well. It is impossible as a MMORPG player to look at the changes in 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons and not see how they derived from MMORPGs. These days all D&D character classes have an identical number of spells and abilities per level, and the adventures actually have "quests" in them with an objective and a specific reward! What I like a lot about the 4th edition rules is how tactical the combat is. This is the sort of content I'm missing in MMORPGs: Tactical combat with no twitch at all, and a lot of time for everybody to consider their moves, where the challenge lies in thinking what the best move is, and not in how many milliseconds it takes you to perform it. And then of course a pen & paper game has some actual roleplaying, a feature long missing from most MMORPGs.

So what does this mean for this blog? Not a radical change, but you will see some posts with my thoughts about Dungeons & Dragons, and maybe less posts about MMORPGs. The jury is still out on whether SWTOR was "a failure", but it certainly failed to stem the tide of a general declining interest in MMORPGs. Thus widening the scope of the blog might be a good idea anyway. Assuming there are still people out there with an interest in pen & paper games. Are there?

The death of the used game

The current generation of consoles is getting long in the tooth, and the next generation is starting to get announced. But some of the features of the next generation consoles are likely not to please gamers very much: The XBox 720 reportedly will have a system that makes it impossible to play used games.

Of course on a MMORPG blog that is kind of non-news. Or would you like to buy my used copy of World of Warcraft (without the account, which isn't transferable)? Basically a MMORPG client these days is free, and you pay an initial fee to open an account, plus a monthly fee to keep it going. Or the game is even Free2Play and you only pay for what you buy in the item store.

Most of the PC single-player games I bought over the past 2 years I couldn't possibly sell either, because I bought them on Steam. Steam has a trading market, but you can't trade used games there, only stuff like Team Fortress hats. Other PC games now frequently come incomplete, with a coupon for a free day zero DLC for the other half of the game: People buying the game used will end up having to pay for that DLC.

All of these anti used games measures rely on the internet, and work reasonably well because there aren't many game PCs left that aren't connected to that. Consoles are catching up in connectivity, and thus the system which will enable the XBox 720 to tell a new game from a used game will presumably be based on some online registration. If that is true, that could possibly lead to an even bigger piece of news, because it would mean that you can't play anything on your next XBox if that console isn't connected to the internet. I do believe there is still a rather strong demand for offline game consoles, and thus that move could backfire badly. Even on the PC there are lots of people complaining about "always online" DRM systems. It will be hard to convince people to buy a game console that doesn't work when offline.

Spooky mind-reading

I don't know what's up with that Rohan guy. He used to write a blog about paladins and raiding. But these days he writes one post after another which describe completely what I am thinking. Is he channeling me, or mind-reading? Spooky! Anyway, it saves me a lot of blogging, I can just link to the latest Blessing of Kings post about listening to the hardcore. Quote: "And what was the result of the best efforts of these "community assets"? Two million lost subscriptions. Our set is not as important as we think we are."

I totally agree, although that "set" includes me. We aren't as important as we think we are, and game companies are realizing that more and more. I couldn't even get a SWTOR beta invite, and I doubt I'll get one for Guild Wars 2. Listening to the hardcore lost Blizzard 2 million subscribers. I would bet that doing exactly the opposite of what your hardcore players ask you to do would be a better strategy to improve subscription numbers than doing what they want. So maybe the developers could use that forum input after all. ;)

Mempersingkat Url Profil Google+

Cara Mempersingkat Url Profile Google PlusMempersingkat Url Profile  Google+   Anda dapat menggunakan layanan URL shortner yang disediakan oleh gplus.to / username. layana gplus.to  ini akan Mempersingkat dan membuat link permanen untuk Username Profile Google Plus yang Anda inginkan,   Langkah-langkahnya sangat sederhana : - ( Baca Juga : Cara Mendapatkan Follower dalam waktu singkat )

Membuat URL singkat  untuk Username  Google +
  1. Pergi ke gplus.to 
  2. Masukan  username / nickname yang anda inginkan.
  3. Masukan ID Google+  Anda.
    Untuk mendapatkan ID Google+ Cukup dengan mengklik Profil Google+ anda dan kemudian salin nomor dari address bar Anda.
    Mempersingkat Url Profile Google Plus

    Mempersingkat Url Profile Google +
  4. Masukan Username dan ID Google+  Anda. di kolom yang telah disediakan lalu tekan tekan tombol ADD dan copy link yang akan terlihat seperti ini :

    gplus.to / username
    Ini Hasil Mempersingkat Url Profil Google+ Punya saya:
    Mempersingkat Url Profil Google+ 
  5. Selesai , Sekarang Anda sudah mempunyai Url Profil Google+ dengan Username yang di inginkan. Selamat mencoba
    Rating: 4.5

    Dear Meaningful Following!

    This week Google+ officially changed their name policy to not necessarily require real names. Specifically in cases like mine, I am allowed to be Tobold on Google+, as long as I can provide "Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following". So you, my readers, now officially gained the title of being "meaningful following". :)

    Blizzard, after having failed with their RealID idea, has also come to the same conclusion that a permanently used pseudonym has basically the same benefits with regards to avoiding the negative effects of anonymity than a real name has. So they introduced the Battle Tag as alternative for Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft. It is "a unified, player-chosen nickname that will identify each player in all Blizzard games, on the official websites and in the community forums". Needless to say I already reserved my Battle Tag.

    The odd man out is still Facebook, who appear not be willing to change their requirement of using only the name printed in your passport. Unless you are famous enough to get your complaint in the New York Times, like Salman Rushdie, who got his Facebook account first deactivated, then renamed to "Ahmed Rushdie", before Facebook caved in to massive protest.

    As the Economist recently noticed, social media worked in favor of the dissidents in the Arab Spring only because the Egyptian secret police were "digital dullards". In other countries, like China, social media with a real name policy are more likely to work in the advantage of the state to identify dissidents than to the advantage of the dissidents to organize protests. But those concerns are mostly extreme cases, which journalists like to discuss. The far more common reasons for wanting not to use your real name have been listed by Danah Boyd, and span everything from teachers that want privacy from their students, to gays in small towns that only want to "come out" online, and not in real life. A lot of good reasons to avoid leaving a very public display of all your interests on the internet are work related, as some sort of separation of work life and private life is often a good idea. If I was developing online games, I sure wouldn't want all those internet crazies to know where I live. And most people with "serious" jobs and "frivolous" hobbies don't want the link made between the two.

    As Facebook's $100 billion valuation rests solely on the goodwill of its users and customers, I consider their real name policy and repeated breaches of privacy a real risk. It is easy enough to imagine a "Facebook scare" after some criminal or organization used Facebook to target / identify victims. Many people tend to neglect to value their privacy sufficiently up to the moment when they are reminded of the possible negative consequences, at which point they tend to overshoot into the other extreme. It is better for people to protect their privacy early on, and for companies to give them the technical means to do so. Fixed pseudonyms are a very good option here, and should be more widely accepted.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    I would be happier with Free2Play

    I haven't played my World of Warcraft characters for quite a while now, about 9 months. But it wouldn't be totally correct to say that I lost all interest in WoW. Rather the situation is that my low level of interest doesn't justify paying a monthly fee any more. And that gets us to spinks' thought of the day: Is it time for World of Warcraft to switch to a Free2Play business model?

    I must say that I would be happier if both WoW and SWTOR (and all other MMORPGs) were Free2Play. I'm well beyond the point where playing many hours per month, every month, of the same MMORPG over and over is still fun to me. I'm currently subscribed to only SWTOR, but even there I'd rather stretch out my play experience over a longer period of time. As it is, I somehow feel sometimes as if I "should" play, to not waste my subscription, although I'm not really feeling like it.

    Many people argue that Blizzard would never give up their monthly subscription model, because there are too many people still happily paying a monthly fee. But all previous games which switched to Free2Play reported at least a tripling of earnings; why should that not work as well for Blizzard, just at a larger scale?

    And yes, I wouldn't even mind if they made money by selling gear, like Lord of the Rings Online now does. Not best in slot, but I'm pretty certain that if I restarted now, I couldn't even see any of the new content, because I don't have the minimum iLevel for it. Buying gear would be like buying access to that content. And in reality it is already possible to buy epics in World of Warcraft: You buy a tradeable pet for cash, sell it for gold, and buy epics with the gold.

    So I say, bring it on! Make World of Warcraft Free2Play with an item shop. And Star Wars: The Old Republic as well, while you're at it!

    Cara Mendapatkan Follower dalam waktu singkat

    Bosen minta follow back nggak ditanggepi? Jumlah follower yang tetap saja segitu? Oke deh, sekarang saya akan berbagi cara mendapatkan follower dalam waktu singkat alias cepat. Cara gampang itulah adalah dengan mempromosikan (promote) akun twitter kita. Salah satu website yang memberikan layanan promote twitter kita adalah Twiends.com

    Sampai saat ini jumlah follower masih dijadikan acuan indikator kepopuler seorang. Karena mendapatkan follower itu tidak mudah, apalagi bagi orang-rang yang biasa. Makanya salah satu cara cepat untuk mendapatkan  follower banyak adalah dengan menggunakan Twiends. Situs ini memberikan kesempatan untuk saling memfollow, mempertemukan orang-orang yang mencari follower di twitter.

    Setiap yang yang bergabung dengan Twiends lalu mengisi form profil di Setting akan mendapatkan seeds. Di sana akan ditampilan profil-profil twitter dan nilai seednya. Kita harus mengumpulkan seed sebanyak-banyaknya. Jika setiap seed yang terkumpul akan ditukar dengan follower dan akan berkurang sebanyak seed yang kita tawarkan jika memfollow kita.
    Cara Mendapatkan Follower dalam waktu singkat

    Cara Cepat Mendapatkan Banyak Follower di Twitter dengan Twiends
    1. Kunjungi Twiends lalu Sign in dengan twitter, bisa klik disini.
    2. Setelah masuk, kita tinggal klik follow orang-orang yang memberi seeds tinggi/banyak.
    3. Dalam kotak kanan atas adalah jumlah seeds yang kita punya.
        Jika kita punya 50 seeds dan kita hargai 2 seeds per follower, maka seeds akan berkurang 2 jika ada yang follow kita.

        Coba ulangi lagi keesokan hari, atau selang beberapa waktu untuk mengumpulkan seeds dari orang-orang yang menawarkan seeds lebih tinggi.

    Demikian tadi cara mendapatkan follower secara instan. Dengan menggunakan atau bergabung dengan twiends bisa mendapatkan follower tanpa mengetahui tweetnya. Sebagian besar follower kita nantinya adalah orang bule, tapi kita juga bisa menyetting orang Indonesia saja yang bisa memfollow kita.

    Saya sarankan, kita tidak terlalu bergantung pada cara tersebut. Ingat, konten masih jadi raja. Coba gunakan juga cara-cara yang lebih elegan, misalnya dengan memperbaiki kualitas tweet kita. Tidak hanya berkeluh kesah atau curhat tetapi juga mampu memberikan informasi dan inspirasi dari tweet kita untuk orang lain. Dan tentunya juga saling berinteraksi dengan sesama, jangan ngoceh sendiri. Semoga bermanfaat, - ( Baca Juga : Memasang Kode Rich Snippets di Blogspot )
    Sumber Artikel :
    Author : Kurnia Septa
    Twitter: @kurniasepta 
    Link   : http://teknologi.kompasiana.com/terapan/2012/01/18/cara-cepat-mendapatkan-banyak-follower-di-twitter/
    Rating: 5

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    A model of games

    I do agree with Raph Koster's recent statement that narrative is not a game mechanic. But that is not why you should read that post. The reason why you should read that post is that Raph presents this brilliant model of games, in which every game is a sequence of problems, black boxes in which the input of the player is processed, and feedback.

    That model explains so much better some of things I don't like in modern games, for example how raiding is just like Raph's "racing game" example: The cognitive problem of what to do is small, and the interface problem of doing is correctly is large. Or some things I do like, but recognize as a problem, namely games that are full of story and thus have lousy replayability.

    Thus I consider Raph's post a must read for anybody discussing games. Check it out!

    Doomcasting SWTOR

    There has been a lot of talk about the news that some financial analyst downgraded EA stocks, believing that SWTOR wasn't doing so well. And judging by anecdotal evidence from the blogosphere, we went from hype to doom within one month from release.

    Unlike some commenters here and elsewhere, I am not quite ready to declare Star Wars: The Old Republic a failure yet. As I said before, neither me nor my readers / commenters are representative of the average MMORPG player any more. Taking a non-representative sample of one, yourself, and extrapolating from that to a million or more players is not a scientifically viable method. That is not to say that bloggers don't have good insights into what could possibly be wrong with a game. But whether these perceived failings lead hundreds of thousands of players to unsubscribe is a lot less certain.

    One reason why I would hate SWTOR to fail is that I dread what comes afterwards. There has been a sufficiently long string of failures, which combined with the natural decline of World of Warcraft might well lead to the general impression that MMORPGs were a fad which is dying. Which would mean no more big budget MMORPGs after the current batch in production is finished. MMORPGs could go the way of the dodo, or to take a better example, the way of the turn-based strategy game. Once in a while some small company will still release one, more out of love than out of profitability concerns. But in general the whole genre will be considered dead. So I would be very careful with wishing SWTOR dead, because you could get what you are wishing for and then some.

    Unfortunately I don't have much to base hope for SWTOR on. The strong point of SWTOR is clearly the story-telling, and it appears that this strength is one with not much longevity. If you drew a curve of story-density versus time, you'd have to admit that it is declining. Most characters have the most fun and intense part of the story in their starting zones, and then its downhill from there, with progress getting ever slower. You need to grind more and more mobs between two major story elements. Plus, as I said in my previous post, SWTOR isn't a great game for grouping either. Thus I can well see myself becoming bored by soloing, and quitting because I can't find enough group content. Whether I am an unique snowflake or just one of hundreds of thousands of players who thinks that way is what will determine the future of SWTOR. And maybe of the MMORPG genre.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    On the difficulty of grouping in SWTOR

    My main character in Star Wars: The Old Republic is a trooper / commando, with a healing spec. That is deliberate, so I can get into groups, because small group instances are my favorite content in any MMORPG. Only in SWTOR I barely ever manage to get a group going, which I consider a serious flaw of the game.

    I tried getting a group all weekend long, and managed a measly 3 flashpoints, only 1 of which was level-appropriate for my trooper. Another I was 12 levels too high for, and just did it because I still had the quest and nothing else was available. And one flashpoint I did with an alt, duo with a guild-mate. What I wanted to do was the two flashpoints of the jedi prisoner series, but I only managed 1 of them.

    There are usually 10 to 20 people of my guild online, but as they stretch over the whole level range, there are never 4 of the same level bracket available. So I tried the SWTOR LFG functionality, where you can flag yourself as looking for group and put up a comment for which flashpoint you are looking. I soloed for hours with that LFG flag up, and never got a single invite. Searching for people with the LFG flag myself revealed a grand total of 3 players using that tool, and of course not of my level.

    So in the end I spent several hours standing around stupidly at the Republic Fleet and spamming a LFG in general chat every 5 minutes. Finally Sunday at prime time we got 4 people together for the Taral V flashpoint. No tank, but two healers and two dps, and up to 4 levels over the level of the flashpoint quest, which turned out to be sufficient.

    Now I'm on a relatively full server, but I'm playing Republic side. As Empire is a lot more popular, it is probably somewhat easier to find a group there. But people playing on less populated servers, or outside prime time, are probably not going to see any flashpoints after the first one until they hit the level cap.

    I reject the common notion that all strangers in an MMORPG are idiots to be avoided. All my online friends at some point in time were strangers to me. Grouping with strangers is how you make friends online. And a good MMORPG which hopes to offer any social cohesion must enable people to easily group with strangers. SWTOR fails very much in this, and lives completely of the social structures that its players formed in previous games, mostly WoW. If there were no WoW guilds in SWTOR, I don't know how any group activity would take place in this game.

    If a game like EVE Online can live with all its players on one server, then I don't see how having cross-server dungeons with a dungeon finder tool is any worse. Minor modifications to a dungeon finder tool, with an optional preference for people from the same server, could help. But ultimately a group with strangers you are never going to see again is still better than no group at all. For grouping, SWTOR is a failure, and I'm considering to respec my commando to DPS. And if Bioware isn't adding a better LFG tool soon, I might not resubscribe after my current 60-day time card runs out. Why the heck would I want to play a massively single-player online role-playing game?

    Tool Untuk Menghitung Jumlah Karakter kata ( Count Characters )

    Judul Posting dan Meta Description Mempunyai peranan penting di mata mesin pencari. Oleh karena itu kita harus tau bahwa Meta Description yang kita pakai dalam blog kita tidak boleh melebihi 150 karakter termasuk spasi, dan untuk judul Posting tidak melebihi 66 karakter.Pastikan Anda menulis deskripsi blog Anda dan judul posting dalam batas yang diperlukan, Untuk menghitung jumlah karakter kata Anda, Anda dapat menggunakan Tool Untuk Menghitung Jumlah Karakter kata di bawah ini. Tool ini dapat menghitung jumlah huruf serta spasi. silahkan di coba.

    A social disaster in the making

    I am getting a lot of mail lately from people who would like to "guest post" on my blog about Diablo 3, for example about the recent beta changes, or why the RMAH is good for the game. Nice to see so much blogging enthusiasm for Diablo 3? Not quite! Because if you look a bit closer, all these blogging sites have the words "gold guide" in their address. There isn't so much enthusiasm about Diablo 3, but rather for the idea of making money with Diablo 3. Either via the RMAH, or by selling gold guides to people.

    Real money changes games. If you think in today's MMORPGs the relations between hardcore and casual players aren't good, you should see the relations between sharks and marks in the games of tomorrow. Game-related crime is going to become a lot more frequent. And there is going to be a lot more angry shouting and accusations.

    As Wikipedia defines games, "A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements.", it becomes clear that if games are NOT done for enjoyment, but rather for remuneration, they become a kind of work for some people. And that leads to a fundamental misalignment of interests between people who are in the game to play, and those who are in the game to work for a living.

    Diablo 3 is a negative sum game. No real value is ever created in that game. The only thing that is happening is a transfer of real money from some players to others, with Blizzard taking their cut. And it is blindingly obvious that what the buyers want and what the sellers want is diametrically opposed. Any patch, any nerf, any change of drop rate is going to be hailed by one side, and opposed by the other. And there is going to be a lot of fighting and unpleasantness about it, to a degree which will make the official WoW forums look like a pleasant place to hang out in comparison.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Memasang Kode Rich Snippets di Blogspot

    Memasang Kode Rich Snippets di Blogspot - Masukkan kode Rich Snippets utama berikut ini setelah <body> (jangan lupa centang expand template widget)
        <div><div itemscope='' itemtype='http://data-vocabulary.org/Review'> kemudian tambahkan penutup berikut tepat sebelum </body>     </div></div> Contohnya:     <body>     <div><div itemscope='' itemtype='http://data-vocabulary.org/Review'>     -------------------------------------     -------------------------------------     </div></div>     </body>
    Masukkan Kode Reviewer dan ItemReviewed : Anda hanya perlu menambahkan kode berikut ini di bawah tag postingan Anda:
        - Reviewer: <span itemprop='reviewer'><data:post.author/></span> -     ItemReviewed: <span itemprop='itemreviewed'><data:post.title/></span>
    Letakkan kode tersebut setelah  <data:post.body/>
    Cara Memasang Kode Rich Snippets di Blogspot
     Jangan letakkan di bawah <data:post.body/> yang untuk readmore. Letakkan pada kode tersebut yang berada di dekat  <div class='post-body entry-content'> Masukkan Kode Star Rating, Breadcrumbs dan Deskripsi Untuk Star Rating, Breadcrumbs dan Deskripsi lebih baik dimasukkan secara manual ke postingan, agar tiap postingan bintangnya lebih bervariatif. Untuk Deskripsi, Anda bisa memanfaatkannya untuk menambah keyword.dan Breadcrumbs isi dengan Tautan  yang kita inginkan nanti di hasil Pencarian : Contoh  hasil Memasukan Breadcrumbs Rich Snippets Dalam Postingan Bisa di liat Disni Tambahkan kode berikut ini di bawah postingan Anda (dalam mode Edit HTML bukan Compose)
    <div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb">
      <a href="Isi dengan Url yang anda inginkan" itemprop="url">
        <span itemprop="title">Isi dengan Judul Url</span>
      </a> ›
    <div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb">
      <a href="Isi dengan Url yang anda inginkan" itemprop="url">
        <span itemprop="title">Isi dengan Judul Url</span>
      </a> ›
    <div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Breadcrumb">
      <a href="Isi dengan Url yang anda inginkan" itemprop="url">
        <span itemprop="title">Isi dengan Judul Url</span>
        Description: <span itemprop="description">Deskripsi Anda Disini</span>
        Rating: <span itemprop='rating'>4.5</span>
    Memasang Kode Rich Snippets di Blogspot
    Untuk mempermudahnya agar otomatis masuk ke editor postingan Anda, silahkan Anda tambahkan kode Star Rating, Breadcrumbs dan Deskripsi pada template postingan, di Setelan -> Format kemudian scroll ke arah bawah. Masukkan pada bagian Post Template kemudian Simpan. Dengan cara ini, Anda hanya perlu rubah isi rating (antara 0.5 - 5) dan deskripsi artikel Anda (isi dengan keyword yang mendukung judul) semoga bermanfa'at dan selamat berkreasi. - ( Baca Juga : Update Javascript untuk Template Simplex Enews ) Di bawah ini Tampilan Memasang Rich Snippets Star Rating  dan Breadcrumbs tanpa deskripsi :

    Rating: 8.5

    SWTOR account troubles

    My 30 free days of Star Wars: The Old Republic ran out, and it was surprisingly difficult to get EA Bioware to accept my money. The credit card I had used successfully with them to buy the game 30 days ago was refused, I got an e-mail saying "your Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ recurring subscription payment for your account has failed". I checked it wasn't a phishing scam on the SWTOR.com site, and tried another credit card there, different bank. Again no luck, some "error processing payment, try again later" error. Then I tried Paypal, and got the same error message. It seems EA Bioware has problems processing payments.

    Ultimately I had to go out and buy a 60-day prepaid card to keep playing. Not the very best service. Well, not as bad as for those customers who wanted to unsubscribe and found the unsubscribe option missing.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Playing nice

    You might have heard of this week's Ilium disaster in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Basically Bioware changed the rules how PvP is handled in a specific PvP zone, and got surprised by the consequences to a degree that they needed to emergency patch in a hotfix. It turned out that if you make PvP very unrestricted, with very few limitations except that you can only kill players of the other faction, players will react by playing not nice. In this case it was possible to camp spawn the enemy faction, and people did so in large numbers. The previously barely reported faction imbalance between Empire and Republic, with Empire outnumbering Republic up to 6:1 on some servers, of course also played a big role.

    It is stories like these why I don't play unbalanced PvP. I only ever create characters on PvE servers, and I avoid games which don't balance their PvP, except for testing. The problem is not even necessarily the games, but the problem is that people online don't play nice. In the real world people set up things like amateur soccer matches, where without external pressure the players themselves prefer an organization which is as fair as possible. In online virtual worlds people always try to make PvP as unfair as possible to their advantage. The Council of Stellar Management (CSM), a player-elected council who represent the views of the members of the EVE Online community to CCP, recently stated that in their mind the "unique attraction of EVE is "you can grief people" and "it's not a game for wusses"". People pay money for the privilege to grief other players, that is the kind of world we live in.

    There are a lot of good PvP games out there, but if you look closely they are good because in some way the game developers forced balance into the game. Unbalanced games only hold on to their players by offering them safe zones, which is what Bioware now patched into SWTOR. World of Tanks is an extremely well balanced game, which promptly makes some people complain about that balance. It appears that there is a large demand not for games in which players fight against other players in some balanced way with uncertain outcome, but rather for games which allow you to completely crush your opponents without ever giving them even a hint of a chance.

    The problem with unbalanced PvP in virtual online worlds is that the losing players have the unalienable right to log off. Bioware had to patch Ilium because Republic players simply logged off, or found the trick on how to sign up for a warzone and use the emergency fleet pass from there to escape Ilium. If the zone hadn't been patched, it would have become deserted within days. Nobody wants to play the loser without a chance in a virtual war. If everybody wants to crush their opponents, and nobody wants to play the crushed opponent, then maybe it is time for some new business models: The predetermined winners could be made to pay to win, while the losers would be paid to lose. In a way Free2Play games with "pay to win" items in the shop already function a bit like that. Or people need to play PvE, because computer opponents don't mind getting crushed all the time.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    I'll just let Rohan blog for me

    Don't you hate it when you are thinking about a blog post and then see it already written by somebody else before you get to writing it? I fully agree with Rohan on SWTOR needing a Dungeon Finder. Just like his SWTOR character, my character hasn't done nearly as many flashpoints as I would have liked, because of the lack of a Dungeon Finder functionality. As groups form in chat in the fleet, and you don't hear that chat if you are elsewhere, you can only either twiddle your thumbs in the fleet waiting for a group, or go questing and miss out on flashpoints. Really stupid system!

    A more colorful Skyrim

    When they realized that they would be releasing two very similar games just months from each other, the makers of Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning agreed on a deal to differentiate their games by splitting up the color palette: Skyrim would get all the black, white, grey, and brown tones, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning would get all the candy bright colors.

    While this story might not actually be true, the final result sure looks like it. You can now get the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on Steam or elsewhere. And it is hard to play it and not draw certain parallels to Skyrim. KoAR is an open world single-player RPG with action combat, an open skill system, and a control scheme which makes you wish you had a console. As Skyrim did do rather well in the market, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But as a PC gamer the console control scheme sure is annoying.

    Imagine you killed a mob in KoAR and it dropped some gloves that are better than the ones you are wearing. So you hit a key to open the menu, click to open inventory, click to open the armor section, click to expand the gloves section, click on the new gloves, then hit enter to equip the gloves. And then you need to close all those menus one by one. Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhh!!!!!!

    While the demo is only the tutorial introduction plus 45 minutes of open world (not counting dialogues), I didn't even make it to the end of that time allowance before being thoroughly fed up with the controls and the camera. I'll be generous and assume that they work well on a console with a gamepad, but I think I'll just skip this game on the PC.

    Update Javascript untuk Template Simplex Enews

    Template Simplex E news
    Jika sahabat blogger menggunakan salah satu Template Simplex Enews ( By nhamngahanh )  dan sekarang mengalami masalah atau Error dengan Javascript-nya solusinya sangat sederhana, sahabat blogger cukup cari file javascript yang digunakan dalam Template Simplex Enews sahabat blogger dan memindahkannya ke hosting sahabat blogger dan alternatif lain sahabat blogger bisa Host di http://code.google.com
    Atau  sahabat blogger Mau menggunakan Javascript yang telah saya upload di http://code.google.com.

    Buka Template Simplex Enews yang  sahabat blogger gunakan, pergi ke Dashboard -> Desain -> Edit HTML  -> Expand Widget Templates.
    Berikut: caranya  :

    Cari deretan Kode Javascript berikut :
    <script src='http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.2.6/jquery.min.js' type='text/javascript'/>
    <script src='http://dinhquanghuy.110mb.com/template/jquery.innerfade.js' type='text/javascript'/>
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    Ganti  kode Javascript di atas dengan yang ini :
     <script src='http://nirwana-game.googlecode.com/files/jquery.lightbox-0.5.js' type='text/javascript'/>
    <link href='http://nirwana-game.googlecode.com/files/jquery.lightbox-0.5.css' media='screen' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>

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    Samapi langkah ini penggantian Javascript yang Error di Template Simplex Enews yang sahabat blogger gunakan selesai dan sekurangnya sahabat blogger tanyakan saja k c Mbah google..!! selamat mencoba dan semoga berhasil.5
    - ( Baca Juga : Sewa Ruang Kantor Jakarta Murah )


    Imagine two level-capped troopers of the republic sitting in a cantina in Coruscant and exchanging life stories: They would find that their life stories are to a very large degree identical; they visited the same planets in nearly the same order, they got betrayed by the same people, they had the same companions, and probably even the same romantic partners. Their life only differs slightly in what bonus series of quests they skipped, and in what decisions they took during dialogues, although they will find that these different decisions did not lead to them having different lives.

    Star Wars: The Old Republic is an extremely linear game, even more so than previous level-based games like World of Warcraft. Not only aren't there enough different planets at the same level range to really allow a choice of visiting one or the other (which could be fixed over time), but the class quest line doesn't allow much variation. That linearity has two consequences: It lowers replayability, and it makes the player less engaged with the story. You aren't playing through *your* story in SWTOR, you are playing through the fixed story of your class.

    While linearity of storytelling is very much "in" at the moment, people are beginning to see the negative effects. The high-level zones in Cataclysm are very linear, and Blizzard is starting to call that a mistake. Edward Castronova not only says that linearity causes SWTOR to be "dead", but also cites a counter-example of a virtual world which seems much more living, for being not linear: Skyrim.

    I think many people would be delighted if there was a MMORPG which had a structure similar to Skyrim, where you can go wherever you want, and find bits of story everywhere. Your overall life story might still consist of canned bits, but the order of those bits is probably very different between any two players. And because there is no linear main story, the actions of the player can actually change his personal story. In Skyrim, for some players their companion Lydia died, while in SWTOR you can't kill your companions even if you want to.

    What tends to get into the way is the current structure of MMORPGs as games of character advancement. Your character today is stronger than yesterday, and that changes what is appropriate content for him. Skyrim gets around that problem by cheating: To some degree the mobs simply gain levels in parallel with you, so it doesn't really matter at which level you discover that forgotten cave. A MMORPG could do something similar, but only with instancing. Or we would need systems where characters don't get stronger, but instead develop horizontally, getting more choices of abilities over time, but not necessarily stronger ones.

    What would be the purpose of all that? Both from the point of view of the players and the point of view of the game company, the question is how to increase the longevity of MMORPGs. That depends on giving the players something to do, a living world to inhabit, which inherently lasts longer than a story with a fixed beginning and end. As quoted from Bartle yesterday, the goal is to have virtual worlds as places you like to return to, not just because you have a purpose there. It would increase the appeal of virtual worlds as social networks, if these virtual worlds were places you could explore and experience at your leisure, and with your friends, without quest lines and levels getting into the way. Games like Skyrim show that this is possible, and that these open worlds can sell extremely well. It is just a matter of time until somebody realizes that this could be a way to make a MMORPG which really differentiates itself from World of Warcraft without being less successful. Unless Blizzard gets there first with Titan. But I think the concept of the linear MMORPG has been tried and found wanting. It is time for more open structures, with individual stories that engage the players more, and worlds you would want to live in.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Sewa Ruang Kantor Jakarta Murah

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    - ( Baca Juga : Cheat Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi )

    Bartle on SWTOR

    The notes of Dr. Richard Bartle on Star Wars: The Old Republic are well worth reading. He doesn't go into too much detail, arguing that he actually makes a living by giving his opinion in detail, so it would be foolish to do so for free. But he makes some great major points.

    Dr. Bartle's description of the endgame of MMORPGs is something I very much agree with: "Traditionally, while creating new expansions an MMO developer will try to keep players occupied by teaching them to dance through interminable raids that have gameplay bearing little resemblance to the gameplay it took the players to get there." And, not unlike me in my 1001 nights post, he notices that by having a class quest which ends at level 50, SWTOR has something closer resembling a game over screen than previous MMORPGs. Which leads both of us to exactly the same question: "The question is, then, what will players do next?"

    But what is interesting is that Dr. Bartle has experience with MUDs that had a game over screen, and where people kept playing the game for years in spite of that. He says: "once you can treat the virtual world as a place like any other, you return because you like it there, not because you have a purpose there" And I think that this is a big thought, which game developers would do well to consider: Are these virtual worlds places to which we would return because we like it there? Or are we just playing with a purpose, striving towards an end that never comes?

    My personal prediction is that SWTOR will fail to hold huge numbers of players beyond level 50. Some people will just recreate the same sort of raiding culture in SWTOR that they had in WoW, but that won't be millions. Some people will stay a bit, doing some minor endgame activities, but mainly play alts. And a large number of people will feel that they reached the end of the game and quit. Because, in my opinion, Star Wars: The Old Republic does not provide a place to which I would return because I like it there. Outside the linear stories I experience if I visit a planet at the right level, none of these planets is really interesting enough for me to stay. There isn't much to do on any planet outside your level range. Thus to me ultimately the planets aren't places, but more like scenery painted on canvas as backdrop to the theater piece I'm currently acting in. I'll stop here, because discussing how it could be done better is a whole separate post, which I leave for another day.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    A short history of cheating

    When video games first appeared on home computers, players quickly realized that computers can be programmed, and thus games can be modified to the advantage of the player. We might have had impossible to beat jump-and-run games in the 80's, but we also had infinite life cheats. Cheating in video games is so widespread as to be nearly universal, and many video games come with built-in cheat command consoles. The general idea behind that is that the video games are there for fun, and that cheating is better than quitting a game in frustration.

    Obviously the validity of cheating is more or less limited to single-player games. It might be more fun for YOU to use a wall-hack in Counterstrike, but it certainly is less fun for your opponent. Thus cheating in PvP games is frowned upon, and a lot is being tried to prevent it. MMORPGs are in a weird spot here: On the one side a lot of activities in a MMORPG are essentially solo, so cheating wouldn't hurt anybody. On the other side there is a certain competition even in PvE, and in some parts of the game your cheating can negatively influence the experience of somebody else. For example exploiting a dupe bug can kill the player-run economy. Technically MMORPGs are well-placed to combat cheating: By keeping all essential information server-side ("the client is in the hands of the enemy"), cheating can be mostly prevented.

    That leads to an interesting development for games which are somewhere between pure single-player and pure multi-player games, for example Diablo 3: The server-side technology can be used to prevent cheating. And the multi-player interaction can be used to justify this suppression of cheating for the greater good. Which leaves us with a lot of people who play Diablo 3 as a single-player game, and would very much like to cheat, but can't. And then in a brilliant move Blizzard turns around and sells them the means to cheat, via the real money auction house. And by sharing the money with other players, Blizzard nicely gets around any moral objections.

    I tried the auction house in the Diablo 3 beta (gold-based, not real money). And my general impression of it was that it diminished my fun of the game. In a game which is essentially about collecting loot, the ability to buy the best in slot gear from the auction house removes a lot of the excitement. And I never had the impression that I *needed* the loot from the AH to overcome some challenge, I found the difficulty to be quite well balanced for my randomly found gear. But as Cam said yesterday, if I ever felt the need to cheat in single-player Diablo 3, I would prefer to do so with some cheat code. The idea of having to pay to cheat seems weird to me.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Is Diablo 3 gambling?

    If you happen to live in South Korea, the Diablo 3 you will be able to play will differ in one major aspect from that available for other countries: The South Korean version will have the real-money auction house function removed, because the authorities considered that to be gambling. Basically finding a very valuable item in Diablo 3 is very much a question of luck, and thus you paying Blizzard to be able to play in the hope of getting your money back and more from selling random loot drops could well be considered a form of online gambling.

    In the United States and Europe online role-playing games have up to now largely avoided too close a scrutiny of legal questions regarding virtual property. Up to now the argument of the game companies, that players did not own anything in a game, and that everything in a game was just intellectual property belonging to the game company, held up well enough. While people *could* sell their accounts, characters, or virtual items on EBay or other platforms, the practice wasn't all that wide-spread, and in most games it was against the rules.

    Diablo III represents a huge step forward in the virtual property debate, as now selling virtual items for real money is not just possible, or permitted, but even encouraged with the game company providing the platform to do so. Thus the day approaches where some judge is going to say to Blizzard that if there are thousands of official transactions in the game where the Sword of Uberness is sold for around $10, and the player can cash out that money, there is no more legal reason to consider the Sword of Uberness (or at least the right to use it) not to be a property of the player. And thus the question whether the randomized way in which the player acquired the Sword of Uberness is a form of gambling is valid. And that is just the tip of the iceberg: If virtual property is recognized as a form of property lots of other laws start to bite as well, from tax laws to concerns about money laundering.

    I wonder if Blizzard has thought all that through, or whether they are just starting to discover the implications. If Diablo 3 is gambling in South Korea, then why not in other jurisdictions? As long as the flow of money is strictly from the customer to the company, we can always say that the customer is buying a service, not property. Diablo 3 opens up a potential stream of money in the other direction, towards the customer, and it is unlikely that this won't have legal consequences.