Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BUT SOE PUT IT THERE - A Tale of Supreme Jackassery

Wow, what a week! Being a guild leader can be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable position. Just about every night I chime in on guild chat, offering up my services and/or nigh-encyclopedic knowledge of (most of) Norrath to any members willing to take me up on it. I love it when folks take me up on my offers and I can lead a quest or crawl group to greater glory and riches. Good times.

BUT, the burden of leadership means handling the problems that come up. I think, for the most part, that the casual environment we've fostered has kept us below-average on drama, but welcoming in players of all types also raises the risk that you'll get the occasional bad egg.

It was that time again! A recent influx of new recruits wound up revealing one of the worst eggs I've yet had the displeasure of dealing with! Naturally, in this place, I shall change his name. Let's call him...Lightballoon. (bonus points if you know where I'm stealing that name from!)

Lightballoon had only been in my guild for a scant couple weeks, and was on the verge of moving up from trial member to full member. Then I login one night and find one of my officers needs to talk to me about him.

Turns out we got a complaint about Lightballoon from someone who was in a pickup group with him. Apparently, this group had gotten together (with my member in charge) to kill a named mob or low-level epic. Upon succeeding and obtaining a nice chest full of items, the group noticed that Lightballoon had the loot set to Leader Only, as he promptly assigned all the loot to himself.

Lightballoon's explanation to the group was that he never promised them any loot, and since SOE made the Leader Only loot function, they surely intended it to be used in the way he used it. Therefore, the rest of the group had neither right nor reason to complain.

Bad? Yes....but it gets worse! The group demanded the name of an officer of my guild. Lightballoon's response? He told them that HE was the GUILD LEADER.

So my officer takes all this in and was, needless to say, a bit appalled. Still, as bad as the complaints were, you always have to hear the other side, put on your B.S. Detector (tinkering skill 321), and try to figure out what really happened. It's important to trust your guildmates, but you also have to make sure someone isn't giving your guild a bad reputation.

Often, this can be a lengthy ordeal. Much to my surprise, despite the really loathsome behavior being reported, this was not one of those times. Regarding the item hoarding, his response was that he shouldn't be punished for using a perfectly legal grouping option, and chided the other guy for being a crybaby that was just mad because he didn't win the loot. How do you win loot when the group leader assigns it all to himself, you may ask? Our friend didn't seem to have a real answer for that.

As for pretending to by my guild's leader? He not only clearly admitted to doing it, but justified it with....hell, here's a direct quote from my officer's log of the conversation. I don't usually post such things, but Lightballoon said it better than I could ever do justice to: "does nortah [sic] not have a 1st amendment[?]"

As a matter of fact, Norrath does NOT have a First Amendment. As a big fan of the First Amendment and a former student of its applications, I may become compelled to write more about this some other day ;)

In my brief talk with Lightballoon, he was similarly unrepentant about his behavior. I know MY guild doesn't need a person like on our roster, and through I wouldn't dare to speak for all guilds, I'm willing to bet very few would disagree with me.

Lightballoon logged off while we were debating his future. Before long, the officer who originally confronted him sent him a polite mail wishing him luck in his future endeavors, and booted him from the guild. "Good riddance," we all said, but alas, the story isn't over yet!

Later that night, Lightballoon logged back on, got his mail, and sent me a tell. His message to me was essentially that I'd be sorry I booted him out, and that he'd be back. Not exactly the scariest threat ever...

Sometime within 48 hours, Lightballoon had not, in fact, re-joined my guild, but rather made his own instead! My guild's name is "Circle of Shadows." His guild's name was "Circles of Shadows." Amazingly-creative, no?

It's bad enough when a current member goes out of his way to make my guild look bad; you can bet that I'm sure as hell not going to let another guild pull shenanigans and wind up with the complaints coming to me! As I think would be expected, I wrote a petition as soon as I found out about this.

My petition took a couple days to get a response, and in the middle of my waiting, the situation got stupider yet! I'm waiting for a group to assemble to go try out the new Shard of Fear for the first time, and suddenly I start getting tells from Lightballoon!

This time he's decided to inform me that he's going to harass me personally and members of my guild. He's going to convince my members to leave us and join him, and he won't stop until we cease to exist...


...I take 50 platinum out of the guild bank and give it to him. If I concede to him and pay him off, he'll leave us alone and we'll never hear from him again. He had moles already planted in our guild, waiting for the opportunity to sow the seeds of our demise, and he promised that I "would be shocked at how high up [his] friends go."

Well, what else can you do when confronted with such overwhelming adversity? I did what any good guild leader would do: I immediately ported home, gouged-out the contributions of my wonderful, hard-working guild members, met Lightballoon outside the gates of Qeynos, knelt before him, and gave him his well-deserved bounty.

Wait, was THAT what I did? My memory is fuzzy now...I either gave him his money... or /reported large blocks of his text, added to my previous petition, and smiled widely as the GMs nuked his crappy guild and suspended his account for a few days. Lightballoon is back in the game now, and even started another new guild, but I haven't heard a peep from him.

I have little doubt that people who work with Lightballoon in the future will continue to have issues with his "BUT SOE PUT IT THERE" looting habits, but I can't save the whole world, can I? The best thing anyone can do when joining a pick-up group is to check the loot rules before you help out too much, and ESPECIALLY before engaging named and epic mobs. In time, he'll no doubt have one of the worst personal reputations on the server, and all I can say is: I'm glad he ain't mine to deal with anymore!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Future Fantasy?

Amongst my first RPG experiences - computer or otherwise - was one of the all-time greats: Ultima IV. To this day I'm still perplexed by how much I love that game despite my absolute frustration with it. The Virtue system was SUCH a bugger and distinctly UN-fun at times. Take the one NPC who asks you if you're The Avatar, where if you say yes you lose Humility, and if you say no you lose Honesty; either way demolishing your avatarhood (avatarship? avatarosity? avatarliciousness?). Bad designer, bad bad bad!

That is to say, I never won the damn game. Eventually I was so fed up that I traded it to a school chum for Ultima I, just so I could see more in the series and, hopefully, learn that they weren't all so diabolical.

I was dumbstruck by Ultima I. In the Ultima IV world I was used to, the height of technology was a hot air balloon. In Ultima V (which I didn't have at the time, but had heard about), glass weaponry was the new hotness. But Ultima I? The Ultima that took place years - if not generations - before the ones I was already familiar with? Oh let's see...lightsabers, laser guns, and a freakin' SPACE SHUTTLE, complete with combat against baddies that bore a striking, low-res similarity to TIE Fighters!

As a Star Wars fan, I'm perfectly OK with the notion of mixing a little Sci-Fi into my Fantasy story. Not in every game, of course, but I have great fondness for Star Wars games, the Wizardry series, and especially Alternate Reality.

I haven't played all the Ultima games, and I don't pretend to know all the lore, but I've played Ultima I, I understand that Ultima III involved a demonic supercomputer, and then IV comes along and it's all gone. Geographically-speaking, Brittania didn't change into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, though there was undoubtedly some continental shift taking place. How does a whole planet just devolve? So far as I know, there was never a lore explanation for this, nor do I know of the people of Brittania ever recovering from this technological debacle in generations to follow. What was so bad about the fantasy/sci-fi mix? It made Origin a lot of money!

I'm often amazed at how accepting we are of our fantastic worlds never evolving. It isn't just gaming worlds, but literature as well. Gandalf roamed Middle Earth for thousands of years with nothing but horses and carts at best. Belgarath (a personal favorite) can recall an approximate 9000 year existence, during which time the height of technological development seemed to be a well-kept international highway. Harry Potter's wizarding world developed right alongside muggle technology, yet considers telephones to be quaint and silly compared to owl post, despite the fact that phones provide instant communication while owls require time to fly.

And that, dear readers, brings me to EverQuest 2 and the world of Norrath. I admit knowing essentially nothing about fare inspired by the EQ MMOs (Lords of EverQuest, Champions of Norrath, a handful of novels), but we have a 1000-year timeline to look at just among the 3 MMOs currently out there: EverQuest 1 set the zero-point, with EverQuest Online Adventures set 500 years earlier, and EverQuest 2 set 500 years later.

Scholars abound, so it would be hard to argue that Norrath is in a dark age, yet all but one of the races shun technology in favor of manual labor and/or magic. The one race that truly invents are the Gnomes, and I'd argue that even they haven't changed so much. In EQ1 there was already a subversive, self-aware element hanging out in the caves under Ak'Anon, and the big change is that the Gnomes got their asses SkyNetted out of their home city. The Tinkering skill of today offers more options and toys than the EQ1 version, but on the whole it seems surprising that in 500 years, such technology hasn't led to the production of, say, a personal computer.

I could certainly understand if the experiences of the gnomes dissuaded the rest of the races from embracing the art of robotics, but what about some intermediary steps between discovering metal alloys and artificial intelligence?

Explosives have been discovered, but no one (gnome or otherwise - come on humans, innovate!) came up with the idea of a slugthrower? Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of gunplay, but from a sociological-lore-writing standpoint, I don't understand why authors/designers shy away from letting their societies develop.

Personally, I think societal advancement over time could provide really interesting options for the EverQuest license. In a gaming genre much maligned for focusing too much on fantasy while settings like sci-fi, superhero, or even modern-realism go widely unused, I'd love to see the true FUTURE of Norrath. Let's brainstorm!

EQ2010 - Elves, dragons, and magic mix with politics, mafia, and machine guns (at least in Freeportopolis) in a gritty modern-day setting. Sound like Shadowrun? Well, it should. The Shadowrun-style genre is basically non-existent in the MMO world, and that should really change. Since Microsoft seems content to stay out of the MMO market and just make Shadowrun into a lame shooter, another company should pick up the slack.

EverQuest 5399: The Final Frontier - What would the world and universe be like if both magic and technology kept growing and evolving into the space age? Alien forms aren't a totally new concept in Norrath, so what if there's more to their invasion methods besides a wearisome "dimensional portal?" Phaser Gun or Fireball Spell - you decide!

EQAftermath - Far into the future, the races of Norrath went to war and destroyed just about everything, including their entire record of history. The remnants of the races start to form small societies again, but technology is setback to medieval at best, and even magic is more scarce than before. (This would be handy when EQ2 characters are up to level 200, soloing Nagafen, and the fantasty genre needs a healthy reboot :)

So what do you think, fair reader? Should fantasy worlds evolve over time into the future just as the real world does, or should modern and sci-fi stories only be based on their own independent backgrounds? What else would be a fun new take on the world of Norrath? Any Photoshoppers wanna make some FutureEQ box art?

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Wow, what a rough week. I'm swimming in games with no time to play them! Ever since July, when my wife and I played, fell in love with, and subsequently purchased a Wii, we've had more games than I know what to do with, and it just keeps getting worse! (or better, depending on how you think about it) And now this week I've had guests in town and done practically NO gaming. I feel so dirty...

But I have a few minutes of quiet now, so I thought it might be fun to do a rundown of all the games taunting me.


EverQuest 2: Well duh. It doesn't take much time looking at this blog to know that EQ2 is my primary game of choice. Between the monthly fee and being a guild leader, I always feel like EQ2 should be where I spend most of my gaming time, and thankfully, spending my time there is also great fun! Kunark is due out soon, which means a ton more to explore and consume. I'm at once excited while very much mourning my sleep schedule.

Legends of Norrath: I'm actually a little bit afraid of LoN. Much as I do hate the pricing scheme for virtual-pseudo-property, I love the game so much that I bought a bunch of cards anyway. I'm done now - I have enough cards to build decent, fun (not min/max) decks - but someday they're going to bring out expansion sets, and that's where the fear comes in. I may eventually have to give up LoN just so I don't wind up in debt with nothing to show for it! Still, this is kickass game that everyone should try out. As a big fan of turn-based strategy games, this one is already up there with my all-time favorites.

Oblivion: I haven't played this game in ages, but it's an awesome game and I never finished the main storyline. Phooey.


Wii Sports: When we bought the Wii, I intended to do at least a little bit of Wii Sports every day, because it's a lot of fun and it's better exercise than we'll see out of MMORPGs until they go fully virtual reality on treadmills. This not-too-lofty goal hasn't panned out, however, because I have too many other games to play.

Ravin' Rabbids: I'm happy to say I actually did win the story mode of this game, but darned if there doesn't appear to be a whole bunch more to unlock via the score modes. This is, however, likely to collect a lot of dust until and unless we have visitors over for a Wii Party.

Wario Ware: Easily in the top 10 crack-addled games I've ever played! I think I'm about 75% through the main game story-ish mode, but haven't had time for it in quite a while. I really should try to finish it, though, because only when the story mode is completed can you finally see what the multiplayer options are. (this, for the record, is a really lame design choice)

Boogie: My kid still loves it, and I think the karaoke mode can be fun, but for the most part this one has been a real dud, as pretty-well explained in my previous Boogie review. This is on the list because we still have a lot to unlock, but it may be a crazy long time until this one gets marked "Complete."

Big Brain Academy: I really believe that this game could function as advertised and make your brain more agile with daily use. I don't have time for daily use, so my brain isn't progressing as it should. Much like Wii Sports, I haven't made this into the workout it should be.

Super Monkey Ball: This was a birthday present (not from me) to my wife, and I admit I haven't really touched it. But it's there, waiting for someone to start monkey-balling like crazy.

Elebits: This was a birthday present TO me. Excellent game! Some of the controls can be a bit difficult to get the hang of (opening doors, for instance, which I suck at), but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the world. In the spirit of Katamari games, Elebits features what is more-or-less a fully-interactive world. In theory, any object you see can be picked up and manipulated if your "capture gun" is strong enough, and the physics model - though poor at damaging things that collide - is great for chain reactions of objects smashing into each other as you toss them around.

Twilight Princess: Another birthday present to me, this one is turning out to be a nice family game. My daughter doesn't want to trying playing it, but there's a lot of cut scenes and dialogue, and she just loves watching. She even helped me figure out a couple puzzles, which either speaks highly of her or poorly of me ;) I'm sure I've only barely scratched the surface of this one, but I look forward to discovering more and more of the plot!

Link to the Past: Yeah yeah I know, this game is ANCIENT. I downloaded it a while back because it's supposed to be one of the best adventure games ever made, and yet I'd never played it. The Wii Virtual Console helped me correct that, but now I find myself 2/3 of the way through, and distracted by tons of other games. I can definitely see the appeal, however, and fully understand why Link to the Past has been raved about for so many years.

Board Games

Descent: I can't tell you much about this game because I've NEVER played it. It was a very nice gift, and it looks like a lot of fun, but I haven't had folks over for a board game night in forever. I really, REALLY need to explore this one someday!

Talisman 4th Edition: Ohhhhh, sweet sweet Talisman, how I adore you. Thanks to another very nice gift many years ago, I have Talisman 2nd Edition with a few of the expansions. Then, I also bought the Talsiman 3rd Edition reprint that was made a few years back, which is severely stymied by Games Workshop's jerkwadly decision to refuse to reprint the expansions. But a brand new 4th Edition - no doubt already selling like hotcakes - is highly likely to get the full treatment, so I'm in, and desperately awaiting the package to come in the mail. This will likely get a column of its own someday.

Soooooo, yeah. Not counting future games that I really want - like the new Simpsons game later this month or the TBD-release of the Wii version of Beautiful Katamari - that's only 14 games I own vying for my attention. This is bad.