Category Archives: Psychology

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

Somewhere between Black Desert Online’s learning curve madness and getting the hang out of sending my workers to craft for me in exchange for beer, I’ve come to know a great satisfaction from creating my own gear, furniture and horse armor in the game. I mentioned few days ago how I’m not a crafter in MMOs but BDO fulfills some itch I didn’t know existed without asking me to get super-hardcore about things. I’ve heard the game being compared to EVE Online’s infamous beginners difficulty but I doubt it’s a very apt comparison. Black Desert for all its little inconveniences, requires more in terms of perseverance than actual skill. Or in other words: keep calm and play on, it will all be okay!

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

What adds to the enjoyment of creating useful things for myself is the simple fact that I now know “how to”; the rabbit holes goes deep and I’m on my way. The fact that BDO is far from beginner friendly, comes with a fussy UI and informational gaps, results in a type of satisfaction that’s not to be mistaken for “fun”. For a run-down of these two definitions, I like to refer to this excellent post by Psychochild which I return to whenever the subject of MMO fun pops up.

Dealing with bad translations or unintuitive interfaces (of which there are many in BDO) isn’t fun but it allows for that “grim” satisfaction that kicks in once you’ve conquered and mastered something tricky. All MMOs do this, although preferably by design rather than not/bad design. Grind is one example of something rather unfun but potentially satisfactory in a game. Either way, once difficulty or complexity have been conquered the outcome is always the same: I feel glorious victor!

Learn, Master, Move on

Good or bad design, intended difficulty or not, what makes the early MMO experience such an enjoyable one is knowing nothing and learning everything. These past few years, I’ve lost nearly all sense of newbie progression when trying out new games: nothing surprised me anymore, everything was overly familiar, following the same design “gold standard” both on the formal and content management end of things. Now to be clear, polish is important and BDO could certainly use more of that here and there. Yet, the game has forced players to collaborate in unexpected ways when it comes to knowledge sharing and its alien handling and shutting up about stuff has made for many a great story and shared laugh on forums, channels and social media.

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

A little fun on April’s Fools

Naturally, I was kidding in above twitter conversation but then, we’re talking about Black Desert Online which means you never know! I get both confused and delighted by the game’s internal logic at times, so it’s definitely forcing me out of my comfort zone. I am faced with new things in an MMO – what’s going on??

I suspect that I am currently not alone in feeling quite forgiving about some of BDO’s greater flaws for the above reason. More than that, these perceived flaws add to my personal enjoyment of the game, by virtue of bringing a little satisfaction to an otherwise very fun experience (which is important: the game overall is also a ton of fun). I need both for an MMO to enthrall me more long-term.

“…before all so-called progress, what we really want is variation. We yearn to learn things, master things, then move on to different things. Not just new; it needs to be new and different.” (source)

What many an MMO review, blog battle and twitter discussion have taught me over the years is that I don’t want the same one thing from the games I’m playing. Yesterday, forced grouping seemed like a good idea – today it doesn’t. Maybe it will again tomorrow, after tiring of today’s lessons. It borders on the unfair but when switching between titles, the biggest breaking point may simply be novelty and variation. Is a new game repeating expertly what has been done right before or is it entering uncharted territory, failing gloriously in places? Is it maybe just bringing back something we’ve forgotten by now which therefore feels equally refreshing?

There’s nothing more to learn in the familiar, yet as players we yearn to learn. So right now, an MMO that’s pushing me to do just that, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed, sounds like the perfect poison. Purple mastery will come soon enough – for now, let me bask in the sunlight of green beginnings.

Off-Topic: I hate Platitudes

The other day I was witness to an all too familiar situation at work: a co-worker of mine just went through a personal loss that came with some added complications, the kind of crap that’s hard to listen to and therefore harder to experience. Sometimes life makes no sense. Quite often in fact, things are just one major parade of suck and as a bystander, all you can or should do is be there and lend and ear.

Of course that never stops someone piping up with old age wisdom; “it happens for a reason”, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, “time heals all wounds” and any misbegotten, infuriating variations thereof. There’s a word in my native German tongue for these kinds of worn-out platitudes: “worthülsen”, literally “word husks”. Empty shells of words that touch nothing.


It’s not just that phrases like these are often ill-timed but they’re trivializing in a way that may deeply offend the person affected. They’re lies too: it’s evidently untrue that all psychological (or physical) wounds heal or that every experience ends up making you “stronger”. As for someone in the process of mourning, dealing with trauma or some other life-altering struggle, usually the last thing they need to hear is that shitty things make them stronger or have a reason – which suggests, intentionally or not, that this is somehow an experience worth having or being thankful for.

No, it fucking ain’t! If someone lost a limb in an accident or watched a loved one fade away slowly under excruciating pain, there’s is no deep meaning in that experience. “Oh I survived this shit, yay?” – Come on. There may be more indirect, less horrible side-effects way, way further down the road but that is a different matter entirely. People suffering are not “chosen” by anyone, there’s no benevolent masterplan – certainly none I would willingly subscribe to. Tangentially, I have no problem with belief in a higher power but spare me rationalizing other people’s tragedies because god’s will. Spare me also all these religiously motivated platitudes that even the most secular society can’t seem to shake completely in everyday language:

  • ora et labora (work ethics…work work peon)
  • turn the other cheek
  • be good in this life…erm

/side-rant: Only the most evil of masterminds could come up with this stuff in order to maintain power over the gullible. Work and pray all day – so there is no time or energy left to form independent thought or organize gatherings (beware idleness, sloth etc.). Turn the other cheek – don’t retaliate against anyone, including those who would fool, exploit and harm you and yours (don’t lie to them either…you’re not supposed to lie to anyone, no idea why not). Wait for no rewards in this life. Seriously? Tyrant for dummies 101. /close side-rant

The thing is – I get the rationalizing part, I do! I actually believe it’s one of our greater cognitive abilities as human beings, that we can look for a positive in anything, in retrospective. If you can get to that point for yourself after a long journey, more power to you! That doesn’t mean you couldn’t have done without that horrible event in the first place.

I suspect that as a society, we’re so fearful of the darker sides of life, there’s almost an unconscious reflex to turn the light on. Yet pain, sadness and anger have their time and place and can’t be rushed. In fact, it would make so many things easier if we learned to share painful moments more naturally, in an environment that feels no need to rush difficult emotions or put a label on them.

If you’re looking to help someone, the first step is to respect pain. Respect it as part of everyone’s life and someone’s personal journey. Don’t feel awkward or embarrassed in the face of pain, don’t feel the urge to gloss it over with platitudes. Don’t think all pain needs to be cheered up (by you). Resist your inner fairy godmother.

Instead, just be there. May be the other person will find closure further down the line. May be that they don’t. Whatever happens, they are entitled to feel whatever it is they’re feeling, no matter how hopeless it may seem to you or how glum. Sometimes just being there and letting someone feel they are not alone in this world, is the greatest kindness you can do for them. And listening takes very few words at all.

Running & Screaming in Terror: 7 Days to Die and individual Survival Instincts

I’ve been playing 7 Days to Die again this past week and everytime I return to the game, I find myself thoroughly hooked in that “ooops it’s already past midnight??”-kind of frenzy for a time. Really, survival games are the worst for time management, one minute you’re planting potatoes on your farm – the next, four hours have passed and you still didn’t take that shower before bedtime.

7 Days to Die is one fine title for anyone into survival and building sims, in fact the zombie apocalypse part is only about one third of that experience. Zombie encounters get more intense after a while but the balance between different activities is what makes this such a fun title. Survival is rough but not too rough, especially not in coop, and the dev team keeps putting great effort into making the game ever more interesting (and smooth looking!), adding more and more features and sites (air drops are fun! army camps are not!) as well as complexity to the already very accomplished crafting system. Whatever you decide to do, progress feels very rewarding.


Improved graphics, weather effects and much more

Similar to DayZ which I have been duly impressed with in the past, 7 Days to Die is primarily also a game about atmosphere – maybe even more so. The sounds of the wilderness have been improved tenfold since the earliest builds and I get goosebumps regularly sneaking about towns or running from bears in the forest (I need a rifle!). The dynamics of the game change considerably once you got a team of three together for exploratory ventures and like with DayZ too, there’s some intriguing group psychology unfolding once several people start playing a fresh build together. Where DayZ was all about unspoken rules of conduct, 7 Days to Die coop mode is an entertaining experiment in terms of which measures of survival individual players will prioritize. In my own steady group’s case, the same scenario keeps repeating itself (Bee and Tee being my mates here):

  • Tee instantly starts base building: fortification is important, so a forge must be established immediately for things like iron doors and better defensive mechanisms. Also, we need firearms as soon as possible.
  • Bee is all about the farm and mining: we need crops for independent food resources and as many tunnels as possible down to the bottom of the world.
  • Syl starts hunting game and cooking: we need food and drink supplies. Also our entire storage unit needs to be organized and labeled, omg chaos!

I feel like such a cliché whenever I fall back to cooking for everyone but on my personal list of survival prios, food/drink are the most immediate. No potential death could be dumber or more embarrassing than dropping dead somewhere out in the wild, pockets bursting with loot, because you ran out of food or water. At least when you keep your character fed, you can run off to wherever and start building a new base there. Dunno, maybe that’s just me. I definitely enjoy how the game inspires everyone to play to their strengths (mine seems to be foresight and organization in this case) and take on different roles for the team.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

7 Days to Die is officially still in alpha which gotta be the most consistently playable alpha development I’ve ever encountered. Build 13 is about to drop soonish and looking incredibly good, so if you ever thought about checking this title out, now is the time! Immersive survival sims don’t get much better than this.

On wearing Masks, Online Avatars and Truth [#Blaugust 18]

A few days ago Jeromai mused on the uses of social media and people wearing masks for different purposes. He elaborates on why masks are actually a good thing and that every mask represents a different but potentially true aspect of an individual. I agree with him completely although the word “mask” still carries the somewhat negative connotation of “cover-up”. I think what we agree on is that human beings are multi-faceted and can take on many different roles, none of which are necessarily fake. In a sense we are all our roles although some of them we may feel closer to than others.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” [Oscar Wilde]

The post reminded me of a draft I have sitting in my blog’s backlog since 2012 on online communities and why I love MMOs. I never got to finish it and after returning, I can see why (the ramble monster got me!). There is however one paragraph there that still speaks to me today:

“Those geographical lines that are supposed to divide us and tell us how different we are of nature, of values or faith – how imaginary they are. In MMOs we get a chance to be just people. We can make friends or enemies but we do it only as people. It’s said that the anonymity of online gaming let’s people hide and slip behind a veil but more often, the opposite is true. We get to see behind the mask, the outer appearances, the labels – and all we find there is a bit of ourselves.” (my unfinished post)

I believe most of us who have an internet life go there to unwind and be themselves rather than the other way around. Sure, there’s a whole cyberworld out there of scammers and con-men, of fake identities and dangerous promises. When I think of my time within MMORPG communities however, of the people I’ve met online and stayed close to (and some I even met offline later), the “roles” they got to play through their player characters felt more real, more unrestricted than the person they returned to by day. Avatars can give us courage to be ourselves – they can give us wings. They will take us places we never even imagined we could go. They may lend us a voice we never heard before.


We are the total sum of our masks/roles. But there is also that strong feeling (and need) of when we are truest or when we are genuinely ourselves. Some of the social studies on identity building I came across as a teacher, suggest that the greatest degree of personal unhappiness is inflicted on an individual when their social environment does not reflect the image they have of themselves (disparity between self- and external perception). People who manage to be around others that do not only recognize them, but accept and support them in their true self, will prosper indefinitely. This is naturally also an important field of study for developmental psychology when it comes to the effects of unconditional love on children’s upbringing (and later success in life).

We long to be accepted. We yearn to be recognized. All of that suggests there’s such a thing as a true self (which is not to say that can’t change over time). Applied to online gaming and with Oscar Wilde’s above quote in mind, I conclude this means our online avatars really are the masks we use in order to tell others the truth about ourselves. I’m kinda happy to know that MMOs can serve such a powerful purpose.

My Playstyle Profile according to Quantic Foundry [#Blaugust 9]

Over at comeback blog Stylish Corpse, the delightful Ysharros linked her Quantic Foundry player profile for blaugust, a survey which I have meant to take for a while. Like many MMO players I’ve taken the Bartle test in the past which was very accurate for me, as long as you rely on such results with some care.


My Bartle profile

I was as shocked as the next person about my achiever stat….

Art Technica calls the Quantic Foundry test “gaming’s version of the Myers-Briggs test” which I have taken as well several times in the past and reliably scored the same. Quantic Foundry introduces 6 parameters rather than Bartle’s four playstyles, with the notable additions of the “immersion playstyle” and “mastery” one, which I feel were the least accounted for by Bartle. Naturally, there’s plenty of overlap otherwise between the two.

“The quick quiz doesn’t do a perfect job of capturing the wide variety of gaming motivations; as Ars’ Sam Machkovech put it, the quiz “asked a lot of questions that didn’t match up with my preferences, particularly puzzle and couch multiplayer stuff.” That said, the six-pronged matrix of scores does seem to do a decent job breaking down a participant’s tastes and how they might overlap with other gamers.” [source]

Same as for Bartle, no player is purely defined by their strongest interest or inclination and all tests fall short including everyone and everything. What they can absolutely do is illustrate the differences between yourself and the next person and maybe clear a few things up – like why you hate questing with your significant other.


My QF gamer score

I quite like the insight provided by the survey. At first I was slightly surprised at the 39% I scored for immersion; I care a great deal about the setting, world, aesthetic and theme in MMOs. However at the same time, I am also very “grounded in the gameplay mechanics” as their guide calls the non-immersive player type and I am not exactly a lore-junkie.

My results also illustrate well that I need to be excited – I’m an explorer and designer but I love fast-paced action and some competition too. Stuff that requires a quick reaction time and some strategy (not too much micro-management, mind) gives me a rush. After all I raided for quite some time in the past. I just don’t care much about whether I am the best relatively speaking or about having the most or doing everything. I don’t need that pressure from games.

You can take the QF test over here if you feel bored this fine Sunday or are looking for something else to blog about for blaugust (or in general)! There’s no requirement to sign up in order to get your results. If someone scores completely differently from what they expected, I’d love to hear about that.

Time vs. Money in MMOs and Arbitrary Lines in the Sand

Omg I am doing it again. Stahp m….too late!

Two bloggers against whom I harbor no particular ill will, which helps when ordering and formulating thoughts, are going at it: Eri is very angry at the free-to-play model, in regards to a specific, exploitative subset of games. Tobold argues that free-to-play games aren’t in fact funded by masses of poor and gullible people, again by example of a specific subset of games (which gets another reply from Eri). They’d probably really agree on many basic principles, if they were actually talking about the same thing; there are some pretty awful mobile games out there right now and some MMOs do f2p worse than others. On the other hand, it’s probable that in games like LOTRO or Allods, dedicated longtime players spend more money overall than short visitors, especially when the shops offer power-ups for alts and endgame-relevant items. Not all F2P is created equal.

Meanwhile in comments and elsewhere, the discussion has gone completely off the rocker once players start defending their love/hate for payment models by (ab-)using the old worrysome “addiction”-card. The issue aside that we cannot exactly equate lockboxes or micro-transactions in games with casino-like gambling since psychologically this is a simplification with certain problems, I am really quite vexed that something as complex as addiction gets pulled into payment model arguments by...players . There’s already a degree of compulsive behavior being facilitated by basic, everyday MMO design without qualifying as addiction. Addiction doesn’t “just happen” because of game- or payment model design, any more than depression happens because you watched too many sad movies. Addiction to games or gambling (or anything else) shows when other risk factors (such as distraction or withdrawal coping mechanisms) are already at play – which yes, makes many activities potential escalators.

There’s a way of making statements pro/against payment models for games without dragging in the flawed narrative of those who hate online gaming in the first place –

What I would appreciate and that’s a general statement, is that players stopped drawing that arbitrary line of ‘money spent’ being worse than too much time spent on MMOs. It absolutely isn’t true – losing grip on online gaming can have the same devastating effects (and happens a lot more often I’d wager) than erm, going broke. I don’t know anyone that went broke but I do know people perpetuating an unhealthy state of mind through escapism (I also know the opposite), to a point where it ruins their social and professional lives. That’s why the whole ‘dangerous addiction’ argument within anti-f2p arguments is so disingenuous. Let’s just agree right now that to a person that is already at risk, and only then, an awful lot of things can be harmful – lest we not start sounding like those who blanket condemn all online gaming because of its dangerous social hooks and manipulative progression-based content. (In reply to Azuriel elsewhere)

So much for that. Tangentially, my own brother is the one anecdotal example I can think of in terms of financial debt because of his Ultima Online addiction 17 years ago, amassing phone bills in the thousands of Euros for my parents in that early age of dial-up modems. UO didn’t have lockboxes any more than WoW does and yet, these MMOs are fully capable of serving good or bad, depending on a person’s situation.

In conclusion, once more

It’s important to be a vigilant consumer and be critical of what you’re served. It’s equally important not to turn a blind eye to what’s already there just because you’re more familiar with it. F2P games can be insidious cash-cows; F2P games can also allow someone with a small budget to participate in social gaming activities. Subscriptions can be a great, straightforward deal for regular players; subscriptions are also known to create a sense of “obligation” that some players actively avoid because it ain’t good for them personally.

But then, I have this feeling all along that our good old (and young) blogosphere is mostly in agreement on these matters, once all that righteous rage is spent anyway.

Where all the Hate comes from

This is a very personal post. If you’re unaware of the events around gamergate or lack feminism’s 101, you won’t be educated by me here. 

After an intense discussion of the events around gamergate for an upcoming CMP round-table, I got talking some more about the internet mob and general hostility directed at women like Anita Sarkeesian with the excellent Roger and Sean. The comment that really kicked this off was Roger pointing out how Sarkeesian never actually condemns anyone for enjoying the games she’s covering; neither does she claim you’re a horrible person nor does she ask developers to stop creating violent content full stop. What she does for the most part, is pointing out how carelessly most of the violence against women is included in games and how it differs from violent imagery in general.

So why is this woman met, no stalked with such extreme aggression? Why can we observe similar irrational, emotional responses all the time when the topic is representation in games or a feminist concern? Some gaming press articles lately have identified a sub-group of “socially inept male gamers with female resentments” that are panicking at the prospect of the industry changing, as the main driving force behind the attacks on Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn. While I have known few such individuals myself firsthand, it doesn’t explain why so many gamers from much more diverse backgrounds and areas of life are allying themselves with the gamergate or notyourshield tags. I’ve witnessed similar hostility to reasonable feminist concerns from some of the best people I know, so it’s clearly not just a few left-overs from 80ies gaming culture that like to sneer and spit when confronted with uncomfortable questions.

Everyone wants to be a good guy

I grew up in a very sexist family. Like most in similar situations, I didn’t realize this until much later in my life. My family was what I knew, what was normal. I knew my mother wasn’t in any way on equal footing with my father but I had never heard of the term feminism, only of emancipation in more negative terms every now and then. There was much that I hated about my past when I finally moved out at 20 but I had no name yet for the natural oppression of the women in our family context. I only felt acutely that we didn’t deserve to be treated like second class citizens.

I was also for a large portion of my life what I liked to call a tomboy. I preferred the company of boys – they shared my interests, they were easier to get along. I kinda deluded myself that I was part of certain clubs when I really wasn’t. Much worse however, is that I actively perpetuated my state of “not getting along with women”. I didn’t know why I had no female friends and in my book none of that was my fault. It was cool too, who needs women, right? Oh god.

The moment that first bubble burst was really painful; when I realized how I never really had a voice in my own family, how I didn’t stand up for myself or other women, how society treated me differently from men in many areas of life. The system is rigged against me. And men too in some ways. I had felt it hundreds of times like Neo in the Matrix but I hadn’t grasped the overwhelming picture up to the point when I started educating myself. I was angry, I was defensive. There was no way all of it could be true. But once you’ve become sensitive to these matters and you start going back, analyzing situations and becoming more aware of how people are treated around you on a daily basis, you can’t deny sexism any longer. Not the one targeted at you and not the one perpetuated by yourself. It’s a horrible feeling and difficult to face.

My second bubble burst a lot later, the question of why I don’t have female friends. I should probably add that I do have a very close female friend since childhood, but in many ways she’s a copy of me and I never managed to connect to another woman until I was 30, internet buddies aside (you are all awesome and I do owe you). The truth is I did want to have women as friends but I wouldn’t admit my own inadequacy. How can you not get along with 50% of all people? Around 30, things changed when I met a co-worker from Vancouver who I really connected with. It was scary as hell but it got me taking a hard look at myself and how I still treat women differently from men when by now, I should know better. And I’m not alone – I keep watching my female co-workers cheer on guys for being assertive while attacking women for the same traits, I witness jealousy, unsupportiveness and double standards that don’t apply to male colleagues and it makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want to be like this.

It’s so hard to disconnect yourself from the culture you are taught by your parents and society around you, the one that is never questioned. It’s hard to accept that you’re part of a system and part of the problem. It’s much easier to get defensive and spiteful, to blame others or deny the truth. Growing pains.

Everyone likes to think of themselves as the good guy. [R.D. Precht, German Philosopher]

Nobody likes to hear that they’re part of an unjust system or that they’ve got privileges they do not deserve. Men and women struggle with the idea of sexism because they’re both complicit one way or another, before making conscious effort to question the status quo. Some take great offense at being called profiteers of the system, others take equal offense at the suggestion they might be systematically slighted, because they consider themselves strong enough and not part of “those other, weak women”.

Now, Anita Sarkeesian’s videos might not be condemning games or gamers but they constantly rattle the matrix. They force you to question what’s given and consider your own role and motivations. That path inevitably leads to bursting bubbles. It’s uncomfortable and painful – so much easier to unleash wrath upon the source of all that discomfort. The irrational hate directed at Sarkeesian is fueled by kicking and screaming fear. There’s no denying it: once you’ve opened that door, it truly is the end of the world as you knew it.

The Crusade against the SJWs

There is a waxing resentment being nurtured by gamergate and notyourshield exponents against so-called “social justice warriors” (and white knights). If you consider this briefly, it is a pretty horrible state to be in, to fight against social progress or those that speak for more inclusion and equality. How can anyone be against that?

This too, begs for a brief digression. I was for a period of my life a vegetarian for several reasons. I am not any more although meat is still a rare commodity in my diet. Anyone who thinks we eat animals for any better reason than because we can, is likely to get my eyebrow together with a link to Eating Animals. However, I was never a confrontational or preachy vegetarian. It was a personal choice and I wanted to be left alone just as much as I ignored others. I wasn’t complicated either, I’d eat whatever was left minus the meat when invited to friends. Despite all of that, my vegetarianism became the most unexpected and eye-opening social experiment for all the unprovoked hostility it exposed me to. I had people mock me, question my motives and trying to drag me into discussions of explaining myself. Some became instantly apologetic or embarrassed. My mere presence at some social gatherings was an issue, I was a spoilsport for no better reason than ordering ‘without the meat’.

I had never been aware of the deeply rooted, sacred ritual of eating meat/food together in our culture until I disturbed said ritual. I had become a point of vexation to some, like a silent reminder of all the questions they did not want to ask about their own consumerism. I didn’t mean to hold a mirror to anyone but it happened anyway. Genuine disdain was directed at me simply because I refused to be “complicit in eating meat”. I don’t know how many times I had someone tell me “you know, you’re not better than me” or “it doesn’t change a thing anyway”.

And that’s what “social justice warriors”, aka people who give a shit, do: inadvertently or not, they hold a mirror to anyone that chooses lazy complacency. They remind others that there are injustices yet to be fought right under their nose. Defensiveness and aggression are a typical reaction to feeling blame or guilt. Mocking those that care more than you do is a fine diversionary tactic.

No hatred more passionate than the hatred for a truth that hurts.

Truth hurts

Change isn’t comfortable. You can hide behind tone arguments but at the end of the day, if you’re at all committed to matters of social progress or equality, you have to accept that bubbles will burst. You have to accept pain and confusion on an existential level. And you will need to be brave.

The moments when you feel like screaming and kicking those who have caused your discomfort, are most likely the ones where you get to learn the most about yourself.

[Wildstar] Of Unfun Raids. And: That Attunement just got Nerfed

Following up on Monday’s post about the complexities of healing Wildstar dungeons, which clearly doesn’t entice everybody, I came across this interesting link on Wildstar’s raiding being a major pita (my words) by one who seems to know what he’s talking about. Now clearly, no raider speaks for everybody but it’s rare to find one of the cool kids looking back and saying”yeah, that sucked” or “I don’t miss it one bit”.

To paraphrase some of Fevir’s points in the video, raid encounters are such hectic and constant telegraph dodge-fights that everything else that’s usually fun and rewarding about raid challenges – such as employing different tactics, improvisation and saves – has no room whatsoever. Fights boil down to dodging 40+ mechanics per boss while staring on the ground, or alternatively looking for healers so you can position yourself in green telegraphs. The unforgiving survivability test requires such a degree of focus that multi-hour raidnights are mentally draining and exhausting. Not to speak of the blame-game.

To be honest, I don’t fully buy into Fevir’s commentary. Much of it sounds like 40man vanilla WoW style raiding where raid nights were as draining at times as they were rewarding. At the same time, 40mans were great because there was actually room for error and creativity, and room for carrying people. And they were far, far from being mobility checks. Once more, I am getting the impression Carbine are out to combine everything other MMOs are already doing in terms of difficult mechanics. That makes Wildstar a game of grim satisfaction a lot more than lighthearted fun. It sure feels that way to me.

Not that I’m particularly fussed about raiding at this point. If we can’t make it, there are plenty of other games to play.

Raid Attunement going Bronze

I’m not going to fake surprise at this week’s news in terms of the Wildstar attunement. I put myself on the spot declaring the chain over the top and snottily giving Carbine six months to reconsider some of the hefty requirements, so three months it is. No condemnation from me for evaluating player concerns, the way they did for more varied body types, too.


The related forum topic is naturally, already 46 pages long and consists largely of whining about whiners. To clarify what really happened: silver dungeons runs (with timer) weren’t nerfed – instead, the attunement requirement was dropped to bronze mode (no timer). To some kids who clearly don’t belong to the hardcore who have already begun raiding in Wildstar, that is the end of the world as we know it, despite the fact that you can still do silver (and gold) runs and best timers for feels and extra loot. That last point demonstrates the underlying motive of exclusivity over actual content difficulty; you can still do ‘better runs’ but the fact that the attunement just got nerfed, mildly, means endgame has become just a tad more accessible. Amagad.

As far as skill checks are really concerned, Carbine’s primary reason for the change was timers not effectively serving as such. That’s the actual development team saying “yeah, not really working as intended”. Timers promote rushed runs, skipping trash and risky pulls that put most of the onus on yes, the healer. No biobreaks allowed, no disconnects, no swapping specs manually (thanks to the inane interface), not even time to sit down for consumables. Raids are just like that?

What “remains” now are difficult veteran dungeons full of running, dodging, frantic resource management and wipes, only without people hating each other as much afterwards. Anyway, given Wildstar’s current raiding difficulty, I’m not sure how much more accessible raiding really got. There is however value symbolic or otherwise, in being allowed through the door, sniffing some of that endgame air for yourself. What’s the harm?

For the more hardcore players both imagined and real, there’s mostly this concern: now that they’ve nerfed / showed sense on the attunement, Carbine might adjust more things about raids in the future (noes?). I’m sorry for the lack of empathy in this case because MMOs constantly evolve, balance and change their content. They already do that! Also, I lied about being sorry! Life is too short, yo.

This week in Wildstar: Common Sense 1 – Vainglory 0.

No purpose, no nothing

No purpose, no nothing – that short but poignant conclusion to so many things, coming to me once more while writing Monday’s post and then Kadomi said it again, literally, in the comments:

I don’t enjoy not having a purpose. What good is all that freedom if it leaves me feeling empty after a while?

“Who may be allowed to linger that is fulfilled by purpose?” I’ve asked that before, in slightly different context but no less relevant to this cause. A purpose is an end (hence the double meaning) and in many ways, endings bring a certain degree of linearity or at least progression to life real and virtual. Yet, purpose is also what fulfills that life lest in not be literally point-less. There is a cosmic balance here, a trade-off and even our favorite genre in video games, MMORPGs must struggle for it – that balance between the sandbox and themepark, between too much freedom and too little, too much endgame and not enough satisfaction.


To what end?

No purpose equals nothing, in virtual worlds too.

No purpose, no point for guilds.

No purpose, no point for housing.

No purpose, no point for gear.

Take GW2’s gear grind – so futile, so unfulfilling because it is not required, does not prepare you for any kind of endgame that exists. And what is endgame, by now such an unpopular term, but not a purpose or “life after”? Take LOTRO’s homesteads – beautiful but empty, forever instanced away from the world of men, not serving any purpose really. Take any other MMO you can think of that allows you to solo self-sufficiently, obtain everything on your own and then wonder why people don’t play in guilds. Having co-founded two lasting, successful raidguilds in WoW, I am very pragmatic: guilds are common ventures first, uniting people with the same purpose for that purpose. More often than not, that purpose is what keeps the best guilds alive. So what?

I made some wonderful friendships in MMOs founded on a common goal; common goals glue people together. Maybe they are the only thing that truly does. Common goals on the horizon add purpose to our stride, infuse our dreams, inspire our achievements social or otherwise.

To clarify, that’s not to say that there’s no such thing as individual purpose defined on an individual level in every game and for virtually anything (even jumping puzzles! eww) – there absolutely is and it matters too. However, in isolation this doesn’t tend to create the same value on a cooperative level and not the same longterm appeal, either. Not in my experience anyway.

Give me purpose, give me endings

No purpose -> no point -> no end -> no meaning. If things can only have meaning if they also end, let’s have ends and lots of them. Let’s have many purposes.

MMOs and not just Landmark, need a ‘hard’ purpose for the features they implement. It sounds simple and yet it’s a glaring oversight in so many games, yes sandboxes and themeparks alike, and it always backfires in the mid- and longterm and affects the community most strongly.

Oh sure, a game’s early flame burns brightly like a bonfire in the night and by all means, warm yourself at that fire. Enjoy it while it lasts. In the long run however, you’ll want some meat on the bone to roast on that fire and sustain you. In the long run, you will need that.

DayZ – In the Land of Intense Colors and Unspoken Rules of Conduct

I currently live in a house where much of my weekend mornings and all of my evenings are accompanied by the loud and unbridled DayZ enthusiasm next door. I wake up to hectic commands shouted over voice-comm almost every Sunday (because like all sane people I sleep in on weekends) and go to sleep to “It’s me! Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” and “Identify yourself now!”. The better half is having a blast in DayZ and the very playable standalone early access has done much to rekindle that passion. Being a pretty obsessive gamer myself, I observe all of this with equal amounts of understanding and amusement. Far be it from me to begrudge anyone their gaming sessions. Until he forgets to wash and get dressed, anyway.

Naturally, I was gifted my own copy of DayZ recently and having always been fascinated with the harshness and unmoderated authenticity of this title, I’ve given it a couple of nights over the past few weeks running with an international clan. There is a lot of mixed information out there currently about DayZ which, in my humble opinion, fails to paint a fair or complete picture of this complex beast of a game, of the depth and psychological intrigue of this persistent world hiking and murder simulator with rogue-like elements. And that’s the shortest way for me to describe it.

DayZ always has been and in its current state certainly is legitimately a PvPer’s game just like some games are made for PvE or RP. While it’s entirely possible there will be other server modes again where killing other players isn’t possible, DayZ right now is about handling an outrageous mix of feelings – between stark loneliness and desolation, to the desperate search for food while a quick, inconspicuous death is haunting your every step. Like in the real world that DayZ takes such pains to simulate, you cannot tell friend from foe at a first glance. Like in the real world, due caution and clear communication may decide your fate. Like in the real world, there are stakes to what you do and decisions have tangible consequences.


DayZ is the game where absolutely nothing happens for hours and you find yourself desperately lost in the wild world without maps and indicators. Where you can hike forever and a day and never meet a soul. And then you die. And death has so many faces. It’s the game of paranoid retreat and uncanny social contact, of foul betrayal and uncompromising bonds. It’s the game of fear of loss, of terror and so much hope. In summary, it’s a fascinating social environment that teaches us much about the way we will behave under social / peer pressure once all written law and agreed-on convention is lost.

If everything goes and everyone is equally hungry, what means and tactics will you resort to in order to survive?

In 2003 Postal 2 launched with a particular tagline: it’s only as violent as you are! Only DayZ adds the online multiplayer component. The question of how violent you are gets replaced by how the violence of your peers will affect you. And there are many ways in which individual players respond and adapt. Despite inviting more notorious gankers along with everyone else, DayZ isn’t all kill on sight but more frequently about caution and basic unspoken rules of conduct. One of my very first encounters with strangers in the game went like this:

Still fairly fresh, hungry and ill equipped, two zombies attacked me and I started bleeding. Bleeding in DayZ gives you a limited amount of time to patch up before losing consciousness (which equals death pretty much), as the game’s color saturation gradually and unnervingly decreases. The zombies right now in standalone are a shadow of their former self, dumb and slow, yet dangerous in packs when unarmed (and a nub like me).

Frantically getting away, I crossed a small township and as these things always go, another player and his rifle materialized right in front of me. Oh shit! I froze on the spot because approaching strangers is pretty much the most stupid thing anyone will do while intentions are unclear – and intentions are always unclear in DayZ. Like most creatures that inhabit this planet would never dream of just running into each other, you just don’t do that here either. Should you ever form bonds with other players they have been tested beyond all doubt. In DayZ, trust needs to be earned and cooperation justified.


Friendly! Friendly!!

I managed to raise my arms waiting while the stranger started using proximity chat, the single greatest feature ever added to DayZ:

“Hello. Are you there? Are you okay?”

(At this point I haven’t figured out proxi chat just yet. I keep standing still looking dumb and expecting death by rifle.)

“Are you bleeding? I think you’re losing blood. Can you hear me?”

(I finally figured it out.) “I can hear ya! Hi! Yeah the zombies just got me down that road.”

“I assume you’re fresh, ye? Unarmed? I think I have some spare bandages if you like.”

(Overeager) “Yes I am friendly! I have virtually nothing! And I would really appreciate a bandage!!”

“Okay…..umm Bob, you can come out of the bushes now.”

(That’s when Bob, a second perfectly British gentleman who had been hiding in the bushes behind me, in case I turned out to be not so friendly, emerged.)

This was possibly the most hilarious conversation I’ve ever been involved in with random strangers online. It is also DayZ in a nutshell. That day, I lived and was saved by strangers. That day, I met the good people.

Lessons from DayZ

There is an emotional roller-coaster to DayZ, a ‘rawness’ of the simulation and in extension, basic human interaction both good and bad, that makes for some of the most exciting encounters and meaningful decisions in the world of online gaming today. I will never be a shooter fan but I am full of envy for the tension, terror and exhilaration this seemingly simple game is capable of producing. It’s what MMORPG players like myself dream of: the risky tactical play, the screaming and cheering on vent, the epic wins, the real scares and strong sense for friend or foe. The meaningful rewards and choices that can only come from risk and real chance of loss.

None of this would be possible if DayZ changed its present core mechanics or started imposing too many restrictions. I’m all for different server modes, after all that’s what self-hosting is for, but I love PvP DayZ and hope it will always remain this harsh and thrilling setting of basic social mechanisms. Traveling Chernarus, like Minecraft before it, has made me keenly aware of the things I miss in other MMO sessions –

1) Sharing with your next wo/man
There is an overwhelming sense of community in DayZ’s group play, encouraged by both the scarcity of resources and bag space, as well as omnipresent fear of death (which means starting over naked at a random location). Players can’t hoard and won’t hoard because two armed players are better than one and four are better than two. Even as a completely new player, I had people watch my stuff in DayZ, meet me halfway to re-equip me and make sure I was good on food and drink. It’s been a most humbling experience to have others look out for me in such manner.

2) Constant risk, decisions and consequences
Centered around survival with and against other players, DayZ is a game of endless decisions that often need to happen quickly. Dilemmas abound: Do I cross that public square in broad daylight for a chance of food or do I risk my hunger longer? Do I take a chance at the exposed well or try the popular food store? Do I have my weapon at the ready or do I prefer the faster run speed? Do I talk to that person and risk getting shot? Do I shoot first and risk to be heard? If I get heard, what’s my fastest way out? It never ends and paths lead in all directions.

3) Communication, caution and (self-)awareness
We take so many things for granted in other games – zone chats, grouping tools, location indicators, nametags and colors of allegiance that we have stopped communicating our intentions and wishes precisely. There is no need to act considerately or with caution because our actions don’t tend to affect or harm others, so there is very little in terms of self-awareness, of watching our movement and general behavior in MMOs. DayZ brings back the sign language, the reading cues and the very clear communication: Who are you? What do you want and why are you here? What are you up to? Without nametags indicated, identifying yourself to your buddies becomes a test of its own. In my partner’s clan, allies will ‘wiggle’ when approaching the group and state on voice-comm what they are wearing.

4) Running and screaming in terror
What it says. How much I have missed this!

5) A sense of gratitude
Due to high risk and strong sense for friend or foe, DayZ creates moments of gratitude with ease. In contrast, gratitude is something that is mostly gone from the games I am playing; when resources are plentiful, loot is individual and nothing and no one can really harm or save you, there is less need to rely on others and therefore also less opportunity for gratitude. You could say that’s the nature of all PvE-centric games that don’t tend to pressure-test social mechanics outside of maybe high-end raid content but I’m not sure it needs to be. In any case, I’ve really missed gratitude in my social games and DayZ made me realize it. How ironic that an emotion depending so strongly on community and acts of kindness should exist in a PvP rogue-like a lot more than in PvE enviornments.


And a beautiful world it is too.

Final Words

While this has become quite a love letter for a game I probably won’t make a main, I believe DayZ deserves our attention and curiosity as far as its less popularly promoted aspects go right now. It would be wrong to dismiss this title over its potential for griefing and asshattery or judge it based only on the most visible forum crowd. Paradoxical as it may sound, DayZ offers a wide spectrum of positive social experiences and chances for cooperation (not to forget creativity and hilarious pranks). Such is the nature of freedom – that it can be applied in any which way. And in my limited experience, it’s group play where DayZ really shines.

Like for other games I’ve played in the past and that fall outside my usual high-fantasy MMORPG bracket, I’ve tried to look for inspiring features and opportunities here (while hiking an awful lot). As far as I’m concerned, DayZ is a rich canvas other social games could borrow some intense colors from while still being in this modest stage of early access. The sun hasn’t even begun to rise over Chernarus yet.