Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Star Trek Online and the Social Implications of Becoming Free-to-Play

It’s time for a new MMO Anthropology about Star Trek Online, developed by Cryptic Studios and now published by Perfect World Entertainment—it is a game in transition from pay-to-play to free-to-play.

As an originally pay-to-play MMO, Star Trek Online contains a great deal of content and an amazing eye to detail. Although, it is still buggy as all hell and sometimes those bugs really interfere with gameplay.

In this article, a discussion is brought forward about how going free-to-play will effect change to the communities present especially as players who used to pay a subscription find themselves amid players who do not. With pay-to-play communities there is a sense of risk and sunk cost to playing whereas with free-to-play it’s all about who buys what.

Star Trek Online is trying to alleviate this by making it about level-of-service as well as having cash-only ships (although they can also be had by free-to-play players by using an exchange system that allows trading reward-currency for pay-currency.)

Just see the essay for more, or watch the video for the summary.

Link, via MMO Anthropology and YouTube.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Around Brawl Busters? The Last Day for Bubble Yum

Well, I’ve been going through my work for GameOgre and I’ve had the joy of engaging in Rock Hippo Production’s Brawl Busters game. The review won’t go up for another week or so--but I do have screen shots to share with everyone!

In the game, most of the classes are melee and run around in a third-person shooter.

Of course, then there’s this:

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I don’t even know what happened there.

My favorite class so far is still the Firefighter (above is the Slugger and her bat—striking out.) She’s got some of the most amusing attacks and projects a barrier to stop incoming enemies.

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See the “Beat the Bubble” thing? Well, it ends today—but it’s still a rolicking good time beating up on this guy and his giant bubblegum-covered rolling pin.

Of course, watch out because he’s actually quite vicious.

I’ll leave these final two screenshots to tell the story of our last encounter.

Adieu, have a great night everyone!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Star Wars Online: The Anthropological Effect of Bugs in Virtual Worlds

Recently, Star Wars Online had an experience where a bug arose that caused people to become invincible when they used the /getdown bug. The revelation of this created some discussion in the forums (and the removal of said topics) because BioWare wants to control information about the game and especially exploits.

I’ve seen others discuss how exploits are spread and why developers might want to suppress information about them, especially in what they consider to be the primary information source for their game. Although the blogs out there certainly represent a better news source than the forums, more people who play the game probably use the forums as their information and social source.

The use of exploits and bugs can be seen by the community in a game as a sort of cheat. Also, in the past entire games have failed due to the fears and expectations of incoming players who saw that they would not receive a fair shake. Although many were happy to entertain themselves with the tools and services provided by these MMO publishers they felt that their experience had been crimped by the presence of individuals who gained advantage using bugs in the game.

As a result, bugs like /getdown are seen as a blight on the game and developers like BioWare seek to suppress the knowledge of their existence as they fix them.

The supporting essay that outlines much of this information is currently published on MMO Anthropology and it explores the way BioWare acted and some of the community reaction. It’s still early in the life of Star Wars: The Old Republic but we might be starting to see the relationship they want to establish with their players already.

Link, via MMO Anthropology

Monday, January 23, 2012

Around the Alpha Quadrant: Attaining Captain

So I’m guilty. Star Trek Online just went free to play January 17th and I’ve been flying around the quadrant with friends picking up ships, blowing Klingons out airlocks, and forcing Romulans to such down warp plasma—by way of quantum torpedoes.

Things have been pretty good for the galaxy under my kind leadership.

I’d like to introduce everyone to my crew:

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Captain Cassandra--and look, there’s Hadaly!

This shot was taken not very far away from some very unhappy gorn and klingons who really wanted to my rampage through their secret base looking for augment technology.

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Either that or they just didn’t like the weather on their terrible, lonely, cold planet.

I’ve been enjoying this game thoroughly and I have even brought several friends in. Also, because I’m affiliated, I should point out that MMO Anthropology has published an essay on what going free-to-play does to a community and what this means for the MMO ecology.

Pretty much, I haven’t spent any money; but I can see why people might want to. Perfect World Entertainment have taken Cryptic Studios’s work and bring it into the free-to-play space extremely well.

Although, of course, that means that the starships that I think look the best are also the ones that cost the most! Or cost at all…

I see what you did there, PWE.

I will leave you with beautiful pictures of my ship the Cassiopeia II and an exploding Borg cube.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Around Alderaan: Nar Shaddaa at Night

Instead of sticking to my roots and fully functioning with my Trooper I’ve gone and gotten my legacy (“The Sunspots Legacy”) at level 30 and then moved onto a bunch of alts. As a result, I’ve really retarded by progression up through the levels but I am enjoying a great deal of the storyline flow.

Right now, I’m leveling my Smuggler through her storyline and that’s lead me off of Taris and into Nar Shaddaa. I know I haven’t shown any screenshots from there, but it’s another neon-glittering city-world like Coruscant.

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To show the majesty of the artwork that Star Wars: The Old Republic puts into places like this, I figured that I’d tiptoe out on the edge of a taxi platform and get a shot of what it looks like at night with all the loglo lighting up the sky.

City-planets like Nar Shaddaa used to be a mainstay of the galaxy, but with the war against the Sith Empire looming in the recent past, planets like Taris represent the terrible destruction wrought.

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Here’s a visual of my lovely Smuggler, Kaspar riding a taxi through the glow of Nar Shaddaa.

I’ve been following a plot line where she’s seeking the treasures of a long-dead system lord/mobster fellow who went pirate and hid his junk in some unknown reach of space. It’s lead me to a multitude of familiar planets—I suspect that Tatooine and Alderaan will soon be on the list.

Finally, I’d like to leave everyone with my favorite sight in the entire game: my ship.

As a Smuggler, SWTOR gives us a shout out to the most famous Star Wars smuggler of all time: Han Solo. How do they do that? Well, apparantly the fastest ships in the galaxy have always been Corellian Freighters.

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Booyah! You can make the Kessel Run in how many parsecs?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Have a holly jolly Christmas with Dungeon Defenders

And here I thought that Christmas only affected games like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes. As the holiday season leaves us, there’s still quite a few of these gems to make appearances and look at how they soak up the cultural limelight.

Just watch out for the “Mega Snowman” who wants your tree and your Christmas presents! It’s another highlight from our friends at MMO Anthropology.

Link, via YouTube and MMO Anthropology

Thursday, January 05, 2012

US Congress Still Doesn’t Understand the Internet, Reddit Responds to Lamar Smith Over SOPA

Recently, US Representative Lamar Smith (accidentally?) issued a challenge to the social-media news aggregator site Reddit by calling them a vocal minority who didn’t understand the law as written and therefore their fears were unfounded. Smith then challenged the community to point out the areas they felt SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) threatened the integrity of the Internet.
"It’s a vocal minority,” he said. "Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded."
To put this in Internet meme terms, Reddit took this to heart: Challenge Accepted.

Anyone ready to dismiss the power behind Reddit and its role as an organ of mainstream Internet reaction might want to look at how GoDaddy did when Reddit became a leverage-point for pressure against the domain-name registrar to drop their support for SOPA.
It is broadly argued by opponents of bills such as SOPA and PROTECT-IP that while they’re philosophically designed to counteract copyright infringement and piracy but pragmatically they burn down the forest to kill the wolf. Under these bills set before Congress corporations who hold copyrights will be given unprecedented powers that would allow them to censor any target without due process (as cited my many opponents of the bills) already this is a problem for the DMCA in its “automatic takedown” provisions but will only be expanded to ridiculous extremes by SOPA and remove what works out of the DMCA (although it should be pointed out that the DMCA is still demonstrably broken in a way SOPA breaks worse.)
Needless to say, the deck has been stacked against opponents of this bill and even Google has found themselves at the table speaking out against it. While one might think it would be hard to marginalize a corporation like Google, the US Congress managed to do just that with ridicule and dismissal.
It seems unlikely the Lamar Smith will look at the artifacts of Reddit’s reaction to his challenge, but the research and replies developed from within their ranks will further fan the flames and better educate people as to what portions are in fact poorly designed.
On another note, language from corporations who do not support “the current version” of SOPA should really just drop it. The public at large understands that there’s a strong reason for copyright holders to desire powers that enable them to protect their copyrights; but when they ignore the unequal treatment of different holders and providers in these contexts (to their own obvious detriment) and are unable to explain away the philosophical bankruptcy of bills like SOPA it damages their credibility.
The politics of this bill are ever shifting, and everyone should be aware of who supports it in the gaming industry—for example here’s some MMO publishers who belong to the Entertainment Software Association (SOPA supporter) but who have been looked through recently to see who supports the party line of the association.

Way to go TRION Worlds who was recently discovered to not support SOPA (so spake they in a forum post) and said they’d take it up with the ESA. Hopefully more will follow suit.

A Winter in City of Heroes 2011

This video and article pair are starting to find some traction across various sources, including my beloved Vox Ex Machina. What we’re seeing in this episode is about the MMORPG City of Heroes published by NCSoft and how they approach the winter holidays.

The Winter Event in City of Heroes is largely a Christmas-themed holiday with elements taken from legends also about New Years and some Irish folklore (including the Tuatha, Red Caps, and the Unseelie.) There’s also abominable snowmen (made of snow.)

This event has been taking place since 2005 (with the 2004 event that actually started very early January 2005.)

Link, via MMO Anthropology.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Black Hat Magick gets better navigation via moi Photoshop skills

Behold my nascent and rusty Photoshop skills! I have added some extra navigation to the Black Hat Magick website to make it easier for people to find their way to the salient portions of the story—namely the beginning and the most recent short story.

I know that I had something better before (like a TOC) but the crash really left me in a lurch.

So we’ll all have to suffer with these lovelies on the home page.


Link, via Black Hat Magick.