Friday, August 23, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 August 17-18

This week saw the MMORPG 2D brawler Elsword Online some attention—even though co-host Arienne Keith was waylaid with illness—although the players didn’t find the game very satisfactory. Then Minecraft brought the usual team back including Fyrewal from Star Trek Online.

Elsword, Friday 2013 August 17th After Action Report

Amerist, Nelson, and Rockandroll went in to experience the game Elsword Online—a 2D brawler (dubbed 2.5D due to a slight depth to some of the environments). Arienne Keith sat out of this session due to illness.

Everyone played new-ish characters with Amerist playing an Eve (an android who uses drones to fight), Nelson used Chung (as Nelson described, a “gender confused” cannon weilder; really a very bishōnen [美少年] boy with a big gun) and Rockandroll played Rena (an elvish archer/ranger character wielding a bow.)

The game is fairly straightforward in giving members quests from NPCs who hang out in towns—which act as social centers where players gather. In fact, the towns were quite crowded but the troop didn’t stay there for long. Amerist immediately drew the team into a dungeon to fight through a side-scrolling brawl.

The entire night went this way with dungeons being the mainstay of the game. These instances were selected from a “map” of the area and when moved into those the team of three often got a fourth member. While the new members were often competent—and fairly good at the game—none of them actually interacted or communicated beyond brawling. Although very little was done to attempt to engage them.

As is common to many games, it’s common for players to solo the world without communicating. Often this researcher would attempt to interact with them by speaking in chat—but with games such as Elsword the game itself works against this sort of interaction. The reason is that when in a dungeon instance people can be thrust into attention-grabbing combat immediately and have their hands full with brawling, which uses the keyboard, and as a result may not notice the message or may not be able to reply until there’s a pause.

The stream went on for 3 hours, consisted of almost 8 dungeons and three different areas of the game, two cities (gathering places.) The crew also examined a daily dungeon that involved an ever-increasing difficulty of fighting boss monsters room-to-room that seemed to be a way for players to receive higher tier gear and rank themselves up outside of the main storyline.

Minecraft, Friday 2013 August 18th After Action Report

The crew once again joined together at the chasm location now known as “The Devil’s Crack.”

Amid the joiners were William McCormick (ComputerPimp), Amerist, Nelson Williams, Arienne Keith, HV4C, TJ. (Others to be determined, a smaller number of other joiners came with but their names are currently not in the notes.)

Long-time viewer Fyrewall finally broke down and bought Minecraft to come and experience the world. As a result, the team took him along to see some of the sights including Arienne Keith’s “Funkytown” playing room that uses redstone to play music. Fyrewal ran into an issue with the game where when struck cats return to their owner when attempting to feed Arienne’s cats watermelon (which they do not eat.)

Fyrewal was given a bit of a grand tour of the world as the team knows it, including the Nether, and further tracks were laid to connect Devil’s Crack to the rest of the world. This included some showing off of structures in and around the spawn point.

The crew ended the night by showing off “The Golden Dong” (a giant phallus-like structure built by Kazz, Arienne Keith, and TJ) that also includes a fireworks launcher in the tip and a giant cat that hovers overhead. It’s often the site of many fireworks displays in the world due to its unique – and humorously vulgar – quality.

The players also introduced Fyrewal to the concept of the”Stripplers,” an inside joke in a cultural context for the small community that involves the evolution of the concept of a “stripping Hitler” that TJ and Kazz slowly built up into its own mythology. This includes “The Golden Strippler,” which is a Minecraft franchise building often built by Kazz and TJ to house a stipper pole. The “Hitler stripper” part is accompanied often by a Minecraft skin that has a Hitler moustache/hair as well as undergarments so that the Strippler can “stripple” or remove bits of armor to reveal the skin underneath.

The community joke is maintained primarily by Kazz and TJ as well as others introduced to the concept as a sort of ongoing meme.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 August 9-10

This week the team wandered into Guild Wars 2 for events portrayed by that publisher into their virtual world. During the “Queen’s Jubilee,” which seems to have a lot of tiny events coordinated as well as some civil unrest occurring. It seems to be popular enough with many players running about to capture the achievements. Finally, on Saturday, Minecraft led the players with a special rule-based building and creativity session.

Guild Wars 2, Friday 2013 August 9th After Action Report

Guild Wars 2 has been a common mainstay of the group since it came out and since there’s a summer event and a few new elements to show off, it seemed like a good time to jump into the game. Once again  joined by Amerist (playing a human engineer named Helvetica), Nelson (playing a sylvari necromancer named Cherry Skinless), and Arienne Keith (playing an asura necromancer named Euclidia.)

First the game suggested visiting the Queen’s Jubilee which appeared to be taking place in Divinity’s Reach--the human city in the Guild Wars 2 virtual world. As the capital city, it’s a huge wheel-like construction, with battlements shattered during earthquakes and wars, and further overgrown with cheek-and-jowl residential buildings and the odd constructions. However, attention was drawn to a section of the city that used to be known as the “Great Collapse.”

Or better known to Amerist as “the skinkhole.”

That same hole has been replaced with a strange glass-and-iron bird covering the extent of the collapse, its wings spread in a predatory circle--closing up over a region below.

The team couldn’t quite figure out how to get in, except by leaping from the birds head, into the hole below, which interestingly didn’t kill them, but left them in the newly formed entertainment zone. The area beneath the bird (and open to the sky) housed a four-quartered region of different environments containing many different monsters from centaur, destroyers, bandits, and ogres. Achievements had been added to the game to encourage players to attack the various creatures and spawned boss monsters.

A few commanders had appeared to lead zergs around the region--large puddles of players all engaged in fights.

In the outside game, hot air balloons appeared with a few dynamic events tied to them. The trio sallyed forth across the countryside to encounter them, each with a treasure chest atop. However, the balloons themselves only stayed open for a short while and closed for dynamic events such as Aether pirate attacks, missing VIP passengers, and challenges from the Queen’s champions.

Minecraft, Saturday 2013 August 10th After Action Report

A large group gathered this time to take part in a build theme. Ordinarily four hours long, the community has found need to direct the activity that takes place and this time it was set to take over a chasm far away from the previous with one rule: all construction needed to take advantage of the walls, nothing could extend out and mar the countryside surrounding. Participants were asked to build only with the chasm in mind and try not to change the landscape elsewhere.

The game was briefly interrupted when Amerist broke a glass of Coke and the resulting glass shards (and spill) needed to be cleaned up.

However, during the play, numerous participants did an excellent job of clearing out constructions along the sides of the chasm. TheKingOfAllPie built a wooden room near one end, containing a resultant pattern of different types of wood along the floor, and decked walls. Near there Omnicynic (Nelson Williams) carved out a lengthy series of narrow corridors that slowly descended towards bedrock. ArienneKeith built a farm into one side that penetrated into yet-another-chasm (that did not break the surface.) And Rkou1 (TJ) opened up a “Golden Strippler” around a zombie spawner that he named “Frank the Zombie Strippler,” with its own farm in the background.

As the night wore on, more constructions appeared, but for the most part the rule was maintained.

Next week the group is expected to return to the same location and continue to expand.

Monday, August 05, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 August 2-3

These reports are notes from the MMO Anthropology livestream on Friday and Saturday night. Pirates of the Burning Seas is an MMO pirate game by FlyingLabs software and involves swashbuckling and some sailing; and Minecraft is a well-known creative sandbox virtual world.

Pirates of the Burning Seas, 2013 August 2nd After Action Report

I went into Pirates of the Burning Seas with my co-hosts, Nelson Williams and Arienne Keith. As is proper we all rolled pirates on the Antigua server and together, ran through the tutorial. As a game, we altogether moved through the tutorial pretty well learning how to fight on the deck and how to captain ships on the high seas. We’re pirates after all.

Nelson and Arienne decided that we would run with fancy hats so I went with a flared purple tricorn and Arienne wore a tophat. The tutorial was solo so it doesn’t reveal much about team play or how the community of the game might come together, so we moved quickly onto the mainland which was a sort of Pitcairn Island pirate hideaway replete with cheek-and-jowl shanty houses, dirt streets, the (virtual) smell of salty air, and the call of seagulls.

It took us a little while to get into the first quests of the game because we spent so much time exploring the town itself. Not a very large map, but filled with all sorts of interesting details including a thumping, burbling brewery connected to a bar. A seagull standing on a dead man’s chest (maybe he was asleep.) Even a random pirate NPC who appears to be eternally toting around a woman in a fireman’s carry…

We saw a few other players in the town but the population seemed rather minimal, there might have been a bit of phasing, but the game has apparently lost a bit of its popularity recently. Other pirates seemed interesting enough and many had Russian names written in Cyrillic letters—no doubt there’s a bit of a Russian population in the game.

We discovered quickly that during quests dialogue options can be superseded by teammates. The bloodthirsty pirate she is, Arienne interrupted some dialogue we were having while investigating a “mysterious artifact” to choose an option apparently labeled “shoot him in the face.” Since, while I was reading the quest-text, her character up and shot an interloper in the face. Needless to say, this action precipitated some mayhem.

Not a bad start.

We went on to sail the high seas together and used our combined knowledge of sailing to waylay other pirates right outside the port. Arienne and I are poorly trained on piracy simulators, but Nelson is an expert at waylaying unsuspecting boats on open water and he put gunpowder and steel to good work against the pirates. In the end, with teamwork, determination, and no small amount of hilarity we managed to scuttle on the order of nine vessels. Not a bad day’s work.

Although we tried to chat with other pirates, very few responded to us. Sadly the night was to take a dreadful turn.

The next step of the story quest turned out to be a solo mission. Each of us ended up in our own solo instance with an NPC ship, flew our banners high, and were required to use pirate cunning, back steel, and barbed wit to kill three skips all on our own. While I managed to send the scurvy knaves to Davey Jone’s—Arienne and Nelson found themselves obliterated (although it sounds in an unexpected single shot in both cases.)

To keep up with them, and because solo in an MMO is anathema to all that we hold dear, I quit the mission prematurely even after finishing all the objectives to join them.

We ended the night amidst the jaunty tunes of the pirate port, talked about our experience, and the interesting mixture of gameplay elements. PoTBS has both the swordplay fighting and the seamanship to its name. It’s a fitting pirate game although it may do better if players were able to keep their parties together throughout.

Minecraft Saturday, 2013 August 6th After Action Report

Due to recent dental surgery, and my talking too much during the previous stream, I spent less time speaking and more time listening. The group rezzed into the Minecraft world where we left off with the lodge at the top of a narrow chasm, and we began to look at the world from there. With us came rkou1 (TJ), Kazz5000000001 (Kazz), ArienneKeith, Omnicynic (Nelson Williams), JChristFollower (Jay), TheKingOfAllPie, bm1_ (HV4C), as well as Cynicman,

During the call a few new people joined us including 241s (241)—who spoke with a confabulated accent for most of the call and traded wit with Nelson—and one of his friends who had a Chewbacca avatar.

Instead of building much, I went around checking on other people to see what they were working on. During the stream HV4C showed off his underground workings that incorporated some of the chasm itself that included a room designed to be a forest, containing a cow, sheep, and pig. As well as a waterfall.

TJ and Kazz went out into the desert prominence right next to the island and made a deep hole in the ground (quite wide, its dimensions are unknown to me but a diameter of at least 20 blocks.) Originally named the “Strippler Hole” due to who made it, and it eventually came to receive a glass ceiling so that people would not fall into it.

As the night wore on, the participants spoke about their week and what games they’d played as well as interests in general. Nelson also had begun building a tower with extending platforms cropping up starting at the higher floors that extended like wings and contained grass-covered dirt. It became a target for flaming arrow barrages by playful Creative mode players (to no deleterious effect as flaming arrows cannot hurt buildings or players.)

Near the end of the night TheKingOfAllPie revealed some of his megastructure work. Work that he’d been able to do on the server without the assistance of Creative mode. The first megastructure was an extremely large, finely built, wheel at around 100 blocks up and perhaps 100 blocks wide. While the center of the flat disk was empty, five blocks of the edge were filled as well as four spokes at 90 degrees (following the compass directions.)

He also took members of the server into The End—the space of the Minecraft server where the Ender Dragon was fought and defeated—to show off a megastructure best called a “contraption” that was designed to farm Endermen (an NPC foe that spawns in The End.) The structure was built off the primary land mass of The End so that Endermen would be forced to spawn in it. To reach the megastructure, we had to walk down a long corridor overflowing with water and only 2 blocks high—this design prevented Endermen from entering (as they’re 3 blocks high) and since they’re damaged by water, they would be forced to teleport away.

The megastructure itself was an ever-rising series of stone rectangles with a hollow center (which will be explained below) that went almost to the full block height of The End. The upper tiers were 3 blocks apart to allow Endermen to spawn on them, but also covered with water causing them to teleport elsewhere. Teleporting therefore would cause them to teleport onto pressure plates that would trigger a piston and shove the Enderman into the center, causing them to fall. One section of the rectangles contained vines along the sides so that the falling Endermen would slow and resume falling at a very particular height, this height would cause them to hit the bottom (or killing chamber) with only ½ heart.

A redstone-powered piston system in the killing chamber could allow the floor to recede just far enough to kill Endermen on impact; or raise the floor enough that they could be slaughtered with a single punch or swing of the sword.

In this way, TheKingOfAllPie constructed what Nelson dubbed “a genocide machine,” that could net TheKingOfAllPie almost infinite experience (used for enchanting items in the Minecraft virtual world) and Ender pearls (an item used for various items).