Guilds: What For?

Secret World, Headstand

This is a “Talk Back Challenge” post, created for the Newbie Blogger Initiative. This sort of post is designed to encourage conversation about a broad topic and to entice conversation about the topic. One of the New Blogs on the Block (NBOTB), Away From Game, has been tasked with writing about the same topic. So, once you are done with my post, please go check theirs out. Or now. Whatever works for you. I’m easy. If you are coming from the NBI pages, feel free to comment, or write a piece of your own and link back. As always, thank you for reading! 🙂

First, a universal truth: The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.

The reason this truth is so universal is it not only applies to Euclidean geometry, but to the world at large. The easiest answer is most likely the correct one. When walking, our collective feet naturally create the pathways that make the most sense, even if it’s not on the pavement. Scientists look at patterns found in nature, and they resemble patterns we use or could use in our lives. In other words, we will always take the easiest path to achieve our goals. Keep this in mind.

Guilds are the primary social structure of these MMOs that we play. We use them to chat with others, to share resources, and to run group-oriented content. But what is our motivation for joining them? Is it because we are social creatures and that we feel that our addition to a guild can make the overall guild better? Or, really, do we join them for purely selfish reasons?

Star Trek Online, Need, Greed

Except Damianus, and whoever that Ambrose fool is, it’s all about the Need!

Time and time again, I’ve seen that MMO gamers have proven themselves to be selfish. I mean, just take a look at the picture on the left there. I took that in Star Trek Online just a couple of days ago. In a random group with random strangers, for an event that lasts less than a few minutes, almost every single person, on every piece of loot dropped, when given a choice of whether to “Greed” it or “Need” the item, chose “Need”. Did they really need it? No, of course they didn’t! In a random group, hitting “Greed” on a drop, in this case, was literally handing the loot to someone else.

With loot being one of the primary paths to success, having more loot is the straightest path to our goals, even if that involves skirting the social mores of fairness. If our goal is to reach the top level fastest, we will take Experience Boosters, or only do the missions that reward the most Experience points. If our goal is to make the most money, we will farm the most profitable materials we can sell to others, we will manipulate the in-game auction house to corner the market on goods, and we will essentially spend our gaming time eeking out the highest Gold/hour ratio we possibly can. And if our goal is to get all the best end-game gear, only obtainable through grouping and raids, we will join guilds that make this process easier.

So if our collective gaming goal is one of selfishness, that we are just trying to improve our own characters, why do we form guilds at all? In my opinion, we form guilds paradoxically because it raises our individual success. If, in a dungeon, you join a PUG with random players, they are more likely to exhibit behaviors found in the above Need/Greed example. A random group is less likely to complete the dungeon in the first place than an organized group, and then when loot drops, they are less likely to be fair about it’s distribution. An organized group is significantly more likely to be fair in it’s loot distribution as well as it’s competency, thus improving individual progression chances.

This is even more evident when players drop a guild they are in and move to a big raiding guild. On an example I have made previously, once guild members reach the upper echelons, and the current guild they’re in isn’t giving them any more progression, they will generally seek greener pastures that will.

Secret World, TSW, Polaris

This should be no surprise, though, as it is also found in nature:

We’re used to thinking of social groups as fundamentally cooperative entities, but with some kinds of groups, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the best-known biological theory of herding, William Hamilton’s “selfish herd” idea, proposes that herds are the result of individuals trying to ensure that other members of their species, rather than themselves, will get eaten by predators.Michael Price, From Darwin to Eternity

“Get eaten by predators” may be extreme, none of us are eaten by a predator when we lose a loot roll, but the execution is similar. At the end of a boss fight, a piece of loot can only be distributed to one individual. That individual significantly improves, but the group only improves if that one individual continues to play with them. The choice, ultimately, is in the hands of the player.

Now, I could just have this stance because I haven’t had the best of luck with guilds in the past. They would either demand ridiculous amounts of time, or have almost zero activity that made staying in them the same as not being in a guild at all. And now? With my transitive nature, the best guild I’m in is one with players in multiple games, with Twitter our primary contact. So it goes.

I know this isn’t the most efficient manner of getting loot, but then not all of us join guilds just for the loot alone.

// Ocho

The Newbie Blogger Initiative – 1 Year Later

Would you look at that… a full year has passed, and Casual Aggro is still up and running. Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are. Although I had a few warm-up posts, I claim the real starting date of this blog to be May 1st, 2012, when Syp of Massively and Bio Break started a movement to help new bloggers find their footing in this crazy interwebz.

So, Happy Anniversary to all my fellow NBI brethren! To which, I’m happy to say, there are many still around.

After taking a look at the full list of blogs posted back on May 30th, 2012, there were 111 new blogs formed during the initiative. I opened up every single one to take a look and see how many were still active (yes, I had 100+ tabs open in Chrome and my PC didn’t blink… this thing is a BEAST), and the results surprised me. One would expect a great number of these blogs to have slowed down or stopped updating entirely, and a great number did. However, a large number did not close up shop and are still updating today! In figuring these numbers, any blog that has updated anytime in the past month qualified as being “active”.

And, guess what? Out of the 111 starting blogs, 28 are still active today, giving a retention rate of over 25%!! So, yeah, I’d call it a huge success!

So, out of the 28, I’d like to spotlight a few of them as blogs that you should add to your RSS feed immediately.

Ravalation

Spearheaded by the fantastic Ravanel Griffon, Ravalation is all about the adventures and misadventures of her time gaming in Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. She is also the most prolific blogger in the entire group of 111, and her words jump off the page with so much energy that you can’t help but be a fan! I know I am. If you check out one blog from the NBI 2012 group, make sure it’s this one.

Most recent post: LOTRO’s 6-Year Anniversary!

MMO Juggler

If there’s a game-jumper who even out-jumps myself, it’s the MMO Juggler. Everything from Lord of the Rings Online, to Age of Wushu, to EVE Online, to Guild Wars 2, to The Secret World. You name it, he’s probably played it and has a comprehensive write-up about it. Now THAT’s dedication.

Most recent post: GW2 Lowbie Zone Exploration

MMO One Night A Week

No, I didn’t just pick Kanter‘s blog because he based his latest blog post after something I wrote (which I’m very flattered about, by the way). I’ve been reading his blog for the past year, and I love the premise as it’s a universal one: Not enough time, but a love of gaming. Although most of his gaming time is spent in World of Warcraft these days, a game I’m not too terribly fond of, I still like to hear about his exploits from the perspective of an uber-busy gaming fan.

Most recent post: MMOs and Gambling

Conveniently Placed Exhaust Port

Forgive me Jason, but I did not start following you on Twitter until today. However, I’ve been following your blog for quite a while!

For those of you who aren’t Jason, yesterday’s rant on Candy Crush Saga, for example, is a must read. Seriously. Go check it out. Jason mixes his impressions of games with a humor that is spot-on and 100% relatable.

Most recent post: The aforementioned Letter to Candy Crush Saga

Trust me when I say that these are not the only worthwhile blogs out there from the Newbie Blogger Initiative group. Here is a list of the remaining active blogs, please go and check them out:

Why I Game / Healing Mains / Stynlan’s Musings /  Neurotic Girl / Warp to Zero / Dreadblade / White Charr / FunSponge / World’s End Tavern / Wynniekins’ Adventures / That Was An Accident / Altaclysmic / The Adventures of Danania / Red’s Roid Rage / Bloodthorne / Unwavering Sentinel / Sephora’s Closet / Warlockery / Elfkina Vezicka (Slovak) / Beyond Tannhauser Gate / Noob Raider (Japanese) / The Delver / Geotia’s Letters

That’s a much easier list to swallow than the whole 111 that started.

So, again, I wanted to give a huge Thank You to Syp for starting the movement in the first place, and an even bigger Thank You to all of my friends, supporters, and readers who make me look forward to creating my future posts.

You all rock!

// Ocho

P.S. – I still can’t believe I lost the “Promising Star” Award by only 3 votes… to a blog that is not even active anymore! Ah well. So it goes…

Time Gates And MMOs Don’t Mix

I know I just posted an article on the how the MMO community can be a little negative, but as I pointed out, sometimes criticism is necessary. This is one of those times. I haven’t started seeing a trend yet, and maybe that’s because I just haven’t played as many MMOs to notice, but in Star Trek Online we’re starting to see content and missions hiding behind “time gates”. And excuse me for being so frank but they are a terrible idea.

A “time gate” is essentially a certain mission, dungeon, or other event that only happens at different times and only for a short period of time. A good example of this is the Vault Shuttle Event, in which you have five players, all in shuttlecraft, lead a mission into a space station known as the “Vault”. It’s the equivalent of a five person dungeon, but in very specific ships and runs at random times of the day.

I get it. If you have a specific event that only comes around at specific (and sometimes random) times, then your playerbase is going to spend more time waiting for those events to occur and the rewards given are going to not be as common and easy to acquire. This leads to completionist or loot-hungry players playing the game more often. More time in-game means more time playing, which means the possibility of those players spending more money. For a free-to-play game, players spending money is very important. See, I get it.

However, for players that do not have completionist tendencies to the point of disorder and aren’t as attached to one specific game, as I assume a majority of players are, this is not how games are approached.

Maybe the Guardian of Forever likes ‘Time Gating’! Get it?!! He’s the Guardian of Forever… looks like a gate… deals with time. You know what, just forget it…

Here is a possible rundown for this event: I fire up the game, check the missions that are available, see when the specific event I want to play is, stop playing, come back later at that time, find a group, and play it. Three big problems come up with this scenario.

1) I stop playing. For those of us with limited time on our hands to play games, if I shut down a game, there is little chance I’ll be opening it up again later on. I’ll play whatever game I have time to play now while I have time.

2) Come back later at that time. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing or what could possibly come up in between now and when the event is taking place! My wife could suddenly have a cheese fries craving, or a phone call from a friend with an extra ticket could lead to a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert in Delaware, or an impromptu campfire with s’mores, cigars, and whiskey. Every single one of these events has happened to me, and so if I’m playing a game, I want to play it now, not in the future.

Finally the worst, 3) Find a Group. Since these events seem to be at random times, scheduling to play the game with a group of friends or fleet-mates is a lot more tricky and so a lot of the time, playing the event would require getting into a pick-up-group. A pick-up-group is a group consisting of random players you do not know personally, and is one of the curses of the MMO world. Every once in a while you can get into a good pick-up-group that knows what they are doing and everything meshes well. Mostly, however, the group consists of opposite personalities, different playstyles, different response to authority, different experience, and different competency. So the pick-up-group has a much higher chance of failure. MMOs have different ways of dealing with the stress of pick-up-groups. Some offer more reward for being in them, some offer a convenient way to enter them, so when it fails you haven’t lost a lot of time, too.

By this time, my lungs were aching for air…

My idea (and as with any idea on the internet, please take it with a grain of salt) is thus: If you’re going to have time gated content to get the benefits that I described above, how about make the content soloable? If I’m playing, and it randomly pops up, I feel much more comfortable playing if it doesn’t involve other people. If I’m looking to play that mission specifically, 1 and 2 above still are in effect, but because it’s so easy to jump into and complete, I don’t feel as bad about missing the opportunity to play. Then, given a tiered reward system where the ones who play in groups get the best rewards quicker, I could still get the best rewards over more time. Not having to find a group to play it completely removes that stress, and then I would look forward to thinking “I wonder which random mission will be available tonight?”

As it stands now, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever play any of the time gated content in Star Trek Online. Every time I’ve been on since any time-gated content has been introduced just hasn’t been the right time and I’m not going to start scheduling my gaming time around the events. There are way too many great games that I could play right now that waiting for a specific time in a specific game just isn’t feasible.

I game on my time, not anyone else’s. Now, I’m not saying that I’ll never play it as there is always a chance… but who knows when that chance will be.

\\ Ocho 

P.S. – It has come to my attention that over on Syp’s Bio Break, Casual Aggro has been nominated for the Newbie Blogger Initiative title of “Promising Star, General Games and Geekery“! Woah! To say I’m floored is an understatement. This is a very awesome and humbling nomination, especially considering all the other amazing bloggers that joined in as a part of the NBI festivities. Just to be nominated is an honor. Thank you to all of you amazing readers, I can never thank you enough. You all ROCK!

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Month Wrapup

What a long strange trip it’s been. No, really, this month has been absolutely incredible.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative was essentially a month of tried and tested blogs promoting and sponsoring new and just-off-the-boat blogs, like Casual Aggro, all in the name of community, goodwill, and mutual interest. To call it a success is an understatement. My little part of the blogging universe has seen incredible numbers that still leave me gobsmacked. And I really have Syp to thank for all of it.

Without his initial support you, an awesome person who has taken the time to come and read my ramblings, would probably not have stopped by. However, I am certainly glad you have and I hope that you enjoy what you are reading. If you are, drop me a line! If you don’t, drop me a line, too, and let me know where I could use improvement.

If you have enjoyed my random insights into gaming today, you might also enjoy any of these fine blogs as well. This list is very comprehensive, but if one of them catches your interest, please give it a look. The author, karma, and I thank you.

New blogs to check out:

Sponsor advice posts:

That’s a serious list, right? I hope that in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to peruse all of them and then pass on some great stuff.

1 month down and hopefully many more to go.

\\ Ocho

Dungeons and Dragons Online is Different… But In A Good Way

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m in a regular gaming group. I know, I know. Me. Why is this a surprise? Well, gaming has never been one of my big hobbies until recently. Sure, I played games and I was a fan, but I was never the “gaming group” kind of guy. Raiding? Nah. Never liked scheduling gaming. What made me switch, I guess, was Twitter. I started using Twitter a few months ago for the giveaways and prize opportunities you see from time to time and at the same time I started following a few of my favorite writers, game companies, bloggers and well… one thing led to another. Syp, a very prolific blogger and spearhead of the Newbie Blogger Initiative (of which I am a part of), posted a question if anyone wanted to form a Dungeons and Dragons Online gaming group. My first thought was… Nah. No way. Its not me. Despite this, though, I found myself saying “Yeah, sure!” and after the feeling of foreboding that formed in my stomach cleared and we started playing I started really having fun… and found out exactly how much all the MMO experience I have from other games is worth nothing in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Here are a few things of what makes DDO different.

Character Creation

The way characters are created and how they level up is completely different, and this is where I feel the most inexperienced. I created a Bard, which I assumed would stand in the back, play a little music, and essentially offer support. So how does it play? A Two-Handed Axe wielding damage dealer that gets up in your face! Every once in a while I’ll play a song or two to buff my group or daze some enemies, but really its all about going toe-to-toe and smacking baddies upside the head. This has confused me to no end.

Character Creation overall is very open. Every level you gain is a momentous occasion! So much so, that you don’t automatically level. The choices made during leveling are so important, it gives you as much time as you need to figure it out. Most other MMOs you visit your trainer and get new skills, but in DDO you have the ability to gain the abilities of other classes entirely. Say you start a rogue. Well, after a couple of levels you could switch it up and take the rest of your levels as a wizard. This could help to increase evasion in combat or help you with traps. Multi-classing seems to be a very popular thing to do in DDO as it helps create very customized builds.

Personally, although I love a lot of depth when it comes to character creation, I’m afraid of it becoming an illusion of choice. If you don’t pick the best options, then you can very easily break your character and make it so you become less effective at the high levels of the game. I guess I’ll find out, although if anyone experienced has advice about building Bards, I’d be happy to hear it.

I’ve got bad news… I think I dropped my keys…

Loot

Just like other games, beating up bad guys, opening chests (which might be trapped, by the way), and completing quests gets you loot. The loot, though, is just… different. Its hard to explain. Instead of getting gear with stats where the weapons you have are based on your class, loot is meant to simply complement your skills chosen during leveling. If you pick proficiency in swords, you can still wield a club, it just won’t do as much damage or your chance to hit won’t be as high as a sword, but the club might be better against some enemies. Armor can protect you, but it also makes you less dexterous or can make your spells fizzle. Boots, wrists, rings, helm, and cloak instead of offering armor and stats can give you a new spells to cast, or buff a skill, like “spot” or “listen”.  So the way loot is given, confusion easily sets in when every item choice is not an obvious upgrade. Suddenly, I could wear a cloak that increases my Charisma, or wear a cloak that lets me cast “Mage Armor”. I right now have both… as I really can’t choose between them as I still don’t have a full grasp on what my character can do.

Traps and Puzzles

Picture this, you’re sneaking through a dungeon (because everyone can sneak, too… just maybe not as effectively as others) and your senses point you out to a trap ahead. A trap. Nothing obvious, like a spot of fire on the ground that you shouldn’t stand in, but a spot where spikes will come out of the ground and run you through. If you’re a rogue, you could try disarming it. If you have enough skill in “Jump”, you could jump past it and try to avoid the damage. Tricky. Or when you hit a lever, the floor gives out just like you’re Indiana Jones or something. This truly makes every dungeon feel a little more suspenseful. There could be a trap right in front of you, and if you don’t have the proper skills, you would never know until it hit you.

Then, the prize you seek is sitting on top of a pedestal surrounded by a bubble of magic. How do you get rid of it? By shifting floor panels on the ground until a beam of light hits the pedestal. A puzzle! Not a difficult puzzle, mind you, but a puzzle! A real puzzle! Now, I haven’t been playing it that long, but I really can’t wait to encounter some real mind-benders. Not going to cheat and use a guide, either. In my opinion, that just takes away the fun, but the more puzzles in the game the better.

Killing Monsters Does Not Give Experience

Unless the quest was to specifically kill a monster, experience is gained by completing quest objectives and you get no experience for killing monsters. This means that if you’re not the most hardy of characters, and killing the monster isn’t necessary, you could just sneak past them. Most times, they don’t even have loot on them. Unlike other games where you could pass a group of mobs, but doing so means missing out on their loot and experience, there is no penalty for skipping them. It becomes a tactical choice instead of mandatory or a punishment. This gives the feeling that every encounter is important, and gives many different ways to complete each quest.

The weekly DDO group watching the scene unfold below.

A Brave New World

Overall, all of this leads to one conclusion: I have no idea what I’m doing. I probably won’t for quite a while, either. The learning curve is pretty steep. With all of these points, even though some of them can be found in other games, like puzzles in Star Trek Online or situational loot like in Guild Wars, they really set Dungeons and Dragons Online apart. My main fear is somehow messing up my character with the really complex character system, but this is the way Dungeons and Dragons players like it.

Even though it’s totally out of character for me, I’m really glad that I’ve joined this weekly group. Not only are the guys I’m playing with awesome, but the game itself is growing on me week after week.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – For some good reading, check out some of the blogs by fellow weekly group members: Professor Beej, Psychochild’s Blog, Warrior Needs Time Badly, and Bio Break (although Syp hasn’t found time to play with us, despite starting the group in the first place. 😛 )