Tag Archives: mmo

Steve Bannon and gaming cheats

It’s not often two of my passions combine, but this Washington Post article links the 45th US President’s chief advisor, Steve Bannon, with a company called IGE:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/steve-bannon-once-guided-a-global-firm-that-made-millions-helping-gamers-cheat/2017/08/04/ef7ae442-76c8-11e7-803f-a6c989606ac7_story.html?utm_term=.969894a83c07

In a nutshell, IGE was the brains and money behind what we gamers call ‘gold farmers’. Think virtual sweatshops in which players from poor countries earn a tiny wage for accumulating desirable ‘goods’ from online games. These valuables are then sold to lazy gamers for real money so that they can have all the goodies…without having to work for it themselves.

Most gamers hate gold farmers, and so do the developers of the games they play. It’s a despicable practice that most games do not allow. In fact, most games ban players caught farming for gold, or trying to sell these items back to players. And guess who worked for IGE during this time? Yup, Steve Bannon. And no, there is no way he could not have known what was going on. Making money off gold farmers and players was IGE’s only business model.

These days, bots have put most flesh and blood gold farmers out of work, but the practice is still despicable.

My thanks to Candy Korman for alerting me to this mindblowing article.

cheers

Meeks

 


Trailer Music – the sneaky classics [1]

I’ve loved classical music all my life, and still do, but nowadays the music I listen to is all so-called Trailer Music. According to the entry in Wikipedia, Trailer Music is defined as:

‘…music [is] to complement, support and integrate the sales messaging of the mini-movie that is a film trailer.’

A little further down that Wiki article, you’ll find a list of Trailer Music production companies. Included in that list are three of my favourites:

  • Jo Blankenburg,
  • Two Steps From Hell, and
  • Audiomachine.

Those three also feature in my Innerscape music giveaway competition. You can find the list of composers and music in the FAQ here. But my love affair with Trailer Music did not begin with movies, it began with games.

Video games have always come with soundtracks and sound effects, but in some games, the music is more than good enough to stand on its own. Nobuo Uematsu is famous amongst gamers as the composer behind the Final Fantasy video game series, and that is where I became a fan too – playing Final Fantasy 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Nevertheless, I did not become a devotee until I played Vagrant Story [another Square video game] and discovered the music of Hitoshi Sakimoto. The video clip is called Truth and it sets the mood for a particular part of the game story:

 

I have owned the soundtrack of Vagrant Story for over 16 years, and I still play it. In fact, it was and is one of my favourite pieces of music, ever.

Another firm favourite is the soundtrack from Final Fantasy XI [the MMO]. Bastok was my ‘home’ on the game, and I still adore the theme that went with it:

Believe it or not, I still get a happy feeling listening to this theme, and a part of me wishes I could go back. Anyway, this track and another favourite – the theme for Gustaberg – were both composed by Kumi Tanioka a lady composer. 🙂

Do you notice a curious pattern emerging here?

Those themes do not necessarily come with ‘mini-movies’, but they do evoke a digital place and time. When I listen to them, I can see the city of Bastok, I can see the road leading to Gustaberg. Pretty amazing given that I haven’t played FFXI in well over ten years. Even more amazing is that I’m not alone. The theme for Bastok has had over 47,000 views on Youtube.

And on that note I’ll have to stop and go to work. I’ll continue this discussion of sneaky classics in the next post.

cheers

Meeks

 


Blade and Soul – system error #3746

takhahn pic

The pic above shows my assassin character on Blade and Soul. I have not been able to play him for three days because I keep getting the system error shown in the title of this post. Not fun.

I have just checked the forums and there seem to be quite a few people in the same boat as me – when we try to login we get a system error and login fails. For me, login fails at the verification code stage – I get the verification code, cut and paste it into the verification box and then …system error blah blah.

I have tried resetting the password, but now I get a new message – account locked due to suspicious activity. Apparently, attempting to follow their procedures is suspicious.

Oddly enough I agree. I suspect there is a massive problem in the whole security/gameguard area of the game. For starters, having to enter a verification code every time the IP address changes is insane – most people, myself included, do not have static IP addresses. Change is part of the definition! And now this.

In some ways, though, I am thrilled. I am thrilled that I resisted the urge to go for one of the premium packages. I am also thrilled that I resisted buying anything in the cash shop. At least, now, all I’ve lost is some time and about 20 GB of bandwidth. Some people who can’t get into the game are paying for that privilege.

Talking about paying, another reason I am thrilled by all this is that I hate how closely the game is tied to the cash shop. I don’t mind paying for cosmetic items, but having to pay just to upgrade your weapon is a bit rich.

Weapon upgrade a.k.a. Breakthrough

Basically each class gets a purple weapon very early on in the game. Then as you progress you upgrade that one weapon.  So far so good. But then you very quickly hit the ‘Breakthrough’ point, and suddenly things get sticky.

Breakthrough is like a plateau in the weapon’s power. In order to take your weapon to the next plateau, you have to breakthrough by using a special, low grade weapon that is class specific. Now the packages that contain these low grade weapons are easy to get BUT, they have to be opened with a key. Ordinary keys are easy to get as well, but if you use ordinary keys to unlock the weapon package it’s up to luck as to which class specific weapon you get.

So far my character has accumulated 4 of one class weapon, 2 of another and one each of every other class in the game. The only thing I don’t have is my own class specific weapon.

But wait! If I go to the cash shop and buy a Veridien Key, it is guaranteed to unlock my class specific weapon. Do you see the trap here?

As I refuse to pay for such a basic and necessary item, my character is a level 14 assassin using a level 5 weapon which I cannot upgrade. Not without paying.

I don’t know if I have just been extraordinarily unlucky or the game is rigged to push your frustration levels to the point where you cave in and pay just so you can continue to level. Either way, I hate it. This is game design at its most greedy.

So I guess that’s it. Bye bye Blade and Soul. What a disappointment.

cheers

Meeks

 


FFXIV update – The Keeper of the Lake

Apologies, another gaming related post coming up. The pic below is of my character, Meeka, and the new minion she just earned from completing the Keeper of the Lake.

ffxiv kotl minion closeup

To bring my non-gamer friends up to date, Square-Enix, the Japanese developer of FFXIV brought out an expansion in July I think. This expansion was mooted to be as big and fantastic as a whole new game. Hence the buzz.

I didn’t buy the expansion, however, because to actually play it, you have to finish all the old content first. This content is attached to the storyline, and FFXIV is heavy on storyline so there’s a lot of it.Up to this point I would not be complaining. Unfortunately, the dungeons and trials I hate so much are a part of the storyline, and you can’t do one without the other.:(

Yesterday, I tried to do the next dungeon in the storyline [the Keeper of the Lake] and came very close to quitting the game altogether. The reason? A group of players I would not like to meet in real life. I don’t want to make this a self-justification rant, but I was not the reason the melee dps and the healer died at the first boss [Einhander], leaving just me and the tank alive. [In dungeons, once the healer dies, the tank usually dies soon after, and vice versa].

Now, in this situation, the thing I did right was to use my weak, Summoner healing spells to keep the tank alive. The thing I did wrong was to forget about my ‘Resurrection’ spell.

As its name suggestions, Resurrection allows a Summoner to revive a dead player during a battle. Unfortunately, Resurrection takes over 6…six…seconds to cast, and you cannot move during that time or the spell will be interrupted – i.e. the player stays dead.

While this is all happening, however, the boss is not being polite and waiting while you cast your six second spell. No, it is spamming AOEs [area of effect spells] all over the place, so the player who stands still for even 1 second is essentially dead.

I knew this, and thought the fight was hopeless, but I was wrong. There is a way to get around the long cast time of Resurrection – by using it in conjunction with another spell called ‘Swiftcast’. Essentially, what Swiftcast does is it turns the first spell that follows it into an instant cast. So in theory, Swiftcast + Resurrection should go from taking 6 seconds to taking 0 seconds.

In theory, again, when the dead dps said ‘smn rais hlr’ [translation: summoner raise healer] he was right – I should have whipped out Swiftcast and followed it by Resurrection to revive the dead healer. But I didn’t have Swiftcast, did I?

Without going into too much detail, Swiftcast is a spell that you get as another class. The class is called Thaumaturge, and they get the spell at level 26. Now what you need to understand is that in FFXIV you can play as every single class in the game, and you can use some of the skills you gain in what’s called ‘cross class skills’.

But. You guessed it, my Thaumaturge was only level 20 [because I don’t enjoy playing it].

So in that sense, the dps player was within his rights to demand that I use Resurrection. Instead, we wiped and that should have been that. In the past, when a group wipes [everybody dies] they try to learn from their mistakes and go back in. In this group, however, they kicked me from the dungeon and the group.

Under normal circumstances, I’d feel as guilty as hell about that, sure that my age blah blah makes me a terrible player. But in this instance I just got mad. Very, very mad. You see the mechanics of Keeper of the Lake [the dungeon] are all about movement, and dodging. If there is a theme, KotL [Keeper of the Lake] is a movement test of all party members. Thus the melee dps and the healer died because they were either not aware of, or unable to master the dungeon’s mechanic. My lack of a quick Resurrection spell may have exacerbated the problem, but it did not cause the problem itself.

Hence my anger. Nasty, mean-spirited and unfair were some of the cleaner things I called the group as I stood there, unable to believe they would blame the whole mess on me. I can understand the temptation to do so, but it was neither just, nor in keeping with the courteous spirit of the game. And for once, anger stopped me from running away.

I spent all of yesterday getting my unloved Thaumaturge to level 26. Then I spent hours more trying to create a macro that would allow me to revive someone faster. [Macros are like tiny command driven in-game apps that automate actions and skills].

I wish I could say my Resurrection macro worked this morning when I retried the KotL [with a much nicer group!], but it didn’t. This is what the macro looks like:

/micon “Resurrection”
/ac “Swiftcast” <me> <wait.3>
/ac “Resurrection” <t>
/p Raising! <se.11>

/micon “Resurrection”  – simply creates an icon for the macro so you know which one does what. [worked]

/ac “Swiftcast” <me> <wait.3> –  is made up of a number of commands:

/ac ‘ means the command is about an action. It can also be written as ‘ /action ‘

“Swiftcast” – is the name of the action to be used [worked]

<me> – says that my casting is to become instant

<wait.3> – is supposed to give the connection time to process the command before going on to the next one. Remember we are talking about the command going from my computer, via the internet [slow in Australia] to the Japanese servers and back again. On good days there is no appreciable lag and everything feels ‘instant’, but in dungeons and other areas of peak action, the lag can be noticeable. [I think this failed]

/ac “Resurrection” <t> – this is the prime command and tells the game to revive the player currently targeted – <t> – by me. [did not work]

/p Raising! <se.11> – this is basically just a message to the group members that I’m going to be raising someone. The <se.11> is supposed to play a sound to get everyone’s attention. [did not work]

Each line of commands should work, but something in the mix failed because when I used the macro in the dungeon this morning [to revive the healer would you believe 0.o], Swiftcast worked but nothing else did. I managed to cast Resurrect manually before the 10 second Swiftcast interval ended, but I died just as the healer revived. If anyone can fix this macro I will be eternally grateful.

Now, this is where it gets really interesting, and lead me to writing this post – we were at the last boss [of 3] and the AOEs were insane. Picture a main boss who keeps spamming AOEs that cover great big chunks of the available floor space. Get caught in this maelstrom of criss-crossing damage and you don’t last long. Now add to that a second, boss-strength creature that is also spamming AOE’s and the fight becomes horrendous.

We did not have time to think, literally dancing from one small safe area to the next while desperately trying to do some damage. But as both the Black Mage and I were magic casters, it meant we’d get half way through and 2.45 second cast and bang, we’d have to jump out of the way again. Our spells kept being interrupted and we were all getting tired just from from the visual overload of trying to make sense of the constantly changing action.

Inevitably, concentration slipped. The Black Mage died and suddenly the healer was dead as well, leaving just me and the tank. Again.

I won’t lie, I was terrified. The debacle of the first attempt ran through my mind as I hit the macro to revive the healer. And…nothing happened. What????

I wasted a second or so thinking the delay was normal before it hit me that the macro had failed. Swiftcast was on but nothing else had worked.

My brain went into neutral. I knew there was an icon for the manual Resurrection spell on my hotbar but do you think I could see it? Talk about flustered, or perhaps that was just sheer fear. I did find the icon eventually, and there was enough time left on the Swiftcast to manually hit Resurrection, but I was caught in an AOE and died just as the healer revived. It was the most freaky timing I have ever seen.

After that, all I could do was lie there, watching as the healer [who is a very experienced player] and the tank did the impossible and beat the boss. Just the two of them.

It was wonderful, and I can honestly say I loved every member of my group the second time around. And you know what? Out of that 4 man group, only the healer had ever done KotL before, but the healer made sure everyone knew what to expect and we pulled together and got through. As a team.

That is how massively multiplayer games should be played – with courtesy and kindness and camaraderie. Because everyone has to learn the hard way, by making mistakes. I studied that dungeon for hours, but seeing it on a video clip is nothing like doing it yourself. That experience you can’t get second hand.

So to G***t Knight – you were right, I should have raised the healer. And thank you for pushing me to learn a skill I should have had sooner. But about everything else, you were so wrong.

And in celebration a few more screenshot of me, my house in-game and my cute little minion.

ffxiv kotl minion in house2

ffxiv kotl minion in house3

-hugs-

Meeks

 

 


How I’m keeping my sanity

The Certificate IV course in Training and Assessment I’m studying is nearing the pointy end, and I’m behind in my assignments. I literally have been working my butt off for weeks now, but the official-speak leaves my brain feeling as if it’s been through a pasta maker and turned into spaghetti. 😦

The balance I used to have in my life is gone, and I miss it. But at least I do have an escape to keep me sane – gaming. I can only play for an odd hour here and there, but it’s enough. Just.

I’ve done the odd post about Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn – the latest MMO I’m playing – but none of that has given even a hint as to the sheer scope and brilliance of the game. So now here is the opening cinematic. It tells of the final battle that led to the realm needing to be ‘reborn’.

Even if you don’t give a fig for games, I hope you’ll enjoy this short piece of cinema. And the music is lovely too. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Latest Wildstar video clip

I’ve posted about Wildstar before, but this latest video clip was so good, and so fiendishly clever, I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. Even non-gamers should appreciate the artistry, and Indie authors might learn something about marketing.

Okay, so admit it, that brought a smile to your face didn’t it? The animation was very good, the storyline was clever, and the whole thing made you want to see what those critters were really like, didn’t it?

Well, the Wildstar video clip certainly had that effect on me, so much so that… I’m doing their marketing for them!

This is how buzz happens. You give people something clever and fun – for free – and hope they like it enough to tell their friends about it. Each such teaser builds momentum, sometimes for years. Then, by the time the game/book/movie is ready to launch, you have a ready made audience drooling to buy it.

Given how much money game developers have to spend creating their product, the money they spend on this kind of promotion is money well spent, imho [in-my-humble-opinion].

Do you have any favourite examples of clever marketing? Something that sticks in your memory, and makes you want to talk about it?

The marketing doesn’t have to be about games. It can be about toothpaste, or a movie, or anything that grabs your interest, and makes you want ‘more’. Please share in comments!

cheers

Meeks


Wildstar – my gamer dream come true?

I was just taking a coffee break, quietly browsing you know. And guess what I found?

http://www.wildstar-online.com/en/news/#page1

The only thing wrong with Wildstar is that it isn’t out yet. It hasn’t even gone to open beta testing yet. 😦

The closest thing I could find to a release date was “later in 2013”. My guess is Christmas. -sigh-

Still, I’d rather wait and have the game stable than have it released too soon, and have to suffer a million bugs and glitches.

So there you have it. A game with the potential to give me everything I want, more or less. Not sure how I’m going to enjoy the cartoon-like characters, but I’m prepared to be flexible. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


If I could change the world [of MMOs]…

I’ve been too busy to spend much time gaming lately, but to be honest, I haven’t really wanted to play all that much either. Many nights I spend my precious gaming time searching the net for new MMOs instead.

Why? Because I’m bored. Timezones and restricted gaming time make it impossible to do typical MMO endgame stuff – such as raids – and I’ve never enjoyed pvp, so now I’m leveling up another character on GW2 [Guild Wars 2] and feeling nostalgic about FFXI [Final Fantasy 11 online].

There were very good, and compelling reasons for leaving FFXI, but player housing was not one of them. In fact I probably kept on playing the game for far longer simply because player housing gave me an alternate reason to keep playing.

You see in FFXI, player housing was a bit like having a real life house of your own. You could furnish it with all sorts of things from antique tea sets to various styles of furniture. Think of it as having a very sophisticated and elaborate doll’s house in which you could move around.

And no, FFXI player housing didn’t look anything like this… but wouldn’t it be fun if it did?

Beyond the fun of redecorating though, player housing had other functions as well. Most of the items in our houses aided crafting in some way, and I always loved crafting so I could spend hours just messing around ‘at home’.

I have always loved ‘gardening’ as well, and in FFXI you could grow crystals in garden pots. I don’t want to go into what crystals were used for – just accept that they were valuable in-game commodities. Caring for my ‘garden’ took yet more time, time I was happy to spend.  And of course, finding the materials to feed my crafting and gardening took many more hours.

-sigh- I really miss that aspect of gaming. Not only did it give me something to do beyond upgrading my weapons and armour, it also made the game feel more life-like. After all, isn’t that pretty much what we all do in real life? We work to make life comfortable, and that includes buying clothes and shoes, cars or motorbikes, the latest gadgets, furniture, apartments or houses, vacations, entertainment etc.

In modern MMOs however, we can only really spend our in-game money on three related things – more powerful weapons, better armour, and mounts [personal transportation]. Sadly, GW2 doesn’t even have mounts so the incentive to keep playing is reduced by 1/3.

Now I know an awful lot of players will disagree with me on the question of incentives – most are young and are only really interested in the battling aspect of MMOs. But as those players get older, they too will begin to face the same life constraints that I do, and when that happens they will either stop playing altogether, or they will demand ‘more’ from their games.

In my not so humble opinion, MMO developers who want longevity for their products would do well to bring player housing back into the equation – as a standard part of the game dynamic. The MMOs that retain player housing also seem to retain their playerbase. Just saying.

Another thing I’d do, if I were a developer, is rethink the whole question of armour. At the moment, most Western MMOs combine the look of armour with its function. So for example, the Warrior class wears plate armour while Mages wear cloth, and you cannot mix and match to customize your appearance. This has the net result of making characters look alike, apart from a few small differences.

By contrast, A Perfect World International and Aion both split form from function. This allows for a great deal more individuality in appearance.

I would go one step further. I would make all armour neutral, and stats [functions such as defence] would become slot items.  This is not so very different to what we have now. It would merely formalize  upgrades into standard components. The difference would be that appearance would be completely separate to function.

In my ideal MMO, a Warrior could wear flowing robes, and a Mage could wear plate. 🙂

Well, the clock is ticking and this little detour into daydreams must end.  À bientôt mes amis!

Meeks


Why do you blog? No, really!

Apologies for the ‘me,me’ tone of this post but I feel I have to expose something of myself before I can ask you to comment with honesty.  So here goes.

I started blogging because I felt I had to. Pure and simple. Every marketing how-to I read said that creating a blog was the first step in developing an online presence that would help sell the book I had yet to finish.  So I signed up with WordPress, chose a theme that looked ok and then I sat there, staring at a blank ‘Add New Post’ screen. I knew how to write a post but I had no idea what to write about.

The idea of just posting whatever I was passionate about evolved out of my certainty that no-one would ever read what I wrote. However as people started to find me [in dribs and drabs] my motivation began to change. I started looking forward to logging in each morning – just in case someone out there had stumbled onto my blog while I was sleeping. Like someone addicted to gambling, every time someone did view my blog the addiction was reinforced and the days on which no-one came did not deter me. I continued telling the world what was on my mind because each post was a way of saying ‘Hey! I’m someone and I’m here’.

You all know the feeling, that buzz you get when you check your stats or notice that you have comments. But what is that good feeling?

I know that for me that good feeling is part ego-stroking and part joy at not being alone. I’ve always been a fairly self-sufficient person. I have a small circle of very close friends and family. They have been with me since forever and they are as important to me as breathing but I’m also quite comfortable just being on my own, which is probably a good thing as writing fiction is a pretty solitary occupation. Nonetheless even hermits need human contact sometimes.

Before I stopped thinking of my writing as some kind of  ‘hobby’ that no-one else would ever be interested in I used to get my social contact hit from the people I met while playing mmo’s [online games]. In fact I still chat to a few gamers I met while playing World of Warcraft but after I left WoW I found new online friends much harder to find and my social contacts dwindled to a few stalwart friends.

And then the blogging miracle happened. I met people, nice people, funny people, kind people, people who cared about many of the same things that I cared about. I met kindred spirits and suddenly blogging was no longer just about ‘marketing’  or having my ego stroked, it was and is, about connecting with people. In short, it’s about making friends.

I’m still passionate about writing and bushfire survival and climate change and good food and wonderful music and politics and…  Ahem, you get the picture. I’m still passionate about all the old things that define who I am and I still get an ego buzz when my stats spike for some unaccountable reason but now I also have something more, I have friends.

So now I would love to know if I’m alone in this or if other people feel the same way that I do. Have I finally ‘got’ what social media is all about? I know that every blogger is different and unique and writes for different reasons but do we all have common themes that are somehow universal?

If you feel like sharing then I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

-hugs to all-

Meeks


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