Saturday, April 23, 2011

So You're More Important? Is that it?

There has been, since the start of the Cataclysm, a devaluation of lower level characters. But let's understand the context in which I wish to place this statement. While guilds were emphasized to a large degree, it's been made clear that only the highest level characters are valued.


I wondered to myself the other night, as I was trying to reach honored with my guild with my level 85 DK, why is it that I deserve more guild reputation than someone questing from level 10-80? I can go from 80-85 far faster than from 10-80, yet I seem to be valued by the system in such a way that my guild reputation increases significantly faster than my level 33 Hunter.

I have no doubt that GC or someone has made a blue post on this subject, and I'm just not aware of it, but it got me thinking about one's value in a guild. I suppose accept it the same way I accept that I'm not granted with the same amount of experience for completing a quest at 20 as I am at 83, it would only make sense that the same level 20 toon of mine is not worthy of any guild reputation.

For me it think of it very simply, is your quest more important than mine? Is is more valuable? Are you, then, more important? Now I'm not one to talk too much about game design because I'd rather leave those discussions to people with more experience and knowledge of these things. I'm just sharing my observations based on my experiences, not attempting to design the perfect game. But in this game I play, I can't but help feel devalued by the devs as they tell me that all the time I put into leveling this toon to 80 is so much less important and significant than those who level from 80-85.

In leveling my alts I do all things I'm allowed in order to help provide experience for the guild. I quest, I BG, I dungeon, I gather and I craft and I even give gold to the guild bank. But what am I given for my efforts? About 30 rep points in 30 levels, that's what. On the other hand, if I log into my DK I can do 1/4 of the things that I do at lower levels but earn more rep. This must mean that I'm more valuable, more important.

The only reason to be in a guild for the first 70-80 levels is to take advantage of guild perks. Well not the ONLY reason, there is playing a game with friends or other good people, but that's a different subject, I'd prefer sarcasm in this post. So for the sake of making a point, let's assume tha the only reason is for guild perks. But what emperical evidence can I produce at lower levels that proves that I even deserve these perks? I'm not a source of significant experience or reputation (for myself), so why bother? Why even grant access to low level toons to guild perks if they can't actually show they've contributed?

I don't really have a solution, I'm just a bit upset by this reality. I like to earn what I get, but that's just me. Ah well, it's the system and I guess I just need to get used to it, right? It doesn't stop me from enjoying my games, but it just doesn't seem to make sense to me, that's all.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


So WoWInsider was kind enough on Saturday to link to my latest article about storytelling. I wanted to clarify something that I believe they got wrong in their introduction where it reads:

"Deuwowlity ponders who is responsible for the failures of storytelling in MMOs, what the main issue is, and how to fix the problem."

I don't recall suggesting HOW to fix the problem, rather that it's a problem that can't be overcome 100%.

Still, as my wife tells me, I'm not complaining over the link love. I appreciate it and would appreciate any good discussion about what ya'lls think I got right or what I got wrong or didn't think to point out.

Have a wonderful weeked, everyone!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MMO's Failures at Storytelling

It's not really their fault, MMO's can tell a story, it's just it falls short in so many ways. It's just this, I think it's hard for a video game to truly, in a deep and emotional way, move you with its story. Why? It's the fault of books.

So to that end I propose, for the sake of the future of MMO's, that we burn all the books in the world.




Dang, I hope you didn't believe me there! Of course I think book burning is tragic, immoral, illogical, illwhatevered baddness and all out evilness. That still doesn't mean that it's not the fault of thousands of years of literature, whether it be carved into stone or typed out and posted to the world wide interwebnetsess or bound and sold at Border's Bookstore.

I'm no expert at these kinds of things, but I've got a pretty good idea why a story from an MMO doesn't measure up in quality with that of good old fashioned literature in book form. It's not internalized the same way word on a page are. Let me attempt to explain (although I'm sure I'll suck at it).

From personal experience, when I'm reading a book that doesn't completely suck, something happens to my brain. I enter a sort of trancelike state where my mind receives the information from the words and then is given freedom to shape images in his head in a very personal way. True, many book authors will describe a scene or a person with great detail, letting you, the reader, know of the color of the carpet or the temperature of the air or the amount of light coming through the windows. But even then our mind creates other details that the author never thinks to include, and it's these little things that makes the scene personal to us, almost to a point where the reader is authoring the story simultaneously with the actual writer.

Have you ever seen a movie or TV show adapted from a book and said to yourself or someone else "that's not how I pictured him/her to look like". It's funny, really, because even when an author describes a person, each reader pictures someone unique and different, sometimes even changing major features to suit his/her whims. This is an example of a book becoming personal, and a reader's relationship with that piece of literature.

In a video game, all the visuals are provided, and often story is communicated with words or text or quests or whatever, but a visual is given to you with no room for interpretation or personalization. That barrier to personalization keeps the user from fully participating in the story in the way that readers participate in creating details while reading a book.

So right away MMO devs are at a disadvantage when trying to tell a story. They can make the story compelling, but they lose the ability for the player to participate in the character's creation.

I have some experience in writing...some. I've written some short stories and am about 75% completed with a fictional novel, along with a lot of poetry between the years of 16-26 (the "wooing years" I call them). I have my wife read what I write, to criticize and to encourage me, but often when I discuss with her the "behind the scenes" details of my characters or scenes, she tells me that she pictured something different in her mind while reading. It's good, really, because it forces me to make sure that I'm consistent, but it also proves the point I made earlier about a reader personalizing a story regardless of what the author wrote.

The story of Arthas, as told via the game of WoW, is interesting. There are points that you see where you want to reach through the screen and strangle him for making some of the decisions that he made, but ultimately I have never felt for Arthas or any other character in that fantasy world the same I have felt about hundreds of other characters I've read in books.

Perhaps a contributing factor is that MMO's generally deal with fantsay, while much of literature, even fantasy novels, often deal with real human issues of love, hate, jealousy, power, etc in ways that are significanly more realistic than a cartoon character on a computer monitor.

Again, I don't blame MMO's for not being as good, I just think that there are inevitable barriers that cannot be crossed no matter the skill of the dev in creating compelling story lines or scenes. Not to mention, often in liturature you share the journey of the main character, from their insecure beginnings to their heroic finale. Music, TV, movies, and MMO's just don't measure up to books in sucking in the reader/player and immersing them in such a personal way as to make that person feel that, at times, that they are actually there.

So, why talk about something like this? Why bash MMO's for their failures?

Well partly because I, like others, have been thinking or discussing a lot lately about the future of MMO's and how they could be "better", that is please old and newer type players. I'm not really intelligent enough about game design to throw my hat into the ring too often, I'd just like to say that I don't think that we should expect MMO's to create immersive stories because I don't believe that they are capable of it.

So let's try to fix them in other ways. RP is immersive, but it's personal and done in the player's mind. Images on a screen have never proven to immerse someone into a story the way words on a page do, and I'll argue that point till the day I die. I'd love to see changes to the World of WoW, I'd really love it. I'd like to see consistency and reason in the stories I play through as well, but I'm not asking for something that I don't think a video game is capable of.

That's all I have for now, I'm sure I'll think of other stuff later, I usually do. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day in whatever world you play in.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why a Warcraft Movie Won't Work for Most

WoWInsider's breakfast topic today got me thinking about movies based on stories (or games or other, etc). When it comes down to it, I just don't think any Warcraft movie would be very good...and this is the key point...according to Warcraft fans.

Does anyone remember that Harry Potter stuff? TANGENT: The 7th book came out HOW LONG AGO? And we're just now, this year, on the verge of finally getting the final movie? Too long to produce, peoples, there are some people who've completely forgotten about HP. Moving on.

Going back to HP & the Goblet of Fire (#4 book/movie), there was a lot of uproar among fans because there were significant changes and omissions from book to movie screen. Granted, the book was much longer than any previous book and therefore more difficult to adapt to the silver screen. There's always a necessity to cut out things from long books when making a movie, that's something that most people understand. But it doesn't mean that the fans of the book necessarily liked it. I'm not saying that fans didn't like the fourth movie, I'm saying that so much was changed or omitted from the fourth (and fifth, I may add) that some fans didn't receive those movies as well as the first three. The director has attempted to appease the fans by making two movies from book 7, to get in as much of the book as possible, so in the end people will leave fairly happy to see their boy hero portrayed as accurately as possible from how they recall him in the books.

The thing about the Warcraft franchise is that the stories are huge, made up of many, many more characters than Harry Potter ever was, and their story arcs are long and deep. Does anyone have any idea how much of the story that we all know is going to be necessarily omitted when they finally do make a movie? Answer: A lot more than HP movies combined. It's a fact, and I think will become a painful one as devoted Warcraft geeks glimpse those things they love fall by the wayside on the director room's cutting floor.

How many blogs or comments or whatever will we see saying something like:

"How could they leave out the story about XXXX or YYYY? ZZZZ clearly is important, every fan knows that, yet these stupid producers just don't have a clue and the movie is the worse for it."

I tell you now, so you're prepared, if there ever is a Warcraft movie made, it will receive more complaints and negative comments than positive ones, and mainly for the reasons I've listed. It will mostly be for all that's left out of the movie, which will make it more difficult for people to focues on the potential good things about it.

Don't tell me that that's never happened to you, where you read a book, then a movie is made from it, you go and see the movie and your brain can't help but make comparisons throughout the movie, sometimes ruining the experience for you, and complaining to your date or whomever on the way home about all the things "they got wrong".

Will I go see a Warcraft movie if it ever gets made? Probably. But hopefully I've learned enough and accepted the fact about story/book/game adaptation to the big screen that I won't want to complain about the omissions to this or that.

Heck, my favorite book in literature, Les Miserables, has had a movie and a broadway musical made about it and both omitt more than half, easily, of everything that Victor Hugo ever wrote in the UNABRIDGED/ORIGINAL version. I've accepted that and simply enjoy the entertainment for what it's worth.

But Warcraft fans are far more geeky and dedicated than someone who likes 19th century french literature. I know, it's just an opinion, but I've seen it happen to so many stories that have been adapted and made into movies, I think it's pretty clear what will happen this time around if a Warcraft movie is made.

If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and I'd be happy to admit that. But I don't think I will be, and I'm sticking to it!