Over the weekend there was a beta stress test for an MMO. This MMO takes place in space. People who participated in this beta are not allowed to discuss what they saw under pain of not being invited to any more betas, and also the taint of being unprofessional.
I myself have nothing against a bit of professionalism, even in the more laid back world of blogging. Sometimes, though, I bet someone participates in a beta and finds the whole experience quite good and something they would recommend to friends, except there is one aspect that is so overwhelmingly terrible that it is hard to ignore.
Way back in February I wrote a post titled “Not Feelin’ the WildStar Character Models”. While many months have passed since that post was published (and a lot of people have disagreed with me since then), everything I have recently seen of WildStar has just furthered my concern, particularly with the lady characters.
See that bunnygirl? That’s one of the official shots of the Aurin, a race of animal people who love nature. Notice how she has a big bust, an irrationally tiny waist, and big hips (and one can assume a booty to match). Also notice how her neck is really really long, which is unrealistic but a legit stylistic choice.
So a bunnygirl race is pretty silly, but diversity and choice are good and that includes having a sex bomb option, right? But what if… the women of every race had the same proportions? What if the zombie ladies, and the robot ladies, and the rock ladies all also had the exaggerated hourglass figure and really long neck? And what if the female version of every single race waggled her butt while she ran? Why, that wouldn’t be very much diversity at all, would it?
I got a bit of pushback about the idea of similar character shapes when I wrote that post back in February, so let me give an example from a game that I am sure most of us have played at some point: WoW.
This cute lil’ gnome has a bust-line but is pretty boxy around the waist and has straight hips.
This pandaren lady has larger hips and a larger bottom, as well as being stockier overall than the gnome.
This draenei lady has a much larger bust than the other two, proportionally.
A game that seems quite good in both mechanics and lore is a pretty special thing, but that specialness would be severely impacted for me if I had no option but to play a sex bomb lady with a tiny waist who waggles when she runs. Playing such a game might feel as though little thought was put into the character models themselves, even if they have a neat backstory or environment. It certainly might feel as though the game devs had never even considered the lack of diversity in female models.
Those are the kinds of thoughts someone might have after playing a game in beta this past weekend, and I bet they would want to talk about it and maybe even spread the word that this game is really fun but could be a lot more appealing if the models were tweaked before launch.
December is a bit of a jerk. I mean, the last week or so of it is great — most folks have presents and turkey and a week off work and hugs from family — but the three weeks before that strike me as being some of the worst of the year. It’s cold, and dark, and we all have a million things to do and functions to attend and dollars to spend on top of our usual life routines.
(Not to mention that as a content creating type there’s at least internal pressure to create exciting “end of the year” summaries and special features and things.)
It has all left me with a pretty solid case of the BLEHs. Bleh! Bleeeeeh. So instead of writing anything terribly thoughtful, behold a bunch of links, game updates, and a recipe. Yes, a recipe.
* Out of Beta on why the Argent Commander card in Hearthstone is better than you.
* Doone on the importance of speaking up about inequality in games and otherwise, along with j3w3l on sexism in games.
* Game By Night is back and wants us to remember that games are supposed to be fun
* Speaking of GbN, I was a guest on the last episode of Game On ESP Podcast, presented by MMORPG.com, and I think it’s probably safe to say now that I’ll be appearing there more frequently in the future. Awesome!
I didn’t buy anything in the Steam Fall Sale because I know that the Winter Sale is coming (and at a time that is much easier on the pocketbooks) and also.. I just have a lot of games, okay? I own many many wonderful games, and lately I have been ignoring all of them for WoW and Hearthstone.
In Hearthstone I have been continuing to lose arenas, but I feel like I’m improving! I think my weakness is in picking the deck as a whole — I can identify the best cards in each set of 3, but I need to better identify the focus of the deck.
For constructed I finally levelled up a Paladin deck to 10, the last hero I had to level for the basic cards, and it turns out that Paladin is.. really fun! The playstyle suits me very well, with a bunch of smaller minions and big buffs, and playing the Sword of Justice card always makes me smile.
In WoW I have been somewhat focused on making gold and working on the legendary cloak quest chain. My server, Nordrassil, was just merge– I mean, connected with Muradin, which means the Auction House just almost doubled in potential shoppers.
All this gold is good, because I’m working on a Vial of the Sands. I got a small discount on the mandatory vendor items for being a goblin, and hopefully by the end of the month I will be able to pick up guildies and ideally drop them from great heights. (Wait, forget I said that last bit out loud.)
The legendary cloak quest chain was designed to be done gradually over a number of patches, and while I am glad that I just came back to WoW recently and so have no patch-related gating it’s also a bit of a slog all at once. I like the idea, and I enjoy the chain a lot particularly when it wants you to do diverse things like win a battleground or work on reputations or hit a world boss, but in-between for me anyway it’s pretty much an endless sea of LFR. Go collect X in any raid! Cool, now go get Y in these particular raids! Great, now go get Z also in those raids!
Of course as a filthy casual mostly non-raider I don’t need the cloak and I could quit or at least stop caring for a few weeks, so any duress I feel is something I am doing to myself. Really, though, as much as I good naturedly gripe in guild chat I do enjoy a good masochistic grind. (Hmm. That sounded better in my head.)
One of my non-game hobbies is cooking. I find it really soothing, all that chopping and stirring and seasoning, and then when it’s all over you have a delicious thing! A few weeks ago I bought a slow cooker, and it’s opened up a whole new world of recipes for me. Below is one of my recent favorites, Korean Tacos. Make the pork and pickles ahead of time, and this is a super quick weeknight meal.
- pork shoulder roast
- yellow onion
- green onion
- cilantro (if you like it)
- cabbage (pre-chopped coleslaw mix works great)
- rice vinegar
- soy sauce
- gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- sesame oil
- small tortillas
the night before…
- Chop up the yellow onion into bite sizes
- Put the pork shoulder in your ceramic slow cooker insert. Throw in the onion, a few splashes (seriously, not more than that) of rice vinegar and soy sauce, and a heaping tablespoon of the gochujang. Put the ceramic in the fridge.
- Slice (a mandolin works great if you have one) cucumber and ginger.
- Put all the slices in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Add water to cover the veggies and put it in the fridge.
the next morning…
- Put the pork in the slow cooker and set it on low. Now go to work, you slacker!
- Does your house smell amazing now? I bet it does. Take the pork (just the meat and onions, no juice) out into a bowl and use a fork to shread it.
- Grab a bowl and mix up a few tablespoons of gochujang, lots of rice vinegar, some soy sauce, and a splash of sesame oil. If you like spicy (I do), try adding a squirt of sriracha!
- Chop up green onion and rough bits of cilantro.
- Grab a tortilla. Combine the cabbage, some pork, a few cuke and ginger pickles, a sprinkle of green onion and cilantro, and then a few tablespoons of sauce.
- Eat it and make yummy noises.
This week Liore and Elly sit down with special guest Aurelia to talk about EQ Landmark and Hearthstone.
EverQuest Landmark announced its early access packages last week, which range from $20 – $100. Elly and Liore generally agree that paying for beta is silly, while Aurelia takes a more measured approach. We additionally looked at Landmark in general, from the idea of user generated content, to virtual land grabs, to whether we non-artistic folks will screw up the world with hideous houses.
In other news, Aurelia just got a Hearthstone beta invite so all three hosts talk about their hands on impressions. Elly, as the resident Magic expert, feels that getting casual scrubs into Hearthstone is an overall win for the TCG market, while Liore and Aurelia commisserate over being terrible.
Also, we discuss the principle of TTD, or “time to dicks”! Liore yells about not preordering games! We compare Steam Sale shopping lists!
Like to watch? This podcast is also available on YouTube:
It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
* A good post about the economy of Hearthstone
* EQ Landmark Founder’s Pack page
Murf wrote a post this week about the big game journalism sites and why he’s kinda giving up on them. I certainly can’t blame him — I came to the same decision myself a while back. If they’re not just frequently stupid (Kotaku), they’re dripping with privilege and industry connections. (Fun fact: the only active word filter I use on Twitter is “Ben Kuchera“.)
I actually had a draft from back in April with a rant on why I like amateur game writers so much better than (most) professionals, and I still feel that way today. A lot of it is the rotten 24-hour newscycle, which demands that articles with click-happy headlines be churned out on a regular basis whether there is anything to actually be said or not.
Certainly another problem is the close relationship between big game press and big game publishers. I’m not going to dwell on this because it’s been done to death in other places, but suffice to say I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Doritos-scented “journalism”.
I realized while responding to Murf’s post that the problem may start right back with the name: games journalism. Why journalism? I mean, yes, in a very technical sense writing stuff about games for a paper or online magazine is journalism, but that word implies a certain amount of objectivity and an eye for public service. I’d argue neither of those exist with any regularity in games journalism.
People who write about movies (a similar leisure genre), on the other hand, are critics. Film criticism can encompass a number of different types of media, from basic reviews of new releases to discussions of film theory for an academic audience. They are all, though, collectively known as film critics.
If controlled the world, I would replace the label “game journalism” with “game criticism”. So what is the difference? Well first, it’s that “critic” in criticism. Gaming types are notoriously terrible at accepting anything less than a perfect reception for their favorite game. Of course not every review has to be a hatchet job (although for movies anyway that seems to be what we enjoy the most), but I feel like we would all benefit from being remided that real examination includes a critical eye.
Also, I think games coverage would benefit from the academic theory approach that seems implicit in the term “film criticism”. We often hear that game journalism shouldn’t ever discuss any real world context for games, but film theory has been doing this successfully forever! Feminist film theory, psychoanalytic film theory, even Marxist film theory are all valid and established areas of criticism. Even if we ignore those in particular, it would be nice to see gaming also develop some academic structure for interpretation and criticism.
Games are not politics. There are few causes for “reporters” to write exposes that they painstakingly untangled (although when those occur they’re great!), and regurgitating press releases or writing about your favorite gamer snack* is hardly journalism. At the moment I’d rather hear what Syl or Syncaine or Angry Joe says about a game than any traditional outlet!
What games need is critcism, just like film, from simple reviews to details analyses. “Game Journalism” may look good on a piece of piece of paper and imply a certain amount of authority, but it seems to me that it’s neither what readers want nor what is actually delivered.
* The gamer snack thing, by the way, is great blog material! Blogs are for informal, personal communication by people who do not claim to be any great authority and mostly just like talking about their hobby. In my opinion.
For some reason game blog folks have been talking lately about their favorite WoW raids, past and present. (See Klep and Doone, for example.) While “best raid” is a pretty subjective title, and one (as Klep points out) that is probably heavily swayed by one’s guild at the time, there are a few names that always seem to pop up in these lists.
Karazhan is a huge fan favorite, and with good reason. While the change from 40-mans in Vanilla to 10-mans in Karazhan to 25-mans everywhere else in TBC was kind of a pain in the butt as a guild leader, the instance itself was beautiful, sprawling, and had some mechanics we had never seen before like the random Opera House boss.
Ulduar is another raid zone that comes up often in these conversations. Again it’s huge and thematically very interesting. The bosses were memorable (“In the mountains!”) and the hard modes in Ulduar were probably the best Blizzard has ever done, both in technique and integration. Also, Firefighter, a.k.a. Mimiron hard mode, remains one of the most fun fights ever in WoW raid history.
I come to you today, though, to talk about a raid instance that doesn’t come up very often in “best raid” lists, and yet is the nearest and dearest to my heart: Serpentshrine Cavern.
Certainly a great deal of the joy I experienced in SSC was a product of my guild. We had a great group, many of whom I still talk to and play with today. (And if you are reading this and we haven’t talked lately, say hello!) Our guild had some amazing in-jokes from SSC, like warning people about the “veranda hole” outside Leo’s cavern that newbies always fell through, or everyone popping their sprint abilities to be the first one to activate the bridge to Vashj.
However even beyond the awesome people I was there with, the bosses themselves were also really fun. The Lurker Below had to be fished up to start the encounter, and diving underwater to avoid spout was pretty unique at the time. Hydross had lots of running around to stay on the right side of debuffs, and Karathress was one of those crazy council-style fights with a ton of bosses and tank assignments. Morogrim (who we called Karl for some reason) had a giant ship wheel as a belt buckle which inspired a million “Arr, it’s drivin’ me nuts” jokes, and Leo not only allowed for a warlock tank but also had the potential to let us kill mind controlled guildies.
(We had an enhancement shaman named Doomikov, and everyone knew that if you didn’t kill your shadow and got mind controlled the last thing you would see was Doom’s giant mace.)
And then there was Vashj herself. While Kael’thas in Tempest Keep actually took us much longer to learn, I think Vashj was probably the more complicated fight. Everyone in the raid had to be assigned an area. While killing adds we tossed “cores” around like a basketball, trying to position someone to dunk it. In the middle, a couple of kiters ran around in circles, tossing nets and stuns and being followed by gigantic fen creatures. And then once you did THAT, you still had a DPS race phase where people would avoid standing in green stuff and get horrible debuffs.
Vashj in her day was a crazy, crazy, crazy fight, and killing her the first time was satisfying in a way that probably no other boss aside from Kael would ever match.
SSC had everything I liked in a raid zone — difficult and interesting encounters, killer elevators, and good friends.