No Google Reader for YOU!

Yesterday when I went to read my RSS feed, I got the same popup most other users of Google Reader got: the service is going away in a few months, apparently for lack of users.

Which is mildly ironic. I have a blog, a lot of people I know have blogs (which is how I got to know them) and a pretty large proportion of us seem to use G-Reader to keep track of each other’s posts. According to one article I read yesterday – I didn’t bookmark it and can’t find it now, so you’ll have to take this on faith – RSS feeds are for nerds and nerds don’t need dedicated stuff because they can find other ways to do what they need. And they’re nerds, so they can suck it up. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, direct RSS feeds aren’t “sexy”, apparently. Ah, right. I never realised that what I want from my software is sexiness.

The author did have a point. RSS is kinda nerdy and there was no easy way to explain what Google Reader does. Or did. But just because something isn’t easy to explain (or grasp) doesn’t mean it’s useless or that it shouldn’t be used. If that’s the equation we’re making today, then it’s not just MMOs that are dumbing down.

Anyway, I’ve been looking for alternatives. A friend kindly pointed me in the direction of Feedly, so I’m trying them out first. They were slammed yesterday but seem to be doing a little better this morning. I have to say, I do kinda like the magazine-like presentation. I could like this service. And if not, there will be others out there.

Because if there aren’t, I’m not going to be reading very many more blogs. It may work for some, but I cannot and will not use Facebook and Twitter to keep track of what 100+ people post and when. Yech. I want my feed to be there when I need it, and I don’t want to have to ‘llike’ a bunch of FB pages and trawl through my timeline.

If you ask me, it had nothing to do with popularity, or not directly. Ultimately Google Reader went away because it couldn’t be monetized.

SimCity – mea culpa

While lots of people are probably going to say this isn’t enough, it’s still nice that they’re trying to do something.

The full post is worth a read – it’s pretty short, but I don’t want to reproduce it verbatim. TL;DR below.

So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta.

OK, we agree, that was dumb, but we are committed to fixing it. In the last 48 hours we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It’s working – the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically. The number of disrupted experiences has dropped by roughly 80 percent.

So we’re close to fixed, but not quite there. I’m hoping to post another update this weekend to let everyone know that the launch issues are behind us.

And, by way of apology, “we’re going to offer you a free PC download game from the EA portfolio”. Again, lots of folks will say that’s like piling poo on top of crap, but I like that they’re trying to do something, even if it’s not something that costs them all that much in terms of bottom line. ANY effort to make things right is better than no effort at all. Mistakes (or major screwups) happen – what matters to me at the end of the day is acknowledgement and some attempt to fix things down the line.

Survey: Avatars

Another email. I actually got the first one a few weeks back and forgot all about it (work having been what it is) other than spending a couple of minutes checking credentials. Even a little blog like this one gets some weird monetization or advertising requests – I dread to think the crap the big blogs have to wade through.

Anyway, this appears legit and could help someone’s research project. I’ve not done the survey myself yet but I enjoyed taking part in Nick Yee’s Daedalus project work a few years back and hopefully even provided some useful data at the time.

Dear Ysharros

I am involved in a psychology project at Charles Darwin University, in Darwin, Australia. We are looking for male and female participants to take part in a project exploring avatar use, in particular – why people do or don’t choose avatars of the opposite gender. In gaining participants we were hoping that you could possibly put a post up on your site regarding the study, along the following lines:

“We are conducting an Internet based psychological study at Charles Darwin University and are seeking male and female participants who are over 18 years of age, are able to read and write in English fluently and who use avatars. The study will examine participants’ identification with their avatars as well as explore why people may use, or not use an avatar of the opposite sex. The study will examine psychosocial functioning in the real world, personality factors as well as sex role identification of the participants’ and their avatars, and will take around 20 minutes to complete. Please go to http://cduhes.asia.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_brQ0uYKeagINqo4 for more details. You are not required to provide any identifying information in order to participate. All information given will be anonymous and protected. Ethics approval has been obtained for the conduct of this study. Thank you.”

[snip – query email addresses]
Thank you for your time.

Kind regards

Amalia Badawi, for Dr. Jon-Paul Cacioli

 

I draw the line at posting people’s email addresses, but if one of you reading this would like to mail the people involved for whatever reason, leave a comment and I’ll forward the relevant info.

Protecting Paragon City

Since it was covered extensively elsewhere, I didn’t comment on last week’s news that City of Heroes is being shut down by NCSoft – you know: work, travel, yadda yadda.

Dusty Monk, however, has an excellent and personal reaction post to the news, and it seems the fanbase are getting organised to try and prevent the game from closing its doors. Go read it. Snippet:

I don’t usually participate in fan or community organized movements.  I’m keenly aware that businesses are businesses, and once a decision has been made, most of the time no amount of fan outcry will change that.  But this is important to me.  And there are some cases where the community did make a difference.  Perhaps this time it’s different – perhaps we can show that are making this decision that it does matter, and that there is still money to be made here.  So I’m getting involved, and I hope that perhaps you will too.

I agree with Dusty that once a business decision like this has been made, it’s usually pointless to Canute the inevitable – but I also agree that when we care a great deal about something, we should be prepared to speak out for it. I could make political parallels… but I won’t (other than saying: whatever you believe, politically, GO VOTE; democracy doesn’t work if people don’t show up).

I played City of Heroes at launch, leaving a still-buggy (if enjoyable) Star Wars: Galaxies to do so, and still remember my friends making fun of me for spending literally 3 hours on my first character’s costume. Actually, it may have been 4. I didn’t play it for more than a few months, because that was the Year of Major Game Launches (WoW, EQ2), but a bunch of us had a blast for the time we were there, if only because of:

- KAPOW; come on. No combat beats KAPOW!! combat.

- FLYING; ’nuff said (but boy CoX did it well).

- COSTUMES; also ’nuff said. Actually, that one needs to be COSTUMES!!!

- FLEXIBILITY; alone, in groups, in duos – didn’t matter how you wanted to play, you could do stuff and you could usually get to doing stuff pretty quickly.

Flying!!! … in COSTUME!!! … soon to KAPOW.

I returned to CoX a couple of times over the years, and always enjoyed my stay. It didn’t grab me, truss me up and enslave me the way some of my other games did, but it was there, it was fun, and it tried to do some interesting things. I wrote about the Mission Architect system a few times in 2009, and although it was immediately picked up by players as an excellent venue for exploiting xp and whatever, the idea was still brave and I’m glad they tried it. I still think we need some way for players to create some of their own content, and I’m sure it’s something we’ll see more of in games as the years go by.

So when I heard the news last week I was a little shocked, though the game is over 8 years old and we all know no MMO lasts forever (especially not at NCSoft, it seems). I’m not much of one for post-mortems, but I am interested to see if fan reaction to this news can actually make a dent in a decision that was probably made thousands of miles away and based purely on numbers and finances. What if the game were concatenated down to a couple of servers, instead of however many they currently have? Could it be run by a skeleton staff? Is it worth it? We don’t know that, but we won’t find out if we don’t try.

And I happen to think City of Heroes might be worth saving. /insert saving heroes ironic joke here.

Per Dusty’s post: go here to sign a petition trying to keep City of Heroes open – and keep a few Devs in their jobs, incidentally. There have been entirely too many layoffs in the games industry in the last few years already. At this moment the petition is 13,550 strong – make that 13,551, since I just signed it.

And, if you think you can do it politely (and all of you are paragons of courtesy here), it might be worth posting on this forum thread. Staff may never see the petition, but someone official will be moderating that thread, so we can add our voice there (until it gets locked, says the cynic in me).

Go forth and protect!

EDIT: Sente has also posted on this, as I’ve discovered upon catching up with my RSS feeds… Sente’s had a lot of interesting things to say about CoX over the years, so if you don’t read his blog already, you should do so now.

EDIT: Pete at Dragonchasers has also written. Lo, the movement grows and I’m late to the barricades bandwagon!

EDIT: But wait! There’s more! Syp and Ardua, respectively. I’m running out of amusing things to say on my edits. And Tobold thinks we’re hypocrites because we didn’t play the game this year. Whatevs. That said, his Kickstopper idea is pretty funny.

Wheels and ladders

Two things.

First, this: Drakkashi’s Ability Wheel for The Secret World, shamelessly stolen from Sheep The Diamond on whose post I found it.

I haven’t logged into TSW in two weeks, for various reasons to do with work and other exploratory procedures (small world, since Dragonchasers seems to have gone through a very similar experience just recently). On the bright side though, I haven’t had that little Subscription Gremlin sitting on my shoulder telling me I should be playing to justify the cost of my sub. In that respect the lifetime sub is very liberating – I realise I’m still paying and that it’ll take a while to actually ‘pay for itself’, but psychologically I don’t feel any pressure to play simply because I need to justify the expense.

For me at least, a single (admittedly large) one-off payment has become a thing in the past and now I’m playing the game for ‘free’. Which means that when I can’t or don’t log on for whatever reason, I’m not feeling as though I’m wasting my monthly fee.

I still miss the fact that I haven’t had time to give the game I’ve waited so long for, but I also know it’ll be there when I have time to pick it back up. And of course the first monthly update should hit tomorrow, if they’re still on schedule. I admit I also haven’t been checking forums.

Second, this: Zubon’s post about Asheron’s Call allegiances and patronage. AC was my first MMO and I’m always interested in posts about it, but I think Zubon may have represented only one side of things. The comments section for that post is rife with “eww, this is creepy!” type reactions, and I’d like to show the other side of that.

In a nutshell: In Asheron’s Call, allegiances were pyramidal. Every player in an allegiance had a ‘patron’ (the player ‘above’ them in the hierarchy) except the ‘monarch’, who sat at the top and was effectively the guild leader, and any player could have ‘vassals’ (players directly ‘below’ them in the hierarchy). Vassals passed up a certain amount of experience to their patrons who would pass up some of that to their patrons and so on up the “chain” all the way to the monarch. There was an equation for it, so it wasn’t a simple 1 for 1 or even 10 for 1, but that’s the basic system.

The allegiance setup is odd, looking at it from the outside now, though coming in to my first MMO I had no clue and it seemed perfectly normal to me. Yes, there were allegiances set up explicitly to wring as much xp out of the system as possible for the maximum possible pass-through. But the vast majority of allegiances I knew were really bog-standard guilds with a different name and slightly different mechanics.

The guild I joined in Asheron’s Call is still the guild I’m in these days, even though we’ve long moved on from the game. Joining was about playing with like-minded folks and NOT about how much xp you could generate for the shark-like gestalt. Effort were made to match newbies with like-minded patrons if they didn’t already have connections, to make sure they’d be tied to someone whose playstyle and availability matched their own. It’s about as casual and laid-back as a guild can get, and even in AC there was no talk of having to produce xp or needing to do X, Y or Z to be considered useful.

In any case, how is this substantially different from raiding guilds who require their players to be online on certain days and for a certain amount of time in order to run certain raids and obtain whatever loot it is they’re after?

Personally I’d rather be passing up virtual xp to a virtual patron than have to give my guild my real-life phone numbers so they can make sure I’m adhering to my raiding schedule. Now that’s creepy.

TSW – A week already?

Har! So I was totally wrong in my prediction as to which would be the most popular dimensions. Grim & Daemon are still looking for players. Could this be the one and only game where FluffyBunny server would fill up faster than EatYerBrains server?

Granted, looking purely at the list of gamers I hang out with (e-hang? meh), Arcadia-RP is the place to be. Granted also that that may not be a representative sample of any kind…

Not that I’ve seen a vast amount of (or indeed any) RP going on in Arcadia yet, but I’m sure it’s around. And nobody I’ve seen isn’t RP-ing, so to speak – griefing, being an asswad, that sort of thing. Though as usual, I’ve shunted faction and general chats over to their own tabs where I don’t keep being forcibly reminded that 99% of people in chat channels become inane wankers the second they put the cursor in the chat box.

In any case, it’s nice to be able to say Et in Arcadia ego. Considering the game and all.

So it’s been a week since early access… doesn’t feel like it from here. I’ve spent far more time lusting after playing than actually playing – except yesterday, when I finally got in a good solid 4 or 5 hours. That was fun! And now that I’ve been paid, I’ll finally be able to spring for that lifetime sub; yeah, I’m going for that, for no other reason than that it’ll be nice not to have to sub and I want to support Funcom.

The Secret World may dribble into nothingness after the first freebie month is over, but I’m hoping it’s going to turn into a SWG-like sleeper hit with some people playing it for years. And there endeth the comparison – no NGE please, Funcom!

It might be a little late for reviews, especially since I think most people reading this are also playing or have found reviews elsewhere? Let me know if you want an Ysharros Special (TM) (i.e. not very objective and rather waffly).

I will do a quick and dirty post on crafting, possibly later today – I’m off to yoga (no seriously – I’m hurting already), because it’s a lot less complicated than it sounds and it’s a lot more useful than you’d think and it seems people might like a gentle intro to it. Crafting that is. Not yoga.

Gotta go. Some French woman (not me) is waiting to bend me into improbable pretzel shapes. Apparently I’m limber… “for my age” (I was fine until she said that last bit!).

On the road

PS: MMORPG are giving away free in-game T-shirts! If you want one, hit the place quick, there aren’t that many left.

Oh, my ego

I probably shouldn’t be posting about this because it’s from the super-seekrit beta forums for TSW (or are they super-seekrit now the NDA is down?), but I’ll take the risk. Also, I want those of you with better memories to correct me if needed.

Someone used the term “content locust” in a thread title and post, and while I’m not sure I actually coined the damn thing (probably not), I do use it relatively often. It was stupidly chuffing to see it mentioned, regardless of the attendant flameage and, you know, actual content of that thread – and regardless of the fact that nobody will ever know or care who did coin it (assuming it doesn’t die the usual internet-term death within the next 6 months).

Except me. I’ll know. Whether I actually coined it or not, I can probably claim co-founder status and in a weird way that’s really satisfying.

I do have an ego, and sometimes it likes to pat itself on the back (yes, my ego has a back. Stop splitting hairs.) – mostly by sharing it with strangers on a blog. We now return you to your regular programming.