Number 9, number 9

(For those who visit the actual site — are the snowflakes a pain in the arse? If so, I’ll turn them off, though I figured they wouldn’t be too bad since the background is mostly pale already. Let me know if they’re making your eyes squeal.)

Despite — or maybe because of — my raging altoholism, I’d actually left myself a couple of character slots free. For one thing, even the most dedicated dilettante would have a hard time playing that many, and for  a(related)nother I tend to only make alts when I intend to play them; as it is, most of my characters have that sharp naptha smell alts get when they’ve been kept in the cupboard for too long. And of course when they announced the return of the previously cut classes, it was pretty clear we wouldn’t have slots for all the career types and that I should therefore save some for the tough choices ahead.

(I’ve noticed something, tangent-wise: games companies would rather chew off their own arm than allow either of two things: 1) more character slots and 2) appearance changes. Why? Okay, char slots I can maybe understand, but why this brutish, moronic, short-sighted insistance that once we’ve picked a look, we’re stuck with it? Or mostly stuck with it except for brief, heaven-sent periods of grace where we may alter our appearance for a short time before they snatch the ability away again? Seriously, are ALL games created by 23 year old males who don’t give a shit what their “toons” look like other than having spiky hair and/or big bazooms? — Wait, don’t answer that. And if you’re a 23 year old male who breaks that mould, consider yourself excluded. Unless you’re a game designer, in which case you’re just lying.)

elegia-level-2Nonetheless, when readers vote, I obey. (Well, I did what I wanted to in the first place, but don’t let me shatter your illusions of the Power Of Polls.) Yesterday I made character #9, Elegia the Knight of the Shining Client-side Graphics Bug. At least I hope it’s client side, because if that’s what we’re all going to see on battlefields, I’m going to write a letter of complaint to Sigmar. No wonder everyone’s Destruction — even the Chosen’s stinky black cloud auras are cooler looking than this.

I can’t comment on how they play yet, since in the end I only had a short time to play and didn’t make it past level 2. I have my certainly-not-DPS smackya in da chops action and my Voodoo stealyerstrength aura, along with that throw Chosen are forever using on my DPS chars, the one that has a chance to do tons of damage when you’re already almost dead and limping away like a frightened rabbit. One thing I noticed about the aura is that it’s counted as aggro, so every damned orange-name critter I ran past — cats, snails, rabbits, roaches, pigs, cows, sheep… you get the picture — decided I was being bolshy and ran after me to teach me a lesson about keeping my stinky auras to myself. All I did was drain their strength! Barnyard animals are so freaking touchy these days. Still, if it were up to me I’d moderate that somehow, because I certainly don’t intend to be on-again and off-againing my auras as I run through, for example, Altdorf. Twisting is for combat, not tourism.

There may also be a touch of alt-fatigue setting in. Odd to hear that from me, perhaps, but with the other gamelets I’ve been trying and a testing phase I am not officially in for a game I cannot officially mention, I’ve been making a LOT of chars in the last 2 months or so, and eventually they do start becoming a bit of a blur. My altoholism doesn’t like to go on binges like this. *burp* Coupled with tanks being the class that grabs me the least viscerally (though I’m not one of those people to underestimate the contribution of a well-played tank), I’m a little meh about the whole process right now.

That’s an expectations thing though. I’m tired, rather cranky, and still a little poorly, which means that nothing I do really grabs my attention right now — it’s hard to concentrate on any sort of character or game when your surgical site is bitching and whining about how it really shouldn’t be hurting this much three weeks after the surgery. Once that is out of the way, I suspect I’ll have more fun in games again too.

That said I did get Ysh to 25 yesterday. FINALLY! Rationality plays very little part in our perception of levelling speed — if we don’t play a character for 2 months and then get all of the next level in a day, we’re likely to feel as though it’s taken 2 months to get that level rather than the hours it really took. Assault mastery + career changes do make a difference to playing a Shadow Warrior in PvE, which is no longer a high-downtime slog. I can chain-kill critters with ease and I don’t instantly want to run away when I get adds, which used to be the case. Better yet, I don’t need to stance dance as much — I find that tiring after a while, and though it’s pretty important in RvR, I prefer not to have to do it too much in PvE… especially since I’m not sure all my bars are up  to date. Anyway, 25 is also one of those new-gear, odd-numbered levels, and she’s finally starting to look a little less like something the Sigmar Salvation Army dressed.

Good stuff, really.

13 responses to “Number 9, number 9

  1. When you thought that your aura drawing aggro from orange-critters is fun..then how about Witch hunters de-taunt.

    I notices that it draws aggro too, as it is an AE detaunt.
    Died a couple of times before i realized that the detaunt is the reason for mob-adds 😉

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  2. To answer your question about character appearance. Most of the time character creation is a whole separate system outside a game that uses it’s fair share of resources. It’s even on a different server and centralized in some cases. As you notice when you create a character, you’re not actually yet *on* the server you wish to play because your server is a choice during creation.

    It really depends on how the game engine is built. In WoW there are barbers that at least allow you to change your hair and beard. In SWG they controlled access back into their character creation system through Image Designers. That limited the use of the resources it takes for changing character appearances.

    Outside of that….

    I picked the wrong week to quit WAR it appears. Patch 1.1 is more than I expected. I’ll patch it down tonight and play a little bit while my account is still active.

    Nothing cures alt fatigue like settling on one and grinding it out to the end. LOL.

    Congrats on level 25 on Ysh! Maybe I’ll try to pull off a few levels while I’m testing the new systems and catch up to you!

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  3. Aye, I’m aware of that, Mak. I still think it’s less of a stumbling-block than people think. For one, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to make a “change your look” option in the char selection screen — it doesn’t have to be in-game. For another, games are — slowly, finally — starting to accept that we’re not all playing (or wanting to play) Ultima Online v3.4 anymore.

    What is possible and what designers/developers WANT to allow (and for that matter what the money suits deem is profitable and worth doing or not) are two entirely different beasts. I remain of the opinion that some things just aren’t considered important in “standard fantasy MMOs” — and I remain in the minority (female, over 30, crafter-bias) who thinks those things, in aggregate, are actually VERY important. If they weren’t, people wouldn’t go nuts for the pets in WoW and EQ2 and other fluff content.

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  4. Well, there are probably code related implications. For example, maybe because of the volumes of data they have they partition the data so you certain information ends up on a different database table depending on your gender, race, and/or class. So its probably not as easy as just changing a few numbers around. Its probably more akin to the work entailed in doing a server transfer.

    Also, some MMO players have this peculiar notion that in a world where you can teleport and fight level 80 bears (that are more powerful than the level 50 gods), that somehow your character’s name, race, and gender should be sacrosanct.

    While I think that appearance shouldn’t be something that changes every day, I do think people should have the ability to change their appearance (not just hairstyles, but also name, gender, or race) should they decide their original decisions no longer suit them.

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  5. I’ll add that EQ2 and WoW and many MMOs do offer “barbers” that let you change some aspects of your appearance (such as hairstyle and face and so on). Its usually something that MMOs add later though, and not available at launch.

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  6. @ Lars — right, but the fact that these options often become available later leads me to think that they’re not impossible, just not considered very important. And yet there are many, many players who would avail themselves of such options if they became more readily available.

    I remember a few years ago, EQ2 made it possible to change character appearance at the selection screen, when they brought in the new appearance models (whose name I now can’t recall, but they were designed to appeal more to the far-Eastern market).

    What I’m trying to say is simply that the importance accorded to fluff by designers (or suits, who knows) and by players is quite different. As these games get older and arguably more stale, the players get fonder of “fluff” because it’s something to do, a minor change, a way to keep one’s interest up or — as you so rightly say — a way to fix previous unfortunate choices.

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  7. Yes, there are a lot of code-related problems. And data-related problems.

    Some of those problems aren’t so obvious on the user end. What changes are good enough? Being able to change race, sex, professions and such is a lot more difficult to do than just facial features. Even body type is difficult in some systems. That’s why you will never see it in a game. It’s also why you are offered the chance to make alts.

    Your character attributes are tied directly to other graphical representations for your character. Your initial choices dictate how your armor and other items are created for your character.

    In EQ2…you do the level 20 armor quests for your character. Say you get the whole set as a male barbarian guardian. Then you decide to change to a female high elf wizard. Well, your loot rewards were created for you as a male barbarian warrior and your female is swimming in plate that she can’t even use.

    Or think of the difference being a male barbarian monk and just changing to female. Even mounts in games are scaled to character size.

    Are you a stunty with a long beard? Are you a wood elf with long hair? Are you a kerra with long pointy ears. There are settings that assign you the appropriate equipment or make those features disappear when you have certain gear on.

    Could there be a better system for this? There could. I think it would be at the expense of less customization than more, though. Look at WAR. I don’t think equipment looks pretty much the same across the sexes on accident. They wanted to add the feature of coloring items to add customization. Well, something had to be given up for that.

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  8. @Ysh “I remember a few years ago, EQ2 made it possible to change character appearance at the selection screen, when they brought in the new appearance models (whose name I now can’t recall, but they were designed to appeal more to the far-Eastern market).”

    They were the SOGA Models. Actually, it was the original character art, that yes, the far-Eastern players liked better. They weren’t thrilled with the final Westernized product, so SOE made it possible to download the old art. The only thing it affected was facial appearance and hair. But you still had to make all of those changes through the character manager.

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  9. Point being you could make them.

    Everyone seems to think I said it would be easy to do that. I don’t think I have. All I’m trying to say is that we, as players, care about such options and that game designers, as designers, don’t. Not because it’s difficult or not, but because on the whole they don’t think it’s as important as other stuff.

    I just happen to be one of those players who does think it’s important. Not ease of implementation, desire of implementation. Not the same thing at all.

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  10. I didn’t think you would think it would be easy. Just discussing. And I agree with you. I’m actually of the same opinion. Character engines suck. There has to be another way. And it *is* important to some of us. I’ve researched it because it has irked me too…I’m spouting back some of the stuff I’ve learned and some of the brick walls developers say they run into.

    I think a game to watch in this regard is SOE’s The Agency. Costume and outfit will play a big role in the design of the game. For certain espionage and skills, you have to change outfits, put on costumes and wear masks. Does that mean direct changes to the avatar? Not sure, but it has the potential of creating a system that’s closer to what people might be looking for. Unless, of course, uniforms are created in the typical “slot” system and masks are treated like helmets.

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  11. If nothing else, “appearance-slot” type things are a step in the right direction, I reckon. I may have to do some reading on this Agency you all speak of.

    But with all the vaunted “no two characters alike!” stuff that games spout these days, it seems to me we’re even less diversified than we used to be. In Asheron’s Call I could tell people apart, and they were just collections of triangles — in WAR or EQ2, I’d have to see a name to know who someone was if they were lined up with others of the same class.

    Hrmph.

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  12. I totally agree with the character looks piece! Come on… I deleted Helik Sr. at rank 4 because I had too few earrings on one ear. I deleted Helik Jr. at rank 9 because when wearing the RvR gear as contrast, I realized that my hair was cotton-candy PINK!

    So really, I play Helik the 3rd. All because for some reason if I accidentally choose a skin color or hair color that I later realize has a graphics bug or appears pale when wearing higher level gear, im SCREWED.

    I was pretty uspet when I realized I had the most hideous face in the game at 40 on my rune priest, and my brown eyes made it look worse… and and and… my bald head with the lame green rank 40 hat made my dome look gargantuan(before being able to disable). I got so desperate that I petitioned a GM, insisting my hair has fallen out and if he could please make it grow out. He said no, but comforted me by saying that it made me look distinguished! Aww! I also complained that I felt shorter than last time I logged in, to which he had no answer.

    As far as Agency goes, I am wary of SoE games. I have played two (Planet-Side and SWG). Both of these were released in a horribly broken and malfunctioning state, taking several months to reach an acceptable condition. If you played at release, you know exactly the degree of horrendous I speak of. I do believe that they hype their product, and release it long before its done so that they can recover some of the cost and also spend less money if their game bombs out.

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  13. I do know, and yet broken as it was SWG was a lot of fun back then. But I like “sandbox” settings. I think I feel a post coming on (when I wake up).

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