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January 2006

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Note: I wrote this a while ago, and it's been sitting in the post buffer.  Finally posting it on 5/10/07

So this little website is a place where I throw semi-stream-of-consciosness... stuffs. It's mostly worthless, of little informative value, of little social relevence... well, it's basically a waste of electrons.

I was feeling somewhat bad about my abuse of the interwebs until I learned a little more about something called livejournal.

Livejournal and etherized.com both highlight a fundamental flaw in this great age of enlightenment and happy-lovey information orgy - that is, most things you'll ever find anywhere are crap.

Google is perhaps our best hope, but in spite of that the signal to noise ratio keeps dropping rapidly. Case in point - the tampering of the Wikipedia by members of the US congress. Ever wonder what we're paying those guys to do up in Washington? I often do - and apparently they've got time to burn spreading disinformation on the internet.

But all of this brings up the fundamental problem - a vast majority of human works are crap. You heard right. From your third rate soft-core porn ebooks to your whiny, self absorbed monologues, it's mostly useless.

The thing is, we all want to leave our mark, somehow. Some people can and should - other people can't and shouldn't bother. The internet gives us all a nice place to dump things - and there they sit, for years, just getting in the way.

I posted this on a message board.

I was building up to it for a while. After over a year of logging in for some amount of time almost every day, I FINALLY finished WoW. It was a long time coming, and good times were had by all, mixed in with some frustrations.

I initially started playing WoW with a group of real life friends. We levelled up, exploring new areas together, questing together - it was a lot of fun. Eventually I and several others in this group had done all the 5-man stuff with our decidedly non-typical mix of classes. It was tricky going, but we got the job done.

Once most of us had been 60 for a while, we'd basically done all that we could do - people started getting bored with the same old stuff, and there was no new stuff that a small guild could tackle. My little guild joined an alliance of little guilds, which started to do ZG and MC. It's the same old story with that, though - they'd take one step forward and two steps back. People moved on quickly, and we saw varying degrees of success.

I picked up a friend's Mage account on another server, decided to give raiding a whirl there with a "real guild" to see what I thought of it. MC on farm status was even more dreadfully boring than MC on wipe status. Not gonna happen.

All this time, I was playing all sorts of classes. I was finding my sub-60 characters generally much more enjoyable to play than the raid stuff, so I decided to give up on raiding entirely.

I'd also been enjoying battlegrounds a great deal, especially once AB came out. I couldn't put in the raw time to get many item rewards from the system, but I hit rank 7 or 8. Then the honor adjustment came up, and I got one of my characters the rank 10 gear and hit a wall.

As time went on I noticed things getting weirder. Casters killing my Paladin in 2 hits before I even had time to shield. My Mage instantly dying from one swing of a warrior. Raid gear was starting to really hit, and hit hard - and the limited selection of battlegrounds just started tasting stale.

So a couple of months ago, I started fresh on a new PvP server. I had the notion that it'd be my sunset tour of WoW, and that's exactly what it turned out to be - I had a great time, but now that I'm near 60 again the ride is basically over.

So, now I'm done, at least for a while. I don't look back on WoW like I did with EQ, with a bitter realization that I'd essentially thrown away huge tracts of time - I like WoW, and will miss the better aspects of it.

Ultimately, though, it's just not sustainable if you play as much as I do - the only element of WoW with enough replay value to keep me playing would have been the PvP system, but as we all know there are problems with it that keep it from living up to its potential. Raiding for me is a non-starter - that's not the game I played 1-59, and it's not a game I want anything to do with.

So, thanks for a great game, Blizzard - I hope to catch up with you again in the future. Maybe a nice content patch or the expansion will pull me back in.

note: I wrote this months ago, God only knows why I failed to post it - rest assured, I'm still in WoW retirement

I play WoW. This much you know, if you know much about me.

Once, a long time ago, I played EverQuest. I quit, and when I did so I created a post on some long forgotten message board explaining the stages of MMORPG fascination, illustrating in great detail the entire process - from the first moments of entering a new virtual world to the last moments before leaving it. I wish I still had that post - it was, in my mind at least, so perfect and so true that it could never be reproduced, the product of some divine inspiration that I could never hope to recapture. Of course, it's highly likely that I would feel very different if I could view the post today - perhaps I'd realize that it was just some undergrad's rambling on a gaming forum...

Anyway, I'll continue to believe in its greatness for the lack of any possible way to disprove it.

When I now think of EQ (and to a lesser extent games like Diablo 2 and Asheron's Call 2), I realize that it doesn't take such a work of greatness to adequately describe the stages of motivation in the player base. It's easily and succintly expressed as follows:

1) Desire to explore, initial fascination
2) Desire to engage in gameplay, to enjoy game elements (such as combat, tradeskills, quests)
3) Desire to progress, to acquire power
4) Desire to master the system, to become the best

Realize, also, that there may be other factors at all stages external to the game itself that impact one's enjoyment of it - by this, I primarilly mean one's playing partners, who can make everything about the game more enjoyable. The 4 steps I describe above, however, are predictable and virtually universal.

The first motivator is vital, and it's why the earliest days of a game will almost always be looked upon most fondly in retrospect. If there's nothing about the world that fuels your imagination from the start, then you'll probably never truly enjoy it.

The second motivator is equally important. If the game is solid enough, this motivation alone can keep people entertained and enjoying themselves for a long time.

The last two motivators, however, are the result of some neuroticism, some psychosis, maybe some deep compulsion.

Once/if 1) and 2) cease functioning, many people will latch onto 3) and 4) as the sole reasons they play the game. They will, in fact, likely stop enjoying most of the game, instead becoming obsessed with mastering it, doing things that are decidedly unfun to achieve their goals.

Blizzard has done a wonderful job with WoW, creating a vibrant world with interesting gameplay mechanics. Combat is done very well and is enough to entertain for a long while, though at some point it will invariably lose its charm. Each new area you explore rekindles your sense of wonder and imagination, and you truly do wonder what's around the next bend - at least, that is, until you go around the last bend.

So WoW kept me thoroughly and genuinely entertained for months by the first two mechanisms alone. That's really saying something, given how much I played.

Now, however, the latter two mechanisms start to sink in. I can't go anywhere new without first becoming more powerful, and I can't become more powerful without doing things that aren't especially fun. Ah, I'm caught in the trap...

At the end of last year, Asheron's Call 2 blinked out of existence.

For most people, that's not really a noteworthy occurence. But AC2 was a game I played and enjoyed - it was, at the beginning, a very promising game.

But as so often happens with... well, with anything, AC2 failed to live up to its initial promise. The ingenious crafting system stagnated, the content patches never came, and the very nature of the game started shifting in a desperate attempt to haul in a new audience.

And then, of course, the final nail in the coffin, that juggernaut, the destroyer of worlds - World of Warcraft rode in and decimated what was left of the playerbase.

When I think back on AC2, and think now about the ramifications of it closing, there's a permanence to its death that I've never seen with any game before. How many games worlds have permanently and irrevocably been destroyed, such that no man will ever set foot in them again? There have been online games that died before AC2, of course, but AC2 is probably the most successful of the failures.

With most games, I can (and sometimes do) go back and play them long after they've been forgotten by the rest of the world. They continue to exist, in some form - as the mood strikes me, they can live again. Entire worlds in a disk or a cartridge or in a small portion of my hard drive sit there, waiting for me, virtually forever. But I realize now that the fate of AC2 is really just the tip of the iceberg - as gameplay moves online more and more, virtual worlds are going to die, lost forever, and doomed to oblivion.

I may not have ever played AC2 again, no matter how long it lasted. But then again, one day I may have wanted to see what had become of that world, to pick up where I had left off, to join the crusade to save that fledgling civilization once more - but now that can never be, for me or for anybody.

It truly did end in a whimper.

Wow, I finished WoW.

It was a good ride, it was a good game. I think Blizzard was *just* shy of creating a game I could've kept playing for years, but it's ultimately probably good that they didn't.

Basically, I ran out of new stuff to do, and the stuff I was re-doing (PvP) didn't have sufficient replay value to keep me playing. I think that's probably where the biggest opportunity lies in WoW - a more diverse and balanced PvP experience. The combat system is there, but there really aren't enough battlegrounds and the ones that do exist have some serious weaknesses.

So, cheers WoW - it was a good run.

Ah, RMS, if only we could all see the great dream world in which you live.

The GPL is a royally f'd up document. It could be argued that the GPL has spurred and invigorated the "free software" community as a whole. It was a unifier - a common ground which distinctly seperated commercial software and "free" software, something that the BSD license had failed to really provide.

But perhaps the GPL "won" not due to any sort of merit on its own part, but due to a collision of circumstances that enabled it to take the prize.

Linux (and by association GNU) started to enjoy meteoric success in the 90s, right as the iron grip of commercial software started to clench down around us. Proprietary, dreadfully expensive software was no new animal - but in the past it was backed up by proprietary, dreadfully expensive hardware.

The commodity PC and standalone commodity server introduced a whole new way of looking at things. Computing was no longer only for corporations - it was for people. And people need tools.

So tools were sold.

Ever since the PC itself became a commodity, people have started to question how something as intangible as software could in some cases cost many times more than the physical hardware on which it ran. Software always was, and in many areas still is, dreadfully overpriced in relation to the cost of producing it.

Free software - and hence the GPL - was a natural reaction to this.

I've now seen every episode to date of Aaron McGruder's animated series "The Boondocks," which airs Sunday nights at 11 p.m. on the Cartoon Network of all places.

I'm not black. I don't really know that many black people. But from my perspective, this show seems to be so brutally honest and introspective into that community that it's a wonder it can get airtime at all.

Why HAVEN'T there been shows like this before? Is it too true? Too hard to swallow?

I don't know if I'm the target audience. I don't know if I have a RIGHT to watch this show, sit there and think - wow, that's how it IS.

To be fair, white people aren't spared by McGruder's wit either. When they do make an appearance, they're spot on as far as I can tell - rich folks blissfully detached from reality thanks to their ability to shape their own worlds with money. Spoiled kids trying their damnedest to be "gangsta" and coming across as the cowardly idiots they are.

But that's clearly not the main point of the show. For the most part the white people seem to exist to make the point that they're not TRYING to keep black people down - they simply don't CARE about them one way or another. To the last, a group so self absorbed that race is wholly irrelevant.