My adventures in Elite: Dangerous and Eve Online1 have highlighted some things that have come out, albeit peripherally, in research. Namely, that third person perspective and first person perspective have profound effects on the immersion that one experiences when playing a game – and how one approaches playing that game.
You may be familiar with this in WoW. You’re sitting at the mailbox, going through the daily hate mail from Arthas and Deathwing, when some tool runs up to you, plants his pixlelly ass in between you and the mailbox, and proceeds to jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And … well, you get the idea.
Turns out, a VR+Camera rig that gives you the same viewpoint on real life … makes you act exactly the same way you would in an MMO in which you play from the third party viewpoint.
Now, I hasten to emphasize that the experimenter did not indicate whether hir test subjects were frequent gamers, which would tend to skew the behavior a bit3, but I have to say this: even if the only place you do that sort of thing is in an MMO, you’re still … kind of an asshole. Sorry.
Now, getting in someone’s face and jumping up and down is small potatoes compared to other things that people playing in 3PP4 frequently do. They tend to – apparently – not believe that the people they are interacting with are real, and thus they treat those people as if they are not people. Now, personally, I tend to not treat non-people like shit just because I can because I’m not an asshole5 but there seems to be a lot of people that treat abstract entities online badly if they can, because they can.
And here, at last, I get to the point of contrast between Eve Online and Elite: Dangerous.
Eve plays constantly in a third party mode, even when docked. You’re actually viewing your SHIP in 3PP, not even yourself, in that game.
Elite, on the other hand, sticks you in the cockpit and leaves you there. To view your ship in 3PP, in fact, is a DEBUG control. And you can’t do much of anything in debug mode.
If you follow Eve’s politics and drama even peripherally, you’ll know that in 0sec space, no one’s safe unless you have some sort of protection from the “corps”6, you’ll probably end up podded7. At the upper levels, there is constant backstabbing and outright crimes against fellow corp-mates, sometimes taking down entire corps. Basically, everything goes, and while the game’s creators may not encourage this sort of behavior, they don’t discourage it, either. Honestly, they don’t really appear to care.
In Elite, the same lack of constraints on one’s behavior exist, but running into this sort of situation is extremely rare. I’ve been attacked by other players for no real reason from time to time, but it’s rarely malevolent in nature – i.e., just a pirate, doing his job. They’ve even offered to help me out before shooting me up for non-response.
The best example of this is the Goonswarm. In Eve, the Goonswarm is a force to be reckoned with. They have taken over entire corps, terrorize 0sec space, and generally specialize in griefing.
Goonswarm exists in Elite, as well, but they are oddly ineffective. They have all the tools they need to effect a system-wide shutdown – which they attempted – except, of course, the whole ‘corp’ framework, which can be replaced by an external framework like Mumble – but as it turns out, lowly CMDRs like me just skooched along and took care of business. Eventually, the lack of dread and loathing from the general population caused the Goonies to lose interest. When nobody reacts to trolls, they go elsewhere looking for attention.
The entire Elite community has, at least in-game, been extremely polite and helpful. The worst behavior I’ve seen has been in system-wide chat, which is a newly implemented feature, and the behavior is consistent with the 3PP theory – people in a chat window aren’t people, so you can treat them like shit without repercussions. 8.
There are dozens of potential causes for this disparity between the two games that are otherwise very similar, so I won’t draw a conclusion as to cause. All I want to do here is point out that research that I’ve mentioned before, and note that what we see in the skew between Eve and Elite tracks very well with those conclusions.
The message you get in Elite is that piloting a starship is a very personal thing. It isn’t an abstract thing involving armadas and ‘swarms’. It’s just you, your starship, and the Big Black.
Does this mean I would switch to FPP in WoW to try to replicate this experience? Not likely. WoW is designed around a different paradigm than Elite is, and doesn’t enforce the other players playing the same way, so I don’t see any point to it. Though, I will note, that it does suggest an interesting thing.
To wit: What if everyone in WoW was forced to first person perspective? Would the social dynamics of the game shift significantly?
If you follow one of the WoW token price trackers such as @WoWTokens on Twitter, you may have noticed a couple of things.
First of all, the WoW Token went on sale in Europe today1. It started at 35,000 gp and peaked at 45,000 gp before it started to taper off.
Seeing it peak at 45K, I mentioned in conversation how it was obvious that there was a surge that would probably repeat on a monthly cycle once things stabilized – people that bought the token and activated it today will no doubt need to buy a new one in 30 days or so.
Having made that observation, I thought it might be a good idea to get my next token somewhere after 15 days had passed, when theoretically the prices for US tokens will bottom out.
They were 21K at the start of the day, but once the buying frenzy started on the EU servers, a curious thing happened.
US token prices started to inch up, at roughly the same time that the EU tokens went on sale.
What’s one got to do with the other? Well, here’s my theory.
The data suggests – but in no wise confirms – that US token buyers are seeing the EU price curve and drawing the same conclusions as I have, only they’re taking action now rather than waiting for another 10 or so days. And so, the US prices are going up. We’re up to 22K from 21K after 14 hours.
I’m going to stick to my plan and wait to my halfway mark, and not buy until I see the first uptick after that. With over 2Mil gold in the bank, I don’t really need to be super-cautious in my purchasing decisions, but it could mean the difference between 10 years of free gaming, and 12.
Not sure what I’m looking at, but it’s kind of fun to poke at it to see what it does.
The new Timewalking feature that is coming out in 6.2 will present you with the opportunity to run a dungeon of the past – say, BC or WotLK dungeons – with your iLevel and other stats scaled down to match that instance.
They’re also providing rewards that scale UP to your current Level 100 badassedness, which is kind of interesting. This is a clear example of how well the core design team has progressed in abstracting item and character statistics to the point that all they have to do is pull a few levers to tweak an item in a very precise way. Five years ago, this would have been unthinkable.
But as much as I’d like to go down that rabbit hole, I’m more interested in looking at the whole Timewalking experience, and the potential consequences of letting players romp around in old instances at appropriate levels with other players of suitable skill and maturity levels.
Simply stated … what if, in the process of timewalking, players come to realize that the old instances were a lot more FUN than the current batch?
Or, conversely, what if longtime players find out that their memories of older instances were somewhat skewed by the influence of nostalgia?
I have one specific instance in mind. Hellfire Ramparts. You remember it, I’m sure. The endless, slogging, crawl up that front causeway only to end up in a densely packed terrace full of angry mobs ready to rush you if you twitched the wrong way. The planning. The CC. The precision required, especially at Heroic difficulty.
Was Ramps an exemplar of a well-done instance that called for the best in a group, or was it a poorly implemented meat grinder that people saw WAY too much of?
It’ll be interesting to see how people react to this when 6.2 goes live.
If you’re not familiar with the WoW token, it is a token that you can buy from Blizz that can then be sold on the AH. It is, essentially, a means of turning Dollars or EUs or whatever into gold on Azeroth.
Blizz has further said that WoW tokens will sell on an exchange that spans all realms, not just your normal battlegroup set of realms.
Blizz has further stated that they will set the starting bid for that token.
What they have not stated is what that starting bid will be.
Over the course of a couple of decades, I have pined for an experience I enjoyed back in the 80s thanks to a little 8-bit game called Elite. When I heard that one of the original creators was bringing the game into the 21st Century as an MMO-ish sort of thing, I was verra excite. It was launched this past December, but I held off for a few reasons.
Draenor had my full attention
The game had some … quirks to work out.
The game had some system requirements that were a bit out of my processing budget1.
Recently I’ve acquired the necessary horsepower and enough dosh to buy the thing, so I did so and, for the past three weeks or so, have been alternating my time between alt-ing in WoW and flying a Sidewinder from the rim of the galaxy towards Sol. For most of that time, I’ve been blogging about it.
Previously I mentioned WoW Insider as somewhat akin to that weird, cranky uncle that you had that the family loved like mad, but kinda wished he would keep things on the down low.
I knew something of rumors of a contingency plan at the time of that last post, but declined to mention those rumors because it was somewhat less than an actual rumor.
Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, and I’m pleased to see that the team has established a new website called Blizzard Watch, which is going to cover more than just WoW. That’s kind of ironic when you recognize that they were already covering all things Blizzard before AoL shut them down; this is more or less a nod at the reality of the situation.
This new effort is contingent on a crowdfunding effort through the Patreon site. The goal was to cover basic expenses at $8000.00 a month, with a couple of stretch goals. The campaign went live on Feb 3, 2015. I’ll let Alex speak for himself after that.
In the middle of the draft, I had to stop and start over. Because our Patreon passed that $8,000 milestone and hit $9,000. That’s the milestone at which we can begin bringing class columnists back into the fold. I couldn’t simply ignore that so I started the post over again.
To which was added another addenum.
The original opening of this post was as follows: As I’m writing this, our Patreon fund is currently sitting at 1,571 patrons contributing a total of $8,828 per month. We hit our first milestone of $8,000 exactly six hours after our site went live. Update: We’ve now passed over $10,000 per month.
If there was any doubt that the WoW community would come together to back this effort, it was gainsaid authoritatively by noon on the 4th of February.
I said before I have on many occasions mocked, poked, and otherwise bickered with some of the things I saw on the old WI website, but I also said that regardless of that, I read that site every day since they started posting, basically. Part of running a site like that is to spur discussion, and they did and they do. So I had absolutely no problem ponying up a few dollars a month to get this new enterprise rolling.
You can go as low as a dollar a month, which is practically nothing if you can afford 15 a month to play a game, and I can think of few enterprises more worthy in our own gaming community. So I encourage you to have a look at their Patreon site and kick in a few bucks as well. They might have made all their stretch goals already, but the more we can put into this, the better the site will be. If Anduin Wrynn was old enough to have a credit card, he’d do it! If Thrall knew what money was used for, he’d do it too!
Everybody’s got that cranky old uncle that they rarely get along with, but if anyone says one cross word about, you’d defend to the last. In my WoW-blogging world, WoW Insider is that cranky old uncle.
Earlier this week we heard rumors that Joystiq, parent of both Massively and WoW Insider, was going to be shut down, along with its companion gaming sites. A lot of people wrote about this, but in my heart, I hoped they were jumping the gun.
Today that hope was dashed. Tuesday, February 31 will be the day that the music dies for Joystiq and its kin, and WoW Insider logs out for good.
Now, when I say I didn’t get along with WoW Insider, that’s a sort of overstatement. I did tend to ridicule them for their over-reliance of fifty-dollar words, for apparent word inflation to up word counts, for seeming to be so intent on sounding impressive that they forgot to BE impressive in their writing. For meekness, for not getting in the middle of anything controversial2. For being as bland as store-bought biscuits and gravy-from-a-pouch. For playing it so safe as to make one wonder if they were getting kickbacks from Blizz.
I subtweeted the SHIT outta that, and I regret nothing.
And for all that bluster, I read that blog Every. Titans. Damned. Day. EVERY day. Because bland and overtaped though they might have been, they WERE a bunch of people trying to get it right. A room full of kindred spirits. And it was one place that you could go to reliably to find useful information about WoW.
I would have liked it if the fare were a little spicier. If they would have maybe tossed away a few of those thesauruses that they found outside the used book store. If they mixed it up a bit, stuck out that lower jaw and dared Blizz to knock that chip off their shoulder. But they chose a middle road and I can’t really begrudge them. It was a choice. It was a safe choice3. And one of us was getting paid to do it, and one of us wasn’t, so there’s some context into which my opinions can be placed.
Fact is, they provided something helpful – an omnibus, central clearing house of WoW stuff, and there is NO ONE in a position to take up that banner once it has fallen.4
Being critical is not the same as hating. I was critical of this site because I cared, and saw so much more potential there than they were able to deliver. I wouldn’t be tweeting those snarky little subtweets if I hadn’t been reading the site. And I would not waste my time reading the site if I didn’t care about what they were doing.
Cranky old Uncle Edwin was a gigantic pain in the ass, but he was OUR gigantic pain in the ass and we all miss him to this day. So it shall be with WoW Insider, in a slightly different way. I’m going to miss them. A lot.
There is, at this point, a tremendous vacuum in the WoW blogosphere. Someone could step in and make something out of it if they could get funding. I hope it happens. Maybe with members of this very crew.
I have one last thing to say, and it is the title of this Penny Arcade tribute.
So say we all.
Incidentally, the anniversary of the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia. [↩]
And, in fact, for backing out of teh dramaz when they killed off Guildwatch all those years ago. [↩]
WoW is in a similar position to a lot of high / gothic fantasy and terrestrial MMOs, in that adding new play areas is often a case of the game designers pulling new zones out of their metaphorical asses. WoW is in a lot better position than most in that there are plenty of other canonical worlds out there, though oddly they’d rather go the time traveling grandfather killer route than actually explore those other worlds1.
And they said his predecessor was grim.
While I usually look forward to exploring other worlds, the thing I actually am enjoying when I do that is the exploration of new zones, regardless of where they are, and the discovery of fun things. But I’m very sensitive to the harmony of the zone with the established dogma of a fantasy world, and I often feel the “new world” approach is very disharmonious with the established dogma when it comes to my completionist makeup.
What is he going on about?
Let me put it all out there: I think that the three worlds we know now – Azeroth, Outland, and Draenor – are only partially explored, only partially revealed to us.
Draenor and Outland are, at this point, only conjecture on my part, but it’s common sense. Looking at the tiny island that makes up what we know of Draenor, there are only two possibilities. The first is that Draenor as we know it is a speck of land half the size of Khaz Modan and an ocean the size of Azeroth. The other possibility is that Draenor as we know it is just one land mass among many, that the world of Draenor is largely unexplored by ourselves.
This does of course open all sorts of possibilities, including lost tribes of Draenei, Orcses, Ogreses, and other denizens of Draenor that we have either encountered or been hinted to.
Honestly, they might be trolling us already.
And since Draenor as we know it is the bedrock upon which Outland is built, that also means that for every lost continent of Draenor, there is a possibility of the same lost continent of Outland, only with more shatteryness. For lore purposes, it also opens a lot of possibilities since we have 35 years of Azerothian lore on that shattered land mass and its supposed compatriots.
Azeroth only makes sense, from a climatic point of view, if you assume that it is only half explored.
Kalimdor and Khaz Modan make excellent sense climatically if you assume that they are northern hemisphere continents. Both continents are arctic to subarctic in the north, and tropical or arid in the south. Khaz Modan’s northern half is very European, while its south is very tropical. Kalimdor’s northern parts are very North American, and its south is very African – arid, dry, desert.
If Kalimdor and Khaz Modan were truly global, you’d expect Tanaris and Stranglethorn and Pandaria to be subarctic at the very least, rather than the tropical – dare I say, equatorial – climates they exhibit.
It only makes sense that the equator of Azeroth passes somewhere in the vicinity, or just south, of Pandaria, rather than in between the Arathi Highlands and Wetlands as depicted on some representations.
You Can’t Prove a Negative
Mea culpa – the possibility that those two continents are northern hemispheric does not in any way prove the existence of one or more southern hemispheric continents. It merely opens up the possibility. It provides an opening into which these land masses could be inserted.
For all we know, the southern hemisphere of Azeroth is an empty ocean, devoid of little more than the occasional island kingdom that would provide a content patch’s worth of exploration at most. But there is one or more expansions’ worth of space in this alleged southern hemisphere, and not exploiting it seems to me, as a certain fictional astronomer’sfictional father said, “a waste of space”.
The Solid Case Against
There is, however, a solid case against the possible existence of these alleged continents. In fact, there is a solid case against Kalimdor and Khaz Modan being northern continents rather than globally spanning. There are three such cases that I am aware of, in fact.
Hard to see detail, admittedly.
The first is revealed either when raiding Black Temple, or doing the Warlock “Green Fire” quests. At one point you can look up, and see, in the sky above you, the planet Azeroth. I have absolutely no explanation as to why this is – you can’t see Draenor from Azeroth, after all – and from any other point on Outland, you can’t see it. But from that particular point, you can. And the planet you see shows the two continents spanning the planet from north to south. This makes no sense whatsoever on many levels, but it is there as established game lore, and that’s that. Azeroth, as seen from The Black Temple, has no missing southern continents.
It also doesn’t appear to have Pandaria or Northrend, either. So the infallibility index of this sighting just took a dive. If you’re gonna use this sighting as an example of why the North is alone, it needs to at least include all of current lore within it. And the weak tea excuse of “But it was made before Northrend was part of the map” also works for “But it was made before the southern continents were part of the map” as well, now doesn’t it?
Moving on, then.
Dungeon delvers in Ulduar are familiar with the room just prior to Loken’s in Halls of Lightning. It bears within it a holographic representation of Azeroth. And, just like the BT sky-orb, this holo-orb shows no indications of there being more to Azeroth. It also doesn’t show Pandaria, so once again we have no evidence that this ancient holo-orb is actually accurate, or if the Titans are trolling us.
Finally, we have the globe that Algalon uses as an instrument of destruction against Azeroth. Not only does it show no more than the other two representations, it also shows one of Azeroth’s moons as a crescent, which is just weird if it’s supposed to be an accurate representation. Clearly it is not, nor intended to be.
These are the facts
The facts are, there is no evidence that there is a southern hemisphere beyond the shores of Tanaris and Uldum. No sign of a missing southern continent. No support for a theory that there is more to Azeroth than we can see right now. But there is also no solid evidence against it, nor against a missing continent (or raft thereof) on Outland and Draenor.
All we have is this.
in 2007, there was no reason to believe that Northrend or Pandaria were real, and they were not depicted in any available representation.
The physical climate of this imaginary world of Azeroth makes absolutely no sense without an unexplored southern hemisphere.
Draenor and Outland are too small to be entire planets. There must be more.
The Possibilities are Endless
We know that Blizz is near the end of its planned story arc for WoW. This arc, so widely known, has proven to be a burden that they’ve fought hard to shake off, coming up with the ridiculous plot of WoD as a way of bucking the system and shaking up our expectations. But even if the next two expansions adhere slavishly to that timeline, there is so much potential left in that prophesied timeline of Azeroth.
But imagine an entire set of southern continents equal in size and scope with Khaz Modan and Kalimdor. What might we find there? Feral Elves that predate the Titans? A whole continent of Trolls? What of Draenor / Outland? Might we find an entire land where the Draenei reverted to Eredar ways? Did Turalyon and Alleria start a new Alliance-based2 trade empire just out of sight? Where might there be dragons? A lost Ogre empire?
There are clues. That anonymous bit of land to the southwest on the Draenor map. The ports on Draenor! Why build massive ports unless you are trading with people that you can’t reach by land?
I was supposed to get this written up by Dec 21st, which is the anniversary of when we actually found little Jaina wandering around the parking lot.
Scruffy but all ours
But my attempts to capture a good pic of her in profile delayed this post. The reason for this is because I wanted to share why we have taken to calling her "Bearcat" – basically, she’s shaped like this.
My understanding is that this is the normal shape for Birman cats. We’re still not 100% sure of her ancestry, since there is a little bit of something else in there as well, but aside from the overall coloring, she still maintains all the characteristics of that breed, including fur as soft as a kitten’s. The temperament is somewhat different than Cat Fancier standard, but I’ve long considered such things to be outside the realm of genetics, anyway.
Nevertheless, she still has her cuddly side, but it rarely comes out. When it does, she typically jumps up onto my keyboard tray and head butts my hand until I give her chin scritches. She doesn’t do purr and she doesn’t do cuddle, but she does have her affectionate side. I’ll take it.
The Cat that Lived, who still defies the physicians at Banfield, has also picked up her own kitten, which requires a bit of explanation.
This has been a tough year in Casa de Grimmtooth for the felines citizens. We first lost Psycho Cat earlier this year as she wound down her hard knock existence with us. Mrs Grimm said she probably didn’t even know she was a cat, and her disdain for all other felines certainly seemed to bear that out.
Josie explaining to Mrs G that the PC was ebil and she should pay attention to Josie instead
The other loss was Leon, dubbed Old Man Cat for his somewhat unique voice. Big, rumbly, and loving, he started to lose interest in eating, and it was downhill from there. He was Jaina’s pal at times, though she didn’t really appreciate the cuddling part.
Fortunately, Mrs G was happy to stand in.
That brings us to our new residents. While taking Leon to the Shelter to have him euthanized, we thought about maybe coming back to pick up a kitten for the rotation. A sweet little black kitten poked Mrs G as she walked by her cage, and presented chin for scritches and purrs for our enjoyment. We pretty much concluded that since she did such a great sales job, we’d take her home. As we considered her, her neighbor, a beautiful gray kitten reached out and said, "Me too!" Unable to split up a great team1, we decided to take them both home. We named them Washburn and Zoey … for reasons2.
Zoey, at least, lives up to the Warrior Woman thingy.
Zoey is also now officially Jaina’s kitten. The two of them spend time snuggling, fixing each other’s ears, hugging, tussling, and otherwise being the cutest things for yards around. Sometimes Wash joins in the fracas, but in general the gals keep him in line. Captain Harble tries to steal my seat or otherwise lurks in the top of the cat tree.
Having the new kittens has given her opportunities to socialize, which she didn’t have previously. All the other cats were a lot more mature than she, and had no desire to play. Now, we hear the thunder of a herd of kitty hooves pretty much every morning. It’s a joyful sound.
So we’re now in Jaina’s third year. According to sources, this is how long Birman cats take to mature, so she’s as big as she’s going to get, and as such is a tiny little thing. I don’t know if that’s normal for that clan, but it kinda rules out Rag Doll since they get kinda big.
Jaina, like her namesake, is a tough gal, accepts no shit from anyone, and has carved out a niche for herself and settled in well. We now enter a new phase of her life as she assumes the role of Auntie Jaina.