Daily Archives: September 12, 2007

She said, "You been gone." I said, "That’s only natural."

This MMOG business is unnatural, y’know. I mean, apart than all those demons and magic stuff. And aliens. And superpowered beings. And physics-defying weaponry. And grown men pretending to be lithe elf chyqs, or pretending to be lithe women pretending to be lithe elf chyqs pretending to like other lithe elf chyqs played by grown men pretending to be lithe women (who like girls who like boys who look like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year). No, that stuff is all fine, the unnatural bit is they expect you to keep playing them.

“Normal” games, you play ’em, you finish ’em, you move on, like books, or films. Now the Law of Imperfect Analogy starts kicking in somewhere around here, wherein you say “you can’t *directly* compare games to books, and anyway, playing an MMO would just be like reading a series of books by the same author”, and then I’ll say, “only if that author totally recycled the same formulaic plot in every book”, and you’ll say “Dan Brown” (and we’d laugh uproariously) “besides which you’re ignoring the investment in your own character in MMOs”, and I’ll say “OK, in that case, Choose Your Own Adventure books”, and then you say “I haven’t read one of those since they were given away with Weetabix”, and then we’re in a discussion about breakfast cereal.

But the basic point is: aren’t Kellogs Variety Packs great? Especially mixing two different boxes together (which also gets around the problem of being left with cornflakes at the end). No, wait… the basic point is: the subscription model of MMOs is quite different from most other forms of entertainment. There’s no incentive for the author of a book to keep you reading it as long as possible, or for a film to keep you in the cinema forever (though the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels seem to think there is, even without an intermission to boost ice cream sales). MMOGs, obviously, want to keep you playing, hence timesinks, “the grind” and related fun and games (though obviously the rest of the game needs to be enough fun to keep you going. Or sufficiently addictive, at least.) I’m not sure the $15/month all-or-nothing subscription is necessarily the One True Way for MMOGs. Course, a single payment alternative isn’t automatically better; once you’ve paid for a “normal” game, as long as it isn’t so disastrously rubbish that you storm around to the developers and demand a refund in person, they’ve got your money and don’t really care how much you enjoy it. OK, they’ll want good reviews so people buy the game in the first place and want expansion packs or a sequel, but why bother giving the user 500 hours of the most exquisite gameplay ever devised, when you could give ’em 30 hours of adequate fun, 10 more hours in a more-of-the-same expansion pack, then a bit of a shonky sequel with a few re-skinned elements.

From careful, in depth research (OK, vaguely scanning down rss feeds at high speed, if we’re being entirely honest), there are other payment models brewing or already here; free basic play with deluxe paid-for bonuses (like Dungeon Runners), microtransactions, RMT (which might all be the same thing), and I think that’s a Good Thing(tm), variety (packs) being the spice of life and all.

Be wary of men wielding dead languages.

I hadn’t really thought about preparing a review for Tabula Rasa because reviews from several other bloggers are already out there, and say pretty much all there is to say; if I were going to write about the game I’d try to put a humorous spin on it, but I’m afraid that I’m not seeing one. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of jokes to be had, but they’re not the light-hearted ribbings that belong here.

I was, however, listening to the ol’ iPodule this morning, and the lyrics to one of the songs became slightly warped in my mind – Warped mind? Me? – and seemed apt:

Lost in time I can’t count the words,
I said when I thought they went unheard
All of those harsh thoughts so unkind,
‘cos I wanted you.

And now I sit here, I’m all alone,
So here sits a bloody mess, tears fly home,
A circle of errors, seen before,
‘cos I wanted you.

Weak as I am, won’t sub. to you.
Weak as I am, won’t sub. to you.
Deep as I am, I’m no-one’s fool.
Weak as I am.

— The ‘Inferno review of Tabula Rasa’ version of Weak, by Skunk Anansie

They touted Tabula Rasa as a blank slate, as in a fresh start; what they seemed to forget is that Tabula Rasa is also the new mind in its primary state, before it receives any of the impressions and understanding gained from experience.

Tabula Rasa indeed, then.