Monthly Archives: September 2011

It could be the best of MMOGs, it could be the worst of MMOGs

Fallout: New Vegas would make a great MMOG. Some tweaks would be needed; it starts well for a single player game, as you’re shot and left for dead. I say “well”, I mean it gives an immediate hook with good strong motivation to find your assailant, obviously the whole being-shot-in-the-head business puts a bit of a crimp on your plans for the day. As you pursue your shooter with the firm intention of giving the cheeky scamp a stern talking to, possibly even boxing his ears, you’re introduced to the other factions fighting for control of the Mojave, and the stakes get progressively higher (as befits a Vegas-oriented game) until your actions have deep and far-reaching consequences for the whole region.

A problem I found was the more important I became in the world-changing struggle, the less engaged I felt; I didn’t really want to have the fate of the region resting on my shoulders, but none of the competing factions seemed ideal ranging as they did from “evil murdering nutters” through “broadly benevolent (but still a nutter)” to “generally all right for the most part but a bit inflexible and perhaps a smidge too expansionist to really get behind (though at least not, so far as I can tell, nutters)”. I felt compelled, therefore, to seize power myself, for altruistic reasons rather than megalomaniac tendencies, but even then things didn’t quite work out precisely as I would’ve liked. Still, as Oscar Wilde said (when he was lead singer of the Stones) “you can’t always get what you want”.

It wasn’t as much of a letdown as Fallout 3, where I really felt railroaded at the end after a great start, I felt more in control of what was going on, but like the previous game, for me Fallout was most satisfying when more intimate, wandering around the wasteland uncovering desolate shacks, abandoned mines, communities barely scratching out an existence, or best of all the trademark vaults, underground bunkers built to survive the nuclear apocalypse, excellent places to shelter apart from the tiny issue that most of them turned out to be horrific psychological experiments.

That’s why it would be a great MMOG; after all they seldom have a single main story, more a series of areas, zones or dungeons, sometimes with linking threads but rarely as the main focus. I finished off the main New Vegas game, just to see what happens, then reloaded from a point before the final act kicked off and did some more exploring, and ran through the DLC packs. The structure seems like it would fit a virtual world really well, just lose the central plot and turn the players loose.

Fallout: New Vegas would make a terrible MMOG. The problem is that turning other players loose in the world would ruin it. It could support a few, no doubt; there are several companions you can join up with in the course of the game, with their own backgrounds and stories, almost like human party members (only far more obedient). Scale up to tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of players, though, and everything breaks down. A while back I suggested the Azerothian census would break down as “0.4% – Farming (livestock & dairy); 0.5% – Farming (arable); 0.8% – Innkeepers; 1.4% – Retail; 97.9% – The Chosen One Who Will Rid This World Of Evil. Slightly tongue in cheek, of course, WoW doesn’t really push your character as *the* Chosen One, but even when you’re not personally responsible for saving the entire galaxy, in the vast majority of games your character has a disproportionate effect on the world; as per another old post, “Over the course of Call of Duty 1, 2 and expansion packs, I’ve been personally responsible for wiping out approximately two and a half Axis infantry divisions, four armoured regiments and a few squadrons of dive bombers in the bits where you get hold of an anti-aircraft gun. By those measures, the invasion and liberation of continental Europe in 1944 would have required a total Allied force of twenty three people, and seven of those just to fill in when others had to go AFK for their tea.”

That disparity forces compromises in MMOGs like endlessly respawning mobs, instancing, and the generally unchanging nature of the world. Exploring vaults in New Vegas can be creepy, intriguing or action-packed (frequently all three), perhaps one was overrun and inhabited by a slaver gang, you clear them out, kill their leader, and report back to a nearby farming community that they should be a bit safer now. The impact would be pretty much removed if everything had reset the next day (or next minute), and you ran back through it again with four random people in the hope that the slaver leader would drop a nice item this time, but that would at least be better than turning up and finding players had been there six months ago, killed anything that moved and stripped the place of anything that could be carried.

In a perfect (virtual) world, those other players could have claimed the vault for themselves and set up a community there, that you could trade with, or join, or attack, but games structured in that way don’t really appeal. The *theory* is splendid, I find things like Ganakalicious’ Sandbox Challenge interesting, but the practise, so far, isn’t for me (“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.”) Call me a rampant egotist, but I like being a superman, and the majority of single player games suggest it’s not just me. It doesn’t have to be at the “saviour of the universe” (ahh ah) level, I wasn’t so keen when New Vegas was really ramping up my personal significance to the region, but even down in local, isolated cases you’re pretty special; one man, up against an entire gang of gun-toting slavers, armed with nothing more than a pistol? (And a sniper rifle. And a couple of submachine guns. And a thermal lance for close up stuff. And a robot dog.) Just another day in the computer gaming office.

I’m not sure what the chances are for an actual Fallout MMO, with the protracted legal wranglings. I’m sure it’ll be worth a look if something does get released, but for wandering around a virtual world (albeit offline), it’s hard to beat Fallout: New Vegas. Especially with the fantastic Old World Blues DLC pack.

Looking good and dressing well is a necessity. Having a purpose in life is not.

I joked about the size of shoulder pads in LotRO’s raiding armour sets a while ago, but I have to be fair and confess that in general I love the cosmetic options in Lord of the Rings Online.

I’m following a few blogs dedicated to discovering the more delightful clothing designs the game has to offer, and who then turn them into rather magnificent outfits. As always, A Casual Stroll to Mordor tipped me in the right direction via the Cosmetic Roundtable episode of their podcast, and Cosmetic LotRO, LotRO Fashion and LotRO Stylist are the blogs which I primarily follow for fashion tips on how to look dapper in Middle Earth.

I haven’t started into the actual quest content in Rise of Isengard yet because I’m still finishing some reputation grinds on my Warden, which I want to complete before moving on, but I have to say that the evidence from the blogs listed above is that there are many items with deeply lovely cosmetic appearances to be had in the new expansion. Of note for me so far are the Polished Hauberk of the Dunland Shieldman; most of the items in this outfit, but I particularly like the Leather Helm of the Leaping Stag and the Boar-Hide Boots; and the Reputation Armour outfit at the bottom of this post, hidden amongst the Giant Shoulder Pads of +5 LOOK AT ME, I’M A RAIDER!

If you enjoy creating costumes for your characters in LotRO I can’t recommend these sites enough, but be warned: once started it will take you down a dark path of extra bank slot, wardrobe slot and outfit slot purchases, crafting mania, and much time spent hunting around in old content looking for the perfect cravat to go with the rest of your seventeenth cosmetic outfit, which is primarily designed for use when fishing in large lakes – not to be confused with the twelfth outfit for fishing in small ponds and streams, and the sixth outfit for use when fishing for compliments.

My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.

“It’s just the beginning, it’s not the end. Things will never be the same again.” so sayeth the Melanie C, and so sayeth we all; starting afresh in City of Heroes has been a strange experience.

City of Heroes holds a special place in the hareem of my mind: a voluminous plump cushion where it rests with all the grapes that it can love and eunuchs it can eat. Although CoH wasn’t my first, it was the one which showed me exciting new ways of thinking about MMOing. It looked upon the standard MMO missionary position which I’d performed with Dark Age of Camleot for some time, and laughed, then MMOed me in ways which blew my mind. At the time, CoH was the Kama Sutra of MMO, providing such flexibility and originality that you’d watch someone else MMOing in CoH and have to turn your head on its side, one way then the other, and repeat this several times before you managed to work out which bit of the player was going where, and what that extra thing was, and… can one of those do that? There? I mean, doesn’t that hurt? At the time, it didn’t hurt; it was the most free MMO love I have ever experienced, and although other games have since come along and offered reflections of this pleasure, it was never quite as pure, as though you’d filmed yourself MMOing with CoH and were watching it back while MMOing with that other game.

The problem with returning to CoH and starting a new character is that the game insists in instructing you about MMOing all over again. And I know quite a lot about MMOing now. In fact I think I could teach CoH a thing or two, but of course it won’t let me. So where before, when I first played the game, a level one superhero seemed a force to be reckoned with, because they could leap over high walls and thock ne’er-do-wells into submission in less time than it took for one power to activate in DAoC, I now feel frustrated by the fact that I’m forced to play a ‘low power’ superhero and have to wait for almost forty levels before my character blossoms into awesomeness (blawesomes?). It’s the eternal bane of the Levelling Game: a low level character only seems great and powerful that first time. Every alt and re-roll is diminished for the player who has a character which has reached the level cap, and these sapling characters forever sit in the shade of the tremendous canopy of power that full grown characters enjoy. Levels, like tree rings, reflect age, strength and success, and those without them will always be comparatively delicate; yet those young trees which haven’t had to sit within the giant shadow of their peers must surely seem as gods to the flowers and shrubs upon which they gaze down.

It’s not really any wonder that World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm revamp didn’t tempt the majority of players into re-rolling.

A low power hero seems strange as soon as the comparison is made with an end-game hero, rather than the equal level NPCs that currently surround the low level character. And what is a low power hero anyway? Or an end-game hero? Surely an end-game hero is really a superhero proper, in which case how do we define the low power hero? Perhaps there exists a scale of heroism:

NoobHero -> Middlinghero -> Finehero -> Splendidhero -> Goshhero -> Superhero

And if not… well, it exists now. A noobhero starts with a couple of powers, both of which miss with alarming frequency, and thus there are many occasions where I find my character standing around waiting for his powers to recharge while a group of thugs beat him with baseball bats, and I imagine him whimpering “not the face!” as they pummel him. It’s a curious situation, like reading a comic where Dr David Banner is exposed to a massive overdose of gamma radiation whereupon he develops the ability to grow abnormally huge, but only develops super strength much later. Thus his entire first year of fighting crime involves explosively growing in size in the hope that, as his trousers disintegrate, a stray fly button might ping off and hit a criminal in the eye.

Of course when you start to gather noobheroes into a group, which, let’s face it, is the Way It’s Meant To Be Played, the whole affair becomes a lot less jarring. At a basic level, while your abilities are on cooldown after having entirely missed every attack, someone else can at least be attacking in the meantime! It’s a bit Captain Planet at the lower levels, in that eight noobheroes, with their powers combined, can form the slightly out of the ordinary Moderately Threatening Man! Nevertheless there’s a chaotic freedom to the way CoH empowers group play, and I find myself being reminded that MMOing with a group of friends can be a lot less regimented, a lot more wild and free, and isn’t free MMOing what it’s all about, man?

City of Heroes has been free to play for many years. So very free with its play. And now that it no longer requires a subscription, there’s really no excuse not to play. To paraphrase Lazarus Long, however, do remember:

MMOing solo is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don’t have to go home in the cold.

But it’s lonely.

City of Heroes has once again reminded me that MMOs are still at their very best when you bring friends.

KiaSAcast Episode 13

For those of you who are not monitoring our podcast RSS feed or stalking us on the Twitterverse, brace your main hats and hang on to your sails, because we’re pleased to announce that it’s time for KiaSAcast episode thirteen.

This episode of the podcast includes:

– Radio KiaSA presents more David Ragefury and Steve Wiseman

– Coming soon to KiaSA-TV

– Introduction

– Games which we’re currently playing, have played, have burnt out on, or might play soon, including::

     – City of Heroes

     – Lord of the Rings Online

     – Dungeons and Dragons Online

     – World of Tanks

– Plus various other topics as and when we sidetracked onto them.

Bonus quiz: see if you can work out how long ago we recorded this show, based on the release dates mentioned which have since passed. Slow Podcast-Editing Melmoth is slow.

Download KiaSAcast Episode Thirteen

Before machines the only form of entertainment people really had was relationships

MMOG bloggers have a relationship with the games they play. Some are happily settled in a committed long-term marriage with a single game, others promiscuously flit from game to game, sometimes keeping several on the go at once. When a relationship ends it can be in a blazing row with suitcases of cosmetic items tearfully flung from upstairs windows and a lengthy series of mascara-smeared posts that reveal rather more about the psychological state of the player than the game; I like to think I’m a bit more considered. Hey, look, things aren’t really working out are they? It’s not you, though, it’s me. Well, maybe it’s you a bit. We had some good times, though, didn’t we? Let’s keep in touch, especially now you’re not demanding money off me regularly, maybe I’ll come back if it turns out that good looking new game doesn’t have much going on behind that attractive facade. Maybe if you added a few new tricks to your repetoire, that wouldn’t hurt. You know, like that thing that other game does that I really like? Or if you had a bit of work done, you’re looking a little tired around the edges…

OK, that’s getting slightly creepy, probably best back away slowly from that analogy now before otters get involved. Me and Lord of the Rings Online, though, we’ve been drifting apart for a little while. Nothing wrong on the part of LotRO, it’s still a top-notch MMOG with a lovely world, excellent variety of things to do and a good “freemium” price model, I was just hitting that point, as I’ve done a few times previously, where I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for killing ten things, or collecting five other things, or tromping through a dungeon to kill a boss who might drop a thing that two or three of the party need that if you win the roll for you can take back to an NPC to get a thing that was made obsolete by the legendary thing you got two levels ago… It’s perhaps slightly unfortunate timing, what with the Isengard expansion going live even as I type, but I get the impression that it’s mostly aimed at characters at the end-game, and I hadn’t even quite made it into Moria, the first of the three expansions.

Fortuitously City of Heroes is putting the FREEM! into “freemium” as it ditches mandatory subscriptions, and with a general sense of ennui in the Fellowship(s) it seems like a fine time to take some very sage advice and play Game Y instead of Game X for a bit. As City of Heroes was my first MMOG I always have something of a soft spot for it, and it was fantastic fun to get back into the mayhem of a team of eight flinging themselves into massive crowds of villainy, fireballs, radiation blasts and photocopiers being hurled with reckless abandon (and snooker tables) (and table lamps) (gravity control is a brilliant power). There’s a possibility that nostalgia is playing a big part and it won’t be a long term thing, like bumping into someone at a school reunion, having a fantastic time and arranging to meet up again, then slowly realising that you have nothing in common any more and there’s only so long you can reminisce about that time Cliffy Prodger drank seventeen cans of non-alcoholic shandy at the school disco, proclaimed himself “trollied” and ran around the hall wearing his trousers as a headband; why fret about the future, though, when there are photocopiers to fling?

Hail, Bard Triumphant! and some care bestow On us, the Poets Militant Below!

The design of musical classes in several MMOs has often bugged me; I wrote about it back in 2007 with respect to LotRO’s Minstrel, and later I found Rift’s Bard to be of a similar nature.

“[…] The Minstrel, could work very well: I like playing support and healing classes, and this was a strong consideration for a while, but I’ve played healing classes to death in WoW, and the whole Minstrel ‘strumming his instrument in the middle of battle’, if you know what I mean, just seems a bit weird.

“Hey guys, here’s a little number I wrote the other day.”
“Die! Die! Die! You Orc bastards!”
“Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here until the end of the battle. Try the salmon it’s delicious.”

This morning my brain peeled open like a xenomorph’s egg, and an idea slowly felt its way out with probing, grasping legs. So I thought I’d release it into the wild, in the hope that it will lay its own eggs within the chest cavity of a suitable host, where the essence of the idea can gestate, and burst forth in gory glory one day.

Google Search tells me that it’s not an entirely original idea. Google Search is an arse. “Oh, you thought you had an original idea, did you? Well, here are 52,300 results that I think you’ll find are of a similar vein. And I found them in but a little over 0.15 seconds. Mweh, mweh, mweh!” Oh shush, you.

Regardless, the simple idea was to have a special sword with which the Bard/Minstrel attacks. The blade of the sword has been masterfully crafted with holes along the length of the blade, as well as a myriad of tiny tubes which run from the hilt down most of the length of the blade. The grip of the sword has keywork similar to a clarinet. As such, the Bard/Minstrel’s weapon ‘sings’ as it is swung through the air, and the art of the class comes from channelling their magical song through carefully practised sword strokes. Thus the class attacks in melee and sings at the same time, accompanied by the music of their weapon. Out of combat buffs, healing and the like, would still come from a natural musical instrument, but I liked the idea of a musical MMO class that could stand in the midst of battle and channel their songs and chants, while not having to whip out a delicate lute and carefully strum ‘I care not for these ladies’ towards a rapidly approaching enormous armoured ogre crotch.

I came here to drink milk and kick ass.

Lord of the Rings Online had my character planting marigolds the other day. You might wonder whether these were giant, orc-eating marigolds, marigolds which, when full grown, would uproot themselves and, in bright yellow array, stride determinedly and gaily into battle with the forces of Sauron, like some sort of Mardi Gras edition of the The Last March of the Ents. But alas no, these were basic marigolds. Level one marigolds. Marigold noobs.

Why was I planting these marigolds, then? A good question, but a dangerous one, for one might answer with the question ‘why do I perform any given task in an MMO?’, which in turn prompts the question ‘why do I play MMOs?’ After these then surely ‘why do I play games?’ quickly follows, and then ‘why do I need entertainment?’ More questions develop in ever quicker succession: ‘what is that nature of entertainment?’, ‘what is my nature?’, ‘what is nature?’, ‘what am I?’, ‘why do I exist?’, ‘in what medium do I exist?’, ‘why does the medium in which I exist, exist?’, ‘by what form or power did the medium in which I exist come into existence?’, ‘what existed before the medium in which I currently exist?’, ‘WHAT’S THE POINT OF ANYTHING IN THE CONTEXT OF THE INFINITE COMPLEXITIES OF THE UNIVERSE, TIME AND SPACE?’.

Of course the actual answer to the original question should be a brusque ‘because a lazy hobbit NPC told me to’ (possibly accompanied by a sharp backhand cuffing of the questioner’s head), an answer which is shorter, more accurate, and comes with considerably less existential crisis.

Of course my Captain had a little trouble mastering the quest at first, being that she’d spent sixty five levels primarily slaying monsters and undomesticated livestock:

Hobbit: “So, first we need to dig a small hole in the ground…”
Hobbit: “Okay, well, that is quite the hole. Quite the hole, indeed. But, well, I think the greathammer is perhaps a little too destructive, shall we maybe perhaps try a trowel?”
Captain: “Ah, right, sorry.”
Hobbit: “Lovely! Now, we need to break the plant out of its pot.”
Captain: “I could hit it with my greathammer!”
Hobbit: “I… think it would be best if we just gently eased around the edges with this palette knife, and then carefully lifted the plant out by the stem.”
Captain: “Oh, okay.”
Hobbit: “Then we place it gently in the hole we made earlier, and fill-”
Captain: “-ed with righteous fury, we hit it with our greathammer?!”
Hobbit: “-it with earth. Fill it with earth.”
Captain: “Right! Riiiiight. Sorry.”
Hobbit: “There, all done.”
Captain: “And now I hit it with my greathammer?”
Hobbit: “No! No. You just leave it. Water it once in a while.”
Captain: “I… see. When…”
Hobbit: “Yes?”
Captain: “When you say ‘water’, do you mean ‘hit it with a greathammer’?”
Hobbit: “Noooo, when I say ‘water’ I do in fact mean ‘*water*’. Say it with me: waaaaa-”
Captain: “Hiiiiii-”
Hobbit: “-terrrrrrrrr”
Captain: “-titwithagreathammer.”

The maddening part of this quest, however, was the countdown bar. Each planted marigold required a bar to count down for three years. Or maybe seven seconds. Time dilates when you’re watching a countdown bar in an MMO, it’s much like waiting for a kettle to boil only the steam is coming out of your ears instead. You can’t fool a countdown bar like you can a kettle either: pointedly ignore a kettle and it boils over instantly, mad to be made into tea, but ignore a countdown bar and when you return you find that it’s sat there waiting for you in that evil ‘you were going to miss it so I held on for you’ way, the same way your partner keeps tiresome Uncle Prodger talking on the phone until you get back from your desperate dash to ‘the toilet’, a dash which just happened to coincide with your glancing at the Caller ID on the phone as it rang.

I can’t remember how many marigolds I had to plant, five, ten, Graham’s Number, it was plenty enough, of that I’m certain. I came to hate that countdown bar. I cursed it. I railed at it. I found a whiteboard marker and drew graffiti on it: moustaches, devil horns, rude messages regarding a good time if you call this number and ask for Countdown Bar. I did have to stop and hurriedly wipe it all off when Mrs Melmoth caught me putting the finishing touches to a magnificent phallus that emptied along it’s length as the countdown bar ticked away, however.

And the upshot of this is that I’m now unable to walk past a barometer without wanting to grab it off the wall and dash it angrily to the floor.

The problem doesn’t stem from the inherent nature of the countdown, but in the way it is used. Deus Ex: Human Revolution also has a countdown when you play its hacking mini-game, and yet it is an entirely different experience. The countdown in the LotRO quest is there to make you wait, wait for no reason, and do nothing else while you wait. It makes you wait, that’s what it does (you may want to play Leftfield’s Phat Planet as you read that sentence), it’s a negative form of countdown, which achieves nothing other than to drive the player’s attention out of the game. The countdown in Deus Ex is a positive countdown because it is counting down to the point when the task you are performing will fail. What this countdown does is increase the pressure on the player, and thus it makes the game-play more intense, while also drawing the player’s concentration further into the game as they focus harder in an attempt to complete the mini-game in time. There are many design considerations to study here, not least of which is the fact that MMOs seem to have an aversion to letting players fail outside of the end-game, and therefore challenges such as the Deus Ex hacking mini-game are few and far between. Yet these sorts of challenges are the very thing that makes a game a game, rather than a grind. Super Mario wouldn’t be half as popular if the levels were five times as long but it was guaranteed that the player would be able to reach the end every time.

The countdown in LotRO stops you playing the game; the countdown in Deus Ex influences how you continue to play the game.

It also didn’t help that the animation for planting a marigold looked more like an attempt to call down the Dove From Above, something which stands out all the more starkly when you have nothing else to do but stare at it for seven seconds. Be mindful of the Dove From Above though, after catching me drawing a big willy on my computer screen, I think it almost broke Mrs Melmoth when she later walked in and this time found me cooing at the screen like a dove.

The final annoyance is that you cannot stop calling the dove/planting marigolds once you’ve started, otherwise you have to start all over again. This further enhances the feeling that this isn’t a progress countdown, but a pointless delay countdown, a bureaucracy countdown. “Please Wait. Please Wait. Please Wait. Your subscription time has now reduced by an acceptable amount, please continue”. It’s frankly bizarre that planting a marigold should involve no movement whatsoever (FREEZE! Raise your hands slowly, and step away from the keyboard!), and that if you break that condition then you have to start all over again.

“Excuse me, Marjorie, I just need to squeeze past so I can start on the pumpkins.”
“No, I cannot move, you know this Pruscilla, I’m quite clearly in the midst of planting.”
“Oh come now, just shuffle over a little, and you can carry on with what you’re doing while I get on with the pumpkins.”
“No! I must not stop, otherwise all is lost! I’m risking everything just by talking to you. Just by breeeaaaaathing!”
“Marjorie, really, just move out of the way a little-”
“No DON’T! Oh you! Well I hope you’re happy!”
“Goodness me, dearest, I barely brushed you.”
“Nevertheless, I have been interrupted. I shall have to abandon these plants and start all over again.

Now, did you see where I put my greathammer?”

Have I Got MMOnews For You

Host: This week, teams, news that a study into “games transfer phenomena” has caused an outbreak of “misleading sensationalist headline phenomena“. Have you got any examples of gaming bleeding through into reality?

Melmoth: I found myself performing a repetitive series of tasks in exchange for remuneration once and thought I was experiencing “games transfer phenomena” from MMOG questing, but it turned out to be something called “a job”.

Zoso: There was that one time I played SimCity for three days straight and found I’d accidentally restructured our town to have a far more efficient mass transit system. The giant dinosaur attack came as a bit of a surprise, though.

Melmoth: Perhaps there’s a link to the recent reports of unexplained damage to huge mushroom crops, as though they’d been repeatedly jumped on?

Zoso: I heard of an incident where a reporter was repeatedly punched and he was convinced his assailants were inspired by Grand Theft Auto, Street Fighter or possible Wii Sports Boxing, but they insisted it was just because he worked for the Daily Mail.

Melmoth: Apparently the Acme Crate Company have had to revise their recruitment policy after a new warehouse worker smashed up their entire stock with a crowbar, then complained that he hadn’t found a single round of ammunition or first aid kit.

Zoso: Brigadier General Sir Cliff Prodger expressed surprise during recent army exercises on Salisbury Plain when an armoured battalion forswore their usual tactics and instead drove straight for the enemy base screeching “TANK RUSH KEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKE”. It proved highly effective, though, to the point that the defenders rage-left the exercise halfway through, declaring their opponents to be “lamers”.

Melmoth: It’s been encouraging to see the huge increase in fitness levels as people spend their entire time running everywhere. The related increase in pub brawls due to spilt pints has negated this positive impact somewhat, however, as has the increase in replacement knee operations due to the amount of time spent running while crouching.

Zoso: There was that time I went into a room with black and white chequered tiles on the floor, and could only move across it in a series of ‘L’ shapes. The strangest thing was I’ve never even played chess.

Melmoth: I mean, there’s definitely been an increase in the number of street fights between buxom ladies dressed in thong leotards, qipao and cheerleader outfits.

Thought for the day

Massively report that for neck-bitey MMO World of Darkness “it’s CCP’s desire to emulate LARPing (live-action roleplaying) as much as possible […] with plenty of metaplots running inside the game and without” (my emphasis).

Can’t wait for the Goons to kick down the virtual walls between EVE and World of Darkness, take a Titan through, and hover there threatening to vaporise the planet unless all the vampires transfer their monocles to a nominated corporation…

It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable.

KiaSA’s Ministry for Abstract Diseases released a statement today warning of a virulent form of Warcraft Inter-scapula Disorder Extension spreading throughout the MMO population. Indicators for the potential epidemic became evident when samples taken from Turbine’s Isengard expansion were released to KiaSA’s top scientists. As is evident from the example shown, the disease manifests itself in massive shoulder pads forming on the body, extending in an exaggerated fashion in all directions. W.I.D.E. has been evident within the MMO space for many years, but up until now it has been predominantly confined to the World of Warcraft domain, with minor outbreaks occurring in derivative MMOs from time to time. This latest development is of particular concern to top scientists, however, because it shows spread of the contagion to Lord of the Rings Online, an MMO which has proven remarkably resistant to the strain until now.

KiaSA’s top researcher, Clifford Prodger, explained that Turbine have so far managed to contain the spread of infection by locking the infected pieces of armour behind painfully tedious raid content grinds, but nevertheless KiaSA’s Ministry for Abstract Diseases did release an advisory to its members to be vigilant and search for signs of infection in fellow players in the coming months: massively impractical shoulder pads being a primary indicator, but players should also be on the lookout for ludicrously oversized weapons, and any sign of exaggerated auras on armour (possibly in combination with weird orbiting magical artefacts) within the general population.

KiaSA’s Ministry for Abstract Diseases has raised its priority warning system from ‘Xanadu Egg Whisk’ to ‘Magenta Brazilian Wax’ as a precautionary measure.