Daily Archives: December 15, 2011

Among life’s regrets is all the time wasted being early for everything

It’s an exciting old time for prospective Star Wars: The Old Republic players as Bioware reintroduce some Christmas magic, the anticipation of opening advent calendar doors and counting up to the big day. Most advent calendars are a bit dull and predictable (apart from the ones with cool stuff in them), though, so for extra fun Bioware are introducing a random element into when players get their early access, based on when they pre-ordered the game.

It’s an eminently logical system to smooth out massive spikes of demand on game servers, customer support and associated infrastructure, but has naturally resulted in some mild disappointment from those who have yet to get it. That’s “mild disappointment” in the Internet sense, of course, centred primarily around the official forums, but Web 2.0 and distinctly anti-social media allow the keen spectator to experience new and interesting spellings of “ridiculous” across news site comment threads, Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Having only finally decided to pre-order the game earlier this month, we’re very much of the opinion that date of pre-order is a terrible ranking mechanism for the staggered headstart. Zoso suggested reverse alphabetical order based on forum name, but Melmoth wasn’t at all convinced and instead proposed “people called Melmoth first then who cares about the rest”. After discounting those, we put our heads together to come up with some alternative systems Bioware could have used…

eBay Allow one user into headstart every five seconds, allocate each five second window an individual code, then put the codes up for sale on eBay. What could possibly be fairer than a money-based system in these times when I think we’re all agreed financial inequality is a thing of the past?

Chocolate Bars In a completely unprecedented move, invite codes could be printed on tickets and distributed in chocolate bars. As a bonus, a limited number of special tickets (perhaps silver, or another precious metal?) could grant five lucky players the chance to tour the Bioware studios where karma would ensure an encounter in accordance with their failings (an inveterate ganker in PvP would end up being teabagged by a much more powerful developer; an erotic roleplayer who insisted on behaving inappropriately in public areas would end up… being teabagged…)

The Postal Service Just pop all the invites in the post, and thanks to the vagaries of the postal service they’re bound to arrive at random times (or be delivered to random addresses that might look a bit like the right address, if you squint. A lot.) Deluxe or Collector’s edition codes could be posted in envelopes, the rest in larger package that have to be collected from the post office, a bonus if release is timed to coincide with pension day in the UK.

Safari Park Treasure Hunt Adventure In conjunction with safari parks around the world, conceal invitations in animal enclosures. Invites to PvE servers would be scattered around with okapi, tapirs, armadillos, binturong etc. Invites to RP servers would be in with the primates, giving a (sort of) authentic Wookie/Ewok vibe. Invites to free-for-all PvP servers would be scorched into hunks of meat and thrown in with lions and tigers.

Black Friday With a bit more thought given to the timing, Bioware could’ve had early access invites in boxes in Walmart to add to the happy fun shopping time.

Crossword Clues Get players to put a bit of effort in and solve clues to retrieve their invite code. Possible drawback: 25 character strings of random letters and numbers being difficult to set clues for… “1 Across: 25 character string of random letters and numbers”

The Sith Lord’s Dilemma A system developed by Sir Lord Darth Vader of Cheam himself: at a random time, with no notification, a button appears on the player’s account screen to activate headstart. Each time a player checks the account page, an hour is added to a queue before they can log in to the game…

Panto Season Another topical option (oh no it isn’t) (oh yes it is) (etc) offering several methods for invitation distribution such as whether a glass slipper is a perfect fit for the prospective player, making the magic invite available in exchange for a cow, and putting the invites in a bowl of porridge that’s just the right temperature.

Every true, eternal problem is an equally true, eternal fault; every answer an atonement, every realisation an improvement.

It’s quite astonishing how my attitude to a game can alter through the simple expedience of changing how I approach it. That is, how I approach playing it, not how I approach the game itself, lest any of you were having visions of this author walking stiffly, military fashion, towards the computer from the front; then another time sneaking, hunched-over and on tip toes, before slithering into my computer seat from underneath the desk; another time bombing from atop the arm of the sofa while screaming ‘banzai!’; yet another time slowly crawling, sloth-like, with ponderous arms and improbably dextrous legs, from around the back of the monitor.

Heading into Lord of the Rings Online for the recent Update 5 found me completing about forty minutes of, to my mind, uninspiring epic book content. Even Tolkien’s epic tale had its slow patches, and I suppose I should be thankful that at least there was no sign of melancholy poetry or inapposite singing in the LotRO content. I don’t know, maybe the singing in Tolkien’s work was justified, but I always used to skip over reading it because it always seemed awkward to me, the middle-earthian equivalent of the silent mournful contemplation at a funeral being broken up by one attendee gently tapping their foot and then crooning “Oh baby, baby, how was I suppose’ t’know”. Feel free to add head jiving and hand claps to your own taste.

I’m not sure whether it’s the case that I’m simply tired of the game, or if this latest update –and, indeed, entire expansion– has actually been as lacklustre as I believe. I find myself beginning to wonder whether Turbine are starting to focus a little too much on in-game store items, or if this expansion is a stop-gap while they work on a more impressive Moria-like expansion for Rohan, or indeed if they’re working on another game entirely and have perhaps stretched their development teams too thinly. It certainly doesn’t help that the Warden class, which has been a favourite of mine for some time, has been tweaked and tampered with, presumably to the satisfaction and appeasement of raiders and spreadsheet optimisers, but unfortunately to the detriment of the soul of the class. Such a simple and elegant mechanic has now been twisted and tortured, with new parts bolted on, such that it has become a warped image of its former beauty, it is the Hollywood star unable to accept their aging gracefully, undergoing plastic surgery after plastic surgery until they no longer resemble their former selves, instead appearing more like some poor cousin of Gollum, one who has stood for too long in a wind tunnel while orange paint and superglue were fired with great force at their face.

I had dipped my toe back into the frosty unappealing waters of LotRO because I found the fire of my enthusiasm for Skyrim starting to flicker and diminish. Where before had been a roaring inferno of gaming passion, a veritable burning city of desire, there now stood a small camp fire: warm, safe, comforting, but without the flare, fervour or fascination of that former passion. The game had not changed, and I estimated that I had discovered but half of what its vast and ranging lands had to offer, so why had my view of the game changed so? I contemplated that perhaps I had changed the position from which I viewed the game. I took a step back and looked at how I was playing the game now, comparing it to how I had approached it when I first started out, back when it was fresh and I was unaware of how the world operated. It soon became obvious that I had, in the finest MMO tradition, begun to optimise the way I played the game. Instead of heading out from town and adventuring in the world, I had become a slave to the Quest Shopping List. When I wanted to adventure, I realised, I now immediately opened my quest log and looked at which items I could tick off, preferably those which were the quickest. Then… THEN (for shame) I would open the map and fast travel to the nearest location to my destination, so as to cut out any of that messy running around business. It was I who had devolved the wondrous emergent discovery-based game-play of the world of Skyrim into a simple MMO quest pipeline; I was a cog in die MMO Schleifen-Maschine once again, crushing content with maximum ruthless efficiency. All of a sudden, just like that, the game had become utterly bland, it was the bleak whiteout monotony of Skyrim’s storm-thrashed barren ice flats realised in game-play form.

Thus, last night, after achieving this minor epiphany, I logged-in to the game. I checked my equipment was in good order, headed out of the main gate of the city, picked a direction, and began to walk.

Six hours later I tore myself away, but only so that I could give this weak human shell the sleep it deems necessary to function. I still haven’t finished the main quest line, or many of the quests sitting in my journal, and now once again, I’m very pleased to say, I don’t care to.