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The end of the Secession Wars left the bulk of humanity’s settled planets free, independent and poor. You cannot eat sovereignty, and worlds that had been developed to fit niches in the United Nations’ planned mercantilism were ill-equipped for self-sufficiency. Standards of living crashed as each planet’s economy was forced to adapt to suddenly having massive over-production in some sectors whilst being woefully inadequate in others.
This post-colonial depression gave rise to a period of rapid expansion by the merchant houses, who parlayed their position as the lifeblood of the insurrection into a network of highly profitable trade routes as they brought the worlds back together in a new configuration without the dead weight of Earth at its core. It also pushed many of the newly independent worlds together to survive. Both the Polaris Federation and the Albion Star Empire grew quickly and with remarkably little bloodshed in this period, and even the People’s Republic of Greater China, the so-called Celestial Raj, added a number of border worlds that (somewhat) willingly chose caste-bound bureaucracy over starvation.
These two trends came together on the coreward side of the Sagittarius Reach, where the European and American colonial arms ran close together. The Draconis Customs Union began as a consortium of six merchant houses, and a package of trade agreements they offered to each of the planetary governments where they did business. What it became was something altogether stranger…
The Dragon’s Rise: An Analysis of the Draconis Alliance by Professor Jen Guatella, Margrethe University Press

Elysian’s sun was rising over the Mirrormere lake as the shuttle glided across the estate that shared the lake’s name. The landing pad was a good half mile from the house and discreetly screened by a natural-looking copse of Terran trees – birch, ash and the occasional oak – that ensured the early arrival did not disturb any of the guests at the great house. A trio of open-topped electric carts waited by the landing pad, each with its own driver sitting patiently as the shuttle settled under anti-grav alone for its landing, but there was no other welcoming committee.
Once the shuttle was grounded and it had extruded a passenger ramp, the first people to disembark were a pair of men in open-collared formal business dress with long-tailed coats, followed closely by a young woman in a somewhat old-fashioned knee-length skirt, blouse and jacket. The half dozen others who followed were clearly staff, allowing enough of a gap for their principals to speak without being overheard. The two men made for a striking contrast – the one on the left being tall, burly, dark and with a full beard, while his sandy-haired companion was almost a head shorter, slight of build and with narrow features.
“Welcome to Mirrormere Master Bardan, Mistress Bardan,” the smaller man said with a slight bow and an equally slight smile and gesturing towards the first of the carts. “The Tremayne will be waiting to greet you properly, if discreetly, at the house.”
“Will you still not call me Louis?” the big man sighed as he climbed into the cart, beckoning for his companion to sit beside him and waving the young woman to sit up front with the driver. “We have too much to be done here for you to be saying Master Bardan to me every time we speak, and there will be entirely too many Master Tremaynes here for me to call you so without confusion. And having to say Master Paul Tremayne every time is entirely too cumbersome!”
“Then Louis it is, and of course you may call me Paul,” Paul Tremayne said with the same slight smile. The driver put his foot to the cart’s floor pedal and they were underway with no more sound than the crunch of gravel under the tires and a medley of birdsong, both Terran and the Elysian equivalent, from the trees. The young woman looked attentively towards the trees whilst Louis and Paul spoke behind her.
“I sense that you do not really approve of this alliance,” Louis said. “You are too much the diplomat to ever say so, and your work to bring us this far has been impeccable, but there is no, how to say, no spark there. Shall we speak honestly, here and now, before we meet with Alexander? If there is anything I can do to help warm you to this alliance… as I say, your work with us so far has been impeccable, but I sense with your whole-hearted cooperation you could be a truly formidable ally.”
“Honestly…” Paul shrugged. “Honesty is a large part of it, Louis. You must admit that your house’s reputation is somewhat damaged in that regard.”
The young woman gasped, showing that she had indeed been listening, but Louis shushed her. “No Maria, Paul is right. Our family made a great mistake – no, we did a terrible thing, and we have to pay for it. It does not matter that the lawyers have settled their cases and the cheques have been written. This sort of debt is not so easily paid, not to the sort of people who are worth having as allies. And this is not just an abstract matter for you Paul, is it now? You are not one of the unfortunates, I would remember your name from the lists – someone close to you perhaps?”
“Not quite. My name was very nearly on your list, though. And I should have known something was wrong.”
“Why? Because you’re a Tremayne? Perhaps you take your family’s reputation for omniscience a little too seriously, Paul. I knew nothing at the time, and my cousin headed the project, my own brother was the head of the house.”
Paul laughed. “But I was in charge of intelligence on House Bardan back then, Louis. It was my job to know more about your business than you did – more than your brother did, if I could manage it. And he out-foxed me. Don’t believe all the stories, Louis. It is possible to fool the Tremaynes. Your own brother managed it, at the worst possible time!”
Louis shrugged. “I always knew Philippe was clever. And at the last, I realised that he was, as the English used to say, too clever by half. I am not so clever as he was, but I like to think myself clever enough and honest enough to know just how cleaver I am, and no more. Unlike Philippe, also, I have a purpose to work towards – to try and make amends for what he did. Anyway,” he said, looking up at the house, “here we are! I have to ask –are you Tremaynes compensating for something?”
Paul snorted and the first genuine smile touched his lips. “Not exactly, not in the sense you mean at least. It does look rather grand, doesn’t it? The exterior is an exact copy of Blenheim Palace in England, back on Earth. Black Jack Tremayne had it built ninety years ago, straight after the Seccession Wars finished, when we first came to our understanding with the Elysian government. Said he wanted a fancy country house and by God, he was only going to steal from the best! The interior layout’s completely different from the original, of course. This place is designed for modern living and needs to support a working staff as well.”
“So, this is the headquarters for your family’s operations?” Louis asked as they entered through an unprepossessing side door.
“Not really. Things are quite decentralised, each of the businesses has its own separate headquarters and even the Foundation has the bulk of its administration done elsewhere, but the Tremayne – Alexander – bases himself here so he has a resident staff, and various visiting family members need support as well. And just running this estate requires a fair sized office.”
“And this would be the office wing of the house, I assume?” Louis gestured at the corridor the walked down. The walls were oak panelled and the dark blue carpet was sumptuous, but the rooms they passed were clearly working spaces, albeit empty at this time.
“I’m afraid so. If it were up to me, we would have let you get settled into your suite but the Tremayne was quite insistent he wanted to see you straight away” Paul said as he ushered Louis and Maria into one of the rooms.
“You can drop that ‘the Tremayne’ crap, Paul,” the room’s occupant said waspishly. “Louis, good to see you again. Mistress Maria, it’s a pleasure” Alexander Tremayne continued as he levered himself out of one of the deep leather armchairs arranged around the fireplace. Unlike the rest of the wing, this room could easily have been part of the residence – a luxuriously appointed library-cum-study with shelf upon shelf of real books as well as a couple of high spec display units and a holo workstation. There was a silver coffee service on a sideboard along with a selection of pastries and muffins, with which Paul made himself busy whilst Alexander shook hands with his guests.
The Tremayne could easily have been Paul’s older brother at first glance, rather than a slightly younger cousin. Alexander’s hair was a shade darker than Paul’s and receded a touch more at the temples, but they had the same sharp features and lively intelligence in their eyes. He wore the same dress as his visitors but without the coat, and judging from the empty cup on the coffee table by his chair had already started on the refreshments.
“You’ll have to excuse me. I know you’re still on station time and that’s early evening, but here it is oh God awful in the morning, which is not really my best time at all. So please sit, let Paul see to the refreshments and let me welcome you extremely informally to Mirrormere. I suggest you take a couple of days to adjust yourselves naturally to local time instead of messing your systems up with jet lag drugs. After all, we’re not in that much of a rush over these negotiations. Enjoy the facilities here – there are all sorts of sports available here for the youngsters and those sort of people who enjoy exercise, horses at the stables, boats down on the lake, Connor has his endless poker game open to anyone foolish enough to try, and there’s a rather good library upstairs.” Alexander smiled. “We’re deliberately informal here, apart from dinner of course.”
Louis looked startled. “I thought you were going to keep us secluded?”
“Not really necessary. Our staff here are very discreet and very loyal, and the only family members staying currently are ones who can be trusted to keep their mouths shut about family business. It’s normally something of a madhouse here – there are usually people with prospective partners and various youngsters of the family invited here so I can see them at first hand, but my staff have massaged the schedule to give us a little more privacy for a couple of weeks.”
“Very good, Alexander. It all sounds most delightful. And now that you have us at the mercy of your sports facilities and your boats and horses – what do you intend to do with us?” Louis asked with a smile.
“Hammer out an alliance that suits both of us, of course. I don’t think it’s any secret what you need from this – you need to stabilise your finances so that House Bardan can keep its seat in the Draconis Council. We can help there by buying some of the assets you’re having to divest at a fairer price than you would get from any of our competitors…”
“But not so fair you don’t make a good profit on the deal,” Maria interjected with a frown.
“Of course they will make a profit on the deal, my daughter. The Tremaynes are looking to be our allies, not a charity. So, we point you towards the most promising of the businesses we will be selling, and you will uplift your bids for those by twenty percent, shall we say?”
“That much seems a little obvious,” Paul replied. “What do you think, cousin? Ten percent?”
“Fifteen,” Louis replied firmly before Alexander could speak. “Not too much, but enough to be noticeable, and that will make the others wonder. You Tremaynes have a reputation for always knowing that bit more than the information you sell to the rest of us. They will see you pay a higher price than they would have done and think maybe there is more to the Bardan assets than they know.”
“That works,” Alexander agreed with a nod. “We’ll let your staff and mine work out the details later, of course. And in the longer term there are some promising joint ventures where we can make sure you get a good deal on the partnership, which will let you rebuild. In a generation, people will forget House Bardan were ever in the biotech business.”
Paul and Louis both frowned at that, both thinking that there was a good reason why people would forget in a generation.
Alexander ignored the brief awkward pause and continued. “As for what we get out of it… well to start with, we aren’t going to make a loss on any of those details. It’s the founding principle of the whole Draconis Alliance – free trade benefits all parties. The other thing we gain is keeping you on the Council. We need all the Liberal votes we can to counterbalance the Confederate factions these days. We don’t even need to tell you how to vote in return for our assistance – by and large, you vote the way we want on all the big issues anyway.”
“But you will expect us to owe you a favour for this, nonetheless.”
“You’ll owe us several favours for this, but don’t worry. We will be gentle in how we call upon them.”
“So…” Louis passed for a moment. “Perhaps it would help if we understood exactly what your aims are in the Council.”
Alexander looked surprised. “They’re straightforward enough. We take care of our family’s best interests, and we’re Liberals like yourself – we want to keep the government of the Alliance small and have it interfere in business as little as possible.”
“Not quite like us. We are Liberals because everything the Alliance Directorates do has to be paid for out of the dues from the houses. We want to keep our costs down, they are squeezing us too much as it is. For you, it seems more ideological. But then you are the ones behind this expansion of the navy…”
Alexander raised an eyebrow at this.
“No denials, please. I know you got Steiner and Cova to propose the plan, but it is very much an open secret that you had your minion over there put them up to it. Which leaves a lot of people wondering why any secret manoeuvre by the famously Machiavellian Tremaynes is an open secret!”
“Do you really want to know? It’s quite simple – it made you and the other Liberals much more comfortable with the idea, knowing that one of their own was the source of the idea. If some power-hungry ambitious gobshite like Philip Cova had actually originated the proposal then more than half of the Council would have run a mile away from the idea.”
“But why propose this at all? It imposes a massive cost on the houses for the build-up, and this transfer of our warships to the Alliance Navy puts so much power in the hands of a Directorate… as I said, your Liberalism always seemed ideological to me, and this seems counter to that ideology.
Alexander looked serious. “Because we believe that the Alliance government – in as far as it is a government – should have no more power than necessary, but our read of the situation out there is that it is actually necessary. We’re Liberal, but we aren’t stupid.”
“Perhaps. But I have to tell you Alexander, that the others are becoming worried that perhaps you are playing one of your deeper games here. Nobody is pleased about this thing with your nephew.”
Paul and Alexander exchanged worried looks. “At the risk of destroying my family’s reputation for omniscience,” Alexander said slowly, “What thing? And for that matter, which nephew?”
Alexander sighed at Louis’ frown. “Trust me – and if we’re going to make an alliance work, then you are going to have to trust me – I am not playing some sort of game here. I genuinely do not know what this ‘thing’ you mention is. Given that we were just talking about the Navy however, I would venture a guess that the nephew in question is Duncan?”
“Just so. Duncan Tremayne. Commander Duncan Tremayne, one of the very few officers in the regular Navy with close ties to one of the Council houses. And all of a sudden he is Captain Duncan Tremayne, promoted early and given command of one of the Navy’s new battleships over the head of more experienced officers who do not have those close family ties. Are you really telling me this is not your doing?”
Alexander shook his head. “I really am telling you, it is not. And just to be clear, Duncan is not going to be at all happy about this.”

Today has been a good day for two reasons, neither of them MMO related (although I do plan to pop on to Wildstar after posting this and get my Medic to level 20). Firstly, it’s the release date for Thomas Bergersen’s second solo album, Sun. Thomas is one half of Two Steps From Hell, and you can tell from his solo albums that he’s not just being carried by Nick Phoenix

Incidentally, my daughter’s ‘artistic roller skating’ class last weekend was playing ‘Protectors of the Earth’ from 2SFH’s album Invincible as one of the tracks they were dancing to. Now that is epic roller skating :)

Secondly, I finally finished writing the third chapter of the novel I’m currently working on, so that’s a bit over ten thousand words under my belt this time around on it. The story, currently titled ‘A Test Of Nerve’ is part SF political drama, part military space opera and part techno-thriller, and each of the first three chapters launches one of those three threads, which has made getting the story underway at least three times as hard as if I’d picked one point of view character and voice and just stuck with that. Now that’s done though, the remaining chapters are all in one of those voices so I just need to switch back and forth between them at will. Simples :) I’m going to put those first three chapters up here over the coming week – the remainder, if you like them, I’m afraid you’ll probably have to wait until the whole thing is finished. If you don’t like them, don’t worry, as it will be back to normal gaming-related service here soon enough.

Inside most nerds there’s a frustrated genre novelist – myself as no exception (more on that later). It’s why so many of us write fan fiction, or roleplay, or willingly do the extra work that dungeon mastering a pen and paper RPG entails. The nerds who are lucky enough to work in nerd industries like video games are absolutely no exception to the rule, and for some of them their day job even gives them a helping hand towards realising their ambition. Star Wars The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 both have spin-off novels written by some of their game designers, and I’m sure there are plenty of other examples out there. It’s a sold choice for the publishers – in terms of quality of writing, games designers are at least on a par with the hacks-for-hire that normally pump out genre spin-offs, and they can be pretty much guaranteed to know the game setting inside out and write something that actually fits in it. That’s not really a problem, unless you find mediocre genre spin-off novels in general a problem (and then the solution is simple – don’t buy them. There’s plenty of original SF and fantasy out there too).

No, the problem is when the guys who haven’t got to write a novel use the MMO they’re working on as a surrogate. Because then instead of playing a game designed to be as much fun as possible for us to play through, we’re sitting through a game designed to be the interactive novel the designer wanted to write. That just causes problems for them and for us.

First of all, creating a novel is different from creating a game. Both of them require settings and world-building, true, and a cast of characters (but there’s a difference here which I’ll get to in a minute), and dialogue between those characters that should ideally be entertaining to read or hear. However, novels have plot and MMOs have a scenario, and those are different things. Plots tell you what the story is. They have a beginning, a middle and an end – unless you’re George R R Martin or Robert Jordan, in which case they have a beginning, a middle, a middle, a middle and more middle. A plot takes you from the beginning of a story to a satisfying conclusion (even if they have to hire someone to write that conclusion after the author has popped his clogs). A scenario is a situation. It’s a call to arms to the player that says “this is what’s going on out there – what are you going to do about it?” Dark Age of Camelot had a scenario – you are a citizen of one of three realms at war with one another. EVE Online has a scenario – space capitalism, red in tooth and claw, a galaxy full of endless opportunities including the opportunity to die or be ripped off. Neither of them necessarily tells you what’s going to happen – that’s up to the players to decide, not the designer to force upon them.

Then there’s the thing about characters. Novels have protagonists (heroes or someone who fills the role of ‘hero’ even if that’s far from the right word to describe them), antagonists (villains) and supporting characters. An MMO should have antagonists (the monsters) and supporting characters (quest givers and merchants, at least). However, the protagonists of an MMO should be the player characters, not anything the game designer has created. Otherwise, players start to ask themselves “what’s the point?” when the game has some central NPC character who could just as easily do all the stuff they’ve been doing, and who ends up getting all the glory.

Put these together, and you get games with the events on rails, giving the player a guided tour of the story the designer wants to tell instead of the one they want to make for themselves, and to add insult to injury it’s one where the players don’t even get a starring role – they get to fight the dragon or the Dark Lord down to 1% health, then the NPC hero du jour steps in to get the killing blow in a blaze of glorious cinematic. At which point the player realises that for fifteen bucks a month he can get a whole pile of self-published ebooks that are probably as well-written and original as the story being rammed down their throats on-screen. So here’s a plea to all the game devs – if you want to write a novel, write a novel. Once you’ve finished, you can self-publish on Kindle and if it’s good, it will sell. You can even use your link with an MMO to get some publicity for your novel, if you like. But please, when making a game, make a GAME – something that lets us find our own story to tell instead of leaving us grinding dailies until the next batch of ‘content’ allows us to see what your favourite NPC did next.

I mentioned, back at the beginning, that I’m no exception. My own gaming time has been cut into recently as I’m taking another swing at one of the novel outlines I’ve been working on for years, and this time I’m actually reasonably happy with what I’m turning out. Which means you may see some writing commentary, or samples, on this blog interspersed with the rants about gaming, in the coming months. And if I can actually finish the thing this time, I’ll be taking my own advice and self-publishing on Kindle. Let’s see how this goes…

Syp has an article over at Massively giving 10 reasons why MMOs should stop using dragons. I’m assuming that the article is more about him having a deadline and an article quota rather than this really being the most burning issue in MMOs today (dragon pun only slightly intended).

It’s a fair point that dragons in MMOs are, by and large, used poorly – Deathwing is a one-note rampaging beastie (but then, to be fair, most Warcraft lore comes from the WTF school of terrible writing) and Guild Wars 2’s dragons mostly fail to live up to their billing as awesome forces of nature (Zhaitan takedown winning the award for most anti-climactic boss battle ever). Looking beyond MMOs to film and to pen and paper RPGs, however, we have plenty of examples of dragons that are so much more than a big bag of hit points with AoE attacks. For example…

Smaug – the original in modern fantasy writing, and now that he’s on the big screen it turns out that he’s Benedict Cumberbatch, whose voice and acting chops are guaranteed to make anything at least 200% more villainous, even when he isn’t actually a villain. Seriously, that Sherlock is one scary high-functioning sociopath (his words, not mine).

Lofwyr – FASA’s Shadowrun RPG was an inspired mix of fantasy and cyberpunk – so inspired, that it spawned not one but two successful Kickstarter games. In Shadowrun’s universe, when magic returned to our world in the early 21st century, so did dragons, and Shadowrun dragons are smart sentients as well as being big, scaly, firebreathing and greedy. Lofwyr took one look at the modern world and promptly exchanged a huge pile of gold for a controlling interest in the Saeder-Krupp megacorporation. Dragon as CEO, because why nest on top of your wealth when you can invest it?

Dunkelzahn – also from Shadowrun, this dragon went one better and ran for president, because dragons are fully intelligent sentients and capable of relations with other races that go beyond “Raargh, burn, destroy!” Sure, Dunkelzahn may have had dark secrets and his own agenda, but then allegedly so does Barack Obama… :)

The Dragonstar Dragon Empire – however, the prize for dragons seeking political power goes to Fantasy Flight Games’ Dragonstar setting for the D20 (AKA D&D 3rd edition) pen and paper RPG rules, which could take your fantasy characters into space to discover a galaxy where mages store their spellbooks in PDAs and the stars are ruled by an empire dominated by dragons of all kinds in an uneasy alliance, while non-dragon races are relegated to second class citizenship. Actually, since the drow make up the secret police, arguable everyone else gets THIRD class citizenship…

Gloranthan Dragons – because political power, however, is nothing compared to the dragons of Glorantha, the fantasy world best known as the original setting for the Runequest RPG. Gloranthan dragons have spent most of history asleep, but their magic is so strong that their dreams manifest in the real world. Greg Stafford, the setting’s creator, once described an occasion where a dragon woke up… and an entire mountain range disappeared, because the mountains had only been there because the dragon was dreaming of them. This had fairly drastic consequences for all of the people who had been living in that part of the world, so all things considered it’s probably best to let sleeping dragons lie.

So, after getting all disgusted over asinine raid attunements I’ve actually ended up with a copy of Wildstar after all. You can blame ‘social factors’ for this one – some of my old gang from Guild Wars 2 are playing, and are co-founders of a guild there together with some of their old mates from LotRO (and are allied with a guild connected to MY old kinship from LotRO), and browsing around the guild looked pretty fun, with an ethos aimed at the “over 30 and have kids” crowd… so I picked up a copy and am now busy levelling up Tremayne the Engineer (now at level 38), with a side order of Charonis the Medic (all of level 17), putting most of my ESO activities on the back burner for now.

I still think ESO is the better game – or at least, the better MMO, because Wildstar arguably has tighter design as a game. ESO has atmosphere, a sense of place, stories and character interactions that evoke genuine emotional responses. Wildstar is so busy swinging a wrecking ball through the fourth wall (and the other three walls, and the roof) that even when you lead a group of soldiers into battle, one of them dies and you have to go tell his grieving widow it feels more like they’re playing the hoary old war movie cliché for laughs. Wildstar stakes no claim to be literature – as I suspected, it’s a Saturday morning action cartoon series, but if its emotional range doesn’t really go beyond “shits and giggles” at least it delivers competently on that front.

What Wildstar does have is a lot more mechanics to get your teeth into. Where ESO pretty much throws the toy box of abilities wide open and lets you pick and play with anything you like, Wildstar’s classes are more narrowly defined but then have deeper customisation within that narrow definition. If talent allocation and optimising skill rotation make your eyes light up, then Wildstar has more to offer – it truly is a child of (vanilla/BC) WoW, only now with 100% more active dodging. The crafting system is – well, it’s either deep, or insanely over-complicated. I’m inclined towards the latter, because some of the complexity seems to be bolted on for the sake of adding complexity. Maybe the Chua designed it. Unlike ESO’s crafting, which is pretty easy to grasp but requires dedication and investment of skill points to master, Wildstar’s features multiple mechanics, talent trees, achievements and a darts-like mini-game where you try and hit a target to make a specific item, and elicits a reaction of “huh?” even from Mensa-level IQs.

If I had just been soloing around and maybe trying PUGs for the group content, I doubt Wildstar would have grabbed me much. However, the social factors kicked in – I’ve been lucky enough to fall in with an active guild of like-minded individuals, which is always the key to finding a game to stick with. It helps that Wildstar scales everybody’s level to group content, so I’m not stuck looking for a team of people at my exact level, and a level 50 joining some of us lowbies for an adventure doesn’t carry us through trivial (for them) content. Chances are I’ll be turning up on Nexus regularly but more for the company than the scenery.

Wow. That’s as in “Gee golly gosh”, not “World of Warcraft”.

Syncaine has fallen out of love with Darkfall on a number of what seem like quite reasonable grounds, including lousy design decisions and quite incompetent forum management of an excessively toxic community.

Then that community followed him to his blog and proved his point for him. I advise anyone who doesn’t mind having their faith in humanity’s essentially good nature crushed to take a look so that they can then go back to the forums of their own game of choice and be able to remind themselves that they aren’t THAT bad.

I’d probably ask that anyone who DOES mind having their faith in humanity’s essentially good nature crushed to go take a look anyway, before that faith of theirs leads them to voting for someone who makes public policy on such erroneous assumptions :)

And if by any chance the title of this post is wrong and you can find an even worse comments thread, please don’t send me any links to it – I don’t actually need my opinion of the denizens of the internet lowered any further, thank you.

I see Massively’s regular ESO column has been taken away from a writer who was determined to troll the game he was paid to cover and handed to someone who enjoys the game and seems to want to punch the naysayers in the face.

It’s click bait. But it’s entertainingly written click bait. And at least this way, the coverage of the next update to the game might actually be coverage of the update to the game, and not spend three quarters of the article on “I hate ESO because I’m on the cool kids bandwagon”.

In other news, my main character is now level 41, enjoying the quests and stories in The Rift, and a werewolf. There’s something pretty disturbing about wolfing out, chasing down people running in fear from the sight of it, and then having the game reward you for munching on their corpses. Not nearly as disturbing as one or two of the storylines I’ve encountered, though. Jef’s column has a very valid point, which is that the content locusts who blitzed through ESO for the XP have short-changed themselves as much as someone who necks a bottle of 18 year old Glenmorangie for the sole purpose of getting drunk ASAP.

I think ‘ve been fairly clear that I’m not currently playing Wildstar, and on the whole it’s not really appealing to me. On the other hand, part of me does want to pick up a copy or at least blag a guest code from somewhere to try it for a few days. After all, I’ve stuck my nose in on almost every major Western MMO release so far.

So I’d like to thank Jeromai for alerting me to Wildstar’s Twelve Step Program for raid access, which has done a lot to quell those urges. Not because I was in any great hurry to raid in that game, in the same way that I did very little raiding in LotRO, RIFT or SWTOR – but in all of those games, the option was there once you reached level cap and took a little care with your gear. Wildstar, however, sets out its stall by raising an impudent digit and yelling “FUCK YOU, CASUAL!” to any poor sod who doesn’t want to make it their life’s work just to get in the front door of raiding. Look, I played vanilla WoW – I’ve been through attunement for Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and Onyxia. That chart looks to be on a par with doing all three of those attunements just to get into your first raid.

I do particularly like the comments on that Wildstar forum thread about “Casuals don’t deserve to raid”. Thank you sir, now I know that I can only have any sense of worth once I have earned your respect by enduring a tedious and degrading initiation ritual. Oh wait, I’m not some 19 year old trying to pledge to a fraternity, willing to walk on my lips through busted glass to get the respect of the cool kids. I’m old enough to be that kid’s father and my sense of self-worth is pretty well-grounded, thank you. If I’m going to raid, it’s because it’s something that’s fun to do, and at best Carbine have declared that they’re A-OK with hiding the fun behind a wall of grind. At worst, I have to suspect that behind that wall may just be… more grind.

So hey, Wildstar, at this point I’m going to have to flip your digit right back at you and jog along. Give me a call some time when you actually WANT players.

Courtesy of the BBC we get news that Mind Candy, the evil geniuses behind Moshi Monsters, are developing a game called World of Warriors. Because that totally won’t get abbreviated to something that might get it confused with World of Warships, or possibly some other game already on the market.

I hasten to add that anything I may know about Moshi Monsters comes purely from having to sit through the (mercifully short) Moshi Monsters Movie with my two daughters. And from having the Moshi Village app installed on my iPhone. Which was put there by daughter number one and which icon I do not personally ever tap a finger upon.

I can’t help feeling sorry for ESO. Here’s a game I’m still enjoying playing, and people I know are still enjoying playing the game, and despite rumours to the contrary there’s at least one other blogger out there enjoying the game. It’s been the target of ranty twats on Youtube looking for something to rant about because apparently they’re internet famous for ranting, and people moaning that having a subscription is evil because apparently $15 is more than some can afford for entertainment (seriously? If you can’t spare $15 for entertainment, you better be doing something other than playing a video game all day anyway), but at least it has a regular column devoted to it over at Massively. Their game-specific columns may take developers to task when they fall down on the job, but by and large they’re by people who are enjoying the game, for people enjoying the game, and about the cool things happening in the game.

Oh dear.

That post doesn’t exactly exude love for the game. In fact, I’d categorise it as a hatchet job on Zenimax’s first update. Let’s see… out of 16 paragraphs, the first 6 (or 7) are basically a long complaint that we were promised an update every 4 to 6 weeks, and this one took 7 weeks from launch date to arrive. That’s over a third of the article based on the fact that this update missed a promised (if it can be construed as an iron-clad promise, which nobody with a brain EVER assumes with a hypothetical release schedule) release date by one week. Cry me a river, please, then pop over to Rift or LotRO and check how often their updates come out. Or WoW. Especially WoW.

Then we’ve got a complaint that the new zone would be “frustrating to solo” even if you’re at the level cap. That would be the zone that has been described all along as being designed as tough, end-game group content, “frustrating to solo”. Well I never! I suspect that the groups attempting it would find it “frustrating to group” if it had been made easy to solo.

Next up, three paragraphs bemoaning that some of the content in Craglorn is mechanically identical to fighting Dark Anchors – four waves of enemies, culminating in an open world boss fight. Yup, functionally identical but still a good ruck with enemies galore. Did we really need three paragraphs to complain that they’re not different? Would it have been OK if it was three waves of enemies, or five? And if Larry Everett is going to categorise open world events that draw other players in to help you fight a swarm of enemies as “moments of boredom” than methinks he has a deeper problem, which is that he’s not enjoying playing ESO. In that case, it would be cruel and unusual punishment for Massively to force him to keep writing a column about it. Now, I’m British and we have no problem with cruel and unusual punishment over here, but Massively is run by Americans who have a sissy ass constitution that forbids that sort of thing :D

We then get three paragraphs grudgingly admitting that some of the content is OK, and possibly even fun, then it’s back to snark as he sums up in the last two paragraphs. Whew! I’d say it’s fair to look at a game warts and all, and ESO definitely has some warts, but that’s the kind of journalism that gives “fair and balanced” a bad name.

As a personal aside, I’m nowhere NEAR visiting Craglorn yet myself, but I appreciate the quality of life changes that the patch brought for all levels, and that don’t even get a mention in the Massively article.

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