Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Secret World now Secret World Legends

Greetings friends,

So the big news of the week for me is that The Secret World is no more, instead 'rebranded' as Secret World Legends. For an official 'letter' see here.

For those who didn't know, The Secret World (TSW) was an amazingly fun game that was released all the way back in 2012.

It was an MMO, Massively Multiplayer Online game which required you as players to use real world skills such as translation, research, music reading etc, to decode puzzles in the virtual setting of modern day.

You will notice I have been using the past tense of 'was' rather than the current tense of 'is'.

That is because as of yesterday, the parent company FunCom have basically put the game to rest.

In the above linked statement, and it seems a fair few interviews which you can find if you just search for the game, they announced that support for TSW is being stopped, and instead they are releasing a whole new game Secret World Legends (SWL) with updated graphics, revamped combat, streamlined questing, and best of all, it's free!




Or so that is the press release anyway.

If you go to their homepage secretworldlegends.com you will see a trailer for the new game, a trailer which shows off 1 thing, the game's inengine opening cutscene, no combat, no new quest progression, only graphics.

Want to know what is funny? It looks identical to as it used to, I quite literally can not see with my untrained eye, any difference.

But surely not? I mean we were promised updated visuals, and what about all those spin off games they have done, The Park, Hide & Shriek? And of course Conan Exiles? They were all done in Unreal4, surely they have ported this to U4 and it's amazingly stable and multi award winning engine?

Hell no...

I'm serious, it's the same engine that it launched in, back in 2012, only with more stress requirements thrown on top, so now rather than turning texture filtering up to 10, you can turn it up to 11.

Will it be an improvement? Probably, but will it be noticeable? Probably not.

***

For those who have followed my blog for a while, you may be aware of Ghosted Algorithms, my secondary blog which was covering the story of my TSW character. As with many MMO players, I developed a strong affinity with my character in the game, namely because the story was very intriguing.

And what is happening to him? To my brave yet geeky Simon who with his team of Illuminati defeated some of the scariest supernatural threats to the modern world?

He's being left in the old client.

Yup no characters are being progressed over, instead FunCom are trying to sell it as a 'new start' and a chance to play through the fun again.

***

The thing is, and I've been saying this for a while, the team who have been recently working on this game have drastically changed the direction of the game. When me and my friends started playing it, the game's focus was on story and atmosphere, and in the past couple of years, the content they have released rather than being story focused, has instead focused on grind and repetition, transforming a truly wonderful multiplayer experience, into a grindfest more synonymous with a Korean MMO.

In other words they lost the gameplay that made them unique, their USP of you will.

So now, rather than providing new story content, which is what we've been asking for, for over 2 years at this point, they are instead asking us to repeat everything we have already done.

Really?!?

It actually feels unreal that I am typing this. They are literally asking us to replay the same story arcs all over again, meanwhile promising that if we do so, they will provide new story content at some point.

The thing is, they told us the same before, that new story content was coming, and on that promise I maintained my reoccurring subscription to the game for 2 whole years with next to nothing to show for it as the content being released was just grind material that did not interest me or my gaming group.
Yup, that's over £275 sent to Funcom with no return for me.

Seems a bit silly I know, why pay that money to FunCom if you are not going to see a return?

Because I hoped I might see a return.

A very large number of the long playing members of TSW have purchased what is called a 'Lifetime Membership', basically you pay something like £220, and stay a member for the length of the game. No more purchases required. Which as I just covered is roughly equal to less than years of reoccurring subscriptions.

When TSW released, my youngling was less than 1 year old, and I frankly didn't have the disposable cash to throw down £200+ on a lifetime membership, however I did (and do) have the disposable income to send £11.50 a month Funcom's way. To give you an idea, I have over 50 months under my belt. That's over £600 in subscription fees alone! I could have bought 3 lifetime subs with that.
But even when my disposable situation changed and I could afford to buy a lifetime, I still decided not to, why? Because I wanted to see Funcom do well.

I know a thing or two about economics, and I know that £200 per person is not enough to support a company long term, they need a lot more, over a much longer time period, and I wanted to help that become possible.

For years I was promised that TSW's story would continue, and I knew that would only be possible with regular money, so I kept paying hoping to see that return.

Yeah, I know. That's the sort of thing a gullible fool says.

***

Around 3 months ago, I woke up. I had been paying for roughly 2 years with nothing to show for it other than empty promises, so I decided that enough was enough, and cancelled my subscription.

***

Now we get the news about SWL, including the acknowledgment that Lifetime Members will retain their lifetime status in the new game, while people like me, those who have contributed more than 3 times that of a lifetime payment in subscriptions alone (that is not including micro transactions, which probably take the value I have spent over £1,000) have nothing to show for it, other than the 'fun' of repeating the same missions again, only with in-noticeable graphical increases.

***

You see, it is my opinion, rightly or wrongly, that lifetime membership accounts are part of the problem, and a large reason we are here today.

Basically Funcom have been struggling to keep their lights on. This is evidenced by massive layoffs, a change of subscription, a refocus on 'spin off games', and now this 'relaunch'.

Why might this be? Could it be because there are a lot of people who either have free accounts, or lifetime subs, and therefore haven't contributed to the running of Funcom in many, many, years?

Who's fault is this?
Should the blame lay at the feet of the gamers who unlike me either had the disposable income at the time, or decided that it was a better return to make the 1 large payout rather than smaller (but more) payments in the long run?

Of course not!

The blame lays fully at the feet of Funcom for thinking that they would be able to keep everything running at full speed without everyone paying every month.

***

So what would I like?

Do I think that Funcom should give retroactive Lifetime Subscriptions to those who have paid say, double the value of a lifetime account? No, not at all - but it would be nice.

No, what I think Funcom should do, is support the game they pledged to. That means adding new content to TSW, NOT putting it into a limbo where it will eventually die of attrition.

People who want to play through the story we have been waiting (and in my case, paying for) shouldn't have to play through what is basically the same game, yet again, even more so because this new game isn't even launching with the upto date content of the current game.
- Yup, basically any content released over the past 3 or so years is not going to be available at launch.

Funcom are promising that we will see his content released soon after SWL goes live, but they have been promising we would see that content 'soon' for literally two years, so I have no faith in their word whatsoever.

***

You know what I want to do? I want to go onto social media, or even in person, and start shouting at Funcom. To tell them how I feel, and how pretty disgusting this treatment is to those who have supported them, but I know that not only would they not listen, even if they did, they wouldn't care.

Plus that would just make me an asshole for trying...

...so yeah...

Goodnight TSW, you were the best MMO I ever played...

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

First Law: Override @ DaffCon2017

Greetings friends!

So I saw something the other day which was like a blow of reality straight to the face, namely these posts on Facebook:







When you read these, what do you see?

Oh yeah, First Law: Override in both the Demo Pit, and a Sunday Tournament...

Well, that was something that I had totally put on the back burner...

I see it now, and I remember discussing all of this before, then the Moonstone KickStarter began, and pushing anything serious with First Law: Override suddenly became an afterthought until we were able to get Moonstone out the door.

***

But there it is, in black letter, on white writing...

***

This has reminded me in a metaphorically painful way that I still have existing commitments, I have pledged my name for Override, a game that I still believe has the potential to be an industry stable. It's theme and setting is both interesting and intriguing, while it's ruleset is engaging while simple.

Quite simply, it is a great game which reminds me just how great it is every time I play it!

So what does this mean friends? Is Lox-San abandoning one of you? If he going to turn his back on the loyal readers of New Fairbank News to devote all his time on Moonstone and thereby cancelling the world first First Law: Override Tournament to give Moonstone his all? If he dropping out of Goblin King Games to put all his drive into Override?

No. No to both of those damnit!

***

You see, dropping either game isn't a possibility for me. At Chez Lox we never say die (we're like Goonies in that way).

Instead I am reminded of the storyline to the Legacy of Kain video games. I flip a coin and on one side we have Override, on the other we have Moonstone...

...but what about the 3rd choice? What about the side of the coin?

It might seem hard, if not impossible, but could it be that we could actually wrangle the impossible?

Could I actually support both games?

If you are a backer to the Moonstone KickStarter, you will almost certainly have read the fortnightly updates, and if you hadn't guessed, these were all written by me, your friendly neighbourhood Dr Loxley. Likewise, you may have heard about a certain world map being devised. This is something that I've been lead on, because after all, my specialty is world building, taking abstract concepts and making them fit.

In other words, I'm in Moonstone up to my neck and I love it. The whimsical fantasy world of Tauber is my world filled with politics, intrigue, and trade, and I'm going to see it through to the end. But Override is also my baby, and I'm not about to let it end up still-borne.

***

So what is the plan?

Well dear reader, I'm glad you asked...

The plan is simple.

I need to research.

I need to find out if there is interest for the World's First, First Law: Override Tournament.

If there is, then it will be run. It will be run, and it will be run well!

As it is scheduled for a Sunday, this means that I can even poach additional players throughout the days prior! And at only 300Nt entry level, we are only talking about 3-4 models to take part! You can't go wrong with that!!

But can it be done at the same time as Moonstone? Well writing a story driven tournament pack will not be easy, especially as August is the planned Wave 1 delivery date for Moonstone, but I am confident it can be done. I can make sure it happens...

But if course if there isn't any interest in an Override Tournament, then of course, maybe it isn't even needed, and for that I need your feedback.

And so dear reader, I beseech you! Are you looking to attend DaffCon this year? If you are, do you want to take part in a tournament? What about a demo stand.

Without feedback, I will be unable to judge the right action to take!

If you are unsure either way, then I would request you head over to WargameVault and download our Open Beta rulebook. It's available there where you can download it for free in a full colour, searchable .pdf complete with full rules, and story fluff!

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

As Above, So Below: The State of the Internet 2016

Greetings friends,

A lot of people I have seen are counting down the days until the end of 2016. Why is this? For festive fun & jollies? Afraid not.

No, the reason behind the countdown is that people seem to believe that 2017 is going to be better than 2016. That all the insanity of the world will magically vanish.

I'm afraid that those people are wrong.

There is a sickness in the world, a sickness which promises to infect everyone and everything, and it is present everywhere, but more so online than in physical.

***

Just yesterday the website NicheGamer announced that they were changing their terms and conditions, saying that racial slurs were to be banned from use.

This is a good thing, right?

Apparently not for the denizens of this website's commentary.

You see NicheGamer was set up during the massive fallout from the GamerGate summer of 2014. Gaming websites the world over were rallying behind people of questionable opinion and saying that if you supported GamerGate in any way, then you were unwelcome on their sites.

As you know, during the beginning, I was a big supporter of the movement. Finally there were people agreeing with me that the current climate wasn't right, and that pandering to extremists who claim such nonsense as "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem", was not the right way forward.

The problem was that, at the same time, a bunch of total a-holes decided to co-opt the moment, to use it as a platform to either a). Act like a dick, or b). Further their own political agenda. So me, and a tonne of others severed our connections with the movement and carried on independently, wanting nothing to do with the trolls who remained behind.

Enter NicheGamer, who as a founding rule stated they would offer a zero censorship policy. Yup, no matter what you did, as long as you didn't do anything illegal, you would not be censored.

What resulted was a small number of people who would 'insult' people, and 'antagonise' others by calling them racial/sexual/religious slurs.

It was disgusting, truly disgusting. And it was the reason I refused to join their community. But I understood that if you are going to have a zero censorship rule, then this sort of filth is going to exist.

But then they update their terms of service.

Awesome I think! So I create an account and post in reply to the article about the change to the TOS showing my support, and saying that was the one thing that was stopping me from contributing.

Within literal minutes I am beset upon by others claiming I'm in essence a fascist, that their rights to call people whatever they want is part of free speech and that anyone who is in support of this change isn't welcome in their community.

Yup, anyone who welcomed a change, which would result in greater inclusion, a nicer vibe, more contributors and contributions... not welcome.

So I did the best action I could think of.

I deleted my account.

As others might say, I 'cut and ran'. I could see where this was going, and frankly I didn't want to stand around and wait for it to happen.

To these 'people', the freedom to call others a racial slur, was more important than other's feeling welcome in their community. This revealed that even after this change in their TOS, they were still a community that I didn't want any association with.
- And these were the people who were not banned from using slurs.

***

Now I am sure there (might) be some reading this who say, "But Lox, slurs are just words. Who cares about words?"

Let me explain why slurs matter...

When you encounter someone who acts like a dick, then you have every right, no, requirement, to call them on it. To say "you sir are acting like a dick", or an a-hole, or any other insult of that variety. Because you are comparing them to something that describes their behaviour quite well. This is fine.

When someone uses a slur, by calling them something relating to racial/sexual/religious, then the problem is that it goes both ways.

Firstly it is a truly horrible thing to say because you are suggesting that being that race/sexuality/religion, is inherently wrong.

Secondly you are also saying that every person belonging to that race/sexuality/religion, acts like the a-hole you are calling out.

Labelling one person an a-hole is fine, that's a minority of one. It's calling attention to their personal behaviour. But doing so to a mass of people at once is generalisation and not acceptable.

***

So how does this relate to the state of the internet and the world in general?

What about that sickness I mentioned?

Well here we have people who are exactly the same as those who they were set up to confront.

'We' left other websites because 'we' were told that if we didn't con-scribe to their close-writ narrative, then we were the enemy and not welcome there.

Now 'I' am being told that if 'I' don't conscribe to his other close-wrote narrative, then I'm not welcome there either.

The whole thing is what I've been calling snowflakeism.

Snowflakeism is the sickness that is wracking our world both in reality but also online, where, in and out groups are sprouting up everywhere, be it feminism, millennials, liberals, socialists, conservatives, trolls etc. Each group creating their own echo-chamber and being unwilling to even consider discussion from outside.

All this does is make people feel disenfranchised, so then these disenfranchised join together to create their own disenfranchised group, with their own 'safe space' rules, making others feel disenfranchised, who go on to make their own group, and the cycle continues over and over. Each group hating, literally hating, the others, to the extent in liberal circles, the term 'conservative' is used as an insult, and the reverse in conservative circles.

It's tribe war of the ignorant kind, where our focus is less on the exchange of knowledge and information, and more about retaining our ignorance.

***

But how do we deal with this? How do we fix what is currently broken?

Honestly? I don't know. I'm not sure if it can be fixed, or if we just have to wait for the current mentality to burn away.

Some will argue that the answer is freedom. That we need to give people the freedom to be themselves, with free speech, and all that jazz.

Won't work. All that will happen is what is currently happening, with the establishment of echo-chambers encouraged by communities. With true freedom, all we are doing is encouraging people into tribalism and being snowflakes, forsaking others who think differently.

What about control and rules?

Nope! Still won't work. We'll still have tribalism and snowflakes, only this time it'll be based on whoever sets the rules, forcing those who disagree underground.

What about a bit of both?

...who knows?

What I do know is that we mustn't stop calling bullshit. Someone acts like a twat and gets a bad result, call them on it! It's not victim blaming, it's calling a goose, a goose (or a twat, a twat). If someone is making up a story for attention, call them on it!

There are more important things than 'feelings'. There are more important things than 'safe zones' and this bullshit we're being bombarded by, and that's entirely what this is, total bullshit.

But it goes both ways. Calling someone out isn't being a dick, it's challenging. By challenging people we are asking them to back up their claims, and if they run off refusing to do so, then chances are their claims were total bullshit. But that doesn't mean you should be a dick in how you do it.

One of the greatest lessons my father ever taught me, was to always question. It's something that I live by, and I believe it has kept me sane in a rapidly insane world.

So when others say "don't question, believe". I argue the opposite, "don't believe, question".

And on that, largely rambling note, I take my leave.

As always, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Never Settle (in game design)

Greetings friends!

Today I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about a few observations of mine regarding game design on the tabletop and my own rule about how and when a rule should exist.

This rule is simple, that every rule should conform to Occam's Razor, and have a narrative explanation.
- Note, this is about a rule, not a core game mechanic, those are different. With those, the most narrative driven and razor sliced rule would be eliminating dice or cards and have models actually do what they're supposed to do. But that is either not possible, or impractical.

Let's look at 2 examples of this from my beloved First Law: Override. Firstly, Hackers and Exo Suits. The former are the super characters of your Force who are almost always the stars of the show who win you the game, but are physically weak to compensate for the super human actions they can perform. The latter, a huge powered suit with the best armour, the best melee weapons, and an arguably best ranged gun. But these two are like oil and water.

They don't mix.

Why?

Well the meta reason is because of balance. You give a hacker an ExoSuit and they become unstoppable. They became unfun.

So out comes the razor and a rule is made to say they can't use them.

But where's the narrative?

That's simple: wetware.

Hackers have a neuronet in their brain that allows them to connect to their hacking deck, and an exo suit moves and reacts thanks to connecting to the user's brain. The two if put together would cause the hacker's wet ware to short circuit and would fry their brain.

Simple! An element of balance retained, and a narrative reason as to why!

Next up: Link-Bots and combat.

A link bot is Override's version of Infinity Remotes, or Malifaux Totems. They are physical extensions of the Hacker's deck, while being hard to kill and fast. But when they had the ability to melee and shoot, they were again unfun and to balance had to cost more in points making them unwieldily for their intended purpose.
Out came the razor, and then it was made that they couldn't be active in any combat (can still be hit or shot, but can do it back) why? Where's the narrative for this?

Again this was simple: First Law Programming! These babies are hard wired to be unable to hurt people!

Straight away we have two rules which were created to maintain the presence of 2 cool pieces of equipment, but keep the balance of the game, all the while having an understandable explanation beyond simply 'balance' or 'reasons'.

***

Now you may be wondering why I have brought this up? What possible motivation could ol' Loxley have for talking about this, his fundamental principal in game design?

Simple, and the reason is the most common reason why I bring up anything... because someone has ground my gears!

In this case we are talking Steamforged Games(SFG).

So a number of days ago SFG put out an announcement about their upcoming game Dark Souls the board game which included the following rule change:
Player Death
If any member of a party dies, the ENTIRE party is transported back to the Bonfire to rest, and a Spark is consumed. You still refill and regain everything and all Encounters reset.
sounds pretty simple, but does this comply with the narrative razor ideology?

This rule is pretty simple, and it is a valid way of dealing with player death, but where is the narrative? Under what circumstance would cause an entire party to reset and respawn because a single player died?

I have queried with others who agree with this rule as to why, the reasons given are 3 fold.

1). It's like the video game where when the host dies, all 'summoned' players are kicked from the encounter.

2). It was implemented to stop people suicide running, where they would front load their attacks to put out damage and after they are killed, the rest of the party mops up the boss.

3). SFG are professional game designers, therefore I trust them.

Let me give you my take on those 3 points:

1). Yes it is like what happens in the video game when a host dies, but what about when a summoned player dies? Nothing happens, the fight carries on leaving the host and the remaining summons to deal with the boss. Therefore to argue it is 'just like' the game, it is equally valid to argue it is 'not like' the game.

2). We are assuming that either this tactic is a problem, or that the numbers are fixed.
A). Is this actually a problem? People say that the reward for playing Dark Souls is the feeling of achievement when you down a boss. If that feeling is lost due to 'gaming' the system, then surely the only people loosing out are the players? And therefore in future games they will be less likely to do this tactic as they will be getting diminishing returns on their reward.
B). If it is a problem, then that would suggest that actually the numbers are wrong, that front loading your damage is too effective, or that the boss has too little health. To balance this, you don't remove the possibility of it being a tactic, but you make the tactic less viable by making damage output over a long fight better, with spike damage being lower, or stack on more HP to the boss meaning that even if they do this tactic, then the boss will still have too much health left for the 1 or 2 surviving characters to down it.

Notice, I am not adding additional rules, I am suggesting you balance the existing rules of the game. This is how you use the razor for game design. It also follows a narrative in that the players are not being magically transported away for reasons.

3). Just because SFG have made Guild Ball and are an established company, does not mean they are perfect at creating rules. I can name countless games by even more countless companies who have been in business for decades, and yet their rules are not infallible. Blindly trusting that they will produce the perfect ruleset is why we have problems with certain fans of certain Workshop based Games companies which results in frankly untested and terrible rulesets.

In short, what we are looking at here is a game defining rule, which if followed to the letter results in situations that don't make sense, pull the players out of the experience, remove tension while encouraging defeatist attitudes, and is frankly a lazy rule to compensate for a problem that in all fairness will sort itself out in time.

And anyway, if people want to play the game on 'EZ-MOAD' what's wrong with that? Especially when the videogame itself has such a thing by allowing you to summon other players to kill bosses for you!

Anyway, long rant over. Stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 7 November 2016

Moonstone - Last Couple of Days

Greetings friends!

My what a rush the past few weeks have been, but the end is in sight!
In just a couple more days time, our (Goblin King Games) Kickstarter will be coming to an end, and we will all be letting out a massive sigh of relief after trying to promote the game, write guest blogs, do interviews (both written and audio), push via twitter, Facebook, and message boards, while also answering questions received.
- And that is on top of our 9-5 jobs and families.


But then no one sensible ever said that running a Kickstarter was easy.


But what an amazing trip it has been! We've unlocked all our stretch goals including an alternative head for Doug (above) and even the Queen of the Fae, a venerable goddess of her people (below).


But we're not done yet!!

With just a few days to go, we still want to push forward, knowing that for ever pound we get we can pump that revenue back into making the game as great as possible including even more art for the deluxe rulebook, and even having the capital to take this onwards onto retail.

Oh yes, before you know it, this game will be filling up stock space at your own Friendly Local Games Store!

But we still need your money in order to reach these goals as soon as possible! It will happen, but with your money we can do so all the more sooner!

So tell me, have you backed?
Yes? Thank you!
No? We'll get your wallet out, hop onto Kickstarter and do so!

Seriously, currently this game is all abuzz, with people literally across the world, in China, Thailand, Germany, USA, Australia, Russia, and of course our little island of the UK all pledging and taking part in test games to see what they think of the rules and providing feedback.

I told you earlier this year that Moonstone was the future of Character Driven Skirmish games, and I meant it!
Let me tell you, the game is quite literally the future of Character Driven Skirmish games!
- Richi, New Fairbank News 25/11/2015

So you do not want to miss out on your chances to be in on this on the ground floor!

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Moonstone the game now on Kickstarter!

Greetings friends!

So it's been a while since my last real post, but I can assure you that things in Chez-Lox have not been quiet and idle!

Oh noes! I've been busy behind the scenes with something you may have heard about...

Remember that little game that I talked about at the end of last year? A certain, future of character driven skirmish games?

Well all that hard work is coming to a peak, as right now:
Moonstone the game is live on Kickstarter!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1138228733/moonstone-fantasy-skirmish-game

Check it out! We got Goblin Pug Riders, We have Fancyhats and Flintlocks. We have Shabbaroons! Thwap! You can blow up a whole troupe with that puppy! We got harpoons! Sharp sticks!

If you haven't guessed, I am so excited for this project!

At the time of writing we are at 65% funded, and I am really hoping we can push forward, break our funding goal and move on to start grabbing those stretch goals!


I mean, seriously! Who wouldn't want these Faeries in their Dominion? These in particular are models which you can't find anywhere else, there is pretty much nothing like them out in the world of miniature gaming!

Throw in fantastic rules and you have one hell of an awesome game!

If you are curious, the campaign only went live yesterday on 17th October, and I am hoping to cover how it progresses right here on New Fairbank News!

So until next time, stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Like GLaDOS, I'm still alive!

Greetings friends!

It's been quite a while since my last post, quite some time indeed!

But I wanted to take a quick moment and tell you all that it's not for nought, and that your usual Chez Lox experience should return shortly.

I'm sure you are mostly familiar with the work I have been doing for Goblin King Games, and as such almost all of my 'composing and writing' time has been filled up writing for that.

Next Monday sees the launch of the Moonstone Kickstarter (full game) and I hope to bring you some lovely juicy bits throughout that.

Until then, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley