Farewell Arete

Oh hello there, I didn’t see you come in.  Won’t you make yourself comfortable?

There’s been a lot on the go since I last wrote and I thought it was well past time to got down a few lines.

Some of you will recall that when I returned to the Realms of Despair that I joined the Order of Arete.  The order was formed primarily by a group of players who were unhappy with the way Dragonslayer was being run at the time.  The details depend on who you ask so I won’t put myself in the middle of it, I wasn’t here at the time.  It seems that in the next little while the order will be shut down.  This is a pretty rare thing in the Realms, the only other order to be decommissioned was Maidenstone.  I’ve written before about the drama that led to my decision to leave Arete and that a number of players came with me back to Dragonslayer which was under new management.  The whole thing was triggered by Raveyn and Jaxxon disappearing, effectively vacating the Leader and First positions and it seems that exodus is part of the death knell we hear tolling today.  I applaud Alex and the others who have been involved with trying to keep the order alive and for what appears to be a substantial effort to close the order in a very fair manner.

Some of you noticed I’ve also left Dragonslayer.  Less drama around this decision but I would say that the new areas being introduced and no one around to explore with was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I see they’ve been recruiting members of GoO again and running S/O and I wish them well.  I’ve seen this exact pattern before and the people recruited ended up going inactive after getting discouraged by maybe this time it’ll be different.

I’ve come to the point of my game playing now where I’m interested in having fun.  If I can’t figure out how to have fun I may as well quit and go do something else with my time.  I have been playing a great deal on my own and I’ve been having fun with adventuring but ultimately I returned to the Realms to have a bit of a social aspect to my game.  My Diablo clan had reduced itself to a few guys who only wanted to run top tier stuff and wouldn’t help anyone who was beneath that play level.  Similarly I see a lot of people on Realms with the attitude “it’s not worth the effort to run it, just buy it off auction and gold when you’re bored”.  If this is how you play can I suggest that there are other games where you leave your browser window open and the gold total ticks up and every so often you have new events available you can watch… and if the gold ticks up too slow you can go all hax0rz on the Javascript and just put whatever total you want in.

As an applicant to Ascendere I’ve encountered a group of players that go and kill things and gear their characters themselves.  They adventure and learn and poke into corners of the Realms  just for fun.  I’ve been to a great number of mobs lately that “aren’t worth the effort, just buy it off auction and gold to get more gear”.  I’ve had a lot of fun actually knocking these things down and seeing how they’ve been written.  There are some less fun aspects to some of these fights but they’re unique challenges.

There is a lot of effort going into recruiting new players.  Last time almost none of them stuck around.  Attitudes are contagious, yours might kill.  If you have a bad attitude consider that just because you’ve been there and done that doesn’t mean others have.  Maybe if you’ve been there and done that to death it’s time to just retire and stop pretending that you play… or maybe you can find a way to put that vast experience to work in a positive way.  Build something, write a quest … try something you haven’t done before, you might find a new measure of reward.

The Brujah Return (for IOQC)

So I mentioned getting myself ready for IOQC but what about the IOQC?

This month’s quest was hosted by the Order of Inconnu written by Lady Velya herself.  I quested on Tharius as part of the Dragonslayer team which also consisted of Sophie, Yibaroane, Malfian and Gagnon.

The quest had us retrieving ancient tablets from increasingly more difficult Brujah warriors.  The first warrior was straightforward and in fact stopped the fight before we killed him off.  We had returned to General Assembly for a clue since he had turned himself pacifist but it turned out he was waiting for a little briberooni 🙂

The next two warriors kicked like mules though.  Of course both used a great number of vampiric attacks but also rained a fair amount of gouges and hellfire into my life (I really have to find a good way to cut hellfire down, it’s starting to show up everywhere!!).  A couple of deaths and regroups and we managed to get the job done, switching to ambrosias for the last fight really helped recover from the gouge lag.

I’ve been running around investigating the history of the old clans so to see a direct reference to Brujah here was nice.  Of course both the Inconnu and Brujah are themselves references to White Wolf Games Vampire:The Masquerade so the reference may not have been to the in game pk clan but rather to the original source material but either way, nicely written and themed.

Congrats to DS for coming first in this event, I was proud of our team for working well together.  Solutions to the clues came from 3 different people and lots of suggestions and communication team wide.  Congrats to the other teams as well, I didn’t mind waiting 45 minutes to pester Destre for glory work while you guys were still out and adventuring! 🙂

Good luck next time!!

A testament to “honor” and “comaraderie” …

As readers of this blog will recognize, I often struggle with how I feel about this situation or that and that as often as not my emotions play a significant role in making decisions.  I can intellectualize things but at the end of the day it has to feel right or it’s the wrong answer for me.

I have often felt that a number of the rules of the Realms are just flat silly.  I think they often overreach, are sometimes unevenly enforced and could be better resolved by an examination of root behaviours.  I also understand that in order to resolve those problems would require a tremendous effort and I don’t think anyone wants to spend their recreation time being an amateur lawyer or unpaid babysitter.  I generally try to play within the rules by buying into the idea of the “good of the Realms”.  If I stake an area endlessly I deprive others of the chance to come get whatever I’m staking.  If I flood the market with some piece of equipment just for the sake of driving the price down I devalue the efforts of others trying to accomplish the same goals (though I don’t buy into the economy idea, but that’s a different tirade), if I complain endlessly without trying to find ways to contribute to a solution then I am sapping the energy of others who might want to contribute.  These are but a few examples of some of the things I feel work.  I posted it when I left the game all those years ago, leave Realms better than you found it.  That’s me.  I don’t always succeed and to be honest I don’t even always try, but I think I do more good than harm by a long shot.

I feel that I conduct myself honourably… oh wait, let’s back up and define it: Merriam-Webster says that honour is “respect that is given to someone who is admired”, “good reputation, good quality or character as judged by other people”, “high moral standards of behaviour”, “a showing of usually merited respect”, “one’s word given as a guarantee of performance” … it’s very clear that there are many facets of what can be considered as honourable.

Some of the things I do not feel reflect honourably on people or organizations on Realms include frequently being helled for breaking rules, attempting to skirt the rules by arguing against the letter of the rules when the spirit is quite clear, intentionally exploiting other players in bad trades, stealing from donations or organizations  … the list goes on but these are some obvious ones.  Let’s try a couple more.  Caring about improving your organization to the point that you do not care about any detrimental effects you have on other organizations.  Attracting people with an expression of friendship and mutual goals but treating them like a warm body instead of a part of the team.  Volunteering to spearhead projects or organizations and then disappearing without so much as a word for weeks on end. Picking activities based solely on your goals and gains but not supporting the goals of others who help you accomplish yours.  I think those things also fail to meet the social contract for honourable behaviour.

One of the things that has always felt right is promoting camaraderie within the Realms of Despair, especially in the organizations I participate in.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “a feeling of good friendship among the people in a group”.  There are a variety of definitions but all of them emphasize friendship and either state or imply trust as properties that have to exist.

Contrary to what some might think, I do not come to Realms looking to make new friends that I will have and cherish the rest of my life.  Most of my friends on Realms would disappear from my life if they logged out of Realms and never came back.  There are a select few who I would know how to get a hold of outside Realms by email or phone but there are very few.  I talked a little bit about this before but a recent comment that I want more than some people are willing to give made me realize that perhaps I need to just tone it down a bit.  Sure, I know details of lots of people’s lives… marital status, state or province (maybe even city) of residence, number of kids, perhaps – and this is one of those fine lines – I might know their kid’s names … these things are not a big deal to me.  It’s just a way of personalizing a line of text into a person instead of a chat program.  So to me friendship on Realms is mostly about having people around who I enjoy chatting with, who are interested in some of the same types of game play I am interested in and who I enjoy spending leisure time with.  When these people leave Realms I do miss them but the fact is that Realms is what we had in common.

So in general I think if I want to promote camaraderie within Realms then part of that is being at least minimally social.  Saying hello at least to my organization when I log in, normally saying good bye, engaging in a little small talk.  If I can’t achieve that small amount then I don’t think that I can move past anonymous text to anything like even online friendship.  I’ll also say I think that it is very hard to trust anyone that I do not believe behaves in an honourable manner.  If they’re willing to screw over others, how long before they screw me over?  To me camaraderie requires both aspects, friendship and trust.  There are those on Realms who I enjoy associating with but I would never trust.  Similarly there are those I feel I can trust but don’t care to associate with.

So why talk about honor and camaraderie?  I guess I didn’t like being told that I had excessive expectations of people leading an organization that “stands as a testament to Honor, Comaraderie” and some other stuff by someone who endlessly farms and gets helled for botting when they disappear for 3 weeks without so much as a note saying “hey, we need a break”.

Huh.  I got the idea these things were important by people who remember my efforts in organizations like the Guild of Druids 10 years ago who come back and tell me how fondly they remember that game play.  I got the idea from the immortals who share their recollections about their experiences.

… but maybe I’m the asshole, won’t be the first time, won’t be the last.

All that’s old is new again …

I reflect a bit on my recollection of being a new player, indeed I have blogged about it a bit.  The goal of this recollection is to try to keep myself open to the experience that new players are having with Realms so that I can try to keep useful ideas floating to the surface for new player attraction and retention.

I think it’s important to separate them because getting people in the door means nothing if we can’t keep them and keeping 100% of a very low attraction does little to help the overall situation.  Of course both attraction and retention are two-fold, attracting new players versus re-enticing older players and retaining new players versus retaining the existing player base.

Attraction is a matter of advertising I think.  Traditionally I’ve felt the best method of advertising is word of mouth.  If your friend plays and helps you get up to speed then you’re likely to give it a go.  This is how I was recruited into the Realms of Despair by Daltorak so many years ago.  For this to be effective as a primary strategy there needs to be a critical mass of players and at present I believe we are probably below that threshold but it’s still a very good way of introducing new players.  Are you involved in role playing website?  Are there people there who might enjoy Realms RP?  Perhaps you have some friends who are big fans of retro gaming, does their interest extend into text based games?

We certainly need to get the word out among the people who are already interested in muds as well, that is why voting on The Mud Connector and Top Mud Sites is so very important.  We’ve languished around 25th for some time and recently we’ve beaten our way back into the top 20, but that’s not good enough.  I think that we’ll need to keep pushing for the top 10 before this will become a good source of new players, but again every little bit helps.

There has been a great deal of posting happening on the Facebook Realms of Despair group.  I think this is lighting a bit of a fire under some old players to come back in and check things out again.  An important question is why did they leave originally?  I think that topic could fill a few blog posts, but I do think it’s important that we listen to them.  Not everything can be addressed but perhaps things that didn’t make sense 5 or 8 years ago would make sense now.

So what about retention?  It used to be that the first stopping place of a true new player would be a guild.  I always thought that leaving them on their own until level 15 or even 20 was a little tough.  It’s the first little while when you need the most help.  Of course when channels were active and there were lots of NC online that helped to balance things quite a lot.  I am hopeful that the new guild builds will give a good home to new players again.  I also hope that the entry level is set somewhere to maximize the feeling of belonging and help.

New players are quite welcome in Arete but it is certainly not the order’s goal to replace guilds as a first stop for new players.  Not only do guilds offer a place that is more specialized towards learning a particular class but in principle there would be more people of similar level who you can join in leveling.  Nonetheless I think a sense of community and home for new players is important in helping with retention.  Everyone who answers questions or even says hello on channels is helping that sense of community.

I’ve seen a great deal of comments about “don’t level too fast” or “enjoy the adventure” but the fact is that when you don’t have an avatar, your goal is to get an avatar.  Your whole climb up the ladder is about entering the land of yellow spam and never having to eat, drink or sleep again. *eg*  I agree that there are a lot of interesting areas out for lower level players but I don’t think they get visited unless there’s a reason to go there.  If a new player is told there’s a piece of equipment that will help their leveling they’ll go there.  Unfortunately like Diablo, by the time you can get the equipment sometimes you no longer need it.  Still everyone’s going to do things differently.  The introduction of lowbie quests have been fairly well done I think there’s room to keep growing along these lines.

What about avatar engagement?  The classic problem.  There is no end game for Realms… the goals are what you set for yourself.  In an age of many players online, you have your choice of runs to attend to help you dress an army of characters.  This is something every player, new and old, can contribute to improving.  It is frustrating trying to get a critical mass of players together to go topple the next mob.  A system that scales mobs attacks and defenses by the number of characters in a room or an area could help this.  Any mob that is a tank switcher would need hardly any modification to it’s attack style and any mob that locks onto a single tank while the hitters beat it to death is probably due for an upgrade anyway.  So now a single player could reasonably go fight a wider range of mobiles.  It shouldn’t be easy.  You should be able to be insane and go one on one with Danbala and have a shot to win.  It shouldn’t be easy.  It should be a bit easier with multiple people to encourage the social aspect.  Hey can’t we just take multi checks off things and get to the same place?  Maybe.  Multi checks do help restrain some of the really over the top behavior that we’ve seen over the years and by keeping things solo we still support the idea that a new player has an equal shot at things.  Yes, better equipment will help a veteran, but that’s the privilege that you earn for playing.  The Falcon’s Quest is something I think is extremely well done, it gives something that is genuinely worthwhile to your character.  More things like this would help.

Fully automated quest system?  No… I think that’s overreaching, the quest council does a good job being creative.  Let’s untie their hands and give them a little more ability to give out cool prizes.  Glory is helpful but unique quest prizes are very nice too.

One of the biggest comments I’ve heard is that our areas are static and that stifles the ability of players to feel like they’re interacting with the game.  This is true and valid, from my point of view.  There is little interaction between areas because of the structure of objects and area files.  You have to be trusted to a certain level before you can figure out the numbers to use to make areas interact with one another and you create couplings that can break if one area changes out of lock step with the other.  With modern source control these text files can easily be tracked and dependencies maintained.

I say more interactivity and some source code help in allowing minor edits to an area.  When working on the Guild of Spirit I realized how stupid it is that the garden will be lush and green even when Realms tells me it’s snowing.  I would have to write another room with the winter description and a program to silently trans everything and everyone in the room to the winter room and then open and close passages so the exits would still work.  It’s quite doable.  I may even try to put some of this sort of thing into an area.  Who would want to do this for more than a few rooms however?  I think a high level of interactivity with some sort of overarching story within Realms can help.


Oh well, this is getting long in the tooth.  I’d love to hear from anyone reading this with your ideas on how we can make Realms better.


Getting my feet on the ground

It’s amazing how many of the commands and how many details of the Realms I instantly recalled.  It didn’t take too long to track down Arca who has been keeping my chars alive for years.  Only a few autodeleted, like Raspberry the Paladin and Darhma the Thief (Darmha and Tharius were mudmarried back when she was Julie’s thief).  A big thanks to Raveyn and Kyrna of the Order of Arete for helping with that.

Unsurprisingly in the years that Turlough held the characters and the years since that Arca has held them, a lot of the equipment has been shuffled around, used elsewhere, traded, sold or whatever.  In all fairness, if I held someone’s characters for a decade I’d think of them as mine and do pretty well what I pleased too.  Notwithstanding, by shuffling things around I’ve got several very usable characters ready to use.

So the big question was do I rejoin the Order of Dragonslayer?  I felt at home there, once upon a time, and since I still had Claws of the Wyrm on my hands I thought it was a no brainer to go ahead and rejoin.  I remember Sophie and Joe from Guild of Druid runs to Danbala (and elsewhere) and think well of them, I’ve had no problems with either of them and I haven’t been around if there have been controversies.

Something I realize in coming back to the game is that I’m looking for a social environment.  I joined and left Diablo 3 clans for that reason, I can play well enough alone but I am looking for some comradeship.  When it comes to Realms I enjoy exploring and running.  It’s ok to spend 3 hours and only come home with a green line of text because that’s the game.  Not really all that different than Diablo farming in that regard, you’re building up characters and using them to take you further into the game.

In the first few days back I was very excited to be back and active.  I wanted to jump back into running and to help rebuild Dragonslayer.  Hell if I had my way I’d also build a Facebook app out of the Flash MUD client on the Realms main page and herald a new flow of players into the Realms.  I got re-inducted, asked for and got wiki access and proceeded to straighten out some of my characters.

It’s times like this that I get myself into trouble.  I take on too much, get disappointed when I don’t get big results, give up and move on.  I’ve learned a few things along the way and I have to take a breath and acknowledge some things to myself; the current situation is not my fault and no one expects me to fix it, I contribute best when I am engaged and that it’s okay to just want to participate and set my own goals in the game.

While getting organized I chummed with Raveyn and Arca a fair amount, naturally.  I came to acknowledge that in the time I was online there were always a number of active Arete around who have been pretty friendly thus far.  Simultaneously with the exception of 2 old friends, I have seen very few Dragonslayers online.  Lounging at the Summit was a frequent activity, back in the day, but there were always people coming or going.

When I was asked if I’d like to apply to Arete I really had a moral crisis.  I want to help Dragonslayer rebuild, the order was good to me and I think it’d be very satisfying to see it active but I’ve come to question whether I am at a point where I’m able to help.  Yes, I can be around and be active but with my current commitments to family, school and work I don’t think I should make any serious time commitments.  Next, I need to relearn the runs and learn to play at competitive level like I did in the past.  That means I need mentors to learn from or else it will be a very long process.  As much as it stinks, I don’t see a mentor like that in DS for me.  Yes, some of the players who are playing in DS could fill that role, but if we’re not on at the same time or miss each other, then it doesn’t work out.

I understand there’s been some housecleaning of old, inactive characters (ha, like me!) but more than that, there seems to have been an exodus a little while ago to Arete.  I have heard bits and pieces about this and I believe there are hurt feelings among those directly involved, so all I’ll say here is that my decision to leave Dragonslayer and join Arete was purely based on my own situation and not a reflection of what has gone on over the last few months (especially).  If I could have kept a foot in both orders I would have but neither order allows it.  Perhaps I should have held off on the request for re-induction or for the wiki access so that there’d be no question of my motives.  I wish DS all the best and if I can still contribute from Arete, I’m happy to help.  Creemore, Sophie, Joe, I hope there are no hard feelings and I hope that we will run together soon.