Gamey Ponderances (ME, 4E, 5B)

4 06 2008

Mass Effect PC rolled in yesterday. The new UI improvements help a lot — notably the ability to pause what’s going on and issue commands to your NPC buddies. Combat still isn’t perfect… fights are usually over in the blink of an eye and a hail of gunfire leaving me confused as to what just happened, but that may be because I’m on “Casual Mode”. What can I say, I prefer story to action.

I’m trying to play through as a Paragon (good alignment) this time instead of a Renegade (bad alignment). The Renegade was fun but kind of mindlessly dickish to everybody and in order to get your bonuses you had to come off as an absolutely selfish hardass all the time, even when you didn’t wanna be. I appreciated them posing the Renegade as a Dirty Harry type, who gets the mission done and saves the world but in questionable ways, but too often I was basically just being a prick for prick’s sake. In contrast, Paragons pick the most compassionate response possible… but they end up being a bit generic nice guys as a result, with uninteresting dialogue and no real twists.

I’d love an RPG that allows me to be more than a saint and an asshole. A deadpan snarker, a schemer, an unhinged oddball, a comedian, whatever… just some variation other than rolling as the epitome of good or evil.

And thus we come to Dungeons ‘n Dragons 4e, which is freeform and thus allows that! I’m enjoying the rule changes, and particularly like what they’ve done with Rangers (although I’m trying to find some interpretation of the rules that lets me master a crossbow instead of a generic longbow) and the whole thing feels RIGHT. But one thing doesn’t, and that’s the DDi (Insider) service.

DDi provides a character builder, character visualizer (basically a 3-D dressup doll), rules lookup table, issues of their D&D branded magazines, a map editor, and the online game table. All that sounds good, but there’s a problem — they want $15 for it. Now, you may recall from my earlier posts that I have no problems paying cash. And I felt that the DDi service would be better than the free offerings because it’s polished and pro and offers new features the free solutions don’t. In essence, DDi would be Better Than Free. (All web enterprentuers need to read that article.)

Well… upon more research… it’s not actually better than free. The rules lookup is just that, the rules, it’s not like online books and the resources are pretty limited in scope. The builder can easily be duped by free programs. The visualizer MIGHT be awesome but I highly doubt it’s gonna come close to COH’s editor or even a well done SL avatar. The map editor isn’t going to be much better than a free editor — but wait, it’s got 3-D elements, right? Yes, but you have to pay extra for 3-D tiles and 3-D miniatures, via micropayments! Obviously being an SLer I have no objections to micropayments, but MPs just for bits of art, and MPs on top of a subscription is too much to swallow for too little value.

The real killer for me is the game table. It’s not actually a 4e game table, it doesn’t do any of the rules and math gymnastics for you, it provides NO TOOLS whatsoever beyond “move tokens around on a whiteboard” and “roll a die”. That’s it. In other words it’s doing nothing that the free game tables aren’t already doing, and they don’t charge you money for their service or their artwork. You can’t even say the matchmaking service is the real gem of the pile because there are free matchmaking services, too. Having it all integrated in one package… character vaults, game tables, services… that’s appealing. But it’s not $15 plus unspecified MPs appealling.

So, what ARE you getting that’s irreplacable? WOTC magazines. That’s it. No thanks. Unless they severely beef up the features and make DDi something powerful and indispensable to gamers, they are charging way the hell too much. What they have right now — an end-to-end software chain and some mags — is worth maybe $6 a month at most. It’s not even comparable to an MMORPG’s level of content and ongoing service.

Finally in the “stupid” category, we have Second Life(tm)’s 5th Birthday Party. It’s been a yearly resident-run event, but this year, Linden Labs(tm) are stepping in to take control…

EDIT: The Lindens have more-or-less reversed their reversed reversed decision, or something. I’ll include what I originally wrote under an LJ-Cut.

Finally in the “stupid” category, we have Second Life(tm)’s 5th Birthday Party. It’s been a yearly resident-run event, but this year, Linden Labs(tm) are stepping in to take control specifically to kick out a group of heinous bastards who have no right to participate and stain us all with their horribleness and must be purged from the virtual earth. That’s right, I’m talking about… kids.

Nope! Not furries, not goreans, they’re specifically welcomed. But child avatars aren’t. Oh, they can show up and party, but the parade floats and exhibitions they’d set up — all PG rated and utterly nonsexual, just toys and games and fun stuff — are not allowed. And why? Because some moron senator who has no idea what he’s talking about thinks SL is a haven for child predators. …and yet child avs can drop in. They just can’t submit content to the party. Huh? What? Logic? Sensibility? Then again, these two concepts have been long missing from LL’s vocabulary since they stopped being creative enablers and started being PR flacks.

Okay, the update is that kid avs and kid av submissions are welcome, but since the whole event was changed from Mature to PG, goreans are not. Which is fine. But what isn’t fine is that they hijacked a resident run event in an effort to sanitize it, then burned a bunch of folks in the process and tried to unburn them, etc. If they wanted to run their own official party, yay, but taking over a resident event is just obnoxious.

Anyway, Flotsam Beach and related enterprises will not be participating in this hijacked party. …we didn’t have plans to do so in the first place, so it’s a bit silly to boycott now, but dangit, we are. There are some alternative, purely resident run events around the grid; visit those instead.

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23 responses

4 06 2008
grizzygriswold

Actually I believe goreans and BDSMers are disinvited as well. Goreans are pigs so that’s fine with me.

4 06 2008
meagenimage

Apparently in D&D 4E they’re making Faerun (The Forgotten Realms) the “signature” setting… and also dropping a Cosmic Catastrophe and knocking it down to a Scavenger World. :(
Gaddmnit people, why does everything have to be Darker and Edgier? Let me enjoy my High Fantasy in peace.

4 06 2008
1ndustria

If that’s true, it’s a good thing in my opinion. But it’s pretty stupid that children aren’t allowed. In RL people don’t stop having children because there are child predators. Why should they stop being children in SL? It’s not going to stop child predators. In fact, it will be harder to flush them out.
I’ll boycott the official celebration. It was practically impossible to visit last year, anyway.

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

It’s a bit hard to interpret but a Linden post on Massively says that goreans are A-OK: Linkylinky.
Linden communications? Clear and straightforward? Perish the thought!

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I don’t really give a flying wahoo about Faerun, so that doesn’t affect me much. All my games run in custom settings. …which are usually “Snarkier and Edgier”.

4 06 2008
1ndustria

It’s weird how they are trying to protect children, when it’s supposed to be an adult game. What happened to all that hubbub about age verification and the like?

4 06 2008
grizzygriswold

That post has been updated. Gor and BDSM is not being allowed. This I believe is a good thing. This I think is the case of SL5B being major PR for SL, and LL being a company that wants to make money is trying to only have events that those unfamiliar with sl will “get” for lack of a better word. The negative publicity about age play has made SL look bad and I personally believe anyone using SL to simulate sex with kids needs an acid bath. It is sad that those who are using child avatars for more innocent purposes are lumped in with this, but I can’t say that if I were LL, I would not make the same business decision. I think that it is an unfortunate thing, but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have made the same decision if that makes sense. In this case, this is not something put on privately by residents on a private sim, but I public event. That’s my take on it. I don’t really like it but I think it was necessary. I am really glad Gor and BDSM is not allowed though.
As far as boycotting, I won’t be going just because I think it will be a giant lag-fest.

4 06 2008
grizzygriswold

further thoughts…
To make myself more clear, I guess I’m saying… I don’t like the decision, but given the circumstances, I can’t really say that I blame them.

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: further thoughts…
Yeah, I can understand it too — and at least now it’s more of a blanket ban instead of a weirdly selective thing. But it’s still lameness incarnate, particularly in how LL handled it.
They took what was a resident run event and hijacked it in the name of sanitizing for a rosier outlook to the investors and politicians. If they wanted to run their OWN official party, okay, fine… but annexing someone else’s effort is bizarre. It sends the wrong message to the community.
It’d be like me storming your house during your birthday party kicking you out because I want to run my own party instead for the local piano tuner’s union or some other such nonsense. Why not just two different parties, instead of one party, then booting them out, then ending up with two parties anyway?
Second of second parties, I’ll be scouting out alternative venues to celebrate… ones that aren’t a Linden Labs(tm) dog and pony show. Something grassroots in the true spirit of SL(tm).

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

It died out because of privacy concerns, international technical issues, and profit minded SLers not wanting to exclude possible customers in the name of safety.
Honestly, the whole thing smacked of a token effort by LL to say “See? We have a system” to the press, even if they knew the system was useless. They can say they have one, see. That’s all that matters.

4 06 2008
1ndustria

Hehe! Too bad they don’t make such a flimsy effort in regards to SL5B.

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: further thoughts…
ADDENDUM: The Lindens posted that any submissions which meet PG guidelines will be fine, even from child avatars.
Good. Once again they bungle their PR and wait a few days and then make a carefully worded vague reply which then has to be explained in better detail and then that better detail has to be explained in specific detail, but… good. It’s a make-good.
Still not going to the party for reasons detailed above. They hijacked a resident run event, changed the rules after submissions were being taken, burned a bunch of people in the process, and frankly, it’s not worth dealing with their unique flavor of madness when the real fun is to be found inside the community itself.

4 06 2008
benabik

No, Faerun will simply be the first setting released for forth edition. Ebberon will be released in 2009, something else in 2010. That said, yes they are somewhat FUBARring the Realms. But as far as I can tell, the Realms are pretty screwed up already.
The core books contain a generic “setting” which is little more than some mentions of the “old empire”, now ruined, and some gods.

4 06 2008
grizzygriswold

Re: further thoughts…
Oh, I was under the impression that this was a Linden Lab event and not a resident run event. My take was if its a LL event they make the rules. If its a resident run event, do what you want as long as it doesn’t violate TOS or is not illegal. I was under the impression that this event was run by Linden Lab and residents were just helping and contributing. I dunno. I guess I’m kind of on the fence.

4 06 2008
Anonymous

All hail Penultima, the Heart of Snarkness!

4 06 2008
cmdr_zoom

Seems to me the Realms NEED a CC just to thin out the number of Greenwood’s legacy GMPCs. :p

4 06 2008
Anonymous

Hopefully the something in the future will be the result of another setting design competition, like Eberron was for 3rd. The fact that your home campaign setting had a shot at being the signature setting for an edtion of D&D was not the kind of thing I expect from a corporation… which made it even cooler.
-NeoVid

4 06 2008
sukael

The offerings of the DDI basically strike me as WotC versions of PCGen, Maptool, and the CoH character creator.
…except that Maptool and PCGen can actually run on Macs or Linux.

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I’ve considered a pen and paper Penultima campaign setting rulebook, but the problem is that we kinda closed the book on that setting after destroying the Advent. He (and his divine agent on earth, Kaos) was the motivating force behind all the various disasters and heroic solutions to said disasters.
I considered a “Penultima Reborn” setting which takes place a hundred years or so later with a new age of heroes, but eh. I think I’ve said what needs to be said through the existing games.

4 06 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Yeah, and therein lies the problem. It’s a (presumably) slickly designed and end to end solution, where your character sheets and visualizations and maps all flow into the game table in one tight system… and that adds Better Than Free. But probably not $15 Better Than Free, especially with the additional cost of minis and tiles.

4 06 2008
cmdr_zoom

Greyhawk, the Realms, and Krynn all started as someone’s home campaign.

5 06 2008
Anonymous

This is my problem with 4e so far, it feels more like a corporate strategy than a game. I look through the book and my mind is making a list of the usually base-game content that they’re waiting to release in the next supplement.

5 06 2008
Anonymous

True, there. Though weren’t they home campaigns of the developers and not just some extremely lucky fan?
-NeoVid

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