Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Story Blueprints: Secret Society

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Secret societies are romantic to think about. That feeling that something is just behind a curtain, never known to us. It lets us believe that there’s something more to this world, something special that if we look hard enough, we can be part of this special group that knows more than what this world lets on.

Many popular stories make use of secret societies so they can set their world in a familiar setting while allowing for the mythical, legendary, and unbelievable to be real.

Vampire: The Masquerade makes use of secret societies by using rumors and misdirection (or even supernatural powers) to make the mass majority of people believe that vampires aren’t real. A small handful of mortals are in on the secret, but they are mostly pawns to be used.

Men in Black does this with a branch of the government that does not exist to enforce earth law and to keep visiting aliens from walking around in public without disguises. Many aliens make a life for themselves on earth, but some come with world wide destruction that the MiB stops and then uses technology to keep the public blissfully ignorant.

The Chronicles of Narnia isn’t a secret society, but it’s on par with a hidden world and has one of the more interesting ways of hiding their secret. Narnia is connected to earth through hidden gateways, with a wardrobe being one such gateway. Some other examples of hidden worlds are the Matrix, Harry Potter (a hybrid of sorts), and Alice in Wonderland.

I can list more, but one of the most famous examples of secret societies are the works of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu series. An ancient world that was mostly long lost and forgotten, except to small sects of people or monsters and unlucky individuals in search of truth. Unfortunately, finding the truth in this world leaves you twisted and insane by the end, or dead.

The protagonist of these stories, by and large, are outsiders. They tend to stumble upon the secret society, either by curiosity or by accident. Being revealed the truth is usually a tough shift in perspective for them and mostly they try to reject this new truth in favor of the truth they knew before. Unfortunately, once they become privy of this new world, they don’t really get a chance to go back to their old life. Many of these stories takes us on the journey of how the protagonist deals with knowing this new world and how they interact with it.

There’s still plenty of ways to tell interesting or compelling stories, such as the hero's journey (like in Star Wars), but sometimes you want to add a little mystery. Secret societies, when done well, will help the audience believing the world they live in may have something a little more magical or wonderous just outside of reach, until they start looking for it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2016

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The 2016 Newbie Blogger Initiative was about to take a break this year. Seeing as it’s a big event that I didn’t want to see pass us by, I’ve tried doing a weekly prompt. You’ll notice there was none last week because Doone has taken the lead (kicking and screaming I bet) and announced the NBI will happen in June this year. What does this mean? Any reader that wants to start a blog themselves, or has friends or family looking to start a blog can climb aboard this initiative train and join along with veterans (and myself) for guidance and a boost of readership.

What is a blog?

Why it’s basically a personal place you can post opinions, advice, thoughts, reviews, comics, stories, rants, or just about anything you want to share with other people.

What subject should I blog about?

Well that’s up to you. I personally use it to talk about games and some fandoms I’m interested in. It can be whatever you want though; games, art, books, television, home improvements, anything.

How can I get started?

To join, you just need to start a blog, either with Wordpress or Blogger, or even make your own if you have the web skills. If you need help, contact us through the following means.


Don’t fret if they look kind of bare at the moment. The event is still building up. Once you have a site setup, please share it on Discord in the “Announce Your Blog” channel, and also the NBI forum board in the “Newbie Blogger Check-in” section.

If you need any help along the way, please get in touch with us. Twitter is the best to get our attention. If you’d like to contact me directly, you can find me on Twitter at Tyrannodorkus. I’m also getting more settled in Discord, so you can find me there as well and you can find plenty of others there too. If you’re comfortable with Discord, you can also look into joining the Game Bloggers Anonymous channel that Jaedia setup.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Creative Blogger Award 2016

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Big thanks to Rakuno for nominating me for a 2016 Creative Blogger Award. Even made my own award up top.

So what is the Creative Blogger Award? It’s just the newest chain letter going aroundhighest honors a blogger can receive… a fun blogging subject that we can inflict on others. (I’ll go with that)

The rules are:

  • Thank the person that nominated you and share a link back to their blog
  • Post 5 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15-20 people for this award
  • Let the people you nominated know, that you have nominated them
  • Post the rules so everyone will understand what to do

I fulfilled the first and last requirement. Time for number two!

  1. I’m not actually an adorable little t-rex with orange glasses, I’m a… a… human *sigh*
    And not just a human, but a towering monstrosity, hovering in the upper atmosphere at around 6 feet and 5 inches tall. Also known as 1.98 meters tall for pretty much the rest of the world. There’s only been a handful of folk I’ve had to look up to.
  2. In my Liebster Award where I shared my three favorite dinosaurs (tyrannosaurus, triceratops, and compsognathus) I had completely forgot about stegosaurus. I love those back plated dinos.
  3. I love the winter time and the cold, it’s so refreshing and energizing to me. I already get plenty of heat and sun in Florida. I used to like rainy days, still kind of do, but not as much anymore.
  4. Confession time, I don’t like ice cream. I can understand if you want to leave my blog >.>
  5. I had a teacher once when asked by a wise-butt student, what super power would he like. He replied “The power to make people be quiet”. The student rebuttled saying that is a terrible super power, which the teacher didn’t hesitate with “If I had it, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.” This same student also asked if the teacher had a secret identity, which he replied he was the masked wrestler called the Reaper.

I know that last one wasn’t a fact about me, but a memory of mine. If anything, the fact is I love stories.

So, time now to choose my next victim nominate 15-20 people for this award.


I nominate each of you 15-20 times (:<

But it’s all in good fun. So if you have time guys, and have no other thing to write about, take this challenge on, else feel free to file this in the bin out in the kitchen.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Character Bound Items Need To Be Dropped

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Imagine my surprise when I first heard that an item was character bound. I couldn’t make sense of this tag on an item that dropped in EverQuest. When I asked my guild what it was, they told me that it can’t be traded or dropped, permanently stuck in my inventory unless destroyed. I argued what was the point then, why would I ever pick up the item? They explained to me that the strongest items had that tag, and it was part of the game. There was no need for such a tag in single player or cooperative games, so I had a hard time accepting this.

Since then, the reasoning behind character bound was to fight off gold sellers and EULA breaking item sales, getting players to put more time in the game, and keeping items out of the economy. Nowadays, character bound items are slowly turning into account bound, meaning you can trade that item between your own characters.

An argument made by players goes that if you get the item, then you put in the time to earn it. You didn’t just buy it off the market circumventing hours of game play, and just skipping playing the game. The reason is if you just buy your way to the top, why even play the game?

This sounds like a good argument. Why let players just buy their way to the top of the game? However I say it hurts the players, even turning them off from the game (stay with me, I’ll explain below). I argue that it didn’t matter in single player games because they were designed to let you progress at the pace the game wanted you to. But even that’s been questioned in games like Grand Theft Auto. Want the fastest car? Sure, there it is in traffic, just take it. Want a mini-gun to take on this early mission? Here’s a ground spawn behind a liquor store. It’s all yours to dictate the difficulty and fun you want to have. GTA does try to keep some of the best stuff locked away, but it’s not hard to circumvent or quickly get to them if you wanted to.

So let’s get to some of the arguments I’ve heard, like the time investment. Where you put in the time to earn the item. Did those people put in the time to earn the tradeskills for all the crafted items they’ve bought? Did they earn all the material that was used to make those items, like health potions, armor, weapons, food, etc.? To the handful of people who actually do everything themselves, you have my respect because that is a lot of time to put in. As for everyone else, we’ve grind out money and item drops to sell and get more money to buy the crafted stuff or item drops we didn’t get ourselves.

To get to my point (as promised above), just because you are good at raiding or dungeon delving, or some other play style designed to give you the best items in the game, doesn’t mean everyone is. I would like to earn it through a system I’m good at, like harvesting, exploring, or figuring out puzzles. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to save up by another means in order to earn a relic of the gods? Guild Wars 2 allows you to. This leads to my next argument.

Buying in game gold with real money from third parties is a big issue for developers. First it causes a customer service nightmare of stolen accounts, secondly it breaks the game’s EULA, and thirdly this creates a market that the studio isn’t getting a cut. Gold farmers are a plague and bound items were one solution of dealing with them. It stopped the camping of spawns to get and sell powerful items, which in turn was used to gather and sell gold. Over the years, though, games have changed their opinion and created a gold selling system themselves. Games like Eve, GW2, and even WoW came up with a system to buy gold through legitimate means. Many games use a token system that players can sell to other players. This token gives that player subscription time and the other player gets a mound of gold in return. GW2 sells a token currency that can be converted to game currency. So players are now getting gold with money legitimately.

Despite my dislike of bound items, I don’t want them abolished. I think they are a useful tool when used sparingly and with purpose. For example, if a game would like to design a super powerful item, they can make it temporary and character bound once used. Another if your game’s lore requires the use of a bound item, like a Judge Dredd MMO where judge weapons can only be equipped by judges.

As of writing this post, it came to me that bound items are, ironic enough, a means to make MMOs into single player games. To get an item, you have to put in the same time as everyone else. This doesn’t take into account that these games allow for livable open worlds that other people exist in. It’s understandable that it was created during a time where MMOs wasn’t even a term yet and developers were still used to creating single player experiences, but it’s 2016 now, over 17 years since the release of EverQuest. Developers should now have the knowledge and experience to create for a world and not a single player game anymore. So let’s drop character bound items and design for a massively multiplayer game.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Have Others Influenced My Writing

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For this week’s Newbie Blogger Initiative prompt, we ask if your writing has been influenced by others. I’ll post the full prompt below.

"Does interacting with readers or bloggers through discussion influence how you write or what you write about?"

This interaction can happen anywhere, from comments on your blog, to commenting on or reading other blogs, to discussions on social media. Anywhere you can talk about the subject you write about.

First and foremost, I write for myself. When a subject comes up that I’m interested in, and I want to talk about it, I’ll create a post. Granted, not all of them actually get finished and posted, but I stick with what I like and am interested in.

That isn’t to say I haven’t tried writing about popular subjects, it’s just none of them actually made it to post probably because I had little interest in them. Looking through my history, I had a big interest in every one of those posts. Sure, many only got an average amount of views, but a handful have struck it big.

I mention views because I would be lying if I said views don’t matter. I made a public blog for a reason, to share my experience with others and to see what they have to say. If my blog received no attention at all, I’m sure I would have quit long ago. To be perfectly honest, I like to write, but it’s the attention others have shown me that makes me feel I’m not alone in my interests and to continue writing.

However, discussing with other bloggers and commenters and seeing what they’ve done has got me to try new things. For example, I love viewing posts where fellow bloggers have shared screenshots of the games they play, recent examples being Ravalation 6 on 6 and Faeldray’s Glimpses of Darkenss: Mystery Lake. I decided to give it a try and came up with my Screen Share posts where I share a screenshot, but then add in a short story about it.

I like to see what other’s have done. When I really like something, I’ll try to emulate it with my own style. In a way, that’s how culture works and grows.

For some, they may fear that it’s copying someone else’s idea. It’s not if you make it your own. There’s nothing wrong with trying to copy someone you like or respect, it gives you practice and something to start from. Trying to start from scratch is tough, like incredibly tough. However, if you can take something you like and change it to something you love, that’s what you should do. I’ve seen some incredible stuff where people took something they like and made it their own.

If you’re a newbie blogger, or someone making a return, has talking with bloggers, or reading blogs influenced how you want to write, or what you want to write about?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How You Can Use Gaming to Explore Your Love For Writing

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The Newbie Blogger Initiative is having a bit of trouble gaining some traction this year, so a few of us bloggers came up with an alternative solution, we’ll try to share advice and experience to new bloggers and those trying to regain their spark again. The title is the first prompt, with a reverse prompt for new bloggers at the end of the post (no spoilers).

A quick bit of history, I’ve been blogging since mid-February of last year, giving me only a year and some change worth of experience. However, it’s not my first rodeo to writing. I’ve done some light writing for stories on and off for most my life and even elected a writing class in highschool. Writing is a blast because I love stories. Currently reading up on Rakuno’s ARPil character story and enjoying it.

Video games are another love I share. In school I would discuss popular games, and come up with new games between my brother and friends. I would play Dungeons and Dragons, come up with adventures, and create characters and backgrounds. I appreciate the gaming culture like no other.

So what convinced me to want to blog about games?

Beginning of last year was a pretty hard time for me. My favorite gaming news site, Massively was being axed by their AOL overlords. This was my home for years for MMO gaming news. I was really connected to the writers and community that formed around it and felt I was going to lose it. I didn’t want to lose what I’ve cherished, I wanted to fight it and saw a movement of bloggers trying to keep the flame going. I was already in the middle of trying my hand at YouTube that it felt like the perfect combo. I can make silly videos and playthroughs while simultaneously talking about these games and creating stories. If anything else, I had to try to keep the Massively flame going.

It also benefited me because being able to talk about games was  impacted since I was no longer around my highschool friends. My circle was very game averse aside from my nephews that only want to play popular games, but they don’t really have the appreciation that I do. All I had left was my brother and my recently converted gaming mother to talk shop with. Since blogging, that circle greatly increased to people who know what I mean when I say “let me kill this boss first so I can find a safe place to afk.” It’s been a boon to now talk more about my love of games.

Back to my Massively story, it was really hard on me because it takes me a very long time to feel comfortable around people. I think I was a lurker on Massively for a year before I finally forced myself and made an account to comment. Then another year to feel comfortable doing that. I was relieved when Bree and the crew decided to start their own MMO news site, Massively OP, that I had thought about just focusing on YouTube again. Instead, I enjoyed blogging so much that I kept it going. Since blogging, I was still very shy talking around the community, but after a year and getting comfortable with everyone, I did the unthinkable to my former self - joined Jaedia’s newly created gaming bloggers Discord channel. I’m sure some of you know what I mean when I say that it wasn’t an easy thing for me to do.

So to really sum all this up, writing about games really helped me deal with my social awkwardness and disabling shyness. Sure, it took me years and a strong push, but it was the catalyst to help me open up social opportunities that I’ve didn’t think I wanted.

Conversely, if you are just starting out or looking to start blogging, think about, or better yet write about, what inspires you in your game time to write? Is it the love of the game, the want to discuss it with others, or do you feel like you have ideas of your own you’d like to share? Whatever it is, let it out, one way or another. If you’re still unable to share, try starting more gently and put it in a private blog or physical notebook. Just the act of writing can help give you perspective of your own thoughts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fostering Community

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I’m late to the party, but I feel like I want to share my own opinion on the subject of fostering community in our beloved MMOs. Massively OP brought together four of our fellow blogger’s posts on the subject of fostering community; Syl, Mersault, Aywren, and Wolfyseyes. The article links to each of their posts.

So what are my credentials? Honestly, the only important one is that I play and love MMOs. But personally, I’m a soloer mostly that secretly yearns to do group stuff, I’m very shy when asking to join, and I drift from game to game. That may sound like I wouldn’t know community from chocolate cake… (note to self: get chocolate cake), but I would say that when a game is fostering a community that I actually take part in, then that system probably works well.

Community to me means people are building a relationship with one another to strengthen the player’s experience towards playing that game. This means talking to one another, helping to  point something out, healing them when they are hurt, giving visual cues to point out a secret area, purchasing and selling on the auction house, etc. It’s more than just talking to someone, it’s when someone enacts an action and another person is influenced by it in a positive way. That is building a community.

Fostering community is what developers try to do when they want to have their players build a lasting relationship with the game. Fostering is in their best interest to the longevity of the game. However, when I see more systems built to help jumpstart or coalesce communities, they tend to fall flat or get in the way when they are build ahead of any community formed yet.

For me personally, fostering community works best as a reactionary tactic. Observing how the players are interacting with each other, if they are doing something unique from how the game was designed, or where the players are meeting up, and then patch the game to enhance the lives, convenience or fun of those parts of the game. Original EverQuest is a huge example of this reactionary community fostering. There used to not be guilds, or GM sanctioned weddings, or designed city hubs. Players all influenced this so the devs incorporated them into the game world.

Some suggestions for fostering community in games I play:

GUILD WARS 2:
There are a ton of role players that are jerry rigging what tools they have to make some interesting screenshot situations. Trying to get their characters embracing one another, or kissing, or just look like they are interacting. They could use a lot more animations added to the game. Most I’ve seen added so far are playing instruments and dancing.

Map completion is a dull task because players usually do it by themselves, but it’s often the goal of many players. Some guild rewards towards completing a map or two each week placed in the PvE events could go a long way of getting guilds to work together more.

ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE:
In my short play of the game in the Ebonheart Pact, I noticed a lot of players centering around the beginning town, specifically in the crafting area. Perhaps having a small oblivion anchor event close to this town would stir up this crowd and help introduce new players into the lore and game mechanics.

STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC:
Out of all the games I’ve played, SW:TOR has the most out-of-game community support I’ve seen in the form of blogs and podcasts. I’m sure WoW really has the most, but outside of them, I’ve seen a lot of SW:TOR love. I feel they should look towards fostering this community even more or showcasing these players in some fashion.

STAR TREK ONLINE / NEVERWINTER ONLINE:
I’ve had a blast with the player made missions in these games. It’s a shame I don’t see more support for it especially how the players are the ones making all that content. Right now, you mostly have to go to a special menu to shift through and find a player mission, but I would suggest that NPC’s that the player missions start on should go ahead and have that quest ready all the time instead of hitting the board first. This way that players can organically find these missions. This would increase visibility for content that players make.

The issue where multiple missions may start on the same NPC can have a special option first. Something along the lines of “Help, I have a problem you can help me with (Player Made Mission)” and then that will either start you on a random one, or let you choose one.

EVERQUEST:
>:{ x
I’m still a Sore Thor and Sour Howard about Next, but their devs seem to want to do good for their community. It looks like you are stuffing all you can into Landmark so I’ll give it a try… eventually. I don’t really have much here, just wanted to vent again. /sigh