Weekly Wyrm: Memorial Day Edition

death screen

Last night I was watching the newly released season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on Netflix. He was in Vietnam, interviewing a Vietnamese writer. The writer explained that his father was taken away and evidently killed during the war, but he didn’t know how or when.

He couldn’t do the usual death anniversary ceremony.

That sort of ancestor reverence, apparently common in Asian countries, is kind of cool. It reminded me of the ancestor worship in Morrowind. The native religion of ancestors and living gods is a really interesting lore aspect of the original Morrowind RPG. The music is so creepy in those old crypts!

Death is often an afterthought or annoyance in videos games, something that makes us shake our fists and press the re-spawn button. I’ve never played a horribly hardcore MMO. Maybe the worst I’ve seen is to start the whole dungeon over if your group dies, which happened in the original Wizardry.

The recent Sony remake of Wizardry tried perma-death with PvP, and that didn’t turn out so well. Blizzard is winning partly because it doesn’t do dumb things like this, but mostly because of characters.

Look It’s Snowing Blizzard: Winning With Great Characters

This week Hearthstone topped the Twitch charts one day with 50k viewers for a tournament. The games are ending a little more quickly with the increasing card power, this kitty thinks.

I played the Heroes of the Storm beta a few weeks ago, and I actually liked it. The game genre is not for me, but it was fun to see the Blizzard heroes. HotS is in open beta now, by the way. Massively also reported on a HotS world championship, because we have to have one of those.

Blizzard is leading the way with its great characters, and that’s why it’s winning now: with characters, and building them. Some game companies are still trying to figure out how to write characters. (Although hiring great ‘characters’ to the dev staff is the next best thing.)

Trion really crafted Goboro Reef well with Arethea and her songs in Nightmare Tide, and Turbine did wonderfully with their own fellowship of Horn, Nona, and company in Rohan (having mostly abandoned the real fellowship, the dwarves, and the Rangers at that point).

To toss your best characters is to abandon the winning formula, in this kitty’s opinion. The story is only as strong as the characters.

I also saw Heroes of the Storm make an appearance in an Intel commercial on Jimmy Fallon on Monday. Intel is advertising 2-in-ones with Jim Parsons from Big Bang Theory. Blizzard also broke out a HotS fanart contest on Deviant Art this week. The contest has some decent $USD prizes.

The Wall Street Journal also reported this week on Skylanders by Activision, which has apparently earned $3 billion in global revenue. How do you make $3 billion dollars? By making plastic characters that you can magically put into a game.

Angry Joe And SuperGirl

I also enjoyed Angry Joe’s commentary on the Supergirl trailer this week. His commentary at the end about the edgy, conflicted comic book version of Supergirl vs. the TV version were very insightful character-wise.

I agree with Joe. If CBS turns Supergirl into a Pollyanna girl version of Clark, it’s a problem. There are reasons that teens flock to Twilight, and it isn’t because Bella is a good girl who is sweet but of course clumsy, but always charming and dedicated towards the morally correct thing.

Maybe CBS was afraid to make Melissa Benoist too blonde because of the dumb-blonde cliff they’re approaching, a reincarnation of Reese Witherspoon.

This is memorial day weekend in the States. So if you’re getting drunk, watching sports, and grilling dead animals for the kids to chew on, don’t forget to honor the ancestors who made it all possible.

And then log onto Battle.net and play the Heroes of the Storm open beta, or some Hearthstone. I’ll be doing Blackrock Mountain (finally since it’s now fully released), and Guild Wars 2, in between the personal projects. I wish this weekend were three weeks instead of three days.

Weekly Wyrm ~ Breaking Into The Video Games Biz

No image tonight–just a grim wall of text, followed by a happy ending. And then crying.

Tonight I returned to my personal game project, trying to cope with old code. While inching through code lines, gelatinous cube-like, I watched Trion’s friday Livestream on Twitch, as mentioned on MassivelyOP.

It’s nice to see Brasse at Trion. As a fellow mapmaker, I’ve studied her fine work. Her mention of reviewing all of Trion’s community and forums is a little worrying though since the Rift forums are so nice and perfect.

I wrote up a synopsis as I listened. This, then some stocks and Guild Wars 2.

Synopsis of Game Industry Job Tips From Trion

  • Break into the industry, don’t break into Trion.
  • There are less 20 hours-per-day crunch times these days, so it’s easier to have a real life.
  • On the other hand, there is more money in other industries. Trading money for following your passion.
  • A passionate person needs to temper expectations for effecting change within a big team with lots of ideas that are never realized.
  • System designers must be aces at math, pro at Excel and statistics. Other designers are: narrative designers, content designers.
  • Audio is minimal, mostly outsourced. Try companies that are contract houses for game companies.
  • Designers need to be able to clearly communicate with teams.
  • Engineers (programmers). Need C++, C#.
  • Platform needs Java type skills. Account creations and logins are common with other companies like banks.
  • Game-specific education degrees may not be best, yet. Focus on life learning, keep educating self.
  • For artists, almost rather have a Fine Arts degree, recognition of art, broad understanding.
  • Being passionate about what you do is critical.
  • Be yourself and be honest above all, even about your weaknesses. Don’t be a poser because it shows.
  • Resumes. Don’t make a generic cover letter. Be sure you’re played Trion games and say why you want Trion.
  • You can and should remove old unapplicable things from your resume.
  • List your favorite games, mention the MMOs you’ve played at cap, your achievements, how your gaming has touched you and meant something to you. Show your passion for games.
  • Make games. Show something.
  • Keep clickable links in resumes, don’t remove.
  • Keep your Facebook and social media professional because they will search and find all of your personal dog and family posts and judge you mercilessly. (With all of my personality issues and depression, not to mention kinkiness, this kitty is irrevocably doomed.)
  • Networking and meetups. Talk to the devs at conventions, get to know people over the years.
  • College only isn’t a good resume.
  • Take any job in the industry at first to get experience.

Video Game Stocks

All of the stocks I recommended in a previous post three weeks ago have now reported quarterly earnings results.

Activision/Blizzard (ATVI) reported solid results and raised guidance for the year. Electronic Arts (EA) was also solid, both stocks were up 5-7% this week on those results. Winning, and you’re winning too if you listened to the kitty. At least, you are today.

NVidia (NVDA) disappointed and was down 7% just today. Luckily, as I mentioned in another post, I dumped Nvidia and went Blizzard before that happened.

I think this might still be a good buying opportunity for Nvidia if you’re a contrarian, but it might be dead money for a while. I want to believe Windows 10 can bring PC’s back, and the massive boom in handheld devices will make people want bigger screens and the PC/tablet hybrids, and not just these tablet-to-TV things. I don’t do TVs at all.

Just note the stock market may die in a fire soon. Wait at least three days, if not three weeks until the market breaks up or down from its converging trend lines.

Akamai (AKAM), the content delivery and security company formerly used by Turbine, Sony, and Nintendo, is also solid up 6% in my portfolio, and Limelight Networks (LLNW), my long-odds underdog pick, is up maybe 10%. I’m now holding all of these except Nvidia.

For another suggestion, my largest tech holding is Equinix (EQIX). I think of it as an internet “pipeline” company. They made a bid to buy up a European network/cloud provider this week, sending the stock up more, and Microsoft also announced that they are expanding partnership with EQIX to handle cloud delivery of Microsoft’s Office 365 worldwide for Windows 10.

Amazon (AMZN) is another solid cloud pick, and they own Twitch. It’s up big on strong cloud results, but it has based after profit-taking, and looks to be building momentum again.

Guild Wars 2

They announced the Guardian elite spec. It’s called Dragonhunter, and my first reaction was: NOOOOOoooOOOOOoooOOOO!

My second reaction was: I can re-roll.

This non-calm kitty really feels dragons are in a world beyond trite and over-exploited. I don’t like setting traps, and don’t even use them on my trappy Hunter. I assumed the new trap class (which was known) would go to Rogue. It’s like the GW2 devs went out of their way to make sure I hate this class! Waaaa!

I don’t know what I’m doing now in Guild Wars 2.

So I’m back working on my video game. I re-wrote the UI and created some new graphics in the last few days. I read somewhere that people are doing HTML/CSS/Javascript apps now somehow, so I can do that. Maybe. It’s an educational game, and may involve elves. Or maybe vampires. Systems first.

I’m coping with re-learning my schoolgirl code and learning lessons in why commenting is so important if you let kitties use keyboards.

Weekly Wyrm ~ Another Step For Gender Equality

only you can prevent DLC

Just a quickie run-down of this week, with a few topics involving bears and fires.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3: Finally A Femme!

I’ve never played Halo or Call of Duty, and I’ve stepped into Battlefield only briefly. I normally don’t enjoy male characters.

So when Activision announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 would feature a female playable character and a gender-neutral story this week, I was super-excited! I haven’t played a military-style shooter since Mass Effect 2.

And according to the devs, the Black Ops female character is inspired by the female Commander Shepherd. Unfortunately the game’s pre-order poster is male-only.

So. They still have a few miles to go before they’ve made all the mistakes made by Bioware with Mass Effect, and corrected them. Yes, feminazis will complain about everything.

The comments section to the announcement article is good reading. I’m 100% for a male option in the next Tomb Raider. Why? I really feel the Lara Croft character in Tomb Raider 2013 suffered from the male gaze, or male devs not connecting with her in some way.

I’d really like to see a bi-gender Tomb Raider just to eliminate Lara’s character being skewed by the male gaze. She’s skewed, I tell you!

Game development studios seem to be an arms race for more more ginormous guns, more massive battles, and more outrageous monster robots. All I want is a good story, and surely story will continue to be more of a distinguishing feature in action and stealth genres.

It’s hard to believe that big game developers are still launching big games with stories that suck by all accounts.

A lot more reviewers these days are pounding the table for better stories, including Angry Joe. Joe really highlights the importance of story in his reviews, like with his long, entertaining, expert review this week on Mortal Kombat X. He keeps going back to the shortage of story.

Angry Joe also shows in this review that he’s a strong critic of greedy at-launch DLC. Today I was thinking of replacing my sidebar comic with an activist strip on DLC. Only you can stop DLC–a new graphic coming soon to the Kitty sidebar.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

The news is trickling out about the GW2 expansion, and I’ve been watching some videos this week. As highlighted by MMORPG.com, the Chronomancer profession looks crazy cool.

My Guardian profession in GW2 feels a little squishy, so I was having second thoughts about it this week while gaining two or three levels. Supposedly the new elite specialization for guardian uses a longbow though, which makes me feel much better.

I switched to Guardian from Hunter for two reasons, despite the new Druid spec coming for Hunter. The PvE play for Hunter seems to be bear pet and the rapid-fire bow skill (or whatever it is). I’m not super-fond of either of those, especially the semi-automatic bow. They don’t fit my character.

I had the same issue in LotRO with “Sic’Em”, the capstone Lore-Master skill for my preferred trait line, Keeper of Animals. When you never use your most powerful capstone skill because it’s a little silly, then it becomes a little issue.

Weekend Sale

In other news, Vampire: Bloodlines, is on sale this weekend on Steam for 4.99. If you’ve never tried it, now is your chance. It’s a worth at least a few hours just to play with it, even if it’s outdated. Thanks for reading this far. Happy gaming.

Guild Wars 2 Revisited: Defying Classic Conventions

guild wars 2 combat
So I’m super-enjoying my gentle return to the beautiful, yet (of course) corrupted and war-ravaged lands of Guild Wars 2. Some things I’ve noticed by virtue of a “beginner’s mind” are:

Tons of tones in character creation. I’ve puzzled in recent months why Elder Scrolls, Rift, and Pillars of Eternity don’t give you more choices. What’s wrong with smoky purple thighs?

Auto-level matching in an area. It’s so nice get matched up to the content. Less worry about this meta-issue.

Auction House. I gave up on auctions in Elder Scrolls at the end, and was just vendoring everything. The GW2 trading post is a web app spliced into the game UI, and there are so many bids that you can sell everything almost instantly, plus get all proceeds in one lump instead of opening twenty mail items. It’s almost overly easy, but still a relief.

Megaserver And Maps. I was worried a few years ago that megaserver architecture would ruin immersion, but the benefits of the many outweigh the friendship of the few. The dynamic GW2 maps are also brilliant and surely the envy of other MMOs.

Community. I’ve been really impressed by the GW2 forums and community, especially when the game should be in low ebb before an expansion launch.

A Game World Unplugged

I seem to be going down the same old road of disconnection from the Guild Wars “world”, though. The main design goal of GW2 is to throw MMO design conventions on their head, that is–to kill the traditional quest hub and move all quests out into the roads, ruins, and hills, increasing the world immersion, ironically.

Some of these random quests are fabulous, like using a cow-launcher to get to an overlook, or failing to save a traveling caravan from a bandit attack, leading to a new dynamic quest to strike back and retrieve the stolen goods from those bandits.

The exploration in Guild Wars 2 is also a joy, and I’ve spent oodles of hours working on map completion.

The primate mind works on the principle of dominance, which is why this principle has been golden in art and design for thousands of years. This principle works for all art, novels, and the zones and NPC quest givers in World of Warcraft. I haven’t found a Goldshire in Guild Wars 2 yet, nor a Gandalf.

In Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci used his sfumato technique to render a beautiful backdrop of hills, woods, and bridges. I wonder how many people care about that landscape.

Would six million people visit the Mona Lisa each year if we removed the Mona Lisa completely, leaving only a beautiful, intriguing landscape, ripe for the plundering? No. You get the picture.

The result is lots of well-made and voiced NPCs, but they are still generic (to this kitty).

After completing quests from these NPCs, you’ll also get personal letters and notes from them via the mail. The notes are brilliantly written, and the writers have done their jobs well. The problem is that after you get twenty mails, they all start to look the same, and you know you’ll never see these pixels again. There is no point in remembering those names.

So it’s the principle of dominance. The human brain (or at least this kitty’s) needs a few solid lifelines to focus on. I remembered that I originally quit Guild Wars 2 because I’d completed the level 30 story quests. I was grinding at level 35, and my next story quest was level 40.

I just lost the lifeline at that point. What happens if you tell your ten-year-old kid he can’t read another chapter of his favorite book until ten weeks from now. He’s going to go read another book, and that’s exactly what happened with me.

This time I plan to keep going. Removing the Mona Lisa from the picture is better than removing the Mona Lisa’s nose and flashing notices in the middle of my screen letting me know the feature is now on sale in the game store.

Plus, I love my guardian’s quirky swooping Owl Attack. Hoo hoo.

Video Game Cultural Differences: Asian vs. Western

Tonight I was researching video game stocks – again. In the last couple weeks, the Chinese stock markets have gone through the roof due to a new trading link between Hong Kong and “mainland” China, prompting millions of Chinese to open new accounts to buy into this super-fabulous opportunity.

(You can too with the FXI ETF.)

The largest game-related company in China (and one of the largest companies in the world) is Tencent. I like the name Tencent. It sounds humble, like the name of a peasant Kung Fu hero, or maybe even the hero’s loyal canine companion.

Anyway, I was watching a video of Tencent’s CEO and Chairman, “Pony” Ma, and he was talking about how efforts to take Chinese games to other cultures had proved very difficult, and many had failed.

So, Tencent decided to try investing in foreign companies, leading to the purchase of Riot Games, which created League of Legends. LoL is completely dominating Twitch tonight in first place with 60 thousand viewers. Hearthstone is in second place with 30 thousand, and Blizzard has four games in the top 12.

Tencent holds an investment stake in Activision, and recently worked with Activision to release CoD Online in China. I decided that I’d rather not invest in a country with such horrible ethics, even if China’s future is very bright.

I’ve been outraged by China since I first learned in college of the Tibetan takeover and culture-cide that China had inflicted on those poor people, who never learned Kung Fu much less tank artillery, because their religion is peacefulness and equanimity. Maybe that was a mistake.

Is it really necessary for China to persecute the Dalai Lama and formally protest any recognition of the Dalai Lama by Obama or the U.S. government? He’s a peaceful, wise, kind religious leader, except wait, China says he’s a terrorist.

It’s no wonder those Tibetan monks are setting themselves on fire. Can you imagine persecuted, oppressed people committing suicide with fire in this day and age in the United States? Or at least, people who aren’t foreign terrorists trying to kill marathon runners?

“Pony” Ma probably has the right idea leaving the game development to U.S. companies. I don’t see any eye-poking underboobs in the official Riven page at the League of Legends NA site.


Fan art by Kair, courtesy of Art of CG Girls, fair use.


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