Tag Archives: Elves

September Update: Philosophy of ‘Goodness’, Thoughts on New World MMO Preview, Game Design

I had a birthday recently. As with many birthdays, this was an occasion to communicate with family members. As a consquence, I found members of my family who are still Trump voters.

There is no excuse to be a Trump voter anymore. Your own ignorance, or your acceptance of thousands of lies and several of Trump’s associates now convicted felons and/or in prison, are not excuses. As someone said on Twitter:

If Reagan was the great communicator and Obama the great orator then Trump is the great deceiver. Never in American history has one man stood in front of millions and spout lie after lie while his legion believes it. It’s scary. Like biblical scary. Jim Mitchem @jmitchem Aug 27

The list of Trump’s horribleness would fill an entire book. Thankfully people close to Trump are publishing more books now.

After reflecting on how unthinkable it is to still support Trump, I’ve impetuously decided to remove “dark game” from my game project. I’m going to edit out opportunities to be unethical, selfish, abusive, ‘evil’, or to ever side with the Dark Lord’s people.


Game Writing And Goodness


The point of my game is to improve oneself as a person, generally by learning from the elves. So yes, I’m putting the elves up on a pedestal. Betraying them will no longer be an option.

My rationale in implementing dark choices was to allow human free will. And to have fun and be naughty, i.e. be human.

As it turns out, the nuances between different good actions are actually much more interesting than offering one good choice and one morally degenerate, or ‘dark’ choice. Perhaps I fell into the trap of good and evil choices because it was easiest path, the path of least resistance.

The easiest path is not often the good, correct path.

We could consider different ways of being good. For example, humans usually consider good to be whatever end is good for humans, an Aristotelian good. A Platonic goodness might mean something more like perfection: a perfect urn, a perfect body, a perfect gentleman.

In the context of fantasy fiction and games, our first thought is to consider the distinction between the classic Lawful Good and Chaotic Good.

The lawful good character will promote weal throughout society through increased legislation or a more powerful government. They will work to provide laws and procedures to protect the population against every foreseeable ill in society. They will advocate … the most benefit for the population as a whole. Lawful good characters will provide equality of result.

The chaotic good character will promote happiness in society by increasing freedom and allowing its citizens to decide the best way to increase prosperity for all. They will promote systems which give maximum freedom and opportunity… They will ensure that the population is protected against every possible abuse by the governing system.

(from http://easydamus.com/chaoticgood.html).

Since my game is called Elven Academy (unless someone comes along and TM’s it, which is quite possible since it’s a good name), let’s go to the elves on this topic next.


Elves, Good, Evil, And Alignment


The elves in fairy tales, and the elves as originally conceived in Dungeons and Dragons, for example, were considered to be chaotic. They were the ranger and the rogue in the strictest and oldest fantasy game tropes, i.e. from the earliest editions of Dungeons and Dragons.

(See a discussion of elves as chaotic.)

The Fey have evolved in modern fiction into strong traditions and representations of light fey and dark fey, the Summer Court and the Winter Court, more often called the Seelie and Unseelie, such as in the Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The TV series Lost Girl did a fantastic job of presenting these two types of Fey, Seelie and Unseelie, who have powers and live in modern society.

We also have Tolkien elves in our cultural lexicon, however. These are perhaps the closest elves to Lawful Good, and these are the elves I’m approaching as a model for paragon behavior. (Let’s just forget about certain evil rings those elves mistakenly forged.)

As opposed to the tradition of very whatever-goes chaotic elves, Tolkien elves are seen as superior, snooty, and looking down on lesser races. So we could say they are intolerant. And intolerance for anything or anyone scuffed brings us back up to the definition of lawful good characters.

So my new goal is to try to provide ample opportunity for meaningful, satisfying choice between lawful and chaotic approaches to being good, to reflect on the entire spectrum of what might be good, maybe even all the way to neutral.

The moral of this short exploration tonight is that bad choices are more fun and rewarding, but evil choices are easy to write. It’s easier to paint in black and white than in more complicated nuances of color. I would imagine most fantasy RPG players aren’t going to appreciate any subtlety, other than which choice puts more coins in their pocket, or which choice gets them into bed with the companion of their choice.

So let’s work on that, shall we? Let’s at least try to explore and improve.


New World Beta: Reactions


I’ve played the New World beta for about 13 hours. It’s great, and it’s not so great. It’s a mixed bag, as they say in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

MassivelyOP wrote the perfect article on the New World Beta/Preview, which has been going since last week, and will end in a couple days. So I don’t even need to write the article, because it’s already written. As I noted in the article comments:

  • Agree with everything said here. After a few days of playing, it feels like the paper thin NPC’s, forgettable repetitive quests, and the nearly non-existent story are just a shell that is/was supposed to lead to PvP “content”. The NPC dialog writing is very wordy and decently written, but it doesn’t convey a strong sense of the world the NPC’s are living in.
  • The character creator for female characters was also pretty meager. None of the faces or figures seem to look very feminine. Tons of potential though, hope it comes together. Will probably play when it comes out regardless of what they end up with.

I would probably recommend checking out the game, but I’m calling this early as one of those MMO’s that you hit it, maybe hit level cap, and then you quit it. I would love to be proved wrong.

Asmongold, one of the biggest streamers on Twitch, is playing this beta hard. He could swing things a bit in New World because of his enormous following in World of Warcraft. A huge influx of popularity and money up front might go a long way to sustaining this game.

At this point, I am expecting an ultimately underwhelming western performance similar to Archeage or Aeon, but with scaled up hype and scaled up numbers of people playing games these days.

New World MMO Update – Sep. 3

After I wrote this post, the New World devs posted an update that addresses the main concerns of the testers as a whole. That is the good news. The bad news is that this stuff is apparently not developed yet, disappointing hopes and speculation that it was. The summary from https://newworldfans.com/:

Today, New World posted an official thank you to the community and all of the time they spend in Aeternum during the Preview Event! … They announced that the next phase of testing would be in November of this year, stating that this would be your chance continue helping test and develop New World. Prior to this phase of testing, they noted that they would be working on “adding more in the areas of game modes, land mass, AI variety, additional weapon types, quest variety, and more.” They also stated in this article that they would “continue pushing in this direction until we feel we have the right amount of content and polish for the great launch our players deserve.” staying away from any hints of a potential launch date.


Elven Academy Update


I’m currently working on the second dungeon. It involves entering a mathematical dimension represented by a retro 3D maze. The wireframe maze display ‘engine’ has been coded in the space of a weekend, with a mini-map and movement around in the maze levels.

I’m working now on the story, which involves an imprisoned old gnome. The gnome got in trouble from his own inventions, which have run amok. At least the gnome isn’t a princess? So yeah. That’s not a trope in this dungeon, I tell ya.

I was thinking having the combat involve solving the equations of the monsters, but maybe I’ll leave the equation-solving for puzzles. It’s hard to Arcano-scan things for equation study while the things are attacking you.

In two months and counting we will hopefully have Cyberpunk 2077. We are still waiting for Vampire: Bloodlines 2, which mysteriously fired one of their lead writers recently for some reason.

That doesn’t seem like a good sign. In any case, happy September, and happy gaming. And please vote democrat because the Republicans are the party of evil. Do not believe their endless lies. All they care about is power, and the wealth and privilege that goes with it.


Gaming Stocks Continue To Rip, But U.S. Markets Look Iffy

stock chart
Gaming companies reported excellent results this spring earning season, sending Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Sony, and NVidia yet again to all-time highs. NVidia and Netease (Blizzard’s partner in China) were both up close to 5% today.

Jim Cramer discussed NVidia at length today, noting the huge movement into artificial intelligence, and that NVidia (NVDA) is really the only pure AI investment opportunity. Google is in AI, but is much more diversified. NVidia killed earnings yet again in this quarter, and I’m up 25% already, again.

At this point, however, you may be a little too late for U.S. gaming equities in general this year. The old adage is: “sell in May and go away“.

Some indicators are showing a current slow-down in the U.S., great investor complacency ($VIX), and a narrowing market (fewer big stocks keeping it afloat), in addition to the upcoming seasonal weakness. “Bad!”

There are good opportunities for gaming stocks in Asia, however, which also avoid risks of Donald Trump insanity. Big money managers like Jeffrey Gundlach are pointing to Asia (emerging markets) as well in the last few weeks.

Sony ($SNE) and Netease ($NTES) are both breaking out as of last week, as shown in the image above, so lets look at those.

The image shows two types of buyable breakouts. Sony is breaking to an all-time high past levels the stock previously was rejected. Netease is breaking out of a three-month consolidating downtrend.

In my experience, the Netease breakout is far more reliable, which is demonstrated by the much stronger move out of the bounding trend line. Netease just reported strong earnings results, so there is less risk of a bad surprise for quite a while.

On the other hand, Netease distributes Blizzard’s games in China, while Sony has the Playstation. That’s kind of better. Sony is also more diversified and doesn’t have the threat of China’s government slapping regulations, investigations, or other problems on companies, so it’s a safer bet in many other ways.

If you look at Sony’s longer term chart below, you see the same big pullbacks as Netease current has, and then the results in the following months. The pullbacks would have been better times to buy. In my past couple years of focusing on the stock market, this pattern is gold. It works almost every time. If it doesn’t, you sell again before you take a significant loss.

stock chart

Barron’s recommends Sony. The Sony P/E ratio looks high, but Baron quotes 18 on forward-looking earnings. I bought Netease a few weeks ago as my first new investment since I re-bought NVidia a few months ago.

I still don’t think it’s too late on the Netease breakout, or I would not have made this post. I worry about over-exposure to Blizzard, but I’m not ignoring the NTES chart. I’m looking for more charts like it, actually, like the current chart for silver (SLV).

The SLV chart alone isn’t enough. The USD dollar collapsed in the past week, confirming weakness and supporting price of all commodities in $USD. Copper also has extended weakness despite some miner strikes, which pressures production. Silver production is partly a byproduct of copper production.

I’m starting to wonder if computerization of market trading (the trend towards computer programs managing investment funds) is creating self-fulfilling prophecies on these patterns that make them even more reliable. After all, traditionally, artificial intelligence tends to be very predictable. So, profit?

As far as gaming, I’m still playing Hearthstone. I made rank 15 this month much earlier than usual. I’m chipping away at golden Priest and max level Rogue.

My elf school game project is coming along very nicely. I’m not satisfied with incorporating Tolkien-style elves, or some random video game-style elf race, so I’m looking more at the Nordic tradition.

Since my game teaches Spanish/English, approaching white race issues is interesting. The game protagonist would probably be the equivalent of a ‘mudblood’ in Elfland. I’m currently reading The King of Elfland’s Daughter on Project Gutenberg.


On Golf, Gaming Stocks, And Rivendell Hotties

comparison
I’ve drifted away from my inner elf lately, which is partly why I’m roleplaying in LotRO – to regain my elf-sense for my game writing. It’s hard to feel spiritual and connected when mired in material bother.

This week I moved to a new and different part of the valley, closer to the mountains and hiking. It’s a rich city, but I’m not rich. My car is a 19 year-old bird-pooped scrap heap next to the shining BMWs and Lexuses.

There is earthiness here, but also excessive riches. The women at the Sprouts grocery are all thin, fit, and beautiful, except the girls working the registers. It’s like Rivendell, but they employ chubby human grunts.

I even saw a “former playboy bunny” license plate. The plate looked legitimate, like the blonde driving the Mercedes, not a cheap thing from a corner in Las Vegas.

I’m not comfortable with the fusion of hipness with rich. Tolkien elves have an entire package, an Arcadian ideal of nature, beauty, wealth, and arts. That’s a big reason why Landroval (LotRO server) chat hates them.

It’s the nature of rich people to want it all I guess, like the golf courses. This city has four golf courses for 77,000 people. According to Tolkien, golf was invented by hobbits. I assume Tolkien’s hobbits are just another angle on a white, well-to-do world.

I’m not sure whether I like rich people or ghetto people more as human beings, but the rich people won’t kill me or steal from me, and their drugs don’t stink so much.


Gaming Stocks


Thursday night Activision-Blizzard soared 9% on better-than-expected earnings. Of course, I had taken profit at the peak a few weeks ago, but I only missed out on about a dollar per share.

I waited until the midday pullback yesterday (Friday, May 6) and pushed half back in. It was perfect timing, and by the close ATVI was back up almost 9%, and I was up $50.

I also pushed half back into NVidia at the same inflection point, which was also good timing, since they announced new and amazing video cards today.

So my one-day cushions might hold, but since I tend to do the opposite of the right thing, the stock market will likely crash again soon, and nothing escapes that. The main takeaway from selling Blizzard (again) is that I can’t have an uncomfortable, stressful amount of money in an investment.

I can’t hold it, and that makes it a trade. So I need to distinguish between investments and trades, and budget appropriately. This is easy to say when the bleeding is minimal.

Sony was a trade, and accordingly I was all-in up front, and sold immediately when the stock went the wrong way. That was correct, and I’m still watching Sony in a fairly linear decline, wondering if I should try again on a trend reversal.

I think E3 will be big for Sony. Wall Street thinks video games don’t mean that much, i.e. video game revenue is around 20% of total.

The overall market does look like it’s going off a cliff, and that’s the problem. It’s too obvious. Everyone is quoting the “sell in May” advice. Everyone has turned quickly and intensely bearish suddenly, which is actually a bullish signal.

The analysts on CNBC also discussed the issue of short-selling yesterday. The recent bull surge hurt the shorts badly, and they are now too fearful to sell short again. This is also bullish.

The problem remains the Fed and raising interest rates. I personally think Yellen is holding off until after the election, to avoid giving the Republicans any ammunition. Even if not, especially after today’s weaker job numbers, a June rate increase is pretty much off the table.


Video Game Project


I’m going with the literary Seelie and Unseelie Courts in my video game, not Tolkienesque elves. I’m facing a major hurdle right now in terms of effort and time investment, which is creating actual gameplay.

I’ve decided to do a Dungeon-Master style narrator.

I’m not sure if I can manipulate my voice low enough to sound like an old tree, and recruitment of voice overs from friends, family members, or online indie dev sites is exhausting to try to organize. My script needs to be perfect first, anyway.


Elf In Real Life: The Importance Of Mindfulness

hypnosis graphicLast week I was served an inedible sandwich at Wendy’s. The horror. I took it back and complained, and I was given an edible sandwich–but not what I ordered, and zero apology.

My first-ever tablet (Samsung Tab 4) was delivered Thursday, and the UPS guy dropped it hard on the concrete. It still works, but I could hear the loud splat through the door.

Last week I also realized GoDaddy cut my website storage from 100GB down to 10GB without telling me–barely more then I’m currently using. Meanwhile, my plan and their advertising says I should get 100GB.

I called and complained, but they said my plan was outdated, and I needed to upgrade and pay more. They already raised my domain rates by like 50% in the last few years. I’m leaving and going to a competitor, obviously.

Can you imagine if your cable provider cut your TV channels by 90% suddenly, or your internet speed by 90%, and when you called to complain they said – oh, your plan is outdated, and you need to upgrade to get your channels back? Are you serious, GoDaddy?

Yes, serious about profit and exploiting their market position just like Apple, whose gross margin on their phones is a whooping 40%.

Syp at Biobreak recently wrote a scathing post about elves and their elitist, snooty attitudes in LotRO, but why wouldn’t they be irritated when a big group of stinky, hairy humans goes trampling the ferns in Great River, cutting down trees, making a lot of noise, and killing all the animals so they can eat twice as much as they really need?

So the topic of this post is mindfulness. I’m guilty of mindlessness and callousness just like anyone, but serving bad sandwiches, dropping my new tablet on concrete, and sneak-raising my rates while cutting my services 90% isn’t acceptable. First world problems are hard on elves.

Mindfulness is defined as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment“, which can be trained by meditational practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati.

Mindfulness is an essential element of Buddhist practice, which means it’s super-important for cutting through illusions and being compassionate. It’s also super-important to be mindful of human impact on the environment, in terms of destruction and over-population.

I really need to meditate, but this week I’ve been lazy and resorted to programming my brain instead, using hypnosis. So I would recommend this wonderful hypnosis video if you want to be more like an elf.

And who doesn’t want to be more like an elf? That’s self-evident!

Kim Carmen Walsh sounds a ton like Galadriel (at least to my ‘merican ears – maybe someone should recruit her for voice over), which makes her hypnosis videos even more magical. In addition to the below self-help video, her video Hypnotherapy For Relaxation And Mindfulness also helped me a lot during my kidney stone suffering last summer.

So good luck, and may your ears turn pointy before you reach enlightenment.


The Ever-Loved, Ever-Elusive Elves

Yes, I prefer to play elves. They can be over-serious and depressed, but they seem to suffer a lot, so I don’t blame them.

Elves have taken some light-hearted hate recently. The Global Agenda MMO actually launched with a popular anti-elf campaign, and Syp (Justin Olivetti) has made elf-hate posts (here and here) on his BioBreak blog.

We love our fellow pointy-ears here at Kitty Kitty, and like elves themselves, we have long and vengeful memories. Justin’s written and vocal MMO commentary is wonderful, but the hate rhetoric must stop!

(Do I sound like a whiny, crying elf? Probably.)

The World of Warcraft experiment is going well in its third week! My stable of intrepid Night Elves and Draenei have conquered all wings of Scarlet Monastery by dual-boxing roughly on-level (feral tank more like at +8), and my elf warrior led the charge to complete a three-box of the Deadmines on-level last night.

I added a second (free) account and leveled a gnome warlock to do the three-box, and it was really, really fun and challenging, but I probably won’t continue that as a playstyle. WoW is ginormously time-consuming, and it’s well-documented to be soul-sucking as well as abnormally expensive for an MMO. Three accounts is almost two too much.

On the other hand, random Dungeon Finder people sometimes also suck.

Back on topic, today I finally finished all quests in the Teldrassil elf starting zone (after skipping them), and ended impressed. I realized that after only a few weeks, the Night Elves are already more real and deep to me than the Tolkien elves in LotRO or the Kelari elves in Rift. The Blood Elves in WoW are also well-written. I played a pair of those to L18. They definitely come across as an arrogant and power-driven race.

So I found myself asking the question–how did this happen? How did the Blizzard writers accomplish such quest-writing prowess? Magic. No, really. And giving elves their very own starting zones.

A sense of mystery and enchantment is big for elves–maybe even more important than sleek curves and sensuous lips. LotRO hints at elven amazingness, but we don’t see much of it. In all of LotRO’s vast terrains, the only place I can think of that seems magical and mystical is Galadriel’s garden. Pretty much everything elven in WoW seems magical.

The trees carved into big bears are just goofy, but I can look past that. You have the Emerald Dream, the mystical pools, the unique architecture, the moon priestesses, and of course Elune, the moon goddess herself.

The racial starting areas are huge in WoW, just like in Dragon Age: Origins, and this is an overwhelming playability asset that WoW will always hold over Rift. These are just so critical to get immersed in your character through learning about your people and where you came from. Elves don’t have anything like this in Rift, and LotRO is minimal with the dwarves featuring more in the mini-story.

In LotRO, you can spend a lot of time in higher-level elven regions, but Rivendell frankly doesn’t have much story going on–we focus more on Bilbo and Frodo while we are visiting there, probably, as much as anything else. And by the time you reach Mirkwood and Lothlorien, your experience of interacting with those elves feels distant and informal.

You are asked to do several quests to prepare for a big feast in Lothlorien, for example, but in the end do you get to join in with the elven culture? No–your final quest is to watch over the partying elves as a detached observer and scold them if they get too crazy. The best parts of Lothlorien for me are the ones made fun of sometimes–yes, singing to trees and delivering flowers. It’s what elves do.

The LotRO writers are geniuses–steeped up to their stubby human ears in Tolkien lore–and their writing in Isengard is particularly powerful–but the subject matter and ambiance are very serious and somber in LotRO. Curiously enough, the Shire isn’t, and based on unofficial LotRO forum polls over the years, the Shire seems to be the statistical favorite starting area for LotRO players because it breathes with the spirit of its people.

Dragon Age brought a really interesting and intimate twist to elves by portraying them as former slaves of a conquered civilization who are now either downtrodden slum-dwellers or wild, distrusting hill-folk. Unfortunately, Bioware decided to forsake race altogether in Dragon Age 2 and force you to play as a human. This was for the purpose of focusing on story (and economical, of course), but it was also a little unfortunate.

Like DA, Rift brings a similar story of an elven people whose home was destroyed, and in the most recent Ember Isles patch, players get to visit and attempt to retake the old home of the Kelari. This is a redemption for elf-lovers in Rift, and one I hope to experience in the the not-too-distant future. Will I see a spiritual and magical depth for the elves, or will I mainly see dynamic action and holding control points?

I don’t know, and right now I’m hoping to see SWTOR next Thanksgiving weekend with my beta key, unless there is some unexpected glitch. Keeping my fingers crossed on this one. Please send me my email and keep the turkey away from the server room, Bioware.

WoW seems to be widely hated today for shaping the industry in certain ways–such as the gear-tier grinding format. I will probably hit the road in WoW if and when I hit that painful rut, just like I did in Rift. In some cases, however, WoW gets things right–and right is concise writing that conveys culture and emotion, and a design that speaks to your character’s sense of identity, ethics, and spirituality.

Further reading:

Elves in Dragon Age
Tolkien Elves