Much has been made of the relative lack of females in the "triple-A blockbuster" field, but it is unfair to focus on particular titles or developers. This is an issue the industry - and consumers - must face as a whole for progress to be made.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably seen my various tweets over the last week and a half chronicling my efforts to earn enough in-game gold to purchase a World of Warcraft Token.
Well, the experiment is over and I did not reach my goal.
However, starting a character (almost) from scratch and getting to level 63 with over 6,000 gold in the bank is no mean feat, especially when it all needed to be done within a 10 day trial of Warlords of Draenor.
I say "almost from scratch" as I did use chest and shoulder pieces of armour from the Heirloom system, as well as two of the swords. The armour provided a 20% experience boost and the swords and armour both automatically level up, making gear hunting fairly unimportant. There are actually two more pieces of armour I could have had, but they require membership in a guild. I think.
That covered the levelling up part, but the money making I did entirely from zero. And the truth is that with more patience and diligence I probably could have made quite a bit more. 6,000 gold really represents the "quick and dirty" approach.
All you really need is to take up the Mining and Skinning professions as soon as practical, then sell all the ore and skins you find on the Auction House with the assistance of an auctioneering addon. I used Auctioneer but Auctionator is also supposed to be good.
There's no real trick to it. As a Human I would visit Stormwind regularly while adventuring and check the Auction House each time. Hit the Scan button that Auctioneer adds and wait for it to collect all the listings. The first few times, preferably over the course of two days or so, just scan the auction house and hold on to your goods.
Once the addon has built up a fairly reliable set of numbers you can go to the Post tab and put all your Copper Ore (or Bars, if you've smelted it - neither seems more or less profitable at low levels) up for auction, telling it to undercut your competitors.
That's where you could stand to make a bit more money. By tweaking the undercut percentage or only selling when you know that prices are high, you can get more for your goods. As I was under a time constraint and also didn't really want to go to too much effort, I mostly just listed it for whatever Auctioneer said and moved on. Time spent dithering on that screen was time I wasn't out levelling up or digging up more things to auction off.
So, why didn't I reach my goal? Well, the current price of a WoW Token is 27,000 gold, or thereabouts. With a full month I expect I could reach that total, but in 10 days with no assistance I'm not sure it can be done.
But gosh, it was fun to try.
I hadn't been playing any MMOs in a while, not until my old Star Wars Galaxies friends decided to hop on one of the server emulators. Since then it's been about all I have played, in just about every spare chunk of time I could find.
But in the last couple of weeks SWG friend number one hasn't even logged in and SWG friend number two is moving to another city for work and won't be playing for at least two months. It's not as much fun when there's nobody to babble at and issues with the emulator are also sucking the fun out of it.
With all the Star Wars excitement around at the moment I tried to finish Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic, but it is so horribly clunky and is really showing its age now. And I already know the big twist because it's Star Wars and I know EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.
Maybe the other Star Wars MMO? Resubscribed, played through the newbie area for Jedi Knights, got fed up, unsubscribed.
Then, at Gamescom, the next World of Warcraft expansion was announced. Legion. They're adding Demon Hunters and cool artifact weapons and a newer kind of garrison thing. And probably other things.
The last time I played WoW was during the Warlords of Draenor beta, when I wrote a thing for Player Attack on the Garrisons that you could read here, if you want. I thought my previous stint outside of betas must have been during Cataclysm as I remembered playing a Worgen. Yet somehow I have a Pandaren? A not very high level one, mind, but I do have one.
Did quite enjoy the couple of weeks I spent in the beta but didn't want to continue a character that would inevitably be wiped, nor did I want to get back into the normal game at the time. So I left!
Warlords of Draenor has been out a long time now and the bugs in the Garrisons should be mostly worked out and I should have ample time to reach the level cap before Legion is released.
Also, WoW Tokens! Theoretically pay for your subscription with in-game gold. I am kinda curious as to the viability of that, particularly for someone who hasn't been playing consistently, or even someone starting over. I may as well be starting over since my highest level character is 80 and flat broke.
Or I could be scientific and start on a fresh server, no handouts from other characters, see if I can afford a WoW Token from scratch. See if I can even be bothered playing that long, unlike SWTOR.
And what class should I try this with? And which race? And why don't any of my friends play WoW anymore?
... and why don't I ever get anything done?
The latest of GamerGate's "operations" has launched and it's a website cataloguing factoids on games journalists and their outlets. Which is actually not a bad idea, something I suggested in my prior post on why GamerGate hasn't gone away.
On Twitter it has been suggested by those supporting GamerGate that if people have issues with the project they should lay out their concerns, rather than resorting to rhetoric and angry dismissal. Again, not a bad suggestion!
The problem is you don't even have to dig very deep to start finding serious problems with the DeepFreeze.it site.
First and foremost, who is running the site? There is no indication anywhere on the site on who, specifically, is backing this. Is it an individual, group, company or extradimensional being? The site is supposed to serve us as a reference on who can be trusted in the industry, yet we have no way of assessing the trustworthiness of the source? I expect the usual excuses of "muh privacies" or "muh safeties" to be trotted out here, but when setting oneself up as an arbiter of truth it is simply not good enough.
A quick whois search turns up "Stefano Eracliti" as the owner of the domain, which I assume is some form of pseudonym, since the name does not return results on Google, Twitter or Facebook. Or it might be one of those rare, truly unique names that has yet to appear online. Either way, it does not inspire confidence.
Another glaring issue is the lack of any mention of behaviour which could be considered ethical or beyond reproach. Simple things like whether they disclose the provenance of games they review, or whether trips and accomodation were paid for, would be easy to add. Such things may not seem of great import next to other entries on the list, but it would present at least a facade of evenhandedness.
This wouldn't be a problem if the stated goal was to create a list of unethical or otherwise questionable behaviour, of course, but they've gone out of their way to state objectivity as a thing they strive for. If the goal is to include factual information gamers might want to know before deciding whether to trust a journalist, why are all the entries I've checked only credited with "ethically dubious" notes?
Now it may be that over time such listings will be added. If they are genuinely trying to do the job properly, I would expect nothing less. Yet you would think a site aiming to be an important, objective, resource would have spent some time investigating some at least neutral factoids to include on profiles before going public. They've gone to the trouble of creating profiles for people whose only "credit" is being part of the GameJournoPros mailing list, after all.
And on the flipside, they've created an empty profile for Lauren Wainwright, someone who was actually run out of games journalism over ethical concerns.
Conversely, a number of pro-GamerGate commentators are conspicuously absent. John Bain aka TotalBiscuit is not mentioned, despite having a much higher profile than many of the others on the list. He can't even escape that one with the "not a journalist" line since there's plenty of those on the list. Other notable absences include Erik Kain, Milo Yiannopoulos and Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.
I'm not for a moment suggesting any of those men are involved in any sketchy activities, just there's a seeming double standard. Maybe they just haven't gotten around to those guys yet, just as there's no listings for Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu...
Some pretty conspicuous absences, don't you think? There's not even entries awaiting further details, as is the case for a number of others.
Perhaps most tellingly there are a number of entries on people's lists for presumed use of the GG Autoblocker for Twitter. Yet the creator, Randi Harper, does not have her own page. A place where, for example, you could cite her as the creator of the thing you're making note of on other pages.
Obviously such a listing will never be wholly complete. You have to start somewhere. But to parade around as an objective source on the trustworthiness of journalists and to be trumpeted as such, you need to be above reproach. And DeepFreeze seems far from achieving that, to the point of me being dubious they're genuinely trying.
Also, you list people's names in alphabetical order based on surname, not first. Der.
It's become the punchline among industry professionals to the movement widely known as GamerGate, and it's kind of vexing me that nobody is taking it seriously.
Oh, not the wider "movement" or the disgusting behaviour being exhibited by many in and around it. No, it's deeply concerning that nobody seems to be taking the notion of ethics in our field seriously.
When asked to cite the genesis of the movement most will posit it was either the beginning of Adam Baldwin's involvement and the creation of That Hashtag, or they will point to the bitter ramblings of an ex-lover and the assorted accusations arising from it. Both have certainly served as nucleation points for the whole fizzing mess, but the truth requires digging a little deeper.
The common thread between both supposed starting points is that of alleged unethical behaviour within the gaming industry. What people initially latched on to was the belief that Zoe Quinn garnered undue attention for her game (Depression Quest) by sleeping with an assortment of men in advantageous positions.
That it was probably untrue never mattered to a lot of gamers. It was the impetus people needed to start digging, looking for further confirmation of a long held belief that games journalists and developers are colluding with one another in a dishonest fashion.
You see, GamerGate may have got its label and a level of coordination due to recent events, but the sentiment behind it has been boiling away for more than a decade. You could see it expressed in comments sections across the internet, where professional journalists would be accused of accepting kickbacks for positive coverage of a game, even when the games were generally well received.
And why? Well, partly we have ourselves to blame. A large segment of the gaming commentary community (journalists, critics, bloggers, et al) are in the business because they're gamers. It's almost an extension of our hobby, even when we're getting paid for writing about it.
And that's kind of a problem. Because it's primarily a fan based medium and the barrier to entry is so low, there's essentially no oversight. There's no central authority checking that everything is above board and nobody to lodge a complaint with, should anything suspicious be noticed.
Equally, there's no central body "we", the commentators, can approach for a tick of approval. We can't pin a badge on our online presences to indicate a respected authority has approved of our standards, nor is there a centralised set of standards we can sign off on upholding.
None of that means we're all unethical scumbags, of course. Far from it. As interested parties I'd argue we're actually less prone to corruption, since we don't want to see it happening any more than the general public. There'll be instances where people accept things they should not or are unduly influenced, but largely the people talking about games do it for the love of gaming rather than money or material goods.
Yet this is why GamerGate persists. For as much as people want to paint the sideshow as anti-women or anti-minorities or anti-gaming, the core concerns run much deeper and have been around for much longer than you might think. And we're probably not making our best effort at addressing those concerns.
Ultimately, it really is about ethics in game journalism. And I think we can do better than sweeping it under the carpet with a shared chuckle.
Skipping around the internet consuming everything Destiny I have occasionally (foolishly) wandered into comment sections. The most common complaint?
"It's just another generic shooter."
It isn't. Read Brenna Hillier's piece on that over on VG247.
The most common compliment? It's doing something new in the shooter genre, or it's something new to consoles.
It isn't, on either count. Trion did pretty much everything you love about Destiny with last year's Defiance.
Defiance is a shared-world shooter with RPG staples like character advancement and loot mixed in. Open world events? Sure, plenty of those.
If you want to be really nitpicky they're even both set after apocalyptic events kicked off by the arrival of aliens. But that's neither here nor there.
Many of the quests in Defiance are done without ever leaving the open world and the rare times you do venture into a private area it's only after traipsing across the terrain to get there.
Random events pop up as you wander from place to place, ranging from very simple roadblocks to storming crashed space ships, fighting your way inside and facing down an epic boss. There's also large set pieces that are only active every so often and can draw quite the crowd.
There aren't any classes in Defiance, instead you choose one of four key skills to have in your loadout and then invest further points in various perks as you advance. It's fewer than Destiny's options, yet affords a little more freedom since you're not locked into one set of skills and perks.
Weaponry can be looted, awarded by quests or bought from vendors. There's rarity levels for weaponry (plus shields and grenades) and in addition to a selection of built-in stat boosts you earn experience for each weapon, eventually unlocking a further boost. While Destiny has addons like scopes and barrels as part of the weapon skills/perks system, Defiance has scopes and barrels and stocks as individual items so you can choose which ones suit you.
Grenades are open season as well, with players able to equip whichever they like in Defiance.
It's a recurring theme when comparing the two. If Destiny has something, Defiance usually does too. Often with a greater degree of freedom.
Yet ever since the Destiny beta opened it's pretty much all I want to play. Everything just flows so much better, from the gunplay to the missions right down to looting new gear. Don't need to press a button to collect my loot? Good heavens, such luxury.
Destiny's not really a new idea at this point, though it may well have been when it started development. Bungie's been dropping hints since 2009 and all that time has clearly been well spent as Destiny is a supremely well polished game.
If only it was on PC, not just the consoles. Keyboard and mouse for life, y'all.
Having already twittered quite enough about the entire thing today I thought I would break the blog out of semi-retirement for a short babble on some of the things that impressed me most from the first day of E3.
Obviously the big things were the Microsoft and Sony presentations but I don't have a lot to say there that hasn't been said everywhere else already. Sony "won" the traditional battle of E3. Microsoft put on a good show for their console but pretty much every fair criticism of the Xbox One is something Sony is doing the "right" way with Playstation 4. Coupled with smart multimedia deals, pursuing indie developers to get them onboard and some neat exclusive games and if you can only purchase one console the PS4 is the clear choice. All that could change before launch, but Microsoft's pretty deep into their particular hole, so I'm not betting on it.
But what about the games?
There were a few standouts for me, so in no particular order:
- Destiny (Gameplay video) - From Bungie, the guys who made Halo, comes another shooter which I had honestly dismissed prior to E3. The images shown prior could just as easily have been from a Halo title and nobody would have known. Seeing it in motion is a whole different thing. Beautiful lighting, vibrant colours, some interesting AI to fight, literal drop-in multiplayer, a public event (read: boss battles) system and bunches of loot to collect? Very much my cup of tea. (Multi-platform)
- Ryse: Son of Rome (Gameplay video) - Better known for Far Cry and Crysis, Crytek have branched out for an historical action fighter-y thing. The gameplay video shows the player storming a castle as a Roman Centurion, which is a thing I would like to do. The quick time events system may end up ruining this as there was a lot of "Press X to finish him" stuff going on... but it's Rome and sword and such! (Xbox One)
- The Division (Gameplay video) - It's actually "Tom Clancy's" The Division, but who cares. Shortly after the breakdown of society in an open world setting you raid buildings for supplies and... you know, I'm really not sure what the goal is, other than shooting a bunch of things. But it all looks fantastic. The gameplay video has players shooting precise bullet holes through glass and metal on cars, using skills and combined tactics to defeat their enemies and at one point a drone pilot drops in to assist them before buzzing back off to parts unknown.
Those're just three truly new games I saw that really grabbed my interest. There are no doubt more I'll see in the next week that I'll also fancy. Not to mention games I already knew were coming, like Watch Dogs.
But the one I'm most excited about is also the one there's virtually no information on: Star Wars Battlefront, coming from the creators of the Battlefield series of games, DICE. And that's all the information there is on Battlefront.
Please sir, I'd like some more!
Not every game leaves much room for exploration and even those that let you wander off the beaten path don't always have anything to see when you get there.
Guild Wars 2 has things to see and do in obscure locations, but even if it didn't, I think I'd still waste a bunch of my time exploring...
Lots of games have high score boards. It's been a staple of gaming practically since gaming was invented. Old arcade machines let you choose three letters to digitally scratch on the board beside your score and in the modern era a lot of score based games upload your result to the internet, assuring virtual immortality.
And that's neat.
But Zombie Driver stores a player's Slaughter-mode high scores on the internet via Steam. So you can see exactly how well your friends have done on any given map and set yourself a target.
The bit I really like? While playing the game your next highest scoring friend has their name in the upper right corner of the screen, alongside how many more points you need to surpass them.
It's such a small thing to include and many may never even know it's there. But I like it.
Zombie Driver is just $10 on Steam, if running over zombies while competing against your friends is stuff you like.
When given a choice between a male and female when creating and customising a new avatar for a game, more often than not I'll choose a female. My primary alter ego in most MMOs is a redheaded, ponytailed lady, when customisation options allow.
This isn't a gender identity issue, I don't think I'm a woman trapped inside the body of a manchild. And it isn't the oft-repeated reason of other male gamers - if you're going to stare at an arse for hundreds of hours it may as well be a ladybum. Nor do I ever pretend I am a lady in real life, mostly because the people who ask such things are only asking because they're sleazebags.
No, the reason I do it is because when it comes to customising a look and choosing an outfit and all the rest of it, it's a lot more fun doing so for a woman than it is a man. In part because it's not something I could do ordinarily, where I could dress a bloke up however I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I am a bloke.
But also because most games offer a more interesting set of options for female avatars. Sometimes that just means more "revealing" clothing or a slider for boob size, but not always.
I know it seems a little silly, especially in games where designing an image for a character is lost on most due to combat oriented gameplay being at the forefront.
But what it comes down to is that this:
Is much more interesting to me than this:
Maybe it is an issue that exists more in my mind than in reality. Most games do offer plenty of options when creating male characters and have heaps of clothing/armour to choose from. Yet most of the time I get sick of trying to create a guy I'm happy with and start the creation process over as a chick.
I really wanted to post some more pictures of past female characters but it turns out that, even when I do remember to take screenshots, I don't have any sort of plan to keep track of the resulting files.
Since I have a blog, I might start taking a nice picture or two of my character/s when I inevitably play more games. Maybe I'll include a little bit about whatever the game is, what that character's goals are... maybe I'll just throw a picture up.
Maybe I'll forget altogether and this will be the last entry on the subject.