Archive for the ‘Virtual Worlds’ Category

Second Life’s “Improved” Newbie Experience

April 1, 2010

I keep trying Second Life every now and then (every now and then, being, oh, once every 6-12 months), and keep finding I’m not able to get into it for quite a few reasons. The excessively clunky interface. The fact that interaction is so stilted. How I walk like something out of Pet Sematary…

I keep wanting to like SL, because it seems that once you get past the initial clunk, there’s so much fun to be had creating skins, models, textures and whatnot. But each time I try, I’m slapped in the face with a host of problems that I lack the perseverance to… persevere through.

This time seems to be no different.

Just as I was remarking that they’d certainly improved the newbie experience vastly, from the last time I signed in as a newbie.. (my email supports aliases, so I keep making newbies), this … interesting screenie happens.

Before I’d said it, I was at least looking like a freshly dead zombie in an alien spaceship, as opposed to, a long-dead zombie in a world of flat planes.

And then of course, the moment I remarked upon this improvement – boom! That screenshot over there. Kinda figures. XD

Posted via email from Nuggetty Goodness

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Immersiveness – Inversely Proportional to Massiveness?

February 16, 2010

This started out as a reply to a post on Wolfshead online http://www.wolfsheadonline.com/?p=3809#45a10 but since I’m behind a proxy due to my country’s laws, and so can’t post comments there anymore… I’ve decided to plop my rant down here instead. =)

This poor little blog, it probably thought I would never love it again… but onwards!
Maybe immersion is a problem inherent in the *massive* genre. I’ve never been as immersed in any ‘massive’ graphical world as I was in MUDs (one in particular, many in general).

Perhaps it’s that the very ‘massiveness’ leads to a certain forgetfulness of what influence on the world means. In MUDs, because of their (generally) small playerbases, your ‘influence’ on the world… is your influence on the player community (say 30-80) people. And, unlike guilds, if you’re feuding, plotting, politicking, you’re doing it for more reasons than trying to get the next shiny piece of gear. More isn’t necessarily more virtuous. You may be doing any or all of those things because you’re jealous that X liked Y better than they like you. That X Is an Evil PvPer and you think PvP is STOOPIDZ. And so on, and so forth. But more IS richer.

What I’m trying to get across is that the *reasons* for doing things within the smaller worlds were richer (in my eye), because with smaller world, the communities and people were the ‘worlds’ that you influenced, and had an effect on. Not the empty slaying of some coded god for a pretty piece of gear.

It could be argued that guilds in MMOs present this ‘microcosm’ that I’m outlining… but they don’t. Not really. Because guilds, at least in a gear-stat-based system seem to tend to keep worshipping the God of Progression, to whom all must be sacrificed. Or at least, that’s the party line. Individual members may well just be in it for ‘I want moar shiny lootz.’

Perhaps I was just unlucky in MMOs, but I never, not once, got the feeling of ownership that MUDs give. The feeling that the things you do in the MUD, you do because you love your world. Because it makes your world, and its attendant community, a more wonderful place to be in. Because in spite of people you may not be able to stand in a said MUD, you desperately want your MUD to continue, and to flourish, because the loss of such a thing of beauty would be a personal tragedy.

After all my purple prose, (should you actually have read it all, poor you), I guess what I’m trying to say is – it isn’t just material goods and props and cute wolves chasing cuter bunnies that make a world immersive. It’s *people*. People whose opinions you care for, one way or the other.

Maybe in Massive-land and RL as well, that’s something very easy to forget in pursuit of the next superior shiny, and be the poorer for doing so.

GW Free Xunlai Storage on PlayNC – Generating Pointless Customer Ill-Will with Deceptive UI Design

April 25, 2009

So, like all the masses of Guild Wars players out there, I said to myself YIPPEE! More bank storage tabs! And a free tab for the anniversary period, wooties!

…and that’s where the whole problem started.

NCSoft didn’t beef up their servers at all / enough (not sure which), to handle the amount of interested customers in that feature, making it almost impossible to log in.

Additionally, instead of using the Guild Wars Online Store – accessed directly via your own account on GW once you’ve logged in, they force you to go to PlayNC and log in with your PlayNC account, which is discrete from your GW account.

This means that many people who don’t remember what on earth their PlayNC accounts were, or like me, what the passwords were for them went ???

That’s fine yah? Just get a new password sent! Nope, not so fine when your server drops the connection almost every time, because it’s too busy. And then decides that ‘you’ve tried too many times even though I dropped the connection because I was too busy, try again in a few hours.’ Added to this is that due to the load, I assume, their human-verification graphic thingies (I HATE those), load so slowly that by the time you submit the form after it’s loaded, the whole thing has expired.

…but no, this isn’t just a pointless rant! The point is coming soon. This is just the buildup!

After about 24 hours, I finally manage to get my password changed, and log in. I click on the Xunlai Storage Pane, Buy Now, and eventually come to this page.

gw_plaync_bad_purchasing_ui

You’ll see that the page is a bit different from the actual page, because only after the fact did I realise I was angry enough to log back in for a screencap, as a result this line “There was some text here telling me to type ‘FREESTORAGE’ into the coupon bit. It said NOTHING about no purchase or applying the coupon immediately.” is not the line shown on the actual page, before you change your account. Because I had to log in again to capture the screen, the actual line was already gone.

…This page imo, makes it look like you have to purchase a tab in order to take advantage of the free storage offer. You don’t. But I did purchase one. Because that is what I thought it was forcing me to do.

And I was angry. Even though I was going to purchase the max no. of tabs anyway.

And what do I find when I log into GW? Well. The tab I purchased was in, and the free storage was not. So I had to go back to PlayNC, wait for their farce of a login system again, and realise that what I was actually supposed to do was to type ‘FREESTORAGE’ in the coupon area and press “Apply Coupon”.

To all those people who said ‘the wiki shows it really clearly’, having a wiki is NOT an excuse for such plainly sloppy and deceptive User Interface design.

I can honestly see no reason other than systemic incompetence OR a desire to deceive customers in precisely the way I was deceived, to implement it the way NCSoft did.

Instead of doing that, they could have:

  • simply made a separate tab in the GW PlayNC store for customers to claim their free table
  • changed the current UI for the page shown to at least have the FREESTORAGE text all in bold, and add something saying that customers should CLICK APPLY COUPON, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PURCHASE ANYTHING
  • let people just claim the free tab via login onto the GW online store linked to the account, in game
  • just given the tab to all accounts with active logins during this anniversary period

All of those would have worked.

The worst thing about this whole stupid setup by NCSoft in the PlayNC store to me, is that it was totally unecessary. Most people who play Guild Wars happily are going to buy all the tabs anyway. There was no NEED to deceive me into buying things I was already going to buy!

Now, instead, I  have NOT bought the other three tabs, though I doubtless will in the future.

I’m just too pissed off at NCSoft to want to right now.

I design UIs as part of my job. Seeing something like this, plus the user response online trying justify such behaviour with reference to a wiki when faced with a grumpy person, as opposed to someone who warned of the exact same thing earlier – before I could log in to get my tab, gives me just that little extra insight into how users react to things based on context.

In the first instance they were feeling defensive FOR GW and NCSoft (though why I don’t know), while in the second instance, the person just stated the situation outright without ranting and no one jumped on him with ‘it was in wiki’.

Worst part is, I really admire many of the UI elements in GW itself.

A New Look at Floating Inventory

December 25, 2008

I’m back to MUD-hopping in my spare time, (together with painting, reading, sleeping and EATING! nomnom).

As a result, I had some ideas about floating inventory that could have very interesting implementations. Unfortunately, this new treatment of floating inventory would need a custom system, since it’s a structural change rather than being purely cosmetic.

Floating inventories in MUDs always bother me when I stop to think about them. The thought that I’m this ‘planet’ with lots of potions, knick-knacks and whatnots floating in satellite style about me is definitely giggle-worthy… and not exactly immersive.

So. Single-player graphical games and MMOs don’t have floating inventories. They have bags. But the act of putting everything directly into bags wouldn’t work for MUDs, because the text-based interface lacks the directness a graphical one does where inventory management is concerned. ‘Just click the damn thing!’ vs ‘open bag. look in bag. get thedamnthing [from] bag’.

In single-player games and MMOs, it doesn’t matter where my potions are in my bag(s), because I probably have the most important ones hotkeyed. I suppose you could make an alias to grab your potions from your bags and quaff them (in a MUD) context, but it’s still not the same. 1) It takes longer, 2) you’d still have to specifically look in one of your given bags to find out how many potions you had left.

Solution: Change the ‘inventory’ concept cosmetically as well as structurally.

Rename ‘inventory’ as … er ‘swag bag’ ! (Nods to Wizardry series), but keep the old ‘i’ as well as adding new commands ‘b’, possibly, for bags. So instead of having this bizarre cloud of objects floating around you, you have a general purpose ‘swag bag’ into which everything goes.

So instead of:

Inventory / You are carrying:
Pikachu Treats [3]
A Pokeball
A wren-swatter

You’d have something like

Your swag bag contains:
Pikachu Treats [3]
A Pokeball
A wren-swatter

But then, why DO MUDs have floating inventories and bags? And how should the reasons be addressed? (Don’t get me started on those MUDs that require you to hold and wear and bag everything. Absolutely everything. I absolutely hate them.)

In no particular order:

Reason:
You don’t want people going link-dead from looking at their own inventories. A place I used to play, some immortals actually had that problem.
Solution:
Limit number of items carried in the main inventory/swag bag by weight and dexterity/agility. Dex/agi limitation doesn’t actually make much logical sense (unless you argue it influences how well people grub through their bag I suppose).
Limitation via dex/agi is addressed by placing more bags within your swag bag. Why do that? Well you have a wallet don’t you? 😉 I hope so anyway… There’s a cost in direct accessibility, but you don’t end up with 250 lines in your main swag bag.

Reason:
You want to be able to limit how much your players carry to a sane value. Naturally this also takes into consideration what your system considers sane.

Solution:
This of course depends highly on how stats work in your system. For the purposes of argument,  I’d say give players a hard number, period, that anyone can have if they have the str to carry their stuff. (Though you could also limit items by size if you wanted to.)

So with these things in place, if a player wants still more inventory space (who doesn’t! Gimme moar!), you can add pockets! ZOMG!

So few MUDs I’ve seen (or even graphical games), have pockets. Usable pockets that actually add to the game. What has it got in its pocketsssss?

Having pockets (or holsters, or whatever), could be used to influence maximum weight carried. Stuff in pockets could weigh half the swag bag /inventory weight. This is intriguing because it means that the amount of ‘bag space’ each piece of equipment (EQ) has actually begins to factor in as an interesting part of that EQ. And of course for the sake of ease and sanity, ‘get stuff pants’ rather than ‘get stuff from pants pocket’ (which is stupid), would still work.

Another intriguing factor is the option to then build uber-powerful items with no pockets at all, and making clothing-inventory space one more factor of interest to balance in. Look at all those cute ninja chicks. Do they look like they have change and needles and potions and wren-swatters shoved into their tasty skintight black suits? This would self-regulate what players wear since inventory space tends to become like hard-disk space – but would also allow for min-maxing at the expense of inventory space (one swag is all you get!).

Oh yeah, and some slots shouldn’t have pockets. At all. Sorry. Nope. No nipple rings with magical bags of holding attached. 😉

ZOMG! I quit World of Warcraft!

December 11, 2008

…which is why I suddenly have time for a blog.

When I left, I had 10 level 70 characters in varying levels of gear. The best ones were badged out semi-lower end raid and all-heroic gear, the babiest ones were… green and blue like pretty bruises! 7 Alliance, 3 Horde. I was a late Horde bloomer, I blame the gnomes and their evil mecha-chickens of doomlove. 😦

In some ways it feels like WoW stole 3 years of my life.

I quit the day the WotLK came out (13th November 2008), and I’ve just felt so FREE since then. If you’ve ever had really long hair – like say, down to your waist, then decided to lop it all off for a pageboy cut, that’s what quiting WoW felt like.

Since quitting, I’ve managed to finish long overdue updates to my online portfolio at www.nuggetart.com, as well as  a painting that’s been limping along for anywhere from 1-3 years. 3 if you count from the time the base sketch was done, 1 if you count from the colour study.

The painting’s my biggest so far at about 1m by 0.5m, and it seems like all my future works are going that way.

Below’s a teensy portion of what it looks like.

Bigger versions are viewable on my perkywren DeviantArt page.

I paint with a Wacom pad (the smallest, cheapest one) and PShop 7 – because I haven’t worked with a company that had a Mac PShop I could steal since Pshop 7. 😉

I use CS at work though.

Unfortunately, quitting WoW also means that I’m out of a virtual world home again. Though to be honest, WoW never felt like home. More of a hotel where there was always a happy little frag party going. 🙂

Before being eaten by WoW for 3 years, I did have a virtual world I called home.

LegendMUD.

If you don’t know what a MUD is, in simplistic (and therefore inaccurate) terms, it’s an MMORPG without the graphics, and without the “Massive”.

In metaphorical and (to me) slightly more accurate terms, MUDs are to MMORPGs what books are to movies.

If you’d like a longer explanation,  I’ll just shamelessly quote from an article I wrote because I’m too lazy to find somebody else’s definition that I like. 😉

For those unfamiliar with what MUDs are, the acronym ‘MUD’ is an abbreviation for ‘Multi-User Dungeon’.

Though the name ‘MUD’ is possibly derived from those very old computer role-playing games which offered little other than dungeon crawling, monster-slaying and the accumulation of wealth – MUDs are far more than simple run-of-the-mill dungeons populated by a few inhabitants.

MUDs are essentially text-based virtual worlds containing objects (continents, landscapes, furniture, trees, buildings, food, etc) and people (players) as well as mobiles (NPCs) to interact with. They are made up purely of descriptive and (depending on the situation) narrative text, and interaction by players is via text-based commands.

The virtual world provided by a MUD can in turn be the foundation for a virtual community of players. Should you find a MUD with a large enough community, there is bound to be – as is usual in any human society – politicking, scandals, romance, murder and so on, and so forth.

If you only ever play one MUD, make it Legend. Of course I’m biased. But I’ve also actually been to and played with (for varying amounts of time) at least half of the 1,500 or so MUDs on mudconnector.com, so I do have some sort of basis for comparison.

LegendMUD was my virtual home for 8 years or so. I did a lot of my growing up there, and met some of my closest friends – some of whom I consider my real family (as opposed to biological family), in that virtual space.

While it’s no longer the place for me, I owe LegendMUD a lot. So much of what I learned there still serves me well today. And other stuff… well it may in the future. Right now I just have it because I like learning and it’s filed under ‘Nifty Stuff’ in the nuggetbrain.

Stuff such as (in no particular order):

  • The ability to write concisely and beautifully within a string of 79 characters, including spaces, when I have to
  • A passion for studying social structures in virtual communities, and how game architecture and design can influence social hierarchies via power, prestige, pecking orders – the usual
  • Dear, dear friends, some who are effectively family
  • My nickname among friends – nugget. I uh… got a minor award for extremely convincing roleplay of a McNugget
  • An enduring love for elegantly designed game architecture especially when it comes to your usual Sword and Sorcery genre with lots of combat (mmm combat)
  • Writing ability and polish – no matter how badly you write, if you write constantly, every night, for 8 years running, you get better at it

There are probably a couple more things, but those are the ones that come to easily to mind.

So, right. I’m back to worldhopping a-la MUDs and hoping for a world with enough depth to be a home again. I don’t know if I’ll find it, but looking is fun in its own way. I’ve been through a couple of MUDs already since leaving WoW, some more flawed than others.

…if you’re going to  flaunt ’14 years of development, and 28,000 rooms’ then you really shouldn’t have just one, lonely capital city that’s a smaller Midgaard with the best bits (ZOMG mutant factory!) taken out. Among other things.

I’ve really missed text-based worlds. Someone I was reading recently (I can’t recall whom offhand 😦 ) wrote something that rang very true for me, about how our current graphical capabilities can show you that someone’s 6feet tall, standing 5 feet away, and whether or not you can fry them with a fireball – but really doesn’t tell you anything about their emotional state. For me, with technology the way it is now, words are still more eloquent in that arena than MMO graphics could ever be.

Also (and I have this also there to sneakily connect a totally tangential and unrelated thought, yes, my mindbending powerz are at work!), don’t try explaining to the average WoW player, (you know, that great DPSer you picked up in a PUG and grouped with repeatedly for quite a while thereafter) that you’re leaving because WoW’s architecture no longer holds the aesthetic appeal and elegance it once did for you. Being a crazy nugget, I tried. The conversation went something like this:

<MadGoodDPS> So you’re quitting cause you’re angry that they’re doing updates.

<Nugget> Eek, no no, I love that they’re doing updates. I think it’s wonderful. I just don’t think this system is for me anymore. It’s not really aging gracefully and with the dailies and whatnot the economy is just really harsh on real, new players. I don’t like where this design model continues to go in terms of raiding and how things like that are handled…

<MadGoodDPS> So you’re saying you’re quitting cause you think this game takes no skill!

<Nugget> Eek! No um, that’s not it at all. Look. Have you ever been madly in love with someone for a long time, then one day, you wake up and bam! You no longer have the slightest idea why you thought she was hot. Or you do, but you just don’t feel it anymore. It’s something like that!

<MadGoodDPS> Uhh… you having personal problems?

<Nugget> Um… no nevermind. I guess I’m just bored with WoW.

Since then my friends have alas been subjected to many crits via WallofText in IMs, because the Nugget of Spammy Doom is back.. Woot!

(Incidentally, the word Woot won Mirriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2007! Woot!)

And so, in my newly free and productive life, I’ve decided to enter a porn art contest! Well… they call it erotica, but until someone pays oodles for it, it’s pron! Me, cynical, never!

Deadline’s mid-January 2009. I’ve already done the initial draft, but it has a huuuuuuuuuuuuge stained-glass window as part of the background, and I haven’t thought of what imagery goes in there yet. I plan to have that, and the base colour study done by the end of this weekend.

About the piece – not quite ready to show it yet. It’s very goth. 😦 This makes me sad and horrified with myself. My stronger pieces tend to have distinctly gothic elements. This is upsetting because I think that goths in general are silly. And not in a good way. Except Tim Burton and Edward Gorey of course!

Also on the table after the ES pron contest (maybe I should stop calling it that. Nahhh.) is learning Blender and either actionscript or Java.

I swear. I have my life back.