Wizards Have Terrible Grammar: My Initial Impressions of Wizard101

Wizards do indeed have terrible grammar in Wizard101, though I should note it’s mostly not the fault of the people playing them: it’s mostly due to a draconic chat filter that makes it nearly impossible to speak without finding many of your words replaced by ellipses.

And no, it’s not because I fucking swear all the goddamn time.  I’m not a classless asshole.  I tried to tell the friend I am playing with, a Glitch alum known in Ur-that-was as Beans, Obviously, (yes, the Obviously is part of the name, that’s why it is capitalized, obviously) that a fight had kicked my bum.  Bum would not type out.

Neither would numbers or number words (6 or six, respectively) — which I assume is part of the safety measures intended to keep children from sharing their “friend code” — a code that lets players add someone to their friend list who is not standing next to them, a precaution so that children cannot be sought out by internet strangers, I guess.

But the only real result is that the local chat channels are filled with mangled garbage that passes for English sentences.  For example, if a player needs someone level 6 or above, they type level sixth, as ordinal numbers are not filtered (though the word ordinal is). Their hearts are in the right place at KingsIsle Entertainment, I’m sure.  But as a writer and a once aspiring English teacher, all I can do is contemplate the horrible effect such examples have, an effect that goes above and beyond normal netspeak and produces some really twisted sentence constructs.

As a result of viewing these twisted constructs, I’ve come to find the chat filter completely useless.  The kids seem to find ways around it, so the filter serves no real purpose except as a security blanket for clueless parents.  And a severe roadblock in your average child’s English education.

Oh but the game is fun.  Runs a little more saccharine than my usual taste, but the turn based combat has some interesting tactics that appear to grow more complex with time.  And it works well with a small group of 2 – 4.  The game certainly feels like a Harry Potter MMO without the Harry Potter.  And that makes Beans rather happy and makes Havok likely to join us at some point (do eeeeet).

Beans has progressed to level 10, and I have only reached level 6.  Once I’ve spent a little more time in game, I’ll publish a Wizard101 review about something other than the effect chat filters might have on impressionable young minds.

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Farewell Good Friend

I’ve been putting this off for a long time.  Actually, I’ve been putting off writing to this blog at all for a long time — wasting my time in other places while futilely pursuing other writing projects that I abandon for other writing projects that I abandon to stare into the abyss.  I did not intend to leave this blog without new posts as long as I have, and perhaps I will change that in the near future..  I have plenty to say about GW2 (still playing, and yes, I even play my 80), Planetside 2, and the search for a replacement for Glitch: a preferably browser based, whimsical game that allows for creative expression and gives tools to enable goofy fun with friends.  A pretty damn specific search right?

That’s the gap that Glitch leaves in gaming.  It filled a truly unique niche, and it struggled for that reason.  But it shined for that reason as well.   Glitch shined because of the work of some great people.  And Glitch shined because it attracted some great people.  In the year that I played the game, I met countless smart, witty, creative, and kind Glitchen.  In many games where it is possible for other players to interfere with my fun, I learned to dread the approach of strangers.  Despite that grief could and did happen in Glitch, I never learned that dread.  Instead, odds were pretty good that most strangers were worth knowing.

Many who did not play dismissed the game as designed for hipsters: the silliest criticism I’d ever heard.  I met a wide variety of people ranging in age from too young to forever young.  I met scientists and corporate executives and students and teachers and truck drivers and professors and project managers and writers and artists and at least one sentient peanut butter sandwich.  Okay, I made the last one up.

I’ve had so much fun in Glitch, experienced so many unique moments: in honor of the new trailer sadly released after the closure announcement, here’s 17 fun things I did in Glitch.

The oldest pic I have of miners in TimTim Timm

Went to Timtim Timm to mine but stuck around for the company.

Frightened Kristen Marie.

Frightened Kristen Marie

Had my house jellied while I was offline because I say ridiculous things.

I tested the housing system.

Tested the housing system.

Got shrunkified by Stoot at a party.

Was shrunkified by Stoot.

Attended an end of the world party before the launch of housing.

Attended an end of the world party before the launch of housing.

Begged and bribed people to my home street to experiment on tree patch lifespan.

Begged and bribed people to my home street to experiment on tree patch lifespan.

Played around with the greatest bug ever.

Played around with the greatest bug ever.

Made Ayn Rand sit next to the pig.

Made Ayn Rand sit next to the pig.

Fried my CPU with a cubimal swarm.

Fried my CPU with a cubimal swarm.

Had drunken late night guests.

Had drunken late night guests.

Hid in the trees.

Hid in the trees.

Stared down Trisor.

Stared down Trisor.

Pranked a friend with empty notes everywhere.

Pranked a friend (KM did most of it, but I helped) by placing empty notes everywhere.

Monkeyed around.

Monkeyed around.

Expressed some strange ideas.

Expressed some strange ideas.

Waited for bad news with good friends.

Waited for the closure announcement with good friends.

17 is too small a number.

Farewell Glitch.   To the people of Tiny Speck: best wishes.  I hope the future brings great things for each of you. To the people of PBMS, thank you for making it worthwhile to open Glitch even when I didn’t want to play.  To the people of Ur: like the exiles of Faunasphere and GNE, there will be some game that attracts a large number of us again.  I’ll see you there.

Glitch: Musings on the Extremely Rare Items Vendor

I’ve been silent awhile.  Tiny Speck has not been silent with Glitch, but there hasn’t been much for me to write about.  It’s not a game that works well for a play journal — and most of the fun I have there is impossible to explain without sounding completely demented.  But while I’ve stayed mum, they’ve worked bugs, added a simple lowbie quest (quietly), tweaked the UI, extended skill prereqs so that playing the game is even more necessary to advance in the game, added new music to a unique pair of regions that deserved new music, and probably a few dozen other things they haven’t told us because they relate to unreleased content or mechanics.

And rumors are flying about upcoming releases.  And solid confirmations, like stoot letting us know that Potion Making III and Master Gardening are around the corner.

And then, on Thursday, a solitary Glitch was wandering the world and stumbled onto this odd looking fellow:

According to stoot, this shady individual is of the same species as the Smugglers.

He is called the Extremely Rare Items Vendor, and he has some pricey, limited edition goods to sell:

The spigot on the left is 250k, the “Imported” Yeti on the right is 3 million. Previous top dollar items in the game were under 20k.

Although two of the items show as out of stock, they are not unavailable yet.  The total stock has been released gradually, with the first round Thursday evening and the second during the day Friday.  The third and final release has yet to happen.

And there’s a kicker: these items are not just available “for a limited time only,” there will only be a certain number of them in the world.  Period.  There will be 300 of the Yetis, and then they will never be available again.   Which of course makes me happy — I’m all about unique items that you “had to be there” for.  Even better to me that they are rather pointless.  Decorative and amusing, for sure, but they do not affect game play in any way. My recent rant about hating “fairness,” while perhaps off a bit about WoW (that game is annoyingly hard to account for), should make it no surprise that I think this idea was brilliant.  And apparently this is something they will likely do again in the future.

If the vendor is intended to sap some currants from a runaway economy, something many in the community tend to believe, it is at least partially successful.  The first two rounds did indeed drain currants from most of the vets.  But I think the delay between the second and third round has actually encouraged currant grinding:

Here we see my friend Kristen, with her rares on the shelf above her, standing in a pile of yellow seeds gained from constant yellow flower farming and a crap ton of flower shucking. End result? Moar currants.

I’m betting the net result will be for the total currants in the game to go down despite all the grinding, but this vendor has also encouraged players who never cared much about currants to learn how to get them as quickly as possible.  And I know I’m not alone in saying that from now on, if I have less than 6 million, I’ll feel naked.

If it is a currant sink, I think it’s quite possible, and have heard a rumor or two, that there will be new content requiring currants, and they are trying to limit how quickly we run through it or how quickly we flood the market with new resources.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but it seems feasible.  In the past, Rook attacks, which require players to donate items to fight off, have been stepped up before things like street projects released.  

And in the last week or so, Rook attacks are coming more frequently than they have since last fall.  Always possible they are just showing off for the newbies, but also possible they are trying to level out the economy before new content.

Either way, I’m pleased with Tiny Speck for preferring unique and weird over fairness and the “welfare epic” attitude of most of the rest of online gaming.  Huzzah!

Glitch Invites are Go!

The tutorial is up and running.  I can’t actually comment on it as I’ve decided not to watch the videos until I experience it for myself, and Tiny Speck has asked us not to spawn off alts to run it until after they’re done gathering data and so on and so forth.

But if you haven’t experienced Glitch or haven’t played in a long time, I have a number of invites to give away.  Ask in the comments!

If you take an invite, feel free to message me in game and I will send you a few novelty items.  I’m not sure how well-supplied the new tutorial leaves you — if you ask, I will also give you a bag with food and drinks.   The mail system is probably best for that.

Glitch: Towers

Towers have arrived on the home streets of Ur.  What the hell is a tower?

This is a tower.  Here’s mine with three stories completed and a bit of a KoL reference thrown in

For those not in Glitch, towers are buildings that can be started on players’ home streets and are open to the public.  With the recently added ability to sell items out of Storage Display Boxes, I originally perceived towers as simply serving as shops, but since release I’ve come to see them more as a form of expression, aimed at other players.

I still would love to see them work as functional stores, and to some extent they are functioning now—towers are resource intensive projects, so demand has returned to the Glitch economy—unfortunately, the only in-game support for finding or advertising tower sales is a trade channel.  I’ve been using it, but I’m not a big fan of trade channels.  Without moderation, they are never going to be trade-dedicated, and those that wish the channel to only have trade-related conversations are a source of conflict.   Nobody likes being told to shut up, even if they should shut up.  And as invites are turned back on and when the game goes live, the amount of non-trade chatter will increase, so the amount of conflict will increase.  Never mind that the amount of spam will increase as well — a single trade channel just won’t scale usefully with a larger population.

I’m less concerned about that, however, than I was prior to release.  Even immediately after release, I was still seeing them through lenses shaded by my own game goals and “dreams” of future content.  Through a combination of seeing players use towers in ways other than as a store and through a post from stoot, I stopped thinking of them as virtual malls — at least, I no longer see them entirely as virtual malls.   In response to someone noting that if everyone is a seller there won’t be any buyers, stoot wrote:

 I used to think that way too and then I realized it was missing the point: people like to create the space, choose the name, design the vibe, decorate — if it’s a store, select the merchandise, etc — they want to make something. It’s not intended to fill some hypothetical (or real) economic-systems hole. So, it fails to fill that hole, you can’t really blame it.

I think the word “if” might be missing from that last sentence, but I think the point comes across.  If Tiny Speck were beyond a doubt working to rid the world of vendors and released a road map explaining each step along the way, towers would not be the economic solution intended to fill the gap.  Perhaps a market district, perhaps some other in-game search mechanic, but not towers and the trade channel alone.

As for the idea that people like to make and design spaces, I have to say: he’s right.  Especially when it is a space that strangers will stumble into.  Even I feel the draw of creating something that others can see, and nearly a month passed after the release of housing before I started upgrading furniture for my house.  And while I did turn the first two floors into shops, my new understanding of towers actually inspired me to finish all nine floors—well, to plan to finish all nine floors—rather than call it off early.  I’m filling the top floors with flash fiction stories, trying to use a line from each one to inspire the next one, and perhaps someday decorating the rooms to reflect the stories.

Here’s a shop floor, you can see a bit of my first flash fiction display floor above it.

The tower is, indeed, something to do and a way to express who I am in the world of Ur.  I still hate trade channels, but I’ll complain about economics another day.

Wishful Thinking: An Ur without Vendors Part San

Ur without Vendors Part San: Advertising

When we left off, I had shown how buy orders could maintain the standard of living for players who prefer to be able to sell instantly and not think about the economy.  I admitted, however, that even with buy orders, there remained the additional challenge of how players would locate buy orders.  Simply having buy orders is not enough — the game must further support these orders.

If buy orders are implemented through a revised version of the auction system, this need should not be an issue.  Players should be able to easily sort lists, finding the best price for their goods, much like they can with goods for sale.  The problem only arises if buy orders are implemented via player vendors (PVs) — a scenario I actually hope for.

And that’s why this post will not be so much an explanation as a plea: please Tiny Speck, if you someday implement buy orders via player vendors, give in game support for remotely locating and browsing vendors.  To illustrate why, I’d like to compare two experiences.

In the first, I am playing Eve.   If I do not want to sell my goods on the market myself, I fly the goods into a major market system, I sell the goods to a buy order.  Done.

In the second, I am playing Star Wars Galaxies.  I have goods I want to sell, so I pull up a list of vendors, with high enough skills to be listed, on a major market planet.  I read the description to discover what things they sell and use that to try to imagine what they might buy.  I drive to the location.  I discover they are not buying anything.  I drive to the next location.  They are buying, but the order has almost been filled and it only takes a fraction.  I drive to the next location.   The player clearly hasn’t logged in and ages.  And so on.  And so on.

Be Eve, Tiny Speck, don’t be Star Wars Galaxies.

If buy orders are implemented via PVs, then make PVs seachable and filterable.  Make me bring the goods to the location, but make it easy for me to find the location.  Such listings are a good opportunity for skills or upgrades as well.

The alternative is a nightmare for players trying to use the system.  And would turn local chat into an ugly spam fest.

Wishful Thinking: An Ur without Vendors Part Deux

Ur Without Vendors Part Deux: Buy Orders

We’ve arranged for alternate supplies of items only available via NPC vendors.  Of course, no one upset about the concept of a player-driven economy is worried about Tiny Speck adding more content to the game as such is clearly inevitable — as long as the game is running they will add more content.

No, what most people seem to be worried about is that phasing out the vendors will change the way they play the game, forcing them into new patterns, forcing them to study and work with the in game economy in order to make currants.  As for that latter bit, I feel players already do that.  They already investigate, to some extent, what they will get for grinding out a large amount of product and dumping it on a vendor.  They have, consciously or unconsciously, worked out the time spent versus reward ratio—or took someone else’s word for it.   So really the concern is more about not being able to sell product instantly, something they are currently used to.

Even though some people I like and consider friends express this concern, I don’t have much sympathy.  In part, my experience in games with player-driven economies just doesn’t provide any support for the fear.  While playing Eve, I never worried about selling my goods and was always able to do so instantly if I wanted to, yet the game does not give and has never given the option to sell to an NPC vendor.  [Note from future Sauce: I did not think about SWG until I was thinking about advertising.  Suffice it to say SWG, while I never struggled to make money, did have some downsides to its player-driven economy.  So it can be done badly, but it can be done well.]

But even though I do not share this fear, am not even able to relate to it, it is this fear that makes buy orders an important part of transitioning to an Ur without vendors.

Let’s imagine a scenario in an Ur without vendors to illustrate how buy orders would function such that the daily game play of the “I only sell to the Tool Vendor and that’s that” players would not change at all.

In this hypothetical scenario, I have set myself up as seller of furniture items.  The method of sale isn’t important — either auction or my own (coming soon™) personal street vendor.  However, as someone who has been playing the game for awhile, I don’t want to put in the time to gather the components I need for furniture.  I’m tired of gathering.  I prefer to only log in occasionally, check my auction or vendor stock, and craft more things to fill my “shelves,” rather than spent two or three times longer gathering components.

Now I’m not the only one with buy orders out in the world for planks, metal, and snails, so I set my buy price slightly above that of my competition, about 90% of face value.  Quite simply, players that want to just craft and dump items on the vendor will be doing exactly that, with perhaps only the added step of checking for items with high demand — gauged by the number of buy orders available.

In an Ur without vendors, nothing will change for the craft and dump crowd except where they dump.  In my scenario above, they will even get more return on their product than they do in the current system, with only the single extra step of checking buy orders before crafting.

And for those that grind out awesome stews and meat tetras and other finished items — I’ll have buy orders for you too.  After all, if you just want to craft and dump, you’ll be satisfied with any payment at 75% value and up, as that is what you—most of us right now really, out of necessity—are already willing to settle for.

On the other hand, I take a lot of satisfaction from producing items that others want to buy, and though I’m pleased more by making the sale than by being able to markup the price, since I’m not interested in instant sales, I will be able to turn around your finished product for a profit, especially using a personal vendor and not worrying about auction fees.  I will provide a service for those that don’t want to worry about the economy, and they will provide a service for me — allowing me to move fully into the economic meta-game, something I already take advantage of at every possible turn.  When R3 released and all my friends were organizing and decorating their houses, I was out gathering building materials to sell on auction — I just about doubled my currants in a single weekend.

In a nutshell, an Ur without vendors will still have vendors that buy from players — those vendors will just be other players.  With properly implemented buy orders, no existing game play style will be eliminated — instead, the options of how to play will be expanded.  Of course, there’s still the challenge of finding the buy orders, the added step I mentioned but glossed over like it was meaningless.  I confess it’s not meaningless, and how that functions will affect whether or not buy orders replace and improve upon the tool vendors of today.   But that’s part 3, in-game marketing and advertising, and I will cover that later this week.