Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Yogscast vs The Reply Girls

I think these little internet micro-events are important to capture, because unless you write, vlog or talk about them, they will quickly get forgotten in the ever growing and changing digital landscape. The Reply Girls incident, is akin to Alki David’s ill-judged Suicide Event which I blogged about some time last year: a little microcosm of the trials and tribulations of getting on in a cyber world.

One of the side effects of the press-beta for Guild Wars 2 was that a number of gaming press YouTubers grabbed a LOT of views over a very short space of time. When you think that 1000000 people signed up to the Guild Wars 2 beta in just over 48 hours – you can just imagine how many people were watching these Guild Wars 2 beta videos from Yogscast and TotalBiscuit between the time the non-disclosure curtain was dropped at the start of last week and the opening of the beta signup shortly after.

Yogscast particularly seemed to drive up their viewings. I was already a subscriber (but, admittedly, was only introduced to them when Tasha announced out that she was squeeing in delight because she had the chance to harass them on the flight back from Gamescon last year). This parade of new viewers is extremely well deserved. Yogscast combine real light-hearted, almost Laurel and Hardy-esque, banter with proper gameplay analysis – a winning combination in my opinion. They seem to know their audience and have made a real effort to cover all aspects of the game which they could capture. Their tidal wave of new views has come at a cost, however: the Reply Girls have found them.

Firstly, “Reply girls” is a little misleading; they weren’t just busty Eastern-European ladies, I saw a couple of guys spattered here and there. But for the most part it was the females which dominated the reply stream; they drew your eye with low-cut tops, click-hither eyes and long dark hair. Working through a number of different accounts, armies of almost identical videos were posted as “Replies” to the video in question (usually a gameplay vid with very high views), with content exceedingly loosely related to the video (such that you got the impression that what they were saying was only really based on having read the video title) and the exact same “tags”. Similar videos were posted numerous times, such that they began to completely fill the reply feed. Some of these reply girls have also somehow managed to get YouTube partnership – so with every view their videos got, they received money.
Logically, swathes of angry YouTube viewers religiously “down-voted” these videos in order to push them off the main page. Unfortunately, the like/dislike buttons on YouTube don’t work like that: the like button will make the video pop up in your news feed as a video you’ve thumbed up, but the dislike button pretty much does nothing, so all the viewer had done by visiting the video was to add another point to the ReplyGirl’s view-count.

The guys at Yogscast, alongside a number of disgruntled YouTubers, took it upon themselves to advertise this problem (not that it needed much advertisement) imploring viewers to contact YouTube's owners through twitter and to mark each ReplyGirl video as spam using the in-service reporting system. As noted by TheWillofDC sometimes YouTube can move at glacial pace when getting coming up with a solution for a problem like this and as of yet (as far as I'm aware) they haven't acted in any substantial manner - certainly, if you go on a few of the higher-viewed Yogscast vids the sidebar is full of busty ladies talking crap.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

[GW2] The Dolyak in the Room

Anyone who gets into the beta will be under a very strict non-disclosure agreement (NDA), under this NDA you will be unable to talk about the contents of the beta to your family, friends, co-workers, electricians or fellow BDSM dungeon attendees. You won’t even be able to mention that you are part of the beta. This level of security is totally understandable from ArenaNet; they are letting an undisclosed number of lay-people play around with their unfinished product totally free. If we started spreading screenshots or secretly recording it could totally ruin the whole release plan which I’m sure the guys in Seattle have been planning for years. There will probably be the unscrupulous few who break this agreement, but I’m sure the retribution will be swift and merciless!

What will be interesting will be the time when people start being notified of their acceptance into this stage of the beta. All the joyful madness which began last night will suddenly stop as people go from gleeful twitter-fuelled anticipation to tight lipped NDA-controlled silence. Awkward silence punctuated by the occasional excited squeak which might leak between fingers clapped over mouths. All of a sudden the beta will drop off the radar, as if it never existed – beta? What beta?

The beta only exists between the time when you log into the client and when you log off. Even if I could tell you that you fought well against that Centaur Lord last night, I wouldn’t be talking to the same man. Who you are in the beta, is not who you are in the rest of the world.

After all, the first rule of the Guild Wars 2 Closed Beta Test is...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

[GW2] Guild Wars 2 Beta Signup

As if you needed telling:


Can't wait to play with you all. Proper blog post concerning this to follow - this is more of a FYI

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

[GW2] The Consolegate Affair

Edit in response to a few of the below comments: Just to clear something up - I don't feel that anyone's comments or responses to what happened the other day were in any way disproportionate or inpatient. This post is in response to my own actions and to warn against becoming the type of community which almost constantly says "this game/community was good before [insert timeframe here]" which is what I see a lot in gaming forums for other games etc. I think that considering the chaos which erupted last week, people responded in a measured and mature manner.

Consolegate (as I wholeheartedly hope it comes to be known) was a telling event for the Guild Wars 2 community. I don't think I'm being too presumptive to say that those of us who have followed the game for the past few years and watched the community grow from the dregs of those of us left over from the dwindling GW1 community to the bustling metropolis of bloggers, news sites, youtubers and great hordes of forum-dwellers are at once ecstatic and terrified of what our humble little posse has become.

One of the downsides of the long development process coupled with ANet's free release of information is that a fervour has built up around this game like no other I've ever known. Players can easily get overexcited; I've touched on the subject of over zealous fans in the past on here before (and felt the backlash as a result). One misinterpreted comment can be picked up by over-exuberant individuals and sites hoping to get the next big scoop first, and the misinterpretation is perpetuated till the whole of the community is in a frenzy of excitement, anger and confusion.

One lesson I would preach would be patience on both parts. Easily excited fans need to wait for more info before jumping to conclusions (and so do a few of the news sites). But the perhaps more restrained among us also need to be patient with the others: I felt guilty for deriding fellow fans who (though misguided) were only being excited about the game they love.

I love the guildwars community because we are warm, welcoming and fun. And events like this can lead to a community becoming jaded. I've always believed the whole "this game/community ain't what it used to be" road is a dangerous one to go down. I hope that in four years, this group of fans will still be as friendly and accepting as it is now.

ps. I've chosen not to go into any of the content which was released yesterday - GuildMag's aggregation page is the place to be for the new info. Go go go!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Building an Epic Storyline - Embrace the Destruction

One of the major disadvantages which MMOs are burdened with is that any story cannot make substantive and permanent changes to the landscape. Unlike a single player game, in an MMO the developers must account for every player experiencing the whole world at once, this is because the world is experienced communally. If, in the final battle, the big-bad destroys half the world in a rage then you’re going to have a lot of confused newbies who are just fighting their way through the boars and goblins on the starter island as the verdant land drops away into a chasm of darkness and fire in front of their eyes.

So, the story must progress and any changes must be superficial or temporary – so that half of the content of the world isn’t blown away before the late-starters have a chance to experience it. Now, the trend for “Dynamic Events” aside, there hasn’t been much advancement past this linear design for storytelling (and even Guild Wars 2 tells its main story through a personal, and particularly linear, questline).

Imagine instead a game where the developers accepted that if they were going to have a truly epic story, then it is going to have to have truly epic consequences and that means substantive changes to the landscape to reflect this. They would have to accept that with these changes to the world, player’s experiences would change and those who are tardy to the party are going to miss some elements.

Imagine a game where the story is split into 20 chapters of 3 months each. The developers would plan each section in advance, each with its own internal storyline, and overarching it all a grand story arc which would play out over 5 years and culminate in the final chapter beginning 4 months and 9 months down the line. At the end of each chapter the world would change along with the story: perhaps the main government could be overthrown, a number of the main characters enslaved or killed. Perhaps the glistening capitol city could be completely levelled and replaced by a shanty town. Perhaps half the once green and pleasant eastern continent could be scorched by dragon-flame, turned to dust and ash, dotted by ruins and glittering glass-crystals.

This approach would require the developers and the players to accept the fact that in this format the player is taking part in a story which is much larger than themselves. It is not a “personal” storyline, but a “global” storyline in which they are taking part. This approach means that they would have to let go of content from earlier chapters and recognise that the story is going to progress without them if they don’t keep up. Players coming late would join the story at whatever point in the arc it has reached globally, and not have their own personal story inexplicably starting again with every new character – “Wait... why do I have to clear the village of corsairs? Haven’t all the guys hanging around in Kamadan already done that?”.

One of the great advantages of this approach would be that you can incorporate the all-important temporal element into the game. Your character could age with each chapter (with older characters looking more world-weary, wizened or wise depending upon how early in the story they were created), they could develop scars (ala Fable) or long-term injuries (I’ve always wanted a guy with a limp!) because you wouldn’t be going back to play earlier content and saying “hey, why are you limping? What do you mean war-wound? You’ve only just joined the army”. You could reliably kill off and introduce new NPC characters without them clashing with characters from earlier in the storyline and you wouldn’t have the awkward moment of “I don’t want to bring the Staff of Orr to you, Vizier, I know you’re the Lich. But I’ve got to bring you the staff so I can progress with the story”. Imagine the buzz on forums as the next chapter approaches, the speculation akin to a new game release every 3 months!

It’s pie-in-the-sky thinking, really. You’d need to have enough content within the chapters to keep players interested for the whole 3 month period (and we know it is usually only about a week and a bit before people start maxing out characters on a newly released MMO), and I’m unsure how the completionists would react to having missed content in earlier chapters. It would be a mammoth task. But if we could let go of this compunction to gather every shiny object in the entire world and put it in a box in our Guild Hall, I think it might work. With guaranteed content for 5 years, I’d hope it would allow greater freedom for the real lore-buffs to get their teeth into a meaty storyline – with murder, deceit, destruction and creation on a world-wide scale.

Monday, 6 February 2012

[GW2] This is Keith's Story

The fantastic intro sequences which we’ve seen on Demo playthroughs and released videos always end the same way: after a minute and a half of stunning concept art, brilliantly backed up by a dramatically sweeping score, your character stands brave and tall (well, unless you’re Asura), they tell you who they are; pouring out the innermost feelings which will drive them to fight against the greatest evil before finally, and very proudly, announcing: “this is my story!”


I'm sorry. I feel somewhat silly even typing it. I cringe whenever I watch one of those videos. I cringe like I cringe when I watch the intro to Ashes to Ashes and Alex Drake tells us that: “My name is Alex Drake, I was shot and that bullet took my back to 1981”.

Maybe it’s the British in me; “this is my story” is so terribly self-indulgent. It comes with a certain swarthy arrogance attached: “this is my story, baby, and you’re going to listen”. It commands attention.

I thrive on cynicism, sarcasm and subtext. These devices keep me away from the raw edge which some media like to dance on: the monologues without pretence, the unabashed displays of affection or lust, and the rousing “Independence Day” style speeches. “This is my story” should be said on a cliff edge, staring squinty-eyed to the bronze-tinted horizon, as the wind blows up leaves and cherry blossoms about your gently tousled hair, possibly whispered to a loved one “this is my story” or even shouted at the sky “this is MY STORY!”.

In truth I’m kicking up dust over nothing; four little words and 2 seconds in a vast landscape of playtime which I believe this game will provide. I just know that whenever I create a new character I’m going to have to go “Lalalalala! Can’t hear you, lalalala!” when I reach the end of the opening cinematic.

If I had my way the game would start with something suitably British:

“Oh crap, I am so not ready for this...”

“Me? Really? Alright I’ll give it a go...”

“Can’t Keith do it? I’m about to go on my break”


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...