The Endless Wars: The Descent

The Endless Wars: The Descent itunes (coming soon) The Endless Wars: The Descent

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I moved (mostly)

Most of my posting will be on my new-ish blog. I just wanted kind of a clean break from shit. I noticed that this thing is still getting hits, which seems crazy, but, anyway, please follow me over at The Blaine Blog and/or my YouTube channel. Word.


Why I Love Sports

A quick bit of background. I'm originally from the LA area, spawned from a pair of Army brats that met and fell in love and Texas, and spent my formative years in Tulsa, OK, before moving to St. Louis as an 8yr old whose first baseball card back in Tulsa was a 1986 Topps Ozzie Smith. So, when my parents asked me if we should move to St. Louis or Chicago, I said St. Louis, because that's where Ozzie played.

Needless to say, I was nearly born a Cardinals fan. But, I also grew up in a household that cheered for the Cowboys and Lakers. Yup.

I've lived in St. Louis since 1987, with the exception of a brief jaunt to Chicago to get my undergrad and a wife, and baseball here is a religion. Okay, Catholicism is the dominant religion here, but you know what I mean.

The end of winter here is signaled not by the melting of the snow, but that hallowed day when pitchers and catchers report.

The start of summer is signified not by the end of school, but by the sights and sounds of the local children on their own ball fields, emulating their titanic heroes in red.

Fall is marked not by brown leaves, but by the hunt for Red October, and the dulcet tones of Shannon and Rooney on workplace radios as the Cardinals battle and plunge deeper into the playoffs.

Winter ... winter is a time of death and rebirth as the roster churns and we gaze south, to the gentle shores of Jupiter to give us a sign, anything, that lets us know that it's almost time to begin anew that trek to the next Red October.

Yeah, some folks are also pretty great fans for the Blues and Rams, too, for sure, but they're not woven into the local fabric in the same way as the Cardinals. In a lot of ways, the Cardinals ARE St. Louis.

I think that may be part of the intense animosity the rest of the country holds for the Cardinals and their fans. We really, truly love this team, and I think a lot of fans of other baseball teams view that as a commentary on their own fandom, when it's not. We don't really worry about the way other teams interact with their fans, but we're always surprised when teams are booed in their own stadiums. That just seems ... well, like something a bad fan would do. I dunno. That's just now how we roll.

This is the town that partially grades players by how much hustle they show getting to first base on a walk, and I'm not kidding.

So, anyway, that's the foundation of my love for sports.

Today, yeah, I totally get up for the Rams, even though current ownership hasn't earned it at all. And, fuck, this season is looking very, very grim. I have a feeling, though, the problem will no longer be ours very, very soon when the league and broadcast networks get their wish and the Rams are moved back to LA.

Really, though, I think I'm a bigger fan of the NFL than I am the Rams. I just like football. I think we should solve all international conflicts with games of football.

At least I still have Mizzou football. They're a blast to watch, and the college game is so much more watchable than the pro game, which has become addicted to penalties and theatrics. The college game is filled with risk-taking in the play-calling, and fantastic atmosphere.

But What Does it All Mean?!
See, I take weekends off. I'm working the first 40hour/week job I've ever had. Everything before this has been 50+ with more working weekends than not. Nowadays, I like taking an outdoor jaunt with the wife and boys and dog, then spending the rest of the time gaming on my laptop while watching the Cardinals, Rams, Mizzou, or whatever sporting event, and just losing myself in the relaxation.

I particularly enjoy playing MMOs while watching sports, since I can shift my attention back and forth. The single-player RPGs are much more a night-time activity, after everyone's in bed, and I can focus intently.

Red October
Now, once we're in the playoffs, the laptop is put away, the games shutdown, and the Surface tablet is set on the coffee table to act as a stat companion. It's also when the Khaleesi and I back WAAAY up on shows on the DVR.

In any case, go finish your work day, and enjoy your weekend. I plan to do the same.


It's Evolution, Baby

I spend a lot of time thinking about storytelling in games. Probably too much. Even when considering other aspects of a game's design, I'm always thinking about how they serve not just the storytelling, but the underpinnings of a user's sense of immersion, which is critical for telling a solid story.
While trying to explain this to the Trophy Khaleesi the other day, I accidentally defined it well when I explained that one of the best things about games that present choices is that the user shares in the story's authorship.
By this, I mean that when I choose to just let Morrigan walk away or not through the Eluvian, I feel like I've helped write the story.
*By the way, if you choose NOT to let her just walk through the Eluvian ... just WOW*
And, yes, this ties directly into the concept of player agency.
The idea of the player taking on at least part of the authorship of the story is something that lured me away, rather quickly from being a JRPG nut. I guess it also helped that, starting with Final Fantasy X, my favorite JRPG series stopped being fun. Or maybe I grew up. But that's another post.
Either way, it's great seeing developers like BioWare, CD Projekt Red, Inxile, Bethesda, and Obsidian continue to iterate and expand on this concept.
For me, though, the holy grail is getting this right in the MMO space. BioWare took a decent stab at it with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I've played that game more than any other ever. I had a really great time for a long time in that game, up until about a year after they shifted their focus from more content to making new hats that can be bought through microtransactions. And, as happens when a game goes F2P, the community became toxic. I'm probably letting my sub finally lapse, by the way.
Elder Scrolls Online has done some very interesting stuff in this area. While the choices here aren't so obvious or seemingly grand as in SWTOR, they are there and provide some interesting results. Additionally, the developer, Zenimax Online Studios, are working toward making the game world even more immersive, as seen below.
Where it seems like all modern MMOs go wrong is trying to be everything to everybody. They have to squeeze as much return on investment as possible from their product, and in the modern gaming scene, that's just not possible. The locusts swarm to one title, feed on it, abuse the developers, and then in a succession of groups, swarm to the next one.
I'd love to see an MMO that provided annual full expansions that were packed with story-based content. In between, they could drop little bits of end-game content. Yeah, they would have to be an ENORMOUS studio, but surely someone like Blizzard or EA could fund that, right?
I loved what SWTOR started out as, which is a HUGE single-player RPG that you could play with friends, if you wanted. Now, all the new content is forced-grouping, so there's inevitably some asshole screaming into group chat when people don't skip the story scenes.
All of this reminds me that I need to go back and look more at Secret World and Guild Wars 2, as well. I'm told repeatedly that they both do really interesting things with story.
I just really want one game that I log into play most of the time, without hearing that nagging voice in the back of my head that's insisting that this game actually kinda sucks.
I want a Dragon Age MMO that focuses on story, gets annual expansions, gets new endgame content every two months, and is subscription-based. Okay, fine, it can have some element of PvP, but I don't want that to be much of a focus.
Ya know, I really wanna try true roleplaying in an MMO some time. It's always struck me as something interesting, and I've never tried it.
What about you? How much of an emphasis do you put on storytelling in games? In MMOs? What's your perfect MMO? How much do you value choice in games?