Monday, December 23, 2013

Tip for dealing with noisy feeds in your reader

If you use a feed reader like Netvibes or Feedly you are probably familiar with the problem of noisy feeds that clog up your reader with dozens of posts every day most of which are dross (like Buzzfeed). You can leave these out of your feed entirely but then you miss the occasional funny or interesting item that they do post. I have found that a good way of dealing with them is to create a new category (feedly) or tab (Netvibes) called "Noisy Feeds" and stick all your noisy feeds in there. That way your less prolific sources do not get buried and you can still occasionally dip into the noisy category occasionally to keep up with the zeitgeist.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Over-preparation for Lotro Helm's Deep leads to rapid burnout.

The title says it all. I spent two months levelling a character from the mid 40's to the cap of 85 just in time for Lotro's Helm's Deep expansion. Once the expansion launched I lasted 2 days. I loggeed off after two days and haven't logged in since.

I cannot even blame the expansion. From the little I have seen it looks like an excellent expansion. In my opinion actually Lotro is getting better and better with each expansion. The devs are clearly lavishing care and attention in to the world they are re-imagining and the continue to tweak and improve the game play. Yes I do have some minor niggles which I will talk about in a minute but ther are not the reason I stopped playing. I stopped playing because the eight weeks I spend preparing for Helm's Deep burned me out on the game. I simply wanted to take a long break. So much for my grand plan to finally catch up with the herd and enjoy the thrill of discovering new content along with everyone else.

As for the niggles (remembering that my overall first impression of the expansion is very positive):

- The complete overhaul of the skills and traits system created a learning barrier. I don't think the changes are bad. The little experience I had with my Lore-master indicates that there is still plenty of flexibility in the system and it is probably more straightforward that what it replaced. It is just another new thing to learn and for a burned out player that is a bridge too far.

- My character had become ridiculously overpowered. I thought my mounted character was overpowered at the end of Rohan able to solo mobs of enemies including elites and even elite masters but Helm's Deep seems to take this to another level. My once wimpy pet can now kill landscape mobs before I finish a single skill induction.  This is particularly frustrating after the major changes to the skill system. I have a bunch of new powerful looking skills that I never get to use because the mobs die so quickly. There is some initial pleasure to be had from rolling over groups of mobs but that quickly become boring.

- The quality of global chat took a nosedive immediately after the expansion. Although I am in a kinship (guild) most of the other members have left the game so I am really a solo player. I like to keep an eye on the general chat channel, it reminds me that there are other folk in the game too and occasionally I respond to requests for groups. Before the expansion general chat was usually inane, sometimes helpful and sometimes entertaining. Immediately after the expansion global chat started to fill with offensive and insulting comments. I assume these were returning players, not too numerous but certainly vocal. There wasn't that many of them and a bit of attention to the /ignore function quickly filtered out the racists, the homophobes and those who are just plain nasty but it left an unpleasant taste. Lotro has long been famous for having a friendly helpful community so it is a rude awakening to realise that there are obnoxious players too. 

Response to Tobold's Question about whether older games are still relevant.

Being lazy here. Tobold asked "How Long Are Games Relevant?" and I was inspired to write a fairly long comment. This poor blog is a bit short on attention recently so I though it would fit here as well.

It isn't just games. In every area of culture we humans have an insatiable demand for novelty. Extremely worthy contributions from a few years back are ignored in favour of the "next big thing".

The issue is muddied somewhat in the field of games because the rapid pace of technology means that older titles are often uglier than modern games. However I do not believe that this is the main reason people do not play older games. Minecraft became a major mass market success in recent times even though it looks like a 1990's game. How many folks are still queuing up at movie theatres to watch Finding Nemo? How long has it been since The Da Vinci Code was in the best seller lists? Technology has not moved on substantially in the fields of movies or book publishing and yet those blockbusters of 2003 have largely been consigned to history.

There will always be a niche market of enthusiasts who learn about and enjoy older works. Gog.com and to a certain extent Steam are catering very well to those markets in PC gaming.

For the mainstream mass market however older works get forgotten except for a small number of stand-outs that have become cultural reference points like the works of Charles Dickens or the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.

I think it is fair to say that some older games have become such cultural reference points and are therefore still relevant. Super Mario springs to mind immediately. In PC gaming Doom probably qualifies even though I believe it is almost unplayable for modern gamers. Call of Duty certainly qualifies because of its enormous legacy even though most of today's players have probably never seen the original.

Please note I am not talking about the "Citizen Kane of video games". While "Citizen Kane" is a stand-out movie that has become a cultural reference point it is most noted for having revolutionised the genre and raising the artistic bar for all future movies. Not every cultural reference point has to do this.