28 September 2008

Mud promotion

So you are an admin of a MUD and you have noticed a drastic drop in players. Other than the things listed below what can you do? Everyone seems into lists these days. It goes with less time and short attention spans so here is a list.

1. First and foremost LOG in and play your MUD. Yes admins have to show a presence, but they should also play on the mortal side. ALOT. First it shows activity. No one likes to log into an empty MUD, second it keeps you in touch withwhat it is like to start out low and work up. If possible keep the character's identity secret from other Admins. It let's you see how they work from the user side.

2. Talk about your mud on Mud sites, gaming sites, blogs. I don't mean talk incessently but mention it or better yet, just add the info in your signature file if the site does not object.

3. Get the players involved. Start a MUD newspaper featuring their writing. Hold meetings with all clan leaders regarding clan wars, turf whatever. If you have an RP mud work with them on the plot.

4. Hold weekly or bi-weekly OLQs or an xtra reward day like double xp or rare item drop. THat is what the MMOs do, take a page from their books.

5. Offer an incentive program for people to bring friends to play. Nothing big and make sure the friend stays to play at least 3 months (6 would be better) But a special item or extra xp would be nice. Maybe a skill boost even.

Add any you may think of or have tried in the past that has helped.

26 September 2008

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance - Game Cube

Usually I rant or rave about something here, but this time I shall record my shitory with this game. It is a sort of a combination.

First let me state clearly, I am somewhat biased when it comes to WOTC. I miss TSR I will always miss TSR. The D&D manuals they produced had elements of fun in them. WOTC made them far too businesslike and serious. They took a lot of the Roleplay out of RPG in my opinion and made it nothing more than statistics and numbers for many. Luckily most players of the table top games ignore that and put it back in. But when it comes to the RPG genre on stand alone games that is all most can do. Rill the dice (or the randomizer) and go from there.

I loved the old Westwood studio games for TSR. So when the Baldur's Gate series began to be published, I was excited. Except the PC versions hated my machine. So I sighed an watched enviously from the sidelines as others played. When we got a Game cube a number of years back, one of the first games I got for myself was Dark Alliance.

First let me state I am an old gamer to me that means lots of saves and many versions of the same game at possible branch points so I can go back and take the other path in case I am missing something. Baldur's gate required a huge amount of space to save, around 30 blocks. so much for multiple copies on one memory card - at least not as any as I like.

So I made my first character. I took the human archer. Bad choice for me it turns out. The isometric view is a pain when targeting enemies within your range but off the viewing screen. Yes you get a trajectory line (and your arrows do NOT arc as they would IRL) But what use is a line when you cannot tell where the target is? Luckily the character is competent with a sword as well so that is a plus.

I made it through the first part of the in town game then I hit the part that has been described as 'It sucketh mightily'. A series of dropping platforms, the last set kept beating me. I spent ages trying to cross that, then gave it up for other games. But every once in a while I would return to that spot and try again. I found cheat codes that would get me past that spot, but I REALLY hate doing that so I kept trying. Finally about ready to give up and cheat I challenged my daughter.

I am almost embarrassed to write this, but it shows what lateral thinking can do. She tried it. She failed. She tried again and failed. Then she did what I should have thought of from the get go. She remapped the controller so that A was my jump. She made it across and still harasses me about it.

So on I go. The story is pretty standard, except I run into the beholder boss that anyone can figure is coming from the first scene in the tavern, much sooner than I expected. My daughter is watching as I run panicked around the room, certain I am about to die from the a spell at any moment. Then I decide, what the hell, go into berserker mode and as she says flailed to a win. I was shocked. When she asked what I was worried about I yanked out the old TSR book and had her look up the Beholder entry. She was equally incredulous that I won first time and with no deaths.

From there you go off to discover what exactly is rotten in the state of Faerun. It proceeds much like a normal crawler. But then I hit the problem. I don't know if the cube is dying or if there is a problem with the disk, but I started getting system errors. At first it was as a new area loaded. I suspected the Cube. It is old. But then it died in the middle of a level with nothing in particular happening. Then again in a boss battle, then again in the same battle. Maybe a disk problem? I researched on the NET, nothing about an issue that I could find. The error occurs in the same area but not always in exactly the same spot. I check with the local alpha geeks at the gaming store. They don't remember any issues and can;t find a copy of the game. I am not amused.

Today I walk out into the living room to see my husband playing Animal Crossing on the cube (the PS2 hated me last week as well btw and went blank in the middle of /.hack: Infection) It was running fine. A few slow downs on the gameboy advance link, but seemed fine. So with trepidation I loaded Baldur's Gate. I made it through the boss battle and 2 more. Then I got the error as I headed into the swamp to investigate the tower in part 3. I turned the machine off and will try again tomorrow.

So far my rating on this game is a solid 6. It is good, but WOTC breaks their own rules on monsters out of their own books. Characters regain hits over time, monsters do not. And who ever heard of taking out a beholder by running around a room flailing or a dragon alone? I hate the point of view for range attacks. But on the plus side. It is a great dungeon crawler, the closest I am going to get to Eye of the Beholder or the Lands of Lore series now that Westwood is gone. There are not too many side quests and the story moves along quickly.

If the GameCube and the disk allow, I will finish this game. It has bugged me for a long time that I have not been able to do so.

25 September 2008

Play by Post and other Games: How not to Fail

GamerDNA is a site that remade itself. It seems to be succeeding. I have seen write ups about it on major sites. It is a good site. It deserves it. Why has it succeeded? Is it the slick new skin? Maybe the shift to major MMO's determined its success. Maybe it is the awesome marketing done by the staff?

Well partially all of the above are contributors but, it is not all. It is because the site persevered through the lean times. Except for some periods when Guildcafe (the previous incarnation of the site) was down, the site owners never gave up. They listened to their members and they adapted to the member base. This meant the members stayed loyal to the site. When the staff showed dedication to improving, the members saw a reason to stick around. The site may not be the busiest, it may not be the biggest, but it has a very loyal base.

I am an editor on the RPG Gateway. The site helps RPG players and site owners promote their site. It is heavily oriented toward smaller games, but of course some of the big game publishers are represented. Every editor has at least one section of the Links section to monitor. We add sites, check existing ones to ensure they are still active and offer advice and most of fun of all vote for the Amber Quill Awards and the Gold Wyrms.

I have been doing my monthly vetting of one of my areas. I am saddened by the number of sites I have been removing due to non activity or the site owners closing down the site. I am equally discouraged by the sites requesting addition as new games and requesting a review for a Best of the Best Award. Most fall pitifully short.

So, how do you make a game succeed?

First and foremost in the RPG market STORY is important. RPG means Roleplay Game. If the story is a poor rewrite of yet another hero wins the day, forget it. You need to have characters and a world that is well thought out, a plot that holds the attention of the gamer, and game mechanics that make the whole package work. In other words you need a decent story.

Secondly, you need to listen to your players. Accept not everyone likes the same thing about a game, Accept some may not like a game at all, but listen to the faithful. SOMETHING appeals to them. They are your fans, your core, and your inspiration. Yes, gamers are fickle, but many of us are also sentimental. We will not abandon those who do not abandon us.

Play by Post sites are the perfect example. They are simplest of games, 'Let's Pretend' moved to the web. Yet, I see sites that supposedly promote writing that are run by individuals who cannot spell and seem to not know how to use a spell checking tool. Grammar is non-existent on these sites and the concept of plot is bare. Rules are non-existent or contradictory. These sites rarely last a year.

Then the opposite end of the spectrum contains the elitist sites. You must submit a sample of your writing to to be critiqued. I read one such site's administrator's notes stating they ALWAYS make the individual change something just to test to see if they will obey. Many of these sites succeed for a while, but the 500 word post minimum set by many of these takes time to craft to the standards set by the site owners, and the players begin to fall off.

The sites that seem to be successful are those that assist the players in the game. Ones that are run by literate Administrators, (or at least have one on staff) and are willing to help the players improve in their story telling. Whether the improvements be in story telling techniques or basic grammar rules, sites with staff that are willing to help and to listen are sites that gain the much needed core of loyal players. That is the first step to successful game. A player base.

21 September 2008

MUDder checks out MMO

I have been curious, but dial-up and slow machines have stopped from indulging in the past. The machine is newer, not top of the line, but it is adequate, but dial-up ewww! But where there is a will.. So in March I bit the bullet and shelled out the big bucks for Guild Wars Platinum Edition. Here are first impressions as posted on J2 Games I will add to it as I get deeper and deeper into the game.

Week 1 (give or take a few days)

First - I go to local store ask about running Guild Wars on dial up. 'Casey' - young energetic and actually believes I might know my way around a game (most game store employees talk to my daughter or worse my husband - who can barely run a word processor ) says "You'll get pwned in towns but would be okay in the quests" Yes he actually said pwned. He directs me to Titan Quest Gold instead I buy that and Game of the Year Edition of Guild Wars Titan quest is fun btw and will get to that one at a later date.

I load both disks, installs like a dream on Vista. No worries there. It goes out and dls over 4000 FILES in updates. Ok, so they made some fixes. No surprise. I log on, make my first character - a ranger - hmm really want a thief not an option, no real rogue or thief types. Maybe will get Factions so I can play one later. That was the expansion that REALLY piqued my interest in the game anyway. I go to load first zone in the game. Loading bar appear and it tells me that there are over 13,000 FILES that is FILES to dl. Why bother giving me a disk then, much less 2? Oh well kill it for the night, is now 1 am and I need to work tomorrow.

Next evening - I go to log in and get the you have not verified your account message. I click the have not gotten e-mail option, after checking my spam mail and everything else, and continue. I start the dl for the 13000 files, post on the RPG board, edit some stuff, play solitaire, read some articles, then read a book. Finally I give up and go to bed leaving it running. When I get up it is done, it took around 8 hours I would estimate on 56K. (Monday the 15th, now) I log out, go check e-mail no message well it was the weekend and something is going on for St. Patrick's so .. I leave it for now. Come back that night and start to play.

Monday - still no e-mail I will give it one more day then will contact tech support as they suggest. I get to Ascalon (pre) Learn controls, do a quests, check out the zones and professions open to me. Died very little. One or two people speak to me, but that is ok. The initial chat shows as white on a tan background. and it is hard to read for these old eyes. I finally figure out how to open the chat box and dark background makes it much easier. I get the ranger to about 3rd level and create my real test character a mes/ele. If I can survive as a full mage, anyone can survive.

Tuesday - still no e-mail go to contact tech support. They don't make THAT easy. Play for a while. Got 2 propositions from people on chat for cyber, turned them both down. (Oh come on now, admit it; you were curious.) Not much else in the way of conversation or even group requests. Finally get a female character needing help on a quest I have done, Run with her to place killing stuff she is a newbie as well so I do not get frustrated and she apologizes a lot. Said others gave her a hard time about backtracking. Np one needs that especially not a mew player. Let them get lost and learn their own way around. I get the ranger to level 5 and mes to level 3 and get her second profession. Still deciding on one for the ranger.

Wednesday - starting to get the hang of it and the net lag is not too bad. Would not go PvP. Lag spikes always come at the worst times. Time for my big digression here. Pre Searing is a zoo. In almost any city there are a bunch of Idiots. Definition time

Newb or Newbie - new player. New players are naive, lost, and some are just plain cautious. They ask uninformed questions or don't even know what questions they need to ask. They die a lot, get frustrated, wander into zones too big for them and and miss zones they should hit. We were all Newbies at one time in any game.

n00b - aka PITA. These are the ones that stand around acting cool. In Guildwars they dance repeatedly, show off the emotes - which honestly leave one wanting. I would prefer to doubletake at someone or scare someone specifically as on a mud (Socials usually are set up like this - Emote $other, Emote $self or Emote $none So would be Fred scares Mary, Fred scares himself and Fred scares someone who is not here) N00bs spam, beg for stuff, they beg for people to lame them, they complain no one will help them or that the game is too hard or stupid or ... Worse they hit cheat sites, parrot information and opinions then whine when they have "the best" eq, best weap and get owned in PK. They exist everywhere. And they NEVER SHUT UP.

Scammer - these are the players that 'need killin' in game. They take new players - both types - for cash (usually in game but have heard of rl money) by selling stuff they can get easily enough at inflated prices. Have seen people advertising to buy WoW accounts, AdventureQuest and other online games. Obviously admins are not present. This is one drawback.

Pre-Searing is full of n00bs and scammers. There are cool people there, there are nice people, there are helpful people, but there are also the OTHERS. Female characters are dancing in the nude around the city, male characters are playing air guitar, drums and I see very few of same guild cape standing around. Odd, I thought solidarity was one of the points of the game. Again I get propositioned, I turn the guy down, get some attitude in return. Finally tell him I am probably old enough to be his mother, he goes away.

Another guy approaches asks if I want to join a guild. I have been reading Wikis and featured Guild items and faction info. Most of it assumes you know game premises. They need some help in that department. I am uncertain. He tells me if I hate it I can leave, people change guilds like underwear. I am not that type of girl. They are Kruzick, have a cool cape and the recruiter impresses me with his honesty so I join. Suddenly everyone around pre starts talking to me.

Lesson 1 - people ignore you till you join a guild.

Ok this is long enough will return to being cranky tomorrow. Upshot - so far I like the game dial up is not too bad and I can ignore people. More later.

12 September 2008

Thinly Disguised Marketing

DIGG started out as a geek site. Participants mainly dugg articles that pertained to technology. Of course there were videos, high weirdness and games but lately it seems to be a site for people to promote their own products. I started shying away from DIGG this year when articles on the presidential primaries and videos on YouTube became the predominate additions.

I started hanging around sites like GamerDNA, JSGames, WGFriends and (shudder) Gamespot for gaming info Castlecops and Bleeping Computer for tech stuff. But it is getting discouraging. You see people are too into marketing themselves and their games, addons or own gaming sites on these.

Most of these places have an area where you can submit news (if they are not flat out like DIGG and are social bookmarking sites.) Yes, people need to market the games they create and play. Lately, all I see are list articles (the 10 Best Games for Your Goldfish to Watch); videos of someone reviewing a game or ranting about what lousy parents gamers make while their child sets fire to the trash can behind them; spam for Wow gold, leveling, and other forms of account theft; Ventrilo logs of people hacking or cracking the server with not so hilarious results; videos of dancing and teabagging toons; YouTube 'reviews' of systems by someone's hot sister; and thinly veiled promotions for games developed by the poster with fake controversy and/or rave reviews. These articles. with the possible exception of the true spam, get voted up in the list by meat and sock puppets and articles of true value: reviews on games not posted by a minion of the publisher, good game releases, and real game demos wallow at the bottom of the pile.

How about some moderation on these sites?

Girl Gamers Part 3

This article went up on Gamer DNA today:

Top 10 list of Xbox 360 games both men and women play equally. Bully: Scholarship Edition is in the top ten list? Suprising! Find out what the other 9 are!

read more | digg story

the same stuff I have been ranting about for months, nay make that years, since I admitted that Zeta has a female operator. So what took gamers so long? Why are they surprised that women like the same games as men? And why does it matter? Part of the problem is that gamers are believing the propaganda laid down by their own detractors.

First there are the in game and in forum trolls. They are the ones that reply to any post made by a female member of the community with comments such as: "There are no girl gamers, only fags and dykes.", "All girls who play games are fat, ugly and can't get a man irl.", "All girls who play games are in it to cyber." and my personal favorite "Girls just can't play games. They aren't smart enough."

Here are MY answers: Right, lesbians are not female and girls don't play these games, women do. Absolutely I can't get a man IRL, I got my kid through a faulty
firewall on an I/O port while cybering on a bbs. Man am I lucky I didn't pick up a virus." Though I rarely give answers to these types. They crave attention and thrive on controversy. Just adhere to the rule Don't feed the Troll. The Troll is parroting what they have heard from casual or non gamer friends.

The problem is that for at least one of those statements they are sometimes correct. Some women do Cyber. So do some men. Some men cyber as females, some women cyber as males. Personally I don't care as long as it is kept private and I don't have to hear a replay through the clan channel. But it seems that is all some females do or at least all they are perceived as doing. This is of course promoted by those who believe that the internet is nothing more than a thin veneer of substance over a steaming pile of pornography.

Then there is the problem that many females do not play games because they are "too violent" for a woman's more sensitive nature. This comes from the misogynists who want to keep females in the dark ages. They fear the female that can think, so the best defense is to keep them from believing they are as resilient as men. My answer to that is Lorena Bobbit. I would rather blow away my boss in Doom than in IRL.

Next there are the ones that buy into the idea that all games are made for guys. Have none of you SEEN the Prince in Prince of Persia Warrior Within? I'd take him in a heartbeat! There is just as much eye candy for women as men. And if you prefer women, don't worry most games these days let you pick which avatar you want want to play.

The problem goes back to the post I made about gender treatment on MUDs. You see it seems to be the same attitude on most online games. Girls get a lot of help, but the wrong kind. They are not taught by the masters how to play the game, what stats are important, what tricks and how to use them, they are lamed. Females who teach themselves on stand alone games or hide behind a male character or at the very least a unisex name seem to learn the fastest. Though I am finally seeing this change a bit.

Ok so, the gamers are getting it, most of them. Why aren't the game manufacturers? Because they are buying their own hype. They believe that girls do not game therefore they must make games appeal to girls. STOP CALLING US GIRLS!! Some females have taken to the Girl Gamer label but not all of us. So, just stop already.

Second, stop producing crap. One of my favorite games that held the most potential was Cutthroats. But it fragged my disk so badly I had to play it on the D drive only. Age of Wonder chokes when I enter certain towns. And Interplay HATED my old Intel processor. Even Dungeonkeeper would flail when the graphics got heavy.
Put specs on the box where they can be seen and do not put the lowest end. Put what is needed. Ok maybe I won't buy it because I do not have an UBER gaming rig, but at least I won;t hate your company for lying to me and making me shell out 40 - 70 dollars for a game my machine can't handle.

Which brings me to the main reason I almost stopped gaming. (Ok the thought crossed my mind for about 30 seconds and then I got real.) Technical support. FOr those of you who know nothing of my "real life" I spent many years in tech support of a product that was proprietary. That meant I HAD to make it work on many different machines with many different issues. It was in the early days of Windows (Yes Virginia there were computers BEFORE windoze.)

I had turned my entire IT dept onto Doom. One of my bosses turned me onto this cool game Burn Cycle by Philips Interactive. It would start, I could get to partway through the first section then it would crash and burn. So one day I decide to call the tech support number listed for the US (Philips was a UK company so I guess they were using a third party tech group). Back in THOSE days we got charged. (It was usually a 900 number). So I bite the bullet and call. I get a techie he goes through the usual is it plugged in type questions (We HAVE to ask, so I don't bitch too much.) I rattle off my machine specs and wait. (It was a state of the art 486 btw with a Cyrix chip.)

The convo went something like this:

"Uh is that a Mac?"
"No it is a custom built 486"
"I never heard of Cyrix, are you sure it is not an Apple?"
"Cyrix is made by a division of IBM. Apple uses Motorola."
"Uh, hold on a moment."

Remember this is MY dime and I hate paying to put on hold. So after about 5 minutes that seemed like 20 the techie switches me over to his supervisor.

"You are trying to run this on a Server? You know it is not made for LAN play." Mgr type
"No, on my home machine."
I again explain the details.
"Look is your husband around? I think you are confused about the chip and the Bios and we really need to know that because it matters about how the uh computer thinks."

At that point I decided said never mind, "I'll figure it out or deinstall"

Now usually I would just fume about that but I had been through several similar 'pat on the head' type conversations at work lately with client companies' tech support involving DOS 5 and the share issues when it came to printing to a port. (For some reason if share was loaded it would not allow an app to print to a port and share had to be loaded for old windows products. So we had to write a little script that unloaded share to print and then reloaded it and talk users through putting it on the PC in the proper directory.) For some reason for about 30 seconds I bought into the idea I could not comprehend what the issue was. Then I shook my head and deinstalled and went back to blowing away creatures in Doom. Nevermind, there are plenty of other games by companies who know how to treat a lady who calls for tech support. Yep, treat her like a Gamer.

11 September 2008


This is just sad. Monopoly does not take a great deal of training to play. Some of it is just luck (who lands where when at the beginning of the game) and some is strategy (trade what with whome to form monopilies or hold out so that someone cannot form one). WHY would anyone be so desperate to buy something on how to win a board game? If the guy who is selling it manages to make a living at it, more power to him, but anyone who feels they are less of a person by losing at the board game of Monopoly has problems that I doubt just a 'how to win pamphlet' will solve. They need a some serious group therapy of a sort that does not involve games.

02 September 2008

Game Promotion

Ok, let's say there is a game you love. But even WoW seems to be feeling the pinch of the economy. They came up with the "Get your Friends Addicted" promotion. It promises "If your friend/family member purchases a full copy of World of Warcraft and pays for a month of subscription time, you get 30 days of subscription time FREE!
If your friend/family member pays for two full months of subscription time, you'll receive an exclusive in-game zhevra mount!
" As well as, 90 days of triple xp whenever you and your friend play together.

So, Muds, strat games, everything are emptying for this promo. It is sad, but your favorite game does not need to suffer.

Ok so the game is free, can't pay people to play there, or can you? Maybe not real money but what about triple xp weekends for groups over 5?

What about special items created just for playing on a certain date?

What about OLQs?

Fine you say, but how do we let people know if they are all off playing WoW? Ahh there I can be of some help:

Here is a list of places that are good for MUD, MMO and online Strat Promotion

Gamer DNA (formerly Guild Cafe
A place to set up a page for your clan for free. Promote your game and your MUD. It is heavily WoW and Warhammer oriented, but I have had some oldbies check in after they saw Valhalla there.

This site is all about MU* promotion. Free banner displays (as well as paid)
a forum for your MUD. Lots of friendly people who will help you in promoting your game.

Web Gaming Friends
A social network for gamers. It covers all the NOT big MMOs