Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

This is a mobile test

Posted: June 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Trying out the new iPhone interface for WordPress. It’s been a long while since I posted anything here. Looks like they’ve completely overhauled the entire app so it appears exceedingly easy to just drop in and post some inane banter.

Fantastic! Will see in a second if this was successful or not.

The riTTlist

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is mainly for myself to keep track of release dates of upcoming stuff I’m interested in: movies, games, hardware, etc. I’ve been bummed out a lot lately so it’s nice to look somewhere and see things to look forward to.

I call it my riTTlist – going to try to keep it up to date periodically.

Note: If you are actually suffering from a serious, constant hemorrhoid pain that simply doesn’t go away with any traditional treatment, go to urgent care and see a doctor NOW! And also, feel free to ignore the story and skip to the end of this post for the treatment my doctor recommended.

Over the past two weeks I’ve learned a newfound respect for the casual phrase “pain in the ass.” I don’t think it will ever mean the same thing to me again. I guess it’s almost funny to write about… now. But I definitely wasn’t laughing a few days ago at this time. In fact it was quite the opposite, I was literally crying from the constant, debilitating pain, and the sense of hopelessness it made me feel.

No doubt many people have suffered from hemorrhoids in the past. If you’ve ever had that scratchy, itchy sometimes stinging pain in that area, like there’s a fire burning in your behind, you know what I mean. Possibly, like me, you didn’t really even associate it with the term “hemorrhoids” – generally for me I’d feel it a few times during bowel movements, and sure it might hurt bad for a while, but it would go away in minutes, and then fade in a day or two. It began the same way for me this time, but when I was showering and trying to clean the area, I noticed a rather large bump/growth, which of course scared the crap out of me. No pun intended. I tried to clean it rigorously with soap and water the first few days; in retrospect, I’m wondering now if that just made it worse.

By around the 4th day, I was feeling pain down there nearly all the time. It was still bearable but very uncomfortable to say the least. I bought some Preparation H at the store, hoping for some easy, immediate relief. But no go, it was pretty much worthless. Finally, I got on the internet and read up on the term hemorrhoids, and the descriptions I read sounded exactly like what I was dealing with, so I started reading up on the treatment options. Most of it was similar. Get more exercise (huh? did I mention I could barely walk?), eat more fiber, take warm baths (preferably with epsom salt), take pain killers. Seemed like the consensus was that only in extreme cases you might need to have it surgically taken care of, but otherwise in general it would take a week or two to gradually go away on its own. I tried all the easy stuff mentioned above but it still kept getting worse.

By the end of last week, I could barely walk anymore. I could only move in small baby steps, and with every step came a sharp pain. Sitting down hurt, standing up hurt, coughing/sneezing/laughing, even slightly bending my knees hurt. Essentially any slight movement caused pain. I can’t even describe how horrible it got when I actually had a bowel movement, I was literally screaming and cursing – then for minutes even after the movement ended, I was stunned and doubled over in pain. I couldn’t even move, all I could do was stand there, knowing I still had to face the next pain of trying to clean the area. This was on top of the constant, endless, droning regular pain. The only time I didn’t feel the constant attacks was when I was sitting in my car, don’t ask me why. Somehow the shape and positioning made me feel OK. Unfortunately getting in and out of the car was excruciating.

I decided something was really wrong, and it was time to try to get in to talk to my doctor. I called in and was told I’d get a call back to let me know if he could see me. I waited and waited but nothing. So I went into work and toughed it out. By mid-afternoon I lost my patience and called again, only to be told my doctor wasn’t even working that afternoon. Grrrrr. However, they told me he’d be working the walk-in (urgent care) the next day (Saturday). So I figured I’d just wait and do that the next morning. Of course things got progressively worse and the pain just got worse. The whole evening and night was torture, and even while trying to sleep, any slight movement would cause enough pain to jolt me awake. Some of you may remember the bout with tooth pain incident I had a while back; this has been the only thing that has ever compared. The pain was probably worse in that case, as it felt like it would jolt directly into my eyes – but this had the secondary effects of not being able to walk around, and of course it was all just very embarassing and disgusting to me, which made it that much more difficult.

Finally I got to the doctor. He examined me very briefly, and said it was borderline that it might need operating on. He gave me a referral for surgery but it said something like “may take up to 3 weeks to schedule” so I was pretty skeptical. He kept calling it “angry” during the exam, which was actually kind of funny, but yeah, it certainly felt like someone was angry and punishing me with pain all day long. He then grabbed a napkin and started scribbling down his treatment suggestions, about 5 or 6 items which I’ll list below at the end for those interested.

Ultimately I believe the best call he made was guessing there might be an infection. I did everything he suggested, but within 4-6 hours after taking antibiotics, the constant pain had just subsided. Now maybe that was just coincidence and it was one of the other things, but given a similar experience with the tooth situation, I’m about 99% convinced the infection was what was causing the worst of it.

Bear in mind this is something that wasn’t mentioned in most of the things I read online, so it bears repeating. If you are feeling a really un-natural and constant pain, it just might be an infection that has taken it to the next level, so to speak, and getting antibiotics may be the best way to deal with it. I think the thing with “pain” in general is, there’s just no way to convey it to someone else, even a doctor. There’s no way for them to gauge what your threshold is, whether you might be exaggerating, or what you really mean when you say its constant or sharp or whatever. I’m sure that just makes it hard to diagnose and treat in cases like this. In any case, after it kicked in, I was suddenly able to walk around again. I’ve never been so relieved and appreciative of just the simple act of being able to get around my own house, or even something as simple as bending down to pick up something that had dropped.

It’s now been 3 days since I saw the doctor, and things seem to be getting better. I can get around almost normally, though I still feel it. I also have some general pain/itchiness, particularly after a bowel movement, so I’m hopeful that it won’t get any worse and I won’t need the surgery option. I’m continuing with most the stuff he told me to do for at least a week.

The moral of the story? Listen to your body, and don’t wait/delay to see the doctor when you sense something is really not right. You’d think I would have learned this after the tooth incident. I was lucky because I generally tend to avoid doctors, and I’m not sure I would have gone to the walk-in if I didn’t know my personal doctor was going to be there. Sometimes I’m stupidly stubborn about things like this, and as I mentioned, there’s always a bit of embarassment factor attached to this kind of thing. I’m just thankful that worked out the way it did, and that he prescribed the antibiotics.

– – –

MY DOCTOR’S TREATMENT SUGGESTIONS:

1 – Bactrim (prescribed anti-biotic)
2 – Sitz bath 15-20 minutes with HOT water, 2-4 times a day (purchasable at Walgreen’s/Rite-Aid, etc) – I recommend adding Epsom salt too
3 – Proctosol (prescribed hydrocortisone cream)
4 – Tuck’s Pads (purchasable over the counter, has Witch Hazel)
5 – 100mg Coldace twice a day (over the counter, stool softener)
6 – Milk of Magnesia (I didn’t use this)

10,000th Post

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Screenie of #10000 Live

And now for something entirely different from my normal blog-fare…

A few nights ago I started experiencing some pain around the back right corner of my mouth.  I had recently (about a month ago) had a tooth removed in the area due to a crown coming off and the tooth being infected.  So I assumed it was some strange after-effect from that.  It was very strange, as it only hurt when I was sitting on my sofa and watching TV.  When I brushed my teeth, the pain went away instantly.  I thought maybe I had some food particles falling in the socket but I later realized it was just the toothpaste itself that soothed the pain.  The pain was bad enough that I had to keep getting up and doing the toothpaste treatment, but when I sat down it would hurt.  Finally I just went to bed and it seemed OK.

Next day, no incident, but at night the exact same thing happened.  Exact same circumstances, same pain and same remedy.  Very very odd, I have had severe toothaches in the past, but they always came in waves of pain, and were never so easily sedated by something as simple as toothpaste.  I took a couple Motrin and slept it off again.

The following morning, things seemed OK but by lunchtime it started hurting more.  I noticed that hot liquids were affecting the pain and would send sharp hits through my jaw.  Though I should have known better, the pain seemed manageable enough so I went to see a movie with my family instead of trying to see a dentist.  In hindsight I should have been calling dentists that day and making a move to get it checked out, but at the time I kept thinking I could handle it with my simple tricks.

By New Year’s Eve, things took a severe turn for the worse.  By mid-morning I was in excruciating pain.  I am talking mind-numbing, eye-searing, death-wishing pain.  And worse, unlike what I’ve experienced in the past, painkillers would not dull the pain, and it didn’t come and go in waves, it was flat out constant and unyielding.  I soon realized the only thing that could counter the pain was ice directly in my mouth around the area.  The odd part was that the ice would instantly calm the pain, usually a jolt of pain and the it would be managed.  Even a tiny piece of ice around the socked would help, but as soon as the ice melted, the pain would be back in full force – literally within seconds.  I tried to go a full minute without ice, and it just would show no respite.

I took a Hydrocodone pill that morning (never had taken one before), and it did nothing for the pain.  But worse , a few hours later after I was coming down from it, I started to experience extreme nervousness and panic.  I could not contain myself, and completely did not know what to do.  I started pacing back and forth like a madman, I felt like I couldn’t breathe so I jumped outside and started pacing some more.  All the time carrying 2 cups, 1 filled with ice, 1 to spit into.  By this time I had consumed so much ice and icewater, it was starting to make me sick.  The need to constantly swap in new ice was really driving me mentally insane and unstable.  At first I thought it was all the aftereffect of the medication, but now I am realizing that was just partially the problem.

At numerous points during the afternoon, the pain literally brought me to my knees in anguish and tears, leaving me cursing life and praying to God for forgiveness, yet wondering why any God would create such an incredible form of seemingly endless pain.   I had to force myself to remember to just breathe, and as others have expressed in their experiences with similar pain, a part of me wished I could just kill myself to end the insane torture.  As I mentioned, I’ve had bouts with tooth pain in the past, and while it made me miserable to no end, I’ve never experienced anything like this where there was simply no relief aside from the ice treatment.  What was even worse was the feeling of utter hopelessness that I wouldn’t be able to get professional treatment for 4 full days.

This being New Year’s Eve (Thursday), of course all the dentists in the area were closing up shop.  I tried emergency numbers, 24 hour dentists, anything in the area I could get someone to talk to.  Everyone was out til Monday.  Eventually, remarkably, both my oral surgeon and dentist called me back.  The oral surgeon prescribed anti-biotics and that became my lifeline.  I don’t know how I pulled myself through those hours waiting for the prescription to be filled but eventually I made it.  Eating was a joke, as I would try to remove the ice, take a bite, then quickly stuff the ice back in before the pain started.  It really didn’t work out too well and I barely managed to stuff some food down.

After a hair-raising trip to the local CVS which involved a lot of ice and covert spitting, and fears of running out of ice, I made it back safely home with the drugs.  The antibiotics didn’t really kick in (and in hindsight, the doctor probably should have told me to take a double dose at the outset, as I was later told by a different endodontist) until late that night.  So it was a long, torture-filled afternoon.  Pain, ice, pacing, fear, nervousness, that’s all I remember now.  My partner sent me to hit the treadmill to just burn off some energy, which actually helped.  I was so incredibly tired and hungry, yet still so wired from the drugs and pain.  The whole evening I was filled with fear of how I was going to get to sleep or even try to sleep when I couldn’t relax one bit.  I eventually took a bath for the first time in years, but even that didn’t help much.  It did soothe my body some, but my brain wasn’t accepting relaxation, and somewhere during the breath I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe, so I just had to get out.

I took part of an Ambien along with more Motrin that night to get to sleep.  I was afraid of mixing in too many new medications, particularly after experiencing the craziness from the Hydrocodone.  I took my glass of ice to bed with me, and proceeded to try to read and continue the ice.  Note at this point I had been pretty much putting ice in my mouth for about 14 hours.  I think the affects of this are still lingering on me mentally.  In any case, I started to feel the effects of the Ambien, as it made me completely unaware of what I was reading, and my brain seemed to form some completely different story than what was actually on the pages.  It was a really weird experience.  Due to the necessity for ice, though, I was unable to fall asleep soundly.  I would drift a bit but then the ice water would fall out onto my shirt, or the pain would wake me.  Somewhere along the night, though, I started noticing that the pain seemed a bit lessened and I could last a little longer before putting in more ice.  At first I thought it was just wishful thinking, but eventually I realized it was real.  FInally somewhere around 5am I actually got a few hours of real sleep, and it was wonderful.

Next day I woke up and life seemed so much better.  The day went on with very little ice, and I thought I might be out of the woods.  That night I went to bed with NO painkillers whatsoever, a bit risky but the drugs were really driving me a bit batty.  I was able to get ahold of my dentist, who then recommended I see an endodontist immediately (we both agreed it seemed most likely the issue was an infected tooth next to my previously extracted tooth which would require a root canal).  The doctors I talked to of course would not be available until Monday at the earliest, and so the waiting continued.

Which leads to today, where the pain started coming back in the morning.  Not as sharp and powerful and all-consuming as it was on New Year’s Eve, but certainly enough to serve as a reminder of who is boss.  More importantly it’s left me with this strange anxiety that I can’t put my finger on.  Every single activity that I would normally enjoy or do to relax I have been unable to.  Any idea that sounded fun I would start but within moments would have to stop as I would feel claustrophobic, or nervous or annoyed by it.  It’s as if my entire life has been flipped around and inside out and my patience for just about anything has been taken away.  In retrospect I think it has something to do with the pain itself, the way it seems to be just lingering in the back and ready to hit me whenever it chooses.  I think the fear of the pain, the fear of the constant ice game back and forth has rendered me unable to relax into some form of normalcy.

Finally I turned to typing on this blog, which seems to have some form of therapeutic quality, or at least has kept me fixed on a single activity for the first time today.   I’ve  finally been able to sit quietly for an hour without jitters or leaving or getting irritated, though the irony is the topic is just all about the pain.  And even still, I have to take a deep breath every now and then to keep myself centered and not get overwhelmed by feelings of claustrophobia (for lack of a better description).  This tooth pain has taken me to new levels of pain and torture, and sadly, I don’t feel any wiser or stronger because of it.  I feel broken, violated and completely consumed by it, and the effect it has had on my daily well being, and I guess the only thing I’ve really learned is to not underestimate the signs again.

36 hours until Monday.

Sort of a follow-on to the previous post, but I thought it warranted separate discussion as it could apply to both traditional or new MMORPG designs.

1.  Have a coherent MMORPG vision.

Of course this sounds obvious, but I seriously feel like most of the games we’ve seen of late are lacking in one of the 3 key words above.  Many of the games simply seem to have no vision at all, that’s the saddest and they are hardly worth discussing.  Some of the games may have a vision, but it’s more accurately a group of visions that have been jumbled together, some which conflict with each other, i.e. the vision absolutely needs to be coherent.  If you want to make the ultimate PvP game, then let that be the vision and don’t compromise by forcing in a bunch of Hello Kitty PvE to gain a few more subscribers.  And lastly, you better damn well know exactly why your game MUST be a MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER game.  If the gamer can get the same (or perhaps even better) experience in a smaller multiplayer scale, or single player scale, there’s no reason to demand all the resources required of an MMO.  STO is a great example of this, the game could have been a nice story-centric multiplayer game where the focus was on you as a captain building up your NPC crew, mixing in space and ground combat for away missions that led to a big epic story payoff. 

2.  Undertand who your target audience is.

You aren’t going to get everyone to play and love your game, so know from the getgo who you are targetting and cater the game to them.   Do your research on the different types of gamers, and learn how much time they are going to put into your game.  Trying to appease everyone generally just pisses people off.  If you are creating a niche game for hardcore gamers who have tons of hours to play, don’t be shy about it.  If you want masses of casual gamers, don’t be surprised or get your feelings hurt when hardcore folk label your game carebear.

3.  Know exactly what the intended gameplay is for every stage of the game.

Let’s say you have divided the game into tutorial, beginning, mid-game, late-game, and end-game stages as a baseline.  Maybe these stages are level based, maybe area or skill based, who knows.  In any case, you should understand exactly what your players will generally be doing (or what you intend them to be doing) to “progress” and continue playing, while in these stages. 

Of course much of this depends on #1.  If your vision is a conventional level up til you are max so you can PvP or raid, it’s probably not too difficult to figure this out.  All you need to do is pace the game the way you intend, and make sure you have the proper content to back this pace up.  Don’t act surprised when people are complaining that they are mid-level and hit a “wall” where they have to grind mobs or have run out of quests or are bored.  Either you intended that or you didn’t, or you were simply ignorant of your own game design.   Also if you have late and end game stages, please please please don’t neglect these until the end of beta testing, or worse, after the game is released.   How many games have we seen do this?  Even the godlike WoW is guilty of this sin.  The endgame should be part of your vision from day one, and should be given ample time and testing to get it right.  This follows right into #4. 

4. Don’t change the rules of the game midway. 

Or more accurately, if you built something really fun from the getgo in the early stages, don’t change it midway.  This I believe was WAR’s (and perhaps AoC’s and even Aion’s) greatest mistake.  They created an almost universally loved/enjoyed tutorial plus early game, but then mid-game created levelling walls that completely changed the pace of the game.  This correlates with #3 as well; ask yourself if your mid-game intention is/was truly to be grinding the same mob after the same mob 500 times to make it to the next level, and if you truly believe that is what your intended playerbase from #2 wants and thinks is fun.

5.  Test ’til you drop (and with the right mix of people).  Corollary: pay attention to all your testers!

Beta testing seems rather hit or miss with the latest batch of games.  Often when the more generic folk (like me) get involved, it’s already way too late to do anything about it.  Most of the testers in my grouping seem to treat the beta test like a free game demo that they are entitled to, and as a consequence, I don’t think the feedback is listened to seriously. 

Contrast this with my most detailed test experience, which started in the Friends and Family Alpha of WoW.  I think it was early enough that concerns from more generic players like myself were actually heard and listened to, or at least I’d like to think so.  We debated things like death penalties and levelling pace, and the discussions were likely and fruitful.  Unfortunately they went ahead without addressing certain complaints (like the lack of endgame battlegrounds at release) but obviously it worked out fine for them anyway.   I think they started early enough and did their homework, tested rigorously, and allowed in a different/fresh mix of testers soon enough to get varied opinions. 

One thing you don’t want to do in testing is fill your ranks with a bunch of raving hardcore fanboys who will defend your every decision to the detriment of the game.  I’ve certainly seen this happen, where developers seem so blinded by all the fanboy-ism and their own jaded experience with the gameplay, that fresh opinions are ignored and forgotten.  I’ve seen this in nearly every beta I’ve been in – longtime testers and developers engage in discussions where half the terminology and discussion is lost on a newcomer.  Then when a new tester tries to chime in with a fresh perspective, they are either ridiculed or sent away to check old posts. 

Never lose sight of #2 when testing because you may be pissing off your meal ticket.

6.  Learn from others’ mistakes.

This is pretty obvious but it seems like the lessons from the past are often not learned, or are simply ignored.  Otherwise, how is it that 10 years into the genre’s explosion, we still get games releasing with the same tired bugs, path-finding collisions, servers that crash or force us into hours-long queues, patch servers that don’t work, boring grindfests that cause players to quit, unbalanced PvP, etc etc.  There’s plenty of experience out there, and more than enough MMOs to look at as examples of what to do and what not to.  If you release your spanking new game with a known mistake, shame on you!

7.  Don’t forget the social aspect.

Many games these days seem so focused on making a great single player experience, they forget the whole reason (or at least one of the reasons) for building an MMO is to engage *other players* to interact with.  There are many ways to encourage social interactions, all the way from an easy to use chat interface, to built-in voice interaction, to designing in-game areas like pubs or meeting halls.  This is something SWG did well with their cantinas and customizable homes/towns, even integrating gameplay into the social areas to encourage socialization.  I know there are some players that prefer to stick to themselves and do everything solo, but my guess is there’s a part of them that is still craving some sort of social interaction, else they could easily stick to single player gaming. 

8.  Don’t be afraid to innovate, and dream BIG.

I get the sense that many people these days are afraid of new, challenging ideas.  I remember a while back I posted some ideas for an MMO, to which the majority of responses were “that’s technologicaly impossible so why bother”.  To that attitude I say poo on you – if I took that mentality at my job (as an engineer) each day, I’d have long ago been fired.  Yes, I realize some goals may be too lofty or difficult to achieve, but if you don’t take a chance on a new idea or at least make an attempt to fully understand the pros and cons, you will never have the opportunity to progress to the next level, no pun intended. 

Ten year ago I’d never have dreamed we’d have handheld touch-screen computer phones that doubled as GPS units and full 3D gaming machines running the Unreal engine, sitting in our pockets, but someone had the vision to believe it could be done – and lo and behold we have that today.  As for MMOs, I know it’s different because it is software, but I’d like to think there are enough talented and brilliant software guys out there that they could solve just about anything, or at least come up with solutions that gave the illusion of solving anything.

9.  Don’t be afraid to steal past ideas.

This may sound contradictory coming from me after all I’ve said about innovation, but if there are some base ideas that “just work” within the context of your vision, don’t avoid them just because they’ve been done before.  Things like level-based, class-based fantasy games, these are traditions that some may consider timeless, and could very well work even in a completely overhauled game.  Good ideas like seamless transitions from area to area should always be carried over.  If your game vision involves the necessity of getting players together quickly, don’t be afraid to steal “Summon” spells/magic or teleporters, or whatever it takes to get it done.  If it makes the game more fun and ties it closer to your vision, go ahead and make it your own.  Speaking of which…

10.  Never forget to make the game FUN.

Last but certainly not least, and possibly most important, don’t ever forget you are creating a game, a place for people to have fun and enjoy themselves in some way or another.  Putting in punishing death penalties, horribly repetitive tasks, long wait times or oddball lockout timers for the best content, just makes no sense to me.

Of  course I realize everyone’s definition of fun is different.  Some people’s idea of fun is to torture themselves with repetition to reach some sort of milestone.  Go back to #2, are those people your target audience?  If so, I guess that’s fine as it defines your game and your vision.  If not, and you are looking for a more general sense and definition of what’s fun for a different audience, then please DON’T stack your game with torturous content. 

Seems pretty simple, but it seems also be neglected time and again.  Another example is ganking (which I define as much higher level powerful players preying on lower level less experienced ones with no consequence).  This may be fun for one of the groups, but most likely it’s not fun for the other.  Maybe you intended to build this in to your game design, but if the latter half get frustrated and quit the game, it was probably a bad decision.  Suggestions #4-6 should hopefully prevent you from putting in something that’s horribly un-fun, but somehow these things seem to find a way to creep into many games.

That’s it for my list!

What happened to the MMORPG genre?

Posted: December 22, 2009 in Uncategorized
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The state of MMORPGs today feels to me like it is utterly (but hopefully not irreversibly) stagnant.  I don’t know if WoW has stunned all the competition into submission, or if it simply is incredibly difficult (next to impossible?) to innovate in the genre, but the last few years seems to have given us fans one disappointment after another.  Even the best of the more recent releases are more or less retreads with very little new to offer.  And sadly, I see no end in sight, no knight in shining armor to save the genre down the road.  Even Bioware’s Star Wars game has more or less come up with what looks like MOTS, albeit with better storytelling and a great license (see recent PC Gamer previews if you disagree).  Personally I feel that a deep story-based game is best handled with a single or small scale RPG, like Dragon Age, where you can truly make quest/story based decisions that impact the world and change the story, without affecting anyone else’s game.

It’s been really frustrating for me, because I love the genre and I love the potential I see in it, and have seen in it, for so many years.  This is not to say I haven’t enjoyed much of my time in all of the many new games I’ve tried, but it just bothers me to see the same mistakes (or the same basic gameplay) repeated over and over.  I think back to my time in my first major MMO experience (DAOC), and in all honesty it seems like few areas have progressed, and some have actually gone backwards.  Sure the game wasn’t perfect, but for its time, it had a nice balance of PvE and PvP, fun dungeons and group content, *three* warring factions, tons of different classes (some with very unique gameplay like the Theurgist), etc.  And that was all EIGHT years ago!  I don’t know of a game out there now that has all these features (in particular three warring factions).  It’s as if once WoW declared it OK to balance a game with 2 realms having essentially all the same classes, everyone just gave up on making anything too much more complex. 

I really don’t know what happened, and I hate to blame it all on WoW, but it really seemed like it was the turning point.  It’s success became such a measuring stick that no competitor could measure up to, but everyone felt they had to.  Everyone had to either copy their formula (with perhaps inchstones of improvement or a few added features here and there) or run to the hills crying. 

Most disappointing for me is how no one has truly manned up to build what I would call a REAL MMORPG world, one that changes and evolves with the will of the players.  I’m talking a Shadowbane-esque sandbox that looks good, doesn’t crash, and has enough inherent content and gameplay built in to appease both casual and hardcore gamers alike.  In that sense, perhaps the failures of both Horizons and SB were what have seemingly killed the sandbox MMORPG.  I’m not discounting Darkfall entirely, but it is/was so niche that casual gamers really weren’t invited to the party.  It now feels like “Sandbox” has to automatically equate to”hardcore” – somehow those 2 concepts became linked together and entwined in such a way that no one seems to want to break that mold.

So what are we left with?  Re-tread after re-tread.  Sure there have been nice improvements in combat, incredible leaps in graphics, excellent tweaks to questing/journal engines, some twists here and there on PvP, but in terms of creating a living, breathing MMORPG WORLD that anyone can dive into – little  progress at all.  Every quest NPC resets, every story is repeated for every player, every mob no matter how mighty will eventually “pop” again for the next set of raiders to kill ad infinitum.  If this is all we’re playing for, why not enjoy an in depth story based RPG like Dragon Age instead?  Or play an Action-RPG like Diablo?  Of course I’m not accounting for the community experience of raiding and grouping, but even these could theoretically be achieved in a smaller-scale multi-player game (which allowed for as many as the largest raid groups these days).  What’s the point of the “massive” in MMO if individuals (or groups) are simply just repeating or doing the same exact content without interaction amongst the “masses”?

So is the answer to the above question more PvP?  Sure, perhaps, on some level at least.  Large-scale PvP is certainly a form of interaction benefitting from more and more players.  But no one has seemed to be able to consistently capture the essence of this in a truly meaningful way, for very much the same reasons.  Because ultimately nothing matters.  You can bring an opposing faction to its knees in games like WAR or WoW, but who cares?  You can kill the same guy or the same NPC over and over but he’ll just be back again.  Ultimately everything will all just “reset” magically so that it can be done again.  The fighting for fightings sake is fun, of course, but then again, that can simply be done in an FPS, or maybe an instanced, Guild Wars-esque environment, if the goal is to have balanced PvP team combat.  All the massive part generally adds to the equation (when left unchecked) is zerg-like gameplay which devolves into which side has the most players. 

This is what sets the Sandbox game apart, and should theoretically set the true next generation of MMORPGs apart.  When a group of people allied to destroy my guild’s city and plunder it’s riches, it actually happened, and there was no turning back.  There is no reset button to rely upon.  We fought to preserve what we had built, or planned to save what we could to rebuild.  Now that group that destroyed my city are my sworn enemies, and I will likely seek revenge.  But what if I need them to fight off an even greater danger, say some uprising of demons?  Will I set aside my past differences to ally against a greater evil?  Should I turn on my new allies at a critical moment and make a deal with the devil?   There are consequences to every action and every decision.  I’m not saying this style of game is necessarily for everyone, but certainly it would be a change to today’s model. 

I am also not saying there is absolutely no meaning or no fun in today’s batch of MMORPGs, as I have certainly enjoyed my time in many of them.  But it’s been EIGHT years and countless releases for me now, and I simply yearn for something that takes the genre to the next level. Slapping on a new coat of paint with a fresh new license is not the answer I’m looking for anymore.  If I really want old school style of gameplay I have more than enough choices to enjoy that in, many of them now becoming free to play.  So what I really want is to see a Shadowbane/Horizons hybrid with a brand new engine (that doesn’t crash), with NPCs and mobs that evolve, with life and death consequences, with cities built and lost, its history, politics and economy created by the players, and the ability to contribute to the meta-world/story even if I only have a few hours a week to play.  I want nothing less than my avatar to be able to enter and participate in, and even shape, a truly evolving virtual world.