Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The value of Friends

Don’t worry, this isn’t another post about Facebook games. However, to properly tell the story it all started in Facebook. Despite all the MMO blogging posts to the contrary, the intended purpose of Facebook isn’t to setup a fake account with 1000s of false friends in order to play games like Farmville. The actual intended purpose of social networking sites like Facebook is to connect you with other people (and keep you connected).

As anyone who uses Facebook even semi-regularly can tell you, most of your “friends” tend to either be relatives or people you haven’t had a reason to speak with in years. And in 9 out of 10 cases, these are people you don’t really want to talk with on a regular basis and certainly not someone in your close network of friends.

I love my Mom, but I’m not going out for a beer with her. Stan, that guy I worked with 10 years ago, was a nice guy to talk to across the cubicle, but we didn’t hang out after work when I knew him then – so why would that change today? And so Facebook serves as idle chatter, much like our cubicle talk did, to keep us connected without actually having to commit any real valuable time to each other.

The people I care the most about, I’ll stay connected to with or without Facebook. My best real-life friend is a “friend” on Facebook, but he only checks it maybe once every 3 months. I can assure you that we talk more frequently than that in real-life. So, as a tool, Facebook is useful for staying connected to family and these loose relationships, but it’s not something I’m regularly using to keep connected to my close friends.

The rare find
But rarely, very rarely, there are people you DO care about and WOULD like to see in-person that seemingly drop off the face of the earth. Some life change happened to one or both of you (moved, got married, got divorced, had kids, graduated) that caused you to lose contact with a very dear friend.

Connecting with these people in Facebook are the “Epic Moments” of social networking. Most of it is just idle chatter, but every once and a while you make a rare find and reconnect with such a person.

A week or so ago, that’s exactly what happened. A very good friend of mine (and former roommate for four years) joined Facebook and sent me a friend request. We haven’t spoken or heard from each other in around six years. I had attempted to connect with him in the past, but he actually has a very generic “Joe Smith” type name. Turns out, he wasn’t on Facebook anyway. And without an email address or phone number, I questioned whether anything short of hiring a detective could have found him.

So the fact that we managed to connect and actually live within about 50 miles of each other is great news. I wasn’t the only one to fall out of touch with him, so a group of us have already made plans to get together for BBQ and beer later next month. Good times.

The MMO part of the story
A few days ago, after our joyous Facebook reunion, “Joe Smith” sent out a message to a bunch of the old boys he knew used to play pen-and-paper D&D with that we should all start playing an MMO together. The discussion went something like this:
Joe Smith: Hey guys, anyone want to play WoW? We should get a gaming group together and kinda play together as we go. Anyone already playing or interested?

Sid67: ... (sigh)

Joe Smith: I’m up for WoW, but if you guys don’t want to play that, we can try something else like DDO. It’s free for the most part.

Sid67: ... (he must not have read any of my posts about F2P)

Joe Smith: Or Allods. I’ve been looking at this list of reviews and saw some stuff from gPotato. Seems like some stuff is expensive, but it looks like it’s free.

Sid67: ... (he really must not read this blog)

Joe Smith: I just figure it might be better than a subscription game if someone only wants to play just a couple of times a month.

Sid67: DDO and Allods are not really free. They design it so that you’ll want to spend money. Especially if you don’t play much and need to catch up quickly.

Other Buddy: much would it cost for DDO really? Don’t be cheap.

Sid67: ... (ah yes, I forgot about the rich guy with no free time)

Joe Smith: Well, I’m up for anything. My only condition is that it needs to be Kid Appropriate.

Sid67: ... (sigh, I guess Darkfall is out)

Joe Smith: We could try Guild Wars. That’s like $20 for life.

Sid67: ... (aaaaaaaaargh!)
So I’m not sure on the best course of action. All things being equal, I’d much rather play a game with real life friends. In fairness, I don’t know enough about GW to give it the thumbs down but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like a game I would be interested in playing much.

It really raises an interesting dilemma. Despite my opinions on Microtransactions, would I be willing to play a F2P game if that’s what my friends were playing? Allods, not a chance. GW and DDO – I don’t know. Maybe.

Conspicuously silent on the subject is my buddy who has been playing EVE. He’s actually on the thread, just didn’t add his opinion.


Scott said...

Now you even have something against GW's method? Jeez, you are hardcore...

sid67 said...

LOL. I don't really know enough about GW to give a fair assessment on anything about it. I do know that they have some limited MT in that you can buy skills for real cash.

Not having played it, I don't know if that's more on par with EVE RMT (which is tolerable) or Allods (which is intolerable).

The 'arrrgh' comment is more of a reflection of my complete lack of interest in GW than of anything they are doing wrong.

Anonymous said...

Friends don't let friends play F2P games.

I tried GW for all of about 3 hours the last go-around, nothing really struck me as interesting, but I think DF combat has spoiled me and it's really hard to go back to waiting for a hotbar timer to cycle through.

Good luck?

Stabs said...

DDO has a paywall which varies depending on who you listen to.

If you're really making an effort to be free you can get up to about level 13 (which is actually quite high) for free on diverse content.

If you are in with a rich buddy who thinks you shouldn't be cheap he'll want to go to paid content which starts from level 3. So you will need to lay down some ground rules.

Guild wars is probably safer for your wallet. I don't think there's much beyond the box other than fluff and expansions.

I know how your Eve friend feels because I'm in the same boat. I'm doing something cool and interesting which requires several million skill points to be a part of. Or the other thing which is really secret and I don't want to share with Eve newbies. When you're immersed in Eve it's often hard to be at a point where new people can just come along.

If you want to play DF with them just ask them. Sure people swear but they do in every online game, I imagine there's a profanity filtre. Ganking seems pretty kid-friendly as long as there's parenting too - explaining why it's fair that the kid got ganked because he gets to gank people too and so on. Where do you think little Syncaines come from?

Scott said...

Not having played it, I don't know if that's more on par with EVE RMT (which is tolerable) or Allods (which is intolerable).

Here's how it works. You can pay -- I think it's $5? -- for a Skill Pack. There's a PvE pack and a PvP pack for the PvP-Only players. However it only unlocks the skills, it doesn't actually give your character all those skills. You still have to be able to afford to purchase them from a Skill Trainer NPC. You would eventually unlock all those skills anyway simply by playing the game, they're just selling the pack to get it over with. PvE-Only skills are *not* unlocked, however, and must be unlocked normally, nor do the packs unlock any Elite skills; you must still go out and capture them from boss monsters.

I did buy the skill pack because, though I have several alts in GW, I don't have every single class and for me the primary benefit was that my Heroes are able to use all the skills unlocked by the pack, even if the character I'm playing cannot. If I'm stuck without human players or if the group is shy a certain class, I can whip up a build onto one of my Heroes quick and the group is good to go. I've never had an Elementalist, for example, but the skill pack lets me get more use out of my Elementalist Heroes in a group. I still have to have a character with Elementalist as secondary class (you can change secondary classes along with your builds) in order to capture those sweet Elite skills though, so you still have to put in some effort even with the skill pack.

For me, $5 was well worth having that type of flexibility rather than requiring me to max out every single class in the game to accomplish the same thing.

SolidState said...

> "Well, I’m up for anything. My only condition is that it needs to be Kid Appropriate."

Doesn't that rule out just about any of the MMOs you mentioned?

Also what is the motivation for this condition? If the guy wants to play the same games as his kids, he's going to be pretty bored pretty quick.

There are kid-friendly MMOs out there, while ages +16 games should be password protected.

Regarding your question, since your buddy used to play D&D I think DDO or WoW are your best choices. If you do choose WoW I would recommend you use the "recruit a friend" option to more quickly level together to 60 (if I recall correctly it stops at level 60).

tim said...

Haha. Should have suggested Free Realms from SOE or Kello Kitty Online. Maybe he would've reconsidered the "kid friendly" part.

I would try Guild Wars at least once. Don't so much ignore the gameplay, but immerse yourself in the story--that's the best part (of prophecies)!

Gameplay is a lot like other MMOs. You have a skillbar and can use skills that have cooldown time. Only thing is you can bring only 8 skills with you at any given time out of roughly 300-400 available to you at that time (depends on your profession). It tends to eliminate the rock-paper-scissors effect of the holy trinity and creates some really inventive builds. Just because you see an elementalist (Mage equivilent, the nuker) doesn't mean you'll be facing a DPS. Could very well be a healer, possibly a better one than most monks.

As for the in-game shop in GW, there is a discrete difference between it and an "item shop". You cannot buy items to your benefit in the GW store, it IS NOT an item shop. The skills you buy, like someone else above said, do not benefit your PvE characters in the long run. "Purchasing" (as in in-game money from your character on an in-game transaction) skills still costs the same, and all the same ones are (eventually) available to you by the end of each compaign.

Otherwise the store is for purchasing additional content (more campaigns, the expansion, or that one history bundle), additional character slots (if you buy all three campaigns, you'll have 8 slots anyway, which is plenty), or name changes and appearance changes, which is merely cosmetics. All that beside, for a game that hasn't put out any new revenue-earning content in... 2 years (or so), you've got to cut them some slack on different methods of building revenue.

What they really need to start doing is making actual objects for us to buy, more than mere t-shirts. They promised me Charr Slippers back in '05 and I still haven't seen em yet!

Anonymous said...

At some point, everyone goes back to WoW ;)
Why don't you guys join Gevlon's ganking project, could be fun :)