Writing and writing

Script Frenzy has begun.  If you care, you can follow my progress on their site.  A good start for two days, I’m on target anyway.  While working on it, I found myself needing to step away, not from writing but specifically from the script while I sorted out a detail, and found myself polishing up chapter 2 of T.A.S.E.T. I finished it.

It feels good to make progress.

Chat Filter Abuse

The other night I decided I’d drop in to Wizard 101.  It is a great game for just jumping in and banging out some combat or quests, then logging out.  It’s casual in the best sense of the word, in that you can play at your own pace and not that it only requires a browser and babysitting.

Anyway, I had forgotten where I had logged out previously and I committed the cardinal sin of Wizard 101: moving before looking.  I stepped backwards into the street and immediately joined someone else’s combat.  No big deal really.  There was only one monster, so I picked a card and attacked.  I picked my card first.  The other guy then picked his, but when it came to casting, he went first.  He threw a damage increase, death +30%, and then I fired off my weakest death spell, which amplified +30% only did about 90 points of damage.  A waste of the damage increase.  Now, keep in mind, when you pick a spell, everyone in your group can see what you picked and what you have targeted.  I picked first.  There was a good ten second pause for the other guy to make his move.  He could have said “Don’t use that.” or something, but he didn’t.

So the round is done and the damage increaser was wasted and the guy says, “your jack o as”.

One of the great things about Wizard 101 is that it is very very kid friendly.  There are two forms of chat.  The first is completely restricted and only allows you to speak in canned phrases like “Help!” and “Let’s go fight [insert quest target enemy here].” and other such things.  The other form of chat is free form typing, however, every word you type is compared to the Wizard 101 dictionary and if it doesn’t exist in there the word will stay in red on your screen and will appear as “…” to everyone else.  What my groupmate was trying to say was “you are a jack ass” but if he had it would have gone out as “you are a jack …” or possibly even just “…”.  I honestly forget how harsh the censoring is.  So, because of the chat filter, a new slang has emerged in Wizard 101 using approximate swears.

Back to the group… he then tells me “fine ill let them kill you i wont attack at all” which was fine with me, even though a second monster joined in I can easily take two at a time in this area.  Of course, he proceeds instead to target everything I target in an attempt to make me not fight.  *shrug*  We win and then he says, “more on” “flock off bench” “your a noob end of story there”.  Translated: Moron. Fuck off bitch. You’re a noob, end of story there.

Flippantly I threw in a “less off” in there in response to his “more on”, and when he was done I said “You’re”.  Which he took for arguing, like I was saying he was a noob when in reality I was correcting his language, his misuse of “your”.  He then followed with lines that included “sheet o face”, “little bench” and he tried to explain to me that “you’re”, “your” and “you are” all mean the same thing.  ”master o bait”, “shut the flock up”, “as o hole”.  The really funny part is when he claims that because of my spelling and refusal to type insults around the word filter it is because I’m a little kid.

What?  So, in most MMOs, people spouting obscenities are often younger, less mature players.  But in Wizard 101 I’m being told that proper grammar and not swearing is a sign of immaturity?  Huh?

The sad thing is that the filter while preventing real swearing also prevents real communication.  The guy asked how old I was, and I couldn’t answer because the game would not allow “35″ or “thirty-five” or “thirty” or “five” to be said.  In fact, at the end of our conversation he said, “i can tell from your crop of insults your not even third team”.  Since the game splits players between “under 13″ and “13 and over”, I assume he meant “13″ but had to say “third team” to get around the filter.

The entire situation ended in irony.  This guy was so pissed at me for the one miscast spell and my further arguments about his grammar that he reported me.  If you go to the Wizard 101 FAQ page and click on the question “What happens when I get Reported?” you will find the following text:

When you report someone, or you are reported, a message is sent directly to Mr Lincoln that includes the chat logs of everything that was said before and after that report.

Mr Lincoln then reads the log and assess the situation. He determines how bad the offense was, looks up prior offenses for the reported individual, and based on that assessment he issues sanctions such as muting or banning and sends an email to the offending account explaining the violation and the sanctions.

If the report was falsely made, that is determined as well, and the player who made the false report is investigated as to whether or not they have made previous false reports. False reports are just a egregious as valid ones, and similar sanctions can be levied against repeat offenders of false reporting.

Everything that a player enters into the chat window is logged. These larger chat logs are also routinely checked for those infractions that are not reported.

Under the question “What is considered a Reportable Offense?” you’ll find:

We appreciate that our players want to make Wizard City the best it can be, and we’ve placed the tools in your hand to report players for inappropriate behavior. We ask that you use the reporting feature to identify truly egregious behavior, such as creative profanity (swearing around the filters), solicitation of usernames/passwords, predatory threats, racist comments and other such actions as outlined in the Terms of Use. The old story of “the kid that cried wolf” has a lot of bearing in this situation and we trust that all reports received by players are valid and require support intervention.

So, shortly after my new friend departed (I did add him to my friend list), a pop up window told me I had been reported.  Shortly after that, my new friend vanished, both from the game world and from my friend list.  I can only assume my friend managed to get himself banned.  On the other hand, my account was muted for 1 day.  I asked for clarification and got it.  Apparently, when my friend said “you little sheet” and I responded “Sheet of what?” my use of “sheet”, a common sidestep for the word “shit”, was enough to warrant a 1 day mute warning.  I have asked if any action was taken against my friend, and I emailed them screen shots of the conversation, since I was unable to report him myself.  No word as of yet…

Oh well…

Removing Grouping - Part V

The last thing I want to approach, and it is last only because I wracked my brain for weeks and could only think of five things a group mechanic provides (communications, status updates, rewards, content gating – everything else was purely social and not tied to the mechanic itself), is balance.

Many games these days that have groups use those groups to affect the design of the classes/characters in the game.  Some players may not think so, but a lot, and I mean a ton, of time is spent tuning things like “what should the mana cost of this spell be?” and “what differences should there be between the single target version, the group version, and the area effect version?”  You can look back at EverQuest and see that clearly in their buffs.  A single target version of a spell might have a 2 second cast time and cost 200 mana.  The group version has an 8 second cast time -making it harder to cast during combat- and costs only 700 mana -making it a big savings in both time and mana when casting it on a group of 6 players.  The area effect version has a 30 second cast time, costs 3000 mana, and uses a pearl, making it impossible to cast in combat, wipes out the mana of the caster and costs in-game money, but it lands on “every player within a radius of X” making it fantastic for casting on a ten group raid at the beginning of an evening of raiding or for spamming buffs at the bank but little else.  Every game (in the Diku mold) does this to some degree, using the group as an element of balance.

In Lord of the Rings Online, there are even group maneuvers where one player starts an action that opens up options for other group members to continue the attack.  Without the group mechanic and the built in selection of who to notify of a group maneuver, the game would need to move indicators of group actions to the target itself so that a random collection of people without a formal group structure could pull off the same action.

Like with rewards and content gating, the group structure here is a fundamental element of the design for balance and weighs heavy in lots of the decisions made in what players can and can’t do.

Movie Round-Up: July 1st, 2009

Normally, Wednesdays are reserved for zombie posts, but this being the 4th of July weekend, all the movies open on Wednesday, so for this week only movies on Wednesday, zombies on Friday…

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs:

This is the third film in the Ice Age series, and I have yet to see any of them.  I once bought an Ice Age/Ice Age 2 twin pack from Target, but they turned out to be in full screen instead of wide screen, so we returned them.  I do, however, love the little short films with the prehistoric squirrel.  Anyway, I suppose if you liked the first two, you’ll like this too.  I’ll see them all some day.

Public Enemies:

In my personal opinion, Johnny Depp doesn’t make bad movies.  Or at the very least, he is always worth watching even if the film around him is lacking.  This movie is definitely on my watch list, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it to the theater to see it.  If I can manage to find the time and the money, though, I will.

Wii`ve made a full 360

So, yesterday morning, after breakfast at IHOP, before getting gas for the car, the wife and I swung through Target to see what was what.

The new Xbox 360 Elite was due out, and they happened to have one. Just one. They also had eight Nintendo Wii’s (left from the 20 they’d had just an hour before). In full financial abandon, we bought both.

This should be fun…