Aug 062013
 

This post is a follow up to Cutthroat Politics – True Colours Revealed

Shortly after I tweeted about my post last night I was contacted by someone from ArenaNet asking if I had screenshots that had names on the comments. I did and have passed them on so that the parties involved can be reported appropriately.

Some commenters on my original post feel my stance on this is over-reacting, but way back before Guild Wars 2 released there was this post (I’m sure there were 2 but I can’t find the other one) that outlined ArenaNet’s philosophy towards community.

Our ultimate goal is to create an environment that is respectful, welcoming, inclusive and friendly. We want to create a global community where people will feel at home, and an environment that will foster both creativity and collaboration.

The main goal is to be inclusive, not exclusive, to encourage collaboration between communities, and to generate an atmosphere that is helpful, friendly, and above all, respectful.  There is an unfortunate tendency in some online communities to encourage behavior that is detrimental to the fun of a lot of players by allowing a rather toxic and unwelcoming atmosphere. We want to set a new standard and make the Guild Wars 2 community a mature, friendly, helpful and inclusive one that is recognized throughout the industry as being so.  With that goal, we will ensure that both our game and our forums reflect our standards, and we will evaluate our support for communities based on the standards they enforce upon themselves. – Martin Kerstein

Bans following release backed this philosophy up. As does the Code of Conduct for the game (esp. 1 and 12). I don’t consider the behaviour exhibited yesterday to be inclusive or welcoming and I’m glad that ArenaNet share this viewpoint. One comment, idiots happen. Two, eh, report and move on. But that many… nope, not welcoming at all. So thank you folks at ArenaNet for tidying up your corner of the internet playground. Lets have the fun without the bullies.

Soon after all that happened, my tweet was retweeted by the Guild Wars 2 twitter account, which was a brave thing to do considering the controversial nature of what was being discussed and highlights their stance towards this behaviour. I don’t have figures as to how much traffic my site has had, but my original tweet been retweeted 36 times. Thank you to everyone who retweeted and favourited it.

I also received over 30 comments on that post within 20 hours, from the entire spectrum of possible responses. I’ve closed them now because I didn’t really feel like the discussion was going anywhere. Hardly surprising considering the horrible comment formatting and that this is not a forum. Also, the kind of comments that were being exchanged were just winding people up, which cements views rather than changing them. I will thank those who commented, regardless of your stance, for taking the time and effort to do so. You’ve highlighted the support that already exists and the need to keep on making gaming a more open and accepting place.

Maintaining perspective with these incidents is important. There are far more horrible and shocking things going on along this vein every day and these three stories in the last 48 hours are just the tip of the iceberg. But I don’t consider that a reason to let the minor things slip. I expect more from my fellow human and you should too.

As for this particular incident, well I’m done. It’s in the hands of the people who can do something about it. Time to move on and fill all this bank space I seem to have with more stuff!

Aug 062013
 

Warning: pictures contain strong language

So the voting ended for Cutthroat Politics earlier today and as someone who was supporting Evon Gnashblade I was a little disappointed with the result. I am more disappointed with the reaction to the result that has been seen on the forums and in game. I expected disappointment, maybe a little anger, but not the combination of racism and misogyny that has been seen over map chat.

What is so revealing about these horrible statements (on all sides) is that they’re said about people and races that don’t exist. Ellen and Evon are nothing but a collection of polygons and rows in a database. Humans and charr have rich lore in Guild Wars 2 but are just as imaginary. So really this hatred says more about the people saying these things than the characters of the individuals.

Lets start with some of the lines said about Evon Gnashblade (Lines said by the same person are grouped together):

 Evon

Common thread along these bashes are general attitudes to charr. They’re smelly, they’re only good as pets and apparently they rapists (I really don’t remember that bit in Guild Wars lore. Oppressive to women yes, but not rapists). Only 2 of these lines are aimed directly at Evon himself while the rest are more related to the entire race.

Lets compare this with comments I saw about Ellen Kiel:

Ellen

So in contrast, none of these comments are about Ellen’s race. Nearly all of them are about her physical appearance and supposed promiscuity. These comments also spill over into Queen Jennah’s Jubilee, the next Guild Wars 2 update. So whereas Evon’s comments are racial, Ellen’s are personal. It’s demeaning that Ellen’s supporters are seen to vote for her on the merit of her appearance alone, rather than her campaign promises.

This could be dismissed as trolling if this wasn’t the kind of attitude women face on a regular basis online and in real life. In the last 2 weeks, several female activists, journalists and one MP in the UK have been threatened with rape and had bomb threats, for successfully campaigning for women to be represented on British currency and reporting on the story. People have been arrested for it. Likewise racial hatred is no less vile and shouldn’t be an issue for anyone in 2013.

But we share a gaming world where some people (I have no idea if they are male or female and will not guess) think these attitudes are OK to have and to voice. I can’t get my head around hating an aspect of someone so much that you would voice your hatred for an NPC who has that characteristic. I’ve been on the end of all kinds of abuse in game over the years, mostly from people who just wanted to get their rocks off, but this is the first time I’ve seen NPCs be the target. I’m ashamed to share a hobby with these people and those who enable them to carry on spreading their hatred.

This leads to an interesting question I had to answer today: is it verbal abuse if the target isn’t real? I decided it was, but am curious what you think. And if not, how would you have reported these statements?

Of course, this is a small minority of people. Several others I saw expressed their views in a balanced manner.

balanced and fair

To those who voiced their views like this: thank you. You made this election interesting and I enjoyed listening to the pros and cons.

I really hope that ArenaNet will continue to put forward strong characters to drive their stories, challenging stereotypes every step of the way. Bring on the Jubilee!

Edit: I have written a follow up to this post outlining the response from ArenaNet. It also explains why the comments are closed.

Aug 062012
 

In a few weeks we’ll be stepping foot inside Tyria again for real. One important decision everyone will need to make is what server to call home and I’ve set myself the challenge of researching the communities on each of the Guild Wars 2 servers. So after the final beta weekend I asked members of the Guild Wars 2 community for the experiences of their servers. The response was more immense than I could of hoped for. I can only offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to fill in the survey and help their fellow players (and myself) out!

 

Gathering information

Using the previous survey as a base and building on the areas that the survey fell short on last time, I built up a short set of questions covering information that included the number of guilds people were a member of, how satisfied they were with their choice of server, their experiences on their servers and the languages spoken on them. The existence of the survey was promoted to my followers on Twitter and retweeted several times by individuals and fansites within the Guild Wars 2 community. It was also promoted on Guild Wars 2 Guru, the Guild Wars 2 sub-Reddit and Guild Wars 2 Nederlandstalige Community.

As with the last survey, I have included every response I received even where I felt that response may have been deliberately misleading, and removed offensive words and identifying comments from the feedback. Again, the questions, original responses and some statistical analysis is available in a pdf for you to enjoy (if you enjoy that kind of thing). I’ll refer to some feedback below, and draw out the more interesting statistics.

General comments

There was a far larger response to this survey than the previous two undertaken. Combined with the fewer number of servers provided for the final Beta Weekend event, the responses will give a better indication of what the communities and experiences of people on those surveys were actually like. However, caution must be undertaken when applying the findings of this survey. The ArenaNet blog post What’s New in the Final Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event indicated that “hundreds of thousands of players” were expected to take part in the final event, and the 365 responses are a very small sample of that expected amount.

That said, only 2 servers gave no response at all and there were 13 servers who gave 10 or more responses. This makes this the most reliable of my surveys so far and I am hopeful that people may find the information contained within it useful when it comes to choosing their server for release. However the variety of comments from the same server means that the results must be taken with a large pinch of salt!

 

Game Formats

There are no large differences between the two regions when it comes to the main formats people were playing over the final beta weekend. Overall 83% of responders said they spent most of their time this weekend in PvE, compared with 12% in WvW and 5% in PvP.

When asked about their experiences in the different formats, some interesting differences emerged. There was some irregularity between those who answered “Did Not Play Format” between the 3 questions (for example, some who indicated they did not play a format in one question gave their experiences of that format in the other two). Overall nearly 98% did some form of pve, while only 35% did some form of sPvP. Those on European servers are more likely to do some form of PvP than American Servers – over 7% difference in both sPvP and WvW.

 

Guilds

There was a large difference between the number of people who chose not to be in a guild on the American and European servers, with 13% more Europeans being a member of one or more guild(s).

Across all servers, of those in a guild 79% of those who responded were in only 1 guild. This was slightly lower on American servers (75%), who had proportionally more people in 2 (17%) or 3 (5%) guilds than Europe (14% and 1%).

 

Countries & Languages

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were 10 more countries represented on European servers (25) than on American servers (15). In addition there were 9 more languages seen on European servers (17) than on US servers (8). This diversity showed through in comments about server communities, with some responses expressing frustration at the number of different languages spoken on their chosen server. Some also commented about the overflow servers being grouped together, which added to linguistic frustration. In general these comments did not occur alongside reports of negative server satisfaction.

Even though there was a large variety of languages spoken on the various European servers, each server did seem to have a primary language. English was spoken to some extent on all servers.

 

Sense of Community Throughout the Formats

Trying to measure a sense of community is extremely tricky, but the responses from 3 questions broken by format were used to attempt to get an impression of moment to moment life on a server and in the two regions. The amount of text in the various formats gives an indication of communication and resurrection gives an indication of symbolic interaction while perceived co-ordination gives an indication of working towards a common goal.

By format overall PvE scored highest on the sense of community factors, with more positive responses to the quantity of text communication, resurrection and overall coordination. WvW was positive overall, but less so than PvE. However, PvP scored quite low on the text and resurrection factors, and less positively in cooperation. This may be in part due to the fast paced nature of PvP compared to the other two formats, along with its quick resurrection timers.

The differences in responses between the two regions were highest in PvP, with a less negative reaction overall in text and cooperation on US servers while EU servers were slightly ahead with resurrection. Overall the differences don’t give a clear indication of one region scoring higher in sense of community factors.

 

Community

Just as with the second Beta Weekend, the comments received on community are pretty hard to analyse objectively. Generally speaking the comments seem positive about the communities on all servers, with most containing some form of positive and negative experience. Few of the comments were entirely negative about their server. A number of people commented that they spent most of the weekend playing solo and some of these highlighted a lack of community outside a guild. Others said they didn’t notice any community on their servers at all, which was countered by rare stories of people going significantly out of their way to help their server mates.

Amongst the various comments, there were a few that spoke of the community in Guild Wars 2 being better than the community in other MMOs, but some of these also mentioned that they felt the community was worse than it had been for Beta Weekend 2. A few comments expressed frustration at being forced to move servers that they had been on for the last 2 weekends to the detriment of the community. Amongst European servers, there were comments of frustration about the number of different languages being used on overflow servers.

Compared to the community responses for Beta Weekend 2, there were more comments relating to trolls on the servers and complaints about being forced into overflow servers.

 

Satisfaction and Server Population

When it comes to server population, there are a few relatively minor differences between the two regions. Those on American servers expressed a higher preference for their servers to be busier than their European counterparts (35.75% reported they’d prefer the servers to be “A little busier” or “A lot busier” compared to 30.64% in Europe). Conversely 15.59% of those who responded from European servers would have preferred their servers to be “A little quieter” compared with 6.70% of those on American servers. Both regions had roughly the same percentage of responses that expressed “No strong feelings” about their server populations.

The overall results between the two regions when it comes to server satisfaction are roughly equal, with there being slightly more people who reported being unsatisfied with their server choice on US servers. 5% more of their counterparts on European servers reported being satisfied with their server choice.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing a server for release, it’ll be up to you to consider what the most important factors are to your in game happiness. The overwhelming outcome of this survey is the variety of differences between all servers in terms what formats the majority of the population play, the language base and the sense of community on the server. Hopefully it’ll be of some use when people come to make their decisions.

It’s unfortunate that some contributors commented that the sense of community had deteriorated from Beta Weekend 2 to Beta Weekend 3 (the final beta weekend), but this is in line with expectations. Further analysis will need to be done to see if there is any statistical evidence to back up these reports. However there did seem to be a better quantity of servers for the final weekend, especially for US servers. Given the comments regarding the language problems on overflow servers in Europe, I think it may be a good idea for ArenaNet to investigate how they are grouping the servers together to try to provide the most harmonious output.

 

Your Feedback

If you’ve found this information useful to you, please do drop a note in the comments below. Currently I have no plans to do any more of these surveys, but if I get enough feedback from people saying it’s worthwhile doing, I will.  Likewise, please contact me if you have any feedback you’d like to give about the content of the survey itself.

Jul 182012
 

I haven’t felt the need to write a proper Guild Wars 2 article for a while (I presume because of the amount of work those server community surveys take to do) but there’s been a few bits lately that have registered enough interest to be worth writing about.

A few days ago, ArenaNet released this behind the scenes video which briefly interviews a number of faces in the Seattle office.

The most notable thing for me out of this wasn’t the double health bar for Necromancers, but that ArenaNet have hired an economist, John (Jon?) Smith, to look after what goes on in game and in the gem store. It’s a growing trend in gaming, and recently Valve hired an economist who is analysing the market in TF2 and looking at joining game economies together. It’s a reassuring trend for those of us who enjoy the trading thing, knowing that someone is looking out for inflation and either taking direct steps to combat it or working with developers to do so. And with the gem model ArenaNet have carved out for themselves (as demonstrated over at Distilled Willpower), I’m glad they’ve got someone trained in economics to look after it.

I’ve been spending a lot of my free time lately working on a guild roster mod for my guild (see here and here), which has expanded my knowledge of web development immensely. 5 days ago I’d done little in the way of javascript and now I’ve written and expanded several scripts to expand and collapse lists and sort tables. The whole thing has been designed to be completely expandable to cover any game, for members to create profiles for new games and enter accounts and characters into the list. It goes some way to solving a huge problem for MYST – who is this person I’m playing with? We’re not a big guild, around 40 members, but when people have different forum, steam, account and character names, and you ask people to call you by your real name it will cause a problem eventually. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m so pleased with how it’s going and proud of the work I’ve done. I’m aiming to get everything done in 2 weeks, before we get all befuddled with trying to get ready for Guild Wars 2 launch.

Speaking of guilds, I also started my column over at Dragon Season last week. It’s called Guild Matters and it’s about anything and everything related to running a guild. It’s my hope that it becomes a central resource for all guild leaders who are struggling with an aspect of guild leadership, and while I’m writing a load of articles now, that’s just the start. I sincerely want to hear from other guild leaders to learn from them and understand what they’ve found tough so I’m armed for as and when that problem faces me. I’ll be looking for guild leaders to interview soon, but in the meantime I’m writing a series of articles that cover the basics of leading a guild in my mind.

Finally, it’s a Guild Wars 2 beta weekend this weekend and while I’m looking forward to it, it feels a bit less exciting than the other weekends. I think it’s because the characters have been wiped and I know that trying to WvW from level 1 will be painful economically. I’ve done a lot of the human, charr and norn starter areas and want to leave asura and sylvari for release so I have something completely fresh, so you’ll likely find me in WvW and sPvP this weekend. I’m loving the game so far, and moreso seeing the progression and speed at which ArenaNet improves and stabilises their game.

Oh and for anyone who’s having a discussion about which server to pick this weekend, you might find this useful

Have fun!

Jun 292012
 

Escort the caravan. Rescue the princess. Kill ten rats. Cliches, everyone one. Aren’t you sick of them? Don’t you wish that developers would drop them and do something different?

This actually has nothing to do with Guild Wars 2 or any other particular MMO. It’s a general problem with all rpg games. In order to progress through the game you have to have your character do something, and there’s only so many different types of somethings you can do.

If you weren’t tasked with escorting an npc from one place to another, rescuing a damsel in distress, collecting a number of items, or taking out some targets, what would your character be doing in the game? And, if you did come up with something else to do that didn’t ultimately fall into one of those 4 categories, how long before it became as old and stale to you as those have?

Ultimately there’s only so many types of things that developers can do with a world, especially one that very closely mimics our own. We collect groceries from the supermarket, go to find our lost pets, go paint balling and take our less able family members (read: children and grandparents) out to the shops or zoo because they can’t go by themselves. That in game activities reflect our real life ones may be why there are frequent complaints about a certain quest type in a given rpg; people want to escape that world, rather than jump into another that copies it. But what are the alternatives?

Maybe there aren’t any and maybe we as a gamers should stop rolling our eyes when we see “yet another” escort quest and instead take a look at how those quest types are executed. Our next assignment may be to kill ten rats, but what if those rats are smart and are going after an npc vital to your character? Sure, not every task undertaken can be an epic battle for survival otherwise we’d grow unappreciative of the scale of the task, but execution is key. Make us care, determined to succeed and analyse the failures to rise another day.

Games may not be able to generate the same amount of emotional involvement as some movies because of the way they are played, but that doesn’t mean every session can’t be filled with a tug on the heart strings and be full of entertaining and memorable moments. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with the notion of saving the damsel in distress – just make us give a damn first.