The news of the week is Facebook buying out the Oculus Rift, which is perhaps the least impressive technology to see other people use. I’ll be honest: I poured out a sip of bourbon in memoriam to independent development and the noble goal that was Kickstarter, which increasingly seems to be an nightmare engine fueled by hubris and wanton optimism.
Actually, none of that last sentence is true. Well, other than the Kickstarter bit.
I did release a heavy sigh at the news, but in the scheme of things it might not be so bad. There are a couple ways of looking at it. For example, this penultimate paragraph from Penny Arcade represents a rather inspiring take:
Before yesterday, The Oculus Rift was technofetish gear. It ceased to be so in an instant. If you want to know how you get to the future described in books, any of the futures, it happens when technology has broad social meaning. I’m not going to tell you it’s not fucking weird. I’m as surprised as anybody. I don’t like the idea of a fully three dimensional banner ad anymore than you do. But do you want to live in a society where telepresence and virtual reality are… normalized? This is how that happens. I used the shitty, old Rift, and I thought I was underwater. Think of every corner they had to cut because they were trying to make this thing in the finite realm of men. Now imagine the corners restored, and the corner cutting machine in ruins.
Perhaps you’re not an optimist. In which case, actually consider the alternate realities:
> Just promise me there will be no specific Facebook tech tie-ins.
Why would we want to sell to someone like MS or Apple? So they can tear the company apart and use the pieces to build out their own vision of virtual reality, one that fits whatever current strategy they have? Not a chance.
Now, as the scathing Reddit posts below that point out, had Microsoft bought out the Rift he could have just swapped the names around: “Sell to someone like Facebook or Apple?” It really seems to be no difference… except for two things. One, I don’t want Microsoft or Apple to have sole control over the Rift. Apple’s version would likely not be PC compatible and Microsoft would likely bundle it into every Xbtwo purchase. It might “just” be a monitor on your face (the size of a small book) right now, but shit man, it’s 2014 and I still can’t take screenshots of PS3 games without hundred-dollar hardware to trick the DRM or whatever. And two? Sony has VR, Google has pseudo-VR, and now even goddamn Facebook has VR. It’s only a matter of time before the ghost of Steve Jobs releases the iEyes and whoever is running Microsoft releases a more expensive, lower resolution version that requires a constant internet connection.
Competition, people – it’s a good thing.
Having said all that, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. In fact, I barely care about VR at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool conceptually. The frugal side of my nature is excited at the prospect of basically one $300 headset replacing all the monitors and TVs in my house. But that’s when pesky reality starts popping up. I already wear glasses and it’s hard enough finding earphones I can comfortably wear for more than an hour.
But the VR problems are deeper and more systemic to me, in much the same way as console MMOs. For example, can you see the keyboard with these goggles on? Some people can type without looking, but essentially pulling yourself out of whatever just to remember where the ‘B’ key is will be annoying. Controllers don’t really get around this issue, especially considering how much more limiting the lack of buttons will be (imagine trying to play WoW with an Xbox controller). Then I wonder: do I really want to be craning my neck around for 2+ hours? And to what end? Unless you go full nerd, the practical application will be the equivalent of the Lean key in most games; you are still aiming with your mouse/gamepad, not your face.
I’m sure the immersion is all there and maybe that’s enough. From where I’m sitting though, all I’m hearing is “touchscreen monitor,” like I want to be playing games in (more literal) zombie posture all day. No thanks. For me, the Oculus and other headsets are basically conceptual means of being able to play games fully reclined on a Lay-Z Boy or laying down. Actually, nevermind, no access to keyboard/mouse that way. So, err… yeah.
Out of all the possible game launch issues, I find this one especially embarrassing:
By the way, having to scan a Twitter feed for bug updates to a problem acknowledged on Facebook is perhaps the least responsible use of social media technology ever. I am talking 1998 Geocities auto-playing MIDIs level of ridiculousness.
Some people have said they can get in/make guilds. Good for you. It has not worked for my small band of players as of this posting, and it is still listed as a bug on the
Guild Wars 2 webpage. The good news is that ArenaNet has a workaround!
I would almost be tempted to try that if WvW for my server had not been in a permanent queue since the pre-launch happened.
On a final note, I take back every good thing I said about one-server games. See, I enjoy(ed) the fact that you can have a name with spaces in
Guild Wars 2; it gives you more options, allows for some creativity, naming-schemes, and so on. But the more I think about it, the more asinine it feels to require unique names across the entirety of the playerbase on every server everywhere. We already have the equivalent of “Battletags” for use on the forums and our accounts (e.g. Bob.4375), so why require unique names? The more successful the game is, the more annoying this problem becomes. And it is not as though this is some kind of technological problem: Blizzard has been doing this cross-realm shit for years, nevermind whoever did it before them.
This name thing is especially an annoyance to me in terms of guilds. I liked the name Invictus, in spite of it being a fairly common guild name and yet another “Ominous Latin Noun” (which is itself an ironically standard name). But, no. Some random guy in Wisconsin six servers away claimed ownership first, now and forever, leaving me with choices like The Invictus, XxInvictusxX, Invictus 2: First Blood, and a cavalcade of increasingly poor choices. Is it entitlement to simply desire the ability to title the group of friends you are hanging out with? Maybe.
Then again, the name of the goddamn game is
Guild Wars 2, so you would assume that… well, nevermind.
P.S. While I was researching whether guild names are indeed unique across all servers, I came across this interview that I must have missed. It is somewhat topical given the raised eyebrows surrounding the news that some guy hit level 80 in GW2 before the official launch date:
Post: Guild Wars 2 has a maximum level cap of 80 — which is pretty damn high. And with high level caps, there’s always a feeling that players need to grind their butts off. Is there anything in place to prevent that urge or need to grind?
Eric Flannum: We regard leveling as a good measure of progress and not as the ultimate goal of the game. There is an amount of time at which a single level becomes useless as a measure of progress because you can’t make significant gains in a single play session. We are continuing to tweak and tune just how long we think that is but we currently put it at around 90 minutes. Since we aren’t interested in leveling as an end goal this allows us to cap our leveling time at around the 90 minute mark. This means that our leveling curve flattens out relatively early in the game. For example it currently takes about the same amount of time to progress from 79 to 80 as it does to go from 49 to 5o. This allows us to avoid the grind often associated with the later levels in an MMO. (source)
The flat leveling curve is not news, but I was not aware ArenaNet specifically put a 90-minute target down. That is about 120 hours until 80, or roughly 1.5 months if you play ~20 hours/week. Dunno if they revised those numbers since that interview, but it certainly feels a little bit faster than that. And that “we’re not interested in leveling as an end goal” certainly strikes me as a bit amusing since Diablo 3 very publicly turned an aboutface on that very issue just last week.
Saw this last week:
Unfortunately, Tobold actually already linked to this Demotivational poster before I could finish this post, thereby costing me street cred.
It is a fairly common statistic (if unofficial) that less than 10% of F2P gamers actually ever spend money in the cash shop. Most of the resulting commentary has focused on how this ~10% subsidizes the other 90%. This is not actually the case. The evil genius of F2P games is how the non-paying gamers subsidize the paying ones by simply being there. If you are playing LotRO “for free,” what you are actually doing is giving paying customers a reason to actually pay money.
Think about it. If 90% of F2P gamers don’t pay, then the game would presumably have only a tenth as many players if it were not F2P. Hell, the entire point of LotRO going F2P was how they would have shut down the servers otherwise. It did not matter that there were already paying customers; the problem was there was not enough paying customers. When the F2P switch is flipped, you suddenly get a huge influx of “freeloaders” who have a very compelling reason to buy items that make them stand out from each other. Meanwhile the already paying customers are happy because now they have the ability to keep paying for a game they enjoy, and a whole bunch of new people to do it with.
Facebook and Google aren’t doing you a favor by providing “free” social media services. As the Demotivational mentions, you are a product – in this case private demographic information, music tastes, favorite shows, etc, all freely updated by you on your own time – to be sold. You may “get” some bit of value out of these services (else you presumably would not use them) but Facebook/Google/F2P MMO developers are obviously getting a lot more from the bargain. F2P and social media is honestly the biggest marketing coup since fashion apparal designers realized that people would actually give them money for the privledge of wearing advertisements, e.g. shirts with the company logo on them.