Of Course… We Just Might Be Whining

Posted by on September 22, 2009 - 4 Comments »

If you’ve read my last couple of posts, you know that I am currently playing Champions Online pretty heavily. I am having a lot of fun, and while there are issues, it is a blast and I am enjoying myself quite a bit.

munch-eduard-the-scream-28021581One aspect of CO that I haven’t enjoyed is the forums. The forums for Champs are about as ugly as I have ever seen — filled with bile, rants about how the game sucks and the ever ubiquitous “Look at me, I quit!” posts. Launch-time was the absolute worst, with people clamoring for Cryptic to reinstate the discounted lifetime subscription option just before launch, and then just after launch, yelling just as loudly to be allowed to cancel those same subscriptions. Then a patch went wrong and the game was down for the better part of a day… more yelling.

Certainly, Cryptic brought some of this onto themselves, especially with their now infamous “Launch Day Defense-Nerf”. People see their characters nerfed and they get upset. Once they get upset, they realize that they are paying a monthly fee for this abuse and then they start to get all “The customer is always right…” on the boards. And they might be right, but you can be right, and still be acting like a jackass.

So, in honor of righteous forum rage everywhere, let’s take a tongue-in-cheek (and a little ranty) look at a few signs that might indicate when you’ve crossed the line between incensed consumer and bonafide forum whiner…

1. You Quit!!! – The “I Quit!!!” post has been a favorite since the advent of the MMO forum. In fact, I have it on good authority… let me find that Wikipedia page… hmm… nothing? Oh well then, I have it on great authority that the MMO forum was designed specifically as an outlet for the rage quit post, which becomes a powerful form of therapy allowing you, the disgruntled player, to vent your frustrations instead of doing something silly or productive like… actually quitting the game. Instead you pour your heart into a twelve-point manifesto in which you detail the myriad ways in which this game is poorly designed, has failed to meet your lofty expectations, and causes children all across sub-Saharan Africa to weep.

I get it… I have read enough of these and have even penned one or two. The hope, of course, is that the devs will pick your post out of the trough, read your insightful criticism, change the game and then invite you back with a pat on the back and a special title, “Supreme Game Saver”, “Voice of Reason”, or “We Should’ve Hired You Instead of Brad” or some such…

Uh huh…

The old adage, “You cannot please all of the people all of the time” holds true here. MMO devs are aware that every change they make is going to make some players happy and make others angry. Of course, with your rage quit post, you are neither of these. Instead you put yourself into the category of “People We No Longer Need To Listen To.”  Think of it this way, you are sitting on the couch in your boxers, in your disaster of a man-cave, watching football on TV and drinking beer. Your girlfriend of three weeks, loudly storms out of your apartment, yelling about how she is leaving you because you are a slob and her old boyfriend is much more attractive and “team-friendly”.  What is the chance that you turn off the TV, put on some decent clothes and clean that apartment before that case of beer is finished?

Yeah, flowers are probably out of the question too. The point is, the devs are the slob and you just packed your panties, slammed the door and made a scene and the only people that care are the forum warriors who are going to reply to your post, telling you to “lrn2ply” and asking you for your stuff. Of course, since they disagree with you, they must all be raging fanboys, which brings me to my next point.

2. Everyone Else Is a Raging Fanboy — If I were standing on an elementary school playground… I would expect to be arrested, but ignore that for a moment. If I were standing on an elementary school playground, eavesdropping on a heated argument, I might expect to hear

“Lego Time Bandits is the coolest game ever!”

“Man, no it’s not. That game is stupid.”

“You’re stupid.”

“Well, your Mom is stupid!”

The 40-year old equivalent to the elementary school playground is the internet gaming forum, and “Raging Fanboy” has become the new “Your Mom!”  There was a time when the term fanboy meant someone who liked a game and was not willing to discuss any of the game’s faults. Now it’s used to insult anyone who likes a game you don’t like… or more to the point, the use of the term “Raging Fanboy” means, “I have nothing of value to say and no compelling argument, but anyone who disagrees with me must be a flaming idiot… and… Your Mom is stupid.”

We’ve lost the ability to reason and debate, so instead we yell and insult. Welcome to the forums, or the playground, or talk radio, or Congress… though in Congress, they cleverly replace the term “Raging Fanboy” with “My Esteemed Colleague” which makes them sound official. If you want to sound official you can always give…

3. The Expert Opinion — I am a table top gaming geek and have hung around on many RPG boards in the past. On table top forums, it never fails that as soon as there is a discussion about a game’s combat system, everyone I am talking to suddenly reveals that they have unique experience and amazing insight into combat that I cannot possibly have, and thus, their opinion on the game is unassailable. So, when on a game forum, I always follow the rule:

On an internet gaming forum, anyone you would ever argue with is either in the Special Forces, or is a ninja.

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This rule has saved me from many a dead-end argument… and yet I have to admit, that it doesn’t apply as much to MMO forums. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure our favorite online games have ample population from the military and ninjutsu communities, but they just don’t seem to do battle on the forums so much. No, on MMO forums we have a totally different set folks delivering Expert Opinions and that would be the Gaming Industry Insiders and the Lawyers. So, instead of posts on how Game X sucks because it fails to account for the relative value of different weapon systems, or posts about how a ninja could kill you in your sleep by dripping poison down a thread into your snoring mouth… and thus Game X sucks, we get posts like

“As a gaming insider, I can’t believe, <Insert Company Name Here> would treat its customers like this!!” or

“As a lawyer, I ask <Insert Company Name Here> to reconsider their actions as what they have done here is a classic Bait and Switch.”

satanlawyerI outright disbelieve the posts that supposedly come from gaming industry folks, not because I think they don’t play each others games, but because I think it would be considered bad form to have any part in the gaming industry and yet be going onto another company’s forums and criticizing them. The lawyers… Now, I believe the lawyer posts. See, I live in America, where you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting two lawyers. The first one is filing the lawsuit for PETA on behalf of the dead cat and the second one was just attracted to the scent of carrion.

Great… so you’re a lawyer, or at least, you watch Law and Order and have access to Wikipedia. Big deal! The game companies have their own lawyers and those lawyers know how to use Wikipedia too so they have knowledge of what a Bait and Switch is. They also know that you signed away all of your rights when you clicked that “I Accept” button while you were “waiting for this freakin’ slow game to get through the load screen!!!”

And heck, even if you do have a legal leg upon which to stand, the game companies don’t mind. Sue! Fire away! Their lawyers are on retainer, so they currently are paying them to golf and drink martinis. Whereas your lawyer is going to charge you double for the indignity of having to explain to the judge, “Your Honor, we aim to prove that Cryptic did indeed nerf my client’s Personal Force Field, and as a result, my client feels decidedly LESS SUPER.”

Unless you represent yourself, in which case the judge yells, “Your Mom is stupid!” and throws you into jail for impersonating a ninja.

4. The Ol’ Gaming Resume– I am sure there will come a day when your experiences in Ultima Online (pre-Trammel) will contain the valuable life lessons and historical significance of a Korean War Vet, or a survivor of the Great Depression. Until that day, pulling out your gaming resume simply tells us that you have wasted just a little bit more of your life than most of the other people on the forum.

Actually, that is a bit overstated. Your gaming resume can in fact tell us a great deal about you based on the context in which it is used. The first way in which a gaming resume is often used is to set us up for the poster’s Expert Opinion. If that is the case, then please get in line behind the lawyers and the gaming insiders because truly, no one cares. Your accomplishments on UO, EQ, Earth and Beyond, Meridian 59, Rubies of Eventide, or DIKUMud might give you some perspective, but don’t make you an expert on programming, quality assurance, or game design. If you fire off a gaming resume and then start talking about how you don’t like nerfs… then you have as much insight as the kid whose only other game is WoW… because he doesn’t like nerfs either.

The second type of gaming resume poster, I have a little more empathy for. This is someone who mentions their old games because they are desperately trying to recapture their experience with that “magic” MMO… which is typically the first MMO they played that actually hooked them. Now, they miserably shamble from game to game, almost enjoying them, but never quite getting the high they got from THAT game, which ultimately leads them to complain about THIS game. I have a friend for which City of Heroes was his first game and it was quite an experience for him. Now, no game can ever come close, so even though he is bored to tears with CoH, he can’t really get into other games because they don’t compare to the mythologized version of CoH he has playing in his head.

Of course, the irony here is that no game exists that can compete with that first game… not even that first game. Once you cut away that thick coating of nostalgia, most of these folks would go back to their perfect game, quit after a week, and post on the forums about how the game they remember had been ruined by some phantom patch. In reality their love for their game was based less on mechanics and more on the novelty of the MMO experience.

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The third type of resume poster is the evil twin of the second. This type of person has BEEN THROUGH HELL and is here to tell us about it. You can usually tell this guy by his forum name… ScrewedBySony, or Flagshipped, or BradHatesMe and his message is always the same, “I played this doomed game before and I tell you this game is doomed just like that last game was doomed. We are all doomed, doomed I say!”  The reason for the doom is that some game mechanic is the same as the aforementioned dead game, or the publisher is the same, or that certain members of the dev team are the same.

We get it already! Age of Conan was a disaster at launch. Hellgate London was a failure. Vanguard disappointed you deeply. Darkfall made you weep. The NGE caused the thin veneer that separates this reality with the next to tear away leaving your fragile mind exposed to the shrill, seeping horrors beyond… and now you curl up into a fetal position every time you see a right angle, or a holocron. You know what? Software of this scale is complicated. Games of this scale are complicated. People screw up and sometimes they fail.

But they also learn from their mistakes and succeed. Age of Conan, Vanguard and Darkfall, for all of the bile and venom they generated, are still going. On the other hand, Hellgate is dead and Bill Roper had a large part in that failure… but previously he has also had a part in Blizzard’s success, having worked on the various incarnations of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. So hopefully, we are getting the guy with the talent that led the Blizzard team, with a dose of wisdom and humility from the failure of Flagship. That’s a good mix.

5. You Write a Blog Post Complaining About Complainers – Yeah, it is pretty pathetic, I know… now fight on forum warriors!!