Or, how I turned a blogger meme to my own subtly nefarious designs, and employed fairly lame puns to describe my shutterbug tendency. Next step, take over the world, Pinky!
Melf_Himself describes the trend well over at Word of Shadow, complete with a well-traced lineage. (It’s interesting to see how these things mutate and evolve. This one didn’t even start with gamers, but we’ve claimed it.) While I’m generally not a meme participant, I’ve been looking for a reason to put up a few more screenshots as a respite from my usual walls of text or mini posts with links, so when Melf “tagged” me, I figured I’d run with it. It’s been a lot of fun seeing what other people have dredged up, and it’s been even more fun digging through my old files. So, I’m playing with this meme.
And then doing something different. That’s just what I do. That said, the meme itself is pretty fun, so here’s the shot that best satisfies the rules, beyond which I feel little further obligation to play by the rules, and will just have fun. (Sixth folder of screenshots, sixth screenshot.)
Interestingly, considering the love/hate relationship I have with the game, it’s a World of Warcraft image from my latest ten day trial. I’ve done a few now, and for this one, I wanted to try out a Troll and a Rogue, a race and class I’d never played before. (I’m a Hunter/Druid fan, Dwarf or Tauren.) It turned out to be the character I played to the highest level, mostly because I wasn’t trying alts out this trial period, and because I wanted to see as many areas as possible.
This is one of my art reference shots, with my hapless little level 6 (!) Splattamon doing his best Capoeira dance outside of that Troll village just outside of the starting area. I was studying the animation, since I have a passing interest in Capoeira and specialized in animation when I earned my college degree. Animation is one of those things that the Blizzard guys really do well, and it stretches the art direction further than the relatively low poly models would suggest at a glance. Once again, strong art direction (and animation) >>>high poly count, huge texture and other assorted tech bling.
So, moving on, I have thousands of screenshots, none of them in my “images” folder. Possibly tens of thousands now that I’ve made it to Marleybone in Wizard101 (my favorite area in the game). I’m a Bartle Explorer, through and through. The “virtual world” in these MMO things is the draw for me, and even the best PvP in the world is just an annoyance. Heck, most of the DIKU model is an annoyance. I level my characters up so that I can explore more stuff.
Some of that is rooted in my profession; I’m an artist in the game industry by trade, so I’ll often take screenshots for reference. Several of these may be shots in rapid succession, as I’m studying animation or special effects, like the Capoeira dance above. I also dabble in photography, so most non-reference shots will be “photographic” or archival, rather than ogling “phat lewt” or the inevitable oversexed character design. I almost never take “gameplay” shots, unless I’m trying to write an article about such, and need to illustrate, like my Atlantica Online articles.
I presume the original intent was to just see what people had quickly and easily, perhaps to avoid the temptation to cherry pick the coolest visuals. I’ve preserved a little of that intent by grabbing the sixth visual file in a few cases here, but others I have unabashedly cherry picked what looks good. As Ysharros noted, a “meme” is about “me” twice, so I may as well do whatever I feel like. (And am I the only one that hears “me, me” as part of a song by Dom DeLuise in the Stargate SG-1 Season 3 episode “Urgo”? Ah, the classics.)
Digging through these files brings back a fair bit of nostalgia, which is a nice key to remembering why these games are still fun at times, even in my grumpy old “make it better” phase.
So let’s see, what have I dug up?
A couple of other WoW screenies. I really do like a lot of the worldbuilding that Blizzard has done, just not so much of the game itself and its unholy marriage to the subscription model that begets grind. That first one is the edge of the last forest I reached during that particular trial period. The chat message shows the way I prefer to get experience: by exploring. The second is a flyby of Thunder Bluff, my favorite capital city, at least of the ones I’ve seen. (Vanilla WoW; perhaps the Blood Elf or Draenei home city is more appealing.) Thunder Bluff is one town that I am just happy to putter around in, rather than get my business done and get out.
Then there are these:
More Atlantica Online shots. I really do like this game, mostly because of the innovative combat and good crafting/loot system, but the increase in grind as time went on and a lack of time on my part means I’ve actually uninstalled it. Since it’s a F2P game, I can always come back, and I’ve not deleted my character or account. I just needed space on the hard drive, and don’t have time to play. *shrug*
What would life be without Guild Wars? A much sadder place, no doubt. I do love PreSearing Ascalon and Christmas at Lion’s Arch.
What game is complete without a spoonful of steampunk sugar? Wizard 101’s Marleybone area just oozes character, and I can’t help but hope to see the native canine residents bust out in a rendition of “Step in Time” or “Chim, Chim Cheroo” as Sherlock Bones and Watson chase a ne’er do well ragamuffin through the alleys, aided by the local constabulatory aboard the propeller driven zeppelins. Any place that can pull off bone-and-fire hydrant stained glass windows earns major moxie points in my book.
Whirled is even more pun-driven than Wizard101, for better or worse. It’s a user-generated playground a bit like Raph Koster’s Metaplace or Kongregate, but the clientele that Three Rings has built with their brilliant Puzzle Pirates leans more to the puzzle side of the brain, so Whirled is fully stocked with great little puzzle games. I’ve thought more than once that Alpha Hex would fit right in. This particular discussion between a friend and I (Silverwings there) just shows one aspect of the game; customizable avatars. If you know a bit of Flash and aren’t afraid of learning some proprietary API coding, Whirled is a great little place to do some game prototyping.
The background there isn’t representative of the best rooms in the “world”, but it does show one person’s experimentation. I’d show you my room, but it’s ugly. It’s embarrassing as an artist.
No list of games I play would be complete without a bit from Puzzle Pirates. This is my character, Silveransom, and the self portrait that I constructed for the forums and use all over the place. I’ve got a real screenshot around here somewhere that I want to get in, but I can’t find it. I’ll splice it in when I find it.
Blasphemous though it may be, but I play solo offline games as well. I’m eagerly awaiting StarCraft 2. I loved the first one. I’m wary about a few aspects of the game, but I really would like to see Blizzard hit another home run with SC2. These are just promotional materials from a fankit that I downloaded, partially because I wanted to see what they had (I love their concept art), and partly for research for a project that I was working on at my job. It’s a long story that I can’t actually tell, but let’s just say that there’s a reason that Blizzard is at the top of the game world; their art direction is core to their games. It’s good to look to that example.
I had a blast with Titan Quest last year. It’s better than Diablo, but could have learned a few things from D2. I keep meaning to pick up Fate for my dungeon crawling experimentation. Again, I just don’t have the time. I’m sort of looking forward to D3, but I’m not really a fan of the setting for the Diablo games, which is part of why I liked the TQ game and its expansion, The Immortal Throne.
TQ players also have access to a little gem called the TQ Defiler. That little hack program extended TQ’s shelf life for me by a good couple of months. I played through the game “legit” the first time, and then used the Defiler to change my character’s class (and secondary) and spec. I didn’t want to grind up a new character, but wanted to see the way the other classes played. I played the game longer than I would have without that ability, mostly because I was interested in the game, just not in repeating (grinding) content. MMOs could learn a lot from that, and allow free respecs (including complete class change!)as often as players want. Certainly, keep the *option* of grinding up a new alt, but don’t force the issue.
As Mike Darga recently noted, game devs aren’t just in competition with other games, they are fighting for players’ free time. The answer is not grind, as that just withdraws goodwill equity from those players who love your game the most. If people want to spend time with your game, they will. Don’t force them into time sinks to get to the fun parts of your game, whatever those fun parts are.
Stepping into the console world, the Nintendo DS in this case, I also had a lot of fun with Puzzle Quest, and I’m looking forward to the sequel, PQ: Galactrix. It’s out now, I just don’t have it yet. I’m waiting for a sale.
I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria on the PS2. After devouring the Kingdom Hearts games (my favorite games of any I’ve played, any platform), and with a deep respect for the original Valkyrie Profile, Silmeria scratched my PS2 itch nicely. I’ve only gotten a bit more than halfway through it, and my brother is borrowing the PS2, so I’m looking forward to picking Silmeria up again. It’s a bit grindy, which is a tad unfortunate, but the great combat system makes up for it in large part, and the story keeps me wanting more. I’d say that playing the original isn’t completely necessary, but it sure does add a lot to the story. (Even if VP2 does do some nasty things to the timeline.)
I’d realllly like to enjoy The Force Unleashed. I just want to do so on one of the latest, greatest piece sof hardware (preferably a backwards compatible PS3), but neither the machine nor the game is in the budget for now. I’ll settle for borrowing the novel from my friend when I get a minute. I’ve heard that it’s still not the greatest game in the world, and it’s no KOTOR or Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi, but it’s apparently fun to play and better than Episodes 1-3, so I’m up for a jaunt with the new kid on the Star Wars block. (Plus I want to see how he manages that light saber without cutting his leg off.)
Even further removed from the digital gaming scheme, I really enjoy a good round of Magic The Gathering, preferably a Limited Draft. I’ve pretty much dropped the game, since I’m far away from my friends who play, and I’m not willing to pony up the price, but I still really like the core game design of MTG, and I often look at how it does things for inspiration. Alpha Hex may even be able to use a limited version of the MTG marketing plan to make the transition to a commercial product. (Which would make the current game I’m working on sort of a testing bed, and the commercial product would have to be even *more* polished, but I digress.)
The storytelling of MTG hasn’t always been the best of breed, but the art is usually top notch in the fantasy world. I’ve got a long list of favorite artists from the MTG stable, among them Kev Walker, Tony DiTerlizzi and Donato Giancola. This desktop looks more like a Greg Staples piece, but he’s among my favorites as well. When I want to dig into digital painting again, I’ll be looking at these guys’ art, as well as a handful of other artists like Don Seegmiller, Didier Samwise and Ryan Church. I really need to make more time to paint.
I do take time once in a while to take some pictures of the great outdoors that we’ve got around here. I love the mountains, snow and fall trees. This is the view outside my kitchen window. I already miss the snow.
Oh, and for passing on the meme virus, I’ll admit to a bit of morbid curiosity as to what Wolfshead and Muckbeast might turn up, and whether or not Chris and the good Cap’n John have seen this. Anyone else who wants to pick this up can consider themselves informed. I could make a list of at least a dozen more blogs that I’ve found to be interesting and well worth reading, so if I’ve not mentioned you, please don’t feel slighted. I’m just no good at this meme thing, perhaps.