Red Vest Review's are coming. (Yes, I found my dorky red vest)

I FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT! I finally figured out a good old completely over used thing to do for a vlog, that I would legitimately like to do. I'm staring "Red Vest Reviews" where I am going to review something; Old movies, new movies, video games, events, youtube videos, random products that catch my fleeting interest, poor choices from celebrities, yahoo news articles, actual news.... pretty much whatever I feel like and putting my completely politically incorrect opinions everywhere! Bwahahahah! Starting soon, will post a youtube link shortly.


The Solo Player: The Current State of MMO's - Pt.1

In the early 2000's the MMO Genre was largely considered to be the new frontier of gaming, the gaming worlds newly discovered America. Now just 10 years later, MMO's are old news and falling on harder times. Some of the Olden Gamers, those that were here from the start of it all are leaving the Genre. Several highly anticipated games flopped and even the Titan World of Warcraft is facing hardships. What happened? Time and the changing environment, now far less favorable to the Solo Players.
The first real MMO was probably Gemstone IV, which was released in 1989. It was a text based game called a MUD, but it played out in real time with almost no downtime for updates, effectively making it the first MMO to be publicly released. The oldest (and arguably most independent) of all MMO Gamers played this game in its prime. Since Gemstone was played in much the same manner as old school DnD board games, requiring players to actively think about their actions and their interaction with the world through their character, about every single one of its Olden Gamers could be considered as godlike in skill when compared to today's MMO Gamers. At least in mental capacity. Several other noteworthy games were released over the years improving on this concept, such as Never Winter Nights, Meridian 59 and Ulltima Online. While all of these games garnered fairly sized fan bases, they failed to launch the Gamer Communities journey into the New Frontier of MMO's. It was not until the early 2000's when the titanic MMO's Everquest and World of Warcraft were released that the New Frontier became common knowledge and Gamers everywhere flocked to the challenges.
Throughout the mid 2000's, the genre was dominated first by Everquest and then by World of Warcraft, two MMO's of absolutely titanic proportions compared to everything else that Gamers had seen prior. Over the course of this time, Gaming was going through a Renaissance of sorts. Easier access to the internet and stabler, faster connections made online gaming easier and more common even on consoles as the Xbox and PS2 came into prominence. New possibilities opened and Gaming itself changed entirely. Unlike the old MUD format, MMO's in this era were graphically enhanced and played in the 3rd person perspective. The game mechanics known as "farming" and "Dungeon Crawling" became especially prominent in this era. Anyone who was around for Vanilla WoW can recall the Olden Gamers who explored dungeons for weeks on end, relentlessly pursuing ONE SINGLE piece of epic gear in efforts to grow stronger. With both Everquest and WoW, raids became a factor in MMO's that helped shape the Genre and started the movement away from Solo Gaming entirely. The first raids were massive slug fests, requiring great organization and teamwork from all involved. The great beasts players challenged were on such a grand scale that extremely few gamers were capable of single combat with the beasts, and most were completely untouchable without a full army. This era was a taxing one not for the faint of heart, the massive worlds required players to explore the world and complete epic quests for specific rewards. There were barriers preventing those who had not proved themselves from even participating in certain events in the games and a pretty significant amount of time was required to truly reap the rewards of playing such a game. The communities of this era were populated by some of the ancient MUD players and by the new generation of MMO Gamers, many of which are still around. The Industry itself strived not to simply "please the audience" but to challenge them and see just how grand the things could make in the New Frontier would become. There were a few notable titles to be released in this time which, while not even holding a candle to either of the Two Titans, helped promote the MMO genre as a legitimate successor to the previous Gaming Era.
Thus, we come to the most recent Gaming Era. In recent times the New Frontier of MMO's faces the same issues as the Real World exploration of the Americas. While originally a New Frontier filled with opportunities, quickly the Industry populated and expanded over the Genre of the MMO. The mid to late 2000's saw an insane influx of smaller MMO's, entirely mult-iplayer games, and larger corporations making attempts to overthrow the reigning Titan World of Warcraft. Along with these was an increase of players as well, including many younger, newer and less experienced players joining the ranks of experienced MMO veterans. Now MMO's have had an interesting evolutionary process over the course of these ages: originally they were played from the solo perspective, but with other players in the same world as you creating an interesting and competitive environment for all soloists. Over time they changed, adding very team based objectives while still keeping the solo player aspect central to the game, every player had to pull his own weight in a group and forging alliances and friendships was extremely helpful, but did not make or break much beyond the godlike beasts that Raiders challenged. As time progressed, team play became more important and solo players lost much of their prominence. The newest generation of gamers grew up with enhanced social connections thanks to thanks like face book and my space, being constantly connected to networks of people has made the current generation far more dependent on this constant interaction with others. The newer generation bands together far faster and easier than the Olden Gamers, but the cost is their attention spans. Olden Gamers were driven to challenge the worlds they were in, they dungeon crawled and farmed thanks entirely to this competitive drive and had no other choice. NewGen Gamers don't have the same drive, and to adapt to them the industry provided faster, more efficient means to connect with others and play the games. Exploring the world is a foreign concept to the NewGen Gamers, wandering dungeons looking for loot is tedious while simply getting the gear is normal.
Most recently the MMO's being released have been smaller and are going the route of free to play. Some are trying new approaches to the genre itself and others are changing game mechanics. Developers struggle to understand the NewGen Gamer yet this is where the problem facing the MMO Genre comes full circle: the NewGen Gamer itself. Several noteworthy releases show this better than others, of which I will explore in my next blog issue.


The Solo Player: on friend lists

Ahhhh. Friends lists. Perpetual reminders that you are not alone, even when your technically alone in your room with a keyboard. The starting point of anonymous internet jackassary. When these first came out, I have to admit I was part of the crowd that said they would never catch on and truly hoped they would never catch on. Thankfully, this is probably the only subject I can pick for a first blog post that I wont just go on and on and on about leading to god knows how many related aspects of Soloing exist. 
Back in the days of my childhood, we had "Online gaming" but it was entirely different from today. It WAS a solo adventure, because it wasn't truly online and there weren't team matches. Back then I was a unintelligent little kid obsessed with Pokemon and Digimon and Tamagotchi's and platform games, online gaming was going to the mall, or the arcade, or a friends house for a big night of hooking our consoles together or taking turns at the games and bragging about high scores. Online when I started meant finding other players of a game and meeting them to challenge them, thank god for forums and word of mouth. The games on the PlayStation and N64 were the sharpest things we had, so we knew other players on a personal level. I would get online and check various forums to find other players who played Soul Caliber, KoF, MvC, Tekken 3, and the such. We would all end up meeting and having mini tournaments for fun, honor, and bragging rights, and that was online. Hooking up our game boys together to randomly have Pokemon battles, or carrying around the latest crazy handheld wireless game like "POX". I think it was because I grew up in this era that I was so against Friends Lists when they first came out. Back when the original Quake hit shelves I got to see a old schoolmates older brother playing death match, and I almost shit myself. He's playing with other people? From his room? And they AREN'T THERE?!?!?! Queue stereotypical shock and awe. When I first saw the friends list, I remember thinking that it was never going to catch on. Some of the people I recall on that first list were "BaD_A$$153" "I<3UrMum" and "n00biE". It seemed strange to be because I knew all my friends and enemies based on their real names, I would call Justin, Josh and Geoffrey for my backup and I constantly quarreled with Cody, Kevin, Micah,  and Michael, Hunter was like GOD to all of us and Georgia was the girl who we would never admit could kick our asses. Almost everyone I played with I knew on a rather personal basis, even the ones I met and only played with for a single match I would sit down and get to know them.
And then came the PS2. Before the PS2 the only true online gaming was restricted entirely to the PC. Warcraft, Diablo and Star Craft were the holy grails that teenagers played on while never leaving their rooms, the serious business games if you will. With the PS2 came the option for everyone who had internet access to play this way from our houses without ever leaving. Some of the notable games I remember playing were TimeSplitters 2, SplinterCell, Twisted Metal and SWBattlefront  (Beyond the shooters that EVERYONE and their grandma played) and in every game I played I found a strange feeling of separation. I had grown up in the era where playing with other players meant finding them and making efforts to have a personal connection. You couldn't hide behind a user name, you had to actually respect the people you played with and act like you were playing with other people. Thanks to the friends list, all that was dashed away in a heartbeat. As more and more people flocked to the online gaming networks, less people frequented the forums to find people to play with. You had an infinite number of people to play games with and match maker lobbies just set you with people anyway. Your friends list name was who you were.
For a while, I tried it. I had 3 or 4 different names I went by during the early 2000's before I finally settled on my usual moniker of "Grand". It struck me as odd that I would never make connections with the people I played with and I their lack of empathy confusing at first. People were all here to play the game and have fun with other people, except they didn't want to count other people as PEOPLE. Trash talking exceeded levels I had thought were excessive and people really showed nastier sides of themselves. I even remember hearing that video games were now a sport. A SPORT! I spent about 2 hours that day trying to equate being really really good at SOCOM to being a Linebacker  for my school foot ball team, and I failed utterly to do so. The creation of the friends list was the turning point in multi-player video gaming which, while I will admit it did create an environment for the hard core individuals and allow 90% of the gamer population to join in the festivities, it changed the environment and the players in the environment. Eventually I myself found the ability to consider being good at certain video games a sport, and it's a step one never really takes back.
Feel free to add comments or questions regarding this blog post :) Expect the next post next monday, focusing on another aspect, concept or specific game from the eyes of The Solo Player.


The Solo Player

So I gave it some thought and I thought for a blog I would try something original: Chronic solo players in the online gaming era. The guys who tend to avoid premade teams, clans, and the buddy system in favor of acting on their own, but frequent multi player games. They are a big part of gaming and, especially since online multi player has never been easier to join, they deserve some time in the spot light. In my blog I will examine a multi player game, MMO, or aspect of a game from the view of the Soloist, being a chronic loner myself. Probably going to try and update it once or twice a week, I've never really done a blog before. But that's beside the point, expect the first real post for "The Solo Player" next week!