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Epic Slant Press LLC is a small publishing company based in North Carolina that currently focuses on books and games. Positivity is the driving force that guides each and every project that the company takes on. The team strongly believes that with a positive outlook anyone can achieve great things. Epic Slant Press LLC strives to support small and local businesses, aid fellow entrepreneurs, and donate a portion of all profits to charities and good causes.


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The old school wasn’t about loot

Guild Leader FerrelYou all probably know that I spend a lot of my free time reading MMO blogs and participating in forum discussions. To remain up to date with what is happening in the industry and keep my creativity flowing on Epic Slant it is pretty much a necessity. I spend most of my time reading about MMO Design since Guild Leadership isn’t something widely discussed. Sometimes, however, I end up in random places reading random things and they give me “old gamer rage.”

Not too long ago I was asked some questions by Tesh about being a guild leader and it brought back some memories about why I got into it to begin with. At virtually the same time, I happened to fall into a whole group of posts about how hardcore raiders are the devil and only care about having better gear than everyone else. We were being characterized as nothing more than greedy, epeen waving alpha males. To be frank, it upset me. That characterization might be true of this generation of competitive raiders (and I’m not saying it is) but it certainly wasn’t true of the original one.

In my MMO career I have had the distinct honor of being a member of three different competitive raid guilds. I was also blessed with the opportunity to take the top office of Iniquity for just over two years. I can say with complete confidence that during those days it was never about the loot. We were never chasing “the carrot.” Loot was a reward, of course, but it was just a tool that let you get to what really mattered: the win. That is right folks, in every “uber guild” I’ve ever been in, (and we’re not talking just one), we were all about the win. We won as a team and we lost as a team.

Tesh asked me if raiding was even fun and I had to be honest. A lot of times raiding was not fun. Learning new encounters was very difficult back then. Most guilds kept all their information hidden and only those who kept close ties exchanged information. We didn’t post full strategies and youtube videos that said, “Here is how you kill the dragon.” We would suffer through death after death after death just trying to work out the best tactics for our group of people. It was thankless and always a rush against the clock. We weren’t just competing against the mob but also against every other guild that wanted a shot at it. If we didn’t win someone else surely would. Most players these days cannot stomach that many losses. I want to tell a story about what it truly meant to be competitive.

In EQ2 Classic there was a group of weapons called “Prismatics.” They were at the time, peerless. To get one you had to complete an incredibly long quest and defeat multiple raid targets. The last of which was a dragon called Darathar. In those days, not a lot of guilds had defeated him and he was horribly bugged. In some fights he would simply heal to full when his script went badly. He was changed numerous times but Darathar 1.0 was the most difficult encounter out there at the time. Iniquity had worked all the way to him and for a week straight, hours a day, I threw us at that dragon. I could not count how many times we lost. It got so bad and we got so low that Khallid and Durrel, who at the time were playing at my house, looked over at me and said outside of Ventrilo, “Dude, we need more gear. Lets call it and farm a bit longer and we’ll get him. We’re close.” I had heard rumblings that they were going to tone Darathar down a bit and I did not want to miss beating the hard version. That is the thought that went through my head. Not “I want my epic now.” Not “We want his loot.” It was “I don’t want to beat 2.0 when only an elite few beat 1.0.” In the hardest moment of my life I looked at some of my best friends in the world and told them we weren’t leaving and they needed to just suck it up and win. They were understandably frustrated with me. I pushed and pushed and pushed, though, and that very night we won. We beat Darathar 1.0.

It was a labor of love, however, and any good raider will take the bad with the good. Each time that you got a mob a little lower than the last attempt there was a thrill and excitement. When the mob that you’ve been working on for days or weeks gets under 10% and you’re saying as calmly as you can in Ventrilo, “Settle, it isn’t dead yet – keep going,” your heart can do nothing but beat erratically. Each percentage takes an eternity but when it hits zero and the mob falls you would have heard in the Iniquity Ventrilo server cheers and elation the likes of which could rival any professional sports game. Nobody cared what it dropped the first times; it was that win that we wanted. I honestly could not tell you what Darathar dropped that night and, in truth, I don’t care. The only thing that I remember or care about is that my officers and I lead one of the finest group of players and friends to defeat something that only a few guilds across the entire game had. That is my passion. That was my drive.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve long since retired from that lifestyle. My work and personal life just don’t allow me to manage a guild 60+ hours a week and help it stay competitive. I have friends that do, though, and they’re part of the old school. They are not chasing after purple and gold items for the sake of the items. Guilds like ours use loot for two reasons. The first is pretty simple. If we don’t get that loot we can’t move to the next challenging encounter and win. The second might be what players who never have raided competitively are misinterpreting as greed. Winning was about the time. We won and lost because of the team. Loot was for rewarding individual achievement. Those who played well, attended consistently, and were team players were rewarded individually. The item means nothing. Being singled out and rewarded, however, was priceless. Ask any old Iniquity member, even those that hate me, and they will tell you that even though I was usually in the top three when it came to total points I rarely ever took an item first. I wanted to give it to a member and let them be rewarded. My reward was leading and winning.

In my life I have achieved a fair degree of success both professionally and in my private pursuits. I do not say that to brag or puff myself up. I only mention it so I can put the next statement into context. I am not yet a father, so this will change, but to date I have never felt more pride, more joy and more successful than when my guild defeated an incredibly difficult encounter. You may think it sad that I can get so involved in a game but I don’t see it that way. I see it as a group of friends, lead by myself and other officers, achieving something that only a handful of human beings could without cheating, exploiting or using dubious tactics. To me that means a lot and to have it tarnished by the notion that we were in it for the loot wounds me deeply. The loot is long gone but many of my closest friends are still my guild mates in Sodality. It is a testament to the bond we share and our loyalty to one another.

You may call me a jerk for being an advocate of the hardcore raider. You can say that we are (and in my case were) a minority that consumed the most content in the shortest amount of time. You may even say that I only cared that my guild and I had content to do but do not tell me that it was about loot. The old school wasn’t about loot. We were about camaraderie, loyalty, integrity and the win and we always will be.

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11 Responses to The old school wasn’t about loot

  1. Buuncha says:

    And cyber, don’t forget the cyber.

  2. Ferrel says:

    I was under the impression that that was understood Buuncha.

  3. Devilicus says:

    Great Article!!! It brought back memories for me as well. Although we joined you guys not too long after that great fight, we shared many a night pounding away at mobs that would eat us alive and leave us empty handed. The feeling of pride was always the sweetest reward for a victory, especially if the enocunter beat us over and over again.

    The competitive spirit is what drives hardcore raiders, loot is a bonus. Why else would you leave ventrilo on all night with it turned up loud to hear someone yell “VAZGOK IS UP!!!” if you weren’t competitive? Why would you spend free time running from zone to zone to check on contested mobs if you weren’t competitive. To see one up and send out the rally call to battle was awesome. A fond memory for sure, and it was never about the loot until the mob was dead and victory was ours =)

  4. Tesh says:

    So… would you do it without the loot? I mean that quite literally. If there were an MMO where loot was so deprioritized that winning was all about player skills and the thrill of just playing the game, how would a guild like yours function? (I mean no snark, I’m genuinely curious, since I’ve theorized about gear-free design for a while now.)

  5. Buuncha says:

    We’d do it the “first” time for sure. After that what would be the point? The loot has to be the set of tools needed aquired in order to progress to the next challenge.

    So to honestly answer your question; if someone managed to develop a game that had fun character progression that did not involve loot and provided challenging content for us to conquer, we would most assuredly try anhd conquer it. The caveat being howev4er, as I stated before, that we would only need to do it once if it wasn’t required for progressing to the next PvE challenge.

  6. Ferrel says:

    @Tesh

    Buuncha beat me to the punch on this one.

    Would we do it for no loot? Absolutely so! The question is in my mind is, would we do it more than three times? Truthfully? No. We’d move on to the next thing. If there is no reason to gear for the next fight we would consume content at insane rates.

    I would even do it more than three times if we got purely cosmetic loot with no power increase. Looking different is important to me. Not to everyone though.

    We would gladly raid without loot but we wouldn’t be spending too much time in the MMO if content ran out.

  7. Tesh says:

    Ferrel, I’m not too worried about getting people to spend time in any games I design since I’m not using the sub model.

    Of course, that does lead to another set of questions: How much would you pay for a game that has more dynamic content creation under the hood, making for a variable raid experience every time? Do you want it to be the same *until you beat it*, like a puzzle, or would you like to think on your feet and handle dynamic content within certain playground rules? (Say, it’s always a Dragon fight, but sometimes the dragon employs different tactics.)

    In other words, what is the biggest draw? Figuring out a puzzle or beating an unpredictable foe? Herding other players to execute perfectly according to a script, or relying on other players and their ingenuity to handle tactically variable situations?

    Are you willing to pay one time for one puzzle that you are trying to solve, or are you more interested in paying continually for something that might change in dynamic ways?

  8. Tesh says:

    Oh, and thanks as always for taking the time to answer, both of you and whomever else. :)

    I suspected that the draw would still be there, at least for the first shot, but I’m interested in how quickly that interest diminishes, and how to keep the experience alive. (Not because I want people to stick around for sub money, but because I want to make something that keeps being fun.) I figure that there would also be some variability if you change your roster, but that almost requires a script to run, and the only variable is your team composition and execution.

    If you have a team that runs like clockwork, and you’re not seeing a lot of turnover in membership, could dynamic content keep you on your toes enough to have fun, or do you need puzzle-like encounters to really get that achievement rush?

  9. Ferrel says:

    @Tesh

    I’ve personally never been one to mind answering questions. That is sort of my thing so you’ll have to be careful! I rarely stop.

    I like what you’re talking about but there are some issues that I can see with it. As an individual I would say I love the idea of raids being dynamic. That would be interesting and fun.

    As a raid leader I see it being a nightmare really. These things are quite complex and getting all of my ducks in a row was hard enough when the fight didn’t change every time. For us, a big portion of the excitement was figuring out the puzzle. The other half was executing the appropriate tactics. Neither was more important though.

    Now, if raids weren’t so finely tuned and “perfect execution” intensive, I’d say awesome. If we could reasonably react in a fight to a change and not immediately wipe that would be enjoyable.

    I would cation against “different versions” of raid mobs though. It isn’t really dynamic because there are usually a finite amount of options. We would just run in on spawn test which one it is and then execute the appropriate strategy. It is still, “the same mob” though.

    I realize that sounds fickle but a big portion of raiding is the experience. We would visit amazing places, see a monster that is fairly unique, have it use unique abilities and figure out how to beat it. There is some room for dynamic content but the fun factor would diminish with each kill regardless. Lady Vox breathing ice or fire is still Lady Vox.

  10. Tesh says:

    I’m thinking more along the lines of different tactics, not just an elemental shift. You’re right, that would be underwhelming.

    I’m thinking of more dynamic tactics, even, so that it’s a game of act, counteract, with the raid party actions dictating the reactions of the boss critter and vice versa. (Or group of critters, for that matter.) It would, of course, mean a lot more programming and better AI, which means an investment of time and effort… which is why it’s good to know if that’s even what is desired in the first place.

    Puzzle encounters are easy to program, relatively speaking. Easier to play, too… I just can’t help but think that one, dynamic content means more fun because of the increased relevance of tactical decisions, and two, potentially harder challenges to overcome, that mean something beyond perfect execution of a plan. To be sure, execution of a tight plan is a great thing, too… but it’s all we have at the moment in the market. I’m theorizing about where things *might* go, and it’s nice to hear from those who would probably be the prime consumers. ;)

  11. Ferrel says:

    @Tesh

    I think that would be a lot of fun myself. As long as it wasn’t based around perfect execution. I’m all for raid fights that are more forgiving but require different tactical needs on most executions.