Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Diaries of a Ganker, Part X - Recceing Warspear

Can't very well call this series Diaries of a Ganker and not gank, so therefore, given that all my toons are fully Conquest geared and require no further grinding for the remainder of the season, I've decided to sally forth into the world and cause some mischief. This was far easier said than done though, as I would soon find out. In sharp contrast to Archeage, where players till non-instanced fields, tend livestock. build houses and populate the roads and sea lanes with trading traffic, the primary purpose of the world in WoW is to provide a zone for levelling. The WoW experience is now perfectly compartmentalised. It's like one of those beautiful specialty cookie stores, where you grab a bag at one end, and walk past the beautifully appointed rows of cookies, each separated and clearly labelled, and pick up the ones that look appetizing with a pair of stainless steel tongs. No rough edges, or stray crumbs to ruin your snacking experience.

Travelling through the lands of Draenor I am struck by how empty the virtual world is. I am on the Gundrak server, which is connected to Jubei'thos. Both servers are supposedly full, but you would never know it by travelling through the zones of Shadowmoon Valley, Gorgrond, or Nagrand. Even at peak Oceanic times these zones are empty, save for the occasional toon puttering away to 100. I have no desire to attack people below 100 - what I am looking for is a zone similar to either Halfhill or the Timeless Isle in MoP, where 100s congregate to do dailies, farming, mining, herbing or whatever. The most obvious choice is Ashran, the new PvP zone introduced in WoD. The problem with this idea is that Ashran, despite its nominal designation as a "world" PvP zone, is actually an instance with a limit of 100 players on each side. Waiting times on my server is about an hour on average, which nixes that idea. Playing on Oceanic servers gives us better ping, but I do miss my old US servers because I never had to wait for anything. Queues were non-existent. In Gundrak I have to cool my heels in the Alliance stronghold of Stormshield while waiting for the queue to pop. It was at this juncture a few nights ago when I realised that the Horde were doing the same thing at the opposite end of the island at the Horde base of Warspear, and that gave me an idea. Back in Cataclysm, my feral druid used to haunt the streets of Orgrimmar and provoke unflagged Hordies into fighting me on their own streets. In the Mists expansion I transferred my rogue to Illidan and ganked around the village of Halfhill with my rogue. This expansion I really didn't know where to go - as far as I knew every player in WoD now just live in the hermetic bubble of their garrison. There's no reason to leave - most content is instanced now, and only require you to join a queue to partake. Dailies have fallen out of favour due to their negative Skinner overtones, and raw crafting materials are produced in such abundance by each player's garrison that there is no point going out into the world for them. Aside from levelling and a few side things here and there like pet battles and rep grinds, there is really no purpose to the greater world of Azeroth. After seeing the bustling and organic lands of Archeage I now know how sterile and lifeless the WoW virtual world is in comparison. There is literally no one left in the world to fight - except in Warspear.


The world PvP zone of Ashran.

Warspear is the Horde "capital" for the WoD expansion. During the Burning Crusade it was Shattrath, in Wrath it was Dalaran, in Cataclysm it reverted back to Stormwind and Orgrimmar, and in Mists it was the Shrine of the Seven Stars and the Shrine of Two Moons for Alliance and Horde respectively. Warspear is situated on the northern end of the island of Ashran, Blizzard's designated world PvP zone. It stands in opposition to the Alliance stronghold of Stormshield at the southern tip of the island. There's only one way to get to Warspear, and that's to swim there. Actually, there's two, but the second one entails being able to enter the Ashran battle itself, and as stated earlier, that requires queuing up for an hour to become eligible. An invisible boundary surrounds Ashran, and once you cross that border you are automatically queued for the battle. If you stay within this boundary you will be automatically ejected back to Stormshield if you have not yet been called in.

A direct approach is therefore unfeasible, which means it's time to don my goggles and swimwear. Fortunately I'm a druid, and one of our class perks is our ability to shift into an aquatic travel form. The trip to Warspear is straightforward but is somewhat long - it takes about five minutes to swim all the way there as a baby orca. There are no hazards in the water to worry about - the only concern is making sure that I stay well away from the invisible Ashran boundary so as not to be queued accidentally. If I'm queued and within the boundary I will be summarily booted back to Stormshield after about 30 seconds, so it was simply a case of swimming further out whenever the queue popped. After an uneventful journey I soon arrived at the western approaches of Warspear, and there I paused to consider my next move.


Bjørn considers his next move as he surveys the Horde stronghold of Warspear from the jagged outcrops of the west coast.

Surveying the stronghold from the jagged rocks at the western side Warspear didn't look so formidable, but looks were deceiving. My first attempts to penetrate the interior were foiled by the cramped architecture and the numerous NPC patrols guarding the approaches. These NPC guards are almost invisible when they're your own faction, but as an intruder in my enemy's capital they were a formidable hazard to be overcome. They have a fairly large aggro range, they respawn quickly, and some of them are able to see characters in stealth. If you've never prowled around in your enemy's capital before you will not have seen these patrolling NPCs with "eyes" above their heads doing the rounds. I find it helpful to raid mark these scouts with symbols so as to see them coming more easily. Despite my best attempts, however, I found the western side to be very difficult to penetrate. The guard placement and patrol routes were just too densely packed, and I found myself being "made" and having to flee into the sea to escape. As a druid I no longer have the luxury of a rogue's Vanishes - as soon as I am caught I am stuck in combat until either my assailant or I am dead. I'm also a Worgen druid, which means no Shadowmeld - on the upside, however, I do have the extra sprint, which gives me some extra mobility. If I get "made" my only option is to finish the fight quickly, or run into the sea, shift into orca form and swim away until I shake the aggroer.

Having no luck at the western approaches I decided to try to infiltrate from the northern side. I found more success here - there were larger gaps between the patrols, and much to my surprise I found an enemy shadow priest AFK by himself near the bluffs overlooking the ocean. I quickly dispatched the priest, and displaced to the eastern side immediately. My goal was to conduct reconnaissance, so I didn't want to get into a protracted fight. Once the priest returned from being AFK he would alert the garrison to my presence, and I had no wish to be around that area when the Horde started to sweep for me. Death mechanics on Ashran are different to those of Azeroth - when you die you rez at the graveyard at your faction's base. There is no corpse running involved, which means you can't just die, run back to your corpse, and resurrect back at the scene of the fight. In Ashran, much like in BGs, once you die you have to start again from the graveyard all the way back in Stormshield. This made dying an expensive business in terms of time, and as a consequence I was much more wary and risk-averse.

Moving to the eastern side I found more space to manoeuvre, but again penetrating into Warspear's interior proved difficult. There was space to move here, but it appeared to be a locale not frequented by the Horde, which made it useless for ganking purposes. I really wanted to get into the interior, and wreak havoc amongst the folk who thought themselves "safe" in the heart of their stronghold. While I was ruminating, however, a Horde hunter suddenly appeared at the east side and began talking to one of the NPCs. I didn't like the match-up - good hunters are impossible to beat one versus one, at least in Rated play, but I had surprise on my side and there is always that better than even chance that the player isn't that good anyway. So I thought, why not, I'll have a go.

When you open on people in Arenas and Rated BGs they already have a plan in mind, and their response is automatic and honed over hundreds and hundreds of games. They may sit your opener, trinket immediately or use some kind of class escape, or holler for their team mate to peel immediately. In world PvP however, it may take a second or two for what is happening to register, and this is what I was counting on when I opened. Kitty burst is also fearsome - the combination of Incarnation of Ursoc, Berserk and burst trinket allows you to put out ridiculous amounts of damage. Before the hunter knew what was happening he was almost dead. He popped Deterrence, but it was too late - he had both my bleeds (Rip and Rake) already ticking, and as soon as Deterrence went down I simply charged him and finished him with a pair of Shreds.

Once the hunter went down I displaced immediately to avoid reprisals. I kept moving south along the eastern edge of Warspear, probing for a path inside. I found a promising route atop a crumbling wall, but it terminated in a drop into the heart of Warspear. This was a one way ticket - I would be in, but I would also be trapped inside. The removal of flying in Draenor has once again made terrain relevant - penetrating Orgrimmar was a cakewalk by comparison, as all I had to do was fly in. I also recall having to watch the skies back in Cataclysm - once people in Orgrimmar were alerted to my presence the Horde used to sweep back and forth overhead on their mounts while my druid tried to tippy toe away and move to another area. No need for Z-axis considerations in Draenor - here the threats were in front, behind, and to my left and to my right. No paladin hot drops or death from above by mages or shadow priests.

I decided to drop down, and try to work my way from the inside out. If things went south and I was found then my plan was to simply bolt for the sea while shrieking in abject terror. Mouthing a silent hail Mary my druid landed inside, right in the middle of the Horde's training dummy area. Pulse racing I padded away as fast as possible from the Hordies practising their rotations on the mechanical dummies. I felt like I was playing a 3D version of the game Frogger - like the protagonist of that ancient arcade game I was frantically weaving back and forth to dodge passing traffic. I finally found a spot where I could rest and catch my breath, which oddly enough happened to be the exact centre of Warspear.


Bjørn in the heart of Warspear, apparently checking his inventory. Where the hell are those agility flasks?

Now the problem was going to be to figure out how the hell to get out of here without being detected. After a moment's reflection I realised that this was not a problem at all. I could literally just run away in any direction I wanted and my druid's fleet of foot would ensure that I would outstrip any pursuit. Once I was in the ocean I would shift into aquatic form and only other druids would be able to catch me. My druid can breathe underwater - non-druids could choose to chase me into the depths and drown if they liked. With entry point and escape plan now determined I began looking around for chances to make a nuisance of myself. The crowd around the training dummies had thinned down to one solitary warlock, and so I picked him as my next target. I crept behind, looked around one more time and determined my escape route, then pounced.

This fight was tough. The dude reacted immediately, and used Blood Horror to shake me. I trinketed and got back on him, trying to do as much damage as I could. The lock started casting Fear to get some distance, and I reacted by using my Skull Bash interrupt. Too quickly - the lock had juked me. Juking is the practice of fake casting in order to draw out interrupts by casting a spell and then quickly cancelling it. Healers use it, as do spellcasters, and it is the difference between life and death in tight matches in Rated play. In this case the lock had drawn out my impetuous interrupt, and started casting Fear again. Fear is the worst CC for me in this environment, because my character would flee and start aggroing NPCs and guards all over the place. Worse still, it would be a full duration Fear of 8 seconds, because Blood Horror (Incapacitate) and Fear (Disorient) have separate diminishing return (DR) categories. In WoW CCs of the same family diminish the duration of each subsequent CC by half if cast within 15-19 seconds of a previous one. Thus three Fears back to back would last 8, then 4, then 2 seconds respectively, with further Fears being completely ineffective for 15-19 seconds after the final cast. CCs belonging to separate categories however, do not DR each other, which is why Arena compositions are so heavily determined by the type of CC each class brings to the table. A team of three druids, for example, would be sub-optimal because every Cyclone cast by any of the team mates would DR the others. A perennially strong composition has always been RMP - rogue, mage, priest - and one of the reasons is because this team brings every class of CC to the fight and consequently have a lot of non-DRing control to set up kills.
 
The lock didn't need all those Fears to kill me. He just needed one, and my trinket was already down, having used it to break the Blood Horror. In hindsight it would have been better to sit the Horror, as it only lasts 4 seconds, try to interrupt Fears, and then use the trinket if I did get caught. As they say though, hindsight is always 20/20, and now here I was in a position where I really needed to stop this Fear. I used Mighty Bash to stun him, only to have him trinket that immediately, and resume his Fear cast. He knew I couldn't interrupt him, because interrupts have a base 15 second CD, and my Mighty Bash was gone.

Crap, this guy was good.

There was only one option left, and that was to use my combo points to Maim him instead of landing a Rip. Doing this sacrificed damage for control - instead of landing a vicious bleed, I had to settle for a much smaller bleed and a stun. Even worse this stun was DRed by my previous Mighty Bash, which is also a stun, so instead of landing a 5 second stun, it would last a paltry 2.5 seconds. Nonetheless, it stopped the cast, so in effect I bought myself 2.5 seconds plus the time it would take the lock to cast a Fear once out of the stun. Approximately four seconds to lay into this guy, and four seconds closer to having my interrupt come off CD. I piled into the guy, trying to get as much damage as I could before I became Feared.
 
When the Fear came all my "fears" came true - my druid started aggroing guards and NPCs as he ran hither and tither. The lock placed a portal down and dotted me up (i.e. cast a bunch of damage over time spells on me), and my druid began to melt in that slow agonizing way affliction locks dispatch their victims. But it also meant I had some time. The DoT damage broke the Fear prematurely after about 6 seconds. It was now or never. I popped Survival Instincts to mitigate the combined damage from the DoTs and NPCs, hit my burst button and went HAAM (Arena speak for burst - "hard as a motherfucker") on the lock. The lock popped his defensives, which mitigated my damage somewhat, but kitty burst is vicious, and his only real chance would have been to either kite me with the portal, or get another Fear off. He bought himself a few seconds with a Shadowfury stun (3 second duration), and used that time to cast another Fear. Sitting in a stun I could only watch helplessly as the Fear came, but fate intervened. Instead of being sent fleeing to the hills in terror, the NPCS beating on my druid broke the Fear prematurely, and I was immediately able to get back on the lock. He used his portal to get some distance, but he didn't have the time to place it behind a line of sight obstacle (due to him being ambushed and all) and so it was easy to close the gap with a charge. He tried to juke another Fear, but I had learned my lesson. I didn't bother trying to interrupt until the casts were almost done, and so he wasted valuable seconds with two fake casts before finally trying to get the last cast off. This final cast was interrupted by a Skull Bash, and that sealed his doom.
 
With the lock down and me almost dead it was time to GTFO of Warspear. My druid cast Mass Entanglement to root the NPCS, popped Dash and ran for the coast, bolting past guards, NPCs and startled Hordies while trying to keep myself alive with instant Rejuvenations. A DK hit me with a Chains of Ice which slowed me down, but I just powershifted out of the snare and kept running. My health was so low that any number of finishers - Execute, Kill Shot, Shadow Word Death, or Hammer of Wrath - could have killed me. None were forthcoming however, and soon the blue waters of the coast were within reach. I dived off the cliff, shifted into orca form, and swam into the big blue. I had escaped.
 
It had been a very near run thing, and I was lucky to have made it this time. There will be times when I won't be as lucky, or when I will met players who are better than me and put me down. Nonetheless, I will be back - I have found my world PvP zone for this expansion, and I intend to make myself a regular nuisance on the streets of Warspear.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Diaries of a Ganker, Part IX - Inside the Mind of a Serial Ganker

It's been a long time since I went ganking, and I feel like the title of this series has become a bit of a misnomer given that I spend most of time in ranked matches rather than out in the open world looking for Horde to gank. Even in Archeage, I could never claim to have been a ganker but the inverse, a somewhat hapless gankee travelling a treacherous open PvP world exploiting peace time rules, time zones, Nui shrines and situational awareness to mitigate the dangers posed by reds and factional traitors. I didn't stay long enough in AA for the wheel to turn, but nonetheless I am happy to report that I took my licks with equanimity during the times I got struck down by enemy players. There were numerous times where I had adjust my timetable and activities due to enemy player activity, but I accept this as part and parcel of the type of games I like to play. Some people can't tolerate pressure from other players, preferring total control over their play time, and who am I to say that this stance is wrong? I, however, do not belong to this category, and am willing to exchange a modicum of agency for a heightened sense of virtual peril, for factions to matter, and for a deeper, more immersive world where PvE mobs aren't the only threat to my avatar's well being. I want human bad guys in my virtual world. I like player associations to matter, and I like either aligning with, or opposing such factions.

My main for this expansion - Tientzo the Mistweaver monk.

I had ceased ganking and griefing in WoW a long time ago, not because I felt like it was somehow immoral or repugnant, but rather because open world PvP (OWPvP) in WoW is guilty of a far more serious transgression. Simply put, it is boring and meaningless. In TESO open world PvP occurs within the greater backdrop of the tri-partite Alliance war, which gives meaning to the skirmishes, encounters and battles that occur within Cyrodiil. In Archeage open world PvP occurs along trade routes on both land and sea, and is incentivized for both parties by the pursuit of wealth and commerce, as well as being subject to a rough form of "player justice" in the form of Crime points and trial by player juries. In WoW no such incentives exist - open world PvP is a feature which seems to have been simply glued on without any real thought behind it, and as a consequence "player boredom or random mischief" becomes the primary motivation for PvP interactions. In TESO a ganker is a soldier, a scout or a skirmisher - in Archeage they are pirates, privateers or highway robbers - in WoW they are simple murderers and psychopaths, with no real rationale behind their attacks on other players other than arbitrary factional designations.

Factional designation still constitutes just cause to attack someone, especially on PvP servers, because otherwise it begs the question of why people are on such a server in the first place. There are no excuses to be on a PvP server unless you are willing to be involved in non-consensual PvP, given that players have the option to opt out in virtually all MMOs that currently exist. A rugby match goes on for 80 minutes and you probably only spend a miniscule amount of that time being tackled. The rest of the time you are running, passing, kicking or tackling yourself, yet any rulebook lawyer would find it difficult to argue the legitimacy of being tackled unless it was dangerous or illegal. It is part of the rule set, and the infrequency at which it occurs does not render the rule invalid. Nonetheless implied consent doesn't do much to conceal the barrenness of such a playstyle, especially in the absence of greater incentives. It's still defensible to attack someone because they are red - but it seems a thousand times more palatable if you are attacking someone to seize territory, acquire plunder, defend your lands, or advance your faction's score. Being killed in Cyrodiil while defending your faction's keep, or being robbed and killed by highwaymen while trying to smuggle lucrative trade packs in AA is a thousand times more preferable than being abruptly being killed for no apparent reason while questing in WoW, because we can rationalize our foe's actions better. They may still just be fucking with you - but their actions become contextualized within the greater game and becomes a much easier pill to swallow.

I haven't engaged in world PvP in WoW for a long time, aside from the massive and bloody skirmishes which characterised levelling in the opening days of the WoD expansion. Those battles were great fun, which shows that, contrary to everything I just said in the previous paragraph, even in the absence of a greater purpose PvP fights can still be fun in of themselves. Those days were characterised by a curious egalitarian quality, however, which makes that period atypical to world encounters which happen nowadays. Back in November 2014 we were all new - we were all levelling - we were all on a new world whose secrets had not all been laid bare, dissected and displayed on numerous websites and guides. Asymmetrical fights were OK, because we could call for help on chat, and since we were all levelling together, there were plenty of Alliance who were willing and eager to heed the call to arms. Nowadays the zones are suffering the fate of all theme park style areas - players outlevel the zones and render them deserted and obsolete, except for the transient alts passing through on route to 100. Two types of fight are possible in these zones - one in which levelling toons encounter each other and clash, and another where a dedicated ganker like myself actively hunts down and attacks players travelling through the world. The former is more organic, and more in the spirit of the factional strife which characterises Horde and Alliance relations - the latter, given the lack of external motives for doing so, "appears" motivated purely out of mischief or spite.

I use the word "appear" because there can be a disconnect between the intentions of an attacker and their perceived motivations from the viewpoint of the victim. Victims often take their attacks personally, and ascribe all sorts of sinister motives to their attacker. They can be right - there are some angry people out there - but it fails to take into account differing motivations for engaging in world PvP. The most glaringly obvious is that people are playing the game as intended, and questions of "morality" need not even be considered. It's like accusing a chess player of murder when he/she captures your pawn. Another common chestnut trotted out against OWPvP is that it robs people of agency. Does the act of my killing your avatar rob you of your inalienable right to choose a game that suits your particular tastes? Of course not - you are completely free to choose a game, or a server, or a mode that is explicitly non-PvP based. But you can't complain about being ganked in games that are clearly delineated as having non-consensual PvP. Your agency is intact - you can exercise it anytime you like by leaving and playing a game more suited to your tastes.

Hey, S.E.L.F.I.E!

OWPvP games are not created equal, and one of the key factors which determine their quality is the holistic characteristics which contextualize virtual world encounters. Eve has null sec politics, TESO has the Alliance War, and Archeage incentivizes PvP for both pirates and merchants alike with the carrot of commercial gain. The problem with WoW's open world PvP  is that stripped of all the external stuff that better games like Eve, TESO and Archeage have, all you have left is factional loyalty as an excuse for initiating hostilities. In a funny way the design of the game has an impact on the "morality" of an action, because an evil ganker in WoW becomes i) a loyal line member in Eve protecting their sovereignty; ii) an intrepid scout cutting off enemy reinforcements in TESO, or iii) a swashbuckling privateer plundering fat merchants plying the trade routes in AA. The shifting perceptions of ganking suggests to me that ganking is essentially a null signifier, only given meaning by the nature of the game itself, the motivations of the ganker, and the perceptions of the gankee. The act of ganking is neither intrinsically righteous or evil, or good or bad, or right or wrong - it is the context of the game which determines its relative worth.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Murder of Crows, Part I - Kickstarter and Early Access

2015 has been a year of firsts for me. It is the first time I have paid money for an incomplete game, which is what I did when I plonked down $20 to enter the H1Z1 alpha. Early access is fast becoming a dirty word amongst bloggers, but its ubiquity suggests that this disdain is not shared by the masses who flock to early access titles in their droves. Not yet, anyway. I have to confess that I felt foolish after spending my money and then finding myself not being able to log into H1Z1 for the first few days of early access. When I mentioned I was in early alpha my WoW team mate Rykester said "What's that?" My gaming circle is delightfully naïve in many ways - they don't read blogs, they don't follow MMO websites or keep up with the latest trends in gaming - in fact for most of them the only game they play is WoW, and/or whatever game I manage to convince them all to play. So when Rykester asked me what early access was I replied to the effect that it was like a form of game testing, in which the general public were asked to play the game and give feedback based on their experiences. Rykester then said, "Nice! Do you get paid for doing that?" After a few seconds I had to reply no, and then added "Erm, I actually paid them to get in."

"Didn't you say this zombie game was going to be free?"

"Umm...yeah."

"So you paid $20 for a free game which isn't even finished? Why?"

I felt like an idiot.

I don't know when the paradigm shift kicked in, and it became acceptable for consumers to pay money in order to play a game in the early stages of development. Nonetheless it's here and apparently here to stay. Steam has an entire section on games in early alpha, and I have became one of many damned fools who have fallen hook, line and sinker for promises and potential rather than actual concrete product.

H1Z1

Fast forward a month later, and now I find myself again forking money over for a game which has not yet been completed. Crowfall is in an even earlier stage of development than H1Z1 - it's in Kickstarter, which means that we're really only at the concept stage of the game, despite assurances from the developers that the core modules are mostly completed. I forked over money for a concept of game and became a backer, all without even seeing how the game plays. So what's up? Am I just being a sucker again?

There is a difference here, but I'm finding it hard to articulate why I regret my H1Z1 Early Access purchase, but feel proud to be in on the ground floor of the Crowfall hype train. In the first case it felt like a lapse of will - I was always going to buy the game given my love for things zombie-related, and I guess I just lacked the self-discipline to wait until the game was released. There were less selfish reasons to buy the game, too. As I said, I rope my gaming circle into games I'd like to play, and I had told them about this really cool FPS style zombie game in which we could emulate the exploits of Rick Grimes and company in The Walking Dead. I cajoled the guys into playing TESO without really knowing it well enough, and every bug, every broken quest, every crash and everything that was wrong with that game in the first month of its release felt like a betrayal of the group's trust in me. This time around I was going to do my due diligence in H1Z1 before I made any kind of recommendation, and this, I thought, was sufficient cause to drop $20 on the title. I still regret it, however, because I would have been better served waiting until the game went live and testing it on live servers rather than rushing headlong into early access where none of the features have been finalised anyway. Paying money to test a F2P game in alpha is plainly ridiculous, and I don't know when my common sense understanding of this was subverted by having my head too deep into the gaming/blogging meta.

Crowfall

In the case of Crowfall however, it felt like I was doing something positive by supporting developers get the game off the ground. Unlike H1Z1, which was a guaranteed title in production and the only thing up in the air was the release date, Crowfall is explicitly asking for backers for a crowd funding project. Nothing particularly novel about this, except for the fact that after perusing their "prospectus" I was completely sold on their vision and concept of the game. I am squarely in Crowfall's target demographic - I like MMORPG's, strategy games, and open world PvP. You can't get any more specific than that in terms of target audience. I've become a bloody MMO tourist, and it's all because of this blog and being a part of a blogsphere that writes about MMOs. How can you write with any authenticity on MMOs if you don't play them? In the same vein I don't feel like you can advocate a specific style of MMO without putting your money where your mouth is when the opportunity presents itself. Anyone who knows me would immediately realise that the gameplay concepts used to describe Crowfall would appeal to my particular tastes. If I was ever going to back a Kickstarter it would be to back a game much like Crowfall.

The crucial difference between H1Z1 and Crowfall, for me at least, is that I bought H1Z1 hoping for a finished game because I didn't have the patience to wait for it. I fell for the hype, ignored the alpha disclaimers plastered all over Steam and the H1Z1 home page, and jumped in hoping for an immersive survival experience right off the bat. That I was disappointed is totally on me. I invested in Crowfall, however, because I want this game to be made, and if my support helps it get over the line, then it will have been worth it. Small differences to be sure, but it is on these small differences that ideologies are split and battle lines drawn. Just ask Protestants and Catholics, or orthodox and secular Jews, hell, ask the Australian Labor and Liberal parties - I can no longer tell the differences between their political stances nowadays. In the same way I believe that my motivations for H1Z1 and Crowfall are starkly different, and despite being outwardly similar - i.e. forking over money for an incomplete game - they constitute two different cases as to whether it was a good decision to invest or not. One was in pursuit of instant gratification. The other was to help developers create a game that, on paper, would be fun for me to play.

Even then this explanation is unsatisfactory to me, because Camelot Unchained pushes all the same buttons as Crowfall for me as a player, yet I did not give them a single dime. So why back Crowfall and not Camelot Unchained? I fully intend to give Camelot Unchained a shot when it is released, but if I'm supposedly supporting MMOs that espouse a playstyle which appeals to me then why didn't I back it at the beginning? Doesn't that contradict all that high minded rhetoric I just spouted in the previous two paragraphs? More importantly, am I obligated to support every OWPvP game that comes out because I have argued in favour of OWPvP both here and in other sites? 
 
I'm overthinking this, and I'm also holding myself to a ridiculously high standard of behaviour, especially since we are talking games here. In the final analysis it may be as simple as just being convinced by the pitch put forward by Walton and Coleman on their website. There's also that psychological hurdle of never having paid money into an early access or Kickstarter scheme before. Given my background as a gamer I was an ideal candidate to be a Crowfall backer, and the quality of the pitch tipped me over the edge. Not the marketing rhetoric which Bhagpuss and Syl seemed to have taken so much offense to - i.e. "Something deeper than a virtual amusement park. More impactful than a virtual sandbox." - but rather the enthusiasm of Walton and Coleman, the transparency of their funding model, and most importantly, the concept of their game. I find it interesting that Bhagpuss, who I consider to be one of the most level-headed of all bloggers, really seems offended by Crowfall's opening taglines. I react to them the same way I do to Saul Goodman's jingle on Breaking Bad - "Better call Saul!" - tacky and tawdry but essentially harmless. Offensive? I personally find nothing wrong - they seem to be on par with TESO's "Live Another Life" and Wildstar's "MMO's with attitude!" Then again I am already pre-disposed to these types of games. If you don't like the core game then no amount of spin is going to endear you to a title, and may in fact, push you the other way.
 
Great Expectations?
 
I'm not saying that the game is going to be good. I'm hoping it will be, but as the saying goes, there's many a slip twixt cup and a lip. Multa cadunt inter calcium supremaque labra. Unlike Scree, who is already making plans for his new Crowfall guild, I am trying to maintain some perspective on this one. That's a turn up for the books, by the way, the fact that Scree and I are backers and fervent supporters of this game after our difference in opinion regarding TESO. I'm sure we're both very happy that they have reached their funding goal, but there are still a plethora of things that can still go wrong. Let's have a look at them in no particular order:

i) The game developers, concerned at the excess number of titles containing the word "fall" (i.e. Darkfall, Firefall, Titanfall, now Crowfall) decide to change the name of the game to something more original and less derivative. They rename it the Game of Crows.
 
ii) A late flurry of support balloons Kickstarter contributions to over $50 million, and thus encouraged, Warcraft...erm, Artcraft decides to implement a plethora of stretch goals, including dinner with the developer's second cousins, new spaceships, and space combat. When asked about the relevance of space combat to fantasy worlds, the developers simply reply, "Believe." They rename the game "Starfall Citizen" but are immediately hit with a "cease and desist" injunction by Chris Roberts' lawyers.
 
iii) Peter Molyneux takes over the project and promises the winner of the first campaign perpetual sovereignty over Great Britain and the title "King of Kings."

iv) Walton rips off his face like Nicolas Cage in Face Off, revealing that he is in fact Brad McQuaid in disguise. McQuaid promptly changes the name of the game to Pantheon: Rise of the FALLen, and says mockingly, "You should have known you fools! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
 
Lame jokes aside, the possibility of Crowfall not fulfilling the promise laid out in its conceptual pitch is very real, and it's a risk I am willing to take as a backer. Maybe it's going to be a turkey, with sluggish combat and lag spikes up the wazoo. Maybe the project will be hit by interminable delays. Worst case scenario, the game doesn't get made, but here my time in EVE has helped me. Don't fly it if you can't afford to lose it. I've already written off my own modest contribution and am trying to simply forget about Crowfall until I get a message in my in-box giving me access to alpha testing. But for better or worse I've chosen to back it, and so I'm in its corner, willing it to do well and succeed.

I don't know if I'll pay for another early access or help crowd fund another Kickstarter. Never say never, I guess. Unlike J3w3l, however, I have not sworn off early access or crowd funding just yet. I am not completely convinced that either are inherently bad. I am also in the unique position of not having been burnt yet, unlike those poor bastards with Godus. H1Z1 didn't burn me, because they delivered exactly what they promised - an incomplete game replete with bugs, crashes and game-breaking issues. It's not their fault I expected something different. Crowfall could burn me - but for now, I am willing to make a leap of faith and put some trust in the developers. What they do with that, and with the trust reposed in them from the thousands of others like me - well, that's completely on them.