I received a publication notice yesterday for a piece of fiction. The editor must have liked it because I sent this piece only last week. This is a coincidence, but something so small can make or break your writing habits. I spent yesterday excited about my projects after a long stretch of feeling very blah about them. Suddenly, the markets I had singled out this month in my submission process had meaning again.
Part of the problem is that many of my publications are artwork and poems, which makes the prose part of the trio seem the weakest. This is for two reasons: first, I am more selective about the fiction markets I submit to than the poetry ones, and, second, most lit mags are art-starved because many artists don't know how to submit to them. However, I have been in a creative slump in all areas, but, as I wrote recently, I think the fog is clearing and that I am in for a long period of productivity.
Once, I was asked how many years it took for grief to go by, and I responded that it had been six years between Elizabeth, my first cat, running away and adopting Timmy, our new family cat. Timmy is alive and well, but Tango, the Bengal rescue cat we loved so much, passed away a bit over a year ago. Although he was old when we adopted him, he deserved the best life we could give him, and more of it in my opinion.
Pets are a strange subject to write about because they are both an eminent commonality and very proprietary. You risk adhering to the familiar and sentimental or boring your audience. I wanted to publish work about Tango; I wanted to prove that I could memorialize him in that way.
A while back, I wrote a blog post about list poems. I was experimenting with new forms, and that's how I won an honorable mention in the Binnacle's Ultra Short Contest this year for cat: a google search. Although I marketed it for the contest as poetry, it is nonfiction: a list of terms in my search history, curated over a year of owning a wonderful Bengal cat.
Why did this idea stand out? Well, after Tango's death it was hard for me to browse the web on my computer or ipad because I had spent a year googling cat terms including a lot of items towards the end of his life. Thanks to Google's autocomplete feature, which says, "Hey, you're searching for something that starts with 'ca'--let me suggest some things!" I couldn't look up anything, and I didn't want to clear my search history either. That, right there, is what grief is.
On the heels of this Q&A released on Dulfy, Bioware has announced a new expansion for SWTOR in the fall.
I think I can side with the raiding/pve community in calling this too little, way too late, especially since they have released no details about what content this expansion holds, and the above interview sounds downright passive-aggressive and ignores a lot of common sense, business sense, and the increasing pleading of player demands right up until the mass exodus of pve players in the summer of last year.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with swtor, mmos, or gaming in general, Star Wars: the Old Republic is an online game meant to be played with other people. You can treat an MMO game as a single-player game, but it's much more rewarding to play with and/or against people. SWTOR operates on a subscription model, but recently it's been difficult to understand why to subscribe as this past expansion, which dropped last fall, was all about single-player story content, with nine chapters coming at launch and one chapter per month (roughly) since then, the last to drop in August.
Bioware released a new PVP map recently. I can't speak to how it is. Since the 3.0 expansion in December of 2014, there have been no new operations (raids in MMO jargon) released, just one raid boss in May 2015. Bioware claimed that rescaling all their old operations in the 4.0 expansion, which dropped in late October 2015, counted as releasing 'new' content.
As the leader of one of the largest PVE guilds on any server, with probably over four hundred players lifetime and once boasting ten simultaneous operations teams of eight people, I have had a handle on how the swtor player base reacts, when they demand new content, and what is reasonable, for a long time. Most of the pve community left in the summer of 2015 because Bioware refused to announce new operations release date in the 4.0 expansion tier.
When it became clear they were going to rescale the older operations first, my officers and I agreed that we would look at 4.0 as a reboot, essentially SWTOR 4.0. It's true that it seemed--and it was true--that the 4.0 expansion would resolve a lot of the issues that had been plaguing the game since launch. So we decided that it would be a platform on which to create new operations, and wanted to stick around into the fall, give 4.0 a chance, try out the rescaling, and wait for the inevitable announcement of new operations to come.
Except, the announcement never came. It's true that most of the Aisthesis members had not been around since launch and had never gotten to play most of the content when it was fresh, and that the introduction of new levels and powers made those unscaled operations trivial. However, I anticipated that Bioware could not afford to release new operations after spring 2016, which was a long lead time given how long expansions take to develop. In our discussions of game-theoretic scenarios of how Bioware would react, how to react as a GM and officers and players, and what the timing would be, none of us anticipated nothing. Even after we split from swtor and decided to try other MMOs to do fresh raid content together, it was always with the feeling that we would come back when new operations came around, even if it was just to see them.
Since the split, Aisthesis had and still has three raid teams. It's true that a lot of pve players across all servers have come back out of nostalgia, inertia, or optimism. However, the health of the pve community took a nosedive after the 4.0 announcement from which it never recovered. The health of Aisthesis in swtor took a similar hit. A lot of loyal players have become free to play because there is zero reason to stay subscribed; outside of some vanity items, you can buy passes with gold to do all the things a sub can, and the $15/month price tag is too steep for the lack of new content.
The Q&A, and the swtor dev team's actions, speak to a game that is out of touch with its own metrics, its devoted players, and its business model. Though companies do not generally reveal their numbers of subscriptions or how many players do x and y, both pvp and pve tracking metrics available to the public show how the player base in swtor has become more casual, and thus, less likely to subscribe to the game, less likely to do group content, and smaller over the past months. Because the expansion will affect the guild, I'll be following the news closely, but right now I have zero hope that the dev team cares about or even notices player concerns except to mock them for whining and demanding too much.
Their failure to resolve bugs that have broken the game's economy is even more worrying. In every MMO, a market develops. SWTOR, thanks to a bug, has suffered massive inflation because the devs didn't take the created currency out of the game. That's akin to our government not discovering and prosecuting people who counterfeit money on demand. It means that honest players suffer and that prices have skyrocketed, making it hard to log in and buy anything anymore, and the time spent on earning money in-game useless because of the relative scale of people's wallets.
It would not surprise me if this expansion is swtor's last. I would honestly prefer that to feeling as though I am visiting a mockery of the game I once loved every time I log in. This swtor is like a dying guild that fills you with unease whenever you try to do things with it.
I would like to know what really happened once the game dies. Even though some jaded gamers out there might blame EA, I doubt that's the whole story. EA has every reason to want their games to be successful because that affects their bottom line. Bioware made some massive missteps even before they lost the resources to do anything (if that is indeed the case). Likewise, as a faithful player subscribed since launch, my trust in them has degraded to an all-time low.
I thought DA2 was surprisingly underrated, even if it was annoying that they Mass Effected the DA franchise. I thought ME3 was wrong in a different way than most--while playing my way to top 5% NA in the multiplayer. I thought DAI needed work and was overhyped (what happened to the 50ish hour storyline they promised us?). I am strongly considering not buying Andromeda because of the missteps, petulance, and broken promises of the swtor dev team and my disappointment with the studio's decisions. From a company whose Baldur's Gate series, NWN, and Kotor rank somewhere in my very small gaming Hall of Fame, I have seen none of the right moves made for a long time.
I've been following EA's stock closely since its miraculous rise last year (and kicking myself for not investing). However, between all of this, the Sims 4, and the Battlefield debacles, I have been expecting it to drop back to earth for a long time now. I can respect people who feel differently about Bioware, EA, and swtor, but my history with the devs of swtor has been one of joy, not entitlement, followed by complete disappointment.
My job as GM is to essentially 'administrate' the game's contents to our members. I cannot do this job if the devs do not do theirs, and the opportunity costs of their decisions have been too great. The only reason I remain subscribed is to continue to run the guild for our swtor players, knowing that tens of my friends and peers have quit in protest. I wish I could remain optimistic that the game will turn a corner for me, but I doubt it.
If it weren't for the awesome friends I've made in swtor that have followed me elsewhere, I would be a thousand times more bitter than I am. I am thankful every day that the value from playing it will outlast the sadness of quitting it, and that even if we must move to other worlds, we can do so together.