Saturday, 31 October 2009

Internet: Fry ponders leaving Twitter site

I was very sorry to read this link today and see that Stephen Fry has been upset by another Twitter user to such an extent he is thinking of never using it again.

He's a hero to a significant proportion of the MMO blogosphere. Tiger Ears describes meeting him with great affection. On Kiasa his site is listed under category "God".

Just in case anyone has missed his work here's a clip of him at his funniest: Hugh Laurie interviews Michael Jackson.

MMO players will need no introduction to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

People do behave more anti-socially and something I've observed is that they often define certain other people as there to serve them.

What can we do as internet users to raise the bar? Can peer pressure improve our virtual social spaces?

For myself what I sometimes find hardest is not that someone gives me verbal abuse but that no one else says anything. For example if I'm healing a pug group in a MMO and we wipe and some idiot starts berating me when it wasn't my fault I don't mind that he's an idiot. I mind that no one else speaks up, giving the impression that they agree.

Afterword: it ended amicably but the issues raised are valid ones.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

DDO: Microtransactions analysis

I'm going to look at two areas in this analysis: the types of items sold and the types of spender buying them. I will also be looking at the new items in the DDO Store that were launched today.

Types of spender

Impulse or planner?

Each of the following types can be split into impulse buyers, people for whom money generally burns a hole in their pocket and needs to be spent, and planners, misers who begrudge wasting a single point unless they see long term benefit and great value for money.

I'm a good example of the planner type. I only bought points because they were on sale (5000 TPs for $49.99). I plan to make these points last for as long as possible, ideally for the rest of the time that I play the game. I have only bought adventure packs that were on sale and (in a moment of weakness) the Monk class when it was on sale. I systematically work to grind more points in game whenever I can. I have about 3300 points left despite having bought over 3000 non-discounted TPs worth of content.

1. The Veteran VIPs

Long-term players of DDO were given a bundle of Turbine Points when Eberron Unlimited launched based on the Favour standings of their characters. Many had close to the Favour cap (which is around 3500) and had multiple characters across several servers. So many of these players found themselves with several thousand TPs, in receipt of 500 more TPs per month and with no plans to not be VIP in the future.

Effectively these players have money to burn.

These, I think, are a big part of the reason experience and loot potions are consistently high in the Bestsellers list for the store. There really isn't all that much for these players to spend their money on. While they could buy permanent access to content it's not worth it for them because they plan to stay subscribed for as long as DDO interests them.

They are very noticeable in game - players who have exp and loot potions running but who will patiently wait while some newbie is lost.

Impulse VIPs will burn through these points quickly. Whether it's permarunning exp potions or handing out guest passes to newbies they will spend them in the next few months if they haven't blown them all already.

Planner VIPs will stockpile points for if they ever quit. Having a large points stockpile will allow them to convert a lapsed subscription account into a premium account with most of the same features.

2. The new generation Premium/F2P grinder player

These players are paying as they go, whether by buying TPs from the store or by grinding Favour in Elite dungeons. I'm one of these.

We tend to be very cost conscious. Grinding 25 TPs takes an evening or two so we're not likely to blow 300 TPs on an exp potion.

Main attractions for us are adventure packs and other permanent account upgrades. Possibly sigils too as they're semi-essential and not everyone knows the optimal way to grind them.

Impulse pay as you go players may spend silly amounts of money. One forum thread recently concerned a player who had spent $200 on mana potions healing groups with his mid level cleric. He could have kept them healed using wands bought from vendors cheaply for in-game gold.

Planner pay as you go players will wait for sales and other discounts and then buy permanent content. We will promote the game by telling people how cheaply we got access to it all without generally realising that most non-planners will spend much more money to get to the same level.

3. The F2P tourist

This player just popped in for a look while his WoW server is down for maintenance. He has a very cursory grasp of the game and has no interest in saving points. In fact if he gets more serious about the game later he can always just make a new account if he wastes all his TPs.

These players are the reason healing potions and level 1 hirelings are so high in the Bestsellers list. They sign up, log in and spend.

Impulse players are actually the smart ones. There really is no reason for tourists to save points, they can always make a new account if they actually decide to play more seriously.

Types of purchase

1. Levelling enhancement potions. Experience and loot potions give you greater rewards for your time. In some cases these players are paying real money to miss the game because they are obsessed with end-game. Most of these sales are driven by VIPs who know the levelling content well and no longer wish to dwell in it for long.

2. New player experience items. Low end healing potions, level 1 hirelings, +1 weapons and armour sell well because people start with money and are encouraged to spend. For many players they simply don't expect to play for long and are better off spending their points than keeping them.

3. Account options. Shared bank is a significant upgrade for alt players for 2 main reasons. It allows you to dump loot for your Hagglebot Bard to sell (a character specialised in the Haggle skill for maximum profit) and it uniquely allows Bound to Account items to be transferred (they can't be mailed, so basically without the shared bank Bound to Account = Bound to Character).

For us miser types there are three workarounds to the shared bank. You can mail high value items to your Hagglebot. Not as efficient as the shared bank but it saves you 1500 TPs. Or you can just play a Bard. Or you can just vendor stuff for whatever price and simply not make as much gold. It seems that after a while people have more gold than they know what to do with anyway.

Extra character slots will sell particularly well to players going from VIP to Premium as the number of slots drops dramatically from about 14 to 4.

4. Spells and potions. Most of this stuff is stuff you can pick up pretty easily in game and seems rather pointless to me. The unique utility though is that you can get them instantly in a dungeon. So if you've soloed a long dungeon and get blinded right near the end you can buy a Cure Blindness potion rather than quit.

The most interesting buy here are the Teleport Rods and Friend-Summoning bracelets. These significantly improve travel times. Of course you still have to do just about everything in the game as part of a group so I'm not sure that teleporting to a dungeon while your friends have to run there is a huge advantage. Also most content is pretty centralised.

5 Healing. This is a huge money pit for the unwary. Basically it allows players to throw Turbine Points at problems to solve them. Obviously it appeals strongly to people who don't pay for or grind TPs.

I honestly think most sensible players will get their healing supplies in game for gold and/or go somewhere easier, take more than one healer in the group. It seems daft to me in a game with healer classes to spend real money on healing. I'm mean, I know.

6. Stat buffs. Buying temporary stat buffs can be a way to unlock certain runes in the game which will let you access additional areas. You can however find potions in game that boost stats or even clickable items that buff you 1/rest or 3/rest.

Buying permanent stat buffs may seem appealing but it's really not. If you really like the character you will raid and in raids +3 or +4 tomes drop. So why spend real money on a +1 or +2 stats tome when you may get a better one later? Also tomes used are wiped if you True Reincarnate. "Permanent" stat buffs are less permanent than they sound.

7 Levelling sigils. These sell quite well as many players don't know how to farm them. They drop as quest rewards for appropriate level quests so if you want a silver sigil you have to run short level 5-8 quests with an end reward. They don't drop in Korthos or in wilderness areas. You are not farming them efficiently if you do long quest chains with rewards only given at the very end like Waterworks.

For many people it's best to just enjoy the game and get one if you get one without optimising your farming. If your mates want to try a wilderness area it's a bit churlish to say, no, I've got to farm Harbour quests.

For what it's worth I've had about 10 characters to level 4 now and every single one has got his Copper Sigil from questing. Another tip is that you can go over your maximum level and still collect exp while your bar is blue. I think it caps out at +2 level's worth of exp.

Personally, being the miser/altoholic type if I couldn't farm a sigil before I maxxed out on experience I'd probably just make a new character. At least I'd earn some more TPs levelling back up.

8 Bigger bags. A staple of every cash shop game. As a miser my advice is just to empty your bags of junk more, you don't need 30 different types of potion. Coin Lords rep gives you more bag space, one of the other rep gives you more bank space. You have enough, really people. Medium size bags are available for in-game gold from a vendor in one of the Houses (House P maybe?). Large bags occasionally drop as loot or can be purchased in the Marketplace for an in-game shard turn-in.

Unlike many games you don't accumulate quest items in your bags. You may pick up quest items in a dungeon but they are dropped when you zone out.

9. Hair dye. An extremely popular seller and one I have regularly seen in the cash shop Bestsellers list. People love to make their character look unique. Vanity items have been at the heart of the microtransactions revolution.

New store items: 28/10/09

4 new products were added to the store today:

32 Point Build Characters   
Allows you to make more powerful characters! This account upgrade allows you to make characters with 32 points to spend on stats at character creation instead of the standard 28 points. Without this account purchase, you can still unlock 32 Point Builds on a specific server via the total Favor reward.
Price: 1495 Points

I can see this appealing to a great many players. It's a hell of a grind up to 1750 Favour to unlock this facility on a server.

How much do you really need those extra 4 build points? On casters and fighter types not much. On MAD (multiple ability dependent) characters like Monks, Paladins and Rogues it's pretty useful.

It doesn't seem to have much effect in-game. Grouping is mainly a matter of good character build and not doing stupid things like running into traps.

Hair Dye Reversion Tonic   
Permanently changes the color of your character's hair back to the original color he or she had at character creation.
Available in single and x5 applications.

Price: 15 Points for single application
Price: 50 Points for 5 applications

Heh. Well I suppose there must be a demand for it. Thanks for financing my game to whoever is daft enough to pay real money for this.

The Path of Inspiration Adventure Pack   
Level 17-19 quest series with 5 adventures.
The Inspired rebuilt Stormreach’s Old Harbor, but are the Inspired a dream come true or a nightmare? Explore 5 hand-crafted adventures that take you beneath the Harbor, to a savage island, and into your own mind as you discover the Inspired’s terrible secret.
Price: 495 Points

Definitely one I will be looking out for in the sales. Can't fault them for adding end-game content (well almost end-game).

+1 Shuriken x50
A small circular throwing weapon with a serrated edge. These +1 weapons give a small bonus to your attack chance and do 2 to 3 points of slashing damage. NOTE: Requires the Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Shuriken feat. Contains a stack of 50 shuriken.
Price: 120 Points

You can now literally throw money away! Huzzah!

Again thanks to Daddy's credit card for financing my game. This and the other +1 and +2 weapon and armours are just junk for clueless new people. +1 and +2 stuff drops all the time in quests and chests. It's sub-optimal anyway, elemental damage weapons is apparently what clued up twinkers use.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

DDO: What's hot in the DDO shop

DDO's microtransactions work on an in-game currency called Turbine Points that you buy with real money. Subscription players (called VIPs) receive 500 Turbine Points per month as part of their subscription although this stipend has been subject to some delays since Eberron Unlimited went live.

Turbine Points have a real world cost that varies according to how many you buy at once. It is also occasionally possible to see them offered at discount prices. At their absolute cheapest you can buy 5000 points for $49.99. The standard rate for the smallest points package is 400 points for $6.25.

So the real world value of Turbine Points is between 1 cent and 1.56 cents each.

The current top sellers in the store are:

Major experience elixir (grants 20% bonus to experience for 6 hours) 295 TPs

Siberys spirit cake (returns target to life, 1 use, not usable in raids) 150 TPs

Moderate heal potion X 50 (each heals 5-19 hit points) 150 TPs

Greater experience elixir (grants 20% bonus to experience for 3 hours) 195 TPs

Medium Jewel of Fortune X 5 (each grants +1 level to loot found in chests for 6 hours) 125 points

Drow race (create a Drow character on any server, permanent upgrade) 795 points

Cleric lvl 1 - Dryad Willowisp (level 1 cleric hireling, 1 hour Gold Seal contract. Gold Seal contracts allow the use of multiple hirelings) 10 points

Lesser experience elixir (grants a 10% bonus to experience for 3 hours) 50 points

Moderate heal potion X 10 (restores 5-19 hit points per use) 50 points

Secret Door Divining Rod (reveals secret doors for 5 minutes, 1 charge) 30 points

Barbarian lvl 1 - Byron Scoutsword (level 1 barbarian hireling, 1 hour Gold Seal contract. Gold Seal contracts allow the use of multiple hirelings) 10 points

Shan-To-Kor (level 3-5 adventure series with 4 adventures and 2 combat area objectives)

I've listed the items in the order they display in the Bestsellers section of the DDO store. I believe it's in order, ie the first item on the list is the item they sell most of.

None of these packs are on special offer. The only notable thing missing which is usually on the bestsellers list are the sigils of levelling. However these have been on sale the last few days so possibly there was a rush for these on day 1 of the sale so no one needed to buy them in the time period for which the data for this bestsellers list is collected (I'm guessing it's based on a 24 hour period, collected once daily)

I'll analyse the list tomorrow, I think it's very interesting to see what most people are buying.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Gaming: is it fashionable?

Terra Nova visited the issue of gaming as a social stigma today after an article on the subject in the UK Guardian.

Here's my take:

It's about sex.

When game designers (or even game academics) become the kind of superstars women want to date it won't be a stigma.

It's already happened to Football. When I grew up in the UK people who actually went to stand in the rain on a Saturday afternoon were called "anoraks" (a pejorative term akin to "nerd", also a kind of coat worn by sad nerds who stand in the rain on Saturday afternoon watching football or spotting trains) and mocked. Then once footballers started getting huge pay packets and appearing on random TV as celebrities they became sex symbols ultimately leading to the phenomenon known as David Beckham.

In thirty years time female fashion icons will be looking for game designers to marry. Non-gamers will be misusing gamer jargon at parties to get laid.

Don't believe me?

Compare and contrast these two images:

This is the image of a modern game designer:

This is the image of a successful woman

Are they not two worlds on a collision course?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

DDO: Paying for F2P: a cheapskate's perspective

I decided to pay some money for my free game.

I bought 5000 Turbine Points. They were at 10% off so I paid $49.99.

Now what's nice about this is

1) It's effectively a lifetime sub. I will earn more points by playing and I only buy adventure packs so any points I spend will be with me for good. $49.99 compares very favourably with the cost of a lifetime sub in Lotro or Champions Online, the two titles that offer that facility.

2) I double-dip the discount. 10% off my Turbine Points then I buy packs which are reduced. I just bought two packs at 35% off so the total discount is 41.5%

3) Spending money at the store upgrades me from F2P to Premium. This gives the following benefits:

Character slots: up to 4 per server from 2.

Queue: up to high priority from standard. I've never had to queue anyway.
Chat: up to unlimited from limited (although to be honest the limits were barely noticeable).

Auctions: up to 20 at a time from limited to one at a time (a very heavy restriction). (It says Unlimited in the chart here but Borror0 let me know it's 20 auctions for premium players. Thanks mate!).

Mail: up to unlimited from limited. Never did discover what the limits were, presumably you can't mass mail gold spam to strangers on free accounts)

Gold storage: up to unlimited from limited (although to be honest as a noob I was unlikely to hit the gold cap which is only in effect up to level 12 anyway).

Customer service: full for 45 days up from self-service online. (I've used the self-service once, when I couldn't log in to their forum and they fixed it pretty fast so can't say this is an issue)

Compendium: up to read/post from read only. (If I feel like helping them build their wiki).

Forums: up to read/post from read/limited posting. (It will be nice to be able to post outside of the F2P section. In particular the server forums are read only for F2P which is very restrictive).

So far I have the following balance sheet for Turbine Points:

Bought 5000
Earned through playing after a month: 996

Tangleroot Gorge 358 (down from 550)
The Catacombs 200 (down from 250)
The Vale of Twilight 455 (down from 700)
Demon Sands 552 (down from 850)
Total  1565

Balance 4431

Between buying the packs when they are heavily discounted and earning more as I play I think I will have a very long way to go before I start getting low on points. I'll probably never get through them.

Friday, 9 October 2009

DDO: The turbo favour Barb

Store points for the DDO item shop can be purchased or earned by favour.

There's a one off payout per server that roughly translates to get an alt to 50 favour on every server. (You can delete it afterwards if you like).

You also get a payment of 25 Turbine Points for every 100 favour earned.

You can earn this payment multiple times by zerging a new character to 100 favour then deleting it.

This is a look at a build designed to do that fast.

Race: Dwarf. Dwarves get enhancement bonuses to axe damage which is probably the most useful early game enhancement. Other useful enhancements include various saving throw bonuses, axe hit chance, Constitution and combat adjustments against certain creatures. It's a good collection.

Also starting with +2 Con and -2 Cha is useful.

Stats: 18 Strength, 18 Con, 10 Dex, rest leave at base. Hit stuff, don't die, nuff said.

Skills: Jump, Balance and Swim. All of these save time in the very early game. Later Swim becomes redundant when you get an item allowing underwater action but you'll be deleting the character before that and there's a lot of water on Korthos Island.

Feat: Toughness or Weapon Focus: Slashing. Toughness is nice because it allows you to pump the hit points with enhancements making a big difference in the early game.

So what are the strengths of the build?

1) Movement

Innate 10% move bonus, stacking +35% Sprint ability usable 5 times a rest and Expeditious Retreat from your Anger's Boots twice per day once you've done Redemption. This is a very very fast character.

2) Very high early game damage.

You're optimised for Great Axe and guess what the big weapon pushed at you in the early game is? That's right.

3) Burst damage

Many early instances only really have one nasty fight. Rage once per day is perfect for that.


Worse saves and armour than some of the other options like Paladin. Tempting to play him like a zerging maniac in groups which might annoy others if you can't control yourself.

Strategy: skip The Grotto, then group if you can. If you can't find groups then zerg Korthos on normal, grabbing a cleric hireling as soon as you can.

You are looking for fast groups doing Elite instances where possible. Hard is ok. If they're doing Normal it won't be quicker to do it with them than it would solo.

You're zerging straight to the objective in your quest window. No point worrying about optionals, experience or chests. Just zerg straight there then finish out.

Keep an eye on your Favour count. It's quite easy with a character like this to lose track and grind to about 110 favour without noticing!

I can finish running one of these in an evening.

PS: take the Feather Fall cloak from the Redemption quest. Speeds up Misery's Peak quite a bit.

Update: you can now start at level 4 after you've ground out 1000 favour on a server (or buy this facility in the cash shop). It will be much quicker doing Turbo Favour Barbs if you start them at level 4.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

WoW: The economic game - a rant

I posted this on Klepsakovic's blog then I decided it might be of general interest. hadn't had a good rant for a while :-)

Ah but what's a "decent bit?"

Take Saronite. If it's over-farmed then the price drops to vendor price. Is the vendor price not a decent price? 25g for a stack of something you found for free while doing something else?

If you want to craft that Saronite into armour or whatever you need to follow market economics. Blacksmithing has always been a very badly designed profession from an economic point of view.

Apart from a few hot items like Truesteel everything on your recipe list is useless once you have skilled up. The value of things like Runed Copper Bracers is to skill up or to make one for yourself if you're a lowbie alt.

If people flood the market with the few good sellers (eg belt buckles) then it's bad for casually trading Blacksmiths but the casual guy didn't become a Blacksmith to make money. He picked it for the socket.

WoW has a terrible economy. It's always had a terrible economy. The only way it would not have a terrible economy is if people needed crafted gear for raids and top level pvp AND if gear gets destroyed. Those in turn are terrible choices to make when designing a game for raiding.

What interest there is to be had in WoW's economy is now being appropriated by hardcore players. Where once no one cared about gold now hitting the gold cap is a thing to brag about.

This really isn't any different from other areas of the game where hardcore players dominate. Hardcore pvpers win arena. Hardcore raiders dominate raiding.

The only reason this is a development is because it's a side of the game which was always trivial.

And you know what?

It still is trivial.

So if you're mainly a raider and you can no longer sell belt buckles just run a few dailies. Or grind some eternal fire in WG.

If you grind it you'll notice how little gold you actually need in the game - there's nothing to buy except fluff.

Eve Online: Margin trading - the basics

I'm heavily into the market in Eve (the auction house).

The way the market works there is by a kind of poll position system (to use a Formula One analogy).

Suppose I see that Shield Booster type Zs are being sold at 50k and bought for 10K. I put in a Sell Order for 49 999.99 and a Buy Order for 10 000.01.

I now have the dominant market position for this commodity.

It's perfectly possible and reasonable to take the dominant position in sales without worrying about purchases or vice versa.

Most people sort the listings by price. They will now find my order at the top if they want to sell and my other order at the top if they want to buy.

Until some other undercutter undercuts me all trade in Shield Booster Type Zs is mine and I make 40K per pair of buy and sell.

Eventually the margin will compress so that shields are being sold for 25k and bought for 24 900.

Before this happens I'll have jumped over to some other commodity with a nice wide margin and start trading in that.

I trade in a wide number of different commodities and don't always pair buy orders with sell orders on a given day. So one day I might be buying Shield Booster Type Z but I don't have any in stock to sell. Next day I'll be selling the ones that came in but may not necessarily buy them.

I also aim to review my orders daily. Twice daily would be more lucrative but that's increasing profit per month at the expense of profit per minute spent doing this. I don't want to spend a lot of time babysitting orders because I have better things to do with my life, both in Eve and out of it. Once a day is fine and it doesn't matter if you miss a day every now and then.

I generally undercut small. Deep undercutting is a strategy aimed at discouraging competitors by reducing or eliminating their profit (and my profit). It's always to some extent pyrrhic. In Eve you won't discourage anyone by trashing a market (unless they're idiots) since they can just hop over and trade in something else. The only people you may discourage are manufacturers and since I'm in the role of margin trading stuff that other players make or loot it's really not good policy to screw over my suppliers. I'd prefer they keep filling my orders with their hard work for me to make easy profits on!

Occasionally I'll vary my method from the small undercut.

If I see most people are selling at 50K but one guy is selling 1 of the item for 25k I'll assume it's exceptional and buy it, then list at 49 999.

If a market looks sold out I'll check the average price and if it normally sells for 50K but the only one listed is some outlier at 50 million I'll list my stuff based on some hefty proportion of the average. Say double or triple, so 100k-150k for something that normally sells at 50k but is currently sold out. There's no point undercutting the guy who has it up at a joke price, it's a listing that's only there to poison the data and won't sell.

I don't hold any sentimental attachments. If something has consistently been a good seller for me at 50K and I find lots of people listing it around 25k I'll get rid of my stock for 24 999 and find a new commodity to deal in. I don't think it's a good idea to hang on to stock because you hope it'll go up eventually unless you are very sure what you're doing (based on extensive data collection). So if you know there's a weekly cycle in missile prices maybe you buy in the week and sell at the weekend but that involves more work and more risk than just searching out things with huge margins.

I'm not worried about volumes. I'm quite happy to buy 200 of an obscure module because stuff at Jita always sells. I have never been stuck not even when I bought large quantities of items that seemed very obscure to me.

I think volumes will be more of an issue for traders who will use the upcoming iphone app. If you are checking your Eve sales from work twice an hour then you can trade in some huge volume commodity like Trit which will sell or get undercut within 15 minutes every time.

I don't think I'd ever want to go that route personally - I don't like playing games from work, puts me in the wrong headspace. I'm not really focussed on professional things if my mind is full of some game.

Still I think the app will encourage a lot of people to play while working and the only thing you can really do in Eve from your phone is day-trade or update skills.

Friday, 2 October 2009

DDO: Codemasters fight back!

The launch of DDO: Eberron Unlimited has created a huge interest in DDO. However the European version of the game, run by Codemasters, decided to stay pay-to-play.

On the face of it it seems utterly unworkable to have two versions of the game, one which is free, one which requires a monthly sub.

Codemasters yesterday attempted to regain some of the lost ground:
- they are giving all former players a free week. Not current players it seems from the wording of the press release which is somewhat absurd.
- they are upping the exp gain by 25% across the board.

Now the free week is pretty standard across the industry now. It's pretty obvious that people who used to play who are casually wondering if they would have fun are considerably deterred from trying an old game they used to play by a sub requirement.

The exp boost is fascinating though.

You see I see playing the levelling side of the game as the main meat of the product. This is certainly what made WoW successful 5 years ago - an excellent levelling game. Eve quite deliberately drags it out infinitely - I don't think anyone has maxxed every skill. AoC's Tortage was miles better than the end-game raids when I played it. And in DDO the vast majority of content is not aimed at the level cap.

But for some players reaching max level is high priority. Exp potions are listed as one of the main Bestsellers in the DDO free version's item store. And that brings us round to the offer from Codemasters - you may be better off paying a monthly sub to always have +25% exp than playing a free-to-play game where you are spending a lot of real money on levelling boosting potions. 

MMOs: Pacing

Psychochild opened a topic on Peaks and Troughs and the way modern MMO game design is aimed at making every moment exciting. He wonders if we've lost something.

The effect for me is that I'm tending to find the games more enjoyable but the people less enjoyable as things dumb down.
I miss most of the old school pacing mechanics because I think we've lost a lot of the social side of MMOs with the improved gameplay.

I was quite frustrated earlier this year how passive our guild members were in my WOW raid guild. No one would help recruit despite us repeatingly asking them to. It left me with the feeling people found it vaguely distasteful, as if the restaurant you eat a meal in asks you to wash up after.

Gameplay-wise things are getting better and better.

I can see it reaching the ultimate stage in SWTOR when I think I may simply turn off all chat channels and disable tells and just enjoy the storylines.

I do find myself however drawing away from that to more social games. Eve is social because it's scary to do anything alone outside of high sec although I'm in a solo cash-building phase for now. DDO is social because it's very old-school group-based play but I do find myself preferring characters that can solo on easier dungeon settings when I can't find or don't want a group.