Sunday, 12 February 2012

Are You Looking At My Bra? : EQ2

The EQ2Players website hasn't really worked properly for years, which didn't affect me directly since I played most of my time either on Test or EQ2X, neither of which were allowed to use EQ2Players anyway. It affected a lot of other people though and it's been a bit of a long-term embarrassment for SOE. Apparently there was a third-party provider involved and some contractual issues that meant it was harder to get it fixed than you'd imagine but in the run-up to Age of Discovery last year Smokejumper made a rash promise that a revamped EQ2Players would debut alongside the expansion.

It didn't, but this weekend we finally got to see the corner of the curtain lift when the invaluable EQ2Wire team unveiled their sister site EQ2U. It's beautifully designed and  extremely easy-to-use. I particularly like the slightly oversized look, which makes reading character information a more pleasant and less eye-straining experience than I'm used to in-game. EQ2U gets its information directly from something called an EQ2 Data Feeds API. That sounds like something a long way above my paygrade but as far as I can tell it's an always-on database provided by SOE that holds a copy of pretty much all the data about your character that you would be able to see in-game and updates it every time you zone or camp.

This obviously raises some potential privacy issues and I got embroiled in a fairly purposeless spat about that in the comment thread over there. After sleeping on it I've decided that I tend to disagree with myself (not an unusual occurrence by any means). If I still have any issue with it, its probably that SOE chose to make the service Opt-Out rather than Opt-In, but now that I've had time to think about it, I can't honestly say I care that much either way. Linking your characters together so that they show as "Alts" will be Opt-In when it comes, which is probably just as well.

Really, though, the roots of this debate go back as long as I've been playing MMOs. The old Everquest boards, the ones that SOE eventually had to take down because they were so toxic, where the "Gameplay" forum was widely known as "Flameplay", often held overheated debates about the legitimacy of the "Inspect" command and the correct etiquette involved in using it. People have always wanted to see their characters out of game, too. For a while it was de rigueuer to have a Magelo account. Even I had one for a while, although I never really knew what to do with it.

My look. You all want it. Don't kid yourselves!
When it comes to privacy, a lot more than a dozen years seem to have passed since the millennium. The entire concept has undergone a radical revision. There already were huge cultural differences. English, American and French players would always tend to struggle to understand each others' concepts of what constitutes an appropriate level of privacy and those are three cultures with a very entwined social history. How a consensus could be reached when you throw in players from all around the world is beyond me and now there's also a very significant age factor to add into that mix. Young adults are growing up in a world where availability has much more pull than privacy.

Which is all very well. These are heavyweight cultural and political issues that will occupy a lot of serious-minded people for many years to come. Whether or not people can look at your computer-game character might be on the spectrum but at most it's emblematic of a problem, not a problem in and of itself. And anyway, as the guitarist in a band I was once in told me when we went for a drink after rehearsal one night in a club that seemed a tad too hip "No-one's looking at you. They're too busy looking at themselves".

I had him dyed to match my ensemble
That's what it comes down to in the end. No-one cares about your characters in a computer game except inasmuch as those characters affect them. If they're inspecting you it's because they see you wearing something they want to wear or they want to know if you'll slow them down or get them killed in whatever dungeon they might want you to help them clear. No-one's going to go randomly through several million characters for unspecified nefarious purposes. Probably. We hope. Anyway, there are approximately a gazillion more important things to be worrying about.

I'm going to leave my characters opted out for now. But I might change my mind. If it ever so happens that I need to look at them on a website rather than in-game then EQ2U will do nicely. EQ2Players is going to have some work to do to catch up, if it ever does.

Oh, and the title? How soon they forget...

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting, thanks for linking. However maligned WoWs ancillary services are, especially RealID, I actually miss them in other games.

    Since most MMOs have servers it's hard to keep track of my stable of real world and in-game friends across multiple games and multiple servers. RealID made that simple.

    Also the same with alts. Altaholic made managing crafting and items across a stable of characters very easy - no other game has anything this good (LoTRO!). I'd welcome this above all but this type of website at least allows me to look at characters without logging into the game client once in a while...

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    1. I have to agree with you re: Altaholic. It was(is?) a fantantastic addon, that helped me keep track of a ton of information.

      RE: EQ2U. Is it really any different from WoW's Armory?

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  2. In my brief time in WoW (about three months) I don't believe I ever looked at the Armory. The only Add-Ons I used were one that blocks dueling messages (installed that on the first day) and another that I forget which was also to do with blocking some kind of player spam.

    I think it would be different if I had the kind of job where I web-browse on my employer's time but I haven't had a job like that for over ten years. Before that I did spend a fair amount of time at work browsing EQAtlas and Allakhazam and I'm sure if I'd been able to see my characters I'd have been all over that. Now, since 99% of my online time happens when I'm in my own home I'd always rather log in the actual character if there's something I need to look at.

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  3. Yes it does seem to be just like the armoury - so it's a nice to have rather than a major extra feature. It is nice to be able to check what alts are wearing when you're on a crafting character though so you know which slots need an upgrade etc.

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