Fantastic

February 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I think it’s fair to say I had an astonishing amount of fun in Rift since the headstart began last Thursday.

I quested, ran rifts, and even took part in an instance run through the low level Defiant instance of Iron Tomb.

Cleric Hawley has managed to attain the heady heights of level 17.

I know, there are players who will already have hit the level cap.  No, I’m not one of them, and to be perfectly honest I don’t care.  I raced through Cataclysm’s questing/levelling content with one eye on the clock, and it was nowhere near as much fun as it could have been.

With that lesson learned, I’ve been pootling along at my own pace, and that has meant that logging in to play has been fun from the start of the session, through to the end.

After all of my soul-based experimentation (or, perhaps; “soul searching”?), I have gone with Sentinel>Warden>Inquisitor, with priority in that order.  I know, I said I was going Cabalist, but with that third soul choice in front of me (only this time for realz) I still couldn’t make that final decision, so I decided to use a coin-toss-based decision making technique.

Are you aware of it?  The theory goes like this; it’s not letting the coin-toss decide, it’s using the coin to bring forth an emotional response which is the subconscious decision.  So, if the coin lands and you think; “Great!”, then that’s the choice to go with.  If it lands and your first thought is: “Best of three?”, then go with the other choice.

The coin was tossed, it landed Cabalist side up, and my first, instinctive thought was: “Best of three?”

Inquisitor it was (And I’ve already started collecting other souls.  No, I shall not dishonour my ancestors!  I *shall* get them all!  I just know that I need a “normal” set of souls that I’ll use in most circumstances).

I’ve not regretted it, to be honest.  Whilst all of the healing souls have some punchy fun to them, the damage and frequency isn’t as high as it could be; Inquisitor, being an offensive soul, is a nail-driver by comparison.

That means that I can go and have fun with rifts and invasions by healing until enough people are there that healing isn’t so necessary, and then go and chuck out some ranged pain in the latter stages.

And the rifts and invasions were just as much fun as they were in beta.  I’d worried that they wouldn’t appear with the same frequency or be toned down for launch, but they weren’t.  They were just as frequent, and frequently awesome.  One of my highlights was being in one rift where we players were just about holding our own against an equal level set of planar beasties; an invasion force appeared from the rift that was five levels above us, and promptly massacred us all.

It was fast, quick, and brutal; it was also awesome how the monsties appeared *in formation*.  It *was* an invasion.

It also meant that rifts aren’t a pinata, there to just give out sweeties to players coming along for a whack.  They’re a challenge, and a fun one at that.

They also remind me of all the fun points of mass PvP, with none of the bad.  There is the chaos, the confusion, the simple desire to win, but without the “kill the healer first” attitude and the attendant requirement to spend most of my time as some sort of speed-bump.

The questing was also fun.  It wasn’t particularly taxing, being more of what you would expect; kill stuff, gather stuff, talk to stuff, deliver stuff.  But just because something is familiar doesn’t mean an effort shouldn’t be made, and it’s nice to see that Trion have made an effort.

Without wishing to provide any spoilers, I went from the sublime (creepy, nasty, surprisingly vicious plotline for an MMO) to the ridiculous (if Monty Python made MMOs, it would be this set of quests, just with more Spam.).  Yes, I enjoyed both sets of quests.  Maybe it’s new-game gloss, but the comedy was a nice touch, especially coming so soon after the darker, more vicious questline before it.

And continuing the theme of null-spoil, I also went into Iron Tomb.  That’s the name of the level 15 to 22 instance in Freemarch, the Defiant low-level zone.  I’m not going to go through it with an in-depth guide, because:

No doubt there are guides available on the internets already, and have been for weeks
The group I went in with went in blind, and doing so only enhanced our enjoyment.

I can see what Trion were aiming for in their design of Iron Tomb; a simple dungeon that provides training in how instanced grouping works.  But also one that was still interesting, and fun to play through without requiring some form of formulaic solution to each boss fight.  To use the more jaded terminology of the veteran, there are tank’n’spank encounters, requirements for target priority, some puzzlework and the odd moment of fast-burn.

And for all that, it was one of the most fun instance runs I’ve had since early World of Warcraft, when I and a group of friends took about seven hours to clear all of Stratholme with none of us having been in there before.

All in all, it took us two hours, which was lucky because we had given ourselves a two-hour time limit.  Our intention was to go in, see what the place was like, and come back in over the next few days a little more enlightened.

At times, we were performing the more extreme forms of scientific research as seen in films such as Lost In Space and Event Horizon.  Yes, we went up to the weird goopy thing and shoved our arms in it.  Figuratively.

When facing one boss encounter for the first time, and sensing a trap, there was some discussion over TeamSpeak about what we should do.  My advice was simple; Go in, trigger the “trap”, die gloriously in the name of Science! and then come back a little more battered but a lot more wise, and have a serious go.

Which we promptly did.  A couple of times.  Such fun.

But it was more than just the instance.  Because I went in with a group of guildmates who were more interested in a fun time exploring than with obsessing over a tokens and trez, we got to have a great atmosphere, with fun discussions about what we were looking for, what we were doing, and how we would proceed.  Spoiler alert; I shall be laughing about the question; “How dangerous can a rock be?” for a long time.

To show how much we were about the fun, it’s fair to say we were a sub-optimal group formation.  One Warrior tank, one Rogue DPS, three Clerics.  One healer/dps, the others more heal than dps (including me).  We suffered in the fast-burn stages, but there was not even a thought about swapping someone out.  We’d started together, we finished it together.

In these days of LFD and speed runs, it was a long-overdue reminder about how much fun instancing can be.

And in best clock-ticking-down tradition, we finished with mere minutes to spare.  Fantastic.  All quests within the instance bar one finished (due to an unfortunate de-rezzing of a corpse) and all bosses downed.  And I gained a level and a half whilst we were in there.  From half way through level 15 to just into level 17.

The trez was pure gravy.

It might well be looking at Rift whilst wearing some extremely headstart-tinted rose-gloss glasses, but the fun I’ve had this last weekend really, really reminded me of why I play MMOs.  Fun exploration (both from character skills and game exploration), to casual public grouping in rifts, to running around dungeons chatting about what buffs and debuffs we can throw out.

And that’s not even everything I did in game.  I’m trying to reign my enthusiasm in, because I enjoy a hagiographic puff piece as much as the next grumpy, cynical old fart (which is not very much), but I think it’s fair to say that if Rift doesn’t continue in such a fun, exciting, well-designed fashion, I shall cry a river of real man-tears over what could have been.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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Thar She Blows!

February 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

There is a part of me that expects Rift’s servers to collapse this evening.  Or, if you are from one of the Americas, this morning.

Or, if you are Monkey, at some godawful-halfway-through-the dark-hours/people-shouldn’t-have-to-be-awake-at-this-time time.  Wotcha Monkey; I hope you get back to sleep ok.

So, there we go.

I’m not wishing ill of Trion, and I certainly hope that their stress testing worked well, but I’ve seen too many prime game launches and expansion launches to expect anything but a total, complete, and utter collapse of servers.

I can, however, hope that today, Trion will buck the trend by having a headstart launch where everyone gets to play.

Well, those who want to.  When asked if I wanted to go to dinner with my lovely lady’s family yesterday, I answered in the affirmative.  For a start, the food there is always good.  Then there is the fact that social life trumps gaming, every day of the week.  And, of course, there is that whole thing of not wanting to spend the night looking at a message that tells me the servers are down.

With luck I should be able to leap in, make sure it all works, maybe create a character, and then leap out again to go off to dinner.  Quite possibly as a ninja might, when pursued by a pirate.

To everyone who is neither ninja nor pirate, but is in fact a player of MMOs, I hope you all have a fun evening, and one unblighted by server failures, collapes, login queues to the moon and back, and any one of a myriad things that can get between a gamer and game.  Whether that game be Rift or something else.

To Trion; good luck.  I hope this launch evening/morning/scary-early-halfway-through-the-night goes in an ordered, exemplary fashion, to the accompaniment of Beethoven’s 9th and popping corks.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Antici-

February 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Posted in General | 5 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

The Rift beta client has been expunged from my pc, and the Rift release client installed and patched up.

And so, as with all things, the time has come.  Tomorrow the headstart begins, and with it the resolution to all those idle daydreams that come with the release of a new MMO.

Will I enjoy the game?  Will it be a home from home, or just a holiday?  Will there be enough to do once the levelling is over and done with?  Will I level fast enough to be a part of it?  Will this game see me rich, or impoverished?  Will I end up with such an impressive set of characters and achievements that men will want to be me, and women want to be with me?

You may, if you are a lady of the female persuasion, wish to swap the genders involved in that last question, just as homosexuals may wish to.  I’m just going with what works for me.

I suppose this is where the excitement is at fever pitch, because for a start, this is the last time that we get to speculate about how cool things are going to be *once the game is running for keeps*.  Before that, everything is temporary; characters will get sucked into the void once the servers are wiped, so many game rules and concepts are mutable, no-one needs to worry that they’ll get left out.

In the middle, we can point out that those idle daydreams are just that; there’s no proof that what we hope the game will be, and our role in that game, will be vastly different to what we *expect* it to be.

And coming along as the horse’s behind, we don’t have empirical proof that the game has tanked; that the game at launch was completely different to the game in beta, that the community stinks, and that the servers are shutting down three months after the launch day.

All those hopes, all that terror, rolled into one exceedingly geeky, chubby, tea-loving package.  That would be me of course.  You might well be a different package.

You might even not like tea (I won’t hold it against you; it means more tea for me).

Cheers,
Hawley.

p.s. -pation.

That Third Soul

February 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Posted in General | 4 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Have I mentioned that I like the soul system in Rift?

Have I mentioned that I *really* like the soul system in Rift?

I just like the flexibility of it.  I love the fact that every class is a hybrid, yet can specialise as much as the player wants.  Or diversify.  I love the fact that, apart from internet-hotness sages, no-one will be able to definitively state which build is best.  I love that personal choice is once again a viable character creation option.

I also love the fact that so many of the various souls on offer seem so cool, too.

Yes, some of them have names we’ve encountered before.  Well, thankfully there’s no copyright on names like “Shaman”, or “Paladin”.  Or is it trademark?  Ah, whatever it is, they’re names that have been used before, and can be used again.  Does using them show a lack of originality?  Well, I’ll reference the whole originality thing later.

And yes, some of the skills and spec choices hiding under those names are evocative of classes in MMOs we’ve all played before.

Here is where I get to discuss that “Originality” thing that I promised I would earlier.

I’m of the opinion that there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything has a precursor, everything has been seen in some shape or form previously.  And that includes MMOs.  World of Warcraft didn’t just pop into existance from out of a void, and neither did Rift.  It’s just a product of the environment that spawned it.

Besides, if the dev team was desperate to be different and not copy, they could have come up with original names for their classes.  But compare “Phlookertum” with “Paladin”.  Paladin conjures up images of heavy armour and healing, whereas Phlookertum just makes me wonder if the person behind the name just needs to sit in a darkened room with no caffeine for a while.

Yes, I probably should.  But I won’t.

Besides, there’s no point going to all that effort to come up with a fancy new title if everyone just looks at the skills and realises; “Oh, a Phlookertum is just a Paladin”.

I think there are also quite valid reasons for heavy armour wearing tanks, and rogues with stabby things, and clerics that heal and mages that blow stuff up; they are understandable concepts that we can get our heads around when starting off.  They are a great way to tell a new player what their role will be, without needing to spend a while on the specifics.

Look at any class in any MMO and you’ll see skillsets.  It’s the skillsets that define the role that class will fulfill in general play.  Rift allows a surprising amount of customisation, but not to the level where individual skills and talents can be cherry-picked.

No, Rift allows the choice to be through the combination of three different packages, called souls.  Those packages mean that we can’t put together the exact class of our dreams, but we can probably get closer than most fantasy games have let us in the past.

Now, due to the vagaries of how my headbrain works, I’ve been able to reliably decide, in most situations, on two souls that I would really like to use to create some initial characters, for largely each class type.

Yet it’s that third soul that I’ve found to be extremely tricky, but in a good way.

Let me expl- um, ramble further.  Illustrated in words with the class of Cleric.

I would like to play a healing cleric.  I’ve enjoyed the hot Rift action I’ve engaged in; it’s crazy like PvP, but without the in-built desire by the other side to pound healers into the dirt first.  In exemplu: me.  Looking through the healing souls, Warden and Sentinel seem most fun.  Heals over time from the Warden, group heals from the Sentinal.  Done, dusted, sorted.

But wait; three is the magic number here.  That third soul.  I could go for yet more healing, but I don’t fancy the Purifier as there’s some crossover with the Sentinal, and I thought it would be nice to have some offensive power for those times where healing isn’t necessary.

I tested a few of the other souls during the beta; I have created five clerics so far, all because I have been doing science! with them.  I think this is largely due to the fact that so many souls just seem really, really cool.  I played around with Druid for some time (those fairies are surprisingly cool) but I wanted ranged power.  Shaman and Justicar were likewise nice ideas, but a little too hitty-stick-based for my liking.

In the end, I looked at Inquisitor and Cabalist.

Both of them made me feel like putting on a “Now I have a machine gun too.  Ho ho ho” t-shirt, they really did.  And not in a dead-in-a-lift-with-my-angry-henchman-criminal-brother-going-burko sort of way, but in a look-at-me-I-deadly sort of way.

I could see that one seemed more single-target damage, and the other more aoe/multi-target, but I couldn’t decide which was more cool, so in the end decided to play the naughty card (when in doubt, go naughty), and went for Cabalist.

Even now, I might change my mind.

It’s quite crazy, really.  I would have thought it would be easy to find three souls out of eight that I’d want to use for each character, but I’m finding that whilst it’s relatively painless to find two that stand above the rest for the skillsets I want, I find that the third is often far more elusive.

Because all of those third souls are just so cool.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Last Orders At The Bar

February 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Time flies, doesn’t it?  I suppose this last, open beta for Rift is about a number of things, for a number of people.

For some, it’s about getting those last few testing tweaks done, to confirm the choice of race, class, and starting skills.

For others, it’s about finalising guild details for launch.  For getting all the little details in place to ensure everyone ends up on the same server, on the same side.

And for some, it will be about seeing what Rift is like, perhaps deciding that it isn’t for them, and setting off to play something that *is* for them.

Personally, I think it *is* for me.

I’ve tested and tweaked, and I’m happy with my choice of Cleric>Warden>Sentinel>Cabalist.  I’ve only tried it at low levels, but I’m happy that it works nicely when healing Rift groups, and I’m confident that it should work for instancing too.

It also has a bit of aoe punch for those times when I absolutely, positively, have to kill every narsty in the room.

I have also checked out a few of the options to do with souls and the mechanics around them, and I like them.  Maybe it’s because they’re fresh, but they’re interesting and exciting. I also like the fact that I can, if I want, create a sub-optimal character and because it’s all so expansive and therefore confusing, *no-one can tell at first glance*!

Oh, what fun!

I suppose the thing that has surprised me most is how fast time has flown.  I remember it supposedly being entire whole *months* from launch; now, it’s a week away, when the headstart is factored in.

Gosh.  Whilst I’m not complaining at the rather breath-taking speed that has brought us here (surely it was only New Year when I last blinked?) there is a little trepidation as we scream towards launch.

Will Rift, once launched, be the game that I think it will be based on my beta experiences?  Will it tank, or will it fly?  Have I just thrown away my money on a beta dream?

Ah well, I look forward to finding out.  And, if I’m totally honest, part of all that excitement, all that anticipation is only enhanced by the possibility that Rift could end up being wrrrrrubbish after all.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Internet Hotness

February 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A short while ago, I decided to see if I could get Shaman Herewerd through the magic 10,000dps barrier with the gear he had.  He was quite comfortably in the 8,500dps region, and without major gear upgrades, all I could think of was to change the way that I prioritised the use of my skills.

That meant research on the internet.

This is because I would rather go to somewhere like [insert website of choice here] where someone else has spent a good few hours smacking training dummies and working out the numbers, than go and smack training dummies for a few hours myself only to come to the same conclusions.

Numbers are good like that; you have to be specifically trained to make them lie.

So, armed with someone else’s numbers and someone else’s opinion, I was able to take a shortcut, and with a short amount of research, trial and error I was able to gain an extra 2,000dps, thereby hiting the 10,000dps mark (just).

Of course, I didn’t just take the nice faceless man off the internet’s word for it.  As well as research, there was trial and error.  That testing, allowed me to form my own opinion.

Of course, it was perfectly ok for me to do that; I was just searching for information with which to base my own research on, using it to come to my own conclusions.  I was in no way just looking for something to copy.

No, definitely not, no.  Not at all.

Because if I had, if I’d just been looking for the latest Internet Hotness, if I was just taking what the internet said was Teh Bestet and not using my own noggin, then I would be at the wrongest end of the Wrong, Wronger, Wrongest Scale, and would most likely find myself in the same MMO Gaming Hell as those who buy accounts off ebay, buy gold from disreputable internet firms, and play in beta tests *and never submit bug reports*.

I suppose the big question isn’t whether or not using the internet to try and improve our game is cheating, but whether or not we allow others to take away our right to play in the way that we want to.

It’s something I’ve been pondering for a while now, and something that I will no doubt be pondering for some time to come.

Ysharros, she-queen of Stylish Corpse, wrote an entertainingly enlightening piece on World of Warcraft’s Tol Barad.  Whilst reading through her recommendations for aspiring victors, the part that resonated most with me was this particularly wonderfully written passage:

“VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ‘em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy.”

It reminds me very much of; “They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way.”; I’m not sure that Wellington was just being all cool and hip when he tripped that one off in 1815, and things haven’t changed as far as most MMO players are concerned.

So it’s not just grabbing talent specs or gear setups from the internet; we also play in certain ways when given a choice.  The way that “everyone knows”, with the heavy implication that only noobs don’t.

But I suppose the thing that really got me thinking about this was me attempting to go raiding in World of Warcraft.  It was only a few raids, but there was quite a lot of preparation.

There was going on Youtube (other video sharing websites are available.  Possibly.  I don’t know really, I’m just trying to be fair) and watching videos of the various bosses, what they do and how they can be defeated.

There was reading strategies from various internet sites such as WoWWiki (now I *know* other such websites exist.  You can check them out too), and then there was checking the guild’s website to see if anything particular to our guild’s attempts had been posted.

And this was all before turning up at whichever boss was to be our sacrificial altar, and hurling ourselves at it.

Of course, the reason for studying all of those strategy guides was so that we didn’t have to find out what abilities and phases a boss has at the sharp end; it means less time spent wiping on the boss to learn how to defeat that boss.

But it also highlighted how scripted the World of Warcraft bosses are.  If we deviated from the plan, we died.  If someone was slightly off game, we died.  If someone forgot what their role in the operation was, we died.  There wasn’t much give, there wasn’t much slack.  There was no place for thinking outside the box.

There was just the following of the plan.

I’m sure there was a gentler time, a more beautiful time, when raiders would go out raiding and not have to follow such a strict strategy.  That individual raiders could mess up, but the raid team could recover.  When it was an individual’s skill that mattered far more than just their ability to follow a list of instructions.

And no, I’m not talking about when a raid team is so over-geared for the instance that they hardly need to bother.  I’m talking about when the raid instance was still a challenge for those involved.

Now it seems to me that players are more than willing to point out when things are going wrong, and that it’s *all your fault*.  Because *you are doing it wrong*.

*Thicky*.

I like to think of it as one of the joys of PUGging, but it doesn’t just end there.

A few posts ago, I commented about Sage-Mage and his amazing advice.  Well, Sage-Mage isn’t the only know-it-all, flinging out advice like a monkey-poo-flinger, expecting everyone else to be the sort of thicky-thicky-dullards who would not only need his advice, but thank him for it.

PUGging has loads of them, because MMO gaming is full of them.

Even I, at times, have given out advice.  I would like to think that my advice was clear, concise, and cogent, but I’m also pretty sure that all of us monkey-advice-flingers tend to think the same about the advice we’re flinging; clear, concise, cogent.

And, no doubt, they’re pretty sure that their advice is being flung at noobs that *require* said advice, because if they weren’t noobs, they patently wouldn’t *need* said advice.  Good, experienced players already play in a good, experienced way that needs no advice.

They are already Doing It Right™.

I sometimes wonder if the only way to play correctly, to be seen to be Doing It Right™ is to follow the sage advice freely available on the internet.

Well, it’s certainly easier.  It was easier for me to start off with someone else’s hard work, than it was to do all that hard work myself.

There is also the opportunity to devolve oneself of all responsibility, should things go wrong.  It’s not *my* fault, it’s this lousy talent spec/gear set I got from the internet.  I was just *testing* it out.

Yet I suppose the ultimate irony is that all this theory-crafting, all the strategy guides, all the nasty-cheaty websites that tell us which monsters drop certain gear and the easy ways to complete quests are a sign of a healthy, happy community.

Players who are happy about their game want to tell the world, and the internet lets them.  Heck, I’m happy with my hobby; I love MMOs, so that’s why I blog about them (as opposed to blogging about cheese, or doric columns, or any one of a myriad things that I quite like, but just make me happy, as opposed to Happy).

Quite often it’s a healthy community that makes us want to play in the most optimal way.  Sub-optimal is great for characters in a novel.  To be honest, every novel I’ve read which had Captain Awesome as the protagonist has not been a favourite read.  I want sub-optimal in my heroes; I want to see characters strive for success, I don’t want it to be guaranteed from the first page.

Lord of the Rings, source for so many fantasty backrounds in books and films as well as those of the MMOs we play, has a sub-optimal hero.  Short, fat, big hairy feet; at first glance, Frodo is hardly the poster-hobbit for death-ninja missions (or even holidays) to Mount Doom.

Yet when it comes right down to it, I don’t think of playing sub-optimal.  I might have once (such blissfully naïve days), but not any more.  Sub-optimal doesn’t just lead to not being able to see or do everything you might want.  No, it leads to something far worse.

The censure of our peers.

There is no winning and losing within an MMO.  But there is winning when other players are in awe of us and losing when they think we’re nothing more than a noob.  I sometimes think that “Noob” is the greatest insult to an MMO player, and quite a lot more insulting than any of the more pithy Anglo-Saxon-based insults the English language is home to.  At other times, I’m sure it is.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why seeking guidance from the internet is so enticing, and so popular.  Take the most optional build for your class from the internet.  You might well end up a clone of everyone else with the same class, but at least you won’t look like a noob.

Same goes for following the traditional methods of levelling, of instancing, of PvPing, of raiding.  Innovation is something that devs get involved in; as a player, shut up and follow the established rule.  Show yourself to be a dangerous anarchist with your own opinions, and show yourself to be a noob.

Noob!

Cheers,
Hawley.

Tea-less

February 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Every so often, I get to make a “No-Tea” decision.

They are called such because it’s such a simple decision that I don’t need to sit down with a lovely cup of tea in order to reach that decision.  Whether a “Yes” or a “No”, the issues involved are so simple, so cut-and-dried, that no long and tea-inspired thought process is required.

Today was one such day.

I received an email today from SOE to tell me that they are “…thrilled to invite you to come back to play for FREE from 2/10/2011 – 2/21/2011”.  Come back and play?  Well, Everquest, of course.  On their new-fangled-old-fangled Fippy Darkpaw server.

Others have commented on it; We Fly Spitfires and West Karana both posted about it when the concept was still new enough to be called such.  I, however, am the sort of curmudgeonly soul that just can’t find it in himself to fully embrace this whole retro/nostalgia fad that society is currently entranced with.

In the case of this whole 1980s retro-fad it’s because I was there, and while there was a lot of fun there was also a lot of shit, and no matter how people try and polish it, a turd is still a turd.

Now I get the offer of reliving the MMO equivalent of the 1980s, thanks to SOEs very kind offer of 11 whole and complete free trial days.  Now, the sharp-eyed might note arrived in my mailbox a day after it started, but it’s not my intention to deconstruct their email in a negative way.

Well, not quite.  I appreciate that the delivery of emails can be delayed, after all.

But no, I will not be partaking of SOEs very kind and profit-motivated offer.  I have fond memories of playing Everquest, but they won’t stand up to much scrutiny.

Yes, it was my first foray into MMO gaming, and I played many fun hours, but the simple fact is that if the game was that good, I’d still be playing.  If I missed it that much, I wouldn’t have waited years for a free trial.

I will freely admit that I’m not SOEs greatest fan.  Or any sort of SOE fan.  I played Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, and Everquest 2 before I decided that they just seemed naturally able to suck all the joy out of the MMO genre.  So many of their design choices just seemed bad; in their attempts to stop exploits and practices such as twinking and power-levelling, they just made playing not-fun.

There was one ponderable element to the email, though.  One that’s definately worth putting the kettle on for; that this is a free trial, not a free server.  Now, I’m not aware of how much playing on Fippy Darkpaw would cost, but considering that there are some quite lovely subscription-free games out there (such as Lord of the Rings Online) why would I want to pay for a game that’s over a decade old, and shows it in so many ways?

Cheers,
Hawley.

Gutted

February 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Both of my regular readers will be fully aware of my ongoing attempts to get Shaman Herewerd raiding in World of Warcraft.  There was leveling through Cataclysm’s new high level zones, followed by heroic instancing, followed by binges on the Auction House, followed by gemming and enchanting and all sorts of min-max-tweaky-loveliness.

Then there were the first few attempts where I attempted to get back up to raiding speed, followed by rising up through Recount’s damage meter.

There was also the joy of being present at a number of first kills for the guild, and that was the source of some very good feelings.  It might have taken some hours at times, but it’s a lovely change from just turning up at the farming stage and hoovering up the goodies.

Through this time, I’ve been a trialist with the guild.  I can understand having a trial policy; before letting someone onto the full roster, the guild wants to know if any given player (me, in this instance) is going to be someone who enhances the team, or if they play like a howler monkey with an itchy groin.  And the guild I am with is a nice, welcoming place.  Trialists get as fair a deal as the rest of the guild when it comes to opportunities to go raiding, and trez, and support from the other members.

Last night, after the raid, I was involved in a chat with one of the raid leaders, and whilst it was never (in the end) asked, I’d like to think I was going to be asked if I wanted to join the roster.

I was not asked because, before I could be asked, I asked to not be considered for the roster at this particular time.

Yeesh.  Even as I write that, my headbrain keeps shouting; “Thicky Hawley!  You’ve been working towards this since Cataclysm launched!  Thicky thicky thicky!”  Headbrain is also tempted to add some head/desk interfacing at speed in there.

But despite my feeling-stupidness (the Germans probably have a long and cool-sounding word for “feeling-stupidness”.  Being completely inept with other languages, I shall just have to stick with the generally rubbish-sounding English version), I felt it only fair to inform my guild that I couldn’t devote the time that World of Warcraft raiding requires.

At the moment, the raid team is selected about an hour before the raid start, from the available signups.  It’s largely because margins are so tight between success and failure that gear analysis is a necessary part of team selection, and because gear is changing so rapidly (even between raids, due to the myriad methods of gaining gear), it’s difficult to put together the best raid team with more warning.

It’s a system that is working for the raid as a whole, and I’m not going to challenge it.

But right now, I could really do with a couple of days notice.  My lovely lady has a *lot* of relatives, and they’re all coming to visit her parents recently.  Seeing as most of them are traveling some considerable distance, it’s only fair that I put some effort into going to see them.  And whilst my lovely lady is aware of high-pressure geekery such as MMO raiding, and is willing to accept; “Sorry dearest, need to go and kill stuff with fellow geeks online” as an excuse, she loses tolerance when I’m sat in front of the pc idly clicking because I’m not needed for the raid that night.

Whilst my lovely lady will acknowledge that my hobbies are important to me, she can also tell the difference between me raiding and me farming, and has every right to get tetchy because I’m not doing what I said I’d be doing, and she’s stuck at home not meeting relatives or going out for a lovely meal with them because I said I’d be busy.

It’s also a busy period at work, which usually means being more tired than usual and more likely to get in late.  This impacts both opportunities for and desire to go farming to get all those raid supplies that are needed.

It got so that, even after a few short weeks, I was on the verge of becoming resentful about *having* to raid, and that’s not a place I particularly want to go.  I was enjoying the raiding, even the multiple wipes bit, but the logistical side of gaming was causing all the problems, all the hassle.

In the end, all I could do was ask to be a last minute substitute; if they need an extra body to make up the numbers, or if they need a particular skill-set, give me a shout.  I know when the raid times are, so if I’m on I can most probably cover, if not give me a shout and if I can come on, I will.  For my part, I’ll try and keep Herewerd raid-ready as much as possible.

It might mean I never get asked again, but that’s better than having to state I’ll definately have to drop out.

Big fat sigh.

There is a part of the headbrain that is quite happy at this state of affairs, though.  It’s the part that knows that hobbies are fun, but no substitute for a busy and fulfilling social life.  We have visitors, we go out, and we are able to be a part of a wider community.  Since the earliest of my Everquest playing days, I’ve never allowed MMO gaming to take precedence over going out into the real world to be social, and I refuse to start now.  The fact that I have to make that choice is a sign that, from a social standpoint, my life is win right now.

The unfortunate side-effect of me standing down as an active raid-wannabe is taking a step back, looking at World of Warcraft, and asking (in a rather accusing tone); “What are you *for*?”

I suppose I shall find out the answer to that over the next few weeks.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Little Choices

February 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Friendships follow us.  They’re good like that.  One of the fun things about friendship is the sharing of experiences; if I spend time enjoying the company of my fellow gamer whilst smacking orcs in the face in one game, then I’m more than likely to enjoy spending time with that same fellow gamer whilst smacking eeeeeviel cultists in another.

So the most natural thing in the world is to want to continue playing games with the friends I have made during my time in various online worlds.

Yet with that comes a certain amount of loss of destiny, of control.  When I approached my first MMO, I got to decide everything for myself; being on my own meant I got to decide everything myself.

Yet with friends comes lack of choice.  I like to think that’s a good thing, but there are always those little niggling moments where being a part of the group means not getting exactly what we want.

Yes, I’m talking about those times I’ve gone to the cinema and ended up watching some strange chick-flick rather than the action thriller, or going out for food and ending up at a Mexican restaurant when I really, really wanted pizza.

And there are always those times when old friends would insist on going out to that nasty flea-pit of a pub, *just* because we used to go there a couple of decades ago.

Feeling suitably old now (yes, I’m still amazed that I can now say “a couple of decades ago” without irony) I shall move on to where I am today:

Looking at Rift, and hoping that I’ll get what I want with respect to server and faction choice.

That Open Beta period of time before launch is always a bit strange for me.  Mixed with all of the excitement and anticipation is the planning.  I like to think that some of that anticipation is good, useful planning; what server shall we play on, what faction shall we choose, who will be faction leader, who will be the officers?

And then there is what I see as the over-excited planning; maybe I should take my MMO gaming more seriously, because I find it hard to understand why there are guilds out there that have decided that they are no longer recruiting Sith Inquisitors and Smugglers.  Whenever I wonder whether life has become more or less chaotic and random, I end up finding the sort of guild that is so organised that they’ve already filled up their class quota for a game that will be released some time later this year, if not next year (my money is on next year, but I hope to be proved wrong).

With Rift following the familiar pattern of having available races spread between two factions rather than shared, and having those factions exist in a state of war, there is no opportunity for characters from differing factions to play with each other (oo-er missus!) without that being at the business end of swords and spells.

This means that part of joining as a group will mean some members of the group having to decide to compromise on their choice of faction.  With that comes compromise in choice of race.

My usual experience is a lot of forum-based discussion.  Now, from previous posts, you might have guessed that I’m not a fan of committees.  Usually they mean that after a long and involved discussion process, where everyone’s opinion can be heard and valued, everybody ends up equally upset as nobody gets exactly what they wanted.

At least with a choice of two options, there’s a lot less chance of death by committee.

I sometimes think the various psychologists and sociologists who have decided to study our little piece of geek heaven would have a field day, if they could just get past that whole: “MMOs are addictive!” thing.

For a start, there is all that guessing about which of two factions will be most popular, and then deciding whether everyone cares enough to go with the cool kids, or just jump into the same faction as the masses.  There’s deciding which server to go on, and whether or not to care if other guilds encountered in previous games will be, or won’t be, going to the same server.

There’s all of the fun of deciding what type of server to play on; some might want a Role-Playing server, because it’s commonly believed that there is a more mature player base on Role-Playing servers.  Others will want a PvE server because they enjoy that aspect of the game more; others might desire a PvP server because they find straight vE just not as exciting as taking on other players.

Then there’s the joy of faction selection.  It’s a big choice because there are so many things dependant on that one, simple decision.  My gaming will be influenced by the look and feel of the faction, from the architecture of the landscape to the quests that I’ll be running to level up.  It will affect my choice of character race completely; I will not have a free choice of race, because races are faction specific.

Sometimes, choice of class is regulated by choice of race.  I like to think of it as an old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hangover, as if some races are just plain klutzy when it comes to various careers.  Or something.  I’m really glad Rift believes in equal opportunities.

Such a small number of decisions, but they can really make a huge difference when it comes to enjoying a game.  So being willing to give up any decision-making authority can be a real wrench for me, especially if I particularly care one way or the other about the options on offer.

It shouldn’t be a case of having to choose between friendship or freedom of choice, but sometimes little flights of fancy do wonder what it would have been like to have made other game choices.

Anyway, I’ve chosen to go along with friends, and devolve responsibility in Rift to their choices.  Maybe I’ll be lucky, and they’ll go for the choices I’ve made, maybe I won’t, but unless they choose something that I know I won’t enjoy, I’ll be more than happy.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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