The One that Got Away (from me)

November 4, 2009 at 5:03 am | Posted in General, LotRO, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

What is it with the current gaming obsession with fishing?

I am not a fisherman.  I don’t like the concept of sitting on the bank of a canal, freezing my bits off, being forced to drink Bovril from a nasty flask just to keep alive, whilst attempting to catch something, anything, other than a shopping trolley.  Only to just throw it back in, once I’ve caught something.

I do have positive memories of fishing.  Sitting on the bank of the Zambezi River, catching Breem and cooking them on a fire as they came out of the water, with a net full of beer and wine cooling in waters that would soon be tumbling over Victoria Falls.  Where the hazards were crocodiles and hippos, rather than freezing to death in English drizzle.

Admittedly, they are amongst my first memories, being about 4 years of age at the time, but I’m not altogether anti-fishing.  I can understand that other people can go out fishing, and really enjoy it as a hobby, as a past-time.

MMOs definitely aren’t anti-fishing.  Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online are big proponents of this sport of princes.  And now I’m hearing about fishing in Torchlight, which is admittedly not an MMO yet, but is to be the basis of one at some point in the future.

Hmm.  Fishing has always seemed to be a barely disguised time-sink to me.  It was wholly comprised of not-fun.  I gave fishing more than a fair chance; it was required for alchemy and cooking, and it was a “fun mini-game” to boot.  I pretty soon learned that for me, it wasn’t.  I could spend a couple of hours fishing for a small amount of gain, or I could spend that same couple of hours instancing, or running around making small change from monsties.

I’ve heard that it’s a wonderful change of pace, but if I want a change of pace from an MMO, I can play another game.  Or watch a film.  I’m just not an electronic fisherman, and never will be.

I remember when it wasn’t the case; when gaming magazines would ritually humiliate the various fishing simulations that would be released for the pc.  How times change.  Maybe fishing games need to start adding in monster-killing mini-games in order to get better reviews and more acceptance amongst gamers…

It also makes me wonder about hobbies in games.  Fishing was supposed to be the start of the hobby system in Lord of the Rings Online, but I’ve yet to see another hobby within the game.

I think one of the things that makes me wonder about the whole thing is that MMOs are supposed to be the hobby.  Why do I need a hobby, within my hobby?

Cheers,

Hawley.

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Whip Crack-A-Way (or how I jumped on a bandwagon and learned to embrace change)

October 22, 2009 at 5:55 am | Posted in World of Warcraft | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I appreciate the fact that I’m not a newshound.  I also appreciate the fact that I’m the strangest sort of Early-Adopter; if something cool and techy manages to ping on my radar, then I’ll check it out (and most probably get it).  But I can be fabulously reactionary, especially when it comes to dealing with change.

There has been some comment through the Blogosphere on Blizzard’s requirement to change World of Warcraft accounts to Battlenet accounts.

Now, because I’m easily confused, I saw the artwork they’d used on their login pages and thought that I’d be forced to get one of those Security Fob doohickeys at the same time.  And whilst I appreciate that they can improve security no-end, I can also appreciate (from time served in IT helpdesks) that they can improve security to the extent that no-one can log on.  I have issues about service denial, and Security Fobs add an extra layer of complication that I just don’t like.  Security slacker that I am.

There’s also the issue of cost.  If your phone doesn’t support the Security Fob software, then you’re going to have to pay what amounts to a one-off tax to play the game you’ve been playing and paying for previously.

Unsurprisingly, that got my Reactionary gene going.  Commentators adding that this amounts to Blizzard forcing us to sign up to Social Networking just added to my reactionary zeal.

I was in serious danger of a Face-Nose-Cutting-Implement-Interface-Issue.  If Blizzard were going to force me to do something, then I just wouldn’t play their game!  Haha!  Sucks to be you, Blizzard!

Ahem.

Calmly working through the available information helped a lot.  No, I didn’t need to get a Security Fob.  I could just merge my current subscription account with the Battlenet account.

And…

I can choose to ignore the social networking side of things.  I already do my best to ignore the world of social networking that’s already out there.  I must admit to having a Twitter account, but that was purely for a work-related test.  I’ve also forgotten the password, and I’ve no real inclination to sort it out.  Other than that, I shall not boast about how much of a social networking luddite I am (because I also appreciate that blogging is social networking too, and my hypocrisy does have limits).

So I went ahead and merged my logon details with a Battlenet account.  And the world did not end.  Are there any social networking elements?  I have no idea.  I’ve no need of them, so I didn’t bother checking for them.  They can sit there unused, for all I care.

MMO gaming has been recognised to have a far longer lifespan than any other game type.  World of Warcraft has been around for 5 years and shows no signs of dying of old age.  In game years, that’s positively ancient.  So it’s not surprising that social networking sites are starting to appear for games.  Including single/multiplayer games like Dragon Age.  If they extend the lifespan of a game, then of course publishers and developers will want to use them.

We don’t have to.  I’m not talking about some insane mass boycott thing, just… I’ll not be using it.  I think it’s a sign of getting older.  Every time I encounter something like this, I have to wonder whether the object of my wrath is actually worth the effort of me hating it.

Oh, and I also got a penguin pet for signing up.  The joy.  I’d have preferred something useful, but at least the pet-collectors can joy-joy dance about it.  Unless they don’t get one, at which point I apologise.

All in all, it was painless.  Yet I have to admit, I did all of this secure in the knowledge that in just over a week my subscription runs out and I most probably won’t be playing World of Warcrft again until Cataclysm comes out, or friends beat me with sticks.  So it’s not like I’m losing much.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Arthas: My part in his downfall

October 16, 2009 at 6:33 am | Posted in raiding, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Spinks posted a lovely article here, and whilst I wanted to reply to some of the points she raised, I didn’t want to clog up her comments with an unholy mess of a ramble.

So here it is.  Lucky you (it’s not too late to run).

I can understand how there might be howls of anger at Arthas being the end-boss of a 5-man instance.  Surely Arthas, Lich King of Dooooom and general bogeyman throughout Wrath of the Lich King should be end-boss of a 25-man raid?  And a real challenge at that.  He is, after all, the Apex Predator of raid bosses, surely?

According to the Lore, he’s the biggest, baddest dude on the face of Azeroth.  Just thwarting his plans has taken the combined might of two alliances, numerous groups and societies, and a few hundred guilds.  Per server.

I try not to be a Lore-monkey.  Where did “Lore” come from?  Isn’t it…  “Background”?  At some point game background, there to add some flavour to the games we play, became more than just background, and to reflect that newfound prestige it gained a brand new, more impressive title; “LORE”.

And with it came Lore-monkeys.  Ready to complain at a drop of a hat whenever THE LORE was ignored.  Or even worse, when it was changed.

As you might have gathered, I’m not that interested in LORE.  I like some semblance of coherence to a game, but I’m more of the opinion that what makes for a good game is far more important than making sure the LORE is followed to the letter.  After all, fun is the reason we play, and a good game is going to be more fun.  If the LORE means less fun, then dump the LORE first.

I also don’t think that every part of the World of Warcraft is a raid waiting to happen.  Why should Arthas be solely a raid boss?  Why does he need to be a raid boss?

Not everyone who has played through Wrath of the Lich King is in a raid community.  And not all of those raids are going to be geared up enough to take on Arthas in Arthasland, if Arthasland is the final top-tier raid at level 80.

Now, with Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard have tried to create a play-through story experience.  Areas in some zones change to reflect our position within the story; we get cutscenes and even flash-backs to previous, world-changing events.  We even play Arthas, so we can have a better understanding of the big cuddly harbinger of doom.

So, here we are.  We have played through the storyline.  We’ve seen the start of his reign, we’ve seen the effects on Northrend, we’ve played through a massive campaign which has had the sole aim of ending Arthas’ designs upon Azeroth.

I wouldn’t mind seeing an end to that story.  Don’t I have the right to some form of story closure?

The LORE should exist to enhance my gameplay, not restrict it.  And if Arthas is such a big bad guy that only a raid should be able to take him down, then why stop at 25 man?  Oh, how soon we forget those halcyon days of 40-man raids.  Ragnaros got 40 people beating on him at once.  So did Onyxia, back in the day.  So who’s this no-mark who only needs 25 people to take him down?

No.  I want to play my part in Arthas’ downfall.  I want to be able to put the boot in, even if that meant a really cool solo encounter.  One hobbit does it for Sauron..  One man kills Kurtz.  One man kills the Emperor (Okay, he’s more machine than man.  And he had his slacker son in the room).  The science fiction and fantasy genre is filled with One-man-making-a-difference.

Haven’t I earned that right?  Dress it up however it needs to be, but I’ve got just as much invested in seeing Arthas kicked to death than any other player, so why should it only be a small, select group of people on each server who get to do it?

Go Blizzard, you make Arthas a 5-man instance boss.  And I thank you for that.  You could even make him a solo encounter.  Maybe I could wait until he’s asleep.  And on the toilet.

After all, I’d hate for the climax to this story to just be another way of measuring the size of my epeen.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Fiscal Sobriety broke my Shaman

October 10, 2009 at 3:45 am | Posted in Aion, General, LotRO, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Syp’s crusade at Bio Break on behalf of Fallen Earth is to be commended.  I’ve gone from a passing interest to really wanting to know more.

But it’s also making me realise that it’s time I sorted out my gaming subscriptions.

I currently have 5 active subscriptions.

Lord of the Rings Online
World of Warcraft
Aion
Warhammer Online
Age of Conan

Why the realisation, followed by rationalisation?  Well, I have a wedding to save for, and I need to take a leaf out of Minstrel Hawley’s new fiscal policy if I’m going to have any meaningful savings.  I’d rather not have a wedding paid for with plastic.  Doesn’t that sound responsible?  Yeah, I know I’m going to spend it on Star Wars Lego too, but I’m doing my best here.

Currently I’m paying for four games, and two of them I don’t play that much.  Poor Warhammer Online has suffered since the loss of Warrior Priest Hawley into the chaos between servers, and Age of Conan is fun, but only in short bursts.  If I’m being brutally honest, neither is getting the amount of playtime to warrant the money I’m spending on them.  Despite the fact that Warhammer Online makes my tummy all warm, and for so many reasons, it has to go.  Age of Conan can follow it.

World of Warcraft is in a strange place since leaving my raiding group.  I’ve been levelling my alts in odd moments, but it’s mainly just going on, using up rested allowance, then leaving them.  There’s no real hold there, more a sense of just marking time before Cataclysm.  Maybe that’s my own version of millennial fever.  Maybe I should get raiding again, to reignite that interest.

Lord of the Rings Online is free from danger, because I have a lifetime subscription for it.  Besides, it’s the biggie.  Whilst I love all my MMO children equally, I love Minstrel Hawley more equally than all the others.  So for two reasons, Lord of the Rings Online is thoroughly safe.

This leaves Aion.

Aion is new.  I’ve been playing it for the last week or so.  Could I really kill it before gets the chance to shine?

Well, I did that with Everquest 2.  I took its Old Yeller self behind the barn and blew the poor sucker away without a second thought.  And it didn’t even get the chance to become Old.  Whilst I have some curiousity at times, I’ve never regretted that decision.

But I want to see how the first couple of months go with Aion, so it can stay.  To use common parlance, it gets a free ride into the next round.

So the big question is World of Warcraft.  Both Warhammer Online and Age of Conan are already going back into the box, to be taken out again when my financial situation improves and when I feel the urge to give them the time they deserve.

World of Warcraft may well be joining them.  I can get it out again when Cataclysm is released, after all.  I think I’ll cancel, but with the option to continue if I find my interest is renewed in some way.

By the time you read this, I shall have cancelled subscriptions and all but Aion (and Lord of the Rings Online, of course) should be on their countdown timer.  And from next month, I should be able to save another small chunk of cash.  Then I shall really, really hope that Fallen Earth doesn’t get a full European release.  There’s too much temptation there already.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Addendum:  I have been informed that Champions Online also has a lifetime subscription cost.  This is surprisingly attractive at the moment, so I might have to see if the word on the street improves.

First to get de sugar…

September 17, 2009 at 5:32 am | Posted in healing, raiding, Shaman, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had an entertaining conversation the other day, which made me ponder the nature of online gaming, with reference mainly to World of Warcraft (but there is a certain resonance with other MMOs).

I was asked by a level 80 Shaman: Where do I get my level 80 gear?

Now, that’s a question isn’t it?  I was pootling around Dalaran wearing 4 out of 5 items of (I think) Tier 7.5 gear, which means Bright Orange! and somewhat over the top in the style stakes.  So I was an obvious person to ask.  I was someone obviously wearing a tier set.

In a nutshell, the conversation was this; chap wanted to know where to go to get the items, and then how to get into a raid to get the items.

I shall now leave the chap and conversation, and instead ponder some of the thoughts that slowly bubbled up through my brain in the couple of hours following…

Is it easier for healers to get into raids?  I think so.  Most people enjoy dishing out damage, so they play dps characters.  And I think some feel that healing is a chore.  It doesn’t help that when things go badly, it’s generally the healer that gets blamed.  So healers get the twin bonus of less people competing for the role, and the fact that without healers, no-one goes raiding.

Should a hybrid class with healing use that to get into raids?  In this respect, I think it’s something that World of Warcraft players brought upon themselves, so yes I’ll use it all I can.  I play a Shaman.  I can be melee dps, ranged dps, or healer.  So whilst the class is, effectively, two thirds dps, one third heal, most only see the one third heal.  So I can happily have a class that can solo with a minimum of effort, and raid in a role I enjoy.  Win for me!

Should hybrid healers be able to change to another role once in a raid?  That depends on your raid, but with most things being so gear-oriented, the only way to perform to required standards in a raid is to have good gear.  And that means having more than one outfit.  But once in a raid, it’s easy to get that second set of equipment, and once in a raid it’s a scary amount easier to swap roles, or even characters (with attendant class swapping).

Is raiding, or Tiered equipment, a right?  No, it’s not.  But it’s a real shame that so much of the focus of the game at maximum level (I hate the term “end-game”.  It has far too many negative connotations for my liking) is towards raiding, and grabbing hold of tiered armour sets.  It’s a powerful draw, and there is a remarkable amount of peer pressure when it comes to being decked out in purpz.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Revolving Doors (and contemplation)

September 16, 2009 at 5:25 am | Posted in Grouping, Guilds, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

If a week is a long time in politics, it could quite well be forever in raid communities…

On Friday I wrote a post that I can thankfully consign to the recycle bin of history.  Mainly because it was admittedly whiny, with me feeling very sorry for myself.  The reason it can be thankfully discarded is because events of the weekend moved quickly, and resulted in the post becoming redundant. 

Here’s the short story:

Over the weekend, I left my raid community.  All of my mates had left it, and the only reason I had joined it was because they were in it.  And yes, one of the reasons I had been able to join it was because they could stand up and state that I was likewise a stand up chap and all-round good egg.

Now I’ve left them.  I did actually think long and hard about it, and decided that I’d rather do other things than raid with people I don’t know so well.  It’s not that they’re bad people, or even bad players, but when it came to staying, the negatives outweighed the positives.

Then, to prove the universe has a sense of humour, just as I’m working up to telling my raid community that I’m leaving, I get asked if I want to join the guild that my mates are helping to set up.

The rambling thoughts begin here:

I’d rather PUG with strangers than raid with people I don’t know well.  Yes, because I’d feel like I was just hanging around with these people because I wanted the phat lewtz, rather than their company.  Call me strange, but I like my friendships (real world or online) to be more about enjoying each other’s company than about what epixxx they can help me get.  PUGing for stuff just seems more honest.

The timing makes me look like I’m leaving them for the cool kids.  Which stinks, but hey, that’s timing.  Besides, is there a cooldown on joining another guild?  Is there a period of time one should wait after leaving one grouping, before joining another?  Who exactly *is* writing the MMO Book of Etiquette?  And who is reading it?

It’s alright if you’re invited.  And it must really stink if you’re not.  Hey, I felt rejected I wasn’t asked immediately, but I’m just passive-aggressive with rejection issues.  I suppose it’s similar to being a multi-platinum selling musician in a huge band, and some of your musician mates decide to set up a super-group, but without inviting you.  “Sorry, Dave has baggsy’d guitars already, and we all think you’re rubbish really”.

Being beaten with the Casual Stick.  I’ve seen it far too much to care about the term “Casual” when it’s used in online gaming.  It’s only casual if you do what the consensus wants.  If you try and change things, you’re *literally* worse than Himmler.  And should you leave for pastures new?  *Literally* worse than Hitler.  It shouldn’t be like this.  A casual group (guild, kinship, raid community, whatever the term used) should know that they have no recourse when players decide to act in a casual manner, or decide to leave if it’s not for them.  The benefits of a relaxed, casual atmosphere outweigh the potential loss of players who want to play in a more demanding atmosphere; it’s not fair to judge them as a result.

Raid Communities are the sum of their parts.  So if those parts leave (or have stopped working) they fold.  A mass migration like this could kill a raiding community, just as it could kill a guild.  But this is also time for those players who have been on the periphery of a community to stand up, be counted, and have the opportunity to take a more active role.  Stagnation is a bad, bad thing, and can kill a community far easier than renewal.

Millenial Fever.  Announcements of impending expansions cause all sorts of upheavals; Cataclysm is quite an accurate name, for once.  Only alts go over old content, so moves are already afoot to see as much of the Wrath of the Lich King content as possible.  For some that means exchanging casual 25-man raid groups for stripped-down, lean-mean-fighting-machine 10-man special-forces raid teams.  I can see why.  Finding and organising 25 players can be like herding cats, and just as rewarding.  Ten like-minded individuals is far, far easier to manage.  Being someone who sets his own achievements rather than relying on Blizzard (or Turbine, or any other games developer) for them, I’m somewhat bemused by them, but for others they are a powerful draw, and now there is a time limit.

Sooo…  Here I am.  Raid-less, but with possibility of joining another.  Older, wiser, more enriched thanks to my experiences.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Peaks and Troughs

September 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Posted in healing, Shaman, World of Warcraft | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had a strange night’s raiding last night.  Herewerd got to finish off a Naxxaramas run by killing Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad as part of a short-numbered run; 19 in total.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think we’d do it, so was remarkably surprised when we did.  Well done, our lot!  Then, to cap it all off, Voice of Reason rolled out of Kel’Thuzad’s frosty-cold bum, and I got it (I shall miss my Saronite Defender, but it was time it was upgraded).

After which we went to Osidian Sanctum, which I’d never been to, and after a short but bloody set of encounters, I got the gloves for my armour set.  Bonus!

Finally, we dropped down to a 10-man set for the Trial of the Champions.  Not been on the 10 man version before, along with most of the rest of the raid, so we just bounced off it for a while, at the same time as getting some experience of the place.

So, in Warcraft terms it was a good evening.  I stopped caring about epixxx and phat lewtz a long time ago, but I do care about how my little blue space-demon looks, and the Saronite Defender does look a lot like a combat-based ironing board.  Voice of Reason has a much more demented look to it…  As well as enhancing my frankly absurd “+Heal”, which in turn makes other people think I *must* be a great healer, and yes, I *should* be on the raid.

Yet all this was tinged with a heavy sense of regret that after this raid night, things would be changing.  A lot.

There are two main reasons that I’m in the raid community.  First is that a group of real life friends are in it.  And seeing as they all live in another city, it’s a great way of keeping in touch, and seeing how life is going.  THe second is that when I joined the community, they didn’t have a Shaman that signed regularly.

Well, over the last few weeks a few more Shamans joined the community.  So Herewerd’s less of a special snowflake than he was.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing.  I’ve still been able to get the amount of raiding I want to get done, as due to various real-life obstructions, raid signups haven’t been so heavy (hence short-numbered runs to Naxxaramas and other sundry places).

But my friends leaving is another matter.  Someone they’ve raided with in the past is setting up a raid guild, and asked them for help.  So they’ve moved their raiding characters to this new guild, having left the community.

Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not upset with them, as they’re off helping someone else, and from what they’ve said they’re moving to a guild-based raid.  Now that will allow them to shape it to the way that they like to play, which is informal but insanely progress based, as opposed to the sometimes warm and woolly anarchy that you can get with a community.

I’m just wondering what I should do now.  Not raiding means I get my Monday evening back, and I can do other things during that time, including getting to bed half an hour earlier.  A lot of the fun of raiding was being there with mates, so if my mates aren’t there there’s commensurately less fun.  But I also enjoy raiding, for many different reasons.

However, I have made a decision to PUG more, so maybe Monday could become my PUG night, and that way I can start having a look at all the instances I seem to have missed in the last few months.

Hmm.  This is all turning into an even more confused ramble than usual, so I think I’ll take my time, see what my options are, and welcome this opportunity for change.  A little chaos is good for the soul.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Totem-lovin’

August 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Posted in Shaman, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A few weeks ago patch 3.2 was released.  Not exactly fresh news (more “news carrion”, I suppose) but something that was introduced in that patch still makes me smile when I use it.

The Totems Bar.  Or whatever its official name is.

Being a shaman of very little brain, it took me a while to realise that out of all the totems I could use, I tended to use the same four 90% of the time.  So in one of my infrequent UI tidying sessions, I set up those four totems in prime quickslot positions, with standby replacement totems nearby.  And then all the “Once a week, but they’re necessary for a particular fight” totems in slots further away.

Six months later, I marvelled at how much of a mess I’d made of my UI.

So I trimmed it a bit more, and removed all totem icons that I’d not had to click on in the past six months.  Yes, you, Sentry Totem.  I then also, in a break with established tradition, wrote a macro.  Well, copied a macro that someone else had written (I did modify it a little, though).

It was a cast sequence macro that would allow me to use one icon, clicked multiple times, to drop the four most used totems.  It freed up 3 of my quickslots that I really needed for useful things, like heals.  And whilst it felt like I was cheating (one button win!) it did make dropping the same four totems less annoying.

So, when patch 3.2 was released, I’m looking at this here new-fangled Totem Bar.  And felt it was a bit cheeky that we got to pay golds to actually get to use it.  However, it does mean that instead of taking 10 seconds at the start of a fight to drop totems, I can have all four drop at once.  And it’s set up in a way that makes selecting a particular totem very easy, even whilst in combat.  Add that to three separate pre-loads, and it’s a lovely little addition that just works.  And works nicely.

It’s meant that dropping totems, or moving totems, is now really easy.  It means that when I’m instancing or raiding, if the fight moves, so can the totems without taking a good few seconds out of healing.  It means that when soloing, I’m not going to spend longer than the fight itself will last dropping totems.

Blizzard, you got a winner that time.  Ta muchly.

Cheers,

Herewerd.

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