Wherein Old Friends Are Treated Ruthlessly

October 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

For many reasons, I am in the midst of a tidy.

If I’m not careful, my packrat tendencies will take over, and suddenly I’ll have floor-ceiling stacks of Huge Amounts Of Stuff™ occupying every room of the house just in case.  Which leads to then being known as Crazy Hoarder Man, and that won’t end well.

So every so often (more every so than often, unfortunately, but life is like that) there is a tidy.  I get all ruthless, and everything and anything that does not have a purpose marked out for it, or has outlived its purpose, finds itself on the fast-track to rubbish-tip doom.

Some things, however, tend to be exempt.  Games, for one.  Those handy-dandy dvd cases are easy to store, don’t take up much space, and every so often it’s fun to put the disc in and have a blast.

Today, though, I am looking at a pile of MMO boxes.  They’re not the single-player games; I’m looking at World of Warcraft and expansions, Lord of the Rings Online and expansion, Warhammer Online, Aion Online, and a few others.  They’re games I’m not going to play again, and even if I was, the clients are so far beyond the version on the discs that I’m better off… downloading the client from the publisher anyway.

To add to their woes, I’m not even playing these games anymore: not only do I not have the time to play them in any meaningful fashion, but I don’t even want to.  They have outstayed their welcome.  They have gone from being the sort of friends that were erudite, fun and exciting to the sort of house-guests that smell, use up all the toilet paper without replacing it, and use up far too much shelf-space.

Ruthless time; they are more than surplus to requirements.

And here I am, mourning their fate.  They *were* all old friends (well, except you Aion.  Least said soonest mended, and all that), and those boxes are the only physical non-sentient thing that reminds me of the fun I had in those games.

Now they are gone.  I shall wallow in nostalgia for a while.  With a lovely cup of tea.




Could Try Harder

March 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Some, and now heading towards Many, players have levelled characters up to level 50 in Rift.

I am not one of them.

There are many reasons for this, but I think the first and foremost reason is that I really haven’t been looking to level at speed.  Having learned my lesson with ‘Clysm, I’m desperately doing my best not to burn myself out during the levelling process.

I am also sharing my time between four alts.  Oh yes, I have one of each of the four major food groups thoughtfully provided by Trion.

And right now, I’m finding that I’m really enjoying one or more aspect to each of the classes.

What I like most is that all of the souls I’ve encountered seem cool.  Bear in mind that this is largely due to the way *I* play, but I’ve yet to come across one and have “Bah humbug!” thoughts.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that I’m the sort of player who gets pathetically grateful when in groups, so always goes for utility over the personal satisfaction of damage.  That and it’s hard to see when someone’s slacking with a utility role.  Sue me.

These are the classes and soul constructs I’ve been using most:

Cleric: Mostly Sentinal, some Warden, less Inquisitor.

I am DOT boy.  See me DOT.  It’s surprisingly survivable having two healing souls, and having three instant DOTs and a two-second cast on the fourth DOT means taking on multiple mobs is easier than I imagined.  There are also a plethora of heals, with a scarily expensive group heal, a few single hit heals, and a few HOTs.  The Inquisitor also brings a few extra punchy options, for the times when I need a mob dead *soon as*.

It’s a good instance healing build.  There is only one fight so far where I’ve found mana an issue, and that’s the end of Deepstrike Mine which is long and almost raid-like.  For straight healing output it’s fine, but sometimes a backup healer really helps with those damage-spike moments; lacking shields makes it difficult to deal with a nasty crit.

Rifts are also fun.  I can heal when it’s a small group, switching to damage when there’s enough people there, and it’s all fun.  I’ve heard that healing contributions are much less than damage contributions, but to be perfectly honest I don’t care; I have more fun healing rifts with my cleric than chucking damage, and fun is what I play for.

Mage:  Mostly Dominator, some Archon, some Chloromancer

I set out to create a Loremaster from Lord of the Rings Online, just without the annoying animal slaves, and I’m pretty happy with this combination.  The Dominator soul means I can turn things into a squirrel (and being threatened by a squirrel makes me girly-giggle every time it happens) but not much else because the character is going through that difficult teen period, but it should soon open out.  Archon has some useful buff-debuff action, and I like the fact that most of them will debuff a mob *and* buff the party as part of the same spell.  Nice.

Chloromancer was added as I wanted more utility over straight damage potential, but it’s combination of damage-to-heal abilities means it’s quite nice and punchy.

I’m looking forward to getting to higher levels with the mage; whilst breaky, it does have a rather splendid “toolkit” set up, rather than just spamming three or so buttons to win fights.

Warrior:  Mostly Warlord and Reaver, some Paladin.

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the Reaver.  I took it as “the third soul”, but it’s now a joint primary with Warlord.  It reminds me of World of Warcraft’s Death Knight, but with an understandable mechanic as opposed to something that seemed wilfully obtuse and unworkable (yes, I just clicked on skills as they became available, rather than actually intending to do anything).  Warlord’s group utility should mean some fun off-tanking as well as tanking support, and that seems like fun enough for me.

Rogue:  Mostly Saboteur, some Riftstalker, some Marksman.

Now this *has* surprised me most.  I started the Rogue because I had one of everything else, so decided to go for a full set.  I’d spent a little time with one or two ideas in the beta, but without thinking much of it.  I’d spent all of half an hour with Saboteur, and decided it was bobbins.  Utter, unadulterated bobbins (for those unaware of the terminology, “Bobbins” is not a positive term.  Guess who’s trying to swear less?).

Yet for some reason, I decided to give it another go; after all, as the unwanted runt of the litter, who was to care if Rogue-boy was better known as Limpy the Rogue?The surprise was on me.  Charges are hilarious fun.  The fact that they do nothing but add combo points until detonated means that a fight goes something like this:

No damage.  No damage.  No damage.  Still no damage.  No damage.  BOOM!  You’re dead!

Add in charges that do other things than *just* damage, and it’s hilarious fun.  I’ve even found that you can get all five charges on a Squirrel’d enemy, and it won’t break the Squirrel until detonated.  Now *that* is a lovely synergy.  It makes me feel all Mad Harry, really it does.

Riftstalker just gives a little tankiness, and marksman gives me an immediate-damage ranged ability, for those times when a little preparation isn’t necessary.

All in all, I’m more than happy with my character options.  The ability to go and get the other souls has meant I can collect them at my leisure, and when I fancy a change just set up my alternate spec and have a lookee.  Yes, I am poor as a result, but I like that freedom.

Of course, it also means that I’m not levelling as fast as I could be.  I should try harder.


Momento Mori, Hawley.

March 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

When successful Romans were paraded through cheering throngs, laurel wreath on head in danger of being knocked off by the amout of underwear thrown by Roman ladies (the last one is possibly inaccurate.  Must check Wikipedia more thoroughly), a slave was employed to constantly whisper in the ear of aforementioned Roman; “Remember that you are only a man”.

Now he didn’t whisper it in modern English.  That would be foolish; not every Roman spoke modern English.  But he’d say it in Latin; “Momento Mori”, literally translated as; “Remember you will die”.

The Romans, as a mob, loved their heroes but hated it when they started to think they were gods, or even worse; kings.  Hence the whispering slave, who was no doubt taken ‘round the back and thrashed after the parade for being really, really annoying.

My headbrain is dwelling on this concept at the moment because, for the first time as an MMO player, I have been promoted from the ranks, and into the realm of the Officer.

Heady heights, me.  Positive nose-bleed territory.

I’m no stranger to being an authoritarian (I use the term lightly) figure in my chosen areas of geekery, as I’ve been involved in the creation, organisation and running of various groups, clubs and what-have-you in the dim and distant past when I was younger, dafter, and had a lot more spare time.  But these were face-time social structures, where contact was far more through face to face conversation than it was through a forum and a chat box in a game.

And I am wary of text-based communication.  I am aware that I have a strange, dry sense of humour that does not translate well into text, so I’m always wary of inadvertently offending someone.  Or anyone.

Recently, I’ve been involved in the forum-based discussions regarding the setup and running of a community based around Rift.  A bunch of the current The Silent Minorty Lord of the Rings Online players and old/ex Insult to Injury Warhammer Online players got together and decided to see about creating a forum community, mainly because some players wanted to be Guardian and others Defiant.

Rather than deciding in the time-honoured way (two geeks, a mouse cable’s length apart, throwing the contents of their flask of weak lemon drink at each other until one gets enough in their eye that they can’t stand the pain any more) , it was decided to have two guilds.  One Guardian, one Defiant (this would have been my second choice.  Weak lemon drink stains can ruin a good anorak), both within the same community/forums.

Sometimes, compromise is good.

Being the sort who constantly has an opinion, I was of course my usual gobby self, willing to hold forth on any subject that caught my eye (so most of them, to be perfectly honest).

Now, in the past I have been more than willing to hold forth on guild forums to the same amount, but always shied away from being an officer.  It’s easy to comment on anything from talent specs to how raids should be organised when I don’t have any responsibility to do anything other than keep on playing, and keep on posting.  I am, at heart, a slacker after all.

But since I have been badgering our Fearless Leader on the Defiant side “a bit” (more than one too many times for himself, I feel), when the call went up on the forums for officers, I put my mark there.

So, here I am, officer and everything.

For those of an inquisitive nature, the guild is called Spiritus Machinae, and is a Defiant guild on the Argent server.  The community is based at insulttoinjury.eu.  If you’d like to come and join us, feel free.  There are rules and suchlike, but we’re pretty casual and I’d hope welcoming at the very least.

And if you’re someone who is of a Guardian nature, then you’ll find Insult to Injury at the same forum address, on the same server.  Give them a shout; they’re lovely too.

Of course, I’m now terrified I shall arse it all up right royally.  I would like this to be a successful endeavour, and that doesn’t mean top-tier raiding, server firsts, and what-have-you.  Just that all members of the guild have a good time, able to experience the content they want, in an atmosphere of drama-less fun.

Most of all, I don’t want to kill the guild with my stupid sense of humour and inability to Just.  Shut.  Up.

I suppose the next few weeks will be the test.  The first month of an MMO launch is always busy; it’s after the first month that the server population starts to settle down into those here for the mid-long term, and those who just wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  We may get people in and out during that time; I shall try not to take it personally.

I’m also doing my best to remember that it’s not just my place as a guild member to play and have fun; it’s also my duty to ensure that other guild members are there to play and have fun.  It is not my duty to treat the guild as my own personal plaything, neither is it to expect nor accept the fawning admiration of those around me.  I am here to include, and enable.

At the same time, I look forward to the challenge.  I’ve been a part of many guilds, some of which I’ve really enjoyed being a part of, others less so.  Now it’s my turn to see if I can help create the sort of guild that not only I would enjoy being a member of, but everyone else too.



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.


It’s just this game, y’know?

January 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There have been quite a number of brews consumed in the Household Hawley this last week.

Some of those lovely cups of tea have been consumed because (I hear) the human body requires a certain amount of liquid every day or suffer something known as “dehydration”; a lovely cup of tea sounds like the perfect antidote.

Other lovely cups of tea, those blessed brews, have been spent in deep cogitation.  I wish I could say that it was the sort of deep cogitation that results in the sort of thinking that solves third world debt, or brings peace to the world, but it wasn’t.

I was pondering what to do about my MMO habit.

There are a number of reasons for this.  First, it allows me to drink a quite phenomenal amount of tea.  Second is that my preference for subscription MMOs means a certain outlay each month.  Third is the fact that it would be nice to go on holiday at some point this year, and have the cash to really have a good time.

Goodbye Fallen Earth and Eve Online.  You are both great games, but you both need more care and feeding than I can afford to give you right now.  I need a game I can pick-up and play, and just as importantly put down and leave.  Both of you need more than just a few hours a week to get the most enjoyment out of, the most game out of.  You’re both filled with fantastic game goo, but my life is too busy to put in the time required to advance through the game.

It’s not you, it’s me.

World of Warcraft, for all its faults, does at least let me put it down and leave it for a few days without me feeling like I’m missing out (apart from those dailies, that is).  And yes, it’s *easy*.  I know everything I need to know about it in moments, the normal mobs are so easy they might as well just queue up to give me their lunch money, and sometimes I feel like the only reason I’m playing is the raiding with my mates.

That, and World of Warcraft can be farmed to death whilst watching films or telly-o-vision.  Yes, it’s *that* easy I can play it with most of my headbrain focused on something else.

One could say that the catalyst for a lot of this tea-based thinking has been the hype-machine that is Rift, and to a certain extent that’s a fair statement.

Now, at this point I feel it’s only fair to say that I dislike beta gaming for a number of reasons.  Yes, it’s *free* gaming, and yes, it’s a great way to have a look at a game and decide if it’s worth shelling out for.

But it’s also gaming to a countdown (that pre-release character wipe), and I find that players tend to play differently during a beta than they will on a live server.  Maybe it’s because everyone there knows that none of it matters in the long run, so we might as well all get on and have fun.  Maybe it’s just that beta players are nicer, or that the percentage of idiots is higher on a live server, but I find that leaving the utopian playerbase of the beta who play to the spirit of the game is soul-destroying when I have to go back to the jerks who are playing to the letter now that the game is for keeps.

Yet, after pre-ordering Rift, I did get an invite to Beta 5, and I did try it out.

If anything, I tried it out a little too much.  I wanted to try a few of the different souls out, but I didn’t want to be bored of the starter zones before the game had released.  Same went for trying out all of the classes or all of the souls.  I created a few characters, tried out a couple of souls that I ordinarily wouldn’t, finished the starter zones for one character each on the Defiant and Guardian sides, and explored a little on the Defiant side, which included the closing of a few rifts and the thwarting of a few invasions.

I was not offended by the starter zones.

Boy, that’s a statement there, isn’t it?  “I was not offended”.  It’s almost (but not quite) as bad as damning it with faint praise, but the truth is that there was nothing offensive in the starter zones.  Nothing screamed at me; “Abort! Abort!”; there were no game mechanics that looked like they were really going to ruin my day a few weeks ago.  They were well put together, didn’t have any obvious gaffes, had quests leading me by the nose through the zone, and introduced me to the world rather nicely.

I think a lot of us forget that starter zones aren’t just the start to a game, and that games designers have a duty to those players who are just starting their first MMO to provide them with an introductory tutorial that is inclusive and welcoming, rather than harsh and bewildering.  It’s not about the old lags, it’s about the fresh blood coming in.

As a result, it’s going to look like a lot of other starter zones for a lot of other games (in exactly the same way that all table-top role-playing games have a “What is role-playing?” chapter at the front of the rules, that all of us long-term players moan about having to skip).  But then again, it’s not like us seasoned MMO veterans are going to be there for long, is it?

I would much rather the developers spent much of their time ensuring that the areas of the game where I will be spending much of my time are fun, interesting and original than spending all of their time creating an all-singing, all dancing starter zone that I’ll be done with after a couple of hours.  Age of Conan’s starter zone was amazingly well done, but leaving it was an anti-climax.

Likewise, there are no “new” quests that I could see.  Hardly surprising, really.  Collecting stuff, delivering stuff, killing monsties, assassinating “persons of interest”; as it’s really hard thinking of something that doesn’t boil down to one of those four concepts, complaining that the quests are same-old same-old would be a step too far even for hypocrite me.

So it’s hardly surprising that it doesn’t seem at all different to the current crop of MMOs to the casual observer.  Especially if that casual observer spent a couple of hours, and didn’t get past the starter zone.  It didn’t seem much different to me.

There were a couple of things that niggled in the back of my headbrain, and it was the good sort of niggling that makes me want to investigate more.

I just like the game.  It’s not the sum of its parts, and it’s not the individual parts that make me like it.  I could start attempting to quantify why I like it, but all I would be doing is repeating a lot of what can be found already on the joyful meeting of minds that is the internets.  I’ll just say things like lovely artwork, world design, and the rifts themselves are wonderful, and intriguing enough to make me willing to fork out the money.

It made me smile as I played, and I like that.  I was happy to fire it up and start playing, and I needed more than a little self-control to put it away and not ruin my fun at launch.

Part of me still wonders if I’m making the right choice.  From what I have seen, Rift does look to be a very good game, and quite possibly the best fantasy-based MMO that I’ve played.  Yet there is still a part of me that wonders if deciding to play is the best thing to do; that part that reminds me of all those hours, days, months, years that I’ll be “throwing away” by choosing to start a new game, and leave existing characters in existing games.

But then again, if this game is better, and leads to more fun than I am currently having, then I’m more than happy to move on; if it was numerically quantifiable, I can’t help thinking that many of the gamers that would quite happily cut their own grannies for gear that’s only a few ilevel points better than their current gear would trample aforementioned grannies in their rush to be at the head of the levelling curve.

Besides, with the pre-order subscription offer it’s half the price of other games.  This helps my bank balance with saving up for holiday spends, as well as the dawning realisation that it will soon be time for my pc base unit to be replaced.  Mmm, new pc…


Raid Ready

January 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Having beaten various rep-vendors with the stick of give-me-your-honoured-and-revered-gear-now, and then beaten the resulting set of melee damage gear with the gems-and-enchants stick to try and eke out every last droplet of damage, I was about as raid ready as Shaman Herewerd could be.

I even decided to put Avalanche on the two blue axes that Shaman Herewerd uses.  It was a tad expensive for something that will hopefully be replaced soon enough, but at the end of the day, damage is damage and plenty is needed.  (Even if the most obvious effect is looking like a small, spherical snowstorm with hooves and tentacles.  Yes, as soon as I can find a way to switch off the enchantment’s effects, I will.  My screen is covered in swirling snowflakes.  It’s embarrassing.)

Keeping a close eye on Recount showed that my damage per second had jumped by about 1,500 points, which in practical terms means normal, surface-world mobs of the same level are easy meat.  Them and all their adds…

In a way, it’s a shame when the outside world becomes less of a challenge, more of a larder.

Anyhoo, I was about as raid-ready as I could get, without extensive Heroic PUG runs for drops and points.

A couple of the community’s officers had also stood up for me, both in helping me to get gems and enchantments sorted, general advice regarding gearing and stats, and then making sure that the rest of the officers didn’t forget that I was now at the point where I could commence raiding.  Which, when you see the callous disregard evinced by so many of the inhabitants of the World that is Warcraft, is really nice; being a part of a community.

Even so, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the more compelling reasons for why I was chosen was because, in ‘Clysm, it seems that interrupts are the new black; not only was I the only Shaman player who could make it, but no Rogues could make it either.  Hey, I’m not complaining about that.  I wanted to go raiding, and if the random intersection caused by class/ability requirements with the vagaries of player signups is the only reason I get to go gives me the opportunity, I won’t spurn it.  A winning personality and a sunny disposition can only take me so far, especially in a progressive raid team.

It was still nice to go raiding, and it was a reminder about how different raiding in World of Warcraft is to instancing.  Or should that be wake-up call?

The raid team is still working its way through Blackrock Descent, and I got to join in with the process of learning how to take down Maloriak.

Of course, my role was simple; deal damage, and interrupt his Arcane Storm channelled ability, as it seems designed to eat raids.

Well, it was messy, for quite a few attempts.  In all, we spent just shy of 4 hours trying to drop Maloriak, although that wasn’t all one attempt.  There were many.  Many, many attempts.  Some were failures due to wipes, some were intentionally reset by ourselves, some were resets due to us running out of time and hitting the enrage timer.

I also think it’s fair to say that the first attempt’s failure was my mistake.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those disgusting individuals that learns by doing and experiencing, rather than from watching videos or reading notes.  But the upshot is that I do learn quickly, and as a result the first few attempts saw me diligently (on the whole) interrupting, whilst learning what was going on well enough to be able to start doing some damage.

Damage was, admittedly, poor to begin with.  Despite raid buffs, flask and fud it was barely higher than it is unbuffed and unfed.  However, repeated attempts meant that I was able to grow more comfortable with the interrupting, and being more comfortable with one role, I was able to devote more attention to the other.

Slowly, as the raid got further along the fight, my dps rose, until our final attempt saw me at an almost respectable level of damage output.  All that, and interruptions too…

All in all, it was a fun night, and one I had enjoyed regardless of the number of attempts to bring down one boss.  Yes, even when it was all going wrong and it was wipe after wipe, I was still enjoying it.  For me, gaming has always been about the challenge, not about success or failure.

The icing on the cake was that, with time running out, Maloriak was downed.  Even sweeter, out of two items he dropped one was a mail chest ideal for melee dps, so that was me, emerging from the depths of the raid instance, clutching some shiny trez in my sweaty palms.


The Tyranny of Dailies

January 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft when Daily Quests were introduced.

I was in the middle of one of my frequent breaks from the game, but many of my friends were playing, and they all told me that Dailies were fantastic; they were lucrative, fun, and a great thing to occupy the time between instances and raids.

Gone was meaningless grinding or farming; Dailies were the way of the future.

I felt like such a party pooper when I restarted World of Warcraft, saw my first dailies, tried a few of them, grunted in a similar way to my “I’ve probably just woken up, so until I’ve had a lovely cup of tea I’m not going to be impressed by anything to do with you” sort of way, and then went back to farming nodes and having fun my own way.

Yes, they’re useful for farming rep and cash, but there’s something about the fact that you can only do so many of them per day, and you can only do them once each per day, that really annoys me.  If I want to get something done, I want to get it done now; if I’m going to pull a plaster off, I’ll rip it off in one move, rather than a quarter of an inch a day, every day for 3 months.

And they’re so disgustingly “hardcore” in nature.  I think this is one of the few things that really, really annoys me about them so much.

To get anything from dailies, you *have* to log in each day and do them.  Even if that’s *all* you do when logged in.  They punish the weak and feeble who choose to do something else, because usually the main rewards, those sexy, big, pant-tightening rewards from any chosen rep faction can only be achieved through that daily grind.  Every day missed is another two days waiting, and there is no catching up.

At the moment, I’m trying to limit myself to the Cooking daily.  Whilst I can applaud the use of wearing Tabards to gain rep when in instances and dungeons for most of the rep factions in ‘Clysm, I find it really disheartening that I have to do the daily cooking quests to be able gain the cooking currency to buy recipes to first of all level up, and then to allow me to go raiding without handing over a honking great pile of cash on the auction house.

Ach, it’s a minor gripe at best but I suppose that, to me, they’re one of those things where the game really feels like a grind, and my dislike of repetition doesn’t help.  To me, each instance or raid run feels different, whereas each time I do a daily, it feels just the same as yesterday…


Finding My Own Lemons

January 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

It’s good to have a hobby.  It’s an excuse to do something that isn’t necessarily relevant to the world we live in, and an escape from the daily grind of modern living.  It can be relaxing or exhilarating, cheap or ruinously expensive, it can be what makes us more interesting as a person.  Or deathly boring, dependant on your point of view.

As a geek, I have plenty of geeky hobbies; so much so, that it’s actually quite difficult for me to actually be bored because there’s *always* something fun and hobby-related for me to be doing.

Of course, it also means I’m poor.  Many hobbies are cheap to start, but get progressively more and more expensive.  I like to think that the most expensive part of my hobbies is the pressing need to buy a new house to fit all of them in…

The Vial of the Sands.  That’s a WoWhead link for anyone wondering.  Yes, it’s the alchemical Vial that allows a character to turn into a drrrrrrrragin and fly around as their own mount.  They can even give other characters a lift, although there are supposed to be safeguards in place for anyone who wants to be naughty, and drop someone from a very, very great height.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t particularly feel the urgent need to have any of my characters turn into a drrrrrragin.  It’s not going to help me with my rrrrrrrole-playing characterisation of being a half-drrrrrrragin, and to be perfectly honest I can live without being a drrrrrrrragin-shaped taxi for the rest of the server.

If I was to be interested in anything of that ilk, it would be some sort of entertaining wand, which would allow me to ZAP! any random passer-by into being my drrrrrrrrrrrrrragin-taxi.  Mmmm.  Yeeeeeeeees.

Anyhoo, it takes a quite surprisingly silly amount of crafting materials, *as well as* an amount of gold roughly equivalent to the gross product of several small countries.  Unless you are a goblin, at which point I can only commend you on your wise choice of racial perk: Well done, I commend you.

I saw one (a Vial of the Sands, not a goblin) the other day in the auction house, and it was on for a 75,000 gold buyout.

No, I’m not after trying to sell a Vial of the Sands either.  I’m not sure any amount of virtual cash could be worth the time and effort to gather all of those materials.  Besides, what would I spend it on?  A Vial of the Sands?

No, I’m thinking of collecting together the materials for a Vial of the Sands as a bit of a hobby.  Yes, you heard right; a hobby, within a hobby.  Yes, my madness does not know any bounds.  And I appreciate that logic such as this might very well break the universe, it being anti-logic (and we all know what happens when logic and anti-logic meet.  Yes, you get really, really annoyed logical people who shout at very confused anti-logical people, and make them cry).

I like having something to do during the quiet periods of gaming.  I also am freely honest about my inability to pass a harvest node in any game without having to harvest it.  In the quiet periods, between instances, or questing, or just when fancying a bit of gaming whilst watching the tellyovision, it’s nice to farm herbs and ore, or farm a few monsties for their lovely drops.

The absurdly stupid amount of raw materials required for the Vial of the Sands means I can have something to work towards which will take a bit longer than a couple of days.  And it’s ideal for doing between points of interest, because it doesn’t matter if I have to drop it at a moment’s notice to go off and do something fun; those nodes will wait, after all.

You might be wondering at how much actually needs to be gathered.  Well, according to WoWhead again, here is a list of raw materials that seems accurate enough for me to work from:

• 29,000g
• 72 Pyrium Ore
• 120 Volatile Air
• 120 Volatile Fire
• 120 Volatile Water
• 96 Volatile Life
• 96 Azshara’s Veil
• 96 Cinderbloom
• 192 Whiptail
• 16 Crystal Vial
• 8 Albino Cavefish

Part of me is amazed at the size of that shopping list.  It’s just obscene, especially when there are mounts that are far, far cheaper that do the same thing; get you from one place to another quicker than walking.

Yet some players will do anything to be part of the bleeding edge, and Blizzard are more than aware of that fact.


Mr Hawley Goes to PUGgington

January 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There is a part of me that longs for the harsh, blasted wastelands of Fallen Earth, that dreams of the vast emptinesses of Eve Online, that yearns nostalgically for Lord of the Rings Online.

But the realist in me realises that without putting some time in on World of Warcraft, I’m not likely to get the “most” out of the game over the coming months.  Levelling and gearing up so that I can get into raiding before it’s old, rote, and lacking in challenge is something that I want to do.

Focussing in one direction means a lack of direction in another, hence a lack of apocalyptic, space, hobbity action.

What it has meant is me making more of an effort to get into instances, because of World of Warcrafts heavily laddered/tiered progression.  Normal instances to Heroic Instances to Raid Instances to Bleeding Edge Raid Instances; jumping a tier is much more difficult at the start of an expansion than it is later on.

However, whilst it’s more likely that a guild run on an instance is likely to happen (more members on due to newer content, more interest in seeing the instances, more need to get gear from those newer instances) there are still the same issues when it comes to putting a group together.  Largely the need for tank, healer, dps, in their necessary ratio amongst 5 people.

This has meant, in many situations, utilising the LFD tool.  Now, anyone who isn’t new here will know that I am not a natural PUGger.  I have certain gaming sensibilities, which seem to be inimicable to the average PUGger.

And whilst I might not utilise various arcane technomagically-powered bits of software to work out the best rotations, I have at least the glimmerings of how MMOs work, how aggro mechanisms work, how AI tends to behave, and I have good enough situational awareness to realise when to shift role in order to survive an encounter.

Yet I’m also a Darwinist when it comes to MMOs; Evolve Or Die is something I’ve blathered on at length about before, and will no doubt blather on about again.  Getting geared up for raiding fun and frolics has meant evolving as a player, and the necessary evolution has been to allow the fact that I can’t rely on full guild groups, and that I am going to have to PUG-up in order to gear-up, and get into instances.

So, in an homage to Spinksville’s “It came from the Pug” series, here is a small selection of the joys I’ve experienced as an evolving PUGger:

There was the fantastic Mage – let’s call him Sage-Mage – in my return to the Deadmines, who sagely advised that if I watched my aggro, I would die less.  I’d died once, to a random monkey-poo-thrower.  This was, of course, before we realised how the random monkey-poo-throwers worked.  Sage-Mage also advised our healer to heal more, and was most put out when he kept dying, to the point of initiating a kick vote to get rid of the healer.

Now, not only is that a little mean when the healer is having a hard time keeping a tank up as well as an aggro-whoring Sage-Mage, but it’s also a little stupid when the party comprises of Sage-Mage and four players *from the same guild*.

Cue an immediate response from the party tank, wherein Sage-Mage was booted unceremoniously from the party.

Personally, I liked Sage-Mage.  He made me laugh, and I wanted to keep him as a sort of mascot.  Regimental Goat, and all that.  But I also realise that he needed kicking as a sort of wake-up call or at least a lesson in guild loyalty.

There was also Warrior-In-A-Rush, who dropped in to the Halls of Origination when the party healer had to go, and the paladin tank moved to healing.  The paladin was a fellow guild-member, and the group was going for a full run.

Warrior-In-A-Rush, however, was not.  There was a surprising amount of grumbling, as he just cared about getting to the final boss as fast as possible.  He even used the ultimate argument (and I quote); “this isnt WotLK”.

Huwah?  The boy wants a speed run, then tells us that we’re not playing Wrath of the Liche King, official Home of the Speed Run?  I laughed.  I didn’t want to keep him as he wasn’t as much fun as Sage-Mage, but he jumped on his own when we weren’t going fast enough for him, requiring a second tank to jump in just before the last boss.

No, I didn’t get it either.

Now, as well as the funny, there has been the sobering; realising my healing gear just wasn’t good enough to keep a pug together after a couple of attempts at the first boss in Heroic Grim Batol meant me holding up my hands, reporting that I just didn’t have the oomph to get us through it, and dropping out with no hard feelings on either side.

That sort of knocked the wind out of my healing sails, so I’m quietly and calmly raising the quality of my healing gear, and will catch the wind again when I’m better equipped (and hopefully tanks are too).

I have also found that the atmosphere in pugs has generally tended to be much better than I remember from instancing in Northrend.  For a start, there is much more communication, especially where tactics are concerned.  Sometimes, during Wrath of the Liche King’s later days, it felt that communication beyond “gogogo” was for the weak and noobish.

Instance runs were also all about the speed, rather than the fun of the experience.  Because most players were over-geared for the instance, and it was just an exercise in collecting tokens, all that was required was to run in, kill everything as fast as possible, and rely on the healer to keep everyone up.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy that sort of play.  I do, however, enjoy the better atmosphere of ‘Clysm.  Oh, I’m sure it will all change soon enough, but right now it seems that PUGgers are far more willing to explore all of an instance, to drop all of the bosses, even to chat, rather than just do what’s required to get the tokens/points.

Warrior-In-A-Rush notwithstanding, of course.

The natural order will probably be restored as we revert to speed-running through instances for Valour/Justice points, but that won’t be for the next couple of weeks at least, and I for one am happy for that.


The Inevitable New Year’s Resolution Post.

December 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Does anyone out there do that whole; “New Year’s Resolutions” thing?

I don’t.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a “No regrrrrets, dahlink!” sort of person, but neither am I the sort of person who will decide to make a potentially rash decision to run a marathon just because I’m feeling a little chubby on New Year’s Eve.  That would be the sort of potentially rash decision that would be made in front of all my mates who will hold me to it, despite me making the declaration whilst so inebriated that I’ve forgotten the word “inebriated” actually exists.  And who will prod me with sticks and cattleprods through 6 hellish months of training culminating in 26 miles-and-change of sheer, utter torture.

For the record I feel a lot chubby most of the time, but this is because I am fat.  I have a geek physique.  I have never made such a marathon declaration, but I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night screaming, having had the New Year’s Eve/drunk/marathon declaration nightmare.

It’s like the no-pants dream, just completely terrifying.

Moving back on track slightly, I’m hard-pressed to think of the last time I actually had a New Year’s Resolution.  This is largely because I’m aware of my limitations, the first and foremost of which is not my slacker nature, but is in fact my extreme forgetfulness.

(Being a slacker is my second limitation, for those who are interested.)

In the past, I would decide to change my ways/do more stuff/ramble less, only to forget two weeks into January.  Less of a Year’s Resolution, more of an accidental two week change in lifestyle.

In the light of this admission, I have decided to have some New Year’s Resolutions.  No, they’re not lifestyle choice resolutions, just MMO resolutions.  I shall try not to forget about them in two weeks time…

I will respect other players, and the way they choose to play.
You know, it’s not just the rrrrrrrrrrole-players that make me feel a little worried, it’s the HARDCORE! HARDCORE! players too.  In point of fact, I’m pretty sure that unless you play in *exactly* the same style as I do, then you worry me.
This is, however, wrong.  I am not the arbiter of style and taste in MMOs.  One of the reasons why MMOs are so wonderful is that they are a melting pot of playing styles, which in turn attracts so many differing players.  So how can I stand up and, in any way, shape or form, say; “You sir and/or madam, are doing it wrong.  Do it right!”
So, I shall endeavour to embrace my fellow MMO player, not in a stalker/follow-you-home/murder-you-and-wear-your-skin-as-a-suit sort of way, but in a typically repressed British sort of way.
Yes, I shall smile, wave, and wish you the best of luck.  I shall also endeavour to help you in your favourite playing style by not immediately deciding to whizz on your chips, by inadvertent or advertant action, gesture, or statement.

I will be zen about spawn/node jumpers.
I live in a large urban conurbation.  And it is a universal truth that wherever there are large urban conurbations, there are drivers who drive like [insert favoured insult here].  Driving became a lot less stressful for me when I decided to remain calm, ignore the road rage, and embrace the fact that some people are just plain rude, and therefore incapable of thinking of anyone but themselves.
Same goes for MMO players.  Some don’t want to think about the fact that there are other players, that given a short period of time that node, or that mob will respawn, and therefore they don’t need to act like a dick and steal kills or resource nodes.
And others will be incapable of thinking about their fellow player at all.
I will not get upset about it, I will just accept it as a fact of life, and in the same way that I accept the fact that it *will* rain, that pizza *does* make me fat, and that bills mean that I *can’t* spend as much money on toys as I want to.
Therefore, I won’t feel the need to tell players who are rude, unthinking, or just plain stupid that they are, in point of fact, a c*ck.  I shall just invoke the zen calm that makes calmy-zen people live well into their second century.  Y’know, tortoises.

I will not see other players as competition.
Hmm.  This I need to change for the good of my health, if not my own sanity.
It might take ten (or twenty-five, depending on your choice) players to make a raid team, but that won’t help if I’m not one of those ten (or twenty-five, depending on your choice).  Sometimes it feels like that old gag about putting on running shoes when faced with a lion; it’s not about out-running the lion, it’s about out-running your mates.
Just like any other sporting team, raid teams need a certain make-up.  Healers, tanks, dps, all in a ratio.  Just like a football team with three goalies and no midfielders, a raid team with too many healers and no dps has lost before it started.
So, this resolution is all about taking enjoyment from being a part of the team, even if the part I play is sitting on the bench as a reserve, rather than only taking enjoyment by being on the pitch.  It’s about taking pleasure in the success of my friends and fellow team-members, rather than envying them, or even worse beginning to begrudging them their success.

I will cut the chaff.
This isn’t just about getting rid of those subscriptions for games that I no longer play, but more a case of ensuring that when I am playing, I’m not just looking at a screen wondering what to do, or deciding to “hang out” just in case something interesting comes up.
No, I shall make something interesting happen, or I shall log out, and play something else.  Or go and do chores.  *Anything*, in fact, rather than just sit looking at the same thing because I’m a bit bored in game.
There are plenty of fun things to do in MMOs, and plenty of lovely things to do outside them, so I shall waste time on neither boredom nor boring things.

I will play more single-player games.
This is only partly because I just bought a whole load of games in the Steam sale.  For someone who decided that Steam was evil when it first appeared, I am a real Steam sale junky.  Past Me despises what I’ve become.  I almost agree with Past Me.  Past Me has morals, and beliefs, and standards.  Past Me is also a bit boring, and needs to get that stick out of his @rse.
Anyhoo, there was a reason that I bought these games, and that’s because too much of one thing is bad for the soul.  It’s one of the reasons why I spend so much time making scenery for miniatures war-gaming; making something (even a fake hill) is really nice after spending so much time in a virtual world.
Playing single player games makes me not only appreciate the MMO nature of the games I play, but also the players that share the game world with me.  Yes, it’s single-player sorbet; good for the MMO palette.

So there we have it.  Hawley’s New Year Resolutions.  It seems I do do New Year’s Resolutions after all.  Well, at least this once.  We’ll see how it goes, and if it works we can always try it again next year.

We just won’t mention marathons.  Ever.


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