Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Indecisions

Have you ever sat down to do something and then couldn't quite figure out what you wanted to do exactly? Here I sit, well it's more of a lounge really, trying to to decide what I want to do with the rest of my afternoon. It's kind of interesting that right when I joined an interesting community of bloggers like AyAitch, GeeCee and Gordon, and joined new games, RL stepped in and I feel busier than ever.
Do I play WoW? The venerable, really incomparable; not the first, but the one that got it right? It's flawed, but still better than any other MMO I've played. I raided for the first time in almost two months last night, but I am tired of getting through the first level of ICC25 only to have the commitment of the second wing or more. And we seem to stall out at Festergut and Rotface. This is my personal opinion, but it would be nice not to have to run the first wing in order to get to the second. We one-shotted everything but the ship battle, and that was in heroic mode (I got a new hat!). But that is time consuming, and now I and my guildmates are stuck together if we want to move on; but of course RL commitments may prevent. That, and it all starts over on Tuesday. I am not complaining. I guess long haul raiding is not really for me. I love the story and immersion of WoW, not the gear race. Others have commented that various elements of the game break their immersion, but I think at least for a long time, it suited me just fine. My characters have stories, or least personalities, and I love playing alone and with friends. Which brings me to . . .
Star Trek Online. I love jumping in and blowing up ships or taking an away team to rescue the princess (yes this was a mission in STO). But the balancing issues they are having mean constant changes on what is "the best" ship equipment/configuration--something I don't want to care about. Not to mention the people who want to both PvP and PvE crying that they can't min/max and still be versatile. OK, this is a problem in WoW, too. It is more flawed than WoW, but I love playing it. I love the crew concept. I love the customized, already-cool uniforms. Maybe I should find a nice offline game I can play at my own pace, with no balance issues.
Of course, there is always Age of Conan. Interesting stories, I guess. Hyboria's mature themes have definite appeal. But every time I consider playing AoC, I hear the siren song of STO, or WoW. I got a six-month subscription on this game, more of a financial commitment than STO, which I pay monthly for. But that may be part of why I do not feel such an urgency to play it. I think I may need to read a novel or two of Robert E. Howard's works to get a better feel for Hypboria. I do think Blizzard's stories of Azeroth helped me appreciate the lore of WoW better, though I was already committed. And my love of STO stems mostly from my love of the IP it is based on. But for now, Chamomile languishes in Tortage, waiting to break out or overthrow the Red Hand or whatever destiny awaits her. I haven't even been through all the leveling content, but I am already aware of a thin world; like STO, you will level new characters through the same content over and over. Contrast that with WoW, which currently has eight distinct starting areas for 10 races, soon to be 10(12?) starting areas for 12 races. STO has . . . one for each faction. Are there even factions in AoC? There is only one way to level as far as I can tell. And when you hit max level, you've probably hit everything in the vanilla version. I realize there is expanded content in the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, but I have not purchased it yet, because of my ambivalence toward the game as a whole.
Oh and then there is the blog. Obviously, I am choosing to blog right now rather than raid, but mostly because this topic piqued my interest in getting my thoughts "on paper." You, Dear Reader, get to suffer with me. However, what I mean by including the blog as a choice is that this is where much of my actual roleplaying occurs, sort of. I like creating backstories and inter-stories for my characters. They become more real to me then. But while I am playing, I am not necessarily thinking of myself as being the toon. I have unfinished stories, both published and unpublished, that people have expressed interest in--that I want to finish. But that takes time, maybe more for me than for other short story/vignette writers. Time that cuts into my game time.
Because my game time is limited by my RL commitments. I have have both voluntary and obligatory things going on my life that do not involve the computer or the internet, at least not in an unrestricted way. So when I am online, blogging or writing stories, it means I am not playing. Right when I started expanding my horizons in the MMO community, my overall interest in gaming has started to wane. Is it because my focus is spread too thin? Is it because the hack on my WoW account and subsequent break from that game helped me realize how much time I actually am spending on something very ephemeral? Is it because I am realizing the need to spend more time with my daughters before they grow up; and less time with friendly strangers, few of whom I'll ever even meet in person? Is it because an ex-girlfriend whom I dragged into the gaming world axed me, stopped playing, and seems much freer for it? I can't decide.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blogs I Can and Can't Get To From Work

The net nanny they use at work is really strange. It seems to allow any WordPress blog and block any other gaming related blog. That might be an incentive to make the switch, if I didn't strongly prefer the Blogger interface. I guess I should be glad I can get to anything, but it's interesting and sometimes frustrating to see what gets blocked.

Can:

MMO Gamer Chick

Harbinger Zero

The Engines Cannae' Take It!

Startrek: Tirpitz

Manifest Pixel

Hunters Insight

Phentari Press

The Ancient Gaming Noob

Can't:

Combat Archaeology

I Have Touched the Sky (my own!)

West Karana

Ardent Defender

Blue Kae

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Unholy MMO Trinity?

MMO Gamer Chick posted today about the MMO trinity: Tank/DPS/Healer. An auto-link to Harbinger Zero's blog at the end of her post led to a discussion (monologue?) about the role of tank and how it arose in the online world as a manipulation of the aggro (originally British slang, interestingly enough) mechanic already present in most video games.

I never got into PnP RPG games, though my older brother did; and I read many of the AD&D source books from the late '70s and early '80s. The craze and subsequent parental backlash was slightly before my time. So I never found a group of people that was interested and eventually lost interest myself as I became a teen.

But as a kid . . . I was definitely a LARPist. (Is that a word?) Aren't all kids? Mostly by myself, but occasionally with friends, I would weave a fantasy world in my backyard where I was a Hero: the mysterious stranger, master of sword and spell, fighting the evil overlords of the land. My favorite "weapon" was my grandfather's old putter, which I would wield from the clubhead as both a gun and an energized blade, predating Lightning's gunblade by almost three decades. I grew out of it I suppose, constrained by new interests (girls and wanting to be "cool"). I would feel kind of silly waving a golf club around my backyard now, but I would probably be a lot thinner. Interestingly, I found out in college that fencing foil grips are angled much like pistols and golf clubheads; much better for thrusting and lunging, I suppose.
My love for fantastic and sci-fi worlds never waned, and I continue to prefer those genres over other fiction and non-fiction. Because of my family life, I also never really got into video games until the late '90s, and then it was mostly PC RTS games like SimCity, Age of Empires, and Rise of Nations. Even though I have played RPG console games (most recently, The Force Unleashed), I still prefer the mouse and keyboard over the video-game controller. I also still prefer to play mostly by myself, occasionally with friends or random fellow players.

Now that I'm completely off topic (see what I mean GeeCee?), let me see if I can bring this home. My background playing solo and emphasizing story over game-mechanics leaves me extremely ambivalent about the MMO trinity. You never really see it in stories, even ones based on the MMOs we love so much. And yet those roles seem hard and fast fixtures of the MMO zeitgeist. Even hybrids end up pigeonholed based on specialization and gearing. I think Zero brings up an interesting point. Aggro tables are an artifact of what I would call pseudo-intelligence (as opposed to artificial intelligence) which leads to manipulation of aggro through taunts and other tanking abilities. In real life, depending on the actual intelligence of the hostile creature or group, it would be attacking the support and DPS characters, not necessarily the guy in its face shouting and waving his arms.
That may be why so many players enjoy PvP (though I am with you on this one GeeCee, I do PvP when I have to for an achievement). They prefer to fight an intelligent, potentially unpredictable, opponent. I think PvEers would enjoy that type of fight, too, if it didn't come with the aggravation of interrupting one's questing or being completely outmatched by either character abilities or player skills in a random encounter.

Zero's alternative trinity of offense, control, support makes more sense to me, though it would be easier to deal with in a turn-based system like AD&D, I guess. It would not be hard to create a balance if everyone had similar health and damage/healing. This would lend itself to improved solo and group play, I think. Right now in WoW, dedicated healers and tanks have a more difficult time leveling solo than damage dealers; because, while they may last longer in a fight, the fights themselves take longer because of lower DPS, and therefore the toons' XP rate is slower and it takes longer to level. Damage dealers might not last as long in a fight, but the fights are so short, because of their high DPS, that they have time to replenish between fights and still have a higher XP rate than the other two roles. Hybrids fare slightly better. But then, as jacks-of-all-trades, never quite match the dedicated classes. Talent specialization, meant help make your character unique, has been lost to the min/maxers creating ideal(=cookiecutter) builds for each class/role. The dual specs in WoW are only a bandaid (one people are clamoring for in STO as well). Supposedly, Blizzard is working on this for the Cataclysm expansion, less kitchen sink, more flashy special effects in the talent trees. Heh, once again I digress.

So anyway, I am not advocating a shift away from the trinity necessarily, just pointing out that it is a construct of the game, and not essential to it. PnP RPGs didn't need it, solo video RPGs obviously couldn't do it (at least, not without NPC companions). There is no real reason for it in modern MMOs. I hope SWTOR has something more like Zero's scheme. Everyone should have a chance to kick butt and help out their buddies, as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Updated WoW Backstories

Just posted a couple of backstories for my two level 80s. I re-discovered that I had already posted a backstory for Rowanblaze in January, in addition to the vignette I had written for her.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Rank, New Ship, New Assignment

"That extra pip becomes you, Rowan," Admiral Quinn leaned forward over his drink. "Your mother would be so proud of you."

Starfleet's newest captain looked back at her mentor, then looked down at her own drink. "It's a big responsibility for a simple doctor, sir."

"Yes, it is. But we have every confidence in you." Quinn reached out and clasped her hand. "I have every confidence in you. You're no simple doctor, uncovering the Reman involvement in the Hobus disaster, fighting off Klingons, Romulans, . . . even Hirogen. You've done great things for the Federation."

The admiral lowered his voice. "I don't think I need to tell you things are not going well for the Federation. We are fighting on multiple fronts. The Undine infiltration reaches deeper than even most of Starfleet knows."

Rowan shifted uncomfortably. "I've heard rumors."

"Trust me, the truth is even more disturbing than the rumors. You are not the only Starfleet officer to participate in missions that turned out to have been directed by Undine agents. We've had whole command crews replaced by Undine imposters. When you take command of La Gitana, you'll be accompanied by a platoon of MACOs."

Rowan picked up the PADD on the table, which had the her new ship displayed. "Sir, La Gitana is a research vessel. You expect us to fight a war?"
"Rowan, I don't expect you to wage war, but we can't take any chances. War is being waged upon the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and every being in the quadrant. Your ship is one of our most advanced." Quinn leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. "It's the techniques you and your crew developed for discerning cloaked Romulan ships that are enabling us to gain the upper hand on that front. With the state-of-the-art sensors aboard La Gitana, Starfleet Intelligence is hoping you'll be able to detect incursions from Fluidic Space as they happen."

"So that's what our mission to Beta Ursae is about?" Rowan toyed with her glass, shaking her head.

Quinn made a dismissive gesture. "Oh, you'll have specific assignments from Captain Kurland of course. But your continuing secondary mission will be to detect and try to stop these incursions."

"We'll do our best, sir."

"In the meantime, enjoy shore leave while the final touches are being made to La Gitana. Your shakedown cruise will have to be on the way to DS9. It's not often that you get back here to Earth. Are you going to visit your hometown, your family?"

"I don't know. Father didn't want me to join Starfleet. He has made it hard to even think about going back."

"I understand. Life on a starship attenuates ties to the ground, any ground. Do what you think is best for you. But it may help to visit your father before that link becomes too tenuous."

"I'll consider it, sir."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

WoW Nerd in Deutschland: Part III

And final for now, unless something really strikes me while sight-seeing tomorrow. Although this will be the biggest and in some ways the most varied of the pic sets, though it was all of the same castle.
Burg Rheinfels at St. Goar am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate, gave my WoW-playing coworker/friend and me plenty of inspiration. Being the ruin that it is, there were many parts that reminded us of different sections of the Human- and Forsaken-controlled areas of Azeroth. In the pic above, one of my other friends descends a very steep stair toward the entrance/exit of the main castle. This stair reminded me of the wooden structures in Shadowfang Keep, some parts of which I also think of as fairly precarious. My friend said that on his previous visits, this stair was simply a ladder. Other less photogenic parts of the ruined castle also resembled Shadowfang and other spooky areas of Azeroth--minus the hostile worgen and undead, of course. While it was a beautiful day when we visited, I kind of wish it had been overcast, which is how I picture medieval times.
From different angles, Burg Rheinfels reminded me of Stromgarde in the Arathi Highlands. The blue sky helped, in this case.
The Burg is even terraced, like Stromgarde. Similar to the capital of Arathor, it also overlooks a body of water, the Rhine, not visible in these photos. I can certainly envision myself doing battle with the Syndicate (and the Stromgarde soldiers on my Hordies) on these ramparts.
The last pic of Burg Rheinfels shows the flags of Germany and the hotel that operates out of a couple of the outbuildings at the site. This photo was my attempt to capture something like Stormwind itself; though the resemblance to the last great Human city is only passing at best.
Well, like I said, this concludes my tour of Azerothian Germany, unless something awesome pops up tomorrow. I took many other photos, this place is gorgeous. But most of them don't actually remind me of Warcraft at all. I hope you enjoyed coming with me, and also that you get the opportunity to visit this part of the world yourself.

Friday, June 4, 2010

WoW Nerd in Deutschland: Part II

Anyone up for a trip through pre-Culling Stratholme? I'm pretty sure Marburg, Hessen, is the sort of town the developers had in mind when they designed Strat, even way back during WCIII. I especially liked this building and others close to it, because they looked unreal, having recently been painted. But those are real timbers in the walls.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WoW Nerd in Deutschland: Part I

OK, so a week or two ago I promised to get more pics from my trip to Germany posted. I may do this in a couple posts. There were quite a few times I could see influences on WoW scenery in the sights.
Who remembers fighting religious zealots in the colonnades and courtyards of the Scarlet Monastery?
That's what I thought of when visiting Römerkastell Saalburg, the restored Roman fort in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe.
And finally our trip through SM concludes at the Cathedral. OK, so it's not as grandiose as the Scarlet Cathedral, but it reminded me of the great porch and doors. It's late, so I'll stop here. More tomorrow.