Short term commitment
Yesterday a friend of mine asked me if it would be okay if she played Elder Scrolls with the House Stalwart group. She was not sure how into the game she was, so might only be around for a month or so. She wanted to make sure no one would be upset with her not staying terribly long. She was afraid that House Stalwart were more dedicated members and might take offense to that. I of course assuaged her fears, since Stalwart as a whole is super casual and primarily a social guild. However what came next was a realization that I am not sure I had actually admitted to myself.
When I go into one of these games I don’t really expect folks to last more than a few months. That has been the track record with new games and our guild especially. This was so much the case with Final Fantasy XIV that I even started what I feel is going to be a new thing for me. When I subscribed to that game I chose to do so for three months and then immediately went into the back end and cancelled my account. That way it would essentially self destruct after three months unless I made some form of manual intervention to renew it. While you might think this is me not having faith in the game… it is more that I am not having faith in myself.
Other than World of Warcraft, each game I have played has been a three to six month encounter. While there are still games that I play semi-regularly, the tempest of activity has usually died down into a spring breeze at or around the three month mark. It feels to me that we are inherently either gaming lifers, or game jumpers. If you look at my own guild our I would say we have roughly sixty players that have only ever played WoW and cannot imagine playing another game. Then there is a pool of forty or so that tend to play whatever happens to be the next great game in the internet cultural zeitgeist. This experience has lead me to the new stance of giving a game three months of subscription and then evaluating where I stand after that.
Cash Shop Expansion
Yesterday the big 2.6 patch went in over in Rift and I have to say I have been watching this one with a bit of excitement. There are a ton of new features going into the game and you can read highlights of them over on this little info blurb created by Trion. This is the point at which I am going to be a bit of a downer, because after logging in last night I realized… the things I am most interested are really freaking expensive. A big thing they added in was the ability to start applying cosmetic skins to your pets. This has been one of my key frustrations with the pet classes that unlike the WoW Hunter we had no real control over what our pets looked like. There have been some really ugly pets as well… I am looking at you emaciated beastlord blue tiger thing. Most of these have improved to where the base pet is at least passable, but I would never turn down the opportunity to tweak the appearance.
Problem is that they are really expensive, in order to get all of the new skins… something that admittedly not everyone is going to want… they are running a special on them for roughly $70 worth of in game currency. Once the special is over however that price quadruples for the full unlock. Individual class based unlocks are more reasonable at around $7 per class. These are of course guesstimates based on the fact that in the $20 bundle it breaks out to be 160 credits per dollar. I feel like the whole budgie mount thing has maybe unfairly colored my opinion of the cash shop as a whole. Once upon a time it felt extremely reasonable, but now everything just seems more expensive than I want to pay for it.
The biggest thing I was interested in during this patch was the Dreamweaving profession. Once again however I was hit by the realization that in order to play with that it would involve me plunking down some cash to buy another trade skill extension. I don’t want to roll a brand new character just to be able to play with the profession, and I don’t really want to unlearn any of my already max level professions from my characters to pick up this new one. I realize it is a first world problem, and in a game like WoW we would have no choice at all but to do just that. However last night I was being irrational and felt extremely frustrated by having to make that choice.
Basically the only thing left that really made me excited after having the other two shiny baubles behind a paywall I didn’t feel like crossing… was the bounty system. I will admit I am pretty excited about this. One of the features that I loved from Dark Age of Camelot that no other game has really gotten right was the ability to create trophies of certain mobs out in the world. Our guild hall was full of these because I was constantly going out and collecting the “remains” needed to craft them. Rift seems to have finally created a version of that system that looks like it will work in modern terms. However after the frustrations up until that point, I just didn’t feel like sinking in the needed research to figure out exactly how the system worked.
I am sure at some point soon I will revisit it and be happy as a clam hunting down trophies. I just fear that this is he new reality for a game like Rift. When we get a patch, it will involve a little bit of free content and a lot of content you will have to hit the cash shop button to be able to truly enjoy. My frustration mostly is due the fact that I am a patron and have been one since the transition of that program. I feel like overall that is a “bad deal” since the loyalty accrual is excessively slow, there is no monthly credit allowance, and we still end up having to buy the new baubles when they come out. Sure the various daily buffs are nice, and I likely would not have made it to 60 on my rogue without them… but it feels like there should be at least some regular allowance of credits that can add up over time to be able to buy stuff from the store.
Today in light of Valentines being tomorrow, I have a factoid that I rarely tell. It is really weird how chance, fate, kismet… whatever you want to call it works sometimes. My wife and I grew up thirty minutes apart from each other in neighboring towns. It turns out that we knew several of the same people, went to several of the same places, and were probably in the same room multiple times during our lives. We would not have met however were it not for a mutual friend in Belgium. During the early days of the internet, we were both IRC junkies. Internet Relay Chat opened up a door to a world much larger than our own, and let us converse with people around the world… breakout out of our very limited small town upbringings.
Chatrooms in truth were a lot like we view guilds today, as a little social family that you hung out with. People shifted back and forth between them freely, and much like running content with some friends guild you hopped back and forth between channels freely. I’ve always been interested in programming and for awhile I got really into writing IRC bots. I would build little games into them, with dice rollers, character sheets and combat. It was through one of these bots that I met Hans. He asked me to come help him out with one of the bots on his channel, and it was one of the nights I was in his channel working on it that I saw a familiar address pop into the channel. Back in that day, you could see what internet service provider someone was connecting from, and over time I learned to immediately recognize all the local ones.
Out of the blue I messaged the new person who had entered the room saying something dumb to the equivalent of “not often that I see a local”. Apparently I freaked her out a little, since at the time I was logged into the bot. Observational skills were never a strong point. Hans apparently verified that I was a nice guy, and non-stalkerish because over the course of the next few weeks we struck up a friendship. Over Easter weekend she was heading back to her hometown, and we decided to meet up and go to the movies together. At this point it was just two friends hanging out and meeting in real life. We got along just fine, but neither of us was really looking for anything at that point so dating didn’t even dawn on either of us I don’t think.
As fate would have it, I was planning on transferring to the university she was attending, so at the very least it would be awesome to have some friends on campus. It was not until I had actually transferred that sparks really happened. To be honest we moved very quickly from “dating”, to being essentially inseparable from that point onwards. There were no long drawn out courtship rituals for us, we were far more practical than that. I still marvel at just how odd it was, that we had grown up so close to each other, but that it took someone half a world away to introduce us. Years later as we talked about our childhoods we have come up with several points at which we were likely in the same place at the same time. Thankfully we have an international cupid to thank for finally connecting us.