Playing Without Rules

This is another one of those mornings where I am sitting here struggling to find purpose… or at least something to write about.  After a few nights of lousy sleep I managed to get a pretty solid one last night.  The Ceiling Fan has essentially died in the bedroom, but yesterday I hooked up an oscillating fan and it was actually quite comfortable using it.  Oddly enough though, even with a good nights sleep I am just out of it this morning.

Guest Posts

I have to say I was shocked that both of my guest posters had topics ready for me yesterday.  I apparently fail miserably at the concept of a guest post, since most bloggers use them for days when they don’t actually want to post.  I kind of feel like that would be cheating this little experiment I have been on, to see if I can manage to post every single day for a year.  I fear for November, since I plan on doing NANOWRIO this year… and I am not sure how I will be able to write every night… and then still be able to come up with something worth saying in the morning.  You guys might just get a lot of status updates to my word count.

Ariad and I don’t always see eye to eye, but honestly he said a lot of things I would have said.  Ultimately my problem is not removing the Trinity persay… but that when you remove it… it has to be replaced with something.  In his post he did a great job and outlining how various games both digital and real all have roles that are played.  So if you want to remove what World of Warcraft essentially distilled those roles down to… you need to replace them with something else.  The absence of role based play essentially turns everything into a mindless deathmatch, which while fun for some time does not lend itself to engaging gameplay.

Playing Without Rules


Sevok has been a pet class in essentially every game I have ever played with him.  He pretty much personifies what I think of when I think about that type of player.  There was a pretty good debate that spilled out onto Google+ as a result of yesterdays posting.  Essentially when dealing with a pet class, I get frustrated because I would rather just do it myself instead of sending my minion in.  That along pretty much identifies me as NOT being a pet class person.  While I raided on a hunter in WoW during Vanilla… I tended to lose interest once they fixed the pets and we actually had to use them in combat.

The above shot is from a run through Scarlet Monastery House Stalwart did a few weeks after the launch of World of Warcraft.  Essentially we had two hunters, a shadow priest, a dps warrior and a mage.  We had no real “healer” and we used a combination of the two pets to tank…. additionally if you look above you can see that I was a survival tree “melee” hunter.  I am in fact the dwarf banging on the Abbot with the polearm.   Everything we were doing was “wrong” but we didn’t really care.

Why did we play this way?  Quite honestly because we didn’t know any better… we had yet to be told by the internet that everything we were doing was not effective.  Honestly I think that has been more to blame with the stagnation within the MMO market than anything else.  The “Elitist Jerks” of the world quantify and distill everything about the game world, and reduce it to a series of equations.  Math is solid and unyielding, and extremely hard to argue with…  but also pretty boring at times.  It seems like in EQ, DAoC, and the early days of WoW we were extremely willing to make bad decisions… just to see what the consequences would be.

So what if I was a melee hunter… the brunt of internet jokes.  I had fun doing it… I made it work… and through a mixture of stubbornness and creativity we were able to make things work.  Sure there was always a point at which it became difficult… but even once the golden path was deeply ingrained in me… we managed to do a Blackrock Depths run with 2 rogues and 3 hunters and finished it off without much issue.  Additionally our raid used to do all hunter Upper Blackrock Spire runs for fun.  When 10 hunters cast aimed shot at exactly the same time…  mobs pretty much just evaporate.

Flexibility of Roles


Ultimately what I am saying is that while we were using sub optimal builds and class compositions we were able to get through the content by the use of our wits.  While we did not have the things that people prescribed as a “tank” or a “healer” we adapted through the use of what we had.  We still very much had someone playing the role of the main tank, and someone playing the role of the healer, but we were doing so in non-standard ways.  Ultimately this is the sort of thing I feel we need going forward.  The ability to blur the lines of what is the tank and healer, and allow multiple people to fulfill these roles in multiple ways.

Ultimately to me it is not the failing of the trinity or role based combat, but the failing that the designers have allowed games to get distilled down to the equation of “only one right answer”.  Having a Golden Path is fine, but quickly there becomes way too much social pressure to conform your character to the most optimal path.  I think that is why I have enjoyed playing Rift so much over the years, is that there are literally thousands of possible right paths out there, that can be tweaked and tailored to fit the exact preferences of a specific player.

Sure there are golden paths, but they seem to change on a weekly or monthly basis.  With the ability to have an extreme amount of prebuilt “roles” you can switch to it allows players to have both their experimental builds and their tried and tested builds and be able to swap back and forth between them freely.  On my warrior I totally have a 61 paragon and 61 champion tried and true dps build…  but I also have a number of Tanky builds that have different personal flavors to them that I am using to test various things out.

No Right Answer


Ultimately I think this is the hope I have for Everquest Next and its implementation of Storybricks.  I feel as though there will NEVER be only one right answer.  That we the players will be able to tailor a solution that fits the skillsets we have available.  But I still feel as though role based gameplay is one of the tools in that toolkit to allow us to build those solutions.  I think as Ariad, Sevok, and myself were trying to point out.. that each of us as players brings with us a certain favored role based mentality.  My hope is that we can apply those ways of thinking towards new and complex challenges regardless of the character abilities we happen to currently have and come out with interesting gameplay as a result.

Flexibility of purpose and the ability to shift back and forth between what role a given player happens to be playing at the time completely seems like a viable way to deal with smarter mob AI.  As evidenced by all the comments the other day regarding my wanting not to lose tanking as a thing that is done in MMOs…  some of us have very technical definitions of what that role is.  Much of that is rooted in the construct of the “Taunt monkey”.  But as I tried to explain in the “Tank is” post… I am very flexible in what that definition means as it is applied to a given games mechanics.

My initial fear with Everquest Next was that they would be going with the “Everyone is DPS” solution that Guild Wars 2 used.  This was most definitely not the path to interesting gameplay, and more or less over the course of several discussions since the weekend I have arrived at a point where I believe that EQ Next will have much more meat on its bones than that.  It sounds as though they are building in roles to replace the trinity… but we just simply do not know what those roles will be or what exactly they will entail.  I really look forward at getting my hands on Landmark as it goes through the beta process.  I am hoping it will help to answer a number of questions.

Wrapping Up

It is that time again, and I need to be getting on the road.  I have managed to turn a day where I had no clue what to write about into another long ramble.  I cannot guarantee that anything I wrote is really worth reading… and is likely just me working out concepts in my own head… but my readers should be long used to that by now.  I hope you all have a great day, last night we had a fun guild night running around and closing rifts.  Was fairly relaxing and had a great time hanging out on mumble with Rowan, Psynister and Fynralyl.  Hopefully we can get some dungeons going before too much longer, even if I have to start playing my cleric so we have a healer.  I will be happy when 3.0 releases and rogues and warriors finally have a main healer.

Shaking the Toner

Good morning you happy hopefully rested people.  Last night was another toss and turn fest… because it seems as though our ceiling fan has broken, or at least is on its last leg.  As a result I slept on top of the covers all last night, some of it relatively unsuccessfully.  Here is hoping that I got enough sleep to prevent me from absolutely shutting down over the course of the day.  Tonight is guild night so hopefully I have the steam to lead us on a wild adventure.

Guest Contributors

Some time ago a good friend of mine started posting the occasional article on my blog under the name of Ariad.  However we did a pretty lousy job of messaging that the posts were coming from him and not me.  As a result I feel there was some confusion as he and I do not always see eye to eye.  We were talking yesterday and he is the Spock to my Captain Kirk.  As a result I have created the banners above to denote when a guest contributor is making a post.

Additionally another friend had shown interest in making the occasional post.  When I told him the Spock explanation above… he said that he was more like Khan.  In the same way his opinions will also not 100% align with what I am saying, but I feel a breadth of different opinions is a good thing.  I’ve known Sevok since the early days of Everquest 1 and have managed to keep up with him off and on through the various games I have played.  I look forward to seeing the posts they come up with, I know Sev is currently working on a spin on my “A Tank Is” post from the other day about his favorite role… the pet class.

The Grand Experiment

It has been 103 days since I started what I dubbed the “Grand Experiment” and began posting something every single morning regardless if I want to or not.  I have no real idea if the results have been a net positive, but I have been true to my cause and even when I was in a hotel room on vacation… I continued blogging each morning.  Yesterday a friend of mine Talyn of the Pumping Irony blog asked me a little bit about my morning routine.

Essentially he stated something I have heard from myself many times before.  That ultimately he felt like he just did not have that much time to post a blog post and as a result there are lapses between postings.  This pretty much explains all of the lags in my posting pattern since I started the blog back in April of 2009.  I would get into a pattern where I felt like I just did not have time to post, or that it came down to a choice between playing a game or posting.  Every time the blog lost out to me just logging in and playing something instead.

The Routine

When I started down this path I figured I had a bit of time each morning as I drank my coffee and attempted to wake up.  Previously I had been gaming a little bit to wake up, so I decided I would give that up and devote it to blogging.  Since Talyn was curious about the timeframe it took me every morning I thought I would go through my average morning, in case anyone else out there was curious as well.  My alarm goes off a 5:30 am and I get up and out of bed, making my way to the kitchen to fill the Keurig and turn it on.  I stumble back down the hall and jump in the shower.

While I am in the shower I try to begin thinking about what I am going to post that morning and continue doing so as I get dressed.  At roughly 6:00 am I go back to the kitchen… this time less of a stumble… to make a cup of coffee for myself and one for my wife as well.  After delivering the cup of coffee to the bedside table I am usually upstairs and sitting at my keyboard by 6:10-6:15.  Now begins the hard part.  Some mornings I know exactly what I am going to write about… others I don’t have a clue in the world. 

Shaking the Toner

If it is a writers block morning I try and flip through my RSS feed to see if anything arrived since I last read it that might start some thoughts percolating in my head.  The opening paragraph is ultimately the same in most of my blog posts… this is less for you guys and more for me.  This is my equivalent to the wind up before a pitch.  Starting words coming out onto the page often times unjams the printer in my brain and causes the topics to come spilling out.  Additionally the closing bit… is my way of turning off the faucet and allowing myself to transition from thinking about the blog to thinking about the work day ahead of me.

After lots of writing hackery and many trips to google image search and or launching a given game to collect screenshots… by about 6:30-6:45 I am wrapping up my post.  I give it a once over, add any links I feel I might need, add categories to the post… and finally hit publish.  I religiously use Microsoft Live Writer for my posts as it allows me to see visually how my post will look before I ever place it on the site.  Additionally it does a lot of niceties like managing the image uploads, has in client cropping and resizing and lets me do my alignment trickery.

Finally once the post has been made I advertise it on both Twitter and Google+.  Sure there are plugins that do this, and I could configure one and just make it happen automagically.  However I like to tailor my post each morning towards the content platform I am advertising it on.  This takes another 10-15 minutes depending on how many names I need to reference in the posts. I go downstairs, tell my wife that I love her and am heading out the door.  At this point it is between 7:00 and 7:15…  so after I jaunt over to QuikTrip for breakfast I get into the office between 7:30 and 7:45.  From the moment I wake up to the moment I leave the house is roughly an hour and a half.

Constraints Help

Talyn’s initial comment was “Holy crap you’re fast!”, but in truth… it is the time constraint that helps me be speedy in the morning.  When I do my weekend posts, they can take an hour and a half to two hours of just writing time.  The difference is.. on the weekends I have all the time in the world, so I do not feel rushed to get in and get things done.  However on the weekday mornings I know I have a finite amount of time that I can devote to each step.  While I have an extremely flexible report time, I personally refuse to abuse this too much.  I still end up as one of the first people into the office.  Ultimately our core hours that we MUST be there are 9-3, and as salaried employees we can carve out our 40 on either side of that fixed point.  I tend to work 7:30 to 4:30 most days, so I can blur that line a little bit and still be fine but I try never to absolutely violate it.

My Wife is Amazing


Yesterday while I was at work, my wife was out with some friends hitting a bunch of “junk stores” for lack of a better term.  This was one of her last days of freedom before the start of the new school year and got roped into this adventure by another teacher friend.  I was ramping up for a meeting and a got a text saying “are there any Lego sets you are looking for?”.  My addiction to Lego has not really surfaced much on the blog yet, but I have always loved them.  Of late I have been picking up sets whenever I found them cheapish.  Apparently at one of the places they stopped they had a large number of sets that were marked down, and then had 20% discount applied on top of that.

An example… the Lego TIE Fighter is roughly $45 in the store, and they had it priced for $35… and then after the 20% discount the final price ended up a steal at $28.  After many texts back and forth with pictures of different sets, I expected her to maybe come home with a TIE Fighter and something else…  but instead she came home with this massive haul of sets.  She spent roughly $100 and got all of the sets pictured above… 3 sets for my niece and nephew that are from the “easy to build” line… and a second Lord of the Rings Gandalf Arrives set for a friend. 

It is not that my wife bought me Legos… it is that she saw them and immediately thought that I would want them.  Granted this is a two way streets… I cannot count the number of times I have picked up some random item for her classroom that I happened to stumble upon while shopping without her.  I just thought it was amazingly awesome that while out with friends, doing something completely out of the ordinary that she thought about me.  I guess this is why we have been a successful pair for over 15 years.  While I did not marry a gamer, I married an awesome nerd that “understands” my geek nature.

Wrapping Up

I need to get this wrapped up so I can get on the road.  I hope this satiated any curiosities about my process that folks might have had.  Additionally look for the first of the new round of guest posts to be happening in the next few days.  These will be in addition to my morning posts.  I don’t want to get out of the habit of writing each morning.  For those in House Stalwart, be thinking about what you want to accomplish tonight.  I am completely game for splitting into dungeon groups if we have a viable comp, running hunt rifts… or just doing random rifts and such to work on the guild quest.  I hope you all have a great day today, and that you accomplish whatever you need to.

A Tank Is

When I typed out yesterdays post in my extremely groggy early morning state, I had no idea it would blow up as much as it did.  It is probably one of the most interactive topics I have ever posted about on this blog.  There are huge threads of comments on G+ and twitter as a result, and even here on my blog there were 10 comments.  During all the exchanges yesterday, I had a suggestion from Brian “Psychochild” Green, that I expand on the topic of what exactly a tank is to me.  I thought this was a pretty good idea, so here goes nothing.

A Tank Is

One of the things that came out from the last two days of discussions relating to the EQ Next class panel and the concept of removing tanking as a requirement from dungeons…  is that we all have slightly different visions of what a tank is in our minds.  As evidenced by so much of the discussion, for certain players a tank is just that character that has the taunt button.  For me the definition goes so much further beyond the “taunt monkey”.  Tank in my mind is made up of a bunch of different roles and personalities all wrapped together into a bigger package, and this is my attempt to explain each of these sub roles.

Tank As Juggernaut


A tank is in my mind a “meat shield”, an immovable wall that soaks up damage for the party.  My vision of a tank is a massive heavily armored bulk that is an imposing force on the battlefield.  My personal choice has always been to have as much stamina as humanly possible and as a result have a phenomenally large hit point pool and simply capable of laughing off most blows.  But it is honestly completely up to the individual tank how they choose to full this role of being able to soak up a goodly amount of damage for the party saving the other members from certain death.

In various games I have seen various schemes for making this work, and I feel like going forward we should expand this role quite a bit.  Traditionally you have mitigation or avoidance as the tools in this toolkit, but I am open to other methods such as a mage for example that is adept at shielding techniques or an agility based melee who is capable of moving so fast that they reduce the chance to hit.  My personal preference will always be the big guy in the big armor that lumbers across the battle field like a moving rampart.  However the game and to some extend player chooses to do it, this sub role is about being able to take abuse for the party.

Tank As Defender


Like I have said, Tanking for me feeds into my protective nature.  I want to protect my friends and family and keep them safe.  Another facet of tanking is the protector.  Traditionally this has been to juggle targets to make sure that the big bad things stay off your healer and your dps, but I feel that the role is so much more than that.  Ultimately the goal of the defender is to interrupt the flow of combat and impose itself in the middle of the process.  This role has long been defined as the person with taunt, or the person with massive aggro generation… but quite honestly taunt is not the only tool or even the best tool in most situations.

Any ability that can reset the flow of an attack, can interrupt the flow of battle buying your healer or dps time to get out of harms way.  In various games I have seen multiple ways of doing this, including slows, stuns, grip attacks, charge attacks, knockbacks, throws, and roots.  All of them play a part in resetting an attack to cause the mob to change direction and focus even momentarily on the tank allowing the other party members to avoid taking the big damage.  League of Legends is a prime example of a game that does not have taunt or aggro in the traditional sense.  However they most definitely have tank characters.  Each of them has some way of screwing up a players attack just long enough for someone else to either escape or swoop in for the kill.

Tank as General


Of all of the facets of tanking, this to me is by far the most important.  A tank controls the battlefield, they make order out of chaos.  The tank is the battlefield leader, controlling every aspect of combat from the pull, to the target priority order and even down to accessing the situation at hand and determining if it is time to recover after every confrontation.  In the best dungeon and raid environments, the tank directs the flow of combat using the above abilities to keep other players out of harms way, and interrupt the attacks of the monsters in a pattern of their choosing.

So much of this role also is the ability to assess the risk at hand, device a strategy and execute it letting your team know what they should be doing in the situation.  This encompasses not only knowing your own skills, but knowing the skills of all of the other players in the party and how best to leverage those for the ultimate win.  This can always happen from “behind the lines”, but I have always felt that the flow of a grouping encounter works best when it is the “puller” directing traffic and preparing the party for what is coming.  This facet of tanking really has little to do with the mechanics and more to do with the leadership of the player in the tank seat.

Tank as Mentor


Many times during combat things go horribly wrong, and since the tank is there in the heat of  battle they can often times diagnose what is going wrong.  In many ways the tank also acts as a battle mentor, and it is how they go about this that often times means the difference between success and failure.  A tank that is willing to help the other team members with issues on the ground in a polite and not ego infused way, can rally together a defeated team into victory.  A tank that passes the blame onto others always, will end up fostering a bitter environment that often ends in catastrophe for the party… or at least their repair bills.

A humble tank that shows a willingness to work with the other players to solve problems can do a good amount to set the morale of the group as a whole.  Again this is a juggling act between being the forceful always right leader, and letting someone NOT directing the flow of combat become a backseat driver.  A tank that is ready to assess what is going wrong, and provide constructive criticism in the form of “helpful tips” will go a lot further than one that sends down proclamations from on high.  In many ways the tank is the cruise director for every outing, and unfortunately it ends up our responsibility to make sure the entire mission is flowing smoothly and that everyone is happy.

A Tank is…  Complicated

Hopefully thought all of this you are beginning to see a picture that for me a Tank goes beyond simple threat and taunt mechanics.  Quite honestly it is an extremely complicated role, and one that I do not take lightly.  Ultimately all of this, and my protective leanings are why I do not really like tanking for pick up groups.  I just don’t feel that protective towards people I do not know, and after years of bad experiences with the WoW Dungeon Finder… I simply cannot bring myself to queue as a tank for anyone but my friends and my guild.

Quite honestly I used to tank for pick up groups on a regular basis in the days before the dungeon finder.  When you had to talk to players face to face in order for form a team, you were far less likely to be a complete dick to them over the course of a dungeon.  Sure I encountered more than my share of haughty elitism, but that is something you can brush off much easier than outright disruptive and damaging behavior.  I miss the days when in order to be successful you needed the personal skills to be able to assemble a team for your purpose.  I met so many friends doing this, as contrasted with the “silent dungeons epidemic” where no one actually talks anymore.

I realize I am lamenting a bygone era… and the modern “push a button, get a group” is here to stay.  However I will still build a team by hand if given the choice, and even now I prefer to draw on guild, social channels, and even random strangers in general chat over queuing up for a random dungeon.  Or sadly… more often than not I just do not run a dungeon at all and resign myself to doing over world content.  The dungeon finder system seems to have failed tanks like me, and the community or lack thereof that has sprung up around it.  Or quite honestly… as Rowan alludes to..  the community might have just been something I had imagined all along.

Wrapping Up

Well it is the time I need to wrap this post up and get it advertised.  I hope after reading it you get a much clearer picture of what exactly I mean when I say “Tank”.  Last night I was completely out of sorts and didn’t really do much gameplay of any significance.  I blame sleeping horribly the night before.  Here is hoping that tonight I will be up to doing some funtime shenanigans again… and maybe even pull together a dungeon.  I hope you all have a great day, and that everything goes smoothly.

Out to Pasture

I need to hustle this morning so the post may or may not be disjuncted.  I had a generally lousy time sleeping last night as all sorts of odd noises kept waking me up.  The end result is that I gave myself 15 more minutes to sleep at one point… and now I am probably more than 15 minutes behind schedule.

Out to Pasture


Yesterday my post about EQ next, its removal of role based combat, and my subsequent despair caused a pretty large comment storm divided up between my blog, Google+ and twitter.  I have to say I had a vastly different gameplay experience than a large number of the posters.  But that said it does seem like there are a massive amount of people disgruntled about tanking in general or even the concept of needing one.  Rowan wrote a pretty great rebuttal with his post “Thanks, But no Tanks”.

I feel in many ways like I am being put out to pasture, like I am some relic of a bygone era.  It reminds me of the same kind of feeling I had when Warriors in World of Warcraft went from the only viable tank, to by far the worst one.  It’s like being told, “Thanks for tanking all of those years, but we really have no need for you any more”.  I am sure that a lot of my healer friends will be feeling the same way.  I remember going into GW2 with some of those folks, and ultimately they were extremely disenfranchised when they couldn’t find a healer to play.

Divide and Conquer

Breledorm Freezing Trap three mobs

All of this is to say that I am not open to new ideas, but more that I am extremely disillusioned with the alternatives that we have seen before.  Brian “Psychochild” Green who happens to be part of the Storybricks team, made a quick comment in my Google+ thread.

The holy trinity came about because of primitive MMO AI. Vastly improved AI means a new dynamic is needed. Wait before you despair.

And honestly I am completely fine with a new dynamic… but I want there to be a “Tanky” role in whatever it is.  This can mean a lot of things but so long as there is room for strong defensive and protective gameplay, I will probably be okay.  Taunt has always been a crutch, and a tool that the good tanks used only in situations where things were already out of control.  I can live without the artificial construct of instant threat generation.  Additionally I can live without the concept of the tank being the one person who gathers up all the mobs… in fact the “AOE it down” mentality while effective is extremely boring.

I want a role so that I focus on the biggest and hardest hitting mob, while the rest of my party burns down everything else.  I want to engage and keep busy the big guys while my team either through the use of crowd control, or simply dps juggling takes out the rest of the group .  I am completely fine with that kind of a paradigm.  I just want a beneficial role to play, and this really has not been the case in any other game that tried to blur the lines of the trinity.  A guardian in Neverwinter is about the most useless thing ever when it comes to grouping… I don’t want to be the sword and board guy that is dragging the entire team down.

Physical Mass


They could go down a completely different avenue and pattern the constructs off of pvp based tanking like Warhammer Online.  I am again completely fine with this paradigm as well, as I really enjoyed tanking on my Ironbreaker.  The different there and the construct that allowed this to function was that players had physical mass.  You could not idly clip through other players or npcs… and as a result “Tanks” could create physical barriers to keep players from attacking the squishier targets.

This was an enjoyable mechanic and there was quite a bit of synergy between the support functionality I was supplying and the damage dealing my friends were doing.  With the destructible and constructible world concept… I could definitely see a tank being an obstacle maker that slows down or impedes the enemy from getting to the party.  So long as I play an important role in the party, and the addition of my abilities improves gameplay rather than drags them down… I will find a way to be happy with whatever defensive gameplay it provides.

DPS is Boring


Ultimately I play a tank most of the time because I like being able to take tons of abuse.  I habitually level in every game as either a full tank or a custom tank hybrid build.  It is the style of gameplay I always gravitate towards.  The avatar I have in my head, always has a sword and shield and lots and lots of armor.  My time constraints often times push me into a mode where I simply cannot be the lynchpin of the group, and cannot tank…  so I fall back on dual wield dps generally.  The problem is I find that style of gameplay boring.

DPS to me is avoiding stuff on the ground while trying to execute a “Simon Says” like pattern as quickly as possible to do the maximum amount of damage.  Obviously from the comments in all the threads yesterday, this is a gameplay style that a lot of players enjoy.  For me if I am not having to juggle targets, manage aggro, and protect other players I quickly get bored and zone out.  My biggest hope is that whatever the new scheme ends up being with EQ Next that it gives me more to do than just run around idly and mash a few buttons blindly.

I realize that I am probably in the large minority of players that enjoy tanking, and do so even when NOT in a group situation.  I know we are out there however, and that tanking to me is just something we do instinctually.  I just hope was we move forward there is still a place for us to have a valuable team contribution without having to fall back on a gameplay style that just isn’t natural for us.  I like grouping with my friends, and in many ways I took up tanking because I wanted to protect my friends… it ties into my deep protective instinct.

The problem is this same instinct just doesn’t really apply in the same way to strangers.  The evidence of the lack of people who want to tank or heal that keeps being brought up are the long lines in the dungeon queues.  I present an alternate explanation…  those of us who tank or heal because of this protective instinct… simply do not want to tank for strangers.  I love tanking for friends and guildies…  but I have zero interest in ever queuing into a random because every experience I have ever had as a PUG tank was relatively bad.  The tank in these groups is the focus of everyone’s ire, and until that changes you will always have able bodied tanks like myself unwilling to subject themselves to the crap storm… especially when we can form groups

relatively easily within our own guild.

Wrapping Up

I have rattled on enough for the day, and I probably will have opened up a few more cans of worms that will work themselves out during the day.  I am open to new ideas, but every break from the trinity thus far has failed miserably in my eyes.  Here is hoping that Storybricks will be the magic sauce that makes non-role-based gameplay enjoyable.  I have a lot of hope about what Storybricks will do at least from a single player experience… but I just have yet to see any alternate scenario actually work as far as a grouping one.  If they can deliver fun and non-chaotic group play I will be more than happy to hitch my banner to their wagon.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope nothing I have said offended anyone.

No Love For Tanks

Good morning you happy people out in the verse…  yeah I just got finished reading a post about Firefly… ignore me.  This is another one of those “doing things under NDA that I can’t talk about” weekends…  so as a result I usually am pretty scant in what I feel I CAN blog about.  Thankfully SOE Live is still giving me news to react to so that is mostly what I will be doing.  Additionally I seem to be down another couple of pounds as of this morning which would make 54 total since I started this latest foray of sensible living.  I am fairly proud if I do say so myself.

No Love For Tanks


I have so much gratitude for Curse gaming for having the forethought to record all of the SOE Live sessions that Sony themselves did not have the foresight to live stream over  As a result of their work I bring you the Class Panel video 1 and 2… and my commentary on it.  I watched this last night along with a few other friends and we pooled our comments over a shared chat channel.  My rabid fanboyism from Friday quickly turned into quiet terror when they started unfolding their vision for the game as a whole.  I have to say most of it sounded almost word for word like the pitch we heard leading up to the launch of Guild Wars 2.

To preface the part that scares me… they talk about a concept of “everyone taking care of themselves” and “No tanks or healers”.  Which always seems to read to me as the pipe dream of every dps that has ever played a game and been bitter that they are not treated as seriously as the tank and healer characters.  I am totally fine with not having a strict reliance on tanking or healing… but it scares me that they plan yet again to abolish these roles.  My mind is filled with nothing but visions of the giant chaotic mess that grouping in Guild Wars 2 was.

Tanks LIKE Tanking


The component that designers bent on this path seem to completely miss…  Tanks enjoy tanking and Healers enjoy healing.  We do not feel like we are forced into those roles… those are the roles we assign ourselves happily and willingly.  I LEVEL as a tank because I enjoy tanking mobs, it feeds off my protective nature and I know many tanks that feel exactly the same way.  Additionally I have lots of friends who are extremely nurturing people, that will always gravitate towards playing whatever the feel to be the most supportive healing class because they want to in equal parts “nurture” their friends.

These are not some artificial roles that we have been forced into by bad game design… these are roles that fill our need to protect or nurture or support in a game.  Not everyone wants to wildly mash buttons and destroy the targets as fast as they can.  I feel as though there is a certain kind of game designer that just fundamentally does not get this drive.  At one point in the video one of the designers describes the gameplay as “one person is forced to focus all the damage on them, another is forced to heal that person, then everyone else pretty much gets to do whatever they want and have fun”.  It is almost as if the designer does not realize that tanking and healing ARE fun for the players that really like to do it.

I don’t view tanking as a sacrifice, I view it as feeding into my most primal nature and my inborn need to protect my friends.  I would be willing to expect that all of the amazing healers who have supported me over the years did not feel forced into that role.  Game design like this makes me think that these folks simply do not understand the amazingly symbiotic relationship between a tank and a healer, and how awesome it is when you get to a point that both players can predict the actions of the other.  Maybe I am just lucky that I have had a long line of healers that I got to this point with… and I simply wish designers understood this better.

Granted there are definitely times where I don’t want to tank… and I am sure there are times where the healers don’t want to heal.  That is completey cool and why we have modern gameplay that allows us to switch the roles around freely.  However I do not feel that the problem is the roles themselves.  Without roles combat feels like a chaotic mess, and simply something I do not enjoy.  I was on board with Guild Wars 2, until the moment I did my first dungeon and saw that zergging a boss down from the resurrection point was a completely valid tactic.  There is nothing fun about that kind of gameplay for me… and I am scared now that after seeing this amazing concept that we will end up with that sort of haphazard grouping.

A Solo Experience


Right now I feel as thought I will still enjoy playing Everquest Next, so much about the game seems completely amazing.  I just fear that it might be a completely single player experience for me.  If Landmark provides a random world with random storybricks encounters that I can explore freely… that might be seriously enough to keep me happy regardless of how the larger gameplay evolves.  If EQ Next is nothing more than Minecraft evolved I will play the hell out of it and be exceedingly happy to do so.  I just am not a huge fan of what sounds to be their design mantra of abolishing roles again… since that went so tragically wrong with Guild Wars 2.

I am extremely amped to get into the beta experience and build all sorts of nifty things in Landmark.  I still go on massive Minecraft binges where I will do nothing but that game for a weekend and build entire cities… only to abandon the map and start from scratch again when the next creative urge hits.  All I have ever really wanted is to have the Minecraft freedom with a better game wrapped around it.  Having that kind of randomly generated and ever changing world, with awesome MMO controls mixed in would keep me happy for hundreds of hours of gameplay.  I could not be happier if I logged into my email and saw a beta invite right now.

So I am very much still on board with the notion of EQ Next… but I just heard the first things that deeply concerned me.  Here is hoping that this turns out to be more marketing spin than actual gameplay.  I feel as though there are a lot of dps out there with chips on their shoulders against tanks and healers… and that every so often one of these design schemes that tries to undo the roles of teamplay comes along.  Here is hoping they will dial it back before release.  They did mention that they would support “defensive” gameplay, and depending on what that means I would be happy with the protector role in another fashion even if it is not gather up all the hate and soake the damage.  I guess only time and subsequent releases will tell how this shakes out.

Wrapping Up

Well I have the lore panels to view, and that might be fodder for tomorrows posts.  Additionally we need to pick up the house today and I want to get that done sooner than later so I can piddle around in Rift and the thing that must not be named.  I hope you all have had a great weekend and are prepared for the work week ahead of us.  Additionally I hope you have been as amped as I am to see all the yummy footage coming out of SOE Live, Quake Con and the Rift stream.  I love Norrath, so no matter how frustrated I might be with a given direction they seem to be taking… I will always give the game a shot because of my love of the world.

Livestream Rundown

Yesterday feels like a really odd occurrence, with three different major live streams…  that were in no way actually connected.  Currently SOE Live is going on right now in Vegas and QuakeCon is going on in Dallas.  From those two we had the huge EQ Next reveal and some really sweet live gameplay footage from a dungeon in Elder Scrolls Online.  Then adding to that stack we had the normal Friday afternoon live stream from Trion worlds announcing a bunch of nifty things coming up in Rift.  As a result I have so many things to say… but it is almost difficult to organize my thoughts around them…  I guess for simplicity sake I will just start in chronological order.

Fungal Grove


First up in the stack was some sweet live demo footage of The Elder Scrolls from QuakeCon.  Up to this point we had seen a lot of recorded footage of the game but to the best of my knowledge this is the first real live demo of a player just poking around in the game.  Instead of just having a guy on stage moving around they took it up a notch and decided to run a live dungeon, in this case apparently one in the Ebonheart faction area called Fungal Grove.  All in all the dungeon looked really cool…  it seemed to be story driven as they moved through it providing simple objectives that the group followed.

One of the cool things is that at some point one of the players died and Paul Sage the person moderating the game play mentioned that any player can resurrect any other player using a soul gem.  This should be handy as it removes the need to have resurrection being a class specific skill.  I have to say the first person mode looks exactly like it should… seeing them playing in that and all the animations looking right made me extremely happy.  Additionally the bows seem to work like Elder Scrolls bows should.  Bow sniping from stealth totally appears to be a thing, and that should make a lot of diehard Elder Scrolls players extremely happy.

Ultimately the game looks exactly like what it is supposed to be… Elder Scrolls but Online with other players.  Additionally it does not seem like they are trying to be any of the other MMOs on the market.  The problem I had with SWTOR was that it felt and looked like World of Warcraft in space.  The storyline was awesome, but ultimately you were left playing a vanilla era WoW experience apart from that.  This looks like Skyrim with people… which is all I really wanted while playing the previous Elder Scrolls games.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing this in person.

Pixar EQMinecraft


Okay if you did not have a chance to watch this all yesterday… stop what you are doing and watch it right now.  This is some seriously amazing stuff and I do not want to be the one that blunts the impact.  Watched the above videos?  SOE Trolled us… and trolled us hard yesterday.  If you watched the videos… there was roughly 20 minutes of filler ahead of the meat of the demonstration.  So much frustrating and bad jokes were flying over twitter as we all experienced it in person.  A lot of us, myself included started to feel like maybe they were putting up filler because they really did not have that much to show.  We all remember the filler content from Blizzcon a few years back that clearly were meant to be Titan presentations.

Once the trolling subsided… Dave Georgeson… quite possibly the happiest man on the planet EVER…  came on stage and started easing into the presentation by showing us some concept art.  Then like a master showman… he drops the bomb on us by showing us a bunch of screenshots that look almost exactly like the concept art.  Just to prove that the game really looks like that, he does a flythrough of the very painterly zone of Ashfang.  The world honestly feels like it is made out of clay… has a very claymation appearance to it.  I was pretty questionable about how the world would look until later when he got into demos that involved motion and characters.


If you were like me… a year or so ago you were perplexed when all the sudden SOEmote was introduced into Everquest 2.  It seemed like an extremely detailed system to build…  but made zero sense that they did it when they did it.  Apparently EQ2 was a test for what they were planning on doing with EQ Next.  The above shot shows a Human Female Caster going through all of the range of emotions.  The amount of squash and stretch in the faces gives it a very Pixar quality that I am amped to see in person.  Ultimately that was the only real aspect I was interested in about Wildstar, so EQ Next has completely blown that out of the water.

Additionally they went into detail to explain why the world looks like it does.  Apparently everything is made out of voxels, and as a result every single object in the world is destructible.  That means as you are going through a battle… you can knock out a bridge to keep forces from getting to you… or pound a mob into a column and the column breaks from the motion.  They did a few demos to show this off and it looks really cool.  The only concern I have is how jarring will it feel when the world heals itself over time (which was mentioned as a footnote in one of the demos).  I would hope that the healing occurs over a large expanse of time and gradually instead of everything magically flying back into place.

Additionally I have concerns about how this will lead to greifing.  There was a demo of the Kerran Warrior and Human Mage fighting a rock elemental… and it does some kind of giant slamming attack knocking a hole in the ground and dropping all three to a cavern below the main forest floor of Feerott.  Will players get pissed at each other and knock them down below eventually into the lava on the bottom level of the world?  Fully destructable world is awesome… but I realize there will always be a player willing to grief you, and this seems like an amazing mechanism for doing so.

I could go on and on for hours about the cool features of the game… but like I said at the start you really should just watch the video reveal for yourself.  If you believe the marketing spiel… EQ Next seems like it is going to be the game everyone has ever wanted to play.  Allowing you to just go adventuring in the world and respond to things as they happen around you.  The mobs apparently have storybricks style likes, dislikes and motivations… and the ability to grow a camp to a city over time.  So the world should be  constantly changing around you based on the influence the players have placed upon it.  There are several awesome demos that explain this concept.

The biggest part of the reveal for me is that December of this year we will be getting a taste of Everquest Next with the release of Everquest Next Landmark.  It essentially will give the players an ability to adventure through a procedurally generated world and the ability to build structures on their own private plot of land.  The details were a bit fuzzy but it sounded like they were essentially planning on crowdsourcing much of EQ Next through a series of contests that let them call out to the EQ Next Landmark builder community to help design various constructs of the game.  If they really use EQ Next Landmark as an incubation chamber for new content for EQ Next in general… they might solve the “not enough content” problem that plagues every game.

Essentially over the course of the demonstration I went from annoyed, to interested… to eventually TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!!  No matter how hard I threw money at the screen it never actually seemed to work.  If you are as intrigued as I am… you too can head over to the EQ Next homepage and sign up for beta.  I am really hoping that the fact that I am a long time EQ2 subscriber and a Station Access level member will influence when I get picked in the process.  I want to be playing EQ Minecraft now!  Ultimately I am not sure if this game will completely replace the Rift like games for me… but having a game like this would definitely replace Minecraft for me.

Rift Livestream

I am lazy and since the editor I use to write my blog posts doesn’t support twitch tv… you will just have to click the link here.  Like every Friday, yesterday Trion did their normal live stream, this time about Rift again.  As always they are a glorious rambling mess of Rift gameplay and conversation with the folks in game and on the twitch live chat.  Additionally like always there are little nuggets of information that slip out about what is coming down the pipe.  If you want to see a fully summary, head over to Rift Junkies as they have a pretty good rundown.  Be warned the stream is well over 2 hours long.

One of the cool things coming down the pipe is that they plan on revamping all of the level 50 elite dungeons to update them for level 60 players.  While I have so many mixed feelings about this, because of the crap that WoW continually did in recycling content…  it sounds like they may be doing it the right way.  The new dungeons will be treated like completely unique versions, and as a result the old dungeons will still exist in their former state.  The first of these will be “Twisted Realm of the Fae”, which is a darker more twisted version of the original dungeon.  They were pretty scant on details but I definitely like the direction they are going.

Additionally it sounds like there will be a number of new Chronicles coming out in 2.4, the first of them announced is apparently going to be a 2 man version of Infernal Dawn.  I absolutely love the Chronicles concept because one of the frustrating things about no longer being a raider… is that so much of the storyline content in these games is told over the course of a raid.  Chronicles allow two players to get in and experience the key storyline of a specific raid instance.  Apparently this one will be roughly the same difficulty level as the level 60 Queens Gambit one.

I was kind of disappointed that no more information was mentioned about the Rift 3.0 expansion and when it was slotted to arrive.  It was hinted that we might be seeing a level 60 set of Guild Quests and that would be extremely awesome.  I just hope these open up another three or so quests available to players instead of making it you do the early ones or you do the late ones.  I am still very much in love with Rift again.. and really enjoying the guild and everything it has become over the last few weeks.  So many proud feelings about seeing House Stalwart ride again in all its glory.

Wrapping Up

I got a super late start on the morning… didn’t end up waking up until 10 am… so as a result this came out extremely late as well.  I need to get on with my day and get up and around.  Here is hoping your weekend started a little bit more smoothly than mine.  I had a great night doing our first every guild League of Legends Beginner night.  While there were not that many people who partook, I am hoping if we do it again we will be able to drag more players in the moba madness.  It had been roughly 2 months since I had played, so it was fun breaking back into it.

Everquest Current

Good morning everyone, hopefully you got a bit more sleep than I did last night.  I ended up with another minor round of panic attacks and as a result did not actually make it to bed until after 1 am.  However I seem to be mostly functional.  Thanks a ton for all the warm wishes I received yesterday through either the blog, twitter, google+ or in game.  We didn’t do anything really insane… just went out to dinner and then came back and chilled out downstairs.  I piddled around a bit in Rift and eventually made my way over to the SOE Live twitch stream.

What Happens in Vegas


Normally we think of what happens in Vegas… stays in Vegas…  however at SOE apparently what happens gets live broadcast over for free.  Having been a long fan of the SOE franchises, namely Everquest 2 I figured I would tune in last night for a bit and see if there was anything interesting happening.  I have been immensely curious to find out what is coming down the pipe with Everquest Next.  I have so many fears about how the game will turn out…  sandbox can mean so many things and not all of them good for the long time survival of a game.  So I like many tuned in thinking I might see a teaser for EQNext before the official unveil at Noon PST today.

You could tell that pretty much the only thing the crowd wanted to hear about WAS EQ Next and when Smedley took the stage… he did a pretty thorough job of baiting and teasing the crowd.  However he did bring out the very famous Jeremy Soule of Skyrim fame to showcase his work on the Everquest Next theme.  Within moments of it happening in the live broadcast the above theme was available on Youtube.  I have to say…  I am more than a little disappointed.  Granted this is “sketch” as they called it, an early synth only version of the theme… but quite honestly it feels a little generic for lack of the better word.

If you listen to the Everquest 1 and Everquest 2 themes… there is definitely a shared lineage there.  I expected this theme to carry on in a new way with the original “Everquest Notes” much in the same way that Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim take the same skeletal core of “TES Notes” and make them their own.  But what we have is something vastly different and really does not feel at all like “Everquest” music to me.  It feels way too ethereal, and not bombastic enough to represent an over the top franchise like Everquest.  Apparently however gauging opinion from twitter and Google+ I am in the minority of my opinion.

I listened to the track over and over trying to find some shared lineage back to the original themes… and I think maybe just maybe I figured out what Jeremy Soule was trying to do.  In the original Everquest theme… there is an odd little segment that always felt a bit out of place… that starts at roughly 0:46 and continues to 1:06.  The more I listen to the EQNext theme the more I think he chose this odd little section to expand into a larger theme.  I guess my hope is that Soule was starting with this segment and fading his way into the “EQ Notes”, and that the part that did the unfinished fade down is where the theme would pick up and grow into something we recognize.

I have a lot of faith in Jeremy Soule, I have a 4 disc set of Skyrim music that I listen to at work on a pretty regular basis.  I was just shocked at what I heard and how little it represented “Everquest” for me.  It also makes me afraid that they are really distancing themselves from the past, and kinda abandoning the Everquest lineage that came before.  I love Norrath and probably always will, and while I don’t think I could ever return to playing Everquest 1 I am still a huge fan of everything that Everquest 2 has become.  I want Everquest Next to draw upon this pedigree and not just completely abandon it.

Everquest Current


So much emphasis has been placed on Everquest Next, but last night was really about showing off Everquest Current.  Both Everquest and Everquest II are seemingly unstoppable juggernauts of content.  In the video above they announce the 20th expansion for the original Everquest, Call of the Forsaken.  It is completely staggering to think of any MMO in todays climate making its way through 20 separate expansion packs.  That is really one of the things that the SOE model has done… is allow aging communities to survive and be nurtured by what seems like extremely dedicated product teams.

I don’t really play Everquest other than occasionally logging in to my station account and remembering just how primate the old days were, so the first half of this trip down “everquest current” was interesting but had no real meat on its bones for me.  I started to get a little excited when the EQ2 portion came up.  While I am knee deep in Rift and living it… I will always have a deep nostalgia over EQ2 and all that it represents.  As a result I want it to be awesome, and I want to to successfully draw players.  In the above video they announce the 10th expansion for EQ2, Tears of Veeshan.

I remember spending a lot of time farming the North Temple of Veeshan for rep and gear back in the original game… and to some extend I always knew that EQ2 would take us back there.  Additionally they will be opening up High Hold Keep, a zone that I travelled through numerous times on my way to the Karanas but never actually leveled in the area surrounding it.  Apparently in the storyline we have dug too deep below the keep… and uncovered a band of Goblins that have taken it over.  As a result it looks like similar to Kaladim, it will be a former city turned dungeon as you “retake” the keep.

What I found extremely interesting in the talk of going to the “Nexus Core” supposedly an area that powered the Nexus on Luclin.  I have always hoped that one of the expansions would take us back to moon and see what remains of it, so maybe this will open the door to that actually happening.  I really loved Luclin, I guess in part because this was the first expansion I was actually a loyal player for the release.  I started playing Everquest just shortly after the release of Velious, and there was something magical about experiencing my very first MMO expansion pack.

The big reveal it seems was the addition of a 26th character class The Channeler, which is apparently on the SOE Live floor.  The shots they showed of the class looked pretty cool, but it also seemed extremely confused.  It is a priest archetype, but has a giant mage like elemental construct  but wears leather and wields a bow.  It will be interesting to see what the class plays like, and whether it feels like a ranger turned pet class or not.  The unique mechanic is that the construct is customizable with the ability to swap abilities and appearances to make it into whatever the player wants.  Again it will have to be something I see in action to be able to make sense of it.

Finally at the TAIL end of the video Holly Longsdale teased what was coming for expansion eleven.  Based on the images shown… I would guess that the Everquest 2 timeline will be discovering the lost continent of Taelosia as see in the Gates of Discord expansion to the original game.  I could be wrong… namely because I was not actually playing EQ at that time, but based on some of the artwork I remember…  these odd tribal lizardish men look to fit that theme.  I am not sure but I believe Taelosia is the last major landmass that has not made an apperance at least in part in the broken world setting.  It is good to see that they have a long range plan of where to take the game next.  I still would love to get a trip back to the moon however.

Wrapping Up

I am looking forward to seeing the actual Everquest Next announcement today around noonish pst.  Additionally from Quake Con there is supposed to be a live demo of Elder Scrolls Online at 1:30 EDT so that should be awesome as well.  I will likely be listening to both in the background as I work on various things today.  I really hope that both are as awesome as I have built them up to be in my head.  I hope you all have a great Friday, and that it leads to a great weekend.  Hopefully other than picking up around the house and doing a few chores mine is pretty relaxing.  Tonight at 8pm CDT House Stalwart is hosting a League of Legends beginner night for anyone that wants to get their feet wet, so that should be enjoyable.  It has been so long since I have played that I am really looking forward to doing it for a few hours.

Fifteen Years

This morning I am struggling a wee bit to figure out what exactly to write about… so as a result I am just starting typing hoping something good comes out in the process.  Yesterday was a fairly rough day as we were dealing with the fallout of rolling out a major system at work.  As a result I spent most of the day grinding away trying to fix a few issues that had sprung up in the process.  I rolled out one of the fixes, with another one for today that needs a lot of involvement from the customers.  I decided it was far too big a can of worms to delve into late in the day.


rift 2013-05-03 22-16-26-04

I will admit yesterday during the day I had some seriously grand designs on what Wednesday night would look like.  I had intended to pull together hunt rifts or even break up into 5 man teams and do some dungeoneering, but none of that really happened.  For whatever reason my dinner last night just was not really sitting with me all that well, and I as a result didn’t really feel up to rallying the troops in some grand adventure.  So as a result no real overarching mission for the night really occurred and I feel like I failed the guild a little bit.

What did happen however is that we knocked out two “kill 1000 planar creature” guild quests.  So while we were not all in the same place, guild members were all over the world assisting in that purpose.  I know Rae and I were camped out in Cape Jule at one of the source wells and we decimated what felt like thousands of fire elementals over the course of a few hours.  Additionally there were little pockets of guild members in other places working away on invasion mobs all of them contributing to the total kill count.

So while we may not have been doing what I had intended, the guild as a whole did end up working towards a specific mission it seems like.  After we knocked out the second of the planar creature quests, I joined up with Thalen and helped ferry out the lower level Rae and Tibuant to Steppes of Infinity to do an advanced crafting rift.  I am hoping that someday we can do an entire night of these.  They really provide a massive amount of materials for the crafters, and I can remember going out to Ember Isle before the expansion and doing entire nights of various people summoning thing.

The Best Loot


Since I was insanely busy yesterday… I really had zero time to catch up on my RSS feed.  This morning when trying to figure out what to write about I ended up flipping through a few posts.  One of them that caught my attention was from Keen and Graev posing the question… where should the best loot come from?  I have some very specific thoughts about this honestly, so I figured it would be a good thing to rattle on about for a few.  Ultimately I don’t think there should be one single place to get the best loot.  I feel as though that has been part of the problem all along in these games is that there is generally one specific place to get all the best gear.

I feel as though there should be multiple paths to obtain really good gear for your character.  Even if you are not raiding, you want to feel like you are constantly progressing your character to being able to doing bigger and better things.  So I feel as though there should be viable gearing options from raiding, pvp, questing and crafting.  Each path should provide similar quality rewards but involve vastly different activities.  I see Raiding and PVP as the brute force approach to gearing.. you get in… kill some stuff and get loot quickly.  Whereas the crafting and questing routes take far more time and commitment but you get to the end goal of nice gear eventually.

I remember how mystical the original Epic quests were in Everquest 1, and how they involved pulling together your entire guild to try and help one player get an item.  Similarly in Everquest 2 they rolled out the heritage quests and eventually epic weapon quests that involved going on these amazingly drawn out adventures to obtain a mythical item.  Why did this design stop?  Why are there not entire sets of gear that you can quest for that involve multiple steps, figuring out riddles, solving puzzles, and eventually collecting another piece of a fabled gear set.  This is really the gearing route that has been missing in games.

Additionally I see that crafting would be very similar but take a slightly different spin.  To get the “end game” gear you would go through a series of quests to gather and refine the best materials, learn recipes from ancient trainers, and maybe factioning up with some kind of crafting guild.  The end result would be the guild helping you craft the pieces that you could not yourself.  Again however the final result is a long process that lets a player build up to end game gear.  My biggest concern with crafting as the key to end game gear is that generally it means that a few crafters have access to the best patterns and the server as  a whole suffers in the pocket book from that.  I feel a more personal crafting path would benefit players more, like this NPC crafting guild approach.

Ultimately in my perfect game I would see all four of these paths to glory.  Raiding and PVP provide the quicker and easier way to the good gear, whereas crafting and questing provide a much longer and more arduous approach but still provide the same payoff in the end.  It is not to say that a player cannot mix and match these processes as well.  One of the biggest frustrations as a raider is when that one slot that you have needed for months refuses to drop.  If you had a way to embark upon a quest or rally crafting resources to fill that slot, I am sure most raiders would do so in a heartbeat.  I think the real challenge is to treat all players as equals, instead of giving the development nod to one specific segment of them.

Fifteen Years

Today is a fairly auspicious occasion, and I figure I will close out todays posting by sharing it with you.  Fifteen years ago today my wife and I got married in a very untraditional fashion completely fitting the two of us.  It boggles the mind to think it is that long ago.  We got together in 1996 and spent the last two years of college together, eventually moving in together when I woke up one morning to find my rat fink of a room mate moving out on me… because he had not been paying his half of the rent.  Me, my wife and her roommate all moved in together and I literally spent the end of my college days living out an episode of threes company.

My family and hers were like oil and water… with the primarchs of each family constantly butting heads.  I was raised Catholic and she Baptist… and my Mother and her Father nearly came to blows each time they were put in the same room.  We wanted a simple wedding, outdoors…  which quickly became insane as my mother started wanting to invite all sorts of bizarre guests like my fourth grade teachers.  Additionally my mother wanted us to have TWO weddings…  one with a priest in the Catholic church… and then the outdoor wedding.

Then there was the issue of which father would actually walk her down the aisle.   Her step father was a quiet and loving man, and was one of the most amazing men I have ever known.  Her biological father I have come to love, but at the time was extremely showy and overbearing… and would have made a very public spectacle if he did not get the honor.    Whereas her step father would have likely been extremely hurt were he not the one to do it… but never would have let on or shown it.  Essentially we had a logistical nightmare on our hands and no matter which way we turned… we were going to hurt someone.

Fifteen years ago today we took our first act of defiance as a couple and decided to piss everyone involved off and elope.  We gathered up all the necessary bits of information needed to get married in the state of Oklahoma and found a wedding chapel in town.  I jokingly say we were married at the House of Vacuums, because the chapel was a fairly nondescript building directly around the corner from there.  I called my cousin and my wife called her best friend, and they stood as witnesses, and after a short service with a very nice female minister we were wed.

While this is a fairly untraditional beginning it fits the two of us extremely well.  Neither of us are terribly showy people, and both of us rather severe introverts.  I’m a geek and she is a nerd and together we have made a pretty amazing life together.  I love her dearly and cannot imagine having spent the last fifteen years any other way.  I hope the next fifteen years go as easily as these last ones have.  There are times when I sit back and think to myself…  man you have an awesome life, and in a huge part it is entirely because of her.  She helps me stay grounded and is the voice of reason behind all my potentially poor choices.  We make a pretty great team.

Wrapping Up

Well I have a ton of things to do today, so I need to be getting on the road.  I have no clue what we will be doing for our anniversary, quite honestly it all depends on how both of our days go.  She is already back to school and working every day since she wears a bunch of administrative type hats.  At the minimum we will probably go out to eat together but not really do much celebration until the weekend.  I hope you all have a great day… and to my wife who I know will be reading this later…  I love you and happy anniversary.

Story Problems

Good morning cadets… welcome to the flight deck… err I mean… never mind.  It is in fact another morning, and I may or may not have actually gotten some sleep last night.  Enough that I was able to wake up ahead of the alarm clock and get a minor head start on the day… that I have gloriously squandered.  I have a huge day ahead of me, namely that I have to fix an issue that I did not realize was broken until yesterday.  The old process is a rats nest of ancient visual basic… so here’s hoping I can gut it and replace it with something that works better.

Story Problems


Yesterday Syp from Bio Break posted an article that rang true for me, called Living Story, Dead Interest.  In the article he talks about how the whole “living story” construct in Guild Wars 2 seems to be lacking any real traction for him.  That the rapid fire biweekly story changes are happening too fast for him to really know what is going on in that world.  Based on the comments to the post including one from me… it seems like there is a wide variety of players that just are not getting into the direction that Arena Net has taken the game.

Ultimately for me my malaise with Guild Wars 2 goes a little bit deeper than this.  There are so many things I like about this game.  I think the world is gorgeous and does an amazing job of disguising that it is running on a relatively primate graphics engine compared to its peers.  I think the combat is fun and easy to get into and gives an almost arcade quality to the experience.  I love the changes they made to inventory management, and I love the ability to dump your crafting materials in the bank wherever you happen to be… and then later access your bank from every crafting machine in the world.

The problem is… even with all this good.. I just simply do not care about the world.  It is wild and expansive… and feels completely dead to me.  There are interesting races and locations, but I don’t feel like I know anything about them.  The game chose to abolish two things… roles and quests, but the problem I have is that in neither case did they really replace them with something anywhere near as engaging.  I am one of those people who actually does at least skim through quests as I am doing them.  I feel they give me a sense of purpose out in the world.

In the world of Guild Wars 2… I can’t even recall the name of the world mind you…  I feel like I have no purpose at all.  My entire gaming experience is about popping around the world and performing whatever task is needed to check off various flavored dingbats on my map.  The story just is not there for me, and the class quest line story is too few and far between to really matter.  I don’t really feel like I care about any of the cast of characters I am supposed to.  I don’t like the characters, I occasionally like that I recognize the person doing the voice acting.

Back to the problem at hand…  the Living Story.  My big issue is that Arena Net has chosen to create a series of disposable content, rather than fleshing out the world over time and making the entire experience permanently richer for it.  Additionally I hate all content that expires.. I hate feeling like I am in a rush to experience it.  The end result is not me being pulled into the content and running around in a mad dash to try and experience everything… but instead me simply giving up on the game entirely.  Right now I end up logging in roughly once a month when the whim hits me… I kill a few things and log out, never really finding a purpose for playing.

Battle Bards

I tweeted about this yesterday, and often times retweet each time a new Battle Bards post is made, but I feel like this does not give enough credit to just how amazing this podcast is.  One of my vices is gaming music, namely the grand sweeping tracks that are usually associated with massively multiplayer online games.  Twice a month the Battle Bards…  Syp, MMOGC, and Syl bring you a themed show delving into the truly excellent music that accompanies your gaming experience.  If you are not listening to each new show you are really missing out because this is one of the best podcasts out there.

This latest post was especially nostalgic for me in that they chose to focus on the music of Everquest 2.  I have so much love for the world of Norrath, and a good part of this is wrapped up in the music that has always been associated with it.  I fell in love with Everquest the first time I heard the opening theme…  it was so grand and sweeping and did not feel like any other game music I had experienced.  Sure it sounds dated now but at the time it was a midi masterpiece, and I love the way that Everquest 2 drew upon this same musical style for its opening theme.

One of the interesting side commentary I had while listening to this podcast surrounds their feeling about the theme for Antonica.  While everyone seemed to like the track, they did not feel that it sounded like an outdoor zone theme.  It was commented that it sounded like something from a movie soundtrack and not that of a video game.  While I agree with the last statement, I feel that EQ2 outdoor zones have a very movie aspect to them.

It would not be a fitting track for the scale of say a World of Warcraft zone, but for Everquest 2 it works well.  Essentially all of these outdoor zones are on a scale that just isn’t seen in other games.  Antonica for example is roughly 5-6 times the size of Elwynn Forest in World of Warcraft.  It encompasses numerous distinct biomes, is the entry way to half a dozen dungeons and instanced zones.  The sheer scale is very movie like and dramatic, so as you are roaming around it… this jaunty theatrical music seems to fit.

Ultimately this has always been the overwhelming thing that I loved about Everquest 2.  Everything about the world feels epic in proportions.  There is a dungeon out in in the Jarsath Wastes on Kunark called Chelsith that you have to approach by water.  As you are swimming out you approach what appears to be a rock partially submerged, but as you dip under the water you see that this is the tip of the head of an ancient Iksar statue that has been long submerged… and that the entrance to Chelsith is t the base of its feet.  There are so many moments like that, that just say over and over again… this world is massive.

Stalwart Online

Yesterday we soft launched our new guild website, and are super pumped that it is starting to get some traction among our users.  It is still very much a work in progress and there are various bits and pieces that we want to do to expand it.  The graphical style and skin work is 100% the product of my co-worker and our master guild hall decorator… Audrae.  I know she has some future plans like to make the background swap each time the page loads, and have it pull from a pool of user submitted scenic shots.  Right now we have a promotional shot from Elder Scrolls Online as a static background, but that should change before long.

Essentially to move to a more living and easier to use website, we needed to completely abandon our previous site.  As a result we are soft launching this site and will eventually set the old forums into a read-only mode.  They will always be accessible off the archives link in the menu, but this is only to keep from losing almost a decade worth of posts and material.  Once we have made this shift we will redirect to point to the new site as well as

Essentially this is a revision in a long line of attempts to move Stalwart from being a game centric community to a larger multi-gaming community.  We have had a presence in almost every game released in recent years, but the previous forums were extremely World of Warcraft focused.  Despite my efforts to juggle the content in a way to keep them from being that… the old format just did not work that well.  Now we are switching to a more discussion and category based system that lists all the new content equally without burying it under a series of folders.

Here is hoping that our members will like the switch and that the new forums will revitalize our community.  Over the last year or so the old forums have been completely dead.  As a result users have just stopped checking in over time.  Here is hoping that the new content and new approach can draw them back out of the shadows and participating again.  Our Rift guild has been wildly successful, and my hope is to harness this new energy to do some really cool stuff.  In the past two week we went from 5 members and questioning if this was actually a good idea… to over 40 members and wondering what exactly we are going to do with everyone.  It is definitely a good thing.

Wrapping Up

Well I have rattled on again and squandered whatever time I gained by getting up before the alarm.  I need to get off here and  finish getting ready.  This morning I need to wake my wife up and make sure she is getting ready because she has a few things that she needs to get done today.  I have a mountain of work awaiting me when I get to the office, and I feel like it is going to take every last bit of it to get through the day.  I hope you all have great days… and feel free to check out our new website.  I feel like the majority of my readers are guild members already.

Hot Tub Party

Morning again all you readers in readerland.  I actually managed to get some sleep last night, and actually slept pretty soundly.  As a result I no longer feel like death warmed over.  Making it through yesterday was a bit of a struggle, and having sit in meetings and think intelligible thoughts a constant challenge.  There was one point when I was in the middle of a diatribe about some programming theory….  when I just lost my train of thought.  Poof it was gone… and I had to fumble around a bit to try and figure out where I was going with what I had just said.

Hot Tub Party

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Last night was a pretty crazy night for House Stalwart in Rift.  Firstly earlier in the day I found out that longtime Stalwart member Nikajah plays on our server, so I got to catch up with her and her new mommy-dom.  She is not sure yet about abandoning the guild she is in, which is completely understandable… but she is at least now joining the Stalwart server channel.  Additionally her husband Ceredith is playing as well, but he seems to be in a much more serious guild.  Very cool to have contact with them again nonetheless.

A little later in the night I noticed an unfamiliar and unguilded face lurking in the server channel.  After taking a moment to query… I found out it was in fact a MoxieDoodle.  I remembered her talking about popping by in a Twitter conversation last week, so I quickly snagged her into the guild.  I got her acclimatized and introduced to the guild… and tried to force some upgrades on her like a good crafter.  She was pumped that we had also managed to snag a Cortical…  who is very much awesome people.

It was around or about this time that Nubzy started bemoaning the fact that Valkkon, Ilyenna and Arilith were playing on another server.  I told her that she should totally fix that, and next thing I know…  she did.  The three of them were longtime Stalwarts or at least members of our extended community of friends over on Argent Dawn.  The guild as a whole has been so much like rebuilding the best possible home we have ever had.  Its like this crazy pipe dream of having everyone awesome in one place at the same time… and it seems to be working out.

Since the three of them are serious roleplayers, I knew they had to see the Guild Hall.  First they were shocked that Rift had such a thing… next they were amazed at every turn they took as we explored it together.  The above photo is an impromptu Hot Tub party as we explored one of Rae’s newer additions to the Hall.  It was kinda funny… everyone just automatically sat in the pool…  well admittedly I tried /sleep first… but realized my head was underwater.  We hang out up there catching up for awhile before continuing on with the tour.

I am so immensely happy at how well the guild has worked out.  At first I had my doubt as to whether or not our guild would gain traction, and if breaking away onto our own was a good thing.  Any of those doubts have long since exploded as we are growing the way we have always grown… organically through friends and family.  Delevax quoted field of dreams to me the other day “build it and they will come”… and to some extent that is exactly what has happened.  To give evidence of how awesome the guild is… at one point last night there were four women involved in a rather heated discussion about who the best Doctor was over guild chat.

Forum Reboot

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One of the things we have been working on over the last week or so is a ground up reboot of the Stalwart forums.  Previously was designed to be an extremely WoW-Centric website, and over the years as we have flitted from game to game I have attempted to make it less so… but never really succeeded on that goal.  Ultimately we had a divide between the players that ONLY cared about World of Warcraft and the nomadic group of players that cared about everything else.

With the reboot we are trying to make the forum feel much more holistic and discussion based.  There will be topics you can assign a discussion to, but not the hard folder structure that a forum usually has.  Additionally there is a really nifty “Activity” feed that is somewhat like a guild specific twitter, as players can post quick blurbs and other players can comment on them.  I feel as a whole it will be a much more social aware design.

To that goal, instead of signing up for a forum specific account we have wired it to allow players to log in with their Google accounts in addition to being able to a forum login.  The Google account would be used only for authentication, and it would allow you to alias out the name to whatever you are more comfortable using.  For example I log in with my named Google account and it gets Aliased on the forum to Belghast.  I feel this is going to work much better for the majority of players, making it easier to remember their forum information.

Our hope is that over the next couple of days we will have the site ready to soft launch.  At that point it should be open for business more or less.  Eventually the goal is to lock down the previous forum into read only mode… and it will then become the “Archives” allowing players to browse old conversations if they choose.  When this happens the will redirect to the new forums and will be the permanent address of the archives.  I will of course post again when it is ready for use.

Resolution… of a sort

It turns out that when you subscribe to Rift you do not in fact get your bags and character slots unlocked.  This is extremely frustrating and I feel that this whole process should be better explained or at least more transparent.  The problem at hand was that we had a guild member that was caught in limbo, and subscribing pretty much spent all the disposable money she had for the month.  I mulled around a bit to try and figure an option and finally landed upon one.

There have been multiple times in the past that Trion has given away complete copies of Rift at various conventions.  I know for a fact that they have done this a few times at Pax and at least once at GenCon.  Since I have a bunch of friends that are convention goers… I thought I would throw out a call and see if any of them still had one of these codes.  Sure enough, yesterday evening Tam did some digging through his bins of old convention swag and found a code for a full version of the game.

I passed this off to the player in Limbo and sure enough… boom she had full bag slots and character slots again.  The frustrating thing however is that without our deep network of friends…  this would not have been possible.  There needs to be a much clearer way to purchase the game and apply the code to your account.  I found out this morning that we have another guildie in this state of limbo… and while I was able to get ONE Pax code out of my network of friends… I sincerely doubt I will be able to find a second one.  However if you are reading this and have one… please let me know… he will be equally appreciative I am certain.

Morning Timeouts

Over the last few weeks something odd has been happening to me… and I just confirmed with CorticalScrub that it is happening to him as well.  Essentially as I start my morning post, I alt tab and fire up the Rift client.  This has been habit for some time, because often times I need to take a screenshot that I may have forgotten to… or at the very least it lets me claim my daily gifts.  However over the last few weeks in the morning I get what seems to be a timeout.  So I spend my time working on my post and flipping over periodically trying to reconnect.

This seems to continue every morning until 6:30-6:45 central time, and then magically goes away.  I have never had this issue at any other point in the day.  I have done some searching on the forums and have yet to find a definitive explanation.  If anyone knows what exactly is happening here I would love to know.  Do we have just a ton of non-US primetime players out there that are busying out the login server?  Is this just a case of everyone waking up at the same time?  I am super curious what is causing the phenomena.  If I ever find an answer I will post it.

Wrapping Up

Well I have a few other topics that I had originally planned on writing about… but I will save those as ammo for another day.  I need to get up and around and gather the trash.  Additionally since my cleaners was without power the last time I went… I really need to take the big blue bag of dirty work clothing there to get processed.  I hope you all have a great day, and please let me know if you have any spare Pax or GenCon keys.  I will be sure to find them good homes as players are dismayed by the fact that subscribing to Rift does not in fact make your account whole again.