The Arcade Community

One of the odd things I have been struggling with over the last two years of writing daily is why on the week days I can bang out a post in usually less than thirty minutes, but on the weekends it takes upwards of three hours.  The problem is I think that I simply don’t feel quite the same pressure to perform on the weekends.  I know I am not under the gun to produce in a short period of time so I faff about more.  This morning for example I have read half a dozen articles, done my daily garrison chores in World of Warcraft and am finally just now setting down to start writing.  I think the pressure to perform is crucial for what I do, and without it I likely would not have kept this up all this time.  All of this said there are days when the process of getting up every morning to stare at a blank screen becomes frustrating.  On  those days I wonder just how long I can keep this ritual up.  Tomorrow will be the second year anniversary, and so far the will to write has not left me.

Fighting Games

streetfighter1 Last week Mortal Kombat 10 was released, and I will admit there is a part of me that wants to purchase it and wallow in the nostalgia a bit.  The problem is another part of me knows that I could do this, but it would not feel the same.  In fact no fighting game I have played has felt right to me, and I cannot really place the reasons why.  Ultimately I think its because I myself am in a different place than I was when I first played Street Fighter 2 all those years ago.  I touched on this a bit with my story about my friend Wade, but I thought I would delve more into it this morning for Storytime Saturday.  While I have heard the fighting game scene is alive and well with the EVO Championship Series, there is just something missing from it without the existence of the arcade element.  There was a critical friction required of actually getting to the arcade that somehow made the experience worth that much more.

I remember in the days before I had my drivers license, I took any opportunity I had to get my hands on a stand up arcade cabinet.  I spent many trips to Wal-mart hanging out in the lobby and playing whatever games they happened to have available there, trying to make that handful of quarters last an entire shopping trip.  When the Circle K in town first got in Street Fighter, I was not exactly drawn to it… because at first it looked like the boring Karate games that came out in the late 80s.  We of course did not have a “real” Street Fighter cabinet, but instead one that was recycled from some other game with Street Fighter innards.  As such we didn’t have the helpful stickers showing us the moves, so the first time my friend stumbled across a special attack it was like magic.

The Gaming Bible

egm31Electronic Gaming Monthly became my bible, and I anxiously awaited every single issues because they painstakingly printed move lists for all of these fighting games.  By the time Street Fighter 2 was released we had an arcade in town called the Wooden Nickel and any time I could I tried to get out there to camp the fighting game machine.  It was at this point that I was first introduced to the etiquette of the arcade.  On that machine at Wooden Nickel was a plastic strip attached to the bottom of the bezel, with eight numbered coil slots.  My friend who was much more of a regular than than I was, explained to me that it was how you requested the next game aka “Winner Stays, Loser Pays”.  You could walk up to any machine, plunk your quarter down and you were immediately in line for the throne.  It became a challenge to see just how long you could stay on the machine, and it became my mission to stretch my quarters as long as I possibly could.

I could play a mean Ryu or Guile, but there were always challengers that I found difficult like someone who really knew how to play Dhalsim for example.  Around this time Mortal Kombat released but we continued to plug away on Street Fighter 2, it felt like the superior game in every way.  Mortal Kombat had the cool gimmick of fatalities and photo captured graphics, but the gameplay itself was just more fleshed out in Street Fighter 2.  That was the case until the release of Mortal Kombat II, when most of us changed our religion.  By this time I had transportation and was regularly going to Arcades in both Bartlesville and Tulsa.  There we started to find various “beta boards” for Mortal Kombat II, and quite honestly this was the strangest time in video games that I can remember.  At this point there was really no such thing as “patching” a game, but Midway distributed Mortal Kombat II in such a way as to allow for the swapping out of chips as upgrades came out.  The first MK2 board I can really remember playing on was one that I think was labelled “.98” but honestly at this point I have had 20 years of time to forget the details.

johnnycagefriendship `The problem with these early boards is they were extremely incomplete.   They might have a fatality for this character, but not one for another character.  Was the boards evolved we started seeing newer and stranger items being added into the mix.  I remember the first time I saw a “babality” or a “friendship” I was completely floored that something like that would exist.  The problem is this started a massive rumor mill flowing in the arcades.  People would come in and sell these guides that had codes for supposedly all of the characters, more than half of which are completely made up.  At this point if you had access to AOL you were a god, because you had access to the message boards where all of these codes were being traded.  I made it my mission to try and assimilate all of these rumors together into a comprehensive guide and actually test each of the codes.  I noted which version of the game had which abilities, and which codes were complete bullshit.  All I had access to was Microsoft Works at the time, but I tried my best to churn out as professional a guide as I could for the time.  Instead of charging for them, I would just leave them with the desk of the arcade for anyone who wanted one.

The Arcade Community

fullgorejago There were some players who knew all of the abilities and other players who had nothing to really work with.  When you have as many characters as a fighting game has, you don’t have room on the cabinet bezel art to actually show the moves…  so everything was guess work.  I guess in my own way I was trying to level the playing field.  Let people know the attacks so they could defend against the jerks in the arcades that would refuse to teach anyone any move.  Me I would happily explain what I was doing to the players that fought against me.  I would explain why I was doing what I did, and why I was attacking in a specific way.  Granted over time I lost my advantage on the players, but I felt it was for the good of the community as a whole, because really at that point the arcades were like a community.  You would see the same players when you went to specific arcades, and they would remember you and chit chat back and forth as you played.  When someone would be gone for a significant amount of time…  folks would note their passing and wonder why they were not around.

The last game I remember being extremely excited about before this era finished for me was Killer Instinct.  At this point anything that was 3D rendered was new and exciting, and we rushed to this cabinet because it represented the next evolution of fighting games at the time.  It looks so primitive now, but at the time it was pure magic.  The attract music was amazing, and listening to the absolutely over the top sound effects like the infamous “Combo Breaker” made the whole experience unlike anything else that was being offered.  Additionally this was the first game that I can remember that had actual programmed combo sequences that you could kick off.  I graduated High School, moved on to college and other than a few flirtations with Soul Edge in the University Center basement I had moved on to the PC and games like Starcraft.  I feel like my entire generation went through this transition and then the gap between home systems and arcade systems lowered to the point where there simply was not a reason to keep going somewhere else to play video games.  I mourn the loss of that community because it really was something special, not entirely unlike the relationship we have in MMO guilds.  I have heard the EVO scene has revitalized a lot of this, but I feel like at least for me… that was another time and another place  and I have moved on to other games.

The Force Awakens

A History With Stars Wars

forceawakens_logo It would be a slight understatement if I were to say that Stars Wars has meant a lot to me over the years.  It pretty much represents my childhood wrapped up with a neat little bow.  The earliest memory I have is of seeing Star Wars at the local drive-in theater sometime around age two.  I became absolutely obsessed with it, and according to my parents walked around the house pretending to be “Darfa Bader”.  If nothing else it was the toys that kept the fires lit for me from the moment I started watching through the end of the original trilogy.  I played and replayed the scenes from Star Wars so many times with the action figures, and in many ways it was my first foray into storytelling.  Sure I started by simply mimicking what I saw on screen, but quickly branched out into telling my own elaborate stories revolving around the cast of characters I knew and loved.

forceawakens_crashedstardestroyer I eventually moved on like all kids do to other things, like GI Joe, Transformers and Mask.  The thing is that Star Wars always held a special place in my heart, so when the west end games Role-playing game was released I was all about playing that for a period of time as well.  I remember one Christmas all I asked for was the then CBS FOX VHS copies of the movies, and I remember being absolutely ecstatic when I actually got them.  I probably damned near wore out my copy of Empire Strikes Back, because that movie just seemed so perfect to me.  While I didn’t have a hope of ever seeing more movies at that point, I could at least wallow in the nostalgia of the originals whenever I felt like it.  When you grow up in a small town, and live out in the middle of the country…  you end up watching a lot of movies, and more than one weekend was spent having impromptu Star Wars marathons.

The Revival

forceawakens_Vadarmask During college Star Wars started to make a comeback in a massive way.  At this point we didn’t even know there were new movies in the works, but it started with the re-release of the action figures.  At this point I was going to junior college and on my drive to class in the morning I frequented a lot of stores as folks were stocking.  I remember the feverish search for the new action figures as they started to hit the store shelves.  I was absolutely elated the day I found the extremely illusive Princess Lea and C-3PO figures because in that first run of the new figures…  they were the limited quantity ones.  As new sets were released I tracked them all down, including some of the variants.  At this point I was going to art school and pretty much half of my class were equally obsessed with them, trading tales of where we found what.

forceawakens_luke I remember sitting in a Wal-mart super center in Fayetteville Arkansas, freaking out as they had figures that we did not have in Oklahoma.  My wife was extremely awesome and helped me rifle through the stacks of newly stocked figures looking for all of the ones I was missing.  She knew going into our relationship that I was a geek, and she had always been super cool about it.  But I admit it was at that moment, when she was helping me hunt for figures…   that I realized just how rare she truly was.  Even to this day she gets excited for me when I find a cache of Legos or something else that I have been obsessing about.  While she doesn’t share a lot of my interests she has always been extremely supportive of them.  She put up with me having hundreds of action figures hung up in neat rows in my college apartment, and didn’t seem to act like it was strange or anything.

The Re-releases

forceawakens_xwings Around this time the first of the re-releases happened as we were given the opportunity to watch the movies on the big screen.  She was there with me waiting in line for tickets and even though she is not really what you would call a Star Wars fan, sat through all three of the movies.  While some of the visual hackery annoyed me…  I was getting to see the movies again on the big screen and that was all that really mattered.  The feeling of sitting in that theater as the Lucasfilm logo came up on the screen… and the Theater erupted in deafening cheers was one that I will never forget.  There were so damned many warm fuzzies coursing through my body that I felt like I was going to explode.  The first two movies…  were pretty great.  I could deal with the silly scenes like Han Solo stepping over Jabbas tail, or the goofily animated CGI dewbacks.

forceawakens_darkjedi Empire was similarly fine, because it god rid of some of the problems like the transparent snow speeders.  My love of Empire as a movie could allow me to look past anything.  But when we finally got to Return of the Jedi… my least favorite of the original movies I admit I started to lose my shit.  The silly scenes like the musical number just finally got to me.  I started to question what in the hell George Lucas was thinking, but by this time we knew about the prequels and I was willing to look past all the flaws and keep up my fanboy hype for the hope of seeing more Star Wars on the big screen.  I admit freely I was a junkie and Papa George was going to keep giving me a fix, and I was willing to push aside the growing concerns in the hopes of seeing brand new stories.  After all I had dreamt about seeing the Clone Wars play out since I was a little kid, and maybe just maybe this was finally going to happen.

Breaking Me

forceawakens_firstorderstormtroopers When the Phantom Menance was released I was working for TV Guide, and had access to a wealth of marketing materials that were filtering around our network.  My hype level was over 9000 as I had 8×10 copies of each of the limited edition hand painted covers of the magazine hung up around my office.  I remember the lines for Phantom Menace were really the first time I had experienced lines of any sort waiting for a movie.  I remember opening day the theaters were showing it on every available screen with a new showing every 2 hours for the first 48 hours.  By the time I go in to watch the movie after work I was practically vibrating.  Then Jar Jar Happened… and the rest of the movie was instantly tarnished by it.

forceawakens_chrometrooperI wanted to maintain my hype…  but there was just so much to hate about that first movie.  What the fuck were midichlorians?  Are they really telling me that Anakin is a Jesus-like virgin birth?  There was just so much bullshit packed in that movie that while I tried to maintain my enjoyment, over time it just festered inside of me.  By the time the second movie came around… I had no plans of seeing it on opening day until I was given free premiere tickets due to my involvement with the Fan Force group here in town.  Admittedly that was a pretty damned cool way to watch the movie, in a private theater along with all of the local press…  with open bar and catered food before and after.  By the time the third prequel came along… it was about a week before I actually went to the theater to see it.

forceawakens_falcondeathstar1 I’ve since reconciled a lot of my frustration with the prequels.  What was anger has faded into a dull annoyance, and a tinge of heartache when I think of what those movies could have been.  Brian Posehn does a funny skit about how “Star Wars is his Vietnam”.  I am nowhere near as bitter about it as he is…  but there are times I have been close.  There was a period of time post prequels that I distanced myself from Star Wars as a whole.  I stopped collecting the figures, I stopped doing pretty much anything Star Wars related.  It was really when Star Wars the Old Republic released that I started to ease up on my position and enjoy the content again.  Today I collect Star Wars in Lego form and love it… but anything that comes from Phantom Menace is immediately less important in my eyes.  I feel like Clone Wars and Rebels television shows are redeeming the franchise significantly by giving me the sort of storytelling that I always wanted out of the newer films.

The Force Awakens

forceawakens_falcondeathstar2

When the new movies were first announced I was admittedly skeptical, that is until I heard that they were pulling them out of the hands of George Lucas.  Better yet I was excited when they announced that J.J. Abrams would be doing them.  While this is a point of contention for a lot of fans, I happen to be one of the people that love the newer Star Trek movies.  In fact I watched the first one twice in the same weekend.  I was never that big of a fan of the original Star Trek series, so I felt the reboot made the movies more enjoyable for me personally.  Now take the fact that Abrams is directing and combine it with the fact that Disney now owns Star Wars… and I think we are in better hands than we have been in a very long time.  Disney is extremely good at two things…  protecting their intellectual property, and churning out content for the fans to snap up.  I feel like we are in the best possible place that Star Wars has been in for years.

forceawakens_moneyshot This week the first real trailer was released for Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration weekend.  As you might have been able to tell… the images I am using to narrate this Storytime Saturday are all pulled from the trailer.  I find myself shifting from cautiously optimistic about the prospects for this movie…  towards full blown hype.  Right now the trailer is quite literally showing me everything that I possibly want to see in a new Star Wars film.  The costumes for the new Stormtroopers look great.  The new Dark Jedi looks to be something straight out of Star Wars the Old Republic.  The real money shot however is the one above when we get to see Han Solo and Chewbacca back in action.  My first thought was OMG HAN SOLO AND CHEWBACCA!  My second thought was… man Harrison Ford looks really old.  My third thought was…  shouldn’t Chewie be showing some grey hair by now?  All I really know is once again I will be waiting in line for tickets so I can see this madness opening day in December.  In fact we are talking about maybe going as an office to go see it.  I guess in that at least Disney has succeeded in re-igniting the fires of the little kid down inside me who never quite gave up on Star Wars.

Summer of “Free” Rentals

Beating Games

This week I did another one of my “Bonanza” posts over on MMOGames.com and in it I linked to one of Tams post about why he plays games he doesn’t like.  This came from a conversation that we were having awhile back about how none of us could fathom how he can push on to beat games that he doesn’t even enjoy.  The problem I have been having of late is that I don’t even bother to beat the games that I am enjoying the hell out of.  The funny thing is that I was not always this way.  I have always been a collector, it is part of me buried deep down inside me.  I’ve collected star wars figures, comic books, Legos, and now more importantly awesome people as I stuff them into my free company.  There was however a time in my history when I used to collect video game victories.

During late elementary / early middle school it was the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System and I was completely enthralled by it.  Thankfully all of my friends were also engaged, which acted as a serious enabling force in my life.  There was one friend however in particular that matched my level of obsession, and going to break one of my cardinal rules and name him directly… since this post is going to get super contorted quickly without some name of reference.  Wade was always significantly better at me when it came to video games, and this created a friendly competition between us as we attempted to defeat as many of the cartridges as we could.   We both kept these intricate lists of what we had defeated, and often times swapped notes and strategies over lunch.

Summer of “Free” Rentals

We were enabled by the fact that the grocery store in our small town has a special deal during the summer months.  You could pay $20 and get a card that would allow you to rent as many games and movies as you could like during the three months of summer.  There were some stipulations on it of course, and you could only have one title out at any given moment.  But you could keep said title out as long as you liked.  Wade and I both got these cards and started trying to burn through as many titles as we could.  He had a significant lead on me in part because he lived within walking distance of the grocery store, and for me I was out in the boonies on the other side of town so required a special trip to go swap games.  There were many times he would start with one game in the morning and go swap it out that afternoon for something else.

We were also enabled by the fact that for some unknown reason our grocery store seemed to have a far better selection of games than would be reasonable for a small town grocery store.  I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the owners was a Nintendo junkie.  I don’t know where exactly we ended the summer at, other than the fact that Wade was leaps and bound ahead of me.  I think I managed to get somewhere in the 80s.  I would like to think that this was totally due to the fact that he had easy access to the store and could swap games at any point he liked.  That said I feel like he was just a much better gamer than I ever was, namely because his favorite game was Milon’s Secret Castle…  a game that to the best of my knowledge broke me.  I don’t think I ever managed to beat it, or at least not that I can remember.

Fighting Games

The games we played changed after that summer.  We both got addicted to Street Fighter 2, and then Mortal Kombat 2, and later Killer Instinct.  Fighting games were “beatable” but that aspect didn’t really matter any more.  It was more about could we beat each other, and honestly if he was playing Ryu I didn’t have a shot in hell.  We still played lots of JRPGs on the side, since those were now a thing… and sure we beat them, but they were a much more prodding experience.  I personally preferred to wallow in the games and spend as much time faffing about killing random stuff and earning currency as I could.  It took me over a year to beat Final Fantasy 6 for example because I spent so much time messing with the coliseum.  The dynamic changed… when a game started taking hundreds of hours to beat…  you wanted to make sure you didn’t miss any details before moving on to the next area.

Then we graduated High School and I mostly lost touch with Wade.  I moved on to college, got married, got a career…  and rarely ever spent much time back in my home town.  When I moved to college I was just “gone”, I never came home on the weekends because I was working at an internet service provider.  So when I moved out of home I literally left home permanently.  There was none of  that transitional period where I still hung out with friends from High School.  The sad thing is that Wade is one of the half dozen people that I actually really am still interested in from my High School days and I don’t have much in the way of contact with any of them.  One of them died in a surfing accident, another one quite literally joined the circus…  the rest of them are busy with lives and families.  The only one I know next to nothing about is Wade, which is truly unfortunate.  Before sitting down to write this I think I found him in facebook, so we will see if I can actually reconnect.

Massively Multiplayer Online

In 2000 I first played Everquest, and it completely shifted my focus away from console gaming for a good period of time.  If I was playing a game I was playing an MMO because it gave me this constant stimulus of other people to play with, and short term goals that felt like I was building towards something bigger.  This is really the point at which I stopped beating games, because I got used to playing games that continued on forever.  The thing is this shifted my mindset significantly, because so long as I faffed about and never actually defeated a single player game… it could continue on indefinitely like the MMOs I was playing did.  So games like Fallout 3, or Skyrim… in essence became single player MMOs for me.  There is a certain amount of let down now for me when I finally do beat a game.  The experience is over, and sure I could start up a new character…  but that notion is somehow tarnished.

When I play a single player game I am building this character in my head and this story as I go along with it.  That story, that character… dies the moment I do that final turn in, or defeat that final boss.  If I start a new game it is a new character, with a new story.  This is in part why I struggle playing deeply narrative games… because they ask me to play some other character that isn’t inherently mine.  At this point it is almost like I have a phobia of finishing games, because it means the joy is over.  When I leave one unfinished it is like that game is always on pause, and the enjoyment and happiness that I had in that moment never goes away.  While I so rarely pick up an old save and continue it…  I know that it is there waiting on me to continue the journey that I started.  I lack that competitive drive that makes me feel like I have to beat the game.  I am no longer collecting wins… but instead collecting nuggets of joy in these games that I can remember fondly later.

The Tower Guardan

There are many stories that at the time were frustrating but become more humorous through the lens of nostalgia.  I think we as gamers all have thousands of such tales in us, and with this new feature my goal is to try and devote some time to committing these to paper.  Nostalgia is a powerful force, but one that is fun to wallow in every now and then.

Ignorance is Bliss

The original Belghast the Celt Champion I’ve told bits and pieces of my time in Dark Age of Camleot in the past, but today I thought I would delve further into what was ultimately the second MMO I played.  I remember being in the beta process and thinking that the game seemed so much more advanced than Everquest that I had been used to.  However I did not really play the game seriously until the launch of Gaheris the co-operative server.  Most people think fondly upon Dark Age of Camelot of the realm versus realm combat, for me however it was all of the interesting PVE things that I did with my friends.  At that time we had an extremely small and close knit guild called the Whispers of Legend.  In fact the only real remnant of that guild is a posting on Zam’s for an item I submitted under our guild name.  One of the best things about Gaheris was that we could literally play any class in the game together, and explore any realm freely.

Our motley group consisted of a Dwarf Warrior as the main tank, me on my Celt Champion as dps and off tank, a Lurikeen Enchanter providing dps and crowd control and a Celt Bard being dual boxed by our warrior providing all of the healing and song twisting.  Much later on I picked up a second account and ran my very own bard, but much of the content that we experienced we did as a trio, with my friend Shadoes playing both the role of main tank and main healer.  This game was also the very first appearance of me using the name Belghast, so even if I could never actually return to playing it… it will always hold a special place in my heart.  There were so many times we ventured someplace we should not have been only to end up trying to fight our way back to our tombstones, more than anything to prove to ourselves that we could do it.  It was a different time in online gaming, when more often than not we were playing with people we were able to lay our physical hands on in the real world.  On average the three of us would get home from work, and log directly into Dark Age of Camelot for that nights adventure.

The Tower Guardian

alb-tower-guardian The adventure that most stands out in my mind was our finding of the Tower Guardian.  When the Shrouded Isles expansion hit we spent a good deal of our time wandering around its wilderness looking for interesting things.  With that expansion a number of named encounters were introduced and spread through out the world.  So it became our mission to try and find all of them… and farm them for every last bit of loot.  In fact the item that I talked about submitting… I am pretty sure came from one of these such trips.  One night while wandering the Dales of Devwy we stumbled upon this giant clockwork golem looking creature that towered over even the trees.  I think at the time it conned purple to our group, but we decided to give it a shot anyways considering the area around it was difficult but easily huntable.  While it took several attempts we managed to down it and got some really nice loot.  So we proceeded to farm it, each time getting better at the process until we had it down to a science.

A few days later we happened to be in a local game shop, that had several folks that played Dark Age of Camelot far more seriously than we did.  We were talking about our fun farming the golem, and the shop keeper had a somewhat stunned look on his face.  I turns out that apparently this encounter was designed for a raid to take it down, and while it took upwards of thirty minutes for us to actually defeat it… we managed to do it with four characters, two of which were being played by the same person.  While games have evolved to have hard requirements on what you need to bring to be successful, I have never forgot the lessons that we learned playing this game.  That while you might not have the optimal grouping, you can sometimes persevere through sheer force of will.  There have been many times I’ve tried to do things in an unorthodox way, but no game has rewarded it quite as much as Dark Age of Camelot did.

Sometimes We Failed

sshot_11sshot_15 I won’t lie and say that things always worked out in our favor.  In fact I have quite a number of  screenshots like one above, with us dead in fairly horrible places.  However we always seemed to manage to pick ourselves back up and keep trying long after others had given up.  This trip down memory lane would not be complete without a photo of Shard our Dwarven Warrior main tank.  The thing I find so odd about this game is that our experiences and our memories are so vastly different from most players that wax nostalgic about it.  This was not a pvp game for me, but instead a game that let me explore freely every corner of three vastly different and exception realms.  This was the game that really cemented in my mind how poor of a design decision that hard faction walls really were.  Dark Age of Camelot went from being a lackluster experience, to one of the most memorable with the simple addition of the co-operative play server.

Do you have any memorable stories of games that you and your friends maybe played in a less than suggested style?  I would be curious to hear some of your stories of times you entered something vastly unprepared but managed to pull out a victory nonetheless.  One of my fondest memories from World of Warcraft for example was the time we took nothing but hunters into Upper Blackrock Spire and timed our aimed shots on the same target, just watching it explode before our eyes.  It was like we were a walking firing squad, slowly mowing down our targets or burning it down while one of us kited the pack.  Sometimes unconventional play can be extremely rewarding.  For years I’ve found myself getting caught up in trying to do things the right way for the sake of speed and efficiency.  Sometimes however you just have to break the rules and play games in a manner no one in their right mind ever planned.  I freely admit that I still wish there wa such a thing as a melee hunter.

The Bunny Incident

I have a pretty bad habit of wanting to spawn a feature on my blog and then having it die after a few posts.  Anyone remember Steampowered Sundays for example?  That one I still want to get back to eventually, but with the whole editing and posting of aggrochat often times spilling over into Sunday morning I simply ran out of available time there.  All of this said the other day I was working on providing some information for Sypster on a feature he is working on.  It got me thinking how many tall tales from the mmoverse I have in me.  There are many stories that at the time were frustrating but become more humorous through the lens of nostalgia.  I think we as gamers all have thousands of such tales in us, and with this new feature my goal is to try and devote some time to committing these to paper.  Nostalgia is a powerful force, but one that is fun to wallow in every now and then.

The Bunny Incident

Wrath of the Lich King was both an amazing and an extremely frustrating expansion for my raid.  We had some of our greatest moments, but also some of our most frustrating experiences.  All of which lead me to be a very grumpy person a good deal of the time.  Most of you know me as the generally positive person that I portray on my blog and through social media.  This is all an act, or at least it was when I first embarked upon the journey.  By nature I can be pretty cynical and pessimistic, and it is a sheer act of will that I fight this every day striving to find the silver lining in every cloud.  I spent a good deal of time “faking it until I made it” as it were, and for the most part it worked.  It helped to pull me out of one of the greatest funks in my life.  Today I am going to uncork the events of what lives in infamy within the guild has come to call “the bunny incident”.

When Wrath launched we hit it by storm and our twenty five man completely wrecked Naxxramas 2.0.  We thought we were awesome… but the problem was that the content was way easier than we were used to.  As such our raid got soft and too used to being able to walk into the zone and destroy everything around us.  So when Ulduar launched… it was like a harsh reality check.  Everything about the raid was infinitely harder, and required every single player to pay attention and perform to the best of their ability.  This was not helped by the fact that during this time we had a lot of politics in the decisions behind our raid composition.  We had a number of situations where we had one extremely highly performing raid member, tied to a piece of dead weight… that we were forced to drag along with us in order to get the high performing member.

The Bad Times

Additionally during Ulduar we went through a revolving door of tanks, making it a constant struggle to try and teach a third tank that was drastically undergeared how to survive the completely silly amount of damage that the encounters in Ulduar were heaping upon us.  None of this made for particularly happy times for me.  When the going got tough…  people started flaking out and simply not attending.  There were many nights that people would be available for the farmed content, but when it came to a progression night full of wipes we were barely able to scrape together twenty five people.  It seemed like every step forward, caused us to take a giant leap backwards.  We spent a lot of time during this period wiping to content we had already had on farm because we lacked the resources to really keep going.

We did what any raid would do… and went into overdrive trying to recruit solid people to bolster our waning numbers.  With this came a clash of cultures, because quite honestly we were a much more forgiving raid than most.  This caused some of our new recruits to not really take things as seriously as they should.  At times it felt like trying to teach a kindergarten classroom how to file their yearly tax returns…  but we mostly struggled through at the cost of my own sanity.  We had stabilized and were pushing forward, and one night we were making some very serious progress on Kologarn.  In fact I would say the mood in the raid was pretty jolly as folks were finally starting to get how they needed to move, and when we needed to break people out of the hands.  I felt pretty confident that we would be able to beat the boss that night.

The Event

I believe it was Thalen that had just finished delivering some advise to tweak things up a bit… and I in my normal antsy fashion was pacing back and forth asking if I could pull yet.  I tend to get super impatient before a pull, because I pump myself up for the fight and get the adrenaline coursing… and then have to do something with the nervous energy until go time.  I had just started running in when it happened.  On of our players decided it would be funny to use the the Blossoming Branch on me as I ran in, turning me into a bunny.  The problem is while in bunny form you can take no actions, and I could not click it off in time before Kologarn destroyed me, and subsequently wiped the raid.  Looking back upon it now…  it is kind of funny, but at the time I was not amused at all.

I don’t really know what I said exactly, in some way I almost blacked out during the event.  All I do know is that I apparently proceeded to curse and rant on voice chat for a good ten minutes about what just happened unleashing all of the pent up frustrations I had about the raid group, the lack of effort some individuals were putting into it, and wrapping it all up in a neat rage fueled bow.  I do remember saying that I would be going through the logs line by line after the raid to find out who it was that did it, and they would no longer be welcome in our raid from that point on.  I think I went on to say that I would go so far as to tell the other raid leaders about the incident, because at that time in our servers history… pretty much all of the raid leaders knew each other and talked regularly.  When you got blacklisted by one, you often times got blacklisted by all of them.

The Coming Down

While the guy who did it did not fess up during the heat of the moment…  he did come to me later and apologize.  He went so far as to mail every person in the raid some gold for the repair bill he caused.  He truly felt sorry for doing it, and we didn’t end up kicking him from the raid, or anything severe.  Basically this was the moment I realized that I needed to change something, because I was feeling entirely too much stress and frustration over a game.  I apparently scarred some of the raid members for life, and for the rest of that expansion it was like they were gunshy that “Angry Bel” would come out again.  It is still talked about in our guild, as a sort of cautionary tale…  like “Don’t make Bel mad, you won’t like him when he’s angry” sort of thing.  Its all in good fun now, but I know at the time I quite literally scared some of our members.

I tried really hard to take less of a direct role with some of the raid decisions.  This was the era when I realized that I could not be both the friendly happy guild master everyone knew.. and be the raid leader that everyone needed at the same time.  I think this was really the beginning of the end with me and World of Warcraft, but I ultimately did not leave until Cataclysm.  I kept changing things up trying to keep the game viable.  During Crusaders Coliseum for example I switched from Warrior main to Death Knight main, but regardless of what I did there was still a pool of bitterness there.  This has been the event I think of every time I consider leading a raid again.  Ultimately we have to know the limits, and know what will happen to us deep down inside when we push those limits too far.  Now I am happy to be the cruise director of the guilds I am part of, and the man with the recruitment van.  I strive on a daily basis to remain the “Happy Bel” folks have come to appreciate and keep the “angry wrathful god of vengeance” locked up deep inside.