Chasing a PVE MOBA

A Meaningless Term

League of Legends 2013-04-30 20-12-49-94 Yesterday I witnessed a conversation unfold that I have had a dozen times myself with various folks.  A friend of mine made the idle comment that they would really like to see a “PVE MOBA”, to which someone else predictably replied that you cannot have a “MOBA” without PVP.  The problem is that there is absolutely no clear definition of what exactly a “MOBA” is.  Additionally each player seems to refer to a slightly different set of mechanics when someone says “MOBA-like”.  So for some people it is all about the match based pvp action, and others it is all about the interesting class design.  If you simply dissect the term “MOBA” you get Multiplayer Online Battle Arena…  which in itself is another absolutely meaningless term.  Multiplayer Online is clear enough but the Battle Arena part is complete nonsense.  What are you battling and what sort of arena are you battling in?

For me personally the key elements of what make a MOBA intriguing have nothing to do with player versus player combat.  I like the different characters and their unique sets of abilities, and the way they interact with other characters and their abilities.  In fact I would be happy spending my time in lane killing creeps because I honestly enjoy doing that way more than engaging with other players.  When I play League of Legends I will almost always play against bots, and have long thought that it would make an interesting game to make it purely co-operative against interesting challenges.  The problem is if you say this.. you get the reaction above that it cannot be done… because MOBAs are PVP games dammit!  But what I am presenting is that folks are assigning a specific mindset to a term that is absolutely meaningless on its own merit.  Multiplayer Online Battle Arena can describe so many games and is likely why the term gets blurred so much to describe games that are absolutely nothing like the original Defense of the Ancients roots.

Keep the Interesting Bits

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2014-12-02 22-35-45-233 For me the interesting bits about what we generally refer to as a MOBA are the Character design that I have talked about before, and ultimately the payment model.  I like this concept of purchasing individual champions, and having a rotation of free champions to play to consistently keep testing the waters and trying to branch out.  The key part as well for me is the way that MOBA titles grow over time.  If you look at the evolution of League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm, in both cases they are constantly releasing new content to satiate the appetites of players.  I think this has been key to the success, that every few weeks there is something new being introduced to the game to shake up players expectations.  League for example has over 120 different unique champions that they are doing a decent job of keeping balanced against each other, and Heroes is adding at least one champion a month it seems to catch up.  So I feel like the big success of this genre has been constant incremental evolution of the product.

This variety helps deal with the “special snowflake” syndrome that happens in MMO design.  Often times there is a demographic of players that wants to play a specific class in a manner that was not intended to be played.  Granted this happens to some extent in build system MMOs like league, but it is always clear that this is not necessarily a “supported” play style.  The champion system instead lets companies roll out lots of hyper focused characters that play to very specific niches.  So in this case what would be a “special snowflake” like the “melee hunter” would simply just be another champion they could build to fill that desire.  So instead the focus becomes on mastery of a specific set of abilities unique to that champion, rather than a much larger set of abilities as seen in most “talent tree” systems.  I feel like this is crucial in allowing someone to adapt to a brand new champion quickly, but at the same time feeling confident enough to branch out into things they have yet to try before.  There are game play modes like ARAM (All Random All Mid) that encourage this branching out because it forces players to play with a random champion.

Chasing a PVE MOBA

Diablo III 2013-08-21 20-12-09-60 So the quandary I am in is that I love the League of Legends lore and champion design, but don’t love the game itself.  I have long thought that it would be awesome to have a PVE centric version of League of Legends where you play the same champions with the same abilities in a Diablo like setting.  Instead of fighting in Summoner’s Rift against five other players in a battle to destroy the opposing teams nexus, it would be a co-operative experience as five players venture into a procedurally generated dungeon with a treasure at the end.  The idea is that each map would be harder than the previous until you reach a boss battle for the final treasure in the dungeon.  You could even keep the build mechanic in the form of at the beginning of each map level you could have the same merchant that exists just outside of your teams Nexus in the Rift.  After venturing a certain way into each map level he could travel to the next level, making it so that players could only buy new items at the beginning of each map.

For the hyper competitive players, you could still keep all manner of stats from number of monsters killed, their average difficulty rating, how fast it takes your team to clear a map, and of course how many times you have died during a specific encounter.  Personally I would go with a counter strike approach where each player gets a single life per map, making it progressively harder the more players that you have lost.  I would introduce the ability to purchase resurrection potions, but again that is an opportunity cost… since you have limited item inventory slots and limited gold to keep purchasing items with.  Similarly I would introduce a “lives” mechanic in the number of times your team can retry during a specific dungeon crawl sequence.  This would encourage the team to stick together and work on group tactics rather than going off on their own and risking getting overwhelmed.  The thing is… I would absolutely pay to play a game like that, and would probably rope my friends into playing it to.  The key impediment however is that folks seem to keep thinking that “MOBA” style mechanics cannot also apply to PVE game design.  Someone make this game happen…  I am looking at you Riot.

About League and HotS

“Last Hit” Builds Contention

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2014-12-02 22-35-45-233 Yesterday Heroes of the Storm officially launched around the world.  As a result there has been some gnashing of teeth lately discussing how HotS is essentially a “dumbed down” version of League of Legends.  The complaints I am seeing revolve around the lack of complexity in the individual champion builds, and the team focus rather than the single player focus.  All of these things I see instead as positives.  I have spent more than my fair share of money and time on League of Legends because I have a significant number of friends who really enjoy it.  It is one of those game experiences that I find enjoyable only when I am playing with and against friends.  When you put me out into the community as a whole, the toxic environment surrounding the non-ranked community is a massive turn off.  I have heard that as you move up through the ranks the community starts to get better and more professional, but I lack the desire to play that game or any game for that matter “competitively”.

The big problem I had with League was the fact that it felt like I was not only competing against the players on the other team, but also competing against my own team mates for resources.  The concept of last hitting feels so divisive that I am shocked it exists in any team based game.  The fact that a team mate can either purposefully or accidentally snipe the last hit on a minion and gain all of the gold just seems like a horribly selfish tactic to introduce into a supposedly “team focused” game.  While I feel like the higher tiers of competitive play more than likely focus on the team effort and winning games, the low tier players tend to focus entirely on making themselves look good.  The best way to that end result is to feed heavily in lane and go on a murder spree, which means the other player in that lane is going to be starved out of resources and won’t be able to help the team later in the game.  Essentially all I am saying is that I think the concept of the “last hit” breeds contention between team mates more than it ever supports positive play.

Item Build is Too Fiddly

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2014-12-02 21-54-34-025 While the first problem I have with the game I consider a fundamental design flaw, the second big problem I have with League of Legends is a “me” thing.  I detest the item build system, in part because it asks me to care far more about that game than I actually want to.  League is never going to be a game that I play on a serious level, but instead a game I play with my friends when they decide that they want to play it.  I want to play just good enough not to shoot my team mates in the foot.  The problem is doing the item build system well, requires you to have actually research your champion and what sorts of things they need.  What I want is a more universal path to “this item adds more awesomeness” so I struggle to find items to build that make sense for whoever I am playing.  Now on champions I have played a lot like Garen, WuKong or Darius I have finally figured out how I want to build each of them for my own play style.  The problem being this was something that happened over lots of trial and error.  Quite frankly I don’t want to have to devote the processing cycles to figure that out, I just want a sequence of choices that add some flavor but in which there is no real “wrong” choice.

Essentially the system I am describing is the system that Heroes of the Storm uses, and from the moment I saw it I immediately felt at home.  I know that I can make small tweaks to the way my Hero performs, but at the end of the day no single choice is going to make or break the game for me.  Essentially even if I just blind pick abilities to get back into the action there is nothing that I can do to screw it up.  Someone described it as MOBAs with training wheels, and I am completely fine with that.  Essentially the MOBA audience is already solidified around either League of Legends or DOTA 2, and there is nothing that will change the fact that those two audiences are extremely devoted to their chosen game.  I see Heroes of the Storm being the game for the rest of us, the folks that are mildly interested in MOBAs but simply don’t want to have to memorize the amount of information needed to play either of the other games effectively.  I still play League with friends but HotS is the only game I would consider solo-queuing in.

Champion Design

Volibear_0 The big area where I have to crown League the king however is in the area of Champion design.  They have managed to create this extremely malleable mythos that allows them to quite literally create a champion that can do ANYTHING and make it work thematically.  The reason why I keep returning to the game is to keep playing these new and interesting champion designs.  HotS I feel does a better job than most of the other competitors with making champions feel like fully fleshed out beings, but the key problem there lies in the fact that they can ONLY draw upon Blizzard characters.  League of Legends can create brand new characters on the fly without having to worry too much about them not fitting into the lore of their world, because said world is ridiculously open ended.  Right now every single champion in Heroes of the Storm has to fit into the Diablo, Warcraft or Starcraft universes.  Given time I can see them also adding in Overwatch, but even then those are very specific genres that they can draw on, whereas League tends to take inspiration for designs from other pop culture iconography.

Lucian for example is a blending of Morpheus from The Matrix and a Grammaton Cleric from Equilibrium.  Twisted Fate is absolutely Gambit from X-Men, and Draven is extremely influenced by Kraven the Hunter from Spiderman.  Volibear is absolutely Iorek Byrnison from the HIs Dark Materials trilogy.  League essentially has free reign for what they can adopt and adapt to fit into their world.  Granted in each case they have absolutely made the champion into their own thing, but that initial inspiration still sits there oh so thinly veiled.  Heroes of the Storm on the other hand is forced to eat its own, as it can only consume characters that are already in the existing Blizzard Intellectual Property Universe.  I feel the end result is going to always mean that League feels far more fresh and interesting, and HotS to some extent will always need to rehash nostalgia to inspire its player base to keep playing.  The positive is however that Blizzard players have proven time and time again to be deeply susceptible to fits of nostalgia.  I am happy that both games exist, but the only one I actively want to play on my own is Heroes of the Storm.

eSports Needs Name Change

What is Sport

RBIBaseball Yesterday I managed to get into a conversation that I never really intended to, but I thought it might make for interesting blog fodder.  Over the weekend ESPN 2 hosted the Heroes of the Storm “Heroes of the Dorm” collegiate competition, with college teams competing for scholarship money.  Now this is not the first time ESPN 2 has shown “eSports” because the 2014 International DOTA 2 Championships were shown on the channel as well.  Both times now there has been a backlash from traditional sports fans calling the showing of video games on their precious sports channel all manner of expletives.  That said in both cases ESPN 2 got seemingly plenty of viewers because in both cases they brought in an audience that would not have normally watched that channel.  I personally have had trouble getting into either traditional sports or eSports, so as a result I am somewhat of a neutral observer to this phenomena.  However after both events twitter has been set ablaze with back and forth between sports fans and gamers.

I made a few sideways comments yesterday and one of the spin off threads was about the definition of what exactly a sport was.  One definition suggestion was presented as “I always took sport to feature/focus on physical exertion/athleticism”.  The actual dictionary definition looks similar “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”  The problem is I feel like the competitive gaming scene also fits this definition.  “Physical exertion” is such a generic term and the reflexes and fine motor skills required to play competitively in League of Legends, StarCraft 2 or DOTA 2 surely would qualify as such I would think.  “Sport” to me really has no meaning attached to it, because I do not hold it up to some higher standard than what the dictionary defines it as.  There is no nostalgia towards sports, and they don’t serve any greater purpose in my mind other than to entertain people.

eSports Needs Name Change

leagueworldchampionshipo One of the problems brought up yesterday was the fact that “eSports” in itself is a name that you can’t quite take seriously.  To tack the “e” onto Sport immediately tells you it is something that is trying to be but not quite achieving the same quality as the “real” Sports.  This to me sets up a false dichotomy between the two that really doesn’t exist.  For me at least they are both just “sports” because as a neutral observer, I see absolutely no difference between the two.  In both cases people are paid to play a game for the entertainment of others.  In both cases they are spectator driven events, and in both cases they draw huge crowds of people.  While they have not quite reached the level of the Super Bowl (114 million) or the World Cup (188 milion) as far as viewership, they are definitely juggernauts in their own right.

Last year the League of Legends World Championship had 32 million viewers, and “The International”DOTA 2 championship over 20 million viewers.   This tells me this is a phenomena that is not going to go away, and will only continue to get bigger.  I feel like the name somehow cheapens the experience by showing that it is trying to be something else.  Sports itself is rife with all manner of problems and embedded social issues.  Over the last several years we have been seeing these same issues playing out in the “eSports” arena as leagues attempt to emulate their traditional sports counter parts.  I question if it is time to just sever the ties with the “Sports” concept entirely and go off and create something new.  As it was pointed out yesterday, “eSports” shares some serious ties to the professional Poker or Pool circuits, so maybe all of these should just resurrect under the banner of “High Stakes Gaming” or something similar.

ESPN Needs eSports

cuttingcoax I feel like at this point these two attempts for ESPN 2 to show competitive gaming are more a bid for continued relevance more than anything.  ESPN is the juggernaut of traditional sports but I feel like there is an entire generation of people not being served by it.  The network of channels does a great job at covering their core demographic, but I would guess that demographic is slipping in total viewership.  If they did not see the need to branch out, they would keep doing the same thing they are doing.  32 Million and 20 Million are not small numbers, and the ESPN management understands this.  I would be surprised if ANY game they show currently gets those kind of numbers, because we are living in this era when television viewership as a whole is on the decline.  I think the calculus in the executives head is that there is a need to try and hook the  generation that is simply not watching their programming, and when they look to what it is being replaced by… they see Youtube.com and Twitch.tv.

The problem is I think this is ultimately going to work backwards.  I don’t see “eSports” hooking new viewers on traditional sports like ESPN might be hoping.  What I do see is that for all of the bluster and banter… that more than likely some people stayed and watched the Heroes of the Storm tournament instead of flipping the channel.  Those people are going to look into that game, and when it launches probably play it.  I think the net positive is in the favor of gaming, and not necessarily sports.  ESPN is very much the kingpin of the outdated cable television model, and I don’t really see “eSports” somehow changing that.  I personally get frustrated every time I look at my cable bill and realize that I am essentially paying an “ESPN Tax” to help subsidize a channel I will never actually watch.  Maybe just maybe if they do end up playing more competitive gaming coverage, especially something along the lines of EVO…  I might actually watch it.  In the mean time I will continued to be confounded as two side argue over doing essentially the exact same thing in my eyes.

Developer Appreciation Week 2015 – Part 2

Yesterday I kicked off my own versions of the Developer Appreciation Week with five companies and game teams that I greatly appreciate it.  It seems like we are starting to get some traction because yesterday MMOGames.com independent of my own intervention ran a piece of what we are doing.  I still hope to see more people join in the fun and talk about the development staff that they really appreciate it.  I play a lot of games… so I have a lot of love to go around.

Blizzard – World of Warcraft Team

WoWScrnShot_033115_220604 Last night was quite possibly my single best night in World of Warcraft raiding.  After some sluggish weeks we strolled into Blackrock Foundry and cleared seven normal bosses, then popped out and took down two heroic bosses… one of which was our first kill.  To make the night even more special we managed to one shot all of them.  After riding that high last night, it is impossible to do a developer appreciation week post without talking about Blizzard.  World of Warcraft has been the juggernaut in the room for so long that I can barely remember a time when they were not the clear market dominator.  While I have some disappointments about Warlords of Draenor, I feel like they are legitimately trying to turn the franchise around after what felt like years of neglect.  It feels very much like they have doubled down on this game, and at the end of the day I am still enjoying playing it with my friends.  For a ten year old game to still maintain relevancy is a pretty mighty feat, so my hat is off to the Blizzard staff who have supported it throughout the years and made it this experience that we judge all other MMOs against.  It has been the gold standard for good reason.  Even if World of Warcraft is not your game, you have to marvel at the level of polish that they deliver when they roll out a new expansion.

Bioware – Star Wars the Old Republic Team

swtor 2013-08-13 23-38-38-65 Star Wars the Old Republic and I have somewhat of a checkered past to be honest.  I went into this game feeling like it was going to be the WoW Killer for myself and my friends, but ultimately we lasted the same three months that we normally do in this sort of game.  When they chose to go free to play, I was frustrated by how insanely restrictive the system ended up being.  All of this said… if you can some how push past all of the limited time loot boxes and free to play cludge…  there is a great game there at its core.  With the launch of SWTOR I tried something that I don’t normally do… I leveled as part of a dedicated duo with my friend Euron.  I played a Jedi Guardian and he a Jedi Consular, and we participated in each others stories.  The way those two tales interweave was something to behold, and while it felt a bit confining to always have to make sure you and your friend were on at exactly the same times…  it was a leveling experience unlike no other.  The thing that stands out about SWTOR is the story, and what ultimately killed the game for me was when I ran out of it.  Now I know I have several expansions that I can go back and experience and I keep thinking that one day I will do precisely that.  In the meantime I have fond memories of the time we were all obsessed with this game, and give massive props to the folks who built such engaging content… that we pulled some fourteen hours a day to get through it all.

Zenimax – The Elder Scrolls Online Team

eso 2014-07-14 21-46-45-167 Since Daggerfall I have been in love with the Elder Scrolls franchise.  Each time a new one comes out I end up devoting hundreds of hours to playing it, but all the while I keep thinking… this experience would be more enjoyable with my friends.  So when I found out that Elder Scrolls was in fact being made into an MMO I was completely over the moon about it.  I was lucky enough to be in the first round of alpha testing, so ultimately I participated in this game for over a year before launching it.  Unfortunately this was a bit of a double edged sword because I got to see some features that worked better in early versions of the game, as compared to later more minimalistic ones.  When you test a game that long it skews your vision of what the game actually is.  Elder Scrolls Online has some of the best story content I have experienced in any game, and there are a number of quest lines that stick out in my memory.  The whole concept of being able to continue into another faction after you have finished yours was inspired.  The problem is by the time I hit the Aldmeri content I had lost a lot of my steam, and our guild was suffering the traditional drop off in players.  Now that the game has shifted to buy to play however I am able to experience this game again and realize just how great it actually is.  A lot of the problems I had with it early on have been smoothed out, and the post 50 progression no longer feels quite so grindy.  I really appreciate the staff that has been plugging away quietly on making this game a better place to be, and I look forward to playing it more in the coming months.

Trion Worlds – Trove Team

trove 2014-10-16 22-40-54-21 Trove is this quirky world building game that blends MMO combat, MOBA style character design, and Minecraft style exploration and construction.  I was lucky enough to be including in the first round of alpha invites for trove, and it has been insane to watch this game evolve.  What I love the most is the way the developers have been meshed with the community since day one.  Instead of a traditional forum, they decided to open up the process with a reddit, in fact I think this is the first game I can ever recall doing that.  In those first days the community was so amazing, because it was so tight knit.  You would log in and get welcomed by people that might recognize your name from the Reddit, and there was rarely a time when a developer was not in game talking to players.  As the game has progressed the community has gotten larger, and the rigors of development have degraded this closeness a small bit, but it is still very much a game that draws its inspiration from the players.  While I don’t play it as much as I should, I have loved watching it evolve around me.  It feels like the sort of game you get when you throw a bunch of seven year olds in a room and tell them to solve a problem.  It is pure unbridled joy and imagination… and has been good for my jaded soul to see that a game like that can exist.

Riot Games – League of Legends Team

League of Legends 2013-08-15 20-37-32-38

League of Legends is 100% not my type of game.  In fact I might never have played it were it not at the suggestion of my friends.  Actually I rarely ever play this game other than when a bunch of friends want to do so.  That said the experience of playing with a team of friends is contagious.   There are a lot of aspects about this game that are problematic for me, a huge one being the still very toxic community.  That said I give the biggest credit I can possibly give to the character designers.  What League has in spades is the personality that seems to be lacking from so many other MMOs.  The characters in League of Legends have a life of their own, and they make you fall in love with them.  I have joked for some time, that this isn’t actually a game, but a modern sticker album… because I seem to largely collect characters and skins rather than actually play with them.  Each character is really a triumph of taking what are mostly remixed elements and making them feel fresh and new.  I tend to stick to the characters I know and love however like Darius, Graves, WuKong and Garen.  My favorite gameplay mode however will probably always be ARAM simply because no one expect you to know what you are doing, which is about perfect for me.

MOBA Crash

Falling Down

dawngate logo

Yesterday we had an interesting bit of news released as the first big MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena if you are not familiar with the term, announced that they would be closing their doors.  Dawngate was the product offering by Electronic Arts and entered closed testing in May 2013 but quickly fell from the buzz cycle.  Quite honestly when I saw this announcement I had quite literally forgotten there was a game called Dawngate.  Some of the complaints about the game was that it felt like a rather lifeless clone of League of Legends.  Many of the Champions or “Shapers” as they called them seemed to have one to one relationships to league of legends champions.  However the game did try to fix some of the things that were broken with the existing Summoner’s Rift map type, adding in more interesting gameplay elements.

The problem is that no one that I knew was actually playing it.  There were a handful of people who got into the beta process last June and then I never heard anything again about the game.  For whatever reason they lost at producing enough forward hype for their game to drown out the other MOBAs or at least fight for a place at the table.  The game looked very pretty, but I just don’t think they did enough to excite players.  My only hope is that Riot will take some of the ideas that Dawngate had and try and incorporate some game modes that are similar to that into League of Legends.  I am not the biggest fan of MOBAs in general, but I have played enough of them to know some good ideas when I see them.  The fact that Dawngate had this mechanic where taking down each tower was essentially the equivalent to like 1/3rd of an inhibitor seemed like a cool idea.  Instead in League you reach a point where taking down additional towers is a waste of time… and I don’t think you would ever reach that point in Dawngate.

MOBA Crash

league-of-legendsOne of the interesting things about the games industry is how much it repeats itself.  When someone has a successful idea, it seems that the “investors” all get involved to dog pile on that genre and try and crack out as many look alike games as they can.  That is not to say that each of the new games does not have merit, nor is it to say that they are not good games.  The problem is there is a certain point at which the market has reached saturation and can support no new offshoots.  Unfortunately I think we have reached that point already with the MOBA genre.  Dawngate was really the first major game in the genre to call it quits, and Turbine the developer of Infinite Crisis does not look terribly strong right now after a round of layoffs in October.  I feel like we are just about to enter the same area we have been with MMOs for some time now… where there is no “easy money” left in the market.

hotswallpaper Right now you have the juggernauts of League of Legends and DOTA2.  To a lesser extent Heroes of Newerth still has a bit of a following, but their latest product offering of Strife seems to be struggling to gain traction.  Smite on the other hand… seems to have found a niche in the fact that it is a WASD controlled MOBA and for folks like me that hate click to move…  it offers a new way to play this game genre.  Heroes of the Storm on the other hand has done what Blizzard does best…  polish a game to a mirror shine and lower the barrier of entry.  As such HoTS is a much easier entry point into the MOBA genre for non-MOBA players.  Personally of all of the titles it is my favorite in part because it leverages characters that I already know and love and just extends that nostalgia into another genre.  Apart from these few games though I think pretty much every other MOBA is suspect, fragile and vulnerable to be the next announced cancellation.

The Cycle Repeats

doom_logo I think my first experience with this cycle of trying to cash in on the next hotness was the massive amount of vaguely playable games that came out after the release of Doom during the early 90s.  For every Dark Forces there were a few Depth Dwellers or Nerves of Steel that were barely playable.  Then Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans came on the scene… which itself borrowed heavily from the mechanics of Dune 2.  But immediately following was an equally confusing cavalcade of RTS genre games finally ending up with only a handful of series surviving.  We are seeing this same thing playing out currently with the string of “Minecraft clones” fighting for your dollar.  Essentially if a game comes out that is popular enough you can bet that somewhere in a back office someone is willing to pour money into something vaguely similar in an attempt to rush their version of the trend to market.  Eventually someone comes along with a box full of straight pins and the bubble popping begins.

2013-04-17 06_54_46-Greenshot The thing is that I don’t really even think this is a bad thing, other than for the folks who get caught up in the round of layoffs that almost always follows.  It is possible for a game to move the genre forward even if it doesn’t end up a success itself.  Warhammer Online for example had quite possibly the best quest objective visualization system I had played with, and many other games came through after its launch and offered a similar system for their own product.  The next release of World of Warcraft offered a version of quest visualization that looked almost exactly like this one.  So even though Warhammer Online turned out to be a failure, it imparted on the genre a few features that have stuck around.  As such I feel like if we are starting to head towards a MOBA crash, the ones that failed to find a niche will still have an impact on the games that ultimate end up dominating the market.  There will always be a market for MOBAs, just like there was always a market for Adventure games, FPS, RTS, Survival Horror, MMO, Sandbox Building or whatever the next big fad becomes in gaming.

Fuzzy Blankets

This month I am talking about something each morning that I am thankful for.  This morning as I am wrapped tightly in a fleece blanket while typing this…  I am reminded just how thankful I am for our array of very warm and very fuzzy blankets.  Oklahoma is an interesting place, in part because we go through this seesaw act with our weather towards the end of Fall.  Until a week ago it was pretty reliably 70*-80* days and I was mostly wearing shorts on the weekend.  Then a cold snap hit is and it has gotten down to the 30s.  The problem is I fully expect that we will be back in the 70s within a weeks time.  During this back and forth I am always reluctant to turn on my heating, just because I know it isn’t “really” winter yet.  As such we spend a month bundled up in blankets and honestly due to the weight loss I find myself more cold natured than I used to be.  So this year like so many years I am thankful that fuzzy blankets exist to keep us warm, when our weather is still deeply confused.

Pairing Down

The Struggle

One of the biggest challenges about this whole “blog every day” concept is that some mornings there is just nothing at all in my head to talk about.  When I am sick like I was yesterday, I tend to turtle and pull my head up inside my shell, disconnecting me from the interwebs and all of you fine people.  Unfortunately when my biggest source of inspiration is gone, I can get a little bit of writers block.  It is mornings like this that I feel outline the importance of just allowing yourself to write whatever happens to pop into your head.  It might not be epic and exciting, but it is staying true to the mission as a whole.  Unfortunately we are well based the NBI 2014 initiative, otherwise I would spin this into some sort of an inspirational post about struggling through.

This is not a slight in any way to the previous NBI groups, but I have been really impressed with just how tenacious the Class of 2014 has been.  Generally speaking there is a significant drop off the month after the initiative as folks take a massive breather after having survived being the focus of so many folks attention.  When the spotlight fades a bit, it is rough to keep posting when you inevitably notice fewer people are reading.  However this group either is blissfully oblivious to the existence of blog statistics, or they really are writing for themselves, because they seem to still be going strong.  A few of the “newbies” are among the most prolific posters in my blog reader, and I am amped to still see them enjoying the whole experience.

Pairing Down

WoWScrnShot_061314_062051Right now I have come to realize that I am playing entirely too many MMOs to feel like I am making any significant progress in any of them.  Over the last two months I’ve played Warlords of Draenor, Rift, ArcheAge, Wildstar, Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Everquest II, Landmark, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Lego Minifigures Online and Trove.  While I embrace the whole polygamerous thing, I think even for me this is a bit too much especially when you throw in League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm on top of those… and occasionally some Hex and Hearthstone.  Mostly I think I need to drop some of the games that feel similar to me from the rotation, or at least games that scratch the same itch.

rift 2014-02-13 06-28-10-40 I feel like I have to keep testing Warlords of Draenor in part out of remembrance for River, and him being so damned excited to have gotten into the alpha process.  While I won’t be playing with the same wide eyed amusement that he would have, I am trying my best to enjoy the experience in his honor.  However I can safely say that I will not be playing the actual live World of Warcraft anytime in the near future.  I think maybe WoW has run its course with me for awhile, and Wildstar has stepped in to take its place in my heart without me really wanting it to.  Wildstar really is a much better version of WoW, and I am just embracing that fact.  As a result Rift and SWTOR are also losing out, because to me they still fill the same “wow-like” niche.  As a result I won’t be renewing my patron account in Rift.

The Non-WoW Itch

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-13-50-11It was fun trying to get into Defiance, but the problem is I got into the Destiny alpha… and it was pretty much everything I had hoped Defiance would be.  So I won’t be spending much more time trying to get into that game when I know there is something I will like much better coming later this year.  ArcheAge I want to like, but it has without a doubt the worst community of griefers I have experienced anywhere.  So unless Trion comes out and announces there will be a co-op server… it is pretty much a nonstarter for me and no sense really spending much more time on it.  Landmark on the other hand has an amazing community, but right now there just isn’t much game there for me to play.  They have built this amazing crafting sandbox, but without combat it isn’t all that interesting to me past the initial build phase.  They have added caves so I figure at some point I will poke  my head back in, but exploration without combat just sounds boring to me.  I’ve officially allowed my claim to be repossessed at this point.

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56 I still have a special place in my heart for Everquest II, and I can’t say I won’t return to it in the future… but for now I think there are just too many other options.  EQ2 was one of those games where I hated the combat system but loved everything else about it.  Wildstar with its systems within systems is really filling the niche that EQ2 always did, which might be why it is feeling so sticky considering it is replacing both EQ2 and WoW for me.  The Secret World is one of those games I love to remember fondly, but never seem to have a desire to log into on a regular basis.  I know there is a bunch of storyline that I have yet to participate in, and I keep thinking that some weekend I will play through all of it.  That weekend just has yet to arrive, and lately the only time I seem to log in is when I get new hardware and want to test how it performs.

The Also Rans

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-07-06-52 Diablo 3 is enjoyable, and at some point I would really like to get a crusader to 70…  hell I would like to get my monk to 70.  I just struggle to find any drive to play it when my own personal internet zeitgeist… aka the folks I hang out on voice chat nightly, are not also playing it.  It was really fun up until the release of Elder Scrolls Online and then boom we all vacated the premises.  For the time being I am pretty much crossing it off my list until there is another upwelling of desire among my friends to play it.  Trove is similarly really fun, but without a lot of people that I know playing it on a regular basis I have fallen back out of love with it.  I will likely continue to poke my head into the game irregularly but when I do play… so much has changed that the experience feels very off-putting.  The game is in a pretty much constant state of flux, which is awesome if you are devoted to this game, but confusing if you are a “sometimes” player like me. Play 2014-03-14 10-12-29-25 League of Legends will be a permanent fixture in my gaming rotation so long as I have friends who are devoted to playing it.  I don’t necessarily love the game, but I enjoy playing with my friends.  I personally like Heroes of the Storm so much better, but the problem is with it being in a limited release “technical alpha” state there just are not enough people around regularly to play with.  The MOBA genre is really only fun for me if I am playing with a group of friends, and in this scenario League wins out every time.  That is not to say that I won’t keep poking my head into Heroes especially as they add new waves of players.  As far as Hearthstone and Hex…  I am back playing Magic the Gathering in real life with friends at lunch time…  so the draw of these games is minimal right now.

Those Who Made the Cut

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908 So after spending all of this time culling games for this or that reason, I figure I should talk about the games I am deciding to keep in the rotation.  Warlords of Draenor I am actually enjoying when I do manage to get in and play it.  So yes I am partially doing it in honor of River, and his desire to be in the Alpha, but there is something charming about the new content.  I don’t feel like it will be enough to keep me in WoW, but for the time being I am enjoying it while I can.  Wildstar has pretty much filled the corner of my heart that desire to play a theme park MMO, and it really is the most glorious theme park of experiences once you give yourself over to it.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer, and I am intrigued at the schedule they have put out before us.  I really like that they are choosing to put in “hardmode” single and small group content before augmenting the raid game.  That says a lot that they understand that they need to focus on both going forward to keep players.

eso 2014-02-23 12-41-25-63 I still feel like I have so much more that I want to do in Elder Scrolls Online.  I want to finish the Aldmeri Dominion content and see the Ebonheart Content, as well as spend time exploring Craglorn.  I love this game even though I am not playing it much, and I can’t see dropping it from the rotation anytime soon.  I realize that not many players feel the same way about the game as I do, but really for me it is like the best possible version of Skyrim.  I have been out so long at this point that I feel like I am going to be extremely rusty.  There game has problems, namely it is awkward as hell to do anything as a group other than Cyrodil.  They really need to fix this, and I hope that the good folks at Zenimax are looking into things like mentoring.  Right now it is a really awesome single player experience, but gets cludgy when you start adding in more people.  That said it still does have amazing dungeon design, and there are so many of them that I have yet to experience.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-14-037 Last but not least is a game that has come in and taken my heart by storm.  Lego Minifigures Online is absolutely adorable and I love everything about this game.  Last night this was the only thing I actually played, and grouped up with Rae she managed to catch me up almost to her level in experience.  Right now we have a vastly different set of mini figures, and it is really enjoyable to group together.  We have both opted to get memberships, and the pocket dungeons are awesome… some of them ending up extremely challenging like the Dragon’s Lair dungeon with I think five different boss fights in it.  I’ve already gotten more than my moneys worth of enjoyment out of it, so this is definitely going to be in my weekly rotation for a long while.  It basically scratches the itch that Diablo 3 did, and cashes in on my absolute love of all things Lego.

So there you have it, going forward I am mostly going to be focused on Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and Lego Minifigures Online.  I of course reserve the right to change my mind and undo all of these in the blink of an eye.  That said I do have a ton of single player games that I want to play through, and both the PS3 and PS4 ready to stream content.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing Assassin’s Creed 4 for example… and I am absolutely horrible at it, but enjoying myself quite a bit.  As far as online games, I am going to try and limit myself to just these games above for the time being.  I know in September I will be digging into Destiny and playing that online with friends quite a bit, but it doesn’t directly conflict with the types of games I chose above.  Maybe with this abbreviated list, I won’t constantly feel overwhelmed when I sit down at night and try and figure what exactly I am going to do.`

Alliance of Awesome

Multigaming Community

allianceofawesome On January 31st a few interesting things happened.  Firstly Sony Online Entertainment released the alpha for Everquest Next Landmark…  now just known as Landmark.  More importantly this set a chain of events into motion.  For some time there has been a group of loosely affiliated guilds and gaming  communities tugging on essentially the same pool of players.  So we might end up getting this mix of players for a specific title and then having a similar mix of players for another title down the road from this huge twitter/g+ gaming community pool.  With Landmark this reached a bit of a head and someone was brave enough to stand up and say it was silly.  In the opening days of Landmark, since there were no guilds (and still arent for that matter) each of these communities opted to start a chat channel.  The problem is this left some people joining as many as six different channels at a time.

Scarybooster proposed a simple idea, that we all agree to use one common chat channel, and with that the Alliance of Awesome was born.  It started simple in scope, but from there Zelibeli and I kinda ran with it and over the last four months we’ve built a rather large loosely connected gaming alliance.  Currently we have five different groups in the AofA community: House Stalwart, Multiplaying.net, Combat Wombat, Mercy Gaming, and Dark Religion.  Lately I have been talks with Liore about maybe having the already awesome Machiavelli’s Cats community join the fold as well.  I have to say so far that over the last four months things have indeed been awesome.  For the most part everyone has seemed to get along swimmingly and I’ve watched this group of disconnected pieces merge into a community in every sense of the word.

A Simple Idea

One of the big problems with being habitual multigamers is the fact that guilds are often transistory and it is hard to constantly muster a new batch of people to play whatever game is coming down the pipe.  Additionally since not every game will end up being ideal for everyone, this means you have massive amounts of fragmentation as folks leave a given game for something new.  The idea was that each individual guild would take responsibility for the reigns of the games that they were most into, and then that way as gamers we would have access to a good and familiar guild regardless of the game we choose to play.  Over the coming months I would like to see this formalized into a sort of Rosetta stone for who has which guilds where and just how active each of them are.

The problem is that since we each have our own guild identities, it felt odd to constantly ask players to register an account on a new forum for each group.  As a result we tried a few different things to have a shared neutral ground between the communities.  The first of these efforts was the Alliance of Awesome reddit… and while it worked well enough, it caused as much frustration as it solved.  Then I stumbled onto Anook and it seemed almost perfectly suited for us.  It offered public and private forums, an events calendar and was more gamer social network than private site allowing folks to link everything up to the games they are streaming into the shared hub… or in the verbiage of that network a “nook”.  This also lets the bloggers in our midst share our posts easily on the nooks blog, and so far that seems to also be working well.

A Unified Approach

Over the last few months we have been melding significantly.  Elder Scrolls Online launch for example was the first real “Alliance of Awesome” foray, and while we still kept to the branding of House Stalwart… it was very much a shared occasion.  With the launch of Wildstar, we had no real forerunner guild wise that looked to be taking up the reigns.  Instead we opted to drop any specific guild branding and simply go with the “Alliance of Awesome” for our guild name.  Honestly I have to say it feels very natural and I can see eventually we may drop the individual guild monikers and just do things from that standpoint.

The biggest problem I forsee moving forward is the fact that right now we are still very much utilizing two completely separate voice servers.  A good chunk of the House Stalwart guild is still very happily playing World of Warcraft and doesn’t really care about any other game on the market.  The rest of us are pretty nomadic, but we still are far more used to and comfortable with mumble as a communication platform.  Multiplaying, Dark Religion, and Mercy Gaming have all standardized on a Teamspeak 3 server run for free by the ever amazing Saia.  So I would really like to make a move to trying to use that as well and simply dropping the mumble.  That said this feels like a landmine because I have no clue how to convince the WoW-only contingency to abandon mumble and make the shift over to Teamspeak 3.  Also I hate to abandon Mumble myself until they have done this, because while I am not playing World of Warcraft on a nightly basis I still hold the guildmaster position and get called on to resolve issues.  I want to make sure I am reachable by folks even when I am not in the same game.

Shared Ethics

The other rough spot is that we need to come up with a shared set of rules and codes of conduct.  For years House Stalwart has followed a simple “three tenets” approach, and relied on guild leader and officer judgment to fill in the gaps.  Zeli tends to favor spelling things out, and considering the large volume of people she has dealt with not completely organically connected… I can totally see why this would be a good thing.  After years of trying to “keep things simple” but then having to deal with explaining nuance… I am starting to favor Zeli’s approach to be honest.  I hate writing rules, and as such that’s why I came up with the somewhat ambiguous three that we use.  I figured that using common sense folks would realize what they meant… problem is not everyone “common” is the same.  The further away from the same core of friends you get, the more confusing the interpretation becomes.

Going forward I think we are going to have to just agree upon a shared set of rules, and I think so far the batch Zeli came up with for the Alliance of Awesome guild seems like a great place to begin.  The biggest thing I hope out of this is that we are a living community.  That we will continue to grow as we adopt other awesome people from twitter, anook, g+, or that we happen to stumble across in game.  Also I hope that we do in fact get the Machiavelli’s Cats community to join the fold, and keep finding other like minded groups to rally to the cause.  I would really like Alliance of Awesome to not only have an ostentatious name, but also have awesome actions to back it up.  I want us to be part of the solution in the games we play, and not part of the problem.  I would love to see us better each of the gaming communities we are in.

Giving Back

File:Child's Play Logo updated.pngOne of the things that Zeli and I have been talking about lately is that we would really like to enter Alliance of Awesome in this years Child’s Play marathon.  Far as I can tell this will take place on October 25th, and the idea is to have 25 hours of live streaming for charity.  I have wanted to participate in this for years, but I thought it would be more interesting if we signed up a whole bunch of streamers from the Alliance of Awesome community and have one shared channel for the purpose of the event.  We have quite a number of people who stream already, and it would be awesome to give each of us like a 4-5 hour block of time to play whatever the hell we want to.

Also lately we have been holding a lot of events in various games.  Right now Wednesday nights are “Faff About in Cyrodil” night, and those are pretty much only to anyone in the Alliance of Awesome community.  Additionally we have been holding a Thursday night “League Beginner Night” to let folks ease into the League of Legends game.  So far both events have been a blast and I would love to see them grow beyond the small number of people that we have.  I am sure we will be doing something similar for Wildstar, especially with the focus on grouping in that game.  I can only see the community as a whole getting better.  So here comes the thing I am sure you have all been waiting for.  If you are not already a member of the Alliance of Awesome community… head over to the website and join our nook.  We don’t have any real requirements for membership other than wanting to be around a bunch of awesome people, and striving to be the “white hats” in gaming.  If you have a large community, track down myself or Zelibeli and we can see if the entire group would be a good fit for us as well.  Growing up as an only child, I always wanted to be surrounded by friends… and on the internet I try my damnedest to surround myself with as many awesome people as I can.  So far I think things are going pretty well.

Crystal Madness

Permanent Exhaustion

Back in March my wife and I each purchased a fitbit, and since then it has rewired quite a few things in our daily routine.  Over the first few month we mostly focused on changing the way we walked, and picking up steps in places we could during our normal routine.  So instead of taking the elevator in the parking garage, I started walking the stairs… and have now changed that up to walking the ramps down for maximum steps.  In many ways the fitbit changes exercise into a game, and with it comes a whole slew of “achievements” being tracked by the fitbit dashboard.  While what it does is rather stupid…  it is just an always on pedometer, the fact that it is there and constantly reminding me that I need to be walking is where the real benefit comes in.

Over the last month we have been walking on a nightly basis, and within the last week and a half this has morphed not only into walking to augment our total steps… but to trying every night to “ding”.  My wife is not a gamer really, but she has picked up my MMO analogy when it comes to the fitbit.  For us dinging is getting to our target steps of 10,000 per night, and this is fitting since the little band goes nuts when you reach your target goal.  While trying to hit 10,000 is cool…  my new goal is trying to hit 70,000 weekly steps and getting the achievement associated with it.  Why do I care?  Well it has been looming there for months… and it was a thing I never thought I would actually be able to hit.

More than anything this whole experience has been a lesson in proving me wrong.  I’m fat, and I will likely always be fat.  At 6’4” I carry my 350 lbs more better than some… but I am still very much a fat man, and I am mostly okay with that.  More than anything I want to be a more “fit” fat and have more stamina and endurance… and I have already come so damned far already.  Granted right now I am somewhat living in a state of permanent exhaustion as I try and do this exercise thing each night and also do my evening gaming.  Right now we are walking a little over 2 miles per night, and doing what we call our “triple loop” where we weave a course through our neighborhood and the next one over.  The course is designed so it never takes us past our house, that way we are not tempted to call it and stop.  Right now I need to have walked between 6500 and 7000 steps to be able to hit 10-11k during my evening walk.  With it being a rainy and otherwise sedentary weekend… we might have to start walking a “quint loop”, but by god I will hit my 70,000 steps this week.

Crystal Madness

WildStar64 2014-06-06 06-04-48-273 I had all intents of streaming last night, but for whatever reason it never quite happened.  I spent a good deal of the evening running down the last few things I needed to do to complete Deredune, and what I was doing… while enjoyable for me seemed like it would be extremely boring to watch.  As the evening wore on, more people joined me in the channel… and I simply never alt tabbed to fire up OBS.  Wildstar is latching onto me with a vengence, and in ways I am surprised.  You can go through my pre-launch posts… and I struggled hard to figure out a way to get into this game.  I wanted so bad to like it, because at face value it seemed like a game I would love… or at the very least the me from five years ago would have loved.  Overall it intrigued me enough to play it at launch, especially since I would be bringing with me a chunk of the Alliance of Awesome community.

Now that I have spent a good deal of time playing it… I am completely enthralled.  The thing is I am not sure exactly why.  Guild Wars 2 is one of those games that I have tried to dissect just why I don’t enjoy it, and no matter what I try and do there… the game felt largely pointless.  Wildstar feels like it took so many of the good elements of GW2 but presented them in a way that I actually care about them.  Problem is I am not sure if I can explain why.  For starters there is something psychologically enjoyable about challenges.  You can be wandering around and loot an item… and then all the sudden you on the clock and every fiber of your being is poured into completely whatever this task happens to be.  Sure you can ignore them, and start them manually from the challenges section of your quest log…  however there is something special about just stumbling onto one naturally.

The game has a depth that I have not seen since Everquest 2, and that really shocked me.  There are layers within layers within layers of nuance going on here.  Right now it seems to have every feature that I ever wanted in a game.  While it doesn’t have a “chronomage” style self mentoring system, you can apparently drop your level down to your party members at any time.  In fact so many of the things in the game seem to be there to help you group with your friends.  The only real thing that the game fails at is in still continuing to divide players into red and blue teams.  That said I can for the most part deal with this, since they have account based friends and I can at the very least talk to my friends on the other side of the faction wall.  I have reached a point where I am pretty sure already that this is my new “WoW”, and had I not already purchased Warlords of Draenor… I would seriously consider skipping this expansion.

The picture above is pretty cool because it is from my skyplot.  One of the nifty things is that while you are out in the world, you are constantly collecting things for your house.  A special kind of item that you can find is a “PreFab Kit” and these allow you to build new sections of your skyplot.  While wandering around I managed to find a green quality one that essentially added a crazy jumping puzzle to my house.  So the fact that it is a jumping puzzle in itself is cool… but it basically added a daily quest to my house.  If you can make it to the top of the puzzle in 1 minute 10 seconds you can get a prize, which is similar to the prizes you normally get from challenges.  I’ve managed to pick up a handful of housing items from doing this, including a really cool spiral tree.  If you are on Evindra/Dominion let me know and I will neighbor you so you can have access to do the puzzle.

League Beginner Night

League of Legends 2014-06-05 22-00-53-703 I feel like maybe this week the title of our weekly League of Legends night might be a bit of a misnomer.  We had several folks, but not quite enough to do two matches at the same time.  So as a result we alternated swapping folks in and doing 5 man vs Bots games to let folks get adjusted to new champions.  Oakstout joins us this week and it turns out that while he signed up for a beginner night… he owns a whole slew of champions and has like 130 wins under his belt or something like that.  So I would hardly call him a beginner, in fact I am far more beginnerly than he was.  That said it was still an awesomely fun time and we hung out and joked while playing the game.  I played a total of three games, the first of which I tried out the champion Gangplank that was free this week.  I have to say I dig him quite a bit, and if he goes on sale again soonish I might pick him up.

The second round I played Aatrox, which I still absolutely love for his pure survival.  During this battle Oak was playing one of my all time favorite champions WuKong… but the combination meant we got to bully our lane severely.  Our double jumps meant we could engage quickly and shred the enemy bots quickly before returning to farming or taking down turrets.  I have decided though that I really need to pick up the Justicar Skin since I don’t really care much for Aatrox’s default appearance.  Finally I closed out the night by playing a game as Woad King Darius… which we have all agreed is the “most belghast skin ever”.  It was a great time, and if you are looking to ease your way into League of Legends, then I highly suggest you participate next week.  At some point I figure we will even start to play real people.

#Wildstar #LeagueOfLegends #LoL

Ramble About Content

Story Content

I was having a discussion yesterday with some friends about whether or not the MMO player actually wants carefully crafted story driven content.  When you look at the lackluster support that Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World have gotten overall, you could easily come to this conclusion… since each of them are deeply story driven and carefully constructed experiences.  I think we are maybe seeing something else at work.  If you look at a game like World of Warcraft, some of its deep story arcs have long been heralded as some of players favorite content.  However the vast majority of the content is nothing like this, and I think it is simply a case of not everything has to be “art”.

It is in essence the filler content, that is just good enough to keep you from throwing up your hands in frustration, that make you appreciate that gem in the rough of a quest.  Games like ESO, SWTOR and TSW attempted to infuse deep story and meaning into almost everything you do, therefore shifting story driven content to the status of a commodity.  I suggest that games need busy work, to make you appreciate the transcendent content when it is placed in front of you.   The “kill ten rats” quests are there to cleanse the palates so to speak, so that when a deeply engaging story arc is put in front of you… you actually take notice and don’t resign it to more content to grind through.

Epic Crafted Content

When I think about epic custom crafted experiences I think of the Mass Effect series.  I have gushed on this game so much, and watched friends play it over and over.  As much as I enjoyed the entire trip through the series… it is not the type of game that I would want to play every night.  That ultimately is the problem with MMOs, you are asking players to come in and inhabit your space… hopefully making it a nightly traditional to log in and play with their friends.  As much as I might like a Mass Effect or a Transistor… I wouldn’t want to play these games on a nightly basis.  I want a space that is much more malleable, and doesn’t require so much of myself to play it.  Essentially one friends assessment that MMO content “needs to be exactly good enough to be passable” is really not too far off the mark.

One thing that the busy work tasks excel at is helping drive your own personal narrative forward.  The players who inhabit an MMO and really live there on a night by night basis, whether they realize it or not, are crafting a custom narrative about their character based on their own actions.  Each time you kill some baddies, save a villager, or deliver a package to some far away mountain… these actions are complementary to whatever narrative you have in your head about your own character.  When you ask a player to participate in something longer, more story driven… the end results are predetermined and may or may not be complimentary with this personal narrative.  When you have a few of these long epics scattered throughout the game, they are welcome interludes.  However when everything you do is based on some narrative that you don’t necessarily fully control… it can be jarring.

Grouped Content

While I would not want to play Mass Effect every single night, I still want to play it often… so there sets up the paradox.  Right now I find myself compartmentalizing games as either “fun to play with other people” and “fun to play by myself”.  Elder Scrolls Online is very much fun to play by myself, with brief flurries of playing with friends when it comes to dungeon and pvp content.  This is part the game and part me.  Firstly I hate questing as a group, and it has been something I have tried to avoid like the plague since the early days of World of Warcraft.  I’ve always found the experience to be generally frustrating since someone is always a step behind or a step ahead of where you happen to be.  Trying to keep people in sync is madness…  but Wildstar and its focus on leveling the guild through grouped content is trying to change this.

They’ve given me a hook, a reason to group up that so many other games haven’t.  I greatly prefer to experience “content” by myself and then group up to do “group content” whenever I can.  But the fact that the only real way to level your guild is through players grouping up together and doing content, makes the entire concept of group questing much more friendly.  They’ve given me a shiny bauble for my troubles, and also given me tools to make the entire grouping experience more meaningful in the way the various “paths” interact with one another.  So this construct is making me re-evaluate the way I think about content in general, and start looking for ways to group up to accomplish things rather than solo everything.

In part my reluctance to group comes from my Everquest roots where your ONLY option was to group for everything.  When MMOs gave me the option to be self sufficient, I took it and ran with it and have simply never looked back.  So in a game like Elder Scrolls Online, I greatly prefer to be wandering around by myself.  I go AFK frequently, often have to take my headset off to respond to my wife, and am generally not always super engaged with what I am doing.  In short I feel like I am a liability for grouping, and in those cases I try and solo the entire night.  The problem is this becomes a pattern with me, and I simply NEVER group unless it is content that I can’t do by myself.  I find it interesting that Wildstar is somewhat successfully making me re-evaluate that point, and seeing that grouping is something that is beneficial to me, the guild, and the players I am grouped with.

Room For Both

Another thing I have learned about myself is that I seem to always need a “WoW”.  I am talking about this in super generic terms because the game has shifted at various times… but I always seem to be playing one.  Traditionally this has been me shifting back and forth between playing World of Warcraft and Rift… while at the same time playing a game like The Secret World or Elder Scrolls Online.  Wildstar seems to be my new “WoW” game in this equation, and it speaks to my desire to play that type of themepark/themebox type experience.  The thing is there is always going to be room for an Elder Scrolls Online as well.  I find myself right now wanting to pair down to just those two games, even though I have a ton of other games that I somewhat want to play.  It is like I have various itches that need scratching on a regular basis, and no one game ever quite covers them all.  However between a combination of those two games it might get close to covering all the bases.

The more I play Wildstar and enjoy it because it is new and shiny and exciting… the more I want to spend my weekend delving into Elder Scrolls Online and exploring Auridon and more of the Veteran level Aldmeri content.  I functionally need both experiences, because so far I have not been able to get both from the same game.  However after seeing the lackluster reception that Elder Scrolls has received versus the glowing recommendation of players for Wildstar, it is pretty clear that most players just want a better “WoW”.  There is no shame in this, because to some extent that has been what I have been looking for as well.  I want to visit these worlds with rich story, but I want to “live” on a nightly basis in one that is more of a “choose your own adventure” novel.  Wildstar inundates me with choices of things to do… and there is a never ending list of achievements and things to explore, giving me a constant stream of adventures to be had.

League Beginner Night

I realize this mornings post has been an odd rambling one…  without much of a firm point.  I blame a clear lack of sleep on my part, and a measure of exhaustion on another.  Hopefully there is something worth reading up there in that big mess.  Tonight is the Alliance of Awesome League Beginner night again, and if you are a member of the AofA community I highly suggest you check it out.  The start time is 9pm CST, but if we have a critical mass of players on mumble beforehand we might start a little early.  Last week we had enough time to play a 3v3 Twisted Treeline and a 5v4+bot Summoners Rift.  We had a ton of fun in the process.

If you have never played League of Legends before, and have been interested in getting into it… now is the ideal time to try it out.  Last week we had several first timers, and to make things easier we broke apart into separate mumble channels to help tutor the new folks in what they should build and where they should be focusing their efforts.  This in part involved me barking orders to Maric quite a bit, but he seems to have survived just fine and is signed up for this week again.  I am still very much a newbie myself, but as a whole it is a really fun time to be had and presents a wild divergence from the types of games I normally play.  I wish we had enough people in Heroes of the Storm to be able to have a similar night for that game.

Too Many Games

I’m a Cheater

Once again I am doing what I consider cheating… which is writing up a post at night that I intend to post in the morning.  Basically tomorrow is another one of those “ride in together” days, because directly after work we have a big end of school cookout thing to go to.  So I simply won’t have much time to do my faff about verbally thing tomorrow morning.  As such I am staging a post tonight, and doing the same thing everyone else… but for whatever reason I feel like I am somehow betraying the ritual by doing.  Today’s topic I have been kicking around for awhile, so I figure this is as good of a time to spring it on my adoring readers…  look I like to pretend I have adoring readers okay.

Too Many Games

Right now things have reached a sort of critical mass with me, and there are entirely too damned many games right now that I want to be playing.  This could not have hit at a worse time considering how busy the tail end of school is combined with the fact that we have weddings and graduations and such to attend.  Normally I feel like I can reasonably juggle three to four games at a time bouncing back and forth between them.  The other day I posted saying that multi-gaming was even an awesome thing to do… considering it kept you from getting bogged down in the decisions a game company makes that you don’t necessarily agree with.  However for me, I am spreading myself super thin with a ton of different activities that I want to be doing.  So today I am going out outline each of the games that I am playing and lament the things I would love to have time to do in them.

Elder Scrolls Online

eso 2014-05-23 19-34-45-037 Right now I still consider Elder Scrolls Online my primary game.  At roughly two months since headstart I am still very much loving this game.  It has some problems, namely with difficulty of grouping, but as far as the game itself goes I dig it massively.  I’m working my way through Auridon and slowly creeping up on Veteran Rank 2.  I have so much that I still want to do in this game, but lately my schedule has limited my time in it.  This is the type of game that I can only really play if I am fully focused on it, and this is doubly so with the veteran content.  Shit can go wrong in a heartbeat if you are not doing all the right things, so it means on the nights I am not feeling all that… I end up playing something else.

Wildstar

WildStar64 2014-05-14 17-55-10-794 This game is the new hotness it seems and it launches tomorrow, at least for the headstart folks.  I mostly preordered this game in case I decided I was in love with it, and I wanted to make sure I secured the preorder bonuses.  I really dig the pre-order house, and I did not care for anything in the Collectors Edition pack… so I went with the normal.  I am still so up in the air about this game… there are things I like and things I don’t like.  Right now I am simply not sure who is going to win out, however since everyone is playing it, and it scratches the same itch that World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic do… going to give it a good college try.

ArcheAge

archeage 2014-05-13 21-43-39-052 Speaking of games I am conflicted about…  welcome to ArcheAge.  I find so much about this game intriguing and repulsive at the same time.  It is this fusion of one of the most interesting games system wise and class wise… combined with one of the worst communities I have experienced.  This game has invented new ways for you to grief your fellow players… and this is the sort of thing I have zero interest in.  That alone would be enough to make me go running and screaming into the night… but the class system is so damned interesting to me.  I love the concept of “Rift without Restrictions” and that is pretty much what the open class system seems like.  It reminds me so much of the way the class system for Horizon worked… and that is a great thing.

Heroes of the Storm

Play 2014-03-14 07-51-05-19 I want so badly to be playing this game right now… but I also want so badly to not be playing this game with strangers.  The MOBA thing is one of those things that I really only enjoy if I am queuing with people I know.  That said supposedly the queue times are greatly improved with the new client.  If you are in the HoTS alpha… please let me know!  I need more people to queue with, and I feel horrible for being in this game when so many people want in… and not playing it much.

Defiance

Defiance 2014-05-29 06-30-42-873 The last few nights I have been playing this game again and really enjoying myself.  The whole shift in how I approach it has really helped quite a bit.  I would love to see more people playing it because I think it would be far more enjoyable to run around as a group.  I still have yet to really scratch the surface of any of the story content, and feel like I should do that.  Really enjoyed the first season of the television show, and would love to get caught up on the in game content before the next season starts.

Final Fantasy 5

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-56-13-507 At this point I am behind my friends in this game, and quite honestly I am struggling to get the oomph to play it.  That said I feel like I should really finish this game as part of the FF5 draft thing we did.  I feel like I would be a horrible person if I didn’t finish it.  That said I also know I am going to get talked into doing the Four Job Fiesta in a month…  so not sure if I will finish before then either.

Trove

Trove 2013-11-25 16-57-34-42 There is something about this game that makes my inner child squeal with glee.  Things are just so damned much fun, and the mob design is amazing.  That said I have been out so long and so much is changing on what seems to be a near weekly basis that I feel hopelessly lost.  At some point I need to resort to reading through all of the patch notes starting around the time I last played in the hopes of understanding how things have changed.  The combat in this game is just enjoyable, I only wish I could play it with a controller.  I guess in theory I could use one of the keypad mappers but I have been lazy.

Landmark

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-40-22 Oh Landmark… how I love you and am completely bored with you at the exact same time.  Right now it is less a game and more a toybox for you to build in, with a ruleset wrapped around it.  This was really fun while I had giant things to build… and while I was progressing through the ranks of collecting the next best mining pick.  Now that I have topped out, and have fleshed out most of what I wanted to build… I log in pretty much only to mine copper and pay my upkeep.  What I need to make me care about this game is the combat system.  Here is hoping I will fall back in love with it when I can run around the world killing things.

Diablo 3

Diablo III 2014-03-29 19-54-54-44 I still don’t have a character to 70, and I feel like I have somehow failed for not doing this.  Basically this released way too close to the launch of Elder Scrolls Online… and I never gave the game the attention it deserves.  At some point soon I really want to work on leveling my crusader, since I have technically beaten the game on my Monk.  I am struggling with the desire to simply grind the last two levels to ding 70.  I figure at some point I will have a renaissance of caring about d3… but it might be awhile before I cycle around to it again.

Rift

rift 2014-05-08 06-09-17-50 The new souls were released and I have yet to even check them out.  I really would like to level my cleric to 60 before the 3.0 patch hits, but I have no clue how long that is.  Right now I am logging in on a weekly basis to get my patron gifts and that is about it.  I thought it would be really cool to do a streaming series where I try and remember how to tank, and do a public service of tanking elites.  I’ve heard the queue times are absolutely insane, and I know personally I have waited over two hours without getting a DPS queue.  I still love this game, but at the same time don’t really know what I want to do in it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtor 2014-05-05 22-32-57-22 A few weeks back I was playing the hell out of SWTOR and enjoying myself.  While I have let my subscription lapse again… I would love to pick back up on my Sith Juggernaut and see what happens after Balmorra.  I have never actually made it off this planet imperial side, but I was really damned close to doing this when I was last playing.  The real challenge will be if I can manage to play the game without subscribing… or will I re-up again only to cancel a few weeks later.

World of Warcraft

Wow-64 2014-03-25 07-16-07-71 Finally there is good ole World of Warcraft.  Once upon a time I had a grand idea of getting everyone to 90 before the expansion.  I have failed miserably at keeping up with this ambition, but who knows if I will actually do this or not.  Right now all I have left are the Priest, Monk and Warlock… all of which are over 60 at the least.  The Warlock and Priest are both in Pandaria content, but at the very beginning.  I might get a wild urge to play again and push these guys across the finish line.  Either that or I might completely abandon this until the release of Warlords of Draenor.  In any case the account is still active, because I pop in periodically to dink around with stuff for the guild.

Nothing at All!

Tonight I will be playing…. nothing more than likely.  We have an end of school cookout and by the time we get done there… we will likely crash, or walk… or walk then crash.  If anything I launch Wildstar and create my characters.  Right now I am planning on having my Chua Engineer and an Exile Warrior of some sort… just not sure if that will be Human or Granok.  In any case I have nothing exciting to report about my master plan for the evening other than hanging out in the real world and eating some good food.