Collaborate Not Compete

For Azeroth

Wow-64 2014-11-13 06-14-58-122 Last night while I slept Warlords of Draenor launched in the United States.  Once again the launch time was based on Pacific Standard Time meaning that it occurred at 2 in the morning for me.  I actually got to see some play last night from Qelric, due to the fact that this time it actually launched ahead of time for our European friends.  I think it is pretty awesome that finally it launched for them at the same time it was slotted to launch in other territories, it just meant that they technically got a head start.  In part I think this decision was influenced by the fact that with this expansion they have completely removed the concept of world and server firsts.  So while folks are hustling around like mad, presently there are nine people online in guild for example…  there really isn’t much of a broader point to it.

I think removing the world and server firsts was a good step, but I think it is so ingrained into the Warcraft culture to rush headlong towards the finish line.  My hope is that this will at least cause some of the players to slow down and enjoy the journey.  That said I realize I will probably level quickly… because I always seem to level quickly.  This is more of a necessity this time around since I am actively juggling two different games and trying to be available for grouping in both.  Unfortunately I will not really get to experience Draenor until after work, though I have popped in this morning to at least take a screenshot of the trio standing outside the Dark Portal.  I must admit that while I played in Alpha… nothing I did actually felt real.  This time around I will be actually working on things like Garrisons permanently, so I think a lot of the stickiness of this expansion will have more effect.

Awesome Communities

laladanceparty_uldahedition The other day I made a connection that I had failed to grasp until then, when a friend from twitter pointed something out to me.  For weeks I have been talking about just how amazing the community has been playing Final Fantasy XIV.  It is the little things, like the fact that the other morning I zoned into North Shroud looking for the B Rank Phecda.  It has been common place for me to /shout in zone asking if anyone has seen the spawn.  I had a pretty quick response from a player who not only gave me the location, but also hung out at the spawn point to help me kill it…  even though she didn’t need the kill.  Then a good ten minutes later, another person sent me a tell asking if I still needed it, because they just ran past the big bear.  This little Vignette plays out over and over… and I have added so many random strangers to my friends list through casual interaction like this.  There is this global sense that we are all in things together that I cherish.

If I had to rattle off the four best server communities I have been part of it would have to be Cactuar in Final Fantasy XIV, Landroval in Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World (mega server), and Antonia Bayle in Everquest II.  In each case there have been so many positive random encounters that make living in those worlds enjoyable.  I’ve had completely random strangers run up to me in Bree on Landroval offering me crafted goods to help my leveling process.  I’ve had folks offer me a group during the various Everquest II holiday events, that then turn into multiple hour long treks through the world.  I’ve had random strangers stop me in the Secret World to tell me that they liked my outfit, and ask where I got various bits of it.  These casual interactions remind me of the way servers used to feel back during the early days when the MMOs were a little less “massive”.

Collaborate Not Compete

ffxiv 2014-11-03 22-25-26-826 It was around this time in our conversation that my friend pointed a thread of connection between all of these games that I had never really noticed myself.  None of those games have real and meaningful faction rivalries.  Sure in The Secret World and Everquest II you have certain alliances, but largely this work out to be personal choices.  Being Templar versus being Illuminati is largely just a flavor choice, since from the moment you get out of London or New York you are grouping together and communicating freely.  Games like Final Fantasy XIV and Lord of the Rings online don’t even have these artificial divisions.  From the moment you start playing any of these games, you are instilled with this spirit that all of the players are ultimately battling something more sinister than they can imagine.  So it makes perfect sense to lend another player a helping hand along the way, since you are not competing against each other in any meaningful way.

There might be a certain measure of self sorting going on when it comes to players of these games as well.  Since none of the four really have a strong PVP aspect, that flavor of super competitive player is just not interested in playing them.  That means you are left with a more collaborative “role-playing server crowd” type player.  Ultimately this shared struggle, and spirit of cooperation has always been why I have self sorted myself onto Role-Playing servers, because in general this type of player is more prevalent there.  Essentially what I am coming to realize is that the awesome communities that I have held out as paragons against normal online gaming horribleness…  all exist for pretty similar reasons.  They are all environments that teach the players to get along with each other, rather than compete.

Collaborative Environments

To tie into today’s post, I am thankful that games exist that teach players to work together rather than work against each other.  So many games set up an artificial conflict between players, and try desperately to draw them into it.  As I said in my “Sandboxes and Sheep” post, these artificial faction boundaries have no meaning to me personally.  I have no real emotional ties to the Horde or the Alliance, other than the fact that I mostly chose Alliance because that is where the Dwarves were.  However this decision did not immediately make me hate the horde, in fact I have 11 Alliance characters on Argent Dawn… and 11 Horde characters on The Scyers… the realm that is connected to Argent Dawn.  Over years of playing on that server I made just as many friendships across the faction barrier as I did within my own pool of players.  In fact one of my key problems with World of Warcraft has always been that it made us choose sides in a war that was largely meaningless to us.

All of this is the reason why I am thankful that there are games that have transcended faction.  I was hugely impressed when Rift decided to abandon the artificial conflict with their “Faction as Fiction” patch removing the hard lines between Defiant and Guardian.  I think as a whole that game has been greatly improved for doing so.  More than that however I am thankful for the games that never put up those walls in the first place.  Eorzea is this wonderful land where the races don’t always get along, but they are not openly warring either…  because the writers have created a threat so great that in its face…  squabbles seem petty.  After  talking this whole situation through, I feel like this sort of environment really does breed a player willing to help others freely.  It is for that spirit,  that I am thankful for.  If you are actively making your community better, you are doing awesome work.

Familiarity in Proximity

Mega Servers Continued

A few days ago I made a post on about launch issues and game servers, and the problems and solutions that come from various server scenarios.  In my post I presented some discussion about the various styles of servers and the weaknesses that each have.  Mega Servers are an awesome technology but there are problems with it, namely that it reduces the casual proximity of players.  In my post Doone made a comment, and while I normally would have simply posted it as a reply…  I am thinking that maybe I need more space to go into my thoughts.  For sake of not having to make you jump through a bunch of hoops I am going to repose his comment here.

Im not sure why anyone thinks Megaservers make it difficult to build community? Do you mean that it’s too many people to build intimate connections? Because if thats the case, then we’re just talking about social tools, not megaserver tech. Players just need a reason to interact and that doesnt change because of megaservers.

AA’s current situation is embarrassing. Theres not any good excuses for their current situation. This isn’t the first MMO launch, not even the first MMO with land and other features that complicate server flexibility. Theyre simply unprepared for deliberate reasons. There’s just no way they didn’t know what they needed for a smooth launch.

It’s worse that people who shelled out hundreds of dollars to support development are reporting not getting that 4 day advantage they were promised. That’s a serious charge.

Should AA have gone Megaserver? I don’t see how this wasn’t mandatory given the kind of features it has. You need a vast server community that’s STABLE. And you can’t have that when your system is as inflexible as the one they’ve adopted. I think they’re sinking their own ship right now.  — Doone

While I agree with the bulk of what he said, I thought I should maybe clarify my points about mega servers.  At first glance they look like a magic bullet for the problem.  At the very least I thought they were a magic bullet for launch day woes, however they have their own problems that do not always show up early on.

Informal Community

ffxiv 2014-09-22 18-11-33-975 There is a certain kind of community that happens spontaneously by just being around the same players each and every day.  For example the above picture is that of one of the late game hubs in Final Fantasy XIV Revenants Toll in Mor Dhona.  Upon arriving at the Aetheryte crystal I am immediately seeing some familiar places that tend to frequent it.  You can see a name marked in orange as someone I have already friended.  However more than that I recognize if not the names, but the guild tags of many of the players surrounding me.  There is a sense of familiarity in seeing the same players day in and out, and when one of them is in need you are more likely to step in and help out.  This is the way friendships in MMOs used to be formed through shared activity, not just shared guild tag.

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-22-567 In Final Fantasy XIV it has instanced housing wards, where you purchase a house and in theory become neighbors with lots of other players.  Our house is across the street from a Market Board which is the way that you access the auction house economy.  Over the course of weeks of being in close proximity with several other players, we have struck up a bit of a friendship.  One of which is the name in orange in the above Mor Dhona photo.  There is lots of spontaneous interaction that happens just by being around other players and gaining that sense of common goals.  This picture is when we just spontaneously put on our brand new Dragon Warrior inspired Blue Slime King hats and started dancing together.  But the interaction has spread much further than that, and I’ve helped these players out in the world beyond our neighborhood, as well as had my heart warm each time I happened to see one of them out in the wild.

A Server of Strangers

eso 2014-03-31 21-54-58-07 I’ve played many games so far that have some form of a blended server environment.  World of Warcraft for the last several years has blended the leveling zones for the entire battlegroup to make each server feel more populated.  The most recent poster child for Mega Servers however was the Elder Scrolls Online.  Before launch they made several promises about creating a situation that grouped like minded players together into virtual servers, while still all being part of a much larger farm.  While we had one of the smoothest launches since they could easily scale up the hardware temporarily, and reduce it later as needed…  there are a lot of problems that came from not being with a fixed set of players.  Admittedly some of the issues are due to the poor decisions made with the user interface.

In the above image, can you easily tell where my group mates are?  Can you tell the names of players surrounding me?  In both cases the answer is a huge nope, and this poor design choice of obfuscating information about other players only served to make the mega server concept feel that more alienating.  Everyone that was not you became another nameless faceless person taking up room and competing for your resources.  While this is the extreme, I’ve had the same thing happen in World of Warcraft when I encountered players from other servers.  It was like that they were somehow less important to me, since they didn’t share the same server lineage.  I knew that I would likely never see them again, so why even bother trying to be friendly?

Familiarity in Proximity

WoWScrnShot_102913_165101 In a traditional server structure there is familiarity in your actions.  You end up noticing players that do the same things as you do.  It might be farming a specific location on the map because you like the look of it, or crafting at a specific machine.  In hub based MMOs like World of Warcraft, you spend inordinate amounts of time milling around whatever your faction end game city tends to be.  I would spend hours running circles around Dalaran while dealing with raid and guild business over text.  While doing this I used to favor certain areas of the town and vendors, and I started taking note of who else seemed to like milling around these same places.  Over time I would start up conversations and get used to seeing the same people.  If they were gone, I would wonder what they were up to and hope that they were okay.  Over the years there are so many contacts that I have made… that ultimately turned into later guild members that I made only because I noticed they were in the same place as me and decided to strike up a conversation.

The problem with the mega server is that it destroys this kind of familiarity through proximity.  I feel like Elder Scrolls Online was the absolute worst case of this, because not only did it rob you of being around the same people all the time… it also took their names and guild tags from you.  One of the important aspects of a guild is it becomes far easier to recognize than individual player names.  Over time you start to associate a certain kind of behavior with a certain guild tag, and then when you see one of those people leading an event you have an informed decision as to whether or not this is going to be a good thing.  As a guild leader, my people were amazing and the absolute best advertising I could ever have created.  I would get random messages from players who ended up running a dungeon with one of my people, and they wanted to take time to compliment me as guild leader on how nice they were.  It is this kind of interaction with others that I hope to preserve with whatever ends up being the next server model.

The Happy Medium

2012-08-22_234640 As I said in my first post, I think there is a happy medium somewhere.  I think the ultimate version of mega servers, allows you to checkmark certain characteristics that you favor and then creates essentially a virtual server populated with the same players every time.  Similarly I think there are ways for games to maybe more easily identify players that you have interacted with in the past.  The biggest problem with Elder Scrolls Online is that every player felt anonymous.  Even my own guild members, I struggled to locate them in a mob.  This should never be the case, you should always be able to pick your friends and guild members out of the biggest sea of names and faces.  Similarly I think it is important to be able to identify players, because it allows you to form those connections in your mind that if I saw this player in my crafting hub and they are out here doing the same action…  I am invested in maybe going that next step and inviting them to a group.  I want us to keep the best aspects of the traditional server structure, and find new ways to scale them as we go forward.

I want to leave with an excellent post from Sig of Crucible Gaming called “How WoW Ruined MMO Gaming”.  While the title is hyperbole, there are some really good thoughts contained within, and it seems like Sig  mourns the interconnectivity of the previous era of gaming.  Once upon a time we needed players, and as such generally treated them better.  As games have removed the need for having other players we have eroded that base of civility.  While in many cases I think that World of Warcraft has poisoned the well in doing away with some things that were absolutely normal previously, I don’t think we are in an unredeemable state.  Final Fantasy XIV has proven to me that there can exist a game that is both social and modern at the same time… and that has a thriving and cohesive community.  I think the ultimate trick will be finding ways to take what they have done there and scale it to other games.

Dark Portal Closes

Larva and Whales

Last night we recorded our 21st episode of AggroChat, and it was a pretty enjoyable time.  I was joined by the original cast of Ashgar, Rae and Kodra.  This issue was more defined by what we didn’t want to talk about than what we actually wanted to talk about.  A few of us wanted to avoid the gamersgate debacle at all costs, and overall I think we did a fine job of doing just that.  The result was a very organic discussion that started with talking about what we had been playing, and ended with us delving into various items.  Who needs show notes right?

I named the episode larva and whales because Kodra has been playing this super complicated puzzle game called English Country Tune.  So far I have yet to figure out why exactly it is called English Country Tune, because it seems to be mostly about moving blocks around… some of which are called Larva for no apparent reason, and others are called Whales for similar lack of reasons.  When I was listening to the recording, the whole discussion just seemed ridiculous.. and I figured that had to be our title.  Later on we got into a discussion of the Wildstar server mergers and how our opinions might have changed a bit on the mega server concept after getting into Cactuar in Final Fantasy XIV.

Dark Portal Closes

wowcancelledagain It is a rather dramatic subheading for what in truth is not a terribly dramatic act.  Yesterday morning while writing my blog post, I ended up talking myself into cancelling my World of Warcraft account.  In a way I guess it was writing about the Nightmare Tide expansion in Rift, that made me realize just how not interested I am in anything to do with Warlords of Draenor.  There have been a few times over the years when I have cancelled World of Warcraft, and in almost all of them it was the result of some negative reaction to the game.  It wasn’t providing me this or that, or I was frustrated with these changes… or more often than not the lack of changes.  This time around I feel completely apathetic about the future of this game.  I have friends that work on it, and lots of blogger and gamer friends who are still devoted to it, so I hope it does extremely well and provides them a fun environment to run around in.  I think it still provides lots of good things for the faithful, but at this point I have just lost the desire to be in Azeroth.

I think the biggest evidence of my need to just close things down is the fact that I have not played the game since April or maybe even earlier than that.  I have kept my account active for one reason and one reason alone… I was wearing the Guild master title in the guild I started back in 2004.  The only times I would actually log in, were to throw out an invite to someone who was wanting to check out the game.  It felt frustrating to have a game I was not playing at all slowly bleeding money out of my accounts each month.  Similarly I have come to the realization of just how much the game has changed, not in the content or the client… but in the community.  Playing on the Cactuar server in Final Fantasy XIV has made me realize what I missed about Argent Dawn.  The experience in Final Fantasy is much like it was in the early days of that server.  Coming back each time seemed to remind me just how many people that I once cared about were no longer playing the game.

Similarly I came to the realization that I no longer need World of Warcraft as a $15 a month chat client.  The folks that really matter to me I have contact with through social media, instant message, email or even the client.  So I no longer have to rely on World of Warcraft to help glue together bits and pieces of my world.  I realize the surest way to return to WoW is to claim you are never returning to WoW.  I can’t make such a claim, but it does feel like it is over now.  I am leaving not because I am mad at the game, or that I am disappointed by the game…  I am leaving because I feel no desire to play the game.  After months of having access to the Warlords of Draenor alpha, I find that I have maybe played the game a grand total of six hours.  I hope it will be a rousing success, and they already have my money…  but I won’t be crossing through the dark portal.  At the end of November, my Dark Portal is closing and likely for good.

Fun with Malboros

ffxiv 2014-09-07 00-01-27-499 If you ask a Final Fantasy fan what their most dreaded encounter is, I would imagine that Malboros rank pretty high up the list, more than likely directly below Tonberries.  The constant fear of not being able to move out of the “bad breath” attack makes fighting them super frustrating.  The Final Fantasy XIV version is every bit as terrifying as the worst versions in any of the console games, and in their infinite wisdom the developers of 14 decided to create a dungeon almost entirely devoted to them.  Last night I got to tank Aurum Vale for my good friend Thalen who is slowly creeping up on 50.  This dungeon is needed as part of the promotion system for your grand company, and it unlocks access to the highest rank stuff, so as a result we end up periodically running it for the up and comers.

I actually thought the dungeon was nowhere near as bad as I remembered it.  It might be that we all greatly outgear the dungeon, but in truth that shouldn’t factor too heavily since Aurum Vale is the last of the dungeons that mentors you down.  For the level 50 players this means a frustrating experience of losing all of the stuff you got when you dinged 50, as the dungeon mentors you down to level 49 exactly.  The biggest frustration with this is the fact that I lose Infuriate the ability that gives me a 5 stack of rage on demand.  It is basically my steel cyclone on demand button, as that is one of the best ways to get threat on all of the things quickly.  In spite of these frustrations I had a really good time.  I have to say I actually enjoy tanking the lower level instances for guildies as they need them.

#FFXIV #WoW #AggroChat

We Have The Date

That’s a Lot of Fish


Last night I did something a bit different than my normal fare and actually hung out with several of my coworkers.  While I hang out with Rae at least in the virtual sense almost every night, this was a bit different.  For my boss’s birthday his brother took him to a thing called Rifftrax put on by the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  They do the same basic thing, but they do it live and stream it to theaters all over the country.  Since he had such a great time he decided it would make an excellent group activity.  So last night we met  for dinner and then continued on to the nearby theater to watch the Matthew Broderick version of Godzilla ripped apart by the MST3K guys.

First off this is a much bigger deal than any of us realized, as we spent probably a bit too long at the restaurant and had maybe 20 minutes before the start of the film.  By the time we all got to the theater and inside the place was absolutely packed.  Apparently if you want to get seats together you have to arrive well ahead of time, and it almost has a tail gating mentality.  Instead we all split up mostly into groups of two to find a place to sit.  So this ended up with me being down on the front row leaning back in my seat and trying to watch the movie.  Thankfully we didn’t really CARE about the movie… but instead the commentary.  Afterwards they said that it was a bit hard to hear the dub over as you got further back in the theater so I guess the awkward angle was worth it.

This is totally something I would do again, and it has been a long while since I have laughed this hard.  I guess I had completely put large sections of the Broderick film out of my memory.  I mean I remember it being bad at the time, but I didn’t remember it being THIS bad.  If you have the chance to see Rifftrax in a nearby theater I suggest you take up that opportunity.  They do this apparently as a semi regular thing here, so I will have to follow the schedule and see what is next.  It seems like the next showing is November 4th where they do that campy classic Anaconda.  I will have to see what is going on but I would really like to maybe try and go.

We Have the Date

2014-08-15 06_36_04-Continue to ® Yesterday was the big announcement for the Warlords of Draenor release date and now we know exactly when to expect it to land.  Some time ago Godmother ran a contest to see who could guess the date, and I apparently came the closest along with River.  I remember at the time River saying something to the effect that I looked lonely on the spreadsheet so he decided my guess was as good as any.  Now that said I did have some logic behind my guess, I was not just randomly picking numbers.  My general theory was that we would not see a World of Warcraft expansion until after Blizzcon.  So knowing the Blizzcon dates I figured they would want to take advantage of the Blizzcon-Bump but get product out there before Thanksgiving and the holiday madness begins.  I apparently was right but Blizzard threw everyone for a loop by making the release a Thursday.  I don’t think anyone was expecting that.

Once again the good folks at Blizzard have managed to craft together a really awesome cinematic.  Were I a horde player I would probably be cheering the awesome orc action.  Instead it just seems like another really awesomely animated feature explaining the premise of the expansion.  The events play out a little different than I would have thought.  All along I thought that Garrosh would actually stop Grommash from drinking the blood, but it seems like good ole Grom was already making that decision.  Garrosh however just gave him the backup he needed to defeat Mannorath.  I feel like the events of this expansion will serve to set up for the long fabled Burning Legion expansion, since we obviously screw with the way things were supposed to work out.  I figure you can’t kill a demon like Mannorath without having some pretty negative repercussions.

Overwhelming Meh

Like I said, were I a horde player I would likely be heralding in yet another overwhelmingly horde focused expansion.  Thing is I am not, and I have never cared a single bit about any of the horde lore.  It was just that faction filled with monstrous humanoids and a handful of people that I cared enough about to roll alts to be able to play with.  Nothing about the horde is really my thing, apart from the whole “everything has spikes” aspect.  I expected yesterdays event and subsequent trailer to pump me up and prepare me for what was inevitable, my temporary return to World of Warcraft.  The thing is it seems to have had the opposite effect.  I am even less interested in the expansion than I was going into the day, and I can’t really put my finger on the why.

I have been in Alpha/Beta for some time now, and all in total I have played somewhere between six and eight hours.  During that time I have just felt like I was forcing myself to play the game.  I felt obligated to test the content since friends had gotten me into it.  Nothing I was doing however really did it for me, and even with the existence of some interesting ideas like the Garrisons, it all felt rehashed.  The Burning Crusade was one of the most exciting expansions for me, and it was the era of so many cool things for me as a raider.  I expected to be wrapped up in this whirlwind of nostalgia upon returning to it…  albeit in a pre-destruction state.  While Draenor is gorgeous and I can see the underpinnings of the areas I used to love…  it all just feels really old at this point.

This expansion is going to be amazing for those players that are currently enthralled with the game.  There are going to be a handful of other players that maybe quit wow but didn’t really play other games in the meantime… that will return and fall back in love again.  However I fear for those of us who have gone nomadic and played every game that has come down the pipe… the overall game is just starting to feel its age.  The systems don’t quite work as well as other games on the market, it isn’t the culmination of the best ideas any longer.  Instead it is a combination of what they could get to work within the existing framework of the game.  It will definitely breathe new life into the game a whole and introduce a bunch of new doodads for the players to get involved with, but so far it has all felt very hollow to me.  As much as I want to be excited, I am wondering if I have actually truly outgrown the game.  I had more fun doing Godmother’s survey than I have had actually playing the game in a very long time…  so that tells me I was pretty much living off nostalgia to this point, and maybe that font has been exhausted.

10 Years :: 10 Questions

Mission for Godmother

This mornings post is going to be a little bit different than my normal fare.  One of the Blaugust bloggers the acclaimed Godmother of Faff posted a challenge of her own.  On her blog Alternative Chat she is wanting anyone who has played World of Warcraft at any point during the ten years it has been in progress to take a quick survery.  Being a blogger… this screamed a blog post to me.  I will of course post my responses into her handy google form after I have finished this process, but I wanted to share my responses with the world as well.  There is hardly any gamer that has not been touched in some way by Blizzard and the World of Warcraft… so I highly suggest you all participate in the event as well.

10 Years :: 10 Questions


1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I was indoctrinated into the world of MMO gaming during Everquest, and from that point onwards I was always on the look out for the next awesome game.  I spent three years in EQ, another three in DAoC, a year in Horizons and was playing City of Heroes when I first got my taste of beta.  I admit when I first heard about World of Warcraft, I wondered how in the hell they would have enough storyline to make a game out of that.  I remembered Blizzard mostly as a company that made awesome games, but with only enough storyline to keep them from absolutely falling apart.  I just couldn’t imagine something as detailed as say an Everquest coming out of that company.  Then I got my first taste of the game and I was hooked.

World of Warcraft was so evolutionarily better than anything out at the time.  It was a pulling together of all of the best characteristics of all of the games I had played to date and melding it together with this awesome cohesive narrative.  I had some bad experiences with the Everquest guild I was in, and the leader being extremely domineering, so I knew going into a new game that everyone was excited about like WoW… I didn’t want that to happen again.  I figured the only way I could stop it from happening was to accept the mantle of leadership myself.  Roughly a year before the game actually released we started a forum, pulling together the small pools of players that we had played with in all of the games along the way, and through it House Stalwart was born.  At launch we had around fifty players, and it continues to be a large multi-gaming guild to this day.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

My first character was my paladin Exeter, who began his life as a dwarf.  I had fallen in love with the Paladin in beta, and especially the synergy between my Paladin and the Priest my friend had been playing.  The problem is by the time release came around they gutted the extremely enjoyable strike system and replaced it with the extremely cludgy seal system.  I gave it the good college try and so long as I was leveling with my friends I did just fine.  The problem is my ability to solo was dismal, and I felt like I was getting pulled into another “forced grouping” situation like Everquest.  Then tragedy struck…  there was a death in the family and I was absent from the game for a good time.  When I came back all of my friends were a good 10 to 20 levels higher than me, and I knew there was no hope of catching up on the paladin.

I ended up rolling a new character a Dwarven Hunter Lodin, and with him I was able to solo until my heart was content and catch up to my friends.  He was the main I never intended to have, and while fun ranged dps was never really my cup of tea.  The problem is that some of my good friends had formed a raid group on our server, and they needed another hunter.  From the moment I started raiding as a hunter, I felt obligated to STAY a hunter since they were going to the efforts of gearing me up.  I played all of Vanilla as a survival hunter rocking the dragonbreath hand cannon for my main weapon.  Belghast was not actually born until I decided that I wanted to be the best tank I could be… and rolled a warrior to level with my friends priest.  But that is a story for another day.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

In truth when House Stalwart first launched we made a failed attempt to play both factions.  We had House Stalwart of Argent Dawn on the Alliance side, and we had the Burning Claw of Silverhand on the Horde side.  We split between the two roleplaying servers that existed at launch.  For the first few months everything was fine.  We pretty regularly alternated between the two sides, but the problem is as we got deeper into our characters we self sorted.  A small faction of our guild preferred to play horde and the vast majority preferred the alliance.  For me I have always been partial to dwarves, so it was an easy pick for which side to go on.

Because of this however I don’t really feel like I have massive faction loyalty, and ultimately would rather the factions simply not exist.  Having a wall between the players feels like a poor design choice, and one that keeps getting repeated out in other games.  I’ve always preferred how Everquest series handles faction, in that it is a personal choice and determines what areas you can go into… but not who you can associate with.  As far as my not really playing horde regularly since… I guess I have gotten used to the easy life of the alliance.  PVP only happens if you go and look for it, and since I am by nature a massive carebear I like this aspect of my faction.  Additionally I have never really enjoyed playing “Monstrous Humanoids” to borrow the Dungeons and Dragons term.  I would rather be a valiant knight in shining armor than a noble savage.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Sindragosa_Mockup I have a whole string of memorable moments, but probably the one that will always stand out for me is the first time we killed Sindragosa in Icecrown CItadel.  This was a fight that we absolutely struggled with for weeks.  The raid I was helping to lead at the time, Duranub Raiding Company was aptly named.  We were in fact a durable pack of nubs… which is a phrase that ties back to an even earlier raid group the Late Night Raiders.  We were one of those groups that struggled to get down the basics of an encounter… then all the sudden the moment you beat it you never wipe on it again.  Same was the case with Sindragosa, we struggled to deal with people getting frozen and people breaking them out.  On the time we actually downed her one of our best hunters Thalen, landed the killing blow mere seconds before getting put into an iceblock himself.  So the boss was down and there were 25 little icicles spread throughout the room.  The above image is my “artists recreation” of the fight.

All of the most memorable moments I have from the game came either through raiding or through dungeon runs, and I have come to the realization that they have little to do with the actual game itself.  Sure the game provided me a backdrop to do interesting things with other people, but it was the interaction with said people that made it interesting.  From the raid singing the “Crotch Pocket” jingle anytime Furnace Master Ignis shoved someone into his belt mounted crucible, or the struggles with “OmNomNomITron” and our shouting of “KIds!” anytime the plague one would spawn adds.  It was the people that made everything interesting and all of the memorable moments I have are something you can never actually get back.  They were awesome but they were fleeting and you can make new memories, but you can never fully relive the old ones.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

My favorite aspect of World of Warcraft or any MMO for that matter are the dungeons.  I love delving into ancient ruins with friends in the search for fabled treasures.  For starters I have a massive bloodlust when it comes to gaming, and I will go out of my way to kill mobs.  In a given night there are lots of moments where my friends will ask “Where is Bel?” and sure enough I will be a ways off killing something that we didn’t actually need to kill.  So I love running dungeons with friends and during the era of WoW before the dungeon finder I used to build groups regularly from random strangers on the server.  This was the primary way I met new people to join our raid and often times my guild.

The problem is with the dungeon finder the dungeons changed into something that I didn’t like very much at all.  It all became about getting through them as quickly as possible and avoiding as much content as you could to rush to the end boss and “Finish”.  This mentality just seemed like a travesty to me, because for me the dungeon itself was the reward and the time spent with new and interesting people in it.  Unfortunately this dungeon mentality has infected so many other game communities that if you log in and run a dungeon in say Rift, they have the same expectations.  While there are a few games like FFXIV that seem to have been forgotten by time and have really charming dungeon running cultures, my biggest fear is that WoW opened a Pandora’s box and ruined dungeon running in the process.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

There are a few areas of the game that I never skip, for example if I have the opportunity I will always level through Duskwood.  Yes it is a frustratingly laid out zone, but I love the vibe of it.  If there is a zone in a game that has werewolves, vampires or zombies… chances are I will deviate my leveling path to make sure I go through there.  The problem with Duskwood however is Elwynn Forest and Westfall have so many issues.  On a role-playing server, Goldshire is still ERP central…  so I have long since stopped leveling any character in Elwynn.  Westfall got considerably better in Cataclysm but is still a fairly boring slog in a pretty ugly zone.  So generally speaking if I am working on a new character I will make a beeline to Duskwood around 20… complete the zone and then run the hell away and get back out of the human areas.

As far as areas I return to, I admit that I return to past raids often.  Even though I spent three hours of every sunday for years in first Molen Core and then later Kharazan…  I still enjoy soloing both zones.  I am also extremely partial to the Black Temple, as I love the look and feel of the encounters.  Basically if it is a raid and I can potentially solo it, I will likely do it on a semi regular basis.  In a way I know I am wallowing in the nostalgia of the good times I had in that place, so once again it is less about the place itself and more about the experiences I had there.  Each time I take down Nefarian for example I remember one of our paladins screaming “Use the Fucking Force” over teamspeak as all the healy paladins cast holy wrath.  I have so much nostalgia tied to so many zones at this point, that revisiting any of them is enjoyable.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I am am really hoping you mean how long we have played the game in time, not actual /played hours.  Firstly it will take forever for me to compile a list of just how many hours I have played this game spread out among my army of alts.  Secondly I really don’t want to confront just how big that number will be.  Suffice to say I have 7 level 90 characters, 2 85+, 4 80+, 2 70+ and enough 10-30 characters scattered on so many different servers that I have long since hit my 50 character limit and have to delete something to roll anything new.  Belgrave became my “main” while we were starting Crusaders Coliseum 25 and I just looked and his /played is 86 days so I cannot fathom just how many physical years I have spent when you add everything up.

As far as how long have I played…  I was in beta before the launch of World of Warcraft and House Stalwart was a day one guild.  I played pretty solidly until Cataclysm when I feel out of love with the game in a big way and wandered off into Rift and then a string of other games.  It seems like I renew interest in the game a few times a year now.  I came back at the tail end of Cataclysm and stayed for the first few months of Pandaria, long enough to raid a little bit.  Then most recently I came back for about six months and raided a bit of Throne of Thunder/Siege of Orgrimmar.  At which point I took back the crown of my guild and have at the very least kept my account active from that point onwards.  I love the guild and the people in it, and I am always willing to log in and check in on things even though I am maybe only playing once or twice a month.  It is easy to quit the game, but it is extremely hard to quit the people playing it.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I freely admit that most of the time I do not.  There are two distinct kinds of questing for me… busy work and epic quest chains.  The busy work like Kill X things, deliver this to that, retrieve this doodad…  I really don’t pay attention to at all.  In general I try to skim every quest I get to see if it is going to be an interesting one or not.  If something catches my eye in this skimming process I go ahead and read the entire thing.  I have gotten really spoiled by modern games with voice acted content.  I will stop and listen to every last acted word when a quest is delivered like that, however if you are giving me a wall of text I skim it for the relevant bits and then move on.  The primary time I end up reading every last line is when you get one of those quests that doesn’t work the way you think it should.

If you can believe it I am actually better about reading quest text today than I used to be.  During the early days of WoW I would far rather grind mobs than do quests at all.  This was the side effect from coming through a long line of games where the quests didn’t really matter.  Everquest was a massive misnaming of that game, because in reality you never encountered quest unless you dug for them by “hailhumping” every mob in a zone until one of them responded with a keyword that signaled there was a quest.  Instead I preferred to just go out and slaughter entire zones rather than hunt for the one clue that started a quest that was more than likely just a “bring me X things” that you got from killing mobs anyways.  It also depends on the game, in a game like The Secret World I read every last bit because I know not doing so will come around to bite me in the end.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

I am sitting here trying to think of something, but really nothing major comes to mind.  I know there have been times where I wished things had ended better with various people regarding the games.  When you lead a guild and lead a raid there is always drama surrounding it.  There are various events brought on by the game, and raiding that I wished would have maybe ended on better terms.  However I don’t really dwell on them enough to consider them regrets.  For the most part everything I have experienced through games, has lead me to be the gamer  and blogger I am today.  I tend to focus on the journey and not the goals.  Sure there are little baubles and trinkets along the way that I kinda wish I had gotten, but for the most part I can always go back and obtain them later.

The only thing I really wish I had done was complete my shadowmourne.  I am up to the part where I need to collect the various bits from the different encounters in Icecrown, but I have never actually gone back and made an effort to do it after the close of Wrath.  Ultimately it just didn’t seem important enough to hassle a bunch of people into doing.  It is not the sort of thing I really dwell upon but it would have been nice to complete that legendary eventually.  I would still love to see a set of bindings drop for Thunderfury, but that is less about me or more about me wanting to make sure SOMEONE from LNR gets some.  We raided Molten Core every single week for two years and never saw so much as a single binding drop.

10. What effects has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Other than it making my wife occasionally grump and want to pull the plug from the back of my PC, I have to say overall the experience has been a positive one.  There are so many friends that I would not have today were it not for this game.  My blog for example started entirely out of a love of World of Warcraft and over time morphed into a love of all gaming.  My twitter community, my blogger friends, the massive group of people that makes up House Stalwart and even the Blaugust event that is going on right now and is so amazingly successful…  none of this would have happened were it not for World of Warcraft and the connections I made while playing it.  As a result, even if I fall out of love with the game, I have to respect the effect it has had on my life and the great lives I have met in the process.