NBI Talkback 3 – What Made You A Gamer?

Early Beginnings

searstelegames I had an extremely strange couple of days, so instead of talking about that I thought I would tackle the third talkback challenge.  For this one my good friend Jaedia posted a prompt on the Newbie Blogger Initiative website asking “What Made You A Gamer?”.  This is one of those topics that I have thought long about for years, and I am not really sure what the answer is.  I am not sure if there is any one thing that makes someone a gamer.  I think you are either born with the natural proclivities in that direction or you are not.  My earliest memories of gaming are pretty clear however.  My parents had a Sears and Roebuck version of the Atari Tele-Games console system…  aka Pong.  I remember being completely enamored with being able to move the bar on screen to intercept the square bouncing around the screen.  I don’t necessarily remember playing this all that often because well… it was my parents toy and not mine, but I remember the desire being real.

A few years later thought my parents purchased an Atari 2600, and that is the system I remember being “mine”.  My mom was a teacher and I guess one of her students was selling theirs used.  This is important because it sets up a long tradition of me buying console systems second hand that I continue today with my Craigslist finds.  The console came with the base system, several well worn controllers and a dozen or so games for the big price of $50… which actually was quite a bit of money back then.  I was enthralled by the games and while they really had no story to tell on their own, it didn’t stop me from making up stories.  Even the most generic game could be a vehicle for me to tell tales of valor and bravery.  I remember for whatever reason that Sea Quest was one of my favorite games at the time, which was this simple game about going down in a sub marine to save divers.  In my head I was this crack submarine pilot fighting off sharks to rescue my troops.

Discovering Role-playing Games

DaveTrampierPlayersHandbook At this point we are going to take a bit of a detour, because I was happily an Atari kid for years making up stories to fill in the gaps that the games were not providing for me.  Then an event happened that literally changed my trajectory permanently.  As I have said before I grew up the child of a teacher, and that means a bunch of things.  Not the least of which is that you end up spending a lot of time up at school waiting for your teacher parent to “wrap things up”.  I knew all of the janitorial staff by name and they were a kind of family that I hung out with as they did their things, and I waited on my mother.  At the end of the school year there was a tradition, the great locker cleanout.  On the last day of school, anything that was left in the student lockers at 4 pm was going to get dumped in the ground and thrown out, to clear the lockers to be cleaned for the next school year.  I learned my scavenging instincts at a young age, and this was pretty much a magical time for me as I wandered around through the piles of debris picking up gems.

Most of the treasures I found were in the realm of nifty “stationary” items like binders or notebooks, but I remember during second grade I stumbled upon a book that quite literally changed my life from that point onwards.  That seems like a fairly bold statement but finding a dusty well worn copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook was like opening a whole other world to me.  To say I was obsessed with this was a bit of an understatement.  I poured over the pages of the tome soaking in everything I could from it.  While I didn’t understand anything about the game itself, it provided for me a structure of types of heroes, types of weapons, types of magic that imprinted upon me.  I loved the artwork and the next year at school it dominated the recess games I played with my friends.  We were a band of warriors, and the fact that the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon started around this same time only served to fuel the fire.  The only problem being that we lived in the bible belt, and “Dungeons and Dragons” was an evil thing.  So instead I got wrapped up in the Marvel Super Heroes game also by TSR.  For some reason my friends parents could stomach them playing a game based on comic book heroes, so long as we never referred to or referenced it as being “like” D&D.  We had to go so far as to hide the dice needed to play it, so as a result I became the game master because my parents were cool with all of this.

The Nintendo Christmas

nintendo-nes-mario-console-boxed The next major event in my game development came with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Up until this point I had been doing everything I could to squeeze the joy out of a combination of the Atari and my scattered pen and paper role playing games.  Then my cousins came to town with their Super Mario Bros and completely destroyed my world.  Everything about the NES was just better.  There were stories being told through the games, and with characters that you could actually recognize as characters.  I grew up in a pretty small town and the arcade was a less than savory place.  So my exposure to Arcade games to that point was pretty much limited to the occasional lobby of a department store.  While I craved playing them, and begged my parents for a quarter anytime we were near one… it was not something I really got to do all that often.  When the NES came on the scene I was completely blown away by the graphical fidelity and my entire existence became about getting one.  This was the Christmas that the Nintendo was universally sold out around the country.

I had to be the most annoying kid because I kept tabs on which stores had them, which stores were rumored to have them… and which stores were sold out.  I kept my parents up to date on my findings, in hopes that they would rush out and get one.  So as Christmas rushed towards us and there was no Nintendo shaped box under the tree…  I was completely devastated.  Then Christmas morning happened… and I had put on a good face and was prepared to swallow down the disappointment.  There under the tree was sitting a gleaming Control Deck box just like the one above.  This was probably the most joy I had experienced to that moment, and if my parents had a video camera it probably would have looked a lot like the N64 kids.  This was the single best and worst Christmas I had ever experienced.  About two hours after getting my Nintendo…  we lost power due to an Ice Storm that was raging… and we did not get power back for three days.  So while I had the object of my desire…  I had no power with which to actually enjoy it.  The rest is pretty much history, games like Final Fantasy were able to merge my love of RPGs and my love of games, and now I spent most of my time playing MMOs.  I still think however that people either are inherently game lovers or they are not, and there isn’t really much that can “make” a gamer.

Tonberry Tactics

Not Enough Coffee

This is one of those mornings when I feel like there is simply not enough coffee in the world to make me out of this stupor.  In part this is my own making.  At 4:40 I woke up on my own accord, thanks to my very own bladder alarm going off…  and then I decided it was an awesome idea to go back to bed… knowing that I would be awoken by the alarm at 5:30.  Had I just gotten on up and proceeded with the day…  I likely would be just fine right now.  So instead I sit here staring at the screen trying to make thoughts coalesce into word form.

Today should be an interesting day for me.  When I was younger I was part of my high school gifted and talented program.  I feel as though maybe the entrance requirements were a little lax if they were willing to take me.  The gifted and talented coordinator, that we lovingly referred to as Jaunamama fought hard to get us some truly unique experiences, many of which I suspect came out of her own pocket.  One of these was the Tulsa Town Hall lecture series.

Essentially she would take two of us on the long trek to Tulsa to attend one of the lectures in the series, then make a grand day of it all.  We would go to lunch someplace nice, and usually finish the afternoon with a tour of the Philbrook or something along those lines.  For the last five years, I have worked across the street from the performing arts center without thinking much about it.  This year however upon listening to the advertisements on NPR, something clicked and I signed up for the lecture series.  Luckily I have a pretty awesome boss and he has filed this down in my PPR as “Personal Development”.

FATE Crack

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A few days ago I complained about the Dark Devices FATE in Northern Thanalan, but to be truthful…  once you reach about 45 the zone as a whole tends to be the best place to level.  So as a result I have been spending quite a bit of time out there doing the various fates.  There are a number of 25k-40k experience boss fates, one of which that drops a pet if you manage to get gold.  So as a whole the zone is really worth while even if it did not have everyone’s favorite… Dark Devices.  I guess to some extent… I understood why the fate was so popular but I never really understood its full potential until yesterday.

Over lunch I was working on leveling my Bard like I have been the last several days, and when I did the ubiquitous “BRD LF FATES” shout in zone, I got invited to be a part of a custom built dark devices group.  Essentially the eight man group consisted of 3 White Mages, 3 Black Mages, 1 Bard for mana song, and 1 Paladin for flash.  How the group works is a thing of terrifying brilliance… and totally relies on poor game mechanics.   Essentially the mission at hand is for the black mages to spam attacks, the paladin to spam flash… and the white mages to cast regen on opposing players.

Regeneration Tagging

While this does not seem too heinous at face value… it gets there quickly.  Apparently one of the ways that healing works is that when regeneration is ticking on a player, it causes aggro to be generated on the pull for the healer that cast it.  So far that seems to be working as intended… it has worked that way in most MMO games.  Where things go off the rails is the fact that apparently it also TAGS the mob to the healers party.  This means by keeping regen up on opposing parties, you can essentially siphon off their kills and give your group credit.  This is the king of all “dirty pool” maneuvers, and I do not condone it in the least…  however this is so prevalent that if you have a white mage in your party… they are more than likely doing it.

When it works… it works insanely well.  In Final Fantasy XIV there is the ability to chain kill mobs and each additional mob you kill adds a multiplier to the process.  I believe you are initially given 60 seconds once the chain begins, and if the counter is low enough, each additional kill resets the counter back to 10 seconds.  As a result a big AOE group can get some extremely high chains, but I believe eventually the multiplier caps out around 200%.  During the lunchtime group… we managed to get a 354 uninterrupted chain… meaning after the first 20 or so of those… every single mob killed was worth +200% of its face experience value.  As a result I made literally over 75% of a level on one single phase of a fate.

Regressive Gameplay

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Dark Devices is a serious gimmick, and still one that I hope they break… because quite frankly it is a bit of an unfair advantage to those players that can get access to a good AOE group.  That said… since it is not considered an exploit I am certainly going to benefit from it as much as I can.  Yesterday at lunch I was level 45 and after a few more hours out in Northern Thanalan I am over halfway through level 49.  Granted I have the insane post 50 xp bonus going on for my bard, but that is some seriously fast leveling.  No wonder you see the same people out in the zone every single day farming the fate, over the course of a few weeks you could push almost every single class you had to 50.  I did not start out there until around 44, and as a bard you really don’t have all the tools you need to be successful until 46.  However I am seeing fresh 40s out there trying to make the fate work for them.  The method if nothing else… is brutally efficient.

The thing that strikes me the oddest about this entire process is how much it reminds me of the original Everquest.  Essentially I have leveled my Bard almost entirely through FATE grinding, and as a result that means sitting in a zone shouting for a group.  This is essentially the same sort of thing I can remember doing so many times in the Dreadlands.  Throughout the course of the night I would end up in multiple groups that would hunt mobs outside Karnor’s Castle, or various other key farm spots around the zone.  If you by miracle ended up with an extremely well balanced group, you might even brave the railroad that was Karnor’s Castle itself.  As much as you can solo in FFXIV, you can never beat the type of experience you can get with a party… especially while running FATEs.

I think to some extent it is this throwback to an earlier time… this regressive gameplay that has made the game so damned sticky for me.  It is like going back and playing Everquest, but taking with me all the bells and whistles and perks of a modern MMO.  Essentially the game is almost completely solo-able if you so choose to… but the group content is extremely good when it happens.  My huge problem with EQ2 is that while the soloing is amazing, any time you get more than two players together in the same place it feels like a facerolling mess.  Granted I have not actually played a lot of the Velious dungeon content, but even the big dungeons like Mistmoore have felt this way to me.  FFXIV does an amazing job with the dungeon content in making it feel like it requires effort and planning to get through it.

Tonberry Tactics

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A few days ago we took a group into Wanderers Palace and had some mixed results.  Over the course of the dungeon run we figured out how a lot of the tactics worked, but simply ran out of time before we could formulate a winning strategy for the final encounter.  We like to go into these dungeons completely cold, and figure out the boss mechanics on the fly rather than trying to rely on some guide to tell us how to do it.  So since we failed to finish the dungeon, there were several of us who had been plotting revenge.  Yesterday during the day, over IM we conspired to build a team to take on the challenge that night.

Overall I have to say the run went tons smoother, but primarily because we understood how the mechanics worked.  We went through the dungeon essentially wipe free and that left us with worlds of time to distill just how to defeat the final encounter.  After a few failed tries, we figured out the rhythm of the fight and managed to find a way to juggle the constant stream of adds, and the insane amount of damage the Tonberry King deals from his Grudge attack… that scales based on the number of adds you kill.  As a whole the entire encounter felt like a giant tug-of-war match, trying to keep me alive as the tank, but keep the adds off the healer.

I didn’t get much from the dungeon other than the experience of running it, but I believe both our Bard and Dragoon walked away with some really nice upgrades.  From the second boss a really nice chest piece dropped… but it was statistically identical to the one I received from my level 50 class quest.  So I passed and let someone else pick it up as a greed item… though honestly if it is the same stat wise, it won’t be of much use to anyone.  This is not the type of dungeon I want to run more than once a night, because it takes a lot out of you…  however I enjoyed myself.  Quite honestly there are not ANY dungeons that I really want to chain run, because even with the smoothest group these dungeons require more of you than previous games.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again and I need to finish this up.  I have not really posted much for the Newbie Blogger Initiative this week, but I have plans to do so this weekend.  During my Saturday and Sunday posting time I have much more time to work through a topic, so I figured I would use both days to post advice articles.  There is so much good stuff out there this year, and I need to get on with updating my blogroll to include the rest of the blogs that have signed up during the Class of 2013.  I hope you all have a great day and that it continues on into a great weekend.