Flame Broiled Defeat



Last night I met my first real defeat in Monster Hunter World and completely failed a quest.  That quest was me attempting to beat Anjanath in the Ancient Forest, which admittedly I am super happy I did the tracking work I already did for this mob in spite of what everyone has told me.  I managed to find it super fast and now we get into the part of the show where I talk about my horrible ideas.  I have thought this thing was serious business since the first moment I saw it… and as a result I went ahead and threw up a flare to see if anyone wanted to join me.  Within moments I had a full party of people tasking on this monster and in the grand scheme I thought it was going pretty well…  then I started noticing other players fainting.  It was around or about this point that I remembered that you get four faints per party…  not per person.  So when I finally fainted myself…  it happened to be the fourth one our party had gotten and the quest immediately failed out.  In theory I should have just tried this on my own because I was managing to land some significant hits in on the big guy but I guess the truth is I just sorta like running with party tactics going on.  I have been joining other folks quests and enjoying trying to learn how to play off of the strengths and weaknesses of the other weapons.  Mostly I am wanting to learn how not to trip up other players with the Longsword which has been a problem that other people have reported with the weapon.  As far as I could tell this was not actually happening because I tend to favor surgical strikes rather than just flailing away with R2 sweeping attacks.  My goal for tonight is to seek revenge and down a flame breathing dinosaur.


My enjoyment of this series is way more focused on playing with my Palico than probably any other element.  So much so that the first thing I do whenever I drop down on a map is find where the free roaming tailrider Palicos are and go get one.  I love the sequence of events that happens when your Palico meets one out in the wild.  They get together and then high five and cheer…  and moments later you have a new friend following you around and helping you.  This is literally the best part of monster hunter and the most purest joy I feel in the game.  Last night I found a Palico wearing the Horizon Zero Dawn Watcher suit and I just about lost my mind.  It too had the Pukei-Pukei bow equipped so it was an interesting combination of two mostly ranged characters helping me out.  My weapon development is sort of stalled out at the moment because I am not exactly sure what I need to get the next ranks as I have been using the Bone Shotel III for a few nights now.  I can in theory make an elemental version… but its base attack is slightly lower so for the moment I am sticking with what I have.

I will close out this mornings post with a video of one of the varied Monster Hunter World cooking sequences.  I just cannot explain how happy the Palicos and the Felyne chefs make me.  I find myself getting a meal cooked even when I am just going to go wandering around in the wastes doing nonsense for an hour completing bounties.  There are a lot of people who lament the change in the cooking song, but I never knew the previous one so its not like I am missing anything particular.  What I love is the completely over the top cooking sequence…  which admittedly was also one of the things I loved about Final Fantasy XV so maybe I just like digitally rendered food?  I’ve tried to play Generations again but find it particularly hard to control the game with my existing 3DS XL…  which is still way too small for my tastes.  As I have talked about in the past… I have large hands and a lot of controllers just feel awkward in them.  I play PS4 with the Hori FPS Plus which itself is a way larger controller than the default PS4.  It really makes me wish that Generations existed for the Switch because I think I could get into the game there knowing I had the option of playing docked if I want to…  which admittedly I play switch docked 90% of the time.  Side note…  I consider the default Xbox One controller a little small as well and similarly have found an aftermarket alternative that I love in the form of the  no longer made Power A Fusion Pro.  Thankfully I have managed to pick up a couple of those… one for PC and one for Xbox One off Ebay for way cheaper than that Amazon listing.

Beyond the Light

Destiny 2_20171010062246

Destiny 2_20171010062246

For the last few weeks I have been making contact with a lot of players in preparation for the launch of Destiny 2 on the PC platform.  One of the patterns that I have noticed is that while there will be a ton of us playing, there are a significant number of different clans in the works.  Even among my own guild-mates it has been decided to go with a Greysky Armada clan rather than joining another, so I will end up splitting time between that on the PC and Tequila Mockingbird on the PS4.  Basically the common theme that I kept seeing was that we were going to be a pretty fragmented bunch going forward.  Ages ago I created the Beyond the Light discord, and then never really did anything with it.  The theory behind it was to have a clan agnostic place for folks to come together and get help doing stuff in Destiny.  Since the early marketing material for Destiny 2 talked about us losing our connection with the light… it seemed like a really fitting name.  The idea is to create a sort of hub for our little corner of the gaming verse, and facilitate cross clan activities.  The channel names themselves are pretty general purpose and I decided to follow a pattern of the various weapon foundries for voice channels.  The idea being that anyone can use any channel for any purpose that is needed at the moment.

The reason why I chose a discord rather than a slack or even a new Blizzard Social area… is the fact that Destiny 2 PC based voice chat is horrible.  I am not sure how many of you actually tried using this during the PC beta, but it was horrific.  Currently we only have about fourteen members, but I figure the discord will grow as we get closer and closer to the PC launch.  There are break out channels for the various classes and we’ve already gotten into some discussions on Warlocks and Titans thus far.  I’ve largely treated the PS4 launch as a sort of extended paid beta process for the eventual PC launch, and I have attempted to gather up as much information as I could along the way.  If nothing else it should be a good place to find people to go do heroic public quests with and maybe even eventually pick up raids.  There are already Destiny themed discords out there, but honestly they felt huge and impersonal…  or in the case of the one associated with the reddit…  fairly toxic at times.  I wanted to create a happy place to hang and enjoy this game with all of the people who may or may not share the same banner as me.  Effectively everyone is welcome pending they behave themselves.  There isn’t a lot of formal structure right now but I figure that will come with time.

Destiny 2_20171010061501

The other big news of the week is that Iron Banner is back and its reset day!  Like every other activity this one is going to be based on a token system, and I have to say I really like this.  There are a lot of complaints from players who like seeing weapons drop, and technically they still do in modes like the Crucible.  However I would far rather have a predictable path to get rewards that I can work my way towards than to rely entirely on luck.  The other aspect of this that I absolutely love is the fact that tokens go into the shared account inventory, meaning you can grind out the rewards on one character and then swap over to another character to consume them.  I personally plan on holding all of my Iron Banner tokens until I have completed the powerful rewards milestones for the week so that I can potentially get items at a higher light level than where I am currently standing.  Right now I see a handful of weapons that look really interesting, including an Iron Banner themed version of my beloved Origin Story.  Additionally I think the gear set this time is amazing for Titans at least, so I hope to gather up most of a set there as well.  This evening my goal is to eat some Tikka Masala that I have going in the crock pot…  and play a bunch of Iron Banner.  Side note you should be able to double dip the Call to Arms weekly milestone while doing Iron Banner so if you have not unlocked that… I highly suggest you do Lord Shaxx’s two early crucible milestones so you can start working towards yet another luminous engram.

Toasty on MMORPGs

The Decline

One of the more interesting trends that I have picked up on, has to do with my own blog.  It feels like the more I talk about Destiny, the lower my reader numbers dip.  I guess it makes sense, as I started this blog out with World of Warcraft and moved towards other MMORPGs as well.  Destiny has a slightly different audience and not necessarily the sort of one that really reads blogs.  The Destiny community is largely contained within a combination of Reddit, Twitch and YouTube.  I don’t have a lot to say about this, but I just found it interesting.  On one hand I hate that I am alienating a bunch of readers, and on the other hand in order for me to keep doing this daily blogging thing… I have to be writing about what is interesting me.  At this very moment that is Destiny and Diablo, and nothing much in the traditional MMO camp.  Now I have logged into a bunch of MMOs in the last few months, but none of them really seemed to hold my attention past that initial login.  Each time there was something that would ultimately cause me to log out.  It might be that my bags were a mess, or that I couldn’t remember what I was last doing.  Ultimately I found a ready excuse and used it to “nope” the hell out of the game.  The problem however I think is somewhere in me.

Right now I am finding myself enjoying games that shower me in loot, and games that allow me to have engaging solo experiences.  Granted I have been spending a lot of time mooching off of folks as they run high end content in Diablo 3, but when I log into that game I can go off and do something by myself that feels like I am moving towards some goal.  In Destiny no matter what I do I can always be working on getting that next faction package, or even spending time in the crucible hoping for that next 335 item.  These two games specifically play extremely well by myself or with friends, and that is just something that I can’t say for MMORPGs right now.  In most cases the only real way to get good gear is through raiding, and that takes a time commitment I am just not willing to do right now.  There is no path for me to piddle my way to victory, and at the moment I don’t want to commit to much more than that.  Raiding in Destiny has felt far more “à la carte” and I think the small six player raid size helps that.  It seems easy to pull together a raid group, and even easier to pull together a three player team.  For example we spent last night doing Challenge of Elders and it honestly felt just as engaging and rewarding as doing an MMORPG raid group.

Burnt Out Genre

For awhile now I have kept thinking that sooner or later I will get over this funk.  That I will get that drive to go off and play an MMORPG.  For example I really want to have the desire to play Final Fantasy XIV and to “get the band back together”.  However there is just some wall keeping me from getting back into it and enjoying it.  I’ve patched up the client a few times, but I know when I do log in… someone is going to do the “Bels Back!” thing and I will feel guilty when I log out a few minutes later because I and confused as to what to do.  It is not a time issue, because I still have the same amount of time I ever did… it seems to be an attention span issue.  Diablo 3 and Destiny both reward me for spending ANY time with them…  and there is always an explosion of shiny colored loot just waiting on me around the corner.  The grind of an MMO is a much more slow burn, with large gaps of time between those moments of excitement.  For years I played MMORPGs as a way to hang out with friends, but thanks to tools like Slack, Discord, and Band… I can take my group of friends with me wherever I happen to go.  I no longer need to rely on the MMO as a chat client, and when that happened I guess the games lost a part of their hold on me.

I guess it hit me last night when technically I was scheduled to be raiding in World of Warcraft, and I didn’t even remember that it was a thing I was supposed to be doing.  The leader said over chat that I was just burnt out on WoW, which is a bit true…  but its more than that.  I feel like I am burnt out on MMOs in general.  I’ve been rabidly playing this one genre since 2000, and I feel like maybe I just need other types of games in my life.  The parts of the MMO that I really liked, which were the acquisition of new stuff and the feeling of constantly evolving your persistent character…  those things have been exported to pretty much every single genre out there.  I guess I realized this was happening when nothing that was coming out, that actually excited me… was an MMO.  There are plenty of things to be excited for out there, and I think Black Desert is one of those games that I would have loved…  were I not over-saturated on MMORPGs.  I am not really sure if I have a point this morning.  It sucks that I am driving away readers, but I just don’t think I can write with the same love and excitement that I used to about MMORPGs right now.  I keep hoping at some point I will climb out of this hole, and be able to log into Final Fantasy XIV and be excited again for story and world building,  However in the meantime… you are probably going to see a lot more talk of Diablo 3 and Destiny because that is where my attention and excitement has landed.

Working as a Group

Different Expectations

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-10-26-608 Lately there has been some discontent in the guild, and it has made me painfully aware that different people are looking for vastly different things.  There is no right or wrong answer here, but simply a case of wildly different expectations of what they have come to expect out of a guild and MMO relationship.  I am not speaking for the guild or anyone in it in making this post, but I thought it might be useful for me to outline how I personally view a guild.  Like I said just because I see something this way doesn’t mean there are not a wide variety of other opinions on what is proper and good in guild etiquette.  However I’ve learned the fastest way to resolve any rough spots is to simply outline what you are expecting out of an arrangement.

Each of us comes to MMO gaming and guilds from a different set of past experiences.  While some of these overlap many times they do not, and that is where the misunderstandings stem from.  Massively Multiplayer games are not this monolithic experience, regardless of how we might think of them as such.  For me I come from a raider background, and even though I am mostly “casual” these days it still colors everything about my gaming experience.  Some players approach a guild from a PVP standpoint and then get frustrated when not everyone embraces the aspect of the game they enjoy the most.  Similarly role-players could feel left out in the cold when the guild as whole does not share their interest for deep personal character development.  While we might all think we play exactly the same game…  that is almost never the case.

Working as a Group

Belghast.140616.233202 I love doing big epic things with my guildies like raids or dungeons or even some pvp encounters.  The problem is… that while I love grouping up for these few cases…  I don’t ever want to quest with another person.  I did Star Wars the Old Republic as a dedicated Duo… and found the experience to be both rewarding on one hand, but deeply claustrophobic on another.  I’ve always found the group leveling experience, and especially the group questing experience to be extremely chafing.  Someone is always a quest ahead of the group and someone is always one or two quests behind.  There is a constant awkward struggle to try and keep this many armed abomination moving forward efficiently.  As a result my preference will always be to quest alone, and have my personal time.

That is not to say I am not willing to group up at a moments notice… but I want there to be a “purpose”.  If you need help killing this or that objective, or if there is an over world dungeon that you just can’t quite survive by yourself…  those are awesome times to group.  That said I like there to be a fixed duration of the grouping and a fixed goal in mind.  I am a truly horrible group mate, because I will wander off on my own constantly.  I’ve spent so much of my gaming time with other people depending on me for this or that, and when I level it is my time where I get to not give a shit about the needs or wants of others.  When we are in a dungeon and I am tanking however… I am all about the needs of the group and the goal of getting us through the dungeon successfully.

The Reality Check

WildStar64 2014-06-20 06-18-00-159 For most of my gaming experience I figured most players felt like I did, and preferred to quest alone.  However over the last few weeks I’ve come to the realization that there is a specific group of player that wants to literally be grouped up 24/7 and working together towards everything.  I think this is both noble and cool to have a leveling buddy like that… but I want no part of it at all.  What is cool is that there are enough of these folks that they should be able to form their own little “band of brothers” and conquer the world together, but they lack the spark to do just that. I guess in part I didn’t even realize players wanted this since the ability to solo at all for me at least feels like a hard fought battle.  In the early generations of MMO games, grouping was required to do anything at all, and it often meant a multiple hour long commitment.

I cut my teeth playing Everquest, and as a Dwarven Cleric…  trying to solo anything was an act of futility and my nights were often dictated by whoever happened to be tanking for the group.  I felt helpless and completely out of control, being forced to depend on someone else for my fun.  It was a feeling I did not like one bit.  So when I entered more modern games, I would pick whatever archetype could solo well and be relatively self sufficient.  Thankfully these were almost always tanks, since they mostly had the survival ability to take whatever the game threw at them.  So I decided that I actually liked being able to solo on one hand, and being the cornerstone of a group on the other.  The further into management I have gotten in my real life, the more I have craved my “solo” time in MMOs, where I can just do whatever the hell I want to do without having to worry about the needs and wants of the many.

Role of a Guild

WildStar64 2014-06-02 06-30-06-146 So I am sure at this point you are asking yourself…  why do I focus so much on the importance of guild and community.  Well honestly the guild gives a foundation and friendly faces that I see on a daily basis.  It gives me the sense that even though I am off on my own doing whatever I want to do… that I am working together with others towards a common goal of progressing the guild.  It is both friendly chat group and a constant source of inspiration and support when you need it.  Additionally it gives you access to a lot of really great people when it does come time to group up and do something meaningful in an MMO.  The guild shines when it comes time to run an Ship quest, Adventure, Dungeon or PVP match.  The other night we had a grand night of doing pvp and it was extremely fun… even though I traditionally shy away from player versus player gameplay.

I’ve always seen my role as a community organizer to be that of laying the ground work and collecting the awesome people all in one place, so that they too can take fate into their own hands and do cool stuff together if they choose to.  There lies the problem however, is that so many players want to sit back and have a “Cruise Director” plan events for them to attend.  I on the other hand counter that it is the responsibility of each player to take responsibility for their own fun.  If you want to do something, do it and convince people to come along with you.  I’ve posted a few times about what I term the art of Groupcraft, but I will link it here again.  One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to learn how to be confident in the assembly of a team that will work.

There are absolutely more successful ways of pulling together a group and making something happen when you want it to.  Essentially in my experience you have to talk to people directly to get them to actually notice that you are trying to do a thing.  This is much easier on voice chat, since you get the immediate feedback, however I did this same thing for years without the advent of voice chat.  The critical knowledge however is what exactly you need to be successful.  If you are a tank, then you need to find a healer and a few dps.  In order to find the healer, you have to know what classes CAN heal and who in the guild falls within those search parameters.  Basically for me a good guild is a friendly group of people that you like chatting with, but also a way to ease the finding of people to do something with.  A hand crafted guild group will always be more enjoyable than a PUG, and usually more successful.

Just My Point of View

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908Please note, like I said before this is just my point of view on the subject and what I am looking for out of a guild and the people in it.  This is not some maxim that I will not cross, because lord knows I am liable to turn around this afternoon and end up grouped with someone for a long period of time and enjoy myself.  These are just my tendencies and I thought it might be useful to open a dialog about what folks are expecting, by outlining what I am actually expecting.  The Alliance of Awesome has been an interesting experiment because it is this big glorious amalgam of a bunch of different communities with their own rich traditions.  House Stalwart had a shared guild culture that had been built up over the course of a decade, and it was pretty much expected that everyone in the guild felt the same way.

Going forward into this new experiment, we can no longer afford to expect that.  Each of us comes from potentially different backgrounds with some shared and some disparate experiences.  We have to come up with a brand new cultural norm as a result.  I don’t feel this is the time for anyone to throw their hands up and walk away in a huff because they did not get whatever it was they were looking for.  Instead it is time for folks to talk clearly about what exactly they are expecting out of this larger relationship.  I think we are on the precipice of having something truly amazing, that we can all benefit from.  We just need to take the time not to nurture it as it grows.  I would not have poured so much effort into it so far, if I didn’t think it could be great for everyone involved.

Uniblade Get

Scrounging for Copper

Landmark64 2014-06-03 19-20-49-284 The above picture pretty much accurately represents the last several times I have played Landmark.  Generally speaking it is on a Tuesday evening when I realize that my claim upkeep will be running out shortly.  So I log in and make a mad dash around the area surrounding my claim to scrounge up enough copper to pay the upkeep for another week.  Generally speaking I only spend just enough time in game to gather the 4800 copper I believe that is required to unlock another 8 days of upkeep.  It really wasn’t until last night that this process started to grate on my nerves, and I began to question what exactly I am trying to protect.  In theory I could get my claim repossessed and be free of this burden…  but as of yet I have not wanted to give up my “prime real estate” next to the spires.

Landmark64 2014-06-04 06-14-48-975 I guess the thing is I haven’t been super into the game since the end of Alpha and the wipe that lead into Closed Beta.  My previous claim I was extremely happy with, this one I am not sure quite what to do with it.  It is this hulking monstrosity that I have zero desire to decorate further.  I have reached a point where Landmark just isn’t that fun for me right now, or more so there just isn’t enough “game” there yet.  What they have is this great rules driven building game, but after a point building stuff becomes stale.  I look at all the harvest time I would have to sink in to be able to build the things that I would want to build… and I simply am unwilling to devote the time.  I feel like maybe once combat goes in, that the game might be more tangible for me, that it might feel like there is a purpose to what I am doing.  It was amazing just how strong of an incentive “protecting against monster attacks” was to spur on my building sprees in Minecraft.  For the time being however I am seriously considering harvesting up all of the stone and other resources used on my claim and just letting it get repossessed this week.  That way I could mark one game off my list until it becomes interesting again.

No More Loot Boxes

rift 2014-05-08 06-09-17-50 Another decision I have made is to drop my Rift patron status.  I’ve subscribed to this game for pretty much all of the time it has been out on the market save for about three months.  There is so much that I still like about Rift, but at the same time I just have no drive to play it.  I have a ritual of logging in every Wednesday to collect the weekly patron gift, opening it… seeing if I get any cool armor and then logging right back out.  Since I have geared both my Warrior and my Rogue in this fashion… and I have faltered at leveling my Cleric, I just can’t justify keeping up the patron status for a game I really have not played much at all in the last year.  I have 90 days left of patron status, so I might in that time change my mind, but presently I just don’t have enough people to play the game with to make it worth my while.

One of the things that worked out differently than I had hoped with Patron status is the way that loyalty and cash shop currency accrued.  That first year when I picked up a year long subscription, I had a massive amount of loyalty and a ton of cash shop currency to blow through as part of the free to play conversion.  I made the mistake of assuming that the same thing would happen when I picked up this past years patron status.  One of the things I expect out of a free to play “subscription” plan is a month allotment of cash shop currency.  Since this isn’t a thing in Rift, I really don’t see much benefit in keeping up the Patron status.  Additionally I expected another huge boost to my loyalty level from subbing for another year, and that didn’t happen either.  For the time being I will simply play the game like a free to play player does until they give me reason to subscribe again.

Uniblade Get

WildStar64 2014-06-03 22-27-28-614 The last several days in Wildstar have been about one thing and one thing only…  trying to get to level 15 and trying to accumulate enough currency to buy a mount when I ding.  As a result I have completely ignored the crafting system and sold everything I could possibly sell in an attempt to buy my precious mount.  Was it worth the effort?  Well the jury is still out on that one, but I do like the looks of my Uniblade.  I figured this was the obvious choice for a Chua Engineer, especially since the “Hamster Ball” mount just did not feel dignified.  Right now the mount feels a little lackluster since it is only a 15% boost.  However it is cool that you can still sprint on a mount and that feels awesome as your engine revs up and such when you do it.  The physics of the Uniblade are a little weird, and I have to say I would have honestly rather had the Exiles Grinder mount instead… but all in all I am happy.  One bug I encountered is that apparently in order to buy the mount you have to have enough currency to cover the undiscounted price.  This means instead of the 1 gold 15 silver price listed you actually have to have something like 1 gold 65 silver to be able to cover the full price…  even though it will still only charge you the 1 gold 15 silver.

WildStar64 2014-06-03 22-49-08-220 Now that I have obtained my goal, I am going to be far more interested in random grouping.  I kind of wanted to meet up with people last night and group, but I was so focused on grinding out my level and trying to get as many saleable items as possible.  This meant doing much lower content than I should have been doing, since it rewards less experience but I was more likely to accumulate a lot of saleable items in the process.  One of the interesting things about Wildstar is that unlike World of Warcraft, you only seem to gain guild experience while grouped with other guildies.  This means that in order to unlock all of the perks like the guild bank, we are going to have to group together and go do content.  Now that I have level 15 I am really looking forward to trying the first dungeon… and I am imagining that it rewards a ton of guild experience.  My next goal is to find a decent weapon, as I am still using some random drop green.  My hope is that whatever dungeon quests exist I will maybe get a blue weapon from them.  I also need to do some research into which tanking abilities I need to do a dungeon.

Wildstar Groupage

Since we are taking the night off from Elder Scrolls Online my goal tonight is to get some Wildstar grouping going.  The goal is to resume the Cyrodil nights next Wednesday, and I hope to play quite a bit over the weekend as well.  I still want to see so much in Elder Scrolls, but face it… this is launch week for a new game, and for the most part folks are going to be playing it.  Tonight I want to focus on getting a group going with some Alliance of Awesome guildies and trying to gain lots of guild currency.  Zero clue what we will actually be doing, but here is hoping we can find another world boss like we did the other night.  If we have enough people it would be awesome to pop our heads into a dungeon.

#Landmark #Rift #Wildstar

Groupcraft Revisited

Dusting Off Skills

One of the very first features that got my blog noticed years ago was a series I called Groupcraft.  In it I outlined the general theory I take when trying to make a group happen out of thin air.  This was a process I had streamlined since when I first started trying to make groups happen back in Burning Crusade, and still continue to do this today.  This advice predates the existence of the dungeon finder tools, and even in a world where you can push a button and get a group… I still find most of it extremely useful.  Based on a discussion over on twitter yesterday, I feel like it might be time to dust off this topic and revisit it.  The Elder Scrolls online has grouping tools, but once again I find that a custom built group is far more successful as the queue times seem to be pretty extreme for anyone who is not a tank or a healer.

Taking Responsibility

Screenshot_20140404_220734 The very first step in the process is to take responsibility for your own happiness.  You can sit around in guild chat hoping a group will happen upon you and whisk you away to a dream land of epic loot…  or you can make one happen yourself.  Massively Multiplayer games are the refuge of introverts, and since I believe it or not am one of them…  this was a hard step for me to move past.  In other games I have hung out hoping things would evolve into a group… and then wound up disappointed when I pissed my night away waiting for it to happen.  In games like Everquest it was easier, simply going to a specific place in the world meant it was pretty easy for you to get into a group.  However in the post wow world this is just not something that works.

Be Specific

Screenshot_20140407_183815 It is simply unrealistic for you to expect that someone will form a group for you.  As a result you need to be the catalyst that makes sure the groups happen, and it really isn’t as hard as you might think.  Once you’ve decided you are going to step up to the plate and form a group…  you need to know what you intend to do.  This can be a pretty flexible mission of “run a dungeon”, but in doing so you need to know which one and what the requirements for that dungeon are.  The first dungeon you are likely to run in the Daggerfall Covenant is Spindleclutch.  It requires some kind of sturdy tank, some form of a healer, and then the rest of the party is pretty flexible.  By healer and tank, there are many different things that can work but they need to be able to take some damage and heal some damage.  Simply throwing a few points into healing staff is generally sufficient at least for the first tier of dungeons.

Surveying the Scene

Screenshot_20140416_060055 Now that you know what you want to do you need to lock down some people.  With the goal being Spindleclutch the sweet spot seems to be around level 14 with it technically being able to support people in the 12-18 range generally speaking.  While I took this screenshot from my own guild this morning when nobody much was on, you would hopefully see some names lit up and available.  What we are focusing on is the 12-17 section of the screen.  For example in Stalwart we have an entire screen worth of people to choose from.  If you can find at least four people on in the list then bam you likely have the makings of a group.  If you can find two or more, then you can shift focus and go do a public dungeon since those tend to be design for two or more players and are loaded with all sorts of goodies similar to instanced dungeons.


Screenshot_20140405_224903 This step is absolutely key to making your group work.  So many people simply broadcast to guild a message similar to “anyone want to do something?”.  These are NEVER successful, or moreso are only successful if the person on the other end is also trying to build a group.  Saying “I need one more person for Spindleclutch” is a bit more successful, but that still requires that someone is watching guild chat and comfortable in their own abilities to speak up and sign up for your mission.  What I find instead works so much better is to directly message players.  So if I were to be building this hypothetical group I would start pinging folks in the sweet spot with something like this. “Hey noticed you were in the level range for Spindle Clutch, going to be pulling together a group.  What roles can you fill?”.

At this point the player is going to do one of two things either say they cannot go, which is perfectly cool… or respond back with a list of roles they can provide.  You are already one step closer to a group than you were a few minutes ago.  I tend to just assume players want to run dungeons, and I skip the step of even asking if they want to go.  It might seem presumptuous but over the years I have come to realize that most players are waiting for something interesting to happen.  If you give them the opportunity, they more than likely will jump at the chance… unless they simply do not have the time to do “whatever” that night.

Lock Down the Required Roles

Screenshot_20140405_210040 Now comes the trickiest part.  We know that we need players between the levels of 12 to 18 with a sweet spot being around 14.  We know that we need a tank of some sort and a healer of some sort.  If you are yourself a tank or healer, it becomes a lot easier… as you need to only find the other half of the required roles.  As a more dpsy player you need to find two people before you have a viable group.  An instanced dungeon group cannot really happy before you’ve found both a tank and a healer, so those are the slots I tend to fill first.  Once you have locked down both positions, you have a viable dungeon group and can fill the last slots.  If you cannot find a tank or a healer remember you still have a perfectly viable public dungeon group.  Public dungeons are pretty awesome, and every one I have gone too has been a loot bonanza quickly filling my inventory.

Start Up the Group

Screenshot_20140408_195314 So at this point you’ve locked down the required roles, and identified a three other players who are ready to dungeon together.  One of the nice things about Elder Scrolls Online is that all that really needs to happen now is for a single player to zone into the dungeon.  At that point all of the other players can choose the “teleport to player” option which will pop them into the dungeon as well.  Hopefully your custom group will go smoothly.  However inevitably you will hit a snag, or a boss encounter you simply were not ready for.  I believe in a blame free dungeon environment, where you assess what is going wrong and try and fix it however you can.  Dungeons are hard, and they require complex skills.  Try and be open to assistance and provide blameless advise for what might be going on in the dungeon.  If you do all of these things, I think you are pretty much guaranteed an enjoyable night of dungeoning.

The fringe benefit of all of this is you begin to know more members of the guild, and what each player can bring to the table.  The more you do this, the easier it becomes to pull together groups on the spur of the moment.  You shift from feeling like you are forced to only solo, to being someone who has control over their own destiny.  The truth of multiplayer games is that the players generally would like to group up and do big things.  Not everyone has the time to do this all of the time, but folks come into this genre with at least the intent to do things larger than they can do on their own.  You just have to be willing to take your fate into your own hands and start the ball rolling.  Even today I get super self conscious at times when I step out into a new social environment that I did not bring with me a ton of familiar faces.  But this basic framework for making groups happen has never failed me.

Better than Dungeon Tools

Screenshot_20140414_195115 So I will throw out a final thought for the day before closing this up.  I first outlined my process for making groups happen in an era when we did not really have the grouping tools that exist today.  So this is the way you HAD to get groups, and relied heavily on social channels and guilds.  Now that we have role based dungeon tools… quite simply we have gotten lazy.  Building a group like this means you have to communicate with other players to make it happen.  The one thing that makes “pugging” so generally terrible is that players simply do not communicate freely.  How many times have you been in a pug and it is a silent train careening off the tracks?  No one is talking, and no one is trying to discuss what is going wrong.  The only time anything is said is when it is to curse out the tank or the healer for being “fail” at the game.  By talking to the players to form the group you have already broken down that crucial barrier to success…  communication.

Almost every game that has a “push a button, get a group” type tool also has other tools for you to try and build groups around.  So I always try and fill my groups the “old fashioned” way, and then if we are a single person short go ahead and queue us all together for the dungeon filling that last slot.  Even absolute assholes tend to behave better when they are out numbered in a guild group.  I feel like the modern grouping tools are best used to augment building a group from scratch.  Get as close as you possibly can to a full team, and then use the tool to fill the rest.  You can always pop into a public dungeon while you wait in the queue.  While I have mostly focused on Elder Scrolls Online, this general theory pretty much applies to every game I have played.  The most critical step is really telling yourself that you can do this.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #GroupCraft #Dungeons

Matter of Perspective

Unexpected Route

Yesterday I set out with the mission of running the rest of my characters through LFR, but after some frustrations with a couple of bad tanks… I decided to retreat into the comfort of leveling.  The problem is…  leveling through Wrath content feels extremely slow.  The way they lay quests out just is not conducive to burning through them.  I began the day at 71 and after a  few hours I had finally dinged 72, so I figured I would take a break and run a dungeon.  Apparently somewhere along the way I had forgotten just how good Wrath era dungeon experience was.  I quickly shifted from questing my way across north rend to chain running dungeons.

Wow-64 2013-12-07 19-35-42-79 

I am generally the most anti-pug person you could imagine, but for whatever reason as I said the other day… if I am dpsing I have the patience of a saint generally.  What I found surprising however was just how painless the whole event was.  We had one tank rage quit because we did not clear the optimal number of mobs, and someone aggro’d one pack too many.  After calling us all noobs and leaving we got another tank within seconds and completely the dungeon without issues.  We had another tank that did not know which way he was going in Gundrak and after going swimming with the angry fishes for an extended period of time several of the people afk’d out of the dungeon, and I joined them.  Other than those two instances… I had 26 instances of success.

At times the group was chatty, other times they were utterly silent.  In all cases however we succeeded without much effort.  It feels like they have nerfed the dungeons to the point at which anyone can run them without much thought.  As a rogue I pretty much spammed Fan of Knives as we pulled huge packs of mobs.  I found it surprising how quickly I hit 80.  Thanks to the handy dandy statistics inside of World of Warcraft I know I ran exactly 26 dungeons to get from 72 to 80, which was the better part of a day.  However this is definitely the express elevator through wrath content, and I feel like I will do this with pretty much all of my alts that have yet to clear that hurdle.  In fact I am considering today once I have gotten a bit of gear, to do the same with the 80-85 climb.

Matter of Perspective

Maybe my fear and loathing of pugs is unfounded?  Maybe it really is a simple and efficient way to level?  Maybe chain running LFR has just given me a perspective on what I should expect from others?   In any case it was not nearly the traumatic experience I had expected.  I figured I could stomach anything for a single group, however I found the experience rather refreshing.  It may simply be that at this point everyone knows the wrath instances like the back of their hand, and can pretty much run them on autopilot.  In any case I might have to revise my opinion of pick-up groups.  That’s one of my good traits however is that none of my opinions are so intractable that they cannot be changed.  After all I had sworn off World of Warcraft for years, and now find myself enjoying the hell out of it again.  Just like everything in life, I feel that it is all a matter of perspective.

Rediscovering Dungeons

Here in Oklahoma it has been insanely hot and by Thursday it is supposed to be in temperatures over 107F.  As a result, I have been actively trying to avoid leaving the comfort of air conditioning.  This meant that this last weekend, I spent the vast majority of it logged into Argent Dawn in World of Warcraft.  The game still has a pretty firm resurgent hold on me.

Am I Really Back?

WoWScrnShot_062512_060314Honestly at this point I am still not 100% sure if I am really back, but I have moved from seven days of free time to actually paying for the first month.  I had planned on doing this anyway, just to make sure my friend got his mount, but I have to say I am already finding myself making plans for the future.  Right now I have a stable of sub 85s, and I admit I am looking forward to leveling them.

I spent the largest portion of the weekend working on Exeter, my Paladin.  This was actually my very first character in World of Warcraft, and I had grand ideals about playing it as a main.  Due to not being able to keep up with my friends, and the failings of protection paladins early on in vanilla, this never quite panned out.  But nonetheless the character has always had a special place for me.

When I last played the character over a year and a half ago, I had just started on Vashj’ir and decided to swap from Retribution as I played in Wrath, to full on protection.  With some minimal ability swapping, I was able to pick up the character pretty quickly and continue on questing.  I have to say the Cataclysm Tankadin is a blast to play.  I have given paladins crap over the years, even on this blog, but the gameplay is extremely infectious.

WoWScrnShot_062512_064918Over the course of the weekend I finished Vashji’r, quested through Hyjal, mined my way across Deepholme and finally reached 85 while doing the first few quest chains of Uldum.  I have no clue how many actual hours of play it took me, but with all the perks granted by a level 25 guild, it seemed like it just flew by.  Instead of watching my xp bar I found myself just following along the quests, and before I knew it I had hit the cap.

While I have complained about “kill ten” quests before, I have come to realize that at the end of the day I really do prefer them.  Having a traditional questing structure gives me a sense of purpose as I check things off my list.  When I have played more open ended games, like Guild Wars 2, I have felt like everything I did lacked that same sense of purpose.  As much as I had complained about the disconnected feeling of Cataclysm, the quest flow is pretty nice and has enough other kinds of quests to break the monotony of the kill tasks.

Grouping Should Be Fun

Screenshot_2012-02-22_22_19_17_638583When I left WoW originally it changed my game play deeply.  I went from being the center of each group as the main tank, to actively avoiding grouping all together.  I had developed a phobia of being needed at all, since I had spent the previous seven years responsible for the happiness of so many others.  I grouped when I absolutely had to, but the rest of the time I was off by myself and seemingly happy.

With the release of SWTOR, I gave grouping another try.  However choosing to level as a dedicated duo, left me feeling chained to having to play whenever someone else was online.  When it came time to run flashpoints, I just found them not as much fun as I remembered dungeons being.  I think in part, I just didn’t like the design of the Star Wars hard modes.  I don’t mind hard encounters, but I have always felt that they should be an endurance game, not twitch reflexes.

Many of the SWTOR hard mode flashpoints, just felt cheap and irrationally punishing.  Colonel Daksh in Maelstrom Prison for example, goes into this phase where you have to avoid getting in line of sight of him.  Essentially 2 or 3 times per fight, everyone in the group has to do an intricate dance avoiding being seen.  If you are seen at all, it is essentially a one shot death.  If you aren’t dpsing him fast enough, you also die from the incredibly short enrage timer.  As we wiped over and over to one thing or another, the attempts just ceased to be enjoyable, and given time flashpoints were just something I completely avoided.

Remembering It Can Be

image00211Thanks to the coaxing of my friend, coming back to WoW I have been grouping again.  I eased into it by duoing some old raids, until I built back up my tanking ability to some extent.  Once I got back into the swing of a heroic, including the “new to me” hour of twilight five mans, it felt like coming home.  Unfortunately it seems like we can only muster full guild groups on Friday or Saturday nights.  But those last few nights, have been some of the most enjoyable gameplay I have experienced in years.

Friday night we gathered up to work on various achievements, that each of us had outstanding.  We knocked out a couple still remaining from the Icecrown five mans, and then moved on to the redesigned Zul’Gurub.  ZG has always been one of my favorite places in Azeroth, and in vanilla I spent hour after hour there both tanking and healing it.  When I heard they were removing the raid and making it a heroic, I was extremely disappointed.  However, considering they went from a raid to a five man, they’ve done the zone justice.  While none of the fights are exactly the same, they each feel very similar in nature and still have a very epic feeling to them.

In an hours time, we had knocked out every available Zul’Gurub achievement.  While there really wasn’t much in the way of gear upgrades for anyone involved, we had a complete blast doing it.  I am remembering the side of gaming I used to love so much, but the circumstance of having to be both guild and raid leader robbed me of.  Running around with my friends taking down baddies, has re-awoken a piece of my inner child I thought was too jaded to ever feel this way again.

Well Rested Return

One of friends, mused that I just needed some time away from the game to get my perspective.  I think that honestly might be the case.  Too much frustration had built up, over too many things not directly related to gameplay.  Coming back now, I have a new pair of rose colored lenses and my buffer of bullshit has been emptied out.  I never thought it would be WoW I was returning to however.  I really thought with my recent return to Rift, that it would be the one that held my attention.  As much crap as we have all said about “pandas and pokemon”, I think the upcoming expansion will breathe some life back into the game.  I just hope that my return, others will be willing to give it a fresh start as well.