Elevator Broken

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Fun While it Lasted

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On Monday I wrote about riding this new Legion Event to 100 on several of my characters, and how holding chests allowed me to instantly have viable level capped characters upon dinging.  At least the second part of that statement is true now, but sadly the first part…  not so much.  It seems yesterday they patched the servers to increase the spawn rate of events, but greatly decrease the experience gained from each.  While this is technically a net gain… it is also a whole lot of busy work to gain it.  Previously on my Monk in his 50s/60s I was gaining at least one full levels worth of experience from each event I participated in.  So that mean’t every four hours, I could run two events with him and then still have time to swap in some other alts for gearing purposes.  As of yesterday I was getting a little less than half of a level of experience per event participated in.  That means during the same four hour window, there are now a total of six events, instead of two…  and as a result if experience stays roughly half a level that means I gain 3 levels instead of 2 before.  The gotcha however is that you spend almost every second of that four hours either participating in an event or travelling to the next one, and in my experience I had no real time to swap in that many alts to also attempt to get gear.  Given how fast experience is gained through questing, it also feels like during that same four hour block I could probably do significantly better than three levels.

What made the “elevator” nice is that I could more casually swap in my lower level alts, and still have time to do the ones I was trying to get gear for.  Now instead I have to make a choice between getting the gear from the event, or leveling.  I mean I get why they did this, because they really want folks to focus on the gear and not the easy ticket leveling.  I am just glad that I managed to pull my Priest from 92 to 100, and my Mage from 90 to 100 before the elevator broke.  As a result I am tabling my Monk for the moment, at least until I finish getting all of the rest of my stable of 11 characters fully geared in 700 or better items from the event.  Technically Belghast my Draenor main has the least stuff from the event, but he also has 700 or better in most of his slots already.  Other than that my rogue really is the one missing the most gear, so I will be working on him next.  Exeter my Paladin is missing a weapon, Lodin my hunter Shoulders, and Tallow my Shaman a handful of items.  Instead of focusing entirely on the Monk I am going to work on getting these characters the last of the missing pieces so that they are in a better state to be prepared for leveling them in Legion.  I have this feeling that 700 is essentially the place they are expecting us to be at for the new content, and even though we will be swapping all of it out for better gear almost instantly it should at least ease that transition.

Unknown Main

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I am hoping over the next few days to be able to reach a point where I am completely okay hopping off the event train.  While it has been a fun ride chasing the skulls around the zones, I have to say I have neglected other important things during the process.  For example I have yet to complete the Broken Shore quest chain in live on any of my characters.  While I did it a bunch of times in Beta and have since seen the cinematics I missed… with the patching in of more quest content I feel like I need to get on the ball and start in with this.  More than anything this expansion feels really different, and in a good way.  I like the way that they seem to be easing us into the content with the invasion, and the head start into Broken Shore or the Demon Hunter experience.  It feels like we are having this rolling soft launch more than waiting for the 30th to flip the switch and have everyone rush into doing exactly the same stuff.  My hope is this is going to allow us to have a more staggered experience with different groups of people progressing through the content at different speeds.  I know personally I will likely be starting the new content in Stormheim, but that is largely because it feels like this great big love letter to Northrend.

The biggest challenge however still yet to be solved is… I have zero clue what my main is going to be.  There are a bunch of different classes that I really enjoy right now.  I love Vengeance Demon Hunter, I think in part because of its mobility and the ability to get places due to double jump and glide which comes in super handy in the new content.  I also am completely in love with Lodin my Hunter… because I am finally getting to play out that fantasy of being a melee hunter.  Belghast and Belgrave are both strong contenders because well… I tend to level tanks first, but in both cases they don’t necessarily feel that new or fresh but more the same.  I am also loving Tallow my Enhancement Shaman and Gloam my Outlaw Rogue… but they will more than likely be relegated to the back burner.  The character that I love that I am shocked to admit it though is my Demonology Warlock.  It is actually a really strong contender for getting leveled quickly, because I have enjoyed playing it so much.  Now however you can see the problem… I am loving this game at the moment because I am loving a lot of my characters at the same time.  There however has to be a first… and I am still completely up in the air as to who that is going to be.

Playing Dress-Up

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Quest for Bank Space

Be warned, I am really not sure how much this mornings post is actually going to be a proper topic… and how much it is just going to be show and tell.  Essentially last night was spent sifting through so many characters on so many different servers to unlock all of the appearances I seem to have available to me.  From there I started cleaning out the banks one at a time starting with Belghast my Warrior and for the time being my main.  This was shockingly hard work, and I ended up installing an addon to help give me some confidence to actually go through with getting rid of an item.  What I really wanted was a clear thumbs up or thumbs down on every single item much like Rift has stating that “you have this appearance”.  Caerdon Wardrobe works at least in a way that is most critical, but still I really wanted to see that message for every soul bound item “just to make sure”.  What the addon does do that is useful is for non-soulbound items it tells you that either you don’t have the appearance, or you have collected the appearance from another item.  As far as the soulbounds… I just took the plunge and accepted that over a decades worth of accumulated stuff really was in fact added to my account appearance collection.  This admittedly was a hard step, and one made no simpler by the fact that apparently Ark Inventory changed greatly…  and with every character I logged in I had to do a bit of remapping of some of the styles to get things to load correctly.  So I spent the night with Grace as moral support trudging through my bank…  while the rest of the AggroChat crew listened in while playing Final Fantasy XIV thinking we were absolutely insane.

Honestly Tam thought this was some sort of limited time event… but I somehow doubt that the rest of the crew takes appearance items nearly as serious as Grace and I do.  I mean Tam always has a spiffy glamour in FFXIV but he only has the one glamour and is not constantly rat-holing appearance items just in case someday he MIGHT want to use one for an outfit.  I have joked and said that wardrobes are the true end game… but I am being serious.  I have been more motivated in games when there is a cool piece of armor or a weapon on the line, than literally anything else you can dangle in front of me like a carrot.  As a result one of my favorite activities has been doing old raid content and collecting nifty appearance items to line my vaults for another day.  The problem being that quite literally on my Warrior I had seven inventory slots, zero bank slots, and zero void storage slots.  Every last corner of that storage was filled with weapons and armor that I under no circumstances would be willing to part with.  So a whole lot of my simply not playing the game… is because I had no room to keep accumulating items.  Last night had been a long time coming, and was a bit of a purge of my digital hording of stuff.  So in many ways selling all of those items was a liberating experience… but also one that terrified me at the thought that maybe just maybe the system would fuck up and I would end up losing everything.  Of note… I got every single fashionista achievement other than the shirt one from logging in my first character.  As the night went on the shirt achievement happened slowly while logging in a long list of alts that have otherwise been abandoned to the sands of time.

Show and Tell

Essentially the order of operations went a little something like this.  I first logged in every single character on my account…  which includes numerous characters on other servers that I have only ever played once or twice.  From there I focused in on chewing through my mains…  where I decided to sell off any gear that was not the current “best in bag” for my current spec.  I figure with the expansion only a few weeks away, I was going to be just fine being confined to a single spec per character for that moment.  I burned through my salvage crates and learned the appearances I did not already have… and mailed the extras off to Grace for her to sift through as well.  Of note she is doing the same thing, but I just realized that it might not work as well as I thought it would… given that I think you can only learn an appearance on a character of that armor type.  We will sort out the details of that later though.  Then I started tearing into the bank, offloading anything that did not have a nifty and unique use effect and selling it.  The only real speedbump here is the fact that a lot of the Naxxramas and Ulduar era class gear can’t be sold… so I will have to manually delete that at a later date.  The final thing I did before logging out of any character… was to set my talents and give my character an outfit for the occasion.  The rest of this post is ultimately going to be me posting pictures and talking about the outfits.

Belghast – Warrior

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This is my “Ready for the Legion” outfit, rocking the Illidari tabard and shield, and using the red/fel green version of the Icecrown Deathknight look-a-like armor.  As to whether or not this will remain my main for the coming expansion has yet to be seen, but for the time being I think I look awesome.

Belgrave – Death Knight

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Character number two on the list was my Deathknight, and also the point at which I learned that I can apparently now transmog legendary weapons?  I wanted to go with something fiery looking to match the Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros legendary weapon.  So I ended up landing on the black hand armor set from the garrison appearance vendor.  To go with it is one of the trading card game tabards, the Flame one to be specific.

Lodin – Hunter

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When this game launched I tried to make Melee Hunter a thing, and wound up tanking a bunch of the instances with a combination of myself and my gorilla pet.  Now that Survival is the honest and true melee spec… of course I am going to freaking use it.  As a result I wanted to come up with an outfit that worked with the new PVP gear I picked up.  This is one of those situations where it “sorta matches” or at least well enough to make me happy in combat, however as I look at it now I am starting to pick it apart a bit.  I am going to be “happy enough” for the time being.

Exeter – Paladin

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I tried a bunch of different things before finally settling on this outfit.  I wanted something purple for my paladin, but didn’t want to use the purple judgement set that I have often used in the past.  So I started with the purple tone deathknight icecrown set, and started shifting around bits until I was happy.  Once again I am using one of the card game tabards, this time the purple Tabard of the Arcane.  The end result is almost my favorite of the night… which is ultimately the next one.

Tallow – Shaman

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When Cataclysm introduced the ability for Dwarves to be shaman… I immediately race changed my then Draenei Shaman to be a proper Wildhammer Dwarf.  Ironically I also then turned my Dwarf Paladin into a Draenei one… but that is a different story.  I have always been enthralled with the whole idea of the Wildhammer Clan, and for this transmog I wanted something that felt almost wildhammery but still looked nice and armored.  So I ended up shifting to using one of the Warlords leveling sets… that I just happened to have the perfect set of hammers to go with.  I then decided to go with the Fel Goggles to bring out the Fel coloring of the hammers.  This was the last one I did last night before crashing but is hands down my favorite so far.  So that was ultimately my night, and tonight I will hopefully do the rest of this server.

 

Blizzard: WoW and Overwatch

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Puppy Love

This is admittedly going to be a bit of a bummer of a post, but I feel like I want to get it out of me and onto paper.  I started this discussion yesterday on twitter but the 140 character limit of that medium kept me from really expressing any sense of nuance.  What happened is as the day wound down I ended up watching a really great video from Curse talking about the road to Overwatch, and the first video was talking about the failure of Titan.  It really is a great video because while Blizzard refuses to really talk about what happened with Titan, they do a pretty good job of trying to interpret and read between the lines, and managed to get an awful lot of candid commentary from the Overwatch team.  However while watching this video I was struck by something.  As you watch folks like Metzen and Kaplan talk about Overwatch you see this unbridled love and excitement in the way they express everything.  You can tell just how much they are enjoying this game and how excited about the future of Overwatch they feel.  This is just something I have not really seen from Blizzard in years in pretty much ANY game.  Sure there are standouts like Terran Gregory that are amazing, and every time he talks you can tell he quite literally is living his dream each and every day.  However the bulk of the World of Warcraft folks at Blizzard tend to come across with almost a sense of resentment that they are working on that product.

To go even further if you watch some of the Blizzcon Q/A sessions, there is almost a sense of condescension towards the players from the folks up on stage.  It goes beyond the “we know better” thing that every IT professional is guilty of doing.  It seems at times that they simply are not having fun with World of Warcraft anymore, and when you watch the same folks like Chris Metzen talking about Overwatch it is just such a stark difference.  On some level I absolutely get it.  There are things that I wrote a decade ago that I am still forced to maintain… and every single time I open them all I can see are the mistakes I made in the past.  After a point I began to resent that code, and it is almost painful every single time I have to work in it.  I am figuring that in many ways the folks who work on World of Warcraft, and have for a very long time…  feel that same way about that game.  They see this Weasley House of a game that is knitted together out of several different generations development, and just want to start over.  I think this attitude is evidenced in the vast number of game system uproots that have happened during the course of its lifespan.  Instead of just fixing the problems of the past, they nuke from orbit things like the talent system and try and rebuild something completely different on the rubble of the past system.

Nostalgia Not Hope

Now when I started down this path yesterday, a friend of mine brought up the Looking For Group documentary.  The problem is I see something completely different there when folks talk about the origins of World of Warcraft than I do in the current Overwatch videos.  I see a nostalgia for the way things used to be.  I see a reminiscing of folks who remember the good times the game had and how excited they used to be about everything relating to the game.  Ultimately I see a lot of living off of the whiffs of former glory, and what I see missing is the unbridled hope about what could be and is just over the horizon.  In Overwatch the sky is the limit and everything is magical still, because they have yet to actually ship the product.  In World of Warcraft, every single turn is dictated by a past decision and often times colored by past mistakes.  As a player I want to know that the best days of the franchise are still ahead of me, and not something to be remembered fondly from the past.  The development team has not made me feel that way since Wrath of the Lich King, and I realize that is entirely my fault as well.  What the game needs now however is exuberance to turn back the tide of negativity and get the ship moving in the right direction, and I see that sort of positive spirit working through the Overwatch team and wish I could somehow bottle it and force feed it to the folks working on Warcraft.

It just makes me wonder if at this point the current team working on World of Warcraft is too tired of the game to really take it to the places it needs to go.  The funny thing is… there is a team at Blizzard that is doing precisely the sort of job that the WoW team should be doing.  Diablo 3 feels like the property that is largely ignored and was even left out of the “things going on at blizzard” video from Blizzcon 2015.  However they are doing this amazing job of slowly and quietly improving the way Diablo 3 feels to play it.  The whole seasonal concept has revolutionized the way I play the game and has created this moment that happens every few months where me and my friends get extremely excited to be playing the game again.  We need that sort of an approach at World of Warcraft, rather than the slash and burn experience that keeps happening with every expansion.  We need someone to take an approach that is constantly refining and moving the franchise forward rather than trying to re-invent itself and often floundering.  SOE was the master of this methodoloy, and each Everquest and Everquest II expansion felt like it was pushing the boundaries of what the old tech could do, and the team seemed genuinely excited to be doing each new batch of content.  Ultimately the truth is… how are we the players supposed to be excited about a product when the folks creating it seem to be going through the motions.  I want Blizzard to love World of Warcraft the way that they seem to love Overwatch right now, and I wish I knew how to make that happen.

Setting Priorities

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Return of the Deathknight

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I’ve already talked at length about how we know without a doubt that Gladiator will be dying with the launch of Legion.  As a result this will greatly hamper my enjoyment as a Warrior since in truth I have never really liked Fury or Arms that much.  Sure I could go back to tanking full time… and that would be pretty awesome…  but my prospects for returning to a main tanking role are not entirely that great.  I mostly shifted to DPS so that if I missed a night… it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  Missing a night as one of the primary tanks however…  that is a big deal and causes great hardship on whatever raid you are part of.  That said…  everything I am hearing about Blood Deathknights is telling me that they are returning to the awesome feel they had before Warlords turned them into finger wigglers.  I mean there are lots of people that don’t get my complaints about the class… but having a lot of caster animation abilities in your standard rotation ended up making them feel less of a big sturdy melee class.  I mean I play Blood when I need to survive, especially while questing on Tanaan but I pretty much hate every moment of it.  The class has always been tied to that spec for me.. and even before it became the main tanking tree…  I was a blood Death Knight.

Granted there were times I flirted with Unholy for DPS, and Dual Wield Frost for Tanking…. but in each of those times…  Blood was still my other spec, the one I never got rid of because it just felt awesome.  With it returning to glory, I have to say I am kinda excited about dusting off Belgrave again.  The problem being as you can see above… he is wearing this horrible mishmash of whatever gear I happened to find along the way.  So one of my goals over the coming weeks is to get him as geared out as I can given the meager scraps he has access to through Hellfire LFR, Kazzak, and Tanaan jungle drops.  I figure whatever effort I put into gearing him now… will only serve to make him easier to level in Legion.  I am still not giving up hope completely on getting in Alpha, because there is honestly just a bunch of stuff that I want to test out.  However in the meantime there is a bunch I can do to improve his status in life, and some of that might even mean pugging a normal Hellfire raid at some point.  The thought of that scares the shit out of me, but if nothing else… I want to get to a point where I could survive tanking a Mythic Dungeon.

The Hunter

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The second goal is to find some time and get Lodin my hunter through the Shipyard quest and unlock that part of the garrison.  There is an absolute certainty that when Legion comes out… I will be switching him to Survival hunter and never looking back.  My main character in Everquest was a cleric, but my primary alt… was a Ranger…  a dual wielding melee ranger.  So when World of Warcraft was released, I absolutely tried to make Hunter into a melee ranger class.  I’ve posted plenty of screen shots of me “tanking” early dungeons as a Hunter, and to be honest… when I found out that the class was never going to be viable as melee…  I lost interest in it as my main.  Other circumstances however lead me to raid as it in Vanilla… which by default turned it into my raid main.  However from the moment I had to abandon survival and hitting things with big two handed weapons…  the class just wasn’t for me.  Now I have played it off and on since then, and I really enjoy Beast Mastery and the aspect of taming interesting creatures to fight for me.  But the player fantasy of being a badass ranged character… has never been one that I shared.  In preparation for my eventual spear wielding days as Survival, I want to spend some time gearing up Lodin and getting him ready for the expansion.  Right now he has a pitiful smattering of gear out of gear from Highmaul, augmented with a handful of Baleful shipyard drops.  It is my hope to get him into fighting shape soon, or enough of a shape to be able to survive farming Tanaan.  Right now however…  he is sub 640…  which greatly limits my options.

The Dwarflock

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The other character that has been calling my name lately is my Dwarf Warlock Belganon.  He is currently somewhere in Northrend in the mid 70s, and represents one of only two characters Alliance side that are sub level 90 and that do not already have a Garrison.  It is my hope to push him up, because of all of the finger wigglers… the one I am most likely to play is the Warlock.  I feel like the lessons that I learned playing an Arcanist/Summoner in Final Fantasy XIV will absolutely make me a better warlock player.  I’ve always leaned heavily towards Demonology… because just like Beast Mastery…. they have the really awesome pets.  Especially now that all of the Warlock pets have been updated with higher quality Warlords/Legion era models, I think its time to revisit the class and see if it works for me.  I will never likely main a caster of any sort, but from time to time I have fun playing them.  If I can manage to get this guy up… that just leaves the Monk…  which I have admittedly struggled with.  In both cases I am kinda hoping to be able to dungeon most of my way to maximum level.

We’ve Got Cows

Another Realm

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I have briefly talked about this in the past, but I’ve lived in this strange place when it comes to World of Warcraft.  Sure I played lots of Alliance because that was where most of my characters that I cared about existed…  but I’ve always been one to bridge the gap.  It was thanks to my involvement in the Argent Dawn server forums, and the later unofficial server forums that I created and hosted that I got to know tons of people on that side of the fence.  For years I said I would level something on Horde to play with my “other” set of friends, but that never really panned out.  During Wrath I ended up pushing a Deathknight to 80, but unfortunately the account it is on… is not the account I play most of the time.  When it was announced that Scryers would be merging into Argent Dawn… I went somewhat crazy and created a full account worth of Horde characters because quite honestly… I had no clue how the merger would work.  I did not know if all of the sudden there would just be this one amalgam server… and we would have 22 characters on it.  The end result however is that both Argent Dawn and Scryers exist as distinct worlds…  but everything from guilds to the zones themselves spans across the two realms allowing me to officially guild up with my old school Horde friends.

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This has allowed me to do some utter madness… and ultimately have both a Horde and Alliance version of every single character.  The big problem came with the fact that I had one of each on the Alliance that I did not want to lose access to.  So now after some juggling Argent Dawn has become the server I play Alliance on and Scryers the server I play exclusively Horde.  The only challenge is the fact that I had nothing leveled on Scryers, whereas on Argent Dawn as you can see above all but two of my characters are over level 90, and even then the lowest is 53 which is still a significant amount of levels.  Prior to this week on Scryers I had managed to get an Orc Deathknight to 60, and a Tauren Paladin and Blood Elf Warrior to around 20.  With the announcement of Legion came the pre-order process, which I went ahead and did giving me a boost to level 100.  I was extremely torn on this one… do I take the boost and potentially get to do some stuff with my friends now… or do I level it the old fashioned way.  Having not seen much of the Horde content, I actually do want to level there eventually.

Moo-Cow-Adin

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Essentially I arrived at a thought process that is level the Blood Elf Warrior and Orc Deathknight legitimately…  but boost the Tauren Paladin giving me access to do “big kid things” right away.  I largely went with the Paladin because I really do enjoy both Protection and Retribution, but more importantly it gives me a character that I can in theory fill three different roles on.  While I don’t really like healing as a Paladin, I have done it in the past and in a pinch I could do it again.  I am however completely comfortable doing LFR and the likes as a Retribution Paladin allowing me to hopefully gear up both my Retribution set and eventually get a Protection set.  The problem is… I knew if I was ever going to play the character for real I had to look cool doing it.  This means I had to find something that I could enjoy to transmog into for the time being.  My go to set for Paladins is the Tier 6 Lightbringer set, because it is relatively easy to farm.  So last night I set off to go do Black Temple, Mount Hyjal, and finally Sunwell.

I am convinced that the game goes out of its way to screw with players trying to farm a full set of gear in a single attempt.  It seems like there is always a single piece of gear that refuses to drop… and generally speaking it has been the helm token for me off Archimonde.  This is extra insulting because as far as a raid goes… I HATE running Mount Hyjal.  This is namely because you are a slave to the timers… and it seems to take significantly longer than most any other raid due to this aspect.  Namely it is the Horde section of that raid that drives me insane… because I tend to play Melee focused characters, which makes knocking Gargoyles and Frost Wyrms out of the air a major pain in the ass.  All told I was pretty happy with the results, and the only piece I did not manage to get were the legs from the Illidari Council fight… because for some reason it glitched and only gave me two pieces of loot including a single leg token.  I have zero problem farming Black Temple to get the legs, and in the meantime I got a drop from Sunwell that will fill in well enough for the time being.  At some point I need to get a better weapon, but for the moment I am rocking the big damned glowy orange axe from Black Temple, which makes me happy enough.

Onwards to Tanaan

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My guild suggested that I spend some time digging into Tanaan Jungle to get some upgrades from the 640 set they start you out in after being boosted.  I also really want to start the Legendary Ring quest, which I just picked up last night.  From there I plan on throwing myself at the LFR and seeing if I can get some decent upgrades, and hoping to complete the ring quest along the way.  It is really my hope that they upped the drop chances of those items out of Highmaul that are needed for the ring, because otherwise… this is going to be a thoroughly frustrating experience.  I remember how long it took to get those on Belghast when we were actively raiding every week.  In any case I seem to have sorted out how to actually play a Paladin again, and gearing my Moocow is pretty much my side gig from this point onwards.  It is my hope to be able to get geared enough to actually join in some of the reindeer games happening on this side of the server.  The only footnote there is that I really need not to raid actively, and I am hoping that won’t be a problem.

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For a period of time I was really damned happy playing both Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft.  I enjoyed the mix of the two games because they both scratched a distinct itch.  World of Warcraft is this really enjoyable experience when played casually.  I enjoy doing older content for transmog bits, or casually leveling alts…  but when I was raiding both Warcraft and FFXIV…  the differences just started frustrating me.  Ultimately I prefer the FFXIV raid game better, because it feels like the boss encounters are simply messaged better.  Granted if they just added telegraphs with clearly identified edges of effects like they have in both Wildstar and FFXIV it would go a long way to my enjoyment.  Ultimately I think I simply got burnt out by trying to raid two different games at the same time… and ultimately ended up choosing the one that was causing me less frustration.  So now… I am hoping to go back to playing both games casually… and in theory maybe starting to raid once again in FFXIV.  We have started doing this Saturday thing again, where we do older content and it was a lot of fun this week.  My hope this will ease me into doing more content in that game as well, and in the mean time I am planning on diving into LFR on the Paladin in WoW.  Granted I won’t be doing any of it tonight… because this is the first of our Thanksgivings, and I also need to stage a proper Thanksgiving post for tomorrow.

 

Nostalgia Continues

DRC_Gruul

Eleven Years

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At this point eleven years ago I was spending the morning with a friend and coworker desperately trying to raise the money to buy a guild charter on one of the two original roleplaying server… Argent Dawn.  I remember we rolled a set of toons that we had no interest in playing, and wound up selling literally everything we got from quests and drops all in the hope of hitting that magic number.  From there I mailed all of this to my would be main character and started the guild, running back to Coldridge Valley to get signatures.  At which point a bunch of people made Dwarves or Gnomes and we got our charter up for House Stalwart in rapid fashion.  WoW was the first game that I had a planned entrance into, because it was that one game that everyone seemed to be able to agree upon.  So we pulled folks from Everquest, Horizon, Dark Age of Camelot and City of Heroes all together into one large organization.  We had noble amibitions of having both an Alliance guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde guild on Silverhand.  Most folks that have worn the House Stalwart tabard probably don’t even remember that the crusader cross that has become so recognizable… was not even our original design.  You can see in the screenshot to the side that the colors were similar… but instead we went with the tree logo.

It was not until the first “reboot” of the guild that we went with the crusader cross, as a bit of a way of signifying that things had changed.  Hell there was a period of time when I didn’t even have my mains in the guild.  About six months into the game I took a hiatus and went off to play Everquest II, which I talked briefly about during my MWP post a few weeks back.  When I came back to the game pretty much the entire guild had disappeared.  Later I found out that some of those that remained ended up going and creating their own guild, and rather than shaking the boat I decided to move most of my characters there as well.  We had some good times, but it didn’t last and before long I was asking my friend Finni to help me move my characters and pass back the leadership from my bank alt to my main once more.  Before we knew in… within twenty four hours we went from being a guild of essentially one… to a guild of like sixty players again.  This began the golden age of the guild, and with it we started dipping our toes into regular raiding with what was our sister guild at the time… Silent Strike.  Granted we never really did anything much more serious than Zul Gurub and AQ20, but we had a lot of fun doing it when we raided as a guild.

Misplaced Intentions

wowscrnshot_012406_220132One of the more interesting things about this game is that I became known as a tank, but even now there are folks like my friend Eralia that still call me Lodin my original Late Night Raiders main.  I played a hunter for the better part of Vanilla, but I never intended to do that as my role in the game.  It was shortly after the launch of the game that we had a pretty horrific death in the family.  So while I was keeping up with my Paladin for a long while… I quickly fell behind and when I came back… the only thing I could seem to level quickly was my hunter.  I pretty quickly realized that the class was not really for me once I started raiding.  However my good friend Shiana needed a replacement for a less than reliable hunter, so before I knew it I had become a regular cog in the Late Night Raiders machine.  Once I was geared… I felt like I simply could not swap to another class.  It was during this time that my fellow hunter Ailah decided that she really would rather level a priest… so we rolled Belghast the Warrior and Finni the Priest and started leveling them as a duo to make life easier on both of us.  At that point the hardest possible thing to level was a Holy Priest, and the second hardest was a Protection Warrior… and we figured as a duo we could burn through the content quickly.

It was not terribly long before both Belghast and Finni had become our “unofficial” mains, so when Late Night Raiders disintegrated at the end of Vanilla, I took that opportunity as my change to be the class and role I had actually wanted to play.  I tore through Burning Crusade with a vengeance and became one of the folks that people relied on to make dungeons happen.  When LNR finally called it quits I transitioned over to another raid group that I had been tanking for on the side.  NSR or No Such Raid became a second family, and through that raid I met so many of the people that I keep in contact with on a daily basis.  We had a really great run with the raid and made it to the start of the Tier 6 raid content before various things happened, and the leader dumped the raid in my lap.  I tried to make it work as best I could, but week by week we were hemorrhaging folks.  We started with baring being able to pull the group together, then the next week we were down around five people… and the bleeding continued at that pace until three weeks in I just called it.  I felt like a failure and honestly was uncertain what my future would bring.  I talked to a handful of the highest tier raid guilds on our server… and had essentially made my way through the recruitment process on a couple of them.

Durable Nubs

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It was around this time that a good friend of mine from the days of Late Night Raiders pulled me aside to talk about an idea that he and some of his friends had.  The theory was simple… pull together a raid group in the style of Late Night Raiders and go off and tackle the content on our own.  There were a lot of things about the methodology of NSR that never set right with me.  I’ve never felt like yelling orders at a team was really that effective.  Basically I had a choice… do I go with my friends and start a brand new raid, having to train people up from Tier 4, or do I go off and join a hardcore raid guild and continue my progress into Tier 6.  If you have read this blog much, it would be pretty obvious which choice I made, but I have  to admit that choice haunted me.  As we wiped to Gruul or later Leotheras the Blind…  I kept thinking…  what did I give up to make this happen.  I spent a good deal of Burning Crusade being grumpy about my decision but in the long run I absolutely made the right one.  When Wrath of the Lich King launched we were prized to be a real force for awesome raiding.  The atmosphere that evolved was awesome… but we did a few things that I think ultimately hurt the raid.  We had this policy of “never let the children see the parents fight”, so while we raided the entire group of officers remained connected to a second voice server.  The problem being is that when heavy deliberation was going on… the normal raid chat could be deathly quiet as we sorted out what we needed to do to fix the situation.

To the members this felt like a vacuum of information, and we also failed to take into account the possibility that some of those folks might have some really good ideas that would help solve whatever problem we were having.  LNR was the example that we were following, because almost all deliberation there happened in a separate and private server channel.  The problem being… we had no clue just how contentious that channel could end up being.  I had zero intention of being the voice of the raid… but over time that is precisely what happened.  The thing is… as burnt out as I eventually became…  I still look back on the moments of us raiding together in a positive light.  Namely because so many of the people from the raid groups I have been in… make up the folks that I converse with on a daily basis.  Like all things…  Duranub came to an end, but this time it was only slain by the Cataclysm release and the shift of focus to guild based raiding.  There are several moments that I wish I could go back to, and several raider line-ups that I wish I could pull together again.  With Cataclysm we ushered in a plot by some of my friends to create the raiding dream team… the problem being… it wasn’t my dream team.  It ended up feeling like a really forced thing, and while the team was called “MellyBelNore” it felt like neither myself, Elnore or Melyloss really had any control over where the team was heading.  This frustration… combined with a brand new shiny game on the horizon called Rift, ultimately got me to leave WoW on a semi-permanent basis.

Always in Your System

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The problem being… that World of Warcraft is one of those games that I can never seem to fully flush from my system.  Over the weekend I spent chunks of it playing around on my Blood Elf Warrior that I rolled ages ago on Scryers… as a way of having both Horde and Alliance characters on Argent Dawn.  Once upon a time I was a forum junkie, and with that came pretty frequent postings on the Argent Dawn server forums.  Through them I met lots of horde players on my server, and cultivated a pretty great relationship with many of them.  I’ve never had a lot of faction loyalty, I just tended to prefer the look and feel of alliance races and cities.  I’ve never had that streak for playing “monstrous humanoids” to borrow the dungeons and dragons term.  One of my big regrets has always been that I never really got a character high enough to be useful on the horde side.  I have an account that I no longer play that managed to catch up during Wrath of the Lich King, and I raided a bit with the Batteries Not Included raid…  of which lots of folks are in the guild that I am hanging my hat in currently.  For years we had a relationship with Bloodmoon Chosen, and I guess there was a bit of a major dramasplosion there.  As a result the folks I was actually friends with ended up leaving and creating their own guild called Facepull, and as a result I moved my characters there over the weekend.

I’ve been having a lot of fun, because there is just something about leveling in World of Warcraft that makes me happy.  I’ve not spent much time on the House Stalwart side of the fence, namely because I have no clue yet how long I will actually be around.  I always feel like a dick when I have one of these relapses and folks start saying things like “Yay! You’re Back!”.  I don’t like letting people down, because for all I know I will be gone  in two weeks time when something else catches my fancy.  If you were to look at my subscription history since the launch of Rift, you would see each expansion there are two or three of these relapses, and of all of them… only two managed to stick for any length of time.  What is ultimately going to hurt this time is the fact that I really don’t have much of a guild to return to.  That also feels like my fault, because when I left again this time after us defeating Blackrock…  a large chunk of folks followed me into Final Fantasy XIV.  In the resulting vacuum, the guild as a whole just vanished.  I am looking forward to us ramping back up to doing things as a group in Eorzea, and this past Saturday night before the podcast was a lot of fun.  That said… WoW right now is like slipping into a warm sweater…. or fixing a hot cup of soup.  It is comfort gaming, and works perfectly for being wrapped in a blanket cocoon on the couch watching stuff on Netflix.  It is the mode of gaming that I need right now, and I have stopped fighting the desires for the moment.  Only time will tell if this is just another outbreak of nostalgia, or if I really truly want to be playing the game.

 

Mourning The Past

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Another Time

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Lately I have been struggling with fits of nostalgia, mostly surrounding World of Warcraft and in the middle of it I had a revelation.  I know the moment I started to distance myself from raiding, and the events that lead up to me ultimately checking out mentally.  When the Cataclysm patch went live, Blizzard in their infinite wisdom decided to deeply incentivize guild-centric raiding.  This was probably a no brainer for them, because in truth this is more than likely how the vast majority of people raided.  If you wanted to raid… you went and found a raid guild… and life moved on normally from that point onwards.  Since the early days of Vanilla however…  we never really raided like this.  There was a clear distinction between “The Raid” and “The Guild” that was significantly harder to maintain after Cataclysm.  The reason being that we raided as an entity that was distinct from any of the guilds that came together to make it up… we raided as a coalition of sorts.  In Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, in Burning Crusade it was mostly No Such Raid… and from late BC through Wrath we formed the Duranub Raiding Company.  In each case the “raid” was an organization with a distinct leadership, made up of a bunch of people from different styles of guilds, with the one thing in common… that they wanted to clear content.

There was relatively no pressure to join any of the guilds, though folks did from time to time filter back and forth between them…  nor was the fixed and set number of guilds that made up the roster.  It allowed us to recruit people to fill slots, without asking them to give up everything they knew about the game from that point… just to raid.  It also allowed people who were far more comfortable in five or six player guilds to remain in their small close knit groups, while still having access to a larger raiding life.  It also solved some of the problems that you run into with guild based raiding, where individuals have the impression that if they join X guild they will have an automatic guaranteed spot in X raid.  We were able to keep a completely separate infrastructure, with its own rules and tenets, and then fall back on our larger social guild for non-raiding interactions.  It was a structure that felt so natural to me, and it almost seemed like a personal affront when the Cataclysm changes showed that they would be shifting focus away from this style of raiding, and only crediting kills to the guild with the largest number of members.

Death of Duranub

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When Cataclysm launched we tried an experiment that ultimately failed.  House Stalwart, the guild I had lead since the day World of Warcraft launched… attempted to consume all of the smaller satellite guilds for the purpose of “keeping the raid together”.  So over night we quite literally went from a 600 character guild to an over 900 character guild.  With this came so many different cultures and so many different “norms” that it rapidly became a jumbled mess.  We also made the decision to focus on 10 player raid groups, and ended up splintering the raid into a bunch of teams.  The problem there is that not all teams were created equal, and some of the teams had the deck stacked heavily including more of the seasoned raiders.  So when the progress was not equal, it caused strife and competitiveness between the groups, where it had never existed before.  Previously we were there Duranub Raiding Company… we were a group that made the easy things look hard… and the hard things look easy.  The phrase “Duranub” tied lineage back to a saying that Shiana the leader of my first raid group said about the Late Night Raiders… that we were a “Durable Pack of Nubs”.  In fact Duranub was our attempt to pull out the best things we experienced during Late Night Raiders and congeal them into a modern raid group.

In the process all of the officers sacrificed a lot of their time… and for me a lot of my sanity to keep it going.  So when that disolved and we splintered into smaller raid teams…  it introduced a whole mix of things that I just didn’t care about any more.  I have never been a competitive player, and I have never cared about clearing content first.  I am all about working together with my friends to make bosses dead, and to get new and interesting pieces of gear.  So when I felt like I was in a competition with those same friends, it somehow tarnished the experience.  When Rift launched it became all too easy for me to walk away from World of Warcraft, because the thing that had been keeping me in the game for so long… was this concept that I believe in so deeply.  That you could gather up a bunch of disparate parts and make them into a raid group…  and have fun doing it.  The problem with raiding as a guild… is often times there are people that you end up raiding with…  that you don’t want to share a guild with.  They are great raiders, but lacking in the human being department.  The end result causes you to make compromises…  and either diluting the atmosphere of your guild… or sacrificing talent for the sake of culture.  This is the part that I was never really able to put into words before now.

Extended Family

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I have been nostalgic lately, and it seems to be far less about what we did in World of Warcraft, and more about who I was doing it with.  When I said the other day that I didn’t wan’t World of Warcraft, I wanted the WoW that existed in 2009 during the Wrath of the Lich King patch cycle…  I meant more than just the game.  I experienced that game with a certain set of individuals and a certain feeling of togetherness… and that is the game that I want back more than anything.  So many of the people I’ve raided with, I keep in touch with today on a regular basis…  definitely more that any other group of people that have been in my life.  I don’t talk to anyone from High School, and there is only a couple of folks from college that I keep in touch with other than my wife.  I have a notoriously bad track record at keeping in contact with folks I have worked with in the past… but when it comes to folks I have raided with…  three of the five other people in the AggroChat podcast are folks I have raided with since Vanilla.  Rae and Dallian I’ve raided at least on some level with since Burning Crusade.  Other than that there is a huge list of people that I have raided with in one fashion or another that I talk to on IM or Slack, which shows how much more important this group is to me than pretty much any other.

When you spend year after year with these people, even though it is only on voice chat… you develop a bond that is forged in shared struggle towards a goal.  Having never really been serious about sports, maybe this is the same sort of bond you develop between your team mates, or the same sort of bond that soldiers come out of conflict with.  Whatever it is, it is important to me… and what Cataclysm and our decision to abandon 25 player raiding did was to force me to choose between which group of friends to play with.  House Stalwart forged on without me, and when I came back during Warlords out of the ashes of numerous groups was forged a really fun raid team.  I got to experience the content with people that I had not played with in years.. and for a moment it was magical.  The problem being… even then, it just wasn’t quite the same.  It is impossible to sort out guild drama and raid drama… when both are mixed into one big amalgam.  So as I sit back being nostalgic… I miss the era of non-guild raiding.  If I could bring back any one element of the past, it would be that… and even put in systems like formal raid alliances to bolster that style of game play.  If there is one thing I have learned throughout the years… it is that raid guilds are just not for me.  What I want is to be able to have my friendly social guild… and raid effectively at the same time.  While that might sound like wanting it all at the same time…  I did have it for years, which is why I miss it so much looking back upon it.

MMOs Worth Playing – World of Warcraft

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Changing Course

mmosworthplayingWhen I started this segment of my blog the original intent was to highlight games that are not getting a lot of press and talk about all of the things I like about them.  That said since the column is called “MMOs Worth Playing” I knew eventually I would have to get around to talking about some of the bigger names.  So as a result I am going to have a momentary lapse of purpose here… and go with serendipity.  Today’s is coming on the morning that BlizzCon 2015 starts, and as a result it just felt natural to talk about World of Warcraft.  There was never a point where I would not ultimately end up covering the game, given that in many of the discussions I end up talking about it.  So here we go… my attempt to create an overly positive discussion about the benefits of World of Warcraft.

The Standard

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In every industry there is a leader that for the most part everyone gets compared to.  In the MMO world this leader is World of Warcraft.  Even though this has become the stuff of internet memes… it is by no means the first MMO, or in truth did it invent many of the things that folks attribute to it.  That said it did manage to take the model that was burgeoning at the time of its release…  knock off the rough spots and sand it to a mirror shine.  Blizzard is really good at making games that appeal to the masses, and World of Warcraft is no exception.  The problem is… the “appealing to the masses” has been a moving target causing the game to shift and dodge numerous times along the path.  Each time it has changed course it has created a set of fans nostalgic for their imagined version of “the way things used to be”.  So here we are today, with a legion of fan…  some joyous, some in denial, and some begrudgingly along for the ride.  Everyone has a World of Warcraft story, and if they don’t…  they should.  Every so often a questionnaire circulates through the community asking what game you would suggest a person with zero experience in MMOs should play… and the only actual answer you can give is in fact World of Warcraft.

This is the game that takes the complex concepts of an MMO and feeds it to players in bite sized chunks at just the right times to convert them from a MMO gaming neophyte to a seasoned veteran.  The problem is that we have seen is that Warcraft is really good at creating Warcraft players, because many of these gamers never really venture out into other games.  This is in many ways a failing of the other companies to embrace the same sort of low level educational campaign that Warcraft has.  Sure to us long time players we see the Cataclysm revamp of the newbie zones as a travesty, but in each case they just work better… when you view them through the eyes of someone who has zero ancestral knowledge into the way that these games work.  Each blatant breadcrumb, or cheese quest designed only to deliver you to the next quest hub…  is honestly not for us, but instead for the players that NEED those clear indicators of what they should be doing next.  We recently saw the subscription numbers for Warcraft and in part that number is due to the fact that a decade later they can still manage to induct brand new players into the tribe of WoW.

The Paradox

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I am naming this section the Paradox because it highlights something odd in the game.  When people leave Warcraft it is generally stated that they are leaving because they have “run out of things to do”.  The problem that a game like WoW creates is that in order to keep the front edge of players happy, they have to keep cranking out content…  something that Blizzard has proven to find difficult in the massive lags between end of expansion patches and the new expansion.  The paradox comes in that one of the big reasons why I would suggest this game is that there is so damned much content to experience.  Sure it might not be anything a veteran player wants to do… but for a brand new player this is a smorgasbord of brand new experiences and over a decade worth of sights and vistas to experience.  World of Warcraft is by no means a gorgeous game at this point, because it feels a decade old at times… but there are still moments that are breath taking, like the first time you roll into Booty Bay and see the giant Goblin statue, or the first time you look down from the top of Thunderbluff onto the valleys below.  These are important experiences that I feel like no one should rob themselves of.

So many of my good memories of this game however come from the interaction with the people.  Part of my nostalgic chagrin however is realizing that so many of those players are no longer playing the game.  Many of my best memories are tied to specific moments in the games history that will never come back.  That however is not to say that each and every night new memories are not being made.  People are still loving this game with all of their heart, and I have stated this before that I am more than a little jealous of them.  I miss the types of experiences I used to have in World of Warcraft, but since many of those were tied to my “first time” doing this or that… I realize those are experiences I will never be able to have again.  This is a game I was utterly devoted to for over half of that decade, and still have pangs of remorse when I think about those things I have lost.  This game is powerful, and the experiences you have through it are equally powerful.  Which is why I feel like everyone should step foot in the game and find their own version of those “first times”.

The Model

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As I said many of those moments were because of the other players, but one of the benefits about starting World of Warcraft at this point… is that essentially everything is available to you as a solo player.  That is not to say that I do not suggest that you find your way into a really good guild, because guilds make the entire experience better regardless of the game.  However there really should be nothing locked from you because you did not bring a legion of friends into it.  The game itself is subscription based, but you can get a free trial account to start and dip your toes into the water.  If you end up liking it, the base game is $19.99 and will carry you through level 90, with the latest expansion Warlords of Draenor costing $49.99 on top of that.  The later comes with a free boost to 90… which I highly suggest you don’t use at least not for your first character.  There is a bunch of really awesome content to experience, and part of my frustration in the past is that it feels like these boosts cheapen the older content.  Some of the best content in the game, is well below the level cap… so to skip over a Deadmines, Wailing Caverns, or Dire Maul would be a travesty.  Then to maintain your account it is an older monthly subscription model of $14.99.

Over the years I have said a lot of hurtful things on this blog about Blizzard and World of Warcraft, and in many case those were about specific problems I had…  that most players would never even care about.  If I were creating a Facebook profile about my relationship with Warcraft…  the only thing I could possibly pick is “complicated”.  Similar to my feelings about Star Wars, with all of the hype and disappointment… I also hold in my heart a lot of frustration and disappointment with all of the possibility that was squandered.  I’ve also come to realize that I wholeheartedly love Blizzard as a company, it is just one of there franchises that I have some issue with.  Diablo 3 and Heroes of the Storm are both amazing… and what I have played of Starcraft 2 was really fun… even though I am not really an RTS player.  I anxiously look forward to Overwatch and seeing how it does… and occasionally I break out a Hearthstone game even though that is not a regular occurrence.  With World of Warcraft… I know that eventually I will go back and resubscribe because I always do.  This game has a hold on my heart that even though I have tried to purge it so many times… it stays there clinging tightly.  No matter what my current feelings are for the game, that power cannot be denied.  So regardless of what the current hype cycle thinks…  this is a great game and has so many excellent experiences that you would be robbing yourself of it you did not experience them.  That is not to say that I don’t also think there are so many other amazing games out there…  but when creating a column called “MMOs Worth Playing”…  Warcraft had to be included among that number.

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.