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“What is my Definition of an MMO” or “MMO Existentialism”

May 2, 2012 1 comment

I am an MMO player. I have been an avid MMO players for some time, going on nearly 10 years now. I love this genre of video gaming. There is just something very natural and recognizable about a world where unlikely heroes coalesce and cooperate to defeat the larger threat. A world that goes on when you have logged off and gone to sleep. A world which has it’s own heartbeat.

Lately though, I have struggled to try and define for myself what playing an MMO means to me. Is it that you get to play with more than 30 people? Is it that there is a deeper sense of community through guilds/corporations/forces? Is it the ability to meet random people from around the globe with similar interests in gaming? Or is it something deeper?

The MMO genre has grown almost exponentially in the last decade or so. As the genre expanded, it has also evolved and the qualifications for what makes an MMO has also morphed significantly over time. These days almost anything that features a substantially large number of players playing together is called an MMO. The browser-based MMO reared its head, and today MMOs like Battlestar Galactica are approaching 10 million subscribed users.

I think for me an MMO is all about the people playing it, it is about the community, and the connections and relationships you make along the way.

It is the difference between the dread you feeling logging into Team Fortress 2, not knowing what batch of colossal idiots you might be randomly paired with on your team, vs. logging into a group of dedicated individuals that you trust to have your back in that battleground or that dungeon.

It is the difference between 14-year olds getting high on superior reflexes and calling your mother a orge vs. people that genuinely care for your well-being both in-game and in real life.

It is the difference between RNG screwing you over vs. RNG’s attempts foiled by a well-coordinated team of individuals that strive together for a common objective.

It is the difference between knowing that you won the game for your idiot team vs. knowing that unless you had your friends and guildmates sweating and bleeding next to you, you would never have accomplished that particular objective.

For a casual gamer like me, an MMO is a community, a band of brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters (I had to!). For me, an MMO is about being able to log in, have fun, play to your heart’s content and have a team that backs you up.

For me, MMOs are all about people.

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Categories: Bronte, Guild

Se7en of my Greatest Vanilla WoW Memories, Part II: “Molten Core… For a Price” or “The Beginning of the Qiraji Conflict”

January 26, 2012 13 comments

Note 1: This is a shout out to the old-school. You know who you are. 😀

Note 2: Part I can be found here. It contains our adventures with Lucifron and Ragnaros in The Molten Core. And our run-ins with the World Bosses. This is a 3-part series.

Molten Core… For a Price

Around the time that the Ahn’Qiraj patch announced, we decided for a multitude of reasons to switch servers. Bloodhoof was severely over-populated, and Blizzard has just initiated free transfers to a new server: Eitrigg. The move itself was fairly drama-free, with over 95% of the guild deciding to move together. We were sick of the server, and this one bully guild that trolled the hell out of everyone on the server. I am not denying that they were the top-ranked guild, and well-organized. I am just saying you don’t have to be an absolute dick about it.

So we transferred, and with us transferred two other Alliance guilds that we had close working relationships with, Harbingers of Death (HoD) and MUSA. I had forged a stable and mutually beneficial partnership with the leaders of both guilds and we shared resources and participated in World Boss kills together on occasion. For example, if they got legendary pieces, we would let them borrow Elementium Ore on faith, and vice versa.

The Ahn’Qiraj patch was still a few weeks out, and that was problematic because we had started to get a little tired of farming Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. With interest quickly waning in the two raid instances, I got my team of officers together for some brainstorming about how to keep the raiding game alive long enough to go at Ahn’Qiraj with the proper numbers. That week, a member of HoD asked me if their alt could tag along in our Molten Core run. He had been away that week, and had missed their own guild’s Molten Core run. 60-70% of the drop were getting disenchanted in the Molten Core anyway, so after consulting with the officers, I decided to let him. This individual offered 1K gold if his item dropped in the Core. The item dropped, the 1K gold was split between the 28 or so people that were present for the raid, and that gave me an idea.

The following day I made a post on the server forums saying that our guild would be running Molten Core and Blackwing Lair to help gear up players and their alts for a price. All they would have to do was show up, and we would farm the gear for them for a certain price. I set up an auction system, where they had until an hour before the raid to bid on items that were not needed by the guild. I would consider all bids before 6 pm server time, make a list of all the individuals with top bids that we would need to take with us, and enter the Core promptly at 7 pm.

That first week, we made nearly 7K from the Molten Core alone, and 7K gold in vanilla WoW days was an incredible amount of in-game doubloons. This led to BWL farm raids as well, and before I knew it, the guild’s raiders crawled back out of their hiding places, and we had full 40-man teams clearing the Molten Core and Blackwing Lair on a weekly basis until Patch 1.9: The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj.

The Beginning of the Qiraji Conflict

*How I Met Your Mother impersonation*: Kids, in the winter of 2006, Patch 1.9 finally hit, and all manner of pissed off Qiraji warriors started pouring out of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj and infecting Azeroth. This was a great event for many reasons, poor implementation and unforeseen server crashes notwithstanding. First, the guild was hungry for new content; little did they know that the content would kick their ass into oblivion, but hey, at last we had something new and interesting to do. Second, the opening of the gates was an epic event. There were cross-continent quests, feats that needed to be completed in large numbers, and an invasion of Silithus and adjoining areas by innumerable Qiraji and their allies for us to fight off.

The quest involved building the Scepter of the Sifting Sands, which in turn required tracking down the Red, Blue and Green shards (each with their own quest lines). This scepter was then used to bang a gong outside the gates, triggering a 10-hour event. And this was the easy part.

The tough part was gathering the war supplies. Both sides needed together a certain amount of materials and submit them to NPCs in order to be able to count towards the server total. When all materials would be submitted, which, on some servers could take several (real-time) months. The necessary supplies were as follows (pilfered from WoWWiki):

Both factions need to gather:

The Alliance needs to gather in the Military Ward of Ironforge:

The Horde needs to gather in The Valley of Spirits in Orgrimmar:

These signets would then be turned into NPCs on both sides. Once all supplies were complete, both factions would start sending troops to Silithus for the war, and over the course of five real-time days, you could see supplies dwindling in the two faction cities as the armies marches on Ahn’Qiraj.

Only then could you use the aforementioned scepter to bang the gong, crack the Scarab Wall, and open the Ahn’Qiraj gates. The person with the gong would get a legendary Qiraji mount, mostly one per faction. If you had a complete scepter, you could hit the gong again and get your own mount, but only within the 10-hour event window of hitting the gong for the first time. Given the pain involved in completing the scepter, this was mostly limited to one person per server. Now that is truly a legendary achievement, to be the proud owner of a mount that only one person on the entire server could obtain. On Eitrigg, this honor belonged to a Paladin from Harbingers of Death, though I can’t, for the life of me, recall his name anymore. I mean this was six years ago!

And then you could finally get into the 20-man (Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj) and the 40-man (Temple of Ahn’Qiraj) and test your skill against the best the Silithid had to offer. It was a colossal event, one that required not only the guild to come together, but also required coordination with the Horde side for completing the war effort quests. It was a test of our perseverance, our patience, and our resources. But we banded together, as we had against every challenge thrown at us since launch, and we went on to conquer both instances, all the way to that sonofabitch C’Thun!

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft

“How I Use My Keyboard in MMOs” or “Too Many Keys, Not Enough Fingers”

January 25, 2012 10 comments

Perhaps it is time to invest in the Razer Naga, because frankly, there are just too many keys to press as a hunter at WoW endgame, the only MMO I am playing with some level of consistency.

But maybe, in the interests of providing some context, I should explain how I use my keyboard.

The Rules

There are a few rules for me when I set up my keyboard to play any particular game.

  1. There should be as few keys as possible
  2. The keys should be in close proximity
  3. I should be able to press Alt to change the function of a key completely.

The Primary Keys

The traditional bar (which I don’t use), allows you 12 keys, ‘1’ all the way to ‘=’. This clearly violates rule # 2, so the most I will work with is six keys. Since the ‘`’ key is not used in the original game, this makes ‘`’ through ‘5’ usable.

I also use the ‘Q’ and ‘E’ keys, while ‘WASD’ are used for strafing and lateral movement.

‘F4’ through ‘F9’ are used for ‘Trap Launcher’ and the five subsequent traps respectively. ‘F5’ has ‘Freeze Trap’ on it. The logic is that in the heat of battle, I can hit ‘F4’ (easy to find), then ‘F5’ (next to it after a dip) without having to look at my keyboard.

‘X’ is used for autorun.

The built-in shortcuts for various WoW menus and interface panels remain largely untouched.

The Alt Key

I also use the Alt key to completely change another key. For example, pressing ‘E’ normally triggers ‘Rapid Fire’. Pressing alt changes ‘E’ to ‘Readiness’. It makes sense two me because these two abilities are used closest together in a raid environment. The same logic applies to several other keys. For example, ‘4’ fires ‘Chimera Shot’. Pressing alt changes this to ‘Serpent Sting’. So you press alt to cast ‘Serpent Sting’ once, and then release alt and over the course of the fight, press ‘4’ to cast ‘Chimera Shot’, which refreshes ‘Serpent Sting’. The following macro makes this work:

#showtooltip [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting
/targetenemy [noharm]
/petattack [@target,exists]
/petfollow [@target,noexists]
/use [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting;

The lines regarding the pet simply directs my pet to attack the target I am attacking. This is rolled into about every ability to ensure they assist me every time. I find the pet bar option to be unreliable.

The Mouse

Left, Right and Middle buttons are a given. I also have two side buttons on my mouse, so both of those buttons ‘B4’ and ‘B5’ also get used. Using the alt and ctrl keys transforms these two buttons into six buttons. For example, my “survival” abilities are ties to ‘Button 5’.

‘Button 5’ = Disengage (used most often)
Alt + ‘Button 5’ = Feign Death
Ctrl + ‘Button 5’ = Deterrance

Clique Mod

In addition to this, I also use Clique mod, and some of my abilities are directly programmed into it, for example, alt-clicking any portrait will cast ‘Mend Pet’ on my current pet. Middle clicking on any portrait will cast ‘Misdirect’ on that person.

Here is a screenshot of my keyboard set-up:

I hope the commentary above now makes sense with this.

The following are some of the problems that I think exist with this setup.

  1. The Clique mod is being used for only two abilities. I think I can intelligently ramp up this number and tie in some keys that can get em out of a pickle in the heat of battle.
  2. The Ctrl key is hard to reach, and only programmed into one of the “survival” groupings. I think I should get rid of this.
  3. The ‘Z’, ‘Shift’, ‘F’ and ‘8’ – ‘=’ keys are not being used. Thought it must be said that aside from ‘F’ most of these are hard to reach, given my set-up.
  4. The keys ‘F1’ – ‘F3’ are not being used. But I don’t know what to put in there.
  5. There are too many buttons. This may be really screwing me up in the grand scheme of things.
  6. Since I use the mouse buttons very extensively, I think I should get a Naga-esque mouse with more than just two extra buttons to play with.

Any suggestions for improvement?

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft

“Fried Desktop” or “Stupid Electrical Storms”

January 16, 2012 4 comments

An accurate portrayal of the last thing my desktop ever saw...

So an electric storm fried my PC. The laptop and the Xbox are still intact, and I am grateful. But this also means that 120 hours of work in Skyrim has effectively effervesced onto whatever the digital equivalent of heaven is.

I came up with a creative solution for backing up my save game data though. All games that I have at this point, I am redirecting their folders as shortcuts in my Dropbox (check it out if you don’t know what it is, its amazing!) This way even if one PC fries, the files are synced across all computers that I have Dropbox installed on, and on their website!

Unless anyone else has any clever ideas…

Also wanted to share this little gem of a conversation I had with someone in trade chat recently:

 

Categories: Bronte, Skyrim

“Assassin’s Creed: Comparisons” or “Sins of Video Game Predecessors”

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Ready for a rant? Here we go.

It happened with Gears of War 3. It recently happened with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

In of itself, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a great game. It certainly plays a lot better if you have the previous games at the back of your mind, the mechanics are easier to pick up, the button combinations are familiar and the complex story continues from where it left off. However, even if you never played another Assassin’s Creed game, Revelations is a fantastic title. It is well-designed, the graphics are top-notch, and iterations of the same formula implies that Ubisoft has improved the game over the last five odd years into a smooth, entertaining, unforgettable experience.

What irks me though, is that nearly every review of the game incessantly compares it to previous titles in the series, and complains about how there has been “too little improved”. The same reviews give the title fairly high scores and say how well it plays, but at the same time complain about how familiar it feels. What is wrong with feeling familiar I ask? Why is it that we as gamers, and critics alike, cannot see a game on its own merits, irrespective of previous iterations. Sure it must be difficult at times, especially if it is a continuous story arc (like Creed or Gears) as opposed to separate stories (like GTA), but if a game is good, why does it matter what its predecessor did or didn’t do right?

I don’t think that practice is fair. I don’t think tinting the review because of a previous title gives us an accurate idea of the merits of the title under review in an unbiased fashion. And I think we should collectively stop doing that. So say we all!

“Self-Vindication” or “I Guess I am a Good Judge of (Video Game) Character”

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Via Kotaku, Skyrim, Portal 2 and Bastion lead the nominations for the 2012 Game Developer Choice Awards.

These are the same three games I mentioned in a post not long ago!

Categories: Bronte

“Oddball Confessions” or “Decimating Dragons”

December 28, 2011 10 comments

"I'm too sexy for this shit!"

I am an odd gamer. Or at least I like to think that I am. I play a lot of video games, across just about ever genre. The only exception is fighting games and racing games (although Split/Second came a long way to change that). But unlike a rational human being who stops playing a game because of a certain reason, such as increasingly lack of interest, boring story, shoddy mechanics, or simply that something better came out, I have to finish a game I have started. It is a weird obsession.

All other factors notwithstanding, three things drive me in a game:

  1. The story
  2. The amount of fun I am having
  3. The fact that I can cross it off of my list when I finish it

Most of the time, a combination of 1 & 2 in varying degrees of success suffice, with 3 being the constant. However, a recent game has kind of ruined this simple three-point agenda for me.

Decimating Dragons (isn’t heroic)

I played The Elder Scrolls for 72 hours in less than two weeks. I couldn’t get enough of it. At the end of the 72 hours, I had barely touched the main quests, reached level 50, brought the thieves back into power in Riften and discovered dozens of random locations as murdered my way through the land. It took a well placed single shot from my legendary Daedra bow to bring an Elder Dragon crashing down to earth, and for me to realize that I was far more powerful than the game intended for me to be at this stage. And that, you see, is a serious problem.

Now don’t get me wrong, I want to finish Skyrim. I love the story, the setting, the graphics. I have installed close to 20 mods to tweak the look of the game to be as gorgeous as my monster of a machine can make it, and even in my over-powered state, I am enjoying the game. In essence, 1, 2 and 3 are all satisfied, but somehow I know this isn’t the way to play Skyrim. I am also dreadfully aware that having an overpowered character is why I stopped playing Fallout 3.

"Come to papa!"

I know that when I come across that Ancient Dragon, it is supposed to be a tough fight, like the second dragon I randomly encountered in the world. I know I am not supposed to clear out a high-level dungeon without a companion by simply sneaking and single-shotting everything from the shadows. At this stage in the game, I can lay waste to entire armies without ever breaking a sweat. I am the Wrath of Odin incarnate. I am Fire, Frost and Shadow personified. I am Alpha and Omega.

And I know there is no challenge left. And this, oddly, adds a fourth dimension to the game that I was not aware of: balance. In order to be the hero, you must be able to perform heroic feats in the world. Tearing a dragon asunder with a single Elven Arrow isn’t exactly very heroic, in fact, as it turns out, it is incredibly lame. I haven’t played Skyrim in five weeks now. I want to play it. There are so many quests in my log. There are so many locations I haven’t visited. There are so many people I haven’t helped. But I am just constantly put of by the fact that when I do get back in, all of it will be so incredibly easy, it wouldn’t make for a meaningful experience. Ever get to this stage?

Images courtesy of Dead End Thrills.

Categories: Bronte, The Elder Scrolls