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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.

Categories: Bronte, Guild

MoP Floodgates pt. 4: “Guild Perk Changes” or “You Will Take it And You Will Like It”

April 10, 2012 1 comment

The level 21 guild perk, Have Group, Will Travel was a huge blessing. But with cross-realm raiding, this has an even greater impact that usual.

As someone who regularly runs raids through the fantastic OpenRaid.eu website (I am on there as Jehangir), this little perk is fantastic because you have people from potentially 25 different servers coming together in a raid instance to get some achievements, transmorg gear and have some fun. MoP is removing this perk altogether, meaning every raid member will have to fly to the instance manually.

Blizzard stated that their reason for doing so was because they wanted players to get out in the world and interact with it and each other. This clearly does not apply to cross-realm raids. In addition, the meeting stones (unless moved inside the instance) are useless because you cannot summon someone from another realm to your realm’s outdoor environment. The only other viable option then, is to ensure you always have a Warlock, so you can get going as soon as people are summoned.

The perk that replaces Have Group, Will Travel is called Ride Like the Wind, which increases your flight path speed by an unknown amount. Now understand that this is flight path speed, not flight speed, which means that after getting your flying mount at the level cap in MoP, unless you are an alt leveling, this perk will be largely useless to you.

There is another change that I came across. Chug-A-Lug has been replaced by The Doctor is In. Chug-A-Lug effectively cut your flasks costs in half. The new perk will help a little sure, but it is highly situational and not as uniform an advantage in a competitive raid. On the plus side though, the new perk will likely help boost cloth sales and prices. But then again, the supply demand curve could actually screw sellers as well.

MoP Floodgates pt. 2: “Hodge Podge” or “Maybe, Maybe Not” or “What Got Cut From Launch”

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment
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"The hell do you mean 'The rum's gone'"?

Hodge Podge

Here are some random new pieces of information on the upcoming expansion:

  • Humans and Orcs are slated to receive updated character models next
  • Pandaren may have a “dragon turtle” mount
  • There are 8 core buffs, and they will be shown as a number on your UI (e.g. 5/8), with information on which ones are missing
  • Character customization has been revamped, and if you have played the Diablo Beta, you will be right at home with it
  • The giant statue in Jade Forest will be destroyed as a direct result of the Horde-Alliance war
  • Guild experience caps will be removed
  • Here is an interesting statistic, during The Burning Crusade, less than 1% of the player base saw the Sunwell raid
  • We could see content patches every two months, since raid tiers are “supposed” to last four months, with smaller content patches in between
  • World bosses are back, with Anger in Kun-Lai Summit and Fear in the Dread Wastes
  • World bosses will have unique mounts in their loot tables
  • “The new LFR loot system will grant a bonus roll when you have an item purchased from one of the Pandaren factions. These tokens can also be used to purchase the normal epic gear that is usually associated with factions. This extra roll works in all three difficulty levels. If you win a roll in LFR and the boss has no item for you, you will get gold instead.”
  • Quests of all difficulty levels above (and including green) will give a flat amount of guild experience, allowing lower level players to contribute to guild leveling

Hodge Podge Analysis

Most of this actually sounds fine. I have always been a fan of world bosses, so that is a plus point in my book. The buff management system also seems intuitive. Instead of looking through 25 odd buffs to see if you are missing anything or using addon help, one glance will tell you which critical buffs are missing.

More content is a double-edged sword though. Putting out content faster implies Blizzard may not have enough time to polish everything properly. Let’s take a look at some silly and largely meaningless statistics for number of raid encounters in each expansion:

  • Vanilla WoW – MC (10), BWL (8), AQ40 (9), AQ20 (6), ZG (6), Naxx (16) = 55 Total
  • The Burning Crusade – Karazhan (10), Gruul (2), Mag (1), SSC (6), TK (4), ZA (6), Hyjal (5), BT (9), Sunwell (6) = 50 Total
  • Wrath of the Lich King – Naxx (16), OS (1), Eye (1), Ulduar (14), TotGC (5), Ony (1), ICC (12), VoA (4), RS (1), = 55 Total
  • Cataclysm – BoT (5), BWD (6), TotFW (2), Firelands (7), DS (8), BH (3) = 31 Total

I know they also (re)released the Troll instances, and create three solid instances leading up to the Deathwing conflict, but they added more instances to the previous expansions as well.

My point is that we are getting much lesser content at the end game with Cataclysm. One could say that the 1-60 new player experience revamp may have taken a chunk out of this, but I fear that with bi-monthly patches,  we may be getting more content patches, but lesser content in them.

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"It may look like a cyclone, but that is a monk's fart."

Maybe, Maybe Not

Some features are still up in the air. They are either under debate, or they will be implemented shortly after launch.

  • Titles, if made account-wide, will be available on other characters only after you reach the level where you earned it
  • Mounts will be account wide, and this will happen shortly after launch, if not right at launch
  • There might be another Troll dungeon, bringing the number to four, after Zul’Farrak, Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman. It will be called Zul’Panda. I made that last one up.
  • The 10-man and 25-man shared lockout may be revisited.
  • A third battleground, which didn’t make the cut, is modeled after DOTA
  • Pet battles may come to WoW-Remote
  • Visible librams and quivers may not be implemented by launch

Maybe, Maybe Not Analysis

Account-wide titles and mounts are a no-brainer. I know MMOs are very much married to the grind, but if you have put in a significant chunk of time to obtain something rare on one character, it is just cruel to force you to start the grind again on a new character.

The 10-man and 25-man shared lockout is a tricky subject. As much as people moan and bitch about how this is taking away loot opportunities from them, two facts will always work against the reversal of this decision. First, it would imply that larger guilds would have their work effectively tripled, with the 25-team splintering into two 10-mans, or three 10-mans (with reserves/alts), every week, and therefore put a lot of pressure on players that have grown accustomed to one lock-out. Second, it would be ridiculously unfair to small guilds that only (can) run 10-man content, as they will miss out on nearly 5 times the amount of loot they could get their hands on, if they were a 25-man guild.

The DOTA battleground got cut from launch, but apparently it will still make its debut in Mists. I am very excited about that!

Visible quivers might be cool for (cross)bows. But what about guns? Do we get an ammo pouch? Or perhaps a criss-crossing bullet vest?!

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"We have decided to reuse the opening set from Inception."

What Got Cut

Some things got cut:

  • There will be no Tri-Spec
  • Monks will have an auto-attack, the previous plan was to only have specialized attacks

What Got Cut Analysis

Tri-spec would have been nice, but it is not a game-breaker. No auto-attack really would have made monks unique. Oh well!

More posts on the way, stay tuned!

“Starting Anew” or “A Case of False Guild Advertising”

September 23, 2011 9 comments

Starting Anew

As I have mentioned a few times, I have started playing World of Warcraft again, but this time, I am trying something new:

  1. I am playing on the EU servers. I had been playing on the US servers, despite moving halfway across the world, and the latency was barely manageable. I have a latency of about 100ms, which spikes occasionally to a maximum of 150ms. Very manageable.
  2. I am starting from scratch. I have a new account and as such no money, no resources, no BoA items.
  3. I am playing as Horde. I have never played as a Horde character before, save a Tauren Hunter that I got to level 20 on launch day back in November of 2004.

I am having a blast going back to the basics. But even as I marvel at the fluidity of quest design and quest-hub-hopping (that should be a term), I am painfully aware that soon I will hit level 60, and then I will have to bear through the endless field of perpetual depression that is Hellfire Peninsula.

I am already level 50, an Undead Frost Mage called Cladtyrant. Bronte was already taken, and I didn’t feel like naming myself Brôñtë, because that is just foolish. The amount of experience needed to get to level 50 seems to have been cut by three-quarters from the vanilla WoW days. I remember the time when getting to level 60 was a marathon endurance test of your mental capabilities, as your reservoirs of patience ran thin and you trudged along painfully to the end.

A Case of False Guild Advertising

In my teen levels I was approached by the guild master of the guild I am currently in. “Join us”, he said. “We are a social guild that believe in helping one another and working together toward common goals. We can help you level and provide you with necessary guidance.” Up until that point, I was leveling solo, and I was in uncharted territory (Horde), so I asked a few questions pertaining to requirements and rules/regulations, and finding everything quite “casual” in nature, I agreed to join.

At this point, that seems to have been a mistake. The guild was level 1 when I joined. It is now level 4, so its not like I am benefiting immensely from perks. Every time I have asked a question in guild chat, be it quest-related, a plea for help with a particular area, or just a random comment, I have been met with resounding silence. The irritating aspect is that whenever I see a question in guild chat, I respond 9even do my own research on WowHead if needed) to try and be helpful. Even then there is no response, no “thank you”, or “hey I didn’t think of that!”, or even an “OK.” There is just silence, and silence, in this case, is pretty far from golden.

The “grouping” phenomenon seems to have permeated every aspect of the guild and people only seem to talk to certain other people if they are part of their sub-culture. I feel like I am playing a single-player game with guildmates who could easily be mistaken for well-scripted NPCs with their own lives. They simply don’t acknowledge my existence. And that is not how a massively multiplayer game is supposed to function.

You know there is a problem with your guild if you have a more meaningful conversation with people you randomly group with in instances than your own guild mates.

I want to confront the guild leader, asking him (her?) if they feel the least bit remorseful for completely misleading me. More recently, raiding seems to be getting into the picture and the guild is putting resources together towards forming a dedicated 10-man. That is cool, and whoever has the time should certainly get to use it as they see fit. Except it seems the guild is increasingly branching away from a casual to a raiding guild. Hell, they are even completing guild challenges on a daily basis.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Should I confront the guild leader? Or should I bide my time and see how things go?

“A Sudden Drop in MMOs” or “Scratching the Itch”

December 11, 2010 2 comments

A Sudden Drop in MMOs

I am no longer playing WoW, and quite at peace with the decision. It is a great game, and I am more than certain that the latest expansion is the best one yet, if the commentary of my peers is any indication. But for now, I’m done, and it’s time to try out something new.

Actively, I am not playing any MMO at the moment. Unless you think infrequently logging into Perpetuum and World of Tanks is actively playing MMOs. I am just waiting for all the madness around Christmas time to be over before I jump into the fray with a new title (poll on that soon). There are plenty of choices, just not enough time to invest in an MMO full-time right now.

Bronte, Hardcore

I have also come to realize that casual MMO gaming is not for me. The first few years I played WoW, I played as the GM of a very large guild and we conquered a lot of content. Then I graduated, got a job, got engaged, and life got exponentially more complicated. That necessitated the investment of a lot of time, and as such, my hardcore MMO habits suffered. But life is beginning to settle down again, my work hours have decreased from 12-14 a day to about 10. I am not overworked or being abused, I assure you, I genuinely love doing what I do, and I would gladly invest more time if needed. But that’s the point, it is no longer needed, I have more time in my hands and more still in the coming months.

So I need to find a way to scratch that itch, that need to play in a competitive environment, that exhilaration of downing the first world boss, the excitement of trial and error as you learn a new fight, the clang of axe on sword (or appropriate equivalent) in a battleground, the rush of an accomplishment that stands out in the world. To that end, I need to find a new title to look into. Syp’s post a few weeks back got me interested in Rift. Then Darren linked to a post on Rift’s beta, MMO Gamer Chick got invited to the beta, a certain someone else skipped it altogether, and it certainly piqued Syncaine’s curiosity. Of course Champions Online is going F2P. I have always wanted to try out Lord of the Rings, and apparently good ol’ Dub’s thinking the same thing. And then we have the upcoming The Secret World, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Jumpgate Evolution, Guild Wars 2 and Black Prophecy, although, admittedly, I have no idea when they may be released. There is also the option of going back to EvE, especially with Massively’s new Mob.

These are options I will whittle down over the next few weeks as I do more research on which MMO seems to best fit my play-style and nature, but one thing is for certain: I think I really want to run a hyper-competitive guild again. It is an incredible amount of work and a thankless job, but it is also a lot of fun, immeasurably rewarding in an unsung manner, and comes with its own set of perks and fringe benefits.

Categories: Bronte, Guild

Chronicles of Bronte II: “One Is The Loneliest Number” or “Bronte, Loner”

April 21, 2010 4 comments

Being a guild leader is serious business. I don’t say that lightly. I led a guild for nearly three years in World of Warcraft, and micro-managed quite literally every aspect of the daily operations as needed. This series of posts is dedicated to the memories and experiences of those years and dedicated to the crew I had the privilege of playing the game with.

Leading any group of individuals is a difficult task, especially when they come from diverse, distinct backgrounds, cultures and ethnic identities. This task is made all the more difficult by the fact that these individuals are paying (Blizzard – not you) to be on your team, they aren’t salaried in the same vein as traditional employees. Further, none of them are in the same physical location; they are spread out far and wide across the world, especially if you are playing on a European server. Suffice it to say that being a guild leader is one of the toughest endeavors I have had to undertake. The following is a small chapter of that story.

Links:

Chronicles of Bronte I: “Humble Beginnings” or “Bronte: Dwarf, Paladin, Redhead”

One, Is The Loneliest Number There Ever Was

Following the mind-numbing stupidity exhibited by the leaders of Mortifer Militis, I decided, albeit briefly, that guilds were not the thing for me. There were too many rules for one thing. They had a small number of disinterested, mostly novice and completely self-interested individuals being marketed in General and Trade chats as ‘a large number of seasoned and ever-helpful guild mates’. There were no organized events that piqued my curiosity. Forgive me if racing as a level one, pink-haired, female gnome from Coleridge Valley in Dun Morogh all the way to Stormwind isn’t exactly my cup of tea. And don’t even get me started on the sheer level of mediocrity, foolishness and pointlessness of the weekly meetings. If anything, I found that being in a guild offered me no tangible incentives, while rapidly depleting my pockets of any respectable amount of gold I managed to painstakingly piece together.

I thought to myself: “If this is the way most guilds work, why on earth would I ever want to join that guild?” I quested through the mid-level zones and challenges on my own then, daring the dragon gulch in the Badlands, fighting the Dark Iron Dwarves and their nefarious schemes in the Blasted Lands and taking on the ugliest princess in the deepest reaches of Maraudon. I grouped with random individuals through these disjointed, and at times clueless ventures. Some of them I befriended, inaugurating brief but mutually beneficial partnerships to hammer out some of the tougher content.

The Isrx Alternative

There used to be a Warlock in Mortifer Militis by the name of Isrx. He was one of the junior officers, and one of the saner individuals I came across in that sorry excuse for a guild. At level 51, fending of Frenzied Pterodactyls in the Un’Goro Crater, I received a message from Isrx, asking if I was still looking for a new guild. I was hesitant at first, given my past experiences in a guild. I mean nails on a chalkboard on loop was a preferable alternative. He was adamant however, claiming the guild had some good people in it. They used (I shudder to think of it now) TeamSpeak, and they seem fairly organized. I refused at first, claiming emotional trauma resulting from maltreatment in Mortifer Militis, and went on my way.

It wasn’t till level 52, when I had to undertake the Congo-inspired Chasing A-Me 01. Over the course of an hour, I failed four separate attempts to get the stupid mechanical gorilla out of the cave in one piece. No one on my pathetically limited list of friends came to my aid, and I realized that perhaps, just perhaps, having the backup of a guild mate or two might not be the worst thing, even if that meant subjecting myself to draconian and at times downright retarded policies.

I messaged Isrx. Isrx spoke to Scoota, Guild Leader. Five minutes later, on February 4, 2005, I was a ‘Recruit’ in a little guild called Cross of Vengeance.

Next Chapter:

Chronicles of Bronte III: “Cross of Vengeance” or “Bronte, Loner”.

Chronicles of Bronte I: “Humble Beginnings” or “Bronte: Dwarf, Paladin, Redhead”

March 31, 2010 10 comments

Being a guild leader is serious business. I don’t say that lightly. I led a guild for nearly three years in World of Warcraft, and micro-managed quite literally every aspect of the daily operations as needed. This series of posts is dedicated to the memories and experiences of those years and dedicated to the crew I had the privilege of playing the game with.

Leading any group of individuals is a difficult task, especially when they come from diverse, distinct backgrounds, cultures and ethnic identities. This task is made all the more difficult by the fact that these individuals are paying (Blizzard – not you) to be on your team, they aren’t salaried in the same vein as traditional employees. Further, none of them are in the same physical location; they are spread out far and wide across the world, especially if you are playing on a European server. Suffice it to say that being a guild leader is one of the toughest endeavors I have had to undertake. The following is a small chapter of that story.

Humble Beginnings

Xanthus: Tauren, Hunter, Fat

I started on Bloodhoof as a Tauren Hunter on the same day the game launched. For anyone present on launch day, you would recall the excitement you felt exploring such a vast world filled to the brim with such exciting possibilities. And the goddamn lag! Blizzard underestimated the popularity of their behemoth (still in its embryonic stage). The initial number of servers was severely inadequate to manage the incoming traffic. Within 24 hours, several additional servers went live to accommodate the incredibly ravenous player base. The starting areas were absolutely drenched in newbies, running amok in their new sandbox as far and wide as the eye could see.

My Tauren Hunter adventured through the trials and tribulations of the lush green and visually appeasing Mulgore for the first 12 levels. It took me a week to get to that milestone, partially because I was learning the ropes of playing a fantasy MMO for the first time (my previous experiences included Earth and Beyond, City of Heroes and Eve Online), and also because Bloodhoof crashed endlessly during the peak hours, the only time I had to play the game during my last semester as an undergraduate student.

My Tauren then ventured into the arid Barrens, a stark and sudden change from the scenic, shamanistic fields of Mulgore. I quested my way to level 20, picking up skinning and leather-working along the way, realizing rather quickly that my inability to manage coin was beginning to adversely affect my coffers and the ability to kill efficiently due to a lack of purchased skills. By level 20, the hunter was no longer a source of fun for me, and was forced into retiring, thus ending my incredibly short stint with the Horde.

Bronte: Dwarf, Paladin, Redhead

I started Bronte on the Alliance side, a red-bearded Dwarf Paladin, conceived on the 5th of December, 2004. Little did I know then that this character would stay my main for my entire WoW career. Rampaging through Dun Modr, Loch Modan, Red Ridge and Westfall, I realized that the Paladin class was incredibly powerful, versatile and had a very high rate of survivability, even against a large number of opponents.

My First Guild

At level 20, on December 21, 2004, I was invited to my first guild. I remember I was in the Wetlands at the time, completing some quest involving artifact recovery in an archeological dig site heavily populated by rather unfriendly raptors.

Mortifer Militis was the name of the guild, Army of the Dead in Latin. I thought it was a strange name for an Alliance guild, but having quested solo for quite some time, I was ready to group up if the opportunity presented itself. So I joined the guild, and gingerly stepped out of my comfort zone to try and experience the unique dynamics of player interaction offered by MMOs. My experiences with the guild, to make a colossal understatement, fell a tad short of what I had imagined they would be.

The guild disbanded within two months of inception because the guild leader, named Raygin, enforced such frivolous activities as meetings around the pond in Stormwind’s mage quarter. The meeting started with guild members sitting in a half-U shape around the pond. Raygin, along with his two officers would then slowly walk across the district, eventually arriving at the slightly elevated edge of the pond and addressed the gathered crowd much as king would address his subjects. Especially if he was the king of Retardistan. He would then call upon everyone to recount how their week went, both in real life and in the game. Needless to say the attendance dwindled rapidly after the first meeting.

In another example, I once asked him to help me with a particularly difficult quest in the Wetlands. He responded by saying I needed to submit a written application through in-game mail explaining what the quest was about, and why I needed guild resources and help to complete it. Naive as I was, I still refused to comply to the ridiculous demand. As punishment, I was demoted a rank and my speaking privileges in the guild were revoked. By the end, nearly 95% of the guild was awarded this rank for one misdemeanor or another.

The guild leader also vehemently believed in farming for the guild, and there was a weekly quota of 10-20 gold (10 if you were below level 40, 20 if you were level 40 and above) that every member of the guild had to contribute to the guild coffers. No explanation was given as to what this gold was used for. Bear in mind that unlike the hyper-inflated economy and gold acquisition prevalent in Wrath of the Lich King, 20 gold in vanilla WoW was a hell of a lot of coin.

Understandably, most people burnt out on the incessantly nonsensical activities within the first month, leading to a rapid and uncontrollable hemorrhaging of players to other guilds, eventually resulting in complete internal combustion by the time February 2005 rolled around.

That was when I left MM, and joined CoV, a guild I would be with for the next three years.

Next Chapter:

Chronicles of Bronte II: “One Is The Loneliest Number” or “Bronte, Loner”.

“The Guild Leader’s Handbook” or “How to Get People to ‘Listen the Fuck up!'”

March 31, 2010 2 comments

Via Destructoid, WoW.com columnist Scott F. Andrews has penned a new book called The Guild Leader’s Handbook. The Amazon.com page claims that you will be able to:

  • Plan successful raids, player vs. player battles, roleplaying sessions, and contests
  • Deal with problem players and keep a lid on guild-fracturing drama
  • Solve loot issues and choose the best loot system for your guild
  • Boost your guild’s morale, reputation, and server presence
  • Promote and motivate an effective officer corps
  • Organize fun and safe real-world guild meetings and events

You know you are treating your guild as serious business if you need a book to guide you through it! That being said, maybe some will get some good use out of it. Having led a guild for yearly 3 years in WoW, I can safely say that being a guild leader is one of the most thankless, frustrating and strenuous things I have done in my life.

The book will be available in April.

Categories: Book, Guild