Blaugust Day 27 – Game MMOver?

Well, at least by now I’ve learned how to type Blaugust and not Balugust, Blagaust, or Blasgut. Small victories, folks — small victories.

I’m careening full-speed ahead on my tabletop RPG kick. It’s energising me far more than the thought of any MMO has in the last [insert time span]. In fact, thinking about tabletop playing has energised me far more over the last 4 or 5 years than MMOs have; the fact that in half a decade I still haven’t managed to get myself a regular group with a regular game is entirely my fault and not that of the poor games I’ve perused, pondered and reminisced over. Like my writing (what writing, we ask?), it’s something I really, really want to do — in the case of tabletop gaming, because I actually enjoy it as a social activity and because it’s a great creative outlet… But, as with “proper” writing, I spend more time wanting to do than actually doing. Again, this is entirely my own fault. Time to stop QQing or going down nostalgia lane and DO SOMETHING about it. But for now, let’s talk about MMOs.

MMO QQ

Last night, as I lay wide-awake after too much coffee too late in the day and too many creative juices churning with no outlet (they should make a pill for that), I wondered once again whether I’ve finally outgrown MMOs. I’m not the only one to ponder this during Blaugust or indeed at any other time of year, so perhaps it’s simply part of growing up and growing older, this wondering whether we have outgrown the things we used to love so passionately.

Perhaps. But it’s been 15+ years since I played Ars Magica and I’d play it again like a shot given the chance, so clearly I haven’t outgrown that — or moved on from tabletop RPGs. Not playing because I lack the gorm to get a group together /= having outgrown it.

I think my problem with MMOs is that I have nobody to play them with. Which may seem like a rather sharp about-face given my usual stance on solo vs. group, but that’s playstyle, not playing. I’ve always preferred bimbling around by myself in MMOs — I don’t mind mine being the only butt I see onscreen… but up until a few years back there were always a bunch of other people also bimbling around at the same time, single-butted or otherwise, and I was in constant contact with them through chat.

alone together

In Asheron’s Call we had a large and active monarchy (guild) and loads of people to mess around with even using the incredibly primitive chat. A number of the AC monarchy people moved to Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, and we had friends both old and new cursing the not-so-primitive but also non-functioning chat. We moved from SWG to (City of Heroes, briefly, then to) World of Warcraft, so there again we had old-old friends, new-old friends from SWG, and new-new friends from WoW to chat with on various channels.

And that’s sort of where it ended. I moved on to EQ2 in 2006 or so, and while I made quite a few new friends there, it wasn’t the same either in quantity or in quality… and it only went downhill from there. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of MMOs, and while that’s a good thing in many ways, one of its less social effects is that it has diluted my pool of available friends and acquaintances when it comes to having people to play alone with, together. We’re all still playing, yes (albeit probably not as much as we did back in 2005), but we’re not playing the same games.

Or not at the same time, anyway. Many of us hop around from one game to another, myself included. In the last 5 years I’ve played more games than I care to count, but none of them for more than 3-6 months at a time. We try new games as they come out, and for a few weeks I’m back in the halcyon days of having plenty of folks I know in-game to talk and mess around with… and then I lose interest, or they lose interest, or for whatever reason we move on.

bored

I really thought I’d come home when I started playing the SWG Emulator, as my posts back then attest. There were only a dozen or so of us playing but it was enough to keep the social momentum going. And then… one by one, folks dropped away. Including me. My enthusiasm was in full fire in April this year… and by July it had petered out to nothing. I haven’t logged on in over a month and my houses are probably on fire (well, houses don’t burn, but you can be sure my harvesters are gone). The worst part of it is, I don’t really care.

Because MMOs simply aren’t as much fun when the O doesn’t stand for “Others”, whether their character is on your screen or whether it’s just the characters they type in guild or global chat.

You can never go home

The social aspect is by no means the only reason MMOs are going stale for me, even if it’s a large part of the reason. I know I can slaughter 10 foozles over and over again for ages in the right company, because — well, because I’ve been doing it for 15 years in 30 different games. But there’s another rub: the 2015 foozles have better graphics and perhaps slightly better AI, but the beast itself hasn’t changed substantively.

It’s undeniably another reason why MMOs are going stale for me — even I, with my enormous capacity for repeating content, might be reaching my limit. I stumbled across this post from 2011 just now while looking for links to something else, and it shows that the growing malaise with endlessly doing the same thing in MMOs isn’t exactly new. How quickly we forget the dawn of time when everything was shiny and fun, even after 10,000 foozles. Ah, 1999, those were the days.

But that’s human nature, I suspect.

Back to the beginning

And so we circle back to tabletop RPGs. I started playing MMOs in 2000 because a friend told me it was just like tabletop roleplaying, only online*! You could play with other people at any time of the day or night!! You didn’t have to wait for your half-dozen friends to have a free weekend and pile everyone into a small UK house for 72 hours every 3 to 4 months!!! You could even play alone if you had to and get eaten by a pixellated grue!!

I didn’t get into MMOs because I played computer games (although I played quite a few, including MUSHes). I got into MMOs because they were supposed to be just like tabletop gaming, only different.

Turns out they’re too different, at least for me. I can’t roleplay in an MMO, for various reasons described elsewhere — or rather, I can but I don’t enjoy it. And the thing about roleplaying is that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Sure, some events will resemble other events, some plots will be rather similar to other plots, but those just add to the RP lore and mythos in your mind and in the shared memories of the group.

That element of creation, permanence and effect on the world — even an imaginary one — coupled with the social aspect is what I’m missing in my MMOs. It’s not that MMOs have become crap, or worse than they were, because if anything they’re improving (even if the WoW model is getting a little stale); it’s just that I can no longer pretend I’m getting out of them what I got out of tabletop RPGs.

So while I may dabble in my usual MMOs for the foreseeable future, I’ll be turning my energies to the tabletop arena. It’ll recharge my batteries and who knows, it might even help me recover that sense of fun in online gaming.

dark side

You’re welcome to join me. I’m going to set up some kind of social phlumphty-phlump (AKA I have no idea what to use — Google Hangouts? Vent? Skype? Roll20?) to chat with anyone who’s interested in trying (or returning to) tabletop gaming.

 

* You did have to pay exorbitant phone fees in the era of minute-based internet connections, but we won’t go there.

 

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 26 – LFG PNP RPG

TL;DR: #Blaugust-ians, don’t give up! The end is nigh! (And this is a good thing for once.) Zen is tough. Cute red panda. Call for tabletop RPG players. Poll results = CHEESE WINS.

As #Blaugust wanes, so does the energy of the, err, at least 460(ish)* bloggers. I’m judging this from my traffic stats, which have taken a modest downward turn this week. Others have noted the same.

I can tell you from my own behaviour that I am browsing fewer blogs this week than I was through the first three weeks of the month, not because they’ve become any less interesting — quite the contrary in fact! — but because I am running out of energy. Social energy, for the most part, which is the part of me that reads and comments on blogs, writes and comments on my own (and cares about the comments), and posts/comments on social media. My social energy bucket is damn near empty, and conversely my introvert AUUGGHOTHERPEOPLE bucket is almost overflowing.

full bucket

[/tangent: re: traffic stats, even that’s not the whole story. I think I have people who are coming back more regularly — and who are more than welcome to keep doing so past Blaugust, ohai regular folks! — and who aren’t browsing several pages and/or posts every time. In the first two weeks of the month I had about twice the number of views as visitors, which I assume is partly people browsing and partly the usual dreaded bots.]

But we’re in the home stretch. Go team #Blaugust! And since I had to edit it into yesterday’s post, here’s a mo’ better proper-like link to Belghast’s post from yesterday. It resonated quite strongly with me.

As time passed, the guilt that I felt grew and the measure of that “epic comeback post” kept growing as well ultimately leading me to wait longer before posting it.

Yup. Hopefully Blaugust will have taught me that there is no epic comeback post. There’s just posting or not posting. I’m still trying to learn — beyond my rational mind, that is, which knows all sorts of things my less conscious mind just ignores — that guilt is entirely counter-productive and definitely destructive. But whole empires have been built on guilt, so it’s a tough one to shake. My mind struggles with the concept that I am not a perfect unique snowflake (forever falling short of the pinnacle of said perfection!) but rather a work in progress. Journey not destination, uphill in the snow, etc. and so on.

Zen is tough. That’s the whole point.

[Insert graceful segue to next section. Um. -mindblank- Ack! Quick, cute animal picture!]

redpanda

LFG PNP RPG

I am on the Evil Hat mailing list. Evil Hat are, among other things, responsible for the FATE Core tabletop RPG system and for the Dreaden Files rules, which are based on the eponymous series by Jim Butcher.

[/tangent: I am a rabid Dresden Files fangirl and will turn upon you the full weight of my two literature degrees – though even I fail to see how a French Lit. degree will help in this case – if you so much as cast an iota of the shadow of an aspersion upon those books. I am not rabid about many things. YHBW.]

Just as there is a FATE Accelerated ruleset, which is a slightly different, streamlined, more immediately accessible (‘grab & go’) version of the FATE Core rules, there will soon be a Dresden Files Accelerated ruleset. There has been an announcement. Said announcement includes a call for playtesters.

I AM SO THERE. I have already applied.

pickme

Unfortunately, it turns out that the spousal unit doesn’t have the head-space for tabletop RPGs at the moment. My single other player is, while a wonderful player, at best unreliable and at worst impossible to pin down for a facetime play session.

So I am left with an application in which I claim to have players I don’t, in fact, have (I should probably have checked with them first, huh?), and a tabletop gaming itch that hasn’t been properly scratched in a decade and a half.

I figure the quandary can be solved by finally selecting one of those newfangled virtual tabletop programs (as opposed to merely farting around with the idea as I did a year or two ago) and calling for players.

I am terrified of this. I like playing with people I know. I haven’t played tabletop games with strangers since Euro GenCon in 1993 or 4. But I figure most people here aren’t entirely strangers and some of them might actually be fellow Dresden fans, or players, or simply interested in the idea.

On the bright side, a) I likely won’t be picked anyway because there will be more applications than they need, and b) the decision isn’t made until the end of September, which gives me a little time. Playtesting would occur — I assume — during October and November (ish? guessing) and would require committing to 4-6 sessions over an 8-week period.

Deadlands

I’ve been wanting to run and/or play (but mostly run, I’ll admit, because I’m jonesing to write another campaign or three) for ages and have done nothing about it. I have a number of RL and e-friends in the same boat, some of whom read this. Let’s do something about it. Whether anything comes of the Dresden Files Accelerated testing or not, I have or can acquire any number of game systems including but not limited to FATE, Ars Magica (I’m a 2/3/4E + many house flanges girl for the most part), Deadlands (which I have never played but picked up on the Bundle of Holding a month or two ago and would love to try), Vampire and clones, AD&D, Shadowrun, Cthulhu etc. etc. etc.

As a GM I tend more towards cooperative story-telling than GM/Player competition. I heartily endorse this essential LOOK ROBOT post on being a great player, which applies just as much to GMs; here’s another very worthwhile post.

This is starting to sound rather painfully like I’m filling out an online dating site profile, so we’ll stop here.

And now for something completely different.

CHEESE

Cheese wins the poll so far, by a landslide 6 votes over 5 for pie. I knew I could count on the Dirty Half-Dozen. Yes, of course I forgot all about the poll until now. It’s not like it was important or anything. I live in a pie- and cake-tolerant world.

See you tomorrow, folks. (Also known as: Shooting Yourself In The Foot or Asking to Roll A Natural 1.)

– – – – – – – – –

* AKA I have no idea. It’s at least 60 based on counting new posts in my reader, and I still haven’t managed to add everyone.

Blaugust Day 23 – Haiku Sunday

Foolishly, no doubt, I have decided to revive a short-lived theme I ran on this blog way back when in 2009; some of the haikus produced by yours truly and a few commenters have been reproduced below. Today’s theme, of course, must be Blaugust – use it if it inspires you, ignore it if it does not. Knock yourselves out or just mock my efforts.

Please don’t haiku-Nazi us about form, subject and imagery. This is purely for fun.

Sunday morning sloth.
My Basenjis look at me -
Why do this blog thing?

It’ll do for something yanked out from behind my eyes in 20 seconds.

I am definitely resisting the post-a-day Blaugust exhortation, and yet I am still doing it, hauling my unwilling ass to the keyboard every morning even though I know I absolutely don’t have to and would probably rather not.

This is typical me (typical me, typical me, I started something…) — I am not a joiner, but then I join things anyway and spend the entire time half-regretting the decision, ambivalent about being around so many people / so much of the time… and actually enjoying myself. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a whiny old bag; I sincerely hope not, since being an actual whiny old bag (as opposed to playing one on my blog) is not something I aspire to.

Past Haikus

Melmoth – Theme: Socks
Cold feet in winter.
That stupid Tenacious D:
Rocking my socks off.

Sara Pickell – Theme: Tabula Rasa (just before the fold)
Leaves of amber tint
Glow angry red and blacken
In plasma and rain

Mallika – Theme: Sunday
Relaxing Sunday
Love it when we just stay home
Introverts unite

ArbitraryGenius – Theme: Instances
Just did an instance
there were just four of us there
it was meant for six

Melmoth – Theme: Don’t stand in the fire?
Dancing with spring’s joy.
Autumn’s colour follows him.
Underpants on fire.

Enric Darkstone – Theme: Haiku Sunday
Looking at your posts,
This is your first Haiku one.
Dante Inspired…? -_^

Ysharros – Response
This is the second
Haiku day theme we have had;
There will be others.

Enric Darkstone – Response
My apologies,
I must have missed that posting,
Carry on, madam.

Theme: Hardcore vs Casual

Me:
Did you know this axe
Can slice your head clean off, yep –
Feel lucky, carebear?

Makkaio:
I play a healer
Like it was a tank, so what?
I are L337 d00d3rz

Oakstout:
I love nice purples.
Crafting is my greater love.
How can I do both and live?

Capn John:
The deadliest beast
in Stranglethorn Vale is…
a bored 80.

Blaugust Day 21 – Anti-Motivation and Other Things

Well. I guess instead of moaning about it on Twitter as I’ve been doing for the last half-hour, I might as well moan about my lack of motivation here — especially since my lack of motivation includes the lack of motivation to write a blog post, so complaining about my lack of motivation with my waffly skills should use up at least 200 words, by which time I’ll be 40% there. (There being the Blaugust 10-sentence, 2-paragraph, to-my-mind 500-words-ish rule of content requirement.)

Twitter has been no help at all — well, except for TAGN, who alone responded to my plea for help — and maybe MrC, who totally enabled my displacement activity.

gotnotmotivation

Apparently some people actually have lives and jobs and things to do on a cool and breezy Friday morning other than post a week’s worth of Tweets in an hour. Or provide a desperate blogger with post ideas. Or, better yet, write them for her.

OMG there it is! I should have found myself a guest blogger! That would have been such a cool thing to do for Blaugust, too! Curses.

In the spirit of carpe diem, does anyone want to do a guest post on an incredibly high-profile, Jon Stewart reads this, up-to-the-second, content-stuffed bloggy mountain of infinite delights? If so, apply to the Huffington Post. If you’d rather an obscure cavern of confusion, apply here.

You’ll get acclaim, pride, self-confidence and the absolute guarantee of no free T-Shirt ever. And you’ll be the first guest poster here. (And quite possibly the last.) (Despite the tone, this is a serious offer.)

[Okay, 238 words, only 262 to go. I can do this!!]

TAGN inspires, I perspire

Under the Drunder You Go

Drunder Prison-World may be the most awesome thing ever… It’s basically EQ2’s answer to Lord of the Flies or Escape from New York* with 8,000 Snake Plissken wannabes. You can read the whole post for yourselves, but the basic idea is that the biggest asshats in EQ2 will find their entire account banished to an exile server from which they may never escape, as determined by Customer Service GMs. People can also opt for a one-time, no-refund, one-way transfer to Drunder if they think they’re hard enough. People also have to have a paid subscription account to EQ2 for this, which is just kind of weird. Because the rest of the scheme is totally not weird.

Aside from the obvious issue of let’s-just-make-a-new-account-they’ll-never-know-it’s-me-bwahaha, which I assume they’ve thought of (no of course I haven’t read the entire thread, what am I, made of time?), and the inevitable whining that will ensue when people transfer over for a lark and are forcibly made to understand the meaning of the term “one-way only”, does this have a chance of working at all? My guess would be asshat players will either find a new account to be an asshat on, or will find a new game to be an asshat on; of course if they pick the latter it’s no longer the EQ2 staff’s bailiwick so problem solved.

At any rate it’s a new idea in an industry that always needs new ideas, and it could lead to some interesting server-ruleset variations if this experiment works. And if it removes the worst offenders that’s a good thing. Not that I have any idea who the worst offenders are or what they have to do to earn that dubious distinction. Even in EQ2, which is one game where I follow global channels, I don’t follow the global-global channel because it’s invariably full of over-sharers, eejits, or crashing bores who think they aren’t.

My favourite MMO mount

Hrm. All of them. Okay, probably this one — as the mount you can’t actually ride except for 10 seconds in a specific zone with a one-hour cooldown. (Can you say L-A-M-E?)

Shinri

I’m terribly boring when it comes to mounts. I like to get the weird and wonderful ones but when it comes to actually getting around I’m 100% utilitarian. They need to move without too much jerk, wobble or bounce (yes, the mounts), they need to not fill my entire screen (Pandaclysm dragon-mounts FTW), and they need to match my outfits — by which I usually mean my pets. So here’s my most common mount in WoW, which probably counts as my favourite.

winterspringers

A crafting profession memory!

That’s easy. All of them. I’m a crafter in games, it’s what I am as much as what I do, and any adventuring that happens (including levelling, in most games) is an incidental by-product. Most of my EQ2 characters are max-level crafters — or were an expansion or 2 ago — but haven’t made it out of the teens or twenties for adventuring. I had no less than three accounts for SWG back in the one-account/one-character days so that I could experience all the crafting professions. I pick games based on their crafting options — and yes, I’ve been disappointed many, many times. Which doesn’t mean I don’t play games where the crafting sucks (WoW is an obvious example), but it does feel sort of like playing with half a game. And so we segue neatly into…

Why is there so much Cheese in WoW?

Because cheese is awesome. Because cheese is better than cake and better than pie, as I have stated before (see the no free T-shirt link above if you really want linkage). Because a world without cheese might as well be a world without air. My glorious leader said so:

How do you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?

Yes, I’m French. What of it? You wanna take this to Drunder? EDIT — WordPress is either Francophile or Anti-French. It ate my DeGaulle caption. But since it was about cheese, maybe WordPress just really likes cheese. Thanks for spotting that TAGN!

– – – – – – – – – –

* I totally made that reference before I’d read TAGN’s post about it. GMTA or something.

Blaugust S -15 – Lost in the ARKger Games

I passed on ARK when it was on the Steam Summer Sale, and then regretted it — but regretting missed Steam Sale opportunities is like a twice-yearly ritual for me anyway — so when it was on sale again yesterday I went ahead and picked it up.

One of the reasons I passed on it before was the vast amount of ZOMGPVPganked stuff I read about it, until I realised that ZOMGPVPgank mode isn’t the only one available for the game. You can play solo, on a restricted server, or on other people’s servers. Which at least gave me the chance to dip my toes in the water (metaphorically – you want to be careful about actually doing that in ARK) yesterday and see what all the fuss has been about.

In case you live under a rock like I mostly do, ARK: Survival Evolved, as it’s officially called (because it’s not a real game these days if it doesn’t have a colon somewhere in its name) is… a survival game. In which you try to avoid dying from: heat, dinosaurs, cold, exhaustion, dinosaurs, lack of oxygen, dinosaurs, starvation, dehydration, swimming dinosaurs, the weather, dinosaurs, and (if you want) other players. And that’s only the methods I’ve discovered so far.

It’s less One Million Years B.C. and more LOST or The Land That Time Forgot, though given the costume similarity some confusion is understandable.

ARK_million years
Does my bum look bigger than hers in this?

Aside from the basic premise — don’t die — which is a fairly important one, there are more extended goals. Escape from the Island is the obvious one, though I’m not sure how achievable it’s meant to be and since I haven’t even left the beach I started on, it’s hardly a priority for me yet. Tame dinosaurs!! is another and yes, it must always be spoken or written with exclamation marks. Duh. I haven’t got to that yet either.

Heeere, dino dino dino!
Heeere, dino dino dino!

You’ll also find the standard game goals of exploration, character levelling and skills, building (so that you don’t die from being stomped on by a distracted brontosaurus), and killing shit so you can take its loot (so you can make more shit and aren’t so easy to kill when stomped on by a distracted brontosaurus). And last but not least, there’s finding out what the giant glowy towers are all about, which I suspect ties in with the whole survive-and-escape goal. Unless it opens up a Master Of The Dinosaur Island option, which I’d be okay with too.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

For my trial run I decided to play in single-player mode, which means you can pause the game and the world doesn’t persist when you’re not ‘logged in’. After getting my ass handed to me a bunch of times by dodos, pteranodons*, some kind of giant turtle-thing and a whole freaking school of blood-frenzied megalodons before I’d even made a pair of shorts, I played in dumbed-way-the-hell-down-for-21st-century-slickers mode. In fact, the game lets you customise all manner of things from how tough you are, how tough the dinos are, how long the day/night cycle is (or how long day and night last individually), how quickly you go through food, and so on. You get 24 sliders to play with, not counting the basic ‘game difficulty’ one which I set to jeez-why’d-you-even-bother-buying-the-game?! Because death gets boring after a few run-throughs.

Thanks to Dracosaurian and the ARK wiki
Thanks to Dracosaurian and the ARK wiki

The very first thing you notice — other than being almost naked and definitely not alone on a beach – is that the game is stupdendously beautiful, at least on my spanky not-quite-new-anymore machine. I can’t run in ultra settings because I only have a ‘lowly’ GTX970, but the high settings weren’t bad at all.

Brontosaurus

The next thing you notice is that everything that isn’t you either wants to kill you or won’t hesitate to kill you if you are foolish enough to attack it — even the trees. Since you start with nothing, you literally have to bang your head fists against a few trees in order to get some basic materials and yes, you take damage every time.

After that you realise that time is passing, tick-tick-tick, that you’re near-naked, surrounded by dinosaurs, dinosaur-infested jungle and dinosaur-infested waters, observed by ominous structures in the distance (which almost certainly have something to do with the glowy carbuncle on the inside of your left wrist), and that you’re probably about to die quickly and unpleasantly (chomp!) or slowly and unpleasantly (brrr!) if you don’t start doing something about it. And all you have is your hands.

Which is fine, because it’s enough to start pulling up berries, leaves, rocks and whatever else you can fit into your capacious and invisible pockets. And soon enough you have enough to cobble together an axe-like thing, which makes you more efficient at getting more stuff to make more stuff to oh shit it’s dark and cold and raining and I don’t have a fire and I’m dyyyyyyiiinnngggg….

Dark night 1
The night *is* dark and full of terrors

So you find a tutorial, because it’s one thing to admire the landscape and quite another to realise that sundown will likely kill you. This one (written) and this one (YouTube) were both basic enough and helpful enough to get me past that first half-hour of frustration. If you’re more used to this kind of game and its UI/controls than I am, you might not even need those. I kept banging my head on the desk because I couldn’t move the mouse to the icons on the right-hand side of the screen (until I realised they’re status icons, not menu icons…). It was just a happy coincidence that the YouTuber chap started in the same spot as I did – or vice versa. But I can tell you that the S1 spawn (I think) on Footloose island, or some such name, is a good, relatively safe spot to start. Yes, even with all the dying I did, because most of that dying was self-inflicted.

Rebuilding
Rebuilding after yet another death

And so you make yourself a couple of tools, eat a couple of berries, kill a couple of dodos, and become cocky enough to investigate the actinic shaft of light shouting Oi! Come check me out! to every gamer within miles. Fortunately I’m the only one on this version of The Island, and when I investigate my first one I get a few goodies like a sling and a flare gun. A little while later (after having levelled, gained some new crafting recipes, and become engrossed enough to totally forget about screenshots) I spot another one a little ways around a headland to the south-west, and I hurry to investigate it before sundown. Being careful of my megalodon nemeses, who mostly avoid the shallow channel between my spawn spot and that other headland apart from the occasional foray, I swim and scuttle over and am rewarded with a thatch foundation, 3 walls, a doorframe and a door. Since I’d already built and placed four foundations at my starting point I was stoked, as this would be the start of a proper house…

Supply cache!
Supply cache!

And then the sun went down, the rain started, the temperature plummeted, and as soon as I stepped into the water to get back to my side of the channel the game warned me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t just cold, I was about to freeze to death. So — disappointed but smarter — I quickly placed my single-foundation hut just off the sand, closed the door behind me, lit a torch, and stood there waiting for daylight.

And that’s where I left it. Tune in next week for another episode of LOST in the ARK!

After a few hours of play, my basic impressions are that it’s definitely a fun game, if you like that sort of thing, which I do — and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I also think it’s probably a lot more fun with friends, so Mort and I may try running a local two-player version when we can find the time (and if I can drag him away from his renewed love-affair with EVE). After that, once we’re not as likely to be a drag on whoever takes me/us in, I may try to see if anyone is running a more-people server, because joining a tribe probably opens up a whole new dimension of fun, and who doesn’t want to be an Ooga-Booga? I probably won’t touch the PvP side of things but that’s ok, I don’t have to.

I even got used to the insanely annoying non-MMO controls pretty quick, though I’m sure I will suck at combat until the end of time. But that’s ok. I’ll find a dino or something to protect me.

– – – – – – – – –

* I’m lying about those. They actually flew away from me before I could hit them, with or without an axe-type-thing — which was probably the only thing that prevented me from impaling myself on their claws.

 

Blaugust Day 16 – Halfway There

TL;DR: Yay! Halfway! Animal! Stats! No Project: Gorgon play! But ARK! Yay!

I’m certainly not the only one to be doing this kind of post today/yesterday — and those were only a few of the links I could have done, because I’m shamefully behind on my RSS feed.

Point being:

halfway-thereOr screw calm and just:

animal smallEvery morning as I sit down at my desk I’ve been moaning and whingeing to myself about having to post. And then I’ve been moaning and whingeing to you lot about having nothing to write about. And yet every day I’ve produced around 800 or 1000 words of text (which, if you remove all my tangents and parentheses, probably comes to about 200 words a day but fortunately nobody said tangents weren’t allowed).

Odd how that happens, eh? Yoda was right. To do something, you just do it. And the flip-side of that is that you need to give yourself permission to also not do it. (I’m lookin’ at you, @hestiah! You’re not bad or a failure for not wanting to / being able to / having the energy to post every day!) Yoda’s such a Zen dude.

As many others have noted, however, this pace is a little excessive for me. I’m already noticing that sharing bits of myself every day is quite exhausting and that it’s costing me more (emotionally, creatively, whatever) than it’s bringing me, which is the opposite of what this blog was meant to be. It’s supposed to be a charming boutique-type outlet, not a Black Friday Sale. But it’s equally undeniable that just sitting my ass down and writing stuff (as I used to) is producing the results I’d hoped for: I’m recovering my sense of myself as a blogger.

Now that we’re two weeks into the initiative, it’s fairly obvious I am getting traffic from Blaugust, but the weirdest thing I noticed from glancing at my stats was that the more I post in a single day, the more views I get. Two weeks is hardly a representative sample, though it was a trend I noticed years ago on the odd occasion when I posted more than once in a day. (Maybe that’s not as weird as I think — but although I’m quite decent at some types of math, statistics are voodoo as far as I’m concerned.) The other thing of note is that Twitter traffic has increased significantly, which is no surprise as my Tweets used to be protected (i.e. limited to my friends) and now they’re not.

There will be no Project: Gordon today, because the launcher decided it needed to re-download the whole client instead of just the patch so I sent it to stand in a corner to think about what it did.

And now I’m going to try to end a post before I hit 500 words, because it’s Sunday. And because after not buying it in the June sale, I’m going to get ARK and try it out. Blame Aywren. Ooga-booga!

Blaugust Day 14 – Don't be a Jerk

TL;DR – Project Gorgon… no wait, we’ll do that tomorrow. Introvert vs extrovert: don’t be a dick. Oh hey, I should be fired (from MMORPG).

I sat down to post about Project: Gorgon, which I finally got round to trying out for an hour or so yesterday, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I didn’t really get anything done other than being killed in a couple of interesting ways and trying to talk to a wolf who, shockingly, refused to respond in any way but by “Grrrr”.

As I was using my Google-fu to try and figure out where the game had put my screenshots, I saw that Twitter had some updates and clicked over to see this, from Aywren:

Click it. Watch the TED talk. Nod in agreement if introvert (vehemently in my case) or look bemused if extrovert.

And this scratched an old, old itch in my brain, one I still can’t reconcile and one which will presumably never change. Why is it that introverts can understand and empathise with extroverts, but the latter can’t seem to extend the same courtesy to us?

I’ve been here before. (I’m not going to add any other links because that post is dripping with them. The solo vs group introvert/extrovert debate has been going on since before some of you were born.)

Is it just a case of majority privilege? When white people — like me– in the West say we’re not aware of privilege, or when men say they’re not aware of it (especially white, anglo-saxon men), their saying they haven’t noticed something isn’t proof that it doesn’t exist. You may not have noticed that it’s raining but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that it is, actually, raining. (And don’t get me started on the fact versus opinion debate or we’ll be here all week.) Extroverts may not notice that pretty much everything around them is built for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Check out the TED talk, she’s much more eloquent about it than I am.

facts_huxleyI have no hard data but I’m pretty sure extroverts outnumber introverts*, just as group-type players outnumber solo-type players. And I will avoid the obvious fallacy of drawing a direct parallel between introvert and solo, and extrovert and group; even to me things aren’t that cut and dried. All the same, there are some definite parallels in terms of behaviour.

Extroverts tend to think everyone is like them — or if not, that they should be. My family has its fair share of both personality types, and it was my misfortune (and to be fair, my great good fortune) to be raised by a very extroverted mother. She claims to be an introvert but she recovers energy from being around people, which to me is one of the classic signs. She positively thrives on having people around. Me, I thrive madly for a very limited time, after which I become increasingly grumpy, bitchy, and anti-social. There comes a time when I have to physically get the hell away from everyone (or almost everyone) in order to feel like I can breathe again.

Point being, I get that my mother is like she is. I don’t tell her she needs to be more like me — I don’t even think it, because it’s pointless. She is what she is. There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert.

And if that’s the case, why does it seem to be such a bad thing to be an introvert? Why does every last extrovert in the galaxy feel we introverts are somehow weird and mutated from the norm? My aunt (an introvert who spent her life pretending she was an extrovert and ended a bitter and angry woman) used to tell me literally ALL THE TIME to smile more. To look pretty. To smile. To not be so quiet. To not be in my corner. To smile…

spock-the-introvert-and-kirk-the-extrovert

To this day, being told to smile makes me want to punch something. Fortunately for the somethings I’m very conflict-avoidant and just punch myself mentally instead.

I’m generalising terribly here and I know it, but that’s because one can’t rant without drawing a few lines in the sand. So here are mine:

  • Extroverts: please, please try to understand (and empathise with) the fact that being around people, even people we love, is extremely exhausting for introverts. We are not like you. We should not have to be like you. If you desperately need other people, which I get that you do, then please find another extrovert to spend time with for a little while. Introverts are not closet extroverts who need to be dragged forcibly into the joy of in-your-face-ness.
  • Groupers: please try to understand that solo players often like to play by themselves, and respect that they do not have to justify this to you. Just because your playstyle is the majority one doesn’t mean we have to shoehorn ourselves into your mould. If you desperately need other people to play with, which I get that you do, then please find another grouper to spend time with for a little while. Just because solo players like to chat does not necessarily mean we’re frustrated groupers who just need to be taught how much better life would be if we could only learn to doublethink group all the time.
  • Introverts: please try to understand that extroverts aren’t really, literally, physically trying to suck the marrow from your soul. They can’t help being energetic around other people, it’s who they are. Understand that a little tact when needing alone-time can go a long way and that the OMFGGETTHEHELLAWAYFROMME! posture is the opposite of tact.
  • Solo players: please try to understand that groupers feel games are designed for them (you know, that MULTI- in MMO, because apparently ‘multi’ is synonymous with ‘always with others’) and that you are breaking the rules when you persist in wanting to play by yourself.

Okay fine, that last one was a bit obnoxious; but I am very, very tired of a battle that’s been going on for years. I will never surrender, which makes it even more exhausting. Being in a minority does not make it wrong to be me — because if that were true, then on a global scale that makes it wrong to be male. Yes, it’s that ridiculous. Or left-handed (which I also am). Come to think of it, being left-handed was seen as wrong until not so long ago – my left-handed mother had that hand tied behind her at school so that she could learn to write the ‘right’ way.

Being in the majority does not make you the only possible iteration of a thing. Being the ‘norm’ doesn’t mean that the non-norm is wrong, except possibly at the extremes of that case. Please bear that in mind next time you mentally castigate someone for being in your face, for not being in your face, and for wanting or not wanting to group.

– – – – – – – –

As a final aside, I found this while I was looking for an old MMORPG.com column I wrote on the solo/group subject. As the more astute among you will deduce, that’s my real name. Wait, no. It’s my pseudonym! Whoops.

BURN THE WITCH!
BURN THE WITCH!

The forum post itself doesn’t seem to be there anymore, which is a shame since I never saw that at the time — or maybe it’s a good thing. I didn’t read comments and forum posts over there because of the inanity and vitriol-quotient, so it’s probably for the best. But I sure did like to stir shit among the masses now and then. And no, I don’t really have Bruce Campbell’s chin — there is only one Bruce Campbell.

– – – – – – – – – – –

* Though apparently not by as much as we introverts tend to think

 

Blaugust Day 13.2 – Happy Birthday to me

year 7Or rather this blog — my birthday isn’t until October, so you all have plenty of time to find something suitable. (Early October though, so don’t dilly-dally!)

I would have forgotten all about it but the WordPress Widget Wizard has a much better memory.

This means it is also Harbinger Zero’s blog-birthday, or somewhere in these waters, along with a number of other people who began their careers as novice bloggers during the beta of Warhammer Online and the formation of Casualties of War. Happy freaking birthday, bloggers!

I’m not sure if CoW is dead these days but it sure was fun while it lasted — leaning towards dead, actually, since the link now leads to some kind of site in Mandarin (I’m guessing) with a very white-bread, white-linen, flower-clasping pregnant lady on the banner. Quite tasteful, really.

Um… that’s it. Maybe I should mention WoW, FFXIV, Tera, GTV and ARK just so I can catch some of that random search-engine traffic — PSYCH!! Bwahahahaha.

Blaugust Day 13 – the Dreaded Doldrums

TL;DR – Much soul-searching as to why I’m ‘meh’ about games. Need people. Don’t want dungeons. Insoluble. Inconceivable!

I keep calling them that, but I think it’s more than the usual “I’d rather be outside reading a book” summer thing. I have a million games I could be playing and yet, as I have lamented more than once of late, I’m not really playing any of them. Not to any degree of involvement, anyway. Actually, when looking for posts to link in that previous sentence, I realised that those two “what shall I play?” posts were in fact not weeks, but rather months apart (January and July). Which means I’ve been feeling this ‘meh-ness’ about gaming for some time.

meh_catFirst I wondered if it might be that I’ve simply grown tired of MMOs or, *gasp* gaming in general. I still have fun playing Sims 4 now and then, though admittedly that’s not a particularly demanding game; but I don’t play for ‘demanding’ so that’s not an issue. I log into WoW more out of duty than any particular desire to do so, but I am paying a sub (and have been for the last 5 years – I might want to rethink that) so I might as well use it. I haven’t logged into EQ2 for almost a year now, even though I love that game. I check in on The Secret World now and then, but that game is demanding, specifically in a theory-crafting kind of way which doesn’t particularly motivate me. (More on TSW some other time.) I’m not logging in to SWGEmu much and if my vendors burn up, I’m not really bothered. Aside from those there’s The Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar and Project: Gorgon, and that’s just all the MMOs I have I’m not playing. And I really want to play Project: Gorgon. I’ve backed the Kickstarter and all. But… meh.

And it’s MMOs I want to talk about in particular because I think I know what’s going on.

I don’t really have anyone to play with anymore.

It galls me vaguely to even say that. I’m an introvert. I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I don’t mind — in fact I very much enjoy — bimbling around by myself in games… provided there are other people to chat with. And there’s the rub. While I’m an introvert, I’m also a sociable player and I like to share the experience with people I know. Which means I’m not counting General Chat in any game as an acceptable alternative. Taking part in general chat is like bathing in a sewer — and not the clean, clearly lemon-scented sewers Baghpuss mentions.

Part of the problem is that I play odd hours. I’m not much of an evening player for one, and I’m in a weird time zone for another — 2 hours behind the US East Coast and an hour ahead of the West. (Granted I’m not playing from Australia or Thailand, which I’m sure presents even greater challenges.) I play during the day, which means I tend to interface most with Euro times — and that’s fine, when it works.

Another issue is that while I know eleventy-thousand gamers through Twitter, Facebook, blogging and just general gaming, we’re all playing different games — so even if they’re online when I’m online, chances are we’re not online in the same virtual world or server. And while I am acquainted with many, I don’t really know who they are in the various games; my occasional attempts to hook up with folks in games tend to fall flat because of issue 1 above.

Then there’s the fact that I am primarily a solo player. I did game with bloggers and e-friends at one point, and we even made guilds together, but because I am not particularly keen on the group thing, I don’t really fit in. So I slip out of touch. And then everyone moves on to another (usually different) game and/or stops playing, etc. etc. etc.

I’m beginning to think I’ll have to embrace the group thing in games. I don’t mind grouping at all (ask my SWG buds, if you can find them), but the primary purpose of grouping in most games is to run dungeons and I would really rather not. I’m certain I’ve explained why elsewhere but I can’t find a link, so in 10 words or less: dungeons = too much visual / auditory input for me. I’ve tried the whole desensitisation thing (thanks to friends who kept telling me that if I did lots of dungeons, I’d start to like them), I’ve tried running them with friends (helps because no PUGs, doesn’t help with the whole input-excess thing), I’ve tried running them in different games (and some are less bad, e.g. FFXIV, while some are awful, e.g. WoW). I’ve tried turning off the particles and turning down the sound, but then what exactly is the point? Oh, right — items.

GWdungeon
Makes my eyes bleed (From the GW2 forums)

I am not motivated by items. So the absolute primary reason to run dungeons, which is to obtain stuff so you can run the next dungeon and get even more stuff… just doesn’t matter to me. The only items I care about are my crafting tools, my housing deco, pets, and the occasional piece of clothing. And even then I’m not always motivated enough to get those that I’d crawl over broken glass to get them (i.e. do long & boring quest lines and/or dungeons).

So while I do occasionally run through dungeons by myself when I’m high enough to not get my ass kicked, it’s not something I make a habit of. And it’s not something that really floats my boat or rocks my world.

I have the uneasy feeling that what I really want — which is to be in an MMO for more than 2 months at a time, to have a couple of dozen folks I can hang out with, and to feel at home again in an MMO rather than like a visitor — may not be available to me right now.

Well then. I shall just have to stop whingeing, pull my socks up, and pick a game. Then *I* can be the one player that’s always there even when everyone else ups and wanders off.

Eenie-meenie-minney-mo… PROJECT: GORGON it is! On with the download! And if you decide to join me, chances are you’ll find me as Ysharros*.

– – – – – – – – – –

* Except in all the games where I’m Eloise or Heloise or Alouette or – yeah, whatevs.

Blaugust Day 11 – Mashup and Miscellany

So here we are, HA!s notwithstanding, combing the writing prompts forum thread for inspiration. I would like to shift some of the blame for being hoist by my own petard on the time of day I’ve had to do these posts, because I typically write much more easily in the mornings (which is itself odd as I’m not really a morning person). My mornings have been busy with that stupid Real Life game where you have to keep logging in to grind levels and dailies or you lose your damn mount, your house, and all your other phat lewt.

Anyway, I found enough there to spark a postlet. I am mashing up several prompts because I am a wild spirit and you cannot contain me with your writing prompts even as I use them as crutches! Ahem. Here we go. In no particular order…

5 things you don’t know about me

  1. I speak English, French and German. I also think, dream and sleep-talk in those languages. Apparently it is extremely weird to have your SO mutter in German in the middle of the night. (Presumably this would not be so weird if *my* SOs past and present spoke German.) As an aside, I like to give my D&D dwarves silly German-word names like Achtung and Ausweis Bitte. As another aside, I suspect only Japanese beats German for sounding like you’re yelling at someone when you’re probably romancing them. And finally, swearing sounds SO much more like you mean it when it’s in German. (I realise this is actually NOT a thing you don’t know about me if you’ve read the blog in the last couple of weeks. Sue me. I needed to warm up to the subject.)
  2. I knit and crochet and am not ashamed of either. So there. I have made 275 afghans and scarves and have finally screwed up my courage to tackle actual shaped garments. It’s Zen. It’s also occasionally incredibly annoying (patterns can be teh suq), but it’s mostly calming.
  3. I have an enduring addiction to anything made of paper (well, except papier-maché) — books, notebooks, pads, journals… — and anything used to write thereon. I have made herculean efforts to keep this in check over the past few decades because planet and eco and all that, but it’s — twitch — not easy. There’s something so tactile about paper and the act of writing on it… that and the fact that unless I write it down with a pen, it won’t go in my head or be retained. If I write a phone number down, I’ll remember it right away. If I enter it in my phone or computer, I will forget it instantly. I wonder if I’m too old to change that, but I don’t really care.
  4. I have visited nearly 20 countries and lived in 7. I wasn’t always too keen on it at the time (that UN-brat thing) but the older I get, the more grateful I am to have had the opportunity. Travel truly does broaden the mind.
  5. I am utterly impervious to deadpan. I am also rather gullible and I suspect the two are related. The spousal unit has taken to saying “BAZINGA” after every deadpan joke, just to make sure I actually get it, and it’s helping. As for gullible… I tend to take people at their word and, given how cynical I am about other things, I don’t really mind. I’d rather assume people are telling me the truth than assume they’re lying to me. That’s no way to live.
  6. I can’t count. BAZINGA.

A Stylish Selection of Past Posts

These are kind of random but I’m still happy with most of the posts I did in 2008-2011-ish. Actually I’m still happy with all my posts but the earlier ones actually had things to say rather than being “don’t shoot me for not posting” fluff items, which comprises most of what I’ve done in 2013-2015-ish. (Yes, you sharp-eyed reader, I missed 2012. That was the in-between year.)

Get your RP on III – Begone, Quests! (2009)

Frustrating /= Hardcore. Hardcore /= More Worthy (2011)

Why? – 2008 (As in, Why I play…)

Last But Not Least, Required Reading

And lo, I shall deliver the word from on high. In other words, I shall link to Raph Koster because whether you agree with him or not (and I do with a fervour that borders on the creepy), every gamer interested in the why and how of gaming and MMOs could do worse than read what he has to say. The links below relate primarily to SWG (Star Wars Galaxies) but they and the other articles in the series are relevant to MMO design on a much more general level. I’m sure I’ll get back to that someday because if MMOs have lost their way in the last decade (per my Anook AMA post) it’s by being less like SWG or even CoX and more like WOW. Both these articles are from earlier this year, so hardly obsolete.

Designing a Living Society in SWG, part one

Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two

Peace out. (I don’t usually say that but I had to end the post somehow.)