First MMO Played? Asheron’s Call
First Character Class/Role Played? Archer
First MMO Subscribed For More Than A Consecutive Year? Asheron’s Call
First MMO You Fell In Love With? Asheron’s Call
First Guild You Really Felt Attached To? The Knights Who Say Ni (Asheron’s Call… see a theme developing here?)
First Character/Game You Leveled To End Cap? Technically, none, since the goalposts keep moving. SWG (Star Wars Galaxies) didn’t have levels but I had multiple masters all over the place. (SWG was also the first and only game where I’ve ever had 3 accounts running at once.)
First “Wow” Moment In A MMO? Logging in for the first time ever and being totally overwhelmed. If I have to be more specific, it was the first time I got an in-game house (again, Asheron’s Call). That was just amazing.
First MMO You Burned Out On? Star Wars Galaxies — there comes a point when a ridiculously thriving business suddenly turns into a job and you know it’s time to quit.
First MMO You Followed Avidly Prior To Launch? Horizons
First Time You Felt Truly Noobish In A MMO? I always feel noobish. I’m a permanoob and proud of it; the day you think you have nothing left to learn (in an MMO or elsewhere) is the day you may as well give up.
First MMO You Went Alt-Crazy In? All of them. Duh!
No tagging — just take it and run with it if you like the theme.
… at least for a month or two; after that, the way I’ve been game hopping, who knows.
But for now, I’ve been firmly grabbed by the crafting jibblies by EQ2, and by the sheer coolness of finding a guild that’s just like the ones Mort and I used to make, only with more — and more active — people. (This is the guild leader’s graphics site, by the way. And her blog. A little plugging never hurt anyone!)
I waxed lyrical about guild halls last week, but this week I actually got to be part of a working one and to discover some of the stuff that’s been added to EQ2 in the years I’ve been away. In an MMO-purist way, some of these changes are tantamount to heresy… but the less time I have on my hands, the more I’m starting to appreciate that there’s a point past which purism just becomes dogma.
The original, heavily interdependent, very heavily subcomponent-dependent EQ2 crafting system has been almost totally overhauled. That shocked me a little at first, and it’s weird to be able to make a bow without first having to make staves, strings, dowels, and lord knows what all else first — but on the other hand, it means you can actually get something done without pulling your hair out over the million little details. Note that I’m not saying interdependency is bad, but that it requires a fully-fledged support system including, at the very least, a way to place purchase orders.
If I can have some jobbing crafter make my bow-subs that’s fine; if I can request 1,000 masticated oils to use in woodworking, for which I’m willing to pay X amount, that’s good too. Waiting on people to be online, trying to haggle with folks who have plenty of other crap to be getting on with, and trying to do business via in-game mail when you have 18 million subs made by 9 different tradeskills is just stupid. So much so, in fact, that most “serious” crafters in most games that have “serious” crafting end up making crafting alts because it’s a damn sight easier to log in an alt to get what you need than to wait who knows how long for someone to show up who can make it for you. And no, I don’t mean auction houses — that’s supply. What I’m talking about is being able to set a demand. There’s a differece, and it’s essential to a real crafting system — but I’ll get off my soap-box for now since interdependency and player-crafted economies aren’t really what I want to talk about here.
Yes, EQ2 crafting is now most grossly independent — shame, heresy, burn the witches. On the bright side, it’s a lot more fun.
Another thing that was added in my absence was “timed writs.” Writs are like crafting orders given by NPCS — get the writ, make the stuff, turn it in for some money, xp, status and faction points. Back in 2006, writs were mostly something you did to help level up your guild or get personal status points (for shiny stuff like fancy houses, clothes, etc); one thing you didn’t really do them for was to make a living, because they barely paid enough to cover the cost of making the item (each recipe requires a certain amount of a certain kind of fuel, and fuel gets more expensive as you level up). Now, especially with timed writs, you not only get your fuel costs back — about damn time! — but you also get a reasonable chunk of change: my 70-ish provisioner (chef) is making 6 gold or so per writ, and since they’re timed they’re guaranteed to take 8 minutes or less. Sure, there’s the cost of the resources, but when you’re a harvesting ho like me it’s actually quite nice to have something to do with all those resources; there’s only so much Exploding Head Iced Tea any server population can buy. Which is another eternal crafting problem: crafters usually love making stuff, but there’s generally far less demand than what I like to make. Writs keep me busy, suck up resources — always a good idea in an MMO — and make me feel productive on both a personal (xp & money) and a social (guild xp) level. What’[s not to like?
But wait, there’s more! Now, if I craft in the guild hall, I don’t have to cart all my resources around on me, oh no! The guild has a marvellous “harvesting depot” which can hold quite large amounts of resources, and if you’ve got the doohickey enabled, recipes you make using the guild hall crafting stations just grab what they need from the stores in the depot. I’ve already dumped a bunch of stuff in there to somewhat make up for all the stuff I sucked up today levelling from 70 to 73, and I think the whole “resource dump box” idea is brilliant in all respects. (Yes, you have to trust your guild members, but that’s nothing new.)
Have I mentioned that this Halasian Empire guild hall has a full-service basement with bank, broker, merchant, writ-NPCs, and even a pet badger called — what else? — Mushroom wandering around upstairs? There’s a piano lounge, a practice area with target dummies you can practice your skills on (and I don’t mean me), an ice room, an indoor garden, and a Hall of Phat Teleportation that can take you pretty much anywhere you need to go in EQ2. This would be another of those heresies: the removal of tedious travel. Meaningful travel I’m all for, but I don’t think it’s possible in a non-scripted, non-tabletop type game — what we’ve been doing for a decade instead has been tedious travel, for various reasons I’ve explored before. So now I say hurrah for 15-minute guild recall timers, and hurrah for magic doors that can take me from my house straight into the guild hall (especially in a game like EQ2 that’s nothing but zones, zones, zones — anything that cuts down on the number of loading screens I have to see is A Good Thing).
The only real downside to these guild halls, as far as I’ve seen, is that they are so cool I can’t see why most people would ever bother leaving them. That said, the addition of a couple or three new capital cities probably doesn’t help as far as diluting the player pool goes, and the weird partitioned design of Qeynos and Freeport ends up making both cities feel pretty fragmented anyway. On the other hand, I’ve never been a fan of Ironforge-like crushes of people strutting, swearing, spitting, scratching, shouting, spamming, and doing whatever else crushes of people do in WoW.
There are a host of other little changes that have had me going NOWAI!!! at regular intervals in the past few days, but I’m desperately trying to keep my post wordage under 1000 (y’all have stupidly short attention spans, according to the internetz) and I’m already over by several hundred more. Maybe for the next post I’ll remember to take some more pictures, and I plan to fess up on how my “no alts! one focus!” vows held up for all of about 5 seconds and how I reactivated my old account when I said I almost certainly wouldn’t (which is how I have a level 70 crafter — nobody unbotted levels that fast in under a week).
I’m blatantly copying KIASA’s search-term roundup, not because I’m desperately short of things to say but because sometimes, you have to wonder how your blog ends up as a result on some searches… and because sometimes, the shoe just fits.
The top search term leading here is, apparently, “Movies” — so I write one lousy post about a movie-making game, and that’s what I show up for? Hrmph.
Not too far behind is “haiku” which must be a huge disappointment for all the people following links to this place.
And then there’s “hungover” — again, one post and I’m tarred for life? Just like real life: one drink and I’m liable to have a huge hangover the next day. I’m not the youth I used to be, I guess, and when it comes to drinking copiously these days I am, as they say in England, all mouth and no trousers. (Which always makes US people giggle — really, it’s not THAT rude! Or, as Texans apparently have it, all hat and no cattle; not something I hear here on a daily basis, but maybe I move in the wrong hatless circles.)
Also, in no particular order: epic fail guy and epic ass (love it), about 18 variants on war, server, transfer (servertransfer war, war transfer server, warfer sertrans…) or war, character, transfer, cyber granny’s team spirit (is that you, Esri?!), victorian street urchin, back off (damn straight!), free trial account for freaky creatures (why yes, yes I am — oh, you mean the game? I’ve never even mentioned it, why am I showing up on a search result?), and scary wizard.
Sadly, some of the really weird and off-the-wall ones aren’t in my list anymore; I’ll have to pay closer attention and make a note of them.
Truly, the intertubes are a strange place. Happy Mondays. (Uh oh, there’s another search term hijack.)
Yep, it’s that time again.
1. I noticed I was on several people’s blogrolls, people whose posts and sites I enjoy, and yet they weren’t on mine. This has been fixed. If you’re still out in the blogroll cold, let me know. It’s not an ego thing, but I do like to reciprocate. There was a time when I was better informed of incoming links, but lately I seem to miss them all, and instead all the “incoming links” info I get relates to me appearing in related posts or something — pretty useless.
2. I still haven’t synched up my blogroll and my RSS feed (which leads to a lot of 1. above — those sites are all in my feed, so I forget that they’re not linked on my site for the benefit of the occasional clicky visitor).
3. There is no three, but Antioch demands one anyway.
4. There is no four!
That is all. In honour of the upcoming movie, live long and prosper.
It won’t be a huge surprise to my fellow Twits (that’s the polite version) and probably not to those others of you reading between the “woe is me! I’m so jaded” lines, but I’ll state it anyway: I’ve decided to give EQ2 another spin. Last time I played it was from sometime in 2005 to sometime in 2006, probably right around 6 months all told. It was around the time of the… combat revamp? (SoE just can’t help themselves, can they?!) — something like that, and we unsubbed not too many weeks after Kingdom of Sky came out. So, all in all, it’s been not quite 3 years and in 3 years it seems they can add a lot to a game. Like fae and a grunch of new places and god only knows what else.
What I do know is that next time I decide I want to re-try an old game, I want to have that brilliant idea in the evening so I can set the client download going overnight and come to it the next day; that way I don’t have to pace around chewing my nails and wondering what I might do with myself while I’m waiting. If I’d had work, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but I got done quickly today and spent most of the afternoon doing one of those boredom-montage scenes. Ysh playing Freecell — cut to — Ysh chewing nails — cut to — Ysh stirring coffee — cut to — Ysh staring out of window while idly cutting own hair into odd punky shapes — cut to — Ysh banging head on desk — and so on.
Eventually, however, all the little bits and bytes were where they’re supposed to be and I was able to start up the client. It seems that every even time I fire up the client, it crashes on the “Loading Entities” stage, which I seem to recall being an issue back in 2006, too. Fortunately so far it has eventually let me get to the character select screen, so it could be worse. (Yeah, like Runes of Magic not even downloading. Pfeh. As far as that kind of thing goes, I’m Miss Intolerant from Bigotsville. Web pages must load in the time it takes me to blink, and games should download and at least run semi-reliably. Course, with 1 out of 2 EQ2 client-runs working, I guess that is semi-reliable. Hoist by my own poor standards!)
Since they were new to me I made — need you ask? — one of those cute little fae critters, though the Freeport mob always seem SO much more interesting and that goes for the bad evil nasty sexy in a jailbait kinda way naughty-fae — sorry, I forget what they’re called. It’s a shame Freeport is such a vomit-coloured pit for the most part or almost all my chars would be bad guys but that’s what betrayal is for. And since I love you, I took a screenshot — actually I totally forgot but I fired up the client again just for you. She’s not nearly as ridiculously good looking as all of Stargrace’s screenies are now, but as usual I have to say that ANY game looks a lot better on a 28″ screen; I’m not complaining. I was prepared for it to run pretty slow and not look all that good, because my machine is the same now as the one I used in 2006, but the graphics card has been upgraded and that seems to have helped (even though EQ2 is said to be an intense CPU hog); we’ll see how it holds up over the next few days, but I’ve got most of the settings on at least high and it’s looking pretty good. I may smoosh the antialiasing up a bit — you sure notice those jaggies a lot more on bigger monitors (yeah, it’s a hard life).
I was a little shocked to level every time I sneezed, I have to admit… but it *is* a trial and I apparently started out with a full bar of rest xp or vitality or whatever it’s called in EQ2, which explained a lot. Skill certainly didn’t — it rapidly became apparent that I’ve forgotten almost everything about the game. Firing arrows seemed really odd and not very responsive, which I do remember but I don’t remember how one plays to that rather than struggling against it. It’ll come back to me, though I did realise I should probably have made a melee-DPS char to start with, since those are always closest to my comfort zone and I can probably remember how to play a swashbuckler. Tomorrow maybe; okay, maaaybe today; maybe right now. (Yes, I know I swore high and low to some of you that I won’t make alts — the trial doesn’t count! That’s what trials are for! It says so on the box.)
So, after an hour or so of wobbling around extremely uncertainly and bumping into mushrooms (which has nothing to do with fae constantly being drunk, that’s just a scush– scirril– scurrila– nasty rumour) and of course levelling every time I sneezed, I’ve ended up at level 4. Flush with my new ultimate cosmic power, I took on a level 5 goblin and totally flubbed it. As my little wings crumpled sadly over my corpse, I realised it was probably time for bed.
There are a couple of morals to this story. One, getting to reknow a game that has moved way past you is almost as good as getting to know a brand-new game. In some ways, it’s even more confusing because I keep thinking I remember stuff but I don’t, or keep expecting something and getting something else — and of course I keep hitting I when I mean B and C when I mean P and god only knows why the left and right arrows turn in normal mode but suddely become strafe when I’m in combat — but hey, all that stuff is actually fun, in a head-explody kind of way.
Two, something’s gotta give. I can usually justify two game subs, because there’s a reasonable chance I can find the time to putz about in two games; but three games — unlike with Holy ammunition — is just not on. It’s not just the money, though these days that’s certainly a consideration; it’s mainly that I’ve never managed to play 3 games concurrently, so there’s no point keeping 3 subs. For the next two weeks though, I’m not officially subbed to EQ2, so I don’t have to decide right now. After that… it’ll be a battle between WoW (not bad but am feeling somewhat over-extended and I’ve seen most of the new stuff I wanted to see), City of Heroes (great fun, good at what it does, but limited in many ways) and EQ2. We’ll see.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank all the Twits for the Dating Game contest yesterday — not that I like making people admit how utterly fabulous I am, but it was heartening to say EQ2 and have a chorus of tweets coming in from half a dozen people (and then some). With cross-server chat, there’s a chance I might not be playing in a vacuum, and that’ll be great. (Yes, I know how to make new friends. What I’d like however is to play with some of the new friends I’ve made and never really played with. )
Ah bugger, over 1000 words and I was going to try to stay reasonably brief. Anyway, it’s time to play.
It’s about time I admitted that there isn’t an MMO out there that will hold me for more than 2-4 months at a time anymore. What I can’t figure out is if that’s because I’ve outgrown the genre or because of some flaw in the genre itself — or both, or indeed neither. The last game I played for more than half a year at one stretch was my last stint in SWG, which I played “seriously” for about 6 months and then spent 2-3 more months breaking up with (that phase where you’re not really playing anymore and you’re gradually walking away but you haven’t cancelled your subs yet). The only game I can say I played continuously for years is Asheron’s Call, not coincidentally my first ever MMO; I’ve played several other games over several years, but only in shorter stints, and since about 2003 or 2004 my average game-sub stint has been 2-6 months.
Ultimately I’m not too concerned as to why; it’s interesting to speculate about for a while, as I’m doing here, but in the long run it may not be particularly productive. If I’ve outgrown the MMO genre, then that’s just a fact of my gaming life, and if it’s because the genre itself is flawed, then that’s not something that’s going to change overnight — assuming it ever does. It’s probably a little of both, anyway. My life is what it is and I’ve got work and other non-game commitments like everyone else past a certain age, and to be honest I’m glad of it. I’m not the person who could spend 8+ hours in game several times a week anymore. I can’t drink like a fish and pull all-nighters anymore either. Ah, the resilience of youth. All that stuff was fun at one point in my life, but it doesn’t really appeal so much these days.
And one of the reasons why MMOs may not be as gripping anymore is that a treadmill by any other name (or with any other UI and graphics) is still a treadmill, and the underlying principle of most MMOs (and many RPGs, for that matter) is the steady upward climb. We progressively get more powerful and it takes ever more effort to get a certain amount of progress and… well, that’s it, if you strip it down to the essentials. It never happens that we suddenly lose half our levels — and it shouldn’t, because games that rely on upward progression as their primary activity cannot in all conscience require you to randomly have to do it all again. If they did nobody would play them; alts are one thing, but redoing levels X to Y on the same character would cause howls of justified outrage — see also the discussion on the need for/extent of death penalties in games.
Sandbox games are a little different, in that you can to varying extents make your own goals and you’re not necessarily tied to the item/level/skills treadmill. Even those, however, have grown a little stale for me over the years, and that’s probably more down to me than down to the sandboxes. Part of the problem is that leaving a game for any length of time tends to feel as though it’s not worth coming back — if you stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, you’ll lose your place, get left behind, whatever… even when the only goals you’re really living up to are your own. Going on from that, I discovered awhile back that getting un-addicted (metaphorically and mildly speaking) from a game is just a matter of not logging in for a day or two, at which point that all-consuming itch dwindles away and the game resumes its normal (and probably proper) importance in one’s life. I know how easy it is to stop playing now, and in a perverse way that decreases a game’s importance to me and thus the amount of time I’m going to invest in it, especially over a span of weeks or months. I suspect that’s far more healthy, psychologically, but it’s also less fascinating and exciting.
Then, of course, there’s the matter of friends and gaming communities. Online game communities move swiftly these days and chances are the people you played with in February may not be playing anymore come October, let alone next year. That’s my primary problem with leaving — knowing that if/when I come back, I may not find the people who made it all fun in the first place. Ironically, of course, some of them may actually end up leaving because I did, and so on round the circle.
Ah, people. Hate em, love em, but they make the MMO world go round. I’m quite sure a large part of my jadedness over the past few years has to do with the fact that none of us really play these games as intensively as we used to, and that most of my friends chop and change from one game to the next — as do I, of course. As Tipa (and others, but I remember her quote most recently) has said, it’s not what you play it’s who you play with. It’s good that there are a jillion games to play these days, but it’s not so good that we’re so spread out among them. I know many more people online than I did a decade ago, but there’s still a limit to how many good friends/acquaintances you tend to really interact with at any one time, and that basic pool isn’t much larger now than it used to be because our brains aren’t capable of maintaining a million different close connections at once; so I have about the same number of friends, but we’re spread out among 10 or 20 different games instead a handful — and that’s not counting consoles now.
Last but not least, there’s the creeping ennui the grows from having done something many many times before. MMOs aren’t sustantively different from each other, and part of that magical first MMO experience was, literally, experiencing everything for the first time. That’s just a fact of life and the way we’re built to apprehend the world, but it’s important in terms of the longevity of any given playing experience.
So between shorter learning curves (part of what I absolutely love about games is getting to know them) and smaller friends pools in individual games, it feels like I’ve been around the block 18 times before and that I’m doing it in a much more solitary fashion than I used to.
I’m not sure there’s a cure for that — I’m not sure there should be, but it certainly makes me nostalgic and a little melancholy. Then again, I’m sure Proust would say a little melancholy never hurt anyone. Have another madeleine…