Damn those Joneses

I don’t care about the MMO Joneses. Really, I don’t.

So why do I so often feel like I’m being compelled to a particular activity in MMOs? If that’s not pure Keeping Up Syndrome I don’t know what is.

Take bonus XP weekends, for instance — when those are running, every time I log on I feel as though I’ve GOT to do something that generates xp, or I’m wasting my playtime. The thing is, as I said over at Dragonchasers (in this very good post), I have no problem levelling crafting characters — it’s what I find enjoyable after all — and I have no desire to level adventuring characters. Or rather, I don’t feel compelled to have max-level characters. If my gals level I’m not going to cry about it, but it’s not a particular aim of mine. There’s nothing in EQ2 I want to do that I can’t do at lower levels, and that includes harvesting.

(Which reminds me, I did say I’d do an EQ2 harvesting post. Oops. I will. Really. Maybe. I don’t know if you’re worthy of knowing the seekrits!)

The same goes for events, and I’ve posted about that before. Events are fun, events are great, but at some point I end up feeling like I HAVE to be doing them or I’m somehow missing out.

This is what I find odd. I don’t feel the need to have adventuring levels, and yet I do feel pressure to get some kind of xp — adventuring xp if I must — when there’s a bonus xp weekend on.

The whole concept of “missing out on” stuff is weird and slippery. Some things I don’t care about so I don’t feel as though I’m missing out. But then there are other things that, on the face of it, I don’t particularly care about but still end up feeling needled with if there’s some kind of event associated with them.

How many bloody glass baubles can you possibly want on one account anyway? That was the deal with Frostfell (Christmas) this year: log in every day with every character and get a present for each and every one of them from Santa. I did that for a few days with ALL my chars on both accounts, after which I wisely decided my world doesn’t need that many presents. But I still felt needled, if distantly, to log on. “Log on! You’re missing out! This stuff is being given out FOR FREE and you’re not getting it!”

Part of me says “So what? I don’t need it!” but the part that gets needled doesn’t understand the whole “don’t need” concept. If it’s there, it must be obtained/striven for/taken part in. Even as I opt out of doing this I can feel the pillars of a consumption-driven society shake under my feet. As above (RL) so below (MMOs). Okay, enough metaphysics.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is what drives so much of the playstyle I don’t understand. Is that why people raid? To get stuff because it’s there, it’s there for them, and they therefore HAVE to get it whether they really want or need it in the first place? I’m sure there are lots of people who enjoy raiding for its own sake, but I also know there are tons of people who don’t like raiding at all and only do it for what they can get from it. If you go by what people say, anyway — which isn’t always entirely reliable, I guess.

Anyway, the long and short of this is, as Pete said: Play the game; don’t let the game play you. And that includes playing on your expectations.

Not cheaper by the dozen

The beauty of alts, for me, is always having something fun to play regardless of whether I’m in the mood to bash, fillet, or broil. The downside of alts, especially in a gear-centric game like Warcraft, is equipping the little buggers.

I expressly didn’t take leatherworking as a profession this time around (not yet, anyway), or blacksmithing, because I remember what a huge resource sink they were; and, indeed, it’s turned out to be far more profitable to sell hides and metals than to use them, even with keeping some back to send to guildies or use in jewelcrafting. My loot luck is probably as poor as the next person’s — what drops is usually stuff I can’t use, and often stuff even the alts can’t use; I seem to get mostly cloth drops, of course, since I *do* have a tailor (even if she’s not much good yet).

sw-new-year-2009So far the girl-gaggle is using a combination of quest rewards, the occasional decent drop from Icewolfe (who is 10 or so levels higher than the others) and AH-bought items; for all that prices have gone up since I last played, as one might expect, there are still bargains to be found within the current economic framework. Just as well, since at any one time I probably have 3-6 characters to equip, and that’s without upgrading stuff every couple of levels as one might do for a more focused char. (It’s even less worth it right now since none of them are over 40 and most aren’t over 25.) As far as I can tell, my chars are doing just fine with their gear, since what they’re expected to do in it — or with it — isn’t all that demanding: questing, harvesting, exploring.

But — and this is something that bedevilled me last time I played — is their gear good enough? Should I be looking for blues or better? I don’t think so, because I don’t intend to tackle the “difficult” content much if at all, but with the gear obsession that is WoW and that forms such a large part of all the conversations you hear around you, it’s almost impossible not to start wondering. At least I’m not item-motivated: I don’t care about what the Joneses are wearing, but I *am* wondering if better stuff would make me noticeably more effective even at the lower-key stuff I enjoy. Has WoW changed enough that my progression will be slowed or stopped without it? What happens if I ever make it to the Outlands? To Northrend?

I’m assuming the answer to that is “No” but we all know what assumptions do (make an ass out of you and umption, to quote Harry Dresden). I’ve had no problems tackling what I need to tackle for quests, and if it takes me a few seconds longer to do this fight or that, I’m not worried. I’m playing for enjoyment, and I’m enjoying myself, so that’s that.

Still… one does wonder. I do see the blue stuff at the AH, and to my eyes it’s only marginally better than some of the green stuff while being 10 or 100 times the price — for something I’ll outgrow in 4 levels? I’ve got money but I’m not rich, and I suspect by WoW-2009 standards I’m barely out of pauperhood. If it were more reasonably priced, of course I’d pick it up, because a better bow or a better shield certainly does provide an advantage; but that advantage isn’t worth the price tag most people seem to associate with it.

I think that’s because for me, blues and better have no intrinsic value just because of the colour of their label. If it’s blue and it’s not really any better than my green, then no, I won’t choose the blue every time. Just as well really, or my blue-decked alts would be sleeping under Stormwind’s bridges.

Clip clop!

Shockingly enough, once I got past my RL petch (whatever it was about), levelling in WAR stopped being so weirdly difficult. Ysharros the squishy Shadow Warrior is now 20 and has a shiny new mount, yeehaw! I also ran into a cool-looking giant skelly that I couldn’t resist taking a tourist picture with. See below for shiny new mount and large dead(er) skelly.

That is all.

Brief, but heartfelt

I would like, sweetly and with all due respect, to curse EQ and WoW to the bottom-most pit of MMO hell for creating, perpetuating and cementing the myth that “The game starts at {maxLevel}.”

Do I need to list, seriously, how stupid, inane, wasteful and downright enraging the attitude that engenders is? All right then.

  • People now treat all <max content as trivial. When the developers start doing it too, you’re really onto a winner!
  • People start expecting something akin to holy revelation at max level. In WoW, your holy revelation is a future of raiding and faction point farming. WTF did you expect? It’s what they advertise. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have freaking rushed to 60 70 80 now should you? Idiot.
  • It encourages content vultures. Since < max level is trivial, it should be devoured as fast as possible on the road up while at the same time bitching and moaning that nobody makes meaningful content anymore. Et tu, Eejit.
  • It encourages levelling vultures. Fortunately those usually leave the game for greener pastures once they max out in the first two weeks, then spend two weeks a) bragging about how they were the first to wipe their max-level backside and b) complaining how bored they are and how they have nobody to play with. Idiots. (At least they move on.)
  • And finally, it breeds contempt for the entirety of a game and its population. Not max level? Then you don’t matter. Something interesting somewhere that isn’t a max-level area? Can’t be important. What, you want to enjoy the journey as much as the destination? You stupid, deluded idiot. Oh wait, that would be me.

I am beyond tired of hearing that any real MMO only starts at the level cap. Scuse me, what the fuck have I been doing these last few years then, if not playing? The next time someone tells me nothing is meaningful until max, I am SERIOUSLY going to hunt them down and bite them on the leg until they get rabies. Then I’ll shoot them for having rabies.

Phear mah skilz part the second

Have you ever had one of those gaming days where you feel like you have run all around the game world at least 6 times and achieved nothing at all of substance? I had one of those days yesterday, except I achieved quite a lot, so I’m not sure what the disconnect was.

I *did* run around the world 6 times, flew around it a further 9 times, and I hate the Marshes of Madness even before I’m of a level to get lost in them (having already got lost in them). I also played at least 137 scenarios, most of which were Mourkain Temple, did and turned in a bunch’o’quests, upgraded my gear (amazing what a pointy new sword & bow can do for SW survivability!), screamed with laughter at my utterly insane guildies in Vent and on guild chat, and got 2 more levels as well as a couple of realm ranks. Ysh is now R16/RR12 or so. Yay me.

I think the disconnect came from being plucked from the world and what I was doing therein whenever a scenario popped, which was often, and then dropped back into the world after them. Every time I felt like Jane Fonda waking up in The Morning After — where am I? who am I? why does this troll have a kitchen knife in its chest? why am I in bed with a troll?!

I may start limiting myself to 1 or 2 scenarios an hour on days when I also want to get other stuff done, or want to just stand around for a bit admiring the warts on the trolls. On the bright side, I’m Order (see what I did there?), so scenarios pop and they pop often. I have the luxury of saying “Not tonight, Josephine.”

Speaking of Mourkain Temple, you need to read this. It is funny. Who knows, it may teach you something.

Phear mah mad levelling skillz

Skill0rz? Whatever.

I just realised, when Ysharros the Shadow Warrior hit R14 yesterday, that … *cough* … she’s my highest level ever WAR character. You can’t count the beta template R31 chars, they came out of the box that level.  I got a Disciple into the teens at some point in beta, but the wipes were coming thick and fast that that point and I’m pretty sure Chryse only made it to 13.

Of course, as Dragonchasers* rightly pointed out, if you add up my Averheim alts I’m level 59. Wow, that’s higher than I expected; and no, that’s not 10 alts all at level 5.9 — I only have 7 chars right now, thank you very much. So nerh.

I did put in a few smallish playsessions with the alts this week — lower level characters are much easier to drop in on if your playtime is limited, I find. For one, you don’t have to run nearly as far between quests at lower level, and for another there’s the familiarity with the content that means you can zip about pretty quickly getting some minor things done. So Amariel and Ysh are 13 and 14 respectively (if not respectably), a quartet of the others are 7, and my lil Ironbreaker Meabh lags behind at 4.

I’ve become accustomed to reining in my leveling, too, since Mort and I usually try to play together. The couple that plays together, stays together… yeah… maybe it wasn’t MMOs they meant. Anyway, he has a lot less — a lot less — playtime than I have, especially since he doesn’t have the benefit of working from home. At least I don’t have to commute back to my game machine! We tend to make the alts more or less at the same time, and more or less pair them up so that they more or less match in levels; which means right now I’m trying really hard not to play some of the characters I’d love to play. I’ll give in eventually, which will cause duo problems of its own.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll either concentrate on Ysh the Shadow Warrior… or go play alts on another server. Have char slots, will travel.

* No link for you! Hit the site and hit the blogroll. It’s not there to ease my bunions, ya know!

Behind the curve

So it’s been what, a week now, and my main char still hasn’t made it out of Tier1, as they say. “Made it out,” like it’s what — a prison term? an obligation? a transitory state to be abandoned asap? everyone’s duty?

Yes yes, any game with levels sort of demands that one progresses through those levels. Actually, no it doesn’t. If I want to have a character at level 3 for the next 2 years, that’s my choice. I pays my money and I does my quests, or not as I see fit. And I’m not just talking about low level crafting mules.

Just because the stuffed rabbit rushes around the track doesn’t mean this bitch has to follow; and even if it does, I’ll follow at my own pace.

Alright, topic hijack. Let’s make this not about the curve and where one should be on it a week – a month – a year down the line, but rather about giving other people the space to play the game as they see fit. It’s their fifteen bucks. If they’re going too slowly for you, too bad. If they’re going too fast for you, suck it up! This goes for me too, with my mildly-anxious “stop pushing me to level!” reaction to, probably, nothing.

I just don’t like to do what I’m told. I shall extend that courtesy to others. I’ll respect your playstyle and your levelling pace if you respect mine. Never gonna happen, but a girl can dream.

(PS My alts haven’t made it out of T1 either. You think those are related? Really?)