Titles ‘R Important

There are a few blog pieces going around explaining the reason behind their respective blog names, which I love.  Thinking Play pointed out a few blogs and delivered analysis of them, including yours truly:

Bio Break – It’s a common MMO term, so it clues me in that the blog is about MMOs and MMO culture. Also given what the term means it sounds like the blog doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is friendly and approachable.”

I’d say that this is fairly spot-on.  I love alliteration and short titles, and Bio Break fits those criteria.  I liked the idea that reading a blog article was a “break” between gaming, since I often read others when I couldn’t be in-game.  And I do hope I don’t take myself too seriously/pompously, because where’s the fun in that?

A good blog title is essential to branding your future content and being the foundation on which you build your reputation and blogging portfolio.  Giving it some serious thought and consideration is paramount.  I’m always a little in awe of the great titles I see out there.

Recovering from PAX Prime

ronnieI am bushed.

I flew back home last night after five days in Seattle for PAX Prime, and it was a relief to be back in familiar environs and to see my family.  I do like going on trips, but there’s something comforting about returning home.  From my own feelings and from talking to a lot of folks, four days for PAX is just too much.  By Sunday everyone was exhausted, vendors, media, and attenders alike, and Monday was like a ghost town.

Probably the highlight of the trip for me came last Thursday when I got to tour Undead Labs’ studio and chat up the development team for State of Decay and Moonrise.  Seeing the developers’ passion and hearing them talk about these games really makes you aware of how much like the rest of us they are.  It’s something that we occasionally forget when we’re vilifying them for whatever.

Most of my weekend there was spent ping-ponging between interviews.  Most MMO studios elected to hold off-site meetings — I think that only Blizzard, a few MOBAs, Shroud of the Avatar, and Wargaming were actually on the show floor.  It’s probably too expensive for the rest of the online gaming studios to be there unless they have something major to show.  And I actually prefer sitting down in a quiet hotel room with developers instead of trying to hear them over an incredibly noisy crowd.

There wasn’t any big game I was there to see, and it never ceased to amaze me how some folks would be standing in line for upwards of eight hours to get their hands on a single title.  I did check out Tales from the Borderlands (Telltale Games) and the indie megabooth.  World of Warships actually looks like something that would appeal to me, since it is incorporating RTS elements for those of us who are less twitchy.

I did go to a few parties, but really, parties aren’t much my thing.  The Trion party took forEVER to get into and was swamped with so many people that there was no food and you couldn’t play any of the games.  WildStar’s shindig had good food and some devs, but I can only stand around so long before I get restless.  One night I went to the Space Needle to be a total tourist, which was pretty neat.

It’s nice to soak in the nerdy gamer vibe and to see that many people come together to celebrate a mutual love of games, for sure.  I don’t know if I’ll be going back next year — I think it might be time to switch it up and try out a different venue.  We’ll see.

Bio Break’s State of the Gamer

swanI’ve had a whole lot kicking around in my head about what I’ve been playing, what I’d like to go back to playing, and what’s ahead that I’m looking forward to playing.  Might as well write it all down and slap it with an embarrassingly pompous title.

/looks up at the title

Whew.  Good.  So ready?  Here we go!

Currently Playing

WildStar is still going strong in my interest sphere(tm).  I think I’m going through it at a good pace so that I’m not butting my head up against the endgame right now, but am allowing for a few more months of additions before that happens.  Building up my house and fleshing out my Engie’s build are my main priorities.

I can’t see myself leaving Lord of the Rings Online either.  It’s one of those games that never compels me to log in, although when I do I generally enjoy myself greatly.  The new Beorning class isn’t going to change the game for me, but being able to continue the journey through Gondor is something that should fill up my winter months.

It’s probably obvious that I’m in a deep The Secret World lull.  This is mainly due to the glacial pace of new content releases.  I’ve been toying with starting up another alt in the meanwhile, but I’d rather have new stories than rehash old ones.  Whenever new updates come out, I’ll be going back into it, but for now it’s a rarely played title.

I’ve finished up my expedition into Dungeons and Dragons Online and won’t be continuing there.  Not a horrible game by any means, just not something I want to be playing right now.

Guild Wars 2 is another mainstay that’s fun if I push myself to log in, although I can let it slip by for days.  I feel a little unfocused in that game, although there is tons to do.  I need to finish up the new living world stuff, fill out the map, and become richer than the ten kings of Europe.  The intermission that Anet is taking is making me take an intermission as well.

Like to Go Back to Playing

I have room in my schedule for at least one other part-time MMO right now, although who that will be is really up for grabs.  There are three front-runners in that race: Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, and RIFT.

All of these have new content, either Neverwinter’s recent module 4 or the other two’s upcoming expansions.  I still have much love for RIFT and am quite intrigued by the tease of the minion system with Nightmare Tide, although I know that if I go back into that game I’ll be rerolling once more.  It’s probably the most time-intensive of the three in terms of what I’d need to play to get to the new stuff.  The expansion does look pretty awesome, tho.

I was all on fire to return to Neverwinter with a new Scourge Warlock when I logged in the other day and logged out after three minutes.  Maybe it’s been too soon?  Maybe I have my fill with action combat and fantasy?  I’m not sure what it is.  Could be I just need to give it another shot.

Star Trek Online is a good bet then.  It’s Cryptic, so it’s really easy to play in short bursts — a mission or two here and there.  And while the expansion doesn’t have me on fire, it is more interesting than Legacy of Romulos to me and will give me more to do with my crew.  I rolled up a new captain the other night and rediscovered how much I enjoyed the visuals and different style of gameplay that comes with space combat.

Looking Forward to Playing

There are three non-MMOs that have my full attention for this fall: The Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Wasteland 2.  All of those have great potential to be fun alternatives to online gaming, and I will probably be getting each at some point.  Man, I can’t believe Sims 4 comes out tomorrow!  Of course, with me and every Sims game following the first I’ve had a tradition: buy it, play it for three days, and never play it again.  They’re games I really should like, but something about them eludes my attention.

So let’s move on to MMOs, shall we?  The only big question marks for the remainder of the year are probably ArcheAge and Landmark.  I’m willing to give Landmark a serious go, but only when it’s feature-complete and in a non-wipable state, so that might be several months.  And who am I kidding, I’d only be playing it because EverQuest Next isn’t out.  Landmark knows it comes in second, and it’s only by virtue of releasing first that it’ll get as much attention as it will.

ArcheAge?  Hm.  My feelings on the PvPish nature and the reports of toxic community still have me leery about this.  I’m curious how people have told me how “weak” and lacking the PvE content is while stressing how you never have to play the game so that you bump into any PvP situations.  Seems like a lot of folks that I read playing the game are pretty much 100% into the PvE side of it, which sounds robust to me.  I guess it’ll come down to trying it out at some point, seeing what Trion does with the launch, and gauging the post-launch situation.  It looks promising for a lot of reasons, but if I never played this I wouldn’t feel empty in side either.

My wish list right now is mostly Skyforge and EverQuest NextH1Z1 is a good candidate as well, although I’ll hold out to see what kinds of servers they’re releasing.  Survival sandbox is all well and good, but I’m not doing that with ganking jerks crowding out the zombies.  I’ll keep an eye on the space sim wars to see how Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen shake out, and as for the big fish, that’s probably it.  Shroud of the Avatar got my attention at PAX for its unusual combat system and surprisingly good looks, so I’ll be keeping a closer eye on that.

So what are your plans for gaming going forward?

Wacky Wandom Wednesday

eyeI’m heading out to PAX Prime tomorrow, so I’m mostly focused on preparing for that, but here are a few nuggets of gaming goodness that have been happening in my life lately:

WildStar

My new helmet has a flaming eye on it.  ‘Nuff said.

I also hit level 25 last night, which was a great milestone level — I not only got my hoverboard (HOVERBOARD) but access to the tier 4 skill abilities.  I rejiggered my entire attack sequence to take advantage of this, using flak cannon to quickly get my volitility to 30+, then fire bio shell instantly (thanks to its tier 4 ability), then have so much volitility that I can let off several bolt cutters in a row.  It’s a huge damage dump, although I had to take off my stun to make this work.

Lord of the Rings Online

I’m sitting on a pile of gold earmarked for a second age legendary weapon if I see one on the auction house.  Actually, I did see a second ager great club, but really, who uses great clubs in that game?  Super dorky looking.  Just give me a two-handed sword or possibily a halbred, and I’d be happy.

Mostly these days I log in to do four or five quests in Gondor, although lately I’ve been concentrating on the epic book before going back to the rest of the content.  My daughter was quite concerned that the Nazgul dragon was “bad” and needed to be wiped out, even though the game wouldn’t let me.

Star Trek Online

So yup, I reloaded STO because I’m having a hard time ignoring the upcoming expansion news.  It’s one of those “who knows if this will come to anything” game dabblings, but why not.  I started up a new Engineer and went through the first quest.  It’s good familiarity, although I kind of forgot how much the starter ship is horrible in both looks and performance.  Oh well, if I stick it out I have a free rear admiral ship in the bank for later on.

Guild Wars 2

The 25th was the two-year anniversary of GW2’s head start, which is pretty amazing to me.  Has it really been that long already?  Since I still have the character I created that day, I got my birthday gifts.  Nothing super-helpful to me right now, but a skill and level booster for a possible alt, as well as a gun that shoots birthday cake.  It doesn’t shoot AT birthday cake, it shoots birthday cake OUT.  That’s a gun we all should have.  If everyone in the world had that gun, universal happiness would instantly break out.  Also, lots of food fights.

Six things about the Atari 2600 that I forgot until now

marioI was watching a retro review of an Atari 2600 game the other day that unlocked several memories I had of that quirky first console.  In no particular order, here they are:

1. The games were very colorful and bold — sometimes moreso than the NES — but had horribly large pixels.  That made rendering text or recognizable human figures problematic unless they made them very big, which is why so many of the games used non-human avatars (spaceships, frogs, etc.).

2. Almost all of the games never had a win condition.  They were super-short and leaned heavily on repition, usually by resetting the stage and making it faster or tougher somehow.  Again, another limitation of the console’s memory.  So one lesson we learned early on is that no matter what, you would lose.  It was only a question of when.

3. Another way that the devs eked out content was to make dozens if not hundreds (and that is not hyperbole) rule variations for the games.  Combat, that packed-in staple, had large plane versions, invisible walls, invisible planes, bank shot tanks, fast moving, slow moving, and so on.  Playing with invisibility in any format seems really weird today, but it was kind of a fun challenge back then.

4. By holding down the reset switch and turning on Space Invaders, you could start a game where your guy could shoot TWICE in a row instead of just once.  That was the first easter egg that I ever encountered in a video game.

5. Later games really chafed under the limited controller (the one-button joystick).  Some required the use of two controllers (such as Defender II) to allow access to more player options, while others used that horrible keypad (Star Raiders) for input.

6. Development on Atari 2600 games went on long after the video game crash of 1983 and even the rise of the NES.  We often bought stripped-down versions of NES games in the late 80s, like California Games, Ikari Warriors, and even 1990’s Xenophobe.  1992 saw the last official Atari 2600 game released (EU’s Acid Drop).

Monogamy and the MMO player

gamessssProbably one of the most common questions I’m asked is something along the lines of, “How can you play so many MMOs?  How do you have the time?  How can you stay interested in all of them?”  Well, one question if you smooshed all of that up and swallowed it.

I think I give the illusion that I have much more time than I really do.  My average day contains perhaps two or three hours of playtime, and that’s at the end of the day after everyone’s asleep (since my household goes to bed at 9 except for me, I’m in a rare position of having a few hours to myself even with four other people around).  I don’t make terribly fast progress in any game, but pokey my puppy on up, trusting that I’ll finish the race eventually even though I’m meandering while others are sprinting.  Right now I might give four games a half-hour apiece on a given night or just spend an entire evening devoted to a big project on one game (such as last night, when I knocked out two difficult slayer virtues for my Lore-master in LOTRO).

The multi-MMO aspect of this query is easier to address.  I play more than one MMO because I can’t imagine going back to the days of doing one and one game only.

Oh, there’s a huge appeal to being a monogamous MMO player, especially when you do have limited time.  Some days I think about how attractive it might be to just cast everything but one title aside and plunge fully into that game.  My Massively Speaking cohost Bree was telling me that that is exactly what she does, playing a single MMO for a month or two before putting it down and picking up something else.

I don’t think I could do that, and a lot of it has to do with the nasty feeling of burnout.  I’ve had really bad burnout experiences in the past, and it’s always the same story.  I’m super into an MMO, I play it constantly, and then one day I abruptly can’t bring myself to log back in.  The very thought of the game is like ashes to me, and I look at all that I’ve done as a massive waste.  I feel horrible that I’m abandoning friends and I feel lost in my gaming time as my mainstay is now no longer there.  Turning a game that I loved into something I detest is kind of sad and horrible at once.

But ever since I started juggling MMOs, I’ve found that I haven’t had that nasty crash-and-burn experience.  I think of it as having a diverse portfolio of games, spreading out my interest and relying on the titles that are more interesting to me at a given time to balance out the ones that have dropped in my esteem.  There’s little pressure to keep playing a single game, and instead of “leaving” I either cut back or take an extended sabbatical from it.  Other than losing contact with guildies, it’s worked out well for me.  Coming back to MMOs after a break is more refreshing and I’m almost never out of options of something new, fun, or interesting to do.

Prior to playing MMOs, I was never a monogamous gamer.  I doubt many of us were.  We were just gamers.  We might play one game extensively, but there wasn’t much baggage involved in putting it down to play another.  I didn’t own a console with just one game.  I didn’t only have one program installed on my computer.  So why should MMOs be different?

MMOs demand so much time from you to where they start messing with your brain, making you think as though you’re cheating on them not to be giving them 100% of your attention.  Sure, for some activities you’re probably going to have to go all-in or at least stop going to work — particularly if you want to raid or be highly competitive or get the best of the best gear.  But once I made peace with the fact that I wanted none of those things, I developed a lot of peace in my playstyle.  I cherished the experiences of an evening and the gradual progress toward a goal.  I slowed down to really get into a game instead of racing through it.  I can look back and see how stressed out MMO gaming used to make me when I was all about one game and one game only, and now I can see how I’m much more mellow and content about it.

Another mind-trap that we buy into is that MMOs are a one-and-done product.  Once we’ve played and left, there’s no reason to go back.  Yet we do go back, don’t we?  I’ve lost count of the number of weirdly apologetic blog posts from people sheepish that they’ve returned to a game that caused them to previously burn out and call the bride of Satan.  Hey, there’s no shame in it.  It’s actually pretty great to return to older MMOs, since they’ve established themselves more and have gotten away from the drama of launch.  Some of the unhappiest players I’ve seen are ones that rip through new games, grown bored with them, and are seemingly incapable of playing anything that isn’t cutting-edge fresh.  “There’s nothing to playyyyy!” they cry, surrounded by hundreds of MMOs.

With more relaxed business models (thank you, free-to-play and buy-to-play) there barrier of finances has been lowered and there’s no huge reason why we can’t game hop more.  For me, at least, it’s worked out wonderfully.