On deck and happy about it

fishingAs with any major MMO launch, there’s a good portion of people out there playing Elder Scrolls Online and seeminly enjoying it.  And I’m happy for them, but I am not part of that crowd.  Even when you don’t have a grudge against a new game, the fact that you’re not playing it can make you feel a bit left out of the experience and conversation.  That’s what leads one to spending $60 on Final Fantasy XIV and playing it for two days.  Not that this comes from personal experience.

But it’s certainly not a terrible time to be a non-ESO MMO player.  I’m actually really excited about several big drops that are happening in the next few weeks.  It makes sense that all of this is happening now, since it’s spring and many MMOs have finally started to churn out the next major releases following the lull of the holidays and winter.

This week we’ll be getting a new mission pack in The Secret World and CAN YOU TELL THAT I AM THRILLED?  Because I am.  Thrilled.  Seriously, it’s been since last July since we’ve had any new missions in TSW (and I’m not counting the scenarios here).  Even though Funcom’s punting Tokyo until next month, as least we’ll be getting four new investigation missions to tide us over.  Man I’ve been so hungry for new content in this game.  I can’t think of another MMO where “new quests” is such a major selling point.

Then there’s the double header of Guild Wars 2′s April Feature Pack and LOTRO’s Update 13 coming out on April 14th and 15th.  I’m going to be in anguish that week trying to play one while wanting to also be in the other.  That’s a good problem to have.

Hearthstone might come out on tablet this month too and I think we’re on the verge of getting The Wolf Among Us episode 3.  My plate is incredibly full, and that’s not including Trove and Landmark which I need to be playing but, really, what time?

Gabriel Knight 2: Castle cruising

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

c1This does not look like a church.  This looks like the portal to the nightmare world.  Well, in you go, Gracie!

Actually, it’s a memorial chapel for Ludwig and Grace doesn’t go in, but heads on by and checks out the lake where Ludwig and the doctor drowned.  There’s a totally cheery black cross in the middle of it:

c2Dallmeier, the Ludwig expert, shows up to talk shop.  Ludwig does sound like an interesting guy, although I am vastly curious how the makers of this game decided to draw him into a werewolf plot.  Dallmeier talks about how Ludwig agreed to let Prussia take over Bavaria and be a vassal king, and how he was both Catholic and a homosexual.  He also tells a bit of Gudden, the Black Wolf, who sat on the Prussian court with a mysterious past.  Dr. Gudden was also the arresting doctor who was found dead with Ludwig in the lake.

c3Grace has one stop left on her Ludwig tour: the Neuschwanstein castle.  I actually know of this castle, because it’s kind of famous for being one of the inspirations for the Cinderella castle at Disney.  Didn’t know that Ludwig II had it made, but I never really knew much about the guy before this game anyway.

c4The game has a cool “tour tape” button for this portion of our museum hopping.  It provides a voice-over tour for the castle, Ludwig’s obsession with building them (werewolf sanctuaries?  Naw…), and his fascination with Richard Wagner.  I learned that Ludwig had a thing for swans, which I guess is why Gabriel was dreaming of one?  Ludwig haunting his dreams or something?  The tour tape said that the swan motif symbolized “majesty and purity.”

c5The tour through the castle is pretty  engaging, especially since I’ll probably never be there in real life.  Ludwig’s bedroom features a host of hand-carved wood that took 4.5 years to create.  Off to the side is a rather sinister little chapel with a “Black Madonna” and other religious paintings.

c6A portrait of the man Ludwig emerges more clearly in this place.  He was obviously discontent with his status as a lesser king and retreated into fantasy as a result.  His castle, his interest in opera, and his love of mythology came out of this.  The castle is kind of a solo playground with themed rooms for his imagination.

c7In his study, the tour tape tells Grace that Ludwig was studying the occult before he died.  There are also a LOT of wolf paintings in the last room.  Should have consulted your local Watcher and Vampire Slayer, man.  Get the Scoobies on this thing!

LOTRO: Where everybody knows your name

spidermoonI have been neglecting LOTRO as of late.  Part of that is the anticipation of Update 13 and going into a “fasting mode” prior to it arriving, and part of it was from just getting too focused on Guild Wars 2 leveling to the exclusion of all else.  So when I had 45 minutes yesterday to play, I logged in to run my Lore-master through a couple of more epic chapters.

When I jumped into the game, one of my kin greeted me and said that he was glad to see me — that it had been a week since I was last there.  And even though that was a small thing, it really made an impact on me.  My kin in LOTRO (Lonely Mountain Band) is fairly big and I’m not necessarily the most vocal or active member, but the kin really prides itself on generating an atmosphere of family.  So people notice people, people talk, and people go out of their way to greet one another.  Even if they hadn’t logged in for a while.

I’ve found that in both games and the real world, feeling as though your presence or absence from a group matters is integral to your interest in that group and related activity.  I’ve been in many guilds where my comings and goings are ignored, where I’m just another face in the crowd.  Sure, that can be influenced by how much I participate in guild events and guild chat, but I’ve also observed that leadership has a huge role in setting the tone and example for the rest of the group to follow.  Those little “hellos,” “nites,” and “grats” add up, especially when coupled with more significant questions and conversations and encounters.

It’s the same example that I try to set in our youth group at church.  When a teen comes, I make a point to personally welcome them and ask them about their week, and when a teen misses a meeting, I give them a call — not to nag, but to let them know that their absence was felt and that they mattered to the group.  We’re always ignored by so many people because paying attention takes effort and selflessness.  It’s good to push back against that.

All I know is that the warm greeting I received yesterday probably contributed greatly to my interest in logging back in today.  There’s a lesson for all of us in that.

NBI 2014 needs community leaders

Veteran, newbie, and potential bloggers, heads up!  The folks over at the NBI headquarters have announced that this year’s month-long project will be coming up soon and they need community leaders:

It’s that time of year to consider having the NBI. It’s unbelievable that Spring is here already and unlike last fall, I want to get ahead on this years event. Especially since the ideal time for it is May, leading into school dismissal in the US and Summer free time for everyone who works less during that time of year. It’s usually a pretty optimistic time in the blogging community.

I want to put out a call for community leaders who want to help organize this years NBI. It’s a blank slate. There’s nothing stopping us from doing completely different things this year or trying new ideas. Your participation requires only a few things:

You’re passionate about blogging.
You’re passionate about games.
You want to lead.

You won’t be required to give speeches or visit my home for dinner (though you’d probably really like the bowls of milk here). You just have to care and be interested in helping with the event.

What I’ve been playing on tablets

BoomBeachPreview-7I’ve been doing a little more reading as of late which has cut into my tablet gaming time, but there are a few titles that I did want to mention.

A few weeks ago I picked up Out There, which is sort of a choose your own adventure/resource manager space roguelike.  Unlike FTL, there’s no combat, but instead a near endless stream of decisions to make in every new system, mostly regarding whether the risk is worth the payout for materials needed to keep your spacecraft going.  I applaud the approach and the visuals, but there’s something that didn’t quite click here.  Constant resource gathering was tedious and not visually appealing, and I didn’t connect with my ship at all.

But speaking of FTL, the new version of the game came out for iPad last night, and even though I own it on the computer, it was a no-brainer to pick it up.  I’m still getting used to the different controls, but I’m pretty giddy to have it on a portable platform.  I always thought it would be a game that lended itself well to a tablet and I think that it will do so.

So what else?  I got the director’s cut of Broken Sword to be the next adventure title that I play while exercising.  I don’t know much about it but everyone seems to speak quite highly of it, so we’ll see.

And while I never got into Clash of Clans, that studio’s follow-up with Boom Beach has been pretty involving.  You get a base on an island that you build up over time, using it to stage amphibious landings on other islands (there’s a lite-WWII feel with it, but it’s all cartoony).  You fight against both players and the computer to “free” islands and gather in more resources.  There’s a time-limited F2P mechanic going on, so it’s really something I just pick up for five minutes here and there, but I love approaching every landing like it’s a puzzle — how do I get my troops to victory while losing the fewest of them possible.

It looks like Hearthstone should hit the iPad very soon, as it’s soft-launched in a few countries.  This is terrific news as I’ve been eagerly waiting that transition.  I haven’t played Hearthstone in a long while, mostly because while I’m on the computer I’d rather be doing or playing other games, but I can totally see spending a few sessions a day tinkering with this on a tablet.