Makeup: My MMO kryptonite

The other day, a slightly ridiculous tweet from Black Desert Online prompted the staff at Massively OP into a frenzy of discussion over makeup and why there is just no way that the picture on the right there is a girl without makeup.

But as we discussed this around the office, I confessed that makeup is, to some extent, my MMO kryptonite. As a player who almost exclusively picks a female character, I’m often stymied when I come to the makeup screen. It’s equally bad in games like The Sims 4.

I just don’t know what to do, I really don’t. Eye shadow, mascara, blush, lip gloss, lipstick, foundation, concealer, eyebrow highlighting, cheek implants… I am absolutely clueless when it comes to picking any of these. I know that if I start messing around with them, then chances are I’ll end up with a raccoon-faced emo raver despite any intentions to the contrary. My best bet is usually to select “Thanks but no thanks” to every makeup option and move on.

This is most likely because I’ve never had a proper education regarding makeup in real life. My need for such information has been minimal, aside from getting the stuff caked on my face for a few high school plays. I’m always in a kind of awe at all of the techniques I see women use to “put their face on,” as they call it. It’s like they’re painting a self-portrait without any hesitation, whereas I keep thinking that if I ever ended up in a 1980s-style body swap movie with the opposite gender, I would probably end up looking like Pennywise or a coal miner if I tried anything.

It’s only a very little bit frustrating when my lack of knowledge hits the MMO character creation page. I generally like sassy and fun-looking characters, and I feel like I’m slightly missing out on making my toons all that they could be. Fortunately, it’s not like your default female face looks like a bedraggled woman who just got out of bed after cramming a pillow against her face for eight hours. MMOs are pretty generous when it comes to making you look good despite your ignorance.

Maybe there’s a market for makeup experts to come in and explain all of this to clueless players. Probably a very, very limited market, but still.

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My rollercoaster relationship with World of Warcraft’s Warlocks

While my Gnome Warlock — the Original Syp (O.S.) — was not my first World of Warcraft character, she was definitely my first main. I created her back in September 2006 following a lengthy break from the game and played her non-stop through the rest of Vanilla, all of Burning Crusade, and all of Wrath before my second and much greater break.

Warlocks were pretty much broken and useless on release, as I recall, but by mid-2006 they had stabilized enough to be viable. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the character and concept, which married my favorite race (Gnome) and a pet class. There was tons of utility, a choice of pets, and pretty decent survival for a cloth class. Vanilla wasn’t the easiest haul, since there was no jack-of-all-trades pet (most everyone I knew quested with voidwalkers and grouped with imps for the buff), plus there was the eternal annoyance of collecting soul shards and having them hog inventory space.

The Burning Crusade was a huge game-changer for my Lock. It was then that she got her Felguard, a splendid pet that did great damage and tanked at the same time. From then on out, I was a demo spec all the way, a pint-sized hero and her gigantic companion. She was the one that I quested with, did dailies with, crafted with, and even raided with (in Kara). Good times. And then Wrath came along and I ended up drifting away.

When I came back to the game for Warlords of Draenor’s second year, it took me a while to get around to catching back up with the Warlock. I was pretty pleased when I did, because she felt more powerful than ever. I had more abilities and now an even better pet — the Terrorguard. I didn’t play her as much during this period, but I liked it when I did.

It all came crashing down with the Legion pre-patch — you know, the one that muscled in all of those “class fantasy” changes and rebalances. Overall I hated this patch, because it took what I enjoyed out of three classes — Hunter, Warlock, and Shaman — and made it worse in various ways. Less fun. Less enjoyable. Beast Masters became this awkward thing, my melee Shammy could no longer summon totems or pets, and my Warlock found herself stripped of the Terrorguard.

I had a very hard time dealing with the new Demonology build. I tried, I really did, because I am all about those pets, but this new format didn’t seem to flow. It didn’t help that I had to make all of these changes at level 100 and then try to figure out how she played. It left a sour taste in my mouth up through the start of Legion, and by level 102, I respecced her as Affliction just so that I could get my DoTs back.

But I missed my Felguard something fierce, which is why I’m pursuing Demo again with my Forsaken Warlock. Sometimes it’s easier to “grow into” a build than abruptly change to one, as there’s a lot of time to experiment with incremental changes and choices. I keep fiddling about with her talent points, trying to find the best build for my playstyle. Might not be the most optimal one, but I’ve long since stopped caring about min/maxing at the expense of my personal enjoyment.

So far I’m cautiously optimistic. My main problem is soul shard generation, because I hate the idea of standing there and spamming my shadowbolt with its 1.87 second cast time. So I’m exploring some other ways to get more shards and flipping fights so that one is mostly focused on getting more shards and one is focused on spending them. It feels a little more varied and I even have those moments of feeling pretty powerful when I have a troop of pets out on the field ravaging a group of mobs.

I can’t wait until level 40 and the return of my Felguard. It will be like a reunion between the two of us, especially as we face the prospect of going into Outland once again (unless Blizzard gets those leveling changes into the game before I hit 60). I’m keen to hear what the studio has planned for the class come Battle for Azeroth, because I know that demo isn’t a highly loved or well-performing spec at this point. Hopefully it’s due for a renaissance.

World of Warcraft: Contemplating WoW Classic plans

One of my idle daydream scenarios is to imagine what I would do if I was thrown back in time with current knowledge to play MMOs of years past. If it was November 2004, what would I do in World of Warcraft? Other than not being able to log on for weeks at a time, of course. Would I be able to tolerate that era? Would there be sufficiently unmined content that I could keep myself occupied and amused in a pre-expansion game?

Well, now that hypothetical is not so much one any more. While we’re not going to get sent back in time and experience the WoW phenomenon and culture as it developed, World of Warcraft Classic is set to deliver the MMO as it was. And while we don’t know the specifics of what it will entail, our knowledge of the past means that we can take educated guesses about what will be present — and start to plan what we might do when it launches.

I can’t see just up and leaving the current version of WoW to solely exist in Classic, but I am really excited to jump into it at least casually (as casually as one can in Vanilla, that is). I’m sure there will be all manner of hype and positive peer pressure around playing it, if Old School RuneScape and the EverQuest progression servers are any indication.

I’ve been on-and-off considering what I might do when Classic comes out (my guess, December 2018). I do hope that there will be some sort of guild pulled together from among bloggers and commenters, so I’ll wait and see if that happens. But what do I want to play?

It would need to be a class and race that I’m not currently pushing hard, one that offered some fun in Vanilla and was self-sustaining. I think with those qualifications, I’ll be looking at a Tauren Shaman. They’d be something the Alliance wouldn’t have (at least not at first), and I do miss totems. Troll Shaman is another possibility, although I do have very fond memories of Mulgore as a starting zone and probably preferring the big cows as a character model over the hunchy trolls.

I would assume that the first week or so would be a wonderland of rediscovery and group excitement, but the big question will be in sustained interest over the long haul. I imagine that the “challenge” with an older version would be a selling point, although it could also be pretty frustrating too. I don’t have the fondest memories of late-game Vanilla back in 2005 and 2006. A slow journey to the top and then… not much. Rep grinds? Boring dungeons? We were pretty much waiting with bated breath on upcoming patches and the expansion.

I remember always having to use a very specific leveling guide that chained together the sparse quests across the world to help players get to 60 without too much grind. I also remember how much I felt that Burning Crusade was a blissful leveling experience in comparison, how excited I’d always get when my characters would reach level 58 and finally be able to ditch the desolate questing lands of Azeroth for the breezy Outlands. Funny how time changes that and how Outlands are now despised and avoided by so many players for being slow, ugly, and poorly designed.

Are you formulating any WoW Classic plans? What do you intend to play and do when the server launches?

DDO: Turn on the Waterworks

A tunnel full of blasting acid? Huh. Must be back in the Waterworks.

Ah the Waterworks… of all of my foggy memories of DDO of the past, this one remains one of the strongest. It’s not because I was particularly enamored of it, but because we ran it so many times with groups to get that sweet, sweet loot at the end. It used to be a rite of passage for lowbies and something groups would stumble over, but I think this has changed with time.

The Waterworks is a four quest chain series that’s tied together with the titular underground adventure zone. As it’s all sewers and ugly rooms and gobs of kobolds, it isn’t something that’s exactly a thrill-a-minute, but again, it’s all about that end reward for the chain. For me, this time around, I wanted to run through it in order to put a wrap on the Harbor and move on.

I wasn’t particularly interested on carefully exploring the areas. Relying on my vague memories (which proved to be pretty reliable, thanks to muscle memory), I blitzed through the quests and mowed down hundreds upon hundreds of kobolds. So many orphans are going to have a bad day today, methinks. Just about none of it is that fun, but perhaps the worst is one quest where you have to find a single dead body that’s randomly placed in one of three dozen cells scattered about. Wheeeee.

While Waterworks is about 90% kobolds, there is a smattering of giant spiders, ogres, and even zombies to mix things up. In the end, however, all it did was make me so ready to ditch the Harbor for good.

At least I got a level out of it. Hello Level 5 Artificer!

To the dead kobold that ended up floating in mid-air thanks to a placement glitch, know that I am forever memorializing your great sacrifice as a brief mention on an MMO blog. It’s the literal least I could do for you.

On to the Marketplace! Just eyeballing the area, there are soooo many quests to be done. I’m also going to have to re-acquaint myself with the area and figure out where all of the different services are.

All I know is that I’ll never look as cool as that fighter up there. You’re amazing, dude. Imma going to head back to Salvation Army +1 to see if I can find a turquoise jumper from 1989.

Requiem for Marvel Heroes

While the writing was on the wall for about a month now, it was still a blow to hear that Disney is shutting down Marvel Heroes. As of the time of this writing, we don’t have any specifics on when and how this will happen, but… does it really matter? It’s over and done.

And man is that a shame. Marvel Heroes had so much going for it, especially following its 2015 revamp. It had the creator of Diablo at its head, a scorching hot IP, limitless character possibilities, plenty of revenue streams, monthly updates, regular events, tons of giveaways, and some pretty awesome voice acting. Plus Squirrel Girl. My love for Squirrel Girl is completely due to Marvel Heroes and my adventures with her in this game.

I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, but chances are that licensing and revenue issues are involved. I get the feeling that the console version — Marvel Heroes Omega — was a last-ditch effort to save the game and drive up revenues, one that didn’t work out as well. I never got the impression that Marvel Heroes was hurting, per se, but ever since Omega you could see the PC exodus taking place.

Again, a shame. People loved this game. I loved this game. It was a great title to jump in and jump out to have some quick fun. It felt responsive, it had that great Diablo loot, and it let you play a huge variety of Marvel characters. It seemed that pretty much every couple of weeks there were new heroes and team-ups, and you just wanted to collect them all even if you didn’t play them.

I won’t say that it was perfect. It wasn’t. Marvel Heroes got too complex and convoluted with its character development and gear for my taste. It couldn’t ever quite figure out how to streamline and balance the classes either. But I admired that the studio was pretty generous with what it gave away for free and that there was a lot to do even for a completely free character.

My main run with the game was pretty much for the duration of 2015. I had some absolutely great times, especially with Squirrel Girl and Doctor Doom, and I thought it was brilliant how the game would constantly cross-promote with all of the Marvel TV and movie releases. It seemed like a perfect fit and I’m a little aghast that Disney is just ditching that angle. But then, I might not have all of the financials and pertinent information.

I feel especially bad for people who have paid a whole bunch of money into this game. Sure, none of us have any assurance that a game is going to be around for a given future, but I know that Marvel Heroes is the type of game into which people have really poured a whole lot of money — prompted by those yearly package deals — with the hopes of collecting a roster that would entertain them for years to come. Instead, Marvel Heroes’ lifespan will be a little over four years (2013-2017) when all is said and done.

Anyway, here’s to Marvel Heroes. You delivered great superhero entertainment and I really will miss you. You deserved so much better than this.

If you want to walk down memory lane with me, check out all of my Marvel Heroes posts from my time playing the game!

LOTRO: Two strode in, and death followed behind

I find it oddly charming and comforting that even in the deepest midst of Sauron’s domain and power there exists a tribe of free folk who stubbornly cling to their land even as the enemy encamps all around them. I gladly accepted the offer to head into the Red Sky Clan’s camp and visit with these wild natives, feeling refreshed to see friendly faces and architecture that isn’t trying to secure a spot on a heavy metal album cover.

OK, so it’s no four-star Hilton, but after a couple of zones of unrelenting hostility and no real “good guy” camps, I’m almost weeping with joy to see this. It makes me miss the more upbeat areas elsewhere in Middle-earth, and I make a mental effort to push that aside and focus on the task at hand, lest I get bogged down in despair.

It doesn’t take long before I convince the tribe to help me and whatever non-puking Rangers there are about to assault the nearby fortress of Kala-Gijak. Everyone assembles, a hush falls over the swamp, and then the head Ranger tells me to go in solo and pretty much kill everyone, destroy everything, and then stand aside as the army rolls in afterward to claim all the credit. Uh… no. Why don’t you come with me? I mean, the second I start killing people — and you want me to slaughter at least 30 Orcs! — it’s going to arouse a little suspicion and negate any advantage that surprise would have. Let’s just go together?

No?

Fine. But I’m keeping all of the Orc ears this time.

Fortunately, I do bump into a wandering Minstrel who just so happens to be doing the exact same quests as I. We gladly team up and start taking the place down. With one player, it would have been a horrible slog, but with two, it became pretty tolerable. I would assume that more would just steamroll the place. Gee. Wish there was an army at my back.

Methodically, we go through the camp, towing death behind us as an overworked, underpaid intern. My companion does seem to run literal circles around every enemy he attacks, but as he’s contributing both DPS and heals, I’m not in a position to complain.

Mission accomplished, we hack our way out and return to the camp, feeling that we could have single-handedly won the War of the Ring if only Aragorn had put us onto the field sooner.

Battle Bards Episode 109: Club Penguin

When you’ve got a club full of penguins overseen by the Mouse House itself, you know things are going to get both wacky and weird! Club Penguin may not be everyone’s go-to MMO for music, but its wide array of simplified genres certainly give the Battle Bards a lot to discuss on this week’s show.

Episode 109 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Hello Yellow,” “Extra Planetary Force,” and “Cabin Trails”)
  • “Starting Fresh”
  • “Medieval Theme”
  • “Cart Surfer”
  • “Bull’s Eye”
  • “Pizza Parlor”
  • “Ocean Voyage”
  • “Rock the Boat”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Katriana_games and Zoward
  • Jukebox picks: “Divine’s Lament” from Divinity Original Sin 2, “Inner Light” from Destiny 2, and Level with Emily Reese
  • Outro (feat. “Strange Galaxy”)