I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, I’m A Toys ‘R Us Kid

Rabbit over at Gamers With Jobs posted an interesting Christmas-themed essay today concerning his growing discomfort/horror of being a responsible grown-up and parent at the cost of his own gaming time and fun.  That as kids grow up, parents must give up some of their own time and interests in order to support their kids’ activities and interests.

As a father of one speedy-crawling 8-month-old boy (who thinks the word “No!” is really, really funny) and a little girl who’s a few months away from joining us on the outside, this essay caught my attention in a personal way.  I understand just how much growing responsibilities and additional family members can demand more time from you, and how (as Rabbit put it) there’s this feeling of a “box” that’s closing in.

The thing is, as much as I appreciate Rabbit’s honesty and his apparent effort in raising his kids, the mindset that your kids/family are leeching away the fun out of your life and the only enjoyment you can have is to live vicariously through them is somewhat askew.  People have been telling me that my life has been over for the past five years — first when I got married, then when #1 came along, and now with the second on the way.  They always say it in that mock-horror-but-not-really-mock tone, watching my reaction to see if I’m going to grimace or shriek loudly.

Yeah, life has become different, but it’s not over.  I didn’t stop being a gamer when I got married, I simply had to reprioritize, compromise and balance my activities.  Same with my kids.  Sure, my available gaming time will continue to decrease over the next couple decades, but I sincerely doubt that it will vanish, or that my life will only be an extension of my kids.

I look to my friend Bob — 4 kids, a full-time pastor, and… a gamer.  He games when he can, and it’s a great source of stress-relief and downtime for him.  I look at my brother Jared — 4 kids and all, and he still engages in multiple hobbies, from woodworking to guitar playing to reading.  They certainly don’t have the free time they once did, but they wouldn’t say they’re “boxed” in either.

I have no idea if my kids will be gamers or athletes or musicians or whatever, and I’m not going to push them in one direction or the other.  But for the record, my son absolutely loves to sit on his dad’s lap and watch the moving pictures as I play a MMO.

And then he tries to eat my mouse.

Cannibalizing Alts

On a recent podcast of The Instance, a listener sent in a really fascinating question concerning a hypothetical feature for WoW (but, really, it could apply to any MMO).

The feature is paraphrased as such: what if the game would let you destroy an alt in order to let you transfer some of the levels/XP of the destroyed alt to another one of your characters?  Personally, I’m thinking of a 1:2 ratio with XP — for every 2 XP the offed alt had accumulated, you could transfer 1 XP over to the character of your choice.

The principle behind this is that many of us end up with several alts who just take up space.  We ended up not liking the class, not wanting to invest time into too many characters, what have you.  But there’s a bit of player’s regret that’s happened — you’ve spent a good chunk of time on that character that’s now useless.  So why not be allowed to transfer at least a portion of that spent time in the form of XP into a character that you will play?

For example, maybe I have a few alts I don’t play, but I really want to start a new guy of class X.  I’m dreading the slow trudge up to the higher levels, so I sacrifice those alts and give my new main a good boost up in levels.  Bam.  I’m not cheating, per se, because I’ve already invested the time — and if I could go back and tell myself that I wouldn’t play those alts, perhaps I would have played class X from the beginning.

Now for obvious reasons, this is a feature we’d never ever see in a MMO, because it removes a portion of the time sink that devs love, since it keeps you subbed and playing.  Playing a character 1-100 will net them more money than playing a character from 45-100.

But I can’t help but look at all the many, many, many alts that I’ve generated over my MMO career, and wish that I could use their efforts for something useful.

Quote of the Day

“Oh, please, do not do this. You’re tempting me even more to dig up my old BattleChest CDs and actually use that 7 free days. That would mean all the frustration that comes with patching. That probably induced the rage-deletion on my Alliance characters and a Horde reroll, grinding all the way up to RFC and running it over and over again with noobs. As a trivial conclusion, I’d smash my face to the screen repeatedly, finally breaking it. The leftover class pieced would injure me. Through the injuries, liquid crystal would get into my bloodstream and poison me, which would certainly turn out to be lethal. My family, finding my cold corpse, would hire the spiritual successor of Jack Thompson and make a lawsuit agains Blizzard. Blizzard would get fined so much that they’d go bankrupt. Due to their bankrupcy, the world’s economy would collapse. This collapse would lead to riots, civil wars and general pandemonium. The pandemonium would cause the opening of several Chaos Portals at the North and South Pole, through which Tzeench would destroy the whole universe.

I beg you, do not write more about dungeon finder, please! You’d be the one responsible for the takeover of Chaos on the universe…”

~ KRiS in the comments section

Three Things I Love About WoW’s Dungeon Finder

You can’t have some hate without love, so here’s the second part of my impressions of WoW’s Dungeon Finder — close encounters of the positive kind:

1. It Makes Me Less Timid

In the past, grouping took so long to get together and was so firmly dominated by the leader that I usually shut my mouth and played as a good little meek soldier.   I guess I’m always pretty mindful of my reputation, so I never confronted puggers very often.  The Dungeon Finder threw me 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  No, I’m not some swaggering jerk (at least, I hope not!), but suddenly I’m incredibly not-shy about calling people out on bad behavior/gameplay, initiating a vote to kick if someone is truly hopeless, and rolling need on gear I really need without worrying if it’s going to upset other people.  If I don’t like the group, or if they don’t like me, oh well — I can leave and re-queue.  No biggies.

And when you’re willing to heal, another group is just a few seconds away.

2. Faster Runs, Better Gear

The random dungeon tool has incentives up the wahoo — it offers quicker access to a run, it gives you XP and gold and a satchel of goodies upon completion, and (best of all, IMO) it throws a 5% buff on your damage and healing for the duration of the run.  This, combined with post-Wrath AOE tanking/DPSing means much faster runs, where hours are being pared down into half-hour, 45-minute segments.

And while I’ve rarely found a usable item in the mystery bag at the end of the run, I’m constantly upgrading gear through the dungeons in Outland — sometimes as many as four pieces of gear a night.  I don’t even think about the gear, because the runs are so fast, so when I do get an upgrade it’s more of a surprise than something I was hoping for and anticipating.

3. Instant Accessibility

Here’s the double-edged sword of instant teleport activities in MMOs: on the down side, they break world immersion and make the world “smaller” for it; on the up side, everyone loves them because they save time.  The Dungeon Finder simply cuts the fat of group formation, assembly, travel and prep by 99%.  You can queue up from anywhere in the world, and when it’s ready, you instantly are taken to the dungeon, which you can leave at any point to instantly teleport back (to repair, get supplies or return at the end of the run).

This also adds loads of flexibility while leveling — I didn’t really want to repeat Outland content (which I’ve done a million times), so I’ve leveled from 58-67 mostly through random dungeons.  And it’s proving to be just as fast, if not faster, than questing for XP.

Three Things I Hate About WoW’s Dungeon Finder

Yeah, the Dungeon Finder is the greatest thing to hit World of Warcraft until sliced bread (sliced bread will be released in patch 4.2 after months of testing), but that doesn’t mean it’s all rosy walks in the park.  After a couple weeks of play, here are three things I’ve come to despise about the constant pugging — when and if it happens:

1. Death Knoobs

Death Knights are, unsurprisingly, the single most popular and played class in the game.  I think I read somewhere that DKs account for 14% of the characters?  It’s not surprising, since it lets anyone roll an alt right at Outland level, with a free epic mount, all the flight points, blue gear and all lack of subtlety in combat that you can handle.

Unfortunately for the Dungeon Finder, that means starting at level 58, pugs become infested with DKs.  One per group is an absolute minimum, two or three normal, and there have been several times I’ve rolled with me as a druid healer along with 4 DKs all launching those epileptic-triggering spells that make me twitch after a while.  And unfortunately for the Dungeon Finder, it means that whatever DK has been tapped to tank is usually completely useless for the task.

It shouldn’t be hard at the start — use Death & Decay, make sure you’re in frost presence, make sure the other DKs aren’t.  But I can’t begin to tell you the number of times where a DK absolutely refuses to use D&D (it, like, takes TIME, man!), or how I have to deal with healing multiple DKs all drawing aggro, or — and this ticks me off the most — when the tank refuses to leave blood presence because, quote, “it heals me!”

/facepalm

Yeah, I heal you too, junior.  A lot better than you heal yourself.

The worst offender of the Death Knoob tribe was last night, when we were running Slave Pens with a DK who was taking an unusually high amount of damage.  It wasn’t until we beat the first boss who dropped a piece of mail, at which point the DK was upset he couldn’t Need roll on it, that we became concerned.  I inspected him and saw that he was wearing, I kid you not, mostly leather gear.  Upon questioning, the indignant DK said that he was a, quote, “DPS tank!”, and then he started making fun of the paladin in the group for doing less damage.  That’s why God invented the vote to kick function.

2. Damage Meters

This is a pet peeve of mine from back in my TBC raiding days.  I simply, completely, totally and undeniably loathe damage meters.  I curse the day that the damage meter mod creator was ever born.  I would be completely fine if the mod would cause any computers using it to simultaneously melt down until their owners learned their lesson.

Now, sure, damage meters have a place in the game, particularly if you want to use it for your own private information, to help you strive to be a better DPSer or whatever.  Raiders most likely consider it invaluable and indispensible.  But for 5-man casual pugging?  It’s death to group morale.

I start screaming internally whenever the chat window gets spammed with damage statistics, which always comes from the highest DPS character in the group.  No matter what they might say, there’s only one reason they throw this out in chat: to pat themselves on the back and wave their e-peen for all to see.

Damage meters suck because it only makes one person feel good to see it, and that’s the guy at the #1 spot.  They suck because group running isn’t all about damage — it’s about teamwork and utility as well.  But that’s not what damage meters enforce — their message is that the only important statistic is how bad you’re hurting the enemy, and all else is meaningless.

The problem here is that I’ve found no good way to confront damage meter spammers in a pug.  They get offended and are bewildered when I tell them to knock it off, and an explanation usually requires a good five minutes of typing that I don’t want to spend.  After all, *everybody* uses them, so why complain about them?

Why indeed.  Just ask Mr. or Ms. #4 on the list, who feels like crap when you post the statistics, who might have been helping the group doing something other than just pure damage (like, I dunno, tanking or CC or debuffing or whatnot).  Damage meters turn a team effort into an every-man-for-themselves dash to outdo each other.

3. Gear Snobbery

I haven’t encountered tons of this yet, at level 65, but I’ve heard stories and it burns me to the core to know just how many people are out there who absolutely refuse to pug with others who don’t have whatever arbitrary level of gear that they consider to be necessary.

Now, I’m not talking about common sense gear issues.  Like the DK I mentioned from before, there’s just sheer stupidity and ignorance of bad gearing, and those people need to be taken aside and properly taught, in a nice way, why their class needs a particular type of gear and what stats they should be shooting for.  If someone is so horribly geared that it will make the difference between a success and a group wipe, then it’s an issue and should be dealt with.

What I’m talking about is the other 95% of cases where a player has solid gear, gear that should let them play a dungeon as long as they’re not completely hopeless, but the gear snob in question doesn’t want to play with them because it won’t go as fast or as easy as it would be with someone in full Tier 40 epics or whatever.  I’m talking about players who are downright rude and impatient with others and make them feel terrible about themselves, as if they were lepers who should be blamed for any imperfection and kicked out of the colony.

I only ask for competance in my groupmates and civility.  If a dungeon run takes a bit longer because a tank is still learning the ropes, or because a player who can only log on for a couple hours a week is still gearing up, then I’m okay with that.  I’ll help them out however I can and be vocal in encouragement.  PUGs are not professional-level athletics, they are casual games where players of all types come together for a bit of fun, and it should be treated as such.

Death: The Final Frontier

Back when Age of Conan was in the pre-release stage — you might recall this as a happier time for all — they were touting how their mature and savage game was going to boast all these incredible, hit you in the face features that’d never been seen before.  Out of all of their new shinies on display, one really attracted my attention.

I recall reading an article where a dev was talking about the negative aspect of spellcasting, and how, when you die, there was a chance you might be cast into hell, or somesuch.  At that point, you would have to fight your way out a small level to be ressurected in the larger game world.

Now, it’s been a while and my facts on this may be fuzzy, and I don’t think this actually made it into the game (AoC players, please correct me on this), but I really, really loved the idea of this twist on a death penalty.  It took a rather mundane drawback of a time penalty and turned it into something cool, something that fit in with the game world and lore.  You had to earn your right to be rezzed, and I could see that it would make you somewhat apprehensive of dying.

So what if a future developer picks up this concept and runs with it?  It could be potentially awesome.  What if there are multiple “death stages”, of which you’d go to a random one on dying?  What if there are special unlocks and quests that can only be completed in this realm?

Would a death realm be too frustrating to the average player who’d just want to get back into the “real” game and play, or would it add immersion to the experience and a significant weight to dying?