When a whiny carebear needs some tough love
I’m sure that I come off as a whiny carebear at times here on Bio Break (“Your words, Syp, not mine!”), especially when it comes to combat situations. I hate the feeling of being roadblocked in MMOs when I can’t progress due to an encounter or particular mob being far too difficult — and not having any other workaround. I dislike mobs that are overly annoying (stop running away! Fight like a man… er, kobold!). I don’t want to be in a battle that lasts for more than 45 seconds. I’m apparently a hard person to please.
But today I’m going to step out of my comfort zone to admit that, yeah, it isn’t always bad when an MMO kicks my butt. In fact, sometimes it’s a very good thing, even if I resent it at the time.
If I can talk about my faith for a second, my worldview is such that I believe that life is hard. Sometimes very much so. And that instead of creating easy-peasy paths for us to travel down in comfort (I’m not a prosperity gospel kind of pastor, let’s just say), God strengthens us to deal with the challenges of life by trials and other at-the-time painful growth. Life doesn’t always get easier, we do suffer, but with His help we become better and more capable of dealing with it properly.
Because I’m used to this in real life, perhaps that’s why I resent it when I get challenged in MMOs. Part of me whines that I just want a relaxing, comfortable gaming experience for my unwinding time. Games are an escape from real life in a way, so why bring real life into it?
As much as I might resent how life has thrown me through the wringer and set challenge upon challenge upon me, I have to admit that today, I am a better person for it. I couldn’t have been the dad I am today 15 years ago, for example — I was far more self-centered, undisciplined, and inexperienced. So might MMOs be like that too?
An immovable force in LOTRO
Let me share a recent story. So I was finishing up Volume III of the epic in LOTRO the other night at level 91, and this particular mission sent me into an underground area of Isengard to kill six mobs. No problem, right? I haven’t really had any difficulty killing things on my LM, that’s for sure. But here it was different: The level 95 signature mobs had a host of tough, hard-hitting buffs that made them difficult to down and extremely dangerous to my level 91 person when they burned through my pet and started slapping me around. I started dying left and right, first perplexed and then angry at what was happening. I just wanted to finish this dumb “kill 6 orcs” quest! Why must it be so haaaaaaard?
However grudgingly, the game got me to respond by shifting my tactics. I tried different pets. I paid attention to the fight and figured out that staying out of melee range — even if the mob was only attacking my pet — was preferable, since the mob had AOE melee attacks. This was better, but not good enough to get the job done.
That’s when I cracked open my toolbox and got to work. I want to clarify how I feel about challenging encounters in MMOs: I only really start throwing a tantrum when there is no way past them with what I have on me. But if I can progress if I try different tactics and skills, then the encounter becomes a sort of “combat puzzle” to be solved — and my toolbox is my array of skills.
Like probably most players, I get into a fixed rotation for my battle and more or less ignore all of the rest of my skills. In some games where you only have a few skills, that’s no problem, but for others, like LOTRO, you might have dozens of possible skills waiting in the wings. If the game stops you hard with your routine rotation and makes you rethink how you fight, it can be a revelation to look at these ignored skills. I’ve had this happen many times in The Secret World, but I can’t recall LOTRO doing it to me before (in this case, part of the difficulty is the level disparity).
The mob had tons of strong buffs? I realized I was a Lore-master — and one of my specialties is debuffing. It’s not something I usually do, because fights with a pet and some burning embers are usually over fast enough not to need them. In this case, I went through my list of skills and pulled out a half-dozen debuff abilities, then gave them their own special section on the toolbar. In my searches, I also found an overlooked healing skill that threw a pretty nice heal-over-time spell on me and my pet which I didn’t even know existed. That discovery alone was worth the frustration that this quest caused.
With my revised strategy and toolbar, I started laying into these mobs. I hit them hard, throwing debuff after debuff and then attacking fast from range. This new approach worked, and my pet wasn’t even 1/4th of the way depleted before the mob went down. Victory! I went from frustration to being flushed with pride at overcoming an obstacle. And I walked out of that area with a better understanding of my class, a new healing skill, and a revised perspective. It was worthwhile.
So yeah, I might complain from time to time. It’s a blog, it’s my outlet, that’s what happens. But I need to admit that having my butt kicked out of complacency is something that needs to be done from time to time — whether it’s the game doing it or me doing it to myself.