Posted in General

Would I ever be an MMO guild officer again?

I don’t exactly recall how we got on the topic, but the other night in LOTRO kin chat we got to talking about officer roles. And in that conversation, it came out that a number of us normal kinship members were, at one time, officers in various MMO guilds. So we shared memories of that and also reasons why we weren’t interested in doing that again (at least for the time being).

In my salad days, I had a few stints as a guild officer and one or two leading small guilds. My time as a guildmaster wasn’t that interesting; usually it was just setting up community groups for Massively. But I was pretty heavily invested in being an officer in a couple World of Warcraft guilds as well as at least one LOTRO kinship. In fact, my very first blog was for my WoW guild’s entertainment.

But would I do it again? No, I don’t think so. Certainly not at this point in my life, where I’m measuring free time in precious 15-minute segments. My general maxim to volunteering is that if you can’t do something the right way and to the best of your abilities, don’t sign up. It doesn’t help anyone if you can only give a sporadic 20% of what’s needed.

And the thing about guild leadership is that it’s very, very time-intensive. Officers need to be present more often than not, which doesn’t really gel with my work schedule and family time. Most officers that I know tend to fall into the “we have more time than responsibilities” arena — no judgment, mind you. But a lot of at-home parents, retired folk, people on disability, or jobs that are part-time at best.

The other reason why I wouldn’t want to be an officer again is that it takes time out of your gaming while you’re in the game. You’re kind of always “on call” to lend advice and assistance, and that can be a little tiresome when it’s been a long day and you just want to log in and veg out doing your thing. I’d rather help people because I want to, anyway, not because it’s part of my in-game job description.

I’d love to hear from any of you — have you been or are you now a guild leader or officer? Is it worth the time investment to you?

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Bear moon rising

With all of the LOTRO anniversary gifts given out this season — seriously, I still can’t get over how *much* stuff SSG just handed out — perhaps the most significant for me was a trio of Valar boosts. There were two higher level boosts that went to the retail server, probably never to get used (but who knows). However, the level 50 one landed on Treebeard and gave me a intriguing yet agonizing choice. Who to use it on?

I mean, if you’re going to use a 50 boost on Treebeard, now is as perfect a time as any. We’ve got a month-and-a-half until the next expansion unlock, so a level 50 has plenty of time to get through Moria. Since my Minstrel is pretty much all done with content (save for Yondershire, which I’m planning on doing soon), I figured that the boost was best used to establish an alt.

And therein lay the conundrum. By the talk of my kinship, I wasn’t the only one of us who was chewing on nails trying to settle on a decision. It’s a one-and-done item, so if you pick badly, oh well, that’s that. I didn’t want to blow it on a brand-new character, as I wanted to have a connection with that toon. So that left me a trio of options: the Lore-master, the Captain, or the Beorning.

After some consideration, I sent it to my level 35 bear and brought her up to 50 in the blink of an eye. No regrets about this, either. I’d already invested a lot of time into her — not to mention several milestone travel skills. And playing a surly bear felt as good of a change of pace from a Minstrel as any. There wasn’t an awful lot I wanted to do in the 35 to 50 zone anyway, and the boost gave me enough bonus virtue XP to make up for her core five virtues.

But here’s the thing with the Valar boosts — they don’t do everything for you. Probably the biggest gap is with class trait points. You have to earn those, and you only get a (large) fraction from leveling. So before I went into Moria, I spent an evening or two backtracking to pick up trait points from the class quests. It wasn’t too onerous, and it gave me time to pick up the feel of piloting a big bear butt once more.

Now, it’s Moria time for her. As an alt, I don’t feel pressed to power her through like I did with the Minstrel, but it gives me something to do when there’s nothing else on the docket.

Posted in General

Here’s what I *don’t* want in that new MMO you’re making

At the start of the month, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street threw down a conversational gauntlet by asking followers what we really didn’t want to see in the MMO that Riot’s making:

And I, like all veteran MMO players out there, have Opinions on this. So many Opinions, in fact, that I don’t know where to start or how to limit myself. But here goes. Features I do not want to see in your MMO include:

  • Obtuse and convoluted gearing and character progression systems — the clearer and more user friendly, the better.
  • A huge raid-focused endgame
  • Jumping puzzles
  • Borrowed power and temporary systems that only exist for an expansion
  • Paid server transfers — this should be free
  • NFTs
  • Gender-locking
  • Pay-to-win anything
  • Territory conquest
  • Dull and tropish character classes
  • For that matter, classes. Let us mix and match and mold our own character’s destiny.
  • Lockboxes
  • Anything where I gamble for a chance at something I want instead of being able to buy or earn it outright
  • PvP tuning that ends up negatively affecting PvE
  • Hardcore for the sake of being hardcore
  • Streamlining so much that you lose important features and elements that help with immersion and fun

I’m sure there is so much more, but it’s late and my brain is fried. Just make a good MMO please. We have plenty of examples already of what works and what doesn’t — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Posted in General

Vacationing without video games

Our family just returned from a week-and-a-half vacation during which, as the headline states, I pretty much unplugged from work and video games alike. Oh, I had plenty of options to take games with me — even MMOs, as we had wifi the whole time — but I feel it’s good now and then to disconnect entirely and simply focus on family time.

So we did what our family usually does for trips, which is we pick an area we’ve never been to before, rent an Airbnb or two, and create an itinerary focused on exploring and experiencing. This was one of our longer trips, and so we really packed it in.

During the time, we went to an indoor waterpark in the Poconos, stayed in a cabin in the mountains, went on an underground coal mine tour, visited Gettysburg, attended two amusement parks (Hersheypark and Knoebels) on their opening weekend, saw some family, toured a historic mansion, stayed in the heart of Amish country with a Mennonite family, hiked a bit of the Appalachian Trail, went through a zoo, fell into a creek, explored an aquarium, and walked so many steps that my step counter was pleased with me for once.

We definitely tuckered our kids out, but they had a pretty good time along the way. My only complaint was that it wasn’t restful, per se. Every day had stuff to do, and that stuff usually required a few hours of driving. I think everyone got a little tired of piling into the car to go two hours to do a Thing, then two hours back. My wife and I agreed that our next trip would focus on a place with more local experiences and attractions.

But for now, it’s back to normal life. It’s the part of vacations that I dread the most — not because it means that the vacation is over, but because it’s usually a lot of extra work and stress to get back into a routine while dealing with the usual accumulation of tasks and notices that we’d put off.

My hope for myself is that by unplugging, I might feel refreshed to come back to old favorites like LOTRO with a renewed sense of fun and purpose. And dang it, I have to get all of the anniversary stuff done before the calendar runs out!

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: Eveningstar odds & ends

I’m taking a couple of weeks off of quest chains in DDO to work on the four heroic stand-alone missions in Eveningstar. I kicked it off with “Search and Rescue,” a, erm, search and rescue of five lost friends inside some tomb or another.

The DDO wiki page on this quest warns that it’s tougher than it should be at this level, and boy is that right. There are a lot of intense encounters in here with mephits, undead, and… kobolds? Well, they’re all worshiping some big ol’ red dragon in the way back, so they have backup. I didn’t have time to do the optional side quest here, unfortunately.

In “Mask of Deception,” I had to infiltrate a cult compound to steal their super-duper special mask (which ends up being a fake anyway, spoiler). Now, of course the devs want you to stealth in using a cultist’s mask, but this is DDO, and DDO never quite begrudges you if you want to do things your own way. Like, say, screaming and gunning your way through packs of mobs. Which is, of course, what I did. AAHHHHH pew pew pew pew.

It probably was for the best, because once I grabbed the mask, alarms went off anyway. Going back out was through a whole host of traps which I approached with the same subtlety — running and screaming and hoping for the best. I barely got a scratch!

I got all excited thinking that “Murder By Night” was going to be a murder mystery quest, but that’s not how it played out. Instead, I got thrust into a war hospital that was suffering from an outbreak of werewolves. It was a decent re-use of the same set from the druid questline, only now with more random lycanthropic transformations. I thought that the background howls and screams were decent atmosphere.

To wrap up the one-off quests, I went down into a dank cave for “The Riddle.” My goal? To find a wizard who was investigating strange and troubled dreams in the village. As one might expect, it was night hags all along.

I was a little daunted by the “long” quest descriptor, but this one wasn’t too bad. A bit twisty-turny through caverns, perhaps, but I never got lost. It all got done in record time, and I even got to squish an eyeball along the way. Bonus!

Posted in General

MMOs need to include tent camping as a standard feature

Has it ever struck anyone else as strange that for being world-renowned adventures, MMO characters are quite the homebodies? Even if their games don’t feature housing, characters are constantly fleeing back to cities after a bit of combat and questing. We don’t really strike out for new vistas and spend several days in the wilderness — we’ve got to make it home for dinner, after all!

I do wonder if this is an influencing factor why our characters differ in one area from their movie, TV, or novel counterparts. They aren’t going on journeys, for the most part. They aren’t packing up what they need for a lengthy trek, and they certainly don’t break at the end of the day to make camp.

Most — not all, but a vast majority — of MMOs lack any kind of tent camping, even for just cosmetic roleplay purposes. I can’t pitch a tent, build up a campfire, and enjoy a few moments in nature. It’s just run run run to the next quest objective.

This has been a long-standing item on my wish list. I really would like to be able to make camps in MMOs out in the game world. I think there is a lot of potential with this feature, kind of portable housing that could be customized, used, and then erased when the player moves on or logs out. A cool-looking camp might attract other players over for a bit of socialization. There could be basic services offered, with a bit of functionality.

It’s not completely absent from the MMO scene. I always was envious of Vulpera in WoW for their tent-making ability. Fallout 76 lets you create CAMPs that can be moved (albeit, not very easily). Star Wars Galaxies had this, if I recall. New World has a weird camping system but it’s mostly for respawning. I hear Black Desert has them too.

It just feels like tents are a largely unexplored feature that could add a lot to MMOs: immersion, customization, functionality, social magnets. Let’s make it happen, devs!

Posted in Music

My new/old music obsession: ’90s alt rock

So a little while back, I was on the prowl for more music to discover, poking around into different genres. Somehow, I came across the 90salternative reddit and fell down, down, down into a rabbit hole. This wasn’t so much discovery as REdiscovery. Because this was exactly the kind of music we mainlined back in college, albums that I had in spades and since lost. Yet somehow over time, I forgot how great it was. It got locked up into a dim room in my mind until this reddit unlocked it.

When I started listening to it again, the door to that room of memories was blasted open and all of the weird, crazy, and emotional animals came roaring out. There was something about these jangly, unorthodox songs that made me think of long road trips with friends, nights spent writing absolutely horrible poetry that no you will never read, and pretty much the whole journey through the back half of the decade.

Since then, I’ve become obsessed with ’90s alt rock. I started by listening through the albums and artists that I’d known and liked well — Weezer, Tori Amos, Garbage, Nirvana — but it wasn’t long before I wanted to strike out on personally unexplored paths. I was looking for that alt rock “sound” that felt raw, exciting, and catchy, and I had missed a whole lot of it until now.

As I tend to do when I get excited about something, I dove into this head-first. I devoured recommendations, made lists of artists and albums to listen through, and started to refine what my personal tastes were in this area. I already knew that there were certain popular alt rock groups for their distinct sound (Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Soundgarden, REM, and I know I’ve made powerful enemies in this parenthetical aside). I also knew that I have a preference for female singers who put all of those emotions out in the open.

So I’ve been listening through hundreds of songs from the like of Liz Phair, Luscious Jackson, PJ Harvey, Letters to Cleo, and so many more. It’s been a blast, and I’ve started to work on a cultivated ’90s alt rock playlist with just the good stuff.

It’s like a time machine that I can use to go back and correct a vital wrong — to fully experience this scene instead of sampling it from the perspective of a musically ignorant college student. It gets me pumped up while working and does a whole lot to wash the bad taste of modern music out of my ears.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Lore-master of the universe

Playing a Lore-master these days kind of feels like you’re deliberately choosing the hard mode for an MMO. It’s a squishy class without a lot of “oh crap!” buttons, most of its skills require you to stand stock-still for a casting animation, and the skills themselves feel scattered and thematically detached. Yet I can’t help but love having a pet and the overall look of a gal running around with a staff and flinging embers everywhere.

I spent a whole lot of time in Evendim this month with her, trying to get the bulk of the 30 to 40 leveling done. I figured that if I did that, then I could skip the normal progression of zones and do Wildwood and Angle quests instead to get her up to Moria.

Yet I started to feel a little burned out on her after a while, which happens from time to time on characters. The best thing to do there is just mothball the toon for the time being, perhaps come back in a few weeks and see if my temperature has changed.

Meanwhile, I’ve been logging back on to my main Minstrel to keep rounding out her character. If anything, the biggest point of contention I have with her is that I’ve yet to fashion an outfit that I love so much that I want it to be her regular look. This is mostly due to a lack of acceptable cosmetic pieces that I’ve found in the early part of the game.

But hey, at least I’m doing more guild dungeon runs as of late! I’m no powerhouse or anything, but I can pump out some good damage if a tank clusters up bad guys. I love doing these more as a sight-seeing expedition than a hope of getting gear upgrades — but hey, if an upgrade drops, I’m not going to complain!