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Going on character expeditions in MMOs

Even more nail-biting of a decision to pick a new/different MMO to play is the choice of what character to pursue in a given game. There are two factors that play into this. First is the fact that time is limited for me and I don’t have gobs of hours to pursue multiple characters (hey, I have a tough enough time juggling a small handful of games!). Second is “the grass is greener” phenomena, where I get this suspicion that what I’m *not* playing might actually be better than what I am.

Maybe that other alt would be a better use of my time. Maybe it would be more fun. Maybe I should start from scratch. Maybe I should stick with a high-end toon to complete the journey and see content that’s fresh to me. Maybe perhaps I don’t know.

Instead of making on-the-spot decisions to abruptly change course in character journeys, what I’ve been doing is to give myself permission to go on what I call “character expeditions.” Usually this is just a single day, maybe two at the most, where I tell myself that I’m going to check out this character and see if it’s what I really want to pursue versus my current one. But — here’s the important thing — I won’t commit to the change right then and there. I’ll splurge on a long gaming session to really get a feel for that toon and help inform the decision that I want to make.

What often happens more times than not is that I’ll get that rash impulse out of my system and return to the character I was playing all along. I’ll satisfy my curiosity and get a hands-on feel for comparison. And while in one sense I’ve wasted a night of progression, I don’t feel that I’ve wasted the time.

It’s kind of like taking a car out for a test drive to see if that’s what I really want, or if it just looked good on the lot when I drove by. And by doing this, I have saved myself a whole lot of future wasted time in which I might invest into a character or course that’s ultimately unsatisfying.

Posted in General

Are MMORPGs the ultimate comfort gaming?

Any purveyor of TVs, books, and movies know of “comfort” picks. Instead of being unfamiliar new territory, a comfort show, film, or novel will be one that’s already been consumed and enjoyed. Beyond that, it’s also become so beloved that the person has gone back to it again and again because it offers a predictable, comfortable, and safe option.

It’s just how we are. Every person has their own degree of adventurousness, where they’ll try different options on the menu and try out that athletic activity for the first time, but everyone also needs a certain level of routine and comfort.

So why would it be any different in the video game world? It’s always easier to go back to a familiar game that you know than spend the time and effort to learn a new one. We develop those stables of comfort gaming and find ourselves returning to certain titles again and again.

As I was thinking on this the other day, it occurred to me that nowhere do we see this as strongly as with MMORPGs. After all, these are games that we initially poured hundreds if not thousands of hours into, forming all sorts of memories and becoming well-acquainted with those systems. They’re proven entities to us, liked at least at one point at our life and often more than once.

It’s so easy to return to old MMOs that most of us have learned the folly of predicting that this was the last time we’d ever play TITLE X. Maybe I’m not in the mood for it *now*, but in two years’ time when my fondness for the game’s returned and I pine for that sweet hit of nostalgic gaming? I’m going to boot it back up. It’s absolutely comfort gaming in all of its glory.

I guess there’s nothing profound to add to this. Personally, I’m glad to have a good 10 or so MMORPGs that are still operating that I consider my comfort games. As long as they’re running, I can return to past stomping grounds and perhaps find something new along the way.

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Going out to nowhere for vacation

After a rather hectic holiday season and a long work year, my family, my church, and myself realized that I was long overdue for a break. I was feeling the strain of going and going and going for far too long, and I needed to step away for a bit. Normally when I go on vacation, it’s with my family — which is great, but it’s never that restful when you’ve got four kids and a family cry to always be doing something. This time, I needed something for me.

So my loving family supported the idea of me taking five days of vacation time just to myself, something I haven’t done since 2019. I kicked around a lot of ideas — flying to Montana, Bermuda, EPCOT — before settling on something rather more mundane. I didn’t need an adventure with a lot of stress and travel. I needed rest. Quiet. A place of solitude where the introvert in me could really recharge my batteries without anyone or any schedule demanding of my time and attention.

Thus I ended up renting a cabin near one of New York’s finger lakes and hunkering down for several days. I did talk to my family twice a day on Facetime, but other than that, I kept to myself. Honestly, it was really weird at first. I felt guilty for making my kids miss me and putting extra pressure on my wife to watch everyone, I was worried I’d get cabin fever and go batty from loneliness, and the place I was staying felt foreign to me.

But by day three, it all kind of clicked. There was a moment when I recognized that I was truly relaxing in a way I hadn’t up to that point. I had no routine, no schedule, and pretty much no responsibilities. I could wake up whenever, lay out the cabin in whatever way I wanted, listen to music at top volume, read books, play games, watch movies, and catch up on various little things. I’m sure that if anyone observed me, I would’ve been the most boring subject ever. But you know what? It was kind of glorious. I almost never get this much quiet or space from people needing something of me. I wouldn’t want it to extend indefinitely, but as a break I really enjoyed not having the constant conveyor belt of work and responsibilities feeding me action items.

I also think that for this kind of solitude vacation, a winter destination is key. Other than taking a long daily walk outside to clear my head, there wasn’t anything to go do. Winter is a great excuse for buttoning up in a cabin rather than feeling pressured to go outside and be active.

That was my vacation. And now I’m back, hopefully refreshed and ready for the months ahead.

Posted in General

Syp’s most anticipated games for 2023 (and beyond?)

While I have plenty of options of already released MMOs and other games to play in the new year, that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to the shiny newness that’s coming down the pike. Here is my current list of upcoming games that I’m hoping to play in some form in 2023:

Warcraft Arclight Rumble

Initially Blizzard indicated that this would be out by the end of 2022, but it obviously wasn’t. Hopefully it won’t be too far off, then, because I’m eager to see if this’ll be another fun mobile addition to my library. I was resting a lot more hope on this before I got sucked into Marvel Snap — now, a good additional game will be welcome but not a replacement.

LOTRO’s possible sea-themed expansion

I’m eager to hear what SSG has in store for the next LOTRO expansion (big or not). This past year was a blast in the game, and I have hopes that we’ll see an equally strong 2023.

Octopath Traveler 2

Yes, I still need to fully play and beat the first one, but it’s on my to do list… as is the beautiful-looking sequel. I’m really glad this turned into a franchise.

Sea of Stars

I only recently became aware of this retro-JRPG in the works, but it looks fantastic and I would love to give it a whirl.

Palia

I really don’t expect to see anything like a launch or even early access this year, but I do hope that this MMO project makes some big strides and ramps up the information flow.

Nightingale

I’m not quite as psyched for this victorian survival title as some, but I definitely will be playing on Day One. Whenever it does come out, it’ll be welcome.

Wayfinder

This is a relatively new entry on my most-wanted list, but can you blame me? It’s like a WildStar-ish semi-MMO that came out of nowhere and is releasing in early access this spring.

Diablo IV

I’m a latecomer to this bandwagon, but after watching a few very positive previews, I’ve hopped onto it. I’ve never actually beaten a Diablo game to date (as in, all the way to the final boss) and figure that if I’m going to take up that challenge, it might as well be the hot new kid on the block.

Blue Protocol

We’re getting this full-blown MMO by the end of 2023 (fingers crossed), and I’m pretty psyched to see a title like this come to market. The cel shaded visuals and scifi theming is a big draw, but I’m curious how it’ll actually play.

The Sims 5

What will the next era of The Sims be like? Whatever it may be, I want to get in on the ground floor. And then probably go broke from buying all of the DLC.

Wildfrost

This card game looks fantastic and has some strong word-of-mouth going for it.

Starfield

I’m not a massive Bethesda fanboy, but hey, I’ll gladly show up for an original scifi RPG. I’m getting Mass Effect vibes from what very little we actually do know about it.

Posted in General

Expedition returning from the Steam winter sale

One of my personal end-of-year traditions is buying myself a video game or two. This is partially due to all of the sales going on and partially because nobody in my family has a clue how to actually gift digital games. So I handle that part and gift myself. Spoiled? Sure, but it makes heading into the new year a fun experience.

Plus, there are a whole lot of “best of 2022” lists that just came out with great game recommendations. I like waiting to the end of the year to see what bubbles up to the top, both in the mainstream and indie categories.

Since I’m already drowning in RPG games, I focused more on adventure titles for my acquisitions. I gave myself a $40 budget and went to Steam to do a little discount shopping in its winter sale. Now, as much as I do like a really great discount, it’s even more important to me to buy games that I’m sure to play in the next couple of months rather than titles that’ll clog up my backlog.

So I ended up with just three purchases, but I’m feeling great about all three. First, there’s Pentiment, that incredibly odd-looking medieval adventure title from Obsidian. That studio always has great writing, and I’ve heard nothing but awesome things about this game, so I’m in.

Next, I snapped up NORCO (the cheapest of the three). This semi-scifi yarn sounded a little odd and unique, and I liked how many people kept mentioning how the characters really grew on them.

Finally, I jumped at Case of the Golden Idol. This murder mystery title got a lot of comparisons with Return of Obra Dinn, which is a point in its favor.

And that’s it! No huge AAA games, but a few titles to keep the winter months interesting. Now all I have to do is decide which of them to play first…

Posted in General

2022 in Review: Syp’s gadgets

This is a weird post to make, seeing as how I’ll never be accused of being an early adopter of tech. Actually, I’m the guy who will hang on to old tech and keep using it until it’s to ancient or broken. I mean, our whole family still shares an iPad mini from 2016 as our primary tablet.

But I did want to speak to gadget use this year, since it is a geeky thing and it had some impact on my life. The biggest upgrade I saw in this area was buying a Macbook M1 at the end of 2021. It never became my primary computer — especially for gaming purposes, as it’s pretty limited in that regard — but it definitely became my go-to travel laptop. Sitting in the car waiting for the kids to finish a club? I pull this out, connect it to the internet with a phone hotspot, and get to writing or surfing. Going on trips or sitting at a coffee shop or even lounging in the living room on the couch? I love the lightweight, no stuff attached form factor here.

I got a new Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday that replaced my old one (which went to my kids). It’s such an easy portable reader that I love bringing it with me whenever I’m heading out. But I definitely “read” more on audiobooks this year, using my phone and bluetooth earbuds or a connection to my car stereo to feed me stories.

Other than that, no computer upgrades or even phone upgrades (I’m still rocking an iPhone 7, believe it or not). I probably will get a new phone relatively soon, but it’s not a pressing need at the moment.

I guess one other gadget I should mention was that I tracked down the very last CD boombox that my local Walmart was selling, as I started to re-collect CDs late in the year. It’s a serviceable enough device, but if this is something I really want to pursue more, I may need to invest in a better upgrade in the future.

That’s about it for gadgets!

Posted in General

2022 in Review: Syp’s non-MMO gaming

Hey, it’s the last week of 2022, and with that in mind, I wanted to wrap up the year on Bio Break with a look back at my geeky journey over the past 12 months. Today I’ll be kicking things off with a review of all of my video gaming outside of MMORPGs.

I feel like I got a good smattering of various gaming experiences this year. RimWorld and Wildermyth were both fun to blog through this past spring, and I went through both Darkside Detective titles for some hilarious old fashioned adventure gaming. Seriously, Darkside Detective is incredibly funny (and kind of clever) despite having chunky old school graphics.

Out of numerous strong recommendations, I did try Project Zomboid for a while. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ever get into this game. It was too stressful, too confusing, and the controls were way too awkward. But I like the concept!

Over the summer, I took a short vacation break to play through all of Life is Strange: True Colors. It was a bit shallow in the end, but a great ride and a wonderful way to pass the time. I needed a good adventure game fix, and this gave one to me in spades. Later this year, I played through all of Detroit Become Human for the same reason and came to the same conclusion (kind of really fun during it, but unsatisfying and shallow by the time I finished up).

I got back into retro game blogging with an eight-episode stint through Chrono Cross. I put about 35 hours into it before fizzling out, but it was still nice to revisit the past and see what held up about it and what didn’t.

Speaking of unexpected gaming, American Truck Simulator got its hooks into me for a bit of time there. I still enjoy it in spurts here and there, but it was an infatuation quickly dismissed. Longer lasting, though, was Marvel Snap, my must-play, go-to mobile title for the year. Man, I love that game!

I also started up another playthrough of The Outer Worlds, this time to blog through and play the DLC. Finally, I started playing through Shadows Over Loathing, the sequel to West of Loathing. It’s a pretty decent (and seriously quirky) adventure-RPG hybrid.

All in all, I feel I got a lot of non-MMO gaming in — and a nice variety, too. What’ll come in the new year? I have ideas… but I’m not sharing yet.

Posted in General

Lining up my 2023 side gaming projects

One thing I like to do every December is start to lay the foundation for the new year’s projects. This dovetails nicely with all of these end-of-year lists that come out, giving me a lot of sources of inspiration. So I’ve been starting to think more and more about some of the side gaming projects I want to do alongside my more constant MMORPG romps.

Mostly, I’m looking at RPGs and some adventure games that I’ve either never played or want to replay for personal and blogging reasons. I went through my entire game library, wishlists, and then “best of” lists for inspiration. What I came away with was about 40 odd titles as potential candidates to play on the side in the new year. I then read through the list and did a gut check to see which games had the most immediate appeal to me. That narrowed it down further to a list of seven, which I’ll share with you here in no particular order:

  1. Escape From Monkey Island: I’m a huge fan of the first three Monkey Island games and would eventually like to plow through the rest of the series. I own this one already, so why not?
  2. Return to Monkey Island: And if I do the above, I’ll most likely buy and play the recently released sequel. I’ve heard good things.
  3. The Outer Worlds: I had an absolute blast playing Obsidian’s 2019 scifi RPG a few years ago. With two DLCs out and a sequel on the way, it seems a perfect time to revisit as a blog series.
  4. Broken Ranks: This odd MMO has been described to me more as a single-player RPG with a unique form factor. I don’t have a whole lot of untouched MMOs left to check out — at least none of quality — so this stays high on my list.
  5. Diablo II Resurrected: Just to say that, for once in my life, I played a Diablo game all the way to the very end. I think I’d have fun with the old vs. new graphics settings here, too.
  6. Fallout 2: It’s a stone-cold classic, a long time favorite of mine, and an old friend deserving of a revisit. Besides, last time I blogged about it I stalled out and didn’t beat it. For shame, Syp!
  7. Octopath Traveler: I kind of really liked this when I was playing it a few years back, but I wasn’t consistent with blogging through it. Playing Chrono Cross recently gave me an appetite for a modern turn-based JRPG.

As I said, I have plenty of other options past that. I’ve never done an Avernum game, and I’ve heard those are underrated. I’d be up for another Wildermyth campaign at some point. Other options are finishing out the King’s Quest series, running through all the Mass Effect games, maybe revisiting Final Fantasy VII or beating VI for the first time, jumping into Valheim, blogging about Darkest Dungeon, or buckling down to learn Dwarf Fortress. All possibilities.

Obviously, I can’t do all of these in a year — maybe not even three or four of them, depending on time constraints. But I like to have a good array of well-laid-out options in front of me so that I can pick the choicest of them all and have a good time while sharing with you.

Sound off if you have opinions on any of these games… or if you’ve got your own 2023 gaming list brewing!

Posted in General

Hitting a rough stretch of gaming malaise

Here’s something I really, really didn’t expect to be writing right now: I don’t feel like gaming much these days.

It’s nothing to do with MMORPGs or any specific title. I just look at games lately and go… eh. We’ve all been there, that feeling of games not doing it for us. I can boot up, say, LOTRO and have an agreeable time, but I don’t feel an excitement propelling me into the game or a thrilling time calling me back afterward.

I didn’t expect this because I spent a good chunk of fall specifically waiting for November and a trio of big releases (LOTRO’s Before the Shadow, New World’s patch and fresh start servers, WoW Dragonflight). But it could’ve been that I got too much into a waiting pattern that I started to decouple from gaming entirely… or at least for a time. So now I look at releases I know should be exciting to me, and I’m largely ambivalent about them. Some nights I end up watching movies or reading books instead of going online at all.

Maybe I don’t know exactly what caused this, but I’m not freaked out so much as slightly confused. Hey, it’s happened before, and it’s not the end of the world if I don’t want to play video games. I always think it’s important to listen to your psyche when it’s telling you that it’s time to take a break — or take it easy. Perhaps it’s even a good thing to be a reactionary check on my sometimes-propensity to get too caught up in the hype cycle.

I do consider it a possibility that a fall without any serious gaming goals or long stretches of time building connections with guilds is a cause, and a solution might simply to nudge myself into a regular play pattern until those goals and connections reassert themselves. But I’m certainly not going to force it.

After all, even if I’m only creeping forward in these games rather than sprinting or jogging, there’s never any rush. It’ll be a long winter, and there’s not much else that’s on the immediate horizon. If I get my gaming wind back this month or January or even February, then hey, that’s groovy. If not, I’ll find my downtime elsewhere and be OK with that.

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Would it make me feel better to finish my gaming and media backlogs?

I was watching a video the other day on one of our community’s favorite subjects, gaming backlogs, when a particular question caught my eye. The video’s host asked, “Would it make me feel better to finish my backlog, presuming that it could be done?”

I think that’s an excellent question, because it helps to deflate a lot of the self-assigned pressure to “finish” these arbitrary piles of media content that we stock up in our lives. Sometimes there’s extra pressure because we’ve already paid money for some of these things (on sale, no doubt) and feel extra bad if we don’t play them (and thereby justify the purchase).

Like probably many of you, I have sizable backlogs of all manner of media. I’m approaching about 1,000 movies I want to watch and review (and for every one I do, I tend to add two more to that list). I have 70 audiobooks on standby I haven’t listened through yet. I did throttle down on my Kindle purchases, refusing to buy any more until I finish the dozen or so that are squatting unread. Between Epic, GOG, and Steam giveaways and sales, I have some 300 games tucked away for rainy (or not rainy) days. There are scads of TV shows that, hey, I’d like to watch at some point. And, of course, there are all the MMOs that can’t technically even be finished.

So what is one to do with backlogs? Answering the above question is a great way to start, because if we’re truthful, the answer here is “No, not really.” If I finish a list of whatever I wanted to consume for fun, then after a brief momentary flash of achievement, I start filling the list back up. If wiping out the backlog only momentarily wipes the slate clean before it’s refilled, what’s the pressure or point of pushing myself into crazy levels of activity to drain it in the first place? There probably isn’t any.

Media should never be our master. It shouldn’t be calling the shots in our life, demanding our “work,” or pushing any sort of expectations or stress our way. That’s why I have these lists, as a way to control the chaos and assert my dominance. The list ensures that I have options and won’t forget things I want to be there, but it doesn’t create an expectation that it’ll ever be done. I can just go, “Oh hey, I have a little bit of time to read a new book, watch a movie, or I’m in the mood to try a game I’ve never played before. What do I have on tap?” If I’m feeling particularly motivated, I might even organize some of these lists to push the items that interest me the most to the top of the heap.

But yeah, I’m long since done trying to clear out media backlogs. I fully expect to kick the bucket some day with a whole lot left undone. But as long as I enjoy what I’ve done and don’t let backlogs overwhelm me, I figure I won’t have any regrets in this regard.