Not missing PAX this year

PAX Prime is next week in Seattle, and while I went last year for Massively, this year I’m sitting it out. Part of the reason is not wanting to leave my pregnant wife alone with three kids (who are starting school next week, no less), but mostly it’s because I have mixed feelings on the whole convention experience.

It can be a huge rush, that’s for sure. There’s a palpable excitement in arriving in a downtown area swarming with geeks who are passionate about games and I won’t deny that prowling the expo floor — when I had time — was like exploring some sort of digital nirvana. I loved interviewing devs, getting swag, hanging out at events, and getting to push out news. And it was certainly a nice break from my normal routine.

On the other hand — and I cannot stress this enough — it’s exhausting. Going as media is so different than going as a fan, because mostly you’re bouncing from appointment to appointment, trying to find time to write in between, all while looking in envy at everyone else with their freer schedules. So many studios elect to hold interviews away from the convention hall for cost reasons, so it’s a lot of trying to find hotels and running all around downtown. As a bonus, Seattle likes steep up and down streets, which is a joy to walk.

It’s also mentally draining. I feel very alone at these things, knowing few people and feeling cut off from my family. I’m also slightly prone to feeling claustrophobic in crowds, which the expo hall has in spades. Being short doesn’t help with that!

So I had no desire to go back this year. I’ll be looking with interest from afar, as I do with most conventions and trade shows. I think we’ll be getting some good stuff considering that there’s a lot happening this fall with MMOs, but it’s not like previous years where massive games like RIFT, WildStar, or Guild Wars 2 were centerpieces.

I think if I got some time to go on a vacation, I would try to find a quiet cabin somewhere and spend a weekend reading. That would be bliss.

MMO regrets

regret-ron-burgundyOne of the Blaugust topics kicking around is the subject of MMO regrets — what we wish we would have or could have done differently in the past. And that’s a weird subject to think about for me, because while there are certainly things I would have changed now that I’m looking back, I also recognize that all of the decisions in my life that I’ve taken with God’s guidance have led me to right here, right now, and I’m pretty content. If things had played out differently, maybe I would never have gotten into MMO blogging or met some of the friends I have.

Still, for the sake of wistful thinking and an easy Friday blog post, here are four regrets that I have.

Regret #1: Waiting so long to get into MMOs

My crappy early 2000s computer and internet connection were only part of the reason why I waited so long to get into MMOs. For the most part these games were outside of my sphere of interest, which at the time was pretty much single-player RPGs and various strategy titles. Any time I looked at MMOs during those years, I was either turned off by the graphics or cowed by the complexity and time involvement.

So while I did fiddle about in Anarchy Online, it wasn’t until spring 2004 that I really got into MMOs with City of Heroes. I regret missing out on the EverQuest/Ultima Online/DAoC/SWG era a bit, at least to have said that I was there, but I also see that CoH and World of Warcraft were great stepping stones to making MMOs more accessible and player-friendly, so I’m glad those were my introductions.

Regret #2: Not sticking with characters

I’m a well-known altoholic in MMOs, which is fun in and of itself. Still, when I look back and see how many hours I spent on characters that I ended up deleting and rerolling, I think of what might have been if I had picked a single character and stuck with him or her all the way through.

For example, I don’t know what possessed me to delete my WildStar Medic that I rolled at launch, unless I just wanted to reclaim the name. I wasn’t short on character slots or anything, and that character had benefited from numerous boom boxes that were thrown out when I tossed her into the recycler.

Regret #3: Not knowing about MUDs in the 80s and 90s

While I really couldn’t get into MUDs today, I can say with certainty that I would have flipped over them in the early era of dial-up. Unfortunately, I never knew about them, not in high school and not in college. Never saw them mentioned in any computer magazine or had a friend tell me, and even the early days of the world wide web kept me away from any potential MUD flings.

And that’s sad, because I know that I would have had a blast with those games back then. I didn’t mind text-based games at all and would have flipped at connecting online with tons of people. Alas.

Regret #4: Buying MMOs that I barely played

I’ve always wished that any purchase could come with a 100% refund guarantee whenever you were tired of it. Never so much as when it comes to some video games that I bought on a whim and then barely played.

Examples include paying a good chunk of change for MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online against my better judgment. At least I forced myself to play a month in FF14 to see what’s what and get some return on that investment, but ultimately I would have rather had that money back for books or clothes.

What do you regret about MMOs?

When do you play MMOs?

failWe’ve often talked in blogging circles about the pros and cons of juggling MMOs vs. being devoted to a single title, but one thing I haven’t seen so much discussion on is when we play.

For me, my gaming schedule is fairly predictable and boring. While I’m going through my morning routine before work, I usually log into games to hit up daily rewards (Marvel Heroes) or to reset minigame timers (crew skills in SWTOR).

During my lunch break is when I squeeze in a half-hour to work through the retro games for the weekend posts.

Back before Massively I used to have more time in the late afternoon to game, but not so much these days. Even so, sometimes I’ll get in a half-hour before dinner depending on if the kids are sleeping or otherwise preoccupied.

But most of my gaming time comes after the sweet hour of 8:00pm, which is when the rest of my family heads to bed (my pregnant wife cannot wait for this time). Then it’s a race to get in as much gaming as possible before I start nodding off at the keyboard, which could be as early as 10:30 or as late as midnight.

Sometimes I get a decent block of gaming time on Saturday, my only free day of the week, although I have to make sure that chores and family time gets priority.

So if I was to time it all, I’d say that on an average week, I probably clock in around 16 to 18 hours in MMOs. Maybe 20 to 25 if it’s a really good week with few distractions. It’s not huge, but I do try to make the most of those five or six hours in each title to get as much done as possible and enjoy myself.

I think my pre-kid, pre-marriage self would be somewhat horrified to see that weekly tally. I was probably in the high 50s back in the bachelor era. But I wouldn’t trade all of this for that extra time. I’ll merely look back wistfully.

What about you? When do you play MMOs?

Syp’s August MMO goals and game update

Every month or so I want to do a quick post here to bring anyone who cares up to speed on what I’m playing, what I’m not, and what goals I’m going for.

What I’m playing

  • SWTOR: Right now this is the game that I am the most involved in, probably because I feel compelled to get the bounty hunter storyline done before the 12x thing vanishes in October. Apart from getting her to 60 and gearing her up and her companions, I would love to max out companion affection on both my BH and Agent before the fall expansion. So lots of gift grinding right now.
  • WildStar: Still making my way through Malgrave. Trying to focus on just playing the Engineer until I get to 50 and wrap up some of these endgame zones. Might consider playing another alt once I’m done with that.
  • Project Gorgon: Right now, just exploring and taking notes. When the game comes out with dwarves, I will reroll as one, so there’s not a huge rush to level up skills so much as simply explore and learn.
  • Marvel Heroes: I’m focusing on a single hero at a time to get him or her up to 60. With Doom done, I’m back to Ant-Man (and here’s hoping that today’s MM will really help, because I’m falling out of love with this character). I do want to get more and better summoning gear for Doom, but that’s just a side project.

What I’m not playing but am thinking about

  • The Secret World: Waiting on an update with new soloable story content, so that might be a while. I might go back from time to time to finish up the Orochi Tower and see the floors I missed previously.
  • Guild Wars 2: I’ve been meaning to uninstall but can’t quite do it. Yet. However, I simply don’t see going back to this game, even when the expansion hits.
  • RIFT: New calling looks… neat, I guess. Wouldn’t mind trying it out. Still letting RIFT go fallow so that any eventual return will be more exciting than not. I think if I came back I would probably do 100% instant adventures and dungeons.
  • World of Warcraft: Always keeping this game in the corner of my vision. No justifying another sub on top of WildStar/SWTOR right now, tho.
  • Trove: I love the idea and concepts for this game, but whenever I have free time I can’t convince myself to play this over something else. Maybe one day.

My MMO firsts

anarchyToday I thought I’d write down a list of my MMO firsts (and pass on an easy topic to any other Blaugust writers!):

My first online gaming experince: Bulletin Board Systems

In the early 90s, I had a brief but fun experience checking out different online BBSes by dialing up people’s phone numbers and hooking into their computers. I did fiddle around with a couple games back then, including a space trading game and a Star Trek roleplaying board, but nothing super-serious.

My first MMO: Anarchy Online

I was vaguely aware of MMOs in the early 2000s, with some of my college friends hooked on EverQuest. I chose to wait for the more scifi-angled Anarchy Online instead, although my computer couldn’t handle an online connection very well (both in specs and with dial-up). I came back a year later and had more fun with the Shadowlands expansion, although I was still very much a hopeless newbie in all respects.

My first guild: City of Heroes

I never connected with other players in Anarchy Online, but that changed a couple of years later when I got big into City of Heroes. That game was all about grouping up and meeting other players, and I joined several different supergroups over the course of my stay in that game. Of course, it being so long ago I can’t really remember the names of any of them (friends or supergroups).

My first MMO love: World of Warcraft

Even with Anarchy Online and City of Heroes under my belt, World of Warcraft was what truly sucked me into the wider world of MMO gaming. It was here that I learned a lot of the intricacies of dungeon running, raiding, guild leadership, and the whole blog culture.

My first MMO blog: Warhammer Online

While my WoW guild had me write a couple of blog posts about the game way back when, I consider WAAAGH! my true foray into MMO blogging. For over a year I enjoyed writing about the lead-up and then post-launch experiences of WAR before transferring my flag here to Bio Break.

My first Massively assignment: Lord of the Rings Online

While I would end up writing about many games on Massively (and now Massively Overpowered), I was initially brought on board to take over the LOTRO column. I wrote Road to Mordor from 2010 to earlier this year and had a blast with it.

Blaugust #6: First!

New keyboard day!

keyboardMy old keyboard gave up the ghost the other day and I had been relying on the somewhat-adequate Amazon basic keyboard since. In the meanwhile I did some research on getting a new keyboard and had a few places convince me to give mechanical keyboards a try, especially since they’re supposed to be better for people who do a lot of typing. Which I do. Apparently.

So today I got my new Nixeus keyboard, prancing into the room while my wife wondered aloud why a grown man of my gravitas would be excited about getting a new keyboard.

Typing out this post is the first thing I’m doing on it. It’s faster and easier to use, for sure, although the board is much “chunkier” than my old one. It’s also smaller, lacking the ten number keys on the right-hand side. That will be better for my desk, which wasn’t big to begin with and has to hold my computer tower in addition to the mouse, keyboard, and monitor. It might require some relearning of finger memory, since I used the side numbers to do graphics resizing.

It’s also louder. I guess that’s a good thing? Some people like it more. I am indifferent to that — both quiet and loud are fine, although it will make typing while podcasting problematic (mute switch!).

Some people claim that mechanical keyboards are better for gaming. Again, I’ll have to see and chances are that I’m not leet enough to notice the difference. But I do appreciate a keyboard that works and doesn’t hog the entire desk.