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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?

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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 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!

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Battle Bards Episode 212: Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood

Episode 212: Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood Battle Bards

  1. Episode 212: Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood
  2. Battle Bards Episode 211: Shops and services
  3. Battle Bards Episode 210: Warframe

Now that the Battle Bards have had that expensive knee surgery done to remove all arrows, they’re back in the Elder Scrolls Online universe — namely, to listen through the Blackwood expansion soundtrack! What musical treasures will Tamriel reveal to us this time around? Find out in today’s episode!

Episode 212 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Through Gates of Flame,” “Blackfin Triumphant,” and “The Ivory Aegis”)
  • “Death in the Shallows”

  • “Fields of Nibenay” 

  • “Zenithar’s Anvil” 

  • “White Stallion Rampant”

  • “Diamond and Root”

  • “Memories of the Marsh”

  • “Moss on the Cobblestones”

  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Scramble” from Silpheed and “Junkle’s Yard” from Tohu
  • Outro (feat. “Deadlands Suite”)

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What I’ve spent actual money on in MMOs this past year

If you’re a somewhat frugal person, and I am, then gaming in general is a great hobby to have. There are endless ways to spend money, sure, but if you’re smart about it, patient, and disciplined, you can reap hundreds of hours of entertainment for little to nothing.

This works for me, because the way we do our family budget, each of us only has a small monthly allowance for extra purchases. I usually start the month weighing what I’m going to buy so that I’m not impulse spending, and I’ll divvy that money up between, say, a new book and a game or a season of a TV show or what have you. MMOs do not usually get a lot of funds from me as a result. I generally don’t NEED to spend money on them, nor am I usually tempted into a position of WANTING them.

With that in mind, I wanted to go back through the last 12 months and recall what I’ve actually purchased in games and whether or not it was worth it:

  • WoW Classic subscription time (maybe six months?). Generally worth it, since I was having a good time. For discipline’s sake, I purchase time cards and only use those so that an automatic monthly sub can’t kick in.
  • I kicked in $20 to put me over the top so that I could buy a new LOTRO premium house for my Treebeard characters. Expensive, yes, but not prohibitively so, and I definitely will get some good use out of this.
  • I bought Fate of Gundabad for LOTRO. I guess that’s worth it, just to have the content unlocked, even if I haven’t fully completed it.
  • I bought a copy of New World, which I’m kicking myself for because (a) I didn’t play it more than a month and (b) I’m pretty sure I could’ve gotten a free copy if I had waited.
  • I bought a founder’s pack for Lost Ark. That really wasn’t worth it, because that was like five days of sessions before I lost all interest.

That’s it. I can’t remember anything else, that’s for sure. I don’t foresee any purchases in the near future for MMOs, although there are some single-player titles I’ve been considering.

What have you spent money on MMOs lately?

Posted in General

Six MMOs I would like to return to before 2022 is through

Well, 2022 is a fourth done already, which is… fine. Gaming, I’ve been content to stay very much in my lane without jumping between MMOs as much as I might’ve in the past. There’s a lot on my plate right now and I’m not currently interested in rearranging it, but when the time comes, there are a few titles that come to mind for a re-visit.

Project Gorgon: Boy if I can count the times that I’ve said to myself, just pull the trigger and really learn this game instead of flirting with it. I keep using the excuse of waiting for launch — which never quite seems to happen — so either I’m interested or not. I think that there could be a lot of potential in a blogging series.

Guild Wars 2: This game’s in a good place right now with a full expansion of new content and a roadmap into the future. Lots of community excitement. I should go back… but I’m still not feeling it. Maybe later down the road. I wouldn’t mind a personal mech pet.

Star Trek Online: My daughter and I have been exploring Star Trek together (the old stuff, not the mostly awful newer series). We’ve talked about playing together or just side-by-side on the same account, and so that might be a fun way to explore this.

New World: Well, it got blunderbusses (blunderbi?) and several patches since I last played it. I’m still not hearing great things, but if the buzz starts picking up later this year, I did promise to check it out again. So I shall.

RIFT: Man, I miss RIFT bad some days. It’s a hard game to go back to without a future and the threat of possible termination every day. I should play it one more time before it’s gone.

Fallout 76: This is always a good time whenever I return. And I guess the lack of a real in-game community makes it easier to float into and out of it without being tied to any social connections.

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I wish I had gotten into MMOs in the ’90s

I don’t live my life in a perpetual state of regret, but my propensity to reroll characters in games to try to play them better this time around trickles into the odd daydream that I have about doing the same in life. And what’s bounced around my head lately is the thought that I really should’ve gotten into the online RPG community much earlier than I did.

I know what you’re thinking — of course I’d say that because I love these games now and feel like I missed out on some formative years. But that’s not where my head is going with this thought experiment.

Rather, I think back to how life used to be and remember about a half-decade of soul-crushing loneliness. In college, I had a lot of great friends and what I felt was a fulfilling social life. But that all came to an end when everyone in my class graduated and I no longer could walk down the dorm hall to see them. From 1999 to 2004, I was pretty much on my own navigating the start of my career and living on my own.

And as an introvert, that wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I like the solitude and freedom, and I had a bit of online social connections with fellow movie reviewers. But it really wasn’t enough, and I didn’t find anyone in my local area to forge new friendships with.

Looking back, the really obvious solution would’ve been to connect with guilds in various MMOs — except that I wasn’t playing them until about 2003. It wouldn’t have been a perfect solution, but I really could’ve used people to talk with and form friendships with, and MMOs are great for that. Sure, I would’ve had to pick between a limited selection of games, but considering that it all had that novelty of newness, why not?

Anyway, it’s a moot point — life turned out as it did, and I am more than socially satisfied in my life at present without feeling lonely. I just feel bad for younger me that had to struggle through that period when there was a fun option that I didn’t take because EverQuest and the like looked too daunting.

Posted in General

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark review

The Darkside Detective games have become somewhat of an unexpected hit in our household. Every time I got my laptop out to play this, one or two of my kids would get sucked into it with me and offer up their own ideas how to beat various puzzles. I think it really was the sense of humor and general weirdness of it all, kind of like a computer cartoon, that proved to be the most attractive.

Having loved my time through the first game, I immediately jumped into the follow-up, A Fumble in the Dark. It’s all set up the same — several different “cases” that offer their own stories and self-contained puzzles as our detective and his doofy sidekick figure out solutions to supernatural crimes.

There were two changes right out of the gate. Well, three. The first is that Detective McQueen is no longer working for the Darkside Division (which got shut down). The second is that he starts the game still searching — for nearly a year now — for his partner Dooley, who got abducted into the Darkside. And the third is that many of these cases are far, far longer than the first game’s.

In fact, the first and last case are long enough to be releases in their own right. Getting Dooley back required a city-hopping expedition and numerous puzzles, and by the time he re-appeared, I felt the reunion was well deserved. From there, the two investigated a nursing home with residents acting like kids, Dooley’s Irish castle home (and a missing sun), a carnival with ghost clowns, and a wrestling match with demons.

But it was the last main case, Class of the Titans, that proved to be the capper. It’s Dooley and McQueen’s high school reunion, a reminder how they were always outcasts of a sort. Except that this time, it’s interrupted by a city-squashing demon from the Darkside that wants Dooley back as his pet (long story). This case is HUGE, taking place all over the school and involving evil cheerleaders, time travel, a boy that turns into a crow, tabletop RPGs, and more.

Like the first game, the humor is a huge draw in the sequel. Dooley is always there with some bizarre statement or interpretation, and the game never misses a moment to make you laugh with a nonsensical aside, pop culture reference, or general silliness. There are some nice callbacks and continuity to the first title, although I was really disappointed that the Bloodwolves didn’t return this time around.

I’m really glad to see that Spooky Doorway has committed to making a third game, because this is a series that I’d love to see continue indefinitely.

Posted in General

Thoughts on the Macbook Air M1 three months later

Back in early December, I told you all that I had taken the strange (for me) step of purchasing my first Macbook, the Macbook Air M1. This came about due to a combination of factors — an end-of-year sale, strong reviews, and a need for a much more portable laptop.

So now that it’s been three months, I thought I’d come back and share my thoughts on what I’ve gotten out of this machine and whether or not it was worth it. I’ll answer that last one first — yes, it was totally worth it. In fact, the Macbook’s become one of my favorite devices, even if it hasn’t supplanted my normal work/gaming computers.

For starters, I adore its lightweight portability and super-long battery life. I bought a little carrying case for it that provides some protection and a couple of pockets for accessories (USB converter, headphones), and it’s always a cinch to slide the Macbook into the case and take it with me on the go. For little and big trips, that’s quite the boon instead of having to pack up all of the cords and mouse of my bigger laptop and lug that around.

I’ve found that it’s become a helpful tool in two regular situations. The first is when I need to take the kids somewhere (sports, scouts, etc) and want to get some work done on the go. I’ll plug in the headphones, tuck in, and write up a storm — and if I get done early, hey, I can always read, surf, or game on it.

The second is, as I had hoped, freed me of the tether of my desktop and given me more options for going elsewhere in the house. Even if I have to work, I can be in the same room as my family now, and that’s a life changer.

Because I prize the portable nature of this computer, I didn’t get a mouse, trusting that the trackpad will be more than sufficient for most things. And it is, aside from action games. I don’t have a lot of games on this — just WoW Classic and a couple of adventure titles. I know that, say, ESO and DDO may have Mac versions, but they’re not going to be as easy to control as a tab-target MMO, so I haven’t even bothered.

Other things I love about this machine:

  • The speakers on it are fantastic. I can fill up a room with my music quite easily, if I desire.
  • It has great integration with my iPhone. I like having quick access to texts with Messenger, and one day I discovered that if I was using the laptop and I got a call, I had the option to route it right into the laptop and use the speakers and mic for calls. That was nifty.
  • The screen is beautiful.
  • The lightweight and fan-free design means that it’s very comfortable on a lap, pillows, or what have you. I don’t feel like I’m always wrestling with getting comfortable with it.