Guest post: Elves forever!

Keebler-Elves

Syp is AFK on vacation this week and put out a call for substitute writers! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Tyler of Superior Realities. Check out his blog for more great word-stuff!

Embrace the Good Hail and well met, Bio Break readers. My name is Tyler, and I usually blog over at Superior Realities, where I discuss video games, books, TV, movies, and my life as a freelance writer and novelist. Syp has kindly invited me to provide a guest post for Bio Break while he is on vacation.

There are many things upon which Syp and I disagree. Most notably Elves – if I thought he’d let me get away with it, I’d plaster this entire post in nothing but pictures of Elves, just to watch him squirm. But if there is one thing I do admire about Syp, it is his positivity. In the face of a gaming community that is awash with endless toxicity and negativity, he maintains a mostly optimistic outlook and an almost childlike excitement for gaming in general and MMOs in particular. We really need more of that in this community.

In that spirit, I have chosen to follow his lead and resist the temptation to make my guest post another of my patented epic nerd rants. I will take a page from Monty Python and look on the bright side of life… at least where gaming is concerned.

A matter of perspective: If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re very passionate about gaming. If you’re anything like me, you’ve sunk hundreds of hours into imaginary worlds. I like passion. I admire it. But it does have some significant drawbacks. The joy we feel at exploring a new virtual world can quickly turn to anger when developers stumble and steer their games in poor directions. There’s nothing wrong with that really, but our anger can quickly grow until it blinds us and sucks all the fun from our hobby. We lose perspective and no longer see the forest for the trees.

I’m a World of Warcraft player, and lately I’ve been thinking back to the Mists of Pandaria expansion. I was very unhappy with the state of WoW for most of that expansion. Nearly every kind of reward became locked by a seemingly endless parade of poorly designed daily quests, and the endgame as a whole was a grind as rambling and confused as it was tedious.

But there was also a lot of good in Pandaria. It had some of the best story-telling Blizzard has yet produced, gorgeous visuals, awe-inspiring music, and a great new form of endgame content in scenarios. With the benefit of hindsight, I now recognize that my anger over all the ways Blizzard screwed up with MoP robbed me of a lot of the joy of all the things they did right. The strengths of MoP don’t absolve its flaws, but I wish I could have more thoroughly appreciated the good in that expansion, instead of wholly focusing on the negatives.

Looking ahead to Legion, there are already several things about the expansion I strongly dislike, but there are also a lot of things that deeply excite me, and I’m making a very conscious decision to not let the former ruin the latter for me this time around.

To use a more recent example, I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic over the last few months. If you know me, you know this is very surprising. For one thing, I’ve never been big on the Star Wars franchise, and more importantly, I have long been fiercely critical of the game’s free to play business model. I believe the phrase “like S&M without a safe word” has come up a few times. But I like a lot of the changes made by the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, and I’m a fan of Bioware’s story-telling, so I decided to give it one more shot.

And I don’t regret it one bit. The game might not have been worth it for me before KotFE, but it definitely is now. Don’t get me wrong. I still think their business model is a travesty, and I have more than a few other problems with SW:TOR, but the intensity of the Imperial agent story and the joy of getting to know great characters like Vette and Nadia are worth it. I’m very glad that I swallowed my stubborn pride and gave the game one more shot.

I’m also reminded again of those people who refuse to try Diablo III because of its always online requirement. For the record, I agree it’s a poor decision on Blizzard’s part, but discounting the game entirely based on that has always struck me as a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Whatever flaws it had at launch, D3 has evolved into one of the best RPGs of recent memory, and if you haven’t played it, you’re missing out.

My point here is not that criticism is bad. Quite the opposite. Criticism is crucial. We should never stop criticizing games when they faceplant. Criticism is the only way anyone or anything evolves. But don’t lose perspective. Don’t let your dislike of one or two problems rob you of the joy of an otherwise good game. Don’t miss out on good experiences by clinging to stubborn pride or trying to make some kind of statement.

It’s also worth remembering that game developers are not homogenous entities. People in the gaming community have a tendency to treat each developer as a singular entity, or at best a dictatorship where one prominent developer is viewed as the sole source of every decision, but this is not the case. Development companies are diverse groups of people spread out over many teams. They might not all agree on everything, and many of the people who work on games have little to no say in the big picture decisions. This knowledge has done a lot to help me maintain my sanity as someone with very strong opinions, both positive and negative, about a lot of games.

The people who run the monetization for SW:TOR are a bunch of money-grubbing sleazewads. But the people who write the game’s stories do not bear any of the blame for the game’s greed. They do good work, and they’re worthy of my support. The systems and endgame designers for World of Warcraft change their design philosophies more often than I change my underwear, and the only consistent vision they seem to have is the need to find new and creative ways to make the game more unnecessarily time-consuming and to remind non-raiders we’re second-class citizens. But the aesthetic wing of Blizzard, from environment artists to soundtrack composers, are among the best in the industry, and they deserve no blame for the mistakes of their superiors. They’re worthy of my support.

If you truly don’t enjoy a game, then just move on, but if there are still things you enjoy about it, don’t let its flaws consume all your attention. Don’t ignore the bad, but don’t fixate on it. Embrace the good in games.

Elves forever! Selama ashal’anore! *Runs off cackling.*

Guest post: Our digital communities

the-shire

Syp is AFK on vacation this week and put out a call for substitute writers! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Iogro Merryberry of A Hobbit’s Journey. Check out his blog for more great word-stuff!

Here’s a big shout out to Syp over at Bio Break who recently asked if anyone would like to do a guest post while he is out on vacation!  So, thank you for the fantastic opportunity Syp to expand my reach a bit into the Blogosphere and gaming community, and ENJOY VACATION my friend!!!

I wanted to take a minute and share one of my favorite topics in gaming which is Community as it’s huge for me and that is why I’ve been so excited and anxious to get this post written and out.

For me, Gaming and Community started back in the days of the Nintendo and our favorite little hero Mario…as my friends and I would have huge weekend parties full of junk food, way too much soda, and more hours of yelling, and being boys then I can even count. Now, let me set the tone here and let you know that when the “NES” or Nintendo Entertainment System first came out I was only four, and no I wasn’t playing Mario at the age of four but I wasn’t much older before I got my first gaming system…which was all mine and not my brothers….”Insert Obnoxious Little Brother Grin”.

See, my brother was older and his gaming systems were a different generation; his first gaming system was the original Atari, and yes I did play it, but my big brother was a typical big brother and I only got to play it every once in a while….or if he wasn’t around….I may have snuck into his room and played it on occasion.  Typical brother stuff you know.

Ok, let’s fast forward a few years and breeze by the era of my “SNES, Sega Genesis, and pretty much every other gaming system you can think of” and we’ll land around the time I got my first PC that could handle gaming.  The system my brother had built for me was an Intel 486 and probably something like half a K of memory or some nonsense like that….but the first PC game I remember playing was a flight simulator, and yes I know what you’re probably thinking “A FLIGHT SIMULATOR?” are you kidding me?  But this game was not only fun, it’s something my friends and I had massive competitions over to see who could get the best flight times, or even complete some side missions of landing a plane.  Though this flight simulator wasn’t anything that blew your socks off on graphics or intense game play it did create community among a group of friends that spawned a passion for gaming, competition, and stronger friendships.

Just as all the gaming systems have changed over the years, the way we interact as gamers has dramatically changed as well!  We have so many social features at our fingertips when playing games, and whether that’s on a console system or a PC we can choose to interact over a chat message screen, or throwing on a headset and chatting with some of your “Guildies, or Kinnies” from a favorite MMO game you play.  For me, MMORPG games are what revolutionized the communities we see today as they draw players in and allow them to customize the way they play the games.

It wasn’t until I started playing LOTRO back around 2008 that I really even understood how huge the gamer communities had become.  What has come from playing games like WoW and LOTRO for years is not only a place that I can meet friends and go team up on a large group of mobs, or even 12 man up on an instance, or even those groupies around the Blog-O-Sphere realm, and also connect over socially media while doing all of that!

This passion for games and community has grown for me and a great friend of mine who goes by the gamertag: Victus Darkaero – you can find him out on Twitter @Victus_Darkaero or wondering the digital platforms.  Now why mention this, well for both Victus and I…this love of gaming has grown into a monthly podcast called All Things Geekery.  Swing by and check our site out sometime!

We threw the idea of podcasting around for some time as we both loved listening to podcasts, and honestly both of us always wanted to try creating our own.  We’ve just begun this journey into the podcasting realm and currently have two episodes released.  Each month we explore the world of geeky hobbies which plays right into our love of the gaming community and blog-o-sphere realms.  Check the podcast out sometime as we would love to hear from you and get your feedback. You can find us out on iTunesStitcherLibsynOvercast, and Google Play Music.

Community is so important in games, writing, podcasting, etc…as without that core foundation these things would be boring for the most part as we would have no one to cheer with, or make fun of when that one guy or gal “Accidentally” pulls that huge mob over to your RAID group and wipes you all… I promise I’ve never done that, EVER!   More importantly community goes even further than just the games we play, it reflects our character and who we are as people, and I just want to say thank you to all my gaming friends I’ve had the pleasure of sharing exciting gaming moments with, or possibly some witty banter on Twitter. See, community is more than just zero’s and ones that make up a game or a social network, it’s people and their personalities and that my friends is why I love community and gaming so much…It’s all because of you!

Come visit me over at A Hobbits Journey where I write weekly on gaming, community, and many more great topics.  I look forward to connecting with you and chatting sometime.
You can also find me out on Twitter @iogromerrybelly.

Guest post: Bio break, Murf-style

Syp is AFK on vacation this week and put out a call for substitute writers! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Murf of Murf Versus. Check out his blog for more great word-stuff!

As ardent MMO enthusiasts, I imagine we all have our fair share of bio break related stories. When Syp asked for guest posts, I very tongue-in-cheek said only if I get to talk about bio breaks. He called my bluff and here I am.

Going to the bathroom is rarely an adventure. Going to the bathroom while having an online adventure often can be. I remember my younger days, the days of EverQuest and Ultima Online, when I was carefree and able to stay up all night long. My father hated that I did that. He’d get on to me anytime he caught me, and he often did. I would be finishing up my epic adventures around five in the morning when he would first be getting up. He always thought I was wasting my summer days while I slept in until near dinner time.

I will not gross you out with details, but it is amazing how creative the young can be when avoiding the ire of their parents.

Flash forward a few years to the height of The Burning Crusade, and my days of holding in for epic loot were in even fuller swing. Instead of avoiding judgement by my father, I was avoiding judgement by my peers. And by epic loot, I meant it, as this was the era in which I was one of those hardcore, server-first, elitist raider types.

I doubt every dedicated raiding group is blessed with one, but my guild had a tank that everyone loved. He was our guild leader and raid leader as well. On the rare nights when he was not present, we went from a guild doing server firsts to a guild ranked server last. He was our glue and a real charming bastard to boot. We had the healers and the damage dealers to back him up, but without him, we were completely lost.

It turned out the scheduling was rough on him. We were only doing three nights a week, but he was there for raids early and stayed on past our cutoff. He also had a full-time job and he regularly logged in on off nights to help farm for the guild bank. I imagine he also spent a lot of time reading or researching raid strategies as well.

Table setting done, our story takes place one raiding eve during a particularly busy period for our guild. We had taken over as the server’s top guild only recently and we were pushing hard to finish Kael’Thas first in Tempest Keep. We had even added a few extra progression nights to keep up our pace.

We were having an off night. Instead of breezing through the bosses of Tempest Keep, we were wiping on Void Reaver, the raid’s second boss. As you can imagine, there was a lot of cursing and arguing about people taking too many balls to the face. It was a frustrating evening as they sometimes are, but there was a noticeable lag with our fateful leader. Rather than his chipper, optimistic self, he sounded tired and worn down. He was still both chipper and optimistic, just less so than usual.

After a particularly gruesome wipe, he declared bio break in officer chat. He also mentioned changing his laundry. It turns out, with all the extra raiding, his regular chores were lagging behind too. The other officers all call a break since we cannot proceed without our leader.

Five minutes pass and he doesn’t come back, then fifteen and he still hasn’t returned. Worry starts to set in. Several officers were personal friends of his, so they start calling him. We play a game where we all yell into our mics on Vent hoping to get his attention. A defeated night suddenly turns somber when no one receives any answer.

Utterly confused and wrought with worry, we’re forced to call the night early. We weren’t making any progress and no one had the heart to keep trying.

The next day in the early evening, almost twenty four hours later, our raid leader’s bio break ends. Some of us were running some random heroics when he suddenly popped into Vent and logged into game. We were overwhelmed with relief that he was okay.

He apologized profusely. He felt so bad that things had ended because of him and that the entire guild was left hanging.

Turns out, after taking a bio and starting his laundry, his dirty clothes looked so comfortable that he laid down for a moment. That moment turned into a night and then a day and then more of the following night.

We never let him hear the end of it. To this day, when someone says they are taking a bio break, I worry they will go to asleep doing their laundry instead. No one is around who gets that thought, but it still makes me smile.

Guest post: Succeeding in Overwatch as a New Player

overwatch

Syp is AFK on vacation this week and put out a call for substitute writers! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Justin Lowe, formerly of Darth Hater.

You’ve probably seen it by now. All of the advertisements, Tacobell giveaways, Coca Cola sponsored events, fantastic cinematic shorts, and a bunch of posters of Tracer looking cool on the sides of buses. By now, I don’t need to tell you that MMO fan favorite Blizzard is taking a stab at making a groundbreaking First Person Shooter called Overwatch…the launcher has probably annoyed you enough with that over the last couple weeks if you play any of their games. But maybe, just maybe, you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “I’d like to play this game!” We’ll I’ve got good news for you. I’m here to help your first few hours in the game not seem like an aggressive form of waterboarding!

I hate listicles. I really do. In this case though, this article would be a chore to follow without employing the method. You can’t see me now but I’m scratching my face caving to this. You’ll have to forgive me. After playing more than three thousand matches, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that players make when starting out. Here are the few things you need to do as a new player to make your experience more enjoyable and fruitful.

Learn a hero of each role early on

This might seem like a common piece of advice but you should be learning just a few heroes at first and then branching out. Not every game you get placed into by the matchmaking system will have a free slot available to play the DPS. I realize that in these games everyone loves to play the assassin or DPS roles but it’s better to win and compromise while you’re still learning the game. When you jump into Overwatch the first couple times, it will be daunting. There are just so many heroes with different abilities that separate them from their traditional roles. Like MMOs, there are some that cross-pollinate and are easy to grasp but in most cases, the heroes themselves play vastly unlike one another, even other heroes of the same role type.

There are ways though that you can make this transition easier on yourself. First, you can try the practice range. In the practice range there are bots that you can shoot and are harmless. Your ultimate also charges faster in here so not only can you practice your abilities and aim, but you can also see how to properly setup your ultimate for maximum effectiveness. Next are custom games. As a new player, you can setup AI to play against you in whichever map you want without fear of the AI yelling at you over the mic for being “not gud.” The AI even has its own difficulty setting that you can change to make it harder or easier on yourself as you try out new heroes. And lastly, play public games while choosing the role that is needed the most for your makeup. The right side of the screen on when you select your hero will give you a rough guide of what role is needed at the time.

Listen for ultimate audio queues

Character Ultimates are the strongest weapon a player has to upset the balance of the game. Each ultimate has a distinctive audio que to let you know as the ability is used. This audio denotation of an incoming ultimate also changes based on it being used by the friendly or enemy team. For example, when a Pharra uses her Rocket Barrage ultimate she will yell, “Justice rains from above” to the enemy team. On the friendly team, she will yell, “Rocket Barrage Incoming.” At first it may take some time getting uses to each any every character’s que but once you do, you can employ interesting tactics along with them. You can use your own in concert with your team to help setup a big push even better, or deny an enemy’s ultimate by using a counter like Lucio’s or Zenyatta’s own Ultimates. However, a general rule of thumb is to try to shut the enemy down while they are using it by quickly firing at them when you hear the audio or if you’re the only one around, evade.

Don’t be afraid to double or triple up on heroes

It’s a common misconception that new players have early on that you have to have the “perfect default mix of heroes”, i.e. – two Tanks, two DPS, two Supports. In fact, you may have noticed me kind of contradict myself with one of my statements above. Well, consider this part a more advanced course in the article. To explain this, the default comp usually is something like what I stated above. It’s a comp or mix of heroes that works well together more times than not. But let’s say you want to play more aggressive on a map that traditionally has a first point that, once their team has a lot of time to setup on, becomes extremely hard to take. In those cases, you may want to go classes that are a little more agile and harassy like for instance, two Winstons, a Lucio, a Pharra, two tracers or a tracer and another DPS. What this would do on a map like Hollywood is disrupt the team on the point making it hard to defend. The Winstons drop their bubbles negating a lot of the damage to the DPS, they rush the Supports and back line and typically, the team falls apart.

Ideally this would work for an initially push and help you out on maps that are defensive geared for certain points. If that doesn’t work though, you need to quickly adapt to the situation and find a setup that will work for you, either by going back to your default or change parts of it depending on the heroes  that are presenting problems for your team’s push. Overwatch is a game all about switching at the right time to capitalize on the weaknesses of certain characters against others. This point however is one that will take time to learn and you may need to watch a few competitive games or listen to your teammates.

Don’t group up with anyone for the first 20 levels or so

I know, you want to play with your friends. It’s part of what makes games fun. The social aspect is what got me into MMOs and likely did you as well when you started. However, Blizzard games ever since Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone function a little differently than MMOs but I think I can relay it a bit without being too technical. As you play and build up experience, your profile builds what is called MMR or an ELO rank that is used to place you with other players of similar skill levels so you don’t just get stomped 24/7. When you group with a friend who may have played more than you, it is very likely he/she will bring you into a game of skill of their caliber or higher. It’s kind of like gear score in MMOs. Yes, it sometimes doesn’t matter all that much in the right circumstances but in the wrong ones, it mean a very, very, very, bad time for you or vice versa if the one with more experience happens to be you.

I say this one from experience after playing the closed beta for so long and wanted to bring a friend of mine with me to play…he basically quit the game almost immediately. We kept getting matched up against people like Carnage, Seagull, Joshy, and other very well-known pros. So…just don’t. You’ll thank me for it later.

Wait for your team before launching your Leroy attack of devastation

I get it, we all have that friend of ours that thinks he’s amazing and can kill the team all by himself and more so because he has his ultimate up “RIGHT NOW!” This is what in Overwatch we like to call, “The Fool.” This game, unlike other FPSs, is purely a team game. It requires coordination and constant communication to best your opponents. No matter how good you think you are, you will not consistently 1v6. I don’t care if you’ve don’t it that one time and you think you can do it all the time, just wait for your team to group up before you push. You’ll save everyone, including yourself, a lot of grief and as a bonus, you’ll win more.

The only exception to this is as you’re pushing into the point and you see on the kill feed (an option that displays who was killed by who in the top right) that your team picked (killed) one or two of the enemies, then at that moment, your DPS role players can branch out and flank to collapse on them with the team.

Optimize your display/mouse for low latency/sim rate

This is a hard one to explain, especially with the game not currently out but if I can have you grasp it early on, it will make a huge difference in your performance. Go into a practice range session and press the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+N. This will bring up a chart very similar to one seen back in the old Quake days that will display a lot of numbers and graphs. For the purpose of this explanation we’ll be focusing on one key stat, the SIM rate. The SIM ping or rate controls the amount of time it takes for an action to be displayed on your monitor from either a keyboard press or mouse movement. It may not seem like a lot but the difference can be massive with just a 6-9ms change in the SIM rate. If you’ve ever wondered why your mouse feels delayed with the action presented on the screen, this is what controls it.

lagchartow

Unfortunately many things control this but I’ll go over each and every one. The monitor’s refresh rate, if you have a 120-144hz monitor, your SIM ping will be lower. That’s not to say that you have to go out and buy one to experience any benefits from the other changes but it’s one of the biggest factors in making your mouse feel more reactive to your movements. Next, one we all love for our easily motion sick players, Vsync. Because the monitor has to delay a frame or two to constantly sync, it creates a 1-2ms delay on its own (usually), even Gsync. Next up, an item that makes the game feel more “smooth”, triple buffering. For the same reasons as Vsync, you can often free up 2ms by disabling it. Particle effects and post processing, these often add a little bit to it as well, not as much as the items mentioned above but are worth turning off.

And the biggie, the game’s render scale/resolution. If you want your game to be as 1:1 with your movement, you’re going to have to either lower your resolution and render scale or have a graphics card beefy enough to power through it. Some of the top snipers in the game currently run 1280×720 with 50% render scale for example. It makes the game look like you’re trying to watch an HD movie over a 56k modem but it’s hard to argue with the results. Try it for yourself sometime. If you get used to it, who knows, maybe you’ll be the next best sniper.

Speaking on other games, generally the golden SIM rate you want is under 8ms as the delay at that point is unnoticeable no matter how much you claim you can…unless you’re a robot, guess there’s that. The first number in the chart next to SIM is your lowest possible rate based on your monitor before post processing, next is after post processing, and the last is your total after Vsync and the rest of the effects you have enabled in the settings. I could write a whole article on the rest but my word count on this article is already pretty big that Syp might strangle me so instead I would refer you to the two YouTube videos I made on the subject if you want to learn more.

My plugs

I have no plugs. If you enjoyed this article and it helped make Overwatch a little less intimidating for one person, that’s thanks enough. If you have any comments or questions about the piece, I would be happy to answer them up until the release of the game on the 24th of May, but after that I will be in the middle of a busy launch tournament schedule with my competitive team so I might be slow to respond after that point for a little.

Thanks and good luck out there!

The more pets, the merrier

group

We’ve well established here on Bio Break that I’m somewhat of a pet nut when it comes to MMO classes. If I have the opportunity to whip out a combat pet to help me in my adventures, then rest assured I’m going to do it.

Yet there’s something I love even more than that. If one pet is great, then a GROUP of pets approaches nirvana. Now, this isn’t something you see in many games. I imagine it’s a bit of a headache for developers, some of which decide not to do it at all. So while there are plenty of MMOs that give you an option to wield a pet (and one game, SWTOR, that delivers this to everyone), only a handful of titles deliver classes with multiple pets.

City of Villain’s Mastermind? Oh yes, I still mourn the loss of this class in its many incarnations, including Thug Life and Robo-Madness. Cackling while I send a fleet of bots against bad guys is something I deeply miss. Guild Wars 2’s Necromancer in full minion master mode was a blast too. And every landing party in Star Trek Online consists of me and four of my closest virtual friends.

There’s a marked difference between running a single pet and being part of an entire pack. It’s like roaming around with a full party, wrecking havoc and conjuring the illusion of unstoppability. While being part of a group of players can create the same visual effect, I find that an NPC pet party is less stressful to lead. Everyone defers to your whims, is out to protect and help you, and sticks with you instead of heading in five different directions (unless, of course, the pet pathing gets messed up).

Oh, call it anti-social if you must, but for me it’s plain fun. It makes me think back to all of my favorite CRPGs that involved full parties and how I would get into the lives of each of my companions over the course of our adventures, at the end of which I saw them as “real” in a sense.

Of course, MMOs don’t quite go as far as those games did. You rarely get to hand-customize the builds and classes of your gang of NPCs, and with the exception of SWTOR, they don’t have the individual personality and backstory. I’ve always thought that one of SWTOR’s biggest missteps is that it didn’t let you take out more than one companion at a time — I loved how BioWare’s other games would have the companions talking back and forth as you traveled.

Anyway, playing Star Trek Online these past two weeks has reminded me how much I love the virtual party feel in a game. Hey guys? The Klingons killed me again. A little help here?

My loose association with crafting in MMOs

mining

Because I’m perpetually two years behind in World of Warcraft, I’m just now discovering that my garrison can be used to help me catch up in professions if so desired. No matter what character I end up playing for Legion, I want her to have mining and engineering, because I love toys and gadgets in the game. So I’ve started to use the mine and engineering shack to level those professions from 1 to, what, 700 at this point? It’s going to be a long summer, I think.

Actually, it’s pretty cool and takes a lot of the frustration of trying to get caught up in these professions, so I’m definitely not complaining. It’s certainly nice to have it all in one spot, augmented by mining out in the game world as well.

Getting the ball rolling on all of that made me think of my loose association with crafting in MMOs over the years. I’ve really never been a crafter in spirit or in practice, yet I’ve always professed the desire to do so. What happens is that either there’s a game that’s been out for a long time (and I feel so behind in crafting that I don’t want to start) or there’s a new game (and I’d rather do gathering professions for easy guaranteed money). Or sometimes the game’s crafting system is simply to obtuse or not interesting enough to warrant investigation.

Yet there have been a few MMOs that got me into crafting in some form:

  • Lord of the Rings Online: At various times, I’ve leveled scholar (for potions) and farming (for food buffs), although I never did see much point in crafting armor and weapons, since quest rewards were almost always good enough to keep you going.
  • WildStar: As I blogged about last year, I did spend a good amount of time crafting housing items. Being able to make stuff to put in my house was a big motivator for wanting to craft.
  • World of Warcraft: Probably the only time I really got into crafting seriously was with my Warlock, as I leveled engineering in vanilla and TBC. Loved my little flying helicopter and the extra ports.
  • Fallen Earth: A game that’s about 40% crafting anyway, I loved the system here. Having real-time queues meant you could set things up, go adventuring, and not have to stand around miming some action while crafting bars progressed. Being able to make my own weapons and vehicles (especially my first motorcycle!) gave me such a sense of accomplishment. I truly miss it.
  • RIFT: I think I tried a few crafting professions over the years, although none was memorable enough to mention here, apparently. But I did!
  • The Secret World: Using the crafting interface is mandatory for some missions, so I guess it warrants a bullet point. Some people really like how the crafting works, but I am not a fan.

In an ideal world where MMOs all had engaging and rewarding crafting systems and I had plenty of time to game, I’d probably be much more of a crafter than I am in practice. But the reality is that I only get a couple of hours a day to play, and I don’t want to spend that time looking at a recipe window when I could be out doing something in the game world.

I’m sailing! I’m a sailor!

sailing

Well, not yet — but on Saturday my wife and I will be taking a well-deserved vacation together with no kids to celebrate my 40th. She asked me what I wanted to do for a trip this year, and I suggested going on an Alaskan cruise. We’ve only ever done one cruise, and that was to the Carribbean. We had a fantastic time and that, coupled with seeing a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, would be a good combination.

If I haven’t said before, I am a PLANNER when it comes to trips. I always have been. When I was a young kid, I would spend weeks preparing for family vacations to grandma and grandpa’s, even though my responsibility began and ended at what I was bringing in my bag. I like to know the itinerary down to the minute, I double-check details, and I like researching things about the trip so that I’m able to be flexible and have the least amount of unpleasant surprises.

So while my wife will probably start packing about a day before we go, I’ve been putting stuff aside for a couple of weeks now. One thing that I’ve always done is make sure that I have a pile of entertainment to bring with me. I’d always rather have too much than not enough; the thought of sitting on a plane or boat somewhere without anything to do makes me shiver.

Happily, with mobile devices and whatnot, it’s a lot easier to arrange this. I’m bringing my ipad (mostly for movies that my wife and I can watch, but also Chrono Trigger), my phone (plenty of small games), my Kindle (with four new books), and my “magazine.” OK, I’m a total dork, but I don’t want to waste money on real magazines and I am always a little leery of airlines telling me I can’t use my Kindle during takeoff. So I got a folder and printed out a ton of MMO guides and articles that I want to catch up on and read. More enlightening anyway.

Of course, I’m not planning on reading and playing games all week — that’s mostly just for downtime when we’re either traveling or at night when my wife goes to bed early. It’ll be a little strange (as always) to be cut off from the internet, but in my opinion we all need that in our lives every now and then, if just to reorient us to life.

I’ll miss the news and the MMOs and the blog posts, but that’s all stuff I can catch up on later. A new experience and scenery awaits, and I can’t wait.