World of Warcraft, how could you get me back?

While I’ve stepped away from World of Warcraft, I don’t think I’m quite done with this MMO quite yet. I’ve learned that lesson that many of us have, that “never say never” when it comes to returning. And I’ll admit that some days, especially when I’m feeling a little listless and nostalgic, the WoW pull is strong. I miss the visuals, the tight combat, and the world. I envision working on a new character, a new project.

But then reality kicks in when I evaluate the current scene and I quickly find any enthusiasm dissipating like the morning mist. Battle for Azeroth still has those fatal flaws underpinning its entire structure, and I don’t think I could drag myself up to caring about azerite gear, warfronts, island expeditions, and the rest. At least right now.

One of the projects that I keep mulling over is returning to unlock three things: flying, Dark Iron Dwarves, and Kul Tiran humans. If and when I play again, even if it’s all the way to the next expansion, I’d like these accessible on my account.

I even went so far as to make a list of all of the requirements to get these, and just staring at that list hurt my soul. I’m looking at this and seeing it as Blizzard does, which is a forced grind to keep players chasing these goals as long as possible. And if it was, say, gear or high-end talents, I could see a reason for the barrier, but that’s not what these are. These are character creation options for alts and a re-access to an ability that we already had.

So I’ve been asking the question: What could World of Warcraft do to get me back? And as mind-breaking as it might be for Blizzard to consider, ditching these grinds and outright giving players who already purchased Battle for Azeroth with their money the allied races that this pack advertised would be a terrific start. What if tomorrow Blizzard just went, “You know what? Holding back a toy you already earned is silly, so here’s flying back for free. Enjoy!” It would generate so much goodwill.

What if Blizzard started giving fun stuff for us to do without making us jump through dull-as-heck hoops all the time? What if it repurposed old content and systems that we used to enjoy and that worked instead of making us feel as though we wasted years chasing stuff that wasn’t persistent in the end?

I don’t want to see Blizzard churn out more boring BFA story. I want the company to have a change of heart and attitude. Then, it might get me back.

LOTRO: No good deed goes unpunished

While on one hand I’m glad that my progression server Minstrel is fully ready for Moria, on the other hand I feel very adrift in LOTRO. There’s nothing for either of my mains to do right now in terms of new content, so I tried staying logged off for a couple of weeks and playing other titles. That was fine, but I missed LOTRO as the anchor game of my evening line-up.

Then the producer’s letter came a couple of weeks ago, and that at least gave me some hope and purpose. Yes, we’ll be getting Moria soon, but more than that, we have some exciting developments coming this year. There’s going to be an expansion that won’t be as sloggy as Mordor (huzzah!), and before that, a Vale of Anduin zone drop. That should keep my Lore-master plenty busy.

But the virtue revamp had me most fascinated, and at least for my Minstrel, I think it’s a game-changer. I have long since grown tired of following a very specific track to get the 100 or so virtue deeds that I need. Whenever this revamp comes, we’ll be able to earn “virtue XP” for completing deeds and then apply that XP to the virtues of our choice. It sounds a lot more flexible, especially for those of us who hate doing strings of slayer deeds.

And it even has a benefits right now. For starters, I can just toss away the virtue plan I had for Moria on forward and pursue the ones I want. Also, it gives me more encouragement to run additional deeds right now to build up that stockpile of future XP. I figure some of these early zones are going to offer easier deeds than the latter ones, so why not.

I’ve worked my way through all of the Shire and Ered Luin ones and have been digging into Bree-land. My kinship has a dedicated deed night in which they group up and run through a zone to complete deeds at a faster pace together, and I think I’ll be taking advantage of that.

Apart from that, I’m just ready. I’m ready for Moria (which I really think will be shorter than Shadows of Angmar), and it’s my hope that by the time I’ve blasted through that content, Anduin will be ready for my Lore-master. That way I won’t be facing this kind of content drought in three months from now.

Retro Reprise Episode 17: The shareware show!

They might not have been the AAA-budget titles of the 1990s, but shareware games were perhaps even more well-known due to the proliferation of these demos. Studios such as id, Epic, and Apogee made their mark with these titles — and the simple but memorable tunes from each got lodged into our brains. Joining Syp today is Chaos Constant from Occasional Hero, who is a self-professed retro game music fan and has plenty to say about the shareware era!

Show notes (episode downloadepisode page)

  • Intro (feat. “Cruising with Stryker” from Major Stryker and “The City Streets” from Duke Nukem 3D)
  • “Title Theme” from Halloween Harry
  • “Toy Factory Table” from Epic Pinball
  • “Main Theme” from Duke Nukem 3D
  • “Welcome to a Kick in the Pants in Good Old Hillville” from Commander Keen 4
  • “Main Theme” from Mystic Towers
  • “Spiders” from Jill of the Jungle
  • “Shooting Star” from Major Stryker
  • “Episode 1 Levels 4-6” from Stargunner
  • Outro (“Beach Bunnies” from Jazz Jackrabbit)

Secret of Monkey Island: Piranha poodles

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1990’s Secret of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Now that Guybrush has acquitted himself as both a treasure hunter and a sword master, the only trial standing between him and legitimate piracy is stealing the governor’s idol! This being an adventure game, we’re going to have to go about it in a very roundabout way. So I make friends with Otis, the local prisoner who certainly doesn’t remind me of that scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

The governor’s mansion is being guarded by a pack of leashed piranha poodles. Seriously. That’s how the game describes them. The only way to get past them is to toss over a hunk of rancid meat, which… kills them.

Sorry, which PUTS THEM TO SLEEP. This popup notice made me laugh so hard that I shot ginger ale through my nose. Fizzy ginger nasal passages, I have.

To one-up itself, Secret of Monkey Island then goes into one of the funniest scenes in the game. As Guybrush starts looting around the governor’s mansion, the oppressive sheriff Fester Shinetop (because he’s bald, see?) shows up and tries to nab our hero. The two then go “offstage” — that is, out of sight behind some doors.

Then for a couple of minutes, the game completely takes over with a ridiculous cutscene in which all manner of absurdity is going on but the player is only given clues as to the specifics with brief dialogue (“NOT THE RED BUTTON!”), sound effects, and the parser, which keeps typing out, well…

Stuff like that. Guybrush is picking up weird things left and right, diving in and out of the room through a hole in the wall, and ultimately finding himself victorious.

It’s probably the one part of the game that I’d recommend the special edition, if just for the hilarious voice acting and sound effects. The gopher horde, in particular. I showed this scene to my nine-year-old son and he had a fit of giggles before it was all said and done.

I trade Otis — the prisoner — some gopher repellent for a carrot cake, which (unfortunately for him, fortunately for me) has the file I need to get the idol. Back to the mansion for more wacky fights!

People, this is getting TOO SILLY. I totally approve.

Guybrush gets the idol, but Shinetop corners him soon thereafter. Is this the end of our daring hero?

Not quite! The governor steps out of her office to intervene — and it’s love at first sight. Well, gibberish and foolhardy staring at first sight. Elaine Marley calls Guybrush’s face “sweet” while he stammers and is incapable of any real conversation. Guess he’s not enough of a man for this firecracker of a leader!

Even though Elaine lets Guybrush off the hook, Fester there accosts him a second time and makes for the pier. He alludes to sinister “plans for the governor” that he doesn’t want interrupted, and with that, he kicks a weighted Guybrush off the side to drown.

THE END.

(it’s not, actually)

Try-It Tuesday: Commander Keen

So here’s something a lot of old school PC gamers won’t readily admit: We were downright jealous of console games and the fluid action that they could produce. Oh, PCs still had a vast advantage in game selection and genres, and if you were all about RPGs, adventure games, strategy titles, and so many more, you were in heaven. But PCs kind of stunk when it came to producing really smooth platforming, and that left us envious of the NES, Super Mario Bros., and the like.

This is why the shareware revolution — particularly with Apogee, id, 3D Realm, and Epic Games — were a huge hit in the early 90s. Finally, our computers could handle console-like platforming — and finally we had studios making games just as good as most of what we’d seen our friends play.

The Commander Keen series in particular became a hugely beloved franchise on the computer for really solid platforming and a cheeky personality. It put you in the role of a Calvin-esque kid with a huge football helmet and a Pipboy arm computer who was the last line of defense against alien invaders. The first couple of games were… fine… for the most part. I got the complete collection off of Steam a few weeks ago to refresh my memory, and I wasn’t too impressed with the earlier efforts in this series. It still felt a little basic and rough, not to mention unattractive to behold and horrible on the ears.

Yet when I loaded up “Goodbye Galaxy,” the floodgates of nostalgia crashed open. THIS right here was the Keen game I had played for hours on end as a kid, and instantly I was reminded why. It’s so wonderfully put together, from the ability to keybind (which, hey, wasn’t a given back then) to the Pong-like extra game in the menu.

The idea here is that you get to walk around on a world map to beat levels and slowly unlock new areas. There’s some element of choice in which levels you tackle first, although you can’t just go nuts. Keen only has a couple of items at his disposal — a pogo stick for extra jumping and a ray gun with limited ammo. But that’s pretty much all he needs, really.

Right here was one of my favorite things when I was a kid: Seeing Keen get exasperated when I’d stop playing for a while. Actually, the animations are what really make this game, as both Keen and the goofy aliens exude so much personality and have a lot of range in their motions. Keen can swing down poles, grab onto ledges, and do other Mario-like feats. Platforming is really hard to get right, especially back then, but by this game, Apogee had it down to a science.

I really enjoyed exploring the areas, too. I think that’s part of the fun of these games, that you are more wrapped up with poking around and seeing all that there is in any level instead of trying to blitz through it as fast as possible.

Probably my only complaint is that Keen gets killed in one hit, forcing a level restart upon that event. That got annoying when I’d get really far into a level and then, bam, a bad jump or a worm slime took me to my grave and I was back at the beginning with one less life on hand. A couple of hit points or unlimited lives might’ve been a better way to go, but this was back in the more hardcore days, so I guess I can’t be too surprised.

Anyway, a delightful return to a favorite childhood series, and one that I think I’ll be showing my own kids to see what they make of it.

DDO: Assault on Splinterskull

Let me tell you, getting back into the solo scene in DDO has given my gaming time great purpose this month, especially as I wait upon LOTRO’s next progression server unlock. I love how the MMO up and gives you a full list of all of the missions in the game — and tracks which ones you’ve completed (on which difficulty level) and which ones you have yet to do. For a quest completionist, it’s a beautiful tool.

Next up on my effort to make sure I’ve done all of the low-level quests, I saw that I had completely overlooked the ten (!) mission chain in Tangleroot Gorge. Probably the biggest problem I had was getting there, as DDO doesn’t do much in the way of facilitating fast travel between areas. So from the Harbor to the Marketplace to House P to Tangleroot Gorge to a long roundabout path that finally led me to the mission giver… and then the instance itself.

I have to say, it’s a really unusual quest chain — and I don’t say that in a complementary fashion. There’s mainly one instance that you go back into again and again and again and again to do various different quest objectives. But after the first time you’re there, there’s no discovery afterward, so it becomes the very height of tedium to see all this repeated. The only upshot is that I’m able to cross off a whole bunch of quests fairly quickly without much world travel.

I love how the boss mobs lash out with this smack talk about two seconds before they die…

Anyway, the whole chain took me three nights to complete, and that wasn’t because they were tough. It was because I kept getting so bored of running back into the same dull underground hobgoblin town that I needed to log out to save my sanity.

But finally I persevered and wiped out the whole chain from my adventure compendium’s to do list. That’s a decent feeling, I suppose. And while all of the rewards were too low level to be of any use, there was an outfit that I thought was pretty snazzy. I used a mirror of glamouring on it to transform it into a cosmetic and decided that it suits my Artificer perfectly. What do you think?

Syp’s Gaming Goals for March 2019

February 2019 in review

  • Earlier in the month than I had anticipated, I ran out of content that I needed to do on Lord of the Rings Online’s progression server. So I logged out of it for a few weeks while waiting to see when the Moria unlock would happen. At least I’m ready!
  • After beating Morrowind, my enthusiasm for Elder Scrolls Online dipped a bit. I got the Thieves Guild DLC and tried that for a while along with some random questing. It’s fine, but I ended the month only logging in to get the daily rewards and bump up my horse’s carrying capacity. That’s not a good sign. I shouldn’t let this title go.
  • While our Dungeons and Dragons Online group missed a few weeks, at least it encouraged me to log back on to my solo Artificer and finish up Mists of Ravenloft. I then proceeded to work on finishing up low-level missions that I had overlooked on that character.
  • My work laptop died and I got a replacement, which also ended my lunch sessions through Quest for Glory IV. So instead, I blasted right through the entirety of The Secret of Monkey Island for my retro gaming series and wrote six posts’ worth of playthrough from it!
  • I think I made good progress on doing Try It Tuesday titles, including Commander Keen, Survived By, and The Long Dark.
  • For fun, I replayed a lot of Firewatch to listen to the audio commentary by the devs.

March 2019’s goals

  • Once Moria unlocks, I’m full steam ahead on LOTRO’s progression server. The news about the flexible virtue system has me loosening up my goals with completing deeds — I might go back and do a lot of earlier ones in preparation for this.
  • I’ve really been having a blast soloing in DDO again, so I’d like to get caught up on my mission log to at least level 10 quests.
  • I keep kicking a lot of potential MMO titles around in my head to see if I’m in the mood to try/go back to them, and the five that keep popping up are EVE Online, Star Trek Online, Guild Wars 2, EverQuest 2, and World of Warcraft. No promises or goals with these other than to admit that they’re in my vision. Also been wondering if Fallout 76 deserves another go with the patches and whatnot. That 2019 roadmap did seem a little interesting…
  • I want to keep Elder Scrolls Online going, even if only one good session a week. I do like this game when I’m in it, but it takes some prodding to log in.
  • Retro gaming wise, I’ll be moving right into Monkey Island 2 while the remainder of the blog posts covering the first game roll out over the span of March. I like working ahead!
  • And for Try It Tuesday, I’ve got a growing pile of MMOs and non-MMOs to experience. Subnautica, Night in the Woods, Eldevin, and SubSpace seem like a good lineup to me!