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MMO's & The Modern Man (err...Woman)

An honest, irreverant look at various MMO's from a typical player's point of view. OK, maybe not a typical player. Maybe a hardcore emo PVE but PVP lovin' chataholic with alt tendencies. What's that? A new beta!? BRB...

Author: Astrialla

When Is The Line Crossed or Are You Serious About The Rape Thing?

Posted by Astrialla Monday November 30 2009 at 10:36PM
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Rape.

The word gets used a lot in MMO chat.  A lot lot lot lot.  I don't know where it started but for me it shows up in every MMO I play and have played.  Usually some teenage guy uses it trying to be l33t.  "Dude he totally raped you!"  or my personal jaw dropping favorite "I raped that orc - did you see that? Watch! I'll do it again!"

I hate it.  I can't help but flash onto every public service message for women's shelters I've ever seen or trip sideways into poor Jodie Foster and that stupid bar.

I'm aware that I'm the only one that reacts this way and that everyone else ingame is fine with the word.  I'm not sure if it's cause I'm female or cause I've got very little involvement in the whole tough persona in an MMO thing or maybe I'm just old.  Yeah - I know rape also means to spoil or plunder (and some sorta grain) but a swarthy brigand stealing a bale of hay just does not come to mind when I hear it in Vent.  What comes to mind is, "Dude if you'd ever been raped, or your sister or your mom or your daughter or your grandmother had... you'd never use that word."

I've never dealt with that.  I don't have the excuse of a real life experience causing this reaction in me - rather I just have a recoil inside that does not understand why this word has become synonymous with killed fast in the world of games.  And I can't change it.  I can't undo whatever moment someone first used it and everyone else got that frisson of ooooh that's edgy and fun to use! and then that was it. 

I don't wish the experience of rape on anyone just for the sake of them understanding the concept.  I don't want to censor others and I understand that for everyone else it does not mean actual rape when they use it.  Rather it means that they dominated, conquered, slammed the other person into the dirt so fast that they did not have a chance.   The word that means violence and pain and lives shattered to me means woot! I iz uber! to the rest of the server and the word that brings up such a furrowed brow/pained expression for me brings up a triumphant howl of domination in others.   It's just a word. But for me it seems that it crosses a line.

This morning I wondered about something.  What if I used "castrated" every time I downed a mob quickly "Did you see that?  I totally castrated him! Watch! I'll do it again!".   Would all the guys in Vent go silent for a moment? Maybe my point might be made about having a twinge inside when a word that implies sexual violence is used to express winning. 

Maybe not.  Truth of the matter is I can't bring myself to use castrate either.  Words have power - these blogs are proof of that - and for me, I can't cross that line.  I'm the only one standing on this side of it, but I just can't cross that line.

Extra Credit Blog: Istaria Notes, Curses & Mutterings Levels 1-10 Biped

Posted by Astrialla Monday November 30 2009 at 2:35PM
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Once more into the world of Istaria. Here there be dragons and yes! I'm one of them!  But this collection of mental mutterings is for the biped class, as I'm a bit further there and truthfully it's much more of a learning curve for me than dragondom.  Here comes the disclaimer :-) - this stuff is just the tip of the iceburg.  Seriously.  Little of what I say here is the whole picture but right now it's more of an overview than I can find so I'm tossing it out there.  A discussion ingame with the UberIstarians will get you much more info - sometimes too much more info lol - but hang in there cause I have not given up so you don't get to either.  As always - if I'm wrong about anything below, experts of Istaria please correct me lol.  This stuff is intricate.

----Levels 1-10 Skills/Abilities/Spells

It's about time to consider the general info around how you get stuff done in the game as far as Adventuring goes.  We'll poke at Crafting later :-).  One thing that is probably occupying your mind right now is what you have on your hotbar to either kill stuff, effect stuff, heal players, or buff players.   It's pretty intricate, knowing how to get more buttons to use and a simple question in the new player chat like "How do I get more skills?" can result in absolute chaos and confusion.  Because Istaria is so durn intricate (have I used the word intricate enough?), it's also quite specific.  Say "skills" instead of "spells" in chat and ...well.  Yeah, I did, and it was chaotic lol.

So here's a breakdown of how stuff that you can use to kill, effect, heal or buff becomes available to you. 

There are 3 ways new stuff gets added that you can do:  Skills, Abilities, and Spells.

-----------------------------------------Skills:  Skills can be located by hitting C for the Character window and looking at the Skills tab.  When you decide on what Adventuring school or class to go into  you're assigned a set of skills.  The skills on the Skills tab are the ones you can use right away if you're playing that school.  Skills relate to your character as a whole and so they're not specific actions that you can drag onto your toolbar and use, but they do impact what actions you get to use so it's kinda good to know about them.

When you pick let's say Cleric, you'll start out with a list of skills that includes One Hand Crush.  That means you can use one hand crushing weapons (maces, clubs etc.)  and that skill is ready to go from moment one.  Sounds simple right?

Except when you go to the General tab of your Character window, there's a label called Training Points and a lil link with a number in it up at the top.  If you click on that lil blue number it takes you to the Character Training window... which is a much bigger list and for example has things like Flame on it.  Hmmm... you're  a cleric but Flame might be really fun!  Sooo you level up a bit and soon the starting 0 in training points moves up and when you open the Character Training window there are points to spend!  But you can't spend them everywhere.  You can only spend them on the skills that your character actually has already on the Skill tab.

So as a cleric, you can't spend points in flame.  But... and here's the fun part... you CAN change schools and go level up a Mage that has that Flame skill on the Skill tab window.  You can then put points into Flame and when you go back to Cleric the Flame skill is still there!   Wohooh! Fire throwing Cleric.

BIG NOTE FOR YOU TO NOTICE GOES HERE.... which is that NOT all Skills can be learned this way.  If you have  a 10 Cleric and level up a Scout to 10 and then go back to Cleric, you can't use a bow as a Cleric.  Some skills are simply excluded from certain classes so ask in New Player Help if you're unsure whether your hard work in point assigning will result in what you want.  

---------------------------Abilities:  Abilities can be located by hitting C for the Character window and looking at the Abilities tab.  Abilities come in 2 types - Active and Passive.  When you pick an Adventuring School you'll get a few basic Abilities.  You get more Abilities as you level and from what I can see they just show up on the Abilities tab.  So each time you level- check that tab and see if you've won a prize lol.

Any active Ability can be dragged onto your toolbar and used.  Passive ones can't be dragged onto the toolbar but go ahead and try if you're like me and just HAVE to check lol :-) 

Here's the fun part.  If you change schools and you've still got Training Points in an old skill from your old school, as long as it's not on the "Skills that your current class can't use or the sky will fall" list, you'll still have the old school's ability as active.  That's right.  Start as cleric, move to mage and you still have some heals.  Start as mage and move to scout and you're still gonna have some flame capabilities as long as you've got enough points in there.

Confused yet!? No? Let's add Spells then!

---------------------------Spells: Spells can be located by hitting K for the Knowledge window and looking at the Spells tab.  Spells are something that you buy or loot or earn as a quest reward.  The Adventuring Spells you can use are limited by your Adventuring school, your level, and where your Training Points are placed. 

Fun. 

Some Spells are generic, and give things like strength or dexterity, while others are Skill specific and focus on variations of different types of action. There are spells for different flame casting techniques for Mages, or spells for different kinds of healing for Clerics.  Right click the spell and look at the details to figure out if you can use it or not.

Spells can be bought from the connie ( consignment vendor/auction house/player sales system ) or looted or from NPC vendors.  The NPC vendors are pretty pricey so you might want to just use the connie.   Lots of mobs drop spells and on NT a good place is the sand trolls down by the beach.  They're cute anyway (in an eat your face kinda way) and they gave me some armor dye as well :-) .
In the village in NT the connie is under the awning with the pawnbroker and the dragon Resliak is the NPC spell vendor.

So there ya have it. 

Spells can be earned, bought or looted and they are limited to your class, level, and type of skills. 

Abilities show up as you level and can be retained sometimes even if you switch classes if they're not specifically excluded from the new class and you've put enough points into them. 

Skills are part of your character and they influence what spells and abilities you're able to use.

FINAL big note! (ROFL).  In regards to Skills - once you've assigned your Training Points once, you have the chance to buy some back after a bit.  Once you buy them back and respend them, I don't think you get to buy those particular points back again.  Or at least the 30 points that I had by level 10 that I used, bought back, then reused, are not available for buyback.

A few notes:

---If you do decide to go Adventure School hopping bear in mind that leveling is harder on the second and third and fourth schools etc.  If you get to level 10 and let's say your health is 250, you'll keep that same 250 health when you change schools.  Which means that you'll need to kill things closer to your 250 health in order to get any real XP even thought you'll only be level 1.   Go with quests for leveling if you're on your second or third school and try to keep mob grinding to a minimum.

---If you don't have New Player Chat enabled then please do so.  Very nice people and they're pretty excitied if you're new to the game.  

---Backpack bags drop a lot from the glass beetles. Use them to organize your stuff into classes if you're school hopping.
 

That's it for now - hope you're all enjoying this lovely world and keep an eye out for dragons :-).

Just When I Thought I Was Out... They Sucked Me Back In or Abandoned Sandcrawler Housing

Posted by Astrialla Wednesday November 25 2009 at 9:43PM
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My budget every month is $90.00 for MMO's.  Stop judging me.  That's less than Girls' Night Out costs and results in fewer embarassing stories.   Because I'm a working woman and can swing the sub's, I usually keep a few running and use whatever is leftover in the sub budget to save for whatever next great game is out there.

Right now my subs are SWG (Star Wars Galaxies), LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online) and Istaria.  Savings leftover goes to ToR (if you don't know that one I'm not helping you pbtttbtbbtbt) right now. Most of my ingame time is spent in Istaria, frolicking around and getting overwhelmed in the most delightful ways, but yesterday was maintenance and I went into SWG to check that my housing fees were paid well into the future.

Did I mention that the ONLY reason I keep my SWG sub active is my house there?  It's a beauty and I go once or twice a month and putter around.  The thing is that in SWG, nearly EVERYthing that is in your inventory can be dropped in your house and manipulated.  You can take a junk loot data disk, drop it into your house and then move it up, down, side to side, forward and back, tilt it towards you, away, swivel it right, left, and roll it as well. 

It's insane.

Any item can go anywhere within the 3 dimensional space of your house, so think about how cool an old set of outgrown armor looks dropped in a hallway.  There's no "hooks" (a-la LOTRO) - you're limited to the number of items the structure holds and that can be expanded.  Some houses literally can hold over a thousand items.  Every player has 10 lots to use from day one - small houses take 1 lot - the largest houses take 5.  You don't have to buy the right to have a house, you just have to buy the house itself, most of which are made by players and run so cheap you can get one with the money from the "here's some credits go learn this and that" first quest in Mos Eisley.

So, I don't spend much time in SWG other than in my house.  There are new instances and new gear in the game but after playing a number of other mmo's I'm sorta meh about the new content, mostly because the lag is nuts in the instances and getting groups together is hit and miss with the lower populations of the servers. Few things are as fun as the older Tusken Raider instance though, where you're running crazy around - what was that place - Mos Espa I think - on Tatooine with a group of players, trying to protect civilians coming out of buildings all over town and getting gobbled up by Tuskens - ahhh good times... good times.

What time I spend ingame is in my house playing wif all my purty toys mostly and so you can imagine my dismay when I logged in yesterday to find that there's new housing in the game.  As in, a huge abandoned sandcrawler that you get to fill up with cool furniture and random items. Or a truely ginormous AT-AT walker (think Hoth and the good guys flying around in a lil speeder thing tripping one up with a wire) that has a ramp up to the main body and several different levels of habitat goodness.  I handled the new droids that showed up a few months ago and I handled the new "build yer own quests" Chronicler skill that came after that, but this.. this... I can't ignore.

I can hear you all now, with your "Just get the dang sandcrawler and move in.  Have a moving party and get all your friends and it'll be a snap".  But here's the problem.   The sandcrawler is a reward.  Yes. It's a reward earned by turning in tokens.  Indeed.  The tokens are earned by having people run the quests you build in the Chronicler skill set.  I think you're with me now.  It will take a month or two of non-stop serious application of all my available game time (and NO I don't spend all day sitting around gaming.. sheesh! Actually that would be kinda fun... *LF job sitting around gaming all day*) and I'm already head over heels in love with my lil Istaria dragon... 

Just when I thought I was out.... they sucked me back in!

 

Fouling Your Own Nest or I Hate The Way You Play

Posted by Astrialla Tuesday November 24 2009 at 10:37AM
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You know I've been building towards it.  Little hints here and there, innuendos, wink wink nudge.  But I guess it's time to state it clearly once and for all.

I hate the way you play.

You know who you are.  You're the l33t squad, the chat trolls, the kill stealers and the bots.  You're the guy that stood by and watched me clear the way to a boss and then ran in as I was taking down the last mob to kill the boss yourself.  Then you laughed in server chat about it.

You're the player that tells others to toughen up, lighten up, that it's just a game, and for cripes sake just let it go.  You're the fanboi that insists there's nothing wrong with the game and you're the kid that types STOP QQ'ing! whenever anyone points out your stupid behavior. 

Above all you're the player that assumes that I play for the same reasons you do.  I am not after leveling to cap as fast as I can so stop telling me that the game has been out for 2 weeks and asking why am I still level 25?  I'm not after PVP kills or stats so stop trying to get me to come out to the Moors and be your pocket minstrel and then ripping into me when you finally realize I mean no.  I'm not after glory, server fame, l33t gear, or pretty much anything that you find important.  

I don't play the same game you do.  I play a better one.

My game is not fueled by either an ingame version of road rage or the need to pump myself by deriding others.  And I never fill the server chat with my desperate need to establish my worth by discussing in detail gang raping whatever other player seems like the most effective target at the moment.  I'm pretty clear that even the most bird brained pigeon nestling has enough sense to stand on the edge of the nest when nature calls.  Why you insist on fouling your own nest, your own game?

I'm not asking you change the way you play.  Griefing other players and camping rez spots is not a playstyle and it's not defensible as such.  Going into graphic detail in server chat about the personal lives of other players is not a playstyle. it's vindictive and cruel. Turning an MMO into one giant litterbox that you use as your own personal toilet is not a playstyle, it's arrogant and you're embarrassing yourself.

Just because I don't play the game the same way you do does not mean I've forfeited all rights to play the game the way I like to.   Just because I don't gank you or trash you does not mean that I don't have the right to enjoy the game and have fun.   Just because I'm reasonably kind does not mean that I lose all rights to control the way I play the game.  And if the bulk of a server is like you I'll switch servers rather than deal with endless repetitions of idiocy.  And if the bulk of a game's community is like you then I'll leave the game (coughAioncough).

Someone much wiser than me once said, "Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose".  Back up idiot.  I don't care why you play the way you do or what socioeconomic parameters brought you to the point where you're a jerk.  Just back up, back off, and let me play my game in peace.

Chronicles of Spellborn or Avoiding the Ex...

Posted by Astrialla Monday November 23 2009 at 10:35AM
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I bet you thought I'd run out of games to confess to.   You might be thinking that it's a bit nuts to have played so many games yet stuck with only 2 out of the mix and yes, yes I do believe you're right.   Between SWG and LOTRO I've got 6 years of dedicated play in MMO's trailing behind me like some sort of time sucking jet trail and while I'm not exactly proud of the number of games I've tried I also am aware that I did so because of the high bar that had been set by my first MMO.  I've said it before but I am a very loyal player and once I invest in a game fully I stick with it until it's wrung dry of all that it has to offer me.   My high points in gaming have been with SWG and LOTRO and I have subscriptions to both even though I don't really spend much time in either anymore.  You never know when an old flame is going to suddenly flare up and thrill you again.

In the last few months as LOTRO has diminished (and faded into endless Moria instance runs to gear up people desparate for a healer) I've been looking for another main MMO. I've tried several and had a bit of fun and a bit of angst and without a doubt the most frustrating experience I have had has been with The Chronicles of Spellborn.  Frustrating because the concept is fantastic, the gameplay mechanics are a blast, but the actual experience of playing was, well, tedious and very isolated. 

Spellborn got my attention pretty fast with a fighting system based on a rotating skill set.  You have a shifting cylinder with a number of slots with your specials on it and every time you use one the cylinder shifts.   This means that progression through a set of skills when attacking is an intricate combination of setting up your cylinder correctly to start with as well as hitting the right skills in the right order within the framework of the cylinder rotation.  Fun!  Any fight turns into a very intricate dance between cylinder status, skill timers, skill progressions and random fighting odds.   I remember thinking to myself that the folks at Acclaim had finally succeeded in making combat choices 3 dimensional as I pored over cylinder combinations.

On top of the really invigorating combat process there is the concept of the Spellborn world.  Shard ships float through the now norm of a shattered reality and the artwork is truely unique and quite stunning.   There are High Houses that act like huge guilds to guide and assist players as well as providing House specific skills and knowledge and crafting is a step above with repairing found/looted items tossed onto the top of basic recipe/combine loot systems.   The classes are diverse and challenging with skills being presented by trainers with mystery and lore dripping from them so thickly that you need hip boots to wade into their buildings to upgrade your skills.

It's a beautiful game.  For an idyllic month or so I thought I had found my new home and I happily played my heart out, helping to form a guild, getting into ridiculously intricate discussions on the forums and basically entrenching myself in a new and stunning reality.  But I found myself very isolated in the game and the community was a bit iffy as far as the "spew random attacks on general chat vs. helpful, funny discussions" ratio went.  While the combat system was great, there was no real excitement in relation to the quests at hand, which fell into gather/kill X number of things or escort or find X number of locations categories.

I think that the real reason for the apathetic ambiance in game is that there were not enough people playing to reach that critical mass of energy that an MMO needs to succeed.  I'm sure that Acclaim did what they thought was best as far as pushing Spellborn into the public eye but for me I learned of it word of mouth and have yet to see any ad for it to this day.  It's a shame because it's a beautiful game with a diverse and compelling structure.

I hear through the grapevine that the Chronicles of Spellborn has gone F2P and stopped all development.  Not sure if it's true but if so then it's worth your time to check it out.  I'd verify for you but I'm avoiding their site with a slight, uneasy twinge.  I left Spellborn and have moved on after a brief fling, but like everyone else I always feel a bit guilty when I think of my ex's.

Ducking The Drama or Why I'm never in a guild.

Posted by Astrialla Friday November 20 2009 at 3:28PM
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I don't join guilds.  Kinships, Teams, Families, whatever you want to call them - I don't join 'em.  I group with pick up groups and play solo through the lower levels of most games, simply because it's easier, more productive, and drama free.

When I get to end game where I have to group I just start up a very specific friends list of the people I like to do runs with.  Since I usually play a healer and I'm capable at my class most of the time (hehe- remind me to tell you about this one time I fell off the ramps in the Forges in LOTRO going down to the second boss like 15 times in a row...) I usually have no trouble finding a group to run with when I need to.

"But Astrialla", you may ask, "why the discrimination against guilds?  Why don't you join one and savor the joys of endlessly available groupage?"  Well, I have to say that for me, a guild does not mean getting groups.  Here's a few of the guild types I've run across in the last 6 years of MMO gaming.  Yes, some of them sound fun but in the long run I've found that for me I get more done and have more fun when I'm on my own.

1.  The Hardcore Guild. 

This is the group that goes out to the PVP zone and dominates the field.  They're known for downed bosses and completed raids and they're not above zerging if that gets them over the top and to the next level on their PVP stats.  Every member has 8,000 leveled alts in every different profession and craft and if you run with them they'll sniff at your gear, boast of their latest server first and mention that they beat you at PVP on January 7th, 2004 at 12:25 am.  If you're asked to join, make sure you do because they'll camp your rez spot until you say yes.

2. The Fan Club

This is the guild based around a strong personality that keeps everything running seamlessly.  If the leader is a guy then all the women and half the men have crushes on him - if it's a woman then it's all the men and half the women.   They're charming, adorable, kind, sexy and have great Vent voices.  RL pics always show someone compelling or great looking or both.  The guild is mostly concerned with either looting great stuff they can give to the guild leader or jockeying for whatever position is closest to them.  All will go well until you either land in a guild job that others think is closer than them to the leader or you get on the leader's bad side by stealing attention from them by actually getting others involved in the game.  Above all, never appear to be in competition for  the guild members' affection with the guild leader.  If you're asked to join, put warts on your rl picture and mention often in a casual way that you're quite fat.

3. The Role Playing Guild.

Don't get me wrong - some of my best friends are role players.  But this sort of guild is one of the most frustrating types to be in.  Depending upon the guild's construction you could have to do anything from attend weekly meetings to learn to play in the guild orchestra on an ingame tuba to only speaking in character while talking in the kin chat channel.  75% of the guild is low level because RP comes first, crafting second, and actually questing and fighting stuff comes a distant third.  The drama level is insanely high with people having ingame affairs both real and RP'd and everyone taking 4 minutes to type out, "Verily, I woudst attend with thee the revels currently underway at yonder Tavern on the Hill" instead of typing "sure, I'll go".  If you're asked to join, just run.  Change servers if you have to but above all DON'T use any emotes when declining.

4. The Disappearing Guild.

This is the one I always seem to get into.  You meet these fantastic people on a PUG run, they are smart, funny, skilled and you think that you've finally found your kinship.  You do 3 or 4 runs over the span of a few days and decide that you're gonna go be a part of the magic.  For the first hour after you join guild chat is hopping, everyone is talking and then suddenly, everyone is gone.  Day after day, week after week you log in and no one is there.  Cobwebs start to show up on the kin hall and you're left as the only one online to pay maintenance on the guild's plot/house/land.  6 months later when someone comes back long after you've left the guild they'll yell at you for abandoning ship.   No matter how fun the run, beware!  If they invite you to join just tell them that you'll do so an hour at a time and reserve the right to cut and run at the the first sign of an empty guildhall.

As you can see - guilds are often a messy place to be.  Drop a line and mention the advantages or disadvantages of guilding as you see it and maybe I'll find out something new.

 

 

Extra Credit Blog: Istaria Notes & Mutterings Levels 1-5 Biped

Posted by Astrialla Friday November 20 2009 at 11:25AM
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Well - as some of you may have noticed I've started in on the world of Istaria.  Here there be dragons.  In my usual charming but compulsive fashion I've drawn up some of my notes from the first 5 levels on the biped side in the hopes that other newbies have a one stop for those pesky details that can make folks weep and wail and run fleeing into the hills.  I've noticed that it's not the game that makes people give up on new MMO's - it's either the community or the frustration of details that they can't fix, learn, or find a workaround for.

So with no further ado... and very little editing :-) here are some details about Istaria:

--Level 0--The Patcher.

OK - this thing is a bit nuts.  It runs every time you open the game but you can set parameters using the customize button on the login box so that it does not inspect EVERY file in the game EVERY time you open the game by using the change patcher options button during the login process. 

--Level 1-- Invisible and Untouchable Level 1 Grulets.

You'll get a quest to kill Grulets.  You'll run merrily down a hill to kill them and there will be a patch of them happily grazing and oinking and make sure at  level 1 you just target the level 1 lil guys to kill.  If you try for level 2 or 3 your odds of dying fast are ... well..nearly 100%.  If you can't find level 1 Grulets then work on the crafting side of things and try them again later.  If you get too frustrated trying to find the dang level 1 piggy Grulets (this is apparently the first and number one complaint for new players lol) then head through that portal that takes you to the next step in the game and there will be a LOT of level 1 Grulets near the road  heading North out of the main town.  You can kill them there and then portal back to Spirit Island to turn the quest in.   I'm considering a piggy relocation program to try and lure some of them back to the island but so far not even a whisper of any investors.

--Level 1+-- The Trade Window.

OK.  The trade window.  It's remarkably intuitive once you figure out what the heck is going on but there's some info that just slips by that you need to know.  First off, when you click on a vendor 2 windows open up.  The top window is a filter that is very very strict.  It's like the worst nightmare group leader that kicks you if you loot during combat- that kind of strict.  Your best bet at first is to just UNCLICK all the boxes on the filter and CLOSE IT.  Don't deal with it at first until you've learned a bit more about what the game offers and what the categories mean or you'll have the lovely experience of searching and searching and finding nothing for sale in any category at any level no matter how you configure the filter lol. 

The filter seems to hang on to the last configuration you searched by (someone can verify this if possible - seems like it to me but I'm a newbfest) so once you unclick boxes once you can just close it in the future.  I'm sure there's some box to unclick somewhere that will make the filter not show up at all but I've got enough on my plate without searching the insanely large options menus.  

Every npc uses this same trade window.  So if you have to turn in a quest item to an npc, you'll be using this window to do so.  The rest of the trade process is fairly intuitive and straightfoward - it's just the filter that is a bit eep.   If you've a trade window open and you can't find anything for sale no matter what you do, just open the filter up and make sure that your boxes are either unchecked or checked correctly.   That'll save you a lot of time and lower the frustration level greatly.

--Level 1+-- Directions ingame. 

The overhead map when you first open it up is a bit disconcerting for those used to a lotta info.  It's got the land and that is it.  Not even a marker for towns or landmarks :-).  Calm down - hang on and stop hyperventilating.  You put the markers in yourself.  Yeppers - and the marker system is excellent, easy to use, and very fun lol.  For example, my friend ninja'd my computer and put markers all over the map where my more spectacular deaths occurred with titles like "Tiny lil worm killded her, killded her bad!". 

There's some map pack out on the web that folks mentioned in chat the has the markers already in place for nearly everything in the game but I'm going commando on this one and doing without :-).

Directions from the NPC's are vague and along the lines of "NorthWest of the Village" and the like.  I found more by just running all over the place and mapping what I saw and then when I got quests I just looked at my map markers and voila.  Most of the folks in New Player Help on Chaos were really helpful with specific coordinates and landmarks but you'll need to ramp up your navigation skills if you're used to go here quest markers and shiny lights and baubles to show you where your destination is.

--Level 2+-- The Ambassador of Wit.

This ferschnabbled quest was my first gah arg grrrr moment in the game.  It's one of a set and for this chunk you go talk to a nice guy waaaaaay up north and he gives you a riddle.  You solve it, buy the answer item from his assistant in the main village, then head back up to him in the northern frontier to turn it in - then it's lather rinse repeat.  

If you're having trouble with the logistics of this quest here are some clues.

--If you get to his assistant and the assistant has absolutely nothing for sale make sure to open the filter and UNCHECK all the boxes or the items will not show up.
--If you're at the assistant and he won't take anything you're offering to buy the answer item with, look in your inventory for a small golden coin/ball.  Use that to buy the answer item - he won't take anything other than that.

Brief notes:

-Yes, they're serious, you cannnot die by falling off cliffs :-)
-I started characters on both Chaos and Order and found out that the folks were nicer on Order but there were more around in the chat on Chaos.
-The young dragons are really cool.  The ancient ones are intimidating lol.
-There is player housing in the game but it's apparently expensive and not the SWG model of excellence in housing that I keep searching for :-/
-Economy on both servers is great at least at lower levels.  I was able to use the player trade npc to gear up easily with the funds earned from questing.

That's it for now - time to get onto my regular blog article now... give a holler if you have tips or tricks of your own!

Shock & awe among fangs & claws or I downloaded Istaria.

Posted by Astrialla Thursday November 19 2009 at 10:18AM
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Remember when games were hard? I don't mean "woot see my l337 gear - I had to grind for, like, 17 hours to get this" hard. I mean when you had to think about what you were doing or you'd die. When the shortcuts were few and far between and the moments of just sheer wonder at an experience popped up in the most wonderful and random ways. Remember when games made you wide eyed and amazed?

I'm guessing that we all have our MMO moments of awe. For some it's grouping up and manning a turret gun in SWG, strafing a star destroyer and trying your level best to target those tiny yellow brackets. Or maybe it's the moment in LOTRO when you first see the shattered bridge of Khazad-dûm - or that instant in Anarchy Online when you're standing for the first time in front of the implant vendors and realize that there are thousands of combinations and that the game is so wonderfully complicated it's beyond any one player to master it all.

Prompted by a blog here on MMORPG.com - yes, I do read the blogs here :-) - I downloaded Istaria. I am not a Hello Kitty funland type of player and so over the years I avoided following up on anything Istaria-like that I stumbled across, mainly because the thought of folks playing dragons reeked of pastel colored kiddy cartoons and legions of "click here to level my pet" prompts. But I popped over to the site, noticed that the dragoons looked more powerful than pastel, closed my eyes, held my breath, and hit the download button. Download went smoothly - the patcher was a bit glitchy but I got through it.

This is an older game. Characterization is limited, graphics are secure but based on much older tech. I made my human (the only option available for trial subs) and headed into the game, thinking all the while that I was dealing with the free version of EQ again and that I'd be logging in 20 minutes or so. Bear in mind at the time I was downloading and logging in for the first time I was the subject of endless ridicule by a friend who found out about my Istaria plans. It would have taken next to nothing to get me to back away from dragonville.

The first hmmmm moment came when I got to choose my profession. There are several starter classes, which then branch out into more advanced roles once you level a bit. I like this idea a lot. Remember, my first MMO was Star Wars Galaxies, where in the beginning you had to develop your skills as you grew and if you wanted to be a Jedi you had to work your butt off for it. Being able to develop the skills and abilities of my character over time was a refreshing change from say Aion where once I hit the cleric choice button I was stuck for life with the specific skills assigned to every cleric as they leveled and that was it.

I chose a profession, got a minimal amount of free gear and was sent off to kill little pig things. I don't know about you but every single MMO I've ever played has little pig things in it. And spiders of some sort ... we won't go into that. I traipsed down the road (funny and cool road buff in the game where if you're on the road you run faster than if you're off - I'm slow... I'm fast! I'm slow... I'm fast!) and found the piggy beings without much trouble. I saw a level 2 piggy and thought, "Well, I'm level 1 but how hard can it be" and started wailing away. I died. Fast. Time for my second hmmmmm.

I retreated, headed back to the oinkers and was a bit more careful this time. None of the other pigs around had aggro'd during the first fight - I had simply been killed by a mob one level above me. I slowed down, looked closely, and found a level 1 piggy. That one went down fairly well. So let's take a look at this. If i'm level 1, I can't kill a level 2 mob. For most players that might be a horrible thing, but for me it's great. I don't want to mindlessly kill mobs as I file my nails and know that I can gank anything 3 levels above me as long as I stick to autocombat with a macro running to heal and buff me. I want to actually fight, which is why I still hop over to AoC now and again just to get that awake and aware feeling during combat. If you don't use your skills in Istaria when you're fighting you die. If you don't pick your targets wisely, you die. It's not an effortless game, it's a challenging but reasonable environment.

No automatic map arrows to your quest or target blinking on your screen. No place names on the map so you really have to explore to find out what is going on. NPC map dots are named but only in your immediate area. The quests are clear but leave enough mystery so that you don't feel spoon fed or yanked around like you have a hook in your mouth. Plenty of chances to do whatever you want to profession and crafting wise and xp is generous. Levels are earned, moment by moment, and mobs are actually enemies instead of notches on your kill X number tally sheet.

There's not enough room to go into the crafting (incredibly diverse), economy (sane!), and community (again... sane but in a delightfully nutty kind of way), and just overall really intricate but fun details of playing Istaria. I will say this however. I got out of the tiny beginner area and went to my first village. I wandered here and there, saw a few NPC's, got some training and quests, and wandered up a little incline with my map open looking for a particular NPC. I saw the named dot, got to it and closed my map. I was in first person view. All I saw was blue and white and scales, and I looked up to see my first dragon. Shock and awe baby. Shock and awe. 
 

 

Being The Other Woman or Catfight In The PVP Zone...

Posted by Astrialla Tuesday November 17 2009 at 5:30PM
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I admit I usually think of MMORPG as short for Many Men Online Role Playing Girls.  However, at times there are actually other real life women in the mix and I do my best to not step on anybody's toes, especially when it comes to men ingame.  There are certainly enough guys playing to fulfill all the roles from friend who happens to be male to l33t raiding partner with benefits and it's pretty much a fun place to be most of the time regardless of gender.  But... and yes, there is one... I finally managed last night to piss off the wrong woman.  I'd like to say for the record it's not my fault.

NMF! 

After years of playing and making sure to never /hug without knowing the rl gender, emotional affiliations, partner status and current drama level of the target at hand, I blew it.  I /flirted a guild leader's ingame hubby.  I MEANT TO TARGET THE BOSS!  I do that all the time to end bosses along with /hug and /pat.  I figure the instance NPC's get a lot of grief and anger directed at them all day and might appreciate a bit of positive attention.

Did I mention this was a guild run (I'll call it Guild A) that I had been invited to simply because they were desperate for a healer with enough gear to get in the door and not collapse?  There was that wonderful moment of silence when I logged into their Vent  for the run and said my usually cheery, "Hi!" and everyone paused so that I could hear them thinking outloud, "Hmmm.... a girl.. a girl?...why yes! A girl!" followed by a few dozen gruff and grumbly hey theres.  The conversation picked up again and was centered mainly around the lack of a particular person in Vent - namely the guild leader Phyllomena.  Yes, I changed the name but the original has the same... same.. um that name is along the same lines.

She is legend in her guild.  She is kind, courageous, always has time to talk or help out, and apparently has a drop dead gorgeous rl pic on the guild website.  When she finally arrived in the Land of Vent, she noticed I was there immediately and the grilling began.  While I wondered where the kind and helpful Phyllo was she peppered me with questions, asking what characters did I play, how was I specc'd, why was I not guilded, did I know so and so or so and so.  Things eased up after she inspected me and found that, like always, I play as silly looking character as possible with the highest gear and spec I can get.  Basically I passed as someone that was no threat to her or her guild RP wise but handy to have around.

We did the run, got to the last boss, and I made my fatal error.  After I inadvertently /flirted her ingame hubby I was kicked from the group.  Instantly.  I spent a few minutes fuming and trying to send messages to group members who didn't respond and then I chalked it up to bad karma and decided to head out to the PVP zone.  Most PVP zones have non combat quests in them and a lot of them have pretty spiffy resources to gather.  I thought I'd do a grabcarrydrop quest where you run to one place, grab an item and then carry it carrrrreeeefffffullly over to another place to drop it off for cash/prizes/tokens.  I got the item, avoided the other faction quite nimbly, and was nearly to the drop off point when a tumble of glowing eyes and fur came out of nowhere and attacked.  I fended it off, stayed alive, but dropped the item when I went into combat, so back I went to pick it up again.

You guessed it.  I got within sight of the drop off spot and was attacked by the same toon again.   This time I sent a tell and asked a buddy to come protect me while I finished the quest but when we ran it once more there were a dozen of them waiting to attack us.  Now I've done a lot of running in PVP zones and I couldn't figure out why I was worth all the trouble but I just tossed a note onto server chat saying that I was getting ganked in the zone and could anyone lend a hand.  There were a few responses and then suddenly an announcement that anyone that helped me would be considered dead to Guild A.  That's right. I was blacklisted.

Curse my /flirt typing self!

Clearly the mystery toon was Phyllo in her other faction form. After a lot of people logging back and forth between factions to relay messages, I finally got the mighty Phyllo to just fight me one on one.  Did I mention I play a healer?  A little bundle of healing joy and solid gear?   My biggest issue was power depletion but I have to say that if she was mad at me for /flirting her hubby it was nothing next to how mad she was when I just stood there and healed whatever damage she put on me.   By this time there were so many folks gathered around yelling CATFIGHT that lag became an issue as well and the fight ended by her lagging into a disconnect and the server chat calling it a draw.  Hrrrrmmph. 

Well I win anyway!  I might be still blacklisted, and I might never get invited to any endgame raids again, but I can honestly say that I provided more entertainment to my server than it's had since the last expansion.  That's gotta be worth a drink or two next time I hit the pub ingame.

When To /Drop or The Top 5 Group Members You'd Rather Not Run With...

Posted by Astrialla Monday November 16 2009 at 11:02AM
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You know you think of it.  Just hitting /leave or /drop mid run after an hour and a half of trying to get past the first boss - hey let's be honest - the first room of an instance.  What were you thinking joining this group?  If you're anything like me it's cause you  A. wanted to do a particular instance and a pick up group was all you could get (fear the dreaded PUG!)  B. saw their repeated spam on the global chat for your class and after an hour you caved and joined up or  C. had someone on your friends list do a "pretty please - it'll just take 20 minutes" flyby through your chat window.

Regardless of how you got here, you're stuck and it's time to consider your next move.  Do you stay in the clearly flailing group?  Or do you bail and suffer the indignation (usually vented on the public channels) your fleeing will cause.  Like most gaming experiences, the choice is yours alone to make, however here are a few of the more classic groupbusters for your review.  If you see any of these in your group you might want to err on the side of /leave if only for the sake of your repair bill.

The Micromanaging Stealth Leader:  This is the person that stays mute when the "hey does anyone want to lead that might know this instance better than me" comment is made at the start of the run.  They remain silent until the first mobs get pulled and then start with the comments about how it might be better to stun the left guy and pull the right guy instead of vice versa.  Of course they mention this AFTER the fight starts, and so everyone muddles through and then verifies after the fight that yes, it might have been better to do it differently.  Next group of mobs, pull order is changed, and the Stealth Leader is then heard muttering about how the caster class is not really traited correctly for this particular instance and that the healer is wasting power topping off the tank.  The group leader graciously offers leadership to the MSL and is refused with the reason that they're just not able to lead cause they have issues with authority.  By the time the third gang of mobs is engaged the leader has no credibility, the MSL is nattering nonstop about everything from the gear choices of the tank to the clearly inferior quality of the potions the ranged class is using, and the rest of the group is cringing in a corner wondering how they could have sucked so much for so long and still managed to breath ingame.

The Dog Ate My Homework Dude:  This guy is also known as the "Do you happen to have" guy.  He'll come on a raid and have no mic or even headphones.  He won't have the quests, his gear will be incomplete or missing entirely and he'll be completely potion/food free.  Most of his conversation will start with "Hey, do you happen to have..." and end with "better gear I could snag off ya/some gold I could get/the quests for in here to share/some food?  Midway through the run he'll start talking about his awsome computer specs and draw any techno in the group into a massive and insanely ironic  discussion of sound cards.  If you don't catch the constant doyahappentohave comments you'll be able to identify him easily anyway.  He'll be the one two corridors over from the group blithely clicking on the pretty shiny sparkly stuff he found that happens to complete a quest that he said he did not have.  About an hour after the run dissolves, you'll get a tell from him asking if he can join your guild.

The Fragile Flower:  The fragile flower is completely squshycore.  No matter how good her gear or how great her traits, she's nervous.  Fragile flowers don't play tanks.  They play ranged classes and healers and occasionally a caster and if for some reason a mob gets on them they scream to high heaven, "Get it off! Get it off me! It burnnnnnnnssssss!"   Your fragile flower will need to rest often to make sure that her health and power are topped up completely and will constantly QQ about aggro control.  These lil doves of the gaming world are also known for two other things ingame - the most drama both in guild and general chat as well as the most misstells spilled out into public.  My favorite was the time in SWG when the medic misstelled  "but I love your imp armor.. it makes you look like a big delicious marshmallow" to the group tank.  We all called him Mr. Staypuff for months.

The Leeroy:  Yes, they exist.  They're almost always tanks.  If they do have a clue about crowd control or thoughtfull pulling they don't care.   For them, it's all about the next mob and the next kill and if there are a few wipes now and again so be it.  Aion is becoming legendary for this since there's a direct relation between time taken to pull mobs and how effective the tank is.   This is probably the most unfun type of group nyerk to deal with, mainly because it's usually a series of deaths for the group until someone grabs the tank and crazy glues their feet to the floor.  Fortunately a visit to the Leeroy video usually at least loosens things up enough so that you can tease the tank mercilessly every time they Leeroy it.

The Blast From The Past:  This is another insidious group dissolver - also known as the Historian.  They'll agree with everything the group leader says at least at first.  At some point, you'll notice they're doing something completely different than the plan.  A slight inquiry will reveal that they've done the run a gazillion times and always did it a different way than this current group.  They won't want to teach you their way.  They won't want to do it the current leaders way.  They don't want to lead.  It's an ethical imperative that they don't follow.  The rest of the group is left to run around frantically working around the Historian trying to figure out what their strategy is in time to get through the next challenge in the instance.  "He's heading to the left tunnel!  He must be taking out the 3rd boss first! Follow him! Tank, grab aggro on those mobs... no wait! He's stealthing by them!  Caster, toss protection on him! NO NO Don't!  He's attacking them from behind! HEALS! HEALS!"

As you're reading this, a few other group types might come to mind.  The Power Leveler that doesn't even know their skills ("so.. like.. what does this green swirly button thingy do again?"), the AFK'er ("hang on - I have to let out the dog/make a phone call/take care of a customer/eat my hotpocket...")  or even the Promoter ("Hey... anyone want to join my guild/meet every week and do this/sponsor my contest/vote for my game site/give feedback on my facebook page...?).  Regardless of what the group make up is, there's only one thing for certain.  If you have a great leader, a solid tank, and one other sane group member, consider staying in the group.  Even if you don't finish the instance you'll have some GREAT stories to laugh about with your friends.

 

That Ol' Bloodspatter Magic or Age of Conan Is Mailing Me Again...

Posted by Astrialla Thursday November 12 2009 at 4:08PM
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Anyone else remember Age of Conan's launch?  I had beta'd LOTRO and come in early enough in SWG to really appreciate the impact that new games and game changes (*cough NGE ) can create inside the gaming community buzz.... but nothing held a candle to waiting for AoC' s launch. 

People were talking about it everywhere.  The first truely M for Mature mmo that did not have the words red light or hawt in the title.  Based on the mythic Conan world and full of promises of blood, guts, mayhem and scantily clad players, AoC was the beta everyone wanted in on.  Needless to say I couldn't get in.  No one really wants to know how an out of her twenties woman feels about an MMO in their beta - even if I do radiate relentless perkiness.   But I did pre-order and I did get in on the Day of the Pre-Launch. 

I rolled a Bear Shaman.  Stop laughing.  OK, so I usually play a healer and I had visions of me running next to Conan hewing down opponents while wearing a bear hat but clearly - I was a bit off on my class awareness.  Hard class to play and very glitchy launch but soon enough I was wielding a huge stick with a skull on top and raising mystical bears that slowly walked a ressurection circle around fallen comrades.  And the splatter! When you crit certain attacks in AoC, red splashes appear on the edges of your screen as if it's been splattered from the inside with blood and usually you've literally decapitated your foe.  Few things in life are as fun as an AoC run with people hollering deeeeeecaaaappitttattttiiionnnnn in vent. 

But life moved on.  AoC did not really shine as far as the actual logistics of the game and while the combat system still is one of my favorites the constant crashing and lack of content for huge chunks of levels just wore me down and I wound up with LOTRO as my main game again after a few months with AoC.  I met some of the best people in Conan though and still think fondly of my days in Tortage being solicited by this hunky male player in a loincloth and flip flops. 

And... today there was another email from the folks at Funcom, encouraging me to return to Conan and get an XP hat if I sign up for a few months of play.  I already have a rhino, a mammoth, a snow mammoth, a totem and who knows what else.  Do I really need a hat?  And is that moment of simple excitement when the splatter hits the screen worth the running around and trying to find something to level other then the endless grind of the noble's villas? 

What are your thoughts?  I'm between games truthfully.  LOTRO is out of content for me though I love the game... SWG is a blast if I want to redecorate my house yet again, Anarchy Online is getting my attention right now just cause I've never played it and it's SO complicated (yay!) but it's pretty much a ghostland (and yeah, I play MMO's cause I like having peeps around to pester).

Drop a line below and let me know.  If you're playing AoC again/still, if you're considering answering the call o' Funcom, or if you just think I should break down and get FF#whatever is out now....

Aion: Runnin' in the Rift or Are the Wings Worth the Work?

Posted by Astrialla Monday November 9 2009 at 3:00PM
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Aion - endlessly yearned for - is finally here.  And it's been long enough for the ticker to turn over and my account to be billed for a subscription so I feel safe in saying that it's launched! Woot!

So.  Aion.  Here's my two cents in my self appointed role as the Not L55t Player of the Year.  That's right - I'm a normal player which means that sometimes I'm hardcore, sometimes I'm squishycore but most times I'm playing for fun and yes I know the difference between lose and loose.

The first thing that strikes me each time I log in is the visual excellence of the game.  Very beautiful world - regardless which faction you are.  Clothes get more and more ornate as you level and the full on armor gets positively stunning.  Wings look just like they should.  Very purty place.


Community is another matter.  The wowkidz are here folks, and in force.  I tried 4 different servers then gave up trying to get somewhere without the stereotypical idiocies that run rampant through the chat channels turning everything into barrens chat.   The global looking for group channel is pretty much a cesspool of insults mixed with occasional sprinklings of fun conversations about gear and skill builds.  I wound up just turning it off after a few weeks.

As usual I rolled a healer type first.  If you want to get the harshest part of a game first I recommend rolling a squish healer and seeing just how balanced your classes are at low levels.  It's always a riot as you attempt to keep them alive when everyone runs around nooblike trying to master their class in a group setting.  Aion turns out to be quite pristine in its class structure and each class is VERY well defined in that if you're a Cleric you're gonna have healing skills and that is a about it. A few dispel bad stuff on group members skills as well and you can rez.  Other than that if you're used to other healing types from different games that have a wide range of stuff to do, you're out of luck. 

Leveling is pretty simple.  You can get pretty far solo and pugs are everywhere so it's actually quite easy to get by at this point without a Legion/Guild/Kin/Insert Name Of Large Group Of Players Here.  We'll see what shows up in a while.  Role playing so far seems pretty minimal unless you count the rage-outs on the general channel.   The levelasfastastheycan nutters are already halfway through leveling their second character.

Biggest problem with the game? Bots. They're everywhere.  Kill stealing shamelessly in quest areas, popping up on chat channels, sending private mails, pestering players with private tells.  The thing that gets me really steamed is seeing a bot advertising a web page using the private store function of the game. I don't particularly care if someone buys gold (ducking as people start throwing things at me) but the first week of the game you could not read any of the channels in chat due to the constant gold spam. My block list was full in 3 days.

Biggest fun in the game?  PVP.  There I was, minding my own business, gathering pretty lil flowers by a fort when suddenly a red dot showed up on my radar and I was taking damage from this red eyed monster from hell that came from nowhere.  I ran towards the fort/guards and ha! They killed the overleveled ganker in seconds and I had my first taste of the fun of PVP in this game.  Besides the perpetual PVP in the rift, there are random gates that open between the two factions in the game and you can slip through and kill the other side.  VERY fun.  Of course after my triumph with using the guards I went back out and got throroughly trashed by the same player not 5 minutes later but it's just such a blast running around looking for ways into the other side and waiting tensely for someone to pop up and fight.

My advice?  If you've got the game then log in, turn off the general chat channel, level up to at least 30, then PVP your way to glory.  It's a close call due to bots and wowkidz but when all is said and done the wings are worth the work.