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Casual Thoughts from a Semi-Retired Philosopher

I play MMOs as an alternative to TV. Sometimes it even turns into quality time with the wife and daughter. Most of the time it's a distraction from doing something productive or meaningful.

Author: Hluill

Spending WAY too much time playing Blade & Soul

Posted by Hluill Wednesday February 17 2016 at 9:50AM
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I know when I've been spending way too much time in an MMO: I become overwhelmed with a need to rant!  

So much of the game I am really enjoying, but it's starting to get on my nerves.

Sure, I am a dirty old-man.  I enjoy breast physics as much as anybody, maybe more than most.  Not a play session goes by that I don't make my toon turn or jump just to watch her boobs jiggle.  Even with the slider to the minimum size, these girls have an abundance of jiggle. 

But, so far, I've only found one outfit for my female toons that doesn't look like lingere or a cocktail dress.  Kinda kills the immersion when going into combat wearing a corset and garters.

This becomes more of an issue when I invite female friends, like my wife and daughter, to play.

So far, I haven't seen equivalent outfits for the male avatars.  There's no slider for crotch size or outfits that celebrate it.  The boys seem to have better choices for "practical-looking" outfits as well.

I am realizing that I am not the biggest fan of "japanimation".  I have no love for chibis.  I respect the Shinto legends from which they are born, but I just can't take the Lyn characters seriously.  Their child-like voices and appearence sometimes even disturbs me.  I am a dirty-old man, but I am not a pedophile.  Child-like avatars in lingere are down right creepy to me.

I miss /say

Posted by Hluill Thursday November 12 2015 at 10:20AM
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Lord of the Rings Online now has a general chat channel.  In all the MMos that I play I have the general chat go to its own window labeled "Blather".  It can be fun to watch.  Sometimes I join in and have some great conversations.  Sometimes I just watch the conversation and wince.

How rare it is now, in any of the games I play, to see any activity in the chat window I've dedicated to /say and /emote.  Sometimes there's an exchange of /bow or /wave.  But few seem to be chatting "toon to toon".

My biggest irritant with the lack of /say use is grouping.  Blind invites seem to be the way of the games now.  No /bow, no /say, just a random interruption that blocks most of my screen.  Sometimes I am in the middle of a fight.  Sometimes I cannot even see the character that sent the invite.  Sometimes I sigh and join, but my instinct is still to ignore.  Why would i want to group with someone who doesn't want to talk to me?

I have even received blind invites to guilds!  I guess I am getting old-fashioned.

I am so tired of "Click and Wait" Crafting!

Posted by Hluill Friday October 23 2015 at 9:48AM
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So this rant in inspired by SWtOR's recent mega-update and expansion.  They updated the crafting system.

In SWtOR they call crafting "Crew Skills" because the player sends NPC companions away to gather and craft.  The new update tries to streamline this system and fails at it.

For some reason, game designers decided to introduce new, intermediate components.  So, instead of it being a "click and log out" crafting system, SWtOR is now a "Click and Wait" crafting system.


Having played Vanguard and EQ2, having learned that crafting can be fun and dynamic, this popular mechanic depresses me.  I know it's all button mashing, but it's fun to be more involved in crafting than just click and wait.

Why can't crafting be as complicated as killing in these games?



Breast Physics

Posted by Hluill Monday December 1 2014 at 10:18AM
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Browsing through my daughter's gaming magazines, I read an interesting article concerning Archeage: "Open-World Sandbox."

Huh, well now, don't that sound nifty?

I do some internet searches.  Most are fairly positive about the game.  I am at my wife's house with better internet, so I begin the six-hour download.

I ended up sacrificing Black Friday and Sad Saturday to play the game.

Some positives: Breast Physics!  Giant, jiggly boobies.  

I also enjoyed being able to mix their professions.  I like being able to develope skills to match my playstyle.  

The combat is dynamic and fun to watch.

Negatives:  Okay, the crafting sucks: Labor Points, high-level requirements, gear-gating.  Forget just being a crafter.

Queues and server crashes and lagstorms really suck.  Sorry, but standing in line for a Video Game?  Nah, too old for that crap.  

Sandbox?  Really?  I guess the definition has changed a bit since Ultima Online.  It's just as linear as any other Themepark out there.  I guess when one hits max level and has accrued enough labor points and materials they can build a house, if they can find the land.  

Have we not been paying attention to the whole Gamer Gate?  Not only do all the female avatars have giant, jiggling breasts, but most of the clothes for them are all skimpy.  My toon's starting outfit was a short, leather skirt.  No pants until you hit level eleven, sweety!  Now bend over and do some more gathering.  

In fairness, the male avatars all look like effeminate dancers, but they're mostly clothed and not sporting giant, flapping cod-pieces.

I am not thinking that I'll talk the wife into trying this one...

Good Bye Guild Wars and Hello Everquest 2

Posted by Hluill Wednesday July 30 2014 at 9:55AM
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I've never played World of Warcraft.  And I never really wanted to.

I played Everquest right after the addition of the sexy barbarians and the Plane of Knowledge.  I played for a few years and then my friends there talked me into switching to Everquest 2 a few months after its release.  It's gone through a lot of changed since then.  

But it's still the best all around game out there.  And, more importantly, it's the only game out there that my girlfriend wants to play.  I've gotten her to play LotRO, GW2, SWTOR for a extended periods.  I've let her try a myriad of others.  But she keeps coming back to EQ2.

It has housing.  Housing that can be decorated.  Decor that can be crafted.  

So we've re-installed EQ2 onto our computers.

And I am enjoying it.

The User Interface is so modifiable that it's almost overwhelming.  

Crafting is fun: it involves more than just clicking a craft button.  Though I grimace every time I cook with dirt.

Gathering is fun: because there are plenty of nodes and it's a fun way to burn a few minutes.  And Trapping provides elephant meat!

Combat is okay.  There's a wonky controversy between skill attacks and auto-attack.  Some of the movements are really bothersome.  The two-handed sword stance is really a twisted mess.

Having played a score of MMOs, I realize that they all have their immersion-breaking quirks.  Everquest 2 at least gives me the most choices.

Filling and Unfilling Bars

Posted by Hluill Tuesday October 1 2013 at 1:44PM
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Star Wars is updating and I am bored.  Ignoring my dog for a few more minutes, I've decided to rant a bit.  I am tired of the Hit-Point Race that seems to be the only mechanic that MMO developers seem to use.  Every encounter is a race to empty the opponent's health bar faster than my own.  That's it.  Tack on some cool graphics and give me some buttons to mash and it's all about the the bars: fill mine while I empty theirs.

I've hated the idea of hitpoints since my Pen and Paper days.  My first gaming mod enabled faster and more "realistic" combat.  After a few dozen tours in the military I've learned that "realistic" combat is not possible on a computer, nor would it be entertaining.  The gap between reality and digital simulations will always be vast.

Maybe I'm a sadist, but I still think it would be neat to try to bring it a little closer.  Here are some of my ideas on how.

First: no more freakin' hit-points!  One makes a series of saving throws versus the effectiveness of an attack.  The first being a skill throw that would allow the hit to occur.  The next would be an armor throw to absorb some (or all) of the attack's effectiveness.  There might be throws to stay standing or to maintain an action.  Ultimately, there would be a saving throw  to stay conscious.  Attacks  that hit remove participants.  One's level doesn't increase this final throw's chances massively.  Damage is a very subjective thing.  I've seen guys stub their toes and pass out.  And I've seen guys walk ten miles with a bullet in the gut.  A splinter in the eye will remove most.

Second: gear matters, but not in some magical, makes-you-stronger way.  Armor isn't made out of white plastic: it actually ruins the effectiveness of an attack.  But it's heavy and people look at you funny when you wear it in the grocery store.  Instead of thirty pounds of armor, maybe I want to carry thirty pounds of ammo, or food, or water, or self-help books.  I remember MMOs with encumbrance rules, what happened to them? Give me a pack animal for all that quest, crafting and gathering stuff, and even my armor when I decide to go for a swim.

Third: the trinity needs to be rethunk.  No one goes into combat screaming: "Attack me!  Ignore my healer and just attack me!"  And wouldn't it be nice to fight an enemy that falls for that?  But, combat is full of diversions, distraction devices, flanks, engagement areas and such.  Couple of facts: first guy through the door gets most of the attention but has a high rate of survival, especially if second and third do their jobs -- but, the ambush that initiates on the point man fails (though it sucks to be the point man).

Fourth: twitch is for kids.  I admire the skillz, but there ain't much running and jumping and sideways sprinting being done while attacking.  Sure, plenty can be done between attacks, sometimes.  While many clueless lieutenants dissagree with me, I have found that a slow, steady, aggressive maneuver is more effective than a half-assed, rushed one.  That's why various martial arts spend so much time practicing forms and stances.  Slow is smooth; smooth is fast, sir.

Thanks for bothering to read my rant.  And I really don't care what your thoughts are on it, unless it's to say how cool you think it is and you want to give me a few million to design a game.


The Coolest MMO Ev-Ah!

Posted by Hluill Wednesday September 4 2013 at 11:44AM
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Yeah, it doesn't exist. 

I've been playing Star Wars: the Old Republic (which my friend calls sweater) for a couple of months now.  I am having fun, but the girlfriend isn't.   She finally admitted this to me today.  She plays it because I play it.  I play it because it has a cool story line and fun character development.  

She misses EverQuest 2's housing and crafting.  But she thinks it's questing is rather bland.  And she hates subscribing.  I still have my account with Sony, but got tired of feeling like a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.

She misses Lord of the Rings Online because it's so pretty, but she's pretty blah about the rest of the game.  I stopped playing when the level curve left me behind.  It seems like such a worthless grind to me.

I still enjoy infrequent forays into The Secret World.  While I think the Ability system there is the absolute best of any game I've played, my girl is intimidated by it.  Knowing when to equip which abilities can be a bit of a pain, to be sure.

So, we're probably headed back to Guild Wars 2.  It's pretty.  It's straightforward.  With dynamic leveling and events there is always something to do.  Because of the discoveries, the crafting isn't completely intolerable.

So, I'll miss my trooper in her white armor and my bad-ass juggernaught and her lightsaber.  But it will great to get back to my warrior and her greatsword and my rogue with his underhanded knife-attacks.

My Favorite MMO Mechanics

Posted by Hluill Monday December 10 2012 at 9:48AM
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There are days I reminisce.  I am old and I can't avoid it.  Sometimes I even reminisce about MMOs.  They're getting old too.

So, there are days that I miss the social interactions of old Everquest.  I wouldn't call it forced grouping.  It's not that one couldn't solo, but things were certainly easier if you had friends. There was plenty of stuff for friends to do together.  And EQ had the coolest language mechanic.  Groups of players would sit around spamming each other in different, in-game languages.  On my server there was no "common" tongue, which made me happy because I think the concept is ridiculous.    

It's intriguing that Lord of the Rings Online didn't use a similar mechanic.  Professor Tolkien was a somewhat accomplished linguist. Language was an important dynamic in his stories.  But LotRO has an awesome music mechanic.  I have spent hours in game watching concerts put on by fellow players.  I would love to see more games try similar things.

Everquest 2 doesn't even have instruments for its minstrels.   But if there is one thing I miss about EQ2 it's its housing system.  I am afraid to total the hours I've spent arranging furniture in my instanced homes.  And I have a Y chromosome too.  I think housing was the primary attraction for my girlfriend and her daughter.

And while I have to give EQ2 a tip of the hat for its crafting minigame, the best crafting minigame I have found so far is Vanguard's.  The crafting in Vanguard is almost as challenging, frustrating and repetitive as its combat.  Sometimes I wouldn't even know what I was making.  But Vanguard is old, and slow and inflexible.

Until I played The Secret World, I didn't realize how inflexible most MMOs are.  In TSW, Abilities (attacks, spells and buffs) are equippable, like gear.  A player has eight active slots and eight passive slots.  I choose which abilities to buy and equip.  I can change my character from tank to healer to damage to utility as often as I like.

Guild Wars 2 does something similar, but it's still weapon and class specific.  Where GW2 rocks is the event system.  Couple this with the ability to share mobs and heal downed players and GW2 has taken things to the point where one begs to ask: "Why group at all?"  And while I enjoy healing strangers while playing a warrior, it can be a very lonely game to play.  And this makes me miss old EQ...

A click away from cancelling my SOE Account

Posted by Hluill Wednesday October 17 2012 at 10:11AM
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My "old"computer died last week.  I love the idea of disposeable laptops, especially when I buy the high-performance ones to satisfy my gaming addiction.

So almost two-grand later, I am loading my files and games onto a new computer.  I am required to give credit to the girlfriend here, she did most of the work, MMOs' massive downloads require her office's high-speed connection.  I have yet to reload Everquest 2 or Vanguard.  I probably won't.  I've reloaded The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, and even Lord of the Rings Online, but not my SOE Games.

My dissatisfaction with EQ2 has been a long time in coming.  I think the server merges, where my server lost its Roleplaying title, began my discomfort.  Then there was the Attribute nerf, after I had spent hours and currency on balancing my characters' stats.  Now it seems all the content is outleveling me.  This is also my complaint with LotRO, but I've a Lifetime subscription.

As to Vanguard, there is much I enjoy, but it is such a slow game.  I don't mind taking my time with most of the game's aspects, except grouping.  I am just tired of old-school leveling systems that make it so hard to group with different leveled friends.  This was one of the reasons I continued to play EQ2 and GW2 improves this even further. 

So why is it so hard for me to click the "cancel my account" button?  Am I missing something?  I am anticipating missing something.  I still miss my old Everquest Acount.  But it's similar to missing a past girlfriend: "those days are gone forever, you should just let them go..."  What I miss about those games are memories that cannot be recreated.  I should could concentrate on making new memories.

Maybe I'll think about it for another month.

So I took a break from TSW to play GW2

Posted by Hluill Friday August 31 2012 at 9:11AM
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The girlfriend wasn't interested in The Secret World.  She listened to my stories of adventures there with interest, but not enough interest to join me.  She was busy anticipating the release of Guild Wars 2.  And I was to.  It looked interesting, to be certain.

So we bought the digital download and got into the prerelease.  We had to poach her office's really high-speed for four-hours of downloads.  And then we had to sit through a few more downloads.  Finding each other and grouping was a major pain in the ass, but we did eventually and stayed grouped even after logging out.

My first challenge: create my old favorites, Hluill and Leyek.  This was tough.  From my old EQ days Hluill is a barbarian rogue and Leyek is his half-elf daughter.  Leyek became human in EQ2 by means of a handy potion after I couldn't stand the skinny half-elf model anymore.  They both became human in TSW, but I am still wrestling with my faction choices there.

After a few rerolls, they became Norns in GW2.  I want to rant about the avatar models in GW2, but, in fairness, all MMOs have issues in this area and GW2's are no worse.  Getting the tough-chick look for Leyek was easier than the charming-rogue look for Hluill.  I am still a bit irked that the naming filter didn't like "Hluillsdottir", especially after seeing similar names in game.

So now Leyek is twenty-second level and I've been having fun.  The game is designed to be fun.  I am free to help other players without having to worry about loot or experience.  I can explore and quest at the same time.  Gathering earns experience and materials are deposited with a simple click.  Leyek has completed several dailies and finished a few maps.

Part of me wonders and worries: Is this it?  Are these five Greatsword-attacks all that I get for the next sixty levels?  Is crafting just going to be this mindless?  Is it always going to be this hard to "Join in" with my girlfriend's characters?

I can't help but harken to my days on old EQ.  Sure, some of my nostalgia is based on the newness of it, but a bigger portion is based on the friends I had there.  I would get up early just to play with friends in different time zones and different work scheduals.  Why did I have so many good friends there?  Because I needed them.  Old EQ was fifty-percent solo-able, at best.  In one form or another, a group made grinding experience easier and faster.  And during the mandatory pauses for mana and health regeneration, there was time to chat and get to know each other.

I made some friends in the the original EQ2 this way.  I haven't made any since.  As I look at current MMO design, I don't think I will.

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