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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

How much of an Idiot do MMOs think I am?

Posted by Hluill Tuesday November 30 2010 at 9:49AM
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Aspect of these games always nag at me.  Just the idea that I can out-level mobs and become immune to their once lethal attacks.  I wish it worked that way in the real world.  I know an uber, decked-out commando that was killed by a kid with a rock.  I bet he wishes that too.

The immature sillieness of most games' combat-mechanics aside, these things are filled with stupidity that almost goes unnoticed.

How many of us have mined bronze or steel?

Killed a rat that dropped a chest?

One of my favorites is EQ2's "loam."  As a young soldier, I knew loam as a color on a camouflage stick.  I learned that it is the color of dirt.  Loam and dirt are synonyms.  So, not only am I mining processed metals but also dirt.  Yeah, we can only get dirt from SPECIAL places.

Would it have been too much trouble for the game writers to come up with a different name?  Would it have been too hard for them to actually look at a dictionary before naming things?  Nah, it's easier to just go with cool-sounding words, regardless of their meaning.

Another favorite is getting contradicting quests.  Like: the first NPC wants my character's help to figure out how the orcs are basically invisible.  The second NPC, ten feet away from the first, is asking you to hand out goggles that conteract the orcs invisibility.  Five mintues of proofreading and maybe these quests could've been written to make sense. 

Maybe I should stop reading the quest dialogue and go kill X number of X and not worry about why.

Maybe I should just close my eyes as mass media continues to dumb things down for us.  Maybe I should just pretend that life doesn't get harder and that adversity makes us grow.  Our real world lives focus on making things easier and less meaningful, so why shouldn't our MMO lives do the same?

It's not like we're trying to be heroes, after all. 

I miss my PnP Group

Posted by Hluill Thursday November 11 2010 at 1:46PM
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I rolled up my first character in sixth grade.  To date myself, D&D came in the little, brown books then.  I had no idea into what I was getting.

The height of my gaming experience was working at a gaming company and participating in weekly gaming sessions.  Our Game Master, Don, rocked.  Our little PnP group rocked through some epic and dramatic adventures.  I miss the take-out food and friends from those days.

I was still connected to that company when friends started talking about Everquest.  I missed the bandwagon and didn't get online for another year or so.  When I finally rolled up on Firiona Vie, another player gave me a shield after watching my struggles against the skellies in the newbie area outside of Halas.

I was hooked.

It reminded me of my old, PnP days.  I would log on at all hours to join her and her friends.  My gaming group had gone digital and spanned the globe.  Usually it was just some repetitive grinding but there was something meaningful in the interaction and I kept coming back for more.  My main never reached max level.

Many games and gaming hours later, I am finding it much easier to just solo.  Too many times even my girlfriend and I don't group or quest together.  Sometimes this can be attributed to my lousy internet connection, but it's inescapable that grouping is not only unecessary for character advancement, but even a bit of a hindrance.

My last few group experiences have been zergs: no skill, no content, no quests, not even any real interaction between group members.  We just ran around, killing all the mobs in the zone.  My tank barely uses her bow anymore.  I just body pull as many mobs as I can and burn them down.

It is fun, but something is missing.  We all want the game with the best graphics, but nobody is looking at them.  We just run around, target mobs and mash buttons.  We  could play these games on a pocket calculator.

Old EQ tried to get us to socialize and immerse ourselves in the game world by being really hard to solo.  My experience with DDO was similar with its dungeon crawls narrated by by a DM.  But too many times everyting outside of the tavern was just another zerg, and there was nothing to do in the times between.  I logged quite a bit of time in Warhammer's scenerios and battle groups, but rarely would I even learn the other players' names.

Listening to ingame chat and reading forums, it seems like there is a "hardcore" level that is completely alien to me.  Players discuss Dungeons, Raids, and Epic Quests, of which I have never heard.  Whole aspects of MMO worlds that I will never see or experience because I don't play regularly or long enough.  I am left out of huge portions of MMOs because I don't want to spend my time focused on "power gaming", farming uber gear, min-max-ing an elite toon or waiting for the raid to organize. 

I think it's great that, as a casual player, I can log into a game, play for a short time and still feel ike I am progressing.  I can grind experience, reputation, currency and quests anytime I want.  I don't have to spend time on LFG shouts.  My guild is working on its thirtieth level, slowly, and only has three active accounts.

But this begs the question: why play an MMO?  It's seems more and more, they just mirror and support the playstyles of nonpersistent games.  Sometimes it feels like I might as well play Space Invaders with a global, internet chat-box. 

I even try to socialize, but gone are the days of shouts for buffs on the POK.  In an effort to ease the processing burden, MMOs have become more decentralized.  The cties of EQ2 are vacant and many zones split into instances as the population rises.  Just the technological need to have seperate servers seperates the players, probably even more than zones, instances, housing and guild halls.

So, it comes down to MMOs evolving.  They are evolving into bigger, more lucrative, more mainstream, more user-friendly activities.  And I can't help but feel like a dinosaur. 


Crossing the Fanged Sea, or How to earn the Undead Destroyer Title

Posted by Hluill Wednesday November 10 2010 at 11:55AM
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It's a continual process for me, clearing out the quest journal.  Most of the time, the quests are sorted by catagory or zone, but, from time to time, I sort by level so I know how low to mentor or chrono.  I wish there were chronomages at every zone line.  I love the mechanic.  Being able to lower one's level to equal that of a group member or a zone is the coolest thing.  It makes this game rock above all others that I've played.

So, the other day, I drop my berserker's level down to forty to take care of some old quests.  Her journal contains a few in Kaladim and Zek and a Hallmark Quest: Crossing the Fanged Sea.  Huh, how long has THAT been there?  I remember something about it.  And I remember boat instances.  I also remember them being really hard with heroic mobs and people to protect and failing them multiple times.  But now my eighty-fifth-level berserker is chrono-ed down to forty, and she's uber anyway.

The journal entry being fairly useless, no surprise, I decide to cheat and hit a spoiler site.

So, I have to pick up two items in Enchanted Lands and Zek, turn them in and then board the ship.  Easy enough to do, even chrono-ed.  Ends up I have one of the items taking up space in her bags already.  So the first trip is wasted -- Item A comes from ZEK, by the by.  I finished some other quests in Zek, and hunted some names.  I tried to finish Lore and Legend: Siren, but the sirens in Zek just weren't dropping any their parts to study.  Well, one part, after clearing their little island several times.  The named that spawned there dropped some cool loot, though.

So I turn in the items and hit the bell to board the boat instance.  The spoiler described two objects that have to be wound every forty-five seconds at either end of the ship.  If they weren't wound, then skeletons would spawn.  So, my 'zerker zones in and I right click on the tripod thingy.  It has to be started before it can be wound.  It's easy enough: run, wind, run, wind...

Then I make the mistake of talking to the quest giver to see what else I should be doing and I blow my forty-five-second window.  Now I have to right click and wipe of the frost and restart the tripod thing.  Next thing I know there are hoards of skeletons all over the deck.

Well my berserker can handle them just fine.  She cuts them down in style but there are literally hundreds of them.  Her health bar isn't moving, but her power bar certainly is.

Seemingly millions of years ago, she finished the Heritage Quest for the Manastone.  Well, she carries it still.  Using it gives her over a hundred in power -- not much, but enough.

Also, as cool as her Combat Abilities are, especially her spins, her auto-attacks do more damage.  So, I conserve power, adding what I can with the Manastone, and focus on keeping that auto-attack button pressed.  This is harder than one might think.  Everytime she kills a skellie, she stops fighting.  I am in a constant process of retargeting and hitting her auto-attack button.

The skellies don't stop spawning.  And they interrupt any attempt I make to wind the tripods.  Finally, as the spoiler described, the quest giver turns into a big, heroic dragon.  But I can't target him to burn him down.  The skellies keep taunting me off and there are so many, scrolling through nearby targets takes forever.  By the time I click on the dragon I may get off one attack before  the skellies taunt me off.  To make things a bit more tense, the dragon can actually do damage to my berserker.

Much frustrated targeting and multiple Area of Effect Attacks later, a quest-completion window pops on my screen, but the skellies keep coming.  And I make the mistake of opening the Acheivements Window and seeing that my berserker has less than a thousand to go to earn her "Destroyer of Undead" title.  And frankly, I wasn't entirely sure how to exit the zone.

There was a lull for long enough for me to find the ship's wheel and discove that it would allow me to zone.  I contempleted exiting then, but I stayed.  I didn't look at the clock so I cannot say how long it took to kill almost a thousand skellies.  My whole existence was based on clicking that manastone, which I moved to the hotbar, and keeping that auto-attack button activated.  I also cycled through her haste-buffing attack and her biggest Area of Effect.  After a while her power bar actually filled and I started using more of her AoEs: Open Wounds, Rampage, Insolence, to name a few.


Earning the title was almost anti-climactic.

A Response to a Forum Post on Good Necromancers and Evil Paladins

Posted by Hluill Tuesday November 2 2010 at 12:01PM
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I enjoy these discussions.  It's important to explore the meanings of Good and Evil, in Real Life and in game.

In Real Life, I cannot think of a comparison to the Freeport and Qeynos duality: Berlin and Moscow during the previous century?  Paris and London during the Hundred-Years War?  Washington D.C. and Teharan?  As a veteran of the Cold War, I see comparisons between Washington D.C. and Moscow during the eighties.  But that comparison falls apart quickly.

And then who's Good and who's Evil?  Both sides always claim righteousness.  And then does one side have a monopoly on specific professions?  Both sides utilize the all weapons at their disposal.

What makes a paladin, a holy warrior, good or evil?  The god she or he chooses to worship?  Do we really want to go there?  This is not the place to discuss religion, real or imagined. 

I also find it interesting that cities that have laws against certain professions and practices still have them, sometimes in abundance.  In some cases they are a flourishing sector of the population.  

My favorite example is that there were Synagogues in Rome during the empire, even though monotheism was considered treasonous.  There were persecutions of the jews in Rome, yet there were still many jewish citizens and professions.

Sure, Lucan may despise Paladins, and Antonia may be intolerant of Necromancers, but that does not preclude their existence in their prospective cities, nor their general toleration.  Lore-wise, SOE dropped the ball a long time ago in developing this "Cold War" between the cities.  Even if they did flesh it out with armed borders and harsh occupations, it wouldn't prevent professions from living in either city.

Now, if SOE were to start supporting the established lore of EQ mechanically more than in a half-hearted, piece-meal kinda way: where Qeynosians could only do "good"  things and citizens from Freeport could only do "Evil", where it was more than a few aggro guards and reticent merchants, where there was no "Common" tongue, where opportunities to work together were limited and differences were only settled by violence...  But who wants to play in THAT world?

Speaking of settling differences, I gotta go vote.

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