World of Warcraft – I like it, even if I don’t feel special anymore

I’m playing World of Warcraft, a game twelve million people play, except for everyone I know who plays online multiplayer games.   The people I know have either never played World of Warcraft or they moved on to other games.  A few people came back for the new expansion, Cataclysm, but then they moved on too.

So, it’s me and twelve million people I don’t know.  I play on an established roleplay server, and all my characters are at a low level, so my world is not crowded.  I don’t run into a lot of people.  The people I come across are either doing their own thing or they are nice to me.  I may not feel special by playing such a popular game, but this is a good world.  I enjoy playing a game that’s beyond trendy, part of popular culture.  It’s refreshing.

I’m now playing classes (professions) that come with “pets”, but they aren’t really pets – they are magical animal companions.  My hunters get an animal that adventures with me.  My warlocks (a sort of magician) get a demon that helps me defeat my enemies.   If I ever decide to group with people I’m going to keep playing a priest, a healer, since they tend to be in demand for groups.  I do like being sociable, sometimes, in a game, but formal grouping is different – it’s structured, and there can be pressure.  I regard these games as a meditative experience, so grouping may not be for me.

Once you get the hang of it, WoW is designed to keep you playing.  There’s always just one more thing you want to do before you log off. I get my quests from the quest givers, wander around the world, deliver packages or secret letters, buy supplies for a party, and kill monsters, angry wildlife, or enemies.   I get rewards in terms of money, advancement in the game, and stuff.  There’s always a reason given for me doing the things the quest givers ask me to do.  Sometimes I’m interested, and sometimes I don’t care.  It’s enough that the quest gives me a reason to be out in the world.

It’s the world that’s compelling – worlds of winter, magical woods, medieval looking towns, crazy mad hatter towns, tropical islands — and I’ve only seen a little of the world!  I travel long distances by paying for a ride on a fantastic flying animal.  At higher levels in the game I’ll be able to get my own mount.

You can have up to ten characters on one server, which means you can try different races and classes (professions).  Each race starts out in a different area in the world, which gives you a reason to play different races.

World of Warcraft has two factions, the Horde and the Alliance, two loosely coupled groups of races that are fighting for domination in the world.   This affects the overall story, and it can affect you if you engage in player versus player combat, which I don’t do.  If you are playing an Alliance race, and you meet someone from one of the Horde races, you can’t text chat with them because you supposedly don’t understand their language.    I realize that this is the way the game world is set up, but I think it’s silly.   People from different groups come together all the time. Why should I have to see another group as my enemy?  I’m not a purist. If I am playing a character, and I’m given a quest to kill some NPC (non player characters) from the other faction (there’s always a reason) of course I do it, so I can keep going in the game.  But for my personal story, this whole war thing is ridiculous.  Why can’t there be peace.

I was playing Alliance characters exclusively.  Originally the Alliance was thought of as “good”, but it’s more complicated than that.  I play Alliance characters because they tend to be the more attractive characters – I have Night Elf, Human, Draenei (alien humanoid looking creatures, with hooves), and Dwarf.   But then I started playing two Horde characters, Goblin and Blood Elf.

Goblins are the nutty trade obsessed technologists in the game.   They are wacky characters.   The story of my goblin character is funny, clever and enjoyable.   I was all set to become a “trade princess” (who wouldn’t want to be that?) but things didn’t work out.  Somehow, after I was told to blow up a building for the insurance money, I ended up on an island with a bunch of other not too happy goblins.  No one is very happy, but we are making do.

I’m also playing a blood elf, because the world of the blood elf is simply beautiful.  I play a blood elf even though I look like elf Barbie with a dark side.  There’s something about the blood elves that remind me of Malificent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty; there’s some menace with all that beauty. The Blood Elves got into trouble by focusing on dark magic, but I don’t care.  In their beautiful world – there are brooms that sweep all by themselves!  Along with all that beauty, who wouldn’t want a world where the inanimate objects did housework!

Another great thing about World of Warcraft – there is all kinds of stuff about the game.  There is something called The Armory, a “searchable database of information for World of Warcraft – taken straight from the real servers and presented in a user-friendly interface”, from wowarmory.org.    I can look up my characters in the Armory, outside of the game.  Even better, there is an Android application, Droid Armory, which accesses the World of Warcraft Armory database.  I can look up my characters on my Motorola Droid smartphone and view my characters in 3D.  I can save a picture of my characters from my phone.  The app and the pictures aren’t perfect, as you will see, but it’s still wonderful.  I can have my characters with me, wherever I go!

Pictures of my characters taken via the Droid Amory app on my Motorola Droid smartphone, using data in the World of Warcraft Armory.

World of Warcraft Night Elf Priest. March 2011

World of Warcraft Human Warlock. March 2011

World of Warcraft Dwarf Hunter. March 2011

World of Warcraft Blood Elf Hunter. Looks like elf Barbie with a touch of Malificent from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I love this character. March 2011.

My virtual life, getting back into online games, descriptions, explanations, opinions

My New Year’s resolutions, as posted on twitter, were as follows:

  • Get really good at a new job
  • Play more video games
  • Go swimming
  • Read more novels

People talk about online game addiction.  Sometimes I think – gee, do I wish!  Aside from going to parties in Second Life, less weird then you might think, I haven’t been doing any online gaming.

I’m not sure if I like online games.  What I like is being in a virtual world.  However, with nothing to do in a virtual world, no reason for being there, the world is very boring.  I know about this, having been in the world of Uru, on an off, since 2003.  There was precious little to do in Uru back in 2003.  Now, with no new content being released, there is nothing new to do, apart from socializing with fellow players.  Uru is boring.  So, you need something to do.

Most MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) have combat as the main thing you do. I have mixed feelings about combat.  I think the games have combat as their core gameplay because the combat mechanism is well worked out, people understand it, it gives your game focus, allows you to tell a story, and it can be exciting.  I’ll do combat if I’m fighting to defeat the evil in the world.  I prefer PvE, player versus environment play, where we don’t fight each other; we battle the evil in the world.  I don’t do PvP, player versus player combat.

I don’t play online games set in a virtual world for the challenge, or to be the best, though people have been playing competitive games for as long as there have been people.  Everyone, including me, is competitive about something.  I’m just not competitive about games.  I play to relax and to be in a beautiful online world.  I don’t want to turn my online world into a competition or another job.  I like my gameplay as easy as possible.  This is not something you can generally say on game forums; many people are very serious about these games, and very competitive.

Playing with other people isn’t as easy as you would think.  When I first started playing MMORPGs, I thought – “great, I’ll make some friends and we’ll play together”.  For most games, this is not the way it works.  In order to do something “together” you have to be at the same level of expertise in the game, and you have to have a balanced party, a mix of people in the right roles, for example, a healer, a hunter, a warrior.   Your play time is structured by the group event, the quest, the instance.  Once you start your group thing, you can’t leave without disrupting your party.  This is way too much structure for me, though I might do it occasionally, with a small group.  I like being with people in an online world, but I’d rather do things in the game by myself, seeing players as I wander through the world, occasionally talking to them.

Fortunately most MMOs today have a fair amount of solo play.  You do your game things yourself (fight some monsters, find things), periodically running into other people.  In some games such as World of Warcraft, it’s easier to level (make progress) if you solo.

Another thing I didn’t know, when I first started, is that MMORPGs had end game content.  I thought you just kept playing, enjoying your world, and periodically the developers would release new stuff.  Wrong!  Many games have end game content.  Often this consists of raids, lengthy difficult structured gameplay with twenty-five to a hundred people.  You defeat a difficult enemy and see wondrous things.  I’m not joking, developers devote time and people to make the hard long things exciting and good looking, with colorful scenes and special effects and in game videos.  Another common feature of end game content is PvP (player versus player) battlegrounds.

I might play with a small group, but I never intend to do the structured play with larger groups, the ten or twenty-five or fifty person “raids”.  I just can’t do it.

Some games in the genre work a little differently.  In Guild Wars you can reach end game with a small number of people.  You can also do it yourself by having your party include characters played by the computer, using artificial intelligence.  I like that.

What am I playing now?

Rift – the beta

I participated in the beta test of an upcoming game, Rift.  This is an open beta, so we can talk about it.  Rift is beautiful game, but the intro levels are intensely combat focused, to the exclusion of everything else.  I realize the Rift world is at war, but I did not enjoy the battleground atmosphere, and the random crying and screaming of the NPCs (non player characters) did not add to my enjoyment.   The intro levels were also crowded, which made for a surreal experience.  You saw lots of people running around (no random strolling, exploring), playing solo, killing their particular set of monsters for their quests, their missions.  Since there were so many people, the monsters spawned (reappeared) at a quick rate, to give everyone enough to do.  Something about the structure struck me as more “game” than world.  I’ve read that that the higher levels have more of a beautiful real world feel, but I doubt if I’ll get there.  Rift is in beta, but I’m reasonably sure the game will be essentially the same game when it is released, this March.

Rift beta, Alliance side, just out of the starter area, January 2011

Rift beta, Guardian side, the starting building, January 2011

Guild Wars – taking a break

I’ve played Guild Wars for several years, very slowly.  I love the look of the world, the look of the player characters, and I like how the world is structured.  You see people in towns, but your adventures are always in your own copy of the world.  This is called instancing.  But, I’m taking a break from it, possibly because I’m at the point where it’s getting hard.  I’ll get back into it later.

World of Warcraft – just started

I’ve never played World of Warcraft (half an hour four years ago, doesn’t count!), but I decided to give it a try.  Online gamers who don’t play World of Warcraft criticize the game a lot – it’s too easy, other players are mean, everyone plays (not just “real” gamers!), players aren’t serious, all that.  There’s resentment that World of Warcraft is so popular, with its huge player base of around 12 million subscribers.  Apparently, popular is bad, which seems silly to me because games are part of popular culture!  Given the publicity about the new content released, Cataclysm, and the amount of criticism in the Rift forum, I decided to give it a try.  I’ve read that some World of Warcraft game servers have more mean people playing on them than nice people, though you can ignore people and they can’t hurt you.  Role playing servers, where you pretend to be your character, tend to have nicer people. I’m not a serious roleplayer, but I wanted to run into nice people, so I decided to give a roleplay server a try.

I’m playing a draenei, a peaceful race, which works well for me.  I’m a shaman, a healer.  World of Warcraft is stylized, but beautiful.  I like the look of the world, but I’ve never liked the look of the characters.  This character is ok, though she’s way too busty, a not uncommon feature of online multiplayer games.  The server I’m playing on is an established server, so I haven’t run across many people.  Most of them are probably at the higher level areas.  I ran into a couple of people, one waved.  It was nice.  I’m poking along, still at a very low level, level 3.  The music is evocative; this part of the world is eerie and lovely.  I like it.

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Draenel.  My character does have facial features, but the sun is on her face, washing it out.  January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Dreanel.  Beautiful area.  January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Draenel. My character does have facial features, but the sun is on her face, washing it out. January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Dreanel. Beautiful area. January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting are for the Dreanel. Those things that look like big pansies have legs and walk around. January 2011

Next time I’ll talk about Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and Lord of the Rings Online.

Free Realms is fun

 

Free Realms is a new MMO, developed by Sony Online Entertainment. (http://www.freerealms.com) The game is one of the newest of the free to play games (FTP).  You can be online and play for free, but you get more content if you spend money in game, or if you pay an additional subscription fee, in this case a relatively inexpensive $5.00 per month, US dollars.  From what I’ve read, the “free to play” part doesn’t appear to be the proverbial “bait and switch” – it looks like you get a lot of game for free.

The game is ostensibly targeted to, as SOE puts it – “everyone young at heart: tweens, teens, and families alike. It’s a rich and magical world where even parents are welcome. In fact, you’ll want to jump right in and play with your kids! ”  http://www.freerealms.com/forParents.vm

Gameplay is stunningly diverse.  You can fight monsters, explore new areas, train pets, mine for things like shiny gems, cook, race cars, and play minigames. I may have left something off the list – there’s so much of it.  The game is set in a fantasy world, but not a heavy, dark one. The look of the game is bright, lively, pretty in parts, with a great sense of design.  It’s like a fun wacky cartoon you get to be in.  You can also play as a character (an avatar) with wings!  If I have a choice, I’m always going to play someone with wings.  Why would you not? 

Free Realms - starting area - May 2009

Free Realms - starting area - May 2009

 

 

 

My character in the starting area, where we learn to play the game.  Notice the wings?

 

 

 

Free Worlds was originally marketed to families, but I’ve read articles and posts across the MMO world saying that adults are jumping in and having a great time.  Even at the, for want of a better word “hardcore” or “classic”, MMO sites such as TenTonHammer and MMORPG, I’m finding posts where grownups say that they are playing this game, sometimes as their secondary “no pressure” MMO.  I’m still at the beginning of the game, but it looks like a fun game I’ll enjoy playing.

Massively (http://www.massively.com) can do hardcore, but they aren’t snooty about what is supposed to count as an MMO.  They’ve done some interesting articles on Free Realms,  and a great little webcomic!

http://www.massively.com/2009/05/15/massively-webcomic-grinders-the-best-of-the-best/

Here’s a great picture of a crowd of people in Free Realms

http://www.massively.com/2009/05/16/one-shots-friday-night-dance-party/

Guild Wars – April 2009 – party, festival

In April I went to an online party in one of our Alliance Guild Halls.  There was virtual dancing.  We don’t have Alliance parties very often, but when we do, we enjoy them.
Guild Wars, Guild Hall Party, April 2009

Guild Wars, Guild Hall Party, April 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of April, Guild Wars had an in game festival to celebrate their four year anniversary.

http://www.guildwars.com/events/ingame/four_year_anniversary/default.php

 I came from another multiplayer game world, Uru, where there was very little to do.  Consequently, I was amazed that a game company would give you fun stuff to do, in game, for something that only lasted one week.  We had events in Uru, but we had to “make do” with what we had.  One could say that this showed creativity on the part of the Uru players, but it just didn’t seem right.  It’s hard to play “let’s pretend” with no props and nothing changing in the game.

I’ve learned that many multiplayer games  have  festivals.   People like to come together, in a virtual space,  for a reason, for something special.  The festivals in Lord of the Rings Online are said to be quite good, particularly in the hobbit areas.  This makes sense – you can imagine the Shire having really good festivals!

 I enjoyed the Anniversary Celebration.

Guild Wars Festival Game, April 25, 2009

Guild Wars Festival Game, April 25, 2009

 

 

I’m playing a game of chance where you stand on a ring, and some sort of blast knocks you down.  If you don’t fall down (not up to you) you win.

 

 

 

 

GW Festival, another game, April 25, 2009

GW Festival, another game, April 25, 2009

 
 
 
 
A “whack the serpent” game, where the goal is to tag the serpent heads that rise up out of the ground.  I’m a slow tagger, so I only won when I was the only one playing!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Guild Wars Festival, Dragon Arena, April 2009

Guild Wars Festival, Dragon Arena, April 2009

 
  
 
 
 
Here is a view of the Dragon Arena, so lovely and festive.  I didn’t play, I just visited the place.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
All for now,
amarez – mszv

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Guild Wars Virtual Party

There are shared spaces in Guild Wars for groups of people in what is called a guild.  These shared spaces are called “guild halls”.  “Hall” is a misnomer – the guild halls are small islands, with buildings, and they are beautiful.   They are places for your guild to meet, and they also perform various game functions.  You can visit the guild hall of your guild as well the guild hall of any other guild in your Alliance – a group of guilds.   A member of a guild can also invite you to their guild hall, in game.

Sometimes we use our guild halls for parties. At this party we had to mute the in-game music, as we had a person playing music via shoutcast – a way for people to broadcast personal play lists over the internet.  We had our own personal music DJ!

The party (end of March) was fun.  Virtual parties aren’t exactly like in-person or “real” parties, but there is something real about them.   It’s a nice way to connect across physical spaces and time zones.

Guild Wars Party - March 29, 2009

Guild Wars Party - March 28, 2009

Guild Wars – The Love Continues

In Guild Wars I’m still working up to playing with “real” people.  I want to combine it with my solo play.  I’m waiting because I’m still figuring out all the basics, such as everything the little mini compass map shows you.  An example is the red dots on the compass map – the red dots are the baddies.   When I couldn’t find the cave I was looking for, I amused myself by watching a red dot suddenly appear on the compass map, as an evil mutant monster insect/crustacean thing rose up out of the ground in front of me.  I feel bad killing the variations of gargoyles in Old Ascalon.  The gargoyles seem to have some sort of a culture (albeit a grunting one), but those monster insect things deserve to die.

It takes me forever to orient myself in a new part of the world.  My sense of direction is not great in “real life”, and it’s not great in the game.  I accepted a quest that sent me to Shalev’s cave (Old Ascalon area) – how hard could that be to find? I had it marked on a map I printed out.  3 hours later, I never found it, but me and my tough little priest henchwoman killed a bunch of monsters.  She’s my computer generated companion, but I’m getting quite fond of her.   The next day I discovered I was looking in the wrong place for Shalev.  I also learned what I didn’t know about the compass, the mission map and the general map!

I’m a member of a “Guild”.  More specifically, my characters in-game are in a guild.  My guild is in what is called an “Alliance” of 10 guilds.   The in-game purpose of guilds and alliances is for PvP – player versus player combat.  Combat can be between individuals or groups.   Guild Wars has several ways of doing this, all of which are said to be interesting and fun.  But – you don’t have to do it.  Some of our alliance guilds are into PvP, some are not, but it’s all OK.   We also use our guilds and alliance for friendly socialization, and for helping each other out in the PvE part (player versus environment) – where we defeat the evil beings in our world.   I was invited to join an established guild and alliance.  Each guild had made enough progress to get their members guild halls.  Guild halls consist of an interior and surrounding space, often an island.   These are shared spaces where only members of our guild and alliance can visit, unless we give someone an invitation.   The spaces are beautiful.  I love visiting them – so peaceful.

You can talk to people in Guild Wars via text chat to the people in your play area, your Guild, your Alliance.  I started to chat with people in the Alliance chat – nice friendly people.  It makes the world seem more like an actual world.  Even if you are doing something by yourself, there are other people in the world, some of whom you know.  It’s nice.

Old Ascalan - monster fight
Old Ascalon – monster fight

 

 

 

My elementalist/priest (magician/healer), right, and my henchwoman priest (healer), left, battle a really ugly monster.

 

 

 

One of our Alliance Guild Halls
One of our Alliance Guild Halls

 

 

 

I walk through water.

 

 

 

 

amarez – mszv

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Guild Wars – I’ve fallen in love again

Last Friday night and Saturday day I played Guild Wars, for the first time in months.  Guild Wars is an MMORPG, a multiplayer role playing game.  Guild Wars makes extensive use of “instancing”, where you have your own copy of an area, all yours to play in.   The towns are  full of “real” people, but the quest areas consist only of you, whoever you choose to bring with you, and the typical computer generated characters that make up games.  I like that a lot.  I can play with people or not, as I choose, and no one gets in my way or spoils the fun for me. 
 
I can also take things slowly when I play by myself – no pressure if I’m slow or take a long time to learn something.   I like interacting with people in an online world, but I’m not good at both socializing and playing a game with people.  I’d rather run around and talk to people in the world, and then do the quests by myself.  This works for me.  It also works well for the story. 
 
I’m not much of a role player – I don’t like to be completely “in character” in an online world – talk completely as if the world was real.  Most people have my playing style – strict roleplayers are not common in online games.  However, when I’m in a quest area, all by myself, that’s when getting involved in the story and really feeling like you are “there” – that’s when it takes over.  When I’m by myself I can get more into the world than when I’m socializing with people.  Being with people is good too – it’s just different.
                      

I haven’t played Guild Wars much since school started at the end of August – no time – so my  February 27th and February 28th play time was a treat.  I fell in love with Guild Wars again.  It’s hard to explain if you’ve never gotten into an online world.  Yes, this is a fantasy setting (like Lord of the Rings, but different) but it works for me.  It’s a wonderful escape from the real world.  My primary character is a magician/healer – in Guild Wars terms that an elementalist/monk.  Combat is beautiful – calling on the elements (earth, fire, water, air) is great fun, and there are wonderful special effects. 

There’s also a story.  I’ve finally gotten past the good times – before terrible things happened to my part of the world.  I’m at the point where evil monsters almost destroyed our main city, and us.  The world is different now – a different kind of beauty, more stark, ruined, we are barely holding on.  The world has also opened up to me.  I’ll be able to travel to other areas that aren’t destroyed and see new things.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Jade Sea. From one of the Guild Wars wikis – “The Jade Sea is located on the eastern side of the Canthan continent. It is the home of the Luxons, whose entire watery realm was frozen into solid jade when the Jade Wind swept across the region.” (http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/The_Jade_Sea).  What could be better?

Here are some pictures –

My Desktop

My Desktop

 

My desktop, a Dell Dimension 8400 is 4 years old, but I just got the hard drive replaced, and it was still under warranty!  It runs fine, though I’ll be putting more memory in it – 1GB is not enough nowadays.  I want to get a new desktop, but I think I’ll wait until Windows 7 is out.                 

I do like my new screen setup.  Last Thanksgiving I participated in the “Black Friday” shopping experience. I showed up at Fry’s Electronics at 4:50 AM, the Friday after Thankgiving (US Holiday in November) to get my 21.6 inch wide screen monitor, for cheap.  Combined with my 17 inch monitor, I finally have enough screen real estate so that playing games and doing work is a pleasant experience.

Guild Wars Prophesies Pre Searing - Fighting Bandit Blood Sworns
GW Prophesies Pre Searing – Bandit Blood Sworns

 

Guild Wars Prophesies, pre searing.  My elementalist is battling two Blood Bandit Sworns, female bandits who roam the pre-searing world of Ascalon.  These are vicious fighters, and they attack on site! 

You can view yourself closer in Guild Wars, but sometimes I like to pan all the way out to get a more panoramic view of my avatar in the world.

 

GW Prophesies Post Searing - Outside of Ascalon
GW Prophesies Post Searing – Outside of Ascalon

 

Guild Wars Prophesies, post searing.  I’ve pushed the in-game view far away from my avator to get this view. My elementalist (on the right) is on a quest in the area west of Ascalon City. 

I’m with a henchman, a computer generated character who is a member of my party.  She’s good at healing, but not much of a talker.

 

 

 

amarez – mszv

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