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.

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Second Life, The Silk Road, a Virtual Journey

In an online world people have concerts or parties in a virtual space.  Your character, your avatar, sits or stands in the space, walks around, dances.  People text chat, which is much less intrusive than talking during a concert!
 
On Saturday I went to a music show described as a virtual journey, in Second Life.   I’ve listed selections from a post on the Myst Online forum , describing the event – http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=17608

 

The (travelling) Guild of Healers invites you on a metaphorical caravan………..

through desert and mountain, climbing and descending, to the Mediterranean Sea following the interwoven complexities of the Silk Road. We’ve chosen to meet in Second Life in new facilities provided by the kind folks there, but the music can be heard anywhere people want to meet.

We met in Second Life, an online world where the members design and create the places in the world.  We met in an Uru themed location. Uru is a multiplayer game that was cancelled but still has a fan following.   We sat around a fountain. There was a map of our route on the wall. 

What followed could best be described as a virtual journey in a virtual space.  The creator of the event played music and talked to us as if we were on a journey – “the day is getting warmer”, “the camels are tired”.  The music had an evocative theme – think of a combination of a Hearts of Space radio show (http://www.hos.com) and the music of  Loreena McKennitt. The event creator text chatted, moving us along the route.  The participants also text chatted.  Sometimes the participants text chatted as if they were on the journey.  Sometimes they texted as if they were sitting around the fountain.  Sometimes they texted as if they were in front of their computer.  People welcomed other people, asked about something, made a comment on the journey, said they had to leave to do something in the real world, made a joke, talked about technical problems in Second Life (“sorry, I crashed”).  This is my favorite way to act in a virtual space, a way that seems most natural.  You act as if you are in a virtual space, but you also act as if you aren’t.

This type of event is very difficult to do well.  Aside from it being a pretend journey in a pretend space, the event was designed to be serious, which is hard to do well. It could have been a pretentious disaster.  It could have been boring.  It wasn’t either – it was spectacular!  In some way it felt like you were both sitting around a fountain and on a magical journey in a caravan on the Silk Route.

Here are some pictures.

Second Life - The Silk Route Musical Journey, June 2009

Second Life - The Silk Route Musical Journey, June 2009

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Second Life - event view from further away, June 2009

Second Life - event view from further away, June 2009

 
 

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 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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Uru – the MMO

Uru is an online multiplayer game (MMO), developed by Cyan Worlds, the creators of Myst.  The game is set in present day.  You discover an ancient city, underground in the desert.  Via the concept of linking books (find a book, open it, click on the image) you are transported to other worlds, called ages.  Gameplay consists of exploring the worlds, solving puzzles to advance the story and unlock new worlds, and finding objects to wear or decorate you home.  When possible, you could also attend live “events”, simlar to an interactive play.
                       
History
Ubisoft published the first online version in 2003.  Several months later the online version was cancelled. Uru was converted into a solo player game.  In 2004, the second multiplayer version of Uru was released, called Until Uru.  There was no new content from Cyan, but players could play the multiplayer version via privately run player owned servers.  There was a $15.00 (US dollars) one time charge if you bought the boxed version of the game.   In 2007, the free servers (Until Uru) were shut down and Gametap released a third multiplayer version of Uru (monthly fee) with new content.  In April 2008 version three was shut down. 

   

In July 2008, Cyan announced that they would self publish a multiplayer version, making this the fourth time a multiplayer version of Uru will be released! The initial release by Cyan will have no new Cyan content, but fans will be able to create their own content (with some restrictions).  Cyan will review player created content and add it to the game, for other players to enjoy.

 

Two good links

MMORPG Article

http://mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm?LOADNEWS=7159&bhcp=1

 

History of Uru – Wikipedia entry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myst_Online:_Uru_Live

 

Three screenshots

Uru - opening screenshot - the desert

Uru - opening screenshot - the desert

 

My first screenshot from the 2003 beta.  I start Uru.  I am in the desert in New Mexico.  What will I find?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uru - Relto - my home

Uru - Relto - my home

 

My private age – Relto – my home in Uru .  This is a private age, though I can invite other players as guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uru - Bevin - a neighborhood

Uru - Bevin - a neighborhood

 

 

 

 Bevin, a neighorhood in Uru.  This is a shared age, an age owned by more than one player.  The age can be open to all players, or private, which means that only the owners can access it.

 

 

   

 

Do I like Uru?  Yes – I do.  Would I recommend that you play Uru.   My answer – I don’t know.

 

I’ve been with Uru for…well…forever.  I was one of the first people admitted to the 2003 beta test.  I’m been a player, a supporter, a critic.  I’ve been a volunteer moderator for the official web forum, starting with the first publisher, Ubisoft, in 2003, then with Gametap and Cyan. (I don’t mod anymore – short answer – no time).  I’ve made friends.

    

When I was laid off in 2003 (company merger, layoffs, you know the story, working again, all is good), Uru kept me going during unhappy times.  I’ve never considered myself to be what we call an “avid” fan – though if you look at how long I’ve been in Uru, and my involvement in the community, I’m much more of a fan than I think I am!  Uru has been a constant in my life since 2003.   I know the game world – it’s a part of me.  I’ve lived there.  There were times when I would not logon for weeks, but I would always come back.  I have the solo player version of Uru,; it’s beautiful, but I miss the multiplayer version.  I will play MMO URU when it comes back

         

I’ve also been a critic.  Uru is beautiful and sometimes it’s wonderful, but it’s also flawed.  I won’t go into the flaws here (maybe a later post), but think about it.  There is enough interest to resurrect Uru three times (four if you count Until Uru), but then the game was cancelled, several times.  Something is going on.

        

Will you like it?  I don’t know.  I don’t think those of us who have been with Uru forever are the best judges of whether other people will like it.  We aren’t objective.  Uru is our history, our community, our home.  I recommend that you read up, and perhaps, give it a try.  Uru (called MORE) is going to be very reasonably priced – about $25.00 (US) for a 6 month subscription – payable via Paypal, so it will be available around the world.  Here’s a link to the official site, including the online forum.

 

http://www.mystonline.com

 

Enjoy.

 

 amarez – mszv

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