Spring break

I’m back from a wonderful holiday and have settled rather too quickly back into reality / routine. Spring is in the air although the cheer among colleagues about the ‘warmth in the air’ rings hollow when you’ve come back from somewhere in full tropical summer to temperatures struggling to reach double digits. Regardless, as our garden bursts into new life it is a time of year for change and renewal.

In that vein I have come to the difficult decision to put this MMORPG blog on indefinite pause, it’s too soon to say I’ll stop writing entirely but I’d rather be decisive about this than let it dwindle on an ever decreasing schedule. I’ve almost given up on this writing hobby several times over the years but now I feel like I have to commit more wholeheartedly to other things: namely my language learning efforts. Blogging isn’t that huge a commitment, but all the reading, thinking and writing still adds up. The time I spend every day reading about MMO gaming I really should be investing in learning vocabulary. I’m at a stage with learning Japanese where my biggest hurdle is not keeping up with learning the vocab from class, so I need to spend a lot more breakfast times, lunch breaks and evenings revising and memorising the words and their written forms.

After just over eight years of mostly continuous blogging on MMORPGs I feel its time to take a break and invest that energy elsewhere. I may still do a proper review post of the last eight years of blogging at some point, but that would be a bigger undertaking than I have time for just now. In any case a big thank you to all the readers and commenters who have followed the blog over these years! Thanks also to all the inspiring MMO bloggers who have kept me engaged in this area for so long!

Posted in MMORPG | 7 Comments

Disconnected afk

As you read this I will be flying to Malaysia for a two-week cruise break, quite the grand adventure that came as a rather surprise option last-minute. Most of my holidays in recent years have been within European Union countries; i.e. the Mediterranean or Canary Islands. My mobile network allows me to use my unlimited data allowance abroad almost anywhere in the region without incurring any charges for data. That has meant on  most of my recent holidays I was just as ‘connected’ as if I were at home.

I suppose it’s fairly normal these days to be on the phone a lot on holiday, I have noticed, at least unconsciously, others doing the same. I have to think back to our honeymoon in the Caribbean for a holiday where I wasn’t able to check my blogroll every morning or look on social media.

My mobile network is unusual in having had for years now a deal to allow this free roaming of data and other services, yes the EU mandates no roaming charges these days anyway, but this contract is good in a lot of countries in the Americas, Asia and beyond. It just so happens that all but one of the ports we’re visiting are in countries not on that extensive list.

It’s going to be a relief actually, work has been intense of late, and I feel this holiday is rather overdue. I’m taking actual paper books to read, and a notepad and pens to do some creative rpg writing while away. Otherwise I expect to be fully disconnected from blogging and the digital world – so I’ll see you all in mid-April! Happy gaming!

Posted in MMORPG

A different experience of nostalgia

Bhagpuss has a post ruminating on attracting old players back to MMORPGs; while it’s mostly focused on the particular challenges facing Guild Wars 2 in this regard, there’s some discussion of other games in the genre also. It made me start thinking of my early time and somewhat unusual experience of these nostalgia trip servers.

I came to the genre later than many: I started World of Warcraft in early 2007, but then didn’t start branching out into other MMOs until 2009 through 2011. In most of those early games except WoW (e.g. Warhammer Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online), I joined an already elder game where the vast majority of the player base were at the level cap or near it. The perennial problem of subscription MMOs especially, new players had a very sub-optimal experience since you’d only get to group up with veterans racing new alt characters to the cap for the most part. It meant zones were very, very quiet for the most part and any mandatory-group content was nigh on impossible to complete without sympathetic guild-mates.

Bree Fields circa 2009

In the next wave of MMORPGs that followed I did get to start with the masses (e.g. Rift, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars the Old Republic), so this post isn’t just some tale of woe. However, nostalgia for those earlier games doesn’t work so well for me as it wasn’t that great an experience. In the case of DDO and LOTRO, I’ve already experienced a fresh start when they re-launched as free to play games, so I’ve had all the server reboot excitement I could care for. With Everquest 2 I started on the first free to play server, Freeport, and had a very positive experience as a result of starting that game. Naturally I was soon left for dust by the bulk of the player base because I do not rush in any game. Still, I do not feel that motivated by nostalgia in EQ2 because I do not have the older memories to tap into that this kind of marketing relies on.

First steps on Freeport

I’m about to be afk for some time and that has sapped my motivation for levelling on Kaladim, I could have joined a guild, but was it worth it for barely over a week of sporadic playing sessions? I’ve been so busy socially and in other games since my last EQ2 post that my character has only advanced one level (to 11). Instead I was tempted back to play some more of the Planes of Magic timeline and in-fact finished that for the first time Sunday morning. It feels very satisfying to have completed an expansion for the first time in a while, and has motivated me to want to go back and complete other stories that I’ve left unfinished – Shadowknight is a much better solo class for me, personally.

Serious events

Nostalgia servers do offer the one attraction of busy starter zones, I do like to know that I’m playing an MMORPG by the presence of other player characters running around. Yes, competition for mobs or harvesting nodes or whatever can be occasionally annoying, but on balance I’d rather that than my early MMO experiences of empty, monster-crammed zones. So if friends end up in WoW Classic this summer I may well join them at least for a time. For the most part though I want to keep pushing onwards with my main characters in any game, there’s still so much to do on the live services.

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG, World of Warcraft

WoW welcome back weekend

This weekend was a welcome back weekend in World of Warcraft. It was a pretty busy weekend for us socially so we didn’t actually get that much done, but since I’m not Token-subbed at the moment it allowed me to join my husband in progressing some of the 8.1.5 main story. It gave us a chance to do some emissaries for gold as well as a warm-up to being back in the game.

Blizzard it seems hasn’t listened to complaints about locking story behind dungeons, for the Horde side we had two raid-only quests to complete, one for the Vol’jin story and another for the war campaign. Apparently our Alliance mains won’t have to do the raid at all for the equivalent story updates; at this stage in the expansion the story is so Horde-focused we decided to play those characters as the priority.

I guess I should be thankful that the LFR difficulty exists now to allow progress past a raid without having to invest a lot of time and effort in finding a group. It also means for a non-raider you can complete the quest step without a huge amount of stress or mechanic-learning preparations. LFR also allows you to queue for a specific ‘wing’ of the raid – a big time saver over doing a whole 9-boss raid for one quest: in this case we needed to do the last third of Battle of Dazar’alor to ‘kill’ Jaina Proudmore.

I’d be lying if I said it was a particularly enjoyable experience.  I went in with my husband and another guild mate; my husband has raided for years now and knew all the strategies for this raid. Still having him keeping us alive doesn’t prevent the other players from slowing things down. Things proceeded pretty well until the Blockade boss: there is a raid-wipe mechanic if the elemental boss at the end is not defeated in time. One wipe wasn’t that much of a delay, though you do have to repeat the fights on the boats as well.

It was the final boss of the raid, unsurprisingly, that caused the group some issues. Mainly because a hunter twice triggered Blood Lust from a pet way too early in the fight and that  prevented us from using the ability to prevent a wipe when Jaina tries to freeze everyone later on. That wasted quite a lot of time and soured the mood in the raid chat as well. Thankfully we got her down on the third try. I was getting tired of dodging all the bad stuff while trying to heal  (there is so much movement in WoW raiding), it makes me wish for a decent move ability. I doubt I’ll ever want to raid in this game, but if I were to I’d want to have my monk levelled for it so I could roll around.

We’ll try and get some dungeon runs in later this evening for a dose of more relaxed small group fun. If only Blizzard would make a 5-person version of the raids, I’d be a lot happier with these types of story-progression road-blocks.

Posted in MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment

Downtime compensation #DDO #LOTRO

A brief article over at MassivelyOP informed me that some in-game compensation awards for Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online are available for all players up until the 30th April. Free stuff is always nice, even if I wasn’t personally inconvenienced. I do intend to return to Dungeons & Dragons Online when the Sharn module comes around and I play LOTRO on and off as a side MMO so I keep both games loaded and patched on my PC normally.

In LOTRO the reward package had some currency and a load of dyes. I logged in my usual low-level Loremaster that I am collecting login rewards on when I do log in, thankfully the currency is account level so I didn’t end up with end-game currencies bound to a low-level alt.

Figments of Splendour are account level

I’ve not played enough of the current end-game content to know what these figments are used for, but will happily check it out next time I’m in Middle Earth.

In Dungeons & Dragons Online the same code gave a set of XP potions and a Raider’s Reward Box.

The latter gives free choice of one high level sentient weapon. For my lowly level 8 Artificer this is a rather remote but awesome looking upgrade. For now I’ve kept the box unopened as by the time my character reaches that level I may have need of something else instead; the box can sit in his bank.

If you play either MMORPG even irregularly, go get the rewards while you can!

Posted in DDO, LotRO, MMORPG | 1 Comment

When tech gets in the way

I was reminded on Monday of how much my gaming relies on technology these-days and how that technology can, at times, be quite the hindrance. I ran another session of Dungeons & Dragons 5E for family members via Fantasy Grounds as the group is spread across three different households in two different cities.

For most of the time all worked well, but as we neared the end of the session the random disconnects/reconnects that often seem to be a thing with FG became notably worse and also some sync issues where the map and counters weren’t updating properly on two of the clients did stop play for a bit. It wasn’t an excessive delay, we had a lot of fun and the party made good progress through the current dungeon. Still, were we all in the same room playing with pen and paper only such issues wouldn’t occur at all. One client PC connects on the same LAN to my computer as host, my husband’s, and his client never disconnects so it looks to me like an Internet issue more than something specifically wrong with my install of FG or my computer’s configuration.

Equally when my husband is raiding he will sometimes get disconnected from World of Warcraft, though Discord his stays up and my PC running Everquest 2 doesn’t blink a virtual eyelid – so it’s not necessarily the connection failing completely, but more network-sensitive programs timing out or losing their connection, perhaps? Battle.Net is a probable culprit in this case as we’ve both had the odd disconnection issue when playing Destiny 2 as a trio and that uses Battle.Net just like WoW does.

I’m not intending this blog post to be a detailed dissection of specific IT problems, but rather a reflection on just how much both these hobbies are technology dependent. I would like to say that MMORPGs for the most part are more reliable nowadays than they were when I first started playing in the genre. Certainly World of Warcraft is pretty solid, so is EQ2. Naturally I might not be typing this if I were currently playing Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons & Dragons Online given recent downtime, but I have clear memories of games being down for longish periods (usually at a weekend when a fix was less likely to be immediately forthcoming) in the past too.

In general times I believe the Internet connection at home is more reliable and much, much faster than it was back in 2007. So online gaming or virtual tabletop role-play as my main past times are certainly viable, but every so often there’ll be a hiccup somewhere to remind me that it’s still technology: technology that has a habit of playing up just when you want it to work.

Posted in D&D, EQ2, Fantasy Grounds, MMORPG, TTRPG, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment

Level 10 so far #Kaladim

In my first couple of sessions I managed to reach level 10 on my new Templar on the Kaladim TLE server for Everquest 2. My character concept was going to be a Wood Elf Templar playing through Greater Feydark, but that wasn’t available as an option, so after I did enough of the Isle of Refuge to high-tail it out of there I hopped on the boat to Frostfang Sea.

Beginning the level-climb once again

I do love the Frostfang Sea starting zone. I’ve only run it twice properly, the first time being my start in the game when Freeport launched the game into free-to-play waters. Having a proper gathering and crafting tutorial offers a nicer introduction to the game than the Isle has to offer. You also get some nice bag/storage rewards from these.

The zone is beautiful if rather bleak. There’s a comforting flow to the quests and sub-areas of the zone as you move around. The back slope shortcut into the main city up in the centre of the large island is a good thing to know about as a new player, it gets you access to the crafting stations and city services *much* quicker than if you follow the story all the way around to the main entrance. I got rather sidetracked doing crafting intro quests and quickly found myself as a level 10 Outfitter when my adventuring class was still only at 6.

It’s been a relaxing experience so far, I’m taking a chilled pace to this new character as evidenced by his progress in crafting. There’s some running back and forth but not to an annoying degree and I’ve made good on the travelling to gather and hunt collectibles.

I’ve done a surprising amount of swimming around while questing, the water is always nearby in the Frostfang Sea and it does offer some shortcuts if you know the lay of the land (and water).

The difficulty level of the experience surprised me slightly, as my character got close to level 10 there was a noticeable spike in monster challenge – I can’t take on more than one monster at level currently. Downtime is an issue as my mana is often pretty depleted after fighting, and the conjured food and drink are pretty poor for my level. I think I’ll spend some time next session looking at what I might craft myself to boost his power regen…

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG | 1 Comment