AFK

The day arrived, and after much stress and extra preparation we have departed on our cruise holiday. I’ll have my customary roaming data on my phone but I can’t tether anything while roaming, so gaming or blogging won’t be easy. As a side-note I never blog on my phone, I just dislike virtual keyboards too much for anything longer than a message app chat. There’s also the fact that I’ve never gotten around to moving all my screenshot archive to the cloud somewhere to make it accessible if “blogging on the go”. My blog has always been rather screenshot-focused…

Plenty of loungers, now where’s the sun…

We’ll occupy our time easily enough, I’m still in the habit of spending free-time writing for some ttrpg campaigns and that lends itself better to lounging around without any wifi/data. We have kindles too, and music (and some TV episodes) on our phones, plus all the on-board entertainment, so I have no fears of boredom! It seems silly that on some earlier land-based holidays we’d take a D&D manual or two or collectable card games to occupy some time – thesedays I prefer to have a noticeable change of pace and activity on a holiday to ensure it doesn’t seem too much like free-time at home.

So, I’ll be AFK (away from keyboard) for a couple of weeks now and likely there’ll be little to no blog posts – unless I find time to catch up with Feedly and feel the need to jump in on a topic.

Happy gaming everyone!

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In support of an expanded Panda event in future

In a recent blog post, Bhagpuss mentioned the idea of maybe expanding the Panda, Panda, Panda! event in Everquest 2 into a more rounded seasonal event in future: “We could do with something on the calendar between Tinkerfest and Nights of Dead“.

Oh I do like the idea of it being upgraded to a full event, that would add more to an already very fun activity each year. It’s nice the game has something specifically tailored to returning players as well, more than just here’s some freeibes in the mail (a la Black Desert). This involves a modicum of effort, but only enough to reengage you with game systems and locations so I find it much more effective than just receiving a chunk of money.

The MMORPG space is already so crowded, and despite growth in recent years slowing down somewhat, there are still new entrants coming along. I’ve been playing Bless Unleashed some this summer and we have guildies who are heavily invested in the New World beta. So it strikes me as a very good, realistic, approach to recognise that some players will drift away whilst ensuring there are some enticing reasons (or events!) that will bring them back to their comfortable virtual home.

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Island exploration, Norrath style

I’ve been playing Everquest 2 again recently, squeezing in a few sessions before I go AFK to see the new The Expedition Begins! and Panda, Panda, Panda! content.The former launched on the 14th and the later just a couple of days ago.

My Inquisitor main raced through the Panda, Panda, Panda first week quest easily enough: Frostfang Sea is his original stomping ground, and where he still has his home and recall ability bound. I flew around without even glancing at a guide and found the items purely by knowing all the nooks and crannies of the zone, it’s easy to recognise quest objects if you have in-built memory of what items are out of place!

This is a bit unusual for me, sadly, as I’ve rarely ‘mained’ Everquest 2 enough to know zones really, really well. It’s one of my eternal MMORPGs, games that I always return to, but I have other games vying for my time and I don’t always have as much time in this game as I’d like. Anyway, a good start for this year’s catch-up event – like I need an excuse to go visit Panda island!

Sadly my Shadowknight alt doesn’t have the quest available – no time to fix that now but I’ll need to do some catch-up before we get too close to the next expansion drop. This Sarnak needs some new gear. I took him to investigate the prelude event so he got some action – answering the mail invitation to go to the Isle of Mara.

Thar she sails!

Split over two sessions, I’ve travelled to two of the three available islands that are the focus of this event. There some quests to do, some crafting repeatable dailies and a nice little taster of exploration fun. That first time in a new zone is always special, I find. Wandering around, slaying all the hostiles, looking for things that my character can interact with – or things that are likely quest objects or objectives for later.

I can’t go in here, yet…

Everquest 2 is like some MMORPG and “point ‘n’ click adventure” hybrid. More perhaps than any other MMORPG there is a lot of stuff to interact with when questing. The dialogue system is more involved than most and interactive objects that progress quests or require gathering are a major part of gameplay. Other games have such features, but I feel like extra emphasis on this in EQ2 which tends to help me feel more like I’m exploring the zone rather than just passing through while taking the odd screenshot. Husband and I have binged slightly on point ‘n’ click adventures this last year and I do appreciate this aspect of EQ2.

As I’ve written before, I’m particularly attracted to an exploration themed expansion, not least because I am about to go on my first holiday for two years. When I’m back I’ll be very happy to dive into some virtual exploration to keep the vibe going.

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We’ll be sailing once again

An unusual resonance is in the air. If the stars align and there isn’t a sudden lockdown, I’ll be off on a cruise holiday for the first time in two and a half years. I’ve sorely missed being at sea, but last summer, the industry was still in full shutdown. The wait for a badly needed holiday is weighing heavy on me, I just need to get to sea again for a good break.

It’s with interest that I read the announcement of the next Everquest 2 expansion, Visions of Vetrovia. It sounds like the expansion will focus on sailing to new lands, a voyage of discovery as it were. That’s what my soul needs at the moment, after a year and a half of highly restricted movement, I’m in need of travel and new horizons.

I’ve a week of possible gaming time left before I’m away from computer, so time to get digging into the prelude event! I’m still waiting on details of when the Pandas, Pandas, Pandas event will start – my characters need more catching up gear-wise than in previous expansions as I’ve been rather distracted by non-MMO gaming over the summer. Lots to look forward to it seems this autumn in Norrath!

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CTMTTYAC competition #Rolemaster

This morning I’ve been catching up on the competition that Iron Crown are running across their various social media platforms, with the prizes being vouchers for DrivethurRPG. Iron Crown is the company behind the crunchy Rolemaster “d100” tabletop roleplaying game (among others) and the excellent Shadow World (a.k.a Kulthea) world setting.

It’s running throughout the month of September with a new code released each day, for submission via the competition page.

It’s been a long while since I took part in a transmedia activity like this. It reminds me somewhat of playing The Secret World back a few years and being lead to actual web sites via in game clues to find further clues. I do love a treasure hunt!

Good luck if you take part!

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Can we have new games instead?

I’ve had my social media feeds pinging about the remake of Knights of the Old Republic this last day or so. The teaser trailer looks impressive enough, and the music is very evocative. But, to be honest I’m just not that interested in remakes even if they are much beloved games that I once enjoyed a great deal.

As a rule I almost never rewatch TV or films. I have never been interested in replaying RPGs over and over, whether it is to try different story paths or alternate endings. Reading blog posts over the years, I feel like I’m in the minority here – I don’t get the attraction of playing *and* replaying a sandbox like Elder Scrolls or Dragon Age. My ‘replaying’ of MMORPG leveling zones to level alts is the only major breaking of this pattern, and that’s more to do with the nature of MMOs than my burning desire to do so. Indeed the trend over time for more linear and narrow leveling experiences or paths in the genre over time has left me less inclined to alt-play because of this distaste for repetition.

So, I’m not that excited by this announcement even though I am in their target audience – I love Star Wars as a setting, and I like computer games (especially RPGs). If it had been KOTOR 3 (for real this time) I would be super excited by this announcement, but as it stands I do not foresee playing it. The fact we do not own a Playstation 5 is also a smaller impediment, though I imagine a PC port will come along too. Honestly can we not have new games instead of remakes?

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Bite-sized session thoughts

I logged on to Bless Unleashed this morning to play a quick session before going out with the intention of continuing the main quest line. The last session I’d played I had mostly done side-quests at the previous camp and realised that I could very easily get *very* side tracked by fairly standard “kill 10 X” or “collect 10 Y” type filler quests that way. The main story has more urgency and depth to it, so I wanted to crack on with that to have a bit more directed an experience.

Oh, a distraction!

And then I encountered a world boss in the form of this giant. My short session ended up being filled by the boss encounter, which took a long time as its health bar was going down so slowly, and the numerous players there were in contrast being downed by the bigger attacks of the giant with great regularity. As the number of players grew the fight also became laggier, to the point where I was having some issues dodging attacks, not that I could see anything that obvious to warn when I should be dodging away – maybe it is just the animations that I have to look for? If the game is lagging badly that’s not going to be possible though. My venerable PC might not be up to the task of playing this game, after all…

As the boss’ health dropped lower I think the mob of players became less cautious as they focused harder on ‘max DPS’. That meant an increasing number of ‘downed’ characters to help back up. This game has the same system as Guild Wars 2, you bring a nearby ally back to their feet by channelling on their kneeling form for 10 or so seconds. Of course, if a monster is wildly swinging nearby that can make you a sitting duck. As a priest, I naturally wanted to help people back up, but I was knocked down a number of times in quick succession for trying to play the good samaritan.

First aid duty

That left me dependent on the kindness of others, which was swift enough to come for most of the fight, but towards the end more downed players were being left in that state. I released to run back from the nearest bind point, only to realise as I ran past an NPC on a hill that I’d not even noticed that there was probably a quest relating to this fight. I grabbed it as quickly as I could but, naturally, the boss fight finished a moment later, and I hadn’t re-engaged with the boss after taking the quest. I was surprised but gladdened to realise the quest had completed based on my contributions prior to taking it. That kind of retroactive credit, I feel, is still a rarity in the MMO genre. Bless has some pretty interesting little modernisations of standard systems along these lines. They add up to a less frustrating experience overall.

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Lessons learned #Blaugust2021

So Blaugust is over for another year. This year I got a ‘bronze’ award with twelve posts, surprising looking back that’s actually not bad, my entries for Blaugust 2020 and Blapril 2020 didn’t reach double digits, I’d have to go back to 2018’s event for more posts. My days of blogging daily even for a limited period of time are over it seems. I’ve enjoyed being a part of the event, and responding to the odd themed or community-inspired post nonetheless.

What I feel I’ve learned, or even enacted this last month, was to put time aside for gaming over blogging – to ensure that the “tail isn’t wagging the dog”. By that I mean playing games first and foremost for enjoyment, and not because they make good blog post fodder. Of course, it would have been nice to play lots of games AND have time to write about them, but that just wasn’t an option (again). Not that I feel that I have gone particularly far down that rabbit hole in the past but it is a temptation. There’s always some game or other coming out or receiving content patches that I could blog about to be part of the coverage. I like being part of gaming conversations, but not to the extent that I’ll play just any old game to do so.

Recently I’ve tried Bless Unleashed some, and enjoyed it, though I doubt it’ll hold me long term unless I can suddenly free up a lot more free time. Otherwise, I continue playing and enjoying Gloomhaven with friends, though I suspect we’re edging slowly towards the end of that journey. The other update is that we finally have a new(er) console in the form of a Playstation 4, unlike the PS3 we had for over a decade, the PS4 includes a decent means to take screenshots within the UI. This means I can more easily blog about console gaming fun without needing to photograph the TV screen. Not that I’m playing that much there either as free time is, as I seem to be so often repeating, rather limited.

I managed to give Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville multiplayer a go last night. The graphics are really, really good. The gameplay is suitably frantic for a third person shooter. I admint I’ve never been a “two-stick” gamer, despite having a PS3 for so many years I’ve just not done that much gaming on console since the shift to “two thumb-sticks”. Compared to mouse+keyboard, I find it really difficult and imprecise trying to move, turn and aim all at the same time on a modern controller.

The orange tank character is super fun!

So maybe the next lesson to learn is how to be better at this whole console-gamer thing?

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Background motivation or distraction?

This is a post for the Blaugust 2021 blogging event, see the linked post for more info!

As we come towards the end of Blaugust 2021’s ‘staying motivated’ week, I’ve just read Thyanel’s post about musical motivation. It is certainly true for me, as Thyanel writes, that “the right background music can psych me up and keep me focused on whatever it is I’m doing”. If I’m doing blogging, writing or fairly involved work, I often set YouTube to a random playlist and just have that semi-quietly in the background.

The topic overlaps with a few related topics specifically for my situation and way of doing things. I often have music in another language on in the background, not so much because I expect to learn much from passively listening to it, but because I enjoy it. YouTube has endless playlists that you can search for, Amazon devices with Alexa (or other equivalents) can also supply randomised music by genre or era in this way. It has made my large collection of CDs largely redundant as streaming music gives more variety: including the chance of the odd surprise discovery of something new. Plus, it avoids having to change physical discs as well.

The other aspect to this can be more negative than positive. I’ve become used to also playing randomly suggested content on YouTube on my second screen. It’s something I almost do automatically when gaming, and for some games I find it an unacceptable distraction. If I’m doing a lazy session of harvesting /crafting in Lord of the Rings Online or daily quests in Everquest 2 then it works really well. Such activities do not require my full attention, and having something on the other screen helps to avoid any potential for boredom creeping in.

The danger is that I assume this works as well, or is even needed while questing or levelling. I’ve definitely found myself distracted while questing in Lord of the Rings Online in Mordor on my main. That feeling when you suddenly realise you’ve lost the plot thread you were following, or need to reread the long quest text because something interesting on the video distracted you subconsciously. This has also been a realisation when playing Bless Unleashed recently, I really need to focus on the game since it is all brand-new to me and the story requires some focus to follow – it is an all new world with unfamiliar place and people names so I can’t half-read quest text and expect to have even a vague clue of what is happening a few quests later. Not all MMORPG activities are equal when it comes to focus.

Mostly these background videos have been random D&D related ‘advice’ videos or Sci-Fi ‘lore’ videos. Similar to TVTropes, the hundreds of content creators who produce these videos give an seemingly endless array of “dissect the franchise” style videos. I’ve been on a bit of a Star Wars universe (e.g. Thor Skywalker, Geetsly’s) binge of late, but I’ve also watched a good number of Dune-related videos and a host of TTRPG-related channels before that.

Unlike YouTube music playlists, these videos are interesting enough to distract me. Although I’ve caught myself trying to use them as background listening in the same way, they certainly do not function as well as music for me. The slideshow of stills from movies, books and comics are eye-catching, the dialogue is usually complex enough and interesting enough to pull me out of what I am doing – or it doesn’t and when I tune back into the video I realise I’ve missed a chunk and have to rewind it. Either way it harms my productivity instead of supporting it.

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My blogging motivation

This is a post for the Blaugust 2021 blogging event, see the linked post for more info!

I’m seeing through my blog-feed that one topic over the last few days has been motivation for blogging. For me, blogging is something I want to do, even if I don’t have the time to do it as regularly as I once did. Blogging itself is time-consuming, though not that time-consuming, for me at least. I may spend 30 minutes on a post, but then my posts aren’t that long generally. I have done much longer ones in the past, or more involved ones where I’d researched actual data or my post history. These days I post when I can and at the length I can, but the itch to write is still there.

In terms of what specifically motivations me though: what keeps me going after ten years, I’d narrow it down to three main points:

Blogging is a conversation

For me, blogging is about being part of a wider conversation. Unlike social media (e.g. Twitter), it is the chance to say something with a bit more depth about a topic. To open a richer conversation than just memes and hot-takes (though blogs do contain examples of both). Each post that I write builds on existing posts of mine, on posts of others or both – the conversations can be many layered with references going back days, months or even years. Social media may have reduced the number of people blogging, but I still see blogs as having a distinct raison d’être.

Blogging is a great aide-mémoire

Blogging over a long period is such a great reminder, and memory-aid, for what I used to play and when. It also is the partial justification for all the screenshots that I take, the many, many screenshots. Looking through old posts when I’m writing a new one is a great trip down memory lane to boot. I’ll stop using French terms now.

Blogging is about community

There is an active blogging community surrounding my chosen topic, MMORPGs. It has certainly changed over the years, and has quieter and busier period, but there’s usually something good to read. More often than I can make time for at present, I come across a post I’m itching to comment on or respond to when I get the chance (there’s that conversation again). Motivation certainly shouldn’t be the primary factor if you can find your community!

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