Category Archives: Guild Life

MMO Regrets [#Blaugust 11]

MMO regrets, I have them. Maybe you have some too. Over a decade of dragon slaying and getting to know people from all over the world by doing so, has been mostly a mad and fun ride, yet looking back there’s also a few things I would do differently. Or maybe not. In any case, here are three of them in no particular order:

  • Not getting a lifetime sub for LOTRO; players have paid between 200 – 299$ for their lifetime subs at some point, depending whom you ask. LOTRO wasn’t in such a great place back then and it still isn’t, unfortunately I came to it way later and so that was never an option. Given that LOTRO is my favorite MMO that I’m not playing, I wish I could log into ME sometime without re-subscription hassles. If you have a lifetime sub for LOTRO that you’re not even using, don’t tell me!
  • Returning to WoW for Cataclysm; I had said my goodbyes to WoW and my long-standing community there at the end of WotLK and it was a perfect finale to a mighty fine run of six years. The goodbye thread in our guild forums was epic kleenex time. But then I came back after Cataclysm launched, yeah I was that person. I came back for entirely the wrong reasons and against my better judgement. It ended in some personal disenchantment for me where few people were concerned, experiences that I really could’ve done without. So not long after, I logged out once again and told hardly anyone about it.

“And so I did. In Elwynn, my lovely, where the journey began. In Elwynn, where my personal anniversary event quest for Adrenaline was stationed. In Elwynn, where the Crazy Cat Lady will go on taking in strays and the murlocs will gurgle forever at the riverbank of Eastvale Logging Camp, long after I have left. In Elwynn, with Goldshire at its heart where all paths lead to greater adventure. A good place to rest.” (“Where do you go to die?”)

  • Losing some of the faithful; I’ve written at some length about how the changes to WoW’s raiding scene over the years basically turned people into assholes. Okay, let me rephrase that: they increasingly put competitive raidguilds into the position of having to choose between raiders and good friends, loyal guildmates. I am talking about myself here – I wish we, the leading team, had had the good sense to drop the allures and just be a little more casual. I know it’s never as simple as that because you also feel obligated to your ‘top players’ but much of that wouldn’t have happened had Blizzard not decided to cut raidsizes from 40 to 25 and 10 and emphasize individual performance over collective achievement.  In any case, it’s why I won’t ever go back to WoW and its raidmeters and over-analyzers who have no room for diversity. Good is good enough, MMOs are not a job!

“This is not a message for those who are still in WoW striving for glory irrespective of cost; by all means, knock yourself out. You have your own path to follow and maybe it will lead you to a similar place, maybe not. But I am not that person anymore, I am glad that I’m not. Friendships are precious and fragile – many people are worth knowing and caring for outside our immediate realm of ambition. So long WoW, you have nothing left to teach me. (“Why I’m not playing WoW anymore.“)

I guess it’s fitting that my greatest MMO regrets come from the game I invested most of my time and heart in. What saddens or bugs you looking back on your time in virtual worlds and communities?

[Wildstar] Of Unexpected Turns and Raiding Pains

My recent blunders into Wildstar’s raiding scene were more of a happenstance than anything, a surprise to myself first and foremost. At the end of 2013 my plans for this year were quite clear: play TESO, ignore Wildstar. Fast forward, I find myself not only among few remaining bloggers in our blogosphere still subbed to Carbine’s MMO, but attuned to raids and geared for endgame. I’ve written about my first raiding experiences here but having gone through a streak of heavy back pains these past weeks, I’ve decided to put an early end to a raiding career that I never meant to have. Too scary is the prospect of another episode of what I have come to call my “post-WoW raider back” since I left WoW in 2010.

A passage dearly paid.

Not many MMO raiders and ex-raiders (myself included) speak of whatever physical backlash, temporary or permanent, they may have experienced due to their focus on top tier PVE/PVP endgame. I’m not saying that every MMO player or raider is like me in terms of poor posture control, but I suspect that there are many among us who come to know such side-effects after reaching a certain age latest. If you’ve raided in a competitive and dedicated manner consistently over several years, it’s hard to avoid any form of physical repercussion for so much sedetary amusement. I remember a time when my youth would cradle me in blissful ignorance of such concerns, yet after I had turned 28 years old with five years of WoW raiding (12 hours a week on average) on my literal back, the physical reality of my hobby caught up with me. I’ve always had issues with my neck but from that point in time my back pains took a life of their own and spread to the rest of my body in one neurological fun fest.

Combined with was generally a deeply troubling and stressful time in my life, a fact that must be emphasized, my unhealthy way of slouching through long-session gameplay (during which I ignored all warning signs for lack of judgement) turned into a chronic pain condition that, after the usual series of medical examinations, is fair to say will never leave me. After quitting WoW and spending considerably less focus time in front of the computer, as well as regular massage therapy and healthier living, I’ve been able to recover slowly from the more acute and crippling pains that used to overshadow my life for at least three full years. I know I have partly my lack of discipline to blame – I have never been great at self-control when it comes to the things I love doing (and I am hardly a sports-fan either). I also realize that many people gamers or not, deal with backpains which are always multicausal; in a way, what happened five years ago opened my eyes to a variety of issues I had ignored for too long in my life. Treating myself better in every sense was one consequence, so in retrospective I’d like to see my time spent raiding as a catalyst, rather than the root cause of all the pain.

Nonetheless, my gametime is something I will always have to control in the future, no matter how tempting some aspects of MMOs might be. I’ve tried the whole “getting up during biobreaks”- and “loading-screen workout”- routines and for me, they simply don’t work. I can spend half a day casually at the PC, blogging, podcasting and carousing Steam, but raiding puts me into a state of emergency in which I grow tense and too absorbed to notice lousy posture. I don’t think there’s any gaming activity quite like online coop when it comes to demanding exceptional focus from each individual. If you ever get up from such a session and feel the pang in the back of your neck, don’t ignore it.

Alas, I have been there, done that and no epic pixel nor fleeting friendships were worth the physical pain that was caused or amplified. I love MMOs and the competitive aspects of online games but if beating endgame and obtaining shinies require me to sit still and focus in front of a screen for 3-4 hours on end, then I am happy to leave such feats to a younger generation – a generation hopefully wiser than me. Hindsight is 20/20 – and the story of how much their bodies must hurt is never told in Surrogates or similarly intriguing movies about virtual life.

Thus my raiding chapter for Wildstar is officially closed.

[Wildstar] Now Raiding

So I started 20man raiding in Wildstar last week and have downed a couple of mini-bosses as well as X-89 in Genetic Archives thus far. It took my guild of jolly freeform raiders several wipenights to get a team of 20 people fully accustomed to the drill, something that players already need to learn during the dungeon attunement: individual performance matters. Even if some veteran 5mans get easier over time for a seasoned group of well-geared folk, many fights require every member in the party to be familiar with fight mechanics. Wildstar combat is a dance more than WoW ever was, unforgivable unless players continuously adapt their playstyles. The X-89 in GA comes with two different “YOU ARE THE BOMB!”-features which means an unsuspecting rookie is likely to ruin it for everyone else.

sylraidws01

There is no hiding in Wildstar’s raids – addons are seriously recommended, cooldowns must be juggled and adjusting your tragically limited actionbar for every encounter is a given. Execution demands a high level of focus because the fights are so mobile. From that point of view the learning curve is quite steep, especially for genre newcomers. Considering how 40mans must feel in comparison, which are no less unforgivable, it becomes apparent why raiders have been crying out for Carbine to critically consider their endgame. In their most recent state of the game Nexus Report, they finally address this issue albeit just briefly:

malzek: That “other” MMORPG abandoned the 40-man model 9 years ago due to logistical issues.  WildStar’s raids are much more unforgiving, leaving many scratching their head at this design decision. Has any consideration gone into bringing raid content to a more realistic level for the playerbase size?

CM: “All I’m willing to say right now is yes. Yes, there’s been discussion. I’m not going into details at this time…..the devs are listening.

With subscription numbers dwindling and complaints both from the casual and hardcore (see the rest of the Q&A), Carbine cannot afford not to act. New content dumps may appease some non-raiding players but the fact remains that Wildstar endgame is tuned to a difficulty level that not enough people enjoy longterm. For myself, I will say this: I had fun getting to grips with the X-89 mechanics and I didn’t mind wiping as much as we did – but I am also under no illusion that the really hard bosses are yet to come and will test those spirits further. Have raids felt harder than vanilla raiding so far? – No. Do I expect them to get much harder? Oh yes! Woe to all that underestimate this endgame.

Server merges

The dreaded server merges of both global region’s PVE and PVP realms respectively, have been hinted at going live sometime around mid-October earliest. The names were decided by community poll and it appears I shall soon reside on Jabbit, a name I neither endorse nor understand.

Alas, for me the merges can’t come soon enough. Lightspire’s Dominion side has quickly turned into a graveyard, with probably 60% of its active members hosted by my guild and only one single other, competing guild in terms of raiding. The AH is dreadful, with entire subsections entirely empty or then, most likely offering an item or two by guildies (keeps the money in the family!). The costs for much coveted items such as runes amount to a subscription’s worth of platinum, just to get a basic gear set kitted out. No, I do not like this situation at all. We need a better market, we need comparisons and proper competition. For once, I don’t think a merge can do more harm than good – the fact that I cannot reasonably accumulate fancy hats and robes via the auction house is frankly intolerable.

[Wildstar] Of Unfun Raids. And: That Attunement just got Nerfed

Following up on Monday’s post about the complexities of healing Wildstar dungeons, which clearly doesn’t entice everybody, I came across this interesting link on Wildstar’s raiding being a major pita (my words) by one who seems to know what he’s talking about. Now clearly, no raider speaks for everybody but it’s rare to find one of the cool kids looking back and saying”yeah, that sucked” or “I don’t miss it one bit”.

To paraphrase some of Fevir’s points in the video, raid encounters are such hectic and constant telegraph dodge-fights that everything else that’s usually fun and rewarding about raid challenges – such as employing different tactics, improvisation and saves – has no room whatsoever. Fights boil down to dodging 40+ mechanics per boss while staring on the ground, or alternatively looking for healers so you can position yourself in green telegraphs. The unforgiving survivability test requires such a degree of focus that multi-hour raidnights are mentally draining and exhausting. Not to speak of the blame-game.

To be honest, I don’t fully buy into Fevir’s commentary. Much of it sounds like 40man vanilla WoW style raiding where raid nights were as draining at times as they were rewarding. At the same time, 40mans were great because there was actually room for error and creativity, and room for carrying people. And they were far, far from being mobility checks. Once more, I am getting the impression Carbine are out to combine everything other MMOs are already doing in terms of difficult mechanics. That makes Wildstar a game of grim satisfaction a lot more than lighthearted fun. It sure feels that way to me.

Not that I’m particularly fussed about raiding at this point. If we can’t make it, there are plenty of other games to play.

Raid Attunement going Bronze

I’m not going to fake surprise at this week’s news in terms of the Wildstar attunement. I put myself on the spot declaring the chain over the top and snottily giving Carbine six months to reconsider some of the hefty requirements, so three months it is. No condemnation from me for evaluating player concerns, the way they did for more varied body types, too.

wsohnoes

forums.wildstar-online.com

The related forum topic is naturally, already 46 pages long and consists largely of whining about whiners. To clarify what really happened: silver dungeons runs (with timer) weren’t nerfed – instead, the attunement requirement was dropped to bronze mode (no timer). To some kids who clearly don’t belong to the hardcore who have already begun raiding in Wildstar, that is the end of the world as we know it, despite the fact that you can still do silver (and gold) runs and best timers for feels and extra loot. That last point demonstrates the underlying motive of exclusivity over actual content difficulty; you can still do ‘better runs’ but the fact that the attunement just got nerfed, mildly, means endgame has become just a tad more accessible. Amagad.

As far as skill checks are really concerned, Carbine’s primary reason for the change was timers not effectively serving as such. That’s the actual development team saying “yeah, not really working as intended”. Timers promote rushed runs, skipping trash and risky pulls that put most of the onus on yes, the healer. No biobreaks allowed, no disconnects, no swapping specs manually (thanks to the inane interface), not even time to sit down for consumables. Raids are just like that?

What “remains” now are difficult veteran dungeons full of running, dodging, frantic resource management and wipes, only without people hating each other as much afterwards. Anyway, given Wildstar’s current raiding difficulty, I’m not sure how much more accessible raiding really got. There is however value symbolic or otherwise, in being allowed through the door, sniffing some of that endgame air for yourself. What’s the harm?

For the more hardcore players both imagined and real, there’s mostly this concern: now that they’ve nerfed / showed sense on the attunement, Carbine might adjust more things about raids in the future (noes?). I’m sorry for the lack of empathy in this case because MMOs constantly evolve, balance and change their content. They already do that! Also, I lied about being sorry! Life is too short, yo.

This week in Wildstar: Common Sense 1 – Vainglory 0.

Monday Wildstar Links

The holidays are almost over (woe is me) so I have spent the past week catching up on my gaming in Wildstar, making it all the way to level 47 from 40. I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed the new zones as much as the fabulous Farside, Wilderrun being a dreaded jungle zone and Malgrave a navigation nightmare despite some pretty Firefly vistas. Nonetheless progress has been fun and it’s been a most productive time all around this new MMO which I’m still enjoying. Who would’ve thought?

Malgrave

Wildstar Wildstar Wildstaaaaar!

So, Wildstar updates. I’ve finally joined a guild on Lightspire EU, the jolly bunch of Venus Rising, and am very happy with my time there thus far. There’s the dedicated leadership every guild so desperately needs and from what I can see, a healthy mix between progress orientation and wanting to have a good time together without undue pressures. Despite Wildstar still being a freshman, the guild has already developed real community spirit while a respectable amount of people are already halfway into the atunement. I try not to worry too much about that and enjoy my last levels until 50. Endgame is forever but these early days of Wildstar will never come back.

Since RP servers feature some of the greatest housing plots and Lightspire is no different, I’ve taken many tours around my new guildmates’ sky maps these past few days. The creativity and effort put into some of the player creations is mindblowing, so I decided a video tour or two were definitely in order. Two of my favorite builds so far are the GM’s guild house and surroundings, as well as an astonishing clan home of five players who have worked on a fully decorated six-floor Draken home together, plus several more custom buildings. If you’re into player housing at all or looking for inspiration, these plots are not to be missed (the first video also features my own plot):

Having a thing for Wildstar’s unique charm and aesthetics, it was also high time to finally update the MMO screenshots gallery with my 48 favorite vistas taken during my travels so far. The last six pictures in the gallery are in high-res panorama format and due to popular demand, I have now added a Farside panorama shot as well for the dual-screeners out there:

farsided

click for full-res

Other than that, I have a few more useful links to share before beaming back up into the Nexus – oh and as always, happy Monday to all ye space pilots out there!

Finding a Guild in Wildstar (and anywhere else)

I remember a time when this was easy: jumping into a new MMO, meeting random people questing or selling goods, partying up for quests or dungeon runs. Then, writing their names down when the company was particularly enjoyable or adding them to a friendlist if such was available. Soon enough, you would decide this was a promising bond, once personal plans had been examined and longterm intentions seemed to match. There was potential for a common venture here – a guild. Either they already had one you could join or you would found one together, after you managed to agree on a suitable guild name, that is.

It doesn’t work that way anymore. Or maybe it’s just me. I never seemed to struggle to find guilds the “natural way” in FFXI or Warcraft but ever since, it’s been a really rocky road and not for lack of trying. I was in two guilds in GW2 which both faded away quicker than a Skritt’s courage. In LOTRO, I resorted to creating my own LFGuild thread on the realm forums because the game was way past the stage of guilds spamming global chat. Early this spring, I finally joined a friend’s non-committal multi-game guild, only to realize they truly didn’t give a toss who came or went, not even the GM. There were also hardly any women which is a red flag in my book nowadays.

Now in Wildstar, I created a guild for myself and four old WoW buddies to hang out while leveling up. The plan has always been to sniff the air on our server first and actually find out if this MMO was for us. Being five people with different work schedules and real life commitments, we hardly ever manage to be online at the same time, so dungeons are pretty much off because PuGs are hard to find before max level (and even harder to go through with). Yeah, we need a bigger guild and soon. I’ve no intention to recruit myself – been there, done that.

Since dungeons aren’t happening and there’s also not much cooperation going on during questing (the odd 2-min silent quickie aside to kill an elite), nor is there any reliance on player crafted goods or services the AH couldn’t provide, meeting random people in Wildstar is kinda hard. Damn the solo friendly, self-sufficient times we live in or something. That only leaves me with following options:

  • Check the official guild forums or wildstar.guildex.org
  • Create my own LF thread
  • Pick a random guild spamming global chat
  • Ask on social media (oops, no global servers so scratch that!)
  • Sit in a prominent corner in Illium and sing “All by Myself” with a sad face

Not very appealing options all of them, not if you generally cringe at “blind guilding” the way I do. There needs to be a personal touch or buzz for me before I join a guild, a reason to choose a particular group of people. At the very least, a recommendation by someone I can trust. If I have to switch guilds several times over, my enthusiasm for an MMO is generally at an end.

But then housing chat happened. One of the seriously enjoyable features in Wildstar, players can globally converse with the neighbourhood when logged into their home instance. For no better reason than to be social and friendly, I usually say hello whenever beaming up to my plot and it appears all the nicer RP people of my server are hanging out in the housing channel more than anywhere else. After visiting a few people’s plots, one particularly awesome house by the GM of a popular guild on the server, we got into talking. It so happened that this was also Kadomi’s guild since the Wildstar beta which added instant extra credit, and after checking out the guild page and policies, it feels like my buddies and me might actually have a place to head next. I was told we would be most welcome.

Here’s to hoping it will turn into an extended stay. I won’t need to write a new introduction post on the guild forums, I have one stored away in a .doc file on the computer. If it was written on real paper, it would be a worn and wrinkly document full of coffee stains but in our virtual worlds, hope dies last and paper is patient.