Category Archives: Linklove

Blaugust 2016 Review

You know the old blogger saying: I was gonna write more but then life happened. There are at least another six topics I’ve been meaning to tackle this Blaugust but I’ve enjoyed myself nonetheless. The goal I initially set for myself was a month of non-gaming related and more personal blogging which proved to be more challenging than I expected. I’ve been an MMO blogger for over 6 years now and I didn’t even mention where I live for the first three, let alone share more intimate details or real life pictures. I guess I’ve gotten more comfortable in our blogosphere “neighborhood” over time (only very few of you bite!) and I’ve also come to see the value of sharing certain things that go beyond in-game diaries and MMO screenshots. In summary, my blaugust posts of this year:

As always I give thanks to everyone who commented either on the blog or twitter, or shared a more personal story of their own! I believe I will continue writing more off-topic articles in the future, although I will likely start using my Medium profile for that in case you wanna add me or follow me there.

And now, big congratulations to all the new and returning Blaugust attendees this year, especially those who went for the 31-days of blogging achievement!

This year’s list of blogs in alphabetical order:

Thanks Bel for keeping tabs and coming up with a super relaxed edition for Blaugust 2016 – I believe this made it easier for a lot of people to participate in the fun! Let’s do it again next year!

Overwatch Blogosphere Impressions

Now that the Overwatch open beta has ended, more of the blogosphere’s fine folks have chimed in to give their personal impressions. Having written a fairly positive review myself, it’s always interesting to see where others fall on the approval spectrum, so here’s an overview of the articles I’ve read so far:

While mileage varies here and there, I think there’s a consensus at the moment where Overwatch’s depth is concerned; it is a fun game to get into and for now, matches are very quick. This is something I like about it and I’d say team FPS generally aren’t the deepest genre to begin with but still, the question of longevity is a fair one. This being a Blizzard title however, I don’t see Overwatch remain in it’s current state for long. I expect more game modes to be added very soon (like the mandatory capture-the-flag), maybe with larger maps for one thing. Blizzard aren’t known to launch games and then treat them with negligence – we can expect more to come and I do look forward to Overwatch becoming “meatier”.

Overwatch Blogosphere Impressions

This is why I don’t pug a lot.

Pricing is another popular topic and I do agree that 40$ are fairly steep for what Overwatch currently has to offer. Naturally, there is a very long reddit discussion on this topic which only comes to show once more how differently different players regard their gaming investments. I think 40$ would’ve been more widely accepted if the game launched with more than just three modes and no intention to charge extra for special skins. At this point, Blizzard still haven’t finalized whether the ingame currency you gain from achievements will also be available for RMT. If so, it’s not gonna go down well considering Overwatch is b2p but likewise, the current random lootbox system isn’t very motivating to the average player. Am really interested to see how they address this particular issue for launch. And please, nerf that Genji Dragon!

Recap: Playing Alone Together

After a somewhat contrite tweet of mine asking why anyone wants to play MMOs only ever to run solo (although I did not specify this very well), my twitter started buzzing with different reactions ranging from introvert personality to time management issues and maybe most popularly “having other people around you for feeling”. One tongue-in-cheek reply suggested other people were the better NPC AI.

The question is obviously close to the dilemma many of us are feeling towards MMOs nowadays, and it spurred two excellent elaborations by Wolfy and Gracie who can identify with the soloing aspect. Naturally so can I and if you’ve been following this blog in more recent times, you will remember me rambling on about how, as aging players, we probably have to accept that many MMOs won’t accommodate our busy schedules and unpredictable game time. There is a younger voice inside of me who judges the slacker I have become; 12 years ago I would have hated being guilded with myself. Actually, I wouldn’t have accepted myself as an applicant. “You want community, people to be around with, learn from, progress with? Put in some goddamn effort!” That’s me. Even as a much more casual player these days, I will not expect MMOs to go all solo-friendly and it vexes me to hear others demand it should be so, as if that affected nothing.

The thing about community and cooperation is that it only thrives as much as people are willing to actively partake. That doesn’t mean you have to group up or socialize around the clock in MMOs, far from it, but it requires a degree of willingness to contribute more regularly. Playstyle variety is fine, pottering by yourself is too – MMOs would be horrid business if soloing was no option whatsoever. And yet when it comes down to it, the soul of the MMO experience has and always will lie in the cooperative aspects for me personally. It’s what sets the genre apart from so many others. I know a blogger or two like Bhagpuss who would vehemently disagree on this point with me. That spares them my particular torment.

To play MMOs only ever to see people run around you that aren’t quite as scripted as NPCs sounds like a dreadful reduction of social engagement to mere window dressing. Does this experience really offer so much more than big-world RPGs such as Skyrim or The Witcher 3 would? Or is it maybe just a shadow of a memory now, a mere habit to log into MMO worlds to solo when you could be soloing anywhere? To turn your back completely on the MMO genre is tough for anyone who has loved it. Keeping at least half a foot in the door means you’re not quite gone, still a part.

I am not judging that and I am hardly innocent; I am however very torn about going against the very thing that defines MMOs for me by mostly soloing and not contributing to server culture and community much. One could take the unadorned and sober stance that as long as I’m the paying customer, I can do and demand whatever I want from my MMO time and of course I can. I can also open the goose’s belly to see if there’s more gold inside but alas, that’s when all the magic’s gone. As much as I love exploring my virtual settings, the music and character progress, MMOs come alive when that unscripted, genuine social magic is happening. I doubt that I can ever stop chasing that.

MMO Regrets Round-Up [#Blaugust 28]

This was gonna be part of a final recap post for blaugust but I realized I already have other topics coming up for the next three days and oh my, then the month is already over – can you believe it?

One of my blogging prompts for this mad ride of blaugust was MMO regrets. I am generally not much into remorse in my private life and I have little tolerance for the type of gamer scorn that follows bad MMO breakups. As commented on one of Braxwolf’s posts recently, the easiest way to have a life without regrets is not to regret anything. That seems like a well-duh thing to say but at a second and third glance, that line becomes more powerful.

When it comes to my time inside MMO worlds however and especially online communities, there’s a thing or two that’s left a bitter after-taste in my mouth. Not an all-encompassing grief or anything but a smear on that picture nonetheless. I think MMO regrets are a pretty fascinating topic because rarely do players invest as much (in many different ways) as they do in this genre. And indeed, there’s a lot of company when  it comes to this topic:

I’ve a feeling there were more but blaugust is hard to keep track of, especially when you don’t get pinged directly. If I missed anyone or if you’re yet to post on this topic, let me know so I can add ya!

Blogroll Updates! (#Blaugust 2)

As my second act of #Blaugust, I am in the process of re-viewing and rejuvenating the blogroll. While I’ve never had the world’s shortest blogroll, I have always kept a well-tended list of handpicked blogs on my sidebar since my blogroll is also really my personal reader.

blogroll luv

Love your blogroll!

As part of the NBI in 2013, I wrote a longer post on how I handle my blogroll and why I think it’s an important feature for anyone looking to engage with blogging communities. As an MMO blogger, you’re part of a niche inside the greater gaming world and most of us don’t thrive in a vacuum. Besides giving you a chance to promote other blogs or identify with a subset of bloggers, a blogroll is about exchange. With that in mind, I seek out blogs that align with my thematic interests but are also run by writers that approach their blogging in ways I can respect or admire. If you’re by any chance still somewhat new to blogging and setting up your page, my advice is still the same: run a blogroll. Decide what you want from it, be patient when it comes to other bloggers adding you to theirs and don’t take it too seriously/personally, either.

According to the latest blaugust update no less than 77 blogs have signed up, so I am still in the process of browsing and getting to know “new” bloggers. For some early blaugust linklove, I like to highlight the following recent additions to my blogroll:

If you’re currently reviewing your blogroll thanks to blaugust, share the love on your blog and let others know when you add them!

MMO Heartbreak

This Tuesday Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full revisited the topic of MMO fatigue or rather I would call it disenchantment, that phenomenon all of us who have played in virtual worlds for a while, know so well and keep wrestling with. It is a well-argued post beautifully written and full of heartbreak by one of my favourite (and most prolific) writers of the blogosphere. If you do not follow Bhag yet, now’s the time to amend that. His words rang wistfully in my ears for the rest of the day. To highlight just a few of them:

 I used to abandon plans just because I saw someone having a tough time. They wouldn’t even need to be asking for help. I knew things and I wanted to share. I had a Chipped Bone Rod and I knew how to use it and what’s more I knew where to take you so you could buy one too. I knew how to get to the sewers under Qeynos and I knew how to get out the other side. I knew barbarians couldn’t see in the dark, while my half-elf had infravision, and even though I’d only just met you I trusted you to give me back my Greater Lightstone at the end of the tunnel to Blackburrow because otherwise what were you going to do? Stay in Everfrost the rest of your life?

That was when we were all living a shared imaginary life in a shared imaginary world. Before we all started playing games. How long did that last, really? That it took years to wind down to an ending is maybe the most amazing thing of all.

And we miss it so much. Perhaps that’s why we chase every new game almost before it appears, hoping we’ll catch the unicorn by the tail and swing back astride before it vanishes around the corner, yet again. All we get are a few strands of silver that quickly lose their shine or, worse, a thumping kick, a humiliating stumble, a painful fall.
[Read the full article here]

The waning star of the magical MMO experience, we have all felt its decline. The more veteran the player, the keener that sting becomes over time. We wonder whether it’s us or the games or everyone, we lament how all things change and people move on, yes the good ones too. I’m with Bhagpuss in acknowledging such a thing as unique collective experiences in time that cannot be reproduced. There is a singular nostalgia reserved for members of the first hour. I do however hold the conviction that there will always be new and great games for somebody.

Each time I think of WoW, I’m so so glad I was there for vanilla. And yeah, TBC was good too and WotLK was great in places; but we were there when the days were young, with all paths wondrous and new and everyone in the same boat of “whoa”. If you missed vanilla, I’m sorry, what can I tell you – you missed the 60ies, friend. [source]

rainb

Still finding rainbows.

Once we have moved past the age of wonder, we may become more self-complacent or demanding or cynical. Yet, magic is still to be had in MMOs for the travel-worn; it is in fleeting moments, in unexpected kindnesses and starry night skies where fireflies roam. Bhagpuss laments the transition of the MMO “world experience” to just MMO gaming, and I am right there with him, but then what is life really if not a never-ending quest for moments of happiness and joy amongst the struggles and demands? We grow up in MMOs the same way we grow up in real life; at some point without notice or warning, our toys stop holding a life of their own. The magic’s gone and we can’t quite say why and when we outgrew them. No toy, no matter how new, can fully bring us back.

But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren’t the same.

I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse’s Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled.  I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience. [Hyperbole and a Half]

Today it may be smaller things that charm me in MMOs, rather than dramatic social experiences. My mind is less overwhelmed by novelty but more appreciative of details. And I don’t race to a promise of endgame because I’d really rather not die just yet. Maybe all that means is that my mind has matured and I am closer to a world simulation after all, rather than just playing a game.

Wot I Read: A New Golden Age of Videogaming

“Wot I Read” is a new category on MMO Gypsy because I needed another one! This is where I spotlight smart stuff written elsewhere and that needs to be passed on to my fellow bloggers and readers!

wotiread02

One of the very few online mags I read regularly on all things life, politics and culture, is the Montreal-founded VICE network which among many other things, features outstanding (sometimes highly risky) independent journalistic work in the field of video news reporting and cultural series on their youtube channel. While not dedicated to gaming in a big way, the Tech section of VICE regularly delivers commentary to popular events happening in the world of videogames, as well as musings on meta topics or the industry as a whole.

In the wake of the new year, videogame columnist Mike Diver whom I have come to appreciate greatly for past articles such as “The Importance of Aimlessness in Gaming” (yes!), shared his optimistic view of the industry’s future while putting our rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia under heavy scrutiny:

I’d argue that, right now, video games are at the cusp of a new transition, another positive shift in public perception. And that’s entirely down to the wonderful variety that the industry can offer to its audience—through myriad devices both games-exclusive and multipurpose, a fantastic array of game types and challenge levels to suit all. Gaming today is the healthiest it’s ever been, and if we’re going to assign the banner of “golden age” to any era in gaming history, now might be a good time to pin up the bunting and get a cake baked: 2015 could be amazing. [source: ‘We’re in the New Golden Age of Video Games’ by Mike Diver, VICE]

The entire article is a comprehensive and most earnest appreciation of this fantastic era of tech we live in. Needless to say I agree completely – gaming has never been more advanced and diverse than it is today, more widely accepted, independent or exciting in terms of technical possibilities. If there was ever a “golden age of video games” it is the one we live in right now and the one that is yet to come for future generations.

Games, in 2015, can and will mean many different things. Perhaps by the end of the year we’ll all be playing in blissful isolation, virtual reality headsets supplying all our sensory needs. Or we’ll be down the bar, playing Mario Kart between beers, a big screen showing competitive gaming after the soccer matches. But however we play this year, we should do so with eyes on the future. Mindless celebrations of dead technology will always hamstring the pursuit of new heights of artistry in an industry that, with the huge possibilities afforded by current hardware, is only limited by a lack of imagination. Dream golden dreams, and let’s leave the yellowing systems of our past where they belong: in the loft, beneath the guest bedding. [source: ‘We’re in the New Golden Age of Video Games’ by Mike Diver, VICE]

Other recent articles at VICE you might enjoy:

 

Blaugust News and the Gaming Questionnaire

The blogosphere has been busy blaugusting under Belghast’s lead, an event I have been absent from due to a very hectic August and final examinations upcoming next week. Not that I would ever have managed a daily posting schedule, anyway. There were more great things happening this month however, the birth of the 8bitkitchen among them – a brand new gamer foodies blog graciously set up by Liore, so the blogosphere has a place to blog collaboratively about the foods they enjoy cooking and eating (welcoming more recruits!). I am loving this, also for its insight into fellow bloggers’ lives and our cultural diversity that we don’t necessarily get from MMO-related blogging. Needless to say, this should totally be on your reader / twitter feed!

More recently, a couple of podcasters from the blogosphere have started discussing a shared directory, maybe even a future podcasting network. Roger has been so kind to set up an aggregated page of all the known podcast feeds for now, so if you’re into discovering new MMO/gaming related shows, check it out and let him know what’s missing!

This brings me to the Gaming Questionnaire, a shared topic by Jasyla which seems to have timed perfectly in with Blaugust and is a ton of fun to read through on other blogs. It is tangentially also something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, so in lieu of much else from me this month, I am embracing this challenge (with few omissions due to not having an answer)! As far as a more in-depth gamer bio goes, I’ve already talked quite a bit about mine on Gameskinny before, the focus of that interview being more narrow.

The Gaming Questionnaire

1. When did you start playing video games?
I started playing VGs in the early 80ies, the first console to hit our home being the ill-fated Intellivision around the time of the great videogame crash. An Atari ST and NES soon followed, so these would probably be my formative years and platforms.
2. What is the first game you remember playing?
Tough one. I don’t actually remember much of the games I played on Intellivision, so I’d rather go with my first ever favorite game on Atari ST, which was Mousetrap in 1987.
3. PC or Console?
I grew up with a lot of consoles and still own quite a few, SNES and PSone being favorites because RPGs. However with the coming of the MMO age, my platform of choice has become the PC and there’s no going back for me ever. I love connectivity, digital gaming and WASD.
4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
If I was actually buying next gen consoles, it would probably still be an XBOX (the 360 was awesome, ROD or not) – certainly never another Nintendo console. Wake up, Nintendo!
5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
Chrono Trigger. Duh.

ctgang

The best gang in the world.

6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
I tend to forget bad games and nowadays it’s so easy to avoid them. I remember really hating Vib Ribbon back when I bought it though.
7. What are your favourite game genres?
RPGs, MMOs, (Action-)Adventures, Sandbox / Building Sims, Survival, silly things
8. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
I don’t really have one. I like Chun-Li, Frog/Glenn, Kefka, Conker and Vivi even if they aren’t main protagonists. Okay, Conker is.
9. Describe your perfect video game.
The perfect game is a polished package with intriguing story, open world, memorable characters, dazzling music and overall aesthetics. And an immersion factor that manages to make me forget about dinner. So basically Skyrim.
10. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
I don’t develop crushes on fictional characters so much but I really like Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher series, which is testament to the authenticity and quality of the games. Geralt is more or less a typical, taciturn lone wolf protagonist but the maturity level and atmosphere of Witcher2, paired with fabulous character design and an amazing voice-over (I have a thing for low voices à la Alan Rickman) make him incredibly attractive and intriguing a character to me that is also well developed story-wise.

geralt

Hot hot hot! :oops:

11. What game has the best music?
Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy 7-11, Xenogears, Skyrim, Fable, Lineage 2, AION, WoW, GW2 and many more. I follow composers more so than titles or franchises, so I’d have to mention Mitsuda, Uematsu, Elfman, Soule, Zur, Hayes, Kurtenacker and C. Thomas to name a few.
12. Most memorable moment in a game:
I will never forget the descent of Sephiroth in the final battle of FF7, mostly because of One-Winged Angel.
13. Scariest moment in a game:
I scare easily which is why I don’t play horror games. One of the coolest scares I remember was Psycho Mantis making my PSone controller “hover” over our carpet floor. Long live MGS and rumble packs!
14. What are your favorite websites/blogs about games?
Anyone that’s on my blogroll. I don’t really follow any more mainstream gaming websites due to lack of transparency. My best references for picking and recommending games have always been friends.
15. What’s the last game you finished?
The Wolf Among Us.
16. What future releases are you most excited about?
Witcher 3, Everquest Next, Dragon Age Inquisition, Destiny, The Division, Tales from the Borderlands
17. Do you identify as a gamer?
Absolutely.
18. Why do you play video games?
Immersion, escapism, art, challenge, entertainment, team work, creativity, inspiration, community. And because nothing else will satisfy my rampant imagination.

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!

The big NBI Poetry Slam round-up: It’s Magic!

The month of May has come and gone, fraught with MMO news, more and less happy launches and controversial interviews depending on where you focused your attention. Some players are coming to terms with the status quo of The Elder Scrolls Online while others have spent that time exploring the beginnings of ArchAge or getting hyped for Wildstar, newest kid on the block. Others yet have come to the conclusion that they probably won’t be ordering Warlords of Draenor after all.

This busy month of May was also dedicated to the third Newbie Blogger Initiative of the MMO blogosphere and many bloggers, new and old, have rallied to Doone’s call once more, running events or contributing in other excellent ways.

It so happens that MMO blogging is here to stay; 47 newbie bloggers have signed up this year so take a moment to compare your blogroll against this list here!

The big NBI Poetry Slam round-up

The second MMO poetry slam came with a topic dear to our hearts: magic. The magic of a perfect moment, the magical lands we travel in MMOs, the power of magic that runs through a caster’s veins. As colorful and diverse as the theme, as varied and inspiring were the responses from the blogosphere. A stunning total of 16 bloggers rose to the challenge, sharing their beautiful prose, classy rhymes or not-so-serious limericks. Without further ado, let me share this year’s MMO poets in no particular order:

I want to thank each and all contributors for their amazing work and courage to test the creative waters of MMO blogging, as well as everyone who has supported this merry little event in other ways. You are what makes our little niche community this lively and engaging place full of interaction and exchange for me. I apologize in advance if I have missed anyone’s poetry entry – please let me know per mail or via comments so I can still add you to the list!

With that, I almost want to wish everyone a sunny, lyrical start of June and beginning of summer! There’s just one more thing I need to do.

Last but hopefully not least: My Poetry Slam entry

The reason why I chose the topic of magic for this year’s NBI was partly a selfish one: for a while now I have stared at my favorite MMO screenshots on my desktop wallpaper and mused on how to approach them best in verse. I always play casters or healers in MMOs which is a big part of their fascination for me. There is beauty in magic, power and mystery and so it’s no wonder maybe that some of the best screenshots I ever took (and I have taken so many) display magic in progress. And thus, in the spirit of rather late than never, I share my own humble NBI poem with you.

The Magic that I work

The magic that I work
it knows no name;
it is a gift of light,
a child of flame.

The magic that I call
is mine by right;
it is a beacon
in the depths of night.

The magic that I wield
is born of rage;
it is a token
of a fading age.

The magic that I weave
it guards my own;
it is a servant
to my will alone.