Category Archives: Nostalgia

Off-Topic: The Day Books went away

There used to be a time when all my free moments were filled with reading trilogies, quintets and even septets of books. Whatever great new fantasy series came in sight, I got them. Alternatively, classics and poetry in German and English. On weekends, a book a day wasn’t a rare occasion. I’d get one-volume editions for everything too, monstrous tomes I’d carry around with me to Uni every day while commuting. Two thirds of the space in my student flea bag were taken up by whatever novel I was reading at the time – and don’t even try talking to me in the train or bus compartment!

I needed books, studied books, books were all around me. While I was living off cornflakes and instant noodles, I spent whatever money I had left after rent and food on collector’s editions and illustrated novels. I was (and am) cheap about almost every other expense in my life but never literature. There is inherent value in words put down for eternity.

I have barely read 10 books this entire year of 2015, I can’t even remember. Half of them must’ve been short story collections, too. The year before was even worse than that. I blame game-related activities such as blogging, podcasting and twitter taking over the past decade, yet it’s not like I am not also keeping up with other media like TV shows. And so I marvel – what ever has happened to me and books? My evergreens and favourites are still neatly arranged on many a shelf on my walls, so why is it so hard for new series to pique my interest? Why do I feel so burnt out and more of the same?

It’s like books take too much effort now, starting with how to pick one. Have I become one of those instant gratification kids that don’t have the attention span for literature anymore and only consume visual or narrated media?? What a dreadful thought!

Lovely wonderful books, I miss you…. :(

Now not so never-ending...

Now not so never-ending…

P.S. Yes, two off-topic posts in a row! I must be outgrowing game blogging now too! *panic*

[FFXIV] A special Heavensward Tribute

I am in love with Eorzea; the snowy lands beyond Coerthas, the forests of the Black Shroud, the windmills of La Noscea. The sense of scale and immersion created in the zones of FFXIV are only matched by LOTRO. And some of them are unrivaled entirely. I didn’t expect to ever find a “go-to MMO” again after WoW, a game that I will log on to after an exhausting day just to unwind and find comfort in its world. FFXIV is that for me.

My journey through Heavensward has been rather wonderful up to this point, both in terms of traveling around as well as following the engaging storyline. I have taken around 900 screenshots of this expansion alone. There are so many favorites that I decided just picking a few and uploading them somewhere won’t do – this time, I’ll showcase them a little differently than usual.

Slideshow clips aren’t my favorite thing on youtube but in this case I felt it was a perfect way of arranging and uploading quite a lot of screenshots that are also tied together storywise and for the most part, in chronological order from lvl 50-60. For those who aren’t playing FFXIV or haven’t been to Heavensward just yet, my tribute will be less meaningful than for me maybe and other HW players. I get incredibly sentimental watching clips like this but I hope it can serve as a worthy teaser too for someone who’s never been to Eorzea, showing them a few of the most wonderful moments and sceneries to be encountered in this MMO. Enjoy!

P.S. Yes, I like my dragons, what can I say!

Down Memory Lane Blogging Bonanza! My Bestest Posts

Blaugust is over and I am already blogging again – what is this madness??

One of my prompts I didn’t get back to in August was a sort of memory lane thing where I’d browse my own blog for my top 3 to 5 favorite articles of all time. Seeing how more bloggers have done similar lately and also Murf telling me about his blogging bonanza for MMOgames, I thought this could be a fun if not entirely easy thing to do.

What are top posts anyway? Are they our personal favorites or our most popular posts? The ones with the most hits or the most comments? I guess that depends on who you are as a blogger. For me, my best posts are those that stand the test of time and where I feel I was being particularly insightful or well-spoken. I can already tell you that my most-ever visited post on both mmogypsy.com and raging-monkeys.blogspot.com (for those who don’t know my former url) was this guide on Skyrim clothing. Yes really, over 161’000 hits on a guide with some pictures that no one else had uploaded at the time (and which are now offline due to me losing the old webspace). That’s a third of my all time hits on the old blog. It took two major tumblr and pinterest re-blogs to spiral matters out of control.

See, this is why I really don’t give a big toss about stats – they are completely out of order. If you ever posted a guide on anything particularly popular, such as WoW or other bigger titles, you’ll understand. Stats have no meaning toward my enjoyment in writing and not even toward more sought-after things like content quality or popularity (not a personal one anyway). I enjoy interactions and great discussions, not even just the number of comments but the quality; my most ever commented on post was one ravaged by a troll. Who wants that?

Anywho, without further ado I present to you some of my alltime favorite posts from the last 5 years on this here blog in no particular order, chosen because they still stir something inside of me, make me care and resonated with others too. Maybe also, because I feel they represent me most as a person, blogger and MMO player.

1) Holding on to your Escapism

“When less informed people talk about game-related escapism (for that still seems to be less established than the literary form), they only ever focus on the escape; the negative distancing, the social estrangement. Hardly ever do they understand that when we do, when we need to, we escape to a better place – maybe to the only, currently right place in our life. That it’s only there where we find shelter, safety and peace of mind. For a little while. And that it may save us from something. That it gives us hope.”

2) The Deathbed Fallacy. Or: Spare me your Gamer’s Remorse, Thank you!

“….but spare me and the rest of the happily ever after gaming crowd. Spare me the underachiever complex and lamentation of failed grandeur which you so graciously bestow on everyone around you in one sweeping, condescending blow of rotten hindsight wisdom. I think videogames are fucking great – they have been for the past 28 years of my life!”

3) What the Players want – Who can say?

“”What the players wanted” and any variation thereof is a commonly used phrase and reaction to MMO design, more often MMO design changes, that vexes me on a personal level. And oh, I have done it myself: how many times did I not do the “now reap what you sowed! (and I hope you suffocate on it)” fist-shake in gloomy retrospective whenever WoW changed for the worse over the years since 2004, in my very personal opinion? In a less considerate moment I’d love to blame all of you out there who are still playing for the state of the game. You ruined WoW for me or something.”

4) Achievement Hate, Exploration and Mystery

“The epic quest of kill ten rats has humble beginnings. Once upon a time the explorers of virtual worlds received hardly a hint of where to go or what to do but such are not the times we live in. Those who embarked on this journey before Blizzard’s time will remember that era of glorious uncertainty but early WoW players too, know how considerably the questing experience has changed over the course of a decade. The “kill ten rats” of yore and the “kill ten rats” of today have precious little in common.”

5) Placeholders for Real Things, Shortcuts to Nowhere

“Many good things in life, surprises and chance encounters happen while we’re not on plan, not on time. They happen while we’re waiting. They happen on the side of a winding road. They happen because we got distracted and our eyes weren’t fixed on one point in the distance. Maybe “timesinks” are where life really happens.

If we remove all the “unnecessary detours” in games that people consider a nuisance, what exactly are we “saving and optimizing ” that time for? When you arrive faster at treasure and glory, where do you go from there? And just how much have you missed on that shorter journey?”

(P.S. I suck at title capitalization.)

Lamenting Cover Art [#Blaugust 27]

Coming across an amazing Castlevania cover the other day on twitter, it hit me how much I miss the old game covers for videogames. I remember how we revered those boxes of nes and snes titles in the early days – how bold and colorful and over-the-top epic many of them were!

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What happened? Okay, for one we entered the digital age of gaming. I admit I don’t miss the dust settling on rows of physical game copies. Still, I appreciate great concept art for games, posters, teasers, thumbnails in my Steam gallery. There’s no reason why digital gaming should go coverless, is there? Elaborate covers are a chance to tell a story within mere seconds. Like a main theme, they can sell a promise and herald things to come. They are someone’s vision of what the game should be, could be. They are distilled like poetry.

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Do not even attempt to compare this to WoW cover art.

But who has time for poetry these days?

My Favorite MMO that I’m not playing (#Blaugust 5)

This post is the first in a two-part series for Blaugust 2015. Check out tomorrow’s sequel on “MMOs we don’t like but never played”!

The trouble with MMORPGs is that player engagement tends to be mutually exclusive of other titles. Many of us cannot or do not want to invest in more than one MMO longterm nor do we wish to pay for several subscriptions simultaneously. I have found a mixture of one sub-MMO and one b2p/f2p-MMO to be quite enjoyable in the past, especially when two titles really complement each other well but truthfully, I still long to immerse myself as much as possible into that one game.

That also means sooner or later, we have to leave some MMOs behind and they’re not always games we disliked or got bored of. Sometimes our timing just wasn’t right and we were late to the party. Sometimes we miss the community from other MMOs or we just can’t put up with a single but essential aspect, such as the graphics.

Gone but never forgotten.

My absolute favorite MMORPG that I am not playing anymore is LOTRO. In fact, I would go as far as naming LOTRO among my top 5 MMOs of all time. Possibly even top 3. I came late to LOTRO in 2013, joining the inofficial EU RP server Laurelin. I stuck to it for about 6 months, joined a fellowship, did all the content up to Moria and the dreaded mid-40ies EXP grind. The world blew my mind and remains one of my favorite virtual places to this day. For all its flaws and oldschoolness, LOTRO excels in immersion, world building/feeling and travel, one of the most precious and precarious things to capture in MMOs.

I’ve written about the music and sound effects as part of this accomplishment as well as the significance of scale or realistic armor design. It’s the subtle things that create immersion in MMOs. Other than that, Middle-Earth is just one heck of a beautiful place to visit and enjoy the turning of the seasons (between zones) and the fading light at dusk.

In the end I felt lonely; after leaving my longtime WoW community, I was unable to reconnect with people in my subsequent MMO attempts. LOTRO is not the most beginner-friendly game either. Soon I was overwhelmed by different types of grind while also really disliking the slow, stationary combat.

But I will never forget my time playing and listening to music in the Prancing Pony, the claustrophobia of the Old Forest before finding Tom Bombadil or the sound of my horse’s clippity clop over Bree’s merry cobblestrone streets. Some moments in MMOs are forever, no matter if we stick with a game or not.

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]

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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.

Treasures of Draenor

It’s about the little things. It always has been. Whether it was finding Sheddle Glossgleam in Dalaran for shiny shoes or so many other secrets in World of Warcraft safely hidden away. Draenor is a beautiful world with its long leaves of grass moving in the wind and snowflakes swirling across the plains of Frostfire Ridge. There is more treasure to find these days than ever, with a map for achievers or without for the more exploratively inclined who’d like to think the world an endless place of mystery.

secrets

And then there’s the secrets. The things only found by chance that someone had to come across, maybe on an errand or erring with nothing in particular on their mind. I love early expansions; between exclamation marks I’ll make time to follow the footprints in the snow, climb a mountain, swim out to the sea. Or levitate, rather. That’s how I came across and island to the southernmost edge of Nagrand and on that island there was a path leading up to something –

robinwilliamstribute

It’s the little things – an odd scenery where you least expect it, mementos thrown away, curious and without explanation. Finding a magic lamp hidden in the grass right next to them, letting you activate whatever is stored inside. Maybe a cloud of dust, a string of words long forgotten or a dark spell? Or a wink from far away, a well-known phrase by a genie called Robin.

Maybe a wish that some things could be preserved forever when memories are all that remain. Life is a treasure. Happy weekend everybody.

Returning to WoW: Everything is the same, everything is different

It is a mixed bag of feelings going back to an MMO you convinced yourself never to return to for lack of better judgement. An MMO you once called home and then were absent from for three years, maybe looking for closure. When I played WoW between 2004 and 2010, I did like so many of us in our mid-twenties, with passion and zeal and an exclusive all-or-nothing attitude. All or nothing, that also means quitting when you feel things ain’t going your way any longer.

Warlords of Draenor is nothing I had planned on; that too was a mixed bag of spontaneous curiosity, lack of content in new MMOs like Wildstar and winter is coming. And I made it very clear to myself: This time around, it will be about me taking my time re-discovering Azeroth in peace. I will sub for one month and find out if I still like this, no pressure. I will enjoy running around incognito after all this time, minding my own business.

Or something.

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Where do I go from here?

Everything is the same
WoD was off to a rocky start with DDoS attacks and massive server queues (how very vanilla!) making it impossible for many players to log in during the first week. After I spent launch day re-installing the game, it took another day before I managed briefly to log in for the first time in three years, finding my character standing in front of the Dark Portal, lagging horribly. After ten seconds of being unable to move like this, I got my first whisper from a very old guild mate from vanilla WoW: “SYL!”.

I disconnected right away. My game wasn’t stable and I really didn’t expect to be discovered so early into my return. But this is how it’s always been on my server – those who have been on Stormrage since 2004, the early guilds and raiders, they remember each other. And so many have come back for Draenor, it is bewildering. My friendlist shows names online I had never expected to read again. Already I find myself guilded once more in the very same raidguild I helped build in vanilla WoW, with almost its entire core and founding team back. A decade later it’s as if no time had passed at all. Sure, everyone’s gotten a bit older, some are married now and some have kids or better jobs. Everyone definitely agrees they won’t be raiding ever again but there’s much else to be enjoyed nowadays.

The player base has aged and so have Blizzard with them. Yet, on the surface everything about WoW feels and looks exactly as before. I spent my first week in Draenor getting used to and then charmed by the beauty of its dated graphics (especially in the old world) and cringing over its messy, gargantuan UI that has been so aptly compared to the old “Weasley’s house” in a conversation between Rowanblaze and Belghast. After I discovered void storage in combination with transmogging, I wasted another day on costumes until I finally felt prepared to see the world, which is why I ran straight into Elwynn Forest, love of my life. To my delight, it was not deserted and not any of the old zones I went to visit from there were either – Duskwood, Redridge, Burning Steppes, everywhere I went I saw players. After 10 years, there is still life in these old zones, I have no idea how that works.

As is tradition, I went to pay Ragnaros and Illidan my respects and announced my coming. They still dropped hunter loot mostly, so nothing has changed in that respect either. Even on the auction house, the same items that used to be expensive in vanilla are still on top of the list today (who would buy a Burning Brightwood Staff today is beyond me but I still want that blasted Greenwing Macaw!). So far, so familiar.

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Draenor is beautiful.

Everything is different
In their mushy Looking for Group documentary from this Blizzcon 2014, which has played no small part in bringing more WoW veterans back to Draenor, Chris Metzen talks about how WoW really has always been about two entities – the world and the player, and he couldn’t be more correct. The successes of this MMO are as much thanks to developers trusting their instincts as to a very passionate and creative player base that has an undying love for Azeroth. This huge and rich canvas of a world with its plethora of maps and music has been such a welcoming and ever more accessible home to players of every color and creed for years.

All the while, Blizzard have continued to re-invent themselves and I believe this is the secret of WoW’s long lasting success. With every expansion, they pushed further to offer something new to more people without dismissing the hard core entirely. Comparing WoD today to when I left three years ago, I can confirm that WoW is a changed game in so many ways, trying to keep up with increased standards, never daring to rest on its laurels. This is apparent in today’s casual and solo-friendly approach to grouping, dungeons and raids for one thing, with flexraids and bronze, silver and gold heroics. It’s the democratic spread of loot and gear models, combined with all the tier look-alikes available. It’s adding small stuff like treasure hunting similar (but more involved) to Rift, jumping puzzles like in GW2, pet battles à la Pokémon and a pseudo-housing system with private nodes, the way Wildstar has them (only in WoW, the Garrison is actually a lot more useful). The talent system has been simplified to match modern MMOs with more minimal action bars and while quests and loot aren’t FFA, important quest mobs are shared nowadays.

All of these changes and additions make WoW not just one of the most approachable MMOs today but the richest in terms of content diversity. Draenor is the pinnacle of that philosophy: jump in right away as a level 90 character, learn basic skills and talents from scratch by playing through the intro scenario (which for once ain’t in a cave!). Get some money and bags to start with and oh, we also boosted your professions so you can join for all these new quests! As for the Garrison, it might be the first example of useful ‘player housing’ with meaningful choices in over a decade.

The genius of Blizzard
In a competitive industry as this, Blizzard’s achievements are really twofold:

  1. Making a niche genre more accessible and creating their own faithful player base in the process.
  2. Continuously re-inventing themselves rather than resting on the laurels of vanilla WoW.

Some will say this is the mark of smart decision making and market observation over at Blizzard. However and without denying the aforementioned, another more simple answer also lies in the Looking for Group documentary where an aging core of lead designers and developers is still creating for a game “they themselves would like to play”, more casually now than in their late twenties. More mature too, giving more thoughts to their diverse target audience than before. It’s not just the players in WoW that have grown older.

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And so it’s the greatest irony of all that, while so many MMO developers raced to emulate what was essentially vanilla WoW’s successes, Blizzard themselves moved on and branched out, leaving their past to others. According to the latest news WoW is back to 10 million subscribers, something that is difficult to swallow when new and shiny titles like Wildstar are struggling to maintain an audience. But who is to compete with a ten-year old AAA-fantasy themed MMO this rich and loaded on diverse content? Comparing other titles to WoW is never fair.

To be continued
As for me and Draenor, two weeks in I admit that I am charmed once more by the world of Warcraft – more patiently this time, more laidback and happy to smell the roses on the way. There is so much to do and learn for me after three years and I am not rushed to get anywhere with anyone. Most of all, this explorer is enjoying the vistas of Draenor (and there are so many beautiful ones nowadays) and a soundtrack so reminiscent of our vanilla days. Yes, for now I believe I do like this again and that is all that matters.

Your last MMO ever and the Troubles of Aging together

I am a 30+ MMO player with a history. I don’t speak for all 30+ MMO players with a history. This post is about many things at once.

Not too long ago I had an interesting discussion with an old gaming buddy reflecting much of the current MMO malaise that seems to have struck several bloggers around the blogosphere lately. The most memorable statement in our conversation was this: “Wildstar is going to be my last MMO” – something that I’ve heard several times now and keep reading on the official forums. Clearly MMO culture is in a phase of re-evaluation both on a personal level and otherwise.

On the surface, such final player declarations appear singularly odd and certainly unique to the genre; never would you hear anyone say “this is going to be my last RTS ever” or any variation thereof. Why would anyone make plans for their last MMO ever?

Of course the answer is simple for those among us who have been there – played MMOs, breathed MMOs, lived inside the same MMO for years. This genre is not like other genres and neither is its commitment. Players are passionate about their character progression, their guilds, their dramatic quitting gestures. And sure, there are exceptions to the rule, players content to solo and never invest in any type of cooperative endgame. Yet, there is still a consensus, spoken or unspoken by developers too, that the heart of the MMO experience lies in cooperative multiplay. A big chunk of content gets created entirely for this reason, for better or worse.

And multiplay takes extra time, in fact not just when you’re in the middle of it but way in advance. Looking for guilds, spending time getting to know a community, working around timezones and schedules in order to group up and advance together, that’s a type of effort that asks for special dedication. For the more fatalistic among us that don’t do casual solo even when they aren’t hardcore, this also means the decision to jump into a new MMO is one that must be carefully considered. There is no time to waste or something, it’s either all or nothing.

All of this resonates with me given my early WoW history. However, there are times when I wonder if it’s really such a good thing to make one’s own happiness so dependent on other people (it’s not like that ever works out in real life). I love the cooperative aspect of MMOs but they are also virtual worlds, canvases of beauty I’d like to travel and explore. The older I get, the more there is compromise to my own time spent in games. O tempora, o mores, I guess.

The Troubles of Aging together

That said, I’m a player who is still counting on social ties for longterm dedication and so many times since WoW have I been flustered about MMOs not bringing back the “good old times”. Of course there’s a pattern here; you’ll never hear an early player talk about the good old times because there are no such times (yet) to make flawed, subjective comparisons to.

The only reason I’m probably still playing Wildstar every night and enjoying it immensely is social environment. I’d still be paying a sub and exploring the maps of the Nexus but as a solo player or member of a dwindling group of peers, I would never have bothered to acquire the Genesis Key, step one of the attunement of doom. Wildstar might actually be another MMO on the shelf already, as it is for others that used to be more excited for launch than myself. I’m still in though and wondering about the reasons, knowing at least half of the answer:

I started playing Wildstar with three old WoW buddies of mine, all of which have drastically changed weekly schedules now that they’re in their 30ies rather than early 20ies. So do I, despite all of my personal time still being my own. I am not 23 anymore, I need more sleep than I used to (it’s true and I hate it), I don’t do rushed PC dinners any longer and I have no wish to be in charge of anything or anyone else than my virtual self when online. I’m still looking to be a regular in an efficient and fun guild though, one that manages to balance the hardcore casual for lack of a better word.

Facing the fact that a group of ex-WoW raiders now all in their early thirties don’t stand a chance lasting in Wildstar’s endgame (we’ve tried and failed before), I soon resolved that our small guild needed to move on and reinforce a bigger team run by fresh people full of “MMO-oomph”. It’s been the best decision possible both for my own enjoyment (and hopefully theirs too) and dedication to the game. More importantly maybe, hearing others talk about the game made me realize that MMOs are as new and wonderful as ever for players of another generation – the players we used to be ten years ago. In no way is Wildstar inferior to WoW when it comes to how it’s handling group content. Nothing has changed in that department – we have. The people around us, our original peers have.

Early MMO enthusiasm is contagious. So is dwindling enthusiasm.

Truthfully, every MMO since WoW was a game I tried to re-connect to together with my ever less active WoW buddies. You could say I’ve kept trying to recreate my old communities elsewhere, as so many of us do. A guild’s greatest virtue which is bonding with others, becomes it’s greatest peril in the long run when communities get so insular that there’s hardly room for new blood, not even across games.

Yet the more we kept to ourselves and didn’t mix, the faster we dwindled. It’s a downward spiral and it doesn’t work. Soon everyone’s frustrated that they can’t ever seem to get a full group for anything. Maybe somebody out there knows a critical mass of 35-year old MMO veterans that are mostly regulars but I do not – and you need a regular (slightly nutty) core to run a guild effectively. Now that I’m in a way more mixed guild with dedicated leadership, I feel completely boosted by their enthusiasm. Who are these people and why are they having so much fun? Oh wait, I used to!

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Luck and then some

There’s always an element of luck and timing involved when we start out in new games and looking for a new guild can be tough. I’d certainly call it a piece of luck to have chanced upon an active bunch of people with so similar a player ethos to my own. It would be amiss and incomplete however, not to try analyze things beyond luck.

Mingling with a wider age range aside, the choice of RP server and faction is probably crucial. On the only EU-RP server, Dominion side is a very calm and underpopulated place to be a Cassian, with dead zone chats and limited wares on the AH. My first instincts were calling it a bad choice when in fact, it’s the most beneficial thing to guild life. Players need their guild. Already this community feels tight-knit, the way it only happens in MMOs after launch rush is over and grasers have moved on. It’s the people who stay behind that you want to guild with.

And so maybe, it all comes down to this: staying behind and choosing to be part of a new, active community rather than maintaining an old one. Rolling on a cosy low-pop server. Sticking with that choice past launch rush. Not so different from ten years ago. We blame design a lot of the time when it comes down to frustrating social factors that ultimately, we’re both in control of and aren’t. Even if an MMO facilitates group play, and I believe Wildstar does, commitment remains a choice and unfortunately it’s not enough to make that decision yourself, you need others to make it with you. So maybe new blood is where the aging MMO player needs to start focusing his or her attention, if future gameplay experiences are meant to outlast a brief visit. I am guilty of having lived in the proverbial past.

For the Record

I love MMOs and I intend to play them for the foreseeable future. I believe that my generation of gamers especially, born in the 70ies and early 80ies, have an important and unique opportunity to be rolemodels for everyone else to come, doing away with gaming misconceptions and stigma. Yes, you can be an older gamer! No, gaming doesn’t have to stop at 30! If we can embrace ourselves and let go of the good old days in favor of new ones, new people and new experiences, there’s nothing to stop us from becoming the first gamers to happily make it to retirement (just think of all the free time!). Loving this place that is the MMO blogosphere, I hope to see you there.

Latecomers and MMO Citizenship

Back from a trip to the Adriatic coast in Italy which I spent idly hanging at the beach and enjoying their wonderful food, I have been catching up with blogging neighbours and my friends in Wildstar who have of course hit level 50 while I was away. My Esper is currently still at 40 without trying very hard, so I’m in no rush to get to any endgame or attunement questchain. I still haven’t done all the 5man dungeons in Wildstar and it generally seems difficult to find a group of people interested in running them before level cap. This strikes me as weird but is probably testament to Carbine not integrating the dungeons into the leveling process very well. I remember countless Stockades, Deadmines and Gnomeregan runs back as a WoW noob, then Maraudon, Sunken Temple and all the level 55-60 dungeons we would grind on our way to vanilla level cap.

Why are players nowadays skipping dungeons on their way to max level? I’ve experienced the same in GW2 too. Sure, these games will scale your toon and skills down to the appropriate level, still it never feels like the real deal to me running designated lowbie dungeons after hitting level cap. There’s that voice in the back of my head telling me I’m a dirty cheater.

On MMO Citizenship

Commenting on one of Wilhelm’s more recent articles on friends jumping into WoW almost 10 years into its life cycle, and remembering this tweet by Scarybooster, I realized (again) how important it is for me personally to get a chance to play MMOs at launch. I can live without alpha and beta “testing” honestly but I love the spirit and mass hysteria of launch week(-ends), no matter how plagued with bugs and annoyances. This is clearly the addictive phenomenon of shared collective experiences, as much as wishing to be among the first or being a member of the first hour. As clarified over at TAGN, I’d like to grow along with a game, I want to understand where it came from and where it’s going.

Every time Bhagpuss reminisces about the good old EQ times, which he does so well, I feel a bit sad having missed that particular train. A part of me briefly wonders if I should still visit today but no, I don’t think so. There’s simply no way to catch up, to acquire a reasonably deep understanding of EQ that I would personally seek as a player. It’s not just harder to connect to long established communities in MMOs – as someone interested in the design and mechanics of games, it’s an impossible amount of historical baggage to clear through. There is no ‘citizenship’ for someone jumping into EQ in 2014, not for a long time anyway.

eq

And then there’s the matter of dated graphics…(pcgamer.com)

This is something that I have experienced in LOTRO before and it’s partly a reason why I never made it to level cap (the other part being the mind numbing exp-grind which is daunting to solo). I was never a citizen of Middle Earth the way I would’ve been, automatically, as a launch player. I could’ve gotten there one day maybe, reaching a point where I felt comfortably established. All the same I would remain someone marveling at the veteran tales told in the Prancing Pony, never partaking in any.

Granted, games today make it easier for the late player to catch up and get boosted. All MMO business models rely on a steady stream of players over several years, not just a few months. I wouldn’t say you can’t jump into Wildstar months after launch with any noteable difference. At the same time, I draw a line somewhere around the one-year mark where joining new games is concerned. This is a purely personal choice; you can absolutely enjoy older MMOs, maybe you can even commit to them in the same way as veteran players and be entirely happy with your time in that new world, the way it is right then. I just know from experience that I couldn’t be.

I’m fine missing out on certain content or events happening in MMOs, missing an entire era of gameplay (or several) however feels like skipping the first book in an otherwise excellent fantasy trilogy. MMOs do their best to appear non-linear: they’re always accessible, repeatable, resettable. Yet there are also milestones and caesuras in our virtual worlds, game changers and evolving stories. It’s not all one big broken record so as long as I enjoy the tune, I’d like to listen to all of it.