Category Archives: MMOs

Answering the siren’s call

Beau Hindman’s siren songs have been playing seductively in my ears for years now.  For the record, he’s been singing them a long time.  In fact, he now sings them from the shores of Massively.  In case you haven’t heard, here’s the gist of what he likes to sing about:

When it comes to your gaming, slow down.  Don’t worry about your level.  Explore more.  Rely less on maps and fast travel.  Get into the experience.  Role-play it up a bit. 

I can’t tell you how appealing this play style sounds to me, and yet, the way I play couldn’t be more opposite.  

Unfortunately, the speed of life that bleeds into every facet of my existence dictates my play style.  As there is very little down time in my daily routine, I’m constantly aware of the time, where I need to be in the next half hour, what needs to get done before I move on to the next task.  And that’s how I tend to play my MMOs.  Where do I need to go next? Bee-lining from quest hub to quest hub.  What quests can I knock out there?  Are the XP and the quest rewards worth it? 

I wish I could check my real world baggage in at the door before entering my gamer’s mindset.  However, that’s usually not the case.  When I do find the time to game, I’m always aware of the time (and what little there is of it).  I constantly feel the need to make the most of it and that there’s not a moment to waste.  Sadly, exploration, following the story of a particular quest chain, and simply enjoying the experience of being in an online world all take a hit during these sessions.

In other words,  my gaming has become less of an escape and more of an extension of my real life.  And that’s not really what I want.

I would be lying though if I said I didn’t enjoy what I’m doing in game.  This treadmill approach to gaming has served me well for many years, and it keeps me logging in, that’s for sure.  The sense of accomplishment is intoxicating and quite fulfilling.  But here’s the catch: this constant grind is exactly what burns me out on a given game.  I simply can’t sustain the level of drive needed to keep it all going.  And before I know it, the bottom drops out.  I’ve lost the momentum and simply stop logging in.

So where does that leave me now?

At the very least I plan to make a concerted effort to slow things down, to take more time with the whole questing experience.   If that means taking a slower form of travel from time to time or resisting the urge to constantly check my map and XP bar, well then, so bit it.  Speaking of which, I wish MMOs would come with the option to hide your XP bar (not necessarily turn it off).  That would be a feature I would definitely take advantage of.  At the moment I’m leveling—err, adventuring through Middle-earth with a captain.  He’s staying in Rivendell but has plans to move north up into the MistyMountains to see if he can lend a hand to Gloin and his dwarven crew.  Adventure is yet another siren’s call I find difficult to ignore.

For the time being though, I’ll remain chained to the mast of continued leveling, quest grinding and chasing the armor upgrade prize.  And even if in the end I’m not successful in slowing things down, it’s still nice to know that there are players out there who have.

Thanks Beau.  Please keep the songs coming.

O captain, my captain

My green behind the ears hobbit warden.

I managed to reach level cap with my warden last week.  Being level capped is a relatively new phenomenon for me.  I’ve only pulled this off a handful of times in the past, most recently in Rift.  So I wasn’t very sure what I wanted to do next.  Seeing how I’m not much of one for fine tuning my end game characters, and knowing that the release of the next expansion, Riders of Rohan, was almost two months away, I knew my time with this character was coming to a close for now.  Over the past several days I’ve done my best to outfit him and get him as ready as possible for the expansion.  Because he is a woodworker I was able to craft him two Second Age legendary weapons: one spear and one javelin.  After spending some time leveling these up, choosing legacies, and slotting relics, I felt he was ready for a much-needed rest.

I, on the other hand, was not.  I began thinking of who I wanted to play next.

My hunter exploring the excellent Morian Water-works (another favorite zone of mine).

I have a level 58 hunter I could play.  He was my first character who I forged ahead with, making it all the way to Angmar, Eregion and into the lovely, dark and deep Mines of Moria, but somewhere along the way I lost the desire to play him.  I’ve tried several times in the past to pick him back up, but I’ve never been able to reconnect and get the hunter vibe going again.  That he’s just on the cusp of Lothlorien (a zone I didn’t care for the first time through with my warden), doesn’t help his cause any.

I also have a level 50 minstrel.  He was part of a duo-ship with a guardian, played by a good friend of mine who sadly no longer plays MMOs.  I know the minstrel is fully capable of soloing these days, but the few times I’ve picked him up recently, haven’t been able to convince me of this fact.

My captain dreaming in Evendim.

When I logged back into my captain, a character I had almost forgotten, I found him at the entryway to Evendim.  Evendim…I’ll go on record as saying Evendim is my favorite zone in the game (something that does help his cause).  From a purely visual perspective, Lake Evendim is breathtaking, and the zone has been revamped making for an excellent and rewarding quest progression throughout the zone.   Even though I had no clue what any of his skills did, I had managed to lay out his skill bar in such a way that made relearning his tricks of the trade surprisingly painless.  He’s level 34 now, enjoying the big, beautiful Evendim sky, and diligently working on gaining the favor of the Wardens of Annuminas.

The oil after midnight

On average during the week I get about an hour a day of gaming time.  As I tend to play MMOs where just getting to that sweet spot can take an hour or more, many of my gaming sessions feel rushed and somewhat unfulfilling (my cross to bear).  That’s why I have set aside Friday nights for my extending gaming time.  I tend to abandon all reason and stay up way past midnight most of these nights.  This tends to be long after my son and much saner wife have gone to bed.  It’s just me, my computer, and the small hours of the night.

Generally speaking, this tends to make Saturdays a challenge for me—energy level wise.  My son doesn’t seem to understand the “daddy’s tired” routine where playing keep up with a 5 year old can prove challenging even to a well-rested adult.

Every Friday I say I’m going to go to bed at midnight, but I never do.  When midnight rolls around (and believe me, I’m fully aware of the time), I always tell myself: “I’ll just finish up this quest and call it quits.”  But without fail, I always find something else to do.  My mind offers up: “Come on, it’s the weekend.  You’ve managed to make it through another week.  You’ve earned this time.  Enjoy it.”  And I always do.

However, there doesn’t seem to be much more than a blink or two between the time I stumble into bed late Friday night (read: Saturday morning) and when my son launches into our bedroom bright and early, bursting with energy and excited for what Saturday will bring.   That’s when I lay there, my eyes burning, my head humming, my previous evening’s exploits a mere memory, and tell myself that next Friday things will be different.  I’ll manage to get to bed earlier.  And I never do.

Dunland doldrums

Orthanc…already?

I’m in a bit of a rut on the gaming front.  I’m currently playing Lord of the Rings Online and making some progress through the latest expansion, Rise of Isengard, but the content—at least so far—isn’t really keeping my interest.  I consider myself to have a high tolerance for rote quests, but for the past 7 levels (my warden is currently at 72) that’s pretty much all I’ve found to do.  The Dunlendings need my help, and at first I was happy to provide it, but after running countless errands for a third village and now being sent on to the fourth, I’m running out of steam.  To supplement this I’ve been working through the epic story quest, which is a bit more exciting, but even it has left me wanting.

I’m usually a sucker for sidekicks in games.   I was hoping the ability to summon my skirmish soldier in the landscape would add some excitement to the questing, but what I’ve found so far is that almost every quest has been painfully easy to complete solo.  Adding a skirmish soldier makes it almost laughable.

I’ve also been hearing quite a bit of negative feedback concerning LotRO’s next expansion, Riders of Rohan, and how they don’t seem to be offering much bang for your buck with their various preorder options.  This kind of thing doesn’t usually affect me, but this coupled with my less than enthusiastic impression of their current expansion, and I’m finding myself starting to look elsewhere for something to do with my game time.  The mounted combat of Riders of Rohan certainly sounds interesting, but I’m not sure I’m going to be there to find out.  I won’t be preordering the expansion.  That much is for sure. 

Speaking of sidekicks, I’ve just ordered Dragon’s Dogma for the Xbox 360 and am hoping a little change of pace and scenery will give me something to look forward to playing again.

Closing down the Rift

I’ve done something that renders a previous post I made somewhat obsolete.  I hit level cap in Rift the other night.  This may not seem like an accomplishment to many others, but it certainly was to me.  My level 50 dwarf ranger/bard/nightblade is the only level cap character I currently have in any of the MMOs I’ve played.

Level 50 with my new epic two tail

The next time I logged in I quickly made my way to the mount vendor to purchase a swift Valmera and then it was off to Ember Isle.  When I arrived I was greeted by an onscreen message informing me that Ember Isle content was designed for players with end game gear.   In other words: not me.  But, it went on to say, if you enjoy a challenge, knock yourself out.  And that’s just what I did.  Mobs were level 52 and took a considerably longer time to bring down than I was accustomed to.  

At this point I had a tough decision to make.  Do I start working on gearing up my character to have end game gear to make the Ember Isle content more palpable, or do I close up shop and wait for an expansion?  As I tend to view the planar attunement system and gearing up a level capped character for a chronic soloer like me to be something of an unnecessary grind, I decided it was time to follow the siren’s call and move on to another game.

I would like to go on record as saying that if/when Trion Worlds releases an expansion for Rift, I’ll be back for sure.

There it is again…that haunting melody.

Just some random impressions I’m left with after my time spent in the game:

–I’ve had a wonderful time in Telara.

–The art design of the world is top notch.  I have particularly fond memories of my time spent in brooding Gloamwood, Scarwood Reach and Stillmoor.

–The ethereal music that tends to play while standing outside in the various  terraces of Sanctum is quite beautiful and haunting.  I would be hard pressed to come up with another example of in game music from another MMO that stirred me as much as this.   I found myself on a number of occasions just staring out to sea waiting to hear the music again.

Some are easy to get to…

–From a soloer’s standpoint, artifacts were a welcomed addition to the game.  Collecting shinies is something I never got tired of and on several occasions went out of my way to find some.  Anything that promotes exploration in my gaming is a plus in my book.

–The game centers on rifts.  They are an engaging mechanic and add a certain element of unpredictability and danger to the game—something I generally found refreshing.   There were times where I wanted to turn in a quest, but the camp in which my quest giver was stationed had been overrun by a major rift invasion.   Either I helped fight back the invasion so that things could be restored and I could turn in my quest, or I’d just have to come back later when the chaos had died down

Next stop for me?  Middle-earth.  Dunland to be more precise.  Much like Syp, I’m looking to catch my second (more like forth) wind in LotRO.

The scars on my back

Not in Moria anymore…

I’ve lost count the number of MMOs I’ve played over the years. I would guess it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 15. I’ve probably put the most time in WoW, with LotRO coming in a close second. I’d guess Rift would be next, and I don’t really have a good grasp of the remainder. Anyway, as it stands today, outside of Guild Wars (which I’m not sure completely counts), I don’t have a single level capped character. At one point I hit level cap in WoW, but once Wrath of the Lich King launched I never caught up again. I was also level capped in LotRO, but Rise of Isengard quickly put a stop to that.

There are days when I look at my track record and think I should probably turn in my gamer card. In the cosmic scheme of things I really haven’t “achieved” all that much. It’s like I’ve started a project and never see it through to completion, or perhaps reading a book and never getting to its end. In other words, I’m a warrior with plenty of scars on his back.

But I think there is a bigger part of me that really doesn’t care that much about such things. It tends to enjoy the ride while it lasts and then, when the shine is gone, compels me to move on to another game. Life is too short it tells me and with the limited game time I have, why squander it on something no longer engaging?

Under Rift’s spell

All of this rambling to say, I do believe quite soon I’ll have my first level capped character in quite some time. My ranger in Rift is closing in on level 48 at the moment, and the shine is definitely still there. I realize there are several imminent releases (Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 come to mind), that will no doubt be competing for my time, but for now I’ll continue logging into Rift.

For anyone who cares, I’m listing below all the scarred-backed warriors I can recall:

Age of Conan — Ultharin (level 55 dark templar)

Everquest 2 —  Barnavelt (level 72 necromancer)

Fallen Earth —  Barnavelt (level 19)

Guild Wars — Mortimus Zurn (level 20 Warrior/Monk)

Lord of the Rings Online — Alzebo (level 65 warden)

Rift — Charlan (level 49 ranger/bard/nightblade)

Vanguard — Halkoryn (level 22 ranger)

World of Warcraft –Celephais (level 82 druid)