Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gaming without regret

When we recorded Episode 18 after DOV launched, Dellmon and I talked about our different approaches to the expansion content. Dell said he was going through the content in a methodical, organized way, so he didn’t miss any part of the story, or block himself from any quests or content. My approach was a little different. Because of my experience with the previous expansion, where I felt like I missed out on a lot of the group content, with DOV, I was determined to stop being a slave to my “to do” list, get out there and see things, take every invitation that came my way, stop whatever solo thing I was doing and just go where the wind blew me. I didn’t want to feel the same regret as I had with Sentinel’s Fate. That got me thinking about regret and adventurousness – in game and in life.

In life, I’m not adventurous. I tend to do things in a safe, predictable way. People, food, travel – I generally don’t like to leave my comfort zone.

In a game world, I’m the opposite. It’s not a groundbreaking concept, I suppose. The idea that in a fantasy world people like to do things they cannot or will not do in reality. The fantasy world allows them to be that which they are not in life.

In game, I love exploring new places. I’m the first one to jump off a cliff just to see how far I can fall without dying. I’m usually the one poking my head in a room to see what’s there. I try to wait until after said room is clear so my group won’t put me on their “do not group” list, but sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me. And sometimes that gets me into trouble.

My first MMO was Anarchy Online. The mission zones had a variety of different layouts. One of the early maps included a hallway that formed a square. In the center was a lush looking garden full of trees and colorful flowers. It was surrounded by “glass” walls. After we cleared the zone, I looked all around for a way in – no door. I couldn’t believe the game designers would create this enchanting garden that could only be seen and not touched. I refused to believe it was intended simply as static zone art. I ran all around that glass-walled garden, jumping up and down, trying to get a peek beyond this tree or that. I wanted to see what was behind them. I thought if I tried hard enough, I could get in. (You can probably guess where this is going.)

Eventually I succeeded. There must have been some kind of glitch in the geometry, lag or something. All of a sudden, I was inside. It was great for a few minutes – I got to see all the flowers up close. Unfortunately, they all looked the same as the ones on the edges. There was no hidden puzzle to be decoded, no loot cache, no surprise message, “you found a secret room!” Just Ali, stuck in the middle of a glass-walled room with no door. And the only way out of the zone was through the door we came in. Which I could not reach. Or click on. Through the glass walls. I petitioned, but had to quit the game in order to get out, and didn’t get credit for completing the mission. Maybe I /suicided, I don’t really remember. But I do know that after that, the glass-walled garden zone map was no longer in the game.

In EQ2, one part of Chelsith has a gigantic greenish sphere. It has a textured looking surface, almost as if there’s another world inside. The first time I got up close to that sphere, I was mesmerized by it. I zoomed in my camera to see if it was perhaps a portal to another place. I got completely lost in thought and imagination, and didn’t realize my group was surrounded by mobs until my friend (who, incidentally, had been with me during the glass-walled garden incident) called out over voice with a sharp “Ali! – quit looking at the sphere and help us!” We wiped.

There are hundreds of “dumb” things I’ve done in game because of my curiosity. But it’s always worth it. They make for some of the best gaming memories.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dellmon's Frostfell Gift

Dellmon sent me a wonderful gift for Frostfell this year: A professionally customized Aliscious Mighty Mugg.
This is quite possibly the best gift I've ever received. It makes me all googly to have my EQ2 character, who I've spent 6+ years with, memorialized in Mugg form. She will always be a reminder of our own Mugg project this year. Thank you Dellmon! You're not such a stingy dwarf after all. :)

And for those interested, the artist who created this little masterpiece can be found over at F1shcustoms. If you poke around there, you can peruse some of their other magnificent creations. These are truly works of art.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mugging Dellmon

I managed to convince Dellmon to take on a little tradeskill project for the holidays this year to help raise money for our favorite charity, Child’s Play. You can get all the details (and find out how to bid on the Aliscious and Dellmon Muggs) on the EQ2 Talk Mugg page.

I had some issues with primer. Note to self: Don’t try to apply spray paint on a windy, 40 degree day. I got that all worked out and then gave Dell’s face a coat of baby’s butt pink. :)

Once I got the base of the armor on, I really felt like I was making progress. After a little mistake on the leg, I flipped his head around to the other side. Little did I know, Muggs actually have a proper front and back. So Dell’s head is on backwards, go figure!

Added some detail to the armor. I was hoping the black trim would take care of the wiggly edges.

Well, the black trim didn’t necessarily solve the wiggly edge problem. But I did learn that one should not try to paint a straight line after two glasses of wine.

For the beard, I briefly considered yarn, but my husband talked me out of it - too cheesy. “Might as well call him Raggedy Dell.” So I used clay. Rodin I’m not! More clean-up. Q-Tips are awesome. Maybe they would make a good future show sponsor. :)

I had to Google how to make brown paint. I have no idea what I did, but by the time I got the right color mixed, I could have painted ten Dellmon beards with the amount of paint I had. Added some highlights to the beard and hair, facial details, a few more touch ups, sprayed a little clear matte finish, and voila! Dell Mugg complete.

Meanwhile, the real Dellmon left me another voice message. He said, “I hate you. I’m back at the craft store… I hate you.” Click. I can tell – Dellmon loves tradeskilling. Maybe we’ll do this again next year!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Scavanator

After watching our raid get decimated by The Scavanator, my son decided he wanted to be a giant crab for Halloween this year. And I quote, "If I were that crab, you couldn't defeat me!" Of course, he is right.

How to make a Scavanator costume... hm. Well, first you procrastinate until 2 weeks before the costume parade at school. Then you run around like a mad woman buying up all the remnants of orange polar fleece you can find. Then you send your husband out to the fabric store to find 1/2" thick foam and orange double-knit fabric.

All I did was take an existing pattern for a turtle and modify it. I enlarged the pattern piece for the shell to approximate a crab shell, added legs, eyes and claws. The claws were a challenge for me. Originally, I wanted his hands to poke through between the top and bottom part of the claw. But I couldn't figure out how to get the claw onto the sleeve and still retain the claw shape. So I opted to make them like gloves. One of us will have to hold his candy bucket. I usually like to trick-or-treat with a glass of wine, so I guess that job will have to go to dad :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Second thoughts

Tonight while finishing up the Scavanator costume (pictures coming soon!), I listened to Episode 7 of EQ2 Talk. Coming back to it four weeks later, I'm having some second thoughts about some of the things we talked about.

While talking about our noob experiment, one of the points we touched on was about some of the elements of the game that have been changed for the new player -- elements such as spells (hate transfer, mez, taunts, etc.) and transmuting. Looking back, I think my stance was a little bit too hard-line old school. As usual, Dell was more level-headed than Ali.

On transmuting: As it is, the skill is in the knowledge book, but doesn't appear on the hotbar. I took the position that, if you're going to give it to the new player, you should tell them they have the ability and maybe explain what it's all about. Dell pointed out that if you do that, you have to then explain adorning. And with all of the other things going on, that would be too much for the true new player. Looking back, I think Dell is right -- you don't want to overwhelm the new player. There's plenty of time later for people to learn about transmuting. It's only a catch 22 for the veteran players, because we want things to be the way they used to be.

On certain spells not being auto-granted: My stance at the time was that if you don't give new players those spells from the beginning, they won't know how to use them when they eventually get the spells later. Having read some of our listener feedback and then also going back and listening to the show again, I really think I was oversimplifying. For the most part, I think people generally don't group early on. If you give players all of those spells early (when they won't use them if solo, or likely won't need them if grouping), they could easily be forgotten about by the time the player starts to group. But if you hold off on granting those spells until later levels, the player will have read the description more recently by the time they start grouping.

It is indeed difficult for me to get out of that old school state of mind, but I can keep trying.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On guilds, population and cluelessness

Over the years, my guild has carved out its place in the world of Norrath based on what works, and what its members want--it's sort of defined itself. As my friend (one of the two guild leaders) says, "We're not a raiding guild. We're a guild that raids." Essentially, the raiding that we do is relatively casual. Whoever signs up gets in. People aren't turned away if they don't have such-and-such gear, AA's, etc. We make due with the classes that show up (with some obvious key roles reserved). The time we spend raiding is focused, but we're not pushing hard mode stuff. We focus and have fun doing it. Outside of that, we are a casual guild with all types of players, many of whom don't raid. Raiding has simply taken on a larger role in the guild because more people are pushing the top end of the content after so many years.

I always thought my guild was special -- pretty hard to come by... dare I say, "unique."

Well, apparently we're not as unique as I thought we were.

Lately I've been catching up on some old episodes of various podcasts (A View from the Top and others). Several of the early episodes feature various guests in the guild leadership category. At the start of the interview, the guests would each describe the guild they lead. I started to notice a pattern--they all sounded like my guild!

Here I was thinking my guild was so special and different -- maybe I've been wrong all this time. Maybe it's super easy to run a casual guild that successfully raids current content, and people are basically really happy. Maybe that's what most people are doing.

I'm wondering, are there really that many guilds out there that fit this description? Or is it that people generally use the same terms to describe a range of possible types of guilds.... when really they are as different as pizza vs. ham sandwich vs. cheese souffle. Or, perhaps it's that the player base is roughly from the same demographic as me, and those types of people gravitate to the same type of guild. Or maybe it's simply that I tend to gravitate toward stuff (podcasts) that appeals to me because those folks are like-minded.

A related thought came up during our recording of Episode 9 of EQ2 Talk (which should be up in a few days). We were talking about server merges and Dell asked how I felt about them. Being totally honest, I don't perceive a problem with population on Unrest. But that being said, I really don't get out that much. Primarily because I get everything I need from my guild, which is fairly active.

I wonder, am I so insulated by my guild that I am actually totally out of touch with what's happening on the server? Have I crossed over from "sheltered" to "clueless"? How many other people are in the same boat? And is any of this "good" or "bad" for the game in general?


My idea for this blog is to talk about things that didn't make it into the show, things I thought about after recording (don't you hate those "ooh, I wish I had said >this<" moments?), and side projects we're doing.

So the first side project is the Mighty Muggs project. Basically, it's a take-off on what SOE did for the 2010 Fan Faire, which you can read about here. I thought it would be really fun for Dellmon and I to decorate a Mugg of each other, and then put them up for auction to our listeners. The plan is to have them done by Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and the proceeds from the auction would be given to Child's Play as a Christmas gift from EQ2 Talk.

So far, I have possession of my blank Mugg. The plan is to start on it as soon as I finish making my son's Halloween costume (he's going to be the Scavanator, an epic x2 crab from EQ2). I'll be posting updates as I make progress. Stay tuned!