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.