Tag Archives: World of Warcraft

World of Guildcraft

Outside of my last post I haven’t mentioned World of Warcraft in quite a while, chiefly because I haven’t been playing it. In fact I had (finally) cancelled my account for the first time since launch mere months before the release of Mists of Pandaria, only reactivating long enough to level my main character up to 90 and complete a few miscellaneous end game goals such as grinding out a full set of PVP gear and some decent epic weapons. Now, with Warlords of Draenor on the horizon and the general urge to hit up an MMO again rising I dusted off my old characters and started to try to get into the the spirit of Warcraft once again. So far I’ve mostly spent time leveling up alts and PVPing with my main but one subject has been in my head a lot lately: guilds.

It’s no secret that playing with others can greatly enhance a gaming experience – seemingly everyone loves a bit of co-op. MMOs are ripe for this kind of thing as group gameplay is usually, at least to some degree, built into the core game systems. It’s odd, I’ve always been somewhat of a solo player in the MMO space. I know this sounds like a contradiction but I appreciate other people being around in the game world, making it feel more alive, and having the option to interact with them if and when I choose. That said, some of my favorite MMO memories have been with other people: all the way from meeting random players I eventually became friends with when PVPing in Ultima Online’s faction system (Minax for the win!) to daring coordinated zone raids in Planetside with The Praetorian Guard or cleaning house in Warhammer Online PVP scenarios with my guild there.

Even gameplay aside, I enjoyed those clans and guilds that had a high degree of “community” outside of the game. People that got along and even if they weren’t always on incredibly friendly terms but still felt like family all the same. One of my favorite ways to experience this was in private forums – in fact I selfishly volunteered to get TPG’s going and despite waxing and waning in activity over the years, they remained active throughout its lifetime. Even relatively recently as I looked for Age of Conan and then WAR guilds, a semi-active forum was one of my requirements. Sadly, between the push towards “social media” and the more instant gratification focused players that games like WoW have bred, it seems like private forums, or at least active ones, are becoming a thing of the past. You’d think they’d be more useful than ever with all of these serious raiding guilds and their complicated policies about looting and attendance and whatnot. *shrug*

You know, I’ve never really had a real guild in WoW which is pretty shocking considering how long I’ve played it despite it being a casual on and off kind of affair the entire time. When I started World of Warcraft I rolled with my old Planetside and America’s Army clan “The Praetorian Guard” of which virtually all of us were playing WoW. Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that there weren’t really enough of us sticking around the same levels to really play together. That’s to say we didn’t have huge numbers in the first place but when some of us were powerleveling through the game and others playing multiple characters or moving at a much slower pace we couldn’t exactly run dungeons or even quest together. We didn’t have this problem in games like Planetside or Star Wars Galaxies where your level didn’t so strictly dictate what you could or could not do in-game but in WoW it was crippling.

Later, when we started reaching max level we soon discovered that there weren’t enough of us to experience end game “raiding” and not all of us were even that interested in doing so in the first place. This became a bit of a contentious issue which threatened to pull the guild apart as some of our main players plotted moving their “mains” to other guilds. I personally saw this as quite shortsighted and selfish but in hindsight I was being a bit shortsighted and selfish myself even if my heart was in the right place. I don’t really know what the ideal solution would have been, honestly – some of us wanted to be in a hardcore raiding guild and some of us didn’t. If we could have done some major recruiting we might have survived but our position as a guild, both internally and in the makeup of our particular WoW server, didn’t make that a very realistic possibility. Soon most of our top members (including our leader and practically all of the officers, tragically) went separate directions in the pursuit of bigger and better loot.

Since then my WoW experience has mostly revolved around either very casual solo playing (questing, PVPing, and working on professions and achievements) or playing with a few specific friends. In fact other than a few brief excursions into guilds with other games (often mentioned here) my multiplayer gaming as a whole has been pretty similar to that. Other than the occasional bit of pick up grouping when doing world PVP and the like I’ve barely got a glimpse of guild gameplay.

Sitting there with my WoW account thinking of the looming release of the latest expansion it only recently occurred to me: I really, really, REALLY miss being in an active clan/guild. It’s hard to describe to those who haven’t done it but playing a game, particularly an MMO, with a friendly group can be an incredibly social experience. It becomes a regular thing, something akin to a group of inseparable friends who spend almost every evening or weekend together. In this respect even the most casual/social group is still better than none at all providing you’re all friendly and get along. So, I’ve decided… I’m going in!

There are a few challenges with this. First, despite WoW’s immense popularity spawning all kinds of 3rd party guild finding sites and Blizzard themselves having added a in-game guild finding feature in Cataclysm it can be pretty difficult to really a gauge a guild from the outside. In my case I’m looking for an adult but not necessarily “family friend” guild of cool people. Even if the guild you’re applying to sounds AMAZING on paper you won’t really know how well your personalities mesh until you’re really in it. This is another reason I like forums – they’re a great way to try to figure out what the overall personality of the group is like before you even talk to any of them. One of my suckier community experiences was applying for a Battlefield 1942 clan that seemed to appeal to my tastes, making it through the application process (which included an intense and challenging tryout) only to discover that I had little in common with any of the members and, in fact, most of them were giant douchebags. Ugh!

Another problem is that I’m definitely not looking for some “serious” guild. I want a group I can socialize and level my alts in without constantly being criticized for not meeting some raiding, arena, or rated battleground criteria or item level or something… and I definitely don’t want a guild that makes massive demands of my schedule. Unfortunately most WoW guilds present themselves this way regardless of how casual friendly they really are. That’s fine though, I’d rather not be part of a guild where non-raiders (or whatever) are treated as second class citizens or something. Casual guilds in their various forms, or even social or “leveling” guilds aren’t too hard to come by regardless. The problem is that many of them are horribly unstructured which is a bit on the extreme side of what I’m looking for – a group of random people who simply all share the game guild tag is not my idea of a good guild.

My biggest problem is this area is probably simply that my server is dead. Fucking dead. Elune on the Horde side is a virtual ghost town these days. In fact, checking the Realm Pop statistics it’s the least populace Horde realm in the entire US region. Wow! There are definitely active guilds there, sure, but my selection is relatively slim to start with and by the time I factor in what I’m looking for I don’t have much wiggle room to be picky with. I’ve thought about simply starting my own guild but that contains more variables than I’m comfortable trying to deal with at the moment. After a brief cast of my net out into the cesspool of various guild recruitment forums I’ve really only found one guild that seemed to strongly meet my requirements: have a decent, semi-roleplayed name, have a good community feel with mature, decent people, have good out-of-game website and/or forums, and have a decent amount of active players online without being one of those guilds who just blindly invites anyone without a guild tag. Unfortunately that guild is both on another realm AND Alliance instead of Horde.

Thus I begin considering the potentially expensive process of moving servers and changing realms. Actually, more troubling than the money is the fact that I’ve been playing Horde since beta. I love the Horde! I mean, I’ve had Alliance characters before, don’t get me wrong, but ever since falling in love with series in Warcraft III playing anything other than a green skinned brutal yet honorable orc as my “main” in WoW has never crossed my mind… and playing a fucking Human? Forget about it! Ignoring the travesties brought by the Alliance on my beloved Horde and my own personal defeats to them in the various battlegrounds of the world, I don’t really identify with or otherwise like many of the races on the Alliance side. They really are quite different. Most of all I’m worried that as I do my banking in Ironforge or Stormwind I’ll have a sudden, inescapable feeling that I’m some kind of lowdown traitorous, sell-out bastard. Ugh!

Still, it’ll be nice having people to chat with and an auction house with, you know, actual stuff on it… 😉

Forecast: Blizzard

For some indescribable reason I decided to further my vacation from my consoles for a while longer and dove headfirst into Diablo 3, mostly due to all of the hype surrounding the new 2.0 patch and the (then) upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion pack. First: good news, everyone! My concern in Lightsabers and Labyrinths was unfounded and Diablo 3 does in fact hold up quite well in the atmosphere department. The setting still feels very much like the grim world of Sanctuary from Diablo and Diablo 2 and even then some and the music is still great and perfectly atmospheric. The graphics, while a tiny bit cartoony compared to the previous games, actually feel ike a perfectly logical evolution of the previous style and overall look great. I had other concerns too such as hearing that they packed in much more backstory and dialog (including from your character!) than in previous games. I was somehow picturing a bunch of cheesy in-game cutscenes which would probably change the feel of the game quite a bit. Instead most of the dialog is delivered using something akin to ye olde “audio logs” and the follower interaction and plot related cutscenes that are there are mostly delivered in fairly unobtrusive ways too.

I feel like Conan most of the time I'm playing my Barbarian. Fuck yes!
“I feel like Conan most of the time I’m playing my Barbarian. Fuck yes!”

Gameplay wise, I rolled a Barbarian and played through on normal difficulty – Barbarians being one of the simplest yet funnest classes from Diablo 2 I figured it would be a good starter character to try out and I was definitely right. If anything I could have stood to bump up the difficulty a bit. I feel like it bears stating that yes, this playthrough took place entirely AFTER the 2.0 patch which included a lot of the refinements of the earlier console ports of Diablo 3 including the apparently greatly improved loot system so I have no first hand account of how things used to be. All I can say is that what is there now works quite. I felt like loot drops were aplenty and upgrades came fairly often, at least in the first few acts of my adventure. Perhaps some of the best praise I can give Diablo 3 is that despite just playing through all of Torchlight and the last act or so of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, I not only managed to avoid getting burnt-out on the simple and repetitive ARPG gameplay but even somehow wound up totally addicted like I was playing Diablo 2 back in 2000 all over again.

I might as well mention the expansion since I bought it and played it inline with the original campaign and it’s still somewhat new on the shelves as of this update: it’s largely more of the same. The new zones, monsters, and events are awesome, the story, journals, items, and powers fit perfectly in with the core game, etc. etc. Really, the bulk of the biggest changes in the game outside of new content were those patched in (to everyone, expansion or not) with patch 2.0. The other big change is “adventure mode” which I’ve only briefly dabbled in so far. Regardless, it certainly seems like a better way to grind out levels and new gear than playing through the campaign for the 30th time. I think my only real surprise with Reaper of Souls is that it’s not just a straight continuation of the plot like they did with Diablo 2’s Lord of Destruction expansion. Instead it’s a new story entirely. That is, while continuing where the plot of the core game left off, it’s not just “and then a bigger, more badass demon showed up and you had to kill him too!” kind of thing. The only problem with this is that the stakes will always have to be extraordinarily high given your character’s story and the fact that you already managed to save the world from total annihilation in utterly epic fashion the first time around. Hey, if they can keep that expansion cycle up more power to them!

Someone call an exterminator?
“Someone call an exterminator?”

Overall I found Diablo 3 a total fucking joy to play through – capturing what I loved about Diablo and Diablo 2, refining some of those systems, and giving a slightly deeper look at the world of Sanctuary and its lore. Sure, the story arch feels a bit of a rehash of Diablo 2 in some ways and the game is still a simple blend of remorseless clicking and inventory management, but Diablo 3 delivers exactly what caused me to be captivated by the genre in the first place and does it with the usual top notch Blizzard polish. I’ll definitely be heading back through the campaign with another class against at some point in the future, probably multiple points even. I’m ecstatic.

Blizzard also updated their… err, updater? Okay, their “launcher” recently to serve as a single launch (gah, I did it again!) point for all of their newer Battle.net games and on that list is there new free-to-play collectible trading card game “Hearthstone”. Hearthstone plays like a simplified version of the old WoW TCG which itself was highly inspired by Magic: The Gathering and its ilk. I’ve heard great things about Hearthstone from friends and on some of the podcasts I subscribe to and, being the sucker that I am for mounts in World of Warcraft, seeing the little advertisement for a special mount for trying Hearthstone out was all the extra push I needed to give it a whirl. A whirl turned into a couple of whirls and then more whirls and now hours and hours of whirls. Man, this game is fun!

Hot troll on troll action.
“Hot troll on troll action.”

I’ve never been a TCG/CCG guy – I tried Magic out when it first hit in the 90s but it just always felt slightly too complicated to me for what it was trying to do. I also had a love/hate relationship with the whole collectibility part of it. Hearthstone, by streamlining the rules so much, really nullifies most of those complaints. The game is really fast and really easy to pick up on. Sure, there is still a “he with the most cash wins” aspect to it but I feel like the streamlining means that even the most rare (err, “epic”) cards aren’t too crazily overpowered. That, and Blizzard has the free-to-play mechanic fairly fine tuned so far so that you can pretty consistently unlock new cards without ever dropping a dime of real money. Add that addictive gameplay to some Warcraft aesthetics and some good old Blizzard polish and man, this game is rad! Given the repetitive nature of something like this I doubt I’ll play it too much more besides trying to master a coupe of more “classes” but so far I’ve really enjoyed my time with it.

Blizzard has definitely still got it.

...and I log in to immediately start grinding fucking Archaeology again. Ugh!
“…and I log in to immediately start grinding fucking archaeology again. Ugh!”

As an aside, yes I know I probably shouldn’t care too much about World of Warcraft mounts given that I don’t actually play World of Warcraft anymore but… *sigh* once an addict, always an addict! I loaded up my level 50 something goblin hunter the other day and played through a whole zone and actually enjoyed myself once again. I suppose I’m getting hyped back up for the new Warlords of Draenor expansion coming later this year. I truthfully barely have enough energy for the game left in me to remain interested enough to buy this expansion. I almost didn’t buy Mists of Pandaria as it was back then. The new character models and the free level up to 90, as shallow as those offerings are, help sway me. The bigger thing is probably just having to personally come to terms with what I get out of the series nowadays – a few months of hardcore addiction before I put it back on the shelf until the next expansion, and honestly that’s totally fine with me.

Braid Your Pitts

I haven’t posted in nearly 4 months. Shameful, I know. I have been gaming a bit though, for sure. In fact one of the main reasons for my lack of updates in the last 6 or 7 months was climbing back onto the vile World of Warcraft bandwagon. I haven’t mentioned it much on here because I’ve been about ready to quit again, once I completed the last of several goals I’d been working on. After that I planned on writing an entry all about my return and what I had accomplished with my time. Unfortunately that last goal has turned out to be a total pain in my ass – expect that post if I finally do meet my goal but I’ve all but stopped again as it is so that seems unlikely.

Braid is goddamn pretty.
“Braid is goddamn pretty.”

I got around to playing Braid on XBLA. I actually played through the demo at around the time of its launch and honestly most of my critical analysis of the awesome, creative puzzle mechanics is probably back there somewhere since I was pretty blown away by them originally. Even blasting past that topic, I loved the art style and absolutely adored the music. Despite how mind-bendingly difficult some of the puzzles might seem to some players (personally, most came to me easily, though I did definitely struggle hard with a few of them) it’s still very worth checking out. Notice how I skipped talking about the narrative? 😉 Seriously though, I actually enjoyed it at first and like what they’re were going for though the end came out of nowhere and didn’t really do much for me. In the end though, it didn’t seem crucial to the experience – how much did the story in any of the Super Mario games (and the comparison here is appropriate given all of the obviously influence and callbacks) ever matter?

I finally finished my run through of Fallout 3 + all of the DLC. I got pretty much all of the achievements I could get in one play through and had a blast. My insanely sporadic playtimes made me come to some odd conclusions about my gaming habits as of late: I’m getting too old for this shit. Seriously, I seem to only want to jump into most games (basically anything I’m either not insanely addicted to, or anything that isn’t extremely “pick up and play” friendly) when I have a couple of hours or more free in one sitting, and even then I have to be “in the mood” which I’m often not after a long day at work or whatever. If it is going to take me a year to finish a decent sized RPG for now on I suppose I’m going to have to stop spending as much time and money on this hobby as right now it’s just a little out of whack.

We're going vault hopping tonight, baby!
“We’re going vault hopping tonight, baby!”

Back to the game though. Obviously I loved Fallout 3 – I mentioned that in my last update about it. How could I not? I loved the original Fallout games and I love the Elder Scrolls series so… yeah? I’m not going to get into a big, detailed review of it or anything but I did want to mention one unexpected surprise: The Pitt DLC campaign. Whaaa? Although I know it often gets praise as being one of the better DLC add-ons for Fallout 3 I don’t remember hearing anything about the whole moral dilemma you’re faced with in it. Hell, maybe I did and simply forgot all about it since then, but in any case… spoilers in the next two paragraphs!

So, the basic setup for The Pitt (I’ll try to keep it fairly general) is that you’re contacted by a runaway slave who wants you to infiltrate the city which is overrun by an oppressive, ruthless group of slavers who force their slaves into working in their factories while they reap the benefits. They also all have some horrible radiation sickness and the leader of the slavers is apparently hording the cure for his very own. Seems straight forward enough and when you arrive as sure enough, sick slaves everywhere and the people in power are stacking the bad karma deck without question. Once you finally infiltrate the slavers and confront the leader, however, you learn that all isn’t as it appeared – the cure is actually a baby and the ex-slave who talked you into the whole thing in the first place is actually an ex-slaver who was forced out after a failed coup attempt looking for revenge. Seems like the situation is getting greyer. Still, why would I want to leave the baby in the hands of these assholes? Plus, who cares if the other guy is an ex-slaver himself, he clearly wasn’t lying about this place being packed with slaves and this sickness killing everyone. I stole the baby and vaporized the leader of the slavers, and most of the rest of them while I was at it.

Fireworks are always better when they're made out of your enemies.
“Fireworks are always better when they’re made out of your enemies.”

The plot thickens. Audiotapes reveal that the leader of the slavers was an Paladin of the Brotherhood of Steel who got stranded there after cleansing the ruins of the city long ago. Hm, well that still doesn’t mean he wasn’t an asshole, I suppose. Left there alone, he built up his gang and the settlement himself including bringing the factories back online. He regretted the slave labor but viewed it as a necessary evil and even planned to eventually set them all free. Hmm. He was also the father of the baby in question and, it’s revealed, seemed to genuinely care for the kid. He also viewed his research into the cure in a philanthropic way – he didn’t seem to be hording the cure at all, it simply wasn’t finished. *gulp* I might have made a bad decision but… well, at least the slaves are free, right? So then I get back to the people I was working for to discover the guy acting like a total fascist asshole himself and implying that the baby was now in much worse hands. It also only took me about 2 seconds to notice that the slave labor still appeared to be in full effect around the settlement – maybe the people in the chains had changed, but still… what exactly have I done here?!

This is one of the most interesting moral dilemmas I’ve run into in a game in recent memory. Most fascinating was probably the fact that I really wasn’t ever asked to make any clear cut, black and white choice on the matter. Sure, I was forced to pick a side but it was before I had all of the intel. Even after all of the cards were on the table it was still a pretty nebulous situation with no obvious right choice… and the fact of the matter is, not unlike after the big reveal in Bioshock, I felt totally played after it was over. Nice!

These guys, yet again...
“These guys, yet again…”

What else? Oh yes, I bought and played Halo 4. I’ve talked about the Halo series on here a lot in the past so I’ll skip the background and the in-depth analysis and just say that 343 Studios did a fine job. It still feels very much like a proper Halo game yet makes necessarily measured steps into new directions. I enjoyed the new multiplayer advancement (for example) though so far I prefer Firefight over Spartan Ops. Most of all, I just enjoyed returning to a universe that I’ve always really enjoyed. As far as that goes though, I might have enjoyed watching Forward Unto Dawn more than playing the actual Halo 4 campaign. *shrug*

Next up is a play through of the original Saints Row, if I can manage to slog through the grind. Oh, and I also started a new blog which I’ve been filling full of random non game related stuff – mostly related to music and just general expressive bullshit. I’ll link to it eventually when I have more content. Hell, maybe I’ll even merge it into this one and make it a little less gaming focused. Stay tuned!