Milestones: 20 in World of Warcraft

After 10 hours /played, i dinged level 20 with my Discipline Priestess in World of Warcraft. I find that to be quite quick while at the same time it doesn’t feel quick. That’s not to say i’m not having fun- i do, unexpectedly much to be honest. Maybe it is the new progression with the new talent system and the avoidance of “button bloat”- you level up, but you don’t get to use talent points or gain a new ability each level.

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Travel Log: Postcards from Westfall

Here i am, having renewed my subscription to World of Warcraft. After some initial struggles, mostly deriving from the fact that i played through Elwynn Forest about 50 times, i found enjoyment in Azeroth. It’s not totally unexpected, as i always loved WoW for the zone design. What was new, however, was the impression that everything seems to be just so in this game. I guess this is going to change in later levels, but right now, there’s always something i can accomplish if i play just another five minutes. Be it traveling to the next location, leveling up, completing a quest or simply check out the crafting trainer. And i haven’t even set foot into one of the many, many dungeons.

Here i am, in a 12-year-old MMORPG, competing for mobs in a beginner zone.
Here i am, in a 12-year-old MMORPG, competing for mobs in a low level zone.

World of Warcraft is populated, at least on Argent Dawn (EU)- i’ve not once been very distant to fellow players. The design of the zones is finely crafted up to the details like interiors. I am not in a hurry, as i know i won’t be able to hit whatever the maxlevel right now is (100, i guess?!?) before Legion hits and also because that would suck the fun out of the game. Besides tracking quests, i also track achievements- namely the exploration-type of my current zone and the quest achievement. It’s probably impossible to do everything on one character, but i’d like to check them off in zones i begin.

Sentinel Hill in Westfall
Sentinel Hill in Westfall

Of course, having seen Westfall the last time before Cataclysm, the zone isn’t the same anymore. There’s more than a tower above Sentinel Hill, now- but i do feel WoW manages to keep the nostalgia in terms of a zone’s look and feel alive. Once i began following the storyline, i’ve found it to be interesting, as well.

The Rebirth of the Defias Brotherhood.
The Rebirth of the Defias Brotherhood.

As for Westfall, i didn’t like the zone when i played WoW the first time. It was difficult, quite big and took seemingly forever. Also, at that time there was no group finder, so you’d spend even more time in the zone looking for a group and entering the dungeon (Deadmines). Speaking of which, the “backflash”-quest was a stroke of genius, in my opinion.

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We were there

I’ve moved on to the Redridge Mountains, now, a zone where i don’t have many memories of, except fighting my way up to that castle billions of times, but i’m having fun and i’m looking forward to re-exploring World of Warcraft.

Summer Walkabout: World of Warcraft

I don’t know what it is about World of Warcraft- with each expansion, i always shoot longing looks in the direction of the genre leader. There’s no need for an expansion- i played World of Warcraft up to level 52 in vanilla times, and that’s the furthest i came along. So WoW offers plenty of content for me without the additional pull of an expansion.

So in the last couple of months, i was looking for reasons to buy Legion and didn’t find any. Sure, there are some nice tidbits like the improved transmog interface aka wardrobe, but i can have that in many other MMOs as well. Ultimately, i couldn’t find anything that gave me enough reason to buy into the latest expansion.

Until 07/06, that is- when Liore asked if she should buy Legion and i went to read that post in search for an answer for my own ponderings. I didn’t find it in the post, but then Isarii came along in the comments.

I just want to grind for hats and mounts, and basically every MMO outside of WoW seems insistent on putting all of those in their cash shop.

Isarii the guilty

And this is it. WoW is a themepark, a combat simulator that lacks housing or many non-combat activities. As far as i know, crafting is ‘useless’, too. But if i want to go for a certain look, mount, title or battle pet, i can do that. And while WoW offers mounts in an item store, it’s not much and can be easily ignored. I know Final Fantasy XIV offers the same thing, but as far as i know it isn’t as varied in that game, costumes are for level 50 characters and everything in that game is tied to the main story questline that involves forced grouping. WoW doesn’t force me into anything except if i wanted something specific and it was hidden away behind a certain type of content.

Another thing WoW had always going for it was the great zone design- i love how Blizzard crafts the landscapes- plus, it’s an open world for the most part.

So, finally finding my reason (read: excuse), i went in again.

Jiangsu in Stormwind
Jiangsu in Stormwind

Of course i started a new character, a human priestess on Argent Dawn (EU). Somewhere, i read that discipline priests will be healing through damage done, which is a playstyle i like pretty much. Argent Dawn is an RP server, and i think its version of Goldshire is famous for its “special kind” of RP. I found it quite annoying, but it doesn’t matter much as Goldshire gets put behind a new character quite quickly.

As of right now, i don’t have any plans or goals and i didn’t activate my subscription or buy Legion…yet. But i’m already looking into some guides for returning players, i love the zone design (nothing new here) and i’m having fun right now. I’m wondering about what transmog outfits would be nice to have, what places to explore and soon i’ll be wondering about which addons to install.

Summer Walkabout: Soul fighting in Blade and Soul

If there’s one game i’d like to put a small focus on besides ESO this summer, it is Blade&Soul. Yesterday marked the release of a new class, the Soul Fighter, so i went ahead and created one, as i imagine it might just be the class i’ve been waiting for, being a “hybrid” of ranged and melee fighting, not too difficult but still interesting to play.

What i’m looking forward to in Blade&Soul:

  • playing the Soul Fighter Class
  • the story
  • the setting
  • the fun gameplay
  • compatibility with the expected summer playstyle: shorter and rarer sessions, the ability to dip in and out of the game quickly

I don’t know if the last thing is really true, i’ve read that the leveling experience is on the lengthy side of things, but i guess i’ll see about that.

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Second first impressions

If anything, not much has changed since i gave my first impressions. I still like the combat and the zone design while still thinking this is just a mainstay MMORPG for those who like the gamey parts of MMOs- it’s not much of a world. As with Aion, right now there’s a tunnel syndrome, as you’re questing from hub to hub. Take all this with a grain of salt, though, as my furthest character is level 11, not able to do much in terms of skill tree building, crafting, dungeon running or anything at all. And just like before, some systems are somewhat difficult to get a hold on.

Breakthrough annoyance

Now i know that we’ll basically keep our Hongmoon weapons (granted to us after the tutorial) the whole time while upgrading them. There’ll also be stages where you need a “breakthrough” to advance that weapon further. Upgrading your weapon works by “enchanting” your weapon with other weapon drops and gems that help in the progress, as well. A breakthrough is, from what i understand, a stage where not any weapon will do- you’ll need to get a special one.

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The first one i do need is a Stalker Bracer- there are two ways to get a hold of it: first, you’ll get some type of stone by questing in Everdusk that you can then use to spin a wheel of fortune. It will drop Stalker items quite often, but you’ll need that special item to advance your hongmoon weapon. I’m sad to say i only got it once and used it to upgrade my weapon, but before i was at the breakthrough stage- which means i need to get a second one. But that doesn’t seem to be so easy, as those stones are now more difficult to come by (i only know of one daily quest that grants them) and even if i collect a few, i still need to get lucky with the drop. The other way would be to simply buy the weapon from the player market, which is possible, but expensive. I’m sure this is due to the fact that the Soul Fighter is the new hotness, but it comes in at around 25 silver right now- and i have 7. Of course, i do have some of the other classes’ needed weapons, but they only sell for a fraction of that.

Meanwhile, i am ready to move on to the next zone, but i think i’ll need to keep an eye back into Everdusk for that breakthrough armor. It’s a strange system with a lot of RNG involved. I guess i could play another character to Everdusk and see if she’s lucky, but that’s off the cards for now.

Server-wise, i went with Windrest this time around. The experience on the german server wasn’t all too interesting (although one has to note the absence of gold sellers), mainly because there were no other people around to fight the first world boss with. While i’m planning to stay solo it’s still nice to be able to find other people when it’s welcome or needed. And as there’s possibly no chance my ESO guildies would take Blade and Soul up, it’s fine to play on an international server.

Somehow, this reminded me of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad from Kill Bill
Somehow, this reminded me of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad from Kill Bill
Yes, this one.

Soul fighting

Other than that, i’m slowly getting the hang of game and class- and there is huge fun to be had in Blade and Soul. It’s the one game i’ve experienced where your skill in playing determines the outcome of a fight just as much as your character’s level- B&S can get downright difficult, i’ve learned that already on my Force Master who’s sulking in a cave thinking about a strategy to fight some boss.

The Soul Fighter is a very interesting class- i expected it to be able to switch freely between ranged and melee, but that’s not entirely true. Your standard stance is melee, but you can switch over to ranged at any time. After a while, you’ll switch back to melee. The Soul Fighter is a breeze- when ranged, there’s a convenient AoE damage skill that hits quite hard- on the other hand, in the melee stance there’s a gap closer as well as a counterattack and combos enabling the Soul Fighter to do more damage. It’s fun to play, not too difficult yet still interesting to play as a Soul Fighter, as the “player skill ceiling” seems to be a bit higher than, say, of the Destroyer, which is an easy class to understand but doesn’t offer that much in terms of “easy to learn, hard to master”.

How to get your free character slot voucher

I’ve read that players will get a free character slot with the release of the Soul Fighter but had some trouble in finding out how to get it- it’s simple, but i guess i expected it to get applied automatically when logging in or something. So, all you have to do to claim your free character slot is to get in game, open the ingame store and purchase the character slot voucher for 0 NC coin.

 

There and Back: Vienna

After our short stay in Bad Reichenhall, we moved on to Vienna, Austria, a drive of about 3/3.5 hours. While Austria is beautiful, the drive didn’t hold too many highlights in terms of landscape. There was the Mondsee we drove past, and it seems to be a beautiful area, but when we left the alps behind us, Austria became very similar to Germany, so i was used to the look.

Two things stood out nonetheless- first, the best pull-in i’ve seen for years. It was a Landzeit and had more of a country-restaurant and laid-back style that i’ve found very inviting. Spending an hour there was easy and pleasant, whereas the most pull-ins we stop at in Germany invite only to get going again as quickly as possible. The second one was when we approached Vienna and saw nothing but woods. It must have been the Vienna Woods and on the road, there had been a couple of times when no house or field was in sight- only wood.

Entering Vienna, i immediately made a connection to Munich in my mind. No high skyscrapers in sight, the buildings are actually quite flat there. From a driver’s perspective, for a big city it was also quite relaxing to drive in. We reached our hotel without difficulty, taking in sights like the Schönbrunn Palace on our way. Arriving at the hotel, though, i couldn’t find the garage where we could park our car for the week. A helpful concierge had to show it to us and another couple that arrived roughly at the same time.

balcony_view2

The hotel is nice, but expensive- but so are almost all of the hotels in Vienna and i think this falls into the affordable category. We chose it because it was close to the hotel my wife had her business meetings in while not being the same. Both were just across the street from the Stadtpark, a very nice location to stay in, especially if you’re traveling with kids and/or plan eating outside. Now, we booked a room with a balcony, but we chose the “budget version”, so i expected the balcony to be of the smaller kind shown in pictures around the web. Nobody told us, but i think we were upgraded, because our room was on the top floor and nothing prepared us for the the view in the direction of the Stadtpark, which was absolutely stunning.

We had a nice view from our room
We had a nice view from our room

Of course, Vienna is culturally rich city- after all, it was the seat of one of the most important kingdoms in…well, some time before 1933 (i wasn’t really a good student and most of what i remember from history concerns the years 1933-1945). There are so many places to visit that i guess even if you took a week you wouldn’t see it all. In this, Vienna is actually more similar to Paris, where i could confidently state that you’d need two weeks to see the important stuff (after all, you can take two days just for the Louvre).

The first thing we did after appreciating the view from our room was to go and see the St. Stephens cathedral as it was in walking distance from our hotel. Our son was very happy to see the carriages there and wanted to take a ride. We thought it would be a nice treat for him after he did so well on our road trip so far- we are lucky that he doesn’t really mind to drive for 3 or 4 hours, although we took breaks every 2-3 hours, of course. The only time he gave us trouble was on our way back home from Vienna, but that took 12 hours so it was to be expected. It also gave us the opportunity to see parts of Vienna in a comfortable way. Needless to say, our son loved it and smiled all the way.

vienna_carriages

In the evening, we went to see the Prater. We were visiting the amusement park, which is kind of like a funfair with a couple of fun rides for children of all ages as well as adults. The Prater is actually quite a big area the size of 6km² (2.3 square miles), but after the long drive we wanted to give our son some action- he loved it, wanted to take a ride wherever it was something he could ride on.  I was surprised at how big the amusement park part was- in my hometown, we have an annual funfair that’s the event of town where everyone who lives and lived there returns for in addition to “tourists” from the region. Although more crowded, that thing is dwarfed by what the Prater offers on a daily basis- the Prater’s bigger and more fun.

We also had our first barbecue plate for dinner. We weren’t very hungry, but the plate appealed to us. Needless to say, we couldn’t eat it all- our son was getting tired and we weren’t very hungry to begin with. Wiener Schnitzel, by the way, i found to be good but not so special- i’ve eaten it in a similar quality in germany. We were actually looking for something i rememberred from travelling through Austria in the 80’s: Backhendl (sorry, no english entry), but all we saw was a salad variant.

Anyway, we had to take a lot of food back with us into the hotel. Just when we turned a corner to our hotel, i saw two homeless men squatting in a house entrance. Almost entering our hotel, a thought came to my mind and i asked my wife whether we actually had any need for the food we took with us- i mean, Wiener Schnitzel don’t make for a great breakfast and we wanted to go out and continue exploring anyway. She thought about it and said: “probably not, why?” – “we could give it to the homeless people over there” – “hm, yes. But won’t they be offended?” – “Good point, i don’t know. But my guess is they’re past that”. In the end, i went there and cautiously offered the meat- they took it. I’m writing this here because it was one of my personal highlights of being in Vienna. I know, it’s not much and it won’t save the world, but it felt good. In my opinion, if you’re well off, it suits you to remember that you are. And make no mistake, all of us here playing MMOs, reading or  writing about them are in a happy place. Sure, we have our problems as well, but if you’ve got money and time to spend on games, you’re one of the lucky people.

Schönbrunn Castle
Schönbrunn Castle

Our second day took us to the Naschmarkt first and Schönbrunn Palace for the rest of the day. The Naschmarkt is a row of market stalls selling foods of all kinds. It’s an interesting place, for sure, but i have to say that the “food streets” in China are more interesting to me- of course, their food is both more exotic and more varied. Still, it is an interesting place to go and eat out.

As for Schönbrunn Palace, if you’d like to see it all, reserve a whole day- or maybe don’t, if you don’t have kids. Unfortunately queues to get tickets were quite long and while you could theoretically buy tickets online and on vending machines, both didn’t work when we were there. Aside from seeing the interiors of the palace, there is a huge garden attached to the castle as well as a zoo and a couple of mazes to explore. We were able to buy tickets, take a walk through the garden, visit the playground and go through one of the mazes before taking our tour through the palace.

In the next couple of days my wife had her business stuff going on and my son and i could plan the days in a more relaxing manner- we basically went to the playgrounds in the Stadtpark, but we also took a trip to an aqua zoo to see sharks and other sea-creatures. We also went into a chinese restaurant where they served authentic chinese dishes- that became the most expensive meal i had with my son because i couldn’t resist some of the food that was on offer.

In the end, i think Vienna is one of the more beautiful “big cities” i visited- it’s clean and relatively quiet, although there are lots of tourists, of course. Us being close to the Stadtgarten made our stay quite relaxing because playgrounds and a place where we could move freely with our son were near. The food you can eat in Vienna is very good and varied, although i’d suggest to do some research before visiting any place- it would be a pity if you were to choose a mediocre restaurant of some kind, not knowing that the best in town is just around the corner.

So yes, i’d go to Vienna again.

Summer Walkabout

So our small guild is taking a summer break from guild activities from the end of june to the end of august. May and especially june have shown already that this is a smart decision, as the last couple of events had some last-minute-cancellations already. For the most part it didn’t matter as we were still more than a full group to do our stuff. Yesterday, though, marked the first time i had to cancel on short notice. As i’ve said, i try my best to attend guild events that i set up and yesterday, we wanted to try and form a group for a dungeon. As far as i know, we would’ve been only three people attending anyway, so we probably would have opted to do something different. I knew i had something else to do, but i was confident that (a) that would be wrapped up just before 9 p.m. and (b) our son would be so tired by that time that he’d basically fall asleep as soon as he lay in bed. As it turned out, i was wrong on both accounts- i was home at 9.30 and greeted by a still very happy and awake son. It took him until 10 p.m. to sleep, by 10.15 i was sitting at the pc, too late to start anything really and read the message from another guildie that we’d just cancel the event. While i’m really unhappy that it was me who didn’t show up, the truth is that real life can interfer with my gaming plans, as well.

In the next couple of weeks/months, i’ll be even more busy, as we’re moving house in the end of june, our son has to change kindergarten and we’ll have to do some stuff in our old house. So july’s free time will be occupied by stuff like that (in addition to watching football/soccer, as there is the Euro 2016). My guess is that settling into the new house will keep us busy in august, as well.

Nonetheless, i have gaming-related plans for these two months, if i can get some gaming time in.

wildstar

Planning ahead

For me personally, the guild’s summer break means i’ll rejoice in a two-month MMO wanderlust, if i want to. Right now, my limited time to play basically leads me to playing Elder Scrolls Online exclusively, which is a great thing as i like the game a lot and always wanted to settle down. On the other hand, the list of games i’d like to play from time to time grew significantly in the last couple of weeks. I have a few goals for ESO, but i’ll be an MMO hopper for the upcoming months. A word on EVE Online: still love it, but i think i’ll take a break for the summer, at least. I’m still a bloody newbie and playing once a week for 30 minutes won’t do much to change that. I’ll need to put EVE on hold until i begin to spend more time gaming again.

Goals for Elder Scrolls Online

Two months might be enough to get my main character from level 37 to 50. That should be around a level a week; there’s actually a chance i might be able to do that. It would be nice to have a character on maxlevel to get into collecting champion points and being able to do DLC content in a more meaningful manner. I feel i outlevel ESO’s zones too quickly- i don’t even have an idea where my ideal quest hub is right now, the quests i’m currently on in Malabal Tor are all green. And that’s just from dungeon delving and exploring Cyrodiil with the guild. This won’t be a problem anymore when One Tamriel gets released, but we’re not there yet.

walkabout_tsw

MMO Wanderlust

Oh boy, do i want to visit places. I’ll probably play some or all of the following games in the next couple of months.

 

Blade and Soul. I think Blade and Soul can be an excellent game to play in short sessions just for the fun of it. The combat is great, i like the setting, the graphics, the style. I’m really looking forward to playing it some more and probably trying the Soul Fighter, which seems to be quite a fun class. I’ve played some Blade and Soul in the last couple of days and i guess the main thing i need to decide is whether i’d like to move to an international server with new characers as the german one i’m on seems…kind of empty.

The Secret World. TSW is always on my to-do-list. I so hope to see the content this game offers some day. For me, Funcom are the good guys of the genre and i’m happy they seem to have put their financial trouble behind for now. There’s also the museum of the occult coming up, so i’m curious. And it’s the one MMO where our guild might actually meet for an out-of-ESO experience.

Wildstar. The housing is the biggest reason for Wildstar to be on this list. Others are the recent Steam launch and the fact that this MMO is on my personal 8-Ball-endangered-games list. The marketing “effort” Carbine and NCSoft put into their Steam launch didn’t do much in terms of confidence in this game. It’s a shame, actually, as the housing is great, the game does look good, offers a wide array of activities…for me it’s the combat and the bland questing experience that make the game unenjoyable, but i’ll go and visit it anyway.

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Lord of the Rings Online. Just like with TSW, i’d like to see the content here- or to be more precise, the landscapes.

World of Warcraft. Yes, i might. But i’ll avoid to sub until i’m level 20 with my newly created disc priest. My main motivation here is, again, landscapes, as Blizzard puts out very beautiful zone designs. I always wanted to see the WotLK zones in particular. This is probably going nowhere, but for now, it is included.

Tera. I might even install this. I have a new PC, the game looks good and the combat is good. Also because of it being featured on Rockpapershotgun yesterday.

Single Player. The backlog is long. I’d like to build a City in Cities: Skylines, a space empire in Stellaris, i’d like to roleplay in Skyrim, The Witcher 3, Mass Effect, shoot others in Overwatch and more.

I know this is way too much for two months- heck, if i focused, i’d probably be able to do most of it in two years. My main focus (besides ESO) will be on Blade&Soul, because my guess is that this will be the game that fits best into available time and playing mood- i think it can be played in shorter sessions, it seems to offer great solo content (that 100-level-thing interests me), it’s fun to play with the great combat, it offers a story i’m interested in and i guess it’s perfectly fine to be played as an alone-together-murder-simulator  MMO. Which might just be what i’ll be looking for in the next couple of months.

One Tamriel! How’bout that?

When people talk about MMO comebacks, they’ll mostly give Final Fantasy XIV as an example. Of course this is true, FFXIV in its current state is immensely better than what they released as V1.0. But this one was essentially rebuilt- it wasn’t evolution that brought FFXIV from 1.0 to 2.0, it was recreation.

Elder Scrolls Online wasn’t too well-received when it released, although i believe this was born more out of disappointment of players who didn’t feel like their interests took the front seat in the game design- as we’ve often read, MMO players felt the game was not MMO enough and Skyrim players felt ESO wasn’t Skyrim enough. Both groups of players felt neglected to some extent. These days, i feel like we are seeing Elder Scrolls Online stepping up to satisfy both player types and the birth of the next great MMORPG- i mean, it has been in the making for quite some time now, but Elder Scrolls Online will be shaping itself up to a set of features and scope that will see it propelled to be one of the best if not the best MMORPG to be released in this decade at least. In my opinion, of course.

Elder Scrolls Online is a great MMORPG with a few things that hinder it at becoming the top MMO for me. To mention a few things:

  • at release and until recently, the prospect of having to quest through all three campaigns with each and every character scared me. That’s at least 300 hours of content if you rush and that would mean about a year or two of me playing only one character and only Elder Scrolls Online. After that, i’d be ready for DLC and Cyrodiil.
  • group options – for people like me and guilds like ours, level scaling is not optional, it’s very important to enable us to do stuff together. It’s great that the DLC are scaled, but going there and doing stuff would mean to almost skip over entire zones in the base game (i saw about a quarter of Greenshade, if it was that much)
  • non-combat content like housing is missing
  • trading with other players still requires us to join trading guilds

I might be a bit too optimistic here, but it seems that at the end of 2016, only the issue of trading with other players will remain, as housing is probably coming this year and yesterday, Matt Firor announced “One Tamriel”.

In other words, we’re bringing the same auto-leveling system (called “battle leveling”) that has been so successful in our DLCs to the entire game.

Here are the basics:

  • Characters will have their level scaled the same way that we currently scale players to the level of DLC zones (Imperial City, Orsinium, Thieves Guild, and Dark Brotherhood).
  • You will be able to explore the entire world in any sequence you wish – just walk across the world and you will always find appropriately leveled content.
  • You will be able to play and group with anyone in the game at any time (outside of PvP). No longer will you have to create a lower level character to play with a friend who has just joined the game. You will be able to group and adventure together from the moment your friend emerges from the tutorial.
  • We are dropping all PvE Alliance restrictions. You will be free to explore of all Tamriel, including other Alliances. It is up to you how you want to role-play your character while doing this. “Silver” and “gold” versions of zones will be replaced by Cadwell quest storylines that you can do in any order you wish.
  • Alliance restrictions will still be enforced in all PvP areas, of course. One Tamriel will not affect the PvP systems in Cyrodiil.
  • In general, higher level players will be the same “level” as lower level players, but they will have far more tools in their arsenal: better gear, more abilities, and of course more Champion points.
  • We will adjust gear rewards to scale appropriately to make sure that there is always a way to get more powerful via crafting, questing, PvP, and dungeon/trial boss loot drops.
  • All Trials and Dungeons will continue with standard and Veteran difficulty modes, and you will have to be Veteran level to play veteran dungeon modes.
  • The Coldharbour zone will be “roped off” from players who have not yet completed the quests that lead there. However, if you are invited to a group that is already there, or travel to a friend who is there, you can immediately access the zone.

Sooo, level scaling in the whole game. Removal of alliance restrictions in PvE. Imagine what this means for a small guild like ours: finally, we can tackle all the content together. At any one time, we’ll be able to meaningfully form groups to help each other, be in each other’s company, run dungeons. We’ll also be able to recruit players from the other alliances, as we’re PvE-focussed anyway. I don’t know yet what that might mean for our leveling group of DC characters, but i guess it might have an influence, because we don’t need to watch each others’ character levels as closely as before and we’ll also be able to simply join up with whatever character we like.

Now give me a place to call my own, please!
Now give me a place to call my own, please!

For the solo player- and in my personal opinion questing is still better when doing it alone- this means that outleveling content will not be a problem anymore. This opens up so many possibilities like playing through whole DLCs before getting to 50, changing zones and so on. With this change, the leveling experience from 1 to 50 will be very alt-friendly indeed, because while you still can do everything with every character, the order in which to do that will be up to us, the players. This move alone will make the game feel even larger than it is right now.

I am very excited to see where ESO is going this year and i’m very happy with the current state as well as the prospect of what’s coming.

Guild Update: Summer break

Our small Elder Scrolls Online guild will take a summer break from the end of june to the end of august. By that, we mean that none of the recurring events (leveling DC characters together, exploring Cyrodiil, the monthly guild meeting) we do will take place during that time. We’ll still be playing ESO and we’ll probably meet for a dungeon run from time to time, but we’ll be on hold, essentially. While this is a somewhat risky move, as it might look like activity is going down and we’ll have to reconnect and get back into our rhythm after the break, i feel it’s the right thing to do for a couple of reasons.

Oh Italy, how i miss you!
Oh Italy, how i miss you!

It’s not the season for in-game commitments

It’s summer. Real-life activities turn up very regularly- be it holidays, parties, events, simply meeting friends, the will to do something outdoors or simply the heat that drives us away from the pc. There’s a lower motivation to sign-up for an event and actually taking part in it.

Experience

In my experience, planned events for summer days get cancelled often due to a lack of participants. Sure, there might be people signing up, but more often than not, there’ll be cancellations on short notice and i’d end up with just one or two other players taking part. There’s nothing worse you can do for your guild’s morale than cancelling events- usually, when i schedule one, i’ll see it through even if only one other person shows up. The second you start cancelling events, they’ll seem less important to your members and soon they might choose to simply not turning up even when they signed up for an event.

That’s much worse than simply deciding that one type of content or a particular time (like the summer months) are off limits for you and your guild.

Recharging the batteries

When you set up weekly events, it can get exhausting. For the members who participate, surely, but all the more for the guild leader, as they are the person who has to commit to the schedule as well as each individual event they set up. While i’m always having a great time when an event starts and we are playing together, sometimes i’m not in the mood to play just minutes before. Maybe i’d prefer to watch something, spend time with my wife or read a book.

So a time where i don’t have to think about running events frees up a good chunk of time for me- and this is important to recharge my batteries and stay motivated to provide scheduled events. By the end of the summer break, i’ll be looking forward to get the guild going again, and i have quite a few plans for the final four months of this year.

The move

Furthermore, my family will be moving in the end of june. Not far, just about 15km (9mi) away, from a rented house into our own. There won’t be much work to do, as we hired a company to make the actual move and our new house is in a good state. However, we have to do a few things here in the rented home, maybe painting the walls a bit, and getting rid of furniture and stuff we don’t take with us. I expect to be busy with the move at least until mid-july, maybe the whole month.

discord

Staying in touch

The most difficult thing to achieve during the summer months will be staying in touch with the guildmates- we are a young guild, after all, and while bonds are continuously growing stronger, they are still building up. So the summer break also holds the potential of throwing us back a bit.

What can you do to stay in touch with guildmates if you have a very casual, small and social guild?

Encourage forum usage. I’ll prepare a few activities that will take place asynchronuously in the forums- things like screenshot contests, storytelling, sharing our appreciation of the game we’re playing come to mind. There’ll be forum titles to go along with these activities.

Encourage use of Discord. Voice chat is a funny thing in our guild, actually. We have the opportunity to make use of it, but rarely do so. I can only remember being on Discord for an event once. In the upcoming guild meeting just before the summer break begins, i’ll emphasize again that Discord will probably be the second most important community hub for us. I mean, there’s chat channels in addition to voice chat, so there’s that.

More casual ingame events. While i won’t commit to it, i still aim to meet up for a dungeon run or other group activities every once in a while.

Enjoying other games. Quite a few of us are big fans of The Secret World. Besides ESO, TSW has the biggest chance of seeing a group of us playing together. As with the casual ingame events, i won’t commit, but chances are we’ll form up a group once or twice during the summer break.

This should do it- i don’t want to overstretch as that would be counterproductive, but i do hope that this will work out in giving us a break for a couple of months while still feeling connected and looking forward to playing together from september on.

There and back: Berchtesgadener Land

Last week, we were on vacation. To be more accurate, our son and i were on vacation. My wife had some business to do in Vienna, Austria. We chose to take this opportunity to transform the trip into our summer vacation- as we’re going to move in the end of june/early july, this was the best opportunity to do so. So we appended a couple of days before and after the business stuff to spend some quality time in Vienna.

When the long weekend began on thursday, may, 28th, we decided to add another two days before the stay in Vienna to take a bit of a detour and see the mountains/german alps in the south of germany. It also had the advantage of giving us extra time for the 800 km/500 miles long road trip by splitting it in two drives with one being around 600 km / 370 miles and the second one coming in at 320 km / 200 miles. As we would see on our way back, this was a very good idea indeed, as making an 8 hour drive with a three-year-old is kind of stressful for the child.

After looking for hotels, we found something in Bad Reichenhall, in the district of “Berchtesgadener Land“. Somehow, just like the names of the surrounding towns (Berchtesgaden, Bischofswiesen), i knew the name but couldn’t put my finger on why that was. When we arrived in town and saw the sculpture of a big salt shaker, it dawned on me- we always buy table salt from that town.

salzsortiment

But we weren’t there for salt- we were there for great views, clean air, a bit of calm and the Königssee. It turned out that we chose just the right place for that- and not simply because of the area, but also because of the bed&breakfast we stayed in. I found it to be so enjoyable that i’m going to drop a name- we stayed at the Leitnerhof in Bad Reichenhall. Not only is it quite affordable for this area, coming in at about 35€ per person and night, but it’s also a family business, and it shows. Frau Leitner, who’s running the show there, is a very kind person, always friendly and she prepares a breakfast that is quite something. Nowadays, if you take breakfast, you’ll usually be treated to a buffet- not so here. The host prepares everything- when you enter the room, you’ll have a table set for you, with a few buns, bread and stuff to put on it. When she knows what you drink, there’ll also be coffee/tea and possibly boiled eggs. When i saw the table, my first thought was if it was possible to ask for more bread (there were two buns and a slice of bread for each person, but i can be quite hungry in the morning if the breakfast is good), but little did i know. With our coffee, there came the fruit salad and the boiled eggs. After a while, there came cake. In the end, i asked the host if it was possible to take the rest with us for the day (after all, she would have had to throw it away, which is a waste).

The other guests were mainly regulars. They knew the host and were conversing with her in a very personal manner. Atmosphere-wise, going into the breakfast room was actually like coming down into the family kitchen- everybody was friendly, talking to our son, sometimes keeping him busy when we still weren’t finished with our breakfast while he was already running around. The atmosphere became even more familiar when i saw that the host’s family was indeed breaking their fast in the kitchen next to the guest’s room. You could simply go in, wish a good morning and talk a bit. All this is so, so very rare in these day and age where everyone is out to maximize his or her own gain that just thinking about it now is just…heartwarming. So, i can recommend the Leitnerhof in Bad Reichenhall.

Leitnerhof in Bad Reichenhall
Leitnerhof in Bad Reichenhall

One thing that’s really nice when visiting the country-side is that you don’t have to pay as much attention for your toddler- cars are there, of course, but they aren’t frequent. And at our B&B, everybody was driving very carefully, so we didn’t have to follow our son in 3-5m distance all the time, which is very relaxing. If it was for me, i would have simply stayed there for the two days, taking a walk here and there and enjoying the view from our balcony or the garden below. But it isn’t, and my wife sure loves her schedule. Since we only had one complete day, we chose to go and see the Königssee, judging by photos a very beautiful lake in the area. Also, it is quite famous, especially with the chinese/asian tourists. I can tell you the last time i heard people speaking so much chinese was in China. The Königssee was beautiful, but crowded.

This is actually the Obersee. Also, no-one shows the crowds on photos.
This is actually the Obersee. Also, no-one shows the crowds on photos.

In the end, we spent about one-and-a-half days in the area and while it was full of tourists, the area around our B&B was very calm- it was only when we went to see the Königssee, driving through the more famous towns that we saw some crowds. As for the landscape- i’d call it breathtaking- by the way, none of the photos are edited in any way. I always loved the mountains…at least looking at them and i do love the food and beer of southern germany as well as the people there. So these two days were very nice indeed. I didn’t want to leave, but we had to go to Vienna, after all.

NBI – taking a break is fine

The Newbie Blogger Initiative is here again and after taking a blogging break for a few weeks i thought i wouldn’t have much advice to give to Newbies. But i think one of the main reasons for blogs to be discontinued is when the author stops writing for some reason or another. While that might be obvious, i think many people think that once you lose your rhythm, they “failed”. Once upon a time i read about how to quit smoking and one advice i read was that if you found yourself smoking one cigarette again, don’t think you failed quitting to smoke – because if you do, you’ll end up smoking just as much or more than before, and more than that: each “failed” try will make you more afraid to try again. I know that because i quit smoking half a dozen times and the thought of quitting terrified me in the end. Now, smoking is a bad habit and i’d call blogging a good habit- so let’s turn this around, shall we?

When you fail to deliver content regularly, don’t think of it as a failed attempt at blogging. It isn’t- you can simply continue whenever you like. Nothing got deleted, nobody forgot you and most certainly, nobody is angry with you. I know that because somehow, every year there seems to come a stretch of time when i don’t post. I’m always passionate about MMORPGs, so you might wonder why that is. There are a couple of possible reasons, actually.

Burnout

What it is

Burnout is the best reason to take a break. Burnout, in this case, is meant as the realization that we devote much more time to the hobby of gaming and writing about it than we are willing to give. Like Ironweakness did last month. MMORPGs are a time-intensive hobby and if you don’t pay attention, it is able to devour your free-time fully. Add reading and writing blogs to simply playing these games and it’s easy to lose track of time spent on the hobby before realizing that it took over your soul. Don’t let that happen to you- if you feel you need to take a break, just do it.

What to do about it

Nothing, this type of burnout is healthy. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate just how much time we spend on playing these games or read/write about them. It’s also one of the best ways to gain some distance and realize that, no, this news/Patch/Update/DLC/expansion isn’t that important and we are able to continue our lives just the same without them. Staying away from all that actually helps in rekindling your appreciation of the hobby- after a while, you’ll want to log into your favourite game(s), and consequently, you’ll find yourself willing to continue to share your thoughts on your blog. In this case, my advice would be to simply take a step back and return when you’re in the mood to.

Less time in game

What it is

Gaming blogs and playing games feed into each other- blogging about games can make you more excited for your games of choice, and playing games can give inspiration on what to write on your blog. However, sometimes, you’ll simply spend less time in game- for me, this is usually in the summer months, as there’s just too much going on aside from gaming so that i’m having trouble finding the time and the will to spend hours in games. This time of playing less can last a few days or a couple of months. If your blog only covers your ingame-actions or out-of-game-but-genre-related thoughts, you might find it difficult to think of topics.

What to do about it

Again, nothing much. However, if you’d like to write on your blog more than actually playing games, there are a couple of possibilities like commenting on news pieces, genre developments, things you look forward to in the next couple of months, commenting other bloggers’ posts. You could also change the range of topics covered on your blog by adding posts about your travels, writing about other types of entertainment (books, movies, tv-series) or different topics altogether (sports, for instance). Now, i do find it weird when i mix my “gaming” and “real life” personalities by writing about travels and i actually feel real life stuff like that has a better place elsewhere, it also helps your readers to get connected to you on a more personal level. As for the entertaining stuff- ever noticed how people who like the same artists/authors/directors/actors tend to share a lot of these? That’s how Amazon’s recommendations for you work- there’s a good chance, actually, that people who enjoy MMORPGs might share a similar taste in movies, books and such.

No ideas

If you still have no idea what to write about, read other blogs for inspiration or do one of the challenges for getting a blog started. There is that 20 days of blogging challenge floating around. I think it was created with World of Warcraft in mind, but it can be applied to many MMOs.

After the break

As i said, if you take a break, don’t fret about it. You didn’t “fail” in blogging, if there is such a thing. Personally, i’d advise against “i’m back”-posts, because if it turns out your break wasn’t over yet, it looks kind of strange to have a break of 1-3 months followed by a “back” message from 3 months ago. I’d simply get back into writing. In the same way, i’d advise against announcing your exit- because more often than not, you’ll be back, because MMORPGs are a great hobby, writing about them makes it even better and my guess is that once you’ve got bitten by the blogging bug, you’re probably not going to quit anytime soon.

Yesterday, Wolfy chose to write about the same thing, so this post might be redundant (but…but…i had it drafted and didn’t want to scrap it!). Join me next week when i write about reasons for why sharing topics isn’t bad, but great!

 

Dual Wielding LFG – fostering community, player edition

Dual Wielding: LFG Editionsometimes a topic is just too big for a couple of bloggers on their own. That’s when we send out the call, and see who steps up to help us with the challenge. This week, in the last edition of Dual Wielding, we’re tackling the question, “what can players do to foster community”?

Make sure to read the other posts, too:

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Play by the rules of game and society

Normally, i’d point to the Wil Wheaton rule of internet usage: don’t be a jerk. But if Game of Thrones showed us something, it was that you’ll be a jerk to someone, somewhere. Even in Themepark MMORPGs, there’s the possibility that your actions are considered impolite towards somebody else. Take cutscenes in LFG-dungeon groups as an example: while i, personally, think the polite thing to do is to let everyone go on their own pace, watching cutscenes if they like, i’ve heard people complain about this behaviour, stating that it’s a waste of other people’s time. While i personally think it’s best to go into a dungeon unprepared to make encounters surprising, challenging and a riddle to solve, in the general population it is considered very impolite to queue for an LFG-dungeon without at least reading up on boss mechanics.

When you go further into sandboxes like EVE, it becomes almost impossible to play that game without having ingame-conflict with other players. So in the end, what it comes down to is this: play by the rules of your preferred game(s), remember and follow the “code of conduct” of that game’s community, and whatever you do: don’t take the ingame fights to the human sitting behind the character. Deriving your own fun out of ruining someone else’s experience isn’t good behaviour. There’s absolutely no reason why ingame-enemies can’t be out-of-game friends.

While reading “Empires of EVE”, i was surprised that in the early days, there was a “honorable” way of fighting wars. The author of the book compared it to duelling; the fighting parties were expected to set up a fight, gather at the location, fight it out and reach consent on who won. With time and players more and more willing to do what it took to win wars, that faded away. Now EVE is a game with some tough, almost non-existent rules, and pirates/scammers and whatever type of player you’d normally put on the “Dark Side” will be able to find like-minded players who don’t see them as jerks, but as fun to be around.

guild

Find likeminded players

Whether you are polite or impolite, a friendly or competitive player, behaviour alone won’t help you in fostering your game’s, or even your own community. The easiest thing to do to foster community is to find likeminded players. It doesn’t matter if what you like is dressing up, building your dreamhouse, running dungeons or mining rocks in EVE, there’ll be other players enjoying these activities, as well. Find a guild that fits your preferred playstyle and personality. Chances are that there is one guild out there that is the perfect fit for you. I can remember times when my friendlist contained more players than the guild i was in, but nowadays that’s not the case anymore.

It has become quite difficult to form lasting relationships in MMOs, and in fact, i do blame the dungeon finder tool for that. A well-organized friendlist used to be our LFG tool. In WoW, i had a couple of tanks and healers on my list and would ping them when we were in a group that didn’t fill the role. While Dungeon Finders are convenient, they removed some social interaction. If you add in cross-server functionality, they even discourage you from creating bonds to the people who are sharing the dungeon running experience with you…as you’ll be unable to stay in contact.

So finding a guild is essential if you want to enjoy MMORPG with a sense of community. And if you’ve found one that seemed to be a good fit but it turns out that it wasn’t, leave the guild in a polite way. Good guild managers will want to know why you left, but will understand if you state your reasons.

If you can’t find a good fit in existing guilds, you should consider creating your own, to find likeminded players and get yourself some company. That’s what i did and i have to say, for now, it seems to work out perfectly.

I love scenes like this one

Get involved in your guild

If you found a guild, it’s time to get involved. The easiest thing to do is to participate in what your guild offers- be it an active guild- or voice chat, forums or whatever. As a guild manager myself i can also tell you that whatever feedback you’re offering is welcome, as long as it is constructive. The most frustrating thing i experienced as a guild leader over the years is when you put a lot of thought into something, put it out there and there’s nothing flowing back. Lack of interest is not a problem- if i make a suggestion and nobody’s interested in that particular activity or policy, that’s fine- if it is expressed. Taking part in discussions, knowing what your guild is up to by reading the forums or talking with guildies will take you a long way into building up your own private community.

If you find something wrong in your guild, consider making suggestions for improvement before leaving. Now, this doesn’t make sense in all scenarios- if your guild is a big, but loose circle of players, it won’t make sense to suggest transforming the guild into a small, tight-knit community. If your guild is casual but you’d like to seriously get into raiding, it’s very possible that it can’t be done in that guild. And lastly, if you’re new, you shouldn’t be pushing change too much- if you feel so inclined during the first months, it’s probably because the guild is not a good fit for you. Don’t worry, just continue looking- there’ll be a guild for you.

At this point, most players will feel content with the community and connections they’ve built up for themselves, and that’s fine. If you still want to do more, you could consider taking some responsibility in your guild- create events, activities, dungeon groups or whatever.

gw038

Participate

All of the things above help you in building your own, private community around yourself- but what if you’d like to get more involved in your server’s, game’s or genre’s community? You could offer help via general chat- not actively, but you know how oftentimes, it’s the same questions asked again and again in general chat? Did you see the trend that what is answered willingly and politely in the first days of a game’s life gets rougher answers as time passes? If you see someone asking a basic questions that’s quick to answer, simply provide the answer.

Depending on your server and game, there might be community events spouting up- i know that The Secret World and Lord of the Rings Online offer much in this regard- look them up and go there.

Does the game of your choice have game-specific podcasts and blogs? Look them up and read or listen to them. Even when simply doing that, it will make you feel and be more connected to your game’s community. Genre-related, i’ve found the same to be true while browsing the genre’s websites like Massively Overpowered, MMORPG.com and mmogames.com – reading those sites and maybe commenting from time to time builds up your ties to the wider community.

Looks quite different than the artwork, doesn't it?

Join the fun

There are additional ways to get connected, and their number is climbing. Social networks do their part- the gaming community is quite active on Twitter, for instance. Then, there are gamer specific networks such as Anook and Discord. Just take a look if your server/game/podcast has a presence there- for instance, i’m a member in three Discord groups- one for the “Tales of Tamriel” podcast, one for gaming bloggers and one for my small guild.

I’ve also found blogging to be a great way to fostering community- Dual Wielding is just one example for this: Ironweakness and i thought it would be fun to do something like this and we’ve also been joined by others in this adventure. It did create some private connections between Ironweakness and myself, going so far as to say that if i were to travel to the US, i’d like to meet up.

Just like i did in the last edition, i think taking the community out of game and maybe bordering real life is a great way for players to foster community- i mean, what would Elder Scrolls Online be without Tamriel Foundry, World of Warcraft without Alternative Chat / Blizzard Watch and so on?

Thanks

So i’d like to thank everyone who’s helping in making MMORPGs more than simple games- bloggers, of course (too many to call names), the podcasts i listen to: Tales of Tamriel, Crossing Zebras, Massively Speaking- as well as those i don’t listen to regularly (too many to call names), guild leaders for taking time to create communities within their games and guild members for being willing to connect to others. They all contribute to the feeling of community we have in the genre- the one thing that really sets the genre apart.

dual_wielding

Goodbye, Dual Wielding

I’m sad to say, this will be it for Dual Wielding, at least for now. Ironweakness chose to take a break from MMORPGs and blogging, and i wish him all the best. Maybe he’ll return to the genre or blogging, maybe not, we’ll see. I’ll take some time to think about other ways to continue the fun experience of blogging with others, but whatever i’ll come up with, it won’t be Dual Wielding- it can’t be, without Ironweakness. I’m going to miss it, as well as reading Ironweakness’ blog or seeing him active on Twitter, but of course he has my full support.

I’d like to thank Justin from Massively Overpowered for featuring this thing on their site more than once, and i’d like to thank Aywren, Syl and Wolfyseyes for joining us in the LFG edition- it was huge fun and an honour.

Most of all, i’d like to thank Ironweakness for this coop-blogging-experience, coming up with topics, his opinions and the great times we had doing this. Even after his last break when he didn’t want to continue to blog in regular fashion, he was still willing to rez Dual Wielding. So thanks for the great times, Weakness!

Gaming goals for may

First one: make this post about quantifiable goals and more bullet-pointy than the last one.

Elder Scrolls Online

ESO_logo-blackReviewing april’s goals

  • level my main to 30 – done. She’s 35 right now
  • craft an armor/weapon set – still to do
  • figure out a way to skill my Dragon Knight – not done
  • level the Dragon Knight to 15 – not done

Goals for may

  • level my main to 50. Yes, that’s a stretch- but i feel i could do it if i concentrate on it- would be nice to reach 50 before the veteran ranks go the way of the dodo.

Other games

April’s goals

Not quantifiable, but i haven’t reached any of these. I didn’t play Black Desert and/or The Secret World. Instead, i resubbed to EVE Online and dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online.

Goals for may

EVE Online

  • keep at it!
  • finish the career agent missions

Battleborn, Stellaris, Overwatch

  • no real goals but to actually play each of them

Our guild

Reviewing april’s goals

  • have a guild meeting – done.
  • tackle another dungeon or two – done.
  • have a social event (crafter’s market) – still open.
  • short and middle term strategies for homepage and growth – possibly done.

I feel we’ve overachieved here. Last month, i was worried that my absence damaged the community a bit- this was either totally unfounded or has been corrected during the month of april. We’re now in peak times regarding activity- we visit Cyrodiil regularly, we’ll level characters together in the Daggerfall Covenant, we continue to do dungeons from time to time and a member stepped up to invite us into Imperial City.

Goals for may

  • have a guild meeting
  • begin levelling our DC characters
  • continue in Cyrodiil
  • tackle a dungeon or two
  • write a “How to get involved” post on the forums

Blog & Meta

April’s goals

  • seperate Real Life  and gaming stuff – not done. In fact, i’m back to the “normal” blog layout with whole posts on the home page.
  • write more China posts. No, i don’t think this’ll happen. Somehow i feel MMORPG, RL and movie/book blogging don’t mix very well
  • Still need to look more into Anook
  • Still need to get better at commenting

Goals for may

  • have a bigger range in content length. Everything i write is about 1000 words long. I need to be able to keep it short, as well, making the blog more fun and easy to read and maybe get more posts up
  • figure out how i want the site to look and feel. Work on the navigation.
  • provide “deeper” content. I can’t really do guides, because i’m inexperienced, but i’d like to try and offer more value.