Time to Loot Journal: September 2019

September was a month largely about returning to a sense of normalcy. The spectre of potential health issues being lifted and work returning to a more settled flow after the last round of restructuring being the primary drivers.

Asheron’s Call you won’t be surprised to learn, took much of my usual gaming time. Which ultimately ended up in quite a game-heavy month actually, taking time notably from both blog posting and watching shows.

Here’s to hoping this trend of normalcy carries on!

Also? It struck me recently just how close we are to the Christmas break. Ohhh Lordy, I cannot wait!

The Blog this Month

I published 15 posts in September, down 16 from last month. But last month was crazy. It was post-every-day-or-live-in-shame-forever-Blaugust. OK, no it wasn’t. I mean, it was Blaugust. But no-one was applying that kind of pressure.

In fact the experience of last month had me in a fairly weird and contradictory state of mind for a tiny bit. In my last journal I acknowledged what an absolute challenge it was to post every single day. And just how much it wasn’t for me. Just a couple of days later I had to acknowledge that I was still posting daily and that it may continue a while.

That state of madness was fleeting it appears, as I only kept it up until September 5th after which I returned to my much more regular cadence of posting 2-3 times a week. Although undoubtedly part of that drop off was due to Asheron’s Call coming in and taking over so much of my computer time (as you’ll see shortly). If not for that, would the cycle have continued?

Maybe!

In any case, 145 published posts (including this one) now reside on Time to Loot. Apparently this is already enough that I’m occasionally surprised to find one. Generally I do at least recall doing it when I see it again, but sometimes the specifics of the content within may as well have come from someone else. Hah.

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Transport Fever: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started
  2. Travel Down that Ol’ Town Road
  3. Heart of Rage: Tips for the Monitor
  4. Exploring the Intro to the Magician and Gunner Classes of Lost Ark
  5. Thrill of the Hunt

After vanishing completely from the top 5 last month, the Heart of Rage post is baaaa-aaack. I’m unsure if this is a legitimate resurgence in popularity though or whether it is simply a reflection of the lesser views this month as opposed to during August.

Either is possible, as I had 2x the views over the Blaugust event — but I also posted 2x the content.

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming TimeChange
1Asheron’s Call71.749.9%New
2Borderlands 359.941.6%New
3Cube World4.53.1%New
4Remnant: From the Ashes2.61.8%↑2
5Batman: The Telltale Series1.91.3%New
6Mothergunship1.71.2%New
7World of Warcraft (Classic)1.61.1%↓3

Err. September saw a total of 143.8 gaming hours, up 68.1 hours from August. Asheron’s Call took almost my usual full gaming timing up on its own, and in fact until the Sunday just been — I had thought there would only be a handful of games on this month’s list overall.

Despite the giant leap in gaming time, overall active hours came down with 270.2 total hours. A reduction of 23.5 hours from August.

No days working from home this month, so the reduction in total hours was expected. Asheron’s Call creating a drive to play unlike any I’ve had in a while (on top of Borderlands 3, which I’ll get to soon) resulted in a huge increase in the typical proportion of time spent on gaming.

Or another way — a huge reduction in non-gaming time. I had felt that actually, I had to push a little harder than usual to come do a post. I just wanted to play more! MOOOORE!

Yep. So September saw gaming time making up 53.2% of active hours, up 27.4% from last month.

Asheron’s Call

So yeah. I spent a bit of time with AC this month. I’m still a tad amazed by just how much, especially after my opening experience was almost completely derailed by the changes made to the retail AC experience before it finally closed down in 2017.

Now? Well, I can hardly imagine not playing. How close I came to ‘missing out’ is mildly horrifying.

I’m still somewhat bemused too, by the fact that actively enjoying WoW Classic — to the point where I could see myself playing it for some weeks yet — is what ultimately signed its death warrant (for me) as it triggered the curiosity for a return to AC.

Borderlands 3

So yep. I indirectly bought Borderlands 3. I hadn’t intended to. Intention had been to wait for the exclusivity period to end. I haven’t dwelt on it extensively, but I have made it clear in the past I’m not a fan of Epic’s approach re: third party exclusives.

I knew too, that of every game I’d forgone on this principle so far — this would be the most uphill battle as my friend group was extremely excited and in no way willing to wait the further 6-months for it to come out more widely.

One friend in particular just wasn’t having a bar of it and ended up buying me a copy. In turn I couldn’t accept that — it wasn’t a matter of money to me, so I recompensed them for the purchase.

Since then I’ve been a little conflicted on how to approach it. You’ll note not only no review, but also not even so much of a mention of playing it til now. I think I’ll still hold off on going into detail until the exclusivity period is over, but in short?

It’s fun. Provided you enjoyed Borderlands previously, you’ll enjoy Borderlands 3 as well. It is a modernisation of everything that has come before — in movement, gunplay feel and loot generosity philosophies. Inexplicably, and frustratingly — I guess I should clarify that ‘everything’ is a bit misleading.

Intro videos with vendor logos and all cutscenes in the game are completely unskippable. You can get rid of the vendor logo videos by renaming or moving them out of the game file structure — but if you want to make a new character? Go make a cup of tea over the 5-minute intro sequence. It plays every time, with no way to bypass.

The voice acting is great, but the content… Is not. Especially following on the heels of Handsome Jack, the twins and their motivations in Borderlands 3 are just… Ugh. The story is something you get through in this title rather than actively enjoy. It’s a game carried solely on the strength of its moment-to-moment play.

Cube World

I mentioned my delight and surprise to see Cube World live on to see a full release after all not too long ago.

Well, here it is!

It is verrry different from what we played back in the original Alpha. Although it does still share that same sense of punishing difficulty out of the gate while you learn how you’re supposed to engage with the world.

Now though, rather than an XP grind to level your character — its a matter of finding gear. All your stats — including your health — are tied to the gear pieces you’re wearing. Gear comes in various quality grades as is fairly typical these days but it doesn’t quite end there.

Your gear quality is also a function of the zone it came from. I believe. I haven’t witnessed this first hand yet, as I’m still working through completion of the first region (they’re pretty big!). But how I understand it is that an ‘Epic’ item in the first region might only be considered a blue or even green when you move to a higher level region.

So there is a bit of a stepping-stone thing going on. Layer onto that the artifacts you can find from boats, to reins for riding your pets, to magic flutes which when used at certain points will see you lofted into the air like a Disney-princess by a flock of birds and many more besides and it has almost a metroidvania type feel to the proceedings as well.

I enjoyed it! I sat down to just ‘play a little’ and ended up playing a fair bit. Likely Cube World isn’t going to dislodge AC from my line-up any time soon, but I’m glad I took a look. :)

The Others

Poor Remnant. We were doing so well. I can’t recall if I mentioned already or not — but this was a title I was playing exclusively in co-op with my eldest son.

But like so often happens with our co-op endeavours, Fortnite and its various competitions gets in the way. *shakes fist*

As for WoW Classic — I mentioned that already up in the Asheron’s Call section. A victim of its own success in the truest way.

(Dinnerdinnerdinner) Batman! My youngest has wanted to watch me ‘play a Batman game’ for years, but has been a little young in my opinion for the content within. Turns out this one was no different, so I rather quickly decided to put it aside for after he was asleep.

But I’d started by then, so I finished the first episode and will likely play it through now as it was a great reminder of how much I enjoyed the earlier Walking Dead Telltale entries.

And then there was Mothergunship! This is something I picked up from the last humble monthly bundle and it is every bit as preposterous as I thought it would be — and then some. Some of the guns you can construct generate enough force that you can ‘fly’ with them. And this is on top of an already very generous multi-jump.

It’s a game that revels in being over the top — but it hits all the right notes with it to my mind, and might just be my favourite ‘time-killer’ style game at the moment.

Time to Loot Journal: Blaugust 2019

Wowser, eh? What. A. Ride. August was a month that started with hype halfway through July. The mission: Post every day throughout the month of August (or as near to as you can manage). I have no doubt Belghast will do a round-up when the timezones around the world catch-up.

As a challenge, I loved it but I’m so glad it’s over. It was, for me at least, an actual challenge. Posting every day is simply not something I could sustainably do. Even so, I’ve posted every day for thirty-six consecutive days1 now and I’m looking forward to the break! Or at least, the option to take a break. I can’t say for sure I won’t post again tomorrow. But it’d be different, with the pressure to do it turned off.

Then over the top of that, was all the health stuff. I had my endoscopy on August 2nd and a colonoscopy yesterday. Biopsies were taken from the endoscopy and all came back clear. No biopsy necessary from the colonoscopy and the doctor performing the procedure was satisfied that all was clear there, too.

This is all good news! Very good news. It leaves the mystery of why iron count is so low, but so far? Cancer doesn’t appear to be the answer. The proposal from here is that I get some iron supplements from my GP and try them for a time — see if it brings the count back up where it should be. Although even if it does, if a three month check-up on the bloods post-iron supplements sees the iron low again, I’ll be back in for the third procedure — to swallow a capsule camera thinger to investigate the small intestine as well.

But for now, there is a reprieve from procedures and the most likely spots given the other symptoms have been cleared. :)

The Blog this Month

Published 31 posts this month. Up from 13 from last month, which was already a high post count month for me.

This also means I hit my Blaugust goal of one a day! :D

As for totals, this will make for 129 published posts. This busts my previous record of 97 posts on Fun in Games. So I’m going to predict hitting 200 posts in Feb 2020. It will be interesting to see how far off that is if, as a result of Blaugust, my post pace shifts around again.

Also of note, was tagged into two (well, three actually — but I still have to respond to one! Sorry PizzaMaid!) of the social Q&A type things that go around. One of the responses even ended up as third most read post this month! The other though, was this one. I think these can certainly be a good bit of fun, but I’d be reluctant to start letting them run rampant around the place! xD

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Transport Fever: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started
  2. Age of Wonders: Planetfall Modernises TBS Multiplayer
  3. Finding a topic #2 & Real Neat Blog Award
  4. Lost Ark: Assassin Unleashed
  5. A Better MMO

The Age of Wonders: Planetfall post ranking so highly this month did initially surprise me a bit — it was mostly about recounting the story my friends and I went through discovered the advances to the save system made since AoW3.

But I suppose it was posted during the review hype cycle, and multiplayer is an element of hot interest. I expect this will be off the top 5 list entirely next month.

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming TimeChange
1No Man’s Sky (Beyond Update)32.041.2%New
2Lost Ark10.413.4%No Change
3Age of Wonders: Planetfall9.812.5%New
4World of Warcraft Classic8.510.9%New
5Final Fantasy XIV7.19.2%↓4
6Remnant: From the Ashes5.77.3%New
7Warframe2.32.9% ↓2

August saw a total of 75.7 gaming hours, down 2.1 hours from July.

While not quite to the crazy peak of July, August saw 293.7 total active hours on the PC. This is down 23.5 hours from last month. Part driven by a few days working from home, but also no doubt a sign of the extra time put into posting to hit the Blaugust goal.

I had expected the total hours to drop fairly significantly again this month — but as noted, there was a few days working from home, on top of Blaugust itself keeping that figure high.

For August overall, this means gaming made up 25.8% of the active hours, up 1.4% from last month.

But…

The PC Only Problem

The tracking in the table above is all done via ManicTime2 meaning it is PC bound in what is picked up.

Most months tracking PC Only would be beyond fine. I hardly ever touch my consoles. This month however I’ve sunk perhaps 20 hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

I thought about incorporating into the table, but ultimately decided to retain the PC Only accuracy, and call out examples like FE:TH as and when they happen, which isn’t terribly common.

No Man’s Sky

The Beyond Update is an amazing piece of work in its own right. If you check out that update page, it just goes on and on. If you had only heard about the headline features (VR and Expanded Multiplayer) you could be forgiven for thinking everyone was making much about nothing.

But for someone like me who hasn’t really touched the game since it’s 2016 state, the Beyond Update isn’t the entire story. Rather it is the compounding impact of a series of updates, each on their own with no power to bring me back for a look. Although speaking honestly, some of them I didn’t even know existed! Like this one — Visions — tagged as 1.75, or a ‘minor’ follow-up to The Abyss (which I had heard about at the time).

Where The Abyss looked to enhance the underwater experience and diversify the biomes down below, adding in new technology to explore — including a submersible exocraft, and underwater base building components — Visions focused itself above ground on planetary texture diversity and atmospheric conditions. The fact that previously planets had only a single texture the whole way around really hurt the experience for me, enough that I noted it in my original review of the title:

My original 2016 review of No Man’s Sky — now in need of quite an update.

Beyond gave No Man’s Sky a ‘2.0’ version, in reality I’d think it now in a 1.0 ready state. But it is at least, 1.0 ready. All of the issues I discussed in that review have been addressed to varying degrees. I hope work on the title continues to further add depth where needed though.

Either way, already I can say that it hasn’t gone down the Spore road, and that’s a great thing. ;)

Lost Ark

OK, after the near post-length commentary on NMS, this one is going to be super brief by comparison!

I’m going to remove it from the sidebar now, and uninstall! Trigger for this being my VPN subscription has expired and I don’t intend to resubscribe to it another month.

I feel at last I’ve had enough of a fill to tide me over until, if not an actual Western release, then at least a release a little more friendly to foreigners comes along. Then can actually play into the endgame and interact with the community without fear of being found out and reported!

Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Planetfall created a really strong first impression, but unlike Stellaris or even it’s direct predecessor, Age of Wonders 3, it hasn’t brought us back night after night (or at least Saturday after Saturday) to get more of it.

One of my best friends who was an absolute fiend for AoW3 and was by far the most excited of all of us for this one has touched it only a little after the first day or two’s flurry. When asked, there isn’t really anything negative about the title to speak of — it just didn’t possess more current pull than say, Warframe did for them at this time.

World of Warcraft Classic

I still don’t know how long WoW Classic will be a part of my gaming routine. I don’t expect to hit 60 or to raid on a schedule even if I do.

I’m almost approaching WoW Classic as less a gaming experience though and more of an archaeological dig. Although that’s not quite — that implies some sort of intent to approach it that way, when really it’s just how it has unfolded for me instead.

The memories it surfaces — good and bad — and the contrast between how veteran MMO players at the time of WoW’s launch viewed WoW then vs. how we see WoW Classic against the lens of today’s MMO’s (not just retail WoW, but FFXIV and essentially all others outside niche types like EVE) is fascinating.

Kaylriene’s On Sandboxes and Themeparks post placed launch state WoW into the Sandbox camp, something I disagreed with, although did think it was much further toward the ‘Sandbox’ end of the spectrum relative to retail today.

I still think that’s the case, but I’ve been shocked by just how much that is the case. It’s night and day, the story generation potential from Classic is just so, so high.

Final Fantasy XIV

I’m a Final Fantasy XIV raider now. >.>

I feel like the raw hour count for FFXIV undersells how much I actually got done in the game this month.

In terms of The Horrible Hundred, I beat Leviathan, then carried on far enough to also then do battle with Rahmuh after negotiations failed.

After that I went through and finished unlocking, and then running, each of the three wings of the Crystal Tower raid.

So only 7 hours? Huh. At first read that surprises me. Will next month be the month I finally break through the 100 and start Heavensward? I dunno! We’ll see. :)

The Others

The actual number of games played was significantly less this month, so only two to mention here this time!

Remnant: From the Ashes is a title that baffled me at first just how it was getting the extreme high rating that it was from Steam. When I was discussing it in the Blaugust Discord, it was sitting around 92% positive on Steam.

But from the critical reviews I had seen, and the Let’s Play I had been watching this seemed waaaaay too positive. I would have expected a 60-70% positive rating. If I hadn’t already Steam’s stats, I would have put some OK money down on a bet that it would be around the 70% mark, in fact.

While it may still get there, as the game isn’t without its issues there is a certain something to the control of Remnant which doesn’t come across even when watching a long form Let’s Play of the game. It’s a game that feels good to play. Much more so than watching the animation quality, variety of weaponry or other such things can possibly imply.

Skill Up has done a fantastic review on the game which helps articulate this very well. It is a long review but I recommend staying onboard until at least the section on difficulty talking about ‘accessible challenge’ that comes in at around 7m 18s. Even if the initial talk of similarities to Dark Souls puts you off, listen through this section!

Apparently I neglected to take any new screenshots of the Eidolon hunt though. D’oh.

Warframe was a bit of a random pop in. Jumped in to go on an Eidolon hunt in a friend group that was forming. But uh, by time we jumped in night only had about 14 minutes left. Whoops. We hadn’t quite destroyed the shield before the Eidolon was awl, ‘The sun cometh! I goeth! Cya later suckers!’

Ah well. :)

The Tomahawk Investment

I just spent a good few minutes debating with myself whether it was worth it or not to buy a level 4 white weapon for my Warrior from a vendor.

I was doing OK with my trusty Primitive Hatchet, paired with a slightly ‘borrowed’ Bent Large Shield. To be fair, the imp that was lugging it around previously has no further need of it. Or anything else for that matter.

Wait, does that make it better or worse? … Anywho.

Firmly in the pro column was any weapon I might look to purchase would be close to, if not over a 2x DPS increase.

Holding me back was that I have only 7 silver to my name. Purchasing this now would very likely see training skills be a problem in the very near future, as it costs a little over 5 silver.

And as I said… I was doing OK.

…But adds are scary. Generally even a single additional enemy will see me scurrying. And that hardly seems befitting of a proud Orcish Warrior.

Earlier, I was fighting the Kul Tirans at Tiragarde Keep. Rather than a sigh of annoyance at having to go into one of these barracks structures, it was an indrawn breath of ‘Aw shiz’. (And terror.) Adds are fearsome and fatal, and these places are rife with spots in which to grab more than you intend. Fortunately, while I’m far enough behind the curve now not to see the ‘line’ phenomena play out — there are at least enough other people running through that I made it in and out without incident. Even grouped on the top level for the Lieutenant kill. :)

Alright, so I’m buying one. Now to decide which one?

From a pure DPS perspective, the 2H Axe is a clear winner head and shoulders above my other two options — a Gladius or a Tomahawk. In this pre-normalisation world of WoW Classic, Rend, Thunderclap — basically any other off-GCD damage skill — scales off the weapon damage value without accounting for the swing speed. So slow and powerful is the order of the day.

But dangit, I feel squishy enough already and that’s while holding a shield.

The Gladius then starts looking appealing with a 5-11 damage range (2.10 sec attack speed) vs. the Tomahawk’s 4-9 damage (1.70 speed).

The Gladius is the choice I should probably make — given I’m not willing to go 2H yet — but… ORC! ORC WANT AXE! >:|

(Which is to say, I get +5 attack skill with Axe, I’ve already leveled the Axe skill, and I dislike missing swings.)

But my reason for recounting this story?

I think it highlights one of the best bits of coming back into WoW Classic. Which is, finding meaningful decisions even at very low level. My Warrior is currently level 7. I’m wearing at least as many grey items as I am white. Not a green in sight, yet.

This might sound like a horror story to some. Honestly, if I had this story recounted to me absent the first hand experience, I would have thought it a horror story too.

But it isn’t. Not yet at least.1 It is remarkably refreshing if anything. Before coming back to try this for myself, I was very much in the camp of viewing the creature comforts of WoW Retail being a purely good thing. I thought for the most part, people were deluding themselves about the ‘fun’ to be had in WoW’s original form. The main thing actually — less than the comforts — is that I strongly believe (and still do) that there have been much more entertaining versions of these classes to play over WoW’s history.

Not necessarily the BFA iterations (in fact, almost certainly not2) — and not necessarily the same expansion for each class. But I think most anyone would be hard pressed to deny this as true.

So I guess my wish now would be to see some alternate universe path of WoW land in our laps — where the decision making remains present. And yes, the difficulty (at least first time through) remains present. But then layer over this the best versions of the classes and specs we’ve seen so far. And if I may borrow one ‘creature comfort’ for this iteration of WoW, it would be Dual Spec if not the full respec anywhere any time we have today.

Although I should also point out — even this I’m not sure would keep me long term. In terms of WoW, I’m not sure anything would now.

Durotar! (And Instant Quest Text)

Right — first things first. If the slow unraveling of quest giver text is driving you nuts, there is a way to switch it to instant text. When I first saw the slow quest text last night it struck me as very out of place. Then, through the night I remembered. This was a thing I turned off in the past. Generally instantly upon logging in to a new character.

Esc -> Interface Options -> Display, turn on ‘Instant Quest Text’ and click ‘Okay’.

Secondly, I switched it up from Human to Orc. Originally I had planned on running through the Elwynn Forest chain — as it is the starting area I remember most fondly. But I’ve done a lot of alliance in my most recent retail WoW play and one of my longest persisting mains in the past was an Orc Warrior. So I thought it would be nice to change it up a bit, while still keeping a bit of that nostalgic feel for a place and thing I’d done before.

Plus, I also then remembered just how much I hate Westfall.

The Den (Orc & Troll Starting Camp)

I started the night full vanilla. That is to say — no mods of any kind. I thought that is how I’d keep things too, unless I started to raid (which I viewed as extremely unlikely).

For a starting character this was fine. There aren’t too many skills anyway, and bag management is simply around not picking up more unstackables than you’re willing to go back to sell for. And I have very little tolerance for going back to sell outside of aligning it to a round of quest hand-ins.

Beyond that, I was struck by a few things off the bat:

  • The kill / item required counts for quests were very high compared to retail.
  • There are no map indicators of any kind for quest locations out of the box.1
  • Actually reading the quest text is, as a result, far more important.

And I wonder if it is that last bullet that led the Blizzard devs of the time to default to the slow unraveling of quest text.

After the initial shock, from being so accustomed to not only MMORPGs, but all games now providing quest markers by default it took me a while to actually remember the experiences of doing this in the past.

I remember looking for Mankrik’s wife based on the description alone. I remember looking for items in the open-world dungeons by having to explore with hints alone.

I’m not convinced this is a better experience than having quest markers, but I’m also not convinced it isn’t. As I noted — it makes reading the quest information vital, and provides an aspect of puzzle solving otherwise absent. When I was heavily into Morrowind, I loved this aspect. I hated it when Oblivion brought in the quest and location markers. It felt as if a whole part of the game had been ripped out.

But then in the context of MMOs, I’m still, like it or not, a subscriber to the way of thought that the ‘real’ game starts at the end, and everything else is in-the-way-filler. I find it difficult to enjoy leveling for leveling’s sake.

Generally.

And I understand that if WoW Classic is to have any future for me, that mindset will need to adjust. I will admit too, that I received a small spike of joy at working out where Sarkoth was hiding without any outside assistance. It wasn’t a quest I remembered at all until I spied the plateau referenced in the quest text, triggering a dim and foggy voice of memory to say, ‘go right to get up’ — so I did and there he was.

Less fun though?

The Burning Blade Coven’s Den

It appears that no matter how many times I do this place, and swear to myself that next time I’ll remember the path — I don’t. Also add on top that I somehow let my quest hand ins get out of sync, and I found myself here one or two times more than was necessary.

It was also here that I asked myself, ‘Can I run safely all the way out?’

Turns out — yes, yes I can. I didn’t get dazed which struck me as odd. I remember there being a defense and attack skill interaction here, but I wouldn’t have thought my little bitty warrior sufficiently over their attack skill to warrant not getting dazed at all.

Hmm. *Goes to look it up*

Oh OK. That might explain it. It has to be a melee attack, and mostly the enemies in here are fireball casting imps. I must have been at least a little lucky with the Felstalkers.

In any case, many slaughtered pigs, slapped peons and selected apples later, the quests in this area dried up. I’d made it to level 5 — almost 6 — and was being sent on my way to Sen’jin Village.

It was also here that I decided I would throw some mods in after all. Mostly those recommended by Belghast in a recent post. The knowledge that ElvUI existed for Classic — the base UI for my retail play — was enough to tip me over.

After installing and spending a little time configuring, I turned to run from The Den. It had been my home for the past little while, so I waved.

Sen’jin Village

I had planned on playing through this section today as well… But the energy just wasn’t there, as I’m still rather on the sick side of things. It wasn’t just energy in facing WoW Classic, I didn’t play anything else either.

I ran myself over though, and picked up the quests. Now — these ones I remember a lot more vividly.

This is a portion of a much longer Tweet thread, that is well worth a read. (It took me a while to find it again! I was desperately searching through recent blog posts, convinced it was Kaylriene who had written on the topic.)

I may not be able to remember the exact location of everything on the isles off the coast from Sen’jin Village but I sure as hell remember the pain of exploring them as a newb. Densely packed, team AI mobs. Even going through it with my brother didn’t make it much ‘better’ from a very functional, play efficiency point of view.

But it created shared stories. And emotions. Ones which in the moment might have been frustration, sure — but also ultimately ones which ended in triumph.

I don’t know if WoW Classic will recapture much of this for me now or not. WoW wasn’t my first MMO which I certainly think to be a large factor.

But we’ll see how it goes. While I still completely expect to be done with WoW Classic before the end of my first subscription period — that time isn’t here yet. I plan to play more as energy allows.

Sick Nait is Sick

Eurgh. You know what isn’t remotely fun? Strep throat. Strep throat is not even a tiny bit fun. It came on really quickly on my drive home from work yesterday — zero to swallowing glass in only the time in transit. About an hour.

I was lucky though and managed to get in and see my Dr today. It hardly ever happens at my medical centre that you can make a same-day appointment! He prescribed some antibiotics which I filled and some pain relief which I initially didn’t. Boy was that a mistake. Turns out ‘swallowing glass’ was not the top level of this thing. Add in the dizziness and general lethargy and today has not been the most fun of days. Fortunately for me, my wife is lovely and after only a small amount of admonishment for not filling it in the first place — went to pick it up.

Sometimes when sick you can sort of manage to get some gaming in at least, and today would have been perfect for that, to get in with the crowd and experience the day 1 mad rush of WoW Classic. Just wasn’t up for it though. Particularly as the day wore on, it became more and more a bed day.

Now that I have some meds onboard and can stay out of bed for at least 30 minutes? I figured I’d at least take a look at the queues.

Urm… Turns out most of them have gone already.

Scrolling down reveals another couple of medium population servers and two high population servers.

Even while acknowledging that it is a week night, this really surprises me! I figured there would have been queues pretty much around the clock for the first day or two.

If you look at the Oceanic servers — in the prime of playtime as I write this, at about 8:20pm NZT — the three servers are split one a piece to Low, Medium and High.

Have people decided WoW Classic isn’t for them after all, this quickly?

Although even on a low-population server, I logged in to see dozens of people milling about at the start of Elwynn Forest. So it’s clearly not gone to ghost town levels yet, either.

I hadn’t really planned on playing until later in the week anywho. Friday this week I go in for my colonoscopy, and the preparation for that entails some time at home. I’m not entirely sure how this will get on with also being sick, but the Dr didn’t seem to be too worried about ability to keep the antibiotics onboard long enough. So… Should be fine?

Still — not the best time to get something else! The preparation was probably going to be miserable enough as it was. All going well though, this will be the end of it and the last check necessary!

A Better MMO

Kaylriene recently posted on Sandboxes and Themeparks. I love reading the different perspectives people have on this sort of topic. World view can be so incredibly different based on your own experiences and when you started. This particular topic was one once near and dear to my heart, too. Reading Kaylriene’s post appears to have restoked the coals. So. *cracks knuckles* Let’s do this.

I agree with much of what Kaylriene wrote — but I never thought I would see the day where any iteration of WoW was accused of falling into the ‘Sandbox’ camp. I can agree though that WoW Classic was certainly further toward the sandbox end of the Sandbox <—-> Themepark continuum though.

Eventually I want to give my own take on what a better MMO formula might look like. But first… There was an assumption that we’re all on the same page on the definitions though, and I’m not absolutely certain that’s true. So defining our terms to talk on the same page might be helpful after all.

Sandbox Games

Sandbox MMOs rely heavily on principles of emergent gameplay and player-driven story creation. Rather than tell a story of a war through a scripted quest chain, the sandbox MMO developer is more likely to create a system where guilds may officially declare war on each other. Then allow for land ownership and scarcity of certain resources to drive the conflict.

Without the rails allowed by the theme park style of MMO, there is often a strong element of players needing to find their own fun and set their own goals.

Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call were early examples of this style — with EVE perhaps still holding top dog spot for this style of MMO at present.

Outside of the MMO space, you can see examples of this concept too — Minecraft being a big one. And the slew of survival-esque games that followed.

Theme Park Games

By comparison, theme park games tend to be more of a directed experience. You are passed around from NPC to NPC, each with their own story to tell and set of specific actions you need to complete for them.

Your goals are often set for you and rather than making stories, you are being told stories.

World of Warcraft — including Classic, I would contend — falls into this camp. Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online and truthfully, most of the big MMOs today.

Sandbox and Themepark aren’t Binary Though

A game doesn’t necessarily have to fall into a single camp. It isn’t just one or the other. Games can absolutely layer directed content over a player-reactive world. Even WoW contains some elements of each.

Or, you can simply choose to ignore the theme park entirely and go wandering through the garden. This doesn’t necessarily increase player agency or world reactivity, but it pushes the needle a little further toward the sandbox end by having the player find their own fun.

My Ideal MMO Looks Like…

A world first and foremost. A place to virtually live. A place you can settle and build onto — even if this comes with limitations on place, so as not to create a littered landscape.

Give it an economy similar to EVEs — where players of all skill levels can contribute in some fashion, even if it is simply in the creation of component pieces that other players would then turn into the end products usable by still other players again. And ensure there is a mechanism by which these created products can leave the economy again.

You might be with me so far. I suspect I’ll begin to lose a few more people here though — so I’ll note that the next aspects aren’t strictly speaking necessary for a ‘sandbox’ experience. Just my ideal version of one. :)

Location should matter as a core tenet of the game. I’m not entirely against fast travel, but I am against fast travel that requires no decision making on the part of the player. What do I mean by this? Well, for example in Asheron’s Call you could recall or open portals to a very limited number of locations.

You could bind to a dungeon that you wanted to go to, and then summon a group in as a form of makeshift LFG if you wanted. But this was a choice you had to make and it had an opportunity cost against binding to another place. Otherwise you moved on the power of your own feet through a seamless world.

Global storage if it exists at all should be minimal, getting the necessary resources from place to place an undertaking that carries risk and requires some forethought.

There is more I would like, but many of them orient around being a PvP game. And as much value as that can add, I no longer view it as a necessary component. So this is the detailing of the sandbox elements more or less.

Now, throw on the Theme Park! Layer it all over the top like a fine sauce.

Bring on the quest driven stories. Make the people of the land matter with their own needs and stories to tell.

Bring on dungeons and instanced raids (although world bosses should absolutely also be a thing)!

Annnnnd I’ve done a terrible job of explaining my vision — turns out this isn’t the sort of post I should try work on over lunch at work. I didn’t fully finish it there, but then a late night tonight due to heading out for one of my sons’ Birthday has also lead to less time on this than I would like.

But you know what? It occurred to me just how much I was (attempting) to explain the vision behind the Ashes of Creation MMO. Which is no doubt why they managed to extract a Kickstarter backing from me. So perhaps go read their description as well for an additional view of what I mean — although they also talk to the dynamic aspects which I haven’t raised at all.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see Ashes of Creation in our lifetime. Or if it does come out in an MMO form whether it will even remotely resemble the promises. I’m well over the stage in my life where I was content to hype and hope and wait for an MMO.

But still… If it does. It could be a beautiful thing.

The Ashes of Creation Kickstarter video that took my money!

Quitting WoW

Alright, so quitting something I’m not currently doing would be quite the feat. One I’m probably not capable of. But nevermind that, Kaylriene has posted providing a view of the ‘types’ of quitting he has seen. I read through the anecdotes provided and found I didn’t quite fit into any of those categories.

And I’ve quit WoW many times. A few of them I even believed I’d quit permanently.1 I don’t ever really believe that any more. I’m always open to the possibility of rejoining the fold for the next expansion, even if nothing about it grabs me right up until the eve of it’s launch.

But I also make no assumptions any longer than I will be back. It’s not a given. I might be done for good.

The Variety Player

WoW isn’t really a part of my identity. Nor even my identity as a gamer. In the past that might’ve been perhaps more up for debate, as I did run a WoW-centric blog for some time after all. What I mean though, is that I identify as a gamer first and a WoW-gamer second.

I had friends and know of people even now who play WoW exclusively to such an extent, that if you removed WoW from them, they wouldn’t look for a substitute or have any interest in any other title. That would be it.

I’m so far from that on the spectrum that I have trouble understanding that point of view. I can’t relate to it at all. That’s not to say by any stretch I think it invalid or ‘wrong’. It just isn’t for me.

That I thrive on variety is how I typically choose to interpret this. A less charitable interpretation might be that I lack focus or stickability. ;) The only time I’ve stayed with WoW from launch-to-launch is over Wrath of the Lich King. It was actually a bit longer than that even, covering the end of Burning Crusade and the beginning of Cataclysm.

More typically I would come in for the start of an expansion and then again at the end as a precursor for the next expansion. I have a guild that follows a similar pattern actually, so it works well for me. We will typically run through up to Heroic completion of the first tier raid to achieve ‘Ahead of the Curve’. Whether we stick around for the next tier typically depends on the delay.

When we come back it’s in a trickle, drips and drabs up until the actual launch of the next expansion and then we’re back in force. I like catching up before then on the raid content I missed via LFR and otherwise ‘getting ready’. Just how extensive that ‘getting ready’ is of course depending on how much time my renewed interest has given me.

For Legion I came back with enough time to finish up the Argus storyline and grind out (ugh) the dailies required for the rep for both of the alliance side allied races and unlock flying. Other times it’s just setting up UI again the night before.

Tolerance to Grind

…Is for the most part gone. I would generally far rather go play something else (including non-MMO’s) than stick around and chase whatever the carrot of the moment is. In part this is down to knowing that the grind in question, whatever it is, will almost inevitably be made easier down the line. I’m happy to chase gear, I’m happy to chase raid completion, but rep? Nooo thank-you.

During Wrath I gained a fair amount of enjoyment out of playing the Auction House. One of my main drivers for leveling alts was to get crafting of every kind up. Hah. I would then buy mats to resell as finished product and this was awesome.

The removal of leather patches, tailored patches, much of the value in jewel crafting etc was a major blow to the longevity of the game for me. I miss it greatly.

In any case, I guess I’ve become a WoW Tourist now. Not the classical definition of such, where WoW people went into and annoyed the denizens of other MMOs. More that I come in to a new expansion, see the sites, smell the roses, sample the goods (up to and including the raids, at least first tier) and then swan on out again. ;)