I Fought the Uber Penguin

And the Uber Penguin did not win. While I’m also dealing with Penguin in the Telltale Batman game I don’t mean that one. No no, this Uber Penguin belonged to Asheron’s Call. The Uber Penguin is a metal encased cyborg-like level 160 critter that roams the frozen plains near Silyun.

One of the new1 towns added in the Throne of Destiny expansion.

Luckily, I had a group.

You might have noticed from the screenshots I hit level 100, too. And then some. I hit level 100 yesterday and finished the night at level 108 tonight.

Progress if anything has actually sped up over the last little while. And it leads me to say something I’m not sure someone enjoying something so old should… But uh; I actually like some of the changes made since the days I played Asheron’s Call.

When I left, you could see the shape of this emerging, the merest outline of what was to come. An even greater focus on quests as the main source of XP. And this was still years before the likes of Everquest II or World of Warcraft.

Specifically what I like, is that it seems from start to finish, despite an ever growing demand on XP generation to meet the curve of increases for your levels and skills — the game keeps up. The milestones — the many, many, milestones — that you set yourself are successfully struck at a steady cadence. Many of these milestones are small things, but equally steady are the big hits.

Level 100. Gaining enough skill points to specialise Melee Defense again. A new tier of weapons. Getting flagged for a new set of quest content. Obtaining new artifacts for future use.

And like I mentioned in that setting goals post, sometimes the things you do can work toward multiple of these milestones at the same time. But other times you need to choose. For example, there are a special set of vendors you can access in Candeth Keep. They offer you 100% of the value of items sold to them, which is insane. But perhaps even better there is a Master Mage there which sells top level components. Usually you would need to take a special trip to an out of the way place to get them.

Candeth Keep is a new endeavour. A fortress symbolising the new unity between the Lugian, Tumerok and Isparian races. To gain the special access you need to sacrifice a hundred (partial, thankfully — not required to be full) bags of material salvage.

It’s by no means a herculean task, but it is time out from questing or otherwise earning XP. It’s time out from looting what you might otherwise want to and it means a period of sacrificing keeping the salvage you might otherwise use to improve your own gear.

It adds a a little friction — and a little friction isn’t bad.

Jahannan Vault — resting place of the Major Smoldering Stone. Also perhaps one of my earliest experiences with an MMO Jumping Puzzle. Much of the dungeon is such.

Striking the right balance is difficult. Too much and the experience overall just isn’t worth it. The shine comes off, lustre gone, away goes the any desire to play.

But too little and I think you strike something a little closer to the current WoW retail experience. The edges have been sanded off to such an extent it may as well be a slip’n’slide.

There is nothing to create emotive memories. No sense of accomplishment through overcoming anything. No decisions to make. Just go with the flow.

WoW Classic reminded me of the importance of having meaningful decisions to make at all levels of play. And on this, Asheron’s Call executes perfectly to my mind.

As to what I’ve been up to? Well.. Lordy.

Just a sampling. Some of these likely to have been worthy of their own posts. Aerlinthe Isle for example? A high level zone with a quest chain that existed since the relatively early days of Asheron’s Call — and yet I never did it.

On Darktide — the full PvP world — it was an RPK (Random Player Killer) stronghold. We Anti-PKers had our places, and they theirs. This was one of theirs.

Now all these years later, I have. I had a sort of mental block over ever getting this place done and thanks to some new friends I’ve made on the Levistras server — that has been busted right through. I’m the proud owner of a Black Fire Stone and the Aerlinthe Recall spell.


Well alright, maybe more than just one ding. I very almost didn’t get a post out at all tonight on account of wanting to extract every moment possible of play until better sense took over and drove me to bed. I made a fair bit of progress — not just in raw levels (although that too), but also in social ties to the server and general preparedness for this character to go out into the world.

Not dead — just resting. Lying down speeds up your stamina and health regeneration. (Mountain Sewer, near Mayoi in the south of Dereth)

I was just sitting in town, sifting through my spells — getting ready to learn the level II variants for that tiny bit more oomf in my hunting — when in local I saw the announcement someone had made a successful 9th tinker on a weapon, followed up swiftly by a 10th.

If you’re unfamiliar — in Asheron’s Call you can tinker with your gear. Up to a maximum of 10 times per piece. You can do a range of things, from adding a rend effect (bypasses some degree of elemental protection) through to increasing a specific resistance on a piece of armor.

Each tinker attempt requires more skill than the last, and being unsuccessful blows the piece of gear in question to smithereens. Now — add to this the knowledge that a weapon rend only ever has a maximum chance of 33% (and so is typically done as the first tinker, to avoid wasting materials) — and you might understand why tinker attempts are broadcast and why it’s worthy of a trot over to where the action is happening (craftin’ action!) to give a hearty congratulations.

(And also jealously inspect the resulting weapon, of course.)

Long story short, we got to chatting and I ended up joining their allegiance (guild). This provides access to a general all allegiance chat channel, along with a chat for my patron (the person I swore personal allegiance to) and his other vassals which I remember being quite good fun in the past with the right mix of people. :)

It seems a lot of the old habits are falling back into place. I lamented in the past on feeling like I’d lost a lot of the social drive in the context of MMOs. I have been far, far more willing to play solo than to even attempt to find a good-fit guild. I just had no interest.

And it isn’t really about ‘need’ either — Asheron’s Call is an incredibly soloable game. I don’t wish for any boost in gear, I want to go through raising myself up off the ground again. So it isn’t access to ‘stuff’ either. My motivation pure and simple was to get access to chat while I play. Later on I expect to join them in higher level play — but that’s a way aways yet.

But that didn’t mean I was opposed to taking an offered round of buffs. Level II spells? Pft! Level VII please! This gives an hour of near Godlike ability. Case in point:

Contrast in this image between the black death horde of the Olthoi and the place they call home might make it a bit difficult to see just how deep in it I am without a click through for embiggening — but actually? Turns out it was fine. Despite the fact that there were still more busy running in at me (as seen in the minimap).

It’s worth noting that levels mean relatively little in AC. The fact these things are 8 levels over me has no direct bearing on my ability to hit them or them me. Rather what matters is the total XP the level represents, and how it is invested.

Since I’m specialised in both Missile Weapons and Melee Defense — buffed to the gills as I was — these Olthoi made for good pickings.

Although that’s not to say it still wasn’t worrisome to see quite that many beelining for my juicy bits. This was in a dungeon called Olthoi Arcade, and I’d already descended several full floors to get here. Death (which would have also resulted in loss of the buffs) would have made for a terrifying recovery run.

In any case — come the end of the buffs I scarpered my way back outside and realised I had a lot of XP to spend. I chose to invest it primarily in my magic abilities to skip over Level II self cast buffs entirely, and jump to IIIs. It is around this point that I typically feel much more comfortable and at home with a character — so even if it isn’t quite optimal to push for it so soon when I’m still having Strength issues (geez arrows be heavy), it was worth it to me. Rest can catch up later. :)

On the power of my own buffs — after spending a fair bit of time waltzing around the map trying to remember who would actually sell me the necessary knowledge for Level IIIs — I carried on my adventures in the frozen north, in a dungeon simply known as the Mite Maze.

At this site — the pyromancer Branith was hounded by Mite Sentries ever deeper into the lair. I’m unclear precisely what happened to him after he was lost, seperated from his party in the maze… But I don’t think anything good, as you can find his Shirt and Staff laying on the ground at certain points within.

I’d spent a small portion of my AC Youth in this dungeon in the past — so I thought it would be a nice place to revisit, perhaps see if some further sign of Branith could be found, but…


Who the hell let Gold Phyntos Wasps in here? The screenshot above is right by the entrance, and I literally had to do an about face and run back outside the first time I popped in. There were TWO of the Golden buggers initially. Just… RIGHT THERE.

Their sting is like ‘Pfft’ even through my measily Level III buffs — but they cast lightning bolts and those hurt.

Still — I managed to plink them down, get my breathing back under control and enter the rest of the maze wherein the Mite’s themselves lived. An enemy I was much happier with.

On the other hand though… It is a well named dungeon. And I got lost. Several times. I used to know this place like the back of my hand — no more it seems.

Buffs running dry I had to call a retreat so I could recast. It was at this point my brain advised the rest of me it was time to sleep, so I agreed to take a quick look at the map and try again tomorrow. (Although tricked myself, didn’t I — cos here I am writing this thing!!)

Anywho, here’s the map. Looks so simple from this view. Ingame you need to track all the twists and turns by memory alone.

Asheron's Call Map - Mite Maze
Tomorrow! Tomorrow I’ll get to the end.

Oh, if you’re wondering though — I ended the night on level 34 still. It was a near thing to 35 and another skill point — but the next thing I’m purchasing will be Mana Conversion, and for that I need yet another skill point which arrives at level 40. Mana Conversion is a skill that reduces the amount of mana it takes to actually cast something as the primary reason I want it — but secondly it also reduces the rate at which your magically imbued gear sucks its own mana reserves dry.

Handing in one of the earlier dungeon rewards — didn’t quite manage another ding after this one tonight. But given I started at 12 I think this is OK. :D

Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

Originally, this post was scheduled for tomorrow. I wanted to provide a little more spacing between this post and the last Q&A / tag post. I am fortunate though, that I prepared the answers for this one in advance. Because the post I had planned for today1… Well, I wasn’t able to complete it before bed time.

I thought about giving it the same experimental ‘Stream of Consciousness’ treatment that I gave yesterday’s Why Write About Games post, but it didn’t seem the right treatment for the subject matter.

So! With acknowledgement of this being so close in time to the last Q&A / tag post, I shall forgo a round of nominations and question raising of my own this time around.

Without further adieu — I was nominated by Frostilyte! (Thank-you!) and you can see their nomination post and questions answered here. Frosti has had a focus on review content but is branching out into more bloggy-style stuff too. Take a look! :)


You’ve become the leader of your country for a day. You have the power to make one item illegal for purchase for the rest of time. What do you choose and why?

Cigarettes, I think.

With the amount of harm they can cause which has at this stage been beyond proven, it in many respects amazes me that they are still for sale. It absolutely irks me the amount of ‘sin tax’ the Government puts on them ostensibly as a deterrent, but really as a revenue driver.

However I leave the ‘I think’ qualifier in there as the lessons of prohibition in the States would need to be more closely considered. Would such a move in actual fact only serve to further line the pockets of those willing to deal in drugs? How would the criminalisation of something once so widely accepted even work?

In short I’m under no illusion that it would be a simple matter.

You will receive five million dollars (USD), but for the next year you will always feel like you have to use the washroom and won’t be able to tell the difference between a false alarm and the real deal. Do you take the money? Why or why not?

Absolutely take the money.

Even if we assumed the absolute worst and ‘Not be able to tell the difference’ somehow extends beyond just the physical sensations to prohibiting the use of logic and reason as well. Even if we were to assume an even worse case that the use of adult diapers was prohibited essentially rendering you homebound.

Still take the money.

One could comfortably live off the interest without eating into the principal amount in that year, even with no further income. Assuming even an incredibly modest 2.40% p/a interest rate, you would accrue $120k on the principal.

You could go on sabbatical or career break for the 12 month period and return to the work force (if you wished) the following year.

You remove the existence of an entire genre from video games | film | music | anime | television (pick one). What genre do you ax out of existence and why?

OK, I typically get frustrated by non-answers to things like this — but here goes a bit of a non-answer.

I probably wouldn’t. Just because something isn’t for me doesn’t mean I want to get rid of it. At least not within the common realm of genres anyway.

If we were to extend this into being a slightly heavier question — which I’m reasonably sure wasn’t the intent — then if it was within my power to axe out of existence any exploitative material of unwilling participants I would do it in a heartbeat.

What superpower do you want to help solve your mundane everyday problems?

Telekinesis was the first that popped into my head. But there are so many ways a super power could help with mundane every day problems. Super speed. Future sight.

I think super speed would be my ultimate pick.

Many of us would like to go back in time to give our younger selves advice. Instead of doing that, what skill would you trick yourself into thinking you had so the younger you would actively pursue learning said skill?

Oh man. I’m not sure my younger self would work like that.

But for the sake of the question, assuming he did — Super Speed. … What? ;)

More seriously, how young are we talking? If quite, then likely a musical instrument. Although drawing, painting or more generally ‘visual art’ would be quite a close second.

But then there’s also writing. Maybe I could trick younger me into thinking I’d already become a published author and get him hard at work on that?

Toilet paper roll over, under, or pine cone?

Hol’upaminnit. Frosti — I can only assume we have a breakdown in communication here somewhere.

A- A- A pine cone?

One of these suckers?

Nuh-uh. No way. Not sure why even an option. One of those is never getting anywhere near my-

You know what, let’s just all agree that we’re not savages and the paper needs to go over. ;)

If you could take credit for any invention and have everyone believe that you indeed created it, what would you choose and why?

The wheel. The confusion would be priceless.

Or fire, for much the same reason.

Plus neither of those things steals credit from people still living or with close relatives still living.

Although I suppose there is a question here in just how far that belief ran and whether it could be utilised for a greater good. Hmm. Like, could I claim credit for a life saving drug of some kind, win the patent back and ensure it isn’t priced beyond the reach of people who need it?

What is your favourite beverage with alcohol in it? If you don’t drink booze, same question sans the alcohol.

I don’t drink a great deal — but when I do go out for the odd big night, at a certain point Espresso Martini’s become a feature. ;)

You wake up in a cold sweat. What a terrible nightmare. You were surrounded by that thing you have an irrational fear of. Then you hear a noise in the looming darkness. You turn on the lights. OH NO! IT WASN’T A DREAM!? What thing, that you have an irrational fear of, is in the room with you?

Oh hell. I actually don’t know.

There are a great many things I’m uncomfortable with irrationally, but not quite sure they extend fully into the realm of ‘fear’ since I will deal with them when necessary. This includes things like spiders and large insects of which when they trespass into our domain — I’m the designated remover.

Heights? But I’ve done sky diving and have bungee jumping on my pretend-I’m-a-tourist-in-my-own-country todo list.

Otherwise I think the things I’m afraid of a perfectly rational, thank-you very much. Hah. Armed intruders, for instance.

Without looking up the answer, which of the following headlines do you think is false and why?

  • Aspen man hires stuffed owl as his defense attorney
  • Man allegedly assaults homeless man over cheeseburger
  • Woman missing, since she got lost
  • Woman allegedly assaults sandwich maker over ‘Too Many Pickles’

I could absolutely believe any of these as being a real headline. I would hope that that man in Aspen only attempted to hire a stuffed owl as his defense attorney and so I wonder if that might be the fake one.

But I’m going to go with the ‘Woman missing, since she got lost’ option as it seems grammatically at least to be the least like a headline. Also from a logical perspective they probably wouldn’t have known what happened to the woman unless she was found again.

Still. It might be real. You have to let me know Frosti, you must! :D

You’ve decided to help combat the inevitable global climate change that will kill us all by eating vegetarian once a week. What is one new meal you’re excited to prepare and consume?

*makes a face*

Although honestly, I’m probably eating vegetarian at least once a week already. But once you put a label on it like that… *makes a face again*

I would say though pan fried couscous with feta (I assume this is allowed, since not full on vegan being requested) and raisins, alongside a helping of steamed vegetables such as broccoli and carrot.

Thank-you again very much for the nomination, Frostilyte, and for the questions that I know you put a lot of thought and effort into!

Seriously though, you have to say which headline was the fake one. Or wait, were they all real? All fake? xD

Given proximity to the last round of questions I’m not going to carry this one on unless there is a particular demand for more questions — I’m happy to oblige in that case. ;)

Why Do I Play Games?

This question has been percolating about my brain a bit of late. At least since mid-July in fact. Because The Gaming Diaries covered it then and I’d already been trying to work out just why it was — if games were truly an escape, or a way to relax — that my time spent with them fell through the floor when it might otherwise seem such an escape was so desperately needed.

With Blaugust 2019 officially into ‘Getting to know you’ week, it seems like the perfect time to tackle it.

I think when I left my comment on The Gaming Diaries’ post on the matter, I was looking at it a little too black and white. I don’t think the fact that I have a tendency to pull away from games during times of turmoil really invalidates the reasons I hold for playing them otherwise. Rather, I think there is a limit beyond which games shouldn’t be used as the answer.

A realisation that would have seen me in much greater stead had I realised it earlier in life, no doubt.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a little here — I’ll come back to this. First; what do I believe are the reasons I play games?

To De-stress, Decompress and Relax

I’m not an extrovert. I just play one on TV in day-to-day life. Work in particular.

It’s a necessary part of managing and being part of a functional team. But come time to go home, I’m very much ready for some recharge time. To let the issues of the day — whatever they happened to be — slough off into a corner somewhere to be forgotten for a while.

Of course there are family commitments as well so this isn’t always possible during the week. And I can manage that without going crazy pretty well.

But! My Sundays are sacred. No going out bar super special circumstances or emergencies. Not for any religious reasons — but rather for mental well being and ensuring I’ve properly recharged my social-energy batteries before Monday arrives.

Gaming is the main vehicle in which I achieve that recharge.

Social Connectivity

Seemingly in direct contradiction to the prior point — but my friends and I don’t get to visit each other in real life as frequently as we would otherwise like to these days.

We have children, partners, busy jobs and all that other carry on that comes with ‘adulting’.

God I miss some of the people I met in this game. (Asheron’s Call 1)

Instant online connectivity and the ability to share a hobby without spending 40+ minutes travel in either direction is a huge boon.

Over the years I’ve certainly changed my online social habits. And at least in the context of MMOs, I’ve become more and more closed off from creating new meaningful relationships. I now think this is in large part because I approach most games as a ‘BYO friends’.

The blogging community is sort of game-adjacent for the purposes of this discussion, but one enables the other and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Occasionally, to be Challenged

Both Rakuno and TheRoyalFamily recently spoke to challenging games by and large not being for them.

I understand the point of view, and while I’m not overly keen to admit this — generally I’m in the same boat. I’d much rather the game provide me with the perception of being challenged than actually taking me out back for a swift kick up the backside.

Nooo! Not THIS much challenge! D: (Dark Souls 2: Ruin Sentinels)

Although if a game doesn’t offer even the slightest amount of resistance, then this can be a turn-off too. I ultimately stopped playing Ni No Kuni II for this reason. I believe they’ve since patched in a harder difficulty to address this, but for me at least — the damage is done.

Like Rakuno acknowledged though — there are exceptions. A couple of them we even have in common, namely the Dark Souls series and Monster Hunter: World. Both games quite happy to give you a rapid and repeated what-for. But when the right mood strikes, taking on this challenge — and ultimately beating it — is really quite the rush.

Circling Back Around to the ‘Limits’ of Gaming, then?

Where to start… I guess first, while this actually isn’t the ‘confessions’ style post I was inspired to do by Quin’s Museum of Bad Behaviour post, it could well do a good job of pretending to be. That post is still coming though.

You see, one of my prior blogs was called ‘Modicum of Gaming’. It was so named because some years before that blog, there was a time when I applied very little control to the hours I spent whiling away in some MMO or another. University — and everything else — for a time was taking a backseat, to say the least.

In fact it might be better to say we didn’t even occupy the same vehicle much of the time.

The idea for that blog came about when I happened to capture a random but powerful thought. ‘I don’t want my kids to ever game like I did.’ The follow-up thought for the blog then being to ensure the better balance I’d found was maintained over the long term.

Because that earlier sort of uncontrolled behaviour? That is what using games as an escape can look like.

Now I know, I know- most of the time ‘escape’ is simply being used as a stand in for ‘relax’, or not meant in any fashion more intense than the way one can ‘escape’ with a good book. And that’s fine. I think my brain understands this colloquial difference.

But to this day — seemingly unconsciously until I went through the effort of unpacking it all — there is a certain threshold of seriousness after which I don’t believe games are the right answer, even just for relaxation or temporary escape. Better in these circumstances to face it more directly, have the necessary discussions and get past it that way.

Perhaps I can call this a sign of maturity — in fact, I shall.

Looka’me, supes mature! ;)

Finding a Topic #2 & Real Neat Blog Award

The other day when I was talking about finding a topic I neglected one other means that might occasionally come your way. When you’re lucky enough to literally have a post thrust your way, essentially ready to go. My feelings about these things are a bit mixed, as much of the time they carry at least some of the marks of a chain letter.

Where I’ve landed is essentially to consider each on a case by case basis. Take a look at the rules and the flexibility they offer. The two main things I’m looking for are:

  • The rules allow for discretion around tagging other people. Anything with a hard requirement to tag x other people I’ll pass on.
  • The questions themselves — do I think they might result in somewhat interesting answers?

If the answers are good on both of those things — then it’s time to remember the community aspect of Blogging. :)

Real Neat Blog Award

Right! So the idea behind this one is to peel back the curtain a little and let readers perhaps find out a little more about the person behind the keyboard.

It follows a theme of 7’s — answer 7 questions, create 7 of your own, tag 7 people to answer your questions and carry it on. Most important to me is that this isn’t mandatory. If you don’t feel comfortable tagging people — don’t. Make it an open invite, or do less. There is no threat upon your luck or the love life should you choose to ignore it. ;)

I was just tagged by Lothari of the Games & Stories blog — a fairly brand new blog looking at critical analysis of game stories. Lothari has just recently finished up her series on the first Assassin’s Creed game, and it makes for a great read.

But you see, a little while ago I’d also been tagged by Angie over at Backlog Crusader! I’m not quite sure how I missed it, since I remember clearly reading her answers at the time. I found out now I’d been tagged in it via revisiting the post from Lothari’s link. Hah.


My Answers!

Since I’ve been tagged twice, I figure I can choose which question to answer. The rule I’ll set myself is that I can only choose between the options of the same numeral. i.e., Answer one option from ‘Question 1’, one option from ‘Question 2’ etc. Not just willy nilly any question anywhere.

That would be madness!

1. What was the origin of your most long term geeky interest?

When I was younger I used to go on holiday and stay with another family in Waihi Beach. A beautiful area with natural bushwalks, diving points and even caves. Caves where I had my first (and so far only) encounter with a wild penguin.

Waihi Beach — Cave Bay

One year when we went — something was different. There was a box that showed moving pictures. But unlike TV, these pictures were being controlled! By us! Using things called a Mouse and Keyboard.

That summer we still spent a bunch of time outside. At the beach, going eeling in nearby creeks under bridges. But come the evenings, we’d find our way around this strange device called a PC, taking turns to fail horribly in Dangerous Dave, Sneakers and other titles of the time.

I didn’t think overmuch of it at the time — I was fascinated for sure, but the days were still the more exciting parts to me. But the seed was planted, and shortly after that visit we had one of our own in the house. A state of the art 386SX, running at a whopping 33MHz with ‘Turbo’ turned on. Commander Keen, and Duke before he went 3D were my main games starting out. :)

2. Who wins — pirates of ninjas?

If we put aside for the moment the question of why they’re fighting instead of joining forces against the Samurai — and also any questions on why they might be in each other’s territory?

Image result for pirate vs ninja

Then Ninjas, hands down. Pirates just don’t the necessary discipline or training to take out even a half-decent Ninja.

3. If you were going to live forever on an isolated island and could only have access to three types of food, what would you choose?

Forever? Holy shiz. Well then, If we’re talking ‘types’ as in a category of food, then I think I’d want to make sure it offered me some degree of variety over the many, many years to come.

So! First then, Garden Vegetables — ship me off with a wide array of seeds, please. I’ll build some trellising for tomatoes, bean and pea vines. Setup areas for potatoes, pumpkins. Heaps more ideally.

Second, following a similar vein — Orchard Fruits — saplings for oranges, apples, peaches (mmm, peaches), even lemons please!

Finally — and apologies to any vegetarian friends out there who until now might’ve been happy with me — I’d like some array of edible livestock. Ideally quite a range, but if I was to narrow it down to a single type then Cows. Beef, milk and possibly cheese if I had the chance to research how to make it before leaving. Although I guess with an infinite number of years could probably eventually work it out. ;)

I was going to put a picture of a cow in here, but just couldn’t do it.

4. What language, real or fictional, would you most like to learn?

Japanese, I think.

Outside of Latin it was the language I got on the most with at school. It’s a country I’d really like to visit — and that besides, who wouldn’t like to be able to appreciate anime without subtitles? :D

(Don’t even come at me with that ‘dub’ stuff either. Urgh. My youngest recent discovered Naruto, but is watching it with the English VO. *sobs*)

5. What is your favorite blog post you’ve written and why?

Narrowing this one down to a few options wasn’t hard — picking the overall and final favourite was much more difficult. But in the end I settled with:

Changing Times, Changing Gamer

This started with a post of Pete’s talking to how over time he had found himself needing more from games to stay interested. Bhagpuss recounted a tale in a similar vein on how he learnt to appreciate games for what they were and just have fun.

It made me finally reflect on how my own preferences as a gamer had changed over time — and not always in a conscious manner. There was a certain internal discord created when elements once seen as an absolute core piece of your gamer identity are no longer what you consciously believed them to be.

It’s a topic that fascinated me, and this one even resulted in a bit of a follow-up post. I suspect there may be more in this idea well to emerge over time, too.

6. What is your biggest content creation dream?

I’m still very much in a process of discovery and learning.

I don’t yet know where the overlap on the Venn diagram of ‘topics I enjoy covering’ and ‘topics this community are interested in reading about’ lies. I’m also still experimenting with layout and visual style a fair bit.

Hell, most importantly of all?

I don’t yet know what my written voice sounds like.

I still need to find it. Do I want to include more humour? What style, if so? Many hundreds of thousands of words of experimentation and discovery lie before me til I know, I reckon.

So my biggest content creation dream, is getting there. To a place where I understand what my written voice is. Not only that, but also liking that voice. If I can get there, alongside understanding that venn diagram of content — I’ll be at the place of my dreams.

From there? Who knows. :)

7. What’s something your readers wouldn’t be able to guess about you?

Exact height and weight in one try. Ooh, or hair style! Um… … …

Seriously, I struggled with this one quite a bit.

Then I remembered a post I read and commented on today, from The Well-Red Mage on the topic of guilty pleasure games.

Short of reading that comment, it might be hard to guess that I have a goodly number of guilty-pleasure shows. I love me some trashy Supernatural-esque shows from time to time. (Currently watching Wynonna Earp on Netflix, for example.)

They don’t form the sum total of what I enjoy watching, thankfully. That would probably drive me quite insane. But when the mood strikes, sure. I’ll sit down to a round of some CW-ish show for a bit. (*Recalls Smallville* Somebodeh saaaaaaave meeeeee.)

My Questions and Nominations

First to be clear — the ‘nomination’ is up for anyone at all who cares to participate. But I’m going to specifically tag the Blaugust folk who are ‘new’ to this whole thing (and appear to be ready for guests. There are a few still blogs at the time of writing this that are in the works of getting setup and writing a first post). :)

On the flip side — no-one should feel any obligation to partake if they’d rather not, or to tag anyone in turn if they do if they’d rather not. :)

TeaCooler on the Internet
TheRoyalFamilyDating Sims on the Holodeck
Serum7sixEnjoying Overload
EverwakeEverwake’s Internet Journey
QuinWhere The Monsters Are
ezBreezyPlay Casually

If you’re not on this list, but are ready to participate when you see this, please consider yourself there! :D

Now, onto the questions:

  1. What hobbies or interests do you have that you might not regularly include on your blog?
  2. Are you learning any skills at the moment? If not, what would you like to learn?
  3. If you were invited on a one-way trip to Mars to establish a new colony, would you go?
  4. What is the one thing that you most want readers to come away from your blog with? A feeling, thought, or understanding.
  5. What excites you most about having a blog?
  6. If you could make one thing from a book, TV show or movie real, and in your possession, what would it be?
  7. They say everyone has at least one book in them — if you were to write a book, what would it be about?

Enjoy! And thank-you again to both Angie and Lothari for the lovely tag! :D

Blog Redesign, Polls and even Facebook

Blog Redesign

Depending on how you typically view Time to Loot, you may or may not be aware of a rather significant change in appearance since yesterday. Not just appearance, but function too. The archives now show excerpts with thumbnails rather than entire posts. Posts have hero images. I even flirted with the idea of infinite scroll for the index, but have since turned that off again. For now.

I was running the Genesis Framework and Magazine child-theme, a pair I bought access to waaaaaay back in the day for my old blogging efforts. There is a great deal to love about the Genesis Framework, some parts I’m already missing even — but even the newly released themes seem so… outdated.

Both are screenshots the main index page. But before entire posts were displayed, now using an excerpt display.
There are some differences shown in the ‘old’ from what was actually present though. e.g., the Social icons didn’t wrap (there was one less! More on that soon), and I had a ‘Featured Posts’ carousel.

I’m possibly far from done, but I’ve setup my new theme (OceanWP if you’re wondering) enough that I’m happy with it for the time being. It has been something of a revelation how many more components and areas of configuration it adds to the WordPress ‘customiser’ compared to the old Genesis themes though. To change typographic elements before I had to find their reference in the CSS files and edit by hand. Now it’s all menu driven!

I’ve been researching Divi and Elementor rather extensively. I’m talking multiple 2-3 hour videos of tutorials to see how things are constructed and end results. Answer so far? Inconclusive. Elementor does have a free basic version which is pretty powerful for pages, but adjusting how blog archives and posts work is locked into the Pro edition.

Both of them are more aimed at complete site design rather than ‘just’ a blog, so they’re very likely overkill for what I want… But… I haven’t quite shaken the desire to grab them entirely yet. ;)

Polls! As a Blog Reader…

…Do you like ‘Infinite Scrolling‘? How about Excerpts vs. Full Posts? Or do you not care how a blog presents on the web, because you use WP Reader, Feedly or some other off-site solution?

Those are the questions I pose, and I would love your input! Click through below to add your voice to the poll.

I’ll give this a few days or so then share the results for everyone. :)

Suddenly a Wild Facebook Appears

…I don’t yet know if it will be super effective.

I’m not expecting too much though, as I don’t plan on expending a lot of effort on it. I created the page, and linked the blog to it to auto-crosspost, but that’s it.

I’m also still a little uneasy that the page belongs to my actual Facebook account, being honest. But we’ll see how it goes. Twitter will still absolutely be my preferred social communication channel, and I could stand to be more active there as it is. ;)

If you’re curious though, the Facebook page is here!1.

I’ve followed a few other blogs that I could spot with Facebook pages, but I know I’ve missed people.

Probably a great many people. So let me know! :)

Missing Connections

He’s absolutely right about the modern approach to MMORPG gaming on PC. Compared to the original experience, what we enjoy today is adulterated, fractured, incomplete.

Bhagpuss (2019), There Is No Mystery Left (Inventory Full)

This was said in response to Pete’s post on the topic of finding a happy balance between computer and console gaming. How he is able to achieve a better degree of immersion on console by power of the fact that there isn’t the same ready access to a second monitor, filled with social media ticking by, ready at a moment’s notice to be flicked through.

I know what Pete is talking about, as I’m exactly the same. My second monitor will have some mix of Discord, Twitter and general browsing pages up. Sometimes even a TV show. I find these ‘distractions’ to be a welcome part of the PC gaming experience, though. So I don’t find this breaking of immersion as problematic.

But it did start my mind down another track entirely.

Changes to Social Interaction in MMOs in the Absence of Social Media

I’ve talked about changes in social interaction before, but then I was tackling a perceived shift in my priorities and loss of even openness to forming relationships in MMOs or games fullstop. I attributed this in part to the shifting nature of the games themselves, without much of a look at the external factors.

And to clarify, in this context perhaps actually I less mean ‘Social Media’ as it is understood today and more mean a lack of any ubiquitous communication platform upon which you could aggregate your social contacts.

The effect of this being, as Bhagpuss also said, “…turn-of-the-century MMORPGs were the social media of their day.”

Certainly in my experience, this meant that the relationships you formed — even the close ones — remained exclusively in the confines of the MMO itself, for me this being Asheron’s Call. There didn’t seem to be any real extension of communication to email, or any of the Instant Messenger clients which were starting to pop up in that era.

I looked it up to confirm when writing my comment on Bhagpuss’ post, ICQ came out in November ’96 — so even if not by ’98 when I started into the beta of Asheron’s Call, then certainly by the release late ’99 or shortly after I would have been using it.

So WHY Did I Not Save Those Connections?

I struggle with this question, looking back on things with hindsight. There were friends made, relationships established, that at the time meant a great deal to me. I would now give a great deal to have a do-over in which I didn’t let those contacts slide.

But I don’t recall ever making the effort to ensure the communication could exist standalone from Asheron’s Call itself.

One theory I have is, as I alluded to above, a lack of a ubiquitous platform on which to actually achieve this. I was using ICQ, but this was not common place. Instant Messenger had not taken off as a mainstream concept yet. Then when it later did, there was AIM, ICQ, MSN and any number of others.

Another is that I was simply young and foolish. I was 16 in ’99 when Asheron’s Call entered Retail. I very likely didn’t even give any thought to the possibility of a need to secure channels of communication outside of the game. Asheron’s Call was forever. For me. For you. For everyone.

But some people did drift from the game. People could pass first to days without being /seen, to weeks, to months. There was no Facebook, so those remaining could only speculate on what might have occurred. Sometimes I was the one who would take days, weeks or even months away.

Especially after the transition from Beta to Retail where I had two groups of my friends split and make different decisions on server to play on. My core group decided on Darktide (the PvP server) whereas quite a number of my other friends were going to stay on a PvE server.

I had good intentions of splitting my playtime, but ultimately Darktide won out and my visitation on Morningthaw became more and more sporadic, with less and less of my friend’s list around each time.

Some of those losses are actively painful, and I wonder whether that might also have been at least a tiny contributing factor to my stance on social interaction in MMOs today?

In any case — I am curious, for anyone else who might’ve played back during the EQ / AC / UO era of MMOs, was this your experience too? Or did you make more of an effort to secure communication channels separate from the games? Or was this simply not a concern?

Transition from Social to Solo

I promise! After this one, I shall give break from looking at the changes we (or at least, I) see over time as a gamer, or the types of change we may strive for. But after this one — which leans more toward the former type.

Potentially the start of my interest in blogging?

From the time I had my first dial-up modem — a 14.4k V.32 device — and learnt the borders of my computer went beyond the boundaries of my home I was enthralled by the social potential. There was FidoNet and BlueWave which fulfilled much of it, but even within the realm of gaming the time spent simply sitting and chatting rivaled the time spent actively playing.

This continued being true when making the jump into the realm of MMO’s with Asheron’s Call beta somewhere in ’98, ahead of it’s ’99 release.

The social element, the weaving of multiple tell streams, guild chat and fellowship (party) chat in amongst actively playing and contributing XP to the group I was in was the strongest part of the game and kept me going for years.

Meeting new people was not only something I was open to, it was cherished. I don’t know that ‘PUG’ even existed as a term then and if it did, it certainly didn’t carry the same negative connotations that it does today.

Start of the Shift

This openness and attitude carried on beyond my time with Asheron’s Call, I know that much, but it seemed more difficult to pinpoint where it started to fade.

Image source: Engadget

My first thought was that it was with the introduction of the Dungeon Finder in WoW, but I actually don’t think so.

Thinking about it, I can see there was a step before that — where ironically finding what I perhaps thought I wanted led to closing down on other people. You see, I found a static guild that persisted from game to game.

We were open to recruiting new members and bringing people into the fold, but without a doubt it was a start of becoming more insular in nature. An impression of ‘not needing’ people outside the guild.

Global / Regional channels were turned off or at least put into secondary tabs and the ratio of time spent between playing and talking swung hugely to the playing side.

Technology through to Today

That isn’t to say that Dungeon Finder and other technology changes didn’t play a role, as they most certainly did.

Cross-realm play was great from a queue-time perspective, but it further distanced me from any sense of wider-game community. The chance of running into someone again was near enough nil that investing in whatever group you wound up with didn’t seem to hold any value.

Which I suppose more or less carries through to today. The guild is (mostly) gone, but there are a small set of friends that form my core group of people to play with. When we raid, we find a group to join as a group.

Outside of this, though? If we’re not in the same game at the same time?

Then I tend to go solo in most games. There is an odd mix of feelings of anxiousness over not wanting to risk being a burden to someone else but equally as strong, not wanting to risk someone else being a burden to me. I value going at my own pace — be that fast or slow — over the social element I once enjoyed so much.

Outside the gaming space this is far less true. I mean, Hi. Case in point. But also quite happy to jump on a Discord or Twitter or whatever else and talk.

I suspect it also has something to do with gaming time coming at a premium these days and feeling a need to maximise value from it — whatever the definition of ‘value’ might happen to be moment to moment.

I’m unsure how much I can — or possibly even want — to change this. Anthem was a nice departure from this norm though, where playing as a public group didn’t threaten either side of my worries. Still — there was a lack of meaningful interaction and that meant the other people there were just incidental.

Is this just what gaming is now? Does anyone still play with the openness I (we?) once had to new people?