I HAS PC Life and Interwebs

19Aug/140

Start With Why

I try to read a book a month. These books are mostly non-fiction and are business or personal growth related. I love thinking in general (its a gift, I tell you) and as such picking up books and reading and learning feels like I am developing both personally and professionally. Someone once told me that the person you will be in 5 years depends on the people you meet and the books you read. I find some truth and comfort in that statement.

I recently read "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek and I'd categorize it as a pretty simple premise but a game changer if you could execute it in life, work, relationships, and elsewhere. The basic premise of the book (and I am keeping this very simple) is that if you drew a circle that had three layers, it could look like this.

golden-circle

What Mr. Sinek argues is that most companies focus on WHAT they do. Dell builds computers, for examples. They then tell you HOW they do it - the have a great processing facility and it allows for personalization and you can change features, chips, memory, hard drives (etc.) and get it built just for you - for a cheap price. They never tell you why though, do they? The book argues that a company like Apple always starts with why, then explains how, and then shows a product that is the outcome of the why and how - not the other way around. Profit is never a "why" either. In very generalized thoughts and terms he demonstrates the companies that start with why  has made them industry leaders - in some cases changing complete industries and in even more extreme cases the world. He also argues that if you don't start with why you can't achieve the same results, and that starting with why creates an inspiration that team members, co-workers and customers can all rally behind - which creates that success.

A simple example of how to apply this is personal health. If you focus on the WHAT and HOW of personal health it doesn't sound like a lot of fun. I need to go to the gym 4x a week and work out. I need to drink less beer. I need to eat better, less bread, less deep fried foods. I need to take the stairs instead of the elevators. The WHAT and HOW of personal health doesn't actually sound that great.

If you started with WHY, you may look at those things a bit differently. I want to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to be able to work and provide for my family. I want to be around long enough to play with my grandkids. If you start with those whys suddenly less beer, and more time at the gym, and taking those stairs don't seem that bad after all.

Its a must read. Please do. It's on Audible if you like books that way, can even be your free trial book.

Can the golden circle be used in Personal gaming? Of course it can. Clearly developers are starting with WHAT and HOW and not WHY. WildStar started with we are going to create a game that WoW would have been if they didn't get off course. (WHAT).

We will do this by not making the same mistakes as Blizzard and keeping the game catered to the 1%, with attunments and a tougher levelling and raiding experience. We'll reintroduce 40 man raids. (HOW)

They never really explained WHY.

I want a gaming company to think with WHY first, instead of "how much profits can we make if we do yet another twist on a theme park". I bet if a gaming company really started with WHY, we would get that inspiring and engaging MMO we are all waiting for.

 

18Aug/145

Ask and Ye Shall Receive (the 1%)

Below is an excerpt from a  post by Carbine Studios' Jeremy Gaffney on why the 1% is important.

Here's some quick philosophy on the subject (still in the office at 6pm Sunday so I'll have to be brief):

We do believe in catering to the 1% (actually a few different 1%'s). We spend more than 1% of our time on them. Why?

Well, the 1% grew over time in the MMO market. It used to be that few people were at the end game stages of the MMOs, but of course as time passes the percentage of players there grows. And some who hated PVP as noobies learned they loved it, and some who struggled in dungeons took on veteran dungeons and learned to raid, etc. So that "1%" of people who do the hard end-game content has grown a bit (it's still not pervasive per se; and the toughest raids are still only finished by a fraction of the playerbase).

Several factors apply:

1) The 1% are pretty vocal. If they report back to the 99% that the elder game sucks, guess what? Lots of people leave - why bother levelling up if no love was put into the very top content? (Well there actually answers to that, but I'll leave it for brevity).

2) Over time, your "1%" content becomes easier - better loot drops, people get more skilled, level caps raise. So that percentage our of time spent actually over time does get utilized well.

3) We devs often ARE the 1%. If you make a game you don't love, it's pretty damn hard to make it good. We want a game we want to play too. There are a disproportionate amount of hardcore raiders/PVPers in the industry (and probably also in those passionate enough to post here or on other MMO sites for that matter).

4) There's some magic involved. Picture a game with no nigh-inaccessible content. You can go anywhere the first month, there's nothing left unseen. From one perspective, maybe that's great - there's no earning your way into Counterstrike maps, and that game's pretty damn fun. But from another...I dunno, it's pretty tough to have a mysterious, huge-feeling world when you can trivially do it all, and even in games I don't want to or don't have time to raid in I'd like to know there's more out there. That's arguable though.

................... (some cut out, hit link above to read the whole thing.........

Anyhoo, there's tons more on the subject, especially as we do more reveals later this year on elder games, deeper dives on features, etc. Maybe we'll muck up some of the execution (don't believe so at the moment, but there's lots to do still. I don't expect or desire any "gimmes" from the MMO communities as a whole; there's been enough hype in recent years in the biz that the proof HAS to be in the pudding for us and future games).

But strategically we have a set of goals that we feel passionate about. Opinions welcome.

Sounds sensible right? But what if by catering to the 1%, you actually only got the 1%?

NCSoft earnings report shows a converted income from WildStar of 27M in April, May and June. Since the game launched in June you can put that down as box sales. It's 59.99 for a Standard edition and $74.99 for deluxe, so in the interest of best guesstimates let's draw a line in the sand of in between - $66.99 - and that gives you ~400,000 in box sales. IF CREDD income isn't reported.

I suppose the pre-order sales slump prediction was true.

Now, 400,000 is a LOT of boxes and if anyone felt the game was growing, or even held that number of players then it would be an unarguable success! Unfortunately, by all anecdotal accounts, servers are emptying - and fast. WildStar nation is moving their guild (already) from Rowsdower to a higher pop server (and spending $1000 in the process). I mentioned how empty things were. Even Syp, who is loving the fact that challenges are easy now that his server is empty is noticing the same thing. WildStar Nation who do a weekly podcast about the game use their best guess at 30% retention. It's all guesses and experiences at this point - but no one has said, anywhere, that the game is growing.

The pessimist in me has a couple thoughts here - one, that my swift conversion to F2P will come true (that before I even played the game). The other is that that date will be on our around (or at least announced) by November 13th. Have to keep players once WoD drops, no? The pessimist in me (its a very small part, I promise) also thinks back to when I suspected that companies STILL make more money going box plus TEMPORARY sub fee for X months before the inevitable F2P conversion - and maybe Carbine is playing that card.

The optimist in me hopes that Carbine sticks to their guns and vision, and is happy with 130,000 subs and can focus on growing the game the way they always envisioned it - and that they can cater to the core they always wanted to. I still won't play it that way, but I respect EVE Online and I don't play that game either.

Unfortunately respect doesn't pay the bills and who knows what the expectation and pressures are from NCsoft to Carbine. What I know for sure is that if it indeed goes F2P and/or B2P I will go and participate in the community. I'll even support them with payments.

Either way - change will be coming to WildStar and whether it is good or bad will depend on what actions they take (something HAS to change) and what camp you are in when it is changed.

17Aug/140

Diffusions in MMO Gaming

I just read an amazing book and while I am saving that for another entire post one part stuck out to me. That part was in regards to the explanation behind how, and what rate, new technologies spread throughout societies. That explanation is called the "Diffusion of Innovations" and was written back in 1962. It was recently updated in the 2000s and it is popularized by a Professor of Communications, Everett Rogers. It's a pretty cool theory in our tech driven world and it makes sense.

The author used it to prove a point for a business argument. I immediately thought of paid beta/alpha tests.   The theory goes like this (basic format) for adopting new technologies.

The theory goes that new technologies are best picked up by Innovators, who evangelize to Early Adopters (who purchase on their recommendation) - and then it gets a bit of steam for the Early Majority to pick up, and the Late Majority now sees a lot of people using it and they don't want to be left out. The Laggards never buy but only adopt when it's been standardized, cheaper than their current option (etc.).  I may have bastardized the whole Theory - but that is the way it was explained in the book I read.

The argument goes that for new tech its best to solely target the Innovators and the rest sorts itself out. If you target the Majorities (Early, Late) they don't understand why they need the tech as they would if it had gone through Innovators and Early Adopters. It makes sense - who knew we needed DVRs until TIVO? Now they are a standard cable box. (for the record, TIVO is an example of a failed new tech - they went straight to the mass market and people weren't ready / didn't understand)

Of course, with my love of gaming, after reading this theory in a business book I wanted to try and apply it to what we see in gaming.

Applying the theory makes sense with the "pay for betas" trend we have been seeing - and in which I have participated. This makes sense - if you get the early innovators and they start blogging, podcasting, and sharing their experiences with others you may be able to get Early Adopters involved. This has actually created a revenue stream for SOE. This has been working really well for Archeage as well - I have been reading great blogs and stories around blognation. While that particular one isn't my cup of tea (I'll be a Late Majority for AA - if at all) I'm still reading and thinking about it.

For early Betas the theory doesn't work as cleanly for two reasons - one is because characters get wiped because its software and not new tech - this causes people (like me) to not invest as much time or evangelize as much to other people. I spent more time in Landmark than I did in WildStar and if I knew my efforts would exist, I would still be playing. If I was still playing, I'd still be blogging and posting pictures about it. It's fun, it's a grown up Minecraft. If it can be as commercially successful and trendy as Minecraft remains to be seen. The second way the theory is a stretch for gaming is that MMOs in themselves aren't really new anymore and the curve is meant to represent the adoption of new tech.

Despite that I still think it makes sense that gaming companies reach out and engage their best players and potential players as early as possible and get them talking about it - good or bad. Conversations and top of mind - the buzz - is always important.

The other way to look at that curve and apply to gaming is possibly the population curve of a MMO.

  • Innovators = Alpha
  • Early Adopter = Beta
  • Early Majority = Pre-orders
  • Late Majority = Launch
  • Laggards = Post-launch purchasers

Looking at it that way  works with the overplayed market share % as well - and isn't it true that at launch most new games peak anyway? This doesn't replace the Gartner Hype Curve but fits along with it. For all NEW MMO launches (post-Wow) it seems that every game except for WoW, and EVE, had peak subscriber base at launch. That is a sobering thought to the importance of launch to developers. SWTOR, AOC, WAR - are there any that ended up with more subscribers than boxes they sold at launch?

If that is indeed the case and we can apply it directly then a MMO has ~90% of it's maximum player base at launch.

Since I read about the theory through a second hand source I am going to get to the source material and read the actual applications. I have a habit of looking at a lot of my experiences through a gaming lens (service, loyalty, math, experiences, heck, even family!) and I suppose that in itself could be a measuring stick of my passion for this pastime.

16Aug/143

Half Time Housecleaning

At the midpoint of Blaugust I am taking a breather. It's been a flurry for 16 days but a LOT of fun - I find the daily posting isn't too tough even though I had a couple travel days for work AND a couple travel days with family last week. It has been fun because I have been getting more traffic - I am not sure if that has to do with Anook or the posting frequency. I know not all of the posts have been my strongest but the effort has been there. Consider this post a half time Blaugust post.

My blog has been around for quite some time - my first post was August 27, 2008 - coming up on an anniversary! I'll probably forget about it on that actual day - it was top of mind right now for an odd reason. 6 years, a few patches where I didn't post much, a TON of life changes as well. Interesting to look back on where I was then, and where I am now.

The Housecleaning aspect is that IN THE PAST ALL OF MY TITLES WERE IN CAPS - I don't know why I made that decision, but I did it for years - so I have been going back and fixing that. Also, all of my posts back then had a "break" in it at some point in the text forcing click-throughs to read it. Again, not sure why I did that either. No reason to inconvenience visitors. I have been taking those out too.

I've gone through various iterations of Categorizations and tags - I now categorize by the publisher or developer (Blizzard for Wow, for example) instead of each game individually - I don't know if they serve any value in the internets besides having people click through and I am guessing that they are rarely used - so I have kept it simple. The tag cloud is now my last sarcastic, attempted wit or parting remark instead of an actual tag - again, not sure if tags have any functional use outside of the blog.

If categories or tags are important, please let me know. If they are helpful somewhere out there, I'll adjust accordingly. I've been blogging for 6 years and I still don't know why some things are the way they are, or even best practices.

Linking still isn't working but my webmaster is an old guildmate friend of mine who has never billed me for the URL www.ihaspc.com and he is a family man, and its summer (and he is a boater) so I don't like to pester. I do feel bad if people are linking and I can't thank them for it, respond, or become a part of any side conversations but I am sure blognation will go on fine without my track/piggybacks (for now!) hopefully when we get it fixed they will back-update.

I am going to play around with some new themes. I have had this one since day one - and while I like it because it is the same one I have had, I am curious if a fresh look would be better for readers. Besides, TAGN seems to change annually and he is one of those gold standards of bloggers that I respect and admire (him, Bhagpuss, and Zubon) - those are blog-titans of course though, so no surprises there. My Blogroll on the right is all blogs I love reading which is why they are there - makes it easier for me to track my favorites! I added some links on my Blogroll  - found some great articles through this initiative and Anook.

Is there anyway to make Blogger and WordPress be more friendly? I love commenting on WordPress sites (it keeps track of who I am so simply!) I figure they should be better friends.

There is my Blaugust half time. I still have 15 drafts in the bank and finding inspiration everyday. At bare minimum, even if I don't manage to finish Blaugust, I think I am a better writer for working a bit harder on finding/fleshing out topics and being consistent with posting.

Bare minimum, I appreciate the support from everyone else out there who HAS PC.

 

15Aug/142

Confusing Sales

I understand the mindset behind the Steam sales - a lot of times they are games that have been out for months - if not years, so getting $1.99 for a $19.99 game past it's prime has some sense behind it - because normally, you would just get zero.

Regardless of what customers you piss off.

What I don't understand as much is why prime games are discounting before they even launch. It is creating a culture (that is probably already created) of discounting that once you go down, you can't get away from. This is why Subway now sells $3 meal deals where once they were $10. They discounted to $8, then to $6, then to $5, and now $3. Soon they will have to give you money for you to eat their "food".

This first happened when Green Man Gaming discounted WildStar, arguably one of the biggest MMO launches this year (or even the past two years) offered me a 25% discount. Now they are at it again, with 25% off Civilization: Beyond Earth. A game I was happily going to pay full price for.

Yes, sure, perhaps the only thing getting hurt is the retail price of new games but all this is proving is that the base price of new releases is based on nothing anyway, and that we are just getting fleeced from the get go. As an industry this launch discount is a bad practice and hurts the industry overall.

Save the discounts for Steam sales after the game has had it's run, not at the point where there should be the most excitement and most willingness to pay full price and support the game. I have zero loyalty to GMG for this and if the only reason why you are buying from a company is because of price discounting that company probably won't have a long run at things - if pricing is your only advantage, anyone can easily copy that.

For an industry that has been around for so long, it still feels like it is making young industry mistakes.

14Aug/142

Rally Caps

Murf and I chatted about baseball not too  long ago, and I was recently treated to a 19 inning, walk off win marathon from my home team Toronto Blue Jays, against our dreaded rivals, the Detroit Tigers. It had a lot. A lot of intentional walks (the Jays lineup is down 3 starters so once you get past Cabrera and Bautista your pitcher is generally safe.) a  lot of bases loaded let downs (Jays had them loaded 3 times (often thanks to the walks - intentional or not)) and still couldn't win until the 19th frame. Spectacular defensive saves (looking at you, Rasmus in centre field. you and your .219 average!) and all in all, a great way to spend 6 and a half hours.

Yup, you heard me. 6 glorious hours of baseball. And 37 minutes. Glorious. or something. On Baseball Canada Day.

That's long.

After 17 innings the Tigers were out of pitchers and had to put in their starter for the NEXT day. How did the game end? What lead to the victory? Was it a clutch hit, or defensive error - what was it?

Rally Caps.

Embedded image permalink

Don't mess with the Rally Cap!

The game was dragging, and then the camera pans and we see journeyman and underground fan favourite Steve Tolleson walking around the dugout physically turning around everyone's caps. He's doing it all by himself. That is the stuff of legends! He walks around, spinning caps, a tried and true baseball tradition. The Rally Cap. Not asking, not suggesting, just doing. The straight-back rally cap - a veteran move, compared to the less fashionable inside out rally cap.

And then they win.

Sometimes superstition works.

I know players put on their rally caps (save Vanguard petition) often when games are going to be shuttered and while and I pulled my pitcher (metaphorically) with my yesterday cancel of WildStar sub - I do wish it well, and hope to enjoy it again someday. I think it will be just fine with the subs they do keep and hopefully that is enough for NCSOFT to keep the F2P calls at bay.

13Aug/140

Au Revoir WildStar!

Zero surprise to anyone that reads hear semi-regularly that I was headed down this path. WildStar has some potential and the business model is pushing me away further than the game itself. IF it was buy to play +expansions or free-to-play I'd be exploring Nexus. It's neither and I don't feel right paying for a game I am barely playing. Another time I'd be there. Just not in the cards.

I was looking forward to unsubscribing for the sole sake that perhaps because I am voting with my wallet they would take my feedback seriously. No, I'm not faking it with a "I'm quitting post" on the forums, I'm not bluffing. I actually did - look!

Easier to cancel than Audible!

They didn't even care. Not even a "hey, why are you leaving?" exit survey. Just a click, and I'm gone. I mean, I'm sure they liked my money, but I guess they really don't need it - or don't want to know the reasons why. I find this shocking in the digital age (and I often do) that there is no cheap and simple to implement improvement survey so the devs understand what, if anything, is driving players away. Maybe they already know, or *think* they know, but another missed opportunity!

Money is why these games are made. However, until MMOs become less transactional, and more relationship based this industry is going to continue to pump out the same thing. Kickstarter is a nice start due to niche support options but you have things such as Star Citizen (which seems more like a professional money raising company, not a gaming company), Camelot Unchained, and the like. The best of the best when it comes to businesses and brands in general build a bond of trust and a relationship with their  customers who become evangelists for their brands. They take the time to build that relationship through their messaging, their support, and their connections with their customers. Want a simple and cheap example?

This company Grovemade makes iPhone cases out of reclaimed skateboards and other recycled materials. No two are alike.  My wife bought one. It cost $100 and shipping to Canada. When it arrived, there was a hand written note in it - that said "This one has an extra cool design in it - enjoy! I loved packing it for you  - Steve". It made her feel individualistic (extra cool design) and personal (I loved packing it for you) and guess what happened one year later, when it started chipping? She bought another one. I suggested she spend $30 like my SURVIVOR case for my Galaxy s5 but no, it's $100 bucks because she connected with that company.

Relationships are hard to build between a company and user in a game with millions of "customers" - I get it - but let's put in some effort. The best thing going for MMOs is that the relationships don't need to be that way, they can exist solely between gamers - and that will carry a lot of subscriptions a long way - but at some point the company needs to matter to the person as well. People love Blizzard and go to Blizzcon. People love SOE and go to (SOEfest? What is that called?) You need that dedication to survive. WildStar, by all accounts, does a good job of reaching out to the crowd (weekly podcasts, posts on forums, etc.) so kudos there where it is due. I just am boggled that after 8 years of development and a huge launch, with apparent Gartner Hype Cycle crashes that you wouldn't want to ask people leaving exactly why.

For me, I could have chosen several.

  • I don't get the same value out of a subscription fee payment
  • I can't put in enough hours to earn CREDD instead
  • I didn't find a guild or make bonds (my friends on my friends lists - guilds I were considering - outright vanished)
  • The game world left me behind - felt empty in the sub 20 areas I was adventuring in
  • The Dominion side seemed to have even larger population issues, but I enjoyed that side more

Not much they can do about that list, but if enough chose the first bullet point maybe they could use that when strategizing about a F2P strategy. The second through  fourth points would point to server mergers (or transfers). Maybe they wouldn't act on that information but at least they would have it - and with information you can make decisions with more clarity instead of guessing or hoping you know the answer.

Best of luck WildStar and looking forward to the "return to WildStar for 10 days!" or free trial email to see if you were able to guess at and fix the things that lead me to leave in the first place.

 

 

12Aug/140

5avourite 5ives

On the heals of 10 questions on WoW, I admit that my favourite pastime in WoW is 5 - man dungeons. It used to be raiding, but I don't have the luxury of that kind of time anymore. That post got me thinking about which 5 mans in particular stuck out for me - so here we go, starting a 5avourite 5ives and hoping that maybe it catches on - would love to hear other people's 5avourite 5 mans.

Fight Club  - The 5irst rule of 5ight club

Now, some housekeeping and simple rules of 5ive club - there are no rules. It doesn't have to be from WoW, or even a 5ive man in that case. Not all games have 5ive mans but try to keep it to introductory grouping (ie: first instances, etc.) I know that 5ive mans can be limiting to open world games (are there any outside of EQ? Vanguard?) and that using 5 instead of F is probably really annoying by now. No matter - I am staying on brand (5-you!). All that being said, if your game doesn't have a 5ive man but a grouping experience that you would count as that because your favourite game is designed that way, then by all means, share!

Pick one, or several. No matter. Write what you will. Have fun!

My 5avourite 5ive is Black5athom Deeps. (that's the last misplaced 5, I promise!)

The 'Deeps' label always made me laugh. Felt like a spelling error. Shouldn't it be depths?  Were they being funny reminding the peeps to bring the deeps? Anyway - this was my first 5 man ever (sigh: nostalgia? Again?) and I ran it over and over and over. I became a resident expert of the BFD in the 25-27 level range of Whisperwind. The best part is that we stumbled upon the entrance by accident, and already had 5 friends questing - so we went in, no guides, no clue on what to expect - a proper unscripted adventure.

First off, the back story -

Situated along the Zoram Strand of Ashenvale, Blackfathom Deeps was once a glorious temple dedicated to the night elves' moon-goddess, Elune. However, the great Sundering shattered the temple - sinking it beneath the waves of the Veiled Sea. There it remained untouched - until, drawn by its ancient power - the naga and satyr emerged to plumb its secrets. Legends hold that the ancient beast, Aku'mai, has taken up residence within the temple's ruins. Aku'mai, a favored pet of the primordial Old Gods, has preyed upon the area ever since. Drawn to Aku'mai's presence, the cult known as the Twilight's Hammer has also come to bask in the Old Gods' evil presence.

I'm not sure if there is more to it than that - nothing I could find.

The entrance is very cool because it is of standard fantasy fare - an old temple that leads below

looks inviting

 and that leads into a nice broken staircase, or of course, jump down. You swim under the water and the entrance is into a cave. You don't spend very long in the temple itself.

real men jump!

From there  there are twists and turns, stealthed mobs, and all sorts of glory to be found. You can actually miss parts and find dead ends. It's a bit convulated and you can miss bosses and other fun areas if you don't explore the nooks and crannies. There is a very direct route through the end, but the first time we missed 3 full bosses - Lady Sarevess, Old Serra'kis, and Gelihast.  Gelihast was a "d'oh" moment but I became quite famous for showing new adventurers where Old Seraa'kis was.

Those lines exist in certain instances in games now because people get lost. See WildStar.

On this Map Lady Sarevess is through an underwater cavern (2) , and we missed Gelihast (3) because we turned right too early. Old Serra'kis (6) is underwater and way off the beaten path so that's a little more understandable.

I am ahead of myself.

The first boss is Ghamoo-ra. He is a turtle. I tamed him with my hunter. He dropped green armor, I believe it was the first green armor I had seen. Typical tank and spank fight (most were at this level.

Lady Sarevess avoided capture my first run through but never again. Basic fight except she spams forked lightning so required tanks to turn away from the group. She dropped the first blue bow ol Braack ever had. Blue items felt really epic back then.

Lady Sarevess

Gelihast (3) guarded a shrine that gave a buff. He is also the first real test in BFD and if I recall correctly did some serious damage. Murlocs would wipe us in that room as they were fleeing low on health they would chain aggro - and could grab Gelihast as well.

Gelihast

Lorgus Jett (4) was always confusing for us alliance. He never dropped loot. Ever! Why put in a mob that didn't drop loot? We thought perhaps it was a bug. Turns out, its a horde only quest line. Every time we killed him we prayed that the loot would finally drop. It never did. He also spawns in a few different areas so was also confusing. I'm really curious what he was there for for the Horde quest. He brought an element of mystery!

Lorgus Jett

When I checked WowWiki for a refresher (all pictures here compliments of them!) I found a boss I didn't even know about - a summonable boss but only for the Horde side. I am skipping out on that one here, because I honestly had never fought him. So much for being an expert! (Boss 5 on the map)

The 6th boss Old Serra'kis dropped an awesome dagger graphic  and I came back with my rogue to farm a pair. Drowning while fighting him was always a threat and people would sometimes get turned around in his cave, lost, and drowning. you had to take a long way back after killing him but the swim was always awesome after a boss kill and loot drops.

Old-serrakis

Twilight Lord Kelris (7) was what we originally thought was the final boss - he is fun and casts mind control and sleep, so those are always interesting to deal with when you are new to a game. (remember, we are talking launch time here, people!) It's a tricky room with a few LOS pulls (first time we used those too). Overall, like most of the place, a straightforward fight.

Twilight lord kelris

We wiped before entering the final room a couple times - every time we brought new people through if we didn't warn them enough. There are for braziers to light in the room, and each attracts a pack of mobs which are pretty easy to kill on their own. If you hit all four they will overwhelm any rookie group - and new people would often run around clicking on all of them - because they could.

That lead to the final boss, Aku'mai.

Don't let that grainy picture fool you, he is gigantic and a site to behold as a young instance runner exploring a magical place. Dragon sized. It was my first epic battle, we wiped several times before sorting it out. This was before people tanked at level 25, remember. Before dungeon finder, glyphs, all sorts of modern conveniences. The instance was uphill both ways! After you kill Aku'mai you can get a port to Darnassus. We stood around the giant hall at the end searching every nook and cranny - did we miss something? Is that it? We really didn't want it to end.

7 bosses (8 if you are Horde - damn you!) in sprawling underground caverns hidden from the world beneath a temple. Not much more exciting than that. Of course the exploration and shiny newness of it all is what made it special to me in particular and it is a place that I'll remember fondly in my dungeoneering career.

I'm glad that it hasn't been remade and curious to see if Blizzard ever does - I know they like re-purposing content - and I'd be fine with that. Would be interesting to see if they could recapture what I loved about it and I am actually very curious if the sprawling style and unclear pathways turned other people off from it. As far as time goes, this one took a while to run when it was new to you.

I'm sure someone out in blognation has done this before but if not, I'm really curious what your favourite 5 man dungeons were. (See? I didn't 5 that one! I did promise!) and if you already posted about this some years ago then just pull a Blizzard and re-purpose that content.

11Aug/142

Be Verwy Qwiet – We Hunting Zombiesh-Type-Creatures!

I picked up Dead Space a while ago (for free, thank you EA) and have been picking away at it. Throughout the first hour of Dead Space I realized something. I haven't said a single word. Actually, my character hasn't even made a sound. I don't even think he grunts or groans.

That's odd.

I can assure you, that if I was an Engineer-turned self-savior on a ship infested with rebuilt zombie-like human corpses of killing rampage with only a laser cutter and two other humans alive on board with low chance of survival or hope on a behemoth of a futuristic mining ship that I'd say something about it.

Even just a "yes sir" or a "holy $h*t!" (probably a lot of the latter).

But nope, I just plod along, carving up the beasties and building hope.

DS 2 and DS 3 the same way?

I get why gaming companies don't give a voice to their protagonists because they want it to be you - but really, there is nothing less human than a character who doesn't even say "Yes sir!" when given an  order or even mumbling things to themselves about "just my luck". Especially in harrowing circumstances.

Even more odd is that because he has a full face shield on you could completely hollow it out and digitize the sound so it isn't that far off what someone would expect. Certainly, it wouldn't feel like too much work for the extra immersion that would provide.

I normally don't play games with sound - when I get the chance to play games sometimes its when my wife is watching TV. If I don't have a headset on its on mute anyway - FPS's (especially survival horrors) kind of require sound so you can hear things sneaking up on you so I am extra dialed in on the sound aspect. I keep waiting for my character to say something - anything.

So far, me yelling at the screen isn't having the same effect.

10Aug/140

10 Answers About WoW

Like many bitter exes (that keep going back) I have done my fair share of beating up WoW on this blog although it always came from a place of "tough love".

I learned of 10 Years - 10 Questions through Tales of the Argonaut (hat tip!) but the direct questions are asked over here at Alternative.

This looks like fun and I decided to do it - for Science! (or something). I am making a blog post about it (although there are plenty of ways to participate - email, Google docs, etc.) so go check it out!

 1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I had a friend, Lorendous, who was a good friend of mine and guildmate from DAOC. He left DAOC for Wow but I held strong. After the Pendragon community was trashed by Mythic I had enough, and finally followed my friend there. My history of MMOs started with EQ, to DAOC and then to WoW and while I have beta tested, bought, and played everything in between EQ was #1a and WoW was #1b. I could actually reverse that if you count personal impact - they are very similar in shaping my gaming life.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

Hunter. Sadly. To be fair though, I only got him to level 20. I recently did a post about his LBRS solo runs but to be more honest my first "main" character was (is?) a Night Elf druid. Couchon. He was the one I found my first guild with, the first I got to max level, raided with, etc. Oh, the stories. My old guildies still call me "Couch" no matter what game, what toon, or what class/name.

I switched mains years later to a Shaman (needed the heals, chain heal was king and we were in SSC) and I LOVED enhancement and the unique nature of totems and what Shaman brought to a raid group. I also have a top level Paladin so I can do 5 mans in LFGs  while tanking and a rogue too.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

Solely my friends. Same with server choice. I was Alliance and did not have a choice in the matter. Later, I did roll Horde but I new everything about the Alliance in and out and had such a comfort level with that side that it made more sense for me to keep rolling there. I did join a Horde guild with some friends once but I only got to level 70(ish) and really, I have so much going on Alliance side I just stayed there.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Not beating A'lar. It was a roadblock for our guild. We could always get under 5% but never won. A guildie was last man standing when he was at 1% (Greenteabag) and that sticks out. It tested us time and time again but we all showed up and did our best. I did, by myself at level 90, long after the guild was gone. It was still satisfying, but I wish we got him. I think its odd that I chose a failure moment as one of my most memorable but the hours we spent together there was bond-building.

Most other memories are around raiding and progression. We were a family, casual guild (that at one point had 13+ kids BORN into the game..) and we were a top 10 progression guild on our server at one point. That was fun.

.... finally ... sorta

.... finally ... sorta

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

5 mans. It wasn't always the case - first it was raiding, but I can't take the required time to raid anymore (work, life, family, kids) but I love 5 mans. The Dungeons, the lore, the teamwork - it's how I learned to love tanking because its the fastest way to 5 man glory, progression, and gear to do all of that. It's actually why I quit Wow in Pandaria - they took away the ability to grind rep through tabards in dungeons and I absolutely HATE dailies - my whole end game was a series of dailies. If I would have been able to grind rep through dungeons I'd probably still be playing.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

UBRS. It was the first tryout guild run I did with the Grey Rangers, and I was accepted into the guild. That one decision changed my entire gaming career from that point. Druids back then were OK for healing but absolutely essential for Innervate. I was good at Innervating. (yes, its one button. That was tongue in cheek!).

Grey Rangers was a 40 man guild, and it was hard because to field that large of a team we had people in our guild that didn't really fit. With the announcement of the next expansion going to 25 mans, we broke apart the guild and made our own. Still, in GR I was able to experience all of Molten Core and BlackWing Lair. Our 25 man guild was a blast and some of the most fun I ever had in gaming.

It all started in UBRS.

At the gates, with my druid.

At the gates, with my druid.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I'd have to resub to pull that. But I'd almost be afraid to. I was a 4x a week raider, 3-4 hours, 6-7 days a week. I also had top level crafters of almost every profession. I roll 4-5 max level characters (Rogue, Paladin, Shaman, Druid, Hunter) so to add it all up would be tough. I'm genuinely curious though, if I ever sub again (or get a 7 day pass...) I'll check it out!

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Shit no. Wait - does skimming count as reading?

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

When I bailed on the guild I founded. It had changed a lot (I had stepped down from GM) but still a LOT of good people there. My gaming life started changing and a few of my closer friends left to a separate server. I still have a guildbank alt in my old guild and my hunter, and when I sub I go in to see who is still in the guild. I stay pretty quiet though, I bailed on those people. I am still amazed at the number of people still playing in that guild. The commitment is amazing.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Almost got divorced! A pregnant non-gaming wife will have that effect on your marriage when you are 4+ hours a night, plus constantly on the guild boards, etc. etc. While that is true, it also gave me the confidence and leadership skills. I run a rapidly growing business and it actually helped teach me how to manage people, competing interests, many personalities.

On the whole, WoW added more to my life than it took away - I still have a bunch of Facebook friends from those days and I sneak back in during expansions to poke my head around. It's not a home anymore for me, more like a cottage - go there for the odd season, evening, or weekend and it's familiar and fun. The same neighbors are on the same lake and its nice to say hi and rekindle friendships.

And 5 mans. Fun to run those new 5 mans.