Stream of Consciousness: Syncaine’s Observation, Gaming Memories, and Personal Growth

Syncaine made an observation recently that had me reflecting on my gaming history and what I wanted out of it. In his post, he talks about how the MMORPG has changed fundamentally in terms of its method of providing people with enjoyment.

Some MMOs seem exist in a sort of experiential vacuum, wherein a solo player can do a lot by himself, and fun can be had without the need for a group to run through content. The opposite type of MMO has a more collectivist bent, where the enjoyment of the game’s actors is derived from group experiences, whether it be against monsters or against other people.

Both attempts at providing entertainment for people are valid, but the nature of the player each game brings in is decidedly different.

What Syncaine’s post left me with was a sense of disappointment, partly in myself but also in my circumstances, because I cannot seem to commit to an MMO anymore.

In my case, my second MMO ever was World of Warcraft, and I played that for seven months straight when I first got it and was relatively unemployed after college. I didn’t worry about timezones, and I joined a cool-sounding server name and found a guild that I liked, called In Strict Confidence.

My strongest memories of playing MMOs were as a result of being in raids or in groups, because I learned from the people I was interacting with. Being with people, even virtually, helped me to grow as a person and part of my personality now, from my demeanor online to my diplomatic, thoughtful nature, is a direct result of learning to be with people online.

I now get the same rush of friendship and camaraderie from my friends on Twitter and from my friends in real life. The games I play don’t necessarily need to provide that high of friendship and camaraderie for me anymore, but it helps to hook me in.

Going back to Syncaine’s post, I wrote in a comment to him about how he made me think, and how in my reflection I realized I sort of feel left out because I do not have a long-term commitment to a game. It seems (to my mind, at least) I still miss the rush of growing as a person by interacting with people in a virtual world doing something epic.

Syncaine replied to me with the following:

I suspect that part of the issue is that you are judging the games just on the content as you experience it solo, which is going to yield less-than-steller (sic) results (MMOs are not great for that, even solo-focused ones like SW:TOR, compared to a real sRPG).

When you play with a set group, much of the ‘content’ is experiencing the stuff together, so even bugs or grind can become a source of amusement because you have 10 people in vent bitching about it and laughing rather than just you smashing your head into it solo.

Look at something like a fleet Op in EVE. Would anyone find that even remotely fun as content in an sRPG? Waiting around for hours, shooting structures, and going home? Of course not. But get 250 people into Mumble, and it can be a riot, regardless if a fight happens or not. And when a fight does happen, it’s better than anything a single player game could ever hope to create in terms of epic, memorable moments.

That’s why people (should) be playing MMOs; for those rare but awesome moments. Sadly a lot of today’s MMOs are incapable of providing such a moment due to poor design and an overemphasis on the solo at the expense of the group.

I agree with him, really. At the same time, it also made me fearful.

What he’s written also means that I cannot provide the same commitment or be in the same social circles that would allow for the fun of an MMO in a group setting. I not only live in a different time zone from most people who would play something like Darkfall: Unholy Wars, but I’m also going to start a job that requires a worthwhile time investment to be good at.

I value the opportunity I’m getting at this new job, but it also makes me sad that I can’t be an important part of that bright world where people are fighting a good fight of epic proportions against dragons and liches and Cthulhu-like monstrosities.

Then I have to remind myself to calm down.

Because I have to remember that as much as the online worlds beckon to me, I’ve already connected with hundreds of people and made tons of friends who’ve helped to shape my personality and make me better than I was six years ago.

And I will keep making friends online and in the physical world, and my interactions with them will improve the person that I am, and ultimately, allow me to also impact their lives meaningfully and (I hope) for the better.

December – Willpower = Monetary Losses, Many Games, and Lots of Love

December was a rather tumultuous month for me for a variety of reasons. In addition to school, I was looking for a new job and was constantly rebudgeting my money to compensate for a lack of willpower due to various personal events happening in my life.

For once, I gave a digital gift through Stargrace’s Secret Santa. I bought a copy of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and I’m hoping MMO Gamer Chick, the fine blogger who received my gift, enjoys the numerous hours of immeasurable terror it brings.

On the side of my personal purchases, I had an active sub to World of Warcraft. In addition to this, I bought Mount and Blade and its Warband “expansion.” I spent some money to alleviate some personal depression, but it ended up making me feel worse, so I actually went and purchased even more games to try and forget the guilt I was feeling, and my inability to say no to a good deal sort of killed my budget severely. MMO Gamer Chick, who happened to be my Secret Santa, also gave me her gift, which was a Steam copy of Borderlands, which I’ve played quite a bit.

As Christmas neared though, some unexpected gifts came in. People started giving me money, and I started saving it up, only to realize that I wanted even more games because of some rather intriguing deals and my own lack of Willpower. I purchased Just Cause 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Team Fortress 2 within the past two weeks. I also unsubbed to WoW, and replaced it with a sub to Darkfall in order to make an attempt to resurrect Blackrod LeDouche.

Finally, Longasc from Twitter enticed me to purchase Guild Wars with some healthy talking points on Twitter, and because of some luck on my end and some assistance from Ardua as well, Steam had the Trilogy on sale and the Eye of the North expansion was available on the NCSoft Store for 10 dollars. Total damage: a little over 35 dollars for the full package, once I finish installing the Guild Wars Trilogy.

Right now, I’m not sure if I’m really happy or not, but one thing I do know is that I’m loved, not only by my family, but also by the friends I have here at home and also those of you online who comment on my tweets or read my blog. To all of you, it means a lot.

To all of my friends online, I just want to say thank you, and Merry Christmas. Much love to all of you, and cheers! 😀

Darkfall Trial Now Longer and Free

Got this information over on Syncaine’s Blog. Aventurine is making the Darkfall trial free as well as making it last two weeks instead of just one.

Here’s the main information from the forum post Syncaine linked:

Today we’re launching Darkfall’s first free trial offer. You can try Darkfall for 14 days for free without obligation.

After our experience with the 1 euro/dollar trial and after several further improvements we feel that we’re ready to offer a free trial which won’t disrupt the current user experience and will help with making the game available to a larger playerbase and getting new players into the game.

There is ample capacity to handle the trial, but we will throttle availability as needed. We’ve also placed a per country quota on Asian accounts as these are the European and North American servers and the players from these regions should have priority. The free trial offer is limited to one trial per computer.

Personally, since I’m from Asia, I’m a bit annoyed with the whole per country quota business on Asian accounts, but I suppose I can’t do much about that. In any event, I have my epic story from the game already so I don’t have this deep need to go back anyway, but for those of you who want to try the game out, now seems like a really good time to do so.

I’m Afraid to Play Darkfall

I’m afraid to play Darkfall.

Basically, after that run from Mahirim lands to the guild city, it was fun and nerve-wracking and scary. It was a good experience, but it was also a bad experience.

I realized that, certain games I play make me literally afraid to play them. I dawdle on the computer trying to find things to read or stuff to do, but essentially, I know deep in my heart of hearts that I’m just trying to pass the time away from playing a game.

Darkfall made me realize that to a great degree, as even though I missed the game, I hated being in it as much as I liked being in it. As much as I want to have new experiences, I generally dislike experiencing new things and adjusting to the changes.

While I adjusted to the changes that Darkfall brought on a gameplay level, it was the psychological aspect of playing Darkfall that really got to me, and with that in mind, I realized I didn’t want to play a game that was messing with my mind so much.

While I still have around 70 days or so of time remaining, I’ll probably come back a couple of times just to roam the world, but I think I’ve had my fill of Darkfall.

After this post, I will log in to the account management system, take myself off recurring subscriptions, and remove my credit card information from their system. Then I will delete Darkfall from my hard drive.

At the same time, I will cry a little, because it was a good world, and an interesting game.

I just did not have the mental fortitude to play it.

Basic Fighting and Resting: A Darkfall Primer

Jomu, of Just One More Unlock, requested for a bit of an explanation regarding how fighting and crafting works in this game. As I didn’t have internet access recently, I was unable to take screenshots for this particular purpose, so I’ll just use a screenshot of a bruised and bleeding Victor Stillwater from prior to my newbie protection running out (see the halo above my head).

Combat in Darkfall is comprised of two main viewpoints spanning three different types of combat, as well as general interaction mode. There is the first-person viewpoint not shown above, which is present during archery, magic casting, and general use. There is also third-person combat, which happens whenever a sword is unsheathed, as can be seen above.

In order to actually fight something, you have to remember to equip that weapon, unsheathe it, use a specific hotkey related to that weapon’s use to prime a skill, and then click the left mouse button to have the action load up.

“Priming” is what I call the act of using a hotkey to load up a skill for use. Priming doesn’t activate the skill but prepares for it to be used by the appropriate implement, such as a magic staff.

Let’s see how priming works by taking a look at the hotbar.

The Darkfall Hotbar

Alright, so above is the Darkfall Hotbar. This hotbar is currently set to Column 0, which can be accessed by pressing SHIFT+0 on the keyboard by default. Other hotbars 1-9 can be accessed the same way.The square directly above the circular space is what I call the priming square, and it shows you if a skill is primed for use. The Circle with the green coloring is what I call the Equip Circle, which shows if you have a weapon or tool equipped. Green Circle means something is equipped and unsheathed. No color means equipped but sheathed.

In the case above, just by seeing the hotbar and not knowing what the rest of the picture is, I know that I have an unsheathed sword and should be in third-person mode at the moment. Furthemore, the default attack skill for swords is ready for use.

Let’s say you want to use the bindstone recall skill, which allows you to travel directly to the last chaos stone you bound yourself to. The Bindstone Recall skill is number 6 on this hotbar column, so to prime it sheathe your weapon (Default should be R), and then hit 6 on your number bar on the keyboard. This should prime the skill for use. To actually use it, you have to left click the screen while in action mode (In other words, not perusing a menu screen), and that should let the Bindstone Recall Skill work its magic. Just don’t move or the skill will be wasted.

Now, let me give three battle “examples” based on the three different types of combat:

Example 1: You’re engaging someone at a distance with archery. To use your bow in battle, you must press the key associated with equipping your bow for use, then unsheathe your bow by pressing another button, then left click and hold the mouse to draw the bowstring (there is a loading bar that shows up) and aim. Releasing the mouse button fires the arrow. This can be done while moving, but is difficult to do.

Example 2: You’re engaging in distance combat using magic. You must perform similar actions fro equipping and unsheathing your magic staff, then you must prime a magic skill for use by pressing the spell’s hotkeyed button, then left-click and hold to load the spell (a loading bar comes up in this case too) and aim. Release the left mouse button to cast your spell.

Example 3: You’re engaging in close combat with a greatsword. To engage in melee, you have to, again, equip the bow and unsheathe it using appropriate hotkeys, then aim your sword using the targeting reticule and click the left mouse button to hack away. Weapons also have skills that can be primed and used like spells, minus the loading.

After battle, you will probably lose some HP and Stamina at the very least. To regain them, you have to rest.

Here’s how you do that. You have to find the rest skill in your Skills List, drag that to a hotkey, sheathe your weapon, prime the rest skill, and then left click to actually rest. You will go into third-person mode and your character will sit down.

If it sounds complicated at first, it is. As you engage in more fights and learn about keybindings though, it’ll become second nature to you, however.

Anyway, I hope this has been enlightening to those of you who are playing the game or thinking about how stuff works here. Feel free to ask more questions, and I’ll try to answer them as best I can. Cheers.

Of All the Infernal Luck

The Clan Bank: My Haven and the End of my Recent Journey

My foray into the wilds of Darkfall without newbie protection was nerve-wracking, but otherwise safe and a lot shorter than expected. It was not because I didn’t see any Red Players (I saw some in my general area, but they didn’t see me), but because the risk vs. reward ratio of my journey increased a thousandfold when I stumbled upon a chaos chest.

For those who don’t know what a chaos chest is, essentially, it’s the equivalent of a randomly spawning treasure chest that pops up anywhere in the game world. The Chest can drop anything from gold to house deeds that adventurers can use in their day-to-day lives.

Now, I lucked out immensely because this chaos chest I stumbled upon was on top of a mountain in the middle of dwarven lands, which is essentially enemy territory for Mahirim. Alas, I didn’t think to take a shot of the chest because I didn’t think it would drop anything of import… but I was mistaken.

It dropped an Infernal Cuirass.

For lack of a better way of explaining it, an Infernal Cuirass is one of the top-tier armor pieces in Darkfall, if not the most prestigious. The chance of any one piece of the Infernal Armor set dropping from a chaos chest is reportedly .01%. To have the actual cuirass drop was an astonishing stroke of good luck, especially since it’s only my ninth day into the game, and only my 27th hour playing in real-time.

I panicked. My binding was set to the border of the dwarven lands (a good 10-20 minutes away from any bank in a world fraught with peril) because I wasn’t expecting a drop of this magnitude to come my way. I quickly exclaimed my surprise in chat, had people disbelieve me in vent, and then learned to link to items in chat for them to believe me, and essentially asked them what my options were for keeping the rare armor within the guild’s possession.

Luckily, a clansman offered to help me out, and he took his mount to my general location on the map while I logged out to keep the item safe. He confirmed his location on vent, I went back online, and we hoofed it to a secluded spot so I could use a runestone to get to the clan city, while he kept the armor safe as he rode his way back, since he was far more heavily armored and knowledgable about the lay of the land than I was.

Upon his return to the city, he traded the armor back to me, and I offered to give it to a more experienced member of the clan for their use. Someone offered to buy it from me for 10,000 gold (a princely sum for a newbie), and I traded it to that other clansman in the hopes that he could use it far better than I could.

That said, I now have enough money to purchase reagents and skills for a while (and I used up 3,700 gold to buy skills and reagents for just that purpose), am in my clan city, and acquired an interesting tale to tell you all as a result. Of all the infernal luck, indeed.

A Journey to Distant Shores

A Portion of the Darkfall Map showing my location and the destination.

After writing this blog post, I shall set up Ventrilo and join my comrades in arms in Darkfall, where I will go and try to make the long trip to Yssam unassisted, with only a few implements such as l;ow-level weaponry and spell reagents on my person. There will be very little on my corpse to loot, so hopefully, no matter what happens, I can continue my run without a hitch.

If you’ll check the map above, you’ll notice a lot of icons. On the left side of the map, colored in apple green is my general location as of this writing. If you’ll look on the opposite end of the map, on the northeastern side on an island in sky blue, is my destination for this trip. The Red Diamonds are Chaos Stones, which bind you to their location when activated and resurrect you there in the event of death. The blue castles on the map are actually NPC cities, which may or may not be safe areas for me to visit depending on my race.

There are two possible routes I can take, one of which would be on land, and the other in the water. The first route has me going East first through Dwarven and Orkish lands till I hit the water, and then I can swim north to Yssam, touching chaos stones along the way to the rear side of the island. Generally more chances to save my progress, but definitely more people along the way. The other route, would have me heading north towards the water, swimming to the island on the northwestern side of the game map, and then planning a swimming course straight east. This route should have fewer people, but also fewer chaos stones, and if memory serves me right, they released a Kraken into the water with the expansion, and heaven help me if I run into that. Furthermore, I do believe my clan is at war with the people on the western side of Yssam, so that route promises a tougher challenge.

Either way, it should make for an interesting early morning for me. I’ll try and take pictures as I can, and hopefuly, no one will gore me from behind while I take a shot with my “camera”.

The Equivalent of Walking Naked is Walking With Full Plate

Yes, you will die. But will death be worth it?

I’m writing this post in response to comment on Twitter from Werit, who tweeted, “Darkfall doesn’t seem like a game where you can do your own thing.”

While I don’t have much experience with the game yet, and I’m not going to assert that Darkfall is the most awesome free-roaming game out there, I will say this: doing your own thing in Darkfall ultimately means finding out what you’re willing to do in a ruthless world to survive and thrive.

How is this so? Let’s see… the thought I had to answer this particular statement rested mostly on the fact that doing anything in Darkfall has a great sense of risk involved, and is more pronounced once newbie protection disappears. Much like other games, you can do what you want to do, whether it be harvesting herbs, running and swimming to the edges of the world, jumping off cliffs, etc. The only problem is, the risk you take by not being careful is greater because you could lose all your stuff or be inconvenienced through some other strange means.

On the point of soloing various activities through the game outside of newbie protection:

This is possible but extremely difficult because at low skill levels, you pose little challenge to experienced players. If you like to harvest herbs (like I do) in the hopes of finding steedgrass, a rare mount-creating herb, and find one, but are so far off the beaten path that you could die to player killers, then the freedom you would find would be curtailed by the risk involved.  This isn’t a problem in games like Warhammer Online or World of Warcraft as your gear doesn’t become ante, but well… Darkfall is a different beast.

On playing with a clan:

You have a bit more leeway in a clan to do what you want as you have people that can protect you further from assault by others. One thing to note however, is that if you own a city, that city can be ransacked and taken by an invading force. In other words, your whole city is ante as well. The logical thing in Darkfall, therefore, is to make sure you have an armed force ready to protect the city from invaders, as well as diplomatic relations with other folks to keep them from attacking (or better yet have them helping you defend) your assets.

This diplomatic relations business opens up a metagame of politics that you rarely find in most MMOs, but that’s another point entirely.

My point is… you do have freedom to do what you want, but in Darkfall, doing what you want has a more pronounced system that forces you to gauge risk vs. reward (possibility of death and losing gold vs. running around amassing gold without banking said gold).

As the title above states, the Darkfall equivalent of walking around naked in the real world would be a newbie walking around in a gifted set of full plate. You can do the said activities, but you’re liable to get yourself into trouble for imagining that your ability to do your own thing is limitless.

Addendum: I was checking Google Reader (YAY FOR RSS!) when I noticed Tobold’s post about going off the beaten path. While it doesn’t directly apply to Darkfall, it’s another excellent point to make. You can choose to take the optimum route, or make your own way in the world of Agon, but ultimately, there are consequences – and fun – to be had, even if you try gimping yourself by skipping past things meant for you to tackle at a specific point in time.

(Dark)Falling into Agon-y

I still feel a bit of nervousness when I pony up a big sum of cash through a credit card, but I did it anyway.

I now have a three month subscription to Darkfall.

Since this is going to be a predominantly Agon-izing blog for at least three months, you may as well tell me what you guys what you want to read about, Darkfall wise.

I don’t think I’ll put a community publisher link here unless I can think of a way to ensure that money does come in, but anyway, just tell me what you want me to talk about as I go through the game, and we’ll see what happens, okay?

And yes… I used Syncaine’s Referral Link. 😀

The Nature of the Beast: Darkfall Impressions

It’s hard to put my thoughts into words at the moment, so let me preface this write-up by saying that I am the consummate Carebear. I generally dislike killing other players, prefer killing mobs, and love PVE.

As a simple game, Darkfall has that option for people who want PVE. You can skill up on mobs, acquire their gear, and grow stronger through their deaths.

If Darkfall were a living, breathing thing, however, it would be the equivalent of a wolf playing a Siberian husky: the beast will hide its fangs until the perfect time to show them comes, and when that time comes you should be prepared to fight or die.

I won’t go into too much detail regarding the look of the game, as screenshots on the net will give you a good enough impression of that, and the animations are serviceable enough, so instead, let me just tell you of my experience playing the game, hoping that the information contained inside will suffice for people who want to know about it.

Read more