Goal-setting in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Mekgineer’s Chopper. Photo from Wowhead Contibutor Rillek

There are a lot of ways to add incentives to playing video games. In addition to achievements, there’s also the lure of items you wouldn’t normally be able to see without some degree of work.

I’m lured into continuing WoW due to a number of things, and I’ve decided to write them up as goals for me to achieve as I continue playing the game.

Goal One: Reach level 90 on my Hunter and my Monk.

I really want to see most of the content for this expansion, and in expansion’s previous. As such, I want to take my old hunter, whom I moved off of an oceanic server onto Baelgun, out of retirement.

I also enjoy playing my monk, even if it has a wild sort of playstyle. Love martial arts. đŸ˜€

Goal Two:Battle Pet Supremacy

I would like to take a pet battling team to the top of the leveling game, and make it a force to be reckoned with. Preferably one from each family.

Goal Three: Get some specialty mounts

There are three mounts I’m particularly interested in, and those are the Mekgineer’s Chopper from Wrath of the Lich King, the Raven Lord Anzu’s mount from Burning Crusade, and a camel from the Ramkahen faction in Cataclysm. None are flying mounts, but I already have my helicopter jet engineering mount, so I’m pleased there.

Goal Four: Have farm, will travel.

I would like to get a farming system set up on Pandaria. Hoping that particular aspect of the game expands into housing, but for now, I’m just interested in the awesomeness of it.


That’s what I have planned for WoW. Of course, there’s no telling what game might catch my fancy, but I’m hoping that, between WoW and TSW, I’ll be pleased during the majority of my playtime.

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.

You Games-Meandering Bastard

Yes,Victor, you games-meandering bastard.

You’re playing or trying TOO MANY freaking games.

You have Borderlands 2, Dark Souls PC, X-Com: Enemy Unknown, and Morrowind (using the Morrowind visual enhancer) to tide you over on the non-MMO front.

Then you have an active sub to LOTRO, which you don’t play actively, and WoW, which you’re having trouble connecting to reliably.

AND you got a year’s membership to Pirate101?!


Now you’re considering getting The Walking Dead and subbing to RIFT and getting the Storm Legion expansion? I mean, I understand wanting TWD, but you could never stick to RIFT!

And you want to go back just for the freaking housing?! What the bloody, bloody hell is churning around in your head?

*imaginary hairpull*

For the love of all that is finger-licking good, like fried chicken, curb your purchases, at least till November.



Victor’s Meandering Mind.

Pandas are Fluffier Butt-Kicking Versions of Me!

Basically, the above title states my sentiment rather well. I’m enjoying the Pandaria expansion more than any expansion ever primarily because I skipped most of Cataclysm and am actually playing Cataclysm and Pandaria content at the same time. Everything, as a result, feels new!

Pandaren also don’t make me feel so bad, because they’re rotund, like I am. And they kick ass. đŸ˜€

Of course, a Tauren flying kick is still a sight to behold, but a Pandaren Flying Kick is a really close second.

OH! And PET BATTLES ONLINE IS AWESOME. They need to tune some of the abilities for balance though (seeing some very overpowered PVP Pet Battle team-ups reused repeatedly)., but PVE wise it’s fun.

Pet Battles Online and RagnarThulhu

So… Pet Battles Online.

In other news, I’ve got a new article up on MMORPG.com discussing themes in Lovecraftian horror and how it relates to and influences The Secret World. Have a look via this link. Just note that I can’t currently read pages on MMORPG.com due to an ISP system issue, so if any readers here have questions over there they’d like answered, I can answer them here or you can put a note there and message me through MMORPG.com’s system and wait a bit. đŸ˜€


Reflections on World of Warcraft as a Part of My Life

A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
–From “Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981-1983.”


The above is one of my favorite quotes about writing. As someone who thinks himself a writer, I’ve come to realize that every experience we have shapes us and changes us little by little, and by writing about these things, I’ve come to effect change both in myself and perhaps in the minds and hearts of people who read my writings.

Now Jorge Luis Borges probably never expected me to take it to the interpretation of shared experiences in the virtual spaces of MMORPGs, but I’d think he’d be okay with them, as they are still interactions with a world, and the things that do happen to us in games mold us if we are receptive enough to learn from them.

Now, World of Warcraft is my second MMO (Ragnarok Online Philippines came before it), and despite it being the second MMORPG I’ve ever played for longer than three weeks (six month stint in vanilla WoW, and then returns here and there), there’s a strong enough connection between WoW and myself that I feel compelled to write about how World of Warcraft effected change in my life.

Perhaps the most poignant tale I can think of related to World of Warcraft and my life was that prior to playing WoW, I felt deeply compelled to earn gear and become stronger and feel epic. I wanted to be cool in a game space because I didn’t feel cool in real life. In Ragnarok Online, I farmed and purchased enough wood to acquire a Sakkat, a korean straw hat basically, because I thought a warrior in-game looked awesome in it. I would run around killing treants repeatedly in one zone for their loot. This mindset traveled with me from playing Ragnarok Online back in college to a point after graduation, when I was jobless and depressed and wanted to feel better about myself through playing WoW.

There was this one time, when my guild and I were in Blackrock Spire, that I was so frustrated with not getting any loot, that I essentially rolled on a purple ring that didn’t have stats useful for me, winning it, and leaving the run because I felt so angry.

My guild leader and I had a talk through email, and I got a reprimand, and I basically felt like crap afterwards because they were congratulating me on the winning roll even if the ring wasn’t right for me.

It was then that I realized that while gear is in important in the game to winning battles, the acquisition of gear should not be the driving force for playing something. I changed myself. I apologized to my guildies, and I basically spent the remainder of my time in Vanilla WoW (up till now even) espousing the virtues of not focusing on the loot. I talked to new guildies about how getting loot to members who needed the stats on an item would ultimately help the guild as a whole progress through content.

Basically, I became really gung-ho about being a good person above being a good raider or player or whatnot.

Of course, there are other things I could talk about regarding how WoW changed me, such as souring me towards overly streamlined mechanics, and raiding and whatnot, but I’d rather look at WoW as a positive force in my life. Without the experience of a guild in WoW, I may not have been as receptive to being nicer to people and thinking about the good of others.


Thanks to Syl for the inspiration.

Giving New and Old Games Their Time in the Spotlight

Some time ago, I took Everquest out for a trial run, but I never really got into it because the controls felt alien to me… I mean, pressing H to hail an NPC? Typing words to talk to an imaginary being through the internet? Preposterous, right?

I’d been conditioned by the Eq2/WoW-era RPG to demand an experience that was similar to itself, to the point that I’d never really given the first Everquest a proper run-through because of its naturally different style of play.

I want to rectify that due to my current situation. Right now, there are a couple of AAA free-to-play MMORPGs I’ve not tried, and with my current need to conserve my money, it seemed like a good idea to go and revisit Everquest, especially since I actually have quite a bit of Station Cash on my account that’s doing nothing there.

At the same time, I’ve set EVE Online on an 11-day training regimen, even though I have only four days left on my sub. Whether it trains past day four is beyond me, but at least I’ll have a better inkling of what my plans are when I come back.

In addition, I want to try another genre I’ve yet to actually experience: the superhero game. I’ve downloaded DC Universe Online for a run, and I’m going to make an ice character for use.

My SC will go more to Everquest, probably, mostly because DCUO doesn’t seem to have housiing. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy Everquest and DCUO and, perhaps, even a bit of LOTRO, even without spending for anything with more money than I’ve already invested.

At the very least, some new and old games will get their time in the spotlight.

My thanks to Kaozz of ECTMMO for reminding me of the Everquest F2P transition that’s happening.

A Pre-Skyrim Plan of Action for Fun and Gainful Employment

Recently, I learned that I would need to find a new job in order to pay my bills and to fund the adventures I write about on this blog, as well as any site revamps I would have liked to have done.

I’m a bit miffed that, from a full-time job, my pay would be delegated to a per-article-when-needed status, but I can’t help that. The economy’s tough, and the project I was working on needed to get money to start properly. What I can change, however, is the feeling of helplessness I feel from being newly unemployed again (or perhaps underemployed).

I will be getting my final paycheck soon, and I want to make the most out of the time prior to Skyrim’s release by making sure I have enough money to purchase Skyrim without worries while engaging in games that interest me, writing about playing games, and finding a new job.

That said, I have readjusted my plan of action for the coming weeks.

I will temporarily halt my plans to have a custom website theme made for Games and Geekery.

I will take the yearlong cheaper hosting offer that was mentioned by @G33kg0dd3ss before

Prior to the release of 11/11/11, I will be job hunting, and I WILL find a job before Skyrim.

Instead of subscribing to EVE Online, I will resubscribe to World of Warcraft for one month. An explanation will follow below.

Upon finding a new job and receiving my first paycheck, I will subscribe to EVE Online and consider continuing a subscription to World of Warcraft. I may also play LOTRO during this time.

Now, I’m somewhat emotional at the moment, and the WoW thing is a spur-of-the-moment decision, but I decided to find something that allowed me to follow a storyline, however, themeparky, just so I could enjoy playing without stressing too much. EVE is a sandbox game where I have to make my own long-term decisions as to what to do or where to go, so there’s more pressure there to do well than in WoW. If I can find a casual guild on an Oceanic server, I’ll be set, and I won’t have to worry about enjoying myself for a month or so.

That said, I’m weighing my options regarding the job thing, but if you guys know of anyone looking for a video game news writer, I’m more than ready, willing, and able to apply.


An Introduction to Microtransactions (If You Don’t Play Games)

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to understand the nature of online game purchases a little bit better. While I understand the general processes in my head without much trouble, explaining online games and microtransactions to a non-gamer is actually rather difficult.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to leave a friend without the requisite knowledge, of course. To that end, I’ve created this primer of sorts on microtransactions, using some of my own terminologies, for the sort of person who doesn’t really play games.

When we refer to commerce in this day and age, we usually think of the exchange of money or credit for good and services. In games, there is also commerce on numerous levels, with each sort of transaction allowing for different goods and services to those playing the game.

There are two sorts of transactions one would typically think of when it comes to games: the purchase transaction and the in-game transaction.

In a purchase transaction, a consumer who wishes to play a game, either through ownership of the game or acquisition of a license to use the game software, pays a fee (in cash or credit, online or in the real world) before he can acquire the means necessary to play that game.

With in-game transactions, we refer to the transactions within a game that allow a user to acquire items, equipment and services specific to that game. This necessitates paying a fee comprised of that game’s particular currency in order to complete the transaction. Whether it comes in the form of in-game gold, gil, zenny, or megabucks, these are simply virtual goods that, under specific circumstances, are not actually traded for any form of real-world currency.

Examples of purchase transactions include the use of Philippine Pesos or US Dollars to purchase a game like Diablo II. Using the currency within Diablo II, namely gold, to purchase weapons, armor, and potions is an example of an in-game transaction.

So far, this is all easy to understand, but complexity arises when we realize that there are other ways by which companies can earn revenue from games. There are a variety of ways in which games in this Internet-connected reality we live in can foster additional revenue, and that is mostly done through a set of transactions that are commonly known as microtransactions.

Unlike purchase transactions or in-game transactions, the word “microtransactions” is a blanket terminology referring to the use of real-world currency (again, either through cash or credit, though usually credit) to acquire goods, services, or additional game content for a game one is already playing, The term is known a microtransaction due to the current trend for microtransactions to generally, though not always, cost less than the price one would pay to acquire the game or continue to gain access to it.

If you remember the example earlier about using in-game gold to purchase weapons and armor in Diablo II, you’d expect in-game gold to have no real-world value. The truth, however, as a result of games growing increasingly more connected to the internet is that currency, goods, and services within a game can have a real-world monetary value assigned to them that can also be affected by market forces.

Many types of microtransactions exist at present due to the nature of games in this day and age, but for non-gamers (and probably concerned parents who don’t know how microtransactions work), an introduction on some of the broad types of microtransactions would be in order.

First off, there are direct microtransactions. These microtransactions are basically an exchange of real-world currency for a specific good or service within a game, or for additional content that is either locked away as a result of the game’s code (thus meaning you’ve paid real money for a key to unlock the additional content) or added to a game after that game’s release.

Direct microtransactions is really a broad term I’m using to refer to a wide-range of potential microtransaction types, but it simplifies the process simply because this sort of microtransaction describes the means by which one acquires a specific good or service while (usually) supporting the developers of a game or an entity connected to the company that developed the game being played.

An online role-playing game like World of Warcraft allows for the purchase of in-game pets, flying mounts, or character renaming services for a fee: this is a direct microtransaction. Most games on mobile devices such as the iPad that do not require a purchase transaction (and are thus touted as being free to download and begin playing) use direct microtransactions to unlock the full game and all its capabilities. Some games on personal computers and consoles (such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) which have purchase transactions also get additional game content delivered through the console or computer’s connection to the Internet after launch, and these require the use of one-time credit card transactions (which are direct microtransactions) to download and play.

There is a second type of microtransaction that is a little easier to define, but a bit more difficult to peg in terms of its overall legitimacy as a microtransaction. These are what I’d define as currency microtransactions.These types of microtransactions are microtransactions in which a player would use real-world money to purchase the currency required to create an in-game transaction. Now, while in-game currency is also a form of virtual good, I’ve set it aside as its own microtransaction type due to how this particular form of virtual good can be used legitimately by certain game developers and unethically by certain companies.

Let me give an example of a both currency microtransaction types. Legitimate currency microtransactions occur in a free iOS game called Tiny Tower. While the game itself is free, the game allows players to use the credit cards connected to their iTunes account to purchase an in-game currency known as Tower Bux, which can be used to speed up the construction of an amenity in-game.These legitimate currency microtransactions are the main means by which the developer gains revenue from their game, allowing them to continue developing more games.

Unethical (a loaded word, but I lack a better word to replace it with) currency microtransactions are commonplace in certain massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as, again, World of Warcraft. Certain companies employ people to acquire the virtual currency of a game like World of Warcraft in order to sell the currency to players for real-world money. In some cases, these companies will try and gain access into people’s game accounts to take virtual currency away from other players in order to sell it online. Very little of this real-world money goes back into funding the development of the game, and the experience of play is somewhat diminished by the encroachment of gold sellers into the virtual space.

Non-gamers, including those responsible for children who are gamers, would do well to reflect upon the implications of microtransactions on real-world wallets. Younger gamers who do not pay attention or who do not understand what microtransactions are can fall prey to unintended purchasing sprees, often on the parental dime.

One well-known report among gaming circles is the story of one Brendan Jordan, who racked up a 1000-pound bill on the console service known as Xbox Live. There was nothing illegal about the purchases, and while the mother of Jordan wants the game companies to bear some responsibility for the mess, it can be argued that game consoles have protections in place to prevent minors from accessing purchase-based microtransaction services.

In any event, non-gamers and parents should be more mindful of what games these days can and can’t do, and what capabilities the technologies of today allow. Ultimately, this will keep misunderstanding at a minimum and proper parenting at the ready.

The Mysterious Case of Marcia

I received a legitimate from Blizzard today that I found to be very weird.

Blizzard is trying to win back customers with a seven-day pass to World of Warcraft for inactive subscriptions. There was just one problem: The name affixed to this email, which was connected to my World of Warcraft account, was “Marcia.”

Who is Marcia? I haven’t the foggiest.

What I can say is that I grew worried and checked my account immediately upon receiving the email. I found that it was still intact, with my authenticator keeping security tight, and that the email was legitimate since there was a notice below my account offering me seven free days to return to Azeroth.

That process took all of four minutes, and yet I still had no idea where this Marcia person came from.

To that end, I sent a ticket to Blizzard so that it could be investigated, and they got back to me in less than five hours. The result, according to the CS rep, was thus:

I reviewed your account, and it appears that your Battle.net account *is* under your actual name. The discrepancy is with your World of Warcraft account, which appears to be under Marcia’s name at one point. Since the email was automatically sent out, it just looks like a little mistake on our computer’s part.

Of course, I shot back a follow-up question asking if the name could be changed to my name just so everything’s properly represented, but I expect them to get back to me on Monday. Still, at least I now sort of think I know the name of the person who hacked my WoW account so many years ago (unless it’s an alias or someone else’s name, of course). Here’s to hoping none of my accounts ever get hacked again.