Me Cubed

September 16, 2007

Wilhelm sent me the latest in a long line chain posts–in fact, I will be hard-put to name four bloggers at the end of this post who have not posted their lists.  Here are my lists of four:

Four jobs I have had in my life, not including my current occupation:

  1. Anti-tank guided missile gunner, infantry, 0352 USMC
  2. University composition instructor (and yes, this is juxtaposition)
  3. Greenhouse laborer
  4. Hardware store deptartment manager

Four movies I have watched over and over (and over):

  1. Most Cirque Du Soleil shows–including Dralion, Quidam, La Nouba, and Varekai
  2. Branagh’s Hamlet, for professional reasons.
  3. Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princessess–some of you will understand why.
  4. Gettysburg

Four places I have lived–the Coast to Coast version–hrm, I need a list of about 12 here…:

  1. Jacksonville, North Carolina (born here, lived there twice)
  2. Oceanside, California
  3. Emporia, Kansas (my MMO birthplace, also the historic home of William Allen White)
  4. Asheville, North Carolina

Four shows I love to watch:

  1. “The Daily Show”
  2. “The Colbert Report” (this seems obligatory)
  3. “Mythbusters”  Geek Alert here.
  4. The News.  Really.  Local, national, and cable; I watch it all.

Four places I have been on vacation:

  1. Glasgow, Scotland
  2. Quetico canoe area, somewhere in Canada…
  3. Tijuana, Mexico
  4. Lake Pomona, Kansas (See the How to Trot Line page for pictures of the fishing!)

Four of my favorite foods:

  1. Steak–KC Strips.
  2. Beef and pork burnt ends.
  3. Ribs.
  4. Over-easy eggs, runny–FYI, I do not have a cholestrol problem.  Really.

Four favorite drinks:

  1. Iced tea with lemon.  I refuse to say “sweet tea” as it is redundant you blue-bellies.
  2. Lemondaide.
  3. Coffee
  4. More coffee.

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. In my boat, on a lake, with a fishing pole.
  2. In Norrath–wait, I am–under this window…
  3. On a boat in the Gulf Stream, fishing pole, etc.
  4. Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.  Hrm, with a fishing pole or a harpoon.

Four people, because I have to list four, who I would like to see do this (and I’m betting some of you have…)  I apologize in advance.

  1. Davyydeous at Timesink because I am envious of his photo skillz.
  2. Tipa at West Karana, though I’m sure someone has passed this to her already…
  3. Wearfannypacks at MMO Evolution because of the great comments!
  4. Kilanna, but I can’t.

Three’s a Crowd

September 12, 2007

I have been rethinking the need for actual players in my MMO experience.  Yes, I am working on negating the “Massive” part of the MMO equation.  Instead of moping about and joining a new guild to help my recent virtual depression, I have focused on inventing new ‘toons to fill the void.  Two-boxing has become second nature, with my right hand often warding and healing with little thought to the left hand’s taunts and shield bashing.  What next?  A mezzer/damage toon.

I started playing a third toon, using my gaming rig to tank/chant with, and the laptop on my right hand side to ward/heal/buff.  The setup is best when I use my second 21″ flatscreen display for the illusionist, playing the tank on my main display, and the mystic on the laptop as usual.  Switching back and forth with the taskbar is also manageable, and allows me to still entertain the kids with movies and TV on the second screen.  While not optimal, the configuration is playable if one pays attention.  I should state that I do not use any software to run the three toons, except for ThorUI and the stock EQ2 macro system.  The only macros I use directly connected to the three toons is a /target gaff, /follow gaff button.  It makes autofollowing and retargeting for heals/wards, and attacks much easier.  I have been told there is software available that allows you to control multiple computers from one mouse/keyboard, but I find the hotkeys work well enough if you map them effectively.  I put the single target wards, group wards, heals, bolster, etc. in order down the numbers and just reach over and tap keys to keep the tank in the green.

Advantages of the three account experience:

  • For most content with green/blue heroic encounters I do not need anyone else in my party.  This may be due to the raid gear both my tank and mystic are wearing, or the nature of encounters in the game.
  • Experience grinding is no longer an issue.  I can go out and wade through blue/green/white heroic encounters with relative ease, providing I am paying attention.  This includes named mobs.
  • Mezzing–now that I have the damage (berserker) and the healing covered (mystic), I can add a mezzer to do a little crowd control.  This was tricky at first, since I was learning a new class while trying to play two other toons.
  • Family fun–once I set up the third account, I was able to send my son up to the old Viao I formerly  gamed on and talk to him via Skype.  Not only did he have a great time playing in another room, but he got to use the headset like Dad, and he has no “geek” value attached to that experience.  In fact, he has watched me raid enough that he will call out “Incoming in five!” when I assign him to pull a particular mob.  I plan to continue molding my homegrown farmer in the coming months–results will be posted.
  • Another account gives me the fulfillment I’m always looking for–the need to level!  I also have brought my guardian, Meclin, out of retirement to tank and to max out the leveling ladder.

Drawbacks:

  • Money is an issue–well not really, but justifying $45 a month for EQ2 to the wife has been a bit tricky.  I had to cancel WoW (yet again) and EVE Online (not so bad). I used the “look how much money we are saving by not playing these other games, dear” argument.  You may want to try this, but results will vary.
  • Manuevering three toons:  the autofollow feature not withstanding, it is a pain sometimes to get all the toons to where you want to be, especially with zoning.  Autofollow does not pick up after you zone, and it is easy to forget to refollow.
  • Pathing in tight spots–I wrote about this some time ago.  Pathing is never fail safe, and you have to constantly check your toons to see that they have followed.  I am dreading KoS.
  • Equipment and in game funds–with three (or more) toons running the same time, you have to keep them equipped.  My cash flow was going well until some knucklehead decided to do the old one silver undercut game.  I have dropped the price down almost a full gold on my xegonberry byproducts just to spite him.
  • Mezzing causes aggro.  If I am not careful, I forget that I mezzed something and the enchanter is quickly in trouble.  A group ward, which I tend to spam, helps but it is no replacement for a single person playing a single mezzer.  I am still learning in this area.
  • To really give due attention to the new toon, I have to put the second EQ2 client on my second display, stopping me from watching TV.  This is a real drawback when your not used to it.

So far I have only tackled fairly easy content.  I hope with some levels and some practice to begin farming bigger instances for some AA and loot.  I have also started a second three toon team, consisting of a warlock, inquisitor, and bruiser.  They are on standby for the moment building vitality while the illusionist gets the call.


Nerd Test!

September 9, 2007

So, um, I took a test.  I must admit, I saw the graphic over on West Karana and made a virtual bee line for the site.  I used to use a “innergeek” test in class to freak some of the kiddies out over trivial background knowledge.  The best question, IMO, is “What is THAC0?” But back to the Nerd test.  Here are my results!  And no, I did not cheat in order to get a higher score.


NerdTests.com says I'm a Highly Dorky Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

Go try em both.


Parenting by Skype

September 8, 2007

I would just like to say, at the outset, that I am a professional educator, I love both of my children, and that I spend as much time as possible with them, sans computer, as possible.  That being said, I just hooked up Skype with my old machine, which rests upstairs in my dining room, and the gaming rig I run all my movies and MMOs on as a rule.  I can talk to my son while he is playing Webkinz!  Skype was only a name to me until this afternoon–my assumption is it was a glorified Teamspeak or Ventrillo.  How wrong was I…

The clarity is superb, it is easy to use, and it seems to filter some of the background speaker noise. My son can use it hands-free, resting the oversized full headset on his shoulders while speaking into the wind-baffled mic.  At the risk of seeming ignorant (which I am), I now understand how the podcast folks make such clear broadcasts, even with several people speaking at once.  Our next step is to run three EQ2 accounts while directing the little guy through his headset! Should be an adventure.


Old Lonely

September 7, 2007

My summer gaming has come to a close–I’m back in class and working long days.  In one way this is somewhat of a boon.  Instead of having a large chunk of time each day to grind a ‘toon, the opposite is now true.  I get an hour, if I’m lucky, when I get home from work.  This has made my focus much more narrow, and put a sudden stop to my summer game hopping.  From LotRO, to PVP WoW, EQ2, Silent Hunter III, and most recently EVE Online, I flittered between games with sporadic focus at best.  Without the luxury of time, I rarely get much more than a start on some real grinding/questing before its time to log and focus on the next work day.

World of Warcraft earned me a brief break this summer, but soon left me feeling the same grind countless bloggers have explored–the narrowness of leveling paths, the ganking, etc. and I moved back to Everquest II.  My hiatus from Norrath broken, I found my former raiding guild had reformed as a hard-core raiding force with a stringent attendance policy.  In short, any attendance policy is stringent if you teach and coach.  I was out of a guild, besides my standby Shades of Twilight triumvirate with Wilhelm and a friend from the MUD days.  Fine for getting those status points, but we don’t run instances.

In fact, after rerolling a couple new toons, I am getting a little lonely.  The active people we do have in the guild all have raiding toons in other guilds and I am not prepared to commit to a schedule I know I cannot keep.  There are no tells coming to Gaff, minus the spam, and while I am normally perfectly content to grind alts, it hasn’t been the case of late.  As I look towards RoK, what will I do with my endgame toons?  Without a larger group to play with, the vast amount of content is closed to me.  My coaching season will end just about the time the expansion is released, and I think I need to find a casual guild that hits some of the group content at least, and raids occasionally at most.

But how to begin the process?  Which would be a good fit for me?  I can look at the guild search page, but of course that tells me little of what I really want to know–what are the people like? Are they fun? Helpful? Can I participate in some group content with what weekend time I have?  Perhaps I should just quit whining and take the plunge!  Now, how to get Blintz to go with me…


Gaff’s Orbit Deteriorates…

September 5, 2007

Something about EVE just fails to satisfy me.  At first I thought it was the lack of clearly defined goals, but I soon realized building bigger and better ships, making money, and learning how to use interface were all worthy aspirations for a novice pilot like myself.  Next, I could not figure out how to train skills.  In fact, I couldn’t figure out how to do much of anything without asking Wilhelm or Potshot.  However, I soon found the “required skills” tab on various ships, drones, etc. and was quickly mining and buying the appropriate book like a seasoned pro, minus the “knowing what I was doing” part.

On my drive home from work today it hit me.  I knew why the great spacescapes, the cool ships, the attractive complexity of it all would soon fade from my monitor.  I couldn’t drive the ships.  I couldn’t fly a ship the way I had always seen my favorite space jocks kill the bad guys.  I am a former FPS fanatic, and I have a number of joysticks laying around gathering dust.  When I get into the cockpit of a ship, even if it is the equivelent of a flying coal car that I’m orbiting space rocks with, I want to pull back on the stick to bring her nose up.  I want to yaw and map buttons to trim and burn whatever pushes ships in EVE.  In short, I want to be a pilot.

While this isn’t the only issue I have with the game, it certainly would “immerse” me much more fully if available.  My reaction time is nothing compared to a 15 year old, but from Battlefield 1942 through BF2 I could at least take out a few grunts behind the collective of a helo in league ladders and matches.  Just the ability to pull a trigger and put fire on a target was enough to keep me playing for months–EVE has the pilot lock target and let the ship do the work–from my point of view it seems to be about training the right skills and putting the right gear on board, not ones own ability to aim at those pesky pixels 10 km away.  Even in WWII sims, ie. Silent Hunter, Destroyer Commander, Aces of the Deep, etc. I would take control of my guns manually to hose targets.  I think I understand the data stream argument for the click and move versus W-A-S-D interfaces, but for now I may come back to my WoW pvp toon and the two boxing joy of EQ2.

Now, what skills to train this month in case I change my mind?


Burning MMO Questions

September 4, 2007

I spent Labor Day switching between EVE Online (I bought a frickin badger!), listening to Wilhelm, Darren, Potshot, and Adele along with others on the Shut Up. We’re Talking podcasts.  I mention the podcast (2nd time in two days) because the conversations circled around a number of issues I find central to my gaming experience–in fact, these are essential questions I must answer in order to enjoy a gaming title.

  • How linear is the experience/leveling system?  After reading various articles around the MMO community about what I term “non-traditional” leveling systems, I realized my gaming behavior is somewhat addictive.  I find a game and a character and I tend to focus exclusively on that ‘toon until either I become bored or I max out the leveling ladder.  I always need to advance.  Once a toon is maxed out, I may raid for a while, but I always have an alt that seems to be the new focus of my gameplay.  This may be why I am still terribly uncertain about my EVE subscription.  If it doesn’t stay fun–for instance, in 30 days I have to train skills for weeks to advance, I will probably be done with space.  For raid toons, I can stand to play them the couple times I week I have time to sit and raid, but the alt always gets my attention once I reach this stage.
  • This may seem paradoxical, considering the above statement, but I also ask what is the relative level of complexity in the game?  If it is a simplistic point, click, kill, move on then it lacks entertainment value for me.  Without devolving my from my point, I think this is one of the real misconceptions about World of Warcraft.  Despite the seemingly stylistic and simplistic graphics, UI, etc., successful players need to utilize all the resources available to them–from crafting, enchants, spec trees, etc.  With the addition of group content, the game multiplies in complexity just as more “hardcore titles” do.  I must admit, the increasing complexity of EQ2 since launch, coupled with the polishing of the title, has made this a good fit for me.
  • How easy can I two-box this sucker?  This is a more recent question.  I am a committed two-box player now, with the exception of EVE (but it’s still early in space for Gaff).  WoW failed in this aspect–the speed of encounters precluded the use of two accounts for anything more than spot healing and buffs.  The inability to really manuever and hold aggro as a tank class also eliminated the lifespan of any real two-box productivity.  Compared with a title like Everquest II, where I could two-box through most content including many (though not all) raid situations, and my playtime’s productivity is doubled, in my opinion.  This also allows me to answer the first question at twice the rate I once gamed.
  • Who do I know playing this game already?  I must admit, I have been a follower for much of my gaming career.  A couple bright spots are the exception, for instance I found MUDs on my own in the early 90s and led a small band of EQ2/EQ1 veterans to WoW several years ago.  I really don’t go into a new title looking to meet people.  This is not to say I don’t enjoy the “Massive” part of the MMO equation, but I just am not out to make new friends.  The guild I share in EQ2 is made up of people I played with since the 90s, along with a couple newbies, having only known them for a little over 3 years.  However, an online world full of people I don’t know is perferable to one that is empty.

Ironically, as I was drafting this post, the Shut Up people mentioned their belief that the journey to the endgame is more important than the payoff–loot, masters, purples, etc.  It sums up my approach, and what I’m looking for in a title today.  After feeling somewhat let down by LotrO, I am a bit gunshy about purchasing anything new–hence my foray into space and EVE Online.  EVE also fits one last criteria, Can I play this game and still focus on the game I really like?