Archive for October, 2011

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I Must Be Crazy (NaNoWriMo)

October 31, 2011

Yep, crazy. Batshit insane. My schedule is such these days that I can barely keep up with regular updates on this blog as it is, but I’m still going to attempt National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

Here’s what it’s all about, in a nutshell:

Organizers of the event say that the aim is simply to get people to start writing, using the deadline as an incentive to get the story going and to put words to paper. Participants’ novels can be on any theme and in any genre, and in any language. Starting at midnight November 1, novels must reach a minimum of 50,000 words before 11:59:59 PM on November 30, local time. No official prizes are awarded for length, quality, or speed. Anyone who reaches the 50,000 word mark is declared a winner. The only significant reward for winning is the finished novel itself and the satisfaction of having written it…

Not surprisingly, I first found out about this month-long event a couple years ago from other bloggers. We’re all writers, whether we like it or not, because of the fact we blog. Some of us dream of more; others simply have had a few ideas bouncing around inside their heads for the last few years, and are dying to get them down on paper.

I put myself in the latter category. While I’ve never aspired to write a novel,  for the longest time I’ve wanted to put words to my shapeless concepts and make something more of them. Being the procrastinator that I am and also constantly telling myself that there’s always “something more important” to do first, it’s no wonder I’ve never gotten around to it.

I think that’s why the idea of NaNo appeals to me so much. Having a deadline, self-perceived or not, is always the first step in getting me off my ass to get something done. The other thing is the “we’re all in this together” mentality, proving that sometimes peer pressure can be good. More than 200,000 people participated in the event last year, so even more are expected to be doing it this year, and tomorrow I join their ranks.

In addition, I know of several of my friends in the gaming community who are also doing it, even a few who have “won” in past years, so hey, I’ll know who to look to for encouragement! (By the way, NaNo virgin here. So any advice/suggestions/support/consoling/warnings/motivational threats, etc. would be welcome and appreciated, especially if you’ve done this before, regardless of whether or not you’ve conquered the 50K words.)

I’m so psyched for November, and not just because of this. It’s going to be a month full of things to look forward to — new books, games, gadgets, holidays, and fun stuff in general. All of which are going to serve as distractions, I’m afraid, but I told myself earlier this year that I was going to do it so I’m gonna try my darndest anyway. By that, I mean I’m mostly going to wing it.

Wish me luck.

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My Pet Project

October 24, 2011

I’ll be completely frank here. I am totally weirded out by this:

And bear in mind I say this first as a diehard, hopelessly addicted, unreasonably compulsive vanity pet collector; and second as a once-upon-a-time fan of Pokemon.

Because let’s face it, as other astute spectators have already observed — this is PokeWoW. The more I read about World of Warcraft’s recently announced pet battle system — a pet index with which players can look up information about their pets’ skills and stats, venturing into the world to capture new pets, battles with other players’ pets or pets they encounter in the “wild”, battles with NPC “Masters”, leveling their pets and equipping them with new abilities and special items to benefit them in battle, etc. etc. etc. — the more it harkens me back to my pre-adolescent days with my Game Boy Color and copy of Pokemon Blue.

Those were good times. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Pokemon.

But I’m still weirded out by this.

Try as I might, I can’t put my finger on why. Given my history, I should be over the moon excited, and I’m fond of new distractions, after all. When Mists of Pandaria comes out, and I inevitably go back to World of Warcraft for my standard post-expansion two-to-three-months stint, I’ll probably jump right into the new pet battle system, play the heck out of it, and love every minute. And yet, as I admit this, a part of my identity as a pet addict/collector has just died a little inside.

You have to understand, back when I was still playing WoW and deep in the grips of my pet obsession, you’d be hard-pressed to get me on the gear treadmill grinding emblems for, say, a new epic chest piece. But whisper the magic words (“There’s a new vanity pet…”) and I would be in that dungeon day and night if I had to, gladly repeating it 500 times if it meant a chance at adding a new adorable little creature to my collection. For a new vanity pet, I would travel to the ends of Azeroth. I would spend untold amounts of gold. I would do heroics with a thousand crappy PuGs. I would PvP in the Eye of the Storm naked.

And I did all this…just because. I’ve always been attracted to the little frivolities in my MMOs and enjoyed collecting pets more than I liked getting epic loot. I never had a reason to collect pets, and never really needed one. They served absolutely no purpose than simply following me around and looking cute, and I was perfectly fine with that. It was pointless fun, but in its pointlessness it must have meant something to me.

With WoW:MoP things will change, as with the new battle system there will now be a “reason” tacked on to pet collecting. I predict the new feature will be wildly popular, and like I said, despite my current lackadaisical attitude, I’m sure when I actually get my hands on it I’ll probably love it. I suppose too, that even though I haven’t been back in WoW for a while, I can be glad I amassed a respectable arsenal of pets before I left. But one thing is certain, and that is I’ll never approach pet collecting in WoW the same way again.

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Application Contemplation

October 17, 2011

Reading Hunter’s blog post about guild applications this weekend, I was inspired. It struck me that I have quite a few thoughts on the subject too, and as usual, he comes up with a really good topic to contemplate. I’m just going to expand on my original comment on his blog, not for the purpose of changing any minds but in the hopes that maybe I can come to terms a little better with how I personally feel as well.

Is the guild application process really necessary?

Ah, the dreaded guild app. Honestly, I wish I could say no. Who likes filling out forms, anyway? I know I don’t, and I’ve done my fair share. Still, I think how I feel about filling out guild applications is also separate from my feelings of the value of a guild application. I suppose it stems from having been on both sides of the process.

To share an anecdote, once upon a time I was an officer in an World of Warcraft guild that took a very liberal stance on guild invites. We had no application, no forum for people to introduce themselves, not even a real website to speak of. It was as casual as you could get. Everyone had invite privileges and we picked up people from all over, from recruitment blasts in general chat and announcements on our server forums, to inviting anyone we encountered who expressed interest. Basically, anyone who wanted in was in, no questions asked.

I’ll give you this; being in that guild was a lot of fun, probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a guild. And yet, it was also the most drama-filled guild I’ve ever been in, and I don’t think I want to be a part of something like that again. EVER.

One of the biggest problems was the huge turnover rate. Yes, we had our share of trouble-makers and there were kicks aplenty, but it was also because people left as casually as they were invited. There was really no strong sense of guild identity or any reason for loyalty or cohesiveness. It made sense — after all, if being invited was treated as no big deal, neither should leaving. Needless to say, the turnover rate hurt us when our guild started working on content progression, which was probably why I think our guild leader eventually gave in and set up a website and a guild application process to help improve retention.

Here’s the thing — it worked. I suppose I ultimately became a fan of the guild application process not only because of how effective it was with regards to retention, but also because of how it cut down on the amount of riffraff considerably. As an officer, I was part of the reviewing process, and it is surprising how much can come out in an applicant’s writing, like personality and attitude. I confess it’s not always an accurate assessment, but I can also understand now why a lot of guilds use applications to hopefully weed out immaturity and potential trouble.

That’s not to say our guild was drama-free after the application went into effect. Periodically, members still rage quit or were kicked. But the pattern had shifted, as most parted ways not because of bad behavior but instead because of differences in play style. Reasons cited included “guild is raiding too much or too little!” or “progression is too fast or too damn slow!”

Which brings me to my next point, that it’s not just about having a guild application, it’s also about the questions you ask. I’ve seen things from a potential recruit’s point of view, and yes, filling out an app is usually a pain. I also sometimes find myself squirming under personal questions especially those about details like my name, sex or date of birth. Part of the reason is I have gone to great lengths keeping my gaming persona apart from my real life, and I like to have control over how I reveal my information.

Still, I don’t think I can hold it against guilds that ask me questions like what are my hobbies or interests, how often and when do I play, or what games I’ve played in the past. I think much can be gleaned from answers to these questions, if you know what to look for. How hardcore/casual someone is can come across sometimes, and even if you believe these questions are unnecessary or irrelevant, I find that one of the most awesome things about being part of the gamer culture is that there’s a good chance many others in the guild will share some of the same pastimes as you. It’s a good jumping off point and added benefit for friendships once you are in the guild, and I have seen many lively conversations spring forth just like this in threads where recruitment and applications happen right on the guild forums.

While I admit most of my experiences with guild applications have been positive, I can also understand why sometimes they get a bad rap because I’ve had my share of negative ones too. I’ve encountered some apps in the past where I believe the guild leaders have the best intentions, but are maybe unaware they come across as elitist in the process. It is true that depending on the type of guild you’re looking at, the questions may be directed in other ways or have a different focus, but it’s still a little weird to see casual guilds asking for things like gearscore, how many bosses you’ve downed or raids you’ve cleared, or putting members through a humiliating “probationary period”. Likewise, it is unsettling to see some hardcore progression-minded guilds completely ignore the “human” part of the recruiting process and instead view you only as a role and a set of in-game abilities they can use, and not as an actual person. I don’t really get that either. Hell, even at an actual job you’d probably want to make the effort to get to know the guy in the next cubicle.

Anyway, as much as I advocate guild apps, I know I said filling out guild apps are never fun, but I guess that’s not exactly true either. I think I’ve written before on this blog that the best question I’ve ever been asked in a guild application is “What is your zombie plan?” Yeah, at first I was like “WTF?” and I probably wasn’t the first or the last to react that way, because there was an addendum in the app explaining why they ask all applicants to answer that question. And in retrospect, their explanation made a lot of sense. For the guild, it wasn’t just about the answers they receive, but also so that we as the potential recruits can know just what in the world we’re getting into. Obviously, they were a guild with a somewhat bizarre but good sense of humor. Also, they were into zombies. Like, really into them.

I admit, I’ve never really thought too much into this topic, but now that I’m stepped into officer shoes again as a founder of a Star Wars: The Old Republic guild, I have a discovered a renewed interest. Perhaps, really, the most useful question on a guild app should be “Why us?” Like, why the interest in our guild specifically? Or what would you like to get out of the experience? It’s a tougher question to answer than most realize, but it’s perhaps the best indicator or whether or not we’ll all get along.

A good guild leader will want to create a good community in his or her guild, and will want to know if a newcomer will fit in with the guild culture. I agree with Hunter in that the best way to know a person is to spend time in game with them. But if there was a way you could screen out people you know right away won’t work out, it could also save a lot of time and headaches down the road. I’ve been in a leadership role and have seen people leave or have asked them to leave, and it didn’t always happen on the best of terms. It sucks. It doesn’t feel good. It breeds a lot of negativity and bad blood between guild members.

So I understand. If an app can help a guild avoid some of the obvious cases, it is a hassle I can live with. It’s not perfect, but with the right questions it can also give a good idea of who the applicant is, especially if you don’t know them. What it all boils down to is that I don’t think it’s an infallible test, but it can be a very helpful tool.

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Why PvP Servers Eat Me For Breakfast…

October 6, 2011

My personal PvP Code of Ethics:

1. In the past, I may have given the impression on this blog that I have a general aversion to open-world PvP — which is not exactly true. PvP can be enjoyable when it’s a challenging and honorable sport. Given this, I do not attack players currently engaged in fighting and are low in health and completely unprepared to be ambushed.

2. This also means I derive no satisfaction in accosting an opponent who has little to no chance of defeating me. I will not attack other players who are so blatantly underleveled (when compared to me) that they will have no realistic chance of winning.

3. That said, if you are low leveled but decide to pick a fight with me anyway, don’t expect any mercy.

4. There is no honor in ruining another player’s fun or experience. There is no reason to corpse camp, go into opposing towns to kill all their questgivers or helpful NPCs, or in general act like a dick.

5. My personal philosophy is “get it done and move on”. A good fight will warrant a /bow or a /salute from me, but I will not resort to stripping down and dirty dancing on your corpse, tea-bagging your face, or go bragging in general chat about how lulz you totally got pwned.

Does this make me a carebear? Most likely, but I’ve never denied it. In fact, proud to be in the club.

But it’s probably no surprise that following my code to the letter gets me eaten alive on a PvP server, which is why I haven’t gone back to one in almost three years and have resolved to just stick to RP servers. The above simply reflects my philosophy. For me, PvP is an opportunity to test my mettle against a worthy opponent, not to humiliate anyone or go on an ego trip to validate my own self worth. I try to exhibit fair play in everything I do and PvP’s no different.

By the way, note this is just my personal outlook on PvP, and in no way am I pushing these views onto others or expecting others to agree. What personal rules, if any, do you follow?

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Riftshot Of The Day: Not Fair, I Want What She’s Wearing…

October 3, 2011

When it comes to my Rift veteran rewards, I love the skirt in the back of my Centurion chest piece, but to be honest, I would still so much have preferred the gold bikini version…

Starting with Update 1.5 that recently went live, being a veteran of the game meant getting some pretty nice rewards, including stuff like several new pieces for my wardrobe and Jeeves my personal vendor. It’s the kind of fluff I love. It also reminded me that I’ve been subscriber continuously since launch, never once having to pine for more content in part because the hardworking Trion team is constantly churning out those updates.

So it is a little sad when I think about the inevitability of my Rift sub coming to an end — if not now, very soon. And not just because the Star Wars: The Old Republic launch is around the corner. Fall 2011 is also the season of single-player games for me, and as well in my personal life, a time for getting ready for some major changes to come. I’m proud to support Trion, to be a Rift veteran, and no matter what, it’s always a pleasure to adventure in Telara.

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