Thanks to Blaugust (Blaugust #31!!!!!!!!!)

(This post is my last post for the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

FINISH!

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I didn’t think that I would get here. I’m still surprised myself that I was able to pull off the 31 blog posts in 31 days challenge. Sure, I missed a bunch of days and had to throw together six consecutive posts on this final day of August but I’m happy that I did it. It doesn’t even matter if for some reason the posts don’t qualify or some rule that I missed. For me, this challenge was just being able to write on a consistent basis. I feel like a winner regardless

I’m limited on time so I can’t pull out the original quotes that I said when I started this challenge at the beginning of August, but really I just wanted to gain more confidence as a writer to express my voice and opinions. Sometimes the first step is the most difficult and even the few steps where you stumble and doubt yourself. I’m proud that I persevered and continued to write where in a lot of cases I would just give up and move on to something else. I challenged myself because I wanted to follow through on this challenge, to complete it and reach the finish line. I’m very happy that I’ve done just that.

I’ve met a lot of cool and interesting people in the #Blaugust community who have given me encouraging words and advice that have kept me going. I want to thank you all for still reading even when it got a bit dark and ugly. I appreciate the support and will continue reading all your posts as well!

As for the blog itself? There were times when I was feeling down that I just wanted to completely erase it from existence. I couldn’t even imagine removing all of this, vanishing without a trace. I want to continue writing in this blog now that I’ve found a small niche, maybe that will grow over time which would be pretty exciting.

I will continue sharing my experiences in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Guild Wars 2, and maybe some other MMOs like WildStar or The Secret World. I won’t make any promises as my free time is currently in flux, like today I happened to have time to write 6 blog posts! I also want to continue posting screenshots. I also want to start a section where I focus on a game from my Steam library that I purchased but haven’t played yet. Gotta clear up the backlog somehow! I hope that will keep you reading as I continue writing. Please look forward to it!

Thanks to Belghast for spearheading this event and curating this cool community of bloggers, it’s been a privilege to be a part of it!

My experience at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn!

(This post is #30 out of 31 for my participation in the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

I wanted to post this right after I went to the NXT Takeover Brooklyn PPV on Saturday Night but I was exhausted which turned to being sick for the rest of the weekend. That turned into putting it off several days which continued into more procrastination that we’re now more than a week removed from the event. Sorry!

On Saturday night, I went to a wrestling show.

2015-08-22 19.21.48Since then I’ve been met with snarky remarks and incredulous “really?”s from friends and onlookers on social media as if I said I was voting for Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election. I know wrestling gets a bad wrap because a good portion of it is dumb, horribly regressive, racist, misogynist, homophobic and too many other terrible things to list. It often revels in that, rolling around and guzzling garbage as thousands packed in an arena cheer incoherently.When you really think about it, pro wrestling and fighting games really mirror each other in a lot of ways. Both have ravenous and vocal fanbases whose favorite characters are quite colorful and varied, sometimes racist or misogynist in dress or origin but still can quite enjoyable in its purest form. I’m not going to apologize for all that bad stuff, but sometimes it can be a lot of fun and can create wonderful moments. That night at NXT Takeover Brooklyn was that sweet spot of wonderful all night long.

Just to quickly preface, NXT is a show that’s part of the WWE brand but it’s thought to be a developmental territory of sorts. I would never refer to it as the minor leagues as it often provides a superior and more entertaining product compared to their main shows. It operates in its own little tucked away universe where the majority of ugliness of wrestling is not present. Sure there are some problematic crowd chants (calling one of the women wrestlers ‘ratchet’ being one of the biggest offenders), but for the most part ideas and characters are fleshed out and allowed to grow. This is contrast to how quickly characters get cut down and squashed the moment they appear on TV because Vince McMahon is shouting in one of the commentator’s earpieces to call them garbage. Instead storylines have lengthy arcs to them and always culminate in an extremely satisfying climax matches because the groundwork has been laid beforehand. This is for the kids who will hold off on eating one cookie right now to get five cookies later. That’s hell of a deal.

Instead of breaking down the whole show, which would go exceptionally long…I’m going to break down three matches that had the largest impact on me for the night!

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TYLER BREEZE
v.

JUSHIN ‘THUNDER’ LIGER

The opening match of a card’s main objective is to rile up the crowd and get them excited for the rest of the show. This match definitely hit its mark as there’s a lot to love about it and it’s going to take a bit of unpacking to explain it…please bear with me.

Tyler Breeze is essentially Derek Zoolander as a wrestler. He started off just taking selfies and being afraid of getting hit in the face, but started getting meaner and really working towards being a serious title contender as all the “uggos” don’t deserve to be champion. Despite being a heel/rudo, he’s loved by the fans because he’s so committed to his character, like I said he’s a mean Zoolander character whose seasonal residence is announced, lately it’s been Egypt and he came dressed in Egyptian garb! Amazing! As you see in that twitter pic, he’s taking a selfie with a lady dressed as a sexy taxi cab. Let that last sentence sink in for you and try not to smile.

He went up against Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, a legendary Japanese wrestler who’s based on an anime character. He’s as old as the Undertaker but revolutionized junior heavyweight wrestling in the 1990s, inventing the Shooting Star Press and variety of other wrestling moves still used today. This was the first time he ever wrestled a match with the WWE and was a delight to watch. They had a back and forth affair with Liger frustrating Breeze, using his own selfie stick to take photos of himself. The liger is a beautiful animal. If you can’t find enjoyment in the line ’50 year old Japanese man dressed as an anime demon uses male model’s selfie stick to take photos of self’, then I can’t help you. I opened the door for you, just walk in…

TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:

THE VAUDEVILLAINS

v.

THE DUBSTEP COWBOYS (c)

First I just want to mention that the Dubstep Cowboys name is a joke and that that tag team is actually just called Blake & Murphy based its members Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy. I actually forgot their first names and had to look it up. The Dubstep Cowboys joke is based on when Wesley Blake had a gimmick where he would wear a cowboy hat and the announce team would discuss how he was a “real live cowboy” and debated what determined such a thing. Dubstep because their entrance theme is just obnoxious dubstep music and a seizure lightshow. Why don’t tag teams, especially the champions have goofy fun names anymore? They couldn’t even be the team of Timothy Well and Steven Dunn – Ladies and Gentleman WELL DUNN! Blake and Murphy are just wrestler guys who at one point wanted their name to be TEAM THICK because they work out at the gym a lot. They have weird hair at times? I’m surprised I wrote this much about them.

Oh man the Vaudevillains. Aiden English had a singing gimmick where he would come out and sing about himself or his opponent to the tune of a Broadway musical. I actually didn’t enjoy his singing much, always felt off-key enough to really bother me. Anyways he teams up with an OLDE TIMEY STRONGMAN with a curly moustache named Simon Gotch and they become the Vaudevillains. At times they’ve been heels/rudos, creating old timey silent films insulting their opponents and working out a lot. Regardless they’re pretty beloved by the NXT crowd due to their commitment to the gimmick (Gotch doing Hindu squats while holding his opponent!!!!) and their gentlemenly ways. Just look at their entrance at the event:

Their honor as gentlemen is the focus of this story as Blake and Murphy’s valet, the lovely Alexa Bliss, has been getting involved in their matches and being the sole reason that Blake and Murphy are still champions. Bliss has played up the fact that because they’re gentlemen and won’t strike a woman she can do whatever she wants and has repeatedly smacked them both at every opportunity she can get. Alexa Bliss was previously a sort of cheerleader pixie that blew sparkle dust in her entrance but has really found her calling as a bad guy. Her facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission. Anyways, so the Vaudevillains have a plan to neutralize Bliss which would mean they would ally with a woman unless they tie her to some railroad tracks like Snidely Whiplash.

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BLUE PANTS!!!

Their ally turns out to be Blue Pants which is the independent wrestler Leva Bates who’s running around in a Shadowcat cosplay. Blue Pants is a beloved women’s jobber or enhancement talent, meaning someone who’s there to lose to make the other wrestler look good. The name stuck when Enzo Amore and Big Cass, another tag team with a New Yorker gimmick that you can imagine went over huge in Brooklyn on the undercard, gave it to her due to her blue pants when introducing her with the Price is Right ‘Come on down’ music done acapella by Big Cass. It’s now her entrance theme.

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Blurry yet the best shot I could take

They wrestle an amazing match and when Alexa Bliss gets involved, Blue Pants steps in and neutralizes her. This leaves the Vaudevillains to put their dukes up and fight like gentleman to dispatch Murphy with their finisher – The Whirling Dervish. Your new NXT Tag Team Champions – The Vaudevillains! Unfortunately they weren’t selling their t-shirt at the event which seems like a huge mistake but it’s up on the WWE Shopzone so I will definitely support such fine gentlemen.

NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:

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Bayley

v.

Sasha Banks (c)

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Remember when I talked about the appeal of letting stories and narratives take the long route? This women’s championship was the epitome of that.  On one side you have the perennial underdog challenger who’s come up short so many times before against a very confident champion who’s thrown every insult her way. Bayley is the ultimate good girl. She gives people hugs, wears her hair in a side ponytail and frequently resembles a happy-go-lucky anime character. I mean look at this:

Bayley’s great, she has little girls looking up to her and dressing like her but she started off terribly naive. Every girl friend that’s made in NXT has turned on her and beaten her up at some point. They’ve all gone the mean girl route and found legitimate success as a result. However Bayley has stayed true to herself and never took any shortcuts. After breaking her hand she made her return and ran through all her opposition, including:

  • Emma who represented a jaded husk of her former self after going to the main show and being stuck as squeak foreign guy Santino’s girlfriend wearing a Birdo arm. She bullied Bayley for being herself and trying to “help” her see that becoming a successful ladies wrestler meant wearing more makeup and acting like a diva.
  • Charlotte, the daughter of wrestler great and 16 time champion Ric Flair. Charlotte was one of the first girls to turn on Bayley, joining the BFFs (Beautiful Fierce Females) which dominated the NXT women’s division for a long time. Later she respected Bayley’s tenacity and determination, becoming like a big sister figure for her.
  • Becky Lynch who was another friend who turned on her to join up with Sasha Banks, the current champion she faced in this NXT women’s match.

Hell I could’ve just shown you the video summarizing it:

All these women have moved up to the main roster in some capacity and found a degree of success, leaving Bayley behind with the Blue Pants of the world despite being a beloved figure.

Sasha Banks is the Boss of NXT. She comes out in bling and shutter shades and makes it all look good. She comes out to the ring Takeover Brooklyn in an Escalade with 4 huge bouncers. Sasha’s had a ride of her own to success as being a member of the BFFs but generally always being in Charlotte’s shadow when she was champion until she won it herself. She gradually gained more confidence in her own ability and can hang with the best of them.

Bayley comes out with black and yellow head and arm bands in memory of the great Dusty Rhodes who was a beloved trainer at NXT who passed away earlier this year. Sasha starts the match mocking her about this and talking about how she doesn’t stand a chance. A different Bayley would’ve wilted to those insults but the Bayley we have now is fierce and believes in herself so she fights back with her.

This match was amazing. I went to this event with my brother and at one point, he turned to me and said “This is the best match that I’ve ever seen in person.” Usually he’s the sort of wrestling fan who needs to start chants or make snarky remarks but what they did out there reached him and grabbed his attention. There’s a point the match where Sasha takes Bayley’s injured hand and slams it between the steps and the ring which just shows her brutality. This come up later when Sasha has Bayley in her submission move, The Banks Statement and Bayley is desperately reaching out to the ropes with her injured hand until Sasha starts stomping on it.

I’m well aware that wrestling isn’t true fighting like the UFC or boxing. It’s theater but when done exceptionally well, it hooks you Most wrestling matches don’t have that attention to detail to create a moment like that. Somehow Bayley perseveres and reserves the submission hold to turn the tide and later hits a reserve hurricanrana off the top rope to set Sasha up for her finisher, a belly to belly suplex.

Look at this:

I’m just glad Sasha is okay from cause neck injuries have occurred from much less than scary spot.

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So your new NXT Women’s Champion is Bayley!

She  had one hell of a ride to get there. She’s joined and embraced by Charlotte and Becky Lynch who wrestled a match on the undercard.

They’re even joined by the conquered Sasha Banks who hugs Bayley and poses with the rest of the Four Horsewomen of NXT. The end of an era for Women’s Wrestling in NXT. Bayley will hang around and take on all coming challengers such as Nia Jax, Kanna, and a few fembots like Dana Brooke and Eva Marie. The other women will move up to the main roster probably for good but it’s a far less hospitable place for women on the main show as it’s been revealed in recent weeks.

There were plenty of other fun matches but if I wrote about everything in the detail I just gave these three matches, I would write a novel. This was a wonderful show that I was privileged to see in person. Thank you for bearing with all the words about wrestling. Hope you enjoyed it, maybe give NXT a look or at least watch this show as it was the best possible product that WWE has produced this year.

When Do You Remove A Guild Member?

(This is post 29 out of 31 for my participation in the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

This is another post that has been at the back of my mind for some time and I’m going to attempt on getting it out as best I can. I’ve been avoiding it because it stirs up some nasty memories.

While I may not have the extensive game resumes as some of my fellow #Blaugust writers, I’ve been playing MMOs for quite awhile. I’ve made some lasting relationships and friendships that certainly have had an effect on how I portray myself online. There was a friend long ago that instilled the belief in me to be as helpful as possible to others players because there’s a human being behind that character. So that’s exactly what I did, I would assist new players on where to go and what to do to improve their game experience. It felt good to do my part in creating a better community.

Of course there have been times when I’ve been challenged in holding those values by manipulative liars and unpleasant jerks. It was always easier when interactions between these undesirables was limited to a brief encounter – someone shouting something racist in an area or someone deceiving others to get loot. When it came to my own guild or free company, it was always so much more difficult dealing with those sorts of people because of the collateral damage they would cause.

I’ve had groups fall apart for a variety of reasons but the worst is always when a few bad members create an unpleasant environment: creeps making unwelcome advances towards female members; completely disrespectful members that don’t follow loot rules or contribute fairly; overly competitive members that want everyone to play at their pace or to leave the group entirely; and so forth! You’ve heard the tales plenty of times and sometimes as an outside observer it may seem ludicrous that this member still hung around after doing whatever transgressions happened.

I don’t have an easy answer for that. Often it’s quite difficult as many guild or whatever equivalent exists are often full of a variety of different groups of friends and by removing one you may cause an exodus despite how big of an asshole they may be. By kicking out that guy, you may break up raid groups and statics and lose a lot of important players.

Of course another school of thought says that we shouldn’t set special exceptions to the rules, regardless of what may happen. It’s not worth keeping around members that don’t respect the rules because it weakens the entire group structure as a result. It sets precedent that the rules are more flexible if you’re a skilled player or are constantly online to contribute which may actually be a part of a greater issue.

When I was an officer in my former free company, I had to make a lot of difficult decisions regarding various members who had gone through very difficult life-changing situations. Shit happens. Often happening much more than we would like. I know it quite well. I’ve experience my share of shit and continue to do so, but I try not to air every single thing out on guild chat. Sure you’re allowed to vent a little bit or just mention that you’ve had a rough day or week, month, or longer. The guild will support you but at some point that support isn’t going to be enough to really help that person move on with their life.

I’ve known some leaders who have a sort of messiah complex, to the tune of “give me your wounded and so forth” leading a trail of broken people who focus on them at the center as a source of support and affection. It’s an unhealthy relationship to serve as an in-game surrogate when in many cases they need people in their life outside the computer screen. Some may argue that a substitute can work. Long distance relationships have formed and become much more in the process to prove that such a thing can work but very often like most relationships…they don’t last.

It’s regrettable because in my heart I do want to help my friends and members of the group who are suffering but just lack an everlasting amount of patience and compassion. Eventually you’re going to just wear out your welcome or whatever goodwill you once provided. Some people just want to play a game and that may seem cruel to you but we all have a breaking point. These games are an escape, an outlet to very often just forget about our problems and focus on silly tasks that only a video game can provide.

I could not help the woman who had to move to Europe because her husband’s in the Air Force. Displaced from all her family and friends and pregnant with a second child while she herself had a heart condition that would make the process much dangerous for both. Unable to play at the normal time with the guild she grew very lonely and lashed out at other people in the guild who wouldn’t reply to her and started reporting them to GM as bots. She had no proof of this and started flipping out when she didn’t get her way and criticized the leadership, calling us ‘Hitlers’. It broke my heart because she was a kind and helpful player before all this transpired and merged her guild with ours. I tried spending time each day to talk to her but I don’t think I was the right person for the job. We had to let her go.

I could not help the surgeon whose lover died in a motorcycle accident several months before joining the guild. He developed an unrequited love for another member who obviously did not reciprocate these feelings. Honestly I felt bad for the guy, he was very pitiable but something always felt off about him. Even after we had to let him go, he kept sending me letters with seeds for the garden. This continued even going as far to send letters to other members as well. At first it was nice but then it got excessive. Maybe kindness wasn’t the best route.

I could not help the old man who had some debilitating disease and was quite unhappy about it every day. He was unable to work so spent a great of time in game and he was very particular about how everyone else in the group would play. He would be constantly correcting them and often shouting about it when there really wasn’t anything wrong. I recall one holiday, I think it was Thanksgiving, where he stayed home instead of traveling with his family and he ranted about how he hated all of his relatives anyway that was soaked in vitriol. I don’t remember if we got rid of him or he just left because we didn’t raid every night like how he wanted.

I don’t pretend to have the right answers. I regret a great many of my decisions as a leader in the past. More often than not, it’s about the players I didn’t kick or even recruited to the guild myself as I often overlooked their lack of respect to fill holes in our raid groups. I’ll never make that mistake again.

Guess you could chalk this up to MMO regrets.

Sometimes You Eat the Bar and Sometimes The Bar, He Eats You

(This counts as post 28 out of 31 for my participation in the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

Because I’m a bit desperate for quick topics that require a little bit less effort, I’m going to jump in on this alignment quiz I’ve seen it posted on some other Blaugustians blogs. I’ve seen a few other quizzes that have popped up during this Blaugust but I was always hesitant to utilize them as an easy pop. Desperate times call for desperate measures as I am out of my element here. I’ll throw in a few more Lebowski references because I’m a damn hack.

I ended up answering the poll generally as I would answer myself as a person rather than one of my characters as I haven’t truly roleplayed in quite some time.

I ended getting Lawful Good, which surprised me as I was generally answering the questions in what I thought was pretty neutral stances or following my own core belief system.

A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion.

Perhaps I wasn’t being totally honest with myself when I answered this poll. Maybe I projecting the image of what I want to be or be thought of, which in many ways is what we may do when we roleplay – assume a new identity, one that is appealing to you. You could surmise that I want to be Sam Elliot dressed as a mystical cowboy at a bowling alley. I don’t think that’s what my soul looks like. I think I want to follow the rules in place because I feel obligated to, that isn’t another option or I’m too weak-willed to blaze a new path instead of the one set in front of me.

Lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

From http://easydamus.com/lawfulgood.html

Looks like this alignment maybe is much more telling than I thought. Wow. I need a drink. I’ll take a White Russian!

Thoughts on Guild Wars 2 Free to Play Announcement (Blaugust #27)

(This post is Day 27 of my participation in the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

Big Announcement

Just the other day at PAX, ArenaNet made the announcement that the core game of Guild Wars 2 would be going Free to Play. This might be a bit confusing since Guild Wars 2, just like the original Guild Wars has staunchly followed a Buy to Play model. At the time, I made a snarky comment:

Which granted could be very true, if they simply opened the floodgates and let in every unwashed bozo on the planet with no safeguards in place. F2P accounts are essentially trial accounts and have many restrictions on them to not upset the game environment and economy. As mentioned in the news post I linked before:

First, free accounts start with fewer character slots and bag slots than the paid version of the game. But they still get the full complement of slots as soon as they buy Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.

Second, free accounts have some chat restrictions and economy restrictions so that they can’t be used to disrupt the game for other players. Free accounts can use local chat and whispers, but not map chat. With whispers, they can both start new conversations and reply to existing conversations but are limited to starting new conversations no more than once every 30 seconds. Free accounts can buy and sell common goods on the trading post. They can’t mail gold or items directly to other players, trade gold for gems, or access guild vaults.

Third, free accounts have some restrictions to prevent them from skipping ahead to places where they could be used to disrupt the game. They must play to level 10 before leaving the starter zones, to level 30 before using LFG, and to level 60 before using World vs. World. They can play PvP immediately but must get to rank 20 before using custom and unranked arenas.

We’ve found in testing that it’s hard to read a list like this and know how it’s going to feel in action. All these changes are live today, so we invite you to see for yourself. Test with a free account and see that it’s the same Guild Wars 2 you know and love; test with a veteran account and confirm that the community is protected.

It’s encouraging to see that they’ve made sure that RMTs don’t overrun the game with annoying goldspam whispers and so forth. Those are really obnoxious and generally the tool of those who try to exploit the game to its fullest.

It was also nice of them to reward current players with a Royal Guard outfit. Here’s a look at it as my Sylvari Engineer shows it off.

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It’s cool to get something for showing loyalty to the game but it still doesn’t exactly take the bad taste out of my mouth from the drops received from birthday gifts. All I wanted was for them to continue the miniatures showing up every birthday. This year you get a special PVP finisher which is cool, but besides that more booster and a bunch of Teleport to a Friend items. Is that really something people were clamoring for? It seems pretty limited use unless it gets around jumping puzzles and difficult dungeon content.

Looking Towards Heart of Thorns

The main intention for the F2P change is to expose as many people as possible to Guild Wars 2 so that if they enjoy it enough, they will purchase the Heart of Thorns expansion to grant them access to more content, character slots and remove the trial account restrictions. It’s a smart business move for them to get as many purchases for HoT as possible with this increased exposure.

As for myself, I’m still very much on the fence on whether to splurge on the GW2 expansion.  I’ve full of pretty conflicted feelings that I’ve stated before in this blog.  I think some of the elite specializations look pretty cool, especially Berserker for the Warrior, Daredevil for the Thief (which feels like a Monk!) and Dragonhunter for the Guardian (finally a legitimate ranged weapon!) However on the other end, it feels odd that after 3 years that a game with the ‘Guild Wars’ moniker will finally be incorporating guild halls and adding raids to the game. They claim that they have released ’40 major content patches’ but I really wouldn’t consider holiday events or limited time events to fit that bill. Sure there are great for those that are around but if you put so much energy into creating content, why not share it with a wider audience? Why not bring back Super Adventure Box? I don’t get ArenaNet a lot of the time.

The long worn out debate about ‘limited time content’ is still present. I stopped playing for the first time once the Living Story season 1, episode 1 was added. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed and the constant drive to collect event tokens for rewards wore me out. They’re remarkably stingy when it comes to rewarding you for taking part in an event, to really get the best stuff you would need to truly dedicate yourself to running a few events until your eyes start bleeding. Think of it as GW2’s answer to atma farming but it’s a repeatable formula that pervades most of their content. I’ve been told many times that Living Story Season 2 is better but I haven’t yet played it so I can’t really comment. I was driven by my need to be a completest and aim to get all the possible items, but Guild Wars 2 is a game that doesn’t give you that option unless you can shell out a lot of gems.

Guild Wars 2’s gem shop can be pretty diabolical. Sure you have a lot of superficial content and outfits, but tack on LIMITED TIME ONLY and people will open up their wallets to grab that exclusive stuff. I recall in one instance you were required to take 3 seasonal event gem shop minis and put them in the mystic forge to get another exclusive mini. Much of their gem content follows the gashapon style of being a complete gamble as seen in more F2Ps than most. Black Lion chests MAY have something extremely rare inside but you need to pay for keys to open them. Chances are not. If you’ve seen my tweets about SUGOFEST in One Piece Treasure Cruise, you’ll know I have terrible luck when it comes to gachapon draws.

So like any game, there’s some good and there’s some bad with Guild Wars 2. They are still very much alive and a viable option to play a fun game. I recommend you give it a look and decide for yourself. Best time as ever since it’s now free to play!

GW2 – Silverwastes Field Trip (Blaugust #26)

(This post is Day 26 of my participation in the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

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So while I’ve stated plenty of feelings about Guild Wars 2 and will continue to for this crazy home stretch for Blaugust, I’m not yet willing to give up on the game completely. I had reached out to my friends for some advice on how to obtain more gold as the prices for gems is currently astronomical and probably won’t change any time soon. Their advice? Go to the Silverwastes!

Now, I came into this having no idea about the Silverwastes. It’s part of the Living Story and I had not been keeping up with the narrative at all.  What’s odd about Guild Wars 2 is how almost willfully obtuse they are with presenting their storyline. The concept behind the Living Story is that a series of big storyline events occur in game for a limited amount of time, so if you’re not around for them you miss them completely. Now they changed this around in Season 2 where you can purchase the season’s content for about $20 dollars worth of gems but this is tucked away in the gem store. I wonder if any of this will be relayed to the influx of F2P players now joining the game after the announcement at PAX. It’s a peculiar decision to lock away a majority of new content in limited time releases for a game that functions under a B2P model but I’ll touch upon that in another post I’ll be making today.

To say that I was spoiled by entering the Silverwastes without going through the Living Story is a fair assessment, but it’s hard to not notices some of the changes in Tyria. Lion’s Arch has been rebuilt and remodeled. There was wreckage of something massive in the Kessex Fields. A player could be perfectly content just running around doing events and not really caring about the “why” anything around them as long as it’s fun. I enjoy really delving into why events are taking place and will criticize when there isn’t a terribly good reason besides “this is a video game”. Like when The Last of Us just turns into a murder simulator. I just wonder why every human I run into just lunges at like a member of the MurderMen from the Sparks Nevada universe. Guild Wars 2 is generally good about giving antagonist forces story and lore based motivations, but they have a penchant for putting in way too many ghosts. Ghosts are the worst. Boo, we’re cursed by some nerd wizard to just fight forever and we’re like herpes…we’ll never go away! *spooky wind noises*

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Stronghold currently overrun by stinkvines

Back to the regularly scheduled program – The Silverwastes is a map in the Maguuma Wastes that mirrors event structure of the Worlds vs World PVP maps where you’re trying to secure and fortify fortresses against your enemy. In this case, the events start out with players trying to secure fours bases to gain a foothold against the evil minions of who appears to be the primary antagonist of the upcoming Heart of Thorns expansion. This is very difficult to accomplish with an underpopulated map as once you secure a base, you’ll once again have to defend it a few minutes later from an onslaught of monsters that you really can’t defeat on your own. Defense of the bases is much more valuable than clearing it as it fills a bar that will trigger the next stage of the meta event. This can be frustrating as players will generally hop to other instanced maps that are closer to this change rather than grinding out the process from the beginning. You can’t really blame players aiming for the most efficient use of their time though.

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Where the big bad lurks

Once the bar is full, you plunge beneath the fortress to take on some champion monsters that lurk in the passageways below the map. It’s a quick five minute period and doesn’t require all of them to be slain to move on to the next phase. Next the Allied forces make a concentrated effort to take out a big bad plant monster who has flooded the map with its vines. You protect the various siege engines and supplies from danger as they work to tear down the walls of plant matter that it’s shielded itself with. There are three paths that need to be equally protected as it’s a large scale event, ending with a world boss event against the Vinewrath which has the obligatory giant chest as well as several lost bandit chests.

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Another world boss event where you don’t really know what’s going on but ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!

The appeal of the map for earning gold is from the sheer amount of items you can obtain by completing events. You get many bags of gear and items which thankfully can stack. On top of that you receive bandit crests, which are best spent on bandit skeleton keys which open lost bandit chests that are uncovered by Silverwastes shovels that also are occasional event rewards. The idea is to build up a huge supply of bandit crests to turn into keys and then find a group that is running around the map uncovering the chests. If the group knows what they’re doing, you can unlock several dozens of chests in a single map run. This means you’re obtaining a ton of items, hopefully getting lucky and landing some valuable drops if you’re soaking wet with magic find.

It was definitely a profitable venture though my magic find probably pales in comparison to the e-peen of some long time players. I didn’t land any minis, recipes, or super rare weapons but certainly had enough items to make it very much worth the several hours I put into it. I don’t know if it would be something that I would repeat on a daily basis as there is a degree of luck landing on a good map full of competent players at a certain time of day. Still, I obtained much more gold via the trading post than I would have through other ventures so I’m thankful for the suggestion from my friends.

Filling the Cracks With Your Own Content

(This post is Day 25 of my participation in the #Blaugust 2015 initiative!)

While I have not been fulfilling the post a day rate for Blaugust lately, I’ve been continuing to read the daily contributions of other bloggers. There’s been a wealth of content to take in but recently a certain topic of note has been brought to my attention and  really resonated with me – whether the current crop of MMOs truly fulfill that Massively Multiplayer moniker. The idea being that in the pursuit of facilitating easier access to group content through duty finders and LFG menus,  the opportunity to organically group up for content outside of that means has become increasingly rare.

There certainly is much appeal to be able to form up a team for group content quickly and without a hassle. I recall the long layoffs to forming a party in Final Fantasy XI and the frustration that came with that. Even in some cases, I would be selected as someone’s replacement and travel out, often at a certain degree of peril and expense, only to be completely ignored because I was not optimally geared or classed. Removing those negatives through automatic grouping is without a doubt a plus, but when you remove those effort hurdles every group become a lot more expendable in the process.

What’s resulted is an influx of players with a mercenary attitude, they hold no obligation to any group and will jump between guilds based on where the best opportunity to complete content is. That’s not a terrible way to play a game, especially if you have a limited amount of time to devote towards to it. You’re trying to efficiently maximize your time and the amount of progress in the process. These people are a nightmare to deal with in a social environment however as they only care about their own gains and simply regard other players as means to that end.

My experiences as guild leader found myself in opposition to such players as they were completely insatiable. Constantly filling the guild chat with requests to fill a spot in their group, ignoring other group activities, being incredibly pushy – harassing other players to stop what they were doing and help them out. While they may have been some of the best players skill-wise, their attitudes were detrimental to the group as a whole and really were not worth the effort to placate into keeping them around.

The issue is that in the case of Final Fantasy XIV, it feels like a prevailing attitude as you get dragged into a certain pace to keep up with completing content. These are often the loudest voices on the official forum that get noticed. The people that complain that there isn’t enough to do or it’s too easy. Social interaction certainly takes a hit as a result and while the blame could be placed solely on game design, players are taking an active part in reinforcing this attitude.

I’m guilty of it myself to an extent as I may simply go through a dungeon or raid content without uttering a single word. Sometimes I just want to turn my brain off and punch things as hard and fast as I can. Sometimes I don’t want to hang around in a trial after failing to complete it three or four times. Am I the first to one leave? Usually not, but I’m glad that someone else broke the seal. It’s easier to do when you’re grouped up with players from completely different servers. They’re strangers, individuals that, even if you wanted to, you won’t be able to meet up with again without hopping worlds. You’re denied that social connectivity without overcoming a greater effort barrier than the ones currently removed by the game.

This post from Kunzay’s blog Party Business was brought to my attention via my Twitter and it’s a great read. What really jumped out at me was this one quote from N. Brianna Royce of Massively:

Social once existed in the cracks between the game, and those cracks have been sealed up.

It hit me because for a long time I had been getting the most enjoyment from these games in those cracks. Finding amusement outside of the in-game content and creating our own fun. I’ve discovered in my experiences that this tends to happen when a game may be lacking in direction and content, but the player base creates their own activities to occupy their time.

The first example that comes to mind is Ragnarok Online where the appeal of the game is mostly in presentation rather than story and content. I got into RO at the start of college back in at the very start of its English beta, this was long before War of the Emperium and a great deal other content. What you had was a game that very tangentially related to a Korean comic, where the areas reflected some of those present in that story but not much else. There was no overarching story or grand narrative despite the intertwining of Norse mythology from the Korean comic, simply the skeleton of areas that were practically devoid of NPCs. Still the setting alone, characters being pseudo anime sprites along with amazing animated detail to monster sprites was enough to draw people like me to play. I ended up becoming very involved in the roleplaying circles of Raganarok Online. These contains players far less concerned with leveling up and more interested in weaving dramatic and intricate narratives to breathe life into the world that was devoid of consequence beyond getting killed by monsters. My fondest memories were just sitting around in areas like Payon and Aldebaran and just chatting with my friends, in character or not.

Another example was the original instance of Final Fantasy XIV. I played the alpha and the beta but still decided to take the plunge, hoping that there would be more at launch than what was seen. Unfortunately, what appeared at launch was the same flawed game. Still, I persevered and stuck around which was to some extent cognitive dissonance as I had upgraded my PC and splurged on the collector’s edition. I couldn’t simply abandon a game that I had already committed so much to. As my friends from XI gradually quit the game, I began trying to seek out new people to group up with. Once again, I met a great deal of people who were still enjoying the game despite not having a prime directive beyond raising your exp bar to nothing. After moving about from several linkshells, I decided to form my own and we had some fun times. I remember us all dressing up in Santa suits and running around Ul’Dah surrounding people in a huge flash mob and dancing. There was also a big safari event we held, running all over Eorzea to hit up the aetherytes in super dangerous areas to get an achievement.FFXIV_1293074702

I remember a lot of these players, some of them may not play any more or maybe even don’t remember me but they had an effect on me. Funny how some of the friends I made in 1.0 reached out to me and now I’m currently a part of their free company. It shows that the bonds you form in game, especially when there isn’t a huge main scenario (usually completed solo) can be really powerful.

That’s not to say that you can’t sustain social activities with a guild or group when there’s a lot of content present such as when Final Fantasy XIV was reborn. I still facilitated costume mob events. This time we dressed up as spooky ghosts and would choose a random name from the /who player search and chase them around Eorzea. It was harmless fun and honestly a blast to do.

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I’ve taken a backseat to planning events at this point, but my free company has had some fun ideas. We’ve done some summer photo shoots and are trying to mix it up in some content: doing EX Primal fights without any armor. Another event where we do challenging content but no one is allowed to use their main job, ALTS ONLY. On top of that there have been a few community events where people gather on mounts to take silly pictures and such. It’s not as much making something out of nothing like my previous examples, as the cracks are relatively non-existent, but I prefer to take that extra step to be a part of a game community that I’ve grown to love. Seek out and find those like-minded people willing to put forth that effort and you will not be disappointed. That’s how you keep having fun!